The Banshees of Inisherin

Before identifying what this film is, it helps to identify what it isn’t. The Banshees of Inisherin is not a lecture on male friendship. Neither is it an allegory of the Irish Civil War. Many accounts of the film treat it as one or the other.

The Banshees of Inisherin is a story of friendship and community, with each of those words taking one of the darker of its meanings. The friendship is between Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), and its explicit termination by Colm. The community is the (fictional) island of Inisherin, off the west coast of Ireland, during the Irish Civil War.

The trailer doesn’t do the film justice, but here it is:

Banshees is a play turned into a movie. Martin McDonagh made his name as a playwright, wrote the first two plays in a trilogy, and had a title for the third: The Banshees of Inisherin. He then worked in film, writing and directing the wonderful In Bruges, in which Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are perfect together. They are just as good together in Banshees, but Banshees is not a sequel: it’s a reunion of McDonagh, Farrell, and Gleeson to tell a different story.

So why make Banshees for the screen rather than for the stage? I can think of three reasons. First, the film shows us the island, with its harsh natural beauty divided by stone walls. Second, it allows animals to be part of the ensemble cast. Banshees is an ensemble piece (whatever Oscar categories might say), with captivating performances from Farrell, Gleeson, several other humans, and several animals, including a donkey and a dog. Third, there’s more money to be made from screen than from stage; this is less convincing to me than either of the first two.

If I watch Banshees as a play, with an interval, I go into the break convinced that it is the best thing I’ve ever seen. In particular, the dialogue is great, and unbelievably well acted. The first half ends with Pádraic and his sister leaving the pub after a dramatic confrontation with Colm.

The second half didn’t work as well for me. Many movies (I don’t see as many plays as I used to) have second-half action because the movie (or play) is meant to get more exciting., rather than because the action grows naturally out of the early scenes. Banshees falls into this trap: I can’t explain without spoilers.

That said, Banshees is a very good movie, and play for the big screen. I recommend it highly. My preference for the first half shouldn’t overshadow my admiration for the film: the dialogue, the acting, the setting,…

If you allow yourself to watch it as a story, rather than as a lesson on masculinity or on Irishness, I think you’ll enjoy it too. But over to you, if you’ve seen it: what did you think?

Cage in a Pig: Rhyming Review

To summarize this post about the 2021 movie, Pig, in two four-letter words: poem; Cage.

He lives in the woods, finding truffles.
Steal his pig? Oh, his feathers you’ll ruffle.
No, it’s not like John Wick;
No Keanu, it’s Nic!
Cage is great, full of love ‘midst kerfuffle.

Yes, Nicolas Cage is indeed great in Pig. I believe that actors should be judged on their best work, rather than their worst. Pig and Leaving Las Vegas, almost thirty years apart, are sufficient to declare him a great actor. If you consider some of the other movies he’s been in terrible, I don’t care, and I hope that Nic doesn’t either.

What do you think? About Pig? About Nic?

Rhyming Reviews: Dune Movie Example

There is no shortage of reviews on the internet: movie reviews; book reviews, videos on YouTube and elsewhere; written review on media, mainstream and otherwise,… So if I want to post reviews in a distinctive form, what should I post?

Rhyming Reviews! I’ll post a few, and see how they do. I like writing, and I like limericks, so I’ll start with that format. I’ll also start with my favorite current movie, Dune. Here goes…

Is Dune an unfilmable book?
In ’21, let’s take a look.
According to me
It’s well made by Denis,
Or that might be the spice that I took.

Have you seen the new movie of Dune?
If not, I hope you do soon.
An incredible cast!
The amazement will last.
The world built on screen made me swoon.

On Dune, vital spice drug is made.
But Paul’s noble house is betrayed.
He’ll survive giant worms
And then it’s his turn
To build desert power that will not fade.

Please consider the following questions, and consider answering at least one of them.

  • Which of the three limericks do you prefer? Why?
  • Do you think that reviews of two or more limericks would be better than single-limerick reviews?
  • Do you think that anyone would ever read rhyming reviews?
  • Would rhyming reviews be better on a video or podcast platform?

Movie Theater Musings: From Scotland to Korea

On the day I was due to be born, I went to the movies instead. My parents, having been credibly informed that I was not going to appear on December 11, went to see Treasure Island in Thurso, Scotland. They enjoyed the movie (not sure whether I did), and I remained in the womb until December 22.

As this century unfolds, movie theaters (or theatres, depending on where you live) are in trouble. That was the case even before Covid. Do I want to have to travel to a theater that I may have to share with inconsiderate people and their cellphones? Do I really need to see that particular movie when I can watch thousands of movies at home?

It depends. It depends on many things. I’ll focus here on the movie itself. I recently tried to watch the much-praised Korean movie The Handmaiden at home: to be specific, on an iPad. I couldn’t, for reasons including: it’s very slow; there are many other things I could be doing (e.g., YouTube, Kindle, faster-paced movies); I don’t understand Korean…

I think I would enjoy The Handmaiden if I saw it at the movies. It would probably be in an arthouse with an attentive audience.

What sort of movies do you particularly want to see at the movies, rather than at home?

Dune at the Movies

More than month late, I saw Dune, aka Dune Part 1 or Dune (2021). I wanted to see it on a big screen, more than I’ve wanted to see any movie in a theater for many years. I’m glad I saw it on IMAX and with Max, my teen son.

I’ve read the book a few times, but not for many years. Max hasn’t read the book yet, but I hope that he’s about to start it. I suspect that I was in the sweet spot to see Villeneuve’s movie: if I’d read the book recently, I’d have been frustrated at some of the things left out of the film; on the other hand, I remembered some of the exposition that’s in the books but not the movie.

My overall impression and comment is that it would be hard to do a much better job of filming this notoriously unfilmable novel. I still find Frank Herbert’s world fascinating, about 60 years after he wrote the novel. Villeneuve brings it to the screen wonderfully, mixing huge shots of ships, buildings, and the desert with intimate close-ups of the characters.

My only reservation bigger than a quibble concerns the sound. When I asked Max how he liked the movie, his first comment was that his ears hurt. Mine hadn’t been comfortable either. I mainly blame the theater and its wish to show off its sound system: my ears were assaulted from the start of the preview for Top Gun: Maverick.

That said, I’m not sure that Hans Zimmer’s score is entirely innocent. It’s about as subtle as a Top Gun preview.

I’m about to go over to my Letterboxd account and give Dune the full five stars. My reservations are tiny compared with Villeneuve’s achievement in bringing Herbert’s huge fiction to the big screen.

Getting Back Into Movies

I haven’t been a regular movie-watcher for far too long. There have been many reasons for this, including parenthood, Covid, and attention span problems. Now, as my attention span returns, I’m returning to movies, mostly through the internet rather than movie theaters.

You can see what I’m watching by visiting me on Letterboxd. I mean to keep logging the films I watch, rating most of them, and reviewing some of them.

My favorite source of movie reviews is the YouTube channel deepfocuslens. Maggie is my favorite kind of YouTuber: what I term an ELK, one who is Enthusiastic, Likeable, and Knowledgeable.

I must get to a theater soon to see Dune, which I have been looking forward to seeing on a big screen for years. My most regular movie-going years were during graduate school, when the theaters in the mostly-dead malls between Amherst and Northampton (Massachusetts) used to have “twilight shows” for $2.50. That was cheaper than renting a videotape. (That comparison will illustrate how long ago I was in grad school.)

What is your current view of movies? Eclipsed by TV shows? Products for the dying institution of the movie theater? In a golden age made possible by new technologies of production and consumption?