I'm not sure if anyone has this happen to them on a regular basis, but for me its a frequent occurrence. I'm watching a movie or a show with someone and they recognize an actor/actress but can't think of their name, or where they recognize them from.
Mom if you're reading this I promise I'm not attacking you!!
Over the past 4 or 5 years it's happened a lot more with one specific actor.
"Who is that? Where have I seen him??"
Well it just so happens to be the incomparable Brian Tyree Henry, and you haven't just seen him, you've loved him in whatever he's in even if you don't quite know it.
Henry has been slowly but surely putting together A+ performance after A+ performance, across an incredible range of films as well! Even though I was too busy pretending to be a Macroeconomics expert to mention him, Henry was the sole redeeming factor in Godzilla Vs. Kong. He's also been fantastic in one of the best shows in Atlanta as the up and coming rapper Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles. In 2018 he was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in If Beale Street Could Talk, then followed it up by joining Marvel films Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Eternals along with the critically acclaimed DC film Joker.
Bottom line is that you've likely seen Henry in any of these films, shows, even some I didn't mention and he's never turned in a poor performance. Godzilla Vs. Kong honestly would've been better without a single human character, just have the monsters duke it out and call it a day. But Henry took his character, cranked his performance to the max, and made me enjoy the human element more than I would've had he not been there!
That's the Brian Tyree Henry effect.
Now his latest endeavor, Causeway, was a whole different class of film and role that we've seen him in. This film is a masterclass in using as little as possible, to achieve maximum results. The craftsmanship was fantastic and director Lila Neugebauer turned in an impeccable first feature film directing effort.
The success of the plot and characters hinges on the relationship of the two stars, James (Brian Tyree Henry) and Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence), and they certainly deliver. The hushed somber tone throughout the film is quietly electrifying while amplified by Lawrence and Henry's performances and subtle nuances of emotion. Not to mention their chemistry is undeniable as you're drawn into their friendship and become fixated to their well being.
While I would definitely consider this a "slow" film that doesn't have a lot of plot points, I couldn't help but be engrossed in the characters. Both James and Lynsey are recovering from traumatic events with long lasting effects and this film was an outstanding glimpse into the human condition and how we lean on others. A key point being sometimes you can't rely on family but instead the relationships that happen to grow unexpectedly but at the right place, at the right time.
Kudos to Lawrence (she's an Academy Award winner for a reason!!), Henry, Neugebauer, and really the whole writing room of Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders for constructing some fascinatingly human characters. Sometimes, in the end, less really is more and Causeway is a true example of minimalist success!
When I'm watching a film that's a barebones minimalist display such as this one, I find myself at a bit of a crossroads. In one hand there's likely a lot to pull from the film. Due to the minimal sets, music, plot, everything is built for you to digest and pull your own values and ideas out of. Seriously check out this film and tell me there isn't a beautiful theme around the cleansing nature of water! Anyway, what I'm saying is you don't always want something super complex on the palate to distract you from absorbing everything in the film. On the other hand, maybe something that gets you thinking and revs the brain up a little bit is the best accompaniment to a minimalist film? Something to get you thinking, wondering, gestating, you know the whole kit and caboodle.
I found myself taking the latter approach and diving in head first to some complex waters.
And by waters I mean beer, and by beer I mean the 2022 release of Alaskan Brewing's Smoked Porter!
Every year Alaskan Brewing puts out a limited batch of the Smoked Porter with some tweaks of the recipe, making each tasting different than the previous! Now if you're a simple minded myopic fool like me you can crack that bad boy open and enjoy it immediately, or if you have some patience you could let it age for some time and probably have an infinitely better tasting experience.
Right out of the gate you know this little bastard is one smokey brew. It may as well have plumes have smoke undulating out of the neck of the bottle when you open it. I don't want to call it overwhelming, but it is certainly whelming. The sheer smokiness of the porter pairs quite well with the roasted malt flavor that is prominent at that first sip.
Like I said, a complex beer like this will certainly get you thinking about what you're tasting which in turn will help with deciphering what you're seeing. What's the meaning behind James and Lynsey's meetings? How can they help eachother heal in ways that aren't obvious in the film? It's a nice way to delve a little deeper and also enjoy a great beer.
Not to mention you could let the beer age and have some different flavors emerge from the depths to take over the taste profile! Alaskan Brewing has a great breakdown of some flavors to look forward to with that aging process!
2022 Smoked Porter Porter - American | 6.5% ABV Alaskan Brewing Co. @alaskanbrewing