There are a few filmmakers who have had a profound impact on what independent cinema is today. Quentin Tarantino is one, Steven Soderbergh might be another, but perhaps no filmmaker has made quite as lasting an impact on the indie scene as Wes Anderson.


Anderson’s films have a distinct and definite style that is all their own. In their construction and design, they are wholly original, and while many filmmakers have tried to employ Andersonian techniques in their own films, like Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” and Richard Ayoade’s “Submarine,” no one has been able capture the magic that makes an Anderson film what it is quite like the man himself.


Anderson was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He would grow up as a boy generally interested in storytelling and the medium of film. During his childhood, his parents, Melver and Anne Anderson, would separate. This experience would prove traumatic for the budding artist, and you see the remnants of that tragedy scattered throughout his filmography.


For schooling, Anderson attended the St. John’s School where he graduated in 1987 before going on to study philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. There, in a playwriting class, he would meet friend and future collaborator, Owen Wilson.


Soon after graduating from college, Anderson and Wilson went to work on what would eventually become “Bottle Rocket.” They started with a black-and-white short of 13 minutes, starring Owen and his younger brother, Luke.


The short, about rich kids attempting to become professional thieves, caught the attention of some prominent filmmakers, including Kit Carson and James Brooks, who would be pivotal in the adaptation of “Bottle Rocket” into a feature film. With a successful showing at the Sundance Film Festival, the young filmmakers were given the confidence and funding to tackle their first full-length film.


Scripted by Anderson along with the elder Wilson brother, the feature length “Bottle Rocket” was largely an expansion of the original. While it opened to favorable reviews, the box office turn out left a lot to be desired. The film lost a substantial amount of money, but still, it was apparent that Anderson was a serious talent who brought something new and fresh to the table.


Anderson’s next project would be one he had been working on for a while. 1998’s
“Rushmore” was the film that propelled the director’s career forward, toward what it is today. In “Rushmore,” we see his style begin to take form. The production design is immaculate, intricate, and precise, while the writing is dry and quirky. Its tone and sensibilities are very much Anderson’s, and this early effort did a lot to define how we see the man as a filmmaker today. While “Rushmore” underperformed at the box office, it was a critical hit and is still regarded by many as his masterpiece.


Three years later, an equally acclaimed comedy from Anderson would be released, this time to both critical and box-office success. “The Royal Tenenbaums” is a milestone of particular significance in Anderson’s career, as it is the film that launched him into the mainstream. Set in a hyper-fictionalized New York City, this film about a highly dysfunctional family pulled in a good amount of money and earned an Academy Award for Anderson and Wilson in the Best Original Screenplay category.


With “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Rushmore” under his belt, there seemed no stopping Anderson. However, his next two films would largely be seen as disappointments. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “The Darjeeling Limited” were released in 2004 and 2007, respectively, to varying box-office and critical triumph. These two films are usually considered the low points in the director’s career, with “The Life Aquatic” being the more reviled of the two. Still, the film has its supporters, including the foremost Anderson critic, Matt Zoller Seitz. Calling it his favorite film from Anderson:

It’s his least perfect movie, without a doubt. It’s almost certainly too long, and there are sections that drag or feel somehow off or that just flat-out don’t quite work, at least not as they needed to in order to please a wide audience. But it’s wonderful all the same. I cherish its imperfections to the point where they no longer seem like imperfections.

Seitz is at odds with the majority for sure, but he is part of a vocal minority in support of Anderson’s biggest “failure.”


Unshaken, Anderson would return to filmmaking after those two films with some of the best work of his career. Over the past five years, the director has made the stop-motion animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the island fairy tale “Moonrise Kingdom,” and the recent European comedy “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” These three wonderful films have placed him before an audience larger than ever before. “Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise” both received Academy Award nominations (Best Animated Feature and Best Original Screenplay, respectively), and it would be criminal for the Academy not to acknowledge the work done by Anderson in “The Grand Budapest.” It, like all of his films, is nothing short of marvelous.


Anderson’s next project is yet to be announced, but it will undoubtedly be done in the same beautiful, funny, melancholic, delightful style that we have come to know and love.


Have you seen anything by Wes Anderson? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below and tweet me @TuckerPoikonen.