You don't arrive at the Grand Budapest Hotel without your share of Wes Anderson baggage. Odds are, if you've booked a visit to this film, you've enjoyed your past trips to the Wes Indies (I promise I'll stop this extended metaphor soon), delighting especially in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and his most recent charmer Moonrise Kingdom. On the other hand, you could be the adventurous sort — a curious diplomat who never really got Anderson's uric-toned deadpan drudgings but can't resist browsing through the brochures of his latest European getaway. First off, neither community should worry about a bias in this review — I'm a Life Aquatic devotee, equally alienating to both sides. Second, neither community should be deterred by Andersonian expectations, be they sky high or subterranean, in planned Budapest excursions. No matter who you are, this movie will charm your dandy pants off and then some.
While GBH hangs tight to the filmmaker's recognizable style, the movie is a departure for Anderson in a number of ways. The first being plot: there is one. A doozy, too. We're accustomed to spending our Wes flicks peering into the stagnant souls of pensive man-children — or children-men (Moonrise) or fox-kits (guess) — whose journeys are confined primarily to the internal. But not long into Grand Budapest, we're on a bona fide adventure with one of the director's most attractive heroes to date: the didactic Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes mastering sympathetic comedy better than anyone could have imagined he might), who invests his heart and soul into the titular hotel, an oasis of nobility in a decaying 1930s Europe. Gustave is plucked from his sadomasochistic nirvana overseeing every cog and sprocket in the mountaintop institution and thrust into a madcap caper — reminiscent of, and not accidentally, the Hollywood comedies of the era — involving murder, framing, art theft, jailbreak, love, sex, envy, secret societies, high speed chases... believe me, I haven't given half of it away. Along the way, we rope in a courageous baker (Saoirse Ronan), a dutiful attorney (Jeff Goldblum), a hotheaded socialite (Adrien Brody) and his psychopathic henchman (Willem Dafoe), and no shortage of Anderson regulars. The director proves just as adept at the large scale as he is at the small, delivering would-be cartoon high jinks with the same tangible life that you'd find in a Billy Wilder romp or one of the better Hope/Crosby Road to movies.
Anchoring the monkey business down to a recognizable planet Earth (without sacrificing an ounce of comedy) is the throughline of Gustave's budding friendship with his lobby boy, Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori, whose performance is an unprecedented and thrilling mixture of Wes Anderson stoicism and tempered humility), the only living being who appreciates the significance of the Grand Budapest as much as Gustave does. In joining these two oddballs on their quest beyond the parameters of FDA-approved doses of zany, we appreciate it, too: the significance of holding fast to something you believe in, understand, trust, and love in a world that makes less and less sense everyday. Anderson's World War II might not be as ostensibly hard-hitting as that to which modern cinema is accustomed, but there's a chilling, somber horror story lurking beneath the surface of Grand Budapest. Behind every side-splitting laugh, cookie cutter backdrop, and otherworldly antic, there is a pulsating dread that makes it all mean something. As vivid as the worlds of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise might well have been, none have had this much weight and soul.
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So it's astonishing that we're able to zip to and fro' every crevice of this haunting, misty Central Europe at top speeds, grins never waning as our hero Gustave delivers supernaturally articulate diatribes capped with physically startling profanity. So much of it is that delightfully odd, agonizingly devoted character, his unlikely camaraderie with the unflappably earnest young Zero, and his adherence to the magic that inhabits the Grand Budapest Hotel. There are few places like it on Earth, as we learn. There aren't many movies like it here either.
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The nominations for the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards are in, and with more submissions than ever before in the ceremony's history, it looks like a hot race.
Jeff Kleeman, IFP committee chair, had this to say: "With more submissions and less time then ever before, the Nominating Committee watched and discussed over 190 films in six weeks -- an act of extreme devotion that proved to be tremendously rewarding."
Dawn Hudson, IFP executive producer, added that this year's batch of nominees is particularly diverse, and commended the fact there are more highly talented women writers and directors emerging on the independent film scene, including nominees Shari Springer Berman, Sofia Coppola and Catherine Hardwicke.
Films that have been nominated for IFP Independent Spirit Awards were selected based on their original and provocative subject matter, uniqueness of vision, and financial characteristics, including total budget, individual compensation, and percentage of independent financing.
Last year's ISA winners included the film Far From Heaven (best feature), Julianne Moore (best director and lead actress), and Dennis Quaid (best supporting actor).
The 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards ceremony will air live on Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. EST on the Independent Film Channel, and will be broadcast at 10 p.m. EST/PST on Bravo.
The nominees for the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards are (by category):
Lost in Translation
Raising Victor Vargas
Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini - American Splendor
Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation
Jim Sheridan - In America
Peter Sollett - Raising Victor Vargas
Gus Van Sant - Elephant
American Splendor - Writers: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Lost in Translation - Writer: Sofia Coppola
A Mighty Wind - Writers: Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy and the cast of A Mighty Wind
Pieces of April - Writer: Peter Hedges
Shattered Glass - Writer: Billy Ray
Best First Feature
Bomb the System - Director: Adam Bhala Lough; Producers: Ben Rekhi, Sol Tryon
House of Sand and Fog - Director: Vadim Perelman; Producers: Michael London, Vadim Perelman
Monster - Director: Patty Jenkins; Producers: Mark Damon, Donald Kushner, Clark Peterson, Charlize Theron, Brad Wyman
Quattro Noza - Director: Joey Curtis; Producer: Fredric King
Thirteen - Director: Catherine Hardwicke; Producers: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Michael London
John Cassavetes Award
Anne B. Real - Director: Lisa France; Writers: Lisa France, Antonio Macia, Producers: Josselyne Herman, Luis Moro, Jeanine Rohn
Better Luck Tomorrow - Director: Justin Lin; Writers: Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez; Producers: Julie Asato, Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin
Pieces of April - Writer/Director: Peter Hedges; Producers: Alexis Alexanian, John S. Lyons, Gary Winick
The Station Agent - Writer/Director: Thomas McCarthy; Producers: Mary Jane Skalski, Robert May, Kathryn Tucker
Virgin - Writer/Director: Deborah Kampmeier; Producer:Sarah Schenck
Best First Screenplay
Blue Car- Writer: Karen Moncrieff
Monster - Writer: Patty Jenkins
Raising Victor Vargas - Writers: Peter Sollett and Eva Vives
The Station Agent - Writer: Thomas McCarthy
Thirteen - Writers: Catherine Hardwicke & Nikki Reed
Best Female Lead
Agnes Bruckner - Blue Car
Zooey Deschanel - All the Real Girls
Samantha Morton - In America
Elisabeth Moss - Virgin
Charlize Theron - Monster
Best Male Lead
Peter Dinklage - The Station Agent
Paul Giamatti - American Splendor
Sir Ben Kingsley - House of Sand and Fog
Bill Murray - Lost in Translation
Lee Pace - Soldier's Girl
Best Supporting Female
Shohreh Aghdashloo - House of Sand and Fog
Sarah Bolger - In America
Patricia Clarkson - Pieces of April
Hope Davis - The Secret Lives of Dentists
Frances McDormand - Laurel Canyon
Best Supporting Male
Judah Friedlander - American Splendor
Troy Garity - Soldier's Girl
Djimon Hounsou - In America
Alessandro Nivola - Laurel Canyon
Peter Sarsgaard - Shattered Glass
Best Debut Performance
Anna Kendrick - Camp
Judy Marte - Raising Victor Vargas
Victor Rasuk - Raising Victor Vargas
Nikki Reed - Thirteen
Janice Richardson - Anne B. Real
Elephant - Harris Savides
In America - Declan Quinn
Northfork - M. David Mullen
Quattro Noza - Derek Cianfrance
Shattered Glass - Mandy Walker
Best Foreign Film
City of God (Brazil)
Lilya 4-Ever (Denmark)
The Magdalene Sisters (England/Ireland)
The Triplets of Belleville (France)
Whale Rider (New Zealand)
The Fog of War
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