There are a few directors that have established themselves in the 21st century that I really enjoy. I like the psychological thrillers of Christopher Nolan as much as the flashy action of J. J. Abrams. But one director whom I have just recently come upon and have enjoyed to no end has been Wes Anderson. Much like Nolan, who releases movies every two years, Anderson has been consistently releasing great movies since 1996 at a rate of one every two to three years. As such, in almost twenty years, Anderson has directed eight films which are all unique but all exhibit his very down-to-earth style filled with flawed characters and excellent dialogue. Considering that his films have very high approval ratings, I am certainly not the only movie critic who sees how incredible his films are. This week’s two films examine Anderson’s origins and his recent successes.
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours
Wes Anderson’s career started back in 1992 with a short by the name of Bottle Rocket. This short, co-written with Owen Wilson, was eventually turned into a feature film four years later. And yet, Rushmore was perhaps their first film since they started writing it years before they made Anderson’s debut film. In fact, this film was almost semi-autobiographical as the main character, Max Fischer, exhibited qualities that both Wilson and Anderson had while in high school (with most of the inspiration coming from Anderson’s side). Of course, with a respectable budget, Rushmore really started Anderson’s career, as well as the career of Jason Schwartzman, a now constant collaborator of Anderson’s. Actually, I find it kind of endearing that Anderson tends to work with the same group of people over and over again: almost like a tight-knit set of friends or a family of sorts.
Jason Schwartzman portrays Max Fischer, an ambitious student at the titular Rushmore Academy. Unfortunately, his ambition doesn’t carry over into his schoolwork, partly because he spends so much time on extra-curricular activities. After hearing Rushmore alum, Herman Blume (Bill Murray), speak at an assembly, Max becomes friends with the unhappy industrialist and enjoys a friendship as equals. Meanwhile, Max develops a crush on Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a widow who has come to Rushmore to teach 1st Grade. A series of events including Max finding out that Ms. Cross and Mr. Blume were having a relationship behind his back, as well as being kicked out of Rushmore for failing his academics leads Max to re-start his life in a public school as well as come to terms with more of life’s harsh realities.
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours
After the critical acclaim of Rushmore and Anderson’s follow-up film, The Royal Tenenbaums, his career took a bit of a hit with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. For whatever reason, audiences weren’t satisfied with this film and so Anderson began rebuilding his career with The Darjeeling Limited. What really got him back into the hearts of moviegoers was the stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. This helped to tone down some of the more adult themes that his films trended toward and gave Anderson more of a family flavor. Then he released Moonrise Kingdom. To date, this film has been his most popular and most beloved by audiences and critics. With a transition from focusing on the problems of adults to the optimism of children, we see Anderson’s style truly flourish in this nostalgic look at life in the mid-1960’s.
Moonrise Kingdom is a story much akin to the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet, where 12-year olds Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) develop a relationship through the constant back-and-forth writing of being pen pals. Sam comes back to Suzy’s home island in New England to attend scout camp, where he runs away to rendezvous with Suzy, who has also run away from home. Through their correspondences, they had decided to run away together, which now has both Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) worried and searching the island for them. When they are eventually found and separated, the scouts, who now are for Sam’s cause instead of picking on him, help them reunite and elope at a larger scout camp on another island. However, a storm has developed which threatens the islands as well as everyone on them.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome Anderson movies
Bacon #: 2 (Fantastic Mr. Fox / Meryl Streep -> The River Wild / Kevin Bacon)