Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater –prominent writer/directors, Texas natives (both have roots in Houston) and coincidentally my two favorite humans. Their latest films were nominated for Best Motion Picture this year and, delving further, their careers have evolved at very similar rates, humbly paving the quaint dirt road that was the indie film scene in the ‘90s with Slacker and Bottle Rocket. Onward, they transitioned to tastemakers, acquiring cult followings with Dazed and Confused and The Royal Tenenbaums. With each film Anderson and Linklater make, their toolbox gets a little bigger without compromising their eclectic and pridefully offbeat styles, one vastly different from the other, yet hauntingly similar. Which leads to the question, who does it better?
For Anderson and Linklater, a film’s soundtrack seems to be equally as important as cinematography or plot. Anderson uses music to form a specifically cultured aesthetic shaped from a balance of scores by Mark Mothersbaugh and rock ‘n’ roll. Linklater uses era-defining music as a sort of bookmark for time, shaping his stories around cultural happenings as defined by what was playing on the radio.
Battle #1: Music
School of Rock
The Royal Tenenbaums
Nothing is more rock ‘n’ roll than a soundtrack featuring Led Zeppelin, The Who, T. Rex, and The Ramones. The School of Rock soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy, and includes the cast’s cover of ACDC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll.)” On the other hand, Anderson’s soundtrack to a story of a dysfunctional family reunited after twenty years is heartfelt, featuring artists like Nico, Paul Simon, John Lennon, and The Velvet Underground. Is it possible to forget Richie and Margot Tenenbaum’s deep, loving gaze as she gets off the bus, backed by These Days, by Nico?
Winner: Anderson/The Royal Tenenbaums
Dazed and Confused
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
In The Life Aquatic, Seu Jorge serenades us with Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs. Dazed and Confused uses quintessential songs of rebellious youth, like “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper and “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. While The Life Aquatic features a beautiful gem by The Zombies, “The Way I Feel Inside,” one cannot ignore the nostalgia that comes with seeing wild teenagers on the last day of high school backed by popular songs of the time. It takes you right back, even if you weren’t in high school in 1976, much less alive.
Winner: Linklater/Dazed and Confused
The Darjeeling Limited
The Darjeeling Limited falls short for many Anderson fans, but the film’s soundtrack is truly the star. Featuring a spread of tracks from Satyajit Ray, The Kinks and Ravi Shankar, this soundtrack is memorable, odd and honestly one of the most unique mixes of music I’ve heard on one compact disc. However, Boyhood is a rare bird too, taking chart-topping hits from each of the twelve years Boyhood spanned across, and using them as a way to mark time and make people remember when they tried to learn the Soulja Boy dance.
Winner: Anderson/The Darjeeling Limited
Subjective Winner: Wes Anderson’s Movie Soundtracks are Better