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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Welsh actor Michael Sheen won a top acting trophy at his home country's version of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards on Sunday (29Sep13). The Frost/Nixon star picked up the best actor prize at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony in Cardiff for his role in The Passion, which he filmed on the streets in his hometown of Port Talbot.
Gavin & Stacey star Ruth Jones missed out on the best actress award, which was presented to Sara Lloyd Gregory for her role in Welsh language drama Alys. However, Jones went home with the best writer prize for her show Stella.
Welsh producer Julie Gardner, who has helmed Doctor Who, took away the Sian Phillips award for producing. The ceremony also marked the 50th anniversary of the sci-fi show, which is filmed in Cardiff, with a montage of clips.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge has finally revealed the identity of the man who fathered her two children -- and it's not Brad Pitt.
Etheridge has long talked about her crush on good friend Pitt, whom she once said was good-looking enough to make any woman switch teams. (Etheridge outed herself in 1992.) Anyway, the Pitt connection fueled rumors that the actor's DNA was involved when Etheridge's partner, Julie Cypher (ex-wife of Lou Diamond Phillips) became pregnant.
But alas, Pitt has not passed along his good-looking genes to Etheridge-Cypher. Surprisingly, Etheridge reveals to this month's Rolling Stone that the biological father is sorta the anti-Brad Pitt -- David Crosby, the balding, pudgy folkie best known for his hard-livin' days with 1960s stalwarts Crosby, Stills & Nash.
"He's musical, which means a lot to me," Etheridge says of Crosby in Rolling Stone, "and I admire his work."
Cypher became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to daughter Bailey, now 3, and son Beckett, who's 1. The entire, extended family appears on the cover of the new Rolling Stone, including Crosby, 58, and wife Jan, who recommended him for the paternity job.
"No kitchen implements were involved,'' assures Cypher.
Well, that's a relief.
EXODUS: Woody Allen leaving "Manhattan"?!?
The notorious New Yorker has decided to leave the Big Apple for London -- at least for a year, according to reports. Manhattan is, of course, the city in which nearly all Allen's films are set -- and not just the ones named after Manhattan ("Manhattan Murder Mystery", "Manhattan").
Allen, 65, wife Soon-Yi, 29, and their baby daughter, Bechet Dumaine, plan to move to Britain so Allen can direct one-act plays in the foggy city's fashionable "boutique" theaters, according to Sunday's London Times. Producers rejected a similar plan in New York because it was deemed too expensive.
OBLIGATORY DOUGLAS/ZETA-JONES ITEM OF THE DAY: Yes, the wedding is still on for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, -- in fact, Britain's Sun reports that the two will tie the knot in Majorca, a Spanish resort island.
Douglas owns a remote mountain villa there, and an unnamed source tells the tab, "They want to keep the wedding private. Michael's estate in Majorca is perfect because it is so isolated."
But not too private: The Welsh actress reportedly was considering holding the wedding in a chapel near her hometown but nixed it because the venue was too small.
The Sun, by the way, says the Douglas/Zeta-Jones nuptials will go down Sept. 25, which also happens to be the couple's shared birthday (he'll be turning 56, she'll be turning 31).
That would prove convenient; Douglas would only have to remember one date out of the year.
STUPID, BUT OK: Paul Newman suffered bruised ribs after crashing his racecar into a tire barrier at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
"I got overconfident on a fresh set of tires," Newman, 74, said. "The tires weren't warm enough, and I slipped."
Newman, an avid and accomplished racecar driver, was examined on the scene by a doctor and further evaluated at Hallifax Medical Center.
"I'm angry at myself," Newman said. "It was a stupid thing to do."
But it's not slowing him down: Newman still plans to run the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race next month.
GLOBAL PRESENCE: Steven Spielberg, who won a best director Golden Globe (and later the Oscar) for "Saving Private Ryan," and Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Globe and an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love," have been tapped as presenters for the 57th Annual Golden Globes on Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills.
Also presenting awards are Catherine Deneuve, Winona Ryder and the (very) aforementioned Michael Douglas.
THE WRITE STUFF: Michael Caine, currently seen in "The Cider House Rules," has decided to do a little John Irving of his own.
The Oscar-winning actor ("Hannah and Her Sisters") has completed his debut novel -- a thriller -- but says he must go back for rewrites after realizing he killed off one of his characters, er, twice.
"I've got to the end in a mad dash. Now I've got to go back and do it properly," Caine told reporters.