Our staffers have some recommendations for what you can watch at the theater or in the comfort of your home this weekend.
K. Austin Collins: I, Tonya is less interested in [Tonya] Harding the athlete than it is in Harding the image: the girl who, as a kid, starts wearing fake furs because it is clear that figure skating is an activity that demands you dress the part, who skates to rock music and other atypical fare (she landed that famous triple axel while skating to the music from Tim Burton’s Batman), and wears purple lipstick. The movie emphasizes all of these seemingly external details because, as it quickly reveals, these — not athleticism — are the terms on which Harding was being judged. And they’re the terms on which she eventually judged herself. That’s what the movie is about: judgment. LaVona’s, the judges’, Jeff’s, Tonya’s, and perhaps most of all, ours.
Collins: In The Shape of Water, a deaf woman finds love in a hopeless place: a fish tank. Guillermo del Toro’s darkly romantic fantasy tells the story of Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins), a cleaning woman at a government research facility in 1960s Baltimore whose life changes with the arrival of a strange, top-secret new find: a creature — part amphibian and apparently part man — found in the Amazonian rain forest. This is who Elisa falls for: the amphibian man, known as “the asset” among his captors. After the man arrives, bloody from the travails of being captured and transported to Baltimore, Elisa starts to visit his holding tank regularly, stealing away to feed him boiled eggs between bouts of him being tortured by the square-jawed military types who’ve taken over the facility. For the government, acquiring the asset has everything to do with the Cold War, as the asset’s body may hold the key to a new kind of weapon. For Elisa, meanwhile, falling in love and conspiring to set the asset free are more a matter of how she sees herself. She feels like a freak — and he is one.
Miles Surrey: The Room might be the best bad movie ever made. The Disaster Artist is certainly the best good movie based on a bad movie, based on a book about the bad movie being made, ever made. Once you’ve learned about The Room, and have gone to see The Disaster Artist, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Michael Baumann: A century after the institution stopped being politically relevant in Europe, we still use royal titles as shorthand for power, glamor, and elegance. … It’s easy to see the allure. The historical and political importance of monarchy is obvious, and their influence extends into the arts and sciences. …But those stories also underpin the dark truth of the monarchy, an institution based on the belief that some people are superior to others by divine proclamation, and because monarchical rule is inherited, by implication that superiority is genetic. That idea’s been diluted over the centuries into a Lockean consent-of-the-governed justification for a modern constitutional monarchy, but that’s just a convenient change in branding: The truth is that some countries have kings because they haven’t completely negotiated away the notion that some people ought to have supreme power over others because God says they’re better.
With that in the background, monarchy — even the toothless tabloid monarchy to which Prince Harry and his family belong — becomes not only bizarre but offensive, particularly for Americans. After all, another thing John Locke inspired is the Declaration of Independence, a document whose bulkiest section is a list of grievances against the very institution we’re now treating as a benign tabloid curiosity. We fought a war over this, for God’s sake.
So why, if I find the American fixation on the royal family so odious, can I not get enough of The Crown?
Alison Herman: Godless, the Netflix miniseries cocreated by Steven Soderbergh and written and directed by veteran screenwriter Scott Frank (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and most recently Logan), seems almost uncomfortable with its own ideological implications. Godless certainly has the potential to push the Western in a new direction, one that reflects the contemporary lens the audience brings; think of how McCabe & Mrs. Miller updated the template for the moral ambiguity of New Hollywood, or how the work of Taylor Sheridan translates Western conventions into a post-recession setting. But that potential is not met in Godless; the seven-part miniseries shunts its most intriguing elements to the back burner, including the all-female town that serves as its supposed hook. Instead, Godless foregrounds by-the-book gunslingers and manhunts that take a promising concept and translate it into familiar, if handsomely presented, cliché.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Listen to Andy Greenwald’s interview with Rachel Brosnahan, the star of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, here: