Wes Anderson Movies Power Ranking 2014
1. Rushmore (1998)
2. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
3. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
5. “Hotel Chevalier” & The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
7. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
8. Bottle Rocket (1996)
In general I would say that Anderson’s career seems to me to be divided between two clear periods: films about failed genius (Bottle Rocket through Darjeeling) and about fairy-tale genius (Fantastic through Hotel.) That is: in the first period we find characters whose attempts to realize their creative potential are hamstrung by their inability to move past sadness, with the arc of the movie generally allowing them to expiate that sadness and move on (Max finds love and can write again; Royal’s children forgive him; Zissou grieves; the brothers literally abandon the baggage they’ve been carrying around the entire film). But the films of the second period, unlike the first, are dominated by characters who cannot lose: Mr. Fox is temporarily troubled but ultimately unflappable, always fantastic; Suzy and Sam are able to bend the unforgiving adult world to the service of their love; M. Gustave’s poise, control, and total mastery over social convention never fail him except in the face of maximum fascism in the moment of his heroic death. The all-pervading sadness of the first films persists in the fairy tale films, but only in the background, in the side characters who threaten to, but never quite, take over the main narrative: F. Murray Abraham’s adult Zero; The Bishops and Captain Sharp; Fox’s less-than-fantastic son. My gloss on Anderson’s recent “fairy tale” films is that they feel, generally, like the stories the characters from the “failed genius” period attempted, but failed, to craft about themselves. Moonrise Kingdom feels very strongly like one of Max’s or Margot’s plays; the story the Reader reads of the Author’s recounting of Zero’s telling of M. Gustave’s life feels like a cut from one of the films from the heroic era of Zissou Society, and is quite literally the lie Royal gets engraved on his tombstone: “Died tragically rescuing his [friend] from the wreckage of a [country sinking into fascism].” The ironic cruel-optimism gap between potential and reality that dominated the early films, that crucial space of failure, is strongly pushed off center stage in the later ones — and I think that’s why, while I love them all, I think the later ones are generally a bit worse.
But I wonder if The Grand Budapest Hotel won’t improve a bit, in my estimation, upon subsequent viewings; while a strong sense of entropic breakdown runs throughout the setting, especially in the subtle architectural sublime of the Budapest itself as it falls into ruin, the anti-climatic “shock” of the abrupt ending permanently hurls us out of the fairy tale back to a world structured by failure and loss. Unlike Fox and Moonrise, which never deviate from the inner logic of a children’s story, The Grand Budapest Hotel can really only be viewed that way once. When M. Gustave’s magic finally fails at the end of the film, as it always had to, the fairy tale dispells and only the elegy is left; we’re actually left at the end of Hotel in a world darker and sadder than any found in the earlier films, a world where we seem to have neither the compensations of art nor friendship, where grief never fades, where the intricately constructed dollhouse becomes instead a tomb.