It’s been a pretty traditional week here at the Sacred Wall. With the announcement that Filmstruck will be ending at the end of the month, I’m doing my best to make the most of the Netflix of Classic Film. However, I did manage to get out to the theaters to see two films: Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria, and an early screening of Jennifer Lopez’s newest fluff comedy Second Act. I won’t be reviewing Second Act until next month (closer to the actual release date), but I will say it is an incredibly average version of the type of film it is (meaning I enjoyed it just fine, but don’t expect art). As for Suspiria, you can expect a review in the near future, but I’ll say it is, to quote The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “a mental mindf*ck,” which I found to be great. Still, proceed with caution.
Meanwhile, I split my week between seeing classic films in theaters and at home. In theaters, I had a chance to see my first viewing of Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, a film I walked out of thinking was just “good” and have fallen in love with more and more upon reflection. Bergman is one of the greatest filmmakers in history, and while it is only my third favorite of his works, it stands as a testament to what a towering icon Bergman is in the industry. I also had a chance to see 2001: A Space Odyssey for the second time, here on the big screen with a proper intermission and sound design. And my God, that film is still monumental. It is striking to see Stanley Kubrick play in his sandbox, incorporating themes, ideas, and groundbreaking techniques inside a masterpiece of the cinematic canon. If you haven’t seen this one already, you should definitely get on that. Meanwhile, I used Filmstruck to watch one narrative film and two documentaries. The film, continuing my Orson Welles binge, was his 1965 Shakespearean experiment Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight). I’m not the greatest Shakespeare fan, but I do adore his War of the Roses Cycle, and the combination of Henry IV, Parts One and Two results in a funny, realistic portrayal of two of Shakespeare’s two most famous characters: Henry V and Sir John Falstaff. Oh, and Falstaff may, in fact, be Welles’ greatest performance, and I’m including Harry Lime and Charles Foster Kane on that list. As for the documentaries, I spent my Election Day watching the inarguably greatest political documentary of all time: The War Room. An in-depth look at the way James Carville and George Stephanopoulos managed to get underdog Bill Clinton elected to office, the film serves as simultaneously a time capsule to another time in history, a nostalgic look back on a time before Americans were divided (unlike today, Clinton’s campaign was built on hope, peace, and economic prosperity – three things we haven’t heard from any party in a very long time), and a bitter reminder of things to come (Clinton’s denial of the Flowers scandal is almost laughable with hindsight). However, happy films must come to an end, as I’ve closed my week out with the four hour documentary The Sorrow and the Pity, detailing how Hitler used messages of restoring France to its former glory, anti-British, and anti-Semitic talking points to not only conquer France, but willing get the country to side with Germany in World War II. It’s a striking look at a history not often talked about, and while it is far from my favorite World War II documentary (see Shoah or Night and Fog, if you have not), it is still well worth the watch.
At home, I only had time to watch a couple shows, but what shows they were! I started my week out by watching the final two episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The Super Bowl episode was entertaining, and kind of uplifting in terms of Philly sports. However, what happened in “Mac Finds His Pride” was nothing short of astounding. The fact that a show that prided itself on being a politically incorrect, more intense answer to Seinfeld ended its season with a touching message of support to Mac, often the butt of the joke as a Gay Catholic, through a five minute interpretive dance sequence was moving, tear-inducing, and remarkable. Even if you aren’t a fan of Sunny, that scene alone is worth the watch. Meanwhile, I’ve really found myself head over heels in love with the Watergate documentary that aired in theaters as a four-hour feature. It aired on the History Channel last week, and I’ve been really soaking it all in over the past few days. Charles Ferguson’s voice really shines through, crafting a fascinating narrative about Nixon’s abuse of power while letting the real-life figures dig their own grave, as opposed to pontificating from the director. It may very well be the best documentary of the year. Oh, and I watched Saturday Night Live last night, which was a bit “meh” overall, although I did enjoy the bit with Lt. Commander Dan Crenshaw – the man knows how to deliver a line. And I also went out to see two performances – one was a stage production of The Rocky Horror Show that three of my friends were in, which was enjoyable enough, and the other was the North American Premiere of a Swedish oratorio of St. John’s Passion, in which my brother performed. It was not my favorite oratorio ever, by any means, but the singers and musicians all performed beautifully.
What about you? See any good Oscar contenders or classic films this week? Have you watched Watergate or It’s Always Sunny yet? If you have, let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you all next week!