The Clash Film Column: Checking In, Wes Anderson Style

The Grand Budapest Hotel is our pick of the week…
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Apparently there were some awards, or something…

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That Was The Week In Which…

Coverage of the Oscars went into overload.

Fighting against the Oscars is a losing battle. It does what it sets out to achieve perfectly: it reiterates the glamour of a global entertainment industry; it upholds the status quo of the acting world while admitting the occasional blessed newcomer; and it boosts box office takings (link) at an otherwise quiet time of the year.

Yet aside from a handful of main titles, the majority of the media coverage that followed was depressingly limited in terms of the attention bestowed upon the actual movies. There seemed to be just three be on-going narratives:

“Wow, famous people do selfies too!” like we’ve been time-warped to 2012.

“She looks lovely in a dress... Oh, but purple really isn’t her colour.”

The epic fail that was John Travolta’s complete inability to pronounce Idina Menzel. (link)

As for the films, though, the excellent 20 Feet From Stardom may receive a boost, and Wikipedia will always tell us that The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Language Film. But basically, everything that wasn’t Gravity, 12 Years A Slave or Dallas Buyers Club might as well have not bothered, and everybody knew about them already.

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The Big Film: The Grand Budapest Hotel

While most Wes Anderson films ramble, The Grand Budapest Hotel rockets from the starting blocks and rolls with a momentum that barely lets up throughout its 100 minute running time.

Framed between three distinct eras – which threatens a structural collapse but actually allows a sweet sense of nostalgia to whirl into focus amidst the shaggy-dog chaos – the story follows dedicated concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes in an atypical comedic role that leaves you questioning: “Was that Ralph Fiennes?”) and lobby boy Zero through an escapade which involves a stolen painting, snow-bound chases and fleeting visits from most of Anderson’s regulars.

As we’ve come to expect from Anderson, this loose approximation of 20th century central Europe is envisaged as a toy town fantasy of hyper-real colour and finely crafted detail with its inhabitants speaking exquisite, quotable dialogue in a manner in which the average person just can’t muster.

It’s certainly funny: not just in sharp-wit, but in the absurdity of the borderline surreal and simple, almost jokeless sight gags (the first sight of Ed Norton provokes more laughter than a non-joke should ever succeed in doing). There’s a lurking sense here that style has overcome substance, but this hotel should nonetheless be fully booked for weeks on end.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, trailer

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Also Out: The Stag

Outside of the occasional odd exception, films based around the wedding experience offer little in the way of surprises, and Irish comedy The Stag certainly isn’t trying to subvert such expectations.

Groom-to-be Fionan reluctantly agrees to a low-key stag do during which his ragtag collection of spindly intellectuals, gay pals and sensitive metrosexuals plan to bond over an extended rural hike. It’s a fine idea until the bride’s brother – a boisterous alpha male with the cerebral substance of a garden shed known only as The Machine – intrudes upon their plans.

Despite its evident Irishness, The Stag is closer to 1990s Brit comedies such as The Full Monty and Four Weddings than to Father Ted or the work of Lenny Abrahamson. Similarly, it’s almost the anti-Hangover: instead of escapades involving Mike Tyson and a tiger, the biggest comedy set piece here is an admittedly very funny trip to buy some camping supplies.

Just like those aforementioned movies, The Stag is accessible, uplifting and consistently amusing – if a little dated – with broadly drawn characters thrown into relatable circumstances. You might not be able to remember much of it in a fortnight, but it’s a fun ride until the credits roll.

The Stag, trailer

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New Talent: Jamie Blackley

Who? A 22-year-old actor born on the Isle of Man and based in London.

What’s he been in? Blackley was the joint winner of EIFF’s Best Performance in a British Feature Film for uwantmetokillhim?. He has also had supporting roles in London Boulevard, Snow White And The Huntsman and WikiLeaks thriller The Fifth Estate. He seems to lean towards music-orientated roles too after he played George Harrison in a stage version of Backbeat, and he was the best thing about dire rock ‘n’ roll comedy Vinyl.

What’s coming up? His next big break comes with If I Stay in which he plays Adam, the boyfriend of Chloë Grace Moretz’s lead character Mia. There’s also Kids In Love, based around youthful hedonism in London that also features Will Poulter, Cara Delevingne and Alma Jodorowsky, and the oddball indie We Are The Freaks, out this summer.

They say: “An eager, likeable screen presence.” (Variety)

We Are The Freaks, trailer

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Shorts

The LEGO Movie is still top of the UK box office and has now grossed almost £27 million. Usually revenue is used to cover costs, provide a dividend to shareholders and is reinvested in new projects. Or, by my calculations, it could be spent on 835 million LEGO bricks, which would provide a potentially melty solution to London’s housing crisis.

If I ran the Camberwell Free Film Festival, I’d be too busy making references to the Camberwell Carrot to get anything done. Luckily I’m not, and so there’s a great line-up of free flicks including the Dr. Feelgood documentary Oil City Confidential, a horror double-bill featuring Suspiria and Possession, and the chance to see the New York Cosmos documentary Once In A Lifetime at, erm, Dulwich Hamlet FC. The full festival bill is right here

Finally, the first clip of André 3000 as Jimi Hendrix is out.

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Words: Ben Hopkins

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