God Ponders the Heart

macbethIn Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, the writers frame the story in such a way that the common motivations are nested within, or are born from, a new one: the story opens upon a Scottish heath—damp, cold, and windblown—where the Thane of Glamis (Michael Fassbender) and his Lady (Marion Cotillard) stand at the graveside of their young child.

The boy has succumbed to some sort of pox, and the grief the parents bear is depicted so that the pain is the kind of blunt, brutal type—the emotional equivalent of a limb cropped away with a pair of dull shears. From now on, the life of “going on” will be as tedious as the life they have just come through, to borrow a line from later in the play.

Of course, this is not in Shakespeare’s work itself, but the writers and director have taken artistic license from a much-debated line spoken by Lady Macbeth when she is encouraging her husband to commit regicide: [Read more…]

The Lone Ranger’s Easter Narrative

"THE LONE RANGER" Ph: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc. All Rights Reserved.

His back to us and to the camera, the hero walks silently away. His work in this particular community is done. He has restored the community to its better self.

This is the closing image of the classic 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife, which I watched recently. Cary Grant as the angel Dudley—sent to guide the bishop away from his egotistical ways and back into the arms of his neglected wife—has effected this conversion not only in the bishop but in other characters as well.

And as I watched Dudley walk away from us and from the community where he has intervened for the good, I suddenly thought: I’ve seen this scene before. My husband and I are on a kick of viewing 1940s and 1950s Westerns, which often end this way (though the departing hero might be on horseback rather than walking). [Read more…]

Better Call Saul

better-call-saul-netflixBetter Call Saul, a prequel to AMC’s milestone series, Breaking Bad, further establishes co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould to be among the most intricate moral thinkers working in the dramatic arts. Whereas the first series rendered the ethical decline of a dying man who makes something of a noble bargain with his conscience—attempting to provide for his struggling family by entering the methamphetamine trade—the second series focuses on an altogether different landscape of principles.

Instead of depicting the inch-by-inch, then mile-by-mile, depravity that follows a dubious but not wholly dishonorable decision, Better Call Saul illustrates the confluence of causes that can make a man see himself in a certain way. If Breaking Bad’s Walter White is “Mr. Chips turned Scarface,” as Gilligan described him, Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman is Willie Stark turned strip-mall consigliere.

The series, now beginning its second season, is set in 2002, some six years before the action of Breaking Bad. As such, it gives the backstory on how Walter White’s outlandish shyster lawyer, Saul Goodman, becomes the man that he is. Goodman is the epitome of the ambulance-chasing, tasteless advertising (“Better Call Saul”) attorney, complete with a debased clientele and a shameless talent for truth perversion. [Read more…]

A Space Program

2spaceprogramcvrThe tenth item on a list entitled “How to Watch This Film,” which accompanies Tom Sachs’ A Space Program, says that the film is “a love letter to the analog era.”

That obsession with all things handmade and non-digital was obvious as I watched the film—even though I was sitting on my couch, streaming a digital screener on my iPhone and beaming it over WiFi to my Apple TV, which is about the least analog thing a person can do.

But Sachs loves this stuff. He’s a sculptor, sort of—playing with all kinds of things from the natural and human-made world to form whimsical new objects, like boomboxes and in this case, fake planets and massive mission control centers and even the credits roll for the film, which looks like it’s rolling by on taped-together black construction paper. [Read more…]

Finding My Inner Calamity Jane

Calamity JaneCalamity Jane lumbered around Deadwood in fringed buckskins, spitting, cursing, and waving her whiskey flask in the shadows of the Black Hills. And I want to be more like her.

Guns scare me, of course. Animal skins give me the willies, and more than a sip of hard liquor gets me coughing. Deadwood’s very existence on Sioux land, let alone its rampant gambling, prostitution and murder, screamed lawlessness. But crazy Jane loved. Not with a quiet, corseted, motherly love, but a fierce, table-flipping passion that even she didn’t seem aware of. Which, of course, makes it the best love of all.

It’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the Old West because often the fiction was the fact. Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West, a show he refused to call a show, celebrated the “legend” of the West in real time with sharp shooting, staged robberies, and cowboy/Indian attacks. Calamity Jane joined the production later in life as a storyteller, exaggerating her tales with each performance.

Most historians say it’s hard to know what parts of her autobiographical pamphlet, The Life and Times of Calamity Jane, are true. But there is a general consensus that regardless of whom she shot or saved and when, and if, and whom she married and birthed, she wrestled gender expectations to the ground with her adventurous activities and attire and fought alcoholism to the grave. [Read more…]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X