Tag Archives: Wes Anderson

Top 100 Films #38 – Rushmore (1998)

 

bill-murray-rushmore#38. Rushmore (1998)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Seymour Cassel, Olivia Williams, Luke Wilson

Rushmore was only Wes Anderson’s second film, and it was already clear that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with in American independent cinema.  His penchant for quirky dialogue, situational humor, and meticulously crafted visuals pushed him to a career that currently sees him as one of the most popular independent filmmakers in the world.  Rushmore was his second of three highly successful writing collaborations with actor Owen Wilson, whose brother Luke appears in the film.  The story sees young Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) struggling to balance his grades and many extracurriculars at Rushmore Academy, a Texas-based private school that is seemingly far out of Max’s league. Max strikes up a close friendship with the disillusioned and wealthy Rushmore donator Herman Blume (Bill Murray).  The two eventually fall for new first grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), who Herman begins a private affair with after persuading Max to let go of his feelings of her.  When Max finds out about the affair, he and Herman begin a war for Rosemary’s affections.  Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is one of the funniest, most quirky films of the 1990’s – it would be a sign of things to come in the young director’s later career.  While it doesn’t feature quite the amount of detailed production design that future Anderson films would, Rushmore’s most memorable moments stand out on their own without these visual aids.  Anderson and Wilson’s screenplay perfectly establishes Max Fischer as a complicated, three-dimensional character who is very easy to get behind, and his relationship with the unsatisfied, manipulative Herman Blume is believably absurd and humorous.  The screenplay’s pacing is perfect, running at a very brisk pace and yet still allowing for a great deal of character and situation development.  Even while Max and Herman are doing battle with one another, both characters still must contend with other conflicts like Max being expelled from school and being ashamed of his humble upbringing, and Herman being unsatisfied with his home life.  Even with a tremendous script, Rushmore would not be half the film it is without its lead performances from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, whose comedic chemistry is undeniable. Schwartzman’s Max Fischer is just the right amount of arrogant and overly-ambitious, contrasting perfectly with Murray’s Herman Blume, a man who has been disillusioned and unsatisfied for far too long, and finds an odd sense of comfort in young people like Max.  Both characters are some of the most memorable and charming, if slightly off-kilter, of the 1990’s. Rushmore is a quirky, hilarious, and stylish comedy from Wes Anderson that is worth everybody’s time.

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Top 100 Films #47 – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

 

royal_young#47. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Starring: Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Seymour Cassel

The Royal Tenenbaums is the film that launched Wes Anderson from indie darling to world-class filmmaker, and is the film I would consider to be the best of his filmography – even if I like a certain other film marginally more. Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums tackles the collective trials and tribulations of the titular Tenenbaum family –  Royal (Gene Hackman), the selfish patriarch of the family, Etheline (Anjelica Huston), his ex-wife, Chas (Ben Stiller), a financial prodigy who has recently become a widower, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), the adopted playwright, and Richie (Luke Wilson), a depressive former tennis tar.  The family comes together after Royal’s announcement of his alleged stomach cancer diagnosis – coming coincidentally right after his ex-wife Etheline is proposed to by a man named Henry Sherman (Danny Glover).  The magic of The Royal Tenenbaums comes in Wes Anderson’s ability to create a genuine family on-screen, comprised of some of the most underappreciated actors of the early 2000’s – every moment feels genuine, despite being full of Anderson’s usual cinematic flare.  Each character has a detailed and believable backstory, immediately making them endearing and relatable – their struggles and triumphs feel real and carefully structured.   The writer-director’s careful attention to detail has become famous since his debut, and The Royal Tenenbaums may be the best example of this.  Each frame is littered with an unending amount of decorative flare – it’s clear that Anderson is passionately about the production design of his films.  His obsessive eye for detail makes immersion second-nature – it’s easy to fall in love with his films just based on their visual and audio content.  The writing is at all times witty and loaded to the brim with quirk, but never coming off as disingenuous or annoying.  The performances from top to bottom are very good, with the strongest two being Gene Hackman as Royal, who is selfish and conniving but undoubtedly well-intentioned in the end, and Luke Wilson as Richie, whose manic depressive personality feels genuine and adds a great sense of poignancy to the film.  Wilson’s famous “Needle in the Hay” scene is the most powerful in the entire film, and a must see for anybody who hasn’t. The chemistry between the entire cast blends perfectly with Wes Anderson’s incredible world building, adding a layer of sincerity that many films could never dream of having.  The Royal Tenenbaums is one of the finest films of the 2000’s, and one of the best movies ever made about the family unit.  It’s intelligent, it’s funny, it’s touching, and it’s incredibly stylish and beautiful – what more could you want?

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Top 100 Films #61 – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

 

lasz-dafoe-and-wilson#61. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Bud Cort

The first Wes Anderson film to appear on my list was also the first film of his I had ever seen.  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is the magical tale of the titular oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) who meets his possible son Ned (Owen Wilson).  Zissou and his eclectic crew of misfits go to sea aboard the decrepit Belafonte in search of the great jaguar shark who killed Steve’s dear friend Esteban.  Along the way they form long-lasting bonds, see beautiful underwater sights, and tangle with Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum), Zissou’s nemesis, and even a violent band of pirates.  The Life Aquatic was something of a departure for Wes Anderson, whose work up to this point had been far more grounded – it’s fantastic nature showed that the director could make almost any material work, especially with his crew of talented regulars.  Anderson uses practical visual effects and his usual tremendous production design to give The Life Aquatic a unique, charming look and feel.  The film also marked Anderson’s first collaboration with independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who would also go on to co-write the script for 2009’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  The character of Steve Zissou is a personal favorite of mine, and my favorite of Bill Murray’s collaborations with Anderson – his chemistry with both Owen Wilson and Cate Blanchett is terrific, and his bone dry wit works perfectly through the film.  When Murray is required to emote, he does so in the most natural and believable way. The film’s best scene comes when Zissou and his crew finally encounter the legendary jaguar shark – the beautiful effects, lighting, and the use of Sigur Rós’ song Starálfur makes for a deeply moving moment.  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is charming, funny, thrilling, and whimsical, which is everything I look for in a Wes Anderson film.

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