Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Michael Fassbender

“Kneecap” Is Irish Docu-Drama at 2024 Sundance

The Audience Award Winner at Sundance was a docu-drama about an Irish band, “Kneecap,” that is working to preserve the Irish language (Gaelic) and enjoys sticking it to the British. The members of the real-life band “Kneecap” played themselves. To appreciate the film, it is best to know this history of the band (from Wikipedia);  “Kneecap are a BelfastNorthern Ireland-based hip hop trio with the stage-names Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Próvaí.[1][2] They sing in Irish and English and often reference their support for republicanism. They first began releasing music in 2017 with their single “C.E.A.R.T.A.” (Irish for “RIGHTS” as in human rights). They released their first album, 3CAG, in 2018,[3] and continued to release various singles such as “Get Your Brits Out”.

The three members of the Irish rap group — Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, and JJ Ó Dochartaigh — play themselves in this liberally fictionalized reimagining of their origin story set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The plot goes back to “the Troubles” and the operating philosophy “Every word of Irish spoken is a bullet fired for Irish freedom.” Michael Fassbender plays the father of lead band member  Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh and drifts in and out of the narrative as an escaped Irish prisoner who may (or may not) be dead. Writer/Director Rich Peppiatt said he “endorsed his inner low-life scumbag” to make the film, shot in 7 weeks in 2023.

The Wikipedia entry about the band adds a lot of background  for viewers of the film, especially if you’ve never heard of them before. The romance with a Protestant girl is another sub-plot of the mosaic that is the band rapping in a language that most of the audience neither understands nor has ever heard before. (Sub-titles for the lyrics would be helpful) Kneecap, the band, has an infectious enthusiasm and youth on their side,. The members are supposedly the offspring of legendary Irish Republican Army fighters, with a distinct enthuiasm for anarchy, rebellion and fighting for the underdog—all those things that youth is associated with. The band has also weighed in on the Israeli/Gaza conflict with sympathy for the Palestine cause. Of course, the original impetus for the film (as portrayed in the docu/drama/comedy), occurred when a member of the band refused to speak English while being interrogated in connection with a crime and insisted on speaking Gaelic. That is faithfully rendered—although, as with all films, there is a fair amount of embellishment for the sake of the narrative.

This Wikipedia insight also comes in handy: “In 2021 Kneecap released their single “MAM” as a tribute to their mothers, the song was acknowledged as a shift away from their usual style saying that they wanted to do something more ‘real’. Mo Chara stated in an interview that they wanted to show that “we can ’roundhouse’ you off the stage but we can also give you a hug afterwards. We wanted to do something a bit sentimental, we don’t wanna just box ourselves in with masculinity all the time.”] The trio also revealed on Instagram that Móglaí Bap’s mother had died of suicide before it could be released and that all proceeds from the song would be going to the Samaritans.”  

In regards to sentimental, one review took a broad swipe at Kenneth Branagh’s film “Belfast,” based on his own childhood memory of living in Belfast during the Troubles, calling it “sentimental” and “overly saccharine.” Belfast was one of the nominees for Best Picture of the Year that year.

During the Q&A following the film one of the band members was dressed in a leather outfit that looked like it was straight out of the latest iteration of “American Horror Story,” complete with Baliclava mask, as worn by the older D.J. in the film. It is a weird look. One  band member came onstage swilling from a bottle of booze, which seemed appropriate for the rabble-rousing drug-dealing rebels.

The music is infectiously high-voltage and the docu-drama has already secured a distribution deal at Sundance with Sony Classics films.  Those involved in the film were:

  • . Crew:Director, writer: Rich Peppiatt. Camera: Ryan Kernaghan. Editors: Chris Gill, Julian Ulrichs. Music: Michael ‘Mikey’ J Asante.
  • With:Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, JJ Ó Dochartaigh, Michael Fassbender, Josie Walker, Simone Kirby.

I’m Irish (maiden surname “Corcoran”) but I had no idea what any of the rapping lyrics meant, and would have appreciated knowing. They might as well have been singing in Vietnamese, given the lack of sub-titles to explain the message to those of us who are (a) out of our twenties and (b) not conversant in the Irish language. (And, if you think about it, that is a rather large number of the proposed audience.) On the bright side, as IMDB reported, domestic box office from all Sundance 2023 films was the best for any year since Covid. At around $100 million, it quadrupled the take from 2022 Festival titles, which was around $25 million. All told, about two thirds of the 2023 films have some sort of domestic distribution, including streaming outlets.

I enjoyed the convincing  acting by the band members. The stereotype of drunken Irish wife-beaters is alive and well in this one, personified by the band members, who did their best to perpetuate that old familiar stereotype. Perhaps Sony Classics will put a translation of the Gaelic lyrics onscreen before launching the film nationwide and worldwide, which would help add to our understanding of the mindset of the group



“The Killer” Is Riveting Entertainment from David Fincher with Michael Fassbender

David Fincher’s thriller “The Killer,” starring Michael Fassbender, opens in theaters on October 27 and streams on Netflix starting November 10th. It is a return to form for David Fincher, who has had this adaptation of Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel as a passion project for 20 years. “The Killer” is a no-holds-barred look at an assassin without scruples who is constantly focusing on the task at hand with dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be-killed determination. He avoids empathy, saying “Empathy is weakness.”

The Plot

Michael Fassbender in The Killer (2023)

Michael Fassbender as “The Killer.”

Michael Fassbender stars in David Fincher’s “The Killer,” which screened at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 17, 2023.

The film begins in Paris, where Fassbender’s character has set up shop in a WeWorks empty office space and is waiting for his target to appear in the windows of Le Petite Raphael, a tony hotel directly across the street at 3 Rue du Grav. The killer complains about the boredom of his work (“It’s amazing how physically exhausting it can be to do nothing.”)

The killer doesn’t want to know why he is eliminating his victims. He just wants to be successful. “Fight only the battle you are paid to fight. What’s in it for me?” These are axioms that guide him, as are “Trust no one” and “Anticipate, don’t improvise.”  (“I am what I am. Consider yourself lucky if our paths never cross.”)

Fassbender has been quite successful since being recruited by Hodges, a Black attorney in New Orleans (Charles Parnell of “Grand Theft Auto”). He jettisoned a law career for a life of crime. Now he has a palatial hide-away hidden somewhere in the Dominican Republic, shared with a beautiful woman who loves him. When visiting New Orleans, the omnipresent voice-over tells us that New Orleans is a city with many good restaurants, but only one menu. Humorous asides like that make the voice-over amusing. So do the many aliases that the killer adopts including Felix Unger, Oscar Madison, Howard Cunningham, Archibald Bunker, and Sam Malone.

The problems begin when the killer’s planned hit in Paris goes awry. The dominatrix moves into the shot at the moment of truth and the real target (Endre Hules, “Apollo 13”) escapes. A secondary team is sent to the Dominican Republican to prevent any “blowback”  by eliminating the killer. When the assassin  (Fassbender) is not there, they rough up his lady love. Now the killer is going to make sure that, as he promises her brother Marcus (Emiliano Pernia), “Nothing like this will ever be allowed to happen again.”


The film has “chapters” in Paris, New Orleans, Florida, New York and Chicago. The last three locations are the homes of the hit-man and hit-woman (Tilda Swinton) and the client behind the initial Paris hit.  There is also an Epilogue. The shots of exteriors in those locations gave the film the look (and sound) of real life. There are also great close-up shots of Fassbender’s eyes as he is concentrating for a kill shot. Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt provides a riveting, thoroughly engrossing visual feast.

The sound effects and music (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) add immeasurably to the thoroughly professional look, sound and feel of this David Fincher (“Seven,” “FightClub”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) film.


The film is 80% voice-over, with Fassbender’s voice conveying observations not only on how best to be successful as an assassin, but remarks about his take on humanity, the music of the Smiths, and the relative intelligence of Claybourne, the Chicago mark, who hired Fassbender  through intermediaries. As Claybourne tries to excuse himself from any culpability, he tells the killer the hit  wasn’t personal. “They told me it was insurance to prevent any blowback. Clean-up on Aisle 3;” this cost Claybourne (Arliss Howard, “Moneyball,””Mank”) an additional $150,000.

The use of voice-over has often been criticized and really fell out of favor. But films such as “Goodfellas,” Casino,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Raising Arizona” have used voice over to good effect. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a film so thoroughly given over to the use of voice-over. The asides and remarks were amusing enough that it did not come off as weak. [I particularly enjoyed Fassbender’s remark that Claybourne did not appear to be a member of MENSA, but there were many clever remarks.]

Fight Scene

There is a terrific fight scene when the killer reaches Florida. (Voice-over aside:  “Florida: the Sunshine State. Where else can you find so many like-minded individuals outside a penitentiary?”) Fassbender has to drug two pit bulls that roam the yard of the hired hit-man before he can enter his house. The hit-man does not take kindly to the intrusion and a knock-down, drag-out fight to the death ensues. At the end, the killer is racing for the exit with the two now-conscious dogs chasing him. The scene took me back to 2017’s “Bullet Head,” where dangerous dogs terrorize three men in a warehouse.

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton in The Killer (2023)

Tilda Swinton portrays the female assassin in “The Killer,” whom Michael Fassbender hunts down.

The always awesome Tilda Swinton has a scene with Fassbender that opens up some plot thoughts.  It’s not as good as her climactic scene with George Clooney in “Michael Clayton,” but it’s an excellent scene. The two are in a restaurant called “The Waterfront.” The killer has joined her at her table, uninvited. Tilda is a regular and well-known to the staff. (She also knows their names). Fassbender has tracked her down for revenge, since she was the female assassin who “looked like a Q-tip.”

The logical thing for Ms. Swinton to have done would have been to cause a scene inside the restaurant— if she wants to live, that is. True, she might not succeed and others might become collateral damage, but the killer has told us early on that 75% of all murderers are caught, ultimately, because of eye witnesses. Even if she were to be executed on the spot, she would, in a sense, be potentially taking the killer down with her.

There is a cinematic reason for Swinton to have meekly followed Fassbender outside, which I will not reveal here, but people who are facing death will go to great lengths to save their own skins. To me, Tilda’s decision to obey Fassbender’s instructions regarding leaving together represented the Kiss of Death and was somewhat illogical.


The killer has stashed away over 8 and ½ million dollars. He hopes to kick back and enjoy his ill-gotten gains with his pretty companion on a beach somewhere (much like in “The Shawshank Redemption” or 1993’s “True Romance.”) You’ll have to check it out at the theater (beginning October 27) or streaming on Netflix  November 10th to see if the killer achieves his goal.

“The Killer” is a thoroughly enjoyable 118 minutes of engrossing filmmaking.

Steve McQueen Q&A, Artistic Achievement Award @ Chicago Film Festival on October 22, 2016

Michael Kutza and Steve McQueen in Chicago.

Michael Kutza and Steve McQueen in Chicago.

British director Steve McQueen came to Chicago to receive an award on the 20th anniversary of the Chicago International Film Festival’s Black Perspectives program. Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, interviewed him onstage.
Prior to Ms. Stewart’s questioning, McQueen spoke to us on the Red Carpet and answering a question about the climactic hanging scene in “12 Years A Slave,” his Best Picture Oscar winner of 2013, by saying that the long shot required patience and was his search for truth.

McQueen has directed 3 feature films, to date: Hunger (2008), Shame (2011) and “12 Years A Slave” (2013).

“Hunger” depicted the 1981 hunger strike in Britain by Irish Republican Army inmates, eleven (other sources say 10) of whom died. Asked about the impetus for this 2008 first feature, McQueen referenced his youth in England, watching a picture of one of the inmates (Bobby Sands, the leader of the hunger strike), with a number counting down beneath his picture on television each day.

Only 12 at the time, McQueen would ask his mother why that man’s picture was onscreen with a number under it each day. From this, came an interest in the subject. “I realized that, when you’re young, your parents control everything. One of the few ways you have to protest is by not eating.To not eat is to be heard,” said McQueen.

steve-mcqueen-034 “I was interested in the subject. The subject asked for its treatment to be linear, a feature film. This was the early eighties and terrorism and IRA tension was rife then. I did lots of research. I wanted to know the things in between the lines of the history books. History has so much to do with what is between the lines.”

McQueen went on to talk about how smells can bring back a time, place or person (‘the smell of Grandmother’s house”) and said, “It’s not a visual thing.” In the film “Hunger,” which won a Gold Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival in 2008 and for which Michael Fassbender (now in all 3 of McQueen’s films) won a Silver Hugo for acting that year, the inmates are shown protesting their imprisonment any way they can, including smearing their own feces on the walls of their prison cells.

This meant that every 5 days the authorities would make the prisoners change cells so that the walls could be washed, but the prison guards made the transfer from one cell to another in the most abusive way possible, stripping the men naked and mistreating them throughout. An extremely graphic clip from the film was shown. I could tell that most in the audience had not seen it previously (although I had, in 2008). “Hunger” was a very powerful piece of filmmaking, but not for the faint of heart.

Q: “How do you stage such a brutal scene?”

A: “This was not a normal film set in Belfast. Young people who grew up with the Troubles …it was put on them. That day of shooting was heavy. Apparently I shoot fast (although I don’t know; I have no basis for comparison.) We only did one take. I had to supervise the shoot using monitors, when I prefer being just behind my cameraman, but there wasn’t room for me. The fact that I was the instigator of this violence was quite shocking. (He says he broke out in a physical rash days later over the shooting of the film’s violent scenes.) There is only one cut; I won’t tell you where. I had to walk off the set. Tears were in my eyes and I hadn’t had tears in my eyes like that since my father’s funeral.”

McQueen continued: “Art caused people to talk about it. Eleven men dead of starvation in British prison cells. (*Note: other sources put the number at 10 with Bobby Sands leading the rebellion).”

steve-mcqueen-052Q: Then you did the 2011 film “Shame” about sex addiction, shot in New York City, again with Michael Fassbender and Carrie Mulligan. There was lots of nudity in the film.

A: “Yes. If this movie had been made in 1951, Michael and Carol would have worn their pajamas.” McQueen recounted several conversations with psychiatrists that gave him an in-depth understanding of sex addiction and also mentioned the times during which it was shot. “Rupert Murdoch had just bugged everyone’s phones and it was the Tiger Woods era.”

Q: You seem to have a different rhythm and flow for each film. Do you plan that in advance?

A: I always saw ‘Hunger’ as a stream: floating on your back and taking in the landscape and then there’s a waterfall and loss of gravity. Then you see the physicality of what is happening. After violence, it is exhausting and you go into a cascade, an avalanche of words. I saw ‘Hunger’ as having 3 parts: the introduction; the violence; and talk. But sound is also the most important thing in the film. Sound is so important in film. People need to lean in to listen. It gives them something to do.”

Q: Do you consider your films and your way of working conventional or unconventional?

A: “If it works, it works.”

Q: How do you know if it works?

A: “I’ve been doing this for a while now. Trust me. I know.”

McQueen is a film school dropout from NYU’s Tisch School and has been quoted more than once as saying the atmosphere there was too constrictive for him. He mentioned their refusal to allow him to throw a camera in the air. However, he said, “I went to a very good art school. Education was free in Britain then (15 years ago).”

Q: How did you come to the theme of “12 Years A Slave”?

steve-mcqueen-049A: “It was a good story. I’ve been coming to the U.S. since I was 7 years old. Just because my sister and I were born in the West Indies (Grenada and Trinidad) people try to separate us by nationality. It’s nonsense. These are stories, which are ours. There is a huge archive of black history—many stories. I wanted to tell this story of this man who was free and was kidnapped 97 years ago and who kept a diary of it. It was very interesting to me that this was a book that no one knew about, when everyone knows about ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, which happened during World War II. By doing this story, I was advocating for a movie about the Underground Railroad and other projects. I consider it a bit of a Trojan horse because these are amazing narratives and now they are being made.”

Q: Do you have people telling you that they are experiencing slavery fatigue?

A: “Slavery fatigue? What is that?”

Q: Tell me about the casting of “12 Years A Slave.”

A: “When I read the book, I knew I wanted Chiwetel Ejiofor to play Solomon Northup because there’s something noble about him. You can put him in rags and he still looks like a prince. He’s such a genius. Also, Michael (Fassbender) is passionate and fearless. His part is such an interesting character. He is in love with Patsy (the slave girl played by Lupita Nyong’o) and he shouldn’t be. That’s a very difficult thing to do, but Michael went there. To be a human is to be complex. The slave owner Michael played was a vicious nasty man to take out his pain on Patsy (Lupita). Simon is America. Deal with it.”

Q: How did you find Lupita Nyong’o?

A: “Lupita is like Scarlett O’Hara in this. It is amazing in that we searched high and low before finding her. She’d not yet graduated from college, but we saw her tape. She has a beautiful jaw line, beautiful lips. Her looks and her spirit and the combination of her looks and her spirit were outstanding. Michael (Fassbender) had rented a massive room with barely any furniture in New Orleans and I brought them together to practice some scenes and, after Michael worked with her and saw her passion and her intensity, he said, ‘I gotta’ get my shit together.’ (laughter) She’s got what she’s got and she’s taking it so far. She’s genius.”

Q: The furious jump cuts. Were they part of the initial rhythm or were they put in in post-production?

A: “I’ve worked with the same 3 people on 3 films: Joe Walker, my editor; Sean Bobbitt, Director of Photography; and Michael Fassbender. It’s like a band (I know I’d be Keith). You knew there was going to be a rhythm. You shoot it and then you see what happens. As long as you’ve got the angles, then you can play around with it.”

Q: What is your own personal connection with “12 Years A Slave?”

A: “The connection of this person wanting to go home. It was a bit like a horrible fairy tale, like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ All of my films have a realization of blackness. I’m black.”

Q: If you were to make a movie set in Chicago, would you focus on Chicago politics or on crime?

A: “How come there aren’t more stories coming out of Chicago? It’s so rich that it’s crazy. Walk outside and open your eyes!”

(*Note: On September 27, 2016 a new project, Widows, was announced to be in development with a script penned by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and McQueen attached to direct. Originally Jennifer Lawrence was approached for the lead role, but due to scheduling conflicts, she had to decline the project. Viola Davis will star in the film. The film is described as a heist thriller about four armed robbers who are killed in a failed heist attempt, only to have their widows step up to finish the job.)

Michael Kutza points out that the Black Perspectives Artistic Achievement award is one inch taller than the Oscar.

Michael Kutza points out that the Black Perspectives Artistic Achievement award is one inch taller than the Oscar.

At this point, Cinema Chicago founder Michael Kutza came onstage to award McQueen his Black Perspectives Award for Artistic Achievement, noting that it is one inch taller than the Oscar McQueen collected in 2013 for “12 Years A Slave.”

Kutza asked McQueen how long it took him to film his 3 feature film projects: 35 days with one camera for “12 Years A Slave”; 25 days for “Shame;” and 22 days for “Hunger,” noting that, “We had to wait for Michael to lose some weight for the part.”

Michael Kutza and Steve McQueen in Chicago.

Michael Kutza and Steve McQueen in Chicago.

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