Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

‘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.

On the run

November 30, 2019

When I come in cold and tired, it’s good to warm my bones by the fire.

“Dark Side of the Moon” would’ve been an excellent soundtrack for yesterday. Cold, gray, damp, gloomy, madness lurking just around the corner. You lock the door, and throw away the key; there’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.

Happily, the sun returned today, though warmth remained AWOL. So I dragged Herself out for a short trail run and it was just the ticket. A bit squishy underfoot in spots, and windy, but loads better than hanging on in quiet desperation. It’s not the Irish way.

Speaking of the Irish, we finally finished watching Martin Scorsese’s  “The Irishman,” which was so bloody long that we had to make a three-part miniseries out of it. The digital de-aging is a little distracting, until you quit looking for it, but the performances are top shelf. Joe Pesci was superb, Robert De Niro was restrained, and even Al Pacino took a break from chewing on the scenery, mostly. I’d have liked more screen time for Harvey Keitel, but hey, whaddaya gonna do? It is what it is.

There’s a whole gang of familiar faces in this one: comics Ray Romano, Sebastian Maniscalco and Jim Norton; straight men Jesse Piemons, Stephen Graham, and Dominick Lombardozzi; even Little Steven Van Zandt as crooner Jerry Vale.

And you may notice a theater marquee advertising “The Shootist” in the background of one scene. It was about an aging gunman hoping for a quiet death, and John Wayne’s final film. Not long after, De Niro’s character is seen shopping for his own coffin.

It’s only business

November 8, 2019

When is a bulletproof vest not a bulletproof vest? When it’s a shroud.

I was gonna make this very argument yesterday, but Kevin Drum did it today, so I don’t gotta.

Looks like Rudy the Putz is getting fitted for those Redi-Mix traveling shoes.

“What the hell is this?”

“It’s a Sicilian message. It means Rudy Giuliani sleeps with the fishes. Which reminds me, any of yis seen Mick Mulvaney lately?”

Oscar Mayer’d again

February 25, 2019

Lights, camera, inaction!

Well, I see there’s still space on my shelf for that Oscar. Also, for the Emmy, Reuben, Pulitzer, Peabody, MacArthur Fellowship, Nobel, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

I’ve seen just one of the Academy’s picks — “Black Panther,” which like “Wonder Woman” drew raves but to me seemed like just another superhero movie. As a comics fiend I appreciated that genre for a while, but I’m finally over it. You can paint it black or pink, but it’s still basically what Herself calls “punch porn.” Another franchise, like Mickey D’s, with about as much nutritional value.

Now, TV, that’s the thing. There’s some great stuff happening on the small screen, which these days seems bigger than the one down at the multiplex. A favorite around here is “High Maintenance.” On the surface, it’s about a bicycling weed dealer and his clientele, but there’s plenty of depth to the thing. It’s like peeking into random windows as you stroll down an unfamiliar street.

Still, there are some movies worth watching. And one of them has its roots in a TV show. We checked out the 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” this weekend and it was surprisingly revelatory and touching.

I wasn’t a “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” kid. “Captain Kangaroo” was my guy. I knew Mister Rogers primarily through the various sendups on “Saturday Night Live,” National Lampoon’s “That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick,” etc.

But Fred Rogers comes off looking like much more than a punchline — he seems like a thoughtful gent whose own childhood was not all that rosy and who came to believe that children’s TV had a higher calling than selling toys.