With today marking the (very) limited release of the much anticipated Moonrise Kingdom, I deemed it appropriate to concoct a list of ten exceptionally memorable moments from his films that have defined him as a singular American filmmaker. Some are a tad more foreseeable than others, comedic or dramatic as well, but as always, feel free to share some of your personal favorites with me considering how restrictive the number ten is in relation to such a visionary auteur. Enjoy!
While The Life Aquatic borders on unfavorable to those not wholly entranced by Anderson’s signature style, its comedic timing is, by my standards, pretty impeccable. In a rather wild turn of events, Zissou (Bill Murray) and his eclectic crew’s vessel is hijacked by a band of Filipino pirates. Realizing that shit’s gone completely haywire, Steve snaps, biting through his restraints and unleashes hell upon his assailants with a 9MM handgun. Accompanied remarkably by one (of many) David Bowie classics, what ensues is pretty off-the-wall, even by Anderson’s standards. It’s a scene that’s meant to be taken half-seriously, what with the predicament itself being all but jokeworthy and Mr. Zissou’s outburst teetering on the brink of awkwardly comedic absurdity.
On the complete opposite side of the emotional spectrum, we have a central brotherly trio happening upon a couple of young boys crossing a visibly tumultuous river. When the unthinkable happens, Adrien Brody’s Peter dives in to save the day, only to tragically resurface with a lifeless body. The occurrence is sad in its own right, but the boy’s father’s steadfastness in thanking Peter, Francis and Jack before subsequently inviting them to the funeral is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. As a whole, the scene proves that Anderson knows how to turn down the overt quirkiness in favor of very accurately illustrating real human emotion; a trait that’s helped define him as a singular master of his craft.
“Take dead aim on the rich boys, get ‘em in the crosshairs, and take them down.” Having heard this, it’s safe to say that Max Fischer’s (Jason Schwartzman) self-deemed “Best chapel speaker ever” is a tad eccentric. Bill Murray’s Herman Blume delivers what I consider to be one of the more concise, consistently hilarious impromptu speeches I’ve ever heard, and his message, crass delivery aside, can actually be construed as one to abide by if you support his stance on the matter. Bravo, Mr. Blume. Bravo.
As the entry into Anderson’s filmography that’s more imaginative, off-the-wall and plain humorous than a competent blend of what he’s especially known for, the death of Steve’s “son” Ned (Owen Wilson) is easily one of the more touching moments to be featured throughout the film. It’s tragic no doubt, but the touching build-up to said tragedy is what really fuels the audience’s emotional connection to the event itself.
“Mmm… I’m a little bit lonely these days,” Herman Blume states to young Max one day, and after a brief scene at the Blume estate outlining the routine goings-on of his estranged unfaithful wife and unruly kids, the elder’s attraction to Ms. Cross becomes forgivable to Max, of whom has finally matured enough to admit defeat in an earnest attempt to get his young life back on track. “She’s my Rushmore,” Blume exclaims as Max walks away from his mother’s grave and out of the cemetery; a statement that we immediately understand given the film’s opening moments and Max’s undying devotion to the beloved boarding school of the same name.
Watching Gene Hackman’s Royal Tenenbaum evolve from self-obsessed and neglectful family man to something much greater is one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had upon watching any particular film. While at one point vehemently loathed by all around him, Royal steps it up a notch and slowly but surely atones for his past sins, apologizing to all those closest to him he’d hurt along the way in an earnest attempt to make the tears fall. Fall they certainly do as the Tenenbaums solemnly exit the encaged burial plot Royal’s settled into following his suffering a fatal attack, and if there’s one thing to be said about the entire ordeal, it’s that Royal went out not with a whisper, but with a bang.
The moment of realization Steve has upon finally seeing the creature that killed his best friend up close is one of unparalleled sincerity as killing the elusive Jaguar Shark wouldn’t really solve anything. Killing a sea creature for acting out of instinct, tragedy aside, would be just as reprehensible as murdering someone out of cold blood. Mr. Zissou wholeheartedly embraces this sentiment and his emotions get the best of him, muttering “I wonder if he remembers me;” a line so simple yet powerful in its emotional connotations that it can’t be interpreted as easily as you might think.
As something that merely helps Anderson stand out among the crowd, his decision to incorporate informative, fast-moving and plain enjoyable montages into the opening acts of the two films mentioned really set the bar for the overall above average existence of both proceedings.
Toward the tail-end of the film, young Max and collaborator-turned-arch enemy Herman Blume bump into each other on an elevator inside a local hospital. Upon asking his elder if he’s okay following their playing catch-up, Max is less than startled to hear the pitch-perfect response from Blume in a recognizable monotone only Bill Murray’s capable of perfecting time and time again. A simple, if somewhat comedic moment in the film, only Murray’s disheveled appearance and erratic behavior suggest that the quote has more truth to it than Max will ever know.
As one of my favorite scenes in cinematic history, the masterfully presented suicide attempt conducted by Luke Wilson’s Richie is strikingly authentic, gut-wrenching as such and unsurpassed by just about everything else Anderson’s done. Using Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” as the quintessential mood-setter for the grim proceedings, Richie’s anguish remains palpable as his desire to be with adopted sister Margot is doomed to forever be an unattainable reality. With no hope left given his unceremonious fall from grace as a tennis pro and the love of his life forever out of his reach, Richie turns to the one way out he feels is necessary to rid himself of the pain he’s felt all those years prior. Coupled with wonderful editing, the scene in question is nothing short of an artistic triumph