Kids I’m gonna give it to you straight: Blaugust burned me out1. THE FAULT DOES NOT LIE WITH BLAUGUST, nor indeed with me; if blame must be laid–a finger leveled and swung like the point of a compass or the gaze of a gardener whose bone-thug-and-harmoniums have been trampled by the mathletes for the last time–let it find its rest on the shoulders of my new official nemesis2, swampwater-soaked New Jersey muppet John Fogerty. That’s what he’s there for, and it’s all the hell he’s good at.
That fucking guy handled, I’m gonna pull a Classic Bageler here and ease myself back into the habit with what should be a nice breezy low-pressure post that I’ll inevitably work too long and too hard on3, overthink, and eventually regret.
She Who Is My Wife and I have a tradition: when there’s a new Wes Anderson picture, we watch the new Wes Anderson picture. This goes back to when I was a young, insufferable “You haven’t seen [movie]?!” boyfriend, for my sins4, and with the benefit of hindsight it’s astounding the tradition survived given that its first two installments were The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited which, questions of their quality as movies aside, are not super accessible or, how you say, ‘fun to watch’. But he’s my favorite director5, and she is kind and patient and beautiful and smells good, and fortunately the rest of his canon moving forward manage to generally be both really good movies and enjoyable to watch. BUT HOW MUCH SO OF THAT IS THOSE??? There’s only one way to find out, and because we finally watched Asteroid City last night and also because I’ve been reading/listening to The Anthropocene Reviewed, it is my court-orderd pleasure to present:
Wes Anderson’s Oeuvre,
Ranked By How I Feel During This Specific Episode of ER,
Holy Shit Is That Tobin Bell,
What Even Is This Show,
X. Bottle Rocket (1996)
Haven’t seen it, couldn’t tell ya, excluding it from this ranking. From my understanding it’s a perfectly competent picture that lacks Anderson’s stylistic and dialogue trademarks, so, kinda what’s the point. I’m sure I’ll see it eventually, but I don’t feel a particular desire to, even in my bleak little completionist’s heart. I give it zero nothings out of none.
10. Rushmore (1998)
With the caveat that I’ve only seen it twice and the second of those many years ago, I just straight-up do not like this movie. Unlikeable protagonist whose flaws aren’t balanced by charm or heart6 and a story that’s definitely just a bunch of stuff happening, and even as I describe this I realize it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I’d be into, so clearly I need to give this another try. I’ll do that this week, but this is about how I feel about this movie during THIS EPISODE of ER, and Rosemary Clooney having some kind of singing-disease does not make up for the Sins of Rushmore.
I give it two and a half extremely bored defaced hymnals out of five.
9. The French Dispatch (2021)
Through no fault of this movie’s own I do not have fond memories of it, mainly because we watched it on my birthday, two days before which Russia invaded Ukraine. It was simultaneously the perfect and worst time to try to relax with a movie (and the less said about trying to get into Elden Ring the better), and I haven’t revisited it since.
As an anthology picture, I think it’s only fair to rank its segments:
- The Cycling Reporter
Pure whimsical Anderson bullshit, loved it, would’ve watched a whole movie of Owen Wilson just zooping around on his velocipede describing his surroundings. My brief research indicates that both the character and his work are a whole-cloth reference to a writer for the New Yorker named Joseph Mitchell, and guess whose omnibus collection just went on my wishlist.
- The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner
I hate radishes too! Hopefully it’ll save my life one day, and then we’ll see who’s “picky” and “eats like a six year old” and “is ruining his own coronation banquet”.
- The Concrete Masterpiece
This is actually about something really cool, but unfortunately is not a particularly interesting story about that thing.
- Revisions To A Manifesto
Everything people hate about Anderson movies to a degree that I have to think is intentional; equal parts a creator being able to make fun of himself and that same creator saying fuck you, I do what I want. And I respect that! I just didn’t enjoy watching it.
I give it three pilots of the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries that we also watched that day out of five.
8. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
My First Anderson! Unfortunately, also my parents’ first, and theyyyyyyyyyyyy never let me live it down, using it as a rhetorical cornerstone in their arguments about why we were fundamentally different and artistically incompatible, and y’know what, in this particular context, fair. This movie is very good, but also a stone cold bummer, and not even really in a Good Sad Movie way. I’ll always love it but I haven’t watched it in more than a decade and have no plans to do so anytime soon.
Also, for a show with a main character named John Carter, ER has surprisingly little to do with Mars. We’re still just in the first season though; I assume at some point a Thark from one of the exurbs of Helium will come in with a radium-bullet wound and William H. Macy will have to overcome his prejudice against a people he claims the gods “gave four arms so they could steal twice as much”7.
I give it three espresso machines stolen from the Operation Hennessey out of five, with a prominence bonus for its sentimental value to me.
7. Isle Of Dogs (2018)
I like Isle Of Dogs! It’s a good movie! I just have nothing to say about it except that its official manga adaptation was VERY cursory and thin and disappointing!
It just–like it’s weird that arguably one of the whitest directors and a predominantly white cast decided to set a movie in Japan just kinda because he…felt like it? And by his own admission he wasn’t trying to show an especially ‘authentic’ Japan or speak to anything essential about it, being more interested in the vibe of the Japanese movies he loves, but then, like…they already made those? Listen I don’t know, okay, and I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with using cultural touchstones for flavor if handled thoughtfully (see appreciation v. appropriation), but something about the equation of a white guy trying to tell a story about the relationship between dogs and the soul of Japan while acknowledging that he doesn’t have anything special to say about Japan just doesn’t add up, and my guilty white tryhard ass is so flustered by all of it that I didn’t even come up with any footnotes for this entry. THANKS A LOT, WES. 8.
ALL OF THAT ASS COVERED, Isle Of Dogs is still a nice movie featuring great performances and impressive, beautiful stop-motion whatnot, and there is some really interesting alchemy when you take Anderson’s customary weirdly fast-paced, polished-but-awkward, kind of artificial but honest dialogue and place it in a milieu where pace and silence are usually handled very differently than in Western film. 9
I give it three and a half uncomfortable white-savior archetypes with a blonde afro for some reason out of five.
6. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
THE MOVIE I BROKE THE LAW TO SEE, mainly because I did not realize at the time that breaking street-date on DVDs by selling myself one of the copies we got at Blockbuster early was what you might, if you were a narc, call “a crime”10.
Definitely a movie where A Bunch Of Stuff Just Happens, but in a good way this time! Sad and wandersome and more than a little orientalist but I think intentionally to show that orientalism is bad, and with a focus on how weird and hard brotherhood can be, and also a MUCH heavier emphasis on food than normal (and the role it plays in family), which I really appreciated. It’s not perfect but manages to hit The Good Boring and was a chance for Anderson to show off his love of Indian Parallel-cinema. What makes it different than Isle Of Dogs on that front? Off the top of my head I’d say that the white leads here are idiots and their blatant disregard for the people and places around them is the root of, if not necessarily their interpersonal conflicts, certainly every conflict they come into during the course of the movie. I’m not saying “it makes it okay if whitey is incompetent”, I’m saying they’re literally Eat, Pray, Love-ing their way across India with no respect for anything about it, and in that context they get what’s coming to them11. Their emotional relationships with each other are a different question and I’m glad they resolved them.
I give it three and a half dumb little candle-pots out of five.
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
This was the first movie we saw after moving to Mesa! Except it wasn’t showing anywhere in Mesa and we had to drive like forty minutes to see it! And we got into a huge fight on the way back because She Who Is My Wife had to pee SO FUCKIN BAD because there was a huge line for the ladies’ at the theater and I couldn’t make Siri tell us how to get home! NEVERTHEDANGLESS, it is a fond memory of what was almost certainly not actually a simpler time but suuuuuure seems like one in retrospect. This has been: a story in which my wife regretted sharing that Pibb with me during the movie12.
As its name would indicate this is a movie much more concerned with a time and place than the people who occupy it, although those people are delightful and masterfully played; one of the joys of every new Anderson is seeing who joins his stable, and Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, and Saoirse Ronan do fantastic work dancing across this big pink cake of a movie. I’d be lying if I said it was especially important to me as a movie, but it’ll always be a mile-marker of the time and place I was in when we saw it. Mmm, that’s that good symbolism. Or resonance. Or something.
I give this three and a half klubecks back in change out of five.
4. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This is maybe the weirdest one on this list, not necessarily in form or content13 but in terms of its departure from Anderson’s usual thematic arc, which typically ends with some kind of disillusionment and sadness tempered by hope.
I don’t normally read like, Professional Criticism movie reviews because shut up nerd, but I read one for this and they made the excellent point that focusing on admittedly extremely troubled and dysfunctional children just carries a different (and less depressing) energy than it does with adults. Comedic hyperseriousness has always been one of his trademarks and it just reads differently on kids and, frankly, on Bruce Willis, which leads to one of the sadder things to love about this movie: he does a fantastic job of reminding us all that before he was John McClane he was mainly a romcom lead, and time and fate have sadly conspired to prevent him from ever doing another picture like this one.
I will not insult us both by pretending this real-world tragedy hasn’t colored my view of what was already a truly lovely, sweet, hilarious movie, and in that spirit I give it four books that don’t exist but I wish they did out of five.
3. Asteroid City (2023)
Easily the best–wait a second, lemme count these–movie of a televised broadcast-documentary of a play which uses a second, FICTIONAL play as a way to demonstrate the workings of producing a play that I’ve ever seen. I counted layers as I went, and I am now even LESS sure of how many there were than when I started. Anderson has always loved his framing devices, but this was an entirely new level of self-referential meta-nonsense, where it’s never entirely clear where the lines fall between what’s happening in the play, the other play, the documentary, or the movie of all of it, to say nothing of when people are being their characters in one and not another. It’s a lot, and it was hard to parse in real-time when it felt like a bunch of unrelated stories that kept interrupting each other just as the other one was getting interesting, but by the end it was clear that they were all pieces of each other and it’s the kind of movie that gets a lot better when you think about it afterward and can lay those pieces on top of each other to see how they overlap and interact.
I loved it, and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time and probably rewatching it a few times, but it’s arguable that a movie should first and foremost be watchable on its own merits in-situ; movie-as-homework is the kind of bullshit I live for, and SWIMW and I both came to like it a lot more as we discussed it throughout the night and found the echoes and points of connection, but I think a person could reasonably argue that the movie itself could’ve done a little of that legwork and saved itself and us some trouble14.
2. The Royal Tennenbaums (2001)
I think this is probably Anderson’s overall Best Movie, and certainly his most accessible; ~quirky~, stylistic, and different enough to be very memorable and effective, but not so twee and self-amused as to be off-putting to those with a low tolerance for that kind of thing (see: all of our parents). As evidence for this claim, I submit my memory of it being on my older brother’s DVD shelf alongside such other treasures of auteur cinema as Joe Dirt, The Boondock Saints, and Bongwater.
Sad without being depressing, weird without being self-indulgent, sweet without being saccharine, and more of a Christmas movie in my mind than Die Hard or Gremlins, I certainly don’t have anything to say about this that nobody else has said before and better, but it’s a throw-it-on-anytime classic and has maybe the best soundtrack of his movies, which is really saying something.
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
I will allow that this had a slight advantage in the ranking process, possibly because it’s my all-time favorite movie, because I am a roiling maelstrom of father-issues, self-loathing, and grand theft squab.
It just kicks ass, everything about it is great and was almost unfairly relevant to my personal human life and troubles before certain facts came to light, and I love it and I’m mad I’m not watching it right now. Why amn’t I? Why did we watch ER and Better Call Saul all day instead of watching this three times? The things I do for you people.
I give it 150 Red Remarkable apples ±2 out of five.
And now: GOOD NIGHT, GOOD LUCK, and TRY TO GET ARRESTED FEWER TIMES THIS WEEK THAN THE PRESIDENT DID LAST WEEK.
- It was an amicable split and we divvied things up fairly; it got the first half of my month, and I got to keep the spelling ‘blaug’
- Michael Bublé is still a bottle of maple-flavored corn syrup wrapped in a Men’s Warehouse reject and left in a rock-tumbler ’til smooth and featureless as a botoxed pug, but my heart hasn’t been in our feued ever since his little boy got sick. His boy is better now, for which I am sincerely grateful; merely to be a man’s enemy–in truth, to wish him a death of a thousand Olive Garden Pandora stations–is no reason to be unkind or indecent.
- *stifled, childish, lightly stoned laughter*
- Look I worked at Blockbuster, let’s just be grateful I leaned twee and didn’t wanna show her Hostel or Salo or Audition or some other soul-souring feature
- Gasp of shock, said nobody
- Ugh I be he has a blog too, what a chud
- In fairness that is actually the Green Martian clan-motto, but you don’t get to say it, William, that’s their thing; they don’t go around bribing colleges and calling it their culture
- ALEXA PLAY WESPACITO
- I’m talking a little out of my ass here, not being particularly versed in Japanese teleivion or cinema, but I do read a hell of a lot of manga and as Scott McCloud points out in his absolutely indispensable Understanding Comics, Japanese media in general tends to use a kind of active silence and deliberate pace-breaks that an executive in the West would stab you for even considering, and its dialogue has a distinct rhythm developed over thousands of years of storytelling. Obviously manga isn’t film isn’t television etc. etc., but some of those basic shapes are still in play I think.
- “Your honor, are we here to relitigate who did what when my very toasted manager was on that McDonald’s run, or are we here to see me attempt a sweet kickflip and absolutely wreck my entire shit”
- Also: saying she didn’t mind me talking about her in my posts.
- Although in fairness Bruce Willis does give a child beer after promising a woman whose name seems to actually be Social Services that he would be a responsible guardian
- Me: But then would it have been as fun to talk abou-
SWHIMW: YES, IT FUCKING WOULD’VE.
- Ooh, they’ve got hotcakes and pancakes, I–w–wait what
- P–please do not halve the mice, these are rhetorical mice