Paste magazine originally published this article on February 18, 2020.
Ever since Wes Anderson’s debut Bottle Rocket (1996), audiences have come to recognize his distinctive directorial style: Marked by sharp, punchy dialogue, a pastel color palette, a love of details, and the frequent use of the same actors, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.
As Anderson prepares for his latest project, The French Dispatch, take a look at some of the best quotes from Anderson’s stunning filmography.
10. Safety first, folks
“You’ll find a pair of safety glasses and a pair of ear plugs underneath your seats. Please feel free to use them.” —Max Fischer, Rushmore (1998)
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious high schooler and playwright, has spent the majority of Rushmore crushing on a new teacher, Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) and putting on elaborate productions that may or may not be hazardous.
9. Maybe she’s born with it
“You’re looking so well, darling, you really are. I don’t know what sort of cream they’ve put on you down at the morgue, but I want some.” —M. Gustave, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) had been carrying on an affair with Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), the 84-year-old frequenter of The Grand Budapest, the hyper-stylized hotel of Anderson’s dreams. But with Madame D. on her deathbed, M. Gustave has one thing on his mind: the morgue’s miracle-working face cream.
8. That’s gotta hurt
“I love you too, but I’m gonna mace you in the face!” —Jack Whitman, The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Three brothers—Peter (Adrien Brody), Francis (Owen Wilson), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman across India to reconnect with each other after their father’s death. Just by looking at this quote, you can tell that the trip isn’t exactly smooth sailing. As Peter and Francis wrestle in a train car, Jack sprays mace in their faces right before yelling, “I had to do it!”
7. The sass
“Oh, are they?” —Max Fischer, Rushmore (1998)
Max Fischer is dining with Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) and her boyfriend Dr. Peter Flynn (Luke Wilson) when Max attempts a crass joke. He tells Flynn, who is wearing scrubs, “I like your nurse’s uniform, guy.” Flynn replies, “These are O.R. scrubs.” Max, ever the punny wordsmith, asks, “Oh, are they?” Mic drop.
6. Is “friscalating” a real word? Asking for a friend
“The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles and the sage thicket. ‘Vámanos, amigos,’ he whispered and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.” —Eli Cash, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), the friend and neighbor of Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) who always wanted to be a Tenenbaum himself, gives a reading of his novel Old Custer. The novel secures him as “a sudden, unexpected literary celebrity,” and it’s easy to see the appeal of such vibrant language.
5. The real question is …
“Am I being flirted with by a psychotic rat?” —Mrs. Fox, The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
In a magnificent casting decision, Meryl Streep plays Mrs. Fox, a masterful landscape painter who can also sucker punch. When Rat (Willem Dafoe) descends into the sewers on behalf of the vengeful farmers, the creature with glowing red eyes tries to attack the Fox family, and Mrs. Fox delivers two punches: one physical, and the second, the piercing quip above.
4. The dogs have gone wild!
“I’m supposed to be juggling 10 bowling pins engulfed in flames over my tail at this point, but you just have to imagine that part.” —Nutmeg, Isle of Dogs (2018)
Towards the film’s conclusion, the show dog Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson) and the feral dog Chief (Bryan Cranston) have reconciled after a tense introduction. Here, in this playful scene, Nutmeg shows off a new trick that she has learned while on the island, and Chief goes on to imagine what she would look like actually juggling bowling pins “engulfed in flames.” The tension!
3. That smolder
“What kind of bird are you?” —Sam, Moonrise Kingdom (2002)
To be young and in love and noticed! Sam (Jared Gilman) sees Suzy (Kara Hayward) for the first time, wearing a bird costume and staring in the mirror. Another girl thinks that Sam is addressing all of them, but he clarifies, pointing directly at Suzy and asking, “What kind of bird are you?” Hayward’s delivery is particularly strong here, eking out, in a hoarse and quiet voice, “I’m a raven.”
2. A little too late?
“You’re true blue, Ethel. You really are. How’s your love life?” —Royal Tenenbaum, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
“I’m ashamed of myself,” says Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) when he fails to answer why he abandoned his family for so many years. Here, Royal is taking a stroll with his estranged wife Ethel (Anjelica Houston) and trying to make peace with her. The scene is remarkable for its clarity and precision: Each line feels important, and every facial expression communicates what the pair cannot articulate. Royal’s “You’re true blue, Ethel” feels like an overdue compliment to the woman who built a successful archaeology career and raised a so-called “family of geniuses.” And his question, “how’s your love life?” delivers the cheekiness for which the character is both loved and admonished.
1. A surprising discovery
“I wonder if it remembers me?” —Steve Zissou, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
In this writer’s favorite scene in all of Anderson’s filmography, Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) sheds a poignant tear when finally coming face-to-face with the tragic beauty of the “jaguar shark” that killed his friend Esteban. The shot resembles a Renaissance painting of sorts, with each characters’ gaze in dynamic contrast to that of Zissou. The melancholic sound of Sigur Rós’ “Starálfur” adds to the scene’s haunting catharsis, as does the shot’s near-perfect framing: Zissou is at the helm of a submarine that cannot recover what is lost.