Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Granger at the Movies (Streaming): ‘Honeyland,’ ‘Honey Boy,’ ‘‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

Nominated for two Academy Awards — as Best Documentary and Best International Feature — “Honeyland” revolves around a beekeeper who lives with her elderly, ailing mother in the village of Bekirlija in mountains of Macedonia. Image

It begins with Hatidze Mutatova walking along a narrow cliff ledge that’s high above a valley. Removing a stone slab in the rock, she carefully gathers honey from a teeming nest of wild bees.

Hatidze has always dutifully observed her culture’s ancient beekeeping rituals, taking only half the honeycombs and leaving the rest for the bees. She then sells her precious harvest at the marketplace in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, about 12 miles away.

But when a large, boisterous, itinerant family parks their trailer on a plot of ground near Hatidze’s hut, tensions mount. The patriarch Hussein insists on defying tradition, practicing selfish beekeeping, upsetting the delicate balance between nature and humanity.

Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, it was originally acclaimed at Sundance, where it won three awards. The filmmakers spent three years, chronicling and shaping Hatidze’s life and labors into a poignant fable about ecological and environmental disaster.

In Turkish with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Honeyland” is an austere, yet incandescent 8 — streaming on Hulu & Apple TV and for rent on Amazon, iTunes & Vudu.

Inspired by his own childhood, actor Shia LaBeouf (“Transformers”) wrote “Honey Boy,” a memory drama in which he plays James Lort, a thinly fictionalized version of his own father.

Trained as a rodeo clown, he’s a bitter, divorced Vietnam War veteran and recovering addict. He lives in a decrepit motel and is emotionally abusive to his 12-year-old son Otis (Noah Jupe), who works as an actor on television.

Precocious Otis retaliates with: “You know I’m dong you a favor, paying you to be my chaperone. Who else is going to give a felon a job?”

Otis’ story is told to a therapist (Laura San Giacomo) by his 22-year-old self (Lucas Hedges), now in rehab after being apprehended for public drunkenness and making derogatory racial remarks.

Years later, LaBeouf publicly thanked the Savannah, Georgia, police officer who arrested him in 2017 — after which he wrote this obviously therapeutic script.

“I’m gonna make a movie about you, Dad,” Otis tells his father — and he does.

Directed by Israel-born Alma Har’el, best known for commercials (including Super Bowl ads) and her 2011 documentary “Bombay Beach,” working with cinematographer Natasha Braier (“Gloria Bell,” “The Neon Demon”), the screenplay is semi-autobiographical.

It details the travails of child performers, thrust into the adult world of auditions, contract negotiations and job uncertainty, a cautionary concept that’s reminiscent of “Gypsy” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”

Years ago, young thespians like Shirley Temple and Hayley Mills were recognized with special Awards by the Academy. But after 1960, child actors — like Patty Duke, Mary Badham, Tatum O’Neill and Anna Paquin — were thrown into Oscar competition with adults.

“There’s this perception that women directors only have to make movies about women’s topics,” Har’el explains. “It was challenging to make a film about a little boy and his father, showing things that you maybe wouldn’t have seen if a man directed it.”

On the Granger Gauge, “Honey Boy” is a sensitive, starkly sad 7, available on Amazon Prime.

Since 1989, Terry Gilliam (“Monty Python”) has been obsessed with adapting Miguel de Cervantes’ early 17th century novel “Don Quixote,” noting: “I’ve always been drawn to madmen, to fantasists, to people who refuse to accept the world for what it really is.”

After completing “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” Gilliam started developing “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” casting Johnny Depp as a time-traveler and Jean Rochefort as Quixote. That ill-fated effort was chronicled in the documentary “Lost in La Mancha” (2002).

Over the years, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ewan McGregor, Robert Duvall, Michael Palin, John Hurt and Jack O’Connell were rumored to star.

Inspired by “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Gilliam and co-writer Tony Grisoni (“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”), finally fashioned this bizarre adventure comedy about Toby (Adam Driver), a cynical director of TV commercials who feels artistically unfulfilled.

On location in La Mancha, Spain, Toby finds a bootleg copy of his old Quixote student film and realizes that the village where he shot it is nearby.

Javier (Jonathan Pryce), the old cobbler whom he cast as Quixote, suffers from delusions that his role as the chivalrous “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” jousting with windmills, was real, and his Dulcinea (Joana Ribeiro) is now a high-class call-girl, abused by a cruel Russian oligarch (Jordi Molla).

For exasperated Toby — aka the trusted squire, Sancho Panza — the line between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred as the chaotic, confusing script meanders into ridiculously madcap vignettes of irreverent absurdity.

There’s Toby’s jealous boss (Stellan Skarsgard) whose wife predatory wife (Olga Kurylenko) is after Toby, along with his agent (Jason Watkins), who massages Toby’s ego and back.

As with all Terry Gilliam pictures, the opulent visuals are evocative. Utilizing anamorphic lenses, Nicola Pecorini’s digital cinematography and Benjamin Fernandez’ production design evoke the Spanish artist Goya and Dore, who illustrated “Quixote” in the 19th century.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is a preposterously quixotic 6, proving persistence eventually pays off. Image

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at

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