Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
When this Clint Eastwood-directed adaptation of John Berendt’s bestseller was released in 1997, it was a critical and commercial disappointment. But time has been kind to it, and its recent Blu-ray upgrade from Warner Archive reveals a fascinating work, and quite unlike anything else in the Eastwood filmography. His pictures are usually lean and mean, with not a wasted moment and a laser focus on narrative. This one runs an expansive 155 minutes, and much of the excess is in the first act – delaying the murder the movie is ostensibly about for as long as possible, to spend more time soaking in the swampy Savannah atmosphere, and reveling in its colorful characters (“It’s like Gone with the Wind on mescaline,” John Cusack’s outsider reporter memorably notes.) It’s not Eastwood’s best film, but it’s one of his strangest, and three cheers for that. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy is my new background series of choice. While it hasn’t won my full attention yet, I am all about Katey Sagal’s bad bitch biker mama. She successfully erased her iconic Married with Children role from my mind. I hope the show stays pulpy rather than becoming an overly serious “Hamlet on wheels.” If my interest in the story starts to wane, Sopranos will be my next “unconventional families with twisted moral codes” series to explore. (Am I the only person in the world who hasn’t watched it yet?) — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor
Jena Friedman: American Cunt
This standup special from former Daily Show producer Jena Friedman began as a one-woman show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival; on Thursday, Oct. 20, American Cunt (!) premieres on NBC’s comedy streaming service Seeso, launching its “12-Week Stand-Up Streaming Fest,” with one new hourlong set from a different comic airing (almost) every week until January 5. Friedman, who recently appeared on Seeso’s Debate Wars, delivers a hilarious, no-holds-barred set. Whether her topic is abortion jokes (“the unwanted children of jokes”) or her satisfaction at being able to fit into her “9/11 jeans,” Friedman is unapologetically frank and yet oh so chill. Check it out tomorrow on Seeso. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor
Rebecca Hall in Christine
Antonio Campos’ Christine is a rare biopic (about Christine Chubbuck) that isn’t solely a vehicle for its lead to win awards; far from the lazy narratives of struggle and inspiration we often get from the form, Christine is a smartly aestheticized, psychologically troubling movie that, with its narrative about an extreme case of sensational news overload, feels philosophically tied to the present.
But while it surpasses many biopics by working on a number of levels rather than just a performance-based one, Hall’s acting is so immersive — and sensitive — that it still stands out. The film follows Hall’s version of Chubbuck with a closeness that, given her depression and inability to break out of the social shell she’s created for herself (and to which others, who often make cursory attempts to connect with her, contribute), makes the viewer feel equally claustrophobic. Even more claustrophobia-inducing is the notion of the inevitable ending, as it’s based on a true story whose ending is the troubling reason Chubbuck’s story is even being told.
Hall’s performance is not only transformative or impressive, but it also, itself, gives way to series of questions about the reasons we engage with certain upsetting narratives, why, beyond sadism (or masochism), we’d want to immerse ourselves in a mindset that’s barreling towards literal self-destruction. If there’s an answer provided, it’s that we come out of the film with a greater (albeit fictionalized) understanding of such a narrative and such a mindset, and a lot of that is thanks to Hall’s encompassment of the entire story, and all its implications, in one character. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor