Wednesday, April 15, 2020

5 Off My Head: Quarantine Watches

One of the things that fell by the wayside over these past few strange weeks was my updating of the site's right-hand column where I list the things I have recently watched -- ohh I been watching shit, have I ever. I just hadn't sat down and updated that and that is a problem that multiplies with time, as the list grows longer and the work gets heftier... anyway point is I finally updated it today because I wanted to do this.

What is this, you ask? Besides another example of me jerking myself off (verbally, of course) for an entire paragraph? This is, or is about to be, a list of the best things I have watched so far during these here Quarantine Days. Last week I asked y'all what you have been watching and I got  ton of lovely and appreciated replies, with plenty of suggestions that've been added to my own future-viewings list -- now tis my turn. Here are the five best new-to-me things I have watched over the past 33 days and counting.

The 5 Best Quarantine First-Time Watches

Tales From the Loop -- I have been singing this Amazon Prime series' praises every chance I get on Twitter but inexplicably I have not taken a moment for it here on the site proper (not since the show was first announced way back when anyway) so let me make this clear: Tales From the Loop is my new everything. I've watched it twice now, some episodes three times, and the last time I've done that with a TV show... well in this amount of time I don't know that I have ever done that with a TV show. 

If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about Tales From the Loop is a low-fi sci-fi series produced by Matt "all those Apes movies" Reeves and Mark "Never Let Me Go" Romanek that was inspired by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag's paintings (one seen above) of giant sad robots standing in prairies and the like. (And yes I am indeed pissed off I didn't buy a copy of his books when I first heard about this series because now they're worth way more money.) The show stars Rebecca Hall and Paul Schneider and Jonathan Pryce and Jane Alexander and lots more people whose names you might not recognize, and it set in a small town in maybe the 1980s -- they never really say and there are technological things that situate it in maybe an alternate timeline than our own. Like giant sad robots, and such. The feeling is Spielbergian melancholy.

Emphasis on melancholy. This show is slow (which will bug some people, but is something I love at least when it's done right), and quiet, and very very sad. Kind of Black Mirror every episode centers on a different character in the town coming into contact with a different piece of abandoned technology, and how that interaction spins out -- there is a floating tractor that switches dimensions (in maybe my favorite episode, the gay sixth one with Jon Kortajarena). Unlike Black Mirror most of these characters are interconnected, and their stories all overlap with one another -- the show really rewards re-watches because a person in the background of one episode suddenly gets their own story later on that makes sense of their earlier interactions... 

I didn't mean to write this much about one entry in this list but I could go on and on and on about Tales From the Loop -- this is a five-star recommendation from yours truly. I adore this show, every frame of it, and hope y'all do too. It carried me away from our terrifying real world situation like nothing else has, and like all you hope a piece of entertainment might when trundling in and spending your time somewhere. A wonderful perfect little sad world I love with all my clicking clanking robot heart. Go watch it and report back!

Crip Camp -- This doc has been on Netflix for a few weeks, I hope y'all have had a chance to watch it by now, but if not, do. It tells the story of how a summer camp for disabled kids during the summer of Woodstock led to its own parallel revolution for disabled rights -- how once those kids got a taste of what it meant to be treated with respect and to not be alone in the world there was no going back. It's deeply moving and inspiring stuff, and if that all sounds heady or heavy let me tell you it's also really very funny too.
War & Peace -- Sergey Bondarchuk's epic and I do mean epic 1966 miniseries adaptation of Tolstoy's epic and I do mean epic book got a much deserved hyper-fancy restoration from Janus Films and Criterion last year, and it played some theaters before getting the Criterion blu-ray treatment and I meant so very much to see it, time and time again, but... that sumbitch is over seven hours long! Let me sit you kiddies down and tell you a story -- once upon a time in a kingdom far far away people were busy with these things called "going places" and "doing things." I didn't have time for a seven hour Russian miniseries!
In March of 2020 however, let's just say... I did. I do, and I did, and I am glad I did, because this is one epic that lives up to epic, and one War and Peace that lives up to its title. There is War, there is Peace, and there is everything that that "and" in the middle implies. I really intend to do a post of its own on this film though, there's enough to talk about with it, so let's... wait and see if that happens. Or if I watch Starship Troopers again. Who can tell! How exciting!

Heaven's Gate -- Like War and Peace this was another one that kept falling through the cracks due to ye olden time constraints -- Michael Camino's infamous 1980 disaster, which bankrupted a studio and ruined his career, runs just under four hours long. And more than W&P I felt the sit of this one at times -- there are scenes, hell maybe even entire arcs, that feel excessive while you're sitting through them.
But that excess, that cumulative effect, does really stun in the last stretch -- this thing is a hell of a downer, but I was deeply moved by what ultimately becomes a monument to life's pointlessness, to man's indifference. Is that really the Mood one wants to soak one's self in during the Current State of The World? Perhaps not! But it hits its mark with a punch square in the plexus.

From Beyond -- Honestly I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this one... but we're all friends here right? You'd never judge me. So here, among friends, I will now admit that I have for all these years thought that I had seen Stuart Gordon's 1986 Lovecraft adaptation starring his favorite gruesome two-some of Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, and then Stuart Gordon died and I had myself a little mini-fest of his movies (also seen: Dolls for the 50th time, and Castle Freak for the first... which I also recommend for those with stronger stomachs anyway) and I realized ten minutes into From Beyond that holy squids from hell I ain't never seen none of this glorious pink-tinted gibberish before!

No I don't know how that is -- perhaps a slimy sex-monster from a hell dimension slithered into this one and sucked that part of my brain out lasciviously through my ear cavity -- whatever the case I was delighted by what I saw, absolutely delighted. It's perverse and disgusting and offensive and funny as a three foot dick; I loved every single inch.

Runners-up: The Platform on Netflix
Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini, 1965)
A Cold Wind in August (1961)
Jeanne (Bruno Dumont, 2019)
Home For the Holidays (1972)

If you didn't share in that earlier post I referenced at the start please share with me here in the comments what you've been watching and loving! Or tell me your thoughts on the above things I just talked about! Whatever! Just talk to me, pretty please.


Eugene said...

Where did you see A Cold Wind in August? One that was considered sooo "adult" when I was a kid. Is it available to stream somewhere? I've never seen it. Amazon currently has a one month free special on their gay channel Dekkoo (where did that name come from?) and I've been spending a lot of time there this month. Otherwise, I think it's too expensive to be a regular subscriber, but some interesting stuff all kind of curated for special interest.

Jason Adams said...

Eugene -- it's a fairly terrible quality copy but A Cold Wind in August is on YouTube: It's worth it though; I was surprised by how thoughtful the film is, for the time it was made anyway

Anonymous said...

DEVS on Hulu is absolutely stunning, I highly recommend.

Stay safe!


Anonymous said...

I'm watching the second season of My Brilliant Friend on HBO. I loved the books, but I'm also a big fan of the show. It could have been disappointing but it's become my favorite drama since Mad Men. I don't really see ANYONE talking about it online, which is super odd to me. I thought a lot of people loved the books, but maybe it's the subtitles? I don't get it. It's Italy. Why wouldn't people want to watch?

joel65913 said...

Home for the Holidays!!!! God I LOVED that movie when I was a kid! Even then I was an avid movie/TV fan so what was there not to love about a movie with Eleanor Parker, Sally Field, Julie Harris Jessica Walter and Walter Brennan? Nothing! It even gave me the heebie jeebies the first time I watched it. Looking at it now though it's a bit of a scream that Sally and Eleanor are playing sisters when just the year before in "Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring" (a decent film with strong work by all and a Linda Ronstadt soundtrack) they played mother and daughter!

I've been watching plenty too but mostly older things. Here's my top 5 that come to mind:

Across the Bridge (1957)-A twisty crime drama noir with Rod Steiger.

Drunken Angel (1948)-TCM play a slew of Toshiro Mifune's films on his birthday and so far I liked this best though I still have several to watch.

The Silent Enemy (1958)-A British war film about the part frogman played in the war at sea starring Laurence Harvey and Michael Craig (a relatively recent discovery whose filmography I've been working on).

Conspiracy of Hearts (1960)-Story of a group of Italian nuns who smuggled imprisoned Jewish children to safety in WWII. Lilli Palmer played the abbess.

Hell is a City (1960)-Tough crime drama set in the English town of Manchester with Stanley Baker (another actor who I've taken quite a shine to and have been searching out his films) as a determined inspector on the hunt for a killer.

Just one more:

Campbell's Kingdom-A film about wildcatters in the Canadian Rockies it stars both Stanley Baker and Michael Craig as well as Dirk Bogarde AND James Robertson Justice (a huge fave of mine)!! It was a great day when I tracked that one down!!

triggerua said...

Thank you for introducing me to Tales from the Loop. I can't get enough of it. The episode where the friends switched bodies destroyed me. Perhaps my favorite episode so far. These are beautifully filmed dreams that are actually nightmares.

Jonathan said...

Ok, just finished Tales from the Loop. Had seen it advertised on my Prime page but decided to check it out because of your post. Thanks so much. It was a great binge this weekend. Enjoyed everything about it. The montage, on the last episode, where you see what’s been happening while Cole has been gone...wrecked me completely. Also, here’s hoping Kent and Gaddis are living it up being bird watchers.