The Big Lebowski at 20: The tale of a rug

A look at the prop that not only ties the room together, but also tied the narrative together

The Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski turns 20 this month, but the cult classic wasn’t always as popular as it is now, garnering mixed reviews in 1998. A film that begins with a mistaken identity quickly becomes a complex, interwoven web of storylines that the protagonist Jeffery Lebowski, or The Dude as he prefers to be known, wants no part of yet finds impossible to escape. The reason for that is simple, his rug. First soiled then stolen, it not only tied the room together, but it also tied the narrative together.

And yet, what is going on in the front of the scene is often irrelevant. The kidnapping plot which we, the audience, feel should take centre stage is never fulfilled because of The Dude’s lack of ambition or motivation to pursue it. He would much rather go bowling with his friends Walter or Donnie and so the plot must come to him, but after each advancement of the story, each bit of new information that comes to light, The Dude continues his life as if nothing happened.

This is because he simply doesn’t care. He lives in a simple house, with no job, no goals and most importantly to him, no stress. However when his rug is stolen from him he is thrust into a complicated story that doesn’t really need him at all. Once he goes to find the real Jeffery Lebowski and takes one of his rugs in return, that should be the end of The Dude’s involvement in the film. His journey is complete and the ending is satisfactory, but nothing is ever that easy.

The rug’s role in the film is a MacGuffin. A plot device in the form of object or goal that our protagonist pursues with little narrative explanation. You see them often in crime or spy films. James Bond is always after some object, that if in the wrong hands would spell disaster. More often than not the audience doesn’t care about the object itself, but for the action it catalyses. The Dude wouldn’t go find Jeffery Lebowski if his rug wasn’t stolen, just like Bond wouldn’t fence with Madonna in Die Another Day if it wasn’t for the Icarus Satellite. Well, maybe he might.

“It just seemed interesting to us to thrust that character into the most confusing situations possible. The person it would seem on the face of it least equipped to deal with it. That’s sort of the conceit of the movie.” Ethan Coen is saying here that it’s not the situations themselves which hold value to the audience but how The Dude reacts to them, how he copes with this influx of stress that tries to steer his life off course.

Joel Coen said in that same interview how the film was loosely based on the works of American writer Raymond Chandler. Episodic in nature, Chandler’s detective novels follow the protagonist as he interacts with lots of characters on his way to solving the case. The Big Lebowski’s main narrative is very similar to this, although it has a staccato rhythm from jumping between fast-paced investigation and the relaxed everyday life of The Dude.

Coming back to the rug, it’s importance to The Dude stems from what the rug itself represents, it’s stability and comfort in his life. Without that presence, he finds it difficult to relax, to be The Dude. While we see him go bowling with Walter and Donnie several times we never actually see him bowl. The closest he comes is in his imagination laying on the floor of his house listening to a tape of the Venice Beach League Bowling Playoffs from 1987, shortly before his second rug gets stolen.

“This is when we figured if things are becoming a little bit uncomplicated of unclear it doesn’t really matter. This is similar to Chandler in that the plot is secondary to the other things that are going on. If people are getting confused it’s not necessarily going to get in the way of them enjoying the movie.”

It is ironic that The Big Lebowski, a film whose protagonist works so actively to leave behind no legacy, has one of the biggest in cinema. From an annual festival to a religion, there is surprisingly large following of fanatical fans, those who simply wish to abide by the same carefree lifestyle as The Dude.

2017 Film Challenge – June

Effin’ A, Cotton, Effin’ A!

Here we are, half way through the year. 6 months have passed in a flash. This has been a productive month with me moving house, starting another job and getting an invitation to a preview screening of an upcoming major release plus an interview with the leading actor/writer! Watch this space for more on this, as a hint for the film it was a smash it at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This month I watched 13 movies bringing us to a grand total of 155. This is 30 above our needed pace so I’m confident this can easily be reached. Here are the films I saw, and my opinions of them (reviews are linked).


  • The Big Lebowski x2 – What can I say? Whenever I’m stuck for ideas on what to watch, this is my fallback choice. A masterpiece
  • Horrible Bosses – From a masterpiece to, well, the absolute opposite. An unfunny, unoriginal and lazy film. I cannot recommend this less.
  • The Pianist – A harrowing war-time picture about Polish Jews in Warsaw during World War 2. Uncomfortable to watch at times and with scenes that will stay with you for a while.
  • Project X – This is less of a movie more of a music video to the soundtrack. If you’re not into house music or house parties, this one isn’t for you.
  • Interstellar – Perhaps my favourite film of all time, a science fiction film like no other. Thought provoking and visually stunning, a must watch for an Sci-Fi or Nolan fan.
  • The Red Turtle – An enchanting tale of a man shipwrecked on an island. Purely visual, wholly entertaining. Another beautiful film by Studio Ghibli.
  • Rush Hour – The buddy cop sub-genre is massively oversaturated but the electric chemistry between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan makes this one of the better examples.
  • War Dogs – Another average Rise/Fall film that gets pumped out seemingly every month by one studio of another. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are the saving graces here making it worth a watch if you are a fan of either.
  • Dodgeball – Incredibly silly and over the top but never feels like too much. Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are both great in their roles. A hilarious sports comedy.
  • Secret Life of Walter Mitty – In my opinion this is Ben Stiller’s best directorial effort. An ambitious, spectacle of a film, it achieves everything it sets out to do.
  • Reservoir Dogs – A phenomenal debut film by Tarrentino. Unrelenting in its violence, snappy in its dialogue and surprising in its intellectual depth.
  • My Life as a Courgette – A charming stop motion film about a group of kids living in a children’s home. It features a beautiful soundtrack, adorable characters and with a very short 71 minute run time, there is no excuse not to see it.


Best Films of the Month:

  1. Interstellar
  2. My Life as a Courgette
  3. The Big Lebowski
  4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  5. Reservoir Dogs

Most Watched Films:

  1. The Big Lebowski (6)
  2. La La Land (3)
  3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (3)
  4. Dodgeball (2)
  5. War Dogs (2)

The Big Lebowski is starting to pull away now. I’m sure that it’ll achieve double figures by the end of the year, probably being the only film to do it. No other film so far this year has had the same easy viewing vibe but we are only half way through so a lot could happen. La La Land has sadly been stuck at 3 watches for the past few months, I think I exhausted myself. It will get a couple more this year but whether it’ll still be second or even on the top 5 remains to be seen.


To check out the months you have missed, click one of the following links:

2017 Film Challenge – May

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

May has been a bit of a slow month for movie watching sadly with only 15. We are now up to 142 though so well ahead of the pace needed to reach our target. A few low scoring months are to be expected but as we approach the summer I am sure we will jump greatly. In this post I will include a mini-review or comment about each film as I think a simple list is not as engaging as it could be.


Films Watched

  • Superbad (2007) – A cult classic featuring one of the earlier performances of Jonah Hill. Packed with awkward moments and laughs and more emotional depth than you would expect.
  • 12 Angry Men (1957) – This film is sublime from beginning to end. A must watch for any cinophile. An extended review can be found here.
  • Ice Age (2002) – I watched this film to relive those childhood memories and I was left disappointed. While certainly a feat of animation in 2002, it just didn’t hold up well, nor was there much depth to the narrative.
  • Wedding Crashers (2005) – The duo of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are my biggest guilty pleasures. The charisma each possesses makes every film they feature in worthy of watching. Wedding Crashers also includes great performances by Christopher Walken and a fledgling Bradley Cooper.
  • The Handmaiden (2016) – The best cinematic experience I have had in years. Sumptuously erotic and gripping from the first moment to the last. If you watch one film from this list make it this. To read a full review of this film click here!
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) – There is not much to be said about this one. Part of my yearly Harry Potter rewatch. There is a definite improvement in this film after Goblet of Fire but the series follows an overall downward trajectory after Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • The Hangover (2009) – Another guilty pleasure of mine is The Hangover series. On paper this should be a truly awful film but the great cast and jokes make it very entertaining.
  • Robots (2005) – This is one of my favourite childhood animated film that did not fair well at all with critics. It had a unique style of animation which is seen best during the Domino scene (see here). A thoroughly enjoyable film which I heartily recommend.
  • Airplane! (1980) – This is a film I have been putting off for too long for fear I would not enjoy it as much as I hoped. After taking the plunge I can say it was hilarious. Silly, but hilarious. Will definitely be rewatching this again and eventually reviewing it.
  • Spy Kids (2001) – Taking a train back to nostalgia town once again with Spy Kids. It is somehow even weirder than I imagined but still holds up with the practical and special effects not looking too bad given the age of the film.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998) x2 – This is in my top 3 films of all time and for good reason. Incredibly quotable, relentlessly funny and with great performances by John Goodman and Jeff Bridges. A review of this film will eventually be done so watch this space!
  • The Lego Batman Movie (2017) – Whilst undoubtably an entertaining film it couldn’t achieve the same as its predecessor. There are many great jokes at the expense of other superhero films but ultimately the hectic nature caused its downfall. Read my full review of it here!
  • Hancock (2008) – In the modern euro of superhero films Hancock stands out as one of the best. A brilliant take on immortality and the negative issues that it creates. The special effects still look great as well considering how far they have come in the past decade.
  • In the Loop (2009) As a big fan of the tv show ‘The Thick of It’ that this film is an extension of, I had high expectations. Unfortunately those expectations were not met. This is by no means a bad film, it just felt strained and some of the actors (who in the TV show are fantastic) produced lifeless performances.


Best Films of the Month:

  1. The Big Lebowski
  2. The Handmaiden
  3. 12 Angry Men
  4. Superbad
  5. Wedding Crashers

At some point, perhaps towards the new year, I will compile a list of my top 50, or 100 films. When I do, all of these will feature with each brilliant in their own right. The first three are simply works of art, every frame struck me as beautiful. The other two are just hilarious, continuously so.

Most Watched Films:

  1. The Big Lebowski (4)
  2. La La Land (3)
  3. Superbad (2)
  4. The Nice Guys (2)
  5. The Other Guys (2)

We now have a new leader in the form of ‘The Big Lebowski’. This is hardly surprising due to the incredible rewatchability of the film and I’m sure that by the end of the year it will have reached double figures, probably the only film to do so. Some films, like ‘The Handmaiden’ will be watched many more times, although there will be quite a wait for them to become available. All five of the films above are fantastic and are suitable for chill night in.


To check out the months you have missed, click one of the following links:

2017 Film Challenge – April

I’m a peacock, you gotta let me fly!

Welcome back for update four in the progress towards my film challenge. 25 more movies were watched this month taking us up to a grand total of 127, just over half of my target. This month’s entry will be longer than we have seen previously. As we progress through the year I aim to keep adding to the quality of this blog series to make it as interesting as possible. Enjoy!


Films Watched

  • Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) x2
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
  • Italian Job (1969)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • The Martian (2015)
  • Sing (2016)
  • 21 Jump Street (2012) x2
  • Busking Turf Wars (Lift-Off 2017 Feature)
  • 22 Jump Street (2014) x2
  • War Dogs (2016)
  • Secret Life of Pets (2016)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Kung Fu Panda (2008)
  • Hell or High Water (2016)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Megamind (2010)
  • Rounders (1998)
  • The Other Guys (2010) x2
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
  • Boss Baby (2017)


After putting off watching Illumination Entertainments latest features ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘Sing’ for fear they would be as bad as I had heard, I finally forced myself to watch them. I don’t want to go into much detail about my reactions to those films, in case I decide to review them, but let’s just say that it took ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Megamind’ to regain my faith in competent animation films. On the last day of the month I got around to another animation I was worried about, DreamWorks’ ‘Boss Baby’. Unfortunately no amount of nostalgic cleansing will help me get over the torture that was the film. To read my review of ‘Boss Baby’ and to learn why you should never watch it, click here.

Most Watched Films of the Year so far:

  1. La La Land (3)
  2. The Nice Guys (2)
  3. The Other Guys (2)
  4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2)
  5. Tropic Thunder (2)

Now from the worst new film I have watched in a long time to the best new film I have watched in a long time. Whilst not cinema new, it was released in 2010, it is the first (and second!) time I have watched it. I’m talking about ‘The Other Guys’. Changing the buddy-cop genre with its satirical and self-mocking nature. This will definitely be a film you’ll see a review about soon, I cannot recommend it enough. Mark Wahlberg overemphasises his loud and aggressive attitude hilariously and his chemistry with Will Ferrell is simply electric.


We’ve looked at badly reviewed films being bad and well reviewed films being good, it’s time to look at the others. Let’s begin with a poorly reviewed movie that I adore, Ben Stiller’s ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’. With only 51% of Rotten Tomatoes, it doesn’t look like much. Thankfully I saw it in the theatre with my family and was exposed to one of the most beautiful cinematic experiences in recent times. A wonderful feel-good plot, combined with a great soundtrack and incredible cinematography make this perfect for lazy morning.

Worst Films of the Month:

  1. Boss Baby
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  3. The Secret Life of Pets
  4. Sing
  5. Suicide Squad

Lastly we have a film that saw fantastic reviews which I found incredibly disappointing, Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Being a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the expectations were very high. Whilst this wasn’t an ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ level of disappointment, it wasn’t far off. I don’t want to go too much into it as my review did a pretty extensive job, nor do I suggest you don’t go to see it, just don’t expect the same level of story, depth or humour that was present in the first.


Best Films of the Month

  1. The Big Lebowski
  2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  3. The Other Guys
  4. Rounders
  5. Megamind

I won’t talk about numbers 1, 2 and 3 as I already have previously but number 4 is a film that has been on my radar for some time, Rounders. Stellar performances from both Jason Bou.. I mean Matt Damon and John Malkovich make this poker-based flick well worth a watch. A fun game to play whilst watching the film is ‘Guess the Accent’. Every scene in which Malkovich speaks you have to try and work out which Eastern European country his accent wanders into.


Lastly we have Megamind, an animation by the same director as Boss Baby. This may not sound encouraging but trust me you will not be left disgruntled. It features all-star cast of Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, JK Simmons and more. The premise, that a constantly failing supervillian finally defeats and kills his superhero counterpart, is highly original and explores the lack of meaning in a life without challenge brilliantly. If you have a child who wants to go see Boss Baby, stay home and watch Megamind instead.

To check out the months you have missed, click one of the following links:

Cineworld’s IMAX Film Festival 2017

Rich Purnell is a steely-eyed missile man

Today, on the 8th of April 2017, Cineworld is hosting its 2017 edition of the IMAX Film Festival. A chance for movie fans to experience the immersion of the IMAX 3D format for half the price of a standard ticket.

There were four fantastic films to choose from:

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Martian

Unfortunately, and this is a large criticism of the event, the films were spread in such a way that it was impossible to see all four, at least at my local cinema. This meant that you could only see two maximum – which is still wonderful don’t get me wrong -but watching all four during the day would have been perfect. The two films that I chose were Star Wars: The Force Awakens over The Jungle Book and The Martian over Fantastic Beasts.

The first was Star Wars, a film that watched far better on the big screen than on a television or laptop. There was not a single empty seat which made the entire experience truly special. An issue about this screening in particular I found was how overwhelmingly full of young children it was. The film is a 12A so that was to be expected but there were many far too young to be present. Another further issue was the amount of people on their phones. This one irks me far more than children. I understand that parents want to see the movies and want to share the experience with their kids, but not going on your phone during the film is just common decency.

The Martian was the second film of the day for me. One that I was far more excited for as it is in my opinion one of the best Sci-Fi films of the 21st Century. It is also the second time it has featured in the festival as it was shown during the 2016 edition alongside Gravity, Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road. Overall this was the best IMAX cinema experience that I have ever had bested only by my first, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Now I’m not saying that it’s a masterpiece but it was a film tailored for IMAX and is the film I lost my IMAX virginity to. The visuals in The Martian were phenomenal and the scenes utilising the 3D aspect worked seamlessly. An example of how to get it right.

After I arrived home from the last showing I found out there was a last minute fifth addition to the festival. My heart sank as soon as I heard the news: Deadpool. One of my most memorable cinema experiences of 2016 and surely one of the most memorable of 2017 had I been there. Nevertheless it was great to see two brilliant films at the cinema for the low price of £5.40. I totally recommend this event next year and can’t wait to see the next selection.




2017 Film Challenge – March

Where does the time go?

March has been a wonderful month for me film-wise as I have attended two film festivals as a journalist, Manchester International Film Festival and Manchester Lift-Off Film Festival. As a result the monthly total is a record 52, 32 of which were shorts but I’ll be including them nonetheless. This takes us over the three digit milestone for a grand total of 102! For this month I’ll be including a Top 5 Features and a Top 5 Shorts section.

Films Watched:

  • Office Space (1999)
  • The Internship (2013)
  • Josephine Doe (MANIFF 2017)
  • Hunter Gatherer (MANIFF 2017)
  • Across the River (MANIFF 2017)
  • Creedmoria (MANIFF 2017)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
  • The Nice Guys (2016)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • Moana (2016)
  • Jackie Brown (1997)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • Foxcatcher (2014)
  • Life Itself (2014)
  • Dr No (1962)
  • Lo and Behold (2016)
  • La La Land (2016)
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  • The Last Laugh (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Layby 52 (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Strongboy (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • The Track (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Nan’s Army (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Faustine (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • The Wolves Beyond the Timber (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Hope (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Body Language Zone (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Retriever (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Spaceman (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • The Botanist (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Happy Tuesday (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Northern Lights (Lift-Off 2017 feature)
  • Enemies Within (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Found (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Wanderlust (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Pazzo and Bella (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Hipopotamy (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Heathen (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • The Cyclops (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • A Battling Body (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Relentless (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Where the Windmills are (Lift-Off 2017 feature)
  • Soldier Bee (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Meat on Bones (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Duke’s Pursuit (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Lost in Spring (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Ascension (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Cabby (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • The Sedate Escape (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Return of the Hat (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Ribbons (Lift-Off 2017 short)
  • Ghosted (Lift-Off 2017 short)

Perhaps a little too wacky for some, especially in it’s climax, but undoubtedly my favourite film of all time Interstellar got it’s first showing of the year. Repeat watches for Whiplash, La La Land and The Nice Guys saw them back in the Top 5 once again. The best debut watch came in the form of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, lesser known but equally fantastic.

Here are my Top 5 Features for March

  1. Interstellar
  2. Whiplash
  3. La La Land
  4. The Nice Guys
  5. Jackie Brown

Very special mention goes to Northern Lights, Foxcatcher and Life Itself

Top 5 Shorts for March

  1. Enemies Within
  2. Found
  3. The Botanist
  4. Retriever
  5. Spaceman

Very special mention goes to Hope, A Battling Body and Ghosted

There will be full coverage of the Manchester Lift-Off Film Festival within a week for those interested in the shorts mentioned above so stay tuned.

Wes Anderson: An Exception to the Rule of Hollywood

An exploration into how Wes Anderson made indie mainstream

After the Oscars ceremony fiasco overshadowed the deserved victory of Moonlight, it became all the more relevant to investigate the rise of independent filmmakers in Hollywood’s domination of mainstream cinema. The independent film directed by Barry Jenkins and its triumph illustrate the increasing popularity of non-mainstream content, or what is often referred to as ‘indie’ cinema. In order to understand the process leading up to the respect we attribute to film auteurs, I will be using filmmaker Wes Anderson as a case study. Simultaneously an independent and ‘indie’ filmmaker, his successful career illustrates just how much he has been able to transgress Hollywood filmmaking norms, but also how in some ways he meets the criteria of a Hollywood director.


When discussing filmmaking and ‘indie’ films, we must make the careful distinction between independent and ‘indie’ cinema. Media reception studies professor Janet Staiger defined independent film by the way those films were financed and distributed, in the sense that they were not affiliated with a major studio, such as Paramount Motion Pictures or Walt Disney Studios. As she understands it, ‘an independent production firm was a small company with no corporate relationship to a distribution firm’. The confusion is frequently made that calling a film ‘independent’ implies that it possesses textual qualities of an ‘indie’ film. These textual qualities can be identified as a particular variety of emotional storylines, uncommon or unusual characters and aesthetically intricate settings – all contributing factors to what makes a filmmaker an auteur.

It is no secret that traditional filmmaking favours a pre-determined method that splits the narrative into three parts. The first, introduces the main protagonists and the goals they will attempt to achieve throughout the film. In the second part, the protagonist attempts to achieve goal, but will be stopped by an antagonist, ending this part with the ‘low point’. The third and final part consists of the final dramatic conflict where the main protagonist fights to achieve their goal, either succeeding or failing horribly. This method has persisted as it is what seems to “sell”, which makes producers hesitant to stray from the formula. ‘Indie’ film tends to be more playful and creative, unlike the mindless succession of events that occur in traditional film.

This is one of the main ways Anderson transgresses classical Hollywood filmmaking norms, as he always breaks up his films into episodic chapters that necessitates the viewer to make connections that they typically wouldn’t with a mainstream Hollywood film. Made to be widely and easily consumed by a large mass, a great deal of Hollywood films and other products of the entertainment industry are stillborn and easily forgotten. Their formula installs within the audience unconscious automatic expectations for a clear linear progression of events with some heated fights, amusing jokes, romantic interests, or stereotypically the rise and fall and rise again of the main character, overcoming fears and facing their problems. Wes Anderson doesn’t follow this formula, instead creating complex, fast-paced stories that revolve around an atypically detailed plot. For example, his latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel has a cast of thirty roles that each add to the narrative, twelve of which were already well-established actors, such as Ralph Fiennes or Léa Seydoux.


The core cast group of amateur actors he began with are now equally mainstream, especially when considering The Grand Budapest Hotel’s cast, as much of the marketing centred on the long selection of eminent actors. Before this, with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox using the voices of already renowned actors George Clooney and Meryl Streep, Anderson’s film cast were positively ‘indie’. Since The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson fans will have an expectation for notorious actors in his films, resembling Hollywood directors dependable safety net of basing much of their film’s marketing on the weight of the actors’ names in the industry.

Where most traditional Hollywood productions are focussed on appealing to a particular demographic such as the Twilight Saga (2008-2012) that had a mainly female teenage audience, Anderson’s following consists of a wide array of demographics. Particularly his films Moonrise Kingdom of which the main protagonists are children, and Fantastic Mr. Fox that is based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same title. The relationship between the two children in Moonrise Kingdom is of a surprising maturity, as they both understand the adult world around them and have an uncharacteristic cynicism about them that is gripping whether the viewers are children, teenagers or adults.

Concerning Fantastic Mr. Fox, children will most probably enjoy the different style of animation to what else is on the market, as the detail and work that has so blatantly gone into the creation of this stop-motion feature is all the more appreciable by adults. Anderson’s talent for scriptwriting is also a major key to the positive reception of a story intended for children, with popular culture author and expert Bob Batchelor asserting that ‘Anderson excels at pulling together the threads of what transforms a film into an object of cult affection. [..] as a writer/director, he creates a narrative that appeals to the audience’s intelligence and aesthetic sensibility.’


Prior to The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s films marketing process was what is considered as independent. Hollywood films tend to have large funds with an equally large marketing budget to match. Going through ‘Indiewood’ studios, such as Sony Pictures for Bottle Rocket in 1996 or Fox Searchlight Pictures for The Darjeeling Limited in 2007, the funds supplied for his films were a direct result of the uncertainty of the ‘indie’ content. With no reassuring backing on best-selling novels, major film studios would not feel comfortable spending copious amounts of money on the marketing of an already low-budget movie. Film critic Dwight Macdonald noted that scholars of the Frankfurt School Adorno and Horkheimer pinpointed the reason Hollywood was dying lay in the fact that ‘The machine rotates on the same spot. While determining consumption it excludes the untried as a risk. The movie-makers distrust any manuscript which is not reassuringly backed by a best-seller’.

This explains the foundations of ‘Indiewood’, which is in fact an amalgam of the acquisitions of arthouse studios by Hollywood conglomerates, as a profitable plan in sight of taking over the independent film industry and consequently creating independent studios of their own. The one film so far of his that was distributed by a major film studio was Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. Destined to be a stop-motion picture, the budget required was quite large compared to his other creations, due to the amount of detail and work that goes into stop-motion productions.

Since Anderson has increased his following and audience, he has gained a more mainstream status as a director. For The Grand Budapest Hotel, his already-established ‘world’ of ornately detailed settings and elaborate dialogue and accumulated consecutive box office success was enough to justify the film’s distributor Fox Searchlight, owned by conglomerate 21st Century Fox to advertise the film a great deal more than Anderson’s older films. In addition to this, The Grand Budapest Hotel generated a significant level of fascination and desire to acquire the memorabilia of this world created by Anderson, such as copies of The Society of the Crossed Keys, a selection of Stefan Zweig’s writings which inspired the film.


The key narrative in most Hollywood film is the protagonist’s attempt of achieving various goals, most commonly being finding love, becoming rich, or saving the world. It is impossible to find one film by Wes Anderson that copies that particular formula of pursuit of happiness. Anderson’s characters seem to roam around in their own unique world of complex problems and unusual scenarios, often involving disappearances, theft, and dysfunctional families. Whilst Fantastic Mr Fox is perhaps the most simplistic of Anderson’s films, Fatherhood is the main theme. It explores how it is only after becoming middle-aged that the character of Mr. Fox only begins to appreciate his role as a father to Ash, now a teenager, along with some life-changing realisations that his actions have an effect on the well-being and security of his family. With a more specific attention to a dysfunctional family dynamic, The Darjeeling Limited follows three brothers who rekindle their relationship ensuing the death of their father. Moonrise Kingdom features Billy Murray as an emotionally detached father figure who realises how much he cares about his daughter when she goes missing.

As a part of Hollywood’s formula for films, an almost consistent element is the often-unnecessary sexualisation of women’s and men’s relationships, which Anderson diverges from in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel especially. The rare times romance is seen during his films is face paced and adds to the building of the character. Moonrise Kingdom features a scene of both children on the beach where actress Kara Hayward has few clothes on but it comes across as completely non-sexual. The relationship between Zero the lobby boy and Agatha the patisserie maker in The Grand Budapest Hotel is also portrayed from a purely sentimental angle. Traditional Hollywood film has installed within the audience an instinctive anticipation for the protagonist to have a romantic pursuit or a general goal of happiness, to the extent that it is often forced into a narrative that does nothing to further the plot. Anderson avoids this by concentrating on family dynamics more than romantic ones, or even exclusively in The Darjeeling limited for example.


On a more technical note, Anderson is known for his unconventional camera-work, with every shot seeming to silently add meaning to the narrative. In this respect, Hollywood editing is relatively predictable, an amount of footage often feeling redundant. This is ironic as Major production studios encourage films to avoid what they consider as unnecessary detail that detracts from the main point of the scene. Often, the result is that the film is more inclined to be forgotten due to its soporific production for the masses. Once again Anderson is the opposite. As has been stated previously, each plot device and shot is purposeful with no time to waste on such needless endeavours. Not having the budget to spend on special effects, Anderson takes care to avoid artificial, computer-generated effects and prefers to make use of practical effects to create a realistic, believable world, in order to fully immerse his audience. Furthermore, he takes more risks than the average director with some trademarks of his being stationary pans where the camera moves from left-to-right between two people, drastic zooms, and a great deal of non-diegetic sound, or sound that doesn’t belong in the character’s world. These elements add a vintage aspect reminiscent to the sixties era of New Hollywood. The patterns of the progression of his stories may be the same, however the content of each is extremely diverse and unique strengthening his status as an auteur.

Any director that has found mainstream success will struggle to remain a purely independent auteur. Initially ‘indie’ films were an unpopular genre, Anderson lacked the cult following that he has today allowing his creations to stand out as unusual, or even experimental. As this type of film became a trend, the last decade has seen ‘indie’ films develop a following significant enough to attract big studios and Hollywood conglomerates. Anderson has remained loyal to his filmmaking roots and continues to control his creations, yet releasing his films through major distributors.

The greatest benefit Hollywood permits for ‘indie’ directors is the distribution upon a far larger audience that was previously possible. This, in essence, is the reason Anderson’s career has flourished.