I loved watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood growing up. I have only the vaguest memories of actually watching the show, but what is there is very warm. Later in life, my mother used to be bewildered by this fact. She always figured kids should prefer the more lively kids shows like Sesame Street and didn’t get the appeal of Mr. Rogers who seemed, well, kind of boring. But millions of kids like me completely get that his gentle demeanor and warm kindness wasn’t boring, it was comforting.
In the years since, I’ve come to see Fred Rogers a radical cultural rebel. His gentleness stands out in a world of bombast, anger, and hate. The show could be political too, letting kids understand the complicated realities of the world in a way that wasn’t threatening but didn’t sugar coat it either. After Robert Kennedy was assassinated, he produced a primetime special on the subject. When the culture at large was still dealing in segregation with whites-only bathrooms and public pools, Mr. Rogers invited African American Officer Clemons (making a black man a police officer on this show was itself a radical idea) to come to his kiddie pool so they could put their feet in together. When Congress was ready to spread public funding for public television, Mr. Rogers nearly singlehandedly convinced them otherwise.
Mr. Rogers is an American Hero. He is a saint. We need him more than ever. Which is why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is this week’s pick. The documentary on the life of Fred Rogers looks amazing, is critically acclaimed, and feels like something this entire country should sit down and watch.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Hereditary: This horror film has been getting great reviews. It stars Toni Collette as a woman unraveling some terrifying secrets about her family when the matriarch passes away.
Godard Mon Amour: Biopic about the legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard and his tumultuous marriage to Anne Wiazemsky.
Scenes From a Marriage (Criterion Collection): Ingmar Bergman’s drama chronicles a marriage over many years and several stages: matrimony, infidelity, divorce, and subsequent partnerships.
Dark River: Thriller about a woman who returns to her Yorkshire home for the first time in 15 years after the death of her father. Once there, she must confront a brother she doesn’t recognize and traumatic memories she’d rather forget.
Beast: Jessie Buckley gives a stand-out performance as a young women living in an isolated community with an oppressive family who finds happiness with a boy who may be responsible for several brutal murders. David Wangberg has our review.
Adrift: Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin star in this thriller about a young couple who accidentally sail into a hurricane and must find their way back to land after he is seriously injured.
Valentino Collection - Volume 1 & Volume 2: Rudolph Valentino the legendary silent-film star gets two nice-looking collections from Flicker Alley.