My Sundance 2019

February 11, 2019

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We played tag with the polar vortex this year: we barely got out of Dodge and spent an hour on the tarmac as horizontal snow poured, plows worked the runway, and we were de-iced. The next day there were subzero wind chills in New York, but we were already out West, where we missed a huge snowfall and came back just before Park City slipped into the teens. By that time it was damn near balmy back home. I like weather that cooperates.

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THE TOMORROW MAN*** (World Premiere) The first feature by Noble Jones, a veteran of music videos and second-unit crews (including THE SOCIAL NETWORK). It’s a romance, fairly b-flat in structure, but with one interesting twist: the couple are seniors. John Lithgow is an end-of-the-world “prepper” who spends his money on survivalist goods rather than the medications he needs, and Blythe Danner is still suffering from the long-ago trauma of losing her daughter. These sad sacks clearly need some help, and they find it in each other. There are complications, of course — boy has to lose girl in the classic plot — but they’re back together for a startling ending you’ll remember more than the body of the picture. 

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LIGHT FROM LIGHT** An investigator of paranormal events, a single mom who has had dreams that predict the future, is introduced to a new widower who suspects that his wife is haunting their farmhouse. This is a quiet movie which is all about mood, with tightly controlled performances by Marin Ireland and Jim Gaffigan that fairly blend into the east Tennessee setting. Their characters are full of regret but cling to the possibility of discovering something outside their understanding. This film is less chilling than it is calming, and that can wear on the viewer. 

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SHARE*** (Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting: Rhianne Barreto) Lately there have been interesting attempts by artists to address the effect of social media on youth culture. It’s a phenomenon that’s still developing, but films like SEARCHING, EIGHTH GRADE and INGRID GOES WEST at least manage to propose the topic. Here, a high-school sophomore has too much to drink at a party, and cell-phone videos of her half-dressed and incoherent go viral but she can’t remember a thing. Who took them? Did anything worse happen? Should she bring the law into this situation? Will she ever be able to live it down? Writer-director Pippa Bianco and a delicate performance by Rhianne Barreto peg the girl’s confusion and disorientation as the situation metastasizes at electronic speed. Compellingly, she is surrounded by people with good intentions, including her parents, but it’s as if you first have to identify a problem before you can begin to solve it offline.

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THE MUSTANG*** (World Premiere) A hulking convict who shuns human contact enters a rehabilitation program in which prisoners train wild mustangs in the Nevada desert. As he becomes a horseman, he discovers that he can see himself in the eyes of a particularly unruly animal. I guess the astonishing THE RIDER spoiled me, because despite the best efforts of all concerned, I had a little trouble buying the training process: to me, it felt like five minutes or so was missing. One moment he manages to touch his horse, then the cut is to him riding with a saddle — we didn’t get to see any gradual progress. Still, Matthias Schoenaerts does a fine job in the lead, even a lot of convincing riding. Though this is a work of fiction, there are actual programs like this in several states in the Southwest. The mustang as metaphor is a bit on-the-nose, but it contributes to a touching conclusion.

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THE FAREWELL***** My favorite movie this year. As a title card explains, it’s “based on a true lie.” The beloved grandmother of an assimilated Chinese-American woman is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, but per Chinese custom her relatives decide not to tell her so that her final days will be happy ones. Instead, they schedule a wedding back in China which will also serve as a reunion — and, secretly, a chance to say goodbye to “Nai Nai.” This situation actually happened to writer-director Lulu Wang (thus the “true lie”), and the notion of grandma giddy with delight at being surrounded by far-off family while everyone else is choking back tears lends itself to both guffaws and sniffles in Wang’s deft hands. Awkwafina is terrific as the director’s surrogate. Much of the picture takes place in China and is in Mandarin with subtitles (the American family is fluent in English but nobody much else is). But despite the exotic location and the language barrier (and of course the central custom which does not translate to the West), you’re constantly made aware of the universality of human experience. You discover much more in common with this Eastern clan than differences: this could be your family. 

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TO THE STARS**** In a small Oklahoma town in the mid-Sixties, a mousy schoolgirl strikes up a friendship with the new girl, a charismatic charmer who coaxes her inner self forward. That’s the bare-bones description, but this beautiful film is far more subtle. At the edge of the coming-of-age story is the role of women in what might as well be the Fifties but is soon about to change. The actress Kara Hayward, who plays the nerd, is actually gorgeous, and is debeautified until she can blossom on camera, but we have come to accept that in the fantasy world of the movies. The sublime black-and-white cinematography makes it look as if the picture had been shot during the period. It’s an actor’s piece, with fine work by everyone, but particularly affecting is Tony Hale, playing way against type.

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BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON**** (Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic) A fictionalized version of writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s real-life best friend is a “hot mess” who finally gets tired of fat-shaming and begins training to run the New York City Marathon along with two pals. It doesn’t go smoothly. She is played to perfection by Jillian Bell, who kicks everything off with a brilliant bit of wise-assy rat-a-tat improv as she tears tickets at an off-off-Broadway theater. From there humor and pathos swirl around each other (Colaizzo is an award-winning playwright and it shows) as we cross our fingers in honor of the young woman’s grit and determination. There are some prosthetics used in the earliest scenes, but Bell actually took weight off during the shoot. This is a real crowd pleaser and will be a tonic for anyone who doesn’t yet accept that, yes, you can take charge of your own life.

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TROOP ZERO** (World Premiere) This movie is so derivative that you can actually pitch it as a High Concept: “REVENGE OF THE NERDS, but with Brownies.” We’re in rural Georgia in 1977, and a nine-year-old moppet who’s obsessed with space discovers that the winner of the upcoming “Birdie Jamboree” talent show will get to record a message to any ETs for NASA’s Voyager project. At first she tries to join the existing troop, but she’s far too unhip for the snobbish Birdies, so she uses a loophole in their rules to form her own ragtag troop of lovable misfits, etc etc. The flick’s greatest asset is a glowing Mckenna Grace as the young instigator. The likes of Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan and Allison Janney (as the snooty school principal) cannot rise above the material, which nevertheless may very well be enjoyable and even empowering for girls of the troop’s age.

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THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND**** (World Premiere) (Alfred P. Sloan Prize) A terrific true story of ingenuity and determination, written and directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who makes you mad that somebody who looks that good can also be that talented. A young boy in Malawi, raised by hardscrabble farmers (the director plays his father), shows tremendous aptitude in school, particularly in the area of electronics. When forest-clearing and poor weather conspire to cause a famine, he researches a possible solution in the school library, even surreptitiously after he is expelled because his parents can no longer afford tuition. Ejiofor draws a heartbreaking picture of a good man who understands the value of education for his children, but has no time for theoretics when he’s trying to stave off starvation. Dick Pope’s location cinematography is gorgeous, and Maxwell Simba in the title role is a real find. 

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EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE*** (World Premiere) The documentarian Joe Berlinger dramatizes the multi-state rampage of pretty-boy serial killer Ted Bundy, with pretty-boy Zach Efron doing the acting honors. But for the most part the camera averts its eye from murder and mayhem in favor of Ted’s longtime relationship with single mom Liz Kloepfer (Lily Collins), who only gradually begins to realize that the wonderful, daughter-loving law student she’s been seeing might actually be a vicious sociopath. Efron’s Bundy seems over the top until some of the actual footage (his murder trial in Florida was the first one covered by a camera) during the end-credit roll reveals that, as far as the public appearances, Berlinger is more replicating than inventing. The title comes from the mouth of Bundy’s judge, played here by John Malkovich. This movie is well made but only intermittently interesting, unless you really care to know what it was like to be Ted Bundy’s girlfriend. Bundy’s dual personality (he’s a lady-killer in more ways than one, but only the public face is presented here: you have to infer the monster) gives Efron a lot to chew on, and he masticates his ass off.

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THE REPORT**** (World Premiere) Behind the scenes as Senate staffers investigate the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program instigated after 9/11. Adam Driver plays Daniel Jones, a driven aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening, very fine), who becomes ever more scandalized by the use of “EIT,” or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the CIA’s infamous euphemism for torture. Writer-director Scott Z. Burns shows just enough horrifying EIT in flashback to give us the idea without descending into torture porn, but this is mainly a bureaucratic battle, one yobbo against a powerful army of stonewalling spooks. The great Ted Levine is the film’s smarmy bad guy — the CIA director! As we now know, EIT are brutal, immoral and ineffective, even though there are still some die-hard fans today (Donald Trump seems to be one). I knew very little about the machinations behind how we came to understand the atrocities which were once perpetrated in our names, and though this is not a documentary, it gave me a better idea of the enormity of the struggle.

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LATE NIGHT**** (World Premiere) A charming confection that should be very popular, thanks to star power and a familiar subject: tv talk shows. In this movie fantasy world, there is a female late-night host, played by Emma Thompson with hilarious crotchety imperiousness (she assigns numbers to her writers so she won’t have to remember their names). She has had a long, successful run but is showing signs of creative decay, so is goaded into a writers-room “diversity hire,” a funny young woman of color played by the movie’s screenwriter, Mindy Kaling. You can tell where the story’s going to go within the first five minutes, but it’s still fun to see it happen, and Thompson is obviously having a wonderful time as the Cruella de Vil of television. The script is very sharp and full of insider authenticity. It’s the closest thing to a commercial slam-dunk that I saw this year.

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THE SOUVENIR* (Grand Jury Prize: World Dramatic) One of those jury mysteries that reminded Sundance old-timers of the notorious PRIMER, which inexplicably won two awards fifteen years ago. This turgid, improvisatory goulash is about a naive filmmaker who has the misfortune to share her first love affair with a horrible person who soaks her dry financially and emotionally. The actress is Tilda Swinton’s daughter, and mom also appears. Watching this movie is a debilitating chore; it feels twice as long as it is. And for one final shock, get this: according to IMDb, there’s a sequel in pre-production!

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ONE CHILD NATION**** (Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary) A fascinating and frightening documentary on the effects of China’s One Child Policy, which forcibly restricted family size for more than thirty years for fear of overpopulation, but was then rescinded when it had the opposite effect. Directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang emphasize the tragedy visited on individual human beings. The concept of being prohibited from raising more than one child is almost incomprehensible to Americans, but the loss of that freedom is only the first of the consequences, many of them horrific. Forced sterilization is rampant. Unauthorized infants, nearly all girls, are abandoned in public markets so frequently that a cottage adoption industry forms. One woman who was responsible for thousands of state-sponsored abortions, even murders, bears such a burden that she became a midwife and now strives to bring forth lives that she once ended. The relentless propaganda machine that supported this policy is on view, with freshly-scrubbed performers spouting the party line in song. Wang, a new mother herself, has her child in tow as she learns secrets from her own family’s past, making her investigation intensely personal. An eye-opening revelation about a holocaust that happened under Westerners’ radar.

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CLEMENCY**** (Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic) A searing drama about capital punishment. It begins with a botched execution, shown in detail so we get familiar with the procedure, which will be vital at the climax. Alfre Woodard is the female (a nice touch, courtesy of director-screenwriter Chinonye Chukwu) warden of a maximum-security prison, and she has presided over so much sanctioned carnage that it’s eating away at her soul. It’s becoming harder to snap out of it and relate to her husband (a terrific Wendell Pierce). Meanwhile, the next final date is looming for an inmate with whom the warden is forming a personal bond — always counterindicated on death row. Prison dramas are full of meaty parts, but I was really struck by Aldis Hodge as the inmate; he’s been working for some time now but I’d never seen him before. He’s sensational in this flick. Chukwu maintains a foreboding intensity that never lets up, even when we mercifully escape the prison for domestic scenes at the warden’s home. A fine job.

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KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE*** (Audience Award: U.S. Documentary) A fly-on-the-wall look at the long-shot candidacies of four women in the 2018 midterm elections. We watch them campaigning, speaking, working the phones, juggling home life with the all-consuming challenges they have accepted. The bad news is that three of the women — Amy Vilela in Nevada, Cori Bush in Missouri and Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia — lost their elections. The good news is that the fourth is New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I assume there’s lots of unused footage of the first three candidates, but Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning victory over ten-term incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley was the biggest upset of the year and, with the full benefit of hindsight, she dominates the movie. One thing all four women had in common were patronizing, well-connected opponents; another was the fierce conviction that the system was broken and that the solution was ordinary citizens presenting themselves for office. They were right: even the valiant campaigns of the losers make you feel better about your country.

WISH I’D SEEN: BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, HAIL SATAN?, I AM MOTHER, LITTLE MONSTERS, MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN, RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS, THEM THAT FOLLOW

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Celebrity Killed The Radio Star

January 18, 2019

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One of the most moving, most significant, most powerful books I’ve read over the last few years is mainly made up of illustrations. It’s the remarkable ALL THE ANSWERS, a “graphic memoir” by Michael Kupperman, and I strongly urge you to give it a spin.

The author is not new to me: I published Michael Kupperman’s first book, SNAKE ’N’ BACON’S CARTOON CABARET, nearly twenty years ago. We had noticed his work in such publications as the Oxford American, and every time we saw another cheerily demented comic strip we wound up wiping tears of laughter from our faces. Mike has a straight-laced, almost retro drawing style that you can tell a mile away (by now, others are obviously trying to imitate it). But the cultural melange roiling around in his brain is unique, charming and dangerous. He loves old Hollywood, old media (heavy-breathing magazine ads from the Thirties and Forties are a huge inspiration), mass marketing to innocents, deliberately absurd juxtapositions — you can’t possibly get ahead of him before you turn the page.

Either you love this stuff to death or you want to throw it across the room. Some people at the publisher where I worked were far from smitten, but to their credit they said, we don’t get it, but we get that you get it. I got the green light and set out to find the guy who signed his work “P. Revess” by calling those magazines and asking, where do you send the checks? Turned out they headed right here, to New York City, to a guy named “Michael Kupperman.” When I called him to ask about his interest in possibly doing a book, I detected a hint of suspicion, the do-you-have-Prince-Albert-in-a-can type. But I proved my bona fides and we made a deal. No agent, no nuthin.

The book sold modestly but steadily (it’s still in print after all this time, which is an achievement on its own), but more important, it introduced Mike to a growing and influential audience. Art directors loved his funky visual style: I started to see his spot illustrations in unexpected places like the New Yorker. One week he did the cover and interior color illos for the lead story in an issue of Fortune. He was all over the place outside the comics field for a while. 

He was also getting noticed in the world of comedy. Andy Richter, Conan O’Brien’s original sidekick, was such an early fan that he gave us a quote for our book cover. Conan himself called Mike “probably one of the greatest comedy brains on the planet.” Robert Smigel, who is also probably one of the greatest comedy brains on the planet, heartily agreed and adapted some wild stuff for his TV FUNHOUSE, and Michael Kupperman was officially hip. There’s since been more tv, more illustration, more comics, and in 2013 Mike won the Eisner Award, comics’ highest honor, for a fevered, off-the-scale-hilarious story about the 1969 moon landing in his book TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE.

I’ve been following Mike’s career as best I could in the years since we worked together. I’m proud of him. But nothing prepared me for this latest dazzler. It comes from someplace deep inside the artist, an excruciatingly personal corner where he hasn’t allowed us before. As the flap copy calmly states, “This is his first serious book.” 

Nearly every creative person I’ve ever encountered, myself certainly included, loves it when s/he is credited by name. A couple times I casually asked Mike why he signed a pseudonym instead and never got a straight answer. Maybe this book provides a clue. I didn’t know it, but there was a time when “Kupperman” was one of the most famous surnames in America. It belonged to an unwitting pioneer of celebrity culture, a child star whose popularity was launched and exploited by the mass medium of radio. This was Michael’s father, Joel Kupperman. He was a Quiz Kid — probably the best known Quiz Kid of them all.

Joel was a “child prodigy” when that term was new. He scored better than 200 on the Stanford-Binet test when he was only six years old. His specialty was doing complex mathematical calculations in his head; he was also a maven at trivia and remembered nearly everything he read. He was a perfect fit for QUIZ KIDS, a radio program created by broadcasting executive Louis G. Cowan (the author calls him “almost certainly the smartest person in this book”) in which children answered questions sent in by listeners. Joel’s first appearance was in 1942; he was five. 

Today Joel is a grandfather. He spent fifty years teaching and writing books about philosophy. He has been a good man, neither an abuser nor philanderer, but to his son lamentably distant. Now, before Joel succumbs to the dementia that has just been diagnosed, the young Kupperman wants to open a subject which his father has compartmentalized and never discussed: the traumatic years on QUIZ KIDS which basically stole his childhood, tormented him as he grew out of single-digit cuteness and the show migrated to television, and caused him to recoil from the whole experience. 

The complexities which intertwine to form this saga include the state of mass media in the mid-twentieth century, Joel’s stern and smothering stage mother, the role of anti-Semitism on QUIZ KIDS, the high price of fame, and most searingly, the poignant real-life relationship between a wounded father and his son, who is by now raising his own young boy. These strands dart and weave and intersect in magical ways: ALL THE ANSWERS turns on a dime from humor to heartbreak. 

It looks simple, but looks are deceiving. The pages are trimmed to 6-by-9, just like a book full of words. It’s drawn in black-and-white (as was the book we did together). The illustrative style is Kupperman-clean, with slightly more ornate chapter-heading ”splash pages,” and show off how the artist can conjure familiar people from real life with just a few economical lines (a secret cache of scrapbooks assiduously kept by Joel’s mother provides all the contemporary source material needed). The first-person narration is active, impassioned, haunting and honest, a world away from the hyperventilating wisenheimer of gonzo Kupperman comics.

The text in ALL THE ANSWERS is so clear that it serves to emphasize the rich subtext. Ideas, emotions, relationships, issues, injustices, yearnings — they all pop off the pages in deeply human ways. It appears to be hand-lettered, though I’ll bet there’s a computer involved by now, but this isn’t a comic book. It’s exactly what it claims to be: a graphic memoir. The closest cousin I can think of is Alison Bechdel’s FUN HOME, but this feels even more basic and vital, and you can’t stop comparing the World War II years — QUIZ KIDS’s golden age — with our culture today. As you read, Michael Kupperman’s very personal world expands to encompass your own. 

Artists are supposed to startle and surprise us. Boy, did this book deliver. I didn’t know Michael Kupperman had it in him. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time, especially while reading this talented man’s next outrageous bit of goofiness, which I hope comes along very soon. (He’s got an agent now.) It’ll be even more fun now that I know the guy a little better.


My 10 Favorite Theatre Pieces Of 2018

January 2, 2019

FLIGHT. One of the damndest things I ever saw in my life. You sit alone in a dark individual cubicle with headphones on. For the next 45 minutes, a series of tiny dioramas passes by inches from your face, illustrating the harrowing years-long journey of two young Afghan refugees as they try to make their way through the Mideast and Europe to London. The scenes are sequentially lit in sync with a pulse-pounding audio track voice-acted to perfection. Twenty-two others ring the giant turntable in their own cubicles. They’re all watching at other points in the story as the mechanism wheels around in its near-hour clockwise circuit. It’s amazing technically: the miniature model work is astonishing, and brilliant lighting effects and forced perspective add to the drama. It’s also amazing theatrically, because nothing — nothing — gets between you and the wrenching story (an adaptation of the novel HINTERLAND). It was produced by Vox Motus, a group of Glaswegian geniuses who killed with this piece at the Edinburgh Festival. Wow.

GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY. Bob Dylan + Conor McPherson = Sublime. It’s set in a boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan’s birthplace, but during the Great Depression, long before the bard was born; we’re in deep Woody Guthrie territory. Dylan’s songs, most but not all chosen from the Seventies and Eighties, are made to sound prettier than ever without sacrificing one ounce of grit. The tunes serve the story rather than vice versa. Sometimes the dramatic arc creates a wrenching change: “Like A Rolling Stone” is here performed as more of an elegy than Dylan’s own acerbic revenge fantasy. Other times you’re just happy to relax into the lilt of a song, as with a gorgeous “Sweetheart Like You.” (INFIDELS, well represented here, is my favorite unsung Dylan album.) It’s hard to describe. I need a cast recording to fully explain it to you. But I knew this was one of my top moments while I was sitting there

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. We couldn’t beg decent tix here in New York, so we decided to go to London over Thanksgiving to see it. (We discovered that Jimi Hendrix and G. F. Handel were next-door neighbors on that same trip!) We read the script when it was first published, but our aging brains had forgotten everything except the BIG REVEAL. (“Keep The Secrets” is the production’s mantra.) All we’d retained was the feeling that if they can reproduce this stuff on stage, we are so there. (They can, and we were.) Either you’ve bought in to Harry Potter or you haven’t. Let’s just say that there’s a generational twist which pretty much tracks the lives of the franchise’s original fans, and finally they are justifiably able to use the word “awesome!” correctly. No more details. It’s the spectacle that SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK wanted to be, and then some.

HELLO, DOLLY! It’s a rare treat to see a live musical artist who can suck the oxygen out of a room just by walking on. For me, Elvis, Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Springsteen. Now I have to add Bette Midler. This is far from my favorite musical, but Midler absolutely controlled the crowd every single second. They worship her not just for her body of work, but because this happens to be the perfect vehicle for her unique brand of showmanship. David Hyde Pierce struggled with a cold the night I saw it and was probably really good when he was at 100%, but face it, you don’t buy a ticket to see Horace Vandergelder. I wouldn’t have gone at all had some friends not goaded me into it (repeat; I’m not a big fan of the show). I would have thus let a huge opportunity get away from me. They’ll be talking about this for a long time. Jiminy crickets: what a Broadway baby.

JOHN LITHGOW: STORIES BY HEART. Sometimes the most powerful moments are the simplest — in fact, that’s precisely what makes them resonate. This is a one-man show in which the accomplished theatrical craftsman talks a little bit about his life, but mainly he tells us two stories: Ring Lardner’s “Haircut” and P. G. Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred Flits By.” The first is a masterpiece of verbal sound effects and atmosphere; Lithgow makes us hear the barber’s razor against his strop and the snip-snip of his profession as his monologue gradually tells us more about him than we really wanted to know. The second piece is one of the funniest things in the English language, and upper-class British drollery rolls off Lithgow’s tongue delightfully, to what we hope is also the delight of his father. For this is how the senior Lithgow entertained his son early in life — and during his final days the roles were reversed, using the very short-story volume which the actor brandishes on stage. So it’s an entertainment, but also deeply personal. The combination is electric.

ON BECKETT. Bill Irwin, that great actor and clown (he wears the latter description as an honor sash), leads us on a 90-minute tour through the minds of both Samuel Beckett and himself. Quoting liberally from TEXTS FOR NOTHING, WATT, THE UNNAMEABLE, and the “booger” of a masterpiece, WAITING FOR GODOT, Irwin opens his own heart and presents a difficult artist’s genius before us in a way that anyone can understand and appreciate. Plus there is the physical clowning, which in Irwin’s self-directed hands is the throughput of the show. The highly informed earnestness reminded me of how deeply my friend John Maxwell was affected by the work of William Faulkner, so much so that he felt compelled to tell others about it, and so we came to write a theatrical monologue together that wound up changing the course of his life. I sense that same inner gravitas here. I am dying to see the next production of GODOT that comes my way, because Irwin has opened up so much depth to me. He also gave me an inkling into what it’s like to choose acting as a passion and profession, undressing simple technique and then injecting real artistry, with Beckett’s newly fraught words as a backdrop. The prose is sometimes so impenetrable that you just have to zone out and enjoy sheer musicality without parsing for meaning, but your interest never wanes. Tiny theater (the Irish Rep), big concepts. We left stunned, grateful, and happy.

SAKINA’S RESTAURANT. I saw this only two days after the Bill Irwin, so, with Lithgow, I have to say this year one-man shows frickin ruled. Aasif Mandvi (you may recognize him from THE DAILY SHOW) first mounted this beauty twenty years ago, and it hasn’t aged a day. He appears as Azgi, an Indian who has the chance to move to New York and work at a family restaurant. Then, one by one, he morphs into the restaurant’s owner, his wife, the place’s namesake daughter, her fiancé, etc. It’s the immigrant experience from deep inside an “America” (presciently, never “United States”) that most can never apprehend. Like most improv artists, Mandvi is first and foremost an actor, able to clothe a completely new character with nothing more than a scarf and precise body language. This production is part of Audible’s solo theatrical series, so if you dig down deep into the internets, you will find a way to hear it. I wish you could have been there to see it.

THREE TALL WOMEN. Great work by three terrific actors in this revival of a Pulitzer winner, but the revelation is that Glenda Jackson has become a grande dame! She owned this show; she was utterly magnificent as the eldest incarnation of the same person. Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill, as her earlier selves, are aces too. We were in the front row and Ms. Pill expectorated upon us with a plosive P, but we didn’t mind. Joe Mantello’s wonderful staging cleverly collapsed the play’s two acts into one. I took this picture of Paul Gallo’s lovely set afterwards. 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I knew this was going to be easy for critics to pick apart, and the day after opening the New York Times’s Jesse Green (the raver) and the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout (the grouch) published diametrically opposed reviews, even down to their views of a more slavish 1991 staging that Teachout preferred to this one. Aaron Sorkin has fooled around a bit with Harper Lee’s immortal source novel, going straight to the trial and cutting away periodically, and he’s made some background characters firmer in their resolve. But the heart of the book and its moral tutelage remain pure in his fine adaptation. The three children at the story’s center are played by adults, but the conceit works. Jeff Daniels, who used to spit out Sorkinisms as a broadcaster on HBO’S THE NEWSROOM, brings a James-Stewart everyman quality to Atticus Finch, a Southerner who tries to see the good inside even his tormentors. I think it was time for this play to appear; I heard gasps from audience members who clearly were not familiar with the story. I’ll bet some of them are later moved to pick up the book.

TWELFTH NIGHT. A joyous populist adaptation with clever, tuneful music and lyrics by Shaina Taub (center), who also plays Feste, the clown. There were a dozen or so pros in the main roles, and then an ensemble of about 100 (kids, vets, caregivers, ex-cons, deaf actors, and more) culled from arts & educational organizations all over the five boroughs — split into two groups which played on alternate nights during the show’s five-week run. The 23 songs are original but feel confident and alive. Each Labor Day a similar production is mounted by the Public Theater’s Public Works project, but this year they got the whole theater as the second featured slot in the summer’s Free Shakespeare in the Park program. ASL is gorgeously treated as choreography throughout; the feeling of joy and empowerment washes off the stage and into the audience, which has already spent the pre-show minutes up on stage at an “Illyrian street fair” with cast members. There will certainly be snobs who object to the 100-minute brevity and the songs, which help audience members keep up with the plot. But this is a visual demonstration of what the Public is all about, and it’s nothing short of thrilling. Shaina Taub will one day be a household name in the theater: she’s that good. But these insistent tableaux of affirmation and achievement constantly erupt. They couldn’t possibly happen anywhere else than right before your eyes. And all of this took place outdoors on a fine summer night in Central Park. Magfrickinificent.

ALSO NOTABLE: THE DEAD, 1904 (you go inside James Joyce’s famous dinner party as a guest!); THE FERRYMAN (a stout Irish family drama which will seduce you and then impale you); THE HARD PROBLEM (Tom Stoppard is an international treasure); KING KONG (ape scenes only, but ALL the ape scenes, especially the one in which Kong shambles WAY downstage to violate the audience’s space); NETWORK (for Bryan Cranston and some hip video effects, otherwise I preferred the movie in almost every way); THE WAVERLY GALLERY (I usually avoid “senile dementia“ stories b/c they cut too close to home, but Kenneth Lonergan nailed both the humor and the horror, and that was Elaine Frickin May up there!)

 

My Favorite Theatre In:

2017


Mex Without Tex

December 14, 2018

In Oaxaca I wanted to make sure to do two things: eat grasshoppers and drink mezcal. Nailed em both. 

The tiniest hoppers taste and chew like very salty sunflower seeds. They’re a great source of protein and may become one of the precious few remaining if Exxon & pals manage to ravage the rest of the biosphere. Get used to it. I did.

As I learned, mezcal — the speciality of the state of Oaxaca — is not tequila, though both come from the same agave plant (and the part you need is buried underground, it looks like a huge pineapple when uncovered). But the place we visited treated its wares more like wine: we had a tasting of five or six different pours, each of which came from a different strain of agave, and we could really tell the difference! (No worms in the bottle, but if you insist, you can enjoy chopped agave worms at any decent restaurant.)

We went to the woodcarving shop where Miguel’s mom from COCO actually works! Well, the model on which Pixar’s pixies based the character. (They spent four years in Oaxaca researching the movie.) But shoot, she was off that day. 

I did learn that my spiritual animal is the coyote. Each visitor was assigned their animal based on the day and date of birth. Exit thru the gift shop — but, si, it worked, there is a tiny carved coyote in my home today. And at a magnificent pottery studio I saw a Day Of The Dead skull which I took home too.

There are many more artisans in and around Oaxaca City, including some of the finest weavers you will ever behold. And the Mexican food is astonishing because everything is pure and fresh. (Still, you have to be careful with the tap water.) 

One year ago we were watching COCO at one of those Barfalounger theaters in La Jolla. I think that affected our decision to visit the source. I was delighted by our found wisdom. 

Unlike all the other photos, this one was shot in my home in New York. ¡Viva Oaxaca!



H & H UK

November 28, 2018

My Number One takeaway from my most recent trip to London was an amazing one I’d never known before: George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix were next-door neighbors.

Oh, sure, two centuries separated them. But G. F. Handel spent 36 years at No. 25 Brook St. in Westminster, composing, rehearsing, performing and teaching. When Jimi moved into an adjoining flat at No. 23 in 1968, there was a plaque outside celebrating the famous Handel House. “God’s honest truth,” he said, “I haven’t heard much of the fella’s stuff. But I dig a bit of Bach now and again.” 

Now they’ve joined the two and turned it into a tourable destination called “Handel & Hendrix in London.” The feeling of cosmic confluence was, for me, a source of unending joy. I loved being there.

Mind, the Handel House is far more authentic, with relics which were actually in the maestro’s possession. Jimi’s flat — particularly his bedroom — has been basically restored and replicated from contemporary photo shoots and the memories of his then-girlfriend and de facto hostess, Kathy Etchingham. But seeing them together makes you sense the presence of a real euphonic muse, as when you consider the gifts of Tim Buckley and his son Jeff, who barely knew each other but definitely shared something mysterious and ineffable. 

Jimi went out and bought a couple of Handel albums after he moved in — you can take away a list of his entire record collection — and is it really inconceivable that if the situation had been reversed, G. F. might have done the same? I don’t know, but that’s the kind of idle thought this place provokes. I didn’t expect to be surprised by London. But she has a wealth of tricks up her sleeve, and this one is a real gobsmacker.


The Astounding Mr. Campbell

November 8, 2018

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One of the most important influences on American science fiction is a man whose name you might not recognize, but twentieth-century authors lived for his approval. He wrote one of the field’s most famous stories, but he staked out his influence and made his lasting reputation not as an author but as a magazine editor. He was John W. Campbell Jr., and he is the subject of a wonderful new biography named for the magazine he ruled. Alec Nevala-Lee’s ASTOUNDING is also the story of the early careers and diverging paths of three colorful personalities whose work Campbell personally nurtured: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard. If you like science fiction, here is a delicious backstage view, a marvelous read that is long overdue.

A technical writer and editor and budding sf author, Campbell was only 27 when by sheer luck he stumbled into the editorship of Street & Smith’s Astounding Stories of Super-Science in 1937. It had been eleven years since Hugo Gernsback (the namesake for science fiction’s highest award) founded the first “scientifiction” periodical, Amazing Stories, but the field was still typified by garish “pulp” fiction, stalwart space heroes protecting toothsome femmes menaced by tentacled horrors (the fannish term is “BEMs,” or “Bug-Eyed Monsters”), pretty much what non-devotees think it all is. More than any other individual, it was Campbell who forced the genre to grow up.

Before his ascension, the fiction published in magazines — there wasn’t yet a book-length market for sf; Campbell’s proteges helped establish one — was more about action. Campbell wanted to print stories about ideas. He had a ton of intriguing what-ifs jingling around in his mind (the best known is the paranoia-laden story of an alien shapeshifter filmed as THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, “Who Goes There?”), far more than he could use as an author, and his first great contribution was to spread them around. It was Campbell who posited the Three Laws of Robotics that Asimov made famous, and the author was always candid in assigning proper credit. Campbell is also responsible for the notion of psychohistory that undergirds Asimov’s legendary Foundation series, and for showing the young author a passage from Emerson’s “Nature”: If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore. Aficionados will instantly recognize this as the premise for Asimov’s staggering career-best story, “Nightfall.”

Asimov was a special case to Campbell, a new kid whom he could mold and shape to help change the field by emphasizing the science rather than the fiction. Heinlein, a ramrod-straight Navy veteran, and Hubbard, a hamhanded wannabe adventurer and liar of Trumpian proportions, were already established professionals, but they also benefited from Campbell’s fount of ideas and the notoriety gained through appearances in Astounding. Heinlein in particular was most comfortable at novel length, and a series of books intended for juvenile readers (they say the Golden Age of science fiction is twelve, haw haw) drew a generation of new fans to the field and to his novels for adults.

Campbell’s relationship with Hubbard was more troublesome. A prolific author who could crank out fiction at dazzling speed, Hubbard was also an accomplished hypnotist, and the remarkable potential effects of the power of suggestion led him to experiment with supposed triggers for forgotten or repressed memories. Fortified by many conversations with his editor, Hubbard developed a technique — or maybe it was only a bit of snake oil — which he called “dianetics,” and after a few early trials Campbell became a fervent acolyte and even headed a research foundation for “the modern science of mental health.” Years later, amid the foundation’s inevitable financial ruin, the two men broke up. Since a creditor legally owned the word “dianetics,” Hubbard re-cast its revelations into the new theory of Scientology, which the Internal Revenue Service now regards as a religion. Campbell never signed on.

Mr. Nevala-Lee’s narrative is authoritative — he’s an sf author himself and has clearly studied the history of his field — and as propulsive as a well-crafted novel. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch three writers crawl out of the depths of dime-store fiction to become such household names — for radically different reasons — and march on the front lines of a genre that would one day come to dominate popular culture. The historic trio had little in common but this: one proud, willful, irascible, brilliant, imperious figure who used them to carve a path into the future.


My NYFF 2018

October 15, 2018

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The New York Film Festival is a major fest in historical importance if not ballyhoo. NYFF was crucial in introducing American audiences to revolutions in world filmmaking that were themselves often inspired by Hollywood history. NYFF has never bestowed any awards. For 56 years it has chosen no more than thirty films for its annual “Main Slate,” with other goodies scattered about. It doesn’t really compete with Cannes, Venice, Telluride or Toronto for world premieres, though each year there are a few. Nearly all screenings are held on the close-knit Lincoln Center campus; at most other festivals you have to factor travel into your daily plan. But here, if you have the time, you can theoretically see everything on the Main Slate. “North American Premiere” means the film probably played at Cannes or Venice. “U.S. Premiere” means it probably played in Toronto. Here are the ones I saw this year:

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THE FAVOURITE**** (Festival Opening Night) I expected something a little more bizarre from Yorgos Lanthimos, who brought us DOGTOOTH, THE LOBSTER, and even THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER. But as the film spooled, I realized the transgressive director was allowing 18th-century England to be its own dramatic geek. Courtly dances turn lewd and anachronistic. The foppish male fashion that BARRY LYNDON tut-tuts becomes leering, even menacing. And the three females who control the piece are each iconoclastic and riveting. There’s Rachel Weisz as the scheming Duchess of Marlborough and Emma Stone as a former lady turned servant, each competing for the favor of the triumphant Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Things are just a little “off” throughout, aided by the repeated use of an extreme wide-angle (“fisheye”) lens to make squared turns appear curved. This picture won the Grand Jury Prize at Venice this year, and Colman won a well-deserved Best Actress award. The relative restraint might be Lanthimos’s ticket to serious award consideration; he’s long been one of the most exciting directors on the planet, but here he plays nicer than usual.

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HER SMELL*** (U.S. Premiere) Elisabeth Moss abases herself a la Charlize Theron as the demon-battling 90s-era front for a female alt-rock band: Amy Winehouse? Courtney Love? She’s past her creative prime and so zonked out that she’s near insane. (That’s GLOW’s “She-Wolf,” Gayle Rankin, as her drummer.) We meet her band at a club date, and I actually thought I’d never make it through two whole hours: the segment is all short hand-held shots, as if Michael Bay had done a whole gram of cocaine before taking a camera into CBGB. But that’s only the first of Alex Ross Perry’s five acts, each shot in its own distinct cinematic style. Moss is the main reason to watch, and although it may be hard to believe while enduring the first gonzo hour, there is a narrative arc. Bad: I thought it was a tad too long — the lead character isn’t the only one guilty of self-indulgence. Good: the actors are actually performing the musical numbers; no fakery here. 

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MONROVIA, INDIANA**** (U.S. Premiere) Frederick Wiseman is one of the most influential film documentarians in history. He invented — ok, maybe just refined — the fly-on-the-wall style of cinema verite: no narration, nothing to guide you through the “truth” he stitches together in what he concedes is a subjective process, which is only realized in post-production. For this one, the TITICUT FOLLIES and EX LIBRIS maestro spent ten weeks in a small Indiana town. Tribal viewers might be expecting scorn or defense, but no. The most profound takeaway is that aside from references to local high schools and universities, this could have taken place most anywhere. We go to the barber shop, Lions Club, hog farm, combine auction, tattoo parlor, grain elevator, gun store, etc etc etc. The only politics we see are at the Monrovia Festival, sort of a mini-state fair where the county Republicans have a booth, but Wiseman himself strives to remain above it all. The 88-year-old director introduced the film and stayed for a q&a afterward. It was thrilling to be in the same room with him.

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WILDLIFE*** The directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, who adapted the Richard Ford novel with his partner, actor-playwright Zoe Kazan. In Montana in the late Fifties, a peripatetic young family finds its life upended when the father loses his job and, after a desperate search, leaves home to join an ad-hoc group of men hired to fight fierce mountain wildfires for a dollar an hour. The mother grows restless before the son’s distraut eyes. Carey Mulligan (whose film this basically is) and Jake Gyllenhaal are superb as the parents, as is Bill Camp as a car dealer who gets into the mix, but the real find is a sensational 14-year-old Aussie named Ed Oxenbould, meaning two of the three family members are faking their Yank accents. Dano (and/or Kazan; it’s often hard to tell whether a movie’s directorial moment was already there on the page) make assured and interesting cinematic choices throughout. I’ll be in line for their next one.

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NON-FICTION**** Olivier Assayas’s new film is a dialogue-driven, actor-centered story in and about the world of book publishing, a realm of which I have some personally acquired knowledge. Turns out book people in Paris are talking about the same things we are here: the encroachment of the digital revolution on the printed word, e-books vs. physical books, the rise of the audiobook, and the very future of reading for pleasure. There’s an old-fashioned noble publisher, a tiresome author whose “auto-fiction” is a thinly veiled recital of his own life, a cyber-savvy publicist, a political operative, a cop-show actress — the movie is chiefly about how people deal with fundamental change, but since it’s also a French sex comedy, everybody’s sleeping with everybody else. A really fine cast is led by the radiant Juliette Binoche (who is name-checked in the fictional story for the movie’s biggest howling laugh). Tons of serious and vital conversation pass rat-a-tat, but the tone remains light and breezy enough to entertain without in-group pedantry.

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DIVIDE AND CONQUER: THE STORY OF ROGER AILES*** In my book, Newt Gingrich and Roger Ailes are modern America’s two biggest scoundrels: they are more responsible than anyone else for the sorry state of political discourse we suffer through today. (Before his “service” is done, Mitch McConnell will likely join this sleazy pantheon.) Alexis Bloom’s documentary has one advantage journalist Gabriel Sherman didn’t when he published his bio THE LOUDEST VOICE IN THE ROOM in 2014: Roger Ailes’s world came tumbling down soon afterward, and his final ignominies are all here on screen. “I’m glad it happened while he was still alive,” muses one wronged woman. Using clips from Ailes’s storied history and strategic talking heads (including actor-director Austin Pendleton, an old friend from grade school in Ohio), Bloom pieces together the career of one of the most darkly influential media figures of our age. Not only did Ailes enable Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes and Donald Trump, he will forever be remembered as the creator and show runner of the Fox News Channel, an enterprise which utterly transformed America. He was first an entertainment tv producer, then a political media consultant, then he founded a cable channel — but it wasn’t Fox News. “America’s Talking” was his first love, a 24-hour all-talk network featuring many future Fox stars. Ailes even hosted a show himself; we see him awkwardly dancing with Cyndi Lauper. But when Bill Gates bought the channel and turned it into MSNBC, Ailes flew into a permanent rage and vowed revenge. Then he joined forces with Rupert Murdoch, and the rest is sordid history. This story has been told before, but it’s interesting to see it on a screen, Ailes’s lifelong medium. We also get the best look at his bullying takeover of a sleepy little community in Putnam County, New York; the locals’ relief when Fox News’s Playboy-Club atmosphere finally brought Ailes down is palpable, though they’re too nice to gloat on camera. Roger Ailes turned “firing up the crazies,” as one former Fox News employee puts it, into the billions in profit which insulated him from justice for nearly two decades. He’s gone now, but his creation is still serving red meat to red states, causing permanent high blood pressure in the body politic.

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HIGH LIFE*** (U.S. Premiere) Claire Denis’s first English-language feature (while Olivier Assayas goes back to French-speaking) is not a science fiction film, she told us after the screening, even though it’s set in deep space. (Why English? “Nobody speaks French in space.”) The cold dark reaches surround a metallic-blue environment (it looks, sounds and feels reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS) in which a group of criminals have been enlisted to head toward a black hole to harness its energy for use back on Earth. That’s it with the science fiction. We start with a man (Robert Pattinson) alone in the void with a baby. Through shock-cut flashbacks, placed out of sequence so as to be impenetrable at first, we piece together the history of this voyage and peek at the planet-bound lifetime that once was. Denis cuts through the ennui with startling bursts of passion and violence, while the spacefaring vessel attains its metaphorical purpose as sole bulwark against the vast uncaring void. As with SOLARIS, this will be far too slow and imprecise for some viewers to embrace, but there’s so much to think about, plus you have a great layered Pattinson performance — he’s really quite the actor — and some more Juliette Binoche, as a, um, spirited scientist.

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ROMA***** (Festival Centerpiece) This year’s Golden Lion winner at Cannes is sensational. It’s a semi-autobiographical remembrance from Alfonso Cuarón, a year in the life of a Mexico City middle-class family circa 1970. A key figure helping to bind the family together is the beloved live-in nanny and housekeeper, played incandescently by Yalitza Aparicio. The story is confident, cadenced and unforced, calling forth a host of heart-tugging moments. You tend to forget that the director was a witness and participant (you cannot in RAY & LIZ, below), but with all the normal difficulties, this is still the kind of solidly nurtured childhood which produced a talented and observant artist. Interestingly, the main focus is not really on the children until the last act, when they become protagonists. It’s more of an eventful year for the adults, often beyond the youngsters’ knowledge. Cuarón’s black-and-white cinemascape is superb, as is an innovative sound design that focuses our hearing on what we can see: off-screen audio registers off-ear. Though there are many surprises, nothing feels artificial or out of place, despite the fact that the camerawork is executed with Kubrickian precision; as it should, the art overpowers the craft. Before the screening, the director brought out key crew and cast, then introduced the real-life person who inspired Aparicio’s character. From the balcony of Alice Tully Hall, we could still tell that this tiny woman onstage was a bundle of grit, spunk and heart, and the picture hadn’t even rolled yet. 

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ASAKO I AND II**** (U.S. Premiere) If I only had 15 seconds to oversimplify Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s new one, I’d tell you it’s a love story that issues forth from a bent Japanese take on VERTIGO, only this time the identicals are the males. Cute earnest Asako falls for hip foxy DJ Baku in Osaka, but he vanishes abruptly, breaking her heart. Two years later, in Tokyo, she meets Ryohei, a dead ringer for Baku, a buttoned-down executive for a sake brewer who is Baku’s emotional opposite in warmth and devotion. At first she’s interested because of the resemblance (she understandably mistakes him for a cleaned-up Baku at first meeting), but gradually Ryohei wins her over. Still, how can she forget her bad-boy lover (who has gone on to become a famous supermodel) when she’s reminded of him at home every day? And then Baku returns. There are delicious unexpected emotional beats as this story works its way forward and the ensemble is delightful, but I must note the superb work of male lead Masahiro Higashide as both Baku and Ryohei. Talk about inhabiting your role(s): his work distinguishing the two men is so subtle that he actually makes you suspect the casting office found identical twins. Even when they “both” appear in the same scene, the effect is gorgeous.

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RAY & LIZ** (U.S. Premiere) A grueling 1:47 spent with some loathsome lower-class British yobbos whom I never want to meet again. However, I did meet one just after the screening, for this is photographer and first-time film director Richard Billingham’s dramatic memory of his own family, hyper-dysfunctional but not in an amusing way. I give the man huge props just for surviving. But that doesn’t make this film any easier to digest, opening as it does with a sadistic act of cruelty visited on a defenseless victim and giving us no room to breathe thereafter. The most heartbreaking line comes from the actor who represents Mr. Billingham himself: as his younger brother is mercifully taken away from their rank existence into the state’s care, he asks the case worker, “Can I go to a foster home too?” Anyone who doesn’t understand the searingly personal nature of this film — that is, most everyone — will find it an almost prohibitively tough watch.

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COLD WAR**** In 1949, a musician goes around to spots in rural Poland to find authentic ethnic songs and performers, Alan Lomax-style. He’s putting together a troupe that will bring Polish music and dance to popular audiences. It’s all smiles during the audition and training process, but then he falls for a talented blonde beauty ten years his junior, and life gets even more complicated when the Stalinist authorities badger him into featuring party-friendly content. We follow the maturation of this troupe, the girl, and the troubled but genuine love affair through the Fifties as they play the capitals of Europe and battle the political forces behind the Iron Curtain. The music is fantastic and actually becomes part of the story. Authentic Polish folk tunes, introduced at the top, reappear under different guises; one of the first ones we hear is skillfully morphed later into a sultry Julie London-type jazz piece. Writer-director Paweł Pawlikowski’s sure hand propels the narrative with a series of blackouts, so the passage of time is instantaneous, and he gets knockout work from stars Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot. The gorgeous black-and-white cinematography (it seems b&w is the new color this year: besides, as the director noted, “Cold War Poland was not a colorful place”) is breathtaking. This is an Amazon Studios release; put it on your watch list.

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THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS**** (North American Premiere) If you liked the Coen brothers’ last one, HAIL, CAESAR!, then this is a similar romp, but it’ll help if you also liked FARGO, because in all its warped hilarity this movie is likewise suffused with sudden violent death. It’s an anthology of six short films, each set in the old West but each inhabiting its own milieu. The curtain-raiser is the wildest, with a perfect Tim Blake Nelson as the title character, a fourth-wall-breaking, white-hatted singing cowboy who also happens to be one of the most vicious gunmen you’ve ever seen. We also watch James Franco hilariously botch a bank robbery, and there’s Liam Neeson as the impresario of a traveling-show oratorical wonder, Tom Waits as a preternaturally determined prospector, Zoe Kravitz as part of a wagon train to Oregon, and a stagecoach full of character actors headed to a spooky destination. The humor is barbed and the picture is stuffed with surprises. A couple of the endings are even heartbreaking, but you’ll never be able to see them coming. What this film is actually about is not the West itself, but Western movies. It deliberately plays with the Hollywood conventions that we’ve all become accustomed to. This movie is wildly entertaining, the writing and acting are superb, and it looks beautiful. It’s uneven by definition — remember, it’s six disparate 20-odd-minute films and I had distinct preferences — but the two hours fly by. It’s still weird to see the Netflix logo on something as A-listy as this, but filmmakers are getting adequate budgets and a wider day-and-date release than they could ever have otherwise. 

WISH I’D SEEN: AMERICAN DHARMA, ASH IS PUREST WHITE, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, CARMINE STREET GUITARS, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (on a big screen; I only know it from home video), THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (I trust I’ll get the chance somehow), WATERGATE (too long to fit in)

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