Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

I was excited this morning, when I spied a post from Joplin’s new indie theater, Bookhouse Cinema. The political satire film, The Death of Stalin, was playing this weekend! This is a movie I’ve been aware of for several months. The reviews have been excellent however, I figured I’d have to catch it later on Netflix.

Not so! Bookhouse listed movie times. I was in the full theater for the 4:15 showing this afternoon.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin stars Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Adrian McLoughlin, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Paul Whitehouse, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend and Paul Chahidi. This dark comedy, directed by Armando Iannucci, is rated R for adult themes, language and violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. The movie is adapted from the comic book by the same name, written by Thierry Robin and Fabien Nury. Iannucci co-wrote the screenplay.

The movie begins in March 1953. As he listens to a recording of a concert, and reads a note from an unhappy citizen, Josef Stalin (McLoughlin), doubles over in pain and falls to the floor. When he is found, barely clinging to life, the senior members of his Council of Ministers hastily gather to make important, far reaching decisions. As they jockey for power and position, Stalin dies…and chaos ensues.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

The Council Members include Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi), Deputy Malenkov (Tambor) who will assume leadership, Anastas Mikoyan (Whitehouse), Vyacheslav Molotov (Palin), Nicolai Bulganin (Chahidi), and Lavrenti Beria (Beale), head of the secret police.

Even though Malenkov steps into authority, he is beset by indecision and swings between emotional highs and lows. This polarizes the rest of the Council Members. Beria, a ruthless man who is responsible for the death of millions, has his own agenda, designed to seize control. The others attempt to safeguard their own lives while wavering between Malenkov and Beria.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

Stalin’s children arrive to further add to the confusion. Daughter Svetlana (Riseborough) mourns her father and tries to keep her alcoholic brother Vasily (Friend) in check. And Field Marshall Zhukov (Isaacs) brings the stoic discipline of the military into the mix as the uncertainty within the council spills over to the country.

After Stalin’s funeral, the tension between the quarreling would-be leaders comes to a head, forcing decisions to be made that will affect a nation.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

This was an amazing indie film. What can’t be discerned from my bare bones description above, is that this film is a comedy…a dark one, but full of humor nonetheless. The casting is brilliant, with great energy between the actors. The director made the decision early on to allow the actors to speak in their own accents, rather than attempt Russian ones. The result is Russian historical characters speaking in a mix of English and American accents…and it works.

The portrayals of these players struggling for power after Stalin’s death is over the top, which creates much of the humor, and yet they accurately convey historical events. I always fact check after watching a movie based on real people and real events. The Death of Stalin gets the important details in, although they compress the timeline somewhat.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

I was amazed to discover that some of the craziest scenes were true! The concert that had to be repeated, after locking the audience into the room, happened…a bit differently than portrayed but Stalin did request a recording of the performance. After failing to set up the recording equipment, the radio manager made the musicians repeat the concert so that Stalin got his record.

Many people in Stalin’s Russia did crazy things, because they were afraid. The dark part of this comedy is realizing that the fear the people lived in was real. Being in the wrong place, witnessing the wrong thing, displeasing those in authority resulted in immediate execution, or worse, a slow torturous death at the hands of Beria and his men.

As a satire, this film works incredibly well. The humor is needed, or this would be a heavy movie to watch. I appreciated being able to break the tension through laughter. And I appreciated as well the glimpse into another country’s history. It’s good to be reminded occasionally of what has transpired in the past so that history does not repeat itself because we are unaware.

I look forward to seeing what Armando Iannucci presents next.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

I was excited to learn that Joplin’s newest theater opened last weekend. Bookhouse Cinema, located at 715 E. Broadway, is an independent theater, showing indie films, documentaries, classics and other non mainstream movies. I have hoped for a long time for just such a theater in Joplin. Late this afternoon I had the privilege of visiting Bookhouse Cinema for the first time.

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

Greg accompanied me on this adventure. We selected a 5:15 showing of the film Oh Lucy! and arrived early enough to look around before the movie started.

The beautiful theater room is located in the center of the building. On one side is the lobby where tickets are sold. On the other side is a charming pub where appetizers, meals, drinks and snacks can be purchased.

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

The pub was very homey and welcoming with lots of light streaming in through large windows. Bookhouse offers an amazing selection of foods and drinks that can be enjoyed in the pub or carried into the theater. I was delighted to see plant based options available including homemade hummus and beet chips.

Greg and I shared a hummus platter with veggies and specialty crackers. It was fun to carry our platter and tall glasses of lemon/lime water into the theater. The room was very comfortable as were the theater seats.

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

Retro concessions commercials played on the big screen. And I loved when a countdown started. As the number 5 appeared on the screen, a voice announced “Five minutes before showtime!” That immediately took me back to my childhood and watching Saturday matinees in Tulsa.

As the previews began, the double doors on either side of the room were closed, effectively blocking out light and noise as the room darkened. It was showtime!

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

Oh Lucy! is a Japanese/American film starring Shinobu Terajima and Josh Hartnett. It was directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi, who wrote the story and created a short film by the same name before producing the feature film. This comedy drama has a run time of 1 hour and 36 minutes.

Setsuko (Terajimo) is stuck in a mundane life, going to work day after day, watching television in her tiny cluttered apartment at night. She is incredibly bored and feels she has missed out on having a husband and a family. Her life changes when she meets John (Hartnett), an American in Tokyo teaching English. His teaching style is friendly and unorthodox. He assigns Setsuko the name Lucy and gives her a blond wig to wear.

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

When she is being Lucy, Setsuko feels herself opening up and enjoying new experiences such as hugs. She is shocked, however, when she eagerly shows up for a class, only to discover that John has quit teaching and returned to the United States.

Reluctant to settle back into a routine she hates, Setsuko flies to LA, with her sister, to find John and declare the feelings she realizes she has for him. Oh Lucy! is a heart touching film about a woman’s search for herself that begins as an outward journey and then turns inward.

I so enjoyed Bookhouse Cinema. Films are offered Wednesday through Sunday, with three showtimes every day except Saturday, when there are four. Two to three different films are featured each day. The schedule and list of movies can be found on the Bookhouse Cinema Facebook page. Tickets are $8 and appetizers and meals range from $4 – $10.

If you enjoy indie films and amazing documentaries, charming decor and quality, freshly prepared food, visit Bookhouse Cinema. Welcome them to Joplin, and stop by often, to support this wonderful theater.

First Visit to Bookhouse Cinema

Bookhouse Cinema

This afternoon, during a break in real estate continuing education classes, I checked my phone for messages. Greg had sent me a text with an accompanying photo.

Bookhouse Cinema

Our breaks between sessions are brief, and I didn’t have time to follow up on this news, but I was so excited! I have long wished for just such a theater to open in Joplin, one that features indie films, foreign language movies and cutting edge productions that never make it to a traditional theater.

I recently discovered a great little indie theater in Springfield, Missouri. I enjoyed watching the artsy film, Love, Vincent there. However, Springfield is an hour away. To attend a viewing there requires planning and a chunk of free time. The opening of an indie theater here in my city of Joplin was incredible news to me.

Bookhouse Cinema

After classes concluded today, satisfying the state’s requirement for 12 hours of continuing ed, I pulled up info about this new theater. Bookhouse Cinema, located at 715 E. Broadway, in Joplin, is the realization of a dream. Owners Holly and Bradley Crane fell in love, in part, because of their shared love of movies. Ten years into their marriage, and many movies later, Holly and Bradley went from thinking it would be cool to have an indie film theater in Joplin, to birthing their idea into reality when they found the perfect building for such a project.

The newly outfitted cinema features reclining theater seats in a room that holds 40+ people, a digital projection system and a high quality sound system. The single screen comes from the former Cinema 6, a second-run theater in Joplin that closed in 2008.

Bookhouse Cinema Photo, from Bookhouse Cinema Facebook page, taken by Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe.

There is a lounge area, with a bar and tables and chairs, where people can meet before and after watching a movie. Snacks will be offered in this area. The Cranes intend to have the cinema open by next month and they look forward to offering Joplin theater goers a unique movie experience.

When this cinema opens, I will be one of those who attends frequently. I am full of anticipation. And I appreciate the opportunity to see fresh new films that typically would not play in Joplin.

I absolutely love that something I have hoped for, in this area, is almost a reality. Now, what about a cute little tea house in Joplin, that features a variety of hot teas and finger foods, including plant based options? I believe anything is possible!

Bookhouse Cinema Photo, from Bookhouse Cinema Facebook page, taken by Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe.