Saturday, January 21, 2012

Movie Marathon #1: The Films of Wes Anderson

During this past week, I decided to embark on a five day marathon of a famous filmmaker in cinema. To keep it contemporary as well, I chose to watch all of director Wes Anderson's films this week. In order to keep this post short, I have written short one paragraph reviews written for all of his films, and finish them all off with most to least favorite rankings of the movies reviewed below. Enjoy...

Bottle Rocket (1996)
Anderson released his debut film "Bottle Rocket" in 1996 (which is also adapted from his 1994 short film of the same name), which stars Owen Wilson (also co-wrote the script), Luke Wilson and Robert Musgrave as a trio of friends trying to pull off a simple robbery and go on the lam. Even though it may be classified as a crime film, it's also a smart comedy infused with moments of hilarious yet sophisticated moments of humor. The three leads are all terrific, but Owen Wilson is the true scene stealer as the trio's leader Dignan. Beautifully directed by Anderson, in addition to constructing the most hilarious "robbery gone wrong" I've seen so far, "Bottle Rocket" is a very solid debut for both Anderson and the Wilson brothers.

Final Grade: B+

Rushmore (1998)
Anderson's second movie "Rushmore" though, is the one that I think is one of his most mature in his filmography alongside "The Darjeeling Limited." Jason Schwartzman delivers one of the best debut performances I've seen as Max Fischer, an eccentric student at the Rushmore Academy that focuses way more on extracurricular activities than his academic grades. He holds his own to a great degree alongside Bill Murray, who delivers a funny, yet very genuine performance as a depressed father of two looking for redemption is his life. Anderson not only delivers on the hilarious moments of dry humor, but also delivers an extremely convincing coming-of-age story in the essence of standing as a film for this generation similar to "The Graduate."

Final Grade: A-

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Probably my favorite of Anderson's films, "The Royal Tenenbaums" put a new spin on the dysfunctional family movie, with a film that features the best ensemble cast out of the rest of his productions. Gene Hackman's performance as Royal Tenenbaum is a stunning revelation, in addition to the rest of the ensemble perfectly nailing down Anderson's balance of dry wit and melancholic expressions. This is also the only film that netted an Oscar nomination for Anderson (and Owen Wilson) in his career so far. A thorough character study of a fragmented family that will have you laugh out loud one second and feel misty-eyed the next, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is in my opinion Wes Anderson's finest work to date!

Final Grade: A

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
The first of his films to not be written with Owen Wilson and without a doubt the most eccentric and different of Wes Anderon's movies, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is still a definitive piece of cinema that highlights all of Anderon's classic filmmaking trademarks. Featuring another terrific ensemble cast, this time led by Bill Murray who plays eccentric oceanographer Steve Zissou, who takes his team on a mission to kill the shark that murdered his friend. Bill Murray delivers a performance that's right alongside the dramatic and comedic caliber of his in "Lost In Translation," and has great backup from his supporting cast, most notably Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe. I clearly understand why this is his most mixed reviewed film, but I feel that rewatches are crucial to fully engrossing the weird, yet comedic nature of the film's setting.

Final Grade: B+

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
By far Anderson's most underrated film,"The Darjeeling Limited" is also Anderson's best crafted work to date. A story of three brothers (Owen Wilson,Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) with a fragmented past, who take a train journey across India to experience a "spiritual journey" to bring them back together. All of Anderson's trademarks are easy point out, but the Indian landscape enhances the primary color palette cinematography to the greatest degrees than any of his other films had before. Like "Rushmore," this film is extremely mature, especially towards the end of the second act. A film more for the most diehard fans of Anderson's work, "The Darjeeling Limited" is still a brilliant film with the finest blend of comedy and family drama.

Final Grade: A

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Marking Anderson's foray into the world of stop motion animation, his adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's novel is one of the best animated films of the 2000-2009 decade. Already working with an impeccable voice cast, the film is gloriously detailed in its animation, and it includes the classic Wes Anderson primary colors landscape of the setting. Even working for the first time in the animation field, the film still feels like a good old Wes Anderson film, as his trademarks appear everywhere to the viewpoints of his most devoted fans. It may be short, but "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a beautifully detailed, hilarious animated film that shows that Wes Anderson is able to branch out into other fields of cinema.

Final Grade: A

Final Rankings
1. The Royal Tenenbaums
2. The Darjeeling Limited
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
4. Rushmore
5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
6. Bottle Rocket


  1. Love Wes Anderson, just recently saw Fantastic Mr. Fox and loved it! I loved this article!

  2. I have not seen a single Wes Anderson film, but he sounds like quite a great director, so I think I may have to make time to see some of these.

  3. Cool post. Have done a similar thing recently. They're all great but I have to disagree with the ranking myself though:
    1. Darjeeling Limited
    2. Bottle Rocket
    3. Rushmore
    4. Fantastic Mr. Fox
    5. The Royal Tenenbaums
    6. Steve Zissou.
    Am excited for Moonrise Kingdom!!

  4. That's a great idea! Wes Anderson is an interesting director indeed. Can't wait for the next marathon!