My Favorite Moments in the 2014 Best Picture Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Our next Best Picture nominee is The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Here’s how Oscar season works: from mid-December until mid-January, I go over what will and what won’t be nominated. Opinions are formed. It can get heated. Then they announce the nominations, and from then until Oscar night, it’s all about what’s going to win. And more opinions are formed. The problem is that nowhere during this do we actually stop and appreciate the films. They’re always seen through the lens of competition.
So what I do every year is, after all the analysis is done, and all the opinions are dealt with, I stop, take a minute, throw it all away, and just stop to appreciate the movies. I watch all the nominees again, and I pick my favorite moments (or elements) from each of them. The ultimate goal being to remind everyone that once you take away all the competition, the awards, arbitrary decisions of what film is better, what we’re left with is great cinema. And that’s what it’s all about.
Here are my favorite moments from The Grand Budapest Hotel:
5. Wes Anderson / The Story
It’s kind of a cop out title, but trust me. You’ll understand what I mean when I’m done with what I have to say.
It’s a story within a story within a story. Here’s a young girl, going to a monument of a famous writer. Then we see the writer narrating his own experiences from his book. And then we see him, in the book, as a younger man, talking to this other man, who tells us the story we see for the rest of the film.
Plus, it’s an insanely layered film.
Mostly, what I wanted to talk about here is his style, and how it’s slowly being perfected. The use of miniatures, framing, production design — it all works so perfectly.
The part that was my favorite, I guess I’m saying, is the fact that I was able to watch this movie, know it was a Wes Anderson movie, and just feel happy about it.
4. Ralph Fiennes
Simply put, this movie doesn’t happen without him. He is Gustave H. Originally this was gonna be Johnny Depp. But how different would this movie have been with that casting choice? (Have you seen Mortdecai?) Ralph Fiennes brings to this movie an amount of class and earnestness that it needed. The entire film revolves around his performance, and he ties it all together perfectly. I understand why he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor, but there really weren’t many better performances this year than his. He’s so great.
3. Wes Anderson’s ever-growing stable of actors
I love how he’s using his actors, and perfecting his style little by little. He’s getting to the point where every role in his films is gonna be played by a recognizable actor you’ve seen before. Hell, in this movie he works in actors. There’s that scene where all the concierges show up — and we’re just parading all the frequent Wes Anderson stars. It’s great. It’s hilarious because you’re in on the joke. He’s the only one who can pull off these kinds of jokes. And the other great thing is how he manages to play off the actors’ other roles in his movies. Look at Edward Norton in this. It’s basically the same as his scout master in Moonrise Kingdom. And you look at Willem Dafoe. He’s got this physicality to his parts in these movies that’s been growing each time, from Life Aquatic to Fantastic Mr. Fox. And then you have people like Harvey Keitel, showing up in these key parts. It’s great. Every time an actor shows up again, you want to applaud. And now Saoirse Ronan and F. Murray Abraham have joined in. It’s just growing and growing. And I’m excited to see where he goes from here.
2. This cut
I have to say, I saw this in theaters, and when this cut happened, I actually felt myself tense up. Maybe it was the abruptness of it or the music on top of it, but I actually had a moment that made me jump the way something like Psycho makes you jump when there’s that overhead on the stairs. I love this moment. As much as I love a lot of other parts of this movie, there’s just something about this cut that resonated with me. I find that a lot of my favorite moments in these Wes Anderson movies are the little things. Which I guess comes from watching them so often and knowing them so well. You start to look at the smaller things rather than pointing out bigger moments.
The thing I find with Wes Anderson movies is — I love every minute of them, and I’m always smiling and am always entertained, but it’s those sudden moments that make you laugh out loud that stand out to me. Like in Life Aquatic, where they bust in on a hostage Jeff Goldblum playing cards with the pirates, and he just turns and goes, “Steven, are you here to rescue me? …. Fold.” And then they just shoot him. I can’t help but laugh out loud. The whole thing is just so absurd. And then here, they’re in this scene where he just decides, “Fuck it, I’m taking the painting. She willed it to me.” And then they take it off the wall and he’s like, “They’re gonna notice it’s gone, what are we gonna do?” And then Zero just says, “I know, and puts this up in its place.” And it’s like — why was this painting there? Why does it exist? And it doesn’t matter, because the moment is so absurdly funny you can’t help but laugh at the insanity of it all. The moment I saw this in the theater, I just started laughing out loud. I couldn’t stop. This was so funny to me.