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Jon S. Baird

Review: Stan & Ollie

Playing a comedy genius is surely 10 times harder than playing another category of intellectual brilliance. If you’re cast as Albert Einstein, you put on a fright wig and spout a few equations — everybody thinks you’re brilliant. Play a famous singer, and they can always dub the voice. In the current At Eternity’s Gate, Willem Dafoe is Vincent Van Gogh: a terrific performance (that just received a Best Actor Oscar nomination), one for which the dedicated actor learned how to paint. But he doesn’t have to convince us he painted the completed canvases — Van Gogh provided the genius we see hanging on the walls around the actor.

But comedy? Comedy is hard. To be convincingly touched by comic genius is an extremely difficult thing to fake—it’s the difference between acting funny and being funny.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Film Review: ‘Filth’

James McAvoy and Imogen Poots

Remember the great cocaine breakdown sequence from GoodFellas, in which the central character endures one long day of panic attacks and paranoia? Ray Liotta’s gangster collapses in his own excess, and looks appalling during the spiral: red-eyed, sweaty, his skin a whiter shade of pale.

Absent the bravura check-out-my-tour-de-force style of Martin Scorsese, that sequence is recalled during the entirety of Filth. In this bad-behavior wallow, James McAvoy looks as bad as Liotta during his crash, and the movie itself aims for unrelenting misery. Which it largely achieves.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly