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Is there anything more delightful and heartwarming than the news that Anderson has another movie in the pipeline?
Naysayers will predictably say nay, and although of course everyone is entitled to their (incorrect) opinion, a negative answer here means that unfortunately it’s unlikely that we can be friends.
However, for those aficionados of Wes, the good news is that another film is very imminent, due to be released a little under two months hence.
Those not so familiar with the director should dip into his back catalogue, every single one of which I recommend (to varying degrees).
Every single one of which I recommend
Hardened fans will of course already have gobbled up all seven of Anderson’s previous offerings, and may be left feeling peckish before the big feast on March 7th; for those, I offer a smörgåsbord of similar treats that you may or may not be familiar with.
Some are more famous than others; most were made in the last 10 years.
All should bring a warm fuzzy feeling to the insides of Anderson fans to tide them over until the unleashing of Grand Hotel Budapest.
A black comedy starring Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement and writer of the story Loren Taylor, Eagle vs Shark pairs two misfits in a quaint romantic comedy which most certainly does not feel like a rom-com.
As with Clement’s TV series, much humour derives from the setting of New Zealand; the accents, the culture and the apparent naivety and backwardness of the characters.
Remarkable ability to maintain a positive outlook throughout the adversity
For a largely sad and dark film that relies on black humour, Eagle vs Shark has a remarkable ability to maintain a positive outlook throughout the adversity and features endearing stop-motion animation akin to an even more dream-like Fantastic Mr. Fox and a soundtrack Mark Mothersbaugh would be proud of.
The directorial debut of The Mighty Boosh and IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade is a wry look at the year in the life of Oliver Tate, a Welsh schoolboy desperate to lose his virginity and simultaneously split up his mother and an old flame.
With traits comparable to Max Fischer in Rushmore, Tate is a confused and flawed character brilliantly played by Craig Roberts. Paddy Considine, a personal favourite actor, also puts in a great shift in an uncharacteristically passive role, and a beautifully melancholy soundtrack penned by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner completes a gem of a film.
Another offering from the Kiwi director, Boy didn’t receive as many plaudits as Eagle vs Shark but in some ways is a superior film.
In a common Wes Anderson theme, the film concentrates on the dysfunctional relationship between the central character and his father, who, it turns out, was not the man he expected.
Themes and motifs as diverse as Michael Jackson, treasure hunts and heroes with feet of clay blend to make a memorable movie which deserves more recognition that it received.
So I said most were made recently; the stand-out exception is Hal Ashby’s wacky and off-the-wall romantic comedy about two polar opposites who come together in an unlikely love.
A rich teenager bored of life meets a poor septuagenarian brimming with vitality; the results are unexpected, endearing and uplifting.
A rich teenager bored of life meets a poor septuagenarian brimming with vitality
A solid precursor to Anderson’s films and more than likely a source of inspiration, complete with oddball characters, brazen legal transgressions and a soundtrack stuffed with Cat Stevens numbers (including a charming rendition of If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out).
The complete brainchild of Miranda July, this movie is written, directed by and stars the eccentric debutant film-maker as a lonely performance artist who forges an unlikely and unorthodox relationship with a jaded shoe salesman.
Focusing heavily on innocence and childhood, the humour is nowhere better expressed than by seven-year-old Robby, whose delivery of his hilarious lines (mostly acquired from adult chat sites) would fit perfectly into Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums.
It’s rare that the author of a cult classic novelette actually gets to direct his own work, but that’s exactly what happened here, with Chbosky’s 1999 arriving on the silver screen in style.
Harry Potter’s Emma Watson proves that not all of the child actors in that particular franchise were terrible actors, and both Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller turn in great performances as teens coming to terms with who they are.
Like Eagle vs Shark, this film also fixates on a Bowie classic (albeit slightly cringingly here); a trait that Anderson put to great effect in The Life Aquatic through his made-up Portuguese translations.
Baumbach is a personal friend of Anderson and co-wrote both The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox, so it should be no surprise that his style of direction is similar in some aspects.
In fact, Baumbach was actually convinced by Anderson to come back to the director’s chair after a few false starts, for the critically acclaimed 2005 movie The Squid and the Whale. Whilst that film received many plaudits, for my money Frances Ha is a far better offering, not least for the fact that its central character is actually likeable, in stark contrast to pretty much the entire TSATW ensemble.
Frances, a 27-year-old dancer, is a victim of her own need to ‘fit in’; by trying so desperately hard to endear herself to friends, her boss and, in one scene, a table of strangers at a particularly uncomfortable dinner party, she succeeds in alienating almost everyone – except the viewer.
Greta Gerwig wins us over with a great performance of the self-conscious “undateable” heroine; and the decision to shoot in black and white recalls French cinema; a link supported by a French-inspired soundtrack and even an a few scenes in Paris.
A favourite actor for all those movie-goers not comfortable in their own skin, Steve Buscemi puts in a predictably great performance here as a lonely misfit who becomes the butt of a frivolously cruel practical joke by two teenage girls.
From the opening credits song, Anderson fans can feel a tinge of recognition as the camera pans past several windows, scanning their occupants, before settling on the protagonists. And all to a lively, rousing Bollywood tune.
Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson also offer mature performances at an early point in their acting careers and this understated film is a worthy watch, not least for the jazzy score.
Thomas McCarthy directs Paul Giamatti as a lawyer down on his luck who sees a way to ease his financial woes by uncharacteristically exploiting one of his clients. The grandson of said client then becomes entangled in his life as a gifted wrestler on the team which Giamatti coaches in his free time.
The film is a study of the relationship between morality, money and happiness that is supplemented by powerful performances across the board, especially from the impeccable Jeffrey Tambor (of Arrested Development fame) and the evergreen Giamatti.
Again familial relations – especially ones fraught with tension and confrontation – dominate here and McCarthy handles it with Anderson-esque delicacy and gentle humour.
Somewhere in between playing dreamy rom-com fodder and tight-lipped upholders of justice, Ryan Gosling stumbled into this incredibly uncharacteristic role of Lars.
Lars, a simple, good-natured young man from a country town, finds it difficult to meet women. He strikes up an unconventional relationship with someone he met on the internet… not all that unusual, except that she is a blow-up sex doll.
Ryan Gosling stumbled into this incredibly uncharacteristic role of Lars
Interesting, hilarious, and genuinely touching, this is even more of an alternative love story than Harold and Maude.
The word “quirky” and its derivates come with a slightly cringe-worthy and uncomfortable undertone; however, there’s no denying that that is exactly what these films are!
Embrace the quirk.
All of these films share a certain quirky quality that fans of Wes Anderson will be sure to love. Whilst the word “quirky” carries somewhat cringe-worthy and uncomfortable undertones, that’s pretty much exactly what these films are.
Uniting them are also common themes, techniques and characters. They often look at ‘human’ themes, such as strained family relationships, loneliness and the sense of confusion and disillusionment young men and women (and sometimes older individuals) frequently feel when trying to find their place in the world.
The characters are all tangibly real; there are no Hollywood heroes here – these people arrive on our screens as fully-formed individuals, with their foibles and their flaws and their sometimes questionable morality.
The ultimate message in a lot of the films seems to be that nobody is perfect, and some of us are a long way from perfection… and that this is perfectly okay, perfectly normal. Being weird, being different from others, being quirky; this is okay
To borrow a line from Mad Men’s Don Draper:
Happiness… is freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing… it’s okay. You are okay.
For me, Wes Anderson films, and those like it, are happiness. And I am okay.
What have I missed? There are many more good movies if you like Wes Anderson, and I have barely scratched the surface with these ten.If you have discovered some hidden gems, share them below so that like-minded people can enjoy them as well.