Mudbound starring Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, & Mary J. Blige

NOTE: This review contains MILD spoilers for the film (which opens in theaters on NOV 17th).

I was lucky enough to attend a pre-screening of this film (produced by Netflix Studios) at Landmark E St in DC last week. I ran into two friends/movie fans there; we ALL liked it (though it contains some dark, gritty, and violent moments). It will stay in your mind for some time, no doubt. The director is Dee Rees, an openly gay African-American woman, who made the critical indie coming-of-age drama, Pariah. (I read about this film, BUT haven’t seen yet.) At Sundance, Mudbound received a standing ovation. 

The story is one part fiction (based on a novel w/ a white female protagonist) and one part fact (based on real events in the life of a black family). In the hands of another screenwriter, two different films would’ve been made from this material- one focusing on genteel/educated Tennessee spinster turned wife/mother, Laura McAllan (British actress Carey Mulligan) and her straight-talking/stubborn husband, Henry (Jason Clarke, an Aussie); the other on the African-American family farming part of the McAllan’s ancestral land in Mississippi, headed by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his wife, Florence, Mary J. Blige (the R&B singer). What ties these two threads together is the unlikely (and potentially dangerous) friendship between Laura’s charming/handsome brother-in-law, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund, giving a strong/layered performance), and the Jackson’s eldest son, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell, a fresh/compelling young actor recently in Straight Outta Compton).

Both Jamie and Ronsel, though of different ages and races, are WWII vets suffering through symptoms of PTSD after returning home to rural America. Jamie takes to drinking and wasting time, which greatly disappoints Henry, the responsible older brother and family man. Laura has strong feelings for Jamie, though she has long repressed them. Unlike his father, Ronsel can’t quietly acquiesce to the white people in town (whether it be Henry, his blatantly racist father- Pappy, shop owners, or even the sheriff). Hap and Florence worry about their son, who quietly seethes upon realizing the (very limited) role he will have as an adult black man in the segregated South. 

Watch the trailer for the film here:

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MUST-SEE for ANY Shakespeare Fan: A Presentation by Author/Actor Ben Crystal

Breakdown of segments in this video:

0:00-5:00 – Introduction & Ben’s own challenges with studying, then performing, Shakespeare. 

5:00-10:00 – What exactly is iambic pentameter? (Ben shows us how it’s part of everyday life!) Discussion of sonnet form, poetry, and prose.

10:00-39:00 – Ben breaks down, in a fresh new way, 3 famous scenes from Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear (w/ the help of two actors from his theater company and his linguist father). Ben speaks in Shakespeare’re original pronunciation (OP)- it’s a mix of different accents from Elizabethan England (“a melting pot”). 

39:00- 58:00 – Ben talks about how Shakespeare “directs the actors” w/ his writing, his own eclectic accent, then reveals to us the original pronunciation (OP) from the Bard’s day- a mix of different accents from Elizabethan England (“a melting pot”). Ben looks at the (bawdy) humor in a scene from As You Like It and the almost-military cadence to one of the monologues in Richard III.

58:00 – 1:02:00 – Suggestions of how to teach Shakespeare in schools (incl. to young children).

1:03:00 – end – Q&A w/ the audience (as well as others watching ALL over the world).

Game of Thrones: Season 7 – Thoughts & Questions

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Season 7 of Game of Thrones.

My initial thought was that Arya and Sansa were plotting this eventuality all along, which is why they went along with Littlefinger’s scheme just long enough to put him in a position where they could kill him. But if that’s the case, why were there so many scenes featuring just the two sisters, scenes that Littlefinger couldn’t plausibly know about? And if going along with Littlefinger wasn’t an act, then the storytelling is even stranger, because Sansa and Arya spent a lot of time fighting about things that seemed largely out of character, as opposed to all of the things they really did have to fight about. Todd VanDerWorff (Vox)

Of course, while it was Arya who actually did the executing, and it was Bran who provided some key intel, the bulk of the credit for Littlefinger’s death can go to Sansa. She was the one smart enough to see through Littlefinger’s machinations, and also the only one with enough sparkle to make him crawl on the ground while weeping and begging for mercy. -Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair)

MANY viewers polled (on Amazon) considered Sansa the MVP of the finale. She had such a crazy journey over the the oast 7 yrs, BUT survived to become Lady of Winterfell, and FINALLY defeat Littlefinger (YAY)! We get a rundown of the “chaos” that Lord Petyr Baelish caused over the years; w/o him, there would be no story. It was he who had Catelyn Stark’s younger sister, Lysa (crazy in love w/ him) poison her husband, Jon Arryn (Hand to King Robert Baratheon). Robert needed a man who knew, as well as someone he could trust, so he trekked North w/ most of his family.

King Robert convinced his oldest/closest friend, Ned Stark, to move to King’s Landing and take over the role of Hand. (Robert had loved Ned’s long-dead sister, Lyanna, BUT that’s another part of the tale.) To sweeten the job offer, Robert betrothed his son/heir, Joffrey, to Ned’s eldest daughter, Sansa (who had dreamed of living in the big city and being married to a handsome prince). In time, Ned discovered that Joffrey (and all Robert’s supposed children w/ his wife, Cersei Lannister) were fathered by her twin brother, Jaime. The common people of realm thought that their king was killed by a boar during a hunt; he was actually poisoned by his cupbearer, Lancel, a young cousin/lover to Cersei. The plot to kill Robert was Cersei’s plan (and Littlefinger was allied w/ her); they had never loved (or even liked) each other. After Ned (kind/honorable/artless) revealed what he knew re: Prince Joffrey’s illegitimacy to (clever/power-hungry/ruthless) Cersei, it ALL went downhill for the Stark clan! 

This obsessive analysis of every line of dialogue and scene scene was possible because the series established and followed a distinct set of rules that kept the chaos in check. 

The patterned logic made it possible to hypothesize outcomes, for any viewer to wax poetically on Twitter about the theoretical fate of their favorite characters. It made a close reading worth it… 

…Season 7 shed these rules in order to sprint towards the story’s conclusion. And in doing so it became a very different series, one that has left the old Game of Thrones in the dust. -Kelly Lawler (USA Today)

“We” (English majors) analyze nearly everything (things we read, listen to, and see in media). That’s why GoT is such a treat; I haven’t been a “superfan” of any other show before (though I have followed MANY TV series in the past). There is SO much going on w/ the action, costumes, sets/locations, music, and (most importantly, IMO) characters and dialogue! This series has some of the MOST complicated characters and quotable lines we’ve encountered in recent years on TV. No wonder we get disappointed when the show doesn’t live up to its potential!  

Let’s not mince words: The Loot Train Battle was a masterpiece. Director Matt Shakman’s first Thrones episode [“The Spoils of War”] featured one of the single greatest battle sequences in the show’s entire history… The pacing and choreography involved in the imaginative battle, not to mention the sheer sight of dragon fire scorching the soil of the Seven Kingdoms, launch this episode into elite status. -Josh Wigler (The Hollywood Reporter)

There were some great moments in S7; the best action scenes happened in E4 (check out the behind-the-scenes segment from HBO, if you haven’t done so yet). This was the first time that Jaime (commander of the Lannister forces) saw a dragon- whoa! He lived (thanks Bronn) to tell Cersei, BUT she didn’t realize the gravity of their situation (until the finale).  As Jaime was riding away from the city, Winter (snow) came to King’s Landing for the first time in the series. 

QUESTIONS: (I hope these get addressed in Season 8!)

  • Why was Tyrion creeping around outside Dany’s cabin on the boat? 
    • I think he feels that these two rulers hooking up  (or “personal alliance” as Peter Segal called it) before the end of the war is a bad idea. 
    • Some YouTube reviewers think that Tyrion MAY have betrayed Dany, so is feeling guilty about it (a la Jorah w/ the poisoned wine murder plot). 
    • I don’t think this is the case, BUT wanted to share this theory also: Most likely, Tyrion goofed up and secretly fell in love with his queen. Game of Thrones has pretty much set this scenario up as an inevitability. Tyrion pretty much told her as much, right before they shipped out from Meereen: “He wasn’t the first to love you,” he said, referring to Daario, “and he won’t be the last.” -Vinnie Mancuso (Collider)
    • Will the fact that Jon—not Daenerys—is technically the rightful heir to the Targaryen throne put a damper on their burgeoning romance? -Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair)
  • Is Tormund alive? If so, then will he ever be able to win over Brienne (hmmm). 
  • Is Beric alive? (He’s on his 7th life, having been killed and revived 6 times, as The Hound explains in E6.) I just LOVE this actor’s voice, and he has that cool flaming sword. Maybe Melisandre can revive him? 
  • Is Cersei actually pregnant? This has turned out to be one of the MOST discussed issue by fans online! Some even think that the baby could be Euron’s (after all, he is still loyal to Cersei).
  • What’s next for Jaime? Finally, he has escaped Cersei’s power (YAY)! I’m sure he will ally himself w/ Dany, BUT it may take him some time. Will he reconnect w/ Brienne? They has great chemistry together.
  • Will Theon be able to rescue Yaara from Euron?
  • What’s next for Euron? Related issue: Can The Golden Company (sellswords) stand up to Dany’s army?
  • Who will end up on the Iron Throne?
    • One could assume someone has to end the series on The Iron Throne, but there’s an equal possibility there won’t even be an Iron Throne. Or any people left alive, for that matter. -Vinnie Mancuso (Collider)