Lost in Translation (2003)

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A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)
Just a hug would have been better, but aside from that and a few other missteps in the final act (the singer sleepover came out of nowhere), it’s the ultimate in soothing cinema, thanks to its down-to-earth script that manages to capture all the beauty (and often humour) found in the mundane things of hotel/tourist life and friendship (see the falling asleep while talking scene). Solidly acted and remarkably edited and scored, it’s a marvel of refreshing authenticity (see the first night out).
8/10 (Great)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill. (IMDb)

Enjoyably quirky narrated character set-ups lead into a melancholic family reunion drama artistically crafted (memorable costumes and an excellent soundtrack stand out) but saturated with so much deadpan dialogue that it gets a little tiresome at points. Not all of the characters connect (Raleigh is inconsequential; Eli feels out of place) but Royal is a strong lead in his flawed quest for redemption, and Chas (see his guard let down; “I’ve had a tough year”) and Richie eventually hit home too.

6.7/10

 

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other. (IMDb)

The estranged brother dynamic is well-written in the dryly humourous first act as keener Francis initiates their adventure, secrets are leaked, and the backstory is patiently exposited. The rest of the film loses some momentum (despite great music, slow-mo, and tracking shots) thanks to too many vaguely significant but unsubstantiated scenes (see the unearned melodrama of Jack’s farewell to Rita), though the dramatic tragedy of the second act (“He’s all bloody!”) certainly isn’t one of them.

7.1/10

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation. (IMDb)

Every scene is like a delectably detailed diorama, brought to life by endlessly creative animation (see the digging and flood sequences; the “x” eyes), perfect voice acting, and marvelous music (even the most random of moments gain tear-jerking significance with this aesthetic: see Rat’s redemption, the wolf fist-pump), while a simple story showcases remarkable characterization (see the angsty Ash) and thoughtful drama (see Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s standoff) alongside its heaps of quirky humour.

9.2/10

#6 on my Complete Film Rankings list

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them. (IMDb)

The beautiful forested island scenery dotted with hip 60s aesthetic (hello, portable turntable) paired with Anderson’s impeccable visual flair and love for detail is a match made in movie heaven. Sam and Suzy, meanwhile, lead an elope plot that is as captivating (the flood side-story adds a great sense of impending doom to the forbidden love; Desplat’s mournful score is wonderful) and tragic (the leads’ parent issues add great depth) as it is cute (see the book-reading; culminating beach shot).

8.7/10

What About Bob? (1991)

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A successful psychotherapist loses his mind after one of his most dependent patients, a manipulative, obsessively compulsive narcissist, tracks him down during his family vacation. (IMDb)

The character dynamic at the core of this film is comedic gold: A severely anxious patient (the fantastic Murray’s endearingly naive Bob) obtains a new psychiatrist (Dreyfuss’ high-strung Leo) and clambers for attention while all the doc wants to do is get rid of him so he can enjoy his vacation. As the patient persists (and improves) in blissful ignorance, the doc goes crazy. It’s a plot that reaches preposterous proportions (“Death Therapy, Bob!”) but never loses its original character humour.

7.4/10

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. (IMDb)

The visuals are so remarkably entrancing and vibrantly varied here (hotels, prisons, mansions, and mountaintops) that you find yourself as excited to see what the next scene looks like as much as what happens in it–and that’s not to say the writing is sub-par: Within a cute 4-tiered narrative, a wild and wacky plot of murder, money, and escape takes place with plenty of quirky characters (Fiennes is fantastic) and well-placed bits of goofiness and expletives that break up the dazzling dialogue.

8.4/10