Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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.

R.I.P., Sean Connery

October 31, 2020

James Bond finally retires for good.

For those of us of a certain age, there was only one James Bond.

Sean Connery has gone west after being unwell for some time, according to his family. He passed in his sleep, in the Bahamas, but no doubt Scotland was on his mind and in his heart; he had long been a staunch supporter of Scottish independence.

As a squirt in Texas I read every Ian Fleming Bond novel there was, and I always pictured Connery as 007. Everybody else was just play-acting.

Connery won his only Oscar for playing a Mick cop in the Kevin Costner-headlined remake of “The Untouchables.” But then he turned up in a lot of interesting places, as King Agamemnon and a fireman in Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits,” and as Daniel Dravot, an ex-soldier likewise bound for a crown in “The Man Who Would Be King,” a John Huston film based on a Rudyard Kipling story.

No matter who he was playing, or in what, you just knew he was having a whole lot more fun than you. Enjoy your work and the paychecks will keep coming, he seemed to say.

And it goes without saying that he was an inspiration to the rest of us handsome and charismatic bald fellas.

So fill to Sean the parting glass, and drink a health whate’er befalls. …

• Addendum: Here’s The New York Times obit, the one I always think of as official. Talk about your rags-to-riches story:

He was born Thomas Sean Connery on Aug. 25, 1930, and his crib was the bottom drawer of a dresser in a cold-water flat next door to a brewery. The two toilets in the hall were shared with three other families. His father, Joe, earned two pounds a week in a rubber factory. His mother, Effie, occasionally got work as a cleaning woman.

El Choad

October 6, 2020

Even Charlton Heston thought this one was a stinkeroo, and he got to rub up against Sophia Loren.

How many times do you think Adolf Twitler has seen “El Cid,” anyway?

Indestructible warrior of God struck down in mid-battle springs miraculously back to life (or so it would seem) to smite the ANTIFA milling around the property.

The writers played it a bit fast and loose with the truth back in 1961, too. As Alex von Tunzelmann noted at The Guardian in 2013, before El Choad rode his golden escalator into the fray, the epic “leaves the facts wounded and strewn haphazardly across the battlefield. …”

The facts fare even worse in this remake, in which El Choad actually survives. Whether the rest of us survive El Choad remains to be seen.

Orange Julius Caesar killed Spartacus

February 5, 2020

Can we impeach the sonofabitch again?
This time for homicide?

He did it by giving that bloated scumbag Flush Limburger the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the same honor Kirk Douglas received from Jimmy Carter.

Douglas died today at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 103.

Interesting notes: He made his bones with “Champion,” based on a Ring Lardner story of the same name. And his favorite movie apparently was “Lonely Are the Brave,” which was based on an Ed Abbey novel, “The Brave Cowboy.” I had no idea that was his fave; I certainly liked both stories, the way I like all Lardner and Abbey stories.

And I loved me some Kirk Douglas movies.

Today, we are all Spartacus. Except for, well, you know. That guy.

 

R.I.P., Terry Jones

January 22, 2020

One of our family jokes is, “’Ee’s not the Messiah, ’ee’s a very naughty boy!”

That was only one of the innumerable killer lines delivered over the years by Terry Jones, who died at home Tuesday. He was 77, and had suffered from primary progressive aphasia, a cruel disease that stripped him of his marvelous powers of communication.

As a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Jones generally wrote with Michael Palin, co-directed “Holy Grail” and “Meaning of Life” with Terry Gilliam, and flew solo as director for “Life of Brian,” which gave us that family gag we use so often.

Condolences, peace, and egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam, or Lobster Thermidor au Crevette with a Mornay sauce served in a Provençale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and with a fried egg on top, and spam, to Jones, his family, the surviving Pythons (“Two down*, four to go,” notes John Cleese), and their friends and fans.

* Cleese forgot to count the Seventh Python, Neil Innes. No spam for him.