D.W. Griffith's Intolerance wasn't merely one of the best silent films I've ever seen, but simply one of the best films I've seen. There's four stories - from Jesus and the Pharisees, to the fall of Babylon, to the French Revolution, to the present - and they all work their way to an insane crescendo of a race-against-time ending. The common theme is all about man's intolerance to man. And while all the stories may just have that tenuous thread, the stories themselves are incredibly strong.
And if this all seems too heavy, know that the film, besides being exciting, is funny, sarcastic, and filled with one of the most tremendous battle sequences ever put to film. Beheadings, stabbings, burning oil, catapaults... it has all of that. And it's anchored by Constance Talmadge's performance as the Mountain Girl, who is so independent and joyous that you understand why Griffith changed her fate in a re-issue of the film.
When I saw the film last night it was accompanied by a live piano performance, and I was initially skeptical that it might overpower the film, or even be underwhelming. But Joseph Rubin hit every note on the button, and really gave extra life to an already remarkable film. ****
Then this afternoon, I started Season 3 of Fringe. Bouncing back and forth between universes, this season is (so far) filled with moments that had me (again) gripping the sides of my chair (figuratively). I think I love the fact that the Emmys continually bypass this show in all the acting categories. I mean, everyone who watches the show knows that besides creating characters that are believable in the most fantastic of situations, these actors create characters that are playing characters who are playing characters, and doing it so well that we're never lost or confused. And, really, who thought Joshua Jackson would've been one of the breakout actors from Dawson's Creek?
Finally, tonight started Season Two of Downton Abbey. Season One was the moment when I realized I turned into my parents. I still remember going to bed on Sunday nights listening to the strains of the Masterpiece Theater theme music, and hating it. But last year I gave Downton Abbey a chance, primarily because Jullian Fellowes created it, and he's the same guy who wrote the wonderful Gosford Park. And it was fantastic! The whole Upstairs/Downstairs theme was done with such compelling characters and storylines that tonight's season two opener brought me back into this universe so compellingly and it both made me happy and sad with one incredible turn. I am so invested in these characters that even their smallest problems are giving me heart palpitations. And now, since World War I is going on, besides social faux pas, I have to be worried as to whether some of these characters might die. It's freaking me out, and I love it. This first two hour premiere was near-perfection. These British shows have too few episodes for a season. I want more.