The Grand Budapest Hotel ★★★★½

In a tight race with Rushmore for the top bill on my nerdy Wes rankings. All the Wes movies have the same current running through them – each constantly in dialogue with the others – but I feel like GBH is his first film that’s actually about artifice, in all its glory, both good and bad – a lifestyle choice that evaporated upon the invasion of rude men, etc. Gustave has Zero tagging along behind him, furiously taking down pointers on artifice as a craft, a service– something I’m sure Wes is accustomed to as a director, i.e. a film about placement, with Gustave as the master coordinator for meticulous taste. And while I think artifice always enhances Wes’s stories, or in some cases subsumes them completely, GBH shares a closer bond between the story and the form. Also, the film is about unyielding friendship, a topic that has consistently resonated for me – far more than some of Wes’s other topics, e.g. the cutesy charm of virgin love between two pseudo toddlers; a selfish patriarch coming to terms with his dejected children. Even works as a greatest hits collection, like the live-action version of Fantastic Mr. Fox’s compartmentally chippie prison-break, or the illusion of sacrificial lastingness via staggered timelines, done to epic extent in this case. And I’m not one to gawk at an all-star cast whose services are disproportionately rendered, but this may be my favorite collection of personally beloved actors.