Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I didn’t completely dislike Grand Budapest Hotel. I remember laughing out loud at least four times, I felt everyone pretty much played their part, it’s always nice to see Harvey Keitel in anything popular/reputable these days, and it was a pleasant surprise to see Lea Seydoux in this even though she did only have four minutes of screen time. But I did have more than a few problems with the film overall. As I watched Grand Budapest Hotel I found myself internally asking things like; “Did Wes Anderson seriously just remake clue?” or “why does this feel like a mash-up of Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic & Darjeeling” or “what is this white guy’s obvious fascination with Asian Indians?!” (Be honest, Wes Anderson’s love for Indian people & culture is a little strange).
I can’t hate on Wes Anderson too hard tho. He knows how to make a film that can fill up a theater which I imagine is one of the things he strives to do as a popular filmmaker. But at the same time it almost feels like he’s phoning it in, yet his movies still manage to come off big & grand (mostly thanks in part to his all-star casts) and to the average movie goer/non-cinephile it still appears like he’s trying. I’m at the point where it's like if you’ve seen one Wes Anderson movie in the last decade (Life Aquatic through Grand Budapest) you’ve seen ‘em all. I’m well aware people have already felt like this for quite some time. I guess it just took me a little longer to get to this point. This isn’t even a review of Grand Budapest Hotel because I don’t feel the need to actually talk about specific scenes or give any kind of an analysis on it. Whether I like Grand Budapest or not, my opinion won’t matter. It’s a Wes Anderson movie with an appearance from Bill Murray & Owen Wilson. You’re all going to go see it just based off of that. I kind of appreciate Anderson picking new actors to work with on each film, but we all know everyone looks forward to seeing Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman or at least one Wilson brother.

I think it’s obvious that Anderson’s style has been bigger than him for quite some time now which isn’t a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with a director having their own unique style. I think that should be one goal of every filmmaker. It’s nice to watch something and know who directed it without needing to see the credits. But sometimes it’s a bit much in the case of Wes Anderson. With Grand Budapest Hotel he has officially become the “indie” version of Tim Burton – That filmmaker with a very recognizable style that still feels the need to shove it down our throats. Turn the colors down, man. I get that you like red & purple, but Jesus Christ…

I’m not suggesting Wes Anderson mimic other filmmakers I like who have a recognizable yet more subdued/toned down style (Claire Denis, Michael Mann, Lodge Kerrigan, Carlos Reygadas, etc) but I think it’s important to not let the “look” or quirkiness of your work take first place over the story, performances or other important elements that go in to making a movie great. Does Wes Anderson not know it’s ok to try different types of film scores or deviate slightly from his signature style of cinematography or work in a different brand of humor? Imagine a Wes Anderson film with only two recognizable/big names and the rest of the cast as unknowns or up & comers. That would be a breath of fresh air. I’m sorry but these all-star casts are working against him in my opinion. As long as his films remain under two hours (which they mostly are) there just isn’t enough time to fit everyone in. Grand Budapest started to feel like a cameo-fest/mixtape of quick appearances by famous faces rather than an actual movie. The posters for his last few films come off more like “HEY! LOOK AT ALL THE FAMOUS PEOPLE IN THIS” instead of “HEY! COME SEE MY MOVIE. IT’S GOOD!”

I know you sometimes need big names to get people to watch your movie, but enough is enough. It’s become too distracting (Wes Anderson isn’t the only filmmaker guilty of this. I’m not putting this all on him). In Grand Budapest Hotel you see people like Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and a few other recognizable faces for two minutes then they’re gone for the rest of the film (one of the minor issues I had with 12 Years A Slave). It just all seems cheap and/or pointless.
I feel like people either don't get my frustration in this or they do get it, but for some reason they still always end up flocking to the theater to see Anderson's work because they feel like they have too. As I sat in the Brooklyn Academy Of Music theater watching Grand Budapest, the sold out crowd I saw it with kept laughing at stuff on the screen, but nothing funny actually happened. Seriously. And I'm not saying that the audience members laughed at things I personally found to be unfunny. I'm saying that there would be a random shot of Jude Law sitting in the bathtub or F. Murray Abraham looking off somewhere and the whole audience would snicker or mildly laugh in unison. WHY ARE YOU ALL LAUGHING? NOTHING HAPPENED YET! Their laughter was so transparent. It's as if they were so insecure & scared about missing a small quirky moment that they had to laugh at ANYTHING that appeared to be "off" or possibly cute.

Can’t you all feel both my apathy & frustration right now? I think that’s a problem because I like Wes Anderson overall. Bottle Rocket is always on rotation in my DVD player and I feel that Rushmore is one of the defining films of Generation Y (my generation) along with Ghost World, Welcome To The Dollhouse & Home Alone. I also know that both The Fantastic Mr. Fox & Moonrise Kingdom have appeared in my end of the year reviews in 2009 & 2012, respectively, but Grand Budapest Hotel has me kind of regretting these decisions.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to Wes Anderson these days, the thrill is gone...


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