At ÉCU we’re really excited about the large number of indie film nominations this awards season! To continue in this vein we’re spotlighting a prominent figure in the independent film world, the American director, screenwriter, actor and producer Wes Anderson. He is the director and co-screenwriter (with Roman Coppola) of Moonrise Kingdom (2012), the quirky independent film which is up for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Anderson has previously received the Oscar for Best Animated Feature for Fantastic Mr Fox in 2009 and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001.
Other films of his which have also received critical acclaim are Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Squid and the Whale (2005, which he produced) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007). A trademark of his is that he combines the same actors in his movies, who tend to play their characters with an amalgam of wry, understated humour and portray quite strange and damaged individuals in a way that encourages viewers to sympathise with these fractured people. His work characteristically includes quite an emotional and poignant soundtrack, with a variety of early British rock, folk music and a melange of ethereal instrumental scores. Anderson is also renowned for his beautiful cinematographic style, his use of beautiful and colourful scenery and the unusual costumes he inflicts on his characters.
Some actors you’re likely to come across in a lot of his films include Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Houston and the inimitable Bill Murray. Murray gained respect in the independent film world after his part in Anderson’s Rushmore, and continued to add to the hilarity of Anderson’s work in his successive roles thereafter. Anderson co-wrote The Royal Tennenbaums with Owen Wilson and this eccentric comedy-drama was a huge critical success, becoming renowned for its hilarious mix of irony and absurdity. Gene Hackman plays Royal Tennenbaum, the father of an altogether oddball family. His failure as a father is highlighted by his messed up children – not to mention the fact that he is lying to them about having cancer.
They have all experienced huge success early on, but are now struggling with the blandness of life after their respective triumphs. The characters are played so humorously and this film is really a quirky gem. Moonrise Kingdom continues with the prevailing traits established by Anderson in previous films like this one, whose main characters (a twelve-year-old boy and girl) are troubled, treated with insensitivity and find solace only in each other’s company – which persuades them to run away together. It is a very sweet story of young love, featuring this orphaned boy-scout, who uses his scouting skills of map-reading and camp-building to create a safe little nest for them away from the world. The (rather sullen and rage-prone) girl loves fantasy books and has simply packed six of her favourite books, a record-player, left-handed scissors, and her cat for their adventure.
Moonrise Kingdom has a special charm, and is eccentric but remains accessible – much like Anderson’s other movies. Let’s see how it does at the Oscars and Golden Globe Awards!