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Survey: The Best of Wes

Features
March 10, 2014 8:11 AM
2 Comments
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Fantastic Mr FOx

Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot

Best: "Fantastic Mr. Fox," not just because it's consistently entertaining in and of itself, but also because it makes a statement that animation can tell any kind of story and represent all kinds of directorial styles. Runner-up: "Royal Tenenbaums," which is probably his funniest.

Worst: It's not exactly terrible, but I wasn't the biggest fan of "Moonrise Kingdom." It just felt a bit flat and pointless, which I guess is how a lot of his movies feel to people who don't like them.

Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter, Tribune

Best: "Rushmore." Jason Schwartzman's performance, the finest in any Anderson film, catapults it through the leaves. Silver star: "The Royal Tenenbaums."

Worst: Among the six other features, there isn't a worst one; all are defendably worthwhile.

Michael Pattison, Sight & Sound, MUBI

I haven't seen "Grand Budapest Hotel" yet, and no other Anderson more than once, but "Fantastic Mr. Fox" seems to fit his sensibilities most naturally: there's something about the painstaking animation style, and the creation of the film's universe, that makes it the most "Andersonian" of all Anderson films. I saw it at the pictures, on a first date, and laughed riotously and violently audibly throughout (needless to say, there was no follow-up). I listed Michael Gambon's contribution among that year's best supporting performances.

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

I'm that shunned critic on the internet who's never really been a Wes Anderson fan. I actually liked "The Grand Budapest Hotel" when I saw it a week or two ago, but I'd say his best/my favorite is "Fantastic Mr. Fox," since that was the one time I just purely enjoyed myself with a film of his. As for his worst, the movie I just never got anything out of was "Bottle Rocket." Maybe it's me?

Ethan Alter, Television Without Pity

I can't pick between "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom" as my favorite Wes, so let's just call it a tie; the former boasts gorgeous stop-motion animation and his finest ensemble of actors, while the latter has an elemental simplicity in its emotions and storytelling that offsets the director's trademark stylistic fussiness. As for least favorite, I didn't especially cotton to "The Life Aquatic" after my first and only viewing (as I recall, the movie's faux-documentary elements were my chief sticking point), but I've been meaning to give it a second chance if only due to the passion of its defenders and because more Bill Murray in a Wes Anderson movie is generally a good thing. 

Zac Oldenburg, Having Said That

Best: "Fantastic Mr. Fox"; Worst: I love them all.

John DeCarli, Film Capsule

To me, Anderson's most complete vision is undoubtedly "Rushmore." The detailed production design of his films can strike some viewers as cold, but in "Rushmore" all of these visual elements are perfectly calibrated to convey the tenderness, humor and passion of the film as a whole. Passion is the key to "Rushmore." Each character is looking for his own "Rushmore," his own obsession to pursue and give meaning to his life, and this drive is just as palpable on Anderson's part. It doesn't hurt that Bill Murray gives one of my all time favorite supporting performances on film: brilliant.

John DeCarli, Film Capsule

To me, Anderson's most complete vision is undoubtedly "Rushmore." The detailed production design of his films can strike some viewers as cold, but in "Rushmore" all of these visual elements are perfectly calibrated to convey the tenderness, humor and passion of the film as a whole. Passion is the key to "Rushmore." Each character is looking for his own "Rushmore," his own obsession to pursue and give meaning to his life, and this drive is just as palpable on Anderson's part. It doesn't hurt that Bill Murray gives one of my all time favorite supporting performances on film: brilliant.

Jake Cole, Film.com, Movie Mezzanine

As someone who enjoys keeping tabs on directors filmographies, picking a best Wes Anderson film seems especially pointless given the total control and assured aesthetic and thematic worldview he's had in place his whole career. Hell, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is so quintessentially Anderson despite being such a departure that it may well emerge as his greatest film, or his worst. For the time being, however, I'll say "Moonrise Kingdom," another film that builds on a career's worth of New Wave-tinged juvenilia even as it erodes the neatness that typifies his work. Sam has the least in common with any other Anderson protagonist: where the others take refuge in the comfort of the families they ostensibly wish to escape, Sam must create the family denied him. (This detail may be why, for all the superficial relation between "GBH" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox"'s" stupefyingly obsessive design, "GBH's" own orphan hero more thoroughly links the film to the destabilized and unpredictable "Moonrise.") "Moonrise Kingdom" is the one film in which the characters actually appear to escape Anderson's tidy microcosms, to say nothing of their own. And if it ends in a seemingly conservative affirmation of family, it does so in such a way that it finds freedom and individual happiness in it.

Of course, ask me next week and you'll probably get a completely different answer.

Ali Arikan, RogerEbert.com

"The Royal Tenenbaums"

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second 

Tenenbaums

I'm one of those insufferable people that unashamedly worships at the altar of all things Anderson. As such he's the kind of filmmaker with whom, if I'm being entirely honest with myself, my critical faculties kind of falter. That said, I do think his work has inspired some of my own best writing on cinema, and has allowed me to explore and question wider ideas on a unique way (for example, I used my review of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" as an opportunity to explore my own feelings on Kent Jones recent piece on the place in auteurism in 2014). 

Naming a favorite is therefore quite difficult. My heart says "The Royal Tenenbaums," as it was the first of his that I saw theatrically (so the anecdote goes, I caught the film back on release day while hiding out in a cinema having just gotten a daft tattoo that I didn't want my folks to find out about). Instead I prefer to take it all as one. While not interconnected in a clutching at straws, Andy's-dad-is-really-Darth-Vader BuzzFeed kind of way, I do like to think of them as forming one giant canvas that stands unique in contemporary American cinema. 

John Keefer, 51 Deep

I love Wes Anderson's films. I love them all. I laugh, I cry, they become a part of me. What's funny to me is the criticism that his films are too created/curated/controlled, as if to imply that other films just magically appear out of thin air. There is truth in artifice (but no sex in your violence) when it comes to his particular application of film history to his interests and obsessions. Readings of the films as twee and commercials for the detached ironic pose of the steadily aging Gen Xers ignores the trauma his characters so clearly live with, you can't wrap your arms around these people and give them a big hug because deep down their hearts are really in the right place. If you could then yes, twee j'accuse away. He's a distinctive voice, he has an opinion. We need films with an opinion in this period of consensus in modern American cinema. So best and worst don't come into it for me but I've seen "The Royal Tenenbaums" the most and The "Fantastic Mr. Fox" only once if we want to count. 

Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder, Press Play

His worst, if you can call it that, is '"Bottle Rocket"' and only because budget constraints and inexperience keep his promising debut from fully realizing what I believe is that whimsy-with-a-purpose feel I associate with Wes Anderson.

Just two movies later Anderson reaches what might still be his high-water mark (his latest is pretty competitive in that respect) with '"The Royal Tenenbaums."' Here he has his finest cast yet, directing Gene Hackman to the last of his fine performances as the hustling patriarch of a noble clan of wunderkinds. The attendant detail surrounding this fairy-tale New York is best described as a Richard Scarry storybook come to life. His casts' brilliant performances and high style would seldom mesh with the precision they do in 'Tenenbaums,' that is until his current release.

Gary M. Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

Anderson's best film is The "Fantastic Mr. Fox" because his characters are all cartoonish, and in this film, that's actually the case. Worst: I found "Moonrise Kingdom" his most tweedious. 

Peter Howell, Toronto Star
"The Life Aquatic"
"The Life Aquatic"
I'd argue that "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is Anderson's best. He's just got it all going in this one: perfect command of his unique imagery, a wonderful ensemble cast (yay, Tilda!), an ideal lead in Ralph Fiennes and a great new find in Tony Revolori. As for his worst, a lot of directors would kill to have a "worst" taken from Anderson's canon. But I'd have to say that "The Life Aquatic" gave me less than I wanted, although I loved the Bowie-infused soundtrack.

Adam Kempenaar, Filmspotting

Best: "The Royal Tenenbaums." Worst: "The Life Aquatic". Why? No idea really. I've only seen each of his movies once at the time of release. I had the most fun with "Tenenbaums," the least fun with "Life."

Edwin Arnaudin, Ashvegas, Asheville Citizen-Times

As a Wes Anderson devotee, I've covered both answers in past surveys, naming "The Royal Tenenbaums" not only his finest but my pick for the best film of the last 25 years and calling "Bottle Rocket" a pretty great worst film.

My second favorite is the practically perfect "Rushmore," followed by the freewheeling glee of "Moonrise Kingdom" and the witty technical marvel that is "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Then I'd go with "The Darjeeling Limited," which felt a tad slight on the first few viewings, but as I've grown up and both experienced loss and loved people who've experienced greater loss, it's the Anderson film that's become the most personally relevant. 

Just above the bottom is "The Life Aquatic", whose Seu Jorge Bowie covers and Zissou Adidas I was fanatical about in 2004, yet which upon a recent revisit felt more unfocused as a whole than I remembered. I don't think it's a bad movie by any means, but for the first time I could see why it generally doesn't have a great reputation outside of the Anderson faithful. In 10 more years, it may very well take "Bottle Rocket"'s spot.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

I saw "Bottle Rocket" back when it was originally released and didn't like it, so that will be my choice for Anderson's worst. In fairness, though, I really ought to give it a second chance since I love everything else he's ever done. It's quite possible I just didn't get his idiosyncratic style at first. As for his best, I'm going to pick "Moonrise Kingdom." The interesting thing about Anderson's films is that I always enjoy them even more on repeat viewings than I do initially. For example, I liked "The Darjeeling Limited" when I first saw it, but also thought it was a lesser effort from the director. When I saw it again on DVD, I noticed new layers and meanings that radically elevated my opinion. That's just the way his stories are structured, I guess. "Moonrise Kingdom" was a little different in that it hit me like a ton of bricks right away. Everything that makes Wes Anderson a unique filmmaker was out in full force on that one. The movie was witty, quirky, and eccentric, yet it also had an intense emotional quality that felt new for him. I haven't yet seen "The Grand Budapest Hotel," but one thing is certain: Wes Anderson continues to grow and evolve as a storyteller, and there are few directors whose new works inspire such levels of excitement in me as both a critic and a movie lover.

Peter Keough, Boston Globe, Critics a Go-Go

I still think "Rushmore" is his best. Worst, and I know I'm alone in this, would be "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Just too coy and self-conscious. Nice fur effects though.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap, What the Flick?!

It's sort of a cliche at this point, but I still think Anderson's purest vision is "Fantastic Mr. Fox," wherein his skill for diorama-like sets and fast-paced deadpan dialogue feels most fulfilled. (Although a case can certainly be made for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" for all the same reasons.) "Rushmore" owns my heart, but "Mr. Fox" feels like an artist discovering his truest self.

Marc V. Ciafardini, Go See Talk, Big Fan Boy

This is an easy one. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is Wes Anderson's best film simply because all of his work has been leading up to this. The gloriously decadent and meticulously detailed production is his biggest to date. Aside from the unparalleled visual spectacle (that's just teeming with his signature style), Anderson handles the complex plot, the myriad of characters and, as always the brilliantly swift and masterful scene transitions with ease. In a way it's a perfect cross-section of his career as well as an evolution in his process - a fantastic leap forward that shows us that he worked out all his kinks and found his groove well beforehand. Now, fair enough, some will be quick to call Budapest "a masterpiece". Not going to argue with that one bit, I'd even bet dollars to pesos that Criterion is already working on packaging for its inclusion to their collection. In that case, I can't wait to add it to mine.

Now his worst...can't say he has one, just ones that don't hit people the right way. So for me that's "Rushmore." I just don't get the appeal.

Sean Chavel, Flick Minute

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Anderson's latest, is his best. It's a charming caper that is thoroughly nifty, and visually enchanting. And actor Ralph Fiennes' debonair worldliness is the best actor yet in an Anderson film.

Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film

The connection to Stefan Zweig is unexpectedly deeply wonderful and for the first time, Wes Anderson gives an emotionally and rationally plausible explanation of why he makes movies the way he does. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is his finest work to date. Ralph Fiennes, who lately has given profound sadness under a darling mask his face, is the perfect cast. How could I pick a "worst"? It would ruin everything I just praised. I would feel as though I were picking on Lobby Boy Otto, successor to Zero. 

Budapest

What is the best movie in theaters?

A: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Other movies receiving multiple votes: "Her," "The LEGO Movie," "The Wind Rises"

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More: Criticwire Survey, Wes Anderson

2 Comments

  • Tyler | March 19, 2014 6:07 PMReply

    During my first and only time watching Bottle Rocket, I noticed it lacked the cohesiveness and smoothness that the rest of Anderson's filmography has. I guess that would be my "worst".

    Ever since Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes seems to outdo himself every time, creating a more vivid, richer, and fulfilling cinematic experience, and Grand Budapest is no exception.
    Silver medal goes to Rushmore. There is an emotional aspect to that film that really resonates with me.

  • Derly | March 10, 2014 12:28 PMReply

    Long time Wes fan. Most people usually, as in this article, call The Darjeeling Limited his worst yet it's my favorite! The colors, the relationship between the brothers... It's so grand! Plus the music is fantastic as well, as in all his films. I did see The Grand Budapest Hotel and it's a close second. It's a film that shows a darker side of things but manages to maintain his essence.

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