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Every so often, a movie will come around that is a perfect encapsulation of several of my interests. These films are relatively rare, but when they do turn up, I can’t help but be thrilled. Of course, there’s always the chance that I will be disappointed.

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” was one such rarity. And happily, I was far from disappointed.

The film – directed by Joel Coen from his own adaptation of the William Shakespeare play and starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand – is a wonderful collection of things that I love. I love the works of Shakespeare. I love the films of the Coen brothers (and yes, it’s just Joel this time, but still). I love the talents of both Washington and McDormand. And I love the idea that there’s still room in the current marketplace for this type of movie – a stylized black-and-white adaptation of a classic starring capital-M capital-S Movie Stars.

After a limited theatrical release, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” made its way to Apple TV+, where it lays in wait to pounce upon you with one of the starkest, strangest and saddest new films you’re likely to encounter. Possessed of a stunning throwback aesthetic and driven by phenomenal performances, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in ages.

Published in Movies

There’s nothing quite like a Wes Anderson movie.

The writer/director has carved out an auteur space all his own, a space unlike that occupied by anyone else in American cinema. His films are exquisitely and meticulously constructed, so finely tuned and detailed that they play almost as kinetic dioramas. Each screen picture is built and presented just so, resulting in films packed with moments and images that linger in the memory.

“The French Dispatch” is Anderson’s latest, a film about a magazine intended to be an analog for The New Yorker. It makes total sense – the magazine shares many of Anderson’s tendencies toward specificity of presentation and an inherent preciousness that appeals to those of a certain mindset while also reading to others as pretention.

At any rate, that structural framework allows Anderson to do something he’s never really done before – an anthology film. And that separated story structure also allows him to pack even more talented and wildly famous performers than usual into this film’s 108 minutes or so, all while unspooling a trio of compelling tales, each of which is rich enough to hold up on its own as well as part of the larger whole.

Published in Movies
Monday, 22 February 2021 14:17

Hit the road with ‘Nomadland’

It’s always intriguing to watch a movie that blurs the lines between fiction and truth. Now, I’m not talking about “based on” or “inspired by” films – though one could argue that they partake in their own line blurring – but rather films that fold together the real and the fictional. Films that evoke that cinema verité vibe without being true documentaries.

That sort of vague and vaguely-explained categorization – it’s tough to articulate, but you know it when you see it – precisely and perfectly encapsulates Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland.” The film – written, directed, edited and produced by Zhao – is adapted from Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.”

It’s a story about the road-roaming lifestyle adopted by an increasing number of people – older, middle-class folks – who have been forced out of their homes and into a nomadic lifestyle by the unfortunate realities of late-stage capitalism. The companies for whom they spent years working are gone, their homes and savings destroyed by the mortgage and banking crises. To survive, they move into vans and RVs and follow seasonal work – Amazon distribution centers and campgrounds and national parks and the like – gradually becoming part of the ever-growing subculture.

It also – aside from a pair of incredible actors (Frances McDormand and David Strathairn) at its center – is populated almost wholly by people playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, actual livers of the nomadic lifestyle.

That bringing together of the fictional and the factual is what pushes Zhao’s film into the realm of greatness, an intimate epic of the American west as experienced by those who have been left behind by one or more of this country’s 21st century economic collapses and rebirths. It is quiet and expansive all at once, a film enamored of the broad openness of the landscape while gently acknowledging how easy it is for individual lives to get lost in the vastness that is America.

Published in Adventure
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:43

‘Isle of Dogs’ is doggone good

Full disclosure: I’m in the bag for Wes Anderson. From “Bottle Rocket” right on through the years, I’ve been onboard with his quirky unorthodoxy. To my mind, he’s made solid contact with every film he’s ever made, even if he hasn’t necessarily hit a home run every time out.

That being said, “Isle of Dogs” is in fact a home run.

Published in Movies

It’s Oscar time again!

This year marks the 90th Academy Awards. 90 years of Hollywood’s biggest night of self-celebration and self-congratulation. 90 years of dazzling gowns and dapper tuxedos and impactful acceptance speeches and inane interviews on the red carpet. 90 years of excitement and disappointment.

As someone who loves the movies, I love the Oscars. Sure, they’ve grown increasingly out of touch over the years (though there’s been some solid bounceback in the last few). So what? There’s something exciting about rewarding the best of the best – even if what seems like the best of the best today might not seem so great later on down the road.

This marks the 11th Oscar preview I’ve written for The Maine Edge. I’ve been doing this for over a decade. And while I’ve gotten pretty good at determining just who is going to win, the reality is that there are always going to be some surprises. Hell, just look at last year, when “La La Land” was the winner for Best Picture … until it wasn’t.

OK, so maybe we won’t see THAT big a surprise this time around, but that’s the joy of it – you just never know.

Here’s a look at my predictions. I've included write-ups for the big ones - the four acting categories, director and Best Picture - and just picked the winners for the rest.

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Published in Cover Story

This year marks the 75th awarding of the Golden Globes, honoring the best in film and television as determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

It also marks the first time that I’ve attempted to predict them.

Despite having devoted considerable energies to Academy Awards previews over the past decade, I’d never undertaken to predict their earlier, often portentous peers. Sure, the Globes might not have the same gravitas as the Oscars, but they still warrant at least a little attention.

(Note: While the Golden Globes recognize television as well as film, my focus is on the cinematic side of things. So while I made picks in all categories, I only went in depth on the cinematic side of things.)

Let’s go to the Globes.

Published in Movies

Stories of loss are difficult to tell. Finding ways to convey the notion of grief without succumbing to sentimentality or devolving into the maudlin – particularly on-screen – can prove trying to even the most accomplished filmmaker.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:21

Promised Land' less than promising

Film offers heavy-handed message, not much else

It's always intriguing when a number of Hollywood's heavy hitters get together to work on something especially a pet project. Sometimes, it's a story that they have always wanted to tell. Sometimes, it's just an excuse to go on a working vacation with their buddies. And sometimes, they just want to remind you that they care about stuff.

The first one usually bears positive fruit; if nothing else, the superstar got to prove his or her mettle. The second one is hit ('Ocean's 11') or miss ('Couples Retreat'). And the third one? The third is almost never a good idea. That's when they're looking to impart a 'message.'

Published in Movies

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