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Martin Mcdonagh (#110 of 8)

Hope and Chaos: The Sixth Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

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Hope and Chaos: The Sixth Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

Forager Films

Hope and Chaos: The Sixth Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

Watching Australian director Jennifer Peedom’s Mountain one morning at the sixth annual Los Cabos International Film Festival, I was struck by the fullness of the auditorium and by the prominence of children in the audience. Peedom’s film is an essayistic documentary about humankind’s relationship with mountains all over the world, with tender, ruefully poetic narration (spoken by Willem Dafoe) that emphasizes how our appreciation of nature can morph into an urge to conquer it, rendering the wild another of the controlled habitats from which we seek refuge. Mountain isn’t what Americans would designate a “children’s film,” as we have a habit of parking young ones in front of whatever A.D.D.-afflicted cartoon happens to be topping the box office at any given moment. It was gratifying to see such a varied audience turn out for Mountain, imparting hope as to the communal possibilities of cinema in the 21st century. Of course, many of the children were whispering and running around the theater, seemingly bored with the film in front of them, but at least they evinced some effort and curiosity.

Theater Review: Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane at BAM

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Theater Review: Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane at BAM

Stephen Cummiskey

Theater Review: Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane at BAM

Martin McDonagh is best known for plays like The Pillowman and films like In Bruges, which mix over-the-top violence with laugh-out-loud banter. But he began his career writing very Irish plays about Ireland, starting with the first in his Leenane trilogy, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a funny and crushing production of which is now at the BAM Harvey Theater (through February 5).

McDonagh famously drafted seven plays in nine months in 1994, which formed his entire oeuvre for the next decade (until his Oscar-winning short Six Shooter, in 2005). Since then, his work has dealt with other topics, especially the function of violence in art and society, but at first McDonagh’s Tarantino-reminiscent interest in the ways people hurt each other seemed pegged specifically to his heritage. (He was born and raised in London, but his parents were Irish immigrants who returned home after he was born.)

15 Famous Movie Psychopaths

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15 Famous Movie Psychopaths
15 Famous Movie Psychopaths

In Bruges badass Martin McDonagh returns this weekend with Seven Psychopaths, the sophomore feature from the Irish multihyphenate and a good source for onscreen nutjobs. Colin Farrell leads the cast of not-quite-sane characters, who include two dognappers played by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. Still, we’re thinking this new septet of psychos has nothing on the filmic crazies that have come before, particularly the lot we’ve assembled for this list. You could repeatedly scour cinema history and return with a new batch of lunatics every time. For now, here are 15 that linger strongly in the memory, a rogues gallery that runs the gamut from clingy patient to schizo serviceman.

Poster Lab: Seven Psychopaths

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Poster Lab: <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>

No, it’s not just you—the poster for Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths looks awfully familiar, despite the blinding neon green it uses to lasso your attention. Not long ago, you saw a markedly similar lineup of badass characters, glaring out at you from the one-sheet for Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. Like that memorable image, which put Brad Pitt front and center in a stylish hat, the new ad features one guy in the contrasting gleam of a leather jacket, and another in a heavy coat that highlights his exasperated, straight-man’s shrugged shoulders. But it’s more than just single file and fashion that unites these two posters. Seven Psychopaths follows Snatch’s lead so fully that it even opts to spike its plot—and, subsequently, advertising—with a little dog too. Instead of Pitt’s leashed, squeak-toy-swallowing pooch, there’s a wee, fluffy Shih Tzu, whose ironic cuteness speaks to McDonagh’s light-black tone, and who reportedly serves as the movie’s MacGuffin. However fun it may be to eye up a row of attractive rogues, it’s a tad disheartening that this Irish maestro’s latest had to plainly mirror a cult British production, as if there’s only one way to sell Euro crime comedies.

A Behanding in Spokane at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

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<em>A Behanding in Spokane</em> at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
<em>A Behanding in Spokane</em> at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

A Behanding in Spokane is enfant terrible Martin McDonagh’s first play to be set in America, and stars Christopher Walken, the one celebrity who would seem the perfect fit for the Tarantino-of-the-stage’s mix of startling menace and hilarious absurdity. But the multiple Tony-nominated and Academy Award-winning Irishman’s latest project—despite the presence of always finely tuned Walken and a nothing less than revelatory Sam Rockwell—is minor McDonagh. And that’s being generous. Without those two tent-pole presences holding it up, Behanding would fold like a cheap house of cards.

Paradise Lost: In Bruges

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Paradise Lost: <em>In Bruges</em>
Paradise Lost: <em>In Bruges</em>

Martin McDonagh is the Quentin Tarantino of the theater, which is descriptive shorthand for something quite extraordinary.

The Tony-nominated, Olivier Award-winning playwright has single-handedly taken Tarantino’s visceral, blood-and-guts filmmaking style and transported it to live theater, exploding the possibilities of the stage like a lightning bolt. His most recent plays to reach Broadway, The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, both feature graphic scenes of murder and torture (Inishmore, in particular, is a masterful mix of stomach-churning gore and stomach-holding hilarity). Now with In Bruges, McDonagh’s debut feature starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hitmen forced to take a vacation in a fairytale Belgian city after a botched job, he’s transplanted his fantastic film/theater hybrid onto the big screen, canceling out his own accomplishment in the process and delivering to us what can only be described as “McDonagh lite.”

Cinema 16’s European Short Films on DVD

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Cinema 16’s European Short Films on DVD
Cinema 16’s European Short Films on DVD

The latest DVD release from Cinema 16, European Short Films offers a diverse and illuminating collection of cinematic work that, despite the regional specificity indicated by the title of the set, stands as a microcosmic look into many of the art form’s otherwise unexplored niches and corners. Even assuming the vast diversity of taste and viewing experience of potential viewers, the wealth of material here makes it unlikely that one won’t find something of value, whether in one or more of the individual films themselves, or in the bulk of material overall with its many fascinating comparisons and contrasts.

For cinephiles like myself who are generally unaccustomed to and unfamiliar with short films, the experience afforded by a collection of this sort demands something of a reexamination of one’s relationship to the medium. For the Woody Allen-esque types who prefer to watch everything from beginning to end without interruption (The Sorrow and the Pity included), it is a small revelation to find a wealth of material lending itself to more practical viewing habits. It goes without saying that this two-disc set is by no means definitive, and nor does it aspire to be. It instead lends itself to iPod-like cinematic playlisting, though consider this means of sampling a potentially added bonus for younger buffs yet unfamiliar with the joys existing outside of feature films. Given their similarities and differences, I have attempted to talk about the shorts in as logical a fashion as possible; as a rule of thumb, however, consider those discussed earliest to be those most preferred.