There. There you go. I finally saw something that I liked. Or, more accurately, I finally saw something that was good. And in the theater, no less! I hope you're happy!
Actually, that isn't strictly true. I saw Redline, Near Dark, and Battle Royale recently, but we're not here for them. Or about Night Watch for that matter.
We're here to talk about The Grand Budapest Hotel.
As easy as Wes Anderson is to poke fun at, he is also a director that is is hard to be snide about. He's an artist who is making the exact kind of art that he wants to make-- and most of the time, it's really quite good. Even if it isn't, he's made some of the best movies of the past fifteen years. And even if that isn't true he made Rushmore, a movie I carry around with me with all of the affection of a childhood blanket. I don't exist as the person that I am without Rushmore. I'm not the movie fan that I am without that movie. I guess The Royal Tenebaums ranks up there as well. It's one of the few moments of lesbianism that I've witnessed with my mother. . .
But anyways. . .
A few years back I described Django Unchained as a Quentin Tarantino movie and I feel safe in repeating that sentiment by saying that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Wes Anderson movie. It's an intricately constructed film, driven by particular ticks and a kind of subject matter that only Wes Anderson and a bunch of dead people truly loved. His tastes vary in their effectiveness. Sometimes his ticks add up to nothing more than fodder for a parody video and other times he makes Moonrise Kingdom.
His films are consumate works of art, regardless of their quality. Mark Kermode compared The Grand Budapest Hotel compared with a pastry box and to a grandfather clock, but his best works-- and this film-- are more than just a collection of finely oiled gears**.
The best parts of the film are the portions where we forget about the machinery and see something else beneath the surface. These moments are so fleeting they almost seem like mistakes.But we're looking at a Wes Anderson movie so we know that these moments are anything but mistakes. In the moment, though, we aren't thinking of what was meant to be there or what wasn't. Instead we see that these fast talking, quirky characters aren't just "characters." We see that they're people suffering from the same kind of loneliness and alienation that people like Max Fischer or Royal Tenebaum suffer from. Hell, that's what defines them.
It's the light at the edge of the frames that elevate this movie. His movies aren't machines, they only have the appearance of machinery. Behind all of the exacting camera work and the chapter titles and the oh-so-specific dialogue is a beating heart, there is affection. It's something that his worst movies forget about and it is something that his best movies have right out in the open.*** The Grand Budapest Hotel reconciles these two aspects. It doesn't quite have the melancholy of his best works, yet it does manage to remain interesting without losing sight of the human beings on screen.
I wish that instead of honing his craft down to one particular style to the point where he (hones it down to a diamond) he would expand in his artistry. That, like Martin Scorcese, his style would change and evolve and he would try his hand at new things.
Though, that's silly.Wes Anderson isn't interested in making different movies, nor should he. He is interested in making Wes Anderson movies. Going off of The Grand Budapest Hotel, that is a perfectly fine way to go.
ENTER THE AD DRAGON:
I do more than write bad movie reviews. I also write bad comics. At Old College Comics we're selling two volumes of anthology comics, where I am but one writer amongst a collection of some very talented friends of mine. We're also now on iTunes and Kindle, if you're over the whole physical medium thing.
I also do a cruddy little podcast called White Guys, Square Glasses. My friend Cruz and I talk about films there. These week we talked about Battle Royale. There's also a blog for the show if you're interested in checking that out. I just started updating that thing again. Because I guess I care again.
And, what the hell, here's my portfolio. The thing is ancient, but I figured why not link all of the blogs I'm in possession of? Right?
*Mark Kermode is an intelligent man.
**Maybe it might be more accurate-- if completely insane-- to describe his movies as "well oiled books." Maybe.
***Best: Rushmore, Royal Tenebaums, Moonrise Kingdom. Worst: Fantastic Mr. Fox.