By M.V. Moorhead
This past week I heard somebody observe that is the first time in history that we can save humanity by laying in front of the TV and doing nothing.
“Let’s not screw this up,” they added.
Helping us keep our resolve in this struggle is the fact that, as of this writing, the movie theaters in the Kyrene Corridor, and indeed throughout the Valley, are closed. So it’s time for all of us to stay home and embrace our Inner Couch Potatoes.
The question is, of course: what to watch?
And the answer is: whatever you like. Watch favorites you’ve seen a hundred times. Watch stuff you’ve been meaning to get around to for years, but keep putting off to some mythical future date when you have more time. That day, it appears, has arrived.
But here are a few specific suggestions, from among my favorites.
- Any of the fantasy films of Ray Harryhausen, but especially 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, in which the titular hero encounters a thuggish Cyclops, a massive 2-headed Roc, a sword-wielding skeleton and a dragon with a curiously canine manner. It’s cinematic comfort food of a high order, suitable for high-spirited kids so long as they aren’t too easily scared, or upset by harm coming to innocent creatures; one of the Roc’s hatchlings is done wrong by scurvy members of Sinbad’s crew before the Mom returns. Bad luck for those guys.
- Among several high-profile releases scheduled for the next month or so that have been pushed back for months is Peter Rabbit 2. Disappointing, but in the short term you and your kids could revisit the cute 2018 original Peter Rabbit, with CGI lagomorphs and other fauna interacting with live-action people, slapstick and “fourth wall” shtick, all to a soundtrack that includes Eminem—whatever would Beatrix Potter think of that?
Still, many elements of Potter’s 1902 heist thriller and cautionary tale of juvenile delinquency are included in this modern-dress retelling: Peter’s siblings and cousin, the sparrows, Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill), the sieve, the flower pots in the shed, the blue jacket used as a scarecrow, even the grim backstory of Peter’s father.
After this, however, director Will Gluck and co-writer Rob Lieber invent a comeuppance for McGregor, after which they bring in his control-freak nephew (Domhnall Gleeson) from London. This guy goes to war with Peter (excellently voiced by James Corden) as well, but on the sly, so as not to alienate his pretty neighbor (Rose Byrne), who loves the bunnies. Hilarious gags ensue, along with the adorable sight of the bunnies inclining their foreheads together by way of apology.
- Or, you could opt for length. Don’t forget, we may be in this for the long haul, so maybe it’s time to watch Berlin Alexanderplatz or The Irishman or The Ten Commandments, or binge out on every episode of The Crown. A friend told me that every year she and her father made it a tradition to watch William Wyler’s 1959’s Ben-Hur together—not only an engrossing movie, but one that, at well over three hours, really passes the time. It does, however, in its depiction of a leper colony, show us a bit of enforced social distancing.
- If you really want to pass the time, you could turn off the TV and do what I did a few years back and read the doorstopper novel on which Ben-Hur is based, by Lew Wallace. It has a leisurely pace at times, no doubt, but the text is full of gems, as when Wallace offers this bit of 19th-Century wisdom that the 21st Century seems to be having a hard time with: “A certain facility of accommodation in the matter of religion comes to us after much intercourse with people of different faith; gradually we attain the truth that every creed is illustrated by good men who are entitled to our respect, but whom we cannot respect without courtesy to their creed.”