EVERYONE thinks they’re the hero of their own story. History is made up of all their stories bumping up against each other. How do you make sense of this chaos? What does it all mean? Does it mean anything? (No, says Albert Camus, from a paperback that a teenage clerk is reading, existence is absurd. “I don’t know who that is, but I’m guessing he doesn’t have a six-year-old girl,” retorts Betsy the cancer-stricken housewife.) At best we can tease out a pattern of actions and consequences, then impose a beginning and an end to create narrative cohesion. But you need time and distance in order to do this. What if you’re inside the story as it’s happening?
In the amazing second season of Noah Hawley’s Fargo, the characters can be too engrossed with composing their own stories to see the bigger story of America, or the even bigger story of the universe. There are UFOs in this season, because in 1979 they were all over the place, and because they fit in this series. Fargo 2 is so enthralling that after the initial “Holy crap, UFOs!” you just accept that they’re there, turning up at odd moments like cinematography aids.
Macbeth is our favorite Shakespeare because it is phantasmagorical, fast, and it makes us identify with its murderous maniac so that we are complicit in his deeds even as we recoil in horror.
The new screen adaptation by Justin Kurzel is rich in phantasmagorical atmosphere. “Scotland”, wreathed in mist, looks like a gorgeous gateway to hell. When the three witches turn up—four including the child who appears with them—we’re not even surprised because they belong there. They don’t look like toothless crones with warty faces, but aspects of nature.
Then Macbeth goes into battle for King Duncan, and as the two armies charge at each other, the action turns to slow, slow, very slow-motion. Ngek. We thought the point of adapting a play for the cinema was to let it move. Director Justin Kurzel stands his actors in front of beautiful medieval finery and makes them recite the words. Then he chops up and remixes the text so the grandeur is watered down. There is plenty of blood, but we are detached observers. When it occurs to him to add choreography the results are impressive, such as the murder of Banquo scene. Otherwise the film is reminiscent of our grade school terror: the declamation contest.
Macbeth stars two of the most beautiful people on earth, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Fassbender is a robust Macbeth, beefier than usual, as befits a mighty warrior. Cotillard is too ladylike as the woman who calls on the spirits to “unsex” her so she can do what must be done, who goads her husband into killing the king and then anyone who might threaten his reign. Unfortunately this is part of the director’s vision.
The film opens with the Macbeths burying a child, presumably their own. That’s not in the play, but scholars have noted that the real-life inspiration for the character had a dead child. One interpretation is that Macbeth, being unable to have children, killed children. So instead of a strong, furious Lady Macbeth, the film gives us a depressed mother. We would’ve bought an “If I can’t have children, then neither can you; I’m already dead so die!” interpretation. “Poor me, no baby” doesn’t do it for us. Why can’t characters just be evil instead of putting us through their psychotherapy?
We recommend you see Macbeth anyway—it might move you to read the play, or watch other adaptations. Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood is still the best Macbeth we’ve seen.
We loved the Peanuts movie, but not as much as the small children two rows behind us who laughed uproariously at every gag. And we thought today’s children would have no interest in Charlie Brown and Snoopy, a depressive neurotic child and a delusional dog, respectively.
Naturally we had to possess the Snoopy toys, which can only be obtained through the purchase of Happy Meals. We may be overgrown children, but the consumption of Happy Meals would be dangerous to our health. Still, the toys. So we ate one Happy Meal—the mini-pancakes—for breakfast, and bought four more for the building staff. That’s five toys, five more to go. Easily done: this weekend we’re dragging sister, sister’s husband, and their three brats to the happy place.
Oscar Shmoscar, the best picture of 2015 is Mad Max: Fury Road.
We think of these three as the Western Torture Porn Trilogy of 2015.
The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio crawls through the spectacular wilderness in terrible torment for two hours and 36 minutes, periodically interrupted by mumbling Tom Hardy. Para n’yo nang awa, bigyan n’yo na yan ng Oscar, baka ano pa’ng gawin niyan. Wasn’t it enough that he crawled on his face in The Wolf of Wall Street? Hardy is continuing his experiments with unintelligible speech that began with Bane in Dark Knight Rises (or even earlier). Was that rampaging bear a film critic?
Bone Tomahawk addresses the crying need for westerns with cannibals that we thought had been filled by Ravenous. Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins and Matthew Fox saddle up in pursuit of troglodyte Native Americans who have abducted some white people. For dinner. When we were not laughing out loud we were wincing with disgust. Of the rivers of blood and guts shed in this movie, the image we cannot unsee is that of someone chopped in half. Oh and Patrick Wilson limps across the dry and scraggly wilderness in terrible torment for half an hour.
The Hateful Eight. It’s The Bad, The Ugly, and The Very Ugly. In his previous films Quentin Tarantino set the bar for gore, violence and offensive language very high, and here he vaults over it with ease. Is it worth it? Set in post-Civil War USA, it’s a clever commentary on race relations in contemporary America. Structurally it’s very similar to one of Tarantino’s early films, Reservoir Dogs. It’s often hilarious, but we felt guilty for laughing. Kurt Russell has cornered the market on western roles; he is joined by Samuel L. Jackson, Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh who should be compelled to appear in more movies, Walton Goggins from Justified, and Channing Tatum, whose arrival we greeted with “Ay! May artista!”
…and retrieves our childhood from the garbage bin where it has languished since those prequels that we never have to mention ever again because it’s like they never happened. If you’ve been curbing your enthusiasm until the reviews come in, this is all you need to know: It doesn’t suck!! We want to see it again! Thank you, J.J. Abrams, and we’re sorry we had no faith. Now run to the cinema because you have exactly one week to see it before the MMFF opens (though I suppose it will continue to screen at IMAX theatres).
The truth is, we went to the Uniqlo-sponsored premiere for the free T-shirt.
When it was announced a couple of years ago that a new set of Star Wars movies would be made and J.J. Abrams would be in charge, we refused to get excited. Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us, fool us thrice, freeze us in carbonite. Four times: that’s not going to happen. So we claimed our excellent Uniqlo T-shirts and chose the ones with no Star Wars logo so we had deniability. (“Oh, this is a Star Wars T-shirt? We just liked the design.”) Listen, after those prequels the bar was so low that if we didn’t feel like bludgeoning the filmmakers unconscious with a miniature of the Millennium Falcon, we would count it a success. So to find that The Force Awakens is actually pretty good—wow. As Ricky put it, today we are 11.