Coal Miner's Daughter (Michael Apted, 1980)
To give you an idea of the lag time between when I put a movie in my Netflix queue and when I finally get around to watching it, I added this to the queue after watching Robert Altman's 3 Women back in December and deciding that I really needed to watch more movies with the great Sissy Spacek. My Spacek mini-festival gets underway with this Oscar-winning performance in a pretty standard biopic about country singer Loretta Lynn. Standard doesn't mean bad, though, and like a lot of biopics, this succeeds thanks to the strong performances, both from Spacek and from Tommy Lee Jones as Lynn's husband. It does seem at times to be a little rosy, only briefly getting into any sort of real trouble in Lynn's life toward the end before backing off and then showing her happy and smiling at the close of the movie. It's actually sort of refreshing to see a movie about someone who, on the whole, had a good life, and the lack of extreme tragedy doesn't make the film less watchable or entertaining. Spacek is, of course, fantastic, and her singing is pretty damn good, too.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
My brother, who is quite the film buff himself and possibly more well-versed than I am in older films, brought this over for us to watch. I have to admit, I had only seen two silent films prior to this one: Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Abel Gance's Napoleon, which I may or may not have walked out of somewhere around hour three (that I don't remember is a sign of how closely I paid attention). Thankfully, this was not four hours long, and it was fairly riveting, especially the unearthly lead performance by Maria Falconetti. Shot almost entirely in close-ups, this is an intense and sort of creepy movie, with a very disconcerting feel thanks to the almost complete lack of master shots. I found it interesting how closely the plot paralleled passion plays (my knowledge of which comes almost exclusively from seeing The Passion of the Christ), and the way in which Dreyer is clearly comparing Joan to Christ, in whose name she was tortured and ultimately murdered. Fairly heady stuff for 1928.