Myke Johns and Kristina Ackerman discuss the trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
More than most things, I want for Wes Anderson to stop.
There is something breathtaking about seeing him in action now. Since Rushmore, he’s become a man with both hand-stitched Nappa leather gloved hands firmly grasping his aesthetic, his cashmere scarf billowing rakishly in the stiff breeze of unimpeded artistic freedom. The tresses of his blond hair, possibly greying at the temples now, framing his eternally boyish face, marred only by the lines about his eyes—creases borne of peering through the lenses of cameras; creases borne of satisfaction.
How I hate him.
Not him perhaps so much as Him. The Wes Anderson. The artful framing, the scenes busy with detail, the well-considered cast of favorites, the brilliance of having Ed Norton wear a moustache and stand in a hole.
The perfect mix tape quality of his soundtracks. Each further detail seemingly fine tuned to hone in on the part of my brain still capable of enjoying things wholeheartedly. I don’t believe in calling things guilty pleasures. If you like something, just like it. It’s okay. No need to feel guilty.
I don’t feel that way about Wes Anderson.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is yet another movie that piles all the twee little things that tickle me together into a boisterous parade full of monocles, vintage skiing equipment, and Willem Dafoe punching things. And like the sight of Dafoe’s craggy visage, it makes me want to bury my head in my pillows and hide.
It makes me hate the things I like.
The thing about monocles and vintage skiing equipment and Willem Dafoe, and the thing about rusty instant cameras and strange wide-eyed figurines and old, mundane handwritten letters, is that their appeal is subtle and reflective.
But when you pile two hundred subtle things into a rickety cupboard backed with patterned wallpaper and slathered in chalkboard paint, it isn’t subtle anymore. Now it’s Anthropologie French kissing Instagram against its will, and that is uncomfortable. The same applies to Wes Anderson and his impossibly whimsical frippery.
There is a room in Wes Anderson’s movie factory—I think I read this somewhere, probably—dedicated to figuring out what combination of pleasant things will make his audience feel the least happy.
There, his researchers pull objects from oversized card catalog drawers, marked “BOW TIES” and “SWEATERS” and “WING CHAIRS,” and line them up on a platform until at least one of the researchers becomes uneasy. And then they take that grouping of things and they paint them all the very same color to make it perfectly apparent that their presence is deliberate and aggressive, and they load them onto a conveyor belt bound for the soundstage.
Then they all pour brandy into jelly jars and toast to a job well done. Between the drawers marked “RAINCOATS” AND “RAQUETS,” there is now a “RALPH FIENNES” drawer. Personally, I would’ve filed him under F, but it figures.
Kristina, you and I need to get together on a treatment for a Being-Wes-Anderson-type movie so we can film a scene where he chases Bill Murray and some inappropriately young starlet down that conveyor belt, the three of them leaping over wooden deck chairs and vintage Lundby dollhouses to a jaunty Mark Mothersbaugh score, Anderson pursuing the mutinous cast members who discovered the director in his edit bay late at night cutting together… an episode of Big Bang Theory! “TELL NO ONE” he shouts in a deeply ingrained sing-song, “NO ONE.”
It humbles me to admit that not only would it give me a devious sense of purpose to work on that screenplay with you, but that if I were among the fictional few to catch Wes Anderson cutting together what I can only assume would be a shameful masterpiece of Sheldon-centric fanservice (set no doubt to the strained-but-optimistic tones of Sigur Rós), I would tell everyone.
Like, if that had happened last night, I would be telling everyone right now in this post, only I wouldn’t put my name on it because Wes Anderson has people and retribution by antique pocket-knife seems unappealing. I probably wouldn’t even include the pictures from my phone as proof, but I would text them to loads of people and wait for somebody to sell them to TMZ.
But I’m hard-pressed for a reasonable explanation as to why I would relish vengeance. Wes Anderson has taken very little from me—in fact, I probably wouldn’t classify more than seven or eight hours as outright theft—but there’s something so infuriating about the depth of annoyance and frustration he’s managed to cause me while doing nothing of actual harm.
It’s just movies!
But the constant, grating calm of the mise en scene and the incessant, vacant rhythm of the dialogue drive me to direct my anger at Wes Anderson and his big, smug, shiny face, when I know that I need to look inward as well, to address how disproportionately aggravated I am by ugly wallpaper and Jason Schwartzman.
Especially Jason Schwartzman. But also, especially, the wallpaper.