Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping the Weitz brothers straight

You know, because they were thinking of going gay.

As discussed in this post, there are lots of brothers out there making films together. However, there are not quite as many brothers out there making films separately.

There are a few prominent examples (Ridley and Tony Scott), and a few not-as-prominent examples (Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron). But in both cases it's not hard for me to keep them straight. Ridley directed Alien and Blade Runner, Tony directed Domino and Man on Fire. That one's not hard. Alfonso directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men, Carlos directed (the quite likeable but not epic) Rudo y Cursi and something called The Second Bakery Attack. One has an established career, one is fledgling.

Ridley > Tony and Alfonso > Carlos.

But what happens when you really can't discern a difference between the two in terms of the quality of their films, and the genres they work in don't make things any clearer?

That's the scenario with Chris and Paul Weitz, who gained fame as the creative duo behind American Pie, then directed two more films together before forging separate careers.

I started thinking about Chris and Paul yesterday when I was listening to The Treatment, Elvis Mitchell's half-hour weekly radio program in which he sits down with a creative type, usually a writer or director but sometimes an actor or other industry type. Paul was yesterday's guest, and he was discussing his new film Being Flynn, starring Robert DeNiro and Paul Dano. It opened last Friday.

I thought, "That's funny, so soon on the heels of A Better Life." Which came out last summer, and netted an Oscar nomination for lead actor Damien Bichir.

Of course, I should have realized that it was probably Chris who directed A Better Life, not Paul. And that is in fact the case.

So I decided then and there I needed to figure out the difference between Chris and Paul Weitz. What better way to do it than a post about them? Maybe writing about it will help it sink in. For a guy who's anal about knowing who directed, wrote, produced or appeared in what, this suddenly seemed very important.

So what I'm going to do is run down each career, and conclude at the end which man belongs on the right side of the >, and which one belongs on the wrong.

But let me start by saying that I've realized something else about the two brothers in the course of researching this post: They were a legitimate directing team for three features, not just American Pie (1999) as I'd originally thought. I had always thought that only one of them directed About a Boy (2002) (I thought it was Paul), but checking several sources on these here interwebs, I see them both listed as directors. And then there's the Chris Rock vehicle Down to Earth (2001), with which I didn't know either of them was affiliated. I didn't see that, but I heard not good things. If that's the case, we can blame them both.

But then it was separate ways for the pair, though clearly they did not have a falling out, as they continue to serve as producers on each other's movies. Hey, I don't blame them. If I had a brother, I wouldn't want to always share the spotlight with him either.


Chris Weitz
Age: 42
Films he directed solo: The Golden Compass (2007), Twilight: New Moon (2009), A Better Life (2011)
Best film: A Better Life
Worst film: Can I say Twilight: New Moon even though I haven't seen it?
Summary: Looking at two of Chris' solo directing efforts, I guess you'd describe the younger Weitz brother as the high-concept guy, the guy who's given the big budgets and high expectations. Then of course, he confounds your expectations by going on to direct a little movie about an illegal alien trying to prosper in Los Angeles and provide for his son. I'm always interested by creative minds who can shift gears so totally and so successfully. I say "successfully" because I was actually a big fan of The Golden Compass -- and not only because it pissed off fundamentalist Christians.

Paul Weitz
Age: 46
Films he directed solo: In Good Company (2004), American Dreamz (2006), Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009), Little Fockers (2010), Being Flynn (2012)
Best film: In Good Company
Worst film: Little Fockers
Summary: The x-factor here is Being Flynn, which I guess could be either his best or his worst film. (The 54 Metascore is somewhat inconclusive.) And see, this is why these Weitz brothers are so tricky -- given that Chris directed Golden Compass and Twilight, I would totally expect that he'd be the one who directed Cirque du Freak (except that it came out the same year as Twilight: New Moon, so that would have been a lot of work). Maybe the studio was as confused as I am, and offered Cirque du Freak to Paul by accident. I have a huge affection for In Good Company, which was mostly developed on my semi-accidental second viewing last year. However, the other three I've seen are only mild successes (Cirque du Freak) to mild failures (American Dreamz) to massive failures (Little Fockers). Paul gains points back through greater output and greater variety of choices. He would have gained even more points if he'd been the sole director of About a Boy, as I once assumed.


This is sort of a tough one. Each has a big success to his credit, but each also has a big failure (critical if not commercial). And then each has some films that got a lukewarm critical response. Hmm.

Okay ...

Chris Weitz > Paul Weitz

Agree? Disagree? Leave it in the comments.

One thing that's for certain: I'm always going to be interested in what both are doing next.

One thing that's not certain: Whether writing this post will actually help me remember which is which the next time this comes up.

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