Thursday, July 27, 2017

10 Sports Movies for People Who Don't Like Sports

Give me an 'S'! Give me a 'P'! Give me an.... oh, yuck, sports movies, definitely among my least liked film genres. I can understand why someone would want to play a sport, but I'm at a loss as to why anyone would want to spend hours upon hours watching other people play. As a result, few sports films hold my attention, let alone enjoy my sympathy, for very long. However, I firmly believe that a true cinephile will find treasures even amid the most unappetizing dross and, so, here are ten sports movies for people who, like myself, don't like sports:

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
This charmer directed by Gurinder Chadha stars Parminder Naga and Keira Knightley as young women who want to play soccer against their families' wishes and Jonathan Rhys Myers as their coach and eye candy. Jess's conservative Indian expat family forbids her participation in sports and tries to hustle her into an arranged marriage, while Jules rebels against her mother's rigid conformity to femininity, which comes to a head with an embarrassing display of misplaced homophobia. Ultimately, Bend It Like Beckham is a frothy romantic comedy with a soup├žon of social commentary, starring girls wearing cleats instead of heels, a pleasant means of wiling away a rainy afternoon.

Breaking Away (1979)
This quietly brilliant dramedy stars Dennis Christopher as an aimless guy in Bloomington, Indiana, a passionate cyclist who exuberantly embraces all things Italian. With no more jobs at the local quarry and no serious plans to enroll at the university, he and his friends (Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley) are unmoored from their own futures. The four end up competing against the university teams in the Little 500. The screenplay by Steve Tisch won a much deserved Oscar and the sensitive, warm-hearted, but rather thorny performances do it justice. What elevates Breaking Away above the run-of-the-mill coming-of-age movie lies in its refusal to succumb to simplistic Hollywood solutions without tipping to the other extreme into existential despair. Perfectly balanced between drama and comedy, dejection and blithe good humor, bitterness and sugar, this film pleases whether the viewer would snooze through the Tour de France or not.

Good News (1947)
Directed by choreographer Charles Walters, Good News exists in a lily-white fantasy world where college students cheer the football team, stay thin on a malt and milkshake diet, and take classes only to impress the girls. June Allyson, somehow both a student and a librarian, tutors quarterback and heartthrob Peter Lawford and they end up hotfooting it at the most choreographed prom this side of High School Musical. Unquestionably silly, this film in distress is rescued by lively, pithy songs, some wacky Technicolor costumes, and frenetic, virtuosic choreography. 

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
This delightful comedy, recently released by the Criterion Collection, stars baby-faced Robert Montgomery as an eccentric, sax-playing boxer who is accidentally collected by his anxiety-ridden guardian angel (the brilliant character actor, Edward Everett Horton) fifty years before his time. The angel's boss, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains, utterly perfect), gives him a second chance, in a different body, since his own has already been cremated. Though the movie at times betrays its origins as a stage play, it radiates a sweetness that is never cloying and a robustly chipper sense of black humor. 

National Velvet (1944)
Clarence Brown's adaptation of the Enid Bagnold novel stars Elizabeth Taylor as a horse-mad kid who sets her heart on her gelding, The Pie, winning the Grand National Steeplechase, Mickey Rooney as an embittered former jockey, and Donald Crisp and Ann Revere as Taylor's taciturn, if supportive parents. An undisputed classic, National Velvet shines as a superlative example of a family picture, as powerful for adults as it is for children. It also gave Mickey Rooney a rare opportunity to flex his dramatic acting muscles in a role tailor-made for the scrappy actor, while Taylor is radiant in every sense of the word.

Olympia (1938)
While The Triumph of the Will betrays not the slightest deviation from slavish devotion to Hitler and Nazism, Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia is a more complex beastie, for the visionary director allows herself to be distracted from her reprehensible politics by her artistic sensibility: Jesse Owens's victory is too plummy to avert the camera's eye, or downplay its heart-stopping triumph. If the politics of Olympia are a tad confused, the artistry and sheer beauty of shot after glorious shot of Olympic athletes are undeniably mesmerizing, especially after the transition from the first part, "Festival of Nations," to the second, "Festival of Beauty." 

Rocky (1976)
To my surprise, Sylvester Stallone's wildly successful boxing film completely beguiled me, winning me over with a vulnerable performance and a sensitive screenplay from Stallone, expert montage work by editors Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad, a quirkily unconventional leading lady in Talia Shire, and Bill Conti's score, which somehow hasn't been spoofed to death. Though the core of story is the fight between Rocky and the heavyweight champ, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the emotional heft of the film is built up from the richly drawn life of an Italian immigrant neighborhood in Philadelphia, its shops and street markets, a too-fleeting savor of a culture that's all but disappeared.

Surfwise (2008) 
Doug Pray's oddball documentary about the Paskowitz family captures both the winning charms and the mangy miseries of a ruthlessly idealistic adherence to the countercultural forces of the 1970s. Doc Paskowitz, disgusted with the emptiness and conformism of American middle-class life, leaves behind his medical practice and hits the road, taking his wife and nine children along for the ride (in an obscenely cramped trailer). The family's passion is surfing, but the carefree, back-to-nature ideologies that Doc embraces also come with bone-scraping hunger, a struggle to attain basic literacy, the impossibility of lasting friendships, and a total lack of privacy, along with endless opportunities to ride the waves. Pray is wise enough to let us sit with the tangled mess that idealism has wrought for this family, wise enough to withhold absolute judgments without falling into credulous acceptance.

Third Man on the Mountain (1959) 
A solidly crafted and consistently entertaining live-action Disney film, Third Man on the Mountain is formulaic, but succeeds in demonstrating why the formula came to be in the first place. James MacArthur stars as a Swiss youth determined to follow in his mountaineer father's footsteps, Michael Rennie is his mentor, Janet Munro is his spirited, adorable sweetheart, and Laurence Naismith gives a memorable turn as a crabby climber-cum-chef. Filmed on the Matterhorn, the film is worth watching for the dizzying climbing footage alone.

Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937)
I have a huge soft spot for this first team-up of my beloved Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Garland plays the plucky niece of a boardinghouse landlady (Sophie Tucker, criminally forgotten today) and something of a mascot for the jockeys who board with them. Had Freddie Bartholomew not been replaced by the far less charismatic Ronald Sinclair, the film would have more powerful star credentials, but as it is, it's a bubbly romp at the race tracks. As far as sports movies are concerned, Garland debuted the year before in Pigskin Parade, an unusually silly and ungainly football musical, recommended for Judy completists only.

Readers, what sports movies do you recommend for people who are apt to take a catnap at the ballpark, snooze at the ice rink, and seek a sad solace at the bottom of a thermos at the football arena?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Narnian Women, Part 2: "Prince Caspian"

In the second published volume of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis calls the four Pevensie children back to Narnia to aid Prince Caspian, the rightful heir to the throne, in his war against the usurper, his uncle, Miraz. It is the most martial volume in the series and its stakes - not merely the kingdom, but the life, spiritual and literal, of Narnia and its non-human creatures - are immensely high. From a gender standpoint, the split between the roles of men and women is even more pronounced than in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While Peter, Edmund, and Caspian concern themselves with battle, political strategy, and succession, Lucy and Susan remain with Aslan, to act as his handmaidens as he reawakens and revives the ancient supernatural beings that human beings have all but destroyed. This is an ancient dichotomy, hardly confined to the western world: men are warriors and women midwives, men bring death and women life.

As in the first volume, Lucy is the true protagonist and her faith in Aslan is unshakeable. When she and her siblings are lost in the forest, on their way to succor Caspian, it is she alone who can perceive the signs Aslan leaves for them to follow, but no one will believe her. Only gradually do they realize that Lucy, as ever, can be trusted. Her faith is perfect and pure and her fundamental truthfulness and trustworthiness establish her as the character whose moral goodness is beyond reproach. Lucy's imperfection are venial, forgivable, and what mark her as human. 

Susan, on the other hand, is showing clear signs that her faith has begun to weaken. While Peter doubts Lucy, and Edmund, though unsure, chooses to follow her because it was she who led them right when they first came to Narnia, Susan doesn't only doubt. She condescends to her sister, treating her with contempt and dismissing her visions of Aslan as mere fantasy. Susan, already, requires much more than belief to sustain her. She is falling prey to the adult sin of skepticism, mistaking cynicism and suspicion for sophistication and superiority. Still, Susan is ultimately able to see Aslan when he reveals himself, and unlike the followers of Miraz, her love and faith are reawakened by the revelation. This reawakening in Susan mirrors the reawakening of Narnia; from the devious stratagems of political and social chicanery they are both delivered, but by this, it is also proved that both are susceptible to corruption.

It's worth noting, however, that it is Susan's horn that calls the children back to Narnia and thus, indirectly, her power that rescues Caspian. In this way, Susan's benevolence, her easily provoked pity, and her protective instinct, expressed through the horn, continue to nurture something of her spirit in Narnia, as she was in the purity of her faith.

The most flamboyant character in the novel, who at least reads as female, is the Hag. She and a Werewolf present themselves to Caspian as allies, hoping to convince him to use dark magic to summon the White Witch from the dead. Though the Hag is little more than a personification of supernatural evil, it is highly significant that she does not appear alone. This evil, this more ancient and mysterious evil, not so easily defeated as Miraz, his scheming courtiers, and their irreligious soldiers, has two defendants in the Hag and the Werewolf. They represent their respective species, but they also emphasize that evil has its male and female, just as good has. Thus, the Hag attains great importance, as we try to understand Lewis's construction of Narnian gender. Both evil and good, though they might be expressed differently, may take dominion of women, just as they may of men.

The delightfully named Queen Prunaprismia is King Miraz's consort. When she successfully delivers a baby son, Caspian, tolerated as a royal heir before, becomes Miraz's mortal enemy. She shares her husband's ambition and has been a cold and contemptuous aunt to Caspian. Caspian's mother, on the other hand, the true queen, has already died before the prince can retain any memory of her. His tutor, Cornelius, assures him that she was a kind and gracious queen and implies that his loyalty to Caspian is partly due to his embrace of the old Narnian beliefs and customs, but also in gratitude to the late queen. This pair of queens again demonstrates Lewis's firm understanding of women as active agents in Narnia. Their beliefs and their loyalties define their characters.

Caspian's nurse, the female counterpart to his tutor Cornelius, like him fosters the prince's spirituality by recounting to him from a young age the history of the Golden Age of Narnia. These tales arouse a keen longing for those halcyon days in Caspian and set him firmly on the path towards Aslan and the fertile, riotous, and highly diverse country that has been all but conquered by the invasion of men. Just as the Hag and the Werewolf denote the female and male halves of supernatural evil, the nurse and the tutor, acting as guides and surrogate parents, denote the female and male halves of faith.

There are two more female characters worth mentioning in Prince Caspian. Gwendolen is a dreamy and discontented schoolgirl, who, like Caspian, longs for the old Narnia and rebels against the boring and false pseudo-history that her teacher, Miss Prizzle, expounds. Gwendolen, by approaching Aslan with love, is embraced as a true Narnian and one of the humans who will remain, a representative of merely one sort of creature among equals, while Miss Prizzle, who is both thoroughly indoctrinated and a vocal exponent of false doctrines, is terrified and runs from Aslan. Innocence, an openness to wonder, and a capacity to laugh all mark Gwendolen as a true Narnian, but it is also notable that her status as someone who is oppressed for her (correct) beliefs, even if they are at first merely instinctual, renders her especially sweet in Aslan's eyes. Lewis, like so many British boys of his generation, suffered cruelly at the brutal public school he attended and his harsh condemnation of schools, and the teachers and bullies who thrive there, is a recurrent thread in his writing. It is thus unsurprising that Aslan frees this child believer from a school, rather than a prison or a workhouse.

The proliferation of pairs that contrast gender roles, but also emphasize a certain degree of spiritual parity, makes manifest a signal truth in The Chronicles of Narnia: while men and women usually have different roles to play, they are equally responsible as far as their faith and their moral responsibility are concerned. Men are political actors, governors, fighters, judges; women are healers, comforters, supports, mothers. However, both men and women can be teachers, for the truth of what they teach rests on their beliefs and beliefs are not gendered.

Read "Narnian Women, Part 1: 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe'" here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Narnian Women, Part 1: "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

No attempt at a feminist analysis is going to succeed in unearthing a feminist politics in C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. It has become received wisdom that Lewis was a misogynist, though a devoted reader will observe a slow, but definite evolution in his attitudes towards women, especially after he began his complex romantic relationship with Joy Davidman Gresham, but even in his first nonfiction book, The Allegory of Love, published in 1936, Lewis offers a marvelously empathetic and brilliantly compassionate analysis of Chaucer's Cryseide, a character for whom he has pity, recognizing that she is 'unlikable' because she can't overcome her vulnerability. By 1956, the year he married Gresham, Lewis published an astoundingly gorgeous and combatively transgressive retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, narrated from the perspective of Psyche's hideously ugly, but deeply sympathetic elder sister, Orual. That same year, the last volume of The Chronicles was published, though it had been completed several years earlier.

The first volume of The Chronicles, published in 1950, was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, though Lewis, ever the busy bee, had already written three of the seven books. The project began in 1939 when Lewis and his brother Warnie were saddled with three evacuee children from London. For the first time, Lewis was spending considerable time with children, all three of whom were girls. The two old bachelors were at their wit's end, with no idea how to entertain these kids, but it was natural for Lewis, who had been writing stories in the fantastic mode since his early childhood, to turn to writing fiction as a solution to the woes of precipitous and un-wished-for surrogate fatherhood.

In striking contrast to his earlier science fiction trilogy, which had few female characters, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has many, including two of the four protagonists, two of the supporting characters, and the villain. The gender politics of the novel are not simplistic, but rather rooted in medieval conceptions of manhood and womanhood, as expressed in the ancient literature that Lewis studied as a scholar. The split between male and female is absolute and inviolable: Narnia is entering its Golden Age and the demarcations between good and evil, summer and winter, love and hatred, man and woman, are clearly marked. Men and boys are expected to fight battles, protect the innocent, defend their honor, and wield swords; women and girls are expected to nurse the wounded, offer succor to the despairing and fearful, devote themselves to the will of Aslan, and wreathe the victors with garlands. "Battles are ugly when women fight," Father Christmas opines, as he presents Lucy with a dagger to be used only in self-defense. However, a certain transgressive anarchy lurks in the Narnian world: there are only four human beings, the four Pevensie children, and these rules apply to them, but far less clearly to the other creatures of Narnia.

Lucy Pevensie, the youngest of the four children and the first to enter Narnia, later known as the Valiant, proves, beyond all other humans who enter Narnia, the most unswervingly loyal to Aslan. Her faith alone holds steady, no matter what she encounters, while all others, even her brother Peter, the High King, experience moments of doubt, or even disbelief. In this way, Lucy is the model of girlhood in the Narnia universe. The qualities that dominate her character are her truthfulness, her readiness to forgive a wrong, her bravery, her impish sense of merriment, and her total incapability of either breaking her word or betraying a friend. However, Lucy is not a paragon: in this first volume, she shows an impetuous imprudence and needs to be restrained by wiser heads and her trustfulness is worrisome to her elder brothers and sister. Lucy is a rather miraculous imaginative achievement for the monastic old bachelor. In her, Lewis gives us a little girl who feels utterly real, and whom anyone might want to befriend.

Her older sister, Susan, the only one of the human children to enter Narnia to be lost to it at the close, shows signs even in this first volume that her faith will prove weakest. Already, she plays the mother to her siblings, an attitude that indicates her overeagerness to put aside childish things. Many have interpreted this as Lewis's condemnation of female sexuality, but even a cursory reading of, for instance, The Allegory of Love, assures us that Lewis was hardly inclined to condemn sex. Rather, the problem with Susan is that she is seduced by conformity, not adulthood and not sexuality. She follows the crowd and is prepared to give up her belief in Narnia, to dismiss it as a game of pretend, in order to be accepted. Throughout all of Lewis's fiction, the conformist impulse is consistently censured, bad from every perspective, not only because it eviscerates faith, but because it is a fundamental betrayal of one's inner life. Her beauty, her tendency to vacillate, her changeability, all these qualities mark her as a feminine ideal, a Guinevere, and it is she (though notably not Lucy) who at one point must be physically rescued by her brother Peter from the predation of the wolf Maugrim. In this first volume, Susan is still unspoiled and her prudence, concern for her siblings, cheerful helpfulness, and pity for the wounded cause the Narnians to dub her the Gentle.

If we understand Aslan as a Christological figure, which many do, though this is not required for a lucid interpretation of the story, then Lucy and Susan are childish counterparts of Mary and Mary Magdalene, staying close to the lion in his martyrdom and joyfully celebrating his resurrection. Their status as children represents their innocence and lack of guile or power-hunger and thus they are fit to rule and usher in the full Narnian spring. Their virtues are those extolled by the medieval poets and their vices are those of children. Lucy and Susan are the models of Narnian womanhood in the Golden Age. 

The White Witch, also known as Jadis, is not human, but she is unquestionably female and styles herself as a queen. Her pallor not only associates her with winter, but indicates a certain vampiric quality . Traitors are her "lawful prey" and it is her right to draw traitors' blood. Her reign of winter also recalls Dante's lowest circle of Hell, where traitors are doomed to everlasting imprisonment in ice and where Judas is forever gnawed in Lucifer's gaping mouth. Lust for power, unrestrained fury, vengefulness, spitefulness, and cruelty are the traits that dominate the Witch's personality. These same traits are, in later volumes, the qualities of evil men. Although the Witch is beautiful, it is a terrible, awe-inspiring beauty, utterly unseductive. While Lewis offers clearly differentiated models of goodness for men and women, evil muddies the waters: the Witch's opposition to Aslan casts her out of any acceptable paradigm of womanhood. Her femaleness is dissolved and rendered indistinct as a result of her total submergence in evil.

There are two more female characters, one a very positive figure and the other somewhat negative. Mrs. Beaver, with her husband, is the children's key ally in their flight towards Aslan, who, they hope, will rescue their treacherous brother and release Narnia from her wintry enchantment. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver become the Pevensies' guardians. Mrs. Beaver is welcoming, kind, cautious, and protective. She is constantly preoccupied by the all-important task of feeding her loved ones and ensuring their comfort. That is, she's a cozy, consoling maternal figure, someone who can brighten a long day's march with a thermos of tea, but not someone who will be useful when it comes to battle or politics. She is typical of mother figures in Lewis's fiction - that is, idealized, but largely ineffectual - and it is tempting, though Lewis would object as he did not believe in literary analysis via biography, to see in this an ambivalent longing for the mother who died when Lewis was only nine.

The last female character in the book is not Narnian at all. She is Mrs. Macready, the old professor's surly housekeeper who dislikes children and scolds them for being underfoot. Her failure as a maternal figure renders her unsympathetic and she is unable to conjure up the slightest shred of compassion for the four children who have been sent far from their parents and who, daily, must wonder whether they still have a family to go back to in London. Since Mrs. Macready is, of course, not Narnian, she is very much part of the mundane human world, engrossed in its petty concerns. That being said, her role in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is crucial: she unwittingly herds the children into the wardrobe, as they try to evade her and her guests. In a way, as sour and unpleasant as Mrs. Macready is, the children have cause to be grateful to her, for without her, there is no Narnian adventure.

Since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe narrates the birth of Narnia's Golden Age, it is also the volume that, more than any other except perhaps The Magician's Nephew, which narrates the birth of the Narnian world, reveals an idealized, almost utopian fantasy world. While Peter and Edmund, kings of Narnia, come to be known as the Magnificent and the Just, Susan and Lucy, the two queens, are the Gentle and the Valiant. Grown up, the Pevensies mirror the paragons of Malory's Arthurian romance or Chaucer's epic of Troilus, but there is a crucial, indeed radically modern element that differentiates them. The Pevensie children are not of noble birth; their nobility, their fitness to rule, is expressed through their actions and their faith in Aslan. Overall, while Lewis does not offer feminist models, he creates a model of Narnian womanhood that rests on medieval conceptions of the nature of a noble lady, while permitting that model flaws and agency, particularly as far as her faith is concerned. In the world Lewis created, a girl's hand of friendship is as powerful as a witch's enchantment.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Movie Review: "The Little Hours"

Is anybody still shocked by the idea of a nun having sex? What about a nun swearing? What about a nun practicing witchcraft? What about a nun taking drugs? Jeff Baena's The Little Hours rests on the assumption that at least some people, willing to see an R-rated comedy, will be so, but given that it comes to us decades after the peak of the nunsploitation genre, the existence of such an audience seems questionable. The kind of person who tries to get Harry Potter banned would certainly have a problem with this film, but the people coming to see Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, and John C. Reilly? Probably not.

The Little Hours is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of one of the most famous of the tales in Boccaccio's medieval masterpiece The Decameron. Critic after critic has written that the movie is "not your mother's Boccaccio," making it very obvious that they have never read its hundreds of pages of lascivious priests, orgasmic nuns, country bumpkins tricked into jumping into a vat of shit, vengeful women planting their lovers' heads in flower pots, promiscuous pirates, and sex puns. If anything, the film is rather tame compared to the source material. In this particular tale, Massetto (the puppy-dog-eyed Dave Franco), on the run from a lord with a perpetually constipated expression (Nick Offerman), takes refuge in a convent, pretending to be deaf and mute. The nuns (Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, and Alison Brie) are bored with the tedium of their root vegetable-heavy diet and their schedules of gardening, laundry, embroidery, and prayer. The virile young handyman, who they believe can't betray them if he can't speak, becomes their sex toy, while the dotty Mother Superior (Molly Shannon) fudges the convent accounts and the local priest (John C. Reilly) tipples the sacramental wine.

The cast is solid, though the strongest players are underused. Molly Shannon gives a warm, only slightly off-kilter performance that supports the more flamboyant turns by the younger actresses, but doesn't give vent to her considerable comedic gifts, while John C. Reilly manages to shine in a thankless role as a sinning, but very kindhearted priest. Aubrey Plaza is flamboyantly grumpy, and good fun, but her performance lacks the depth she brought to her role as April on Parks and Recreation, while Alison Brie is appealing, though a bit bland, and Kate Micucci is alternately nebbishy and hysterical, though not hysterically funny. Dave Franco acquits himself well as the picture's eye candy and is funniest in his deaf-mute scenes. Unfortunately, I must confess that Nick Offerman, in the most cartoonish role, is gruffly tiresome.

There is nothing especially subversive going on here, given that the story is nearly seven hundred years old, but the real kicker is how gentle the humor is. Despite the centrality of sex in the story, there is very little nudity and the characters have pretty vanilla, if rabbit-like frequent, sex. Drugs are ingested only accidentally, and all of these characters are happy drunks. There's a sort of dopey sweetness in the way these characters ultimately demonstrate a live-and-let-live tolerance for heresy, sex for pleasure, and sex for love. Though Nick Offerman rattles off a litany of his favorite torture devices, no torture is shown on screen, and a witch's coven is devoid of evil, more like a women's friendship circle than a satanic cult. This is partly due to the half-baked dialogue, reportedly largely improvised, which makes the whole movie feel like a loose-limbed open rehearsal. There are some strong comedic ideas, but few are developed enough to elicit more than a chuckle.

Visually, The Little Hours is sun-drenched, flower-strewn, and rather strangely, clinically clean. The music, borrowing heavily from actual medieval compositions, including a piece by Hildegarde von Bingen, is remarkably beautiful and contributes to the mellow, pleasant atmosphere, while also providing a few inches of emotional depth. Witchcraft or no witchcraft, one cannot believe the devil exists in the world of this film, so sunnily and anachronistically tolerant. While the original story ends with an image of a convent overrun with small children, the nuns praised for taking in so many 'orphans,' The Little Hours rigorously ignores the more inconvenient realities of the medieval period - no birth control, the severe penalties exacted on women accused of witchcraft and heresy - and opts instead for an adolescent reverie of repression giving way to sex-soaked freedom.

This is not the first adaptation of this particular story: it is the basis for the second story in Pasolini's Il decamerone, released in 1971. Pasolini reveled in the dirt, blood, sweat, and semen of the Middle Ages, and his nuns are far raunchier than Baena's, his approach more explicitly splits sex apart from love, but while Pasolini gives the audience a good poke in the eye, Baena offers a slightly sweaty bear hug. The Little Hours has much in common with the pudgy donkey that the sisters fight over: a bit dim, prone to forage aimlessly, plodding, and fuzzy, but also rather cute in an unassuming way.