The Banshees of Inisherin

I’ve never been one to love movies that feel like plays. I always feel like there is something missing without the wide vistas, dramatic cinematography, big casts and multiple settings. Most movies that feel like plays, or are actually based on plays, are set in a single room with a few actors and it always felt too enclosed, like the medium wasn’t being used to its full potential. Of course, with COVID restrictions in the past couple years, there have been many more films that were forced to be very insular, small and narrowly-scoped, much to my chagrin.

But, then again, there has been at least one film in each of the past three years that has blown my theory to bits: The Father (2020), Mass (2021), and Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022) are all films that are small–in scope, setting and cast size–and yet are absolutely fascinating and intriguing explorations of the human spirit, soul and conscience, more than making up for their lack of physical movement or expansive cinematic movement.

And now comes a film that may finally rid me of my bias altogether, a nearly perfect film that feels incredibly like a play, while still managing to feel like a widescreen, gorgeous, cinematic achievement of the highest degree. And this kind of duality can only come from the mind and talent of writer/director Martin McDonagh, who has found all the beauty in language that many think is theatre’s exclusive domain, while also creating a true cinematic experience that is second to none. The film is called The Banshees of Inisherin, and I suggest you start practicing how to say it, because it’s going to be in the conversation all the way to Oscar night on March 12.

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Focus Features
There is perhaps no better catnip for actors than playing a tortured artist. However, the danger in it is when the introspection outplays the artistry, and the audience gets lost in the weeds of conceptual pursuit. Such is the case, unfortunately, for writer/director Todd Field’s new drama, Tár.

Field is a filmmaker who takes his time. He’s only directed two films in his career up until now, but they were both acclaimed: In the Bedroom in 2001 (five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture) and Little Children in 2006 (three Oscar nominations, including Best Actress). For his third film, Tár, he wrote a character specifically to be played by arguably the best actress alive, Cate Blanchett, and it is a tour de force of character and performance. But the film itself falls short of expectation, relying far too much on Blanchett and asking the audience to travel on an overly long journey that buries itself in its own agenda.

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