Showing all posts tagged: Wes Anderson

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, a film by Wes Anderson

9 October 2023

Are we at peak Wes Anderson yet? With Asteroid City still showing in some cinemas, maybe some film-goers would welcome a break from the American filmmaker. If that’s not you though, then check out The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, trailer, a short film made by Anderson, based on the 1977 book of the same name, written by Roald Dahl.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar tells of a man, Henry Sugar, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who learns meditation techniques that let him see through things. Things such as playing cards for instance, something that could be advantageous at say a casino. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar had a limited theatrical run in September, but can be streamed on Netflix.


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Bill Murray had Asteroid City cameo appearance, sort of

3 July 2023

Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, on set of Wes Anderson's film Asteroid City

A scene from Bill Murray’s “cameo” in Wes Anderson’s film Asteroid City.

American actor Bill Murray has starred in all but two of Wes Anderson’s feature length films. Murray missed participating in Anderson’s latest, Asteroid City, after being side-lined by a Covid infection. Murray had been cast as a motel manager, but Steve Carell was brought in instead at the last minute.

But that didn’t stop the veteran actor, and Anderson stalwart, from making an appearance on the Asteroid City set, after he had recovered. In a “retro” trailer, posted by the New Yorker, Murray can be seen in a specially created role, walking through the township, where he meets Jason Schwartzman, who in this instance portrays someone called Jones.


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Behind the scenes images from the making of Asteroid City by Wes Anderson

14 June 2023

Design magazine Wallpaper* has published a selection of photos taken during the production of the new Wes Anderson film, Asteroid City. Anderson worked with his long-time collaborator, production designer Adam Stockhausen, to create the trademark “Andersonesque” sets of Asteroid City:

Stockhausen achieved the hyperrealistic quality of Asteroid City through the use of forced perspective: the town becomes desert and bleeds into the horizon, all on a set the size of a football field and its boundaries seemingly imperceptible.


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Mixed reviews for Asteroid City by Wes Anderson, a film for fans only?

10 June 2023

Asteroid City by Wes Andeson film still with Scarlett Johansson

Still from Asteroid City, directed by Wes Anderson.

Asteroid City, the latest feature by American filmmaker Wes Anderson, premiered in Australia at the Sydney Film Festival on the evening of Thursday 8 June 2023. While there was much excitement in the lead up to the release of Anderson’s eleventh film, reactions so far from viewers and critics who have seen Asteroid City, do not quite match the pre-release hype.

It’s early days though. The film is yet to commence its theatrical run, and to date has mostly been seen only at media preview screenings, and film festivals. It could be argued these viewers, generally made up of film critics and seasoned film-goers, are a little more particular than wider audiences.

Still, some of the early film ranking metrics are not exactly encouraging. Rotten Tomatoes, the go-to gauge of a movie’s likability, presently gives Asteroid City a score of seventy-five percent. Metascore meanwhile, which aggregates the scores movie writers assign to a film through Metacritic, rates Asteroid City at seventy-three out of one-hundred.

The film’s IMDb rating, based on scores by IMDb members, sits at just under seven out of ten. All of these numbers still make Asteroid City worth watching in my opinion.

But bloggers and influencers who have seen early screenings, are distinctly mixed in their appraisals. Swara Salih, writing for But Why Tho?, thought Asteroid City’s biggest problem was none other than Wes Anderson:

What gets in the way of Asteroid City’s success as a narrative was Anderson himself. The writer-director’s insistence on meta commentary results in what could have been one of his most ambitious and groundbreaking films that instead collapses into a narrative mess.

Ali Naderzad, a film writer at Screen Comment, was at odds with Anderson’s trademark saturated pastel pallet, which he suggested worked against the film:

“Asteroid City” is a visual feat of a movie with little in the way of substance, in fact, this might be the most contrived Wes Anderson film I’ve watched. Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Liev Schreiber and Adrien Brody star in it, which adds heft but the photography is helliciously rendered in saturated pastels and so it’s weird.

Zornitsa Staneva, a staff writer at Tilt Magazine, was critical of Anderson’s penchant for constantly featuring oversize ensemble casts:

Does Wes Anderson invoice based on the number of Hollywood names stuffed in his distended cast? Is Wes Anderson blinded by narcissism to the extent that all he cares about is having a foot long list of cast credits, held tenuously together by a pretentiously self-referential vanity project?

On the flip side, Ben Rolph, writing for AwardsWatch, described Asteroid City as more of the same from Anderson, which was a good thing, albeit a touch more melancholic than usual:

With an explosion of pastel colours, precise camera moves and a whimsical script, Asteroid City is Wes Anderson operating at his best, still doing his usual quirky thing. His latest is another testament to the ongoing power of his one-of-a-kind, special style of filmmaking which here develops to become more mature and melancholic as a family deals with some serious issues.

Finally, Michael Walsh, who was in attendance at the premiere screening at the Sydney Film Festival, was likewise upbeat:

Quirky, offbeat and existential, Asteroid City is yet another darling little feature from the whimsical Wes Anderson that unites a stacked cast, consummate craftwork, and a surprising story that elicits good laughs and deep questions about life, purpose and legacy to deliver one of Anderson’s more character driven and emotionally resonate films in recent memory.

Anderson has an unconventional style of storytelling, which is something to be thankful for. While not all of his titles have one-hundred percent agreed with me, so far there’s not been one I’ve disliked. Asteroid City remains a film I’m hanging out to see.


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Letterboxd scavenger hunt for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City

2 June 2023

The Australian premiere of the latest Wes Anderson feature, Asteroid City, takes place in less than a week on Thursday 8 June 2023, at the 2023 Sydney Film Festival.

If you need a little something to keep you occupied between now and then though, help contain the excitement and all, film social network Letterboxd is running the Asteroid City Scavenger Hunt for the next two weeks:

Every day for the next fourteen days, a new item will be hidden on Letterboxd somewhere in the extended Wes Anderson universe of films and their creators. We’ll drop daily clues on our social media, and once you have collected all fourteen items, you’re automatically in the draw to win the grand prize: a private screening of Asteroid City for you and your friends at your nearest cinema.

Letterboxd, in case you’ve not heard of it, was established in New Zealand in 2011, by Matthew Buchanan, and Karl von Randow, and I’ve been a member since 2012. If you’re looking for a place to discuss film, and film only, Letterboxd is where you need to be.

And here’s something, the screenplay for Asteroid City is available to buy in hardback book, or Kindle format, from Amazon on Tuesday 22 August 2023. I didn’t know that was a thing.


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Asteroid City Australian premiere at 2023 Sydney Film Festival

10 May 2023

Asteroid City, by Wes Anderson, film still

Still from Asteroid City, directed by Wes Anderson.

The full program of the 2023 Sydney Film Festival was published earlier today, and the news is especially good for fans of American filmmaker Wes Anderson. His new film, Asteroid City, will have its Australian premiere on Thursday 8 June 2023, at the State Theatre in Sydney. The storyline is perhaps best described as being very Wes Anderson.

Asteroid City is set in a fictional American town of the same name in 1955, and follows the story of Woodrow (Jake Ryan), who is driving his children across the country to see their grandfather (Tom Hanks). When their car breaks down in Asteroid City, the family is forced to spend time in town.

Their arrival coincides with the annual stargazers’ convention, an event which intrigues Woodrow’s son. The convention takes place on what’s known locally as Asteroid Day, which commemorates the day, thousands of years earlier, when an asteroid struck the region. Strange events begin taking place however, leading some people to suspect extra-terrestrials are responsible.

Additional screenings of Anderson’s latest feature also take place the next day at Hayden Orpheum Cremorne on Friday 9 June, and at the Randwick Ritz on Saturday 10 June. Asteroid City opens nationally in Australian cinemas on Thursday 22 June 2023*.

* according to the Internet Movie Database that is. Flicks meanwhile suggests Asteroid City opens on Thursday 10 August 2023.


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The Galactic Menagerie, a Wes Anderson like Star Wars story

2 May 2023

Earlier this year we saw what might have happened had Star Wars creator George Lucas made 2001: A Space Odyssey. But instead of asking what might have happened had Stanley Kubrick made a Star Wars film, what about imagining Wes Anderson doing so instead?

Well, imagine no more. Sort of. The Galactic Menagerie, is a Star Wars story with all the pastel coloured eccentric whimsy of a Wes Anderson film:

Journey to a galaxy far, far away and experience a unique adventure featuring Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and other fan favorites. Watch as they navigate the Galactic Menagerie, a universe filled with eccentric creatures, charming droids, and peculiar locations reminiscent of Anderson’s beloved films such as “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

And all the usual Wes Anderson suspects are here as well. Scarlett Johansson stars as Princess Leia, Edward Norton as Han Solo, Bill Murray as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jeff Goldblum as the emperor, Owen Wilson as Darth Vader, and Timothée Chalamet as Luke Skywalker.

The trailer was crafted by Shelby and Caleb Ward of Curious Refuge, using a variety of AI tools. Something like this had to happen sooner or later. I wonder if Anderson’s soon to be released sci-fi feature, Asteroid City, had anything to do with it?

As for the Galactic Menagerie, too bad it’s not an actual film, hey?


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Asteroid City, a film by Wes Anderson

2 April 2023

After an asteroid buzzed uncomfortably close to Earth several days ago, the trailer for American filmmaker Wes Anderson’s new film, Asteroid City, landed, if you’ll excuse the pun. Does this mean Anderson is psychic, or does he have a knack for — if you’ll excuse another pun — hitting the mark? One thing’s certain though, Anderson has a knack for getting it right with cinema-goers, and Asteroid City, billed as science fiction romantic comedy drama, his eleventh feature, looks to be no exception.

What’s Asteroid City about then?

A widower (Jason Schwartzman) is driving his son Woodrow (Jake Ryan), and three daughters, across the United States to see their grandfather (Tom Hanks), during the summer of 1955. Their car breaks down in a town called Asteroid City, situated in the middle of the Arizona desert. They happen to arrive in time for a stargazers’ convention, held on Asteroid Day, which commemorates the day the Arid Plains Meteorite is said to have struck the area, on 23 September 3007 BCE.

Woodrow is intrigued by the event that draws people from across the world, and wants to stay for it. With their car undergoing repairs, Woodrow’s father calls his grandfather, who reluctantly agrees to come and collect his sisters. The widower and his children are not the only visitors to Asteroid City though. Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson), a movie star is also in town. But then strange things begin happening. Loud bangs are heard, and earthquakes rock the town.

Locals begin reporting the presence of extra-terrestrials, and the authorities decide to seal off Asteroid City, until they can figure out what’s going on. Woodrow and his family, along with the other visitors in town, are forced to stay put. It may not be all bad for the reserved, awkward Woodrow though. He’s met a girl, also in town for the stargazers’ convention, and the two seem to feel they share a connection…

For those who in late, Wes Anderson is…

A filmmaker who hails from Houston, Texas. Although Anderson wanted to be a writer, he was always making films. Growing up, Anderson often made homemade films, with his siblings and friends. He also worked as a cinema projectionist while at university. He made his first full length feature Bottle Rocket in 1996, which was based on an earlier short film he’d made with the same name. Three of his works feature on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

There are many ways to describe Anderson’s films. Quirky. Eccentric. Whimsical. Vintage. Nostalgic. With an abundance of rich pastel colours, his stories hark back to a world where life was a little simpler, though a dark streak is often ever present. Stylistically, Asteroid City looks to be no different, but if the trailer is anything to go by, Anderson has ramped up the colour saturation, imbuing the story with a truly fairy tale like quality.

As such Asteroid City is par for the Anderson course, and is his first foray into science fiction, with the possible exception of 2018’s Isle of Dogs.

A sci-fi potpourri perhaps?

While the trailer only offers a glimpse of what’s to come, the references to Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick, are pretty clear. And after all, how could any Wes Anderson movie with an outer space tack not have a nod to 2001? It remains to be seen whether there are any Star Wars and Star Trek imprints though, but I have a feeling they’ll be in there somewhere.

Asteroid City by Wes Anderson, film poster

The gang’s all here

On top of his distinct film and storytelling style, Anderson usually works with the same writers and actors. He often co-writes screenplays with Jason Schwartzman, who stars in Asteroid City, along with frequently collaborating with Noah Baumbach and Roman Coppola. On screen, regular Anderson standbys include Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, and the aforementioned Scarlett Johansson.

But the large cast features more than just Anderson regulars. Hong Chau, Margot Robbie, Bryan Cranston, Jarvis Cocker, and Sonia Gascón, are also among this ensemble cast of astronomical proportions. Conspicuous by absence though is Bill Murray, who has featured in every Anderson feature except Bottle Rocket. Murray was unable to participate after being diagnosed with Covid, shortly before production commenced. Steve Carell was cast to take Murray’s place instead.

Asteroid City meanwhile is the first Wes Anderson film that Tom Hanks has appeared in.

That’s a wrap, almost…

Despite being set in the Arizona desert, Asteroid City was mostly filmed in Spain, in Chinchón, a town about fifty kilometres to the south east of Madrid. From what I can tell, the Arizona desert sure looks like the Arizona desert, though I’m not sure why Anderson didn’t go for the real thing. Maybe Covid restrictions applying at the time ruled out other locations. Or it could be a matter of convenience, as Anderson lives not too far away in Paris.

I’m also wondering if there’s any significance to the date of Asteroid Day, being 23 September. What’s up with 23 September? It’s probably a totally random date, but I checked for notable past events occurring on 23 September anyway. Encyclopædia Britannica reports American musician John Coltrane was born on that day in 1926, while actor, choreographer, and film director John Fosse died on 23 September, in 1987.

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, who devised psychoanalysis, also died that day, in 1939. Perhaps the momentousness of Asteroid Day’s date, if there is one, will come to light at a later time.

Asteroid City is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023, and open in Australian cinemas on Thursday 22 June 2023.


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The French Dispatch, by Wes Anderson

13 October 2021

The French Dispatch is the twentieth (or so) film by prolific American filmmaker Wes Anderson, and will be the closing feature of this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Set in the offices of a fictional American magazine, in a fictional French town named Ennui-sur-Blasé, the story follows the ins and outs of the paper’s journalistic staff.

Long time Anderson collaborators Owen Wilson and Bill Murray are among the star studded cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber, Saoirse Ronan, Jeffrey Wright, and Léa Seydoux. Count me in then for the closing night of the Sydney Film Festival.


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