In honor of the Arts + Entertainment District‘s showing of Fantastic Mr. Fox this Friday for Downtown Art Days with Miami Film Festival, we thought it would be helpful to breakdown the tangible charm of Wes Anderson and his beloved feature films. Personally, it’s the combination of wit, organic delivery, and an unparalleled attention to detail that makes Wes Anderson my favorite filmmaker of all time.
So needless to say, the following post will be thickly veiled with somewhat of a bias. But if you’ve ever come across any of his works, both feature, animated, or short, you can tell it’s an Anderson original instantaneously. The trademark framing style that makes you feel like you’re watching a series of diorama set displays or photographic slides, the individualistic nature of each character that draws you in with each clever comeback, and oh, the production design. Before I get carried away again, let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
Bottle Rocket (1996)
In short: A forehead-smacking heist-gone-wrong comedy about three equally crazy characters.
Who’s in it: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson (who co-wrote), and James Caan.
Shining moment: Luke Wilson’s character, Anthony, falling in love with Inez, the hotel maid.
Why it’s great: It’s the feature film debut of both the Owen brothers.
In short: A bizarre love triangle between a 15-year old extracurricular activity addict, a wealthy father, and an attractive elementary school teacher all taking place at the fictional Rushmore preparatory school. Also co-written by Owen Wilson.
Who’s in it: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Olivia Williams.
Shining moment: The helicopter in the play’s battle scene at the end of the film was paid out of pocket by Murray.
When to watch it: Late afternoon, post-work or after school. It’ll make you laugh until you unwind.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
In short: In a wayward attempt to re-connect with his estranged three children and ex-wife, Royal Tenenbaum reunites them by fabricating a terminal illness.
Who’s in it: Gene Hackman, Owen and Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, and Bill Murray.
Shining moment: The humor in each character’s flashback story.
Why we love it: Alec Baldwin’s narration tying the whole comedic tragedy together is top of the list.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
In short: After a mythical shark kills his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a team of wary interns, faithful shipmates, a pregnant journalist, a life-long fan, and his estranged wife to track down the monster.
Who’s in it: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, and Jeff Goldblum.
Shining moment: The entire tour of the Belafonte and Seu Jorge’s acoustic renditions of David Bowie.
Why we love it: This is where Wes Anderson begins to merge his already established filmmaking style with a Gondry-esque animation technique.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
In short: After a life-threatening accident, a man reunites with his two younger brothers by embarking on a quest to find their mother across India.
Who’s in it: Not Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Anjelica Huston.
Why we love it: The enthralling beauty of India and its culture becomes a leading character in itself. Also, it’s in this film where (in my opinion) Anderson and his camera team master their continuous shots and panoramic views.
Key note: Watch the “Hotel Chevalier” short prior to the feature length film to further understand the relationship between Jason Schwartzman and his ex-girlfriend (played by Natalie Portman).
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
In short: A stop-motion adaptation of Roal Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, the story of a fox who must out-fox being out-foxed…to save his family and friends.
Who’s in it: Well, not physically: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray.
Why we love it: Anderson manages to stay true to the beloved children’s book while still managing to incorporate the wit and self-deprecating characters we have come to love in his works.
When to watch it: This Friday at A+E District’s Movies Under the Stars.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
In short: A search party is gathered to track down a pair of adventurous young lovers who have fled on an adventure across town and country.
Who’s in it: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and of course, Bill Murray.
Shining moment: Dancing on the beach in undies pretty much takes it. Also, the animal costumes. We want them all.
Why we love it: Although the essence of the film is a coming-of-age story, the meat is a refreshing take on how true love conquers all. Also, being a nerd is cool.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
In short: The famous fictional Grand Budapest Hotel lays host to a murder mystery, a high-valued painting theft, and the uncanny adventures of its legendary concierge and his loyal lobby boy.
Who’s in it: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Harvey Keitel.
Shining moment: The Society of the Crossed Keys montage spanning the entire world all to save Gustave H.
Why we love it: Anderson’s production design and story go above and beyond it ever has gone before.