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FILM: tectac's Wes Anderson, Ranked

One of today's most idiosyncratic directors, whether you love him or hate him, you can't deny his passion for the medium, nor can you escape his all-encompassing aestheticism. As always, this ranking is merely a reflection of my personal, subjective opinion. Let's discuss.
9Sun Kil Moon
Tonight the Sky


My least favorite Wes film, and the only one I actively "dislike." I find it watchable, but that's about it. I think a lot of my distaste stems from the two adolescent leads: Not only does Anderson's bone-dry dialogue sound strange coming from children, they just can't pull off the nonchalant delivery required to make such discourse "work." (And no, the actors' inexperience does not "add" to their innocence or any of that nonsense.) The aesthetic is nice, as always, but Wes also makes some strange CGI choices, like Sam getting struck by lightning, or the super-awkward leap from Norton toward the end of the film. I've just never really connected with MOONRISE KINGDOM on any level, and it doesn't evoke a nostalgic thirst for youthful and carefree love like it does in so many others. (Conversely, RUSHMORE does that to me.) Doesn't help that it's also his least humorous film (imo), so when the emotional connections fail, there isn't much to fall back on.
8Royal Hunt
Eye Witness


For all of the films wherein Anderson imbues a messy. shaky, and/or otherwise imperfect paternal relationships (either direct, or implied), this is the most forthright, and I think that's precisely why it's my least favorite of the bunch. Still a film I thoroughly enjoy, but the a lot of the humor is Wes's weakest, and many of his attempts at "depth" or "nuance" come off as silly. I have to admit, though, this film makes me cry every single time, *twice*. Once when Royal grants his wife divorce papers and wishes her well (it's the first time in the film he shows kindness to someone else, not in service of himself), and again at the end when he gives Chas a new dog. ("It's been a rough year, dad." - guts me like a fish.) I actually wish the Chas/Royal storyline were more developed; I have comparatively little interest in Margot/Richie's weird fling.
7Dogs Die In Hot Cars
Please Describe Yourself

>> ISLE OF DOGS (2018)

Wes's second stop-motion animated film. This is even *more* visually impressive and aesthetically meticulous than FANTASTIC MR. FOX, but the emotional bones are conversely hollow with a heavier focus on dark humor and elegant details (e.g. the multi-lingual "translation" methods, the extended and surprisingly gruesome sushi sequence, etc.) than establishing any tangible depth to the characters, whether dogs or humans. An enjoyable and occasionally funny ninety minutes, but unlike Anderson's best work, I find myself with little to stew over afterwards. This is the only film of his I haven't watched multiple times, so I'm anxious to see what my first revisit will bring.
6Panama Limited
Indian Summer


The film of Wes's that's grown on me the most since my initial viewing. At one time it was unquestionable my least favorite, but each time I revisit it (four or five times now, I think), I appreciate it more. It's almost like a spiritual counterpart to THE LIFE AQUATIC, more focused now on the life of the *children* than the *father* (who is physically absent here, but whose emotional effect is present throughout) and, yet again, the various ways in which different people deal with grief on their own terms, in their own ways. The dynamic between the brothers is very real and palpable, even under such a heavily garnished milieu. Some of the metaphors are a bit on-the-nose (e.g. the sons literally dropping their father's baggage as they rush for the train out of town) but it comes from such an honest place that I find it touching regardless.
5Neutral Milk Hotel
On Avery Island


Anderon's least emotion film in my opinion: For some reason, even the stuff re Agatha doesn't internally stir me like it *should*, and I think a lot of that is due to the candied aesthetic here. Of course that type of visual gamesmanship is expected from Wes at this point, but THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is easily his most lavish excursion to date, at times coming dangerously close to feeling like self-parody. But the overall inventive and imaginative energy can't be stifled, and while this film doesn't contain much of a lasting resonance for me, it's a whole lotta fun to watch. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with that.
4The Rocket Summer
Calendar Days


Anderson's debut and his most overlooked film. It lacks a lot of the visual embellishment his later movies would employ, but you can still see the seeds of a young filmmaker beginning to carve out his niche in the world: Close-up montages, symmetric framing, spanning conversations through various scenes without interruption. etc. Might be Anderson's most "weightless" film, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The carefree attitude thrums and makes for a very approachable, very digestible viewing. It helps that I find it absolutely hilarious, and it's one of those movies that gets funnier each time I watch it (picking up small, minuscule details here and there that I previously missed). A hang-out flick hinged on big problems reduced to almost nothingness: A blissful exercise in economy.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


Surprise! Yet another Anderson film featuring themes of people (erm... foxes?) learning to accept themselves (and others) for their differences, remodeled into an animated action film. And it works marvelously. The humor here is some of Anderson's driest and most wry - and that's partially why it sears so beautifully - which means when the film takes its few stabs at pathos, they sting quite heavily. This would be, chronologically, the fourth Anderson feature to revolve heavily around the idea of a "father figure", and might be his most successful conveyance of the notion that settling down as a family man doesn't mean you have to completely deny who you "were"/"are" at heart. But you can't be out stealing chickens every night, either. (Viz., adulthood is more about balancing responsibilities and pleasures than anything else.)
2Jethro Tull


Possibly Anderson's most personal film (if I had to guess), but easily his most unfairly tossed aside. (I believe this is his only film with a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. I find that baffling.) A story not merely about the loss of a friend, but learning to cope with various tragedies in life, and how a vengeful attitude is almost never the solution. It's like RUSHMORE in a lot of ways (perhaps that's why I like it so much): Three very different people at three very different junctures in their lives, all searching for *something*, and ultimately finding out that their own selfishness and naivety is what's keeping them from truly finding happiness and peace within themselves.
1The Kinks
The Village Green Preservation Society

>> RUSHMORE (1998)

My favorite Wes Anderson film, and one of my favorite films of all time (#5, actually). This movie has become such an ingrained part of my youth and subsequent young-adult years that trying to scrutinize it in any non-biased, objective way would be impossible. I've always had a weakness for films that detail generally well-meaning characters with self-assessed shortcomings, and RUSHMORE is basically *that*, crossbred with a perfect amount of Anderson's starry-eyed expressionism. It's a film that hybridizes precociousness and immaturity with unflinching conviction, balancing the awkward and the tender, dissection how self-absorption is capable of concealing the good intentions within us all. It's also a film that understand's that nobody is perfect, and rather than urge us to change to fit someone else's expectations, it boasts acceptance. "Growing up" isn't "getting old." It's embracing who we are, flaws and all, and finding elegance in our foibles.
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