Screening Room: ‘Macbeth’

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair / Hover through the fog and filthy air" (Weinstein Company)
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair / Hover through the fog and filthy air” (Weinstein Company)

It’s been awhile since anybody has dared make a film of the Scottish Play. Maybe the curse is finally over? In any case, you could do much worse than Michael Fassbender as the ambitious Thane and Marion Cotillard as the scheming Lady Macbeth.

macbeth1A new and very atmospheric Macbeth opens this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

Soaked in foggy Highland gloom, Justin Kurzel’s beautifully dour Macbeth is moody and violent to a fault. Nobody cracks a smile and there’s nary a drop of blood spilled that isn’t captured in slow-motion flight like an outtake from some Ridley Scott medieval sword-fest. That’s all on the page, of course. Nobody would say that the Scottish Play had to be done as comedy. But there’s a reason that some adaptations embed a bitter strain of farce amidst all the plotting, haunting, murder and madness. After all, its protagonists spend a good part of the play completely out of their heads and throwing an entire nation into civil war because of what some witches told them. While their delusions have real-life consequences, to take them entirely seriously is to risk missing at least part of the point…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Two Days, One Night’

(IFC Films)
‘Two Days, One Night’ (IFC Films)

twodaysonenight-posterIn the latest film from the Dardennes brothers, Marion Cotillard deglams to play a factory worker who has to fight for her job in a particularly grueling way.  Hopefully, it’ll be the odds-on favorite for the Oscars next year.

Two Days, One Night opens on Christmas Eve in limited release and should expand around the country in the new year. My review is at Film Racket:

In the nervy pressure cooker Two Days, One Night, a hollow-eyed Belgian factory worker tries to convince her co-workers to keep her on at the company instead of getting a raise. The narrative is similar to those gladiator entertainments — see who wins and who goes home — but it’s structured around a different impulse. Here the protagonist is trying to succeed by convincing the other characters to listen to their altruistic instincts. It’s not the sort of thing people normally bet on…

The trailer is here:

Department of Awards: ‘Boyhood’ the Best Film of 2014

Dreaming of greatness, or just dreaming, in 'Boyhood' (IFC Films)
Dreaming of greatness, or just dreaming, in ‘Boyhood’ (IFC Films)

Earlier today, New York Film Critics Online—a group that quite generously includes yours truly in its membership—met to hash out the most notable films, filmmakers, and performers in various categories during 2014.

In short, Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood won for best picture and in two other categories, with Alejandro Inarritu’s meta-fictional satire Birdman tied at three wins. Other films like The Imitation Game and particularly The Grand Budapest Hotel received many votes in particular categories but ultimately couldn’t pull out a win. (Note that last year, NYFCO chose 12 Years a Slave as best film, and it went on to win the Oscar … just saying.)

The Hollywood Reporter noted the proceedings, as did award news mavens GoldDerby and The Wrap.

Here’s the full reckoning of what we as a group liked best from 2014, broken down first by category and then our annual Top 10 list; note that several of them (Unbroken, A Most Violent Year, Selma, and Two Days, One Night) won’t get released until Christmas or later this year:

  • Best Picture — Boyhood
  • Best Director — Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Best Actor — Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
  • Best Actress — Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
  • Best Supporting Actor — J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
  • Best Supporting Actress — Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Best Screenplay — Birdman
  • Best Cinematography — Birdman
  • Best Breakthrough Performance — Jack O’Connell, Starred Up and Unbroken
  • Best Use of Music — Get On Up
  • Best Debut Director — Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
  • Best Ensemble Cast — Birdman
  • Best Foreign Language Film — Two Days, One Night
  • Best Documentary — Life Itself
  • Best Animated Film — The Lego Movie

The Top 10 Films of 2014

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Imitation Game
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Mr. Turner
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Under the Skin
  • Whiplash

Now Playing: ‘The Immigrant’

Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Immigrant' (Weinstein Company)
Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix in ‘The Immigrant’ (Weinstein Company)

theimmigrant-posterThe newest lovesick melodrama from James Gray is a gorgeously-shot period piece about an immigrant woman (Marion Cotillard) caught between two dueling performers (Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner) as she desperately tries to free her sister from quarantine on Ellis Island.

The Immigrant is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

James Gray’s relentlessly, intoxicatingly melodramatic period love triangle The Immigrant starts on a passenger ship docking at Ellis Island in 1921 and never gets much further than the teeming tenements and seamy fleshpots of Lower East Side. It’s a claustrophobic story, appropriate to the heated-up emotions at play and the specter of a poisoned, dangerous Old World waiting for the heroine should she fail to find a place in the New. Like Gray’s other New York potboilers like We Own the Night and The YardsThe Immigrant is a stubbornly old-fashioned lovesick tale in which the bonds of passion and family are stretched to their snapping point…

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘Rust and Bone’

rust-and-bone-posterAttracting strangely little attention from the best-of-year listmakers and odds-on awards types, the tough-souled French tearjerker Rust and Bone features a couple of the best performances you’ll see this year outside of The Master:

Marion Cotillard might seem the one to watch in Jacques Audiard’s melodrama, Rust and Bone. She is the movie star, after all, playing a character who suffers a shocking injury and an emotionally convoluted road to recovery. But as her cohort in pain, Matthias Schoenaerts makes the deeper impression. Together, they create a deeply etched study in punishments and limits, in what the body and the soul can endure…

My full review is at PopMatters.

You can see the full trailer here: