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78. The Grand Budapest Hotel (#192)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guests Stacy Grouden and Charlene Lydon, and featuring Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode thrown in.

This time, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a glorious ruin on the continent of Europe. A visiting author happens to strike up a conversation with the establishment’s owner, who crafts an epic and heartwarming tale of love, murder and scandal against the backdrop of the chaotic mid-twentieth century.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 192nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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My 12 for ’14: The Grand Budapest Hotel and faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

I have yet to meet anybody who truly disliked The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I’m sure they exist. In fact, I suspect that a couple might make themselves known in the comments. However, for most of 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel was the safest possible cinema recommendation from “that guy who really thought that Cloud Atlas and The Dark Knight Rises were the best films of their respective years.” Sure, there were people who did not love it, and a few legitimate complaints, but even the most cynical friends, acquaintances and family members warmed to Wes Anderson’s delightfully eccentric European comedy adventure thriller.

thegrandbudapesthotel

There is a lot to like here. Anderson has always had a style that is uniquely his own, but it feels like the film maker has grown dramatically over the last couple of years. The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel are absolutely lovely pieces of cinema that look stunning and are written with just the right balance of knowing irony and sincere affection. It’s never entirely clear how much Anderson buys into the romantic fantasies constructed by his characters, but that is part of the appeal.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fantastic accomplishment all round.

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Non-Review Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

“His world departed long before he entered it,” one of the narrators from The Grand Budapest Hotel notes of the film’s lead character. “But he maintained an elaborate illusion.” This description is applied to the suave sophisticated concierge Gustav H, played wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes, but it could also apply to director Wes Anderson – a director whose cinematic style is built upon nostalgic nods to a past that may never have actually existed.

Framed as a story within a story within a story, jumping back from the eighties to the sixties to the late thirties, Anderson draws even more attention to his artifice than usual. Wrapping a framing story around a framing story seems almost cheeky, as Anderson brings the audience incrementally into the past – suggesting that one needs to wade in rather than diving. The story of a romantic living in a cynical era, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems – despite its scale and scope – one of Anderson’s more intimate efforts.

It is also among his very best.

Vault out to see it...

Vault out to see it…

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Non-Review Review: Coriolanus

I’m a big fan of Shakespeare adaptations, if done right. The proper cast and crew can serve to make the Bard easily accessible to modern audiences, allowing people unfamiliar with the tragedy in question to follow along with the work remarkably easily. Ralph Fiennes has assembled such a cast and crew for his directorial debut, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Although not universally regarded as one of the truly great Shakespearean tragedies, it does have the epic scale and grand drama of some of the writer’s best work. T.S. Elliot would consider it to be, along with Anthony and Cleopatra, to be Shakespeare’s finest tragic play. I think that Fiennes adaptation makes a plausible argument for a long overdue reappraisal of the work. At the very least, it does an excellent job bringing it to a modern audience.

Roman around…

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A Film By Any Other Name: The Art of Stupid Movie Branding…

I have a confession to make. I did not go to see The Avengers. I went to see Marvel’s Avenger’s Assemble. I didn’t mention this before because… well, that’s a stupid name and people aren’t idiots. If I talk about “The Avengers” and mention details like a “giant green rage monster”, “Nick Fury”, “box office records” or even “enjoyable”, odds are that you will know the film that I am talking about. I’m normally quite reluctant to attack particular movie practices as silly or illogical, if only because I’ve no direct experience of how the industry works.

To be fair, I’ll generally assume that the studios know what they’re talking about when it comes to making movies. However, when it comes to slapping silly names on their posters and insisting that the audience refer to a movie by a convoluted, generic and awkward focus-group-crafted title, I do feel like I have an opinion. The Avengers is the most recent high-profile example, but I’ve found myself increasing irritated by this somewhat pointless branding.

Silly titles make Darren angry!

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Hey Zeus, Meet Jesus: Wrath of the Titans & Judeo-Christian Archetypes…

Somewhere, an expert on Ancient Greek mythology is crying. Probably a lot of experts on Ancient Greek culture. As enjoyable as Wrath of the Titans might be in offering charming (if a little shallow) spectacle, it doesn’t necessarily offer the most faithful depiction of Ancient Greek deities. It isn’t the only film to get things drastically wrong – Disney’s Hercules comes to mind. Presenting these mythical characters and creatures for modern audiences and sensibilities, the archetypes are skewed and twisted to conform to religious associations which most audience members might find familiar. In particular, these sorts of films often adopt a decidedly Judeo-Christian view of Ancient Greek gods. However, watching Wrath of the Titans, I couldn’t help but feel that the film was not only acutely aware of that narrative shortcut, but perhaps even cleverly exploiting it – developing the character arc of these ancient gods and transitioning them into the archetypes that we know and recognise.

Oh my gods...

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Non-Review Review: Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans is effective spectacle, and certainly nothing less. It offers a large-scale canvas for director Jonathan Liebesman to offer us large-scale set pieces involving lots of mythical monsters, tonnes of fire and some decent action sequences. I’m one of the few people who enjoyed Clash of the Titans for what it was, and Wrath of the Titans isn’t an especially different beast. It offers the same level and quality of sound and fury helping distract from some storytelling problems. There are, of course, differences between the two films, both nothing especially drastic. While I wasn’t always engaged with the film, I did enjoy for what it was.

Giving the old man some stick...

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