Has Wes Anderson lost his way?

On my mind

Sorry all, it’s time for a little rant. I tried to bottle it up but it’s going to make its way out eventually. So let’s have it and start with exhibit A, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Now I haven’t seen it since release, but I rewatched it the other night and have to say, I thought much the same the other night as I did a few years ago… in that it’s just too much. As Hall & Oates say, I can’t go for that.

And here’s why.

Ten years ago I was a big Wes Anderson fan. Huge. But I admit, I came late to the party and didn’t really discover his work until The Life Aquatic (2004). However, this STILL remains my favourite from his filmography. I love it.

Simply put: because it has indie quirk (just enough), emotion (quite a lot, actually) and a wonderful soundtrack (Seu Jorge covering David Bowie). Plus I engaged with the characters, particularly the central pairing of Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. In short, I thought it was cool. Really cool. Like Quentin Tarantino giving us Vincent Vega on the dancefloor kind of cool.

And regarding his other films, I also enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007), although not to the same level. But whatever, we were still in positive, Wes Anderson-is-great-land at this point. So that was ok.

Then he had a go at stop motion with Fantastic Mr Fox (2009). And, yeah, it was what you’d kind of expect from him dipping a toe into this type of filmmaking, in that it was genius. His style (at this time) was a perfect fit. He’d even got Jarvis Cocker in there, what a legend.

Then came Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Now this was a film I enjoyed, but found that little concerns were starting to creep into the back of my mind. For starters, the cast had grown. A lot. And it seemed Wes was becoming a magnet for them; where every actor from his past projects were like iron filings and getting inexorably dragged into his orbit for every new project. Regardless as to whether they were a good fit or not.

He has also cranked up the quirk factor too. So that now we had every character posing bang in the centre of each shot. With their movements clipped, precise, and oh so Wes Anderson. His signature style – used maybe sparingly a decade ago – was now fully locked down and his de facto approach to directing. It was like discovering sugar and wanting more, and more, and more. Or heroin. Yeah, Wes had become a junkie, shooting up on his own style. The bastard.

In short, whilst I quite liked this film, I was becoming concerned. Was it time for an intervention? Could Wes be saved? Not by me, but whatever. There was more to come…

… in the form ofThe Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). And the nagging feeling flooded back. But this time it was no longer at the back of my mind, but noticeably front and centre and tasted bitter.

Add to that the fact that we’d also entered the Twilight Zone in terms of aspect ratios. So I was now trapped in some perfectly square shot, one which had been cropped by the twee police for the Instagram generation. All complete with saturated colours galore. And there was no escape. Arrgh god, Wes, what had you done?!

Somehow, a director I loved a lot had gone and gorged on his own medicine. And you know what they tell you right? Never get high on your own supply. Well, Wes had. And now he was inflicting his habit on the rest of us. Which, frankly, is unfair.

And the biggest problem was that, in some ways, there was nothing wrong with the core story and characters. There was good stuff in there. I mean, Ralph Fiennes’ M. Gustave was a sublime creation. But it’s just that the sugar coating meant I was constantly taken out of the story. I couldn’t swallow this pill Anderson was serving up, it was too sweet, too sickly.

So the medicine, I’m afraid to say, just wouldn’t go down. But then, maybe I’m out of step with popular opinion? The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most critical and commercially successful film to date, so what do I know?

And the rumour is his next film might be another stop motion. So maybe this is a chance for him to cut back a bit on his style and let the story and the characters do the talking instead? We’ll see, but I doubt much will change. From his point of view he’s found a sweet spot and there’s nothing to suggest he intends to stop now.

 

The washed-up DJ

Poetry

You’ve been left behind, you’re obsolete.
Downbeat and no longer discreet, you desperately scratch the needle in search of the beat.
You’ve let your skills slip. Now all you taste is defeat.
Hard truth is… you can’t compete.
Battling bottom tier DJs, the best you can manage is a dead heat.
Your career in a downward spiral, forever stuck on repeat.
So you switch from vinyl to CDJs, taking dead-end gigs just to make ends meet.

What the hell happened?
You were once top of your game, destined for greatness.
Now you’re aimless, contagious.
People keep their distance, not wanting to be infected by your lameness.
So you become shapeless and faceless, a ghost and a cipher.
Question is, will you bounce back?
Are you a fighter and a survivor?
Are you fierce like a tiger?
An assassin sniper… with rival DJs caught in your crosshairs.
Blinded by lights as paps snap you with their lens flare.

Or are you destined for weddings and kid’s discos?
Forced into fiscal limbo as you blast out the Thong Song by Sisqo.
Watching pensioners dance the calypso to your tired, old beats.
You do whatever it takes to bring in cash.
Whatever keeps you off those cold, dark streets.
But you yearn for your heyday where you had the crowd in your hand.
Then you’d adjourn to the melee of your villa to get rowdy with your fans.
Then fall asleep, kept warm by the heat of your groupies.
The comedown from your set hitting you harder than a bowl of roofies.

But those days are gone, you’ll never get them back.
The clubbing world has moved on.
You have to face that fact.
So either pack it all in or accept your path.
Playing tunes to pensioners ain’t that bad, it’s kind of a laugh.
So that’s where you’ll stay.
Maybe one day, with hope, you’ll get another chance.
Reliving the glory days as a DJ superstar.

Worker bee

Poetry

You’re a worker bee, when it comes to hard graft you’re far better than me.
Pushing to achieve you leave yourself with barely a second to breathe, you tend to get in too deep, so fast you can’t leave.
Pur-lease you tell others you’re just getting started, while others are smarting you’re sticking your arm out, chancing, taking risks, getting licked and making moves.
Yet whatever you do you tend to stay true… to yourself in your journey to ultimate wealth and riches.
Moving up with your fellows bees you learn to get along, you’re not bitches you’re strong, you learn to please and grease the wheels lest they look at you with unease.
And as you appease and squeeze them for all they are worth you get ahead of the pack and establish your turf.
Yet it hurts, this work, you’re relentless and ruthless, you were always taught it pays not be toothless.
Maybe it’s time you chilled out and listened to some smooth hits? Mellow you out, yeah that’ll work.
But before long you start to go beserk, goddammit you hate to shirk work. Let’s face it though you’re no Captain Kirk, you ain’t no hero.
For the most part you’re nothing but a zero, a flunkey, a worker bee, if someone has to suffer you’re the one that bleeds, you’re the one that takes a hit for the team.
Yet push on you must, it’s a disease that breeds in you like a virus. Maybe it’s something that we all have inside of us?
Most kick up a fuss when asked to go the extra mile but you dial it up, there’s something about work that gets you in the gut.
It’s tough but you’re a worker bee and the thought of that pollen is just too sweet.
To your fellow bees you probably look mean but at the end of the day who doesn’t want to be the one to protect the queen?