“Seeds are gonna be the new currency.”

Another Brad Pitt movie explaining the math and business behind the scenes of things, so soon after Moneyball. This one follows separate groups of financial people who realize the banking system is ultimately built on bad loans, so they bet money on its collapse. Along the way, financial concepts are explained to the audience via Anthony Bourdain metaphors and Margot Robbie monologues (and the Polyphonic Spree appears for some reason). And we watch some of the world’s most charismatic male actors not trying to keep the global market from collapsing – that’s not their job – but hoping to profit from its destruction.

Pitt plays a light Ron Swanson type guiding young John Magaro and Finn Wittrock. Steve Carell plays some asshole, Ryan Gosling plays a smooth-talking dude, and Christian Bale gets to be the hard drummin’ socially awkward numbers guy who figures the whole thing out.

Right in between the fade-out of Cannes Month into my Crime & Punishment Marathon, and the kicking-off of Criterion Month, a bunch of last year’s acclaimed auteur art masterpieces became available, so I watched the new Malick, Cosmos, Francofonia and Anomalisa all in the same week. It’s a lot to take in, so I’m thinking it would be wise to watch all four of them again, but I’m probably not gonna do that right now.

Very mixed reviews from my regular critics. It’s telling that the most positive (3.5 stars) review on Letterboxd comes from David Ehrlich comparing it to the Entourage movie. Mixed reviews from me as well. Especially for the first hour, the minute-to-minute thrill of watching a Malick movie is all there, the expressive camerawork and experimental editing. But in the past we’ve had stories to hang these effects upon, and Malick is getting less narrative with every movie. I wasn’t sure that a soul-searching screenwriter played by an expressionless Christian Bale would be the greatest Malick avatar, and I was right. And I had to watch the ending a second time a week later just to make sure I’d even seen it the first time, thinking maybe I’d fallen asleep, but no, it’s just that it doesn’t feel like an end. After Bale is done talking with his father Brian Dennehy he flashes again on his lost loves Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman (even less fleshed-out than the lost loves of To The Wonder), says “begin,” then two shots of cars rushing down highways. Either you just need to be receptive enough to mood and character to properly feel the thing, or I need a long, enthusiastic, well-researched article explaining what I was supposed to get out of it.

Cate at the beach:

Natalie at the beach:

These feel more like symbols, or apparitions, than characters. But then again, so does Rick: As Bale plays him, he alternates between hedonistic abandon and forlorn wandering; we get little insight into his specific needs or worries.

B. Ebiri’s article is helpful, pointing out connections and influences but ultimately saying the surface-level dreamlike seduction of the thing is the whole point. “You don’t reason your way through a film like this.”

Premiered in Berlin over a year ago, with a bunch of interesting looking movies that never played here but are beginning to come out on video, like Queen of the Desert, Eisenstein in Guanajuato, The Club, Victoria, Endless Night and The Pearl Button.

Total acting showcase, starring two oscar winners and three multiple-nominees. So who do you get for the sixth-billed slot? Louis C.K., hell yes!

Scammer Christian Bale attracts scammer Amy Adams, who both attract the attention of overeager federal agent Bradley Cooper, who wants to go big with the scams and nab charismatic mayor Jeremy Renner. Also Bale is married to Jennifer Lawrence, who seems to have been pried into the movie. Also Robert DeNiro plays a scary gangster, and the scammers screw over the agent (and, reluctantly, the mayor) at the end.

It’s not hard to find a Shakespeare play I haven’t read/seen/acted, but that never stopped Katy from exclaiming “really???” whenever I claimed total unfamiliarity with Midsummer, so we finally rented her favorite version. I liked it… of course, it’s no Much Ado About Nothing with Emma Thompson, but what is? Less zany and complicated than I’d expected. Shakespeare could’ve learned something about comedy from Howard Hawks – or maybe it’s Hoffman, director of dullsville drama Game 6 who could learn something. Fortunately he keeps things much more animated here, seems to do a good job with the so-wide-it’s-squintingly-small-on-my-TV cinematography, though there’s mysteriously no participation by Kenneth Branagh or Michael Keaton (at the time they were busy filming Wild Wild West and doing nothing whatsoever, respectively).

Elf Ritual:

Ally, Bale, McNutty, Friel:

Okay, Dominic West (The Wire‘s McNulty) loves Pushing Daisies star Anna Friel (who doesn’t?) but her fun-hating parents insist she marry boring Christian Bale (toning things down after Velvet Goldmine) who is being stalked by Calista Ally McBeal Flockhart. Unconnected to any of that, Kevin Kline’s cheesy theater group (including Sam Rockwell) is preparing a play to be performed at the royal court. And all of this would probably end badly if not for the meddling of elf king Rupert Everett (Dunston Checks In) who sends puckish Stanley Tucci to prank fairy queen Michelle Pfeiffer, and along the way he turns Kline into a half-donkey and screws with the four lovers. Mud fights and bicycle rides ensue.

Rockwell is a woman, Kline is a ham, the guy behind them is a wall:

Convincingly elvish elf Tucci with mopey Rupert:

In the end everything is sorta normal except that Kline’s play is a hit, McNutty is allowed to be with his girl, and Bale magically loves Ally. I was surprised that McNutty and Ally gave the best performances of the four, even edging out all the magical beings (well maybe not Stanley Tucci), and Kline is excellent, bringing a touch of sadness to his mostly ridiculous comic-relief role. So where’s he been hiding this decade? Prepping for a comeback, hopefully.

Donkey-Kline and Queen Pfeiffer: