In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Hey hey, Philadelphia! It’s only a few days until our fine city goes into lockdown mode as we host Pope Francis on his North American tour (featuring Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch!), and if you’re anything like me, your significant other is out of town, you have no means by which to escape the city, and you plan to spend your weekend consuming room-temperature canned goods while watching as many movies as possible. So why not keep it thematically appropriate? I’ve compiled a list of films through which to celebrate this momentous occasion without having to set foot into the crowded streets of Popeadelphia.
The Pope’s Toilet (2007 – dir. César Charlone, Enrique Fernández)
Uruguay’s submission into the 2008 Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards tells the story of a small community’s preparation for a Papal appearance. When word gets around that the Pope might pass through their village en route to Brazil, the small population decides to build a pay toilet in an effort to capitalize on the influx of Catholic followers. Equal parts funny and touching, The Pope’s Toilet is a feel-good movie which proves to be doubly interesting for Philadelphians who have witnessed our city’s papal preparation process (and the installation of an alarming amount of Port-a-Potties).
Noah (2014 – dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Whether you’re a religious person or not, Aronofksy’s Noah is the biblical epic that forgoes the audience’s spirituality by lifting the story of the great flood directly off of the page, and telling it exactly as presented. Believers will see it as an truthful adaptation of the Bible’s most memorable tale, while even the most stone cold atheist will find value in seeing a fantastical adventure told by a master filmmaker. Many have stated that this is Aronofsky’s best, and while I don’t necessarily agree, a strong argument can be made for this bold, fully-realized piece of art.
Dead Alive (1992 – dir. Peter Jackson)
Originally titled Braindead (which was changed to avoid conflict with the excellent Pullman/Paxton film of he same name), Dead Alive is a maniacal circus of blood and guts, brought to gruesome life through the use of puppetry, miniatures, and clever editing. Not only is it gleefully mad, but it may be the bloodiest movie ever made (the final showdown involves the weaponization of a lawnmower). Why is it on my Pope list? Because one of the characters is a demon-fighting priest who proudly proclaims “I KICK ASS FOR THE LORD!” as he handily dispatches hordes of the undead.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979 – dir. Terry Jones)
Brian has the unfortunate circumstance of being born on the same day as Jesus Christ, in the stable next door. He leads a very different life than the messiah, but is constantly mistaken as such, and ends up with a very similar fate. Python’s satire of religion as a whole is patently silly, and scathing without being judgmental. God bless Monty Python, and God save the Queen.
Antichrist (2009 – dir. Lars von Trier)
While I’m not quite sure what relevance the title has to the content of the movie, it’s a good enough excuse for me to include one of my all time favorites on this list. Antichristborrows from a lot of horror films which came before it, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it. By doing a gender flip on a classic idea (it’s almost always the patriarch who gets possessed by the haunted locale) Antichrist treads rocky terrain and masterfully so. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe combine their inimitable talents to put on a joint performance that, while not for everyone, has to be seen to be believed. Antichristis fearless filmmaking from a director who, at the time, was suffering from such depression that he feared he’d never work again. Antichrist helped purge this depression, and von Trier is working regularly – to much acclaim – to this day.
So if you’re trapped inside like me this weekend, it’s a great opportunity to do a little cinema homework and relax to the max. And if you do venture out into the streets, be careful and have fun!