Dennis suggests The Royal Tenenbaums (in Comedy/the Criterion Collection). Director Wes Anderson’s first three films [Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and this one] are three of my favorite films of all time. It was like this new guy just effortlessly announced himself as one of the filmmaking elite right from the get-go; I went into his films giddy with that tingly anticipation only a film geek can know, and came out with my head swimming with the word ‘perfection’ each time. And it’s not like his films were epic, sweeping extravaganzas or anything; just simple little things, done with striking originality and as sure a creative touch as I had ever seen. Ever. When I saw his fourth film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, I came out shattered (as only a hero-worshipping film geek can be) when I saw how it just didn’t work, and how all of the impossibly balanced elements of his work up ‘til then seemed to have congealed into something like self-parody. It was a crippler, I can tell you, especially with memories of The Royal Tenenbaums still fresh in my head. The tale of an irresponsible rapscallion of a father who, after long deserting his wife and three child prodigy kids, tries to reinsert himself back into their lives as adults, this movie is about as close to that perfection I was talking about as I ever need to see. First you’ve got the cast, all either typically brilliant (Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray) and/or doing the best work they’ve ever done (Owen and Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Gywnneth Paltrow, Danny Glover); Luke Wilson, especially, is an absolute revelation. Then you’ve got Anderson’s signature style wrapping the whole story- every image, every performance, every little detail and bit of business is deployed for maximum effect here, and yet not a moment feels forced, or overdone. In his films (the first three anyway), Anderson creates this improbably-light, balanced concoction of elements (comedy, drama, whimsy, sadness, quirk) that, set loose, just floats there on the screen, an obedient balloon. There are big laughs, but the movie never seems to bend to pick them up, devastating moments that the film earns without apparently trying for them and which hit me out of nowhere, stealing my oxygen. Add in Anderson’s always spot-on choice of music and the effect is as mysterious as it is delightful. I own it, I watch it often, it never fails to surprise me each time. You should watch it too. It’ll make you love movies again.