Troubles, Thieves and Spelling Bees

SpellboundThis was the weekend that my girlfriend and I were supposed to be unpacking boxes in our new apartment, but because of contractor delays, that won’t happen for several days. Instead we whiled away our limbo-induced frustration by watching more movies than we probably should have, but we did so not entirely without reward. We started with “Bloody Sunday,” a remarkably intricate re-creation of the 1972 British-led massacre of the same name in Derry, Ireland; it was expertly made and grim, though more historically faithful than cinematically singular. To lighten the mood, we watched Ernst Lubitsch’s wonderful 1932 “Trouble in Paradise,” a sweet and absurd fable of thieves and millionaires which is perhaps best likened to the most delicate, most memorable dessert ever served in a five-star restaurant. Next up was Mario Monicelli’s 1960 heist comedy “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” an occasionally laborious spoof of “Rififi” that culminates in a single moment of comic perfection. The weekend’s cinematic highlight, though, was not rented but actually viewed in a theater when, on the recommendation of two friends, we went to see the emotionally overwhelming documentary “Spellbound.” You may never have thought that the National Spelling Bee competition of 1999 would make for riveting, hilarious and touching film, but it does, believe me, and what’s more, it’s one of a handful of films that I will probably remember vividly for months and months.