Isle of Dogs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber, Koyu Rankin.

WRITTEN BY RHYS JONES

Wes Anderson’s 9th directorial venture, and his 2nd stop-motion feature, ticks all the boxes of what you’ve come to expect from the extremely unique Texan. You have your perfectly symmetrical shots, you have your whip pans, you have your lateral tracking shots, you have your borderline pretentious dialogue, and you have a cast to end all casts. The cast list above isn’t even half of the voices you hear in ‘Isle of Dogs’, and every character, in true Anderson style, leaves an impression in one way or another.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is set in a dystopian future Japan in which canine flu has infected every dog in the city and threaten to cross the species barrier and infect humans. As such, the dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island, including his ward Atari’s (Rankin) dog, Spots (Schreiber), and Atari takes it upon himself to fly to Trash Island to find and rescue Spots. On the island, he meets a ragtag group of dogs, lead by Bryan Cranston’s Chief, who offer to help Atari find Spots.

Immediately, the film’s stop-motion animation impresses you. In a superb opening credits sequence to the sound of Taiko drumming, as scored by recent Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, you see 3 drummers and the camera whip panning around them, and you realise that every single drum beat was stop-motion. Every time the drumsticks hit the drum, you know a human placed them there. The film is filled to the brim of astonishing animation that borders on arrogance, but stays just the right side of it to be impressive. There is a 2-minute sequence of sushi being sliced and diced, just because they can. Honestly, Isle of Dogs is an amazing feat of animation.

Adding to the stellar animation, the voice cast doesn’t disappoint. Cranston’s voice is impressive in any environment, but his gravitas adds to Chief’s highly defensive nature and proves to be a brilliant leading dog. In his group, Edward Norton’s Rex is the democratic voice of reason, Bill Murray’s Boss is the childlike, enthusiastic dog who at one point fully breaks the fourth wall in a moment of amazement, Jeff Goldblum’s Duke is the dog who, for the ‘Game of Thrones’ fans, is this film’s version of Varys as no rumour or bit of news escapes him, and finally Bob Balaban’s King follows orders as he is told, and is a fervent supporter of Rex, but sadly Balaban is relegated to a bit-part player as he simply doesn’t stand out against the vocal stylings of Cranston, Norton, Murray, and Goldblum.

This main group is the heart of the film, each of them has honestly tragic backstories of where they came from back in Japan, several of them missing the home comforts of dog soap and eating anything other than leftover trash dumped on the island. Anderson and company do a fantastic job on the island of merely showing you how things work without explicitly telling you what you need to know. There is a hierarchy in place – there are areas of the island dedicated to certain clans of dogs, there are rumours of cannibalism on the island, and so on. ‘Isle of Dogs’ does a brilliant job of fleshing out the canine world having been relegated to living in squalor.

It is a shame, though, that the other parts of the film, following Greta Gerwig’s Tracy Walker, a foreign exchange student fighting to bring the dogs back from Trash Island as she attempts to convince the city of a possible cure, aren’t so endearing or interesting. The impressive animation remains, but there is an over-reliance on narration and telling us exactly what’s happening. At the beginning of the film, we are told that the dogs’ barks have been translated into English and the Japanese characters all speak in their native language, crucially without subtitles, and the only translation into English comes through an in-film translator, voiced by Frances McDormand. I noticed this the most in the first third of the film; there is so much information to be given to us before we can get to the main story that it becomes overwhelming. McDormand delivers her tremendously long monologues reliably brilliantly as she translates speeches, but this becomes tiresome as the film progresses. There are sequences of the film where there isn’t any translation and we have to interpret what’s being said through visuals and body language. These scenes are superb as they manage to convey all the key information we need as an audience without explicitly telling us, and it forces us to engage with the film, it’s just a shame these weren’t more common.

‘Isle of Dogs’, by and large, is very good. It’s constantly impressive with its animation and its impeccable set design, and there are sections of the film that rank up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, mainly when the dogs are on screen. As the film progresses, the film focuses more on Chief and Atari’s building relationship and unfortunately forgets about Rex, King, Duke, and Boss which does remove my favourite part of the film which was the relationship and banter among the dogs.

‘Isle of Dogs’ stumbles occasionally when the dogs aren’t on screen, but this doesn’t
diminish the film as an impressive achievement in animation. Most importantly, ‘Isle of ‘Dogs is better than ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’  in my opinion. Yes, I went there.

RHYS’ RATING: 7.8/10
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Jumpcut’s Favourites: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Year: 2014
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, LĂ©a Seydoux, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson.

WRITTEN BY COREY HUGHES

There are two rules in life that I have come to understand within my 21-years on Earth. Number one; don’t talk about Fight Club, and number two; never ask a cinephile what their favourite film is. By breaching the second rule, not only will you be met with a disapproving grunt, but also a 30-minute rant on which film is their favourite; taking into consideration how different moods influence their choice.

Yet I’ve never had this problem. I relish the opportunity to gush about my favourite film, expressing my adoration for it whilst simultaneously trying to make others love it as much as I do. The film I’m talking about here, of course, is Wes Anderson’s wonderful ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’.

Now, I believe there are two ways that you can approach this area of discussion. You can either talk about what you think is the best film, or explain the reasons why a particular film is your favourite, as, after all, your favourite doesn’t necessarily have to be good film. Yet, for me, my experience with ‘The Grand Budapest’ is a mixture of both.

There are a variety of reasons why I’d argue that ‘The Grand Budapest’ is a bona-fide masterpiece. The most obvious is Robert D. Yeoman’s delightful and completely mesmerising cinematography. Wes Anderson’s symmetrical framing and composition is in full effect here, but adding to that, Anderson and Yeoman’s choice to use three different aspect ratios for each of the three time periods in the film is nothing short of extraordinary, adding to the storytelling aesthetic that Anderson hoped to achieve.

Yeoman’s exquisite camerawork, especially the fluidity of the 90-degree and 180-degree whip-pan movements, is surpassed only by Wes Anderson’s trademark use of vibrant colour palettes; adding to the exoticness of the locations and buildings that Anderson has placed in the shop window.

Written with such extravagance by Anderson himself, ‘The Grand Budapest’ also boasts a tremendous cast, bringing back the usual suspects of Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson; accompanied by the terrific talents of Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton and Willem Dafoe.

Yet it is Ralph Fiennes as the legendary hotel concierge Gustave H. who steals the show. Played with such charisma, intelligence and total narcissism, Gustave is perhaps the most iconic and memorable character that Wes Anderson has to offer, a real compliment with Anderson’s catalogue of superbly written figures such as Max Fischer in ‘Rushmore’ and Royal Tenenbaum in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. Fiennes brings so much flair and humour to the role, bringing the audience and his lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) on his remarkable journey filled with murder and conspiracy. We really shouldn’t sympathise with him, but somehow we do. He’s just a loveable asshole, really.

But above all its glitz and glamour, ‘The Grand Budapest’ earns its title as my favourite film for its huge influence on my life. It’s the main reason why I started to look at films in a different way, the reason why I was eager to study the medium in greater depth. It is essentially the reason why I started to review movies, which is something that I love doing.

And when it comes down to it, ‘The Grand Budapest’ is the film that springs to mind when the harsh realities of life become prevalent. As soon as I pop my copy of the Blu-ray in the player, everything exterior to my screen becomes irrelevant. The only thing that matters within that 99-minutes of runtime is my experience with Wes Anderson’s delightful masterpiece.

Isn’t that what films are for?

 

First Trailer For Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ Drops!

“‘Isle of Dogs’ tells the story of Atari Konayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.”

Directed By: Wes Anderson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Lieve Schreiber, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Billy Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig
Release Date: 30th March 2018

 

Oscars 2015 Close Up: Grand Budapest Hotel

Nearly there now guys! 18 days to go until the big night, and here is a look at one of the forerunners for the Best Picture award, Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. With an endless all star cast and quirky, odd narrative, this critically acclaimed wonderland film has received praise and countless awards since its release and is a hot favourite to scoop at the Oscars. Read the interview with director Wes Anderson here.