It's been awhile since I've thrilled the world with my latest Netflix rentals, so I thought I might as well share the love once again.
Wattstax (1973): This is a legendary concert film, recording a huge concert marking the anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots in L.A. It features stellar performances by Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, the Dramatics, and many more. The music clips are phenomenal and quite revealing -- I had no idea the Bar Kays hailed from the third moon of Saturn, for instance -- but the highlight of the film are the interviews with black Angelenos that intersperse the music cuts. Richard Pryor has some very funny improv bits there, but the guy who floored me was Ted Lange. Just a few years before he became the grinning, advice-shilling bartender to middle-class white couples on The Love Boat, he was sittin' around rappin' about all the jive-ass shit that The Man was doin'. Hysterical.
Paradise Now (2005): Justly nominated for a slew of awards last year, this film tells the story of the paths taken by two would-be suicide bombers from the Palestinian Territory. This isn't the simplistic "pro-bomber" film that many on the right made it out to be, but rather a more nuanced approach. In the end, the film raises a lot of questions about the fundamental problems with the West Bank occupation and the futility of terrorist resistance against it in equal measure. The visuals are starkly beautiful, and the acting by all the leads solid. Quite nice.
Network (1976): I must have watched this classic film a half dozen times by now, and it just gets better every time. The script by Paddy Chayevsky and direction by Sidney Lumet are both fantastic, but the acting really steals the show. William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch are all brilliant in the leads, while Ned Beatty and Robert Duvall give stellar turns in supporting roles. (Beatty's messianic boardroom speech to Finch may be one of the greatest moments in the history of film.) The only thing that makes the film sour a little is the fact that so much of what they satirized about the lowest common denominator instincts of the corporate media have now come true, and then some.
That's it for me lately -- some of us work for a living, dammit! -- but throw your thoughts about these films, or whatever else you've been watching lately, down in the comments.