Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog. (IMDb)
Awe-inspiring animation, as expected, with an amazing attention to detail (petals on noses, fur blowing in the wind), breathtaking landscapes (see the journey montages), a variety of unique shots (see the shadowy discussion in the bottle cave), creative storytelling devices (see the split-screens), and fun flourishes (see the sushi-making). A welcome surprise is the engaging hard-boiled political drama added to Anderson’s typically quirky comedy (the gossiping goofy alpha dog pack is great).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

RANKED: Wes Anderson films

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With one of the most distinctive sets of stylistic and storytelling tendencies out there, it seems like you’re bound to either like pretty much all of director/writer Wes Anderson’s films or dislike all of them–or at least go into watching one of his films with a bias leaning either way! I’m in the camp of liking his films; his strong aesthetic and quirky scripts have always appealed to me, and I’ve yet to dislike one of his films! In addition to the similar traits found across his filmography, however, there is still plenty of variety; moreover, I certainly find some of his films to be much better than others, despite the general appeal each of them holds for me. So with that said, may I present to you my ranking of each of Wes Anderson’s feature films to date, to be updated with any others to come in the future (can’t wait!). For fun, since one of Anderson’s trademarks is his quirky dialogue, I’ll include one of my favourite quotes from each flick. Enjoy!

8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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My official rating: 7/10 (review here)

I suspect having this one at the bottom of my list might surprise some fellow Anderson fans, as I’ve seen it near the top of many other lists, but for whatever reason, this one didn’t connect with me as much as the others. The lack of a singular character focus and the overload of the normally enjoyable deadpan dialogue might have had something to do with it. Maybe it was just a little too monotonous in its melancholy for me to be able to enjoy it as much as some of Anderson’s flicks.

Memorable quote:I’m very sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman.” – Royal Tenenbaum

7. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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My official rating: 7/10 (review here)

Another classic Owen Wilson character blends with Brody and Schwartzman here to create a great set of estranged brothers in a nice bonding road-trip plot. The vibrant colours and diverse setting of India + Anderson’s visual flair and eye for detail is a match made in heaven. Just a little too much shallow melodrama held this back for me.

Memorable quote: “I want us to be completely open and say yes to everything even if it’s shocking and painful. Can we agree to that?” – Francis

6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

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My rating: 7.5/10 (review here)

One of the first Anderson films that really stood out to me for its filmmaking aesthetic–from the great inner-dollhouse-like pans across the inside of the ship to the great costumes to the acoustic covers of David Bowie songs sung in French by cast member Seu Jorge that provided a unique soundtrack–there was so much to enjoy here just from a purely cinematic perspective. And Anderson regular Bill Murray was great as always, this time in the leading role.

Memorable quote: “Son of a bitch, I’m sick of these dolphins.” – Steve Zissou

5. Bottle Rocket (1996)

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My rating: 8/10 (review here)

Anderson’s now famous visual flair hadn’t yet fully developed in this his first feature film, but hands down, it remains the funniest of all his works, thanks to the outrageous wannabe-criminals plot led by the excellent Wilson brothers duo (Owen’s Dignan is particularly memorable) and supported by a hilarious oddball supporting cast.

Memorable quote: “Okay. There, you see the star is me, right there, and I’ll be in there. The X is Anthony. Bob, you’re the zero out here in the car.” – Dignan

4. Rushmore (1998)

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My rating: 8/10 (review here)

Just recently read a great piece on Rushmore from fellow movie blogger and Anderson fan Josh Hammond over at Monday Morning Movie Quarterback. While I don’t agree with him on the point that it’s Anderson’s very best film (but hey, where’s the fun in agreeing?), I certainly see what he’s saying. His main point was that Rushmore caught Anderson “right before his style overwhelmed his substance”, and thus maintained the perfect balance between his quirky story/character work and his technical showmanship. And while I wouldn’t say that more style than substance was always a bad thing in Anderson’s later films (see my next three blurbs), I can at least affirm that Rushmore contains probably the most thorough and in-depth character work of all his films, most particularly on the central Max (pictured above). He was certainly quirky  and provided plenty of laughs throughout like many other of Anderson’s characters, but there was depth and complexity there too, thanks in large part to his interesting mix of childlike immaturity and adult ambition and vocabulary. Anyways, go check out Josh’s piece and my review above if you’d like to read more on this excellent installment in Anderson’s filmography.

Memorable quote: [Herman, referring to Max]: “Sharp little guy.” [Dr. Nelson Guggenheim]: “He’s one of the worst students we’ve got.”

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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My rating: 8.5/10 (review here)

I think The Grand Budapest Hotel is a good example of an Anderson flick where yes, the style does overwhelm the substance, but the style is just so gosh darn incredible that it doesn’t matter. It’s just so vibrant and colourful and detailed; every shot is a painting, a work of art. And there are so many different settings and stylistic schemes too-there is of course, the pinks and purples of the hotel in its heyday. But then there’s the oranges and browns of it in the 70s, the off-whites and greys of the prison, the whites of the mountaintops, etc. And it’s not like the story is a slouch, with a multi-leveled, wacky narrative that fits perfectly with the elaborate and colourful visuals. It’s a marvelous and masterful work of cinematic art that’s pretty funny to boot.

Memorable quote: “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.” – M. Gustave

2. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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My rating: 9/10 (review here)

Tell me that final credits shot isn’t drop-dead gorgeous. Imagine a whole movie looking like that-cool retro set design, beautiful forest scenery, all awash in a sunny, nostalgic haze… scrumptious, I tell you! As for the story, I think it’s safe to say that if Bottle Rocket is Anderson’s funniest, Moonrise Kingdom is his most dramatic. Maybe it has something to do with that excellent orchestral score by Alexandre Desplat. But the story of two young lovers taking on the world run by adults has its fair share of drama, from fugitives on the run, to an arrow shot through the hand, to an impulsive marriage, to the impending doom of a giant flood. The whole film just has this grand feel that I was simply swept away by.

Memorable quote: “We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that?” – Suzy

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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My rating: 9/10 (review here)

Imagine Anderson’s creativity and visual genius with the the element of animation added to the mix and you get Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s simply a brilliantly crafted film. Anderson’s distinct details and symmetry are still there, but with a more hand-crafted quality, due to the animation. Every scene feels like a shoe-box diorama that you’d make in elementary school, well maybe not you, but that genius kid who sits next to you who either did it herself or got her professional artist parent to do it for her. Anyways, it’s easily the best animated film I’ve ever seen. Add in an easily enjoyable animal-rebellion plot and a batch of wonderful characters (Schwartzman and the animation team simply nailed adolescent angst in the character of Ash) and you have, in my opinion, Anderson’s best film to date.

Memorable quote: “If what I think is happening, IS happening… It better not be.” – Mrs. Fox

What say you? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Bottle Rocket (1996)

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Three friends plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run. (IMDb)

An average city simply filmed is the perfect setting for the outrageously funny escapades of a few friends (among them the Wilsons’ geeky Anthony–see his tagging along with his motel maid crush–and excitable ringleader Dignan–see his 75-year plan) acting out their romanticized idea of a life of crime (“On the run from Johnny Law…”), planning heists, wearing jumpsuits, etc. The motel middle act sags slightly, but a wacky caper (the absent-minded Kumar is a highlight) climaxes the film well.

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.
7/10 (Good)

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.
7/10 (Good)

 

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.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

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).
9/10 (Amazing)

 

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.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Liebster Award nomination

Wow, I am truly flattered and pleased to announce that I was nominated for a Liebster Award!liebsteraward

Thanks so much to Hammy Reviews for nominating me!

Here are the rules for the award as they have been passed on to me:

  1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 blogs you think are deserving of the award that have less than 200 followers.
  5. Let the blogs know you have nominated them.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer

Here are my answers to Hammy Reviews’ great questions:

1. Favourite film?

Little Miss Sunshine is definitely one of them. I’m a big family guy, and a sappy one to boot, so the whole rag-tag imperfect family portrait thing so perfectly portrayed here definitely speaks to me. Lots of laughs and tears and cheers, and a lot of all three in that final rebellious, coming-together dance number. All the characters are just so great (with such genuine turns from the cast) and it’s so well-written. So many good scenes here.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? would be the other film I’d mention here. The cozy old-timey soundtrack and dirty thirties setting, the hilarious up and down chain-gang-escapee escapades, the delicious dialogue, a quick-talking George Clooney, the hints of devilish darkness… it’s all just so wonderful. Great film I know I’ll never get sick of.

2. Favourite director?

Although I’ve definitely been a fan of pretty much everything I’ve seen of the Coen Brothers, including O Brother…, I’d hesitate to list them here just because I have yet to check out a good chunk of a few of their earlier films. So I’ll have to say Wes Anderson. He’s got a style, and I am unabashedly a huge fan. It’s just so damn delicious. The detailed sets, the symmetrical cinematography, the tracking shots, the quirkiness, the deadpan humour, the splashes of colour, the vibrant titles, the marvelous music… I could go on and on. I just love it all. He wouldn’t even have to have a story, I’d watch his films just for that gorgeous aesthetic he always manages to pull off.

3. Favourite video game?

I’ve never been a gamer, actually. At least with video games-we never had a game system growing up, I only recently salvaged a PS2 from a thrift store for $10 so I could play ATV Off-road Fury II, a game my brother and I used to play at our cousin’s place back in the day. It was a little underwhelming this time around.

I played a bunch of NHL 2000/2001 on PC back in the day though. Guess I’ll have to go with that.

4. Favourite book?

Huge Harry Potter fan, so I gotta get that out there. If I can’t include the whole series as my answer, I’d have to go with the epic final installment. The whole series just seemed to get better and better with each book.

5. It’s takeaway night: fish and chips or pizza?

Although I don’t mind me some deep-fried batter-covered fish in spite of my general distaste for all things that come from the sea, I’ll definitely have to go with pizza on this one.

6. Do you buy or download (illegally or not!) films/TV shows?

I don’t download at all, although I do occasionally rip library DVDs onto my computer. As for buying, I’m all about dem VHS tapes. Such a cheap way to watch/own all the best movies made before the early 2000s! Sure, it’s not as good quality a picture, but it really isn’t terrible, and it’s not like I’m watching Gravity or anything.

7. Do you consider yourself a geek?

Proudly so! My insane love of categorization and organization is a good example of this. When I was a kid, I used to hole myself up in my bedroom downstairs, listen to the Canucks game on the radio (BC boy here) and take all of my hockey cards (I used to collect a lot) out of my binder and reorganize them according to a different category–brand, player name, year, team, etc. After I had them organized one way for a few weeks, I’d reorganize them a different way again. I had a blast, and I would still totally do that today if I still collected. Just look at my menu page on my blog- “By Title”, “By Year”, “By Rating”… my favourite part of posting a new movie review is adding a link to it on its appropriate page under each category. If you ever want me to organize or compile any sort of data of yours or anything, I’M YOUR MAN.

8. Buy, Rent, Chuck: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3

Toy Story: Buy! Which I’ve already done. On VHS of course. It’s a great flick. Toy Story 2: Buy again. Haven’t seen it in a little while, but I remember really liking it. Toy Story 3: Haven’t seen it yet! Eep! But I’ve heard nothing but good things, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

9. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still happily married and the very proud parent of a 5 and a quarter year old daughter (and maybe another one)! Hopefully working a job that I love (still in the process of figuring that one out..)

10. What’s your biggest achievement in life, thus far?

Becoming (and being) a dad. The first two days or so in the hospital I was absolutely terrified and I was having some real anxiety about having to take care of this fragile little thing, but I soon got the hang of it and I’m really proud of myself for how comfortable I feel in this position and how much I really love it. My biggest achievement, for sure!

On a side note, because this is a movie blog, I feel like mentioning that my daughters’ first three movies were, in order, Planet of the Apes (the original), The Searchers, and The Shining, all watched by me on my laptop as I rocked her to sleep in the hospital. I’m excited to tell her when she gets older. 🙂

11. Shower or bath?

Shower.

And here are 11 random facts about me:

  1. I’ve been a happy husband for almost 3 and a half years now, and a delighted dad for a little over three months
  2. The first movie I can remember seeing in the theater was How The Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey
  3. Our family car is a 2003 Ford Focus station wagon (and yes, we’ve slept in the back at an interstate rest stop, but that was pre-baby)
  4. I’ve always enjoyed playing and watching most sports
  5. I can’t cook (I do the dishes instead)
  6. I enjoy dabbling in music and film making
  7. I haven’t been clean-shaven since Halloween 2010 when I shaved for the purposes of my costume (I had found out that my roommate was dressing up as me, so I had to return the favour)
  8. My favourite musical artist/band is Bruce Cockburn
  9. My brother and I as kids used to have “handstand” battles in our shared bedroom, where we’d take turns doing a handstand and rating each other on our form and longevity
  10. I’ve only broken one bone, the pinky-side one in the palm of my hand, from a mountain-bike crash
  11. I’m a Bible college BA graduate

And here are my nominations for the Liebster Award:

  1. Let’s Talk Movies!
  2. thrift shopper for peace
  3. gareth brandt
  4. The Blazing Reel
  5. media meum

And my 11 questions:

  1. Top 3 films:
  2. Top 3 books:
  3. Top 3 singers/artists/bands:
  4. Top 3 (your choice):
  5. What is your favourite beverage?
  6. What was your most memorable travel experience?
  7. What is your favourite board game?
  8. You are feeling rested, well-nourished, and at peace. You have one hour of free time, but it must be spent by yourself. What do you do with it?
  9. Who is your favourite actor or actress?
  10. Big city or open country?
  11. What is your favourite part of nature?

Rushmore (1998)

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The extracurricular king of Rushmore preparatory school is put on academic probation. (IMDb)
Anderson’s expertly artful direction (beautiful framing, distinct and thoughtful camerawork, and yummy set/character details) and oft-oddball script (“I’ll take Punctuality”; “I’ll take the tuna fish”) here is filled out nicely by a set of complex characters (led by the ambitious adult-teen hybrid Max) and nuanced (if not super deep) relationships within a solid dramedy script, providing the viewer with nearly as many emotional moments of satisfaction (“That’s my Max!”) as pure cinematic ones.
8/10 (Great)