The End of the World is a Delight in ‘Good Omens’

Let’s talk about God. Or, rather, the Voice of God.

The Voice of God is the first thing we hear in the delightful Amazon and BBC series Good Omens. Played by the great Frances McDormand, the Voice of God creates the impression of a warm, lighthearted higher power who is also utterly unpredictable.

Within just a few seconds of knowing her, McDormand’s God lets us know exactly what we’re in for. Good Omens is set at the brink of Armageddon — the coming of the Antichrist, the ride of the Four Horsemen, the great war between Heaven and Hell, etcetera, etcetera — and the fate of an oblivious humankind hangs in the balance. But God at least has a fantastic sense of humor about it all, which we could stand to learn a thing or two from.

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Review: “Ash Is Purest White” burns bright

There is a macabre allure to the sight of an erupting volcano: the darkness, the blackened earth, the lava — thick, glowing, molten fire that transforms all it touches.

The volcano is an apt metaphor for long-term destruction and big-picture change, as sublimely embodied in Jia Zhangke’s newest film, Ash Is Purest White. The story follows Qiao (Zhao Tao) through her own trial by fire after an explosive incident leaves her to navigate romance, class, and social anxieties through a rapidly changing China.

The film opens in 2001 in the northern Chinese town of Datong. An ongoing power struggle between Datong’s exploited workforce and a faceless bourgeois serves as the backdrop for the movie’s first act. Qiao and her boyfriend Bin (Liao Fan), a small-time mob boss, have managed to carve a foothold for themselves within the crumbling local economy. He is a measured, intimidating leader of the criminal underground, she is his inquisitive and self-assured partner, and they revel in subtly flexing their power (one amusing recurring detail: Bin almost never lights his own cigarette — one lackey or another, arm outstretched, always has a lighter for available for him).

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