My View: The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) R A Scottish lord (Denzel Washington) is convinced that he will be King after being visited by a trio of witches. His ambitious wife (Frances McDormand) eggs him on, and Macbeth’s act of seizing power will lead to madness and death. As a kid growing up in the theatre, I have seen a lot of Shakespeare both on the stage and on the screen, and I can say that this is one of the most beautiful and thrilling productions I have ever seen. At times the film feels like you are front row of a stage production, with its minimalist sets and stark lighting, but then Denzel and Frances fill your screen with performances that jump out at you and grab you by the throat, and you realize you are witnessing brilliance and unmatched artistry. Directed by Joel Cohen, the film is shot in beautiful black and white, making the film feel like an instant classic while using all the tricks of current cinema to make the film flow effortlessly. One of the things I loved about this film is the interpretations of the Lord and Lady Macbeth. Washington’s Macbeth is a man who is weary of living in the shadows, and his lust for power drives him into madness, a madness that he seems to have no control over. McDormand’s Lady Macbeth is different altogether, a woman who plots and schemes, knowing full what she is asking her husband to do and damn the consequences. The supporting cast is flawless, with Brendan Gleeson playing King Duncan, a man loved by his men, making his murder that much more powerful, and Kathryn Hunter playing all three of the ‘weird sisters,’ the witches that foretell what will come. Add in a much-needed bit of comic relief by Steven Root, and the film is filled with performances that will thrill and marvel you. So sit back and watch with wonder and amazement a story that still has the power to thrill you to the core. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again The Tragedy of Macbeth Website Now playing in select theatres and available on the Apple TV+ platform on Jan. 14th.
My View: Passing (2021) PG-13 Irene (Tessa Thompson) seems to have everything she has wanted. She lives in a nice house in a prosperous section of Harlem, with her two sons and her husband, Brian (Andre Holland), a successful doctor. But Irene isn’t happy, and this is brought out by a chance meeting with Clare (Ruth Negga), someone she was once friends with in high school. Clare is living a secret life; she is living as a white person, married to a racist (Alexander Skarsgard) who is clueless to Clare’s real identity. When we first meet Irene, she travels around shopping in New York due to her light skin, but the difference is Irene does it as a necessary way to go to shops that wouldn’t let her in if they knew her race. Passing is a story of two women who are not comfortable in the lives that they have created for themselves. Beautifully shot in black and white, we follow the two women as they become close, but there is always a barrier between the two, with Irene wanting what Clare has and Clare wanting to disappear into the life of Harlem. The film centers on Irene’s life, as she deals with a husband who wants to move to a foreign country, where he feels he can be free of living in a society that allows blacks to be hung for looking at a white person the wrong way. While the film centers on Irene, it's the performance of Ruth Negga that makes this film worth watching. Negga gives a mesmerizing performance of a woman who lives a life full of lies but is willing to lose everything for a friendship that she desperately wants and needs. My Rating: Full Price Passing Website Now playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Storm Lake (2021) Documentary about Art Cullen, who with his family and friends put out a twice-weekly paper, the Storm Lake Times, in a small town in Iowa. Shot during a time when small-town newspapers are dying at an incredible pace, this tiny newspaper tries to continue to serve its community and be a voice for the farmer and for democracy. I grew up with a father who, on a typical day, would read three or four newspapers in a day, so I have always loved local newspapers, the smaller, the better. I often would ask friends traveling the country to bring me back a newspaper from their hometown, loving to read about the latest news about store openings, bar-b-cues, and the always happening beauty pageant or talent show. We follow Art, who writes an opinion piece for each issue, his wife, who is in charge of local events, things she calls the ‘happy news,’ and Art’s son, who covers local politics. It’s a fascinating world of a paper that is holding on by a thread to keep going, even when the paper wins the Pulitzer Prize (which, by the way, hurt the paper locally). I loved this look at everyday life in a small town, where a store owner agonizes over running two ads or one, pondering if the extra 50 dollars will pay off in sales. The film is helped by the Democratic Iowa caucus, which meant that a lot of important politicians visited Storm Lake to try and propel their campaigns (Pete Buttigieg comes off the best of the parade of wannabe presidents). So pull up a chair and sit down to watch a small staff work their butts off to put out the best paper they possibly can while still covering that baby pig in a diaper visiting an elementary school. My Rating: Full Price Storm Lake Website Now available on demand including for rent/purchase on the Amazon Prime platform.
My View: Mother/Android (2021) Georgia (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sam (Algee Smith) should be happy as they are about to have a baby. The problem is the world has changed overnight as the androids built to serve mankind have turned on the human population. Now Georgian and Sam must go on a treacherous journey through the No-Man’s Land, a stronghold of the android uprising, in order for their baby to be born in safety. I liked the beginning of the story on how the android revolt started, but the film takes forever to get to any action sequences, and we spend a lot of time with Georgia and Sam talking to each other about baby names and how to get to Boston. The twist is something that you see from a mile away, and the film never delivers the punch to the gut that it desperately wants you to feel. Except for some nice chemistry between the two leads, this is a pretty bland attempt of an end of the world plot. My Rating: Cable Mother/Android Website Now available on the Hulu platform.
Forgotten Film: Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017) Joan Didion was a fantastic writer, someone who could go from writing a screenplay to a novel to a series of essays without breaking a sweat, and all were interesting and sometimes brilliant. All the while, she was married to another brilliant writer. John Gregory Dunne, as they edited each other’s work. This documentary is directed by the actor Griffin Dunne, who happens to be Didion’s nephew. He uses his connection and affection for Joan to get her to open up, sometimes shockingly frank, about her life. Didion was destined to be a writer, given a journal by her mother at age five, and she never stopped writing, giving us some of the most moving and amazing work, mainly dealing with what she experienced in her life. This is a fascinating documentary about a woman who just recently passed, a woman who wrote like her life depended on it. The documentary gives us a glimpse into a life filled with glamour, Hollywood stars coming in and out of her life like the parties that she used to have. Her life was also filled with sadness, in a marriage to a man who was often angry at her and the world, and in quick succession, she lost her husband and her adopted daughter in the span of a couple of years, only to write about it in the award-winning book The Year of Magical Thinking. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a beautiful and fascinating look at a complex woman who would touch the world with her writing. My Rating: Full Price Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shakespeare Consultant
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: I Want You Back (2022) R Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) meet by chance on a day that both of them got dumped. They decide to become a team to get back the ‘loves of their lives by breaking up their old partner's new relationships. What could go wrong? I can’t wait to see this rom-com because I have been a huge fan of Jenny Slate since her breakthrough starring role in Obvious Child (2014). I Want You Back Website
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