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Great Movies Roundtable: Ben-Hur

Courtland and I are going to start a monthly roundtable, discussing the films on AFI’s 100 years… 100 movies list.

Starting #100 and working our way up the list, our first film is “Ben-Hur.”  Made in 1959, directed by William Wyler, “Ben-Hur” is famous for its chariot race (in which no one actually died, regardless of what you read on the internet) and its spectacle. The tale of a Jewish aristocrat who lived the same time as Christ, “Ben-Hur” is about revenge and redemption… but it’s mostly about sandals and swords.   It won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

 

General thoughts/feelings about this film? 

 CRH: I think Ben Hur is a great movie. The movie still thrills me in its action and moves me in its drama and romance. It has a gorgeous cinematography and music.  The sound is utterly incredible. During the chariot race you feel the hooves of the horses thundering all around you as you watch. The score by Miklos Razsa is beautiful and stirring. I was transported to the Bibleland of this story.

Some of the special effects have not aged well. The great naval battle is obviously models. It almost works, but they are still dated. Another downside is that the film has a slow pace which is fine when you are in a theater and immersed in that environment but it makes it harder to watch when my cell phone is right there. Lastly the story is good but not great. It feels a little underdeveloped.

WK: I don’t think Ben-Hur is a classic, or really, all that good. Charlton Heston is barely serviceable as the lead. It doesn’t help that he’s at least 50 pounds heavier and six inches taller than anyone else in the movie.  It’s too long, too melodramatic, and too racist for me (I can’t believe Hugh Griffith won a Best Supporting Actor for his brownface role has Sheikh Ilderim.)

It’s interesting watching films like this – I find myself paying more attention to the work of the crew than the director or actors.  I see the costumes and the set design and just how many extras must have been hired, coached and costumed to get some of these scenes. That’s all work the director has little to do with.  (I also can’t believe Wyler won Best Director for this.  What exactly did he do that was so great?  The best scene – the chariot race – was directed by a second unit director!)

It’s big – it has that going for it. But we’ve gotten better and better at creating spectacles over the years, and this pales in comparison to others. But when it comes to big films that depend on exciting setpieces, I can think of several that I’d rather watch than “Ben-Hur” — films like “Master and Commander,” or “Terminator 2,” or even “Gladiator.” None of those are currently on AFI’s list.

 

Aside from the famous chariot race (too obvious), which is your favorite scene in the movie? 

 CRH: My favorite scene (Besides the Chariot Scene which is a glorious action scene) is where our hero, after being wrongly convicted is thirsting to death on his long march to the slave galleys he is denied water by a cruel soldier. He collapses at the end of his rope and utters a desperate prayer. And a stranger comes and gives him water touching his hand and quenching his thirst. This scene is beautiful, soft and glorious. When I think of compassion I think of this scene. Hope swells for our hero after this incident and life moves on. I was greatly moved watching this again.

WK: That is a good scene, and probably my favorite of the Jesus cameos – and yet it’s still almost spoiled by Jesus’ gloriously shampooed and styled hair.  We never see his face, but surely hair like that will inspire worship!

Divine locks

Divine locks

 

In general, I felt like the depiction of Jesus was pretty heavy-handed – especially in the way it directly affects the story, causing Ben-Hur to give up his hatred and stop seeking revenge against Rome. Really, I could have done without the last half hour of the film – basically everything after the chariot race.  From that point on, the writing takes a serious deep, the pace becomes glacial, and it feels like we are just going through the motions in order to label what is essentially a revenge flick “A Tale of the Christ.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 1.51.05 PMI think my favorite scene is one early in the film between Heston and Israeli actress Haya Harareet.  Wyler directs almost every scene with emotions turned up to 11 – especially after Ben-Hur’s return to Jerusalem in the second half – and it’s pretty exhausting.  But early on, Harareet brings a grace and naturalism to her scenes.  We see her flirting with a man who is clearly beyond her social station, and testing to see if he feels anything for her, or can be seduced into feeling anything for her. Heston matches the tone she brings – there’s a bit of physical action where he takes a ring from her and tries to put it on, first his middle finger, then ring finger, then finally his pinkie finger, that subtly illustrates just how gigantic he is, especially compared to her.

I suspect the scene was written more straightforwardly than she acted it — I guess she was supposed to be madly in love with him from childhood or something — but she brings a playfulness to it that I found enchanting.  Plus it’s gorgeously shot, a night scene against window blinds that provide a striking contrast.

Buying or Selling? In 1998, this film was #72 on the list.  In 2007, it fell to #100 – a drop of 28 spots.  The list will inevitably be revised again in a few years.  Do you think it will rise or fall on (or off) the list? 

CRH: Now on this film’s legacy as a classic, I must say it will remain so. The only thing I can say is that it is the best movie of its type. It’s less corny than “the Ten Commandments” and more competent than the films that came afterward which include “Samson and Delilah” and “Cleopatra.” At the very least it’s a glittering remnant of a Hollywood long past.

 WK: I’m selling. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this fall off the list by the next revision – in fact, I definitely prefer several of the films that have already fallen off the list – like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Manchurian Candidate, Fargo, and Frankenstein. I don’t really see what sets “Ben-Hur” apart from other big spectacles, aside from its budget and awards. It has some nice setpieces, like the famous chariot race.  But that’s not enough, in my mind, to make it a classic.  Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t really imagine needing to see it again.

Up Next Month:  #99: Toy Story

 

 

 

 

Posted in The Classic Movie Series.

Bone Tomahawk

With “Bone Tomahawk,” director S. Craig Zahler has set out to make a traditional Western in a nontraditional way.  First he has to deal with the sexism and racism of his premise – this is a movie about a bunch of cowboys out to rescue a damsel in distress from a band of bloodthirsty savages. He does that by first making the damsel extremely capable and probably smarter than her rescuers, and then by making the bloodthirsty savages something beyond Indians – even the Native people of the area fear and avoid them. It’s not even clear if they’re actually human – in some ways they resemble the aliens in “Predator” more than homo sapiens.  If they are of this world, they’re the brown-skinned equivalent of the hillbillies in “Deliverance.”  All the same, I’m not really sure, given the history of Natives in cinema, that it’s enough to say “not ALL Native tribes eat their captors – just this particularly savage band” – but, well, it’s an attempt.

Patrick Wilson plays a cowboy whose wife (Lilli Simmons) is kidnapped while she’s taking care of a desperado, shot in the leg by the sheriff (Kurt Russell.)  Then they all disappear – kidnapped by a mysterious band of cave dwellers, identified by friendly Native Zahn McClarnon (from “Longmire”) as “troglodytes.” Russell, his deputy, and a gunslinger in a fancy suit (Matthew Fox) go after the troglodytes, with Wilson hobbling along, refusing to be left behind.

Zahler does a solid job of capturing the humor and color of some of the best Westerns, movies like “Unforgiven” and “The Wild Bunch.” I really enjoyed “Bone Tomawhawk” up until a point. Richard Jenkins’ supporting performance as a bumbling back-up deputy is fantastic, and Kurt Russell is just as good as he was in “Tombstone” – in fact, his facial hair makes him even look the same. The dialogue is enjoyably funny and offbeat, and the characters develop a palpable sense of chemistry and camarederie as the movie ambles its way along.  Many of the middle scenes are very good, and it’s not as stiff or stylistic as some of the other indie Westerns I’ve seen recently, like “Slow West” or “Dead Man’s Burden.” I’ll be curious to see what Zahler does next; hopefully, it won’t have some of the issues that crop up in this movie.

Because when it approaches its climactic battle, “Bone Tomahawk” suddenly turns into a horribly violent and grisly film, well beyond what I’d expect from a western and into the realm of exploitation films. There are definitely things on the screen I didn’t need to see. Add that to the fact that I’m not really convinced that this movie goes far enough to avoid the “bloodthirsty Indians” stereotype of so many westerns, and I have to recommend that, in spite of its many admirable qualities, “Bone Tomahawk” be a movie you avoid.

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Charlie’s Country

David Gulpilil has been around Hollywood movies for a long time.  He’s the actor most often called when productions need an Australian aborigine (really, it’s kind of depressing how often on his IMDB page he’s just credited as “Aborigine”), and you’ve probably seen him in movies like “Crocodile Dundee,” “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” “Australia,” or “Walkabout.”  He has one of those faces you’ll recognize, even if you don’t recognize his name. It’s easy to see why he keeps getting cast; he has a laconic humor about him, a way in front of the camera that is both mysterious, sad, world-wise and slyly funny. But I doubt he’s ever been in a movie like “Charlie’s Country.”

This film moves Gulpilil from the sidekick/local color role into the leading role, and focuses on what it’s like to be indigenous in Australia today. Gilpilil co-wrote the script – he would throw out suggestions and director Rolf de Heer would shape them into a cinematic narrative —  so you can trust that the film hews close to Gulpilil’s lived experience. It’s an episodic, leisurely paced film with plenty of laughs, but also a strong dose of heartbreak.

There are plenty of movies about active, hateful racism, but this one is about passive, complacent, systemic racism, of the kind where those in power probably aren’t aware the degree to which they’re making it hard for those without power to succeed and survive. The irony of the title is that Charlie is the only one who seems to remember that this is his country.  “You didn’t find me in the bush,” he tells a whitefella.  “I was born there.”  And most of the time, when he gets in trouble, it’s for doing something his ancestors have done since time began – like making spears or hunting water buffalo.

A lot of “Charlie’s Country” is depressing, as Charlie first attempts to return to the bush, only to realize he doesn’t have the skills of his ancestors, then falls in with a group of aboriginals who spend their time getting drunk and high, and eventually ends up in prison for a short time.  But there’s a ragged optimism to the film as well, as if it’s reminding us that, though things get tough, indigenous people are tough and don’t give in easily.  Charlie has weathered plenty from the whitefellas, and he’s not going anywhere. They may run things, but it’s still Charlie’s country.

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Zootopia

Judy Hopp is a bunny who wants to be a cop in Zootopia, a world where bunnies are farmers, not cops.  It’s also a world where foxes used to eat bunnies, but not anymore… now they all get along. At least in theory.  In reality, foxes are just as boxed in as bunnies — according to everyone, they are tricksy and dishonest, and you should never trust them.  Are foxes criminals because they’re good at it, or because it’s the only economic opportunity available to them?  Nobody in Zootopia is really asking that question, but the movie itself is asking it with force.

Some people have gone on record saying that this is a Disney movie about race in America.  I find that problematic.  There are some clear parallels, but other places it just as clearly breaks down – or delivers the wrong message if interpreted through that lens.  Instead it makes more sense as a movie about prejudice in general, and the dynamics of Zootopia draw on multiple biases. When Judy wants to be a cop but nobody believes she can be any good, she is a woman in a man’s world.  But when the predators are stereotyped and feared because of the actions of a few predators, they are black men — or maybe Muslims. I think this is a strength of the film: it speaks to contemporary issues, while transcending them.  It’s about race in America, or religion in the Middle East, or sexism anywhere.  It’s about any time — and there are myriad examples — someone in power uses fear and prejudice to multiply or amplify that power.  Unity sounds nice (and everyone says they want it,) but fear is high-octane political fuel.  It also captures aptly how racism (or pick your prejudice) can feel like something “those people over there” need to stop doing, until you suddenly find things coming out of your own mouth that are hurtful to people you care about deeply.

Like most premises, this one is pretty simple, and “Zootopia” would be a pretty simple movie if it weren’t for writers working overtime to load it with insights and subtext, parallels to real life (“A bunny can call another bunny cute, but when another animal does it…”) and most of all, humor.  As a result, “Zootopia” really jumps, and I look forward to seeing it again, because I’m sure there were clever little asides and visual bits and dynamics that I missed.  In that way, it resembles, “Inside Out” which still reveals new things on subsequent viewings, and “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was loaded with nostalgia.

It doesn’t always work.  I personally hated the trailer, and the scene in the film that became the trailer, because it’s a one-joke gag that goes on and on… and on.  And the plot becomes a little convenient towards the end — unless someone can explain to me why carrot farmers also grow poisonous berries that make people go crazy right alongside the carrots.  But it’s without a doubt a notch above most animated fare, and I look forward to seeing it again.

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Batman vs. Superman, AKA Critics vs. Audiences

So much e-ink has been spilled about Batman v. Superman, I don’t have much that I can add at this point.  I have found it interesting  how much heat the divide between critics’ response to the movie and audience response to it has been.  It currently has a “44” on metacritic.com, which honestly, is higher than I think it deserves.  At the same time, its opening weekend was the fourth-largest of all time, meaning a lot of people are shelling out their hard-earned cash to go see it.  (Interesting side note: it fell off sharply after its opening weekend, and is still in danger of not make its (ridiculous) $800 million budget back.)

This has raised questions about whether critics are relevant, if anyone pays attention to them, and if “real people” are just looking for different things than movie critics are. I think the answer is “yes” to all three of those questions.  Let me address them in reverse order.

Are “normal people” looking for something different than critics when they watch movies? I think yes. Critics make their living writing about movies.  I don’t consider myself a critic, just a movie lover who likes to write.  I occasionally get paid to write about movies, but I don’t think even a widow in Africa could live on the money I make from movies each year.

I would guess that most paid critics watch more movies in a week than most people watch in a month, and more than some watch in a year. I think what when most people go to the movie theater, they are looking for an entertaining escape from reality, a diversion, an entertainment that distracts them from quotidian worries about rent and kids and bosses and co-workers. If a movie isn’t actively, aggressively stupid, annoying or offensive, it’s probably going to do the trick, and most audiences will feel like they got what they were looking for.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

Critics watch movies differently.  Movies are their job. Knowing that you’re going to be required to write 1,000 words about a movie in order to pay your rent and put food on the table automatically changes the way you watch a movie. In addition, watching movie after movie after movie ends up being kind of boring, even if you’re a hardcore devoted cinephile.  You start to gravitate towards the ones that are unique, that do something differently, that stand out from the pile.  I see this especially reading reports from festivals, where a critic will watch 20-30 movies in a weekend.  They praise the ones that are different, even if different doesn’t mean good.

As an avid movie lover, I’m somewhere in between. I watch movies every chance I get, but I very rarely watch them back to back. Movies still serve as an escape and release from the stress and frustration of everyday life for me, but I see enough to see patterns and even feel bored by movies that play it safe from beginning to end. I watch movies differently than my wife does, but not quite the same as the critics I read.

So if critics watch movies differently from “normal” people, what good are they? 

So here’s the thing about a movie like Batman vs. Superman: I went to see it knowing that it was probably going to be bad. I don’t like Zack Snyder’s movies.  The trailers looked bad.  But I went to see it anyway, because, hey, it’s Batman and Superman. It’s an event.  This isn’t Fantastic Four, after all.  We say audiences loved this movie because it had a big opening weekend, but I imagine there are a lot of people like me.  What’s more telling, I think, is the steep dropoff between week 1 and week 2.  Nobody who saw it on the night it opened went back to see it again. Nobody told their non-comic book fan friends, “you should see it. It’s really good.”  We saw it, and moved on.

But let’s look at another movie that opened just a week later: “Midnight Special,” Jeff Nichols’ supernatural thriller. Haven’t heard of it? I’m not surprised. It opened on just 5 screens, making $190,000 its first weekend.  Who went and saw it?  Critics, and cinephiles (like me) who know who Jeff Nichols is, and have been excited about this film for months.  It got positive reviews, it generated buzz, and its 3rd week, it showed on 58 screens, and made $550,000.  Last week, it jumped to almost 500 screens, and made $1.1 million.  That’s because of critics. I think it’s fair to say that if this movie had been panned by critics, it would never have made it past 58 screens.

The point being that critics are most relevant and helpful to the rest of us because they see so many more movies than the average movie-goer, which is exactly the same reason why they watch movies differently.  It’s two sides of the same coin.

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to be able to share movies that I love with people who many never hear of them otherwise. I’d much rather write a review of “It Follows” or “Ex Machina”  and help somebody discover something they might love than add to the cacophany of voices talking about Batman vs. Superman.

But – since you asked.  Yeah, I thought it was bad.  I thought it was visually a mess. I thought somebody needed to reign Jesse Eisenberg in before he started literally chewing the scenery.  I thought it was both overwritten and underwritten – the courtroom scene and the Middle East rescue serve the same purpose, as far as I could tell.  I don’t know why Batman hates Superman, and I don’t know why Superman can’t just use his super hearing and X-ray vision to rescue his kidnapped mother.  I don’t know why his mother’s name matters so much.  I don’t have anything new to say; all my problems with the movie are the same as everyone else’s.  It’s a mess of a movie, but it was kind of fun to watch, in the same way watching a building be demolished is kind of fun to watch.  So let me leave you with this:

I mean, that’s pretty entertaining, right?

 

 

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

About halfway through “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a quiet and touching moment.  Afghan translator and general compation Fahim (played by white guy Chris Abbott, who may have the saddest eyes in the world,) sits down with journalist Kim Baker (Tina Fey.)  He talks to her, in his gentle and indirect way, about addiction.  About how the rush gets more and more elusive, and the addict must do more and more dangerous things to attain that feeling. It’s a one man intervention, and it’s a really fine scene. Fey blows him off, hard.

It was at that moment that I thought I understood what “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” wanted to be about.  Fey plays a mild-mannered journalist who decides to break out of her boring, routine life by going on assignment in Afghanistan. At first, everything is new, exciting, and confusing, and Fey gets some solid comedic mileage out of playing the fish out of water. But the newness and novelty wears off pretty quickly, and is replaced by an environment where nothing normal is normal. By this point in the film, Fey has covered a few stories, been on CNN (or whatever 24 hour newscycle channel she works for,) and is seeking the rush of seeing herself on television again.  But in order to for that to happen, she has to corral more and more dangerous stories.

She has to go after the dangerous stories because her viewers — that would be you and me, dear reader — have grown fatigued of the war in Afghanistan, and aren’t tuning in any more to watch stories about bombed wells and hospitals. It felt like an apt metaphor – this woman was going to nearly kill herself in desperate attempts to get us to care about this war we’ve all but stopped caring about.  Her motivation may not be that pure and true — really, she just wants to get back on TV — but that’s what it boils down to in the end.  It felt convicting and powerful.

And then… the movie drifts away from this point.  It decides it wants to be about a bunch of other things as well, like the way women are treated in strict Muslim countries, and the way women journalists are treated in a male-dominated corner of the profession.  Or about how journalists can easily move beyond observers and become players in wartime decision-making.  Or about how the whole profession is cutthroat, and the guy you’re sleeping with one day will steal the story you’ve been working on for months the next.

And that’s the real problem with “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” – it wants to be about too many things all at once, and ends up with such a diffuse focus that it doesn’t feel like it’s really about anything in particular.  And then, at the end, Tina Fey just decides she’s had enough, packs her bags, and heads back to the states, where she covers a Washington beat – meaning she’s covering much more trivial stories, but gets on TV much more often.  What are we supposed to take away from that?

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Ex Machina

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”   –Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), “Rounders”

Domnhall Gleeson plays Caleb, a young and optimistic computer programmer who wins a trip to visit his hero, the founder of the company he works for and the most powerful software company in the world, on his private and very exclusive estate.  When he arrives, the CEO – Nathan (Oscar Isaac) asks him to perform a Turing Test on a robot he’s created, Ava (Alicia Vikander,) and decide if she is actually conscious or just simulating consciousness.

Except… not everything is as it seems.  To begin with, that’s not an actual Turing test. In a real Turing test, the tester communicates with two subjects, one human and one a machine, and must determine which is which.  No machine has ever passed.  Ava wouldn’t pass either; she says things no human this side of Sheldon Cooper would say, things like “If we formed a list of books and films we both know, it would create the ideal basis of a discussion.”   (Come to think of it, Sheldon Cooper wouldn’t pass a Turing test, either.  Maybe that says something significant about the test.) What Caleb is really being asked to do is determine if Ava has a soul, and that’s a religious question, not a scientific one.  Nathan might as well put him in a room with a Golden Retriever and ask him to determine if the dog has emotions or just simulates them (do dogs have souls?)

Continued…

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

10 Cloverfield Lane

The Monsters are Due on Cloverfield Lane

By Courtland Hopkins

10 Cloverfield Lane has the markers of a claustrophobic thriller where the audience is trapped with the heroine. The film follows the story of a woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), she is in a car accident and is taken into a bomb shelter by a mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) to protect her from a worldwide catastrophe. Soon they are joined by a local named Emmet (John Gallagher Jr). The questions swirled in my mind as I hear loud concussions and mysterious sounds coming from the outside. Is the world really ending as Howard and Emmet proclaim? Or has Michelle run across a psychopath keeping her in the bunker for his own sick ends? It is hard to talk more about the plot without completely spoiling it.

I have always enjoyed Winstead’s performances in movies 2011 version of the Thing and Death Proof. John Goodman turns in an excellent performance as Howard. I got a sense of menace and well as compassion for him as the movie went along. The filmmaking is solid. The story is solid as well but I think the actors and the premise make the movie work. The ending is something else altogether.

Ten Cloverfield Lane bears little resemblance to the film it gets its namesake but if there is a Cloverfield franchise, it will be unique in the fact that all the films in it take place in this strange universe; all could have different stories involving a alien invasion told through the eyes of ordinary people.

This movie reminded me of a mix of the War of the Worlds (The book) and Misery. It’s a combination of the two terrors found in these types of stories, the end of the world and the madman let loose. I watched this movie and was thrilled. I liked feeling the mystery, the tensions and the terror just like Michelle in the movie. The most appealing part of the story is where our heroine experiences a genuine transformation through the course of the story. She is on a strange adventure that is filled with all kinds of terrors and decisions. I think the ending was a perfect denouement to the story. The ending of the movie reminded me of the superb ending of the Terminator, and ending to a movie where one feels as if the story is not over but the character is free from the plot, leaving the larger story to be finished in our imaginations or discussing it at Denny’s after we leave the theatre. I say see it.

Posted in All Reviews, By Courtland Hopkins.

It Follows

 Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 2.42.22 PM

“When there is torture, there is pain and wounds, physical agony, and all this distracts the mind from mental suffering, so that one is tormented only by the wounds until the moment of death. but the most terrible agony may not be in the wounds themselves but in knowing for curtain that within an hour, then ten minutes, then within half a minute, now at this very instant–your soul will leave your body and you will no longer be a person, and that this is certain; the worst thing is certain.”  –Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Idiot”

The first 65 minutes of “It Follows” are perfect.  I have watched this film multiple times, closely and carefully, and there is not a scene, not a camera angle, not a sound cue or nuance of a performance that I don’t think is exactly as it should be during that first hour and change.  That’s pretty remarkable.  This is masterful filmmaking.  It more than makes up for the last 35 minutes, which are kind of a mess.

Continued…

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Hail, Caesar!

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.57.03 PM

There’s something resembling a plot in “Hail Caesar,” as well, but the Coen brothers seem even less interested in investing that plot with urgency than whatever overpaid tool directed “Deadpool.” Really, you see all you need to in the trailer: George Clooney plays a big Hollywood star who gets kidnapped by communists, and Josh Brolin is the fixer who has to get him back. He does. That’s not a spoiler, because it’s so utterly unimportant to the movie. (And besides, he’s George Clooney. You think the bad guys are going to kill him?)

What you don’t see in the trailer is all the goofy, oddball stuff that goes on in and around this flimsy little plot, all the stuff that makes this movie fun, and all the stuff that  the Coen brothers seem to care about more than kidnapping. Really, the kidnapping is just an excuse to put Clooney in a room with a bunch of intellectuals so we can listen to them babble nonsensically about dialectics and means of production and the Common Man. It’s a funny scene.

What makes this movie hum are the setpieces, like watching Channing Tatum dance it up in a sailor outfit while singing “No Dames.” Or Frances McDormand almost get eaten by her machinery in the editing room. Or Scarlett Johansson in a truly fantastic synchronized swimming number. Josh Brolin navigates his way through it all, trying to keep Clooney’s abduction from the gossip columnists (Tilda Swinton and Tilda Swinton) while mulling over a lucrative job offer from Lockheed. Does he really want to give up all this for more money and less stress? Airplanes may be the wave of the future, but are there any dancing sailors or swimming divas in those hangars? Of course not. And there’s more to a satisfying job than the money.

I’ll confess that there might be a point to “Hail, Caesar” that I didn’t grasp. Brolin spends an awful lot of time weighing the morality of his choices, and goes to confession even more often than his priest thinks is appropriate. The Coens go to great lengths to show us that he is a good, decent, thoughtful, principled man, who cares about his family and his job, and loves what he does. Perhaps this is where “Caesar” becomes more personal, and more of a filmmaker’s manifesto: Hollywood is a crazy, shallow, bizarre world, but good people call it home.

 

Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.