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House Arrest

What to stream while sheltering in place
MADAME SECRETARY: A new Hulu documentary on Hillary Clinton offers a (mostly) warts-and-all portrait.

You wanted a staycation, you said. You need to catch up on streaming, you said. Well, the magic elf that lives in the sky certainly gave you what you wanted.

During this period of house arrest, Netflix's cornucopia continues to spill narcos, zombies and real-life crime. Take a hard pass in favor of the adventures of a Suffolk sheep. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon cites ET, Men in Black, Doctor Who and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The space invader is about a yard high, a sort of mischievous finger puppet shaped critter with tentacles. Topped with an azure puppyish head, he's a deep-space cousin to Peanuts' Snoopy. Shaun helps him phone home, while warding off trouble from the Ministry of Alien Detection, and the authoritarian sheepdog Bitzer.

Decades ago, Aardman Studios figured out how to animate the single most inexpressive quadruped in the barnyard. Now, the endearing Shaun is the hero of a film that's both intricate and devoid of a single two-syllable word. And there are no villains, only the misled and obsessed.

Hulu's four hour documentary Hillary is a warts-and-all portrait—one or two may be missing, but most blemishes are accounted for. It tells how the daughter of a maid who left home at 14 became one of the world's most powerful women, and how she endured a failed 2016 presidential campaign. The consequences of that loss are perhaps obvious to a nation now huddled in their houses, next to a hoard of toilet paper.

Hillary Clinton's life exemplifies the Goldilocks test, with which all second-wave feminists are familiar: you're always either too this or too that. You can be Secretary of State for four years and still have a male passerby say you need to smile more.

While she was caricatured as a witch and a dominatrix, Clinton had a time of relative popularity in the 1990s. Interviewed here, Bill Clinton says, "We thought our campaign slogan should have been, 'Buy one, get one free.'"

She was installed in the West Wing, and added her input to Clintonian policy. Nanette Burnstein's documentary could use deeper analysis about the failure of the Clintons' universal health care campaign.

In this telling, the universal health plan hit the rocks of scandal: some fictitious (Whitewater, the lonesome death of Vince Foster), one all too real (her husband's philandering with Monica Lewinski).

At the end, the failed candidate lists the reasons for her 2016 loss. One is "Maybe I should have talked more about the economy." You think? But again, who knows the true key to her defeat. Was it anything more complicated than the factors that dogged her forever, the problem of her being too sweet or too shrill, in addition to the Russian fog about emails and Benghazi skullduggery? This is intensely watchable work: an invaluable study not just of a pioneering political career, but the mistakes that were made, and which may be made again.

Criterion Channel is a lifesaver during these walled-in weeks. People with children might want to see whether Danny Kaye in Hans Christian Andersen (1952) keeps the appeal he once did. The Catskills comedian plays the Danish fablesmith who created The Little Mermaid, performing charming Frank Loesser tunes like "Inchworm," "Thumbelina" and "The Ugly Duckling."

After the kids are in bed, peruse the retrospective of Max von Sydow, the towering and ominous Swedish actor who passed away earlier this month. Here are 15 films, including the uncut version of Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World, as well as a number of collaborations with Ingmar Bergman. With Bergman, Von Sydow was stalwart or sinister: a magician, farmer, pastor and knight.

The zeitgeist-rich allegory Shame (1968) is about a civil war endured by as liberal a couple as you could hope to find in, say, Northern California. "The war brushes them with its wingtip," said Bergman, but it's enough of a blow to crack them. One sees little hope of anything but a renaissance when the smoke has cleared. As quoted in Bergman on Bergman, the Swedish master said he thought such rebirth was inevitable. Would culture be destroyed after such a catastrophe?

"And never revive? No, I don't believe that for a minute.


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