What I Watched, What You Watched #77

I’m home for a day or two before traveling once again, but I do have enough time to post another rousing edition of What I Watched, What You Watched! I only had a chance to see one new release this week, and that was the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary RBG. I won’t be reviewing it at the present – I’m holding off for a third documentary so I can do a compare and contrast – but I can say that while I had some problems with its structure (as I do with all CNN documentaries), the insight it gives us on the way Ginsburg shaped the legal standing of women is truly insightful and inspiring. And if you want something more than documentaries, I can promise you I will be seeing Leave No Trace, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! and Mission: Impossible – Fallout as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, I had a productive week of classic film watching. Last Sunday, I made a rush over to see Live and Let Die on the big screen. Live and Let Die was one of my first, and favorite Bond films, and seeing it now as an adult I can say…yeah, it’s pretty dumb, and there were a lot of questionable choices. But it looks great and it embraces its stupid choices, so really, where’s the harm? And besides, I’d rather take something that knows it’s silly and embraces it over something as ham-fisted and self-serious as Ghosts of Mississippi. What a butchering of an important true story. Everyone is bad in this film, from Whoopi Goldberg and Alec Baldwin to a possibly-not-acting James Woods. And don’t get me started on the script and direction. Medgar Evans deserves better than whatever this film was trying to do. Luckily, my week turned around with Rififi, the 50s noir classic that set the gold standard for heist films. I loved every aspect of this film, not least of which is the 30-minute complete silent execution of the heist. It is thrilling, electric filmmaking, the kind that isn’t made anymore.

It’s fitting that I mention the silent portion of Rififi, because the bulk of my week involved four straight silent films, ranging from comedies to dramas. I started out, thanks to the Unspooled podcast (more on that in a minute), with The General by Buster Keaton. And honestly, while I’m much more of a Chaplin fan than a Keaton fan, I was shocked with how much I loved the stunts. I audibly gasped several times, and laughed out loud more than once. It’s an impressive film, and while I wouldn’t call it “greatest of all time,” it did make my list of Favorite Films. Of course, when it comes to silent comedies, you can’t beat City Lights, which I watched for the second time. What Chaplin accomplished with this film is nothing short of extraordinary, and it shocks me how great it is every single time. After Lights, I moved on to Wings, the first Best Picture winner ever. I had a lot of conflicting thoughts on Wings, loving the filmmaking and Clara Bow’s performance, but some of the more cliché plot aspects and the way the film treated Clara Bow’s character was a bit too over-the-top for me. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by the technical prowess of the film, and I fully understand why it won the first Best Picture award. However, of all of these films I watched, they all paled in comparison to Battleship Potemkin. I’m not completely done with the classic Russian historical drama, but I’m already enraptured with the story, and especially the filmmaking, which not only invented the forms, but still feels fresh and alive today. It’s definitely one worth seeing, especially if you’re a cinephile.

On TV, I didn’t really get a chance to watch a whole lot, thanks to the traveling. I did get a chance to see another, terrific episode of Queer Eye – one that should earn it an Emmy come September. Meanwhile, in preparation for a trip to the opera, I also revisited Bugs Bunny and The Rabbit of Seville. Listen, we already know it’s a classic, and that it’s incredible from beginning to end, but I don’t think we acknowledge how brilliantly it incorporates the music into the animation. It’s truly stunning to behold. And in the realm of podcasts, I listened to Unspooled’s episode on The General. If I’m being honest, I was a little disappointed in the episode, as I found it less incorporating than the others, but I was also exhausted while listening to it, so this may be a bit unfair. I’ll give it another listen later this week.

And finally, I had a chance to see both Die Fledermaus and The Barber of Seville, as my brother was playing the lead in both performances. Both operas impressed me, musically and comedically, but if I had to give a more thoughtful critique, I’d say that Fledermaus was better overall while Barber of Seville was the better directed piece. And in terms of individual performers, while it would be unfair to give credit to my brother or his girlfriend (both of whom were great), I do want to name Christina Casey, Michelle Perrier, James Stevens, and especially Vincent Gover as particular standouts in both shows, and names to watch for if you are fans of opera.

I will also be going out of town later this week, so if there aren’t as many articles being posted, that’s your reason why. However, I hope to have another What I Watched up next Sunday, to continue my updates on the week in pop culture. In the meantime, you can talk about the films I’ve watched and recommend films you’ve watched in the comments below. Have a great week!

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