The FilmWatcher Posts

Image courtesy of Netflix.

*** ½ (out of 4)

In one way or another, most Westerns made in the last decade have sought to subvert the clichés and tropes that we typically associate with the genre. For instance, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015) both foregrounded the oft-forgotten role that racism played in frontier life. Through their gruesome tales of survival, meanwhile, films like Meek’s Cutoff (Reichardt, 2010) and The Revenant (Iñárritu, 2015) countered the “Wow, I wish I lived in the West” feeling that you get when viewing the beautiful landscape shots in John Ford’s films. And earlier this fall, The Sisters Brothers (Audiard) dismantled the archetype of the “invincible gunman,” portraying sharpshooters who were anything but mighty heroes in the mold of Shane and Will Kane.

At first glance, the Coen brothers’ new anthology film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, would appear to buck this genre-subverting trend.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

**** (out of 4)

Lee Israel was a writer whose life story is at once cautionary and perversely compelling. Although her books had once been New York Times bestsellers, Israel found herself struggling to pay rent by the 90s. Desperate, she turned to forgery, writing and selling what she claimed were authentic letters by luminaries like Noël Coward and Edna Ferber. The FBI eventually tracked Israel down and slapped her with a five-year probationary sentence. But she ultimately got the last laugh: her exploits provided the basis for a fairly well-received memoir, and two of her forgeries even appeared in an official collection of Coward’s letters.

Israel’s life is the subject of Marielle Heller’s new biopic, Can You Ever Forgive Me? If you hadn’t actually seen it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the film is meant to be a sort of comedy.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals