Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: Pleasantville Vs. Rushmore

In the first round of this bracket game, I tended to give some general information about the origins of the movie in question, its overall nature, and the resulting reactions to it both critically and financially. I then included a video of the trailer for the movie, just in case anybody needed a reminder of what the movie was like (or maybe more accurately, how it was marketed). With our list of films whittled down to eight, I’ve decided to take a different tack in this second round. Hopefully, with fewer films to cover, the chances that I’ll find the information and sources I need will be pretty decent.

Today we have a matchup between two movies named after fictional places that are revered by some of the characters. We’ve also got two soundtracks full of brilliantly employed classic pop songs. Drag yourself out of that old vinyls shop and join in the appreciation.

Before we get into the last of our quarterfinal matches though, let’s take a look at which goofy man-child comedy today’s winner will face in the final four. Well, as robbushblog said: The Dude Abides. Or maybe it could be said in the context of this round that the Dude kicks ass and takes names. Even with Lebeau’s pity vote, Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer was only able to collect a paltry fifteen percent of the vote. While The Big Lebowski remains one of the favorites for the bracket overall, I’m guessing he’ll face stronger competition from one of today’s movies.

If you’re going to make a movie set in a romanticized suburb from a 1950s era family sitcom and then turn the concept on its head the way Pleasantville does, you’re absolutely going to need some well-chosen musical tracks from the era that will do part of the job of pointing out how revolutionary the ’50s actually were at times, and that the nostalgic stasis of the titular town is out of touch with that. At least that’s how I interpret the amazing set of songs chosen by director Gary Ross and his team. Check out this Spanish language version of a scene set in the soda shop in which David (Tobey Maguire) faces some questions about the world outside Pleasantville. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this same scene in English, but in a way it might help in hearing how Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Miles Davis’ “So What” are used to tell the story of the scene (and if you know Spanish, then hey, no problem, right?).

“Take Five” is Brubeck’s signature recording, and there’s no mystery why. It is alternately smooth and jarring, pulling at the listener’s nerves ever so slightly through most of its running time, with the interjecting drums never quite letting you slip into the cooly hypnotic melody of the lead saxophone while the insistent piano repetitions propel the whole thing along, making you suspect that you really are heading somewhere. Ross uses this nervy quality to his advantage in the above scene, cutting to the drums and pacing the whole thing to the Paul Desmond classic. You can feel the questions of the town’s kids working on David’s anxieties, and somehow build, only for the soundtrack to fade out and then into the similar, but decidedly more confident-sounding “So What” from Miles Davis once David realizes this is good attention he’s getting, and that he is suddenly the coolest guy in the room.

Through a simple stroke of luck, I found this scene also in Spanish, but of course there’s less dialogue here, so it kind of doesn’t matter.

This up-tuned version of the Who’s song “A Quick One, While He’s Away” is nicely chosen, both in reflecting the chaos of the situation Max and Blume are allowing themselves to escalate, and in opposition by offering forgiveness in the lyrics while appearing to do nothing of the kind between the characters on screen. Also, that slow-motion shot of Max exiting the freight elevator and sticking his gum to the wall is first class wish-fulfillment as film. This is the apex of the film we were sort of promised at the beginning, but somehow we know this can’t be where we leave the characters. When it comes down to it, the movie is not on board with the poor behaviors of its protagonist or his mentor/rival. Gradually, Max and Blume’s childish fits spasm and sputter and run out of steam and they end up friends again. Max decides to start acting like he’s fifteen and Blume decides to stop acting like he’s fifteen. Then the whole cast gets together after the school play and dances happily to the Faces’ “Ooh La La” as a curtain literally draws on the whole story, a visual trick that helps to assure us that everything we’ve seen has been a temporary bit of play-acting that its characters are over now. The words of “Ooh La La” reinforce this implied transience by putting it all up to immaturity. After all, Max has a girlfriend his own age now, so he’ll be okay, right? Surely this obsessive sociopath won’t cause more serious mischief when he’s nineteen…because when has that ever happened? Just tap your foot and listen to Ronnie Wood.

Which cynical coming-of-age comedy would you like to see move into our final four? Vote here and tell us how you came to your decision in the comments section.


Posted on January 28, 2018, in Bracket Game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m going with Rushmore. The truth is, I don’t like Pleasantville all that much. For me, it’s a movie in which the filmmaker’s reach exceeded his grasp. I appreciate the ambition displayed in the third act of Pleasantville, but it falls short in execution.


    • Although I voted for Pleasantville, I acknowledge it’s a movie that;s easy to admire but hard to love.


      • I can maybe understand why some people don’t have an emotional connection with Pleasantville, but I gotta say that there are multiple moments in the film that touch something very powerful inside me. As much as I like Rushmore, it doesn’t do more than entertain and strike some nice character moments, whereas Pleasantville goes much deeper for me and has truly heartbreaking moments.


  2. Is discovering for the first time the song “OOh La La” reason enough to vote for “Rushmore”? I think so.


  3. How is PLEASANTVILLE beating RUSHMORE? How did it beat THE TRUMAN SHOW? This boggles the mind.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: