Media Musings: What makes a Wes Anderson film so Shmeeblefuable?


Ella Jennings, The Horizon

Bill Murray had been in nearly every Wes Anderson movie, helping to define that element of Shmeeblefuable

Shaun Underwood, Staff Writer

As “The French Dispatch” trailers popped up everywhere in the last two weeks, I pondered why Wes Anderson films always seem indescribable. It’s rather annoying how they throw me for a loop. Each time I watch one, I have the feeling that the film is unique, but I never know just how to explain it. 

So, I invented a new word: shmeeblefuable. What does shmeeblefuable mean exactly? Well, it describes a skillful combination of cinematography, character development and music with the confounding, awe-inspiring effect the movie has on the viewer. 

Anderson uses some of the most interesting cinematography techniques you’ll ever see on screen. He shoots almost every shot in perfect symmetry. For example, two people eating dinner together in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” share the screen equally. 

This symmetry is not confined to static shots, though; the camera follows the action as well. Four dogs on opposite sides of Garbage Island in “The Isle of Dogs” slowly climb toward confrontation, edging closer and closer together. What does the camera do? It follows the dogs, keeping in perfect symmetry. 

Anderson’s unique sense of symmetry allows him to guide the audience’s focus to whichever center point he chooses. In the restaurant of the Grand Budapest Hotel, the center point is the empty tables — a signal of the hotel’s decline. In the confrontation between the dogs in “The Isle of Dogs,” the center focuses on the trash bag filled with food worth fighting over. 

Symmetry like this draws the audience closer to the point of the scene. The hotel’s future looks bleak and the trash bag expresses the petty squabbles of a mankind that neglects real problems. Every shot of symmetry enables Anderson to establish clear focal points. 

Anderson’s wacky host of characters are just as unique as the frames they fill, yet they share one similarity across pretty much every film: they are paradoxical. 

Take M. Gustave from “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Gustave is probably the most immature character in the film. He steals paintings, sleeps around and darts off the second he believes he is suspected of murder. Meanwhile, his confidant Zero must follow behind and clean up Gustave’s mess. 

Gustave defies all expectations one would have in a role model for Zero. The adult acts like the kid while the kid acts like the adult. Anderson uses these paradoxical characters to highlight a myriad of human flaws. M. Gustave, in one of his most famous moments, runs away from authorities like a five-year-old after he believes himself to be the prime suspect in a murder case. 

By exposing these flaws, Anderson develops his characters over time in a compelling journey. 

Anderson weaves in a spunky score to tie everything together. His music taste — interesting, to say the least — dips into the folklore aesthetic. Every track seems surreal. The shark attack theme from “The Life Aquatic” sounds less like a “Jaws” theme song and more like the music you might hear frolicking through the forest in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s this weird jazzy beat with zero-to-no intensity to it. It’s pure, groovy fun. This whimsical backtrack adds the sense that every movie he makes is a fever dream or fairy tale. 

Well, there you have it, folks: SHMEEBLEFUABLE. It’s a weird mix of symmetrical shots, manchildren and adult kids, and folklore — not Taylor’s Version — all bundled up into one quirky, confusing, awe-inspiring, cinematic package. Now that we’ve cracked Wes’ code, we just have to get the Oxford dictionary to accept a new word …

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