#Oscars: “The Banshees of Inisherin” (2022) starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, & Barry Keoghan

Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland in 1923, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN follows lifelong friends, Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. A stunned Padraic, aided by his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and troubled/young neighbor, Dominic (Barry Keoghan), endeavours to repair the relationship, refusing to take no for an answer. But Padraic’s repeated efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve and when Colm delivers a desperate ultimatum, events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences. -Synopsis

“Banshee” is the anglicized term for “bean sí” from old Irish meaning “woman of the fairy mound” or “fairy woman.” She is a spirit in Irish folklore who heralds the death of a family member, usually by screaming, wailing, shrieking, or keening. The Banshees of Inisherin, original title The Banshees of Inisheer, was intended to be the 3rd installment in a series of writer/director Martin McDonagh’s plays dubbed the Aran Islands Trilogy, which incl. The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. This is Farrell’s 3rd project w/ McDonagh (after In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012)). Gleeson was also in In Bruges; he and Farrell are close pals IRL This is Farrell’s 3rd project w/ Keoghan (after The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) and The Batman (2022)). Keoghan and Farrell lived in the same apt while shooting in Ireland; Keoghan admits he drove Farrell crazy by leaving messes and eating all of Farrell’s favorite cereal. Farrell, who Keoghan calls an older brother figure, said the experience was like “living in the episode of The Real World.” LOL! When this film premiered at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival, it received a 15-minute standing ovation.

Pádraic Súilleabháin: Do you know what you used to be?

Colm Doherty: No, what did I used to be?

Pádraic: Nice! You used to be nice! And now, do you know what you are? Not nice.

Colm: Ah, well, I suppose niceness doesn’t last then, does it?

In the Irish culture, comedy is usually also mixed w/ tragedy; this film is an example! It opens up w/ a rainbow (no joke) behind a smiling Padraic, who is planning to meet Colin for a beer at the pub; this is their ritual almost everyday at 2PM. The settings are gorgeous, the production design is spot-on (creating a lived-in world), and the acting is great all-around. Colm’s home was shot on the island of Achill in County Mayo, which is craggy/rugged, to reflect his moral quandary. However, Padraig’s scenes were filmed on the flatter, more uninteresting island of Inishmore. The J.J. Devine Public House (the bar) was built for the film on Achill; since a planning permit had NOT been acquired, it had to be demolished when the film wrapped. All of the main characters’ sweaters were made by the same elderly man, who knitted them by hand.

Pádraic: I am not putting me donkey outside when I’m sad, okay?

Padraic (a simple man) has animals, Colin (who is more complex/troubled) has music (violin/composing), and Siobhan (practical/lonely) has books. Jenny, the miniature donkey- also named Jenny- had never been in a movie before. She was NOT a trained animal actor and seemed to hate the experience. Farrell joked: “She was the biggest diva on set.” There is a brief shot of Siobhan’s books: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Irish idylls by Jane Barlow, Waverley by Walter Scott, and The Golden Dream by RM Ballantyne. Dominic doesn’t seem to have anything to look forward to, though he is NOT as “dim” as people think. He comments: “faint heart and all that” after irritating Siobhan; this is a referral to the proverb: “A faint heart never won a fair lady.”

Dominic: Me, I pay no attention to wars. I’m again’ ’em. Wars and soap.

Even in such open spaces, viewers noted feeling the claustrophobia of the characters. The loss of one friend could be a tragedy, some viewers commented, as there aren’t many people around to know! There is no romance (or even potential for some romance) in this story, as one critic sadly noted. The elderly (perhaps witch-like) woman frightens the community w/ her premonitions. The priest is only around on Sundays and doesn’t know how to deal w/ Colm’s “despair.” The local policeman is often drunk and V abusive, esp. to his son Dominic (perhaps the most tragic character).

[1] At first, I was relating to Gleeson’s character, because I’ve felt like him. Life is too short to spend on relationships that don’t add value. But as his behavior gets more and more extreme… […] we start to realize how unwell he is and sympathies shift to Farrell’s character. Until we start to realize how selfish he actually is and how much his own actions are driven more by wanting to be liked than by concern for his friend. […]

The standout of the cast is Kerry Condon as Farrell’s sister. She’s an antidote to the male angst pervading this little Irish village.

[2] Reflecting the friction and war taking place over the water, and the reasons for it, with four outstanding performances, although Barry Keoghan absolutely knocks it out of the park, a film to get you thinking about what it means to get along, and the repercussions when two tribes don’t, even over the most trivial of torments.

[3] It is a well told dark comedy that keeps you wanting more, in a time when Ireland was full of despair, not long after the war of Independence and a long-suffering period that brought about a post-colonial inferiority complex (still hasn’t been addressed to this day), a struggle for an identity, a repressive church, superstitions, isolation, mass emigration, poverty and to top it all off- a brutal civil war.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Menu” starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, & Nicholas Hoult

Painstakingly Prepared. Brilliantly Executed. -A tagline for the movie

A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises. -Synopsis

Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes- who always does a great job) is at the top of his field; the multi-course meals at his restaurant (located on a small private) island cost $1,500. Elsa (Hong Chau) is the manager (AKA right hand) of the chef. Chau is a Vietnamese-American actress who just received an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress for The Whale (2022); she is having success after age 40 (quite rare in Hollywood). A young couple, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), are two of the guests; Tyler is V excited, being a foodie/fan of Chef Slowik. John Leguizamo plays a character called George Díaz, simply credited as “Movie Star.” Leguizamo based his character on former action star, Steven Seagal, whom he called a “horrible human” due to a V bad experience while working w/ him on Executive Decision (1996). The references to Diaz playing a cook in one of his movies may be a nod to Under Siege (1992), where Seagal played a cook- LOL! George is accompanied by his young assistant, Felicity (Aimee Carrero). A well-known food critic, Lillian (Janet McTeer), and her editor, Ted (Paul Edelstein), are among the guests; she’d written V positively re: this restaurant. Three jovial 30-ish Wall Street bros (played by Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, and Mark St. Cyr) want to spend their money and have a new experience. A tense/posh older couple, Richard (Reed Birney) and Anne (Judith Light), round out the group of 12 diners.

Tyler [eating some oysters]: You have to try the mouthfeel of the mignonette.

Margot: Please don’t say mouthfeel.

This movie (which I saw recently on HBO Max) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 10, 2022. It was released November 18 in the US in 3,211 theaters (the widest release in Searchlight’s history). The director, Mark Mylod, has mainly worked in TV (Succession). One of the screenwriters, Will Tracy, came up w/ the idea of the story while on his honeymoon in Bergen, Norway, when he took a boat to a fancy restaurant on a private island. Tracy realized that diners were stuck (trapped) on the island until the meal was done!

Elsa: Here, we are family. We harvest. We ferment. We slaughter. We marinate. We liquify. We spherify. We gel.

Margot: [to Tyler] They gel?

Elsa: We gel!

There are many references to restaurant Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark), starting from the location, idea, concept, and ending w/ the menu itself. Several of the beach shots were filmed at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island (Georgia). The food layouts were prepared by the famed French chef, Dominique Crenn, the ONLY female chef in the US to attain 3 Michelin stars for her restaurant, Atelier Crenn (San Fran). At one point, Chef Slowik insults Richard by calling him “donkey,” a reference to (famous/abusive) chef Gordon Ramsay. The kitchen team were trained to actually create the dishes, broken down station by station, as one would see in a real restaurant.

Chef Slowik [introducing the dessert course]: The s’more. The most offensive assault on the human palate ever contrived.

This is a social satire that makes fun of the uber-wealthy, esp. pretentious foodies and the celeb chefs who cater to their needs. I heard that Triangle of Sadness (2022) deals w/ similar themes. The look is sleek/ultra-modern and cold. It’s moody, atmospheric, and (often) tense. However, some of the occurrences are preposterous! The characters act like those in a horror movie in one scene, then turn goofy in the next one. This movie has been called “silly” by critics/viewers; I think it’s a waste of talent and under-cooked (pardon the pun). I was impressed esp. by Fiennes and Taylor-Joy (who have good chemistry), though some others were under-developed.

[1] This is a movie that plays on something everyone has come across in their lives: obsession. The movie starts out as a seemingly eerie thriller/suspense type movie with weird and unique quirks, but slowly devolves into something much more wild and very obviously takes it too far.

[2] I think I understood what The Menu was trying to convey with its deeper meaning, but I still came up disappointed. Anya Taylor-Joy and the rest of the cast gave great performances, but there was little that really brought the movie together.

[3] The entire cast gives great performances with Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy truly being the standouts as they playoff each other very well. Each character purposely reflected a personality type that, if you ever worked in service, you would encounter and come to know very well.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

“You Belong to Me” (1941) starring Barbara Stanwyck & Henry Fonda

A JOYOUS REUNION OF THE STARS OF “THE LADY EVE” -Tag line on original movie poster

A young general practitioner, Dr. Helen Hunt (Barbara Stanwyck), meets a millionaire/playboy, Peter Kirk (Henry Fonda) when he crashes at her feet during her vacay at a California ski resort. He insists ONLY she can treat his (minor) injuries; it’s obvious he has a crush on her. After knowing each other for a few days, Peter suddenly proposes marriage- Helen accepts! They marry and settle in his (huge) estate somewhere in LA. On their wedding night, Helen is called away on a medical emergency. When she returns, Peter has fallen asleep. Soon, Peter becomes jealous of her career, getting into physical altercations w/ two male patients (yikes)!

Peter: Are there many lady doctors?

Helen: A few.

Peter: As beautiful as you?

Helen: No doubt.

Peter: The time I’ve wasted being well.

There are (serious) underlying themes in this movie. Remember that this was a time (here in the US) when women (who could afford it) quit their jobs immediately after they got married. Professional women (incl. doctors) made up a small percentage of the workplace. Fonda and Stanwyck make a believable couple, as they have (obvious) romantic chemistry. Stanwyck had great comic timing; Fonda was good at using his physicality for humor. There are some close-up shots of both actors that are gorgeous. Peter is no doubt “problematic” (as the young’uns say today); he goes from sweet/chill to irrational/jealous! As one astute viewer commented: “The Stanwyck character would’ve dumped this guy in 24 hrs in real life.”

The script has some snappy dialogue, as well as a few fine scenes for the supportive players. Billings (Edgar Buchanan) is the grumpy gardener who offers down-to-earth advice to Peter. Moody (Melville Cooper) is the stuffy butler full of sly comments for the entire household. Ella (Maude Eburne) is the understanding nurse/secretary to Helen. I learned that a young Lloyd Bridges (uncredited) plays one of the ski patrol (early in the film).

[1] …feminists would probably be aghast at it.

In fact, Barbara Stanwyck herself didn’t like it at all. She liked working with Henry Fonda right enough, but thought this film was ridiculous. As well she should have.

[2] The first portion at the ski lodge and the next did NOT fit well together, nor did the final “Horatio Alger” inspired section…

[3] In a year where Stanwyck was really busy, three out of four films have become classics. One of them had to be a disappointment, and this is it, albeit a minor one. She was a sexy gold-digger (opposite Fonda) in “The Lady Eve,” a sequin-wearing gangster’s moll nightclub entertainer in “Ball of Fire”, and a hard-as-nails reporter in “Meet John Doe.” Those films all have outstanding screenplays, something this one lacks. The comedy moments are infrequent…

-Excerpts from IMDb comments

“Free Guy” (2021) & “The Lost City” (2022)

I just got past a V busy time at work; my team was under a LOT of pressure these past 6 wks! So, I decided to watch these newer/comedic movies. I didn’t have high expectations, so I wasn’t TOO disappointed. These movies already played in theaters; you can watch them on streaming now. Just don’t think too much and try to analyze entertainment like this- LOL!

Free Guy (2021) starring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery, & Utkarsh Ambudkar

Guy [saying his catchphrase]: Don’t have a good day, have a great day.

In the (fictional) popular video game, Free City, a NPC (non-playable character) named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) somehow breaks out of his programming and starts behaving differently from the other NPCs. (Gamers noted that this world has elements from Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite.) He eventually learns the true nature of his existence after he meets a human player, Millie AKA Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer). Guy’s best friend is a security guard, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), who can’t see the game as Guy does. Key (Joe Keery) and Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) are two programmers who work on user complaints at Soonami, the company that owns Free City. Antwan (Taika Waititi- in a rare bad role) is their boss.

The scenes in the real world are shot w/ anamorphic lenses, while the scenes in the game are shot w/ standard spherical lenses; the film is at 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Though the establishing shot of Free City is downtown Pittsburgh, the movie was largely filmed in Boston. In later scenes, when Antwan is standing in his office, the background is the Seattle skyline. The director, Shawn Levy, is perhaps more known as a producer; he worked recently on Stranger Things (Netflix). This movie was shot in 2018, BUT was delayed for some time.

Guy: Millie, how many times a day are the banks robbed in your world?

Molotov Girl: Hardly ever, Guy.

Guy: What about corpses, Millie? Do ya see a lot of those? How many an hour?

Molotov Girl: None per hour, Guy.

Guy: What about gun violence? See a lot of gun violence in your world?

Molotov Girl: Actually, that’s a big problem, Guy, it’s a massive problem.

This joke above is one of the few clever/funny parts of this movie, sorry to say. There are a LOT of cameos- voice and in-person! The two up-and-comers – Comer (one of the co-leads in The Last Duel) and Keery (best known as Steve on Stranger Things)- are doing as well as they can w/ the material; this was actually her 1st movie role. Reynolds is (as MANY critics/viewers commented) playing a version of himself; I haven’t seen a LOT of his movies yet, BUT he doesn’t impress me much. Reynolds (personally) asked Mariah Carey for the rights to use her iconic song- “Fantasy.” You can watch this movie on HBOMax.

[1] Free Guy (2021) feels as though it’s been made by people who have never actually played a video-game. […] …the fact that it lacks a proper sense of logic isn’t its biggest issue, although it is undeniably irritating that a movie which is supposed to celebrate video-games clearly doesn’t understand them and also partakes in the kind of banal ‘gamer’ stereotyping that perforates pretty much every piece of traditional media about the subject. No, the biggest issue is that, for me, it simply isn’t fun.

[2] Free Guy is worth going to see because it is one of the few quality films right now that increases one’s faith in human nature. Lately, I feel as though I have lost my faith in humanity, with all that is happening in the world, so it is refreshing to get a movie that feels confident in the human experience. Maybe I’m looking too deep into the message of Free Guy and maybe it was conceived just so Ryan Reynolds could screw around for two hours…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

The Lost City (2022) starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, & Daniel Radcliffe

Reclusive author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) writes about exotic places in her romance novels. The model for her hero- Dash- is named Alan (Channing Tatum); his look is based on Fabio. While on tour promoting her latest book- The Lost City of D– w/ Alan, Loretta gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who hopes she can lead him to an ancient city’s lost treasure. Determined to prove he can be a hero in real life, Alan sets off to rescue her w/ the help of a former Navy Seal- Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt).

Loretta: Why are you so handsome?

Jack: My father was a weatherman.

This movie was shot on location in the Dominican Republic (during the pandemic); the scenery is gorgeous! Ryan Reynolds was originally sought for the lead male role, marking this a reunion w/ Bullock after The Proposal (2009), but a deal couldn’t be reached and Tatum was cast. IMO, Tatum is a better actor than Reynolds. The said the nude scene where Bullock pulls leaches off Tatum’s nude body was shot on the 2nd day of filming. They barely knew each other and he joked w/ her that they were about to get to know each other very well- LOL! They had to shoot it 50 times b/c Tatum kept laughing at the line: “They’re sucking on my butt like a Jamba Juice.” I liked their dance scene in the 3rd act, BUT I thought the romance was a BIT forced. These characters had more friend chemistry.

This movie needed more of Pitt (as MANY critics have said)! Bullock and Pitt became friends after they acted together in Bullet Train (2022). Pitt’s character- Jack Trainer- is a nod to the film that this is a loose remake of- Romancing the Stone (1984). In that film the male lead (played by Michael Douglas) was named Jack Colton; Mary Ellen Trainor (wife of director Robert Zemeckis) had a small role. The name of Loretta’s book tour is Romancing the Page– another callback to the 1984 movie. You can see this on Amazon Prime (Paramount+ Channel).

Loretta: How do they keep finding us?

Alan [pointing out her purple/sequined jumpsuit]: You’re basically a walking disco ball.

[1] Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum can play these characters in their sleep, and to their credit, they both seem engaged and willing to put forth the necessary effort. Tatum especially embraces the duality of a preening cover boy and the sensitive type out to prove he has substance.

[2] The Lost City has pieces that work and pieces that don’t. Placing pretenders into an actual adventure is good for laughs and heart, yet much of this script is generic. Unimaginative MacGuffins, flat villains, and predictable romances are individually forgivable, but together, they override the premise’s charm. Furthermore, the dialogue, humor, and plot devices are subpar.

[3] In the end, The Lost City is exactly what I think moviegoers need right now. Nothing too serious or weighed down by heavy drama. This is a good old-fashioned, silly comedy/romance that I feel works for what it is. It’s not going to be the type of comedy that a lot of people are going to watch over and over again, at least I don’t think, but the heart of the film is in the right place and it never takes anything too seriously.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Bull Durham” (1988) starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, & Tim Robbins

A Major League Love Story in a Minor League Town. -Tag line for the movie

It’s the start of the baseball season, and Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), for whom baseball is a “religion,” is in the process of choosing one player on the Durham Bulls (her home team in the Carolina League) who she’ll take under her wing. This player has always gone on to have the best year of his career. She has narrowed her choices to Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins)- the young/undisciplined pitcher- and veteran catcher- Crash Davis (Kevin Costner)- brought in to improve Ebby’s game. Ebby is V eager to “hook-up” w/ Annie when she offers, BUT Crash takes himself out of the running (b/c he doesn’t see “matters of the heart” as a game). It’s obvious that Annie and Crash are attracted to each other. First thing, Annie gives Ebby a nickname- Nuke- which helps boost his confidence. Thus begins Annie, Crash and Nuke’s complicated relationship!

Annie: Right, honey, let’s get down to it. How was Ebby Calvin LaLoosh?

Millie [younger friend/fellow baseball groupie]: Well, he f***s like he pitches – sorta all over the place.

The writer/director, Ron Shelton, was a former minor league baseball player; he played 5 seasons in the Baltimore Orioles farm system. The highest level Shelton reached was w/ the Rochester Red Wings in the Triple-A International League. Kurt Russell helped Shelton develop the script and was slated for to play Crash. After the film was made, Russell was so impressed, he wrote fan letters to Costner and Shelton! Orion Pictures gave Shelton a mere $9M budget (w/ cast members accepting lower salaries than usual b/c of the strong material), an 8-wk shooting schedule, and creative freedom. The film’s box-office success caused Hollywood to produce several more baseball-centered movies over the next few yrs. Though it is meant to be set over a hot/humid Summer, Bull Durham was actually filmed on location in North Carolina in October and November of 1987. The grass had to be touched up w/ green paint and the breath of the actors can be seen in many night scenes.

Crash [giving advice to Nuke during a game]: Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.

Producer Thom Mount (part owner of the real Durham Bulls) hired Pete Bock (former semi-pro baseball player) as a consultant. Bock recruited minor-league players, ran a tryout camp (to recruit an additional 40-50 players), hired several minor-league umpires and conducted two-a-day workouts/practice games w/ Robbins pitching and Costner catching. Bock made sure the actors looked/acted like ballplayers and that the real players acted convincingly in front of the cameras. Shelton decided to cast Costner b/c of the actor’s natural athleticism. The actor was a former HS baseball player and hit 2 home runs (while the cameras were rolling). According to Shelton, Costner insisted “on throwing runners out even when they [the cameras] weren’t rolling.” The actor is also “a switch hitter” (Crash is shown hitting both left and right-handed).

Annie [in voiceover re: Nuke]: The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self awareness.

There are many LOL (or V amusing) moments in this movie. The cute/funny dance scene w/ Nuke and several actresses in the bar was choreographed by Paula Abdul. On my re-watch, I noticed that Annie’s first dress (black top, wide red belt, & black/white checkered skirt) is V similar to the one worn by dancer/actress Vera Allen in White Christmas. As Karina Longworth explained, the R-rating comes more from the profane language rather than the love scenes (NOT daring by today’s standards). These elements are rare for a mainstream/Hollywood film: Annie and Millie are never “slut-shamed” (as they go after what they want); the ballplayers (young/fit) are objectified perhaps more than the women.

This near pitch perfect movie (pun intended) has great dialogue and sparkling chemistry btwn its 3 co-leads. Now, you don’t have to be a fan of baseball or even Costner (who I don’t think has much range) to enjoy this movie. After I saw Costner opposite Sean Young in No Way Out (1987), I thought maybe he has some appeal. The role of Crash suits Costner (33 y.o.) V well; I’m assuming his acting is improved b/c he gets so many great lines. Jeff Bridges turned down the lead, BUT I think he’d have done a fine job. Costner plays well off both Sarandon (confident/mature at 42 y.o.) and Robbins (enthusiastic/boyish at just 30 y.o.) In their different ways, Annie and Crash both serve as mentors to Nuke (who has potential to go to “the big show”- major league). This is where Sarandon and Robbins first met and fell in love. I was surprised that I got a bit emotional in a scene (near the end)!

[1] This film is not only a great sports film, but it is one of the great all around films I have ever seen. This film has it all from romance to comedy to witty dialogue. Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins all brought Ron Shelton’s script to life and the three of them displayed some of the greatest chemistry ever captured on film. This film is a timeless classic.

[2] It is nice to see a movie that attracts more than one kind of audience. This is a comedy, then again a love story. This can be placed in the baseball genre, as well as a coming of age drama. Most movies claim to be one or the other and sometimes fail to be. Then again, when a good movie hits a home run it can not only become a money maker and a box office smash, it can also become timeless. Before they became giants of Hollywood, Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins stars in this great movie as some of the most interesting, yet simple characters. […] Together, the three introduce three different worlds upon the audience. Each are believable characters even though they are in a way, fantasy like. A great story with a perfect ending, Bull Durham is one of those hard to find movies that is a crowd pleaser with just about every audience out there.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews