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.

A Three Way: Steve Jobs, Burnt, Truth

Michael Fassbender

Perhaps my subject line could have been one phrase: Steve Jobs’ Burnt Truth? Did Jobs scorch the truth?

Steve Jobs: I don’t know about who ‘didn’t start the fire'(Billy Joel reference), but I will say that once again, Michael Fassbender certainly has an arsenal of acting ability. He’s already thrilled me in Twelve Years a Slave and Shame (not to mention his sweet vulnerability in Frank). Now he makes the life of Steve Jobs seem human, rather than super human. Kate Winslet, yet another acting powerhouse (favorite performance The Reader), plays down her beauty as Jobs’ scrupulous, yet extremely patient assistant.

Everyone goes ga-ga over Seth Rogen and he is good, but just as intense were Micahel Stuhlbarg (check out his IMDB photo-he either identifies as a thin man who just does chunkier roles or he has body dysmorphia-no judgment, just an observation); and Jeff Daniels (favorite movie Something Wild).
Recommendation go see it, in my top 10 this year by a long shot.

Burnt: Just as Iran is half the world away, so is Burnt to Steve Jobs. Talk about a Food Channel meets MTV video masquerading as a full length film! Schmaltzy, disjointed, shallow, Bradley Cooper does a bad Clint Eastwood Tough Cowboy, who instead of a holster carries an apron full of knives. To clarify, no violence, but that tough “I’ve been through ‘hell’ exterior and have only skin deep feelings for women due to the nihilistic life I must lead”.

Truth? Not much better, flat script. Make us care about Mary Mapes, instead portraying her as a frigid workaholic. Topher Grace and Elisabeth Moss have embarrassing little to do and Dennis Quaid’s major purpose was gesturing a perfect salute. I love Cate Blanchett (odd favorite: “The Adventures of Steve Zissou”), but the aforementioned job fixation mixed with the melodrama just seemed to age her despairingly so.