Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: The Royal Tenenbaums

The story of Love & Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.

In spite of what the introductory blurb reads, when it comes to my family, there actually aren't that many  films that have become traditions.  There are some, yes, but my parents aren't typically ones for repetition. Case in point: my Dad can't stand oldies because "he already lived them,"  why would he want to listen to them now?  The truth is that in my family I'm something of an enigma.  I grew an obsessive passion for film out of the passing interest held by my parents.  In our house, as I grew into my teenage years, what began to occur was that I introduced or re-introduced them to films they never would have bothered with.  All of this is the long way of saying: The Royal Tenenbaums is not one big nuclear family tradition.  The whole gang, however, did see the film in a theater so crowded we were trapped in the front row (I remember this because it was the last time that happened), necks craned, the screen feeling bigger than life.  Our parents, though they liked it well enough, didn't love it.  For some, I think, it's hard to rectify the humor with the absolutely fatal melancholy that permeates the Tenenbaums.  In 2001, however, with the sibling and I in the midst of our teen years, the movie struck some sort of critical nerve.  I can't speak to the impact it made with her, but with me, it was almost a love at first sight experience.  I'd never seen anything quite like it, and embraced every little detail; the tracksuits, the dalmatian mice, "These Days", Mordecai, the javelina, the character credits, Pagoda, Etheline's list of suitors.  This list is made up of two sorts of films for me: the legitimate favorites I can't help but watch every year, and the replay standards that serve as family ritual.  The Royal Tenenbaums falls into the former category.  It's an all-time favorite, and one the sibling just happens to share.  We're comfortable in Wes Anderson's world, I think, which makes several of his films (though this one sits at the top) traditions by default.

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