• Craig Hunter

Wes Anderson Films

I first fell in love with Wes Anderson films when my roommate in university rented Rushmore from a Jumbo Video. I had no idea who Wes Anderson was and hadn't seen any of his films.  I remember thinking that the characters were really bizarre and that the humour was very dry.  Afterwords, I wanted to watch the movie again because I couldn't get a handle about how I felt about it...but I knew I liked it.

At the time of writing, Wes Anderson has directed eight feature length films.  He co-wrote several of the earlier films in conjunction with Owen Wilson, and more recently, Noah Baumbach and Roman Coppola. His films are typically comedies with quirky central characters who embark on a journey of personal growth.

All his films that I have seen are excellent—with the exception of the Darjeeling Limited, but even that one has some moments.  Let's talk about three films that I believe are must haves for anyone who wants to add some Wes Anderson films to be proud of to the dvd shelf.


First up is Rushmore (1998) starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams. This film is about a private school kid from Cleveland, Max Fischer, played by Jason Schwartzman, who loves attending Rushmore, starting clubs and putting on plays, but is under-performing academically. Early on in the film, he attends a speech by wealthy industrialist Herman Blume, who is also the father to a pair of ginger twin socio-paths that attend Rushmore. Max is impressed with Blume's speech--which is anti-entitlement--and forms an unlikely friendship with Blume.

Soon Max meets Rosemary Cross, a kinder garden teacher played by the stunning Olivia Williams. He inevitably falls in love with her, but predictably, so does Bloom, and the war over her begins.

Now let's look at three great scenes from Rushmore.

Max makes a play for Mrs. Cross

Max is outside of Mrs. Cross' house.  He lays his broken bike--that Bloom intentionally ran over with his Mercedes--and stages a fake bike accident in front of Mrs. Cross' house. He climbs a ladder--that he brought with him--to her bedroom window.  Incidentally, it's the boyhood room of her dead husband.  Max knocks on the window and before she can question what he's doing on the garage roof at her bedroom window he frantically tells her that he got hit by a car—fake blood smudged on his forehead.

Mrs. Cross takes the bait and leaves the room to get a cloth to wipe Max's bleeding forehead. Max promptly lies on her bed and pops a romantic mix tape into her ghetto-blaster to create an appropriate mood for romance.  When Cross returns, she leans over Max to clean his would.  He tells her she is very beautiful, and tries to kiss her.  She gently pushes him away and then starts to notice that the blood doesn't quite look right.

"Is this fake blood?" "Yes it is." Long pause "You know, you and Herman deserve one another."

She commands him to leave.

He swiftly ejects his mix tape and exits through the window and down the ladder to his broken bike.

Were you in the shit?

Blume is attending a school wrestling match that his sons are participating in. Max approaches him in the line-up for coffee. They sit together and Max casually asks him about his tour of duty in Vietnam, “Were you in the shit?” “Yeah, I was in the shit.” Blume says matter-of-factly. Max is called up for the next wrestling match. Blume asks, “You're on the team.” Max pulls off his school uniform revealing a wrestling uniform, “I'm an alternate.” Max enters the match, attempts to greet his opponent and shake hands and is immediately thrown to the ground in a take-down.

Max takes revenge on Blume

Max and Blume are at war over Mrs. Cross at this point in the film. Blume is in a bath robe in a hotel room—having been thrown out by his wife for his affair with Mrs Cross. He is eating his breakfast and reading a newspaper. He swipes with his hand and there is a noticeable buzzing sound. The buzzing ramps up and Blume stands up and frantically swipes at a mini swarm of bees. Max is seen walking down the hotel hallway with overalls and bee keeping equipment.

That was a brief look at three great scenes from Rushmore.  Great film...a worthy addition to your dvd collection.  

Check out Rushmore on Amazon

The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) is, I think, generally regarded as the best Wes Anderson film. For me, it comes after Rushmore, but it's very close. This film is about a New York lawyer named, you guessed it, Royal Tenenbaum, played by Gene Hackman, and his family of genius children. Royal has been estranged from his family since the children were teens. However, one-by-one, due to catastrophic events in their personal lives, the children all move back in with their mother Etheline Tenenbaum, played by Anjelica Huston, in the house they grew up in, in the rooms that they occupied growing up.

Meanwhile, Royal has run out of money and is asked to leave the hotel that he is living in. At the prospect of becoming a hobo, he contacts his former house man, Pagoda, who still is employed by Etheline at the house on Archer Ave.  With Pagoda's help, Royal attempts to reconnect with his children and prevent his wife from marrying her long-time accountant Henry Sherman, played by Danny Glover, by claiming that he has cancer and wishes to reconnect with his family in his final days.

What a plot! Lying about cancer...family of geniuses with personal issues.  Now let's look at three great scenes from the movie.

Judy is a punk

Margot's husband Raleigh St. Clair has hired a private detective to find out if she has been having an affair.  Raleigh and Richie are sitting in the detective's office As the detective opens the dossier to reveal his findings the scene changes to a whirlwind montage of marriages, affairs, and secrets revealed as 'Judy is a punk' by The Ramones sets a vivace tempo.  As the montage ends and the detective closes the dossier, Raleigh remarks, "She smokes?"

Eli's Intervention

Richie, played by Luke Wilson, Royal and Pagoda, arrive at Eli Cash's apartment to confront him with an intervention over his drug use. Eli is listening to Erik Satie Gymnopédie and discussing the pronunciation of Tutankhamen with three Egyptian men. There is a stack of porn vhs tapes on the television top. Eli admits to his long-time friend Richie that he knows he has a problem.  He excuses himself to pack some things so that he can leave with them.  Seconds later Pagoda notices Eli hang dropping out the window and he runs off and Pagoda throws out his recurring one-liner, "There he goes."

The Wedding

The wedding between Etheline and Henry Sherman is about to begin.  Eli is screaming down the road in his convertible. He loses control of the car and crashes into the side of the house, narrowly missing Chas and his boys Ari and Uzi, but unfortunately killing the family dog. Chas becomes enraged and chases Eli throughout the house. In the may-lay, the priest is knocked down the stairs, Richie is elbowed in the eye, and Chas throws Eli over the backyard fence.

That was a brief look at three great scenes from The Royal Tenenbaums.  It's worth mentioning that Alec Baldwin does the narration for this film.  Any movie with Alec Baldwin narrating is a worthy addition to your dvd collection.  

Check out The Royal Tenenbaums on Amazon

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Steve Zissou, played by Bill Murray, is an ageing aquatic adventurer in the mold of Jacques Cousteau. He is a little past his prime and the film begins at the premiere of his most recent aquatic adventure film. The film chronicles his teams encounter with what Steve has named a “Jaguar Shark”. During the discovery, the Jaguar Shark, off screen, kills his longtime friend Estaban.

The film ends to a room filled with silent and incredulous viewers. During question and answer, Steve announces that for his teams next adventure, he is going to find the Jaguar Shark that ate Estaban, and kill it. A puzzled attendee asks “At most this would be an endangered species, what would be the scientific purpose of killing it?” Steve matter of factly answers, “Revenge”

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) is a film about self-discovery and personal exploration. Steve embarks on what could be his final adventure in a plummeting career he begins to realize some truths about who he is.  Cate Blanchett plays a pregnant reporter at a cross roads in her life, trying to find the right way forward in her life and exploring a chapter from her childhood in the process. And Steve's would be son Ned, who recently discovered, after his mother passed, that Steve may be his father.

The Filipino Pirates

Filipino pirates have boarded the ship and tied up and blindfolded the crew. The "bond company stooge" speaks Tagalog and the pirates are kidnapping him and taking the crew's safe, and the money within. Steve thinks that the pirates are going to kill them all. He becomes enraged and breaks free from his ropes and blindfold. In a blue speedo and a bathrobe he begins wildly firing his glock at the pirates, killing one, and driving the rest into their boat.

Alistair Hennessey's Underwater Sea Lab

The crew of the Belafonte is in need of sophisticated tracking equipment in order to track down the Jaguar Shark.  They arrive at Alistair Hennessey's underwater sea lab and quickly break in.  An automated message recorded by Alistair Hennessey, played by Jeff Goldblum, blasts over the speakers informing the intruders that the coast guard has been notified.  Steve commands the interns to take whatever is not nailed down and carry it to the deck of the Belafonte, then makes himself a cappuccino.

The Ping Islands

Having located the probably hiding place of the Filipino pirates, the crew assembles a strikeforce to steal back the ship's safe and the "bond company stooge".  On the island they search through an abandoned resort but it seems that the pirates are nowhere to be found.  Steve hears a noise and locates the "bond company stooge" tied up in a coat check.  Steve moves to an adjacent room and is suddenly face to face with the pirates.  They have Alistair Hennessey tied up and are playing cards with him.  They see Steve and, once again, a running shootout commences between Steve and the pirates.

Bonus: Seu Jorge singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese throughout the entire movie.

Possibly the most underated Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a must have for any Wes Anderson film fan.  

Check out The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on Amazon