All the directors I have covered so far here are easily some of my favorites - Billy Wilder, Sidney Lumet, Christopher Nolan etc. or at least the directors that I have been watching for many years and have seen majority of their films like Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese. Today, I am doing a little different experiment with Wes Anderson. Not that, I don't like him but it is different basically because until a month ago, I had not seen a single movie he directed. For an outsider looking inside, his movies looked like in a completely different world of their own and have a distinct style, look and feel. Some love his style and him for it, some despise him for the exact same thing. I for one was certainly intrigued by it but I still had to decide for myself which camp do I belong to? Then I saw The Darjeeling Limited(2007) and Fantastic Mr.Fox(2009) available On-Demand, Moonrise Kingdom(2012) also was getting a lot of positive attention and was running in a second-run theater nearby. I have been meaning to get into his films anyways. So, I took this chance and dived head-first into his whole filmography in over a month and instead of writing about them individually, I thought it will be a good idea doing this director's piece on him. So, taking a page out of Alex's book(Incidentally, today marks 5th anniversary of his blog as well. So, I could not have chosen a better day to do this), in this profile of Wes Anderson I am going to talk about every single movie he directed so far including his couple of shorts and rate them just like he does(Yup, Call me Copycat). Here we go !
Bottle Rocket(short)(1994): When I first saw it, I didn't really get the point of it. I mean it's just 13 minutes long and talks about a stupid book-shop robbery. Who robs a book-shop? Also Wes Anderson anyways covers everything that happens here again in full length feature anyways. So, I really didn't see the point. But after the feature film, I also found a little more appreciation for this short as well because this is much more well acted and probably well-scripted too than feature length. Grade: B
Bottle Rocket(1996): You should have guessed that I didn't really care for it much. To tell you the truth, this one and Life Aquatic are pretty much fighting for the bottom spot and I am leaning towards this one because even Life Aquatic had few saving graces to it. My main problem with it was plot looked like too stretched unnecessarily. It probably was only good enough for a short but them they made a full length movie out of it as well and it looses it. Whole side story with Inez was nice and sweet but completely removable. If they had to add it, they at least could have made sure to connect it properly with the rest of the story. Also, I was probably suppose to laugh through the whole robbery gig at the end but guess what? I was staring with the most blank face I could put on. I even started being irritated with Owen Wilson's voice. Grade: D
Rushmore(1998): I will be honest - I usually find it hard to get into movies in which I hate the central character and from the get go, I hated Max Fischer, so called 'good for nothing' King of Rushmore High School. In my opinion, he was just a snobby, stupid douchbag with a stuck-up attitude. But I have to credit Wes Anderson for couple of things - first of all, I think the way I felt is exactly how the director wanted us to feel about him initially for later half to make more impact and secondly, in second half, he made me warm-up to him quite a bit. Another Wes Anderson with beautiful supporting cast - Olivia Williams kept it grounded, Bill Murray was funny, I was even fond of Sara Tanaka's Margaret Yang. Grade: B+
The Royal Tenenbaums(2001): This is an easy decision for me - definitely the BEST of Wes Anderson's whole filmography. Going into the film, I was into how different this film 'looks'. I guess, all of his films look different. They have that distinct style to make them stand out easily from others but the greatest compliment I can give it after watching is their looks was the only weird thing about them. Every single character of this film is all so much real. Yes, they have their idiosyncrasies - Chas and his boys in their tracking suit and his security deals, Margot with her secrets and insecurities, Richie in his headband and long hair and on top of them all Royal and his broken family but there problems aren't artificial, on the contrary they felt very believable. Those characters won me over with their charm and soon enough I started rooting for them. Almost every characters goes through drastic transformation in their individual lives and never does it seem forced. Anywhere else, I will probably have problem with someone falling for his adopted sister. Not here. It was hilarious, it was beautiful, it was heart-warming, and more than anything it was entertaining. Grade: A
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou(2004): Yup, I hated it. OK, maybe not hated but definitely disliked it and the worst part is Bill Murray who usually is a saving grace was the biggest turn-off. His Steve Zissou was tacky, he was stupid, bloated and the pirates fightback which was suppose to be his 'win me over' moment fell so flat, I didn't even want to continue watching the movie further. Anjelica Huston, who was great in so many other movies didn't work either. Maybe because I saw this one last in filmography but it felt like her character was pretty much similar in everything else. Thank god for Cate Blanchett though that this did not become Bottle Rocket: Part 2. Owen Wilson didn't do much for me, William Defoe and Jeff Goldblum irritated me even more(for some reason, Jeff Goldblum always does and I have no idea why). It just did not work. At all. Grade: C-
Hotel Chevalier(Short)(2007): Again, another film as an introduction to the main film which doesn't really achieve anything(Well, unless you can count making Natalie Portman take her clothes off an achievement). It may not even mean much on its own since it is hardly 13 minutes long, takes place inside a hotel room and feels like a middle portion of something bigger with no start or end but when you watch The Darjeeling Limited after it, you know who's messages Jack is listening to and then it makes much more sense. Grade: B
The Darjeeling Limited(2007): Of all the movie he did, this was the first one I saw. For obvious reasons(FYI, Darjeeling is in India) I have been interested in it for some time. The thing is, in reality there is no train in India called The Darjeeling Express, definitely not the one that goes through Rajasthan, state where this film is shot because Darjeeling is on almost eastern borders of India and Rajasthan on western. So, I don't know how did he come up with that name? but fortunately that isn't a big deal since I ended up quite liking this movie. I don't know how spiritual their journey was and did they really learn anything along the way but I was having fun all the while. Being first of his filmography, I noticed many things that I soon realized can be called his trademarks like eccentric but rather believable characters(it soon became make or break condition as well), his use of slow-motion in dramatic moments, his choice of music(I am so not the person to talk about this. For all I know, he may have used the same song in all movies and I wouldn't recognize) and use of antique set props. Grade: B+
Fantastic Mr. Fox(2009): I have seen a lot of animation movies and there are few that I can call as one of my all-time favorites but in general, I am not a fan. Even in the field of animation, in the debate of Computerized animations against Traditional animations, I tend to go with Traditionalist - main reason why Studio Ghibli is the only banner I will watch any movie of just because it is Ghibli movie and this is from someone who says Wall-E(2008) as a favorite animated movie and credits Monster Inc.(2001) to get him into animated movies. I am not much familiar with this whole stop-motion thing either and I have never seen any puppet shows or movies in my life. So, the odds were stacked up against Mr. Fox. Let me say this first that I did not hate this movie at all. I think it worked pretty well, especially considering the odds and I have to credit Wes Anderson for transforming his style so well even in this medium. But there is something in his use of that technique that distracted me time and again to keep me from enjoying it to the fullest. Grade: B-
Moonrise Kingdom(2012): Let me first get The Cousin Ben Troop screening with Jason Schwatzman(2012). Technically, it is a short film but I don't know why should I call it that. It is shorter than a usual trailer and it even works better as a trailer of Moonrise. So, I am calling it that and as a trailer, it is one of the bests. So onto Moonrise Kingdom. One of the reason I decided to go ahead with this marathon was because Moonrise Kingdom was getting great reviews and it was running in a second run theater nearby. I thought it will be good idea to experience it on big screen and it turned out I was mostly right as this story of two 12 year-old outcast kids falling in love turned out to be a delight. Most of his movies are set in some specific period like this one is in '60s but do not have much significance as they all still are completely in their own world. After going through all his movies, I can say that success of his movie depends on this aspect a lot. If 'being in there own world' works for you, there is a good chance you will like the movie as well. Both the leads do a good job of being very different, quirky but still very likable and relatable. Almost whole supporting cast from Edward Norton, Bruce Willis to Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman was great too. I did think that the ending went a little too far but that's forgivable. Grade: A
Previous Profiles:Woody Allen
I just did a similar list yesterday. Since you also included Wes Anderson's shorts, I wonder if you've seen the short to Moonrise Kingdom where Suzy tells stories from the books she reads in the film. Here's the link: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/06/07/moonrise-kingdom-animation/ReplyDelete
I haven't seen that yet. To tell you the truth, I went by IMDb and saw whatever was credited to him.Delete
I will go through your post soon as well. Thanks for letting me know!
aw man, I am afraid I am not with you on this one at all. I can't stand Anderson's films, apart from Mr Fox!!ReplyDelete
Moonrise is the worst, in my eyes..... but what do I know
I understand completely Scott. I know quite a few people who love him like Crazy, who will call every movie he made 'the best film ever' but on the other hand I know a bunch like you as well, who can not stand his films. So, you have a big company. I am somewhere in the middle and hence so lonely :(Delete
Great article! I don't share your enthusiasm for Moonrise Kingdom but I definetly agree that The Royal Tenenbaums is his best - funny, lovely, great characters and great story. Overall I think his movies are style over substance, though.ReplyDelete
Thanks Sati !Delete
Well, you gain some, you lose some. At least you liked Tenenbaums right ? And Is he style over substance? Probably Yes. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.
Great write-up, I really like Wes Anderson, although I haven't seen all of his movies! I am on your side with Moonrise Kingdom, it's great!ReplyDelete
First of all, Sorry for late reply. I usually try to reply by next day. Somehow, I missed this. And Thanks!! I am glad you like Moonrise too. :)Delete
Great write up here man. Obviously we disagree a bit on Bottle Rocket, but it's all good! Glad I could be of inspiration for the post!ReplyDelete
Yup. It's all Good. I am hoping to get few more on the same lines. Let us see. Thanks Alex!Delete
A very insightful write up that will surely help cineastes like myself get started with Wes Anderson's oeuvre. Thanks for yet another great post :-)ReplyDelete
Oh Hello Murtaza, Long time no see. :DDelete
I am glad I can help you out. If you haven't seen any of his movies, I am sure you will at least some of them interesting.
I haven't by a long stretch seen all of Anderson's movies, but I like what I have seen. The Royal Tennenbaums really is a special film and one that I never get tired of seeing.ReplyDelete
You're making me want to watch more of his work, which is probably a good thing. I should watch more Anderson.
If you like what you have seen then you should give it a try to rest of his work. Like me, it is possible that you might not like the last ones you watch, but still it is worth chance.Delete
Great post, SDG. I have only seen five of his films, but so far Moonrise Kingdom is probably my favorite. Sounds like I need to check out The Royal Tenenbaums ASAP.ReplyDelete
Yes, you do Eric! I think you will like it and Thanks.Delete