March 2020 Viewing Diary: A Before and After List

I began this viewing diary in a time of innocence (and naivete) before social distancing became compulsory (or at least strongly suggested). We here were months behind schedule, due to the disgraceful anti-science buffoonery of the current administration, who do not give a shit about us and are withholding medical supplies from states whose governors didn’t pay due obeisance to our current dictator. Can’t even believe I’m writing that sentence. This sinister administration only consider themselves President to their base. The rest of us are “bad people” “nasty people” – completely otherized and shunned – and so we can just die alone, they don’t give a shit. If you disagree with me, I have no problem telling you: You are on the wrong side of history. Posterity will not be kind to you. But anyway, mid-month, the reality became clear. When Disneyland closed, shit got real (although I had already self-quarantined by that time). I have two friends who have come down with it. Both have struggled to medicate their symptoms at home (this is the current advice) because the hospitals are overwhelmed. Please keep the doctors and nurses in your thoughts. Much has changed in the last month. I was put on a higher dose of medication because I had a crack-up last month which I did not write about here. My blog updates itself by itself now because I program all those birthday posts ahead of time. In the meantime, I’m off having a crisis. It’s a weird disembodied feeling – I’d return like “what the hell have I been posting about again?” I saw my doctor to refill my prescription – which I had stopped taking the meds, because this is textbook my-illness – and there’s no excuse for it except … the cray-cray and the resentment you have to take meds at all – just before I self-quarantined (and I didn’t even know it was coming when I saw him – thank GOD I did, because … well, I suppose I could have had a phone session with him) and he listened to me babble for 5 minutes and then said calmly, “I am going to up your dosage.” Then the hammer came down for social distance and I had to have him call in a 90-day prescription because who knows when this thing will end. The higher dose of meds have been difficult to get used to and knocked me on my ASS for the first 5 days, a delightful thing to be going through at the same time I have holed myself up in my apartment. I had a crashing headache for 3 days, and the first day I slept for FIFTEEN HOURS, which is clearly not sustainable. I am now doing much better, all things considered. And I am well aware that so many people have it so much worse. It’s heartbreaking what is going on here, especially in New York. I still have writing assignments (thank God, and thank God for editors who are continuously trying to keep us working). So this viewing diary is strongly bifurcated between the time before and the reality now. It’s weird.

The Way Back (2020; d. Gavin O’Connor)
I really loved it. I reviewed for Ebert back in the Mesozoic Era of early March, before everything changed.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020; d. Brian Knappenberger)
Excruciating. I could barely finish it.

Babylon Berlin, Season 1 (2018; Creators: Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries)
A re-watch in preparation for the launching of Season 3. I was OBSESSED with Season 1 and Season 2 when I suddenly landed on watching them last year (I think? Time blends together now).

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936; d. Frank Capra)
Part of my re-watch of all of Jean Arthur’s filmography (at least as many as I could get my hands on: her silent film era is a bit more sketchy in terms of availability). I was re-watching because it was the subject of my Film Comment column.

Stargirl (2020; d. Julia Hart)
I reviewed for Ebert. The last one before I went into quarantine. Not very good, sadly, except for the presence of Big Star.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939; d. Frank Capra)
Ibid. in re: Jean Arthur. One of her best.

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941; d. Sam Wood
Another Jean Arthur-Charles Coburn mashup – the best one being The More the Merrier from 1943. But this is wonderful too.

Too Many Husbands (1940; d. Wesley Ruggles)
Where Jean Arthur finds herself married to two men. It is very funny although it takes a while to get going. The two men – Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas – fighting for her attention is hilarious.

Talk of the Town (1942; d. George Stevens)
A favorite. Jean Arthur at her screwball best.

Dead Ringers (1988; d. David Cronenberg)
I think the last time I saw this was in the theatre during its first release. Maybe I rented it on VHS one but I don’t think so. Then for a long time it was unavailable. Criterion did release it but it is now out-of-print. One day during my quarantine I tripped over it streaming on Amazon. I leapt on it. A pretty grim watch, but Jeremy Irons is just as brilliant as I remembered.

Patty Hearst (1988; d. Paul Schrader)
Another long-unavailable film. Also saw this during its first release. In line with my obsession with brainwashing, the story of Patty Hearst has always had a hold on me. I miss Natasha Richardson.

Babylon Berlin, Season 2 (2018; Creators: Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries)
I just love this series. Season 1 and Season 2 are closely linked, the plot and the arc connected.

Babylon Berlin, Season 3 (2020; (2018; Creators: Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries)
The new version launched on Netflix. Season 4 to follow! I found the plot of this one not as gripping as the first two seasons – and there were a couple of sub-plots I had no interest in (Gereon’s “wife”‘s journey – I just didn’t care) but there were elements that fascinated. Plus Gereon and Lotte … they are playing this sexual/romantic tension which was there from the jump … it’s been a long slow burn. Still no outright acknowledgement but they do share a kiss in a scene that, in general, not just the kiss part, moved me so much. I am super invested in the two of THEM.

Arizona Dream (director’s cut) (1933; d. Emir Kusturica)
More to come on this one.

Arizona Dream (Warner Brothers cut for DVD) (1933; d. Emir Kusturica)

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 1 “Pilot” (2005; d. David Nutter)
Stunned by how DARK it is. How GOOD it was from the jump.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 2 “Wendigo” (2005; d. David Nutter)
“Whatcha doin’ Roy.” Dean all sexpot-soft-intimate in the face of Roy’s aggression: my favorite moment.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 3 “Dead in the Water” (2005; d. Kim Manners)
The moment I felt the first deep stirring of interest. I realized here that the series was not going to be about monsters, but about character exploration. I was intrigued. And THAT’S how you use slo-mo. THAT’S how you show them as heroes. Not by having them actually say “we save the world, we’re heroes.”

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 4 “Phantom Traveler” (2005; d. Robert Singer)
And here was where I knew I would be binging the whole thing. They’re going to incorporate HUMOR too? They’re going to let DEAN be funny? Forget it: I’m in.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 5 “Bloody Mary” (2005; d. Peter Ellis)
Interesting exploration of Sam’s secret life, his double self, prophetic of what was to come in the upcoming seasons. Plus: great “coda”. So well done. No special effects needed. Just put a girl in a white dress on a crowded corner, to the accompaniment of The Rolling Stones. Boom. That’s all you need.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 6 “Skin” (2005; d. Robert Duncan McNeil)
The episode where Dean takes his shirt off. And you wish he hadn’t.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 7 “Hook Man” (2005; d. David Jackson)
A precursor to “That’s my boy” in Provenance, with Dean peeking through the side mirror at Sam and priest’s daughter. There’s something a little rote about this one – although priest’s daughter has one of the best screams in the entire series (and she has to scream a couple of times). This is also when the lead characters had operating sex drives.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 9 “Home” (2005; d. Ken Girotti)
The launching of four of the KEY episodes in the whole entire series, each episode better than the last. A one-two-three-four punch of profundity, character development, foreshadowing and plain old aesthetic MASTERY in terms of look and mood. (And it was such a potent and painful reminder of how unforgivable it is what Dabb did to Mary.)

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 10 “Asylum” (2005; d. Guy Bee)
That SET. The first real rift between the brothers although it’s been brewing. This will lead us into the next episode, a stone cold masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. One of my favorite moments:

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 11 “Scarecrow” (2006; d. Kim Manners)
One of the best eps in the entire series.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 12 “Faith” (2006; d. Allan Kroeker)
Also a fave. This is the only ep Kroeker directed. It FEELS very different. It’s Altman-esque in some of those crowd scenes.

Banana Split (2020; d. Benjamin Kasulke)
For review. Under quarantine.

Trust (2010; d. David Schwimmer)
I watched this in preparation for Banana Split because I was curious about Liana Liberato. She is a child here, a Tween, and this is an INCREDIBLE performance. But everyone is good: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis. I was so impressed.

Force of Evil (1948; d. Abraham Polonsky)
John Garfield. The dirty corrupt city. Such a movie star.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 13 “Route 666” (2006; d. Paul Shapiro)
I can never watch this episode without remembering one of the most epic and hilarious comments thread in the history of my site. This episode comes out of another world. Not a Supernatural world. But no one is gonna bully me out of Cassie being Canon.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 14 “Nightmare” (2006; d. Philip Sgriccia)
You’ll notice I skipped Bugs. This is such an unpleasant excruciating episode – I rarely feel like re-watching it. Max’s torment is so powerfully performed – and now we’re starting the whole Psychic Kids arc which will dominate Season 2.

Emma. (2020; d. Autumn de Wilde)
My God I loved it even more in my re-watch. Rented it on Amazon (it’s there because the theatrical run was cut short by the pandemic). I rented it and watched it 3 times during the rental period. Because what else am I gonna do. I’m sitting at home surrounded by canned food and granola bars and worried about my friend who “caught the virus.” And I can’t do anything to help. This has been wonderful comfort. And Johnny Flynn – my new crush – isn’t even my TYPE. He has opened up for me a NEW TYPE, that’s how good he is.

Lovesick (original title Scrotal Recall) (2014/2016/2018; d. Tom Edge)
And my crush on Johnny Flynn has led to this. I binge-watched this entire series. It’s so good! So funny and sexy and human, with excellent acting. I’ll be writing more about it. Plus: Johnny Flynn’s MUSIC. He also has put out all these ALBUMS, which I am also delving into. I can’t leave my house. One of my main writing outlets has collapsed. What else am I gonna do.

Vanity Fair, episode 1 (2018; d. James Strong)
Johnny Flynn Redux. I’m enjoying it.

Vanity Fair, episode 2 (2018; d. James Strong)
Johnny Flynn Redux – those REDCOATS – part 2. I’ll continue on. I will now work my way through Flynn’s entire filmography although I realized I had seen him before: in Beast, which I reviewed, as well as Clouds of Sils Maria (wrote about it here).

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9 Responses to March 2020 Viewing Diary: A Before and After List

  1. hugh grissett says:

    I love your music posts! playlists, ipod etc. any plans for more music posts soon?

    • sheila says:

      Hugh – hey thanks!! I appreciate you telling me! Funny you ask – I do have an iPod Playlist post that I started about a month ago – but then social distancing happened and I just haven’t been able to get back to it.

      Thanks for the push – I will put up another one eventually.

    • Guillermo Jiménez says:

      Co-sign on your music posts. They always bring a smile.

  2. Paul says:

    Sheila, So sorry to hear you have not been well. If you are looking for something fun to watch, you might consider Cobra Kai (based on the original Karate Kid thirty years later). My daughter and I are huge fans and in my opinion it is one of the best shows out there.

    • sheila says:

      Thanks! These things go in cycles – I’m just relieved I got all that handled before moving into (even more) isolation. Plus the added worry of all my high-risk friends, my mother, and etc.

      You know I keep meaning to check out Cobra Kai. I was a huge Karate Kid fan back in the day (truthfully: Ralph Macchio was always the draw) – and I am so impressed that that franchise still casts such a long shadow it could spawn a TV series so many years later!! I’ve heard good things – thank you!

  3. Dan says:

    Glad to hear you’re doing better!

    If you’re looking for a light-hearted, fun watch, I highly recomend ‘Derry Girls’.

  4. Donna Thomas says:

    I’m a long time reader who rarely posts but I must write something about the ungrateful folks who would criticize anything you post. The site is free and densely filled with amazing information. You write what pleases you and that is one of the many reasons I return here year after year.
    This is a frustration time for all. For me, I’m an ICU RN who had to go out on disability after 32 years working for the local Catholic hospital due to renal failure. I’m on dialysis and I’m on the transplant list. I’m doing my part, by staying at home, to not become a patient and further overload the fragile hospital system. I am so worried about my friends still working and would give anything to be able to join in the fight.
    Thank you for giving me interesting things to read and ideas of things to watch. Last month I saw that Love me or Leave Me was onTCM and I watched it. You are right, it was fantastic. I’m currently reading Glass Menagerie on my kindle. I’ve never seen any production or movie version. It’s so sad.
    We all have to do what we can to survive and I think we can start off by being kind and everyone stay home!

  5. Guillermo Jiménez says:

    Glad to know you’re doing better and taking care. This has been a crazy time and I hope you continue to be well and doing your wonderful work.

    Incidentally, it’s interesting to me that you mentioned Disneyland closing as the moment when shit got serious. I’d been on alert since the NBA got suspended the previous week and it was driving me crazy that the parks took as long to close as they did (even though I have tickets to Disneyland for the Spring). That all feels like years ago now.

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