Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Favorite (four), eighty-eight

Just like in my other eighty-seven posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only a very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

John Ford's The Sun Shines Bright
I have been watching more John Ford of late than I ever have and it is clear I am only beginning to scratch the surface of who he was as a filmmaker.  What seems clear to me at this point is that he was deeply interested in America, where we had been and where we might be going.  He wanted to tell our history, examine it, and expose our people for the times they fought for unjust causes.  The more I watch, the more Ford seems like the narrative version of Wiseman, a filmmaker deeply concerned with our institutions and the very foundation on which this country is supposed to rest.

Dawn Porter's John Lewis: Good Trouble
A wonderful introduction to the life and work of Lewis who for the last 60 years was one of the most important figures in civil rights.  It gave me the best sense yet of the risks taken by those who were on the front lines of sit-ins and marches in the sixties.

John Ford's The Prisoner of Shark Island
The more John Ford I watch the more I feel that, as much as any American director of his generation, he explored the issue of race relations among blacks and whites in this country.  Here, already in the 1930s, he gives us a story with black heroes and once again a scenario where our white lead needs his black friend in order to overcome the obstacles in front of him.  

Has there ever been an American director who more consistently grappled with our country's past or who more often employed songs like "Taps" and "Dixie" that immediately call to mind our wars and our history?

Not to mention it is hard to overlook the deep humanism at work in this film, a quality of Ford I've read about but have only begun to appreciate.

Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori's Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
A film for anyone like me with a cursory knowledge of Big Star and the cult that has grown around the 70s Memphis band.  The interviews shine light on the short, influential career of the band and moments like Stipe singing Kangaroo make you want to immediately go out and listen to all their work.  

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