Tag: Wes Anderson

Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

“It’s been proven by history: all mankind makes mistakes.”

Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom is a movie of variations. It’s no secret; he announces it as such in the opening scene which introduces us to the main characters while a children’s record explains how a composer uses variations of a theme to build a piece of music. Each section of the orchestra has its own version of the them and when they are played together they transform into a majestic and intricate song. That is, essentially, what Anderson does with his characters in the film. They’re all playing slightly different versions of a theme and they mix and match with each other until they come together at the end to become a cohesive whole. Of course, this cohesive whole is about being uncohesive and lonely and finding a way to make that work or come to terms with it. It’s a beautiful film made with Anderson’s typical attention to mood and detail with touches of humor and sadness and, most impressively, both at once.

I wasn’t always a Wes Anderson fan. I saw The Royal Tenenbaums at too young an age to get what was happening in it and I only got five or so minutes into Bottle Rocket before I couldn’t take the quirk any longer and had to turn it off. In the past four or so years I have caught up with every Anderson movie except for The Life Aquatic and, though I only loved one, I became more and more interested in what he was trying to do and say. The trailer for Moonrise Kingdom was fantastic and convinced me to make it my first Anderson in a theater. I’m glad it did. Moonrise Kingdom is, perhaps even more than Fantastic Mr. Fox, the perfect distillation of Anderson’s qualities as a writer and director. The opening shots are those horizontal tracking shots he likes to do so much. Here they make it seem like the characters are living in a young adult fiction book from 1956, the year in which the story is set. This tone carries throughout, as two “troubled” kids run away from their lives and trek across a scenic New England island to find a place all their own. On their trek they fall in love, because what else are treks good for? Meanwhile, the adults on the small island mount a search for them and must come to terms with their own failings as humans. Adultery, inadequacy, and loneliness pervade the adult characters, so it’s no wonder the kids are so screwed up.

Or are they? We keep getting clues that these kids maybe aren’t as screwed up as the adults believe them to be. One, the boy, is an orphan sent off to sleepaway camp for the summer and “not invited to return” to his foster family. This seems more like a failing of the adults to adequately deal with a delicate case than it does a truly “troubled” child. The other, the girl, barely registers as doing anything too far out of the ordinary for a tween. And her home situation, a marriage that is pretty clearly not working, can’t help either. A large part of the film is the kids figuring out that they can be happy with each other, something the adults in their lives haven’t demonstrated at all. That’s not to say that the adults are the bad guys in the film. They are more pitiable figures than despicable ones. The script handles six fully realized characters and does so with remarkable swiftness and care.

Finally, a word on the actors. I am not a fan of Ed Norton. In my estimation he’s been good only twice before (American History X and his uncredited role in Kingdom of Heaven). There is something about Anderson’s dialogue, however, that really lets Norton shine. He plays the sad sack camp counselor of sorts. He doesn’t really have a lot going on, so he throws himself into the position with all of his muster, running the camp like a mini-military base. The tracking shot which introduces us to Norton and his charges is classic Wes Anderson and maybe the first funny thing Norton has ever done. He plays the character with a certain earnestness which is undercut by his loneliness that really works. Bruce Willis is an odd choice for an Anderson movie, but it mostly works. He plays his sheriff role like an older, more settled version of his John McClane character. He, too, is sad and lonely and carrying on an affair with the always wonderful Frances McDormand, the mother of the runaway girl. Which brings us to the kids. They’re the most important element of the film and they do their jobs quite well. I’ve never seen a Wes Anderson kid that acts like an actual kid and that holds true for this film. Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman (Suzy and Sam) perform admirably, developing a fun chemistry and displaying the characteristic awkwardness of new love. They say things that few kids would ever say, but they say them well and it works for the film. Other actors of note include Bill Murray as Suzy’s father (always good) and Jason Schwartzman in a hilarious bit role. Tilda Swinton is good but doesn’t get enough to do, unfortunately.

Moonrise Kingdom is a sad and funny movie of loneliness and human misunderstandings. It’s a beauty of a film, with all of Wes Anderson’s typical technical touches (the slow-mo group walking shot is perfect) intact and a slew of great characters played greatly by great actors. It’s the best movie of the year so far and a virtual lock for my upcoming top 100 list revision.

Top 100 Films: The _3’s

Today’s portion of the list has more horror, more action, and more foreign language films. There’re two movies by one director, three movies about making movies, 5 adaptations of books, and only 3 movies from before I was born. Enjoy!

93. [Rec] (2007)

Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Starring Manuela Velasco and Ferran Terraza

What happened to her eyes?

Though this is no longer my favorite of the found footage genre (that’d be Troll Hunter), [Rec] is one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen. I watched it late at night in my bedroom and every little sound made me jump. I enjoy the simplicity of the story – people trapped in a house, zombies – so the sequels that claim to expound on the mythology have nothing to give me. For a heart-racing good time, call [Rec]

83. Mother (2009)

Directed by Bong Joon-ho. Starring Kim Hye-ja and Won Bin

There’s a meridian point that can loosen the knots in your heart and clear all horrible memories from you mind.

A mix of revenge and whodunit, Mother is mostly about a woman who learns how far she will go to protect her son. Kim Hye-ja gives one of the best performances in recent memory, and the final scene where she deals with the things she has done is superb.

73. The Godfather (1972)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring Al Pacino and Marlon Brando

Just lie here, Pop. I’ll take care of you now. I’m with you now. I’m with you.

You’ll notice that I have two mafia movies on my list. In general, the genre does nothing for me. I don’t care to see stupid people making stupid decisions and dying stupidly early because of them. The Godfather, despite being the best known of the genre, is not your typical mafia film. Michael Corleone doesn’t want to be the head of a mafia family, nor does he even want to be a part of it at all. But through tragic circumstances he gets pulled into a world he doesn’t want to be a part of. That’s interesting. It’s also why I don’t care for the sequel. By then he’s all about keeping control of his empire, which isn’t anything I care to see ever again.

63. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks

Ah, people only know what you tell them, Carl.

This movie isn’t just set in the 60’s, the golden age of flight and all that jazz, it feels like a movie from the 60’s. Tom Hanks nails the no-nonsense FBI agent and DiCaprio comes into his own as the con man with plenty of confidence. With a bevy of other cameos and co-stars and a stunning look provided by Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski, this movie is fun and supremely well made.

53. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring George Clooney and Meryl Streep

You should probably put your bandit hat on now. Personally, I- I don’t have one, but I modified this tube sock.

I used to call this the only good Wes Anderson movie until I recently rewatched (post the creation of this list, if that means anything) The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s still his best film, stop-motion claymation allows him to be as meticulous as he craves to be, and Roald Dahl is the perfect match for his dry humor. With an all-star voice cast and a fun and moving story, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a modern masterpiece of children cinema that’s just as great for adults.

43. The Prestige (2006)

Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman

The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.

Nolan’s best film by far, The Prestige allows for the narrative trickery that he likes to use. The story jumps back and forth through time and diaries and tricks and illusions. It is, at it’s heart, about storytelling and movie making. It’s a love letter to the way stories make us feel. That’s my bag.

33. The Thing (1982)

Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Kurt Russell and Keith David

You guys think I’M crazy! Well, that’s fine! Most of you don’t know what’s going on around here, but I’m damn well sure SOME of you do! You think that thing wanted to be an animal? No dogs make it a thousand miles through the cold! No, you don’t understand! That thing wanted to be US!

The ultimate paranoia film, in The Thing you never know who’s who. Is your roommate an evil alien creature? Probably. The practical special effects are wonderful and make everything feel very real. It’ll be interesting to see how the remake/prequel does in this effect. Half of the trailer seems like a straight remake, copy and pasting scenes and dialogue. But then there’s some weird and interesting stuff towards the end that hopefully leads towards something new. Anyways, the original will always be a top-notch horror film.

23. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

Just look at the face: it’s vacant, with a hit of sadness. Like a drunk who’s lost a bet.

The epitome of the comedy/horror film, Shaun of the Dead is called a Zom-com by its creators and that’s a pretty apt description. I had no clue what I was getting into when I first saw it and that the film could go from beating a zombie up with pool cues to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now to a serious scene about a character’s death was surprising and fascinating to me. It’s a truly remarkable film.

13. Adaptation. (2002)

Directed by Spike Jonze. Starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep

I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know what it feels to care about something passionately.

Charlie Kaufman is known for having big ideas and somehow making those ideas work within a film but I don’t think he gets enough credit for the emotional elements of his films (outside of Eternal Sunshine, I suppose). Adaptation is about the impossible task he had to turn a book without a real story at the center into a film script. Adaptation is technically an adaptation of The Orchid Thief, but it’s really about the struggles of “Charlie Kaufman” and the characters in his film to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison Ford and Karen Allen

I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance, you’re talking about the boogie man. Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am.

The best straight-up action movie ever made, Raiders is a perfect movie. There’s not one element out of place, nothing that I would change. It’s the best time you can have at the movies.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section