Since Orson Welles’ filmography was fairly short and not enough to take an entire month, I’ve decided to wrap up the month with Wes Anderson’s eight films.
Be wary of the overuse of the word quirky. There’s no other word so indicative of this man.
Here are my rankings. Again, I watched the films in chronological order.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Elegant, gorgeous, genius and hilarious. The second time seeing this film, I still cannot believe how great it is. It’s as if Wes Anderson’s entire career, up to this point, is to culminate into this. Every single aspect of filmmaking that you can imagine is achieved to it’s most excellent ability in this film. Every inch of the frame is so carefully intentional and every directorial decision made is precise. Anderson really shows the world what he’s all about here. It was a struggle for me to place this above The Royal Tenenbaums, as the latter has easily become one of my favorite films of all time but this has been on that shortlist for a longer period of time. If I were to choose between the two based on content alone, I’d have to go with Tenenbaums; but as an entire film, it’s hard to say that this doesn’t have the slightest edge. I wish I could just give two number one’s right now but that’s not how life works … or math.
2. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – Simply fantastic. The third film co-written by Owen Wilson, this was an absolute knock out of the park. It seems like they both realized what worked and what didn’t in the first two and solved it all here. With a slew of characters and magnificent actors, they made an amazing story come to life. It’s in this film that you can see Anderson really begin to use the directing and camera techniques that quickly become his staple. The picturesque, aesthetically pleasing approach he takes to each and every shot coupled with the very strategic use of the third dimension amongst his often “2D” framing style are the things that makes him stand out amongst the rest. From beginning to end, he makes sure you don’t want to look away from the screen and that you never get bored with visuals alone. This is something I really want to start applying in my own work.
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – In this stop-motion animation, Anderson brings us his first and only (thus far) family film. There’s so much creativity involved in this as Wes Anderson is no longer held back by what is humanly possible. There’s a particular scene that is completely genius that I will never forget. We see the entirety of a heist in one still shot as we watch through security camera footage playing right behind the owner’s head. In addition to some superb storytelling through picture, this script is great. It’s few signature troupes make it an instant cult classic. Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson are a match made in heaven; it makes me want to see Anderson do all of Dahl’s stories. I think this is undoubtedly the best portrayal of a Dahl story as it overlaps with so many of Anderson’s regular interests in storytelling.
4. Rushmore (1998) – This is one of the couple Wes Anderson films I’ve already seen but I decided to rewatch this one because it’s been a while. This was also co-written by Owen Wilson but it’s fair to say that there was an enormous jump in quality and overall awareness from Bottle Rocket to this. Most notably, the writing was way more solid. The jokes were more refined and distinct to the quirky style and the story was fantastically nuanced yet still simple – fundamental Wes Anderson. It is definitely easy to see his growth so far as a director with a unique style and cinematic voice. The way in which he covers a scene in such an unbiased way is beautiful. I’m not sure he does it so much to be unbiased rather than making it look gorgeous, but successful nonetheless.
5. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) – At this point, you can really begin to pick up on the common motifs throughout Anderson’s films. Yet again, Anderson manages to bring such style to his films that is extraordinarily unique. The color palette of this film struck me almost immediately. Being a film based almost entirely out of India, it’s almost expected and he delivered. The most memorable moment for me was the masterful scene between all of the train carts showing all of the minor characters. Not unlike The Life Aquatic, certain choices made here feel a bit unintentional and unmotivated at times – but still creative. The train itself was really astonishing! A really, really favorite touch of mine was the short in the beginning that unexpectedly ties in so damn well. I wish Anderson dedicated more of his time to short films because they would evidently be absolutely phenomenal.
6. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – It’s becoming ridiculously hard to rank these. This is an amazing film and a go-to if you want to learn anything about color grading. The conscious, color oriented decisions made in the wardrobes and locations are absolutely genius. There are some really especially inventive scenes that are covered so uniquely, but what else is new really? It’s hard to avoid repeating myself in each of these as his style is just so precise. While this film undoubtedly is some of the best filmmaking he’s ever done, there’s one big disappointing factor for me and it’s in the story. To be fair, I think I was disappointed solely by high expectations. There was so much potential for greater character integration from a huge ensemble. It’s not like he couldn’t pull it off, because we’ve seen it from time and time again. Not only that, but there were also many plot points in the story that felt very unfocused and resulted in very little by the end. But do not be mistaken, this is a really stunning and fantastic film.
7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) – This is most definitely the weirdest thing made by Wes Anderson and that’s saying a lot. The real feat of this film is the amazing set that is built for the “Belafonte” ship’s many different rooms. Also, Bill Murray is given his biggest role in the classic Anderson ensemble thus far as the title character – an extremely complicated and unique individual that he brings to life brilliantly. There are some really sensational and memorable moments in this film – such as a series of fictional, stop motion marine animals, a couple weird shootout scenes and even a quintessential underwater scene. My biggest problem with it, however, is that many of the features in this film feel unmotivated although entirely creative. While most of the time Anderson uses his creativity to advance his story and film as a whole, there were many times when his overt quirkiness and insane imagination felt more like a hindrance in this one.
8. Bottle Rocket (1996) – For his directorial debut film, Anderson wrote a cute, quirky (there goes that word again) script with Owen Wilson starring the latter and his two brothers. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Wilson brothers. I don’t really have anything against them – they’re just not my style. That sentiment somewhat transfers onto this film (placebo or genuineness? You decide). However, you can really see the beginnings of a blooming auteur in Anderson. It also has the definite feeling of experimentation as Wes Anderson probably had little idea of what he liked best at this point in his career regarding direction and cinematography. Despite being one of his more disappointing works, it’s still pretty great in terms of pace, mood and artistic style.