The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Cover and Menu: 10/10
Fantastic. Art makes things so much more interesting. Where’s the art? Well, pull off Criterion’s cardboard slip cover and you will find a lovely cover with the same style of artwork that is on the Royal Tennenbaum’s cover. I love drawings of any kind and for them to make such an effort to make such a unique cover wins me over right away. You can even reverse the slip cover inside the plastic sleeve to have the star studded version, but who wants to do that?

The menus are just as creative and makes navigating this DVD a fun experience. More real artwork people! Less boring crap!! I hope other folks who put DVD’s together take a lesson from Criterion.

Extras: 10/10

  • Deleted Scenes – There’s nothing earth shattering here, just a few extended scenes with moments that were trimmed for one reason or another. From the way Mr. Anderson directs his movies, there’s not a lot of chances for things to be wrong or extra that needs to be cut out. He’s too meticulous for that.
  • Director Commentary On Select Scenes – I would take any chance to listen to Wes Anderson that comes across my path. He’s got a brilliant mind for story telling, for writing, and for directing. He’s one of those young dudes who will become the subject of film school classes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Blah
  • Cast & Crew Interviews – Come on!! How can you NOT want to watch Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and any of the other amazing cast members of this film? This is one of the most star/talent packed films I have seen in a long time, and to get to hear and see some of their impressions of the process of making The Life Aquatic just adds to the experience Anderson has created.
  • Video Journal Of on-the-set Intern – This is a fun look at the making of the film through the eyes of a real life intern who plays an intern in the film…hmmm Wes Anderson brings a lot more to filmmaking than just the final product. I get the impression that the entire process is what drives him and to see that process from different points of view is a treat if you love the movie as much as I did.
  • Seu Jorge Musical Performances: Songs Of David Bowie – This sound track is amazing. The way Bowie tunes are woven through scenes with a Portuguese musician gently playing them on this acoustic guitar is unique and makes this film a new experience, which I appreciate! This extra focuses on Seu Jorge and gives you a chance to listen and watch him perform the songs in their entirety.
  • This Is A Adventure – An Albert Maysles Documentary – Now this is an extra that I can sink my greedy teeth into. It’s a true documentary style film that follows the production from start to finish. It’s compelling but simple and if every DVD would have one of these classy features I would buy them ALL..even Freddie Kruger: The Golden Years. Seriously, I would buy it. You make it, put a documentary like This Is An Adventure on the DVD and I will buy it!
  • TV Interview – Stars on The Set is more of a promotional extra, but it’s good too. It’s more directed at getting people interested in the film, but hey, somebody’s got to do it! This is a film that must be seen, not just left to find its own audience.
  • Composer Interview – Anderson creates such a strange and wonderful reality where his characters life. I would say it’s about 75% visual, and the rest depends on his choices with the score and sound track. It’s good to know that the composer gets this interesting writer director’s vision. Without the music being synced with the somewhat fantasy world mixed with real life character drama, this film would not have the same impact.
  • Photo Gallery – This is a very visually effective film. Even the still gallery looks artistic and is interesting to look through. Some candid shots of cast and crew mixed with several shots of scenes and the characters in their odd but amazing sets their world exists in.

The Movie: 10/10:
Wow. As a movie person I have seen thousands of films so you can imagine they tend to melt together after a while. You would think that after so many movies, and so many forgettable ones especially, why would I keep coming back time and time again to the unpredictable world of movies? People like Wes Anderson would be at the top of the list of reasons, that’s for sure. Mr. Anderson is a true artist in my opinion, a man with a vision and who has the ability to bring it to the big screen for the rest of us to lavish in. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is an amazing swirling of ultra reality and fantastic imagination. I don’t know how to sum it all up, I don’t think I can to be honest. It’s a story about people, people making choices, looking for something in their lives, marriage, failure, determination, and of course, finding a giant Leopard shark that ate Zissou’s best friend.

With a hapless deep sea documentary crew Zissou has been on the outs in his fickle world of investors and film critics. His only objective is to make colorful, dynamic documentaries about nature, even if you wonder sometimes if he has fabricated a few of his greatest discoveries. In the past few years he has lost his investors, his supporters and has not made a “good” film to keep the money for his adventures flowing in. He’s on his last great journey and he’s got nothing to lose. His wife is uninterested, his nemesis is Jeff Goldblum, and a long lost prospective son appears without a warning. A man with nothing to lose can be dangerous, or brave, however you want to look at it.

Wes Anderson has a talent for writing characters who are flawed, somewhat pitiful but not weak, incredibly honest, not to mention so charismatic and compelling that I personally never want their stories to end. Steve Zissou, of course, is a magnet for me. Bill Murray hypnotizes me from the second he hits the screen. I have to say I have a little crush on the aging, cynical, comedic genius. In my wedding vows I agreed to honor and cherish, until Bill Murray knocks on my door:) His style is always consistent, but never quite the same from film to film. He makes it seem effortless and natural, almost ad-libbed from scene to scene. Anderson seems to get the exact performance that his characters need to make Murray even better.

As for the rest of the powerhouse cast, I’m not sure where to start. Ok, Owen Wilson, crush #2. This is a guy who, with the exception of Starsky and Hutch, has held me captive in every performance he’s offered over the past few years. The characters he plays are usually all on the same path, underdog with a heart, a bit quirky, and vulnerable. He doesn’t have a lot of variety in his style from movie to movie, but I really don’t care. I look forward to every film that has his name attached. He and Blanchett work well together, but how could they not. She’s amazing in every single role, even this comedic venture, and even though Wilson seems like an amateur compared to her seasoned talents, they fit together very well in Anderson’s world.

Angelica Houston is a classic. Even if she hasn’t been in hundreds of movies, she has a certain command of the screen that gives this cast it’s credibility. Her deadpan delivery of every single line, her unimpressed expressions, and her character’s terminal boredom with everything around her makes her the counter balance to the somewhat off the wall moments in the film. With fantasy sea creatures, pirates, and a mission to hunt down a creature that quite possibly does not exist, Houston keeps us with our toe in the waters of reality. (clever)

Overall this is a film I will watch so many times. I will pop it into my laptop, keep it near my PC, and on those Saturday afternoons when TV is crap, I will toss it in the DVD player and revisit Zissou’s wild ride into self discovery.

Value: 10/10
I haven’t looked at the price, and I honestly don’t even care. If you are a fan of Anderson, Murray, Wilson, Houston, Blanchett, or any of the other fantastic performers in this film you should buy it without hesitation. You might not want this Criterion Edition, but if you just get the standard edition it’s well worth whatever your local shop or favorite internet mom and pop store has to offer.

Overall Score 10/10