My wife made an observation last night that I tend to have more energy on Thursdays than any other day of the work week. I hadn't thought of it before but it is true. Wednesdays and Fridays are my busiest days at work. Mondays are spent catching up on all the stuff I didn't get done on Friday, and Tuesdays play catch up on the things I missed on Monday. I have to complete everything on my desk on Wednesdays on that day, which makes for some late nights and early bedtimes. Thursdays wind up being relatively light days and having gotten some good rest the previous evenings, I'm often raring to go once I'm off the clock. Today, however, is Friday and I'm bushed. I did manage to see some really interesting films this week so let's get to them.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Sometimes you watch a film so strange you wonder how in the world it got made. Made in Britain in 1973, The Wicker Man might be described as a folk horror musical. It is about a conservative, Catholic, police sergeant who comes to the private island of Summerisle in search of a missing girl. There, he finds Christopher Lee leading a bunch of pagans who claim they’ve never heard of the girl. The more he investigates the stranger things get. The natives spend their days singing odd folk songs, jumping naked over fire, and teaching school children about phallic symbols. When the sergeant discovers records proving the girl exists, the townsfolk claim she died earlier. Eventually, he decides the girl has either been ritually sacrificed or is about to.
It is a decidedly strange and unsettling film. It is quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t love it as much as some others do. It is the sort of film I’ll probably never watch again, but I’m so glad it exists. Cinema needs its little odd, esoteric films.
Speaking of odd, esoteric films Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 film Enemy is flat-out bonkers. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam, a mild-mannered history professor. One day while watching a movie, he sees an actor who looks just like him. And when I say "looks just like him," I mean the character is also played by Jake Gyllenhaal. With a bit of sleuthing, Adam finds the actor is named Anthony and lives in the same city. Adam calls him up only to get his wife who thinks it is Anthony calling. Later, Adam calls again, explains that they look like twins which causes Anthony to become antagonistic, telling Adam to leave them alone. After Anthony’s wife spies on Adam and confirms their sameness, Anthony calls Adam for a meet.
Normal people, upon meeting their doppelgänger, might express amused surprise. They might try to determine if they are related or share other commonalities. Adam and Anthony act like it's a sign of the apocalypse. After meeting, Anthony demands that Adam let him take his girlfriend out for a weekend without letting her know he’s someone else. Adam agrees then heads straight to Anthony’s house to have sex with Anthony's wife.
Villeneuve films all of this in a dark, eerie manner as if something horrible is going to happen at any moment. I had to rewind the film several times just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Much of the movie is utterly baffling and I’ve not even mentioned all of the giant spiders. And yet it's completely absorbing and utterly fascinating. I have no idea what any of it means, but I’m having a lot of fun reading all of the theories online.
The Fellowship of the Ring
From the independent and incomprehensible comes the utterly mainstream. The wife and I had a lazy Sunday this week and I put on some comfort cinema. It had been a very long time since I’d sat down with The Lord of the Rings and so I was interested in seeing how well it holds up. Mostly, it is still quite good. Some of the CGI looks a little dated and the extended edition is definitely too long, but the quest is still quite thrilling, the action sequences are well staged, and the story is epic. I meant to finish out the trilogy this week but that didn’t quite happen. Maybe this weekend will find another lazy day in which to enjoy The Two Towers.
Pretty in Pink
I was quite surprised to learn that John Hughes didn’t direct this 1980s classic. Rather it was Howard Deutch, who also directed Some Kind of Wonderful. Both films were written and produced by Hughes, which is why they have that feeling about them. As a young man, I adored his films. Unlike so many other “teen films,” they felt real. They sounded like me and my friends and they had that raw emotion I felt. As a 40-something middle-aged man, that raw emotion feels a little over the top, but there are still some really nice moments in it. Hughes was always good with his musical cues and Pretty in Pink is filled with great songs, but nothing tops Duckie lip-synching to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”
The People v. O.J. Simpson
I paid very little attention to the O.J. Simpson trial when it was happening. The murder happened during the break between high school and college for me so I was too busy dealing with all of that to care about a celebrity in trouble. The trial lasted most of my freshman year in college and while I remember various folks around me talking about it, I was too into crushing on girls and bumming around with my new pals to watch TV. Certainly, I was familiar with some of the basics - the Bronco chase, the charismatic defense, somebody named Kato, and of course, the glove that has to fit or you’ve got to acquit. But the details were a complete mystery.
After both this FX series and the ESPN documentary on the murders came out in 2016, our culture was once again abuzz with O.J. As usual, I’m a little late to the game, but I found The People v. O.J. Simpson to be utterly fascinating. Not knowing all the details made it a riveting watch. But even knowing certain things, like how the glove didn’t fit and obviously he does get acquitted, still found me glued to the screen holding my breath for a different outcome. Sarah Paulson once again proves she’s one of the best actresses working in TV and relative newcomer Sterling K. Brown becomes a person to watch.
I’m now totally obsessed with the trial and will no doubt be watching that ESPN documentary soon.
I’m a big fan of Parks and Recreation so when I heard that Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman were going to be working together again, I got real excited. The show is Making It, a reality competition show where contestants compete by making various craft and woodworking projects. Offerman is a skilled woodworker himself and always a delight to watch. Poehler says she can’t make anything but will no doubt be a lot of fun. They’ve been releasing a lot of silly promos for it and this is one of my favorites. Nick Offerman tries to guess what type of wood Amy has by smelling it.