Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Grand Budapest Hotel vs. The Monuments Men, two period films anchored by important works of art.
Premise“Who wouldn’t want to be a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel?” asks a young man named Zero (Tony Revolori) at the beginning of the trailer for Wes Anderson’s new film The Grand Budapest Hotel. Narrated by an older Zero, the film is a memoir of Zero’s days spent under the wing of famed hotel concierge Gustav H. at the equally famous Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1920s. After Gustav’s 90-year-old lover Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) is murdered, Gustav learns he has inherited a very old and very expensive painting titled “Boy With Apple,” much to the dismay of Madame D.’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody). Gustav is promptly accused of the murder. Thus ensues a William Tell Overture-worthy (in pizzicato, of course) race as Gustav, Zero, and Zero’s romantic interest, the hotel’s baker Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), try to evade the police (Edward Norton) and hide the painting from Dmitri. A country over and 20 years later, The Monuments Men is a World War II story for the more artistically inclined. Based on a true story, the film follows a small platoon enlisted by FDR to rescue stolen artistic masterpieces back from the culture-annihilating Nazis and return them to their owners. The catch: none of the seven men is anything close to resembling soldiers, but are instead museum directors, curators, and historians. George Clooney and Matt Damon star as the leaders, art conservationist George Stout and future director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Lieutenant James J. Rorimer. Cate Blanchett plays Rose Valland, a French art historian/French Resistance member who secretly records the details of French and Jewish-owned art stolen by the Nazis. Both caught our interest, but The Grand Budapest Hotel, demands our attention.Advantage: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ensemble CastBill Murray rarely fails to appear in a Wes Anderson film, but this time he pops up in both The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Monuments Men as supporting characters M. Ivan and a member of the art-saving brigade. Cate Blanchett, as well, lends her Midas touch to both films. As for the rest of the cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel, there’s no end to crowd-drawing names: Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson—you get the picture. The Monuments Men offers a very respectable, but more modest, list: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin. The Grand Budapest Hotel wins in quantity of quality.Advantage: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Fashion Do-sWe can’t help but judge a movie based on whether or not it will influence our sartorial choices—1/5 of our interests lie in fashion, after all. The Monuments Men nails it with the already-popular military-inspired look, but we’re hoping The Grand Budapest Hotel will revive the velvet smoking jacket in some form (and maybe inspire a beanie hat with the words LOBBY BOY stitched across the front?) And Tilda Swinton, obviously, has all the ’20s starlet glamour you’d imagine 90-year-old Tilda Swinton to have.Advantage: The Grand Budapest HotelArtGustav H. risks lives for “Boy With Apple,” a painting that appears to be, in both style and content, the self-portrait of a depressed schoolboy in the 16th century. The men and women of The Monuments Men, meanwhile, are fighting the good fight for works like Leonardo’s The Last Supper. We have to ask, which would we be worse off without?Advantage: The Monuments MenDirectorsActors turned directors have always yielded fairly good results, and George Clooney, who directs and stars in The Monuments Men, is no exception. He’s directed five films since 2002, produced this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture Argo, and managed to slip in some formidable acting credits as well (we’re looking at you, Gravity). We respect Clooney’s Renaissance man achievements, but as The Royal Tenenbaums proved, Wes Anderson is a director in a league of his own.Advantage: The Grand Budapest HotelThe VerdictWe have no choice but to pick The Grand Budapest Hotel—we’re dying to know why Saoirse Ronan’s character Agatha has a birthmark on her face in the shape of Mexico.Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.