PREVIEW: NT Live: Hamlet

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.” These iconic lines from the classic Shakespeare play are going to echo through the Michigan Theater as it shows the National Theatre 2015 broadcast of Hamlet. Catch the stunning Benedict Cumberbatch as the title prince struggling to keep his sanity while protecting his country. The production plays on Sunday, January 27 at 7pm, and tickets can be bought at the League Ticket Office for $12 with a student ID.

REVIEW: Green Book

“Traveling while black,” a guide that outlined restaurants, motels, and other establishments that were accepting of black people traveling in the south during the 1960s. In a time of legal discrimination, “Green Book” was a handbook that blacks used for their mere protection and safety due to the color of their skin. Based on a true story, Green Book is a film that takes the audience on a journey as an Italian-American male and African-American male spend two months time together on the road to the deep south and back. Directed by Peter Farrelly, Green Book embarks the true story of a world-class pianist and his personal identity crisis while co-existing in America during an extremely isolating time.

 

Dr. Don Shirley, played by Moonlight star Mahershala Ali, has set out to go on a two-month tour, performing world-class compositions for wealthy, white Americans. To aid in this tour, Dr. Shirley hires a chauffeur, but more so a personal bodyguard. Word around town is that Tony Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen) is the best man for this job. Currently a laid-off bouncer at The Copacabana Nightclub, Tony is well-known in his hometown in the Bronx as “Tony Lip.” This reputation is something he is proud of — for he is acknowledged for his cunning way of finessing people with his swift words and persuasion. Tony’s character is highly unadmirable and Farrelly makes us aware of this. It’s clear that Tony is racist, a thief, a liar, he’s violent, and ultimately is an ill-mannered mess (countless scenes of him sloppily eating, smoking, or both simultaneously). Despite these characteristics, the film spins these into the attributes of someone who is laid-back, carefree, obedient by any means necessary, and a humorous family man. Because of this angle, the audience is forced to want to support Tony throughout his adventure with Dr. Shirley. Contrastingly enough, Dr. Shirley is presented as the complete opposite in every way imaginable. He has no family, he’s extremely uptight, and lives in a bougie apartment above Carnegie Hall full of authentic and eclectic design. His vernacular is top-notch, his intellect is unmatched, his poise and mannerisms are highly distinguished, and his patience is extremely thin for someone like Tony.

 

Considering these dynamics, it’s rather easy to predict the elements of the film. Interestingly enough, the majority of conflicts and emotions came from the interactions between these two characters, rather than the political/racial climate while they were traveling. This makes it difficult to fully identify what one may actually be satisfied with after watching the film. In some ways, there could have been much more emphasis on the actual happenings of discrimination. Furthermore, this inevitably presents a huge obstacle from steering away from the typical white savior perspective. In this regard, it’s hard to ignore Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. In many ways, Green Book relates to this film with its Italian-American vs African American conflicts. There is a strong tension led by stereotypes and grossly identified misunderstandings. Another theme that revealed from both of these films was the hierarchy of oppression — both of these races countering each other with respective struggles and biases that they face. However, Green Book introduces the topic of hierarchical class structure. Tony demands that he’s more black than Dr. Shirley because of his lifetime upbringing in the Bronx, where he is a working-class man for his family and enjoys the typical “black foods,” while frowning upon the luxuries that Dr. Shirley has earned.

 

Green Book is an emotional journey more than anything. Throughout its bursts of anger, it’s complemented with spouts of joy. Where it may be full of tears, it’s backed by minutes spent laughing hysterically. This film attempts to tackle a challenging topic, so much so that it could have been more aggressive in recognizing that many of these problems still exist as we near the year 2019. There were scenes of white saviourship orchestrated by Tony as his personal bodyguard but it’s almost unreasonable to have expected anything less. One may leave this film feeling slightly incomplete with the unravelings of Dr. Shirley’s personality and identity crises. Overall, Green Book is a compelling story about friendship and the tenacious mindset that “Genius cannot change people. It takes courage to change people’s hearts.”

 

PREVIEW: The Room

Although described as a cult classic, I have never even heard of this movie. Its description is beyond bizzare, warning that I will “never see a football the same way again,” which is terrifying, and brings me to a very specific memory of this poem I read from a book I picked up for 50 cents at a used book store. Reviews of this movie range from calling it a masterpiece to the worst movie ever made.

Basically, I have no idea what watching The Room will do to me, but I will die from curiousity if I don’t see it.

You should join me in this odd venture into the unknown. It’s showing one night only, Friday, November 30 at 10 PM, in the auditorium of the Michigan Theater.

One last thing: the Michigan Theater website requests that audience members do not bring metal spoons or footballs to the show (???), so be sure to remove the spoons and footballs you normally carry before arriving.

REVIEW: Wildlife

From my initial viewing of the Wildlife trailer, I knew there were some major pieces being left out. I felt deprived of having any real sense of what the movie would entail, let alone carry an impression of what to expect. The trailer was rather reserved and too undeserving of what I knew this movie was capable of. I decided to see this film to test my intuition. To my surprise, this film was what I would call “messy.” Messy as in, countless rounds of drama and unexpected events. This film undoubtedly had a punch to it, something that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

 

Wildlife is adapted from a novel by Richard Ford and takes place in 1960 in a small, lonely town in Montana. From the beginning, we’re made to believe that they are living in a typical, happy life that is contained within a small town. It seems to be a cheesy story revolving a father who is a pro golfer, a submissive housewife, and a young teenage boy who appears to be naive to family happiness. Though, it did not take Dano (Director) long to submerge this fake sense of family solidarity. Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job, from what he believes is due to him being “too well-liked” and “too personable”. This immediately gives an insight of Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Joe’s (Ed Oxenbould) passive reservations toward their father’s job insecurity leading to multiple reallocations. To make matters worse, Jerry is offered his job back, but he declines, for he “will not work for people like that.” To step up, Jeanette suggests that she go back to work to support the family, but without throwing it in Jerry’s face in such a way that would threaten his manhood. Even little Joe chimed in to suggest picking up a part-time job after school. Despite Jerry’s negativity toward receiving extra help, he decides to take a job for $1.00/hour fighting forest fires up north. Not only is this life-threatening and under-compensating for such, but he would be leaving Jeanette and Joe to fend for themselves back at home.

 

This news was the snapping point of Jeanette. Throughout her anger and frustration, it seemed like she was being portrayed as an unstable woman unsure of her wants. To emphasize this perspective, the film is actually told by Joe’s point-of-view. This leads to even more confusion of feelings that are expressed by the adults in question. Jeanette puts Joe in countless uncomfortable situations. He’s immediately told that his father must be cheating on his mother. Jeanette’s explanation to Joe is: “Why do you think men do things? They’re either crazy or it’s a woman. Or both.” From Joe’s point-of-view, the audience is indulged into this divided realm between the parents, and where that leaves Joe to figure things out on his own. Out of spite (and for financial security), Jeanette turns to one of her swimming students, Warren Miller, for more reasons that she is able to articulate. To make everything even more complex and uneasy for Joe, Jeanette becomes nothing more than a drunk, submissive woman during dinner at Mr. Miller’s house. All of which was witnessed by Joe, followed by another sensual evening spent in their own home.

 

For this story to have taken place in 1960, it’s extremely important to note the film’s stance on feminism and coming-of-age. The underlying of this film is simply put: a damaged family falling victim to the failures of the provider, a young teen who is forced to step up and see the undesirable truth, and an (arguably) uncertain woman who doesn’t need a man to complete her. Interestingly enough, in 1963, The Feminine Mystique was published by Betty Friedan. This book is highly credited for its contributions to sparking the second wave of feminism in the United States. Friedan focuses on explaining the way women behave in the US society. She argued that the preconceptions of domestic womanhood consequently led to identity crises for American women, much of what was seen from Jeanette in Wildlife.

 

PREVIEW: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Lee Israel makes her living as a celebrity biographer. However, when that no longer pays off, she uses her talents for deception as she tries to maintain her failing writing career by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights. Based on Lee Israel’s memoir of the same name, Melissa McCarthy stars as the infamous forger as we explore the underlying motives and consequences of her actions in Can You Ever Forgive Me?. This biographical drama is now playing at the Michigan and State Theaters.