I know, I know, I’m late to the game. It wasn’t until I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel two weeks ago that I realized I needed to start watching Wes Anderson’s movies, stat.
The Grand Budapest Hotel was everything I love about movies: enchanting cinematography…a brilliantly-told story…characters who get stuck in your head like a catchy song. Previously, I’d only seen The Darjeeling Limited (in a preoccupied state, no less), and bits and pieces of The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom, all of which left me intrigued by their vivid colors and offbeat storylines.
So, since we’d already been slacking on our Album of the Week initiative (more coming soon, I swear!), Alex and I thought it’d be a fun alternative to begin a Director of the Month series. I think with most directors it would make sense to at least see their most well-known works as well as a couple obscure ones…maybe 5-6 films total. But with Wes Anderson, we powered through all of his 7 feature films within a week and a half, because they’re just all so good.
Here are some of my favorites, organized by random, made-up nominations because I didn’t know how else to do it:
Most Relevant Soundtrack To My Life
Let me start off by saying that ALL Wes Anderson movies have really, really awesome soundtracks, usually including the obligatory Rolling Stones song, a smattering of other British Invasion bands, something with words in another language, and a quirky musical score by Mark Mothersbaugh (the same guy who did the Rugrats music). But my god, the soundtrack to Rushmore is so relevant to my interests it’s freakish. There’s that whole revenge montage to “A Quick One,” Stones deep cut “I Am Waiting,” and an ending scene set to The Faces’ “Ooh La La,” to name a few. So yes, I think Rushmore wins on that one, but can we also take a moment to appreciate the collection of acoustic Portuguese Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic?
(Also relevant: the Vilayat Khan composition in The Darjeeling Limited [Vilayat Khan was my sitar teacher’s father] and “Let Her Dance” by the Bobby Fuller Four, featured in Fantastic Mr. Fox and covered by the Spencer Owen Timeshare.)
Most Stunning Cinematography
Moonrise Kingdom: you can tell how beautiful it is just from the trailer. Amazing settings, colors, camera work. On top of that, I think this movie really captures what it’s like to be a kid (Sam & Suzy taking inventory), even if my childhood never consisted of running away and flawlessly pitching a camp on the edge of an abandoned beach.
Greatest Character Development
Wes & Co. have a great way of introducing characters who are not immediately likable, but who somehow transform into unexpectedly and downright lovable people by the end. It’s so fun to see that unfold throughout each movie. For me, it’s a tie between everyone in The Royal Tenenbaums and the Whitman brothers in The Darjeeling Limited. Maybe I’m just a sucker for dysfunctional family relationships?
Most Smashing Cast
The Grand Budapest Hotel, I mean, seriously.
I admired them before, but after watching all these movies, I am now a faithful fan of Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson. Also, Jeff Goldblum.
Favorite Bill Murray Character
Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. This is a guy who obviously has his flaws, but like most Wes Anderson characters, he has a grand vision that he won’t let go of, which I admire. I also admire the evolution of his relationship with Ned, which is funny, heartwarming, and sad all at the same time. Also, the ending of the movie (coupled with Sigur Ros’ “Staralfur”) just about ripped my heart out.
Yep, I think my favorite film of them all has indeed been The Life Aquatic, which apparently is Anderson’s lowest-rated movie. But it’s the one I keep thinking about, and find myself wanting to watch over and over again.
Also, in the middle of all this movie-watching, I might have bought this book, which is a treasure trove of cool visuals and interviews with Wes Anderson. One of my favorite quotes comes from an interview conducted by the book’s author, when W.A. is asked whether he consciously decided to make the sea creatures in The Life Aquatic unreal-looking:
“It wasn’t about trying to make something unrealistic. It was about trying to make something imaginary.”
I really like that. All of these movies are created with a wonderful sense of imagination. I love how each character has these great aspirations, even if they’re kind of crazy and unattainable. And I love the worlds that Wes Anderson and his crew create. From now on, whenever a new W.A. movie comes out, consider me there on opening day.