Watching U2 at the Sphere Was a Religious Experience
Plus: Some thoughts on 'Poor Things', 'The Boy and the Heron', and Jackie Chan.
On my recent stint as a poker player in Vegas, I had a chance to check out U2’s Achtung Baby concert which is performed live at the Sphere. Located near the Venetian Resort, the Sphere is a massive structure with a series of interconnected LED lights. On the outside, the Sphere is capable of rendering massive advertisements and other moving images. Inside is a large theater that can hold 20,000 humans and a screen that is 160,000 square feet large capable of projecting images at a fidelity of 16K.
I’d seen viral clips of the Sphere on TikTok and it seemed like no other show that’s ever existed so I couldn’t resist the chance to see it in person. I’m happy to say that the show is incredible and occasionally felt like a religious experience. At times, I imagined that this show was maybe what it felt like to worship in tabernacles in biblical times — not because Bono is god but because you’re witnessing something so otherworldly it doesn’t even seem possible.
I break it all down in my video review below.
What To Watch
Poor Things is rolling out slowly in limited release this month and I loved it. It’s another hilarious and off-kilter collaboration between Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone, whose partnership is as unexpected as it is delightful. Stone plays Bella Baxter, a woman with the literal mind of a child whose machinations are constantly flummoxing all the men around her. Lanthimos creates a steampunk version of Victorian England with imaginative inventions everywhere, but where human nature remains sadly recognizable. All sorts of men want something from Baxter, but Baxter has her own designs and it’s so much fun to see how she continuously bests them again and again, even unintentionally.
Stone is fearless. Between this and The Curse (which we’re covering on Decoding TV), she’s easily doing the best work of her career right now.
The Boy and the Heron is Miyazaki’s latest — and possibly final — work and I’m sad to say that I wasn’t quite as taken with it as others seem to be. The film tells the story of Mahito, a Japanese boy who is still in the process of coping with the death of his mother (whose hospital is firebombed during the Pacific War) when he’s swept away on a fantastical adventure. The animation in this film is top-notch, loaded with gorgeous images/sequences that bring to life creative and vivid ideas. And the score by longtime Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi is another classic.
But I found the central narrative a bit too randomizing and jumbled for me to really be able to connect with it emotionally. Most of Miyazaki’s films take place in the world of fantasy, but his last film, The Wind Rises, took place squarely in our recognizable reality. Likewise, The Boy and the Heron also feels relatively emotionally grounded in tragedy (and apparently heavily inspired by Miyazaki’s life), while still retaining a bunch of fantastical elements. For me, the tone and the storytelling just didn’t work this time around. That said, I’m certain Miyazaki fans will find a lot to dig into in this one.
Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar is a new Blu-ray set out from the Criterion Collection and it’s excellent. It takes you through six of Chan’s earliest films, from Half a Loaf of Kung Fu to 1985’s My Lucky Stars. Jackie Chan is one of the greatest entertainers alive but until recently, it hasn’t been super easy to own or watch his earlier work. I’ve personally had to occasionally rely on sketchy DVDs of dubious provenance with terrible audio/subtitling purchased from dingy Chinatown shops.
I’m so pleased that Criterion is taking Chan’s work seriously. Not all of these films look the best — some of the source material is quite old and degraded — but I am confident that this is probably the best presentation most of them can have at this point. This is the perfect box set for any Chan completist and I’m happy to add it to my shelf, along with the also-great Jackie Chan Collection on Blu-Ray.
That’s all for today! This post is free so feel free to share it.