Hunger (2008), Beware the Yikes of March

The lovely ladies at Burns Court Theater (part of the Sarasota Film Society) were wonderful hostesses to a pre-St Patty’s Day event showing Steve McQueen’s Hunger from 2008. But let me tell you something…this was realism in all caps, like this: REALISM! Attending this film is as close to being in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland as I’d like to get. Holy violence.
I actually did not know the story before going in, with the exception of hearing his name, and knowing about The Troubles. If you don’t know the ending, I will not spoil it here.
Steve McQueen made his first directorial splash with Hunger and continued using Michael Fassbender (who portrayed Bobby Sands in Hunger) in his penultimate (my opinion) 12 Years a Slave and again in Shame (fantastic film and a better Carey Mulligan role than the eye rolling Promising Young Woman).
McQueen goes to the darkest places in this film which should have been an awakening for prison reform across the globe.
The best scene in the film is a two person number between Fassbender and the actor Liam Cunningham playing a priest attempting to counsel Bobby Sands. While both actors are riveting, Fassbender’s monologue is a show stopper, akin to my favorite monologue of this year by Ellen Burstyn in Pieces of a Woman. For Fassbender’s monologue, it was worth shutting my eyes and closing my ears for what must have been 15 to 20 minutes of violence and gore. Yet, it’s history and the worst of man’s depravity. God help us if we ever slide back into such hatred.

Wiener-Dog; Solondz Always Worth a Little Darkness

You need to buck up when you watch Tood Solondz. Prepare to be disturbed at some point in each of his films…maybe most disturbing was Happiness (but to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in his prime, again, worth it!!).

In Wiener-Dog we get snapshots of four stories detailing the lives of at least three different dachshunds.

The first sub-plot uses one of Solondz’s tried and true motifs of broken childhood dreams. In Todd’s world, there’s no such thing as a protected child. The best thing about this story was Tracy Letts as a curmudgeon of a husband/father and Julia Delphy as the matter-of-fact Mom. Theri dead pan deliveries added the most comedy of the film. And if I could choose any actress in the world to be my sister, it’d be a tough choice between Julia and Parker Posey.

In the second vignette, Greta Gerwig plays a geeky dog lover and Kieran Culkin as her convenient store pick up of a romantic interest. In the third, Danny DeVito plays a washed up Film Professor, and in the final episode, Ellen Burstyn plays an elderly Grandma to Zosia Mamet (Girls, Madmen), a wayward granddaughter stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. Burnstyn is amazing for still acting her arse off into her 90’s and Zosia has young acting chops that I look forward to seeing again in future projects.

Definitely worth a watch and a mere 88 minutes of quarantine time!