Tag Archives: Wes Anderson

They Will Win Oscars This Sunday

Red carpets are being rolled out, female stars are deciding which fashion giants to promote, and big Oscar statues outside the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles are getting their last golden polish. The 87th Academy Awards will take place this Sunday and I feel confident that host Neil Patrick Harris will do an excellent job. After all, he’s been elevating Tony and Emmy shows for years now. Still not convinced? Just take a look above at how effortlessly he played around with the whole awards show thing together with Hugh Jackman at the 2011 Tonys.

The time has come for Oscar predictions, and it’s not a job for cowards. Several of this year’s categories are tricky. Let’s go through all of them, one by one.

* Live Action Short – The Phone Call. Starring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent; watch the trailer above.

Animated Short – Feast. This Disney production might be in better luck than last year’s Get a Horse!, which failed to win the Oscar.

Documentary Short – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Watch the trailer for this HBO film above.

Sound Editing – American Sniper.

Sound Mixing – Whiplash. In the sound categories, the race is down to these two films. Really, it’s anyone’s guess how the Oscars might be divided between them since there are so few who understand the difference between the categories. The Dolby blog explains it – the art of sound editing is creating the sounds; the art of sound mixing is taking those sounds and the music and make all of it gel as a whole.

Makeup and Hairstyling – Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher will have to forgive us, but the Oscar looks likely to go to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Visual Effects – Definitely belongs to Interstellar, which made us believe that we were traveling far away from Earth.

Song – “Glory” by Common and John Legend in Selma.

* Original Score – The Theory of Everything might win, but I’m definitely rooting for The Imitation Game; Alexandre Desplat’s score is the best of the bunch.

Production Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Costume Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Foreign Language Film – Ida. Far from a safe bet, and I was wrong when I predicted it for the Golden Globes; Leviathan and Wild Tales are fierce competitors.

Documentary FeatureCitizenfour, Laura Poitras’s film about Edward Snowden, looks likely to win.

Animated Feature – How to Train Your Dragon 2.

* Film Editing – This is a tough one. Yes, Sandra Adair of Boyhood deserves recognition for creating a rhythm and balance out of 12 years worth of material, but it could be argued that Tom Scott’s work on Whiplash is what really made that movie. So I’m going with Scott.

Cinematography – The work on Ida is amazing, but I’m betting that Emmanuel Lubezki will collect his second Oscar in a row for Birdman (after Gravity).

Adapted Screenplay – A very tough category. Damien Chazelle could and should win for adapting his own short film for Whiplash, but he faces competition from Graham Moore for The Imitation Game.

Original Screenplay – Wes Anderson looks more than likely to win for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

* Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons for Whiplash.

Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.

* Actress – Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Actor – This has suddenly become a very difficult category. I believe now that Eddie Redmayne will win for The Theory of Everything, but it pisses me off. This is exactly the kind of performance that always wins the Oscar. Michael Keaton created a rich, full character out of the script for Birdman and his achievement is great; he’s the one who deserves to win.

Director – Another very hard category to predict now. Richard Linklater looked like a shoo-in for Boyhood a month ago; now he’s facing fierce competition from Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman. In the end I believe that Linklater will win and he deserves it; this 12-year-long odyssey has been masterfully engineered by him. 

Picture – The fun thing about the Oscars this year is that we have no clue which film will win the top prize. It’s either Boyhood or Birdman. The former looked certain to win for several months, but the race is so tight now. I’m still going to go with Boyhood.

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Trespassing Bergman

trespassingbergmanEdited together (with partly new material) from a documentary series, this film examines (in chronological order) the career and films of Ingmar Bergman through the eyes of numerous prominent filmmakers and actors who have been more or less touched by the Master’s work. Some of them also visit the stark island in Sweden where Bergman spent most of his life, often in isolation. Watching them behave like starstruck tourists in awe of “the great genius” is amusing. It becomes more profound as they get into the actual films and their meaning. Packed with great clips from Bergman movies, and colorful comments (especially from eternal provocateur Lars von Trier), the film may be primarily for cineastes, but the themes are obviously universal.

2014-Sweden. 107 min. Color. Produced by Linda Costigan, Fatima Varhos. Directed by Jane Magnusson, Hynek Pallas. Featuring Michael Haneke, Martin Scorsese, Lars von Trier, Robert De Niro, John Landis, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Ang Lee, Isabella Rossellini, Wes Anderson, Harriet Andersson, Zhang Yimou, Woody Allen, Laura Dern, Francis Ford Coppola, Takeshi Kitano, Wes Craven, Alexander Payne, Holly Hunter, Ridley Scott, Thomas Vinterberg, Claire Denis, Daniel Espinosa, Tomas Alfredson, Mona Malm, Pernilla August.

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Grand Budapest Hotel: Fighting a European Sickness

 

grandbudapesthotelIn February 1942, the Jewish writer Stefan Zweig and his wife were found dead in Brazil after committing suicide. In his native Austria, World War I had turned Zweig into a pacifist; when Hitler rose to power in Germany, the author fled to America and stayed in New York City for a while before moving to Brazil with his wife. A suicide note mirrored his disillusionment with Europe and its future, which looked utterly dark after two world wars. The writings of Stefan Zweig came to influence Wes Anderson who became interested in portraying Eastern Europe without defining specific countries or even specific wars. The result is his most stunning film yet.

In the Republic of Zubrowka lies the once-famous Grand Budapest Hotel. In the late 1960s, the guests are few and much of the old splendor is gone. A writer (Jude Law) is intrigued by its history and is introduced to the aging owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who offers to tell him the story of how he came to own it. Over dinner, Zero takes the writer back to 1932, a time when the hotel was still in its prime and its glamorous guests tried hard not to care about the impending war. Zero was a fresh lobby boy then, taken under the wings of Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the unflappable concierge who tends to all the guests, especially the aging wealthy women. One of them is Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who dies a short while after her last stay at the hotel. Gustave and Zero attend the reading of her will where it turns out that the concierge has inherited a valuable painting. This infuriates her son (Adrien Brody)…

Going all in
Anyone who’s familiar with Anderson’s work will feel at ease here, noting his themes, sense of humor, colorful settings and quirky details. But this time it’s like he went all in. The German department store where the hotel interiors were filmed look splendid and so do the model of the hotel exterior and gorgeous matte paintings of the landscape, all done in an old-fashioned way that underscores the fantasy aspect of the story. The snowy German locations are grandly shot by cinematographer Robert Yeoman and the constant races that take place in them reminded me at times of Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967); there’s a similar Eastern European wit, the same hilarious partnership between a mentor and his protégé (superbly played by Fiennes and newcomer Tony Revolori) and comically evil villains (a wild-eyed Brody and his outrageously brutal sidekick (Willem Dafoe)). We’ve rarely seen this blend of comedy and earnestness in Anderson’s work; there is indeed much darkness at the bottom of it as the film depicts war and Fascism as pointless horrors that keep interrupting our lives and relationships. The pacifism and humanity of the film is what connects it closest to Zweig’s work. Setting the story in a made-up country whose conflicts are completely unknown (and uninteresting) to us illustrates how irrelevant nationalism should be to mankind. Only, of course it isn’t, especially in Europe. This film portrays an era that we’re happy to see gone, but it arrives at a time when far-right parties throughout the continent are on the rise again, promoting the European sickness that broke Zweig’s heart.

All this might give the impression that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a depressing place to visit, but it really isn’t. It’s a wild ride; silly, funny, romantic, star-studded and fast-paced, most shots resembling little paintings filled with kitsch details. It’s just worth noting that there’s more to the hotel than a glitzy façade. And Europe needs stories like this.

The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014-U.S.-Germany. 100 min. Color. Part Widescreen. Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott Rudin. Written and directed by Wes Anderson. Cinematography: Robert Yeoman. Music: Alexandre Desplat. Production Design: Adam Stockhausen. Costume Design: Milena Canonero. Cast: Ralph Fiennes (Gustave H.), Tony Revolori (Zero), F. Murray Abraham (Old Zero Moustafa), Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe… Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens.

Trivia: Angela Lansbury was originally offered the part of Madame D., but when she was unavailable Anderson went with Swinton in old-age makeup. The film varies three different aspect ratios, 1.33, 1.85 and 2.35:1, one for each period it depicts.

Oscars: Best Original Score, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling. Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical). BAFTA: Best Original Screenplay, Original Music, Production Design, Costume Design, Make-Up and Hair. Berlin: Grand Jury Prize.

Last word: “I haven’t ever made a movie before that had such a specific historical context, and at the same time I’ve made this choice to vaguely fictionalize it all, and it’s an odd combination. It’s very clear what moments we’re referring to and what region this is taking place in, but we’ve made our own country and our own Europe and we’ve sort of combined the two world wars. Who knows why in the world I felt it had to be done that way. I usually feel the need to invent a world for the characters to live in in the movies I do…” (Anderson, NPR)

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The Greatest Hits of 2014

It’s time for that annual list of this year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2014 for ya.

JANUARY:

* Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – This reboot of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst cum action hero has Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh (who’s also directing), but the trailer disturbingly shows another variation on the Jason Bourne concept.

* Labor Day – Jason Reitman returns, aided by Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, what looked like a promising drama has now been dumped in the frigid January slot.

FEBRUARY:

* The Monuments Men – George Clooney directs this story about museum curators and art historians trying to rescue vital pieces of art before Hitler gets his hands on them. Starring Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig. Originally slated for a late 2013 release.

* RoboCop – The remake has Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman. One vital question remains: What’s the point?

Also interesting to note this month: Kevin Costner and Liam Neeson will clash in 3 Days to Kill and Non-Stop, two action thrillers that look pretty similar in style and tone. One likely hit will be Son of God, a movie based on material from The Bible as well as previously unseen footage.

MARCH:

* The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson’s new movie has a star-studded cast and an intriguing story set between the world wars.

* Grace of Monaco – Another movie originally slated for a late 2013 release, this one is hopefully better than Diana. Nicole Kidman plays the princess.

* Muppets Most Wanted – The Muppets return for a jewel-heist caper. Lots of star cameos, as expected.

* Noah – One can’t help but being intrigued by a Darren Aronofsky movie about the biblical hero. Stars Russell Crowe, and the trailer has Gladiator-esque qualities.

APRIL:

* Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A summer of big blockbusters begins with this Marvel sequel.

 

Sabotage – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies has been largely tongue in cheek, but the trailer for this film, directed by David Ayer of End of Watch fame, suggests a different approach.

* Transcendence – Johnny Depp stars in this sci-fi flick about a scientist who downloads his mind into a computer. Directing debut of cinematographer and Christopher Nolan loyalist Wally Pfister.

MAY:

* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – The sequel looks like it might have the same problems as the first one. On the other hand, the first one was surprisingly good.

* Godzilla – Looks like a tired retread on paper, but director Gareth Edwards and the cast might make a difference. The trailer has the right look.

* X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer tries to unite two franchise threads. Let’s hope it’s better than Star Trek Generations (1994).

JUNE:

* Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise fighting aliens. Again. Directed by Doug Liman.

* How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Could become the animated hit of the summer. DreamWorks will be anxious to make sure that the sequel matches the wonderful original.

* Transformers: Age of Extinction – The last time I made the mistake of giving Michael Bay the benefit of a doubt. This time I’m sure Mark Wahlberg will be lost in a flurry of incomprehensible battles.

JULY:

* Tammy – Melissa McCarthy puts her stardom to the ultimate test, being directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, in a summer blockbuster comedy that has Susan Sarandon playing her alcoholic grandmother.

* Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – The sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) has Gary Oldman (but Andy Serkis is still the star). Directed by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield fame.

* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski Siblings return after Cloud Atlas (2012) with another sci-fi movie, this one starring Mila Kunis.

AUGUST:

* Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel strikes back with another adventure, this one starring among others Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

* Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s follow-up to their 2005 movie. Postponed for a year after its original 2013 release date. Hardly promising.

* The Expendables 3 – I’ll mention this simply because Mel Gibson plays the villain and the cast also has Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer. I guess it has to be seen to be believed.

As a Swede, I have to highlight two world-famous fellow Swedes this month: Lasse Hallström is set to release The Hundred-Foot Journey, a film about an Indian family competing with a Michelin-starred restaurant in France, starring Helen Mirren, and Alexander Skarsgård who’s starring alongside Meryl Streep in Phillip Noyce’s sic-fi drama The Giver.

SEPTEMBER:

* The Equalizer – Another TV show gets a movie adaptation, this one directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.

OCTOBER:

* Gone Girl – David Fincher adapted the bestseller, with Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris set to put the screen ablaze.

* Get On Up – James Brown is the latest music star to get a proper screen biography. Directed by Tate Taylor (of The Help) and starring Chadwick Boseman.

NOVEMBER: 

* Interstellar – Christopher Nolan returns with one of the year’s most highly anticipated sci-fi films. Starring Matthew McConaughey, who’s clearly continuing his current brilliant streak.

* Dumb and Dumber To – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return after 20 years. Are they getting any smarter?

* Fury – Another film by David Ayer this year (after Sabotage), a war movie set near the end of World War II. Stars Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Francis Lawrence directs this complex endeavor, where author Suzanne Collins’s book has been chopped into two chapters.

DECEMBER:

* Exodus – Ridley Scott mounts a comeback after the creative abyss known as The Counselor. This biblical epic, starring Christian Bale, looks more like Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

* The Hobbit: There and Back Again – The third and final chapter in Peter Jackson’s insanely protracted franchise

* Annie – Another movie adaptation of the Broadway hit, this time featuring Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz and Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis.

* Into the Woods – The Brothers Grimm fairy tales are presented with a twist in this film, directed by Rob Marshall, and starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.

* Unbroken – Angelina Jolie is set to direct this World War II story, which is based on a best-selling book and adapted by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.

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When Owen Wilson Made Me Cry

Owen Wilson turns 45 years old today. In the clip above, we see him and Vince Vaughn goofing off in a CNN interview, showing just how friendly they are. They previously made Wedding Crashers (2005); unfortunately, the one they’re promoting in this clip is the disappointing The Internship.

Wilson does have a far more colorful past though. Those who read the tabloids may remember him primarily from an incident in 2007 that was labeled a likely suicide attempt, although Wilson hasn’t confirmed it. He was however taken to a hospital and his attorney told the press that the actor was battling a depression. Since then things have looked brighter for Wilson. He is now the father of a son, and is currently expecting a second child with his personal trainer, although they are not in a relationship.

What is more interesting to me though is his career. Ever since his early days, Wilson has largely divided it between silly comedies and more thoughtful endeavors with Wes Anderson, which admittedly all have a humorous nature as well. Wilson co-wrote and co-starred in Anderson’s Bottle Rocket (1996) and Rushmore (1998). He received an Oscar nomination along with Anderson for the 2001 Royal Tenenbaums script; he also starred in Woody Allen’s hugely successful Midnight in Paris (2011). But his first real box-office hit was Shanghai Noon (2000), which proved to Hollywood that he could make mainstream material work just as well as quirky Wes Anderson projects.

Owen Wilson has an irresistible charm. There’s actually a movie of his that made me cry. It’s Marley & Me (2008). And I’m not even that much of a dog person.

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Moonrise Kingdom

In 1965, an orphaned boy scout and his new-found girlfriend (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward) run away from home, which prompts a search. This will no doubt satisfy die-hard fans of Wes Anderson who has made another dollhouse of a movie, one that offers meticulously designed scenes that mirror Anderson’s sepia-toned artistic vision and fondness for nostalgia. As always, themes of childhood and the relationship between generations are explored – often with predictable results. Still enjoyable, especially thanks to the cast, and the director’s unwavering sympathy for his young characters.

2012-U.S. 94 min. Color. Directed by Wes Anderson. Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola. Music: Alexandre Desplat. Cast: Bruce Willis (Sharp), Edward Norton (Randy Ward), Bill Murray (Walt Bishop), Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman… Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel.

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5 Summer Movies That Had Better Be Great

Entertainment Weekly recently presented a list of 30 summer movies they “can’t wait to see”. Yeah, right, I thought. As we all know, maybe five of them will be really good. One of them will NOT be Battleship (opening May 18). But how about these five:

 

The Avengers – My attitude to the previous films have been somewhat lackluster (I awarded all of them three-out-of-five stars, not more or less), but perhaps this could be a game-changer. After all, who can resist the Hulk, Tony Stark, Hawkeye, Captain America, Black Widow and Thor join forces for a movie directed by Joss Whedon? All hell could break loose… and I hope it does. U.S. premiere: May 4.

 

Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson’s latest looks like it was invented to prove the auteur theory; every part of it is genuinely Anderson-esque. A quirky sense of humor, an all-star cast willing to tone it down in favor of the director’s sensibilities, childhood memories, fatherhood issues… you name it. Looks like another great part for Bill Murray. U.S. premiere: May 25.

 

Prometheus – The latest trailer (not the one above) is so spoilerific that there’s no doubt anymore that this is a glorious prequel to Alien (1979), in spite of director Ridley Scott’s initial attempts to tone down similarities. Maybe the trailers are setting us up for a huge disappointment, but this looks like an overwhelmingly thrilling return to a sci-fi/horror premise that we love. U.S. premiere: June 8.

 

Brave – This is Pixar’s hope for a comeback this year. Oh, not with the audience; they seem to have loved Cars 2. No, with the critics who were heartbreakingly disappointed with the John Lasseter-helmed sequel. Brave is the studio’s first fairy-tale, distributed by Disney and directed by Brenda Chapman (who co-directed The Prince of Egypt (1998)) and Mark Andrews who’s apparently known as Brad Bird’s “right-hand man”. Expect darker stuff than the usual Disney fare. U.S. premiere: June 22.

 

The Dark Knight Rises – Spider-Man, you say? Tired reboot, I say (there’s apparently a rumor that Sony is not too happy about it). The Amazing Spider-Man may still be a great superhero movie, but I liked the Sam Raimi efforts and reserve my anticipation for Christopher Nolan’s third Batman flick. Dark as always, the third trailer (above) shifts into higher gear after 30 seconds and delivers the goods. U.S. premiere: July 20. 

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Bottle Rocket

THEY’RE NOT REALLY CRIMINALS, BUT EVERYBODY’S GOT TO HAVE A DREAM.

bottlerocketAlong with their neighbor Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave), best friends Dignan and Anthony (Owen and Luke Wilson) decide to form a gang and embark on a career in crime. For their first feature film, director Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson expanded the story of an earlier short. Fans of their later work will recognize the personal selection of songs on the soundtrack and the idea that the conversations and quirky events of the journey are more important than the actual goal. Owen Wilson’s charm is obvious already in this film. Amusing stuff; James Caan must have had fun.

1996-U.S. 95 min. Color. Directed by Wes Anderson. Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson. Cast: Owen Wilson (Dignan), Luke Wilson (Anthony Adams), Robert Musgrave (Bob Mapplethorpe), Andrew Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, James Caan.

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The Darjeeling Limited

 

darjeelinglimitedPeter and Jack (Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman) reunite with their brother Francis (Owen Wilson) on a train in India; they haven’t talked in a while, but Francis wants them to bond on this spiritual journey. Fans of director Wes Anderson will recognize his themes, approach and style, but I found myself more interested in the portrayal of the dysfunctional brothers and their quest for independence than I had expected. There’s depth to a certain degree in the script, which ultimately becomes rather touching. One’s attention wanes at times, but excellent performances from the actors, not least Wilson, helps, and so does the Indian flavor.

2007-U.S. 91 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Scott Rudin. Directed by Wes Anderson. Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman. Cast: Owen Wilson (Francis), Jason Schwartzman (Jack), Adrien Brody (Peter), Anjelica Huston, Amara Karan, Wallace Wolodarsky… Barbet Schroeder, Bill Murray, Natalie Portman.

Trivia: Many screenings of the film are preceded by a short companion piece entitled Hotel Chevalier, starring Schwartzman and Portman.

Last word: “Initially I had two ideas; one that I wanted to make a movie in India and the second one was that I had this idea about a movie with three brothers on a train together. I mixed them together and they became ‘The Darjeeling Limited’. The other main idea I think was that I thought I’d like to write with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman and I think the movie we wound up making is really the combination of all three of our points of view mixed together.” (Anderson, Rotten Tomatoes)

4 kopia

 

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Royal Tenenbaums: Family Business

FAMILY ISN’T A WORD… IT’S A SENTENCE.

royaltenenbaumsAt the time of its release, famed film critic Leonard Maltin was one of several to point out the fact that Wes Anderson’s new film has no story. He’s right about that, it’s very difficult to tell someone what this movie is about. What it does have however is emotions, themes, extraordinary details, a star-studded cast and a soundtrack full of great songs. So what if there’s no story to hold it together? Don’t be greedy.

What this film essentially does is introduce us to a family and one man’s arguably disingenuous attempt to make good with that family again. They are the Tenenbaums, they live in Manhattan and every one of its members has had quite an interesting career. Royal (Gene Hackman) was a litigator before he was arrested and thrown in jail. He abandoned his family and led an adventurous life. His wife, Etheline (Anjelica Huston), became an archaeologist and writer. Their children are something special. They have two sons, Chas (Ben Stiller), who became a financial whiz kid, and Richie (Luke Wilson), who embarked on a successful career as a tennis player until he abruptly quit at the age of 26. Royal and Ethel also adopted a girl, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), an anemic, depressed child who wrote an admired school play. The Tenenbaums became famous but paid a hefty price; when we meet the children as adults we learn that Richie is suicidal, Margot is in a loveless marriage and Chas is a widower who’s terribly afraid something will happen to his twin sons. That’s the situation Royal faces when he decides one day to come back to the family he deserted. He knows there will be no red carpet, but he hopes to generate some sympathy by letting his family believe he’s only got a few weeks left to live. He certainly needs their money… but perhaps he needs their love as well?

Discreetly emotional
It’s easy to get the impression that this is merely a comedy, but Anderson and his co-writer Owen Wilson have not shied away from the dark. The director’s laidback filmmaking style threatens to completely mute those parts of the story, but they come through. This is a discreetly emotional, highly original film about overcoming depression. Perhaps the most interesting and moving character is Chas; ever since his wife died in a plane crash he’s been busy trying to shield his kids from the real world, almost destroying their independence in the process. This is something Royal realizes as soon as he sees them again, but Chas won’t listen to him. He’s too busy being furious with him and everyone else. The writers refuse to turn him into a caricature, which is not easy when everybody kind of look like comic book characters; they always wear the same outfits.

The charm is in the cast and the details; Hackman is simply wonderful and there seems to be such hard work behind every scene. As a viewer you are supposed to pay attention to the actor at the center of a particular scene, but Anderson would hate it if you didn’t also notice the brightly colored wallpaper behind the actor or the bizarre painting hanging on the other wall. So what if there’s no story? Wouldn’t that be overkill?

The Royal Tenenbaums 2001-U.S. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin. Directed by Wes Anderson. Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson. Cast: Gene Hackman (Royal Tenenbaum), Anjelica Huston (Etheline Tenenbaum), Gwyneth Paltrow (Margot Tenenbaum), Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson… Bill Murray, Danny Glover. Narrated by Alec Baldwin.

Golden Globe: Best Actor (Hackman).

Last word: “[Gene Hackman’s] been doing movies for a long time, and he didn’t want to work sixty days on a movie. I don’t know the last time he had done a movie where he had to be there for the whole movie and the money was not good. There was no money. There were too many movie stars, and there was no way to pay. You can’t pay a million dollars to each actor if you’ve got nine movie stars or whatever it is — that’s half the budget of the movie. I mean, nobody’s going to fund it anymore, so that means it’s scale.” (Anderson, Vulture)

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

lifeaquaticFans of Jacques Cousteau are either going to be very amused or very insulted by Wes Anderson’s colorful but inconsequential film about a deep-sea explorer (Bill Murray) who mounts an expedition to find the mysterious jaguar shark that killed his best friend. Along for the ride is the explorer’s son (Owen Wilson); the absent father is a familiar theme for fans of the director and so is the quirky, somewhat peaceful sense of humor. There are so many wonderful details to observe (the David Bowie covers!) and the cast is very game (especially Murray)… but in the end the movie is nevertheless overlong and feels unfocused. 

2004-U.S. 118 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin. Directed by Wes Anderson. Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach. Cast: Bill Murray (Steve Zissou), Owen Wilson (Ned Plimpton), Cate Blanchett (Jane Winslett-Richardson), Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum… Michael Gambon. 

Trivia: Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman were allegedly considered for the part of Jane.

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