This guest blog post is by Harrison Flatau and Josh Elmer.
Hello Austinot! Harrison and Josh here from MovieDebaters.com. We’re dedicated to providing a space for thought-provking film posts, and the wonderful folks here at The Austinot wanted to us to share some of that with you. We’ve decided to share our monthly debate on the best Austin filmmaker: Mike Judge vs. Wes Anderson.
Harrison: Mike Judge’s small catalogue of films has absolutely struck a chord with audiences. It’s been 13 years since the release of Office Space. People are still using it as cultural shorthand for the way workplaces work. The same goes for 2006’s Idiocracy. More and more, I see people using that film to describe the direction we’re heading. No other filmmaker I can think of has beem rooted so deeply into the collective conscious of the public.
Josh: I don’t think there’s any question that Austin has a rich film history and great filmmakers have emerged from there. But in terms of great filmmaking, Wes Anderson is the pinnacle of that tradition. Not only does he have a unique vision and style, his films are iconic to those who love them and respected by those who don’t.
Harrison: I’ve found that when it comes to discussions about Anderson, more often than not, what is discussed is the style of his movies, rather than the content. Whereas with Judge movies, the content is what flourishes and sticks into people’s brains.
Josh: No question, style is the first thing that comes to mind because his visual style is so prominent. But don’t let that distract you. Anderson’s films are interesting and personal explorations of character. Don’t get me wrong, Judge is a brilliant satirist. But for my money, I think Anderson has a more impressive and diverse filmography.
Harrison: There’s also the fact that Judge only has three live action movies under his belt. And Extract is a bit misunderstood, in that more people have experience being a worker than a manager.
Josh: I’ll concede it’s not fair to compare the amount of films. But I would argue that if you take any three Wes Anderson films, their content would be widely diverse. Judge I’m not sure about.
Harrison: The more I think about it, the more I think there isn’t quite as much diversity in Anderson’s movies. His movies are populated with characters who are emotionally distant, upper class, and love-challenged. Lots of filmmakers have similarities in their filmography, but we’re not talking about Soderberg here – someone whose films are wildly different from each other.
Josh: We could sum up many filmmakers this way and not get very far. Why is Mike Judge better than Anderson? Is it quotability?
Harrison: Like I said in my opening statement. It’s his ability to show us stories that are a wickedly funny mirror image of society. When I saw Office Space for the first time I was 16, never worked an office job in my life. But I still understood that culture and understood why it was so ridiculous. And I understood why that movie was such a biting satire. Whereas, I think Anderson makes movies that are great, but they seem to be geared more towards cinephiles than a general audience member.
Josh: I think to simplify Anderson as a filmmaker’s director is a mistake. His films are about flawed characters searching for fulfillment. In a way, Anderson is the most tuned-in filmmaker because this is the dilemma of modern society. Most of us are unfulfilled and searching for fulfillment, be that getting the girl, pulling off a heist, finding our mother in India, or running away with the girl we’re in love with.
Harrison: No doubt Anderson has one of (if not the) most distinguishable visual styles in cinema today. But that comes with a cost. Many audiences complain about Anderson’s affinity for his muted colors and sans serif fonts. Judge has created movies that are more accessible. More accessibility means more people can share the movie with each other. We’re social creatures and the ability to reach more audience members shouldn’t be discounted.
Josh: In Mike Judge’s films, we get a hilarious portrait of idiosyncrasies of modern life, but the characters lack emotional depth. For me, the best filmmaker should be both hilarious and have a depth that transcends normal comedy. Wes Anderson’s films are about the dilemma of modern society – where do we search for fulfillment? He also commands the frame. Whether you like it or not, Anderson is an important filmmaker, and the best to emerge from Austin.
Harrison: Mike Judge isn’t the most visually stimulating director, but his films have reached (and touched) the masses in an unparalleled way. The movies he’s made have become absolutely ubiquitous in our culture.
What does everyone else think?
Josh Elmer is a co-founder of Moviedebaters.com, a graduate student, and aspiring screenwriter.
Harrison Flatau co-founded Moviedebaters.com, daydreams about action sequences, and writes all day, e’ery day.
Photos courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Popperipopp and JoBlo.com.