Tag Archives: wes anderson

The Royal Tenenbaums

Before I say anything else, understand that my mind is busily chewing over a fact that makes me very uncomfortable, namely, the near-uniform whiteness of Wes Anderson’s movies. I love Wes Anderson. I love his movies. But I do not love monochromatic casting. But in thinking on this quite a bit in the past few months, I’ve come to realize that it’s not that he doesn’t hire people of colour, it’s that he doesn’t hire African Americans, rather specifically. In fact, The Royal Tenenbaums may be the only time he’s every hired a black actor for a role of substance (Courtney B. Vance got to narrate Isle of Dogs), and it’s really only to service a racist character, ie, Danny Glover’s only there so that Gene Hackman can call him a long list of slurs. And though Wes Anderson’s worlds are so often populated by the same faces, Glover’s has never reappeared. Hiring someone just to be a target seems particularly cruel. However, Kumar Pallana, an Indian actor, had appeared in 4 of Anderson’s films (he died in 2013 – and was originally a barista in Anderson’s favourite Dallas coffee shop). Waris Ahluwalia, an Indian-born, American Sikh, has been in three. Tony Revolori, the terrific breakout bellboy from The Grand Budapest Hotel, is of Guatemalan descent, though so far he’s appeared in more Spider-man movies than he has in the Wes Anderson universe. There was a smattering of Japanese voice actors in Isle of Dogs, though surprisingly and relatively few considering the whole film takes place in Japan. This isn’t exactly an exhaustive list, but it’s as close as it is short, and between you and I, the minute you start putting together a list of non-white actors, you’ve already lost. That’s 9 terrific, talky, thinky, inventive pieces of cinema with incredible ensemble casts and insane attention to detail and just 1 solitary black man, necessary to the script to be the recipient of a grumpy old man’s careless racist remarks. It’s a terrible tally.

And it’s too bad that Anderson’s movies have this problem because otherwise they’d be 100% my jam.

The Tenenbaums are a fascinatingly dysfuntional family. Matriarch Etheline (Anjelica Huston) raised her 3 children to be exceptional after her lousy husband Royal (Gene Hackman) left. Chas Tenenbaum was a prodigy investor, successfully running businesses out of his childhood bedroom. Now he’s a recent widower and fresh trauma has him raising his own sons in a constant state of terror. Margot Tenenbaum was a prodigy playwright, earning prizes and praise as a child for her mature writing. Today she’s literally soaking in depression as her husband Raleigh (Bill Murray) knocks helplessly on the bathroom door. Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) was a tennis prodigy hopelessly in love with his sister, Margot. He had a career-ending meltdown when Margot married Raleigh, and he’s spent the time since sailing the world, keeping oceans between himself and his family. Eli (Owen Wilson) is the boy next door who grew up gazing upon the relative privilege of the Tenenbaum family, wishing to belong to them. And of course Henry Sherman (Glover) is Etheline’s new suitor and the family’s disruptor.

Broke, homeless, with hackles raised about the new man prowling about, Royal Tenenbaum decides to home after decades away. They won’t have him of course. He spent years disappointing his family before being completely estranged from them. So his only move is to fake cancer as a ploy to gain sympathy – and even that’s a tough sell. But it gets him back in the family home, and one by one the grown children all return to orbit around him. They’re all fucked up in their own ways, but they’ve also got an extremely fucked up dynamic together. They’re a bunch of fire starters just waiting for a match, and Royal is a goddamned flame thrower. Whoosh.

It’s a movie full of quirks that still manages to be cohesive and sell a cogent story about a family full of tragedies. Betrayal lurks in every closet, disaster through every doorway. And even though it contains perhaps Anderson’s bleakest scene ever (set to Elliott Smith’s Needle in the Hay), it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of laughs, but also some actual heartfelt moments. The movie is an act of forgiveness, a representation of forgiveness being a gift you give yourself, to set yourself free from the past and the pain it causes you. Royal may be irredeemable but his family is not. They’re deeply flawed and chronically eccentric, but the script searches authenticity and finds it in abundance.

Fun Facts:

Though the role of Royal was written with Hackman in mind, it was offered to Gene Wilder, who turned it down.

Danny Glover’s look in the film was modeled after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, which is possibly my favourite sentence in the world.

There is no such thing as Dalmatian mice; the spots were drawn on with Sharpies.

Anjelica Huston wears Wes Anderson’s mother’s glasses in the film.

The hand that is seen with the BB lodged between its knuckles is not Ben Stiller’s, it’s Andrew Wilson’s (yes, brother to Luke and Owen). It’s no trick, he really has a BB stuck in there and has since childhood. Can you guess which one of his brothers shot him?

I turned to Sean at one point to say that there were a lot of Beatles songs in the film. In fact, Ruby Tuesday was playing at the moment, which is by the Stones, as I’m sure you’re aware, and as I myself am normally aware, though my brain was clearly existing in some alternate reality at the time. There is a Beatles song, and a John Lennon one, and four from the Stones. Brain fart.

Advertisements

The Darjeeling Limited

Stream of conscious watching a Wes Anderson movie:

Already loving the quirky little score, borrowed heavily from Indian films, as the pedi-cab races toward the train station.

Less than 3 minutes into the film and we’ve already left poor Bill Murray behind. Why do I feel guilty though? Peter (Adrian Brody) races by him, hopping on the train right before it leaves the station. Stupid Adrian Brody.

Peter’s brother Jack (Jason Schwartzman) has at least 8 pieces of luggage. A lovely set of course, but for ease of travel, perhaps he should consider one larger case rather than a bunch of oddly shaped little ones?

Their third brother, Francis (Owen Wilson), arrives with a busted face and a very strict mv5bmtuzmtq2mjq4nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwodg1oty4na@@._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,1493,1000_al_schedule to find the path to spirituality, plus an unseen assistant with a laminating machine to keep things on course. The 3 brothers have not seen each other in a year.

The brothers exchange unprescribed but over-the-counter drugs. It is immediately obvious why they might have avoided one another for a year.

Is it really a think to walk barefoot on trains in India? That creeps me out. There must be a special kind of athlete’s foot you get from the stinky carpeting.

Francis has so many rules for his brother that I’m starting to feel vicariously oppressed.

No wonder their mother (Anjelica Huston) hasn’t joined them: who would willing submit to this road trip with the world’s most sulky, dopey, resentful brothers?

The train scenes are shot on an actual moving train, moving from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, through the Thar desert. They requisitioned 10 rain cars and a locomotive, which Wes Anderson redecorated to his aesthetic. Nothing could be attached to the ceiling, and equipment couldn’t hang more than a meter out the windows.

How can the train be lost? It’s on rails!

Francis has just revealed their secret destination: to visit their mother, who has become a nun and is living in a convent in the Himalayas. Their visit may or may not be welcome.

With such militant scheduling, it’s kind of miraculous that they remain late for the train every damn time.

Turns out there are 11 pieces of luggage; they were designed for the film by Marc Jacobs by Louis Vuitton.

Kicked off the train, the 3 brothers and their copious luggage are traveling along a path when they see a raft carrying 3 kids overturn. The brothers plunge into the waters to save them, but one is dashed against rocks and killed. The look on Adrian Brody’s face when he says “I didn’t save mine” – oof, that’s real acting right there.

I like this custom of the father washing his son’s body before the funeral. I think Western cultures are too detached from death. There’s a tragic tenderness to this scene, just a few seconds of film, actually, that really moves me.

Francis implies that his wounds are actually self-inflicted in a suicide attempt, which is particularly hard to bear since Owen Wilson was taken off the press tour for this movie after his own suicide attempt.

SXSW: Isle of Dogs

Read the title out loud and kind of quick, and it’s hardly distinguishable from “I love dogs” but the conflict in the film actually comes from not loving them enough. A city in Japan has a dog-hating mayor who selfishly spreads lies and rhetoric about the dog flu, and gets and\or manufactures enough support that he succeeds in banishing all dogs to Trash Island.

As most of you know (because my bursting heart can’t shut up about it), I’m lucky enough to share my life and home with four of the sweetest doggies in the world. I Isle of Dogs 1 via Fox Searchlight Headersometimes wonder if I prefer dogs to people, and I certainly do prefer my dogs to most people. I think dogs are so much better than we deserve. They are 100% heart. So it’s hard for me to imagine a bunch of dog owners so willing to sentence their dogs to a terrible, lonely, miserable life and death. Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of dogs sent to live and die on Trash Island, only one is lucky enough to have an owner come looking for him – a 12 year old boy named Atari. When Atari becomes stranded on the island, a scruffy pack of dogs generously decides to help him find his beloved Spots. Duke (Jeff Goldblum), King (Bob Balaban), Rex (Ed Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and even the reluctant Chief (Bryan Cranston) band together to reunite boy and dog on a journey that you  might just say belongs in a Wes Anderson movie.

And it is a Wes Anderson movie, horray! So of course it’s got some truly absorbing attention to detail, a sweet soundtrack, and a poignancy verging on nostalgia. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is beautifully rendered in stop-motion animation. Each dog puppet is a thing of beauty, with fur (made of alpaca hair, apparently) so pettable and little noses that you’re sure are moist to the touch. Their expressive eyes bore into you, and as Bob Balaban so eloquently put it during the Q&A following the film, it could have been a silent film and still been just as affecting.

As saturated as they are aesthetically, some may argue that Wes Anderson movies are ultimately style over substance. Isle of Dogs has some pretty obvious themes about mass hysteria and maybe even fake news, but for me the takeaway is simply to love better – dare I say, more like a dog, fully, and with devotion.

Adopted/Foster Familes

TMP

I don’t have much to contribute for Thursday Movie Picks this week and- in two out of my three picks- adopted/foster familes are mostly incidental to the movies as a whole.

The_Royal_Tenenbaums_53

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)– This is really the story of one big unhappy family where only one of the kids (Gwyneth Paltrow) is adopted. According to narrator Alec Baldwin, “Royal always noted this when introducing her (‘This is our adopted daughter Margot’)”. The family dynamics get even more complicated when Margot and her adopted brother Richie (Luke Wilson) fall in love, which is either illegal or just frowned upon. Possibly his most ambitious film to date, this is still my favourite Wes Anderson movie and he and co-writer Owen Wilson manage all the chaos like the pros that they are.

moonrise kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)– I felt so guilty that I couldn’t find room for The Darjeeling Limited when we did Trains a couple of weeks ago that I opened up two slots for him this week. Ranking a close second to Tenenbaums in the Wes Canon, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of a troubled young Khaki scout (Jared Gilman) who causes so much trouble with his foster family that they “can’t invite him back”. On the run from his troop and the dreaded Social Services (Tilda Swinton), our hero bonds with a sad dumb policeman (Bruce Willis) who is willing to adopt him so that he can be with his true love (Kara Hayward).

philomena

Philomena (2013)– Not written by Wes Anderson, this adoption story doesn’t end happily. Director Stephen Frears and writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope do a brilliant job with the true story of Philomena Lee and her journey to reunite with the son that she was forced to put up for adoption by the Catholic Church 50 years ago. It’s a sad story but Frears, Coogan, and Pope give it a light touch, focusing on the chemistry between Lee (Judi Dench) and journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan). It’s less of an angry story about unquestionable injustice and more about one woman’s faith and resilience.

Animated movies!

TMP

Well, it’s Thursday again. It’s not even 8 am yet and I’m at work when I’d much rather still be sleeping and I’ve already had to resolve one office IT issue and I don’t even work in IT. So I’m feeling a little uninspired this morning. Normally I strive for a little more variety in my picks and try to avoid the obvious choices whenever possible but I love these three films so much that I just can’t help but choose them.

Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo (2003)- When I was 18, my dad chased me down on a road trip for over an hour just because I’d forgot my Lactaid pills. Once we’d made the exchange and my dad drove away, my driver watched him leave and remarked “Now THAT’S a father”. I think of that comment every time I watch Finding Nemo and, since Father’s Day is just three days away, I might as well dedicate this entry to mine. I cry pretty much through this whole movie and am always filled with gratitude for my own family every time I watch this desperate father conquer his own fears of pretty much everything to take on the entire ocean in search of his son, prompting Nigel to remark “What a father!”

Wall-E

Wall-E (2008)- “Computer, define “dancing” made my list of 10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away. What I neglected to mention at the time was that this whole movie takes my breath away. Pixar has pushed the envelope so many times and in so many ways but Wall-E, I think, reamins their most ambitious work to date, trusting its audience to stay engaged through the first forty minutes or so where there is virtually no dialogue. Wall-E is entertaining from start to finish while managing to say a lot about how many of us treat our bodies and our planet, even more effectively than those annoying e-mails from Green Peace that I’m always getting.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)- Now let’s take a moment to be thankful for Wes Anderson. Anderson is clearly having fun with the stop-motion animation and the family movie format (“Clustercuss”!!!!). Like everything he does, Fantastic Mr. Fox is quirky, outrageous, hilarious, sweet, unmistakeably Anderson. It remains one of my favourites in the Wes canon. Besidies, this is the only film to date to feature the inspired collaboration of Wes Anderson and George Clooney.

Oscars 2015: Best Director and Best Picture

Birdman cinematographyBest Directoruntitled

Richard Linklater- Boyhood

Alejandro González Iñárritu- Birdman

Bennett Miller- Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum- The Imitation Game

One of the more controversial categories this year, the Best Director race is traditionally one of the more reliable predictors of the Best Picture Oscar. The Academy’s snub of Ava DuVemay for Selma has put a bit of a damper on things but Linklater and Iñárritu’s inclusion still make for an nteresting race.

Miller and Tyldum are strange nominations. Not only did I find Selma a much better movie than The Imitation Game, it was much more of a director’s showcase. And Miller won’t win. Since I started watching 20 years ago, no director has won for a film that didn’t even earn a Best Picture nomination. As good a job as he did with Foxcatcher, it really is bizarre that the Academy passed over four Best Picture nominees in favour of Milller.

Now for Wes Anderson. I am running out of things to say about him, having praised The Grand Budapest Hotel several times over the last couple of weeks. We love him here at Assholes Watching Movies and are thrilled that the Academy finally got around to giving him his first Best Director nomination.

That leaves Linklater and Iñárritu who have made two of this year’s best movies. How do you compare the ambition of these two projects. Birdman’s self-aware screenplay and dizzying cinematography vs Boyhood’s 12 year commitment. I wouldn’t be disappointed either way but I’m voting Linklater. He made a great film, not just an ambitious one that was filled with beautiful moments filled with truth.

Best PictureBirdman script

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation GamePatricia Arquette

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

I’ve commented on all eight of these films at length andhave made no secret of my love for boyhood. Experts have declared Boyhood and Birdman as the two frontrunners, leaving me with no idea what is going to happen. Both movies are great so I won’t mind either way. As long as American Sniper doesn’t win as my colleague just predicted.

 

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel 2

Lots of directors are said to have their signature styles but Wes Anderson may be the only director in Hollywood that no one seems to even dare try to copy. The colours, the music, the low–key performances, and the sense of timing in his movies are uniquely his.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has everything we’ve come to expect from a Wes Anderson movie. I’ve seen it four times and the more I see it the higher I rank it in relation to his other films. Despite some of its more poetic moments, TGBH isn’t quite as bittersweet as The Royal Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom (my two favourites) but it makes up for that with some of the most outrageous comedy we’ve ever seen from him. It also boasts his biggest cast yet of both new faces and at least ten familiar ones from other Anderson films.

There were so many great cameos and there wasn’t nearly enough time to give everyone the attention that they deserved. Before the movie even really gets going, we are introduced to the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968 where it’s already past its prime through the point of view of a young writer played by Jude Law.

grand budapest hotel 2

“What few guests we were had quickly come to recognize each other by sight as the only living souls residing in the vast establishment. Although I do not believe any acquaintance among our number had proceeded beyond the brief nods we exchanged as we passed in the palm court, in the Arabian baths, and onboard the colonnade funicular. We were a very reserved group it seemed and, without exception, solitary”.

Before long, we are introduced to Zero as an old man played by F. Murray Abraham and he tells the story of how he came to own the hotel, bringing us to the 1930s where the rest of the film is set. As much as I loved the rest of the movie, part of me wished that we got to hang around longer in the run-down 1968 version of the Grand Budapest Hotel, which I think would have made a great setting for a movie of its own. Maybe a murder mystery? Or a love story?

I’m just putting it out there to the universe that we get to see the first ever Wes Anderson sequel starring Law, Abraham, and Jason Schwartzman as the lazy mustached concierge. Maybe even past Wes Anderson characters like Steve Zissou from Life Aquatic or the family from Moonrise Kingdom can come stay at the hotel.

It probably won’t happen but I can dream. If you’re out there, Wes Anderson, please make Return to the Grand Budapest Hotel.