Each week the Before The Cyborgs staff comes together to answer one question relating to the current events of that particular week. This week, in celebration of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs being released: What’s your Favorite Wes Anderson movie?
While Bottle Rocket was the feature-length directorial debut of Wes Anderson, Rushmore is really the film that introduced him and his distinctly quirky style to the world. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is an overachieving yet academically negligent student at Rushmore Academy who develops an unrealistic crush on first-grade teacher, Ms. Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), and strikes up a friendship/rivalry with millionaire Herman Blume (Bill Murray) to win her affections. Rushmore is the perfect introduction to Anderson’s eccentric style while still existing within a grounded enough reality. Schwartzman and Murray have such a fantastic repertoire with each other, which coupled with an intelligently witty script, make for some hilarious exchanges. With the exception of maybe Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore is possibly Anderson’s most personal and relatable film, with both funny and insightful things to say about adolescence.
Portrayed through good old-fashioned stop-motion animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of the eponymous Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) in his journey to pull off one last major heist against the neighboring antagonistic farmers whom he steals food from each night. Crafted with a fine attention to detail, supported through excellent animation, smart writing, low-key yet meaningful performances from Wes Anderson regulars in addition to newcomers, an excellent score and production design, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a bizarre yet adventurous trek that explores some of the most surprisingly human and existential experiences from less-than-human characters. As his only animated feature before this year’s Isle of Dogs, the film comes adapted (albeit very loosely) from the classic children’s story by Roald Dahl; delivered to the screen with all the down-to-earth humour, style and charm to be expected from Anderson, all the while still maintaining the wit, imagination, and spirit of Dahl’s original work even in spite of more modern updates.
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is Wes Anderson’s funniest film which really shouldn’t be all that surprising given Bill Murray is the star as the titular Steve Zissou – a loose take on a Jacques Cousteau type character. Together with a ragtag crew, they embark on an expedition in search of a fabled “jaguar shark” that previously claimed the life of Zissou’s best friend. What follows is a slow culmination that quietly builds towards one of the most powerful moments in Anderson’s career. It reaches this point so discreetly that I contend audiences by in large dismissed the film as a misstep for Anderson when it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
No one will ever suggest that Wes Anderson makes movies for mass appeal because every single thing he has ever made is deeply embroiled with his unique touch independent of consumer interests but The Life Aquatic was really the first time he took a step into crafting a Wes Anderson world. All three of his ventures prior to this while containing elements of Anderson’s style did not go as far in embracing his approach. Here he leans heavily on the deadpan humor executed to perfection by Murray and a great supporting cast that includes scene stealers Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe.
As Anderson’s career has advanced, he has increasingly embraced his own eccentricities which makes a widespread reappraisal of the Life Aquatic all the more necessary. In doing so, I posit that more people will appreciate The Life Aquatic as a Wes Anderson movie. To quote Zissou “this is an adventure” and within this adventure (much like in life itself) you will find moments of great humor, heart and perhaps most surprisingly bittersweet melancholy.
Winner of 4 Academy Awards including Best Costume and Production Design, The Grand Budapest Hotel is another delightfully colorful escapade for moviegoers into the mind of its director. With exotic fictional locations (though in ways very similar to the real world), a blend of great colorful characters (literally and figuratively) and a charming, funny, and even sad story, this movie is nothing short of a delight. Whether it’s Monsieur Gustave, Zero Moustafa or JG Jopling, these creations embody the definition of uniqueness. Yet through all its originality, Anderson has tied his work greatly to the basic human emotions and crafted a narrative that ultimately becomes classic.
This may be a work of fantasy or surrealism, but its heart and smarts make it not only a truly entertaining film but one of the best of Wes Anderson’s filmography.