The Grand Budapest Hotel

Throughout his career, Wes Anderson has emphatically left his signature mark on contemporary filmmaking. Since the quirky beginnings of cult classics like Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, Anderson has received acclaim for his distinctive visual and writing style. Now a highly regarded American modern filmmaker, Anderson continues to develop idiosyncratic characters and picture-perfect set designs with his eighth film The Grand Budapest Hotel, possibly his most visually rich and emotionally mature film to date.
A historical fiction dramedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel is predictably ornate, but engrossing thanks to Wes Anderson’s technical finesse and evocative storytelling. Ralph Fiennes leads a fantastic cast of A-list actors, including such Andersonian collaborators as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and many more.
The story is set within three different timeframes: In 1985, a young girl reads a novel called The Grand Budapest Hotel, written by an author (Tom Wilkinson), who then recounts the inspiration for his book. Flashback to 1968 at a simpler and less imposing Grand Budapest Hotel, where the younger author (Jude Law) meets the hotel’s lonely owner Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Mustafa then tells his story, set even farther back in 1932, during the glory days of the hotel and his early memories as a lobby boy (played by unknown Tony Revolori).
Fiennes finally comes into the story as M. Gustave H, the hotel’s devoted concierge whose magnetic personality makes him one of the most respected men in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka (most likely somewhere in Eastern Europe). After hearing about the death of a former lover (played by a heavily disguised Tilda Swinton), Gustave H and Zero head to her will reading, where they discover a coveted painting given solely to Gustave. In addition, Gustave is accused of being his lover’s murderer and thus the concierge and his protégé go on a madcap fleeing spree from the lover’s malevolent son (Adrien Brody) and his henchman (Willem Dafoe).
While it may seem like there’s a lot going on, The Grand Budapest generates a lot of insight about friendship, deception, courage, and love through a raucous but intriguing adventure. Though this story-within-story-within-story structure may seem complicated in theory, Anderson pulls it off effortlessly, giving the audience enough time to analyze the dense narrative layers without being confused. Even if the 100-minute film could be slightly puzzling to some, the aesthetic beauty and picturesque production will keep the audience entertained no matter what.
From the first scene to the last, I was left breathless and deeply enthralled by how the movie made me feel. Anderson continues to shine as a director and screenwriter through his excellent use of visuals that explore deeply emotional and intellectual ideas. Though the screenplay was a bit bombastic for my taste, the charming wit, dry black humor, and sly poignancy made up for its flaws. After having seen other Wes Anderson films in the past, such as The Royal TenenbaumsMoonrise Kingdom, and Rushmore, Anderson’s most recent film carries a newer kind of maturity and emotional catharsis that I hadn’t felt before with his other films. I would be surprised if it doesn’t earn any Oscars for next year, but because of Anderson’s mainstream success, The Grand Budapest Hotel is sure to garner some nominations.
Grade: A
Watch the trailer here:


2014 Oscars Recap

It has been over a week since the 2014 Oscars aired on ABC and though the hype has died down, here’s a recap some of the best (and worst) moments from the Academy Awards:

Ellen Degeneres hosted the Oscars last Sunday with a much better approach than the controversial Seth MacFarlane had at last year’s Oscars. Ellen impressed the audiences in the Dolby Theater and at home with her satirical humor, pleasant demeanor, and utilization of improv and unexpected surprises (i.e. ordering pizza). With 43.74 million viewers, Sunday’s Academy Awards was marked as the most watched Oscars ceremony since 2000, which is partially due to Ellen’s appearance. In addition, Ellen’s infamous celebrity selfie that took place during the ceremony made for the most tweeted post on Twitter and practically crashed the social media website.

The infamous, record-breaking Oscars selfie

The infamous, record-breaking selfie.

The rest of the evening was also filled with glamorous award presenters, electric musical performances, and even a few kooky moments. My favorite parts were especially the music performances of the Best Original Song nominees. Although U2’s “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was a little bland, I did enjoy Pharrell’s lively number for the aptly titled “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, Karen O and Ezra Koenig’s understated but beautiful love ballad “The Moon Song” from Her, and Idina Menzel’s powerhouse singing on “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Speaking of which, one of the most awkward and bizarre moments of the Oscars came right before Menzel’s performance, when presenter John Travolta mispronounced the Wicked singer’s name as “Adele Dazeem.” Though that bit caused instant ridicule and criticism, it also ignited a plethora of memes online and even a name generator “#TravoltifyYourName,” creating yet another Oscars moment through social media.

John Travolta's incident at the Oscars

Oh, John.

Perhaps the most feats achieved that night were the award wins. Gravity, the epic space thriller starring Sandra Bullock, won the most awards (7). Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón also became the first Mexican director to win the prestigious Best Director award at the Oscars. Though Gravity won the most accolades, it was Steve McQueen who scored big on Oscars night when his breathtaking historical film 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture. I was surprised to see that American Hustle, which held the most nominations of the night (10), received zero wins. Other Best Picture nominees bereft of award wins also included The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Captain Phillips, and Philomena

(From left) Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for "Dallas Buyers Club;" Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for "Blue Jasmine;" Lupita N'yongo won Best Supporting Actress for "12 Years a Slave;" and Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor for "Dallas Buyers Club"

(From left) Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club;” Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine;” Lupita Nyongo won Best Supporting Actress for “12 Years a Slave;” and Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club”

Though most of my predictions of the award were fairly accurate, it was still exciting to see the tension build up to that fateful moment when the presenter utters the phrase, “And the Oscar goes to…” I’d have to say that Ellen definitely brought forth the energy, effort, and spirit of an Oscar host to the ceremony, something that has been somewhat neglected in the past (i.e. 2011’s disastrous hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco). Even though there were some boring parts to the show, such as the lengthy, unnecessary “Superhero” montages or Bette Midler’s uncomfortable performance after the In Memoriam segment, next year’s Oscars will hopefully be just as good as this year’s, if not better.


Grade: B+