Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Double dumbstruck

September 11, 2022

Gassing up for the long commute.

“This heat’s not good for the brain. Turns out nothing much is good for the brain in the 2020s. TV rots it, the Internet turns it to jelly, the miserable climate bakes it, 90 percent of what we call ‘work’ is deliberately designed to actually erase the human brain; this has been proven. Podcasts: Now there’s a guaranteed way to reverse years of book-learning and social skills. There’s online gambling, TikTok … and then Queen Elizabeth II passed away and it was like a Bat-Signal in the sky to make everybody go extra double-dumb. … Only in Ireland did they seem to sort of be enjoying it all.” — Ken Layne, “Like a Hurricane,” Desert Oracle Radio

You said a mouthful, brother.

The news has been so relentlessly grotesque that I found myself double-dumbstruck, which is to say rendered speechless by astonishment while simultaneously catching a puck in the gob from a wildly flailing eejit.

The prospect of commenting on any of our ongoing Dumpster fires felt like pissing into the drinking water in Jackson, Mississippi — an enhancement, to be sure, but not a solution any sane person would swallow.

So I kept it zipped. Averted my eyes. Instead I watched the hummingbirds mobbing our feeders; the little buzzbombs will be leaving us shortly. Played with Miss Mia Sopaipilla, who remains extraordinarily kittenish for a 15-year-old cat. Rode the bike(s) — 130 miles last week, 140 this week.

With “Better Call Saul” in the rear view we branched out a bit in our evening TV-watching. I can recommend “Letterkenny,” (absurdly funny Canadians); “This Fool” (snarky South Central working-class vatos); “Belfast” (The Troubles through a child’s eyes); and “The Sandman,” derived, like “Watchmen,” from a high-gloss DC comic of which I had been ignorant.

• Honorable mention: “Funny Pages,” a bent coming-of-age story about a teenage cartoonist who gets an up-close-and-personal look at the subterranean bits of “underground comics.” Could be straight out of “Zap,” “Bijou,” or pretty much any other comic you read back when weed was still illegal. And yes, Your Humble Narrator recognized more than a few unsavory aspects of himself in this film.

What about literature, you ask? Check out a couple road-trippers on the ragged edge: the cabbie Lou in Lee Durkee’s “The Last Taxi Driver,” and the shaggy mercenary Will Bear in Dan Chaon’s “Sleepwalk.”

• Honorable mentions: “Night of the Living Rez” by Morgan Talty (his first book; dark tales of a Native community in Maine) and “Homesickness” by Colin Barrett (his second; darkly funny tales of the Irish at home and abroad).

If none of these diversions from the daily disaster does the trick for you, find a hummingbird to watch or a cat to play with.

Bats, man

August 9, 2022

“Uh, sorry, Batgirl. Misdial. We were trying to reach The Taxman.”

“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at a U.N. conference on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Oh, good. I’ve often wondered what it would take to put an end to the proliferation of dumbass superhero movies. A global thermonuclear holocaust might just get ’er done.

Or maybe we just need the right supervillain.

It wasn’t the Joker, the Penguin, or the Riddler who croaked “Batgirl” in her crib. No, the killer was the Green Eyeshade at Warner Bros-Discovery-HBO Max p/b AT&T, who discovered — with tens of millions already pounded down this particular Bat-hole — that writing off a made-for-streaming Bat-flick on the conglomerate’s Bat-taxes would not be at all, well … batty.

Industry insiders cite two changes between concept and execution. The first, in ownership, makes this one-time “purchase accounting maneuver” possible, as long as the movie is never released in any way, shape, or form; and the second, in strategy, aims to once again give theaters a head start over streaming as in days of yore.

With a budget made for television, “Batgirl” apparently began life as a B movie in more ways than one. But it can’t be a net positive when the entertainment press is quoting sources as saying that “the film tested once, and the result wasn’t that bad. …”

Too bad for TV? Have these people seen TV?

But when studio CEO David Zaslav tells investors in a second-quarter corporate earnings call, “We’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it. And that’s it,” well … piss on the fire and call in the bats, son. If a cameo from Michael Keaton can’t save you, you’re fucked.

Speaking of fucked, how many of you have bomb shelters? Raise your hands … yes, you there, crouched under your desks as if we were all reliving Those Fabulous Sixties.

Which we very well may be, if you listen to the U.N. secretary-general.

“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more,” Guterres warned in his remarks to the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. … Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used.”

Yeah, well, good luck with that, Tony ol’ tiger. We can’t even cut back on “Spider-Man” movies.

While we’re debating whether “The Sandman” is true to Neil Gaiman’s original vision, you can bet your Batarang that some miscreant is trying to steal a tactical nuclear weapon from the Russkies, hoping to vaporize a hospital full of nuns, widder women, and crippled children in Ukraine, and then sit back and watch the fun.

The subsequent tit for tat as old scores get settled would quickly strip the planet of its tits, and also its tats. Anyone who can swing a bat (har de har har) will be stepping up to the plate, and the game will not be called on account of accountancy. Not even Michael Keaton can save us.

The good news is, this will make for some spectacular TV. The bad news? It will be on every channel at once. Welcome to Fyou Island, folks.

Not everyone will get voted off the isle, of course. There will be survivors, in remote spots like Tierra del Fuego. And people being what they are, some bored techie-turned-sheepherder in the former factory town of Rio Grande will eventually link one of the locally produced netbooks, powered by a solar panel, to the scattered strands of the once-mighty Internet.

Of an evening, weary of sheep, he will follow this thread, and then that one, and who knows? He might even unearth the digital archives of Warner Bros-Discovery-HBO Max p/b AT&T, buried deep beneath the glowing remains of Tinseltown in a blastproof vault.

Maybe he stumbles across that unfinished “Batgirl” movie, with its Latina star, and watches it.

“Hijo de la chingada,” he will mutter to himself. “This sucks.”

Black and white

July 7, 2022

White Nobilette, black Privateer.

I was compelled to go to the Dark Side today.

The plan was to roll down toward the Rio and climb back up again, but I got no further than Tramway and Montgomery when the rear tire on the Nobilette went pssssshhhhhhht.

No biggie. In fact, it was my first flat since January. So briskly I relocated from the highway shoulder to the nearby bike path and effected repairs.

But this left me with just one spare tube for a 25-mile loop through goat-head country on a sunny July day in The Duck! City.

Well. Shit. Back to the ranch. Not to stay, mind you, but to grab another bike.

The New Albion Privateer was off its hook and leaning against the Subaru in the garage. Bingo. There were two tubes and tools in the saddlebag and a frame pump slung under the top tube. Moved the headlight and taillight over and off we went.

It’s not so bad, the Dark Side. Just a horse of a different color. Who’s your daddy, Luke?

The Vladfather

February 28, 2022

All these years we thought Vladimir Putin was a sort of Russian Michael Corleone.

But is it possible he’s been Fredo all along?

You will recall what happened to Fredo.

December’s desperados

December 2, 2021

A fine December morning.

December. The relentless march through the holidays toward year’s end upshifts into doubletime. Hup hroop hreep horp.

I don’t know but I been told

Winter ain’t gonna get real cold

Climate change done stole our snow

Endless summer for New Mexico

Sorry, Sarge, but that’s how it feels when the thermometer reads 63 degrees, a dozen or so degrees above normal, on Dec. 1.

Herself went for a late-afternoon run in her summer kit. Me, I rode in long sleeves and knickers, but I got out earlier than she did and was generating a slight wind chill despite my usual torrid pace.

The Soma Double Cross, back to its dirty roots.

The mean streets did not appeal (something to do with drink-addled, lead-sneakered gunsels), so I chose the Soma Double Cross with its fat tires and we skulked around various dusty foothill trails and side streets for about 90 minutes.

The DC in its present incarnation — cantilever brakes, eight-speed drivetrain with bar-cons, etc. — is kind of an old-school cyclocross bike, if you overlook its triple crankset, long-cage XT rear derailleur, and 43mm Soma Cazadero tires. Plus its stem is too long and too low. And I wouldn’t use a wide-profile brake like the IRD Cafam II on the rear end if I were jumping on and off the bike the way I did when I was a sprightly young fellow. I carved my right leg like a Christmas turkey once and further instruction was not required.

The too-long stem makes me think about adding a set of top-mounted brake levers, but it would be simpler to just replace the stem, if I could find a replacement, which I can’t. The Great Parts Drought of 2021 continues, especially where weirdo bikes and oddball dimensions are concerned.

Later it was movie night, with pizza and salad. Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” is a beautiful, disturbing film, and we’re probably going to have to watch it again this weekend to see if what we think we saw was actually what we saw. This ain’t exactly John Wayne, pilgrim. Afterward I had to break out the old family Bible and use it as a decoder ring.

Dune buggy

October 23, 2021

Your Humble Narrator cultivates desert power.

I’m not casting a very long shadow around here lately.

Frankly, there’s not been much to report. That little tease La Niña is in town again and I’ve been chasing her around on the ol’ bikey bikes.

While all you Left Coast/PNW types deploy your parasols and Gore-Tex your loins against the Million-Pound Aquahammer, we here in the desert Southwest are enjoying a balmy period which makes us forget that before long we will be drinking our own sweat and tears, like Paul Atreides and his mom in “Dune.”

Yep, we watched Part I on HBO Max, and it was a’ight, pretty damn fine actually, not bad atall atall. Made the 1984 David Lynch flick look even worse than it actually was, which was pretty fucking bad.

Denis Villeneuve’s take on the Frank Herbert novel might’ve worked better as an HBO series; then he could’ve used a scalpel instead of a cleaver to move things along over the course of a season or two. But only a geek like myself, a science-fiction dweeb who’s read the book 1,207,275 times, is liable to grouse about the subtleties steamrollered to make the narrative march.

Too, if a series proved successful, there would be the temptation to milk the rest of the “Dune” tales. (We may have to deal with this in any case.) Me, I lost interest after trudging through “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune,” which is a very short trek indeed through the vast Duniverse.

Anyway, Rebecca Ferguson is the best of the bunch as Lady Jessica, and Timothée Chalamet is a whole lot better than I expected as Paul. He brings a whiff of Nic Cage and maybe a soupçon of Christian Bale to the role. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem as Stilgar is definitely channeling Anthony Quinn’s Auda abu Tayi from “Lawrence of Arabia.”

And the Hans Zimmer score is a character all its own, though digging it through our obsolete surround-sound system was like listening to the London Philharmonic performing Metallica over a walkie-talkie.

Still, it beat squeezing into the old stillsuit, flagging down a passing sandworm, and crossing the Duke City desert to the Harkonnen IMAX. We got beverages around here ain’t even been drunk once yet.

Black Woodstock

July 5, 2021

You’re never too old to learn. Especially when you start from a base of ignorance.

I didn’t learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre until 2019, when it came to HBO in “Watchmen.”

And I didn’t hear about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival until 2021, when Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson carved a mountain of forgotten concert imagery into a Black Mount Rushmore, creating the documentary “Summer of Soul” for Hulu.

The Tulsa massacre was buried with its victims for reasons that should be all too obvious. And the Harlem Cultural Festival was strangled by the largely white Woodstock — until Thompson brought the late Hal Tulchin’s long-buried footage back to life.

In an interview with The New York Times, Thompson said:

For nearly 50 years, this just sat in a basement and no one cared. … History saw it fit that every last person that was on that [Woodstock] stage now winds up defining a generation. Why isn’t this held in the same light? Why was it that easy to dispose of us? Instead, the cultural zeitgeist that actually ended up being our guide as Black people was “Soul Train.”

We watched “Summer of Soul” last night, and man, what a blast from the past it was. So many cuts from the pivotal days of this whiteboy’s personal soundtrack.

David Ruffin, fresh from an acrimonious split with The Temptations. A young Gladys Knight and the Pips, very much on their way up. Sly & the Family Stone. B.B. King. Hugh Masakela. Stevie Wonder. The 5th Dimension. The Edwin Hawkins SIngers. And artists whose work I didn’t come to appreciate until later, like Max Roach, The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, and Nina Simone.

All of them on stage in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, playing for a largely Black audience of 50,000 people at a pop, guesstimated at 300,000 over six shows. Admission: Free.

And to think all that sound and glory wound up in a basement tomb, waiting for someone to roll away the stone.

‘Nomadland’ is a work of art (van, go)

February 20, 2021

“Nomadland”: Buy the ticket, take the ride.

We watched “Nomadland” last night via Hulu, and the verdict is two thumbs up.

It’s art, not journalism; for the latter, you’ll want to read Jessica Bruder’s book. But some real people from those pages get to participate in the telling of their story, and the pros are going to have to up their game after they see how well the amateurs hit their marks and delivered their lines.

Frances McDormand was excellent, as always. Swear to God, I’d watch her read from the Oklahoma City Yellow Pages. David Strathairn, who I’ve seen only in a few things (“Home for the Holidays,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and three episodes of “The Sopranos”), kept it dialed way down low as a kinda-sorta love interest with one foot in a van and the other in a house not his own.

The film is less about a new breed of migratory worker — older people who discovered too late that their nest eggs were actually stones, and then set about making stone soup — and more about a woman who thinks she maybe spent too much of her life “just remembering.”

It’s beautifully acted, shot and scored, neither glamorizes nor trivializes its subjects, and leaves you wondering just who is it that’s sleeping in that battered old Econoline in the big-box parking lot, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and what their dreams might be.

Road hard, or my home really is on the range

February 15, 2021

Welcome to the Hotel Tacoma.

Some of us want to hit the road; others are compelled to.

I’ve been both over the years, rambling from Maine to Spokane and Bisbee to Bellingham, occasionally by thumb, a time or two by bus, but most often behind the wheel of a Japanese pickup truck with a camper shell and all the fixin’s for a bit of home away from home.

Trucks with beds and friends with couches saw me through my rambling, gambling years, as I rolled the dice with one newspaper after another. I eventually came up winners by leaving the business altogether.

Marrying well didn’t hurt, either.

And while I have kipped in the beds of trucks since, I have done so as a tourist, not an honest-to-Steinbeck nomad like the people in Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book “Nomadland,” which has been reimagined by Chloé Zhao as a fictionalized film set to debut Feb. 19 on Hulu.

It’s challenging to make a go of it when your house has wheels. Finding a spot to camp, a shower, or an unguarded Internet connection is a lot like that job of work you don’t have anymore. It’s a whole lot easier when you’re only doing it for funsies and can splurge on an occasional visit to Starbucks or Holiday Inn Express.

The people in “Nomadland” are not posers. They swallowed their fears, and their pride, and jumped into that endless asphalt river.

And speaking of jumps, it’s time for another great leap forward … into the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I went back to the Comedy Closet to record this one, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearances by The Firesign Theatre (“Temporarily Humboldt County”) and Mel Henke (“See the USA in Your Chevrolet”). I usually saw the USA in a Toy-o-TA, but to each his own.

Travels with Frances

February 6, 2021

I want to see this movie.

Surprise, surprise, hey? The guy whose Motel 6 of choice used to be a Toyota pickup with a six-foot bed and a topper wants to see a movie about people who live in their vehicles.

Well, for your information, wiseguys, I read the book of the same name, by Jessica Bruder, and it was excellent. And furthermore, I would watch a flick about paint drying if Frances McDermond were in it.

So, yeah. You can find me with a big box of popcorn in front of the TV on Feb. 19 when “Nomadland” comes to Hulu. But queueing up for a gig at Amazon’s new fulfillment center on the west side? Not this old rubber tramp.

Remember, I read the book. Anyway, I don’t have a Toyota pickup anymore.