MOVIE #1,240 • 🍿🍿🍿 • 11.16.23 WES ANDERSON: DIRECTOR FOCUS This is a movie about how all dogs in Japan are white people and all Japanese...

Isle of Dogs

MOVIE #1,240 • 🍿🍿🍿 • 11.16.23


This is a movie about how all dogs in Japan are white people and all Japanese people are not. I did not like this at all when I saw it on VOD after its theatrical run.

And I can say that I still feel that way now. It's bad.

It is an absolutely beautiful-looking movie but totally void of anything to say. And the choice to set this in Japan can't help but feel like some weird, stilted cultural fascination that at worst is offensive (I don't really believe this, well, maybe aside from Greta Gerwig’s character) and at best, an odd form of stereotyping masked as playful voyeurism.
The idea to make Japan the backdrop boils down to nothing more than why not? And that isn't enough. The little pilot can't communicate with the dogs because they are dogs, not because he is Japanese. (He says “sit-o” to get them to sit instead of whatever “sit” is in Japanese! What the fuck is that?) And the decision to not provide subtitles is baffling. It simultaneously ‘others’ the human characters in a gawking, negative light and treats the audience like fools. Still, I don't think this is quite the main reason why the film is bad.

It's bad because this is easily the most half-baked story Anderson has ever conjured and it's swimming in his most overindulgent whims, primarily its cutesy dialogue with deadpan quips that don't land. His detractors have always claimed style over substance but this is the only entry where that's definitively true. Also, the beauty of the stop-motion loses its luster less than halfway through, fully bogged down by the inane and boring plot (tbh I didn’t make it to the end on this viewing).

All this coupled with the ambiguity surrounding the unintentional racism that I (as a white guy), frankly, am not really qualified to address (however, the great Ryuichi Sakamoto said, “as a Japanese, you know, to me, it's kind of the same thing again: Old Hollywood movies, they always used their mixed image of Japanese or Chinese or Korean or Vietnamese...It's a wrong stereotypical image of Asian people, so I cannot take it” and I'll just leave it at that) adds up to very little: chiefly, Wes Anderson's worst movie by a wide margin.

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Isle of Dogs (Japanese: 犬ヶ島, Hepburn: Inu ga Shima, lit. 'Dog Island') is a 2018 stop-motion animated comedy film written, produced, and directed by Wes Anderson, narrated by Courtney B. Vance, and starring an ensemble cast that consists of Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Kunichi Nomura, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Yojiro Noda, Fisher Stevens, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel, and Frank Wood. A U.S.–German co-production, Isle of Dogs was produced by Indian Paintbrush and Anderson's own American Empirical Pictures, in association with Studio Babelsberg. The film is set in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki where Mayor Kenji Kobayashi has banished all dogs to Trash Island due to a canine influenza pandemic. Kobayashi's nephew Atari sets out to find his missing dog Spots with the help of a group of dogs led by stray dog Chief. It was released on February 15, 2018.


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