Artificial, stagy-looking, stylish, with great transitions between scenes. Everyone has different speaking styles, not flattened into a single form. Kathryn Hunter obviously MVP, good to see Stephen Root and Harry Melling (Julie Taymor’s Puck). Most importantly, there are more birds in this version than in any other.

Thought I’d pair this with the Coen version, not realizing the latter wouldn’t come out till early next year. A terrific looking movie, reportedly in part due to newly-designed anamorphic lenses – almost technically impeccable, a few dubbing issues. I like the idea of turning parts of the monologues into voiceover, although it means the actors have to silently react to their overheard thoughts, which is harder to pull off than speaking the lines. It gets gruesome between Macduff’s slaughtered kids, the king’s guards being dismembered, and a man taking a crossbow bolt to the forehead – also some clumsy clanking armor battles (these are all compliments). The only time I felt the 1970’s was in the “dagger I see before me” scene.

Polanski’s first film after his wife was murdered – he’d been prepping What? but thought it’d appear crass(er), and Hugh Hefner(!) was looking to add respectability by getting into the Shakespeare business and losing a bunch of money. Opens with the witches on a beach… the second prophecy scene is zany, and culminates in a good mirror scene.

In the chronology of filmed Macbeths, Werner Schroeter’s obscure hourlong TV version came out the same year, a TV miniseries the year before, but there hadn’t been a major film since Throne of Blood. The next would probably be in ’79, the TV movie with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. Never heard of a single person in the cast, besides MacB (Frenzy star Jon Finch). Lady M Francesca Annis would star in back-to-back sci-fi epics Krull and Dune. Macduff would become a Gilliam regular, and Banquo was in Dennis Potter’s Cream in My Coffee.

Macduff would like some revenge please:

I imagined a widescreen stop-motion puppet Midsummer from the creator of The Hand would be magical. It turns out if you remove all the language from a Shakespeare play, reducing it to plot action with explanatory voiceover, you don’t even reach feature length without some padding in the form of dance scenes and overlong rehearsals of the play-within-the-play. Sticking it out, there is some beautiful puppetry and effects, particularly whenever Puck casts a transformation spell.

A movie where the main dialogue scene is about finding truth in film performances, which also spends 15+ minutes watching middle schoolers perform Hamlet. Bookend scenes feature a dog who hunts and eats a rabbit palling around with a quiet donkey. Someone hops a fence and collapses at a gravesite to an M. Ward song. Happy to see Franz Rogowski in a small part.

Astrid deals with a kid who’s in trouble at school, and a defective bicycle she bought secondhand from a disabled man. She meets a director whose film she hated and talks his ear off about his poor cinema decisions. A good-looking movie, I enjoyed spending time with it, even if I haven’t figured out what it’s on about. Been hearing about Schanelec for a while, mostly from Cinema Scope – before this came out, Blake Williams called her films “notoriously evasive” and says she “presents us with only enough narrative so that we feel our desire for narrative.”

Since Garrick reminded us of Olivier, and Steve was just talking about Shakespeare movies, this came to mind – a very early Criterion DVD I bought on sale and never watched, and now the disc is in storage but the movie’s on Criterion Channel in very nice quality.

Opens with a super sweet model town, this should be the whole movie, minus that typical 40’s movie music that gets so choir-bombastic it overloads everything and just sounds like a dull roar of horrid horns. The play is being framed as a debut performance at the Globe, complete with crowd reaction and backstage shots. Leslie Banks (the Jimmy Stewart of the original Man Who Knew Too Much) returns as narrator before each act. It starts raining at the largely outdoor theater before act 2, then the setting magically shifts to Southampton, the sets in the “real world” looking more fake than the Globe, but it’s nice to get outside.

Olivier’s direction is fine and inventive, but the performances are super-declarative and I’m barely even trying to follow the action, except when Falstaff shows up, dying in bed with sour memories of the King’s final kiss-off speech via voiceover. The change in scenery allows for crowd scenes and big camera crane-ups, but I admit the endless speeches are less engaging without the crowd reactions – but the crowd in the early section was distracting when their laughter competed with the speeches, so apparently I cannot be pleased. I thought the performance style was tuned to the Globe, but once we go offstage they yell just as much, in fact the king’s famous pre-battle Crispin’s Day speech sets a new movie record for yelling. I was surprised to recognize John Laurie – the accent helps. Two women speak French, and either subtitles hadn’t been invented yet or it’s assumed that anyone going to see an Olivier/Shakespeare movie in the 1940’s would know French. Olivier was given an honorary Oscar, after this movie lost all its category nominations to The Best Years of Our Lives.

A few days after Rashomon, we took a whole class to the Alamo for this one, all of our first times seeing it. A version of Macbeth that is plenty enjoyable on its own, through its great atmosphere and unique variations on the story, and even more so after reading about some of the design elements and historical context.

From Stephen Prince’s Criterion essay:

Noh shows up everywhere in Throne of Blood, making the project a real fusion of cinema and theater… Noh elements include the music (that assertive flute, for example), the bare sets, and especially the stylized performances by Mifune and Isuzu Yamada … Actors in Noh use masks, and while Kurosawa doesn’t do anything so blatantly artificial here, he does have Mifune and Yamada model facial expressions that resemble popular Noh masks (a strategy he extended in Yamada’s makeup) … Kurosawa strips all the psychology out of Macbeth and gives us a film whose characters are Noh types and where emotions — the province of character in the drama of the West — are formally embodied in landscape and weather. The bleached skies, the fog, the barren plains, and characters going adrift against and within these spaces — this is where the emotion of the film resides … Kurosawa wants us to grasp the lesson, to see the folly of human behavior, rather than to identify or empathize with the characters.

Toshiro Mifune’s ninth Kurosawa film, with Isuzu Yamada (landlady of The Lower Depths) as his Lady, and Minoru Chiaki (the priest in Rashomon, also Hidden Fortress and The Face of Another) as his friend-turned-rival. The three witches are replaced by a single spinning-wheel ghost, with a neat single take when the spirit house vanishes while the warriors (and camera) are distracted.

Search Party season 1 (2016)

Awful young NY woman, with too much money and not enough responsibilities, gets obsessed with finding a former classmate gone missing, whom she never even knew or liked very much. I read MZ Seitz’s review (“The condition of believing oneself sensitive while feeling very little has rarely been examined with such exactness”), realized it stars Alia Shawkat, and set to watching immediately. I keep seeing Shawkat in tiny roles (Night Moves, Damsels in Distress, 20th Century Women) so the star turn here is appreciated.

Dory is joined by weak-willed boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds, a cop on Stranger Things) and self-obsessed friends Portia (Meredith Hagner of Hits) and Elliott (John Early). They get help/hindrance from crazy person Rosie Perez, the missing girl’s ex Griffin Newman (Vinyl) and private investigator Ron Livingston (Office Space), crashing the missing girl’s vigil, a wedding and a Parker Posey-led cult on their way to the ridiculous truth.


Metalocalypse seasons 3 & 4,
and The Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera (2009-2013)

Two more seasons of fun and violence and ridiculous humor, leading to the musical masterpiece that is The Doomstar Requiem.


Archer season 5 (2014)

The gang loses their spy agency but gains a large shipment of cocaine, which they spend all season trying to unload. Sterling Archer is a father. I’m not crying, you are.


Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe

Things have gotten more grim and less funny, but I appreciate Brooker sticking with it.


Twelfth Night (2017, Simon Godwin)

Not television or movies, but we watched a really nice filmed National Theatre broadcast with a rotating set, and Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing) as Malvolia, greatly tormented in the second half.

Sometimes a movie feels less like a cohesive work to be taken on its own merit than something to be picked apart. As a version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest it’s pretty okay, not as consistent or intelligible as the version we saw at the fountain in Piedmont Park, but more intelligible than Prospero’s Books was on VHS. Helen Mirren is wonderful as Prospera, the set design is marvelous and the rest is hit or miss. Too much flailing about before green screens, and I could’ve done without the song. Personnel in decreasing order of goodness:

– Tom Conti as the Richard Jenkins-looking companion of the king

– Alan Cumming and Chris Cooper (I kept thinking he was Sean Bean or some other lord of the rings) as the king’s men, incompetently plotting against him.

– Alfred Molina as the king’s drunken butler

– Ben Whishaw as the sprite Ariel

– Djimon “Digimon” Hounsou as the monster Caliban

– David Strathairn as Shipwrecked King Alonso

– Felicity Jones and Reeve Carney as the Young Lovers (the king’s son and Prospera’s daughter)

– the extras in the shipwreck scene

– Russell Brand as Molina’s companion – he was tolerable for a long time, longer than one would expect, but finally doesn’t belong in this movie or anywhere else.

Lavishly-staged theater performance reworked for the cinema, the cameras onstage with the actors. Beautiful, worth the extra cost of whatever HD special-event screening this was. My favorite Puck (Kathryn Hunter, a countess in one of my favorite scenes of Orlando, which we just happily rewatched in HD), but Katy prefers Stanley Tucci. Duke Theseus was apparently not played by Matt Berry of Darkplace, though it looked like him. Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto (Argo, Wolf of Wall Street).

Taymor:

We shot four performances live, with four cameras in different locations surrounding the play, and then for four days we could go onstage and do more single-camera setups: hand-held, Steadicam. The audience was invited; they were watching a movie being made, and that’s where we could get intimate.