Palette Cleanser: Reset the clock after big projects

A palette cleanser might be something you should consider.

palette cleanser
Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on

Now, what do I mean by a palate cleanser?

You know what I mean, you’ve finished your main, but there’s more to come. You want to appreciate it you get brought a small, light fluffy sorbet. You’re now able to enjoy the next course.

This can be applied to other aspects of life. Here I’m specifically talking to creative types. You may have finished up an enormous big undertaking but now what do you do?

Have you considered going back to zero, starting from scratch?

Whoever you are, whatever you’re working on I hope you’re able to get some value out of this post.

When you work on a project, you may feel like you have to keep upping the ante each time.

You hit those dizzying highs, where do you go? You have to keep on going up and up and up. Well, what goes up must come down. What makes you think you’re the exception?

You almost got to get bringing yourself right back down to the ground floor.

In fact, by going to back to basics, you can give yourself a second wind.

I’m thinking specifically about the film world and narrowing in further, directors.


Directors who cleansed the palette

Paul Thomas Anderson is an excellent example of someone who had a palate cleanser. He went from Hard Eight to Boogie Nights to Magnolia. Boogie Nights is 2 hours 45 minutes, and Magnolia is over three hours. Where do you go from there? PTA made Punch Drunk Love as his palette cleanser. A 90-minute rom-com. Could be I’m being overly simplistic, but do you get what I’m saying? He made that, went away for a while then came back with There Will Be Blood.

Another example is Sam Mendes. His first film was American Beauty, an awards darling. After that Road to Perdition, another one that was expected to bring in the gongs. The same with Jarhead and then Revolutionary Road. It felt like there was always pressure on him to do award-worthy films. He cleansed his palette when he made Away We Go. A 90-minute light-hearted comedy. More specifically, it was not awards bait.

Sam Rami is another. After his Spider-Man trilogy, he went back to basics with one of his best films, Drag Me To Hell.

Wes Anderson some might argue with me, but it feels like the first bump in his road was The Life Aquatic. A film that I am just not a fan off. Anderson cleansed his palette by making a series of shorts. He then switched it up further by making the stop motion Fantastic Mr Fox. Ever since working with stop motion, his live-action work feels more disciplined. Grand Budapest Hotel is excellent. My personal favourite Anderson film is Moonrise Kingdom.

Kanye West is an example of someone who had a palette cleanser. After the prog-rock behemoth, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he went punk rock with Yeezus. You know what I’m a big Kanye fan. Twisted fantasy turns ten this year, I’m going to write about it at some point. What I will say is that I really love how Kanye’s albums are getting shorter, I love it. He’s one of the few musicians who understand that “more more” does not equal “more better”.

It’s almost as if you need to reset the clock. Bring yourself back down to earth. Gain some perspective and get back to your roots.

You want examples of filmmakers who didn’t cleanse the palate?

Here you go.

Directors who didn’t

First of all, there’s Paul Verhoeven. Excluding his Dutch career, he went from Flesh and Blood (avoid) to Robocop to Total Recall. Then there was Basic Instinct. He should have made his palette cleanser after Basic Instinct. Instead, he made Showgirls which was a disaster, I’ve never been able to watch the film. Now it gave us Starship Troopers which I’m thankful for, but that led to Hollow Man, which was his last American film. If he had something like Hollow Man instead of Showgirls would he have got his second wind?

Tarantino is up next. He went from Reservoir Dogs Pulp Fiction then Jackie Brown. If ever there was a time to make Death Proof it was right after Jackie Brown. Instead, he fannied around for seven years to bring us Kill Bill. Kill Bill could have been his palette cleanser. Instead, the wait was too long, and Kill Bill was not worth the wait. Like all of Tarantino’s second wind films are bloated and unbalanced. Sometimes they are entertaining. Like Inglorious Basterds and up until Leonardo gets shot in Django Unchained. Had he bounced back in straight after Jackie Brown who knows what his career would have been like? Jackie Brown gets better with age. It feels like the film not being “cool” like Dogs and Pulp knocked his confidence, and he never recovered. (Here’s my own ranking of Tarantino’s films)

Peter Jackson should have cleansed his pallette with King Kong. Instead, we had to wait forty minutes to get on the frigging boat. Something 90 minutes long. That’s all we want. Instead we got The Lovely Bones one of the worst films I can remember seeing in a cinema. It’s no The Spirit, but it’s still awful.

James Cameron is the ultimate example of someone who needs to get back to basics. But he can’t. He made the Terminator then Aliens. The Abyss was more intimate, but it was still had an enormous budget. After he made Terminator 2, True Lies then Titanic. Every film he did part of the story was that it was the most expensive film ever made. That all his movies turned out not just good but fantastic is impressive. I’m not a fan of The Abyss or Titanic, but everything else is a classic. It’s not to be sniffed at. However we had to wait ten years for Avatar. You know what I mean? We’re waiting for sequels to Avatar. Does anyone care?

I don’t, do you?

What I’m saying is you can keep going up and up but remember the peak is narrow. Sometimes you go so high you forget why you started climbing in the first place. Am I mixing my metaphors? Probably, let’s go back to food.

After a sumptuous, delicious meal, you may be tempted to order the chocolate gateau. Don’t, the taste will clash with the meat from the main. Sometimes you have to take a break between courses.

Sometimes you need a palette cleanser.

Did you like that?

If you did would you mind signing up to my email because you’re a legend.

Thank you and have a great day,


Leave a Reply