Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Director, Film Editing, Makeup, Score, Production Design, Original Screenplay
This is currently my favorite movie of the year. Well, my favorite movies of the Oscar nominees. Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown to be a big fan of Wes Anderson, but The Grand Budapest Hotel brings his work to a whole new level.
The primary story of this film depicts the foibles of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, after one of his wealthy patrons dies and he is accused of her murder. The story is told by his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), as he aids and abets Gustave’s flee from the police and search for justice.
I was surprised when I heard that a Wes Anderson movie was nominated for Best Picture. Now, after watching, I understand why. It’s not just a comical flaunt through an nontraditional landscape. The movie takes place over three different timelines: a girl reading a book (The Grand Budapest Hotel) at the grave site of the author, the author recording a commentary of how he was inspired to write the book (with flashbacks), and the story itself. The inspiration for the entire story came from writings by Stefan Zweig and throughout the film, particularly during timelines 1 and 2, you could feel a depth to what was happening as if it had been real. (Let it be known, that I did not know about Zweig before watching the movie.) Zweig seems like a terribly interesting person and I may very well be looking him up at the library soon.
Wes Anderson both directed and wrote the screenplay, in his usual fashion. His direction of the cast keeps things moving at a rapid pace without losing the audience. The script is witty and cerebral without being overbearing. (And here I will mention that Ralph Fiennes steals the show completely with his fabulous delivery and execution of a well-written screenplay. The brilliant way he and Tony Revolori interact throughout the movie should be noted as well: they are a dynamic duo who make each other better with their performance.) The overall production design is as unique as it can be but I was surprised that it was nominated for this category too, since it feels pretty similar to most of Anderson’s other works. The cinematography (by Robert Yeoman, Anderson’s go-to cinematographer) is so gorgeous and intriguing to watch. The beginning of the film uses a fisheye lens in some creative ways that really stood out for me. The use of models for special effects is fun to watch in modern films and Yeoman and Anderson utilize them so well. They also use three different aspect ratios (one for each timeline) which keeps you on your toes. Wrapping up the creative, out-of-the-box crew is the film editor, Barney Pilling. Pilling has quite a job with the rhythmic flow of the acting and synchronizing that with the fitting Alexandre Desplat score. He accomplishes it well and the effect of all these elements combined is fantastic.
Now to makeup and costume design. The costumes do a great job of accentuating the production design. They also help tell a story in a semi-fictional world that also reflects back to a reality that existed between the world wars. The makeup is fine and good but nothing spectacular…with one exception: Tilda Swinton plays the old lady that dies and her makeup was so outrageous that I had absolutely no idea it was her until the credits.
I highly recommend Budapest. It’s uplifting, fun, and thoughtful. Go get it from Redbox and enjoy the show.