Writer’s Desk: Be Intentional

There is a lot of writing in the new Wes Anderson movie The French Dispatch. After all, it is about a magazine. The editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr., played by Bill Murray, is a grumpy but accommodating sort, the sort who complains constantly while still carrying inside him a deep and abiding love not just for the written word but also for those who know what to do with it.

In the film, Howitzer (based on legendary New Yorker editor Harold Ross) does not dole out much in the way of writing advice, but what he does say about the craft on multiple occasions is nevertheless solid:

Just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.

This is harder to accomplish than one might imagine.

Screening Room: ‘Isle of Dogs’

Featuring all the usual suspects (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton) plus Bryan Cranston, a lot of dry canine humor, and truckloads of Japanese cultural references from taiko drumming to Akira Kurosawa flicks, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is, well, the sum total of all those parts.

Isle of Dogs is playing now. My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

Looking at Wes Anderson’s career arc is like flipping through the passport of one of your better-traveled friends. There are his stories of neurotically creative New York (The Royal Tenenbaums) and emotionally stunted New England (Moonrise Kingdom). Then you have his further flung locations ranging from the tripped-out sun-stroked Mediterranean (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) to a romantic postcard India (The Darjeeling Limited) and the imagined semi-historical locales of wartime Mitteleuropa (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and storybook British Isles (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Now, with his densely-layered but somewhat stillborn quasi-apocalyptic canine adventure fantasy Isle of Dogs, Anderson has finally crossed the Pacific to Japan. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to Australia. His kangaroos will most likely be highly droll…

Here’s the trailer:

Rewind: Bill Murray’s Moonage Daydream in ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’

LifeAquatic2

As the first in an occasional set of posts that look to some great (or even not so great) films from years or even decades ago that are worth going back to revisit, let’s start off with a real gem: Wes Anderson’s Bowie dream of a Bill Murray acid trip, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

“Bill Murray’s Moonage Daydream in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is at Medium:

Murray ambles through his performance as oceanographer Steve Zissou, whose longtime partner was just eaten by a rare species of shark (“which may or may not exist”) and is determined to set off on an expedition to find the shark and kill it. When asked what scientific purpose this would satisfy, Zissou gives an almost imperceptible shrug and says, “revenge”…

Here’s Seu Jorge in the film, covering Bowie’s “Life on Mars”:

Screening Room: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Deserves to Win It All

Ralph Fiennes lives it up while he can in 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' (Fox Searchlight)
Ralph Fiennes lives it up while he can in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (Fox Searchlight)

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was nominated for nine (count ’em) Academy Awards. There’s no guessing exactly how it will fare up against the competition from Birdman and Boyhood, but it’s easy to say that whatever awards those films don’t get, should be sent Budapest‘s way.

grand_budapest_hotel-posterMy article about the film is at Short Ends & Leader:

Wes Anderson isn’t our greatest living filmmaker; his style is too narrowly defined for such a grand title. We tend to think of our greatest directors as both having a signature style but also being flexible enough to tackle many styles: Howard Hawks could move from urbane comedies to Westerns and epics, Martin Scorsese from urban grit to musicals and children’s’ fantasias, and so on. By contrast Anderson has one style, and each of his films simply refine it. All those twee little trinkets and fussy outfits could drive you mad, were one to watch too many in a row. But as perfectly Andersonian a spectacle as The Grand Budapest Hotel is, it also expands his reach in surprising ways. Being one of the year’s most unique spectacles, it’s also the first Anderson film made up of tragedy as much as it is comedy…

Here’s the trailer:

DVD Tuesday: ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’

 

It would be too reductive to say that Wes Anderson’s films are about people who don’t fit in. Yes, his characters are on the oddball end of the spectrum. But in Anderson’s better films (like The Royal Tenenbaums), he doesn’t fall prey to the common bugaboo of those artists who celebrate the unique. Namely, he doesn’t even bother creating an outside world to judge them for their curious behavior. There is no island of misfit toys for his characters to retreat to, because the whole that is visible doesn’t seem much different. Everybody doesn’t fit in, together…

The Royal Tenenbaums is available now in a beautiful new Blu-ray transfer from Criterion. Read my full review at PopMatters.