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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Five Best Plus: Wes Anderson Moments

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I have yet to see Moonrise Kingdom, but that doesn't keep me from being a huge Wes Anderson fan. His quirky (though admittedly sometimes distant) filmmaking is right up my alley and I find myself more affected than most by his messages and his decisions. I got to thinking about all the fabulous moments he has constructed in his films through use of music, dialogue, and camera work. I tried to keep it to one moment per movie, but couldn't do it. I love The Royal Tennenbaums way too much. So, let's take a look at the five moments that show Anderson at his best and can give newcomers to his films the best introduction.

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Get Off My Boat - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

[Pardon the language of the clip above]
In what is probably Anderson's least accessible film to date, he puts Bill Murray on a boat with his crew trying to find the shark that killed his partner. Murray plays the title captain, only to find his boat is eventually hijacked by Filipino pirates. But, Zissou is not a man who gives up his quests so easily. He puts his entire crew at jeopardy (including Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, and Cate Blanchett) as he single-handedly takes down the intruders, all to the soundtrack of Iggy Pop and the Stooges' "Search and Destroy." Though Anderson tends to keep his action short and low key, when he puts together a sequence involving some gunfire and a few duck and cover moments, he does a fine job.

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By Way of the Green Line Bus - The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

My favorite of Anderson's films is the story of a family of geniuses, broken up because of the dishonest behavior of the father, Royal (Gene Hackman). Early in the film, former tennis great Richie (Luke Wilson) is returning home after being in seclusion at sea and has his sister Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) arrive at the bus station to pick him up. While Anderson uses slow motion quite a bit in his films, this sequence is probably his best, a short, sweet view of a misunderstood love between a brother and his adopted sister, played down for years. Paired with beautiful indie music from Nico, the zooms and gentle camera movements give us more romance than any words ever could. And, just like typical Anderson, it all ends with an awkwardly charming moment between the two.

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Battle of Wits - Rushmore (1998)

Anderson's first minor success was the story of a habitually overachieving student named Max (Jason Schwartzman) and his idol, a local successful, though increasingly depressed businessman (Bill Murray) and their battle over the same woman, a teacher (Olivia Williams) at Max's school, Rushmore. Their relationship begins out of mutual respect and fondness, only to evolve into a full fledged pissing match, best embodied by this brilliant and hilarious montage set to The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away." Even as they one up each other, they still seem to have a twisted admiration for what the other is doing. The slow motion shot of Schwartzman coming out of the elevator and sticking his gum to the wall is enough to get me every time.

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Richie's Breakdown - The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

One more from The Royal Tenenbaums in a scene which may stand as Anderson's most heart-breaking. After learning about Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) and her many indiscretions over the years, Richie (Luke Wilson) finds himself contemplating suicide, first taking the time to clean himself up a bit. Set to Elliot Smith's haunting "Needle in the Hay," the scene fades in from an uncomfortably funny one, the music beginning before we even move to the bathroom, where most of the action takes places. It's chilling, especially when you consider Smith actually took his own life. And, in true Wes Anderson fashion, the weight is lifted by a far less dramatic exchange between Margot and Dudley (Stephen Lea Sheppard).


The Rules of Whack-a-Bat - Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

To this day, it's probably the easiest for any casual viewer to enjoy, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is still pure Wes Anderson through and through. Based on the Roald Dahl short story, this story of a heroic fox who works to save his community from a farmer's retaliation that he provokes. Underneath the and  larger picture is a brewing rivalry between Mr. Fox's (George Clooney) son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and his cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson), who seems the logical choice to follow in his cunning father's footsteps. The game Anderson and staff came up with (which seems a little like cricket) goes a long way in purveying this rivalry, along with some fast talking from Owen Wilson.


Beneath all the quirky humor, Anderson's films really do have a lot of heart. It doesn't hurt that they are hilarious.

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