Eight months after it hit theaters, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is back in business, and here's hoping Hollywood is paying attention.
Ralph Fiennes joined co-stars Tony Revolori and Jeff Goldblum for a final SAG nominating committee Q&A Monday night in Los Angeles that this pundit was lucky enough to moderate. Most in the packed theater had already seen “Budapest” but wanted a chance to hear the film's stars discuss their journey into Wes Anderson's latest creation in person.
Fiennes, who plays the indomitable M. Gustav, discussed how little he cared to look at Anderson's detailed animatic of the picture and how a friend of the director's gave him slight inspiration for the role (will the real M. Gustav please stand up?). Revolori, who plays Zero the faithful Lobby Boy, recalled how nervous he was meeting Fiennes for the first time during a fitting and how the Oscar nominee reassured him with a hug. And Goldblum, who plays the unfortunate lawyer Kovacs, could not stop praising Anderson's vision and the “humanity” he brought to such a precise creative endeavor. We also learned that Fiennes tried to convince Anderson to pick a few current colognes as the infamous L'Air de Panache, but the Francophile would have none of it (what it really smells like is still a mystery). Fiennes also revealed Mendel's pastry concoctions were actually too sweet for him to eat and the audience was somewhat shocked to discover that Revolori is severely allergic to chocolate and never took a bite of any of the film's numerous deserts.
Q&As live and die on the talent and this trio made sure the audience realized just how specific their performances were (i.e., it wasn't Anderson dictating), while still providing some wonderfully entertaining anecdotes. They also heaped praise on their co-stars, who helped fill out one of the most memorable acting ensembles in recent memory with Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson and F. Murray Abraham earning individual praise. It was a fun and fast conversation with a lot of love from the SAG members on hand.
The quick trip to Los Angeles for Fiennes featured a whirlwind of “Budapest” awards-themed photo shoots and interviews (look for a special one-on-one with Christoph Waltz soon), an hour-long career retrospective for BAFTA members and a solo American Cinematheque Q&A hosted at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. The legendary actor may have an outside shot at earning a Best Actor nomination (he's in good company this year if he doesn't), but he is still keeping the doors open for “Budapest's” awards prospects overall. Will it be enough? Let's review, shall we?
At this date, the film is still one of the best reviewed films of the year with an 88 on Metacritic (for comparison: “Boyhood” has a rare 100, “Birdman” an 89 and “Foxcatcher” currently has an 87), as well as a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes (for comparison: “Boyhood” has 99%, “Whiplash” is at 97%, “Birdman” is at 94%, and “Nightcrawler” is at 94%). The film is also, considering its audience, a global smash, earning almost $60 million domestic and $172.2 million globally. Those are career-best numbers for Anderson and you can debate whether or not it's his best reviewed film to date (it might be splitting hairs at this point). Needless to say, “Budapest” is a huge success that is trying to break the recent Oscar curse that finds the Academy ignoring early releases in the qualifying calendar.
In theory, with so many potential contenders falling by the wayside (and you know who you are), “Budapest's” slot should already be solidified. That being said, benchmarks like a SAG ensemble nomination, a Golden Globes nomination for Best Comedy or Musical (a given), landing on AFI's top 10 list, earning a spot in the National Board of Review's top 10 and, most importantly, a slew of top 10 critics list mentions are key. Searchlight will campaign “Budapest” as best they can, but they also need the awards media to stop somehow pretending it's not in the game because it came out before Cannes (Sundance titles seem to get a pass because they are usually released in June).
Granted, many in the media likely feel burned after Anderson's similarly praised “Moonrise Kingdom” failed to earn a nod in 2013, but they are actually very different films in very different races. As beautiful and quaint “Moonrise” is, “Budapest” actually succeeds on a march larger canvas and features perhaps one of the greatest ensemble casts of all-time (truth). It is a signature example of a filmmaker at his peak and the only thing more disheartening than a potential Best Picture diss is the fact that no one is talking about Anderson for Best Director.
Listen, many people love “The Imitation Game,” but is Morten Tyldum's work really more significant than Anderson's? Could you say the same for “The Theory of Everything's” James Marsh? This writer is certainly a fan of the latter, but like David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson, what Wes Anderson achieves with his work is the definition of film directing. Anderson, who has two screenwriting nominations and a Best Animated Feature Film nod, doesn't campaign and is expected to remain in Europe for most of the season. That doesn't mean his peers should ignore him, however (and we're looking at you, DGA).
Barring some last minute surprises, “Budapest” should make the 10. In a perfect awards season world where a film's momentum often means more than its actual merits, it should be a frontrunner. Searchlight and the “Budapest” team will gladly end their stay with the former at this point.