By Barbara Kryvko
“Quirky,” “meticulous,” “whimsical” – all words that are continuously used to describe the works of filmmaker Wes Anderson. His films have attracted the attention of critics, fans, and an impressive collection of actors. Among Anderson’s more familiar faces are Bill Murray, who has collaborated with Anderson on eight films, Owen Wilson (seven films), and Jason Schwartzman (six).
The true star of Anderson’s films are the stylized sets and costumes, in meticulous and colorful combinations. The characters are well-developed, often with amazing backstories and unusual personalities.
I love dogs, or “Isle of Dogs,” is only the latest in the long, strange trip that Anderson has provided for his fans. There’s no subtlety in the title; the story is set on an actual island full of dogs. Each scene is filmed in stop-action fashion, using mohair and alpaca for all of the dogs, with each hair placed by hand. The production is amazing enough, but the story is also touching and exciting. Young Atari goes to the Isle of Dogs to find his pet dog Spots, and encounters a host of characters, from fancy purebreds to a tribe of cannibal dogs.
The movie that started Wes Anderson fanaticism in the film world, The Royal Tenenbaums covers the reunion of four very strange, yet very successful, Tenenbaum siblings with their long-lost father, Royal. The main storyline revolves around Margot, the fur-wearing, chain-smoking, adopted daughter who is struggling with several romantic relationships (Gwyneth Paltrow). She’s unsure of her place in the Tenenbaum family tree as well as her status as a playwright. It’s a great first dip into the Anderson filmography, but you might want a pen and paper to keep track of the cast of characters!
This is the movie that finally made the Academy stand up and take notice of Wes Anderson. Winning four Oscars and being nominated for five more, it also won the hearts of movie-goers around the world. Ralph Fiennes is M. Gustave, a hotelier whose lovely and isolated Grand Budapest Hotel has become neglected by vacationers. He hires a new lobby boy with whom he bonds immediately, dragging him along on his amazing adventures and changing the young boy’s life forever.
This is my favorite of all Wes Anderson films. Bill Murray is Steve Zissou, a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer on a trip to avenge the death of his best friend. Owen Wilson is Zissou’s long-lost son, Ned Plimpton, whom Zissou renames “Kingsley Zissou.” Kingsley immediately joins Steve on his mission, where they immediately fall in love with the same woman. It’s not always apparent which is more dangerous: the shark they are chasing, or their bitter rivalry with each other.
If you love quirky soundtracks, then this film is for you. I am still haunted by Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go, My Lovely,” which is played during a wispy Natalie Portman scene. The meat of the movie is the developing relationship between three brothers: Peter (Owen Wilson), Francis (Adrien Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). They go on a long train journey through India to find their mother. While they each have their own reasons for running away from real life, they share a sadness at the recent loss of their father - carrying his suitcases everywhere. The usually stunning Wes Anderson cinematography is a beautiful match for the equally stunning backdrop of India.
This is the story of star-crossed friends, orphan Sam and island-dweller Suzy. They meet when they are 12, and immediately run off together. They’re followed by Sam’s foster parents, his scout troop, and Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). They encounter overzealous social workers, chases across lovely beaches, and even a hurricane, just to stay together. Moonrise Kingdom achieved much critical acclaim, but never became as popular as Anderson’s other films. The beautiful cinematography and poignant humor is enough to give it a look.
Barbara Kryvko is an IT professional who keeps her eyes on the technical aspects of any film. Bring on the biggest explosions, the longest long shots, the most outrageous martial arts, the darkest space odysseys, the cheesiest CGI sharks, and she'll be occupied for days. Don't forget the popcorn.