Television: Documentaries and the Diocese

The election, the pope and the origin of everything.

November 3, 2016 21:41
3 minute read.
The Young Pope

The Young Pope. (photo credit: PR)

This is the last week of that strange reality show called the US elections. If you’re looking for something to watch besides the news channels, go to YES VOD, which is airing two documentaries that are relevant to the campaign: Michael Moore in TrumpLand and Weiner.

Michael Moore in TrumpLand is the just-released film by the controversial left-wing director.

Michael Moore in TrumpLand is a stand-up performance by Moore at a theater in a small Ohio town that is a Trump stronghold, in which he exhorts voters to choose Clinton.

It’s not likely to sway any Trump voters but might amuse those who favor Clinton.

Weiner is an award-winning documentary about Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former New York congressman who is married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

The sexting scandals that destroyed his political career recently moved from cringe-inducing to criminal, as he is now under investigation for emails he sent to a teenager.

The FBI director last week announced that a laptop Abedin shared with Weiner has been seized as part of the probe, bringing the Clinton email investigation back into the headlines.

The documentary, which is perversely fascinating, is about Weiner’s run for mayor in 2013, in which he sabotaged himself for a second time, much to the delight of late-night comedians and the New York Post.

“Soon we shall be covered by wheat . . . fields of wheat . . . ” Diane Keaton intoned in Woody Allen’s 1975 Love and Death, a send-up of Russian literature and Ingmar Bergman movies. That scene came to mind as I watched Keaton in the new series The Young Pope, which is airing on HOT Plus on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. and on HOT VOD.

The Young Pope is an intermittently entertaining, often creepy look at the first American pope, an inexplicably young pontiff named Lenny Belardo who, also inexplicably, is played by blond-haired, blue-eyed Jude Law, in spite of his ethnic name.

Keaton is Sister Mary, the nun who raised him from childhood after his parents abandoned him for reasons that will no doubt become clear in the course of the show. Like everyone in the series, she speaks in the exaggerated stage whispers of the kind of Bergman movie Allen lampooned in Love and Death. If you ever wanted to see Keaton in a wimple, well, your prayers have been answered.

The Young Pope was directed by Paolo Sorrentino, who made the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty.

Like all his movies, it is beautifully photographed, with impeccable production design. But I have always found just about any drama that goes behind the scenes at the Vatican a snooze, and The Young Pope is no exception. It’s true that this isn’t your standard Vatican drama in any sense: In one portentous scene after another, the pontiff smokes cigarettes with narrowed eyes, refuses to have anything for breakfast other than Cherry Coke Zero and has many bizarre dreams, including one in which he crawls out of a huge pit of pale, writhing babies. But the scenes of Lenny having hissy fits with his staff and jealous cardinals are interspersed with the obligatory Vatican drama scenes of scheming men in robes walking the corridors of the Vatican.

Maybe you have to be Catholic to appreciate all this, but since I’m not, I really don’t.

And the Earth Was Without Form and Void, an ambitious new 15-part documentary series, begins airing on November 6 at 9 p.m. on Channel 1 and will continue to run on Sunday nights.

According to the press release, “Crossing the scientific, historic and archeological data with biblical concepts, the series examines the origin of man on Earth in general and in Israel in particular, the great migration from Africa and the relics of ancient life in the land, the formation of the first human rivalries and the emergence of faith and religious worship. Experts, archeologists and researchers describe, through findings, excavations and historic sites, how writing, food, clothing, weapons of war and state systems developed in the region.”

In a rare development, this series will be launched at a festive screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque attended by President Reuven Rivlin.

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