(To the novice reader of this blog...are there any?...please note that the blog title suggests that there have been other "Going to the Movies" entries of late. Pray, go back two posts, should you wish to read Going to the Movies, part 1 and Going to the Movies, part 2. Otherwise, after you read this one, wait breathlessly for Going to the Movies, part 4--yet to be written.)
I read a recent article in the New Yorker by James Surowiecki titled "Rethinking the Seasonal Strategy" in which he notes that the predilection of Hollywood, which began in the early 1970s, to release movies seasonally based on the predicted popularity is beginning to break up. Surowiecki notes that "for decades, Hollywood's release strategy has been governed by a simple calculus: summer is for blockbusters, the end of the year is for classy, and the other months are for stuff you fear no one wants to see."
This year's early release in January breaks that strategy--Clint Eastwood's American Sniper had one of the biggest openings when it was released...in January.
But this review is NOT about American Sniper. Truth is, we have not yet seen this movie, and--frankly--I don't know if we will. I am by birth and persuasion a pacifist. Certainly, I watch war movies, and find many of them deeply moving. But I am not sure I am ready for a movie that glorifies the warrior, while taking note and illustrating the deep soul-searing effects war has on that person.
No, this review is about The Grand Budapest Hotel*. (Incidentally, The Grand Budapest Hotel was another one of those movies released "off season" in March, 2014.) And I am treating it alone because it is unlike any of the movies recently released. The only thing I could compare the movie to would be other Wes Anderson's film. You can see titles of other films he has directed here. Despite its having been released "off season" The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the Academy Awards' nominees for best picture of the year.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in the fictional country of Zubrowka in a fictional hotel some time between the world wars-- in the 1920s-1930s. The title refers to a hotel in the grand old style--sprawling, lovely, evocative of a way of life long past. I think the hotel exterior looks like a fantastic confectionary creation of a cake...which is also what the movie is.
Summarizing the plot is an exercise in futility. The story is told in flashback by an old writer (F. Murray Abraham) who sits in the lobby of the hotel, His audience is a young writer (Jude Law). In between is a rollicking delightful absurd confusing lovely humorous movie.
I loved the dialogue--rapid fire, intricate, laugh-out-loud lines. To recapture some of the best, I go to IMDB and read them. Bits of the best dialogue in the movie is featured in the previews--but don't avoid the movie thinking you got the best bits in the preview. There's so much more...lines that couldn't be included in the movie previews.
And I loved the characters. This ensemble cast seems to have everyone currently in the movies these days as well as in television. The lead character--the hotel's concierge Monsieur Gustave H.--is played by Ralph Fiennes with a fine comic touch. Frankly, I would never have thought of him as comic actor--but he is perfect in this role. Many scenes are played with absolute straightness, but the context is so outrageous that the effect is comedy at its best. One such scene--that includes many cameo performances--occurs when Gustave H. calls on the connections of his fellow concierges in hotels all over Europe.
If you haven't seen the movie--or even if you have--you can read a summary of the plot. It helps you make your way through labyrinthine complications, which perfectly suit Europe's pre-World War II's complexities.
I think it is unlikely that this movie will be awarded the Oscar for best movie of the year...but, in many ways it is. It is not only a comedy, albeit a dark comedy. It is also an insightful glimpse into Europe before the start of the last time the world was seized with war. This article nails it--The Grand Budapest Hotel is a thoughtful comedy about tragedy.
* In looking back through past blogs, I find that in April, 2014, I speculated that this movie would NOT be picked as an Academy Award nominee. It's nice to be wrong!