FILM: HAIL, CAESAR!
CAST: George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johannson, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton
DIRECTOR: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Set in 1950s Hollywood, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is Capital Pictures’ head of physical production and is the studio fixer. His job is to maintain the clean reputation of the company and its stars. When Mannix is advised that studio star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has disappeared after not showing up for work on the current production of ‘Hail Caesar, a Tale of Christ’s Life’, he initially believes Whitlock has been drinking. But, he receives a call from a group of communists who claim to have kidnapped the actor and want a ransom. When he is approached by an aviation company with an offer of a less-hectic, and rather lucrative, job, he must ultimately determine his true skills and passions.
‘Hail, Caesar!’ is the celebrated Coen Brothers’ homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age, a valentine to the studio system laced with a lovingly acerbic edge. The film celebrates the dream factory, while pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the less-than-flattering inner workings of the film business in its heyday.
The comedy is set in the early 1950s, a period for the motion picture industry when its glamorous façade was beginning to show visible cracks. The major studios had recently been forced to divest themselves of their theatres and were facing the sudden growth of a new rival: television. They were also beset by changes in the post-World War II political and social landscape, including the hysteria of the Red Scare and the Cold War.
Hollywood responded to these threats, real and imagined, by providing audiences with big, splashy escapist entertainments: wide-screen Biblical epics featuring casts of thousands, bold Technicolor movie musicals and Busby Berkeley-style aquatic spectaculars, as well as a supply of Westerns and sophisticated drawing-room dramas.
The well-oiled machine was run like a fiefdom, with studio bosses exerting tight control over every aspect of their talents’ professional and private lives. Careers were shaped and manicured. Stars were told what movies they could appear in, how to dress, and who to date. When, inevitably, some of the actors chafed or rebelled, studios employed a fixer to cover up indiscretions and keep them out of the public eye.
No cost was too great to maintain the illusion of glamour.
“Today, we’re so used to knowing every little thing about actors and celebrities and digging into the deep dark truths of their lives,” observes Scarlett Johansson, who plays DeeAnna Moran, an aquatic film star loosely patterned on Esther Williams. “Back then, the public wanted to believe that the stars were in fact as otherworldly and ideal as they were being projected. The studios did more to protect their ‘trophies’ back in that system. The stars were like property, under contract forever and could be loaned out at any time. There were good things about that system and bad. On the one hand, they were taken care of, and on the other, it could be rather suffocating.”
Back in the day, stars were protected by the likes of Eddie Mannix, the fixer for the fictitious Capitol Pictures. The character is a composite of the real Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling, who performed the same function for MGM. Mannix, a former bouncer, spends his days putting out fires, from sexual peccadilloes to coaxing religious leaders to approve the latest Biblical spectacle. Explains co-director Ethan Coen: “His job would be to find some movie star down in San Diego drunk, and retrieve him and pay off all the people that he offended along the way, or get somebody who is secretly gay married off.”
FILM: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
CAST: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, Toby Stephens
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
Based on a true story, this film tells the story of an American Ambassador who is killed during an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya on September 11, 2012 by Islamist terrorists. This is an account of the six soldiers who fought fearlessly to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
CAST: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K.
DIRECTOR: Jay Roach
In the 1940s, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is one of the highest paid screenwriters in the world, penning movie classics including the Oscar-nominated ‘Kitty Foyle’ and ‘Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo’. A fixture on the Hollywood social scene, and a political activist supporting labour unions, equal pay and civil rights, Trumbo and his colleagues are subpoenaed to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as part of its sweeping probe into communist activity in the U.S. Trumbo’s refusal to answer the congressmen’s questions lands him in a federal prison and earns him the eternal enmity of powerful anti-communist gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren).
For the next 13 years, all of the major Hollywood studios refuse to hire Trumbo for fear of being associated with his perceived radical political views. Forced to sell his home and ostracized by friends, colleagues and neighbors, Trumbo struggles to feed his family by writing mostly low-budget movies under assumed names. But he never gives up fighting for what he believes in. Ultimately,
Trumbo prevails when star Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger each put the screenwriter’s real name on screen in their respective 1960 blockbusters, ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Exodus’, effectively bringing the blacklist era to an end.
CAST: MARION COTILLARD, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, PADDY CONSIDINE
VENUE: JUSTIN KURZEL
‘Macbeth’ is the story of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader brought low by ambition and desire. A thrilling interpretation of the dramatic realities of the times and a reimagining of what wartime must have been like for one of Shakespeare’s most famous and compelling characters