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Isle of Dogs (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Isle of Dogs
IsleOfDogsFirstLook.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by
Screenplay by Wes Anderson
Story by
Starring
Narrated by Courtney B. Vance
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Tristan Oliver
Edited by
  • Ralph Foster
  • Edward Bursch
Production
company
  • Indian Paintbrush
  • American Empirical Pictures
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • February 15, 2018 (2018-02-15) (Berlinale)
  • March 23, 2018 (2018-03-23) (United States)
  • May 10, 2018 (2018-05-10) (Germany)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
Country
Language
  • English
  • Japanese
Box office $61.5 million[6]

Isle of Dogs (犬ヶ島, Inugashima) is a 2018 stop-motion animated film written, produced and directed by Wes Anderson. Set in a dystopian near-future Japan, the film follows a group of dogs who helps a young boy searching for his dog after the whole species is banished to an island after a canine-flu outbreak. The ensemble voice cast includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood, Kunichi Nomura and Yoko Ono.

A US-German co-production, Isle of Dogs was produced by Indian Paintbrush and Anderson's own production company, American Empirical Pictures. The film opened the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, where Anderson was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director. It was given a limited release in the United States on March 23, 2018, by Fox Searchlight Pictures, and went on wide release on April 13. It has grossed $61 million worldwide, and received praise for its animation, story, and deadpan humor; some critics, however, have accused it of cultural appropriation.

Plot

In a dystopian near-future Japan, a dog-flu virus spreads throughout the canine population. Though one scientist, Professor Watanabe, is close to finding a cure, the authoritarian mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi, signs a decree banishing all dogs to Trash Island. The first exile is Spots, who belonged to Atari Kobayashi, the orphaned nephew and ward of the mayor.

Six months later, Atari steals a plane and flies to Trash Island to search for Spots. After a crash-landing, he is rescued by a pack of dogs led by a black dog, Chief. They decide to help Atari locate Spots, although Chief, a former stray, is reluctant to fraternize with humans. They fend off a rescue team sent by Kobayashi to retrieve Atari. At the insistence of a female purebreed named Nutmeg, Chief reluctantly decides to accompany the group on their search. They seek advice from two sage dogs, Jupiter and Oracle, who warn them of cannibal dogs on an isolated part of the island.

Professor Watanabe finds a cure, but is poisoned by Kobayashi. American exchange student Tracy Walker suspects a conspiracy and begins to investigate. She confronts Watanabe's former colleague Yoko Ono, who confirms Tracy's suspicions and gives her the last dose of the cure.

During the journey, Atari and Chief are separated from the others. Atari bathes Chief, revealing that his coat is actually white. Noticing the similarity between Chief and Spots, Atari realizes that Chief is of Spots' breed, which is extremely rare. Chief recalls being part of a litter where all but one of his siblings died. He begins to bond with Atari as they continue their journey. They rejoin the group and locate the cannibal tribe, but are ambushed by Kobayashi's men. Spots arrives with an army of dogs who fend off the assailants. He reveals that he was rescued by the cannibal tribe and became their leader. Spots also confirms that Chief is his brother and asks to transfer his protection duties for Atari to Chief, to which both agree.

An owl brings word that Kobayashi plans to order total extermination of all dogs on Trash Island. At Kobayashi's election ceremony, Kobayashi prepares to give the order, but Tracy presents her evidence of his corruption. Atari and the dogs also arrive and confirm the cure works. Kobayashi has a change of heart, but his right-hand man Major Domo insists on triggering the extermination. A fight ensues in which the "execute" button is pressed, but the poison backfires on the captors due to Tracy's hacker friend.

During the fight, Atari and Spots are gravely injured. Atari's only remaining kidney fails, but Kobayashi, admitting his mistakes, donates his own to save him. By election law, mayorship of the city falls to Atari and he decrees that dogs be allowed to reintegrate into society. Tracy and Atari become a couple, and Chief reunites with Nutmeg and takes up the role of bodyguard for Atari. Presumed dead, Spots recovers and secretly raises his litter under the Kobayashi Manor.

Cast

Production

Development

 Isle of Dogs press conference at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, February 2018
Isle of Dogs press conference at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, February 2018

In October 2015, Anderson, who had previously directed the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox, announced he would be returning to the genre with "a film about dogs"[9] starring Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston and Bob Balaban.[10][11] Anderson has said that he was inspired by seeing a road sign for the Isle of Dogs in England while Fantastic Mr. Fox was in development.[12] Anderson said that the film was strongly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as the stop-motion animated holiday specials made by Rankin/Bass Productions.[13]

Filming

Production began in October 2016 at the 3 Mills Studios in East London.[14][15][16]

Release

On December 23, 2016, Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film, with plans for a 2018 release.[17][18] A trailer was released on September 21, 2017.[19]

The film premiered as the opening film of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival on February 11, 2018, and had its North American premiere as the closing film of the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 17, 2018.[20] Isle of Dogs began a limited release in the U.S. on March 23, 2018.[21] It was released nationwide in the United States on April 13, 2018.[22][23][24]

Reception

Box office

As of June 12, 2018, Isle of Dogs has grossed $31.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $29.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $61.4 million.[6]

In its first weekend of limited release, the film made $1.57 million from 27 theaters (an average of $58,148 per venue), which is the highest screen average of 2018 thus far.[22] 60% of its audience was under the age of 30.[25] In its second weekend the film made $2.8 million from 165 theaters (an increase of 74%), finishing 11th.[26] The film entered the top 10 in its third weekend, making $4.6 million from 554 theaters.[27] The film expanded to 1,939 theaters the following week and made $5 million, finishing 7th at the box office.[28]

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 264 reviews, and an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The beautifully stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs finds Wes Anderson at his detail-oriented best while telling one of the director's most winsomely charming stories."[29] On Metacritic, which assigns normalized ratings to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 54 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale,[25] while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an overall positive score of 88%.[31]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising it for taking risks, and saying: "It’s smart and different and sometimes deliberately odd and really funny — rarely in a laugh-out-loud way, more in a smile-and-nod-I-get-the-joke kind of way."[32] Exclaim! gave the film 7 out of 10, saying it "has all the hallmarks of another Wes Anderson classic."[33]

Criticism

Some critics have argued that the film is an example of racial stereotyping and cultural appropriation, and that one of its characters aligns with the trope of the "white savior".[34] The Japanese characters speak unsubtitled Japanese, with their dialogue instead being translated by an interpreter or a machine. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote "It's in the director's handling of the story's human factor that his sensitivity falters, and the weakness for racial stereotyping that has sometimes marred his work comes to the fore... Much of the Japanese dialogue has been pared down to simple statements that non-speakers can figure out based on context and facial expressions". Angie Han, writing in Mashable, calls the American exchange student character Tracy a "classic example of the 'white savior' archetype–the well-meaning white hero who arrives in a foreign land and saves its people from themselves".[35]

While this critique has created some furore on the film's release, Chang has said that his review had been taken out of context and turned into a "battle cry" on Twitter, adding, "I wasn't offended; nor was I looking to be offended".[36] Another Japanese-American perspective was provided by Emily Yoshida, writing in New York magazine, that these concerns had been "seen before in debates about Asian culture as reflected by Western culture — perspectives can vary wildly between Asian-Americans and immigrated Asians, and what feels like tribute to some feels like opportunism to others".[37]

Writing for BuzzFeed, Alison Willmore found "no overt malicious intent to Isle of Dogs' cultural tourism, but it's marked by a hodgepodge of references that an American like Anderson might cough up if pressed to free associate about Japan – taiko drummers, anime, Hokusai, sumo, kabuki, haiku, cherry blossoms, and a mushroom cloud (!). [...] This all has more to do with the... insides of Anderson's brain than it does any actual place. It's Japan purely as an aesthetic – and another piece of art that treats the East not as a living, breathing half of the planet but as a mirror for the Western imagination".[38] She continued, "in the wake of Isle of Dogs' opening weekend, there were multiple headlines wondering whether the film was an act of appropriation or homage. But the question is rhetorical – the two aren't mutually exclusive, and the former is not automatically off the table just because the creator's intent was the latter".[38]

Conversely, Moeko Fujii wrote a favorable review for The New Yorker, complimenting the film's depiction of the Japanese and their culture, as well as pointing out that language is the key theme of the movie. Fujii wrote,

Anderson’s decision not to subtitle the Japanese speakers struck me as a carefully considered artistic choice. Isle of Dogs is profoundly interested in the humor and fallibility of translation... This is the beating heart of the film: there is no such thing as “true” translation. Everything is interpreted. Translation is malleable and implicated, always, by systems of power... [the film] shows the seams of translation, and demarcates a space that is accessible—and funny—only to Japanese viewers.[39]

Fujii also deconstructed the criticisms of the character of Tracy Walker being a "white savior," and how this relates to the film's language theme, writing,

At a climactic moment, the movie rejects the notion of universal legibility, placing the onus of interpretation solely upon the American audience... This is a sly subversion, in which the Japanese evince an agency independent of foreign validation. Indeed, to say that the scene dehumanizes the Japanese is to assume the primacy of an English-speaking audience. Such logic replicates the very tyranny of language that Isle of Dogs attempts to erode.[39]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result Ref
Berlin International Film Festival 15–25 February 2018 Silver Bear for Best Director Wes Anderson Won [40][41]
Best Film Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards May 2018 Best Animation/Family TV Spot Isle of Dogs [42]
Best Animation/Family Won
Titanic International Film Festival April 13, 2018 Audience's Award - Best Film Wes Anderson [43]
SXSW Film Festival Audience Awards 17-19 March 2018 Headliners [44]

Soundtrack

Isle of Dogs: Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Alexandre Desplat
Released March 23, 2018 (2018-03-23)
Studio Air Studios, London, UK[45]
Genre Soundtrack
Label ABKCO 18771849322
Producer
Wes Anderson film soundtrack chronology
The Grand Budapest Hotel
(2014)The Grand Budapest Hotel2014
Isle of Dogs
(2018)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Backseat Mafia 7.5/10[46]
Drowned in Sound 7/10[47]
Pitchfork 7.3/10[48]

The film's score was composed by Alexandre Desplat, who had previously worked with Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The soundtrack also features various original and selected songs from a variety of musicians, mainly from Japan. Some songs had origins in classic Japanese cinema such as the Akira Kurosawa films Drunken Angel (1948) and Seven Samurai (1954). The soundtrack comprises 22 tracks in total, 15 of which were composed by Desplat.[49]

Track listing

All tracks written and performed by Alexandre Desplat, except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "Shinto Shrine" 1:56
2. "Taiko Drumming" (written and performed by Kaoru Watanabe) 0:50
3. "The Municipal Dome" 2:29
4. "Six Months Later + Dog Fight" 2:05
5. "The Hero Pack" 1:08
6. "First Crash-Landing" 0:56
7. "Kanbei & Katsushiro – Kikuchiyo's Mambo" (from Seven Samurai) (written by Fumio Hayasaka, performed by Toho Symphony Orchestra) 0:52
8. "Second Crash-Landing + Bath House + Beach Attack" 4:07
9. "Nutmeg" 0:48
10. "Kosame No Oka" (from Drunken Angel) (written by Hachirō Satō and Ryōichi Hattori, performed by David Mansfield) 1:06
11. "I Won't Hurt You" (written by Michael Lloyd, Shaun Harris and Bob Markley, performed by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band) 2:23
12. "Toshiro" 1:07
13. "Jupiter and Oracle + Aboriginal Dogs" 2:05
14. "Sushi Scene" 1:41
15. "Midnight Sleighride" (from Lieutenant Kijé Suite) (written by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by Sauter-Finegan Orchestra) 3:01
16. "Pagoda Slide" 1:08
17. "First Bath of a Stray Dog" 0:26
18. "TV Drumming" (written and performed by Watanabe) 0:31
19. "Kobayashi Canine-Testing Laboratory" 1:57
20. "Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy" (written by Seiichi Ida and Tasuku Sano, performed by Teruko Akatsuki) 3:02
21. "Re-Election Night, Parts 1-3" 5:00
22. "End Titles" 4:51

References

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External links

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