My COVID-19 Idiot-Box Weekend

A nod to Spectrum for dropping a bunch of free premium movie channels on their customers during the coronavirus pandemic. I took advantage of it this weekend and wrote about the three best films I saw while locking down with my favorite Snyder’s Sourdough Hard Pretzels.*

On Showtime, The Best of Enemies (2019): Based on the book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson. This film centers on the true story of Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Ellis and civil rights activist Ann Atwater, forced to work together on school integration in Durham, North Carolina, 1971. Fantastic performances by Taraji P. Henson (Atwater) and Sam Rockwell (Ellis). The movie did not get stellar reviews or score high on Rotten Tomatoes, but I’m recommending it. Not only was it entertaining with a strong supporting cast and an excellent script, but everyone should know and understand this story. If you have kids, watch it with them. We all need to do our part to stomp out racism in our lifetime.

On Epix, The Tenant (1976): Roman Polanski is a reviled figure these days for good reasons. I make no excuses for him. But if you can separate the art from the artist for 126 minutes, you’ll enjoy this film. It’s an artistic triumph by a master filmmaker in his prime (his first film after Chinatown). The movie is based on the 1964 novel of the same title by Roland Topor, himself an interesting figure in the surreal arts. It’s a marvelous character study and, in addition to exploring issues of identity and alienation, portrays a man’s gradual descent into madness with one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a psychological horror movie.

On Turner Classic Movies (TCM), The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968): Based on one of my all-time favorite novels by Carson McCullers. The story focuses on the unique relationship between a deaf mute and his mentally disabled friend. It does not shy away from the social politics of small southern towns in the 1930s and is also an examination of loneliness and isolation (like The Tenant), a theme many people can relate to during these times. Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke both earned well-deserved Academy Award nominations for their performances. I highly recommend the book as well as the movie. This is a rare example of a classic literary novel adapted into a fine Hollywood film. You’ll love them both.

On Us: I’m not always a fan of the cable companies with their price-gouging and insatiable desire to conglomerate, but I’m willing to give credit where credit is due. Spectrum is helping keep people at home during the pandemic by offering several movie channels for free. I know many people who stream shows (I do it, too), but I hope the cable companies continue this practice until social distancing is lifted. I encourage you to do your part and stay at home as much as possible. We can’t go to the theaters, so let’s watch a few films on the old idiot-box. And read some good books!

*I have not been paid for the following heart-chomping endorsement of my favorite pretzels…

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