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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Every ten years since 1952, the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine has published a list titled the Critics' Top Ten Poll: the organization's ranking of the ten best movies ever made. And every ten years since 1962, there has been one standing consistency: Citizen Kane has always been BFI's number one pick. Until now.
The 2012 incarnation of the list has been published, and Citizen Kane has fallen to the number two spot. Taking its place: Alfred Hitchcock's classic Vertigo. Check out the full list below: 1) Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
2) Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles
3) Tokyo Story (1953), directed by Yasujiro Ozu
4) La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939), directed by Jean Renoir
5) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau
6) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick
7) The Searchers (1956), directed by John Ford
8) Man with a Movie Camera (1929), directed by Dziga Vertov
9) The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
10) 8½ (1963), directed by Federico FelliniVertigo is a great film, no doubt. Better than Kane? Maybe. But why has this movie, which came out in 1958 (before Citizen Kane's first turn as number one, even) suddenly been recognized as the superior picture?
The 1952 Top Ten list didn't include Citizen Kane at all, even though it had come out eleven years prior. But over time, it grew on people. Quite effectively. Now, over half a century after Vertigo's release, it has inched to the top of the list (the movie first graced the list in '82 at the number seven spot, inching up to number four in '92, and reaching number two in '02).
It took twenty-one years for Citizen Kane to earn the top spot, and fifty-four for Vertigo. Maybe a film's persistence of quality is considered by the critics brought on to devise their choices. As such, Vertigo maintaining its appeal so long after its creation would afford it a few extra points in the minds of contributors to the list. Or maybe there's just a stigma against pictures that have come out too recently. Is a critic deterred from recognizing the power of a movie that came out in his or her lifetime?
Four out of the ten recognized films came out prior to 1940. Even the most recent release on the list, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is forty-four years old. The critical community cherishes the old; and while this can be chalked up to the pioneering of new ideas and artistic methods, there are plenty of movies from 1970 onward that deserve credit for their achievement and influence.
This is reflected in the Directors' Top Ten Poll — a list that Sight & Sound began publishing in 1992. This year's incarnation of the list includes a handful of more recent, and probably more widely familiar, pieces of cinematic art:1) Tokyo Story (1953), directed by Yasujiro Ozu
2) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick
3) Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles
4) 8½ (1963), directed by Federico Fellini
5) Taxi Driver (1976), directed by Martin Scorsese
6) Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
7) The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
8) Vertigo (1968), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
9) Mirror (1975), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
10) Bicycle Thieves (1948), directed by Vittorio De SicaVertigo, Citizen Kane, and 2001 again find recognition, as do the films Tokyo Story and 8½. But beyond those are a slew of '70s pictures: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, and the Russian film Mirror. But is there any chance that either of BFI's lists can recognize films from the '80s, '90s, even the 2000s, in the near future? And if so, what films would most likely earn highlighted spots? Some other contemporary lists could provide insight:
The American Film Institute recognizes the 1993 film Schindler's List as number nine on its Top 100 Movies list.
The rating results on Rotten Tomatoes event in a Best Movies of All Time list that is largely recent films. Here is the site's top five:1) Man on Wire (2008), directed by James Marsh
2) Toy Story 2 (1999), directed by Josh Lassiter (co-directed by Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich)
3) Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), directed by Alex Gibney
4) The Interrupters (2011), directed by Steve James
5) Toy Story (1995), directed by John Lassiter(It warrants mention that this was not created as a comprehensive list, but resulted automatically from the ratings applied to these movies by the site's active critics. Nevertheless, it's proof that people are still making terrific, important, resonant movies.)
Various outlets will cite some newer pictures as superior products. 1993's Shawshank Redemption is consistently the highest rated film on IMDb. The Google search for "Top Movies of All Time" results in thumbnails including 1982's E.T., 1994's Pulp Fiction, 2008's The Dark Knight, and 1994's Forrest Gump. And if you ask anyone from my high school, the absolute best thing to come out of the realm of cinema is invariably 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious. Seriously, we watched that movie all the time.
So if newer pictures are so prevalent in other venues' recognition of great cinematic art, why does the BFI tread so differently? Why does it feel more "respectable" to love older movies when plenty of newer ones are just as good? Why does it take fifty years to admit, "Okay, we can finally shift this film up to the number one spot"?
We won't know what turns the perspectives of Sight & Sound will take for ten years now. And of course, there's nothing substantially wrong with one organization that seems to religiously prefer old to new — just as long as film continues to be appreciated, and contemporary artists are afforded due credit for pioneering new ideas and new means of storytelling. Because as many ideas there are that have been captured on screen, and as many devices for committing those ideas there are that have been utilized, there are still an endless supply being explored and invented today.
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros., Universal Pictures]
'The Dark Knight Rises' Oscar Potential: Is It a Best Picture Contender?
'The Paperboy' Trailer Almost Makes Us Forget About That 'Golden' Scene
'Total Recall' Trailer Mash-Up: Schwarzenegger Meets Farrell — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO