Jason Schwartzman

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bob Byington

“7 Chinese Brothers” is one of those films that focuses on its central character so much that it seems to lose interest in its plot. This wouldn’t be a major an issue if that character was really interesting. Jason Schwartzman's protagonist, Larry, who wanders aimlessly as an immature drunk, doesn't come close to anything resembling engaging. The only likeable aspect about him is his dry sense of humor, but his flat portrayal of a less-than-compelling character makes the film a struggle to get through.

The dry, quiet humor is a highlight of the script, even beyond Schwartzman's performance, but the film's bare story limits the impact of that humor. Only Schwartzman's admittedly devoted fans will get any joy out of watching him key cars and play with his dog. The other characters aren’t really memorable. “7 Chinese Brothers” ultimately plays off as a highly forgettable film that is only good for a handful of clever jokes.

Rating: 4/10 Sleeping Dogs

With quirky characters, colorful settings, speedy dialogue and a splash of melancholy, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” encompasses all of the tools director Wes Anderson uses in his films.

Anderson, a UT alumnus, showcased his latest feature at the Paramount Theatre last Monday as a part of South By Southwest Film. People arrived two-and-a-half hours before the showing started — creating a line that wrapped around two downtown blocks.

The enormity of the turnout contrasts Anderson’s first movie screening of his 1996 feature “Bottle Rocket” at Hogg Memorial Auditorium. Only nine people attended, two of which, Anderson said, left as the credits started rolling.

The idea for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” began first with a short story Anderson and a friend wrote about someone whom they knew. This character turned into Monsieur Gustave, the concierge played by Ralph Fiennes. Anderson made this transition after being inspired by writer Steve Zweig’s work. He decided to turn the short story into a film following characters set in the ’30s in wartime Europe. 

“It started with this one character, and then eventually having an idea of the setting that this was going to be a European war background,” Anderson said. “Then making the script, then all the visual stuff came after the script was finished.”

The movie follows an orphaned lobby boy named Zero, played by Tony Revolori, and his mentor Gustave. The story is told by Zero decades later, as he sits at dinner with a writer, played by Jude Law, in the now-dilapidated hotel.

“The writing is the first and foremost thing,” Anderson said. “The actors, they invent their performances themselves, but they work with the script.”

Jason Schwartzman saw the film for the first time at Monday’s SXSW premiere. Schwartzman is only in a few scenes, but his appearance, in addition to Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and others, follow Anderson’s fashion of sticking to the same company of actors with each of his movies.

“It was exciting; I’m a fan of [Anderson’s films] so much,” Schwartzman said. “It’s so funny.”

This movie takes after Anderson’s earlier films with the same style of framing, dialogue and use of color. He also uses animation and miniatures alongside live action in “Grand Budapest Hotel,” as he did in his 2009 animated feature “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” While the live-action portions were shot on location in a town between Poland and Germany, many miniatures and the animation used were created in Berlin.

“With the stop motion, you edit the whole thing and then you shoot it,” Anderson said. “I started doing that with the live-action movies more where we do the same kind of animatic [sic] and kind of prepare it in more detail.”

Anderson’s trademark style is visible in “Grand Budapest Hotel,” but he does include new techniques. The film jumps around between various time periods, with a different screen format to denote each one. 

Anderson is known for meticulousness. The numerous perfumes worn by Gustave and the fake mustache worn by Zero during the movie intensify characterization and give a more tangible representation of the personality these characters have. 

“It’s either inspired by something we’ve stolen somewhere and forgotten where it came from, or it came from our life or something,” Anderson said on the subject of coming up with different details to use in his films.

Having Anderson’s latest success premiere in Texas, where his career began, emphasizes the all-encompassing feeling that his latest movie holds.

While back in Austin for the SXSW premiere, Anderson took time to visit the UT campus, his alma mater and the place where he met close friend and actor Owen Wilson.

“It’s great,” Anderson said. “I went to all my old classes and my old house where me and Owen lived. It’s the same. There are a few new buildings, but it’s very much the same.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” released this past weekend in select theaters making $811,166, the highest grossing amount for a limited weekend debut.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” follows the life of 22-year-old Toronto native Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, “Superbad”) as he falls for American delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Live Free or Die Hard”). However, before he can begin a relationship with her, he must defeat her seven ex-boyfriends, all of whom belong to the League of Evil Exes, who want to control Ramona’s love life.

On Aug. 13, the young and talented cast of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” — including Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Cera and Winstead — as well as director Edgar Wright made Austin their last stop in the United States before heading out to promote the film in Europe. Sitting at a round table at the Four Seasons Hotel, the cast members opened up about their on-set experiences and the appeal of their respective characters.

The Daily Texan: What attracted you to the script?

Brandon Routh: No one could read the script unless [they were] working with the director Edgar Wright, but I read the source material and knew that this was something I was interested in.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead: I read the [comic] books, loved everything. I like the stylized, over-the-top performances.

DT: In the film, Scott must defeat Ramona’s exes by using their weaknesses against them. Do each of you have a weakness?

Jason Schwartzman: Getting buried alive and hair pulling.

Edgar Wright: Tickling. Definitely tickling.

Michael Cera: I hate when people grab you by the neck.

DT: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and what would be your superhero name?

JS: I would be Ultrasound Man.

EW: Wizard Sleeve. I would have Dumbledore in this sleeve, Merlin in the pocket and Gandalf in the other [sleeve].

MC: The Tailor, I could make anyone’s clothes fit perfectly with the touch of my finger.

DT: Anna, you have acted in a variety of different films, each in a different genre. Are you trying to find your niche?

Anna Kendrick: You get lucky. If I told you that I had any type of strategy, I would be lying. I wanted to do “Scott Pilgrim” because I was a fan of Edgar’s work and wanted a shot at working with him.