It has been a crazy month. I’ve been quarantined and tested and poked and prodded. I had some kind of bug that fortunately didn’t blow up into something worse. but the stress of all that has been a nightmare. Adding to that are the chuckleheads who still don’t follow any sort of common sense and continue to make things worse. Sigh.
The holiday season means this stupid GMC add is back. Who the Hell gives another person a truck anyway? There are some serious economic headaches happening right now and it is crass to encourage people people to spend their cash or go deep into debt for something like this. Plus who lives like this? Certainly no one I know.
Who needs a truck that big? I know there are people who haul and build and move things but these things look like tanks. These are stupid vacuous people.
A few quick points about Thanksgiving
-Miles Standish was a jerk
-The Pilgrims were religious zealots.
-The last piece of turkey is the most important piece of turkey!
-The Native Americans saved the Pilgrims ass that winter!
-Be thankful and be kind
One of my recent discoveries is the New York Adventure Club. They have been doing these online webinars about different topics related to New York.
So far I have watched ones on Mary Pickford, The New York Subway and NYC in the 70s and 80s. All were excellent. They have pivoted to an online format really well and as someone who used to live in the big city, it is a way to reconnect it at a time when I miss it terribly. For info and a list of tours visit: https://www.nyadventureclub.com
There is a new season of The Crown. I have to say that Olivia Colman is just stunning in it. Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher is macabre and terrifying.
The last thing I want to see right now is Thatcher, yet her macabre performance is simply incredible.
The Mandalorian also continues to make me happy. It is so well written and executed within the Star Wars universe. I am curious to see where all of this is going. They are artfully laying little breadcrumbs lying around to tempt us all.
I think I need to watch The Expanse.
The St. Louis International Film Festival is over for 2020. I saw about 19-21 things over the fest and the programming was varied, informative, daring and compelling. There are some amazing filmmakers out there doing great stuff.
I will probably post of other films stuff later as well, but here are three which I think will eventually come out in theaters or streaming.
I really liked The Bare Necessity. It’s an odd and quirky debut film from Erwan Le Duc that really emphasizes living life to the fullest.
A big hit at Cannes, it is a well acted light romp that makes you feel good during all of this mess we are in.
Citizens of the World was another favorite. Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio and starring Ennio Fantastichini, Giorgio Colangeli and the aforementioned Gianni Di Gregorio, it is a calm film about a trio of pensioners who think about bailing on their lives in Rome for better pastures like Bulgaria and the Azores.
Motivated by the high cost of living in Rome and a nagging sense of needing to find fulfillment in their lives they set out on a journey of self discovery. It is warm, funny and I cannot wait to see it again.
Undine is the new film by German auteur Christian Petzold. I loved his previous film, Transit and this one brings some of that cast together into new territories. His films Phoenix and Barbara are also worth investigating.
Franz Rogowski is great in everything and this film is no exception. He’s a master and emoting emotion nonverbally while still being able to be remain intense onscreen.
I have started Scott Eyman’s biography of Cary Grant. I wanted to read something that had politics or heavy history. I have seen a bunch of his movies and after reading a few reviews decided to get this from my library.
His body of work on film is pretty solid and I especially love his stuff with Hitchcock. This has been informative and fun without being over gossipy. As a complete aside, I loved how they had a character on The Flinstones named Cary Granite.
I got asked to do one of these year-end best of music things. It’s been annoying to work on. But it is done.
Here are my favorite 15 records of the year.
Fiona Apple-Fetch the Bolt Cutters-Epic The Beths-Jump Rope Gazers Phoebe Bridgers-Punisher-Dead Cceans Tim Burgess-I Love the New Sky-PIAS Fontaines D.C,-A Hero’s Death-partisan I Like Trains-Kompromat-Atlantic Curve IDLES-Ultra Mon-Partisan Pet Shop Boys-Hotspot-X2 Porridge Radio-Every Bad-Dead Oceans Psychedelic Furs-Made of Rain Cooking Vinyl The Reds, Pinks & Purples-You Might Be happy Someday-Touch Love Rolling Blackouts coastal Fever-Sideways to New Italy Run the Jewels RTJ 4-BMG The Wants-Container-Council Records X-Alphabetland-Fat Possum
I recently watched a streaming concert by Fontaine’s D.C. It was pretty good. Even without a live audience to interact with they still have a raw and exuberant energy about them. Their new album, A Hero’s Death, dropped in July.
Tom yum soup needs to be more of a thing. It is so good on a cold day.
I am trying to not think about how bizarre things are right now or about the politics of mask wearing and the babbling of fools and madmen. But I will say that people who are not taking any of this seriously are selfishly shallow chuckleheads.
I am back at work. It is only a whopping 5-10 hours a week. Really. It would be absurdist comedy if things were not so serious. We are, for now, closed to the public and, in many ways, it all seems so utterly pointless. We are getting more knickknacks, clothes and textbooks in as we prepare to accept customers. Really who has money for luxury gods like school logo-ed shirts and coffee mugs right now? Also, opening schools is a bad idea.
to make matters worse the in house music they play is wretched. there is like three Coldplay songs on repeat followed by a cavalcade of blasé’, trite and generally insipid pop crapness. It is Hell.
And another thing, those little bastards should all be taking classes at home. They can’t be trusted in public anymore. And they won’t vote. They are all spoiled, selfish and stupid. I wish people that really wanted to go to college could afford it.
Like most people (not the ones in the Ozarks, on planes or in bowling alleys) I have been spending my downtime job hunting, watching movies, reading and listening to lots of music, old and new. Some of this music consumption is because I am inside a lot more and some of it is from planning my KDHX radio show. But either way, there has been some great stuff coming out.
I forgot to post before that I watched the Nick Cave streaming event, Idiot Prayer. The set was amazing. I spent a quiet night watching this and loved it. I was thinking about getting it for a few days and then, about 15 minutes before it started, I decided I needed to see it.
The performance had a strong set list, highlighted by Brompton Oratory and Nobody’s Baby Now. Cave’s voice was in great shape which lent to his strong performance. Watching him live, particularly with this set of songs, you could feel the pain and sadness built up within him over the last two years. He was turning his grief inward.
Speaking of Australians….
Midnight Oil have released their first new song in 17 years. I cannot believe it has been that long. I have always liked how noisy they are and this sounds like that. But what is fascinating about them is that they also have a keen sense of melody in their music.
The band’s new single, Gadigal Land, is everything you would expect from them. It is angry, topical and pointed in its message.
In the pantheon of Australian bands I always preferred them to INXS or Pseudo Echo.
Jarvis Cocker has a new album out. Using the moniker Jarv_Is and reloading with a new band, he is back to making interesting records again. On some of these songs he sounds like Leonard Cohen, which is fine in and of itself, but one hopes his new material will remain lyrically solid.
Cocker has a great ear for music which comes through in this album which is both sonically expansive and melodically unobtrusive. I really liked the first single, House Music All Night Long.
The Fiery Furnaces are back with their first new music since 2009, a 7″ single on Third Man Records called Down at the So and So On Somewhere. It is a shining example of pop fun.
Even though I have enjoyed Eleanor’s solo albums I am happy to see them back as a full fledged band again. The new single is really catchy without relinquishing any of the band’s melodic complexities.
Both of the Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger are from Oak Park, Illinois. My friend Gerry has shown me around there on numerous occasions and on one of them we drove by the house where the Friedbergers grew up in. It was pretty cool.
I am not sure whether this release is just a one off or if it means that an album is coming, but I like it.
Purple Noon is the 4th album from Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene). While I did not love the last two records, this one is a bit of a throwback. While I do not love everything in the chillwave oeuvre, his first two records were pretty tight. I do like the new single, Paralyzed and think it represents that era of his music.
It also has an ’80s vibe going on and it is not hard to imagine hearing it on MTV back in the day. But not the channel now since today’s MTV is rubbish.
So, over the last few weeks I have had a massive freelance writing thing with two very long articles due in short order. They required lots of interviews and research which, sadly, took time away from my movie watching.
It is fine since the need to have income is paramount right now, but it still made me feel like I had no time to get anything done. Between that and hemming a modest 15 hours work week together from two jobs during a pandemic, things were pretty bonkers.
However, I have managed to still see a few things, I like Derry Girls and am still moving towards the end of Schitt’s Creek. The Mandalorian has been great and I have added a few other things to my ‘to watch list.
Last weekend I capitulated and decided to watch something I knew would be utterly useless, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
Man I was totally surprised how fun this was. Will Ferrell hasn’t really had a proper ‘hit’ in ages and I have not really spent time watching his latest movies. but I am glad I caught this one.
The movie is a fictionalized tale of two friends whose dream is to win the Eurovision song contest. It is goofy, stupid and actually pretty funny at a time when laughter is needed.
Rachel McAdams is in it. She too has needed a comeback of sorts. Her chemistry with Ferrell is hilariously wacky. Dan Stevens is also great channeling a smarmy Russian Simon LeBon type.
This over the top nonsense is a reminder that sometimes stupid funny can be a nice escape from reality.
There is nothing stupid funny about Olivia DeHaviland who passed away at 104. She was the last tangent connection to Classic Hollywood. I think my favorite movie of hers is still The Adventures of Robin Hood. I also liked her in Dodge City. I cannot abide by Gone with Wind. It just has no appeal to me.
In most of her films she had this sort of grand aloofness thing going on that I think made many people forget what a powerhouse she was as an actress. Anyway, her passing reminded me of the really nasty feud she had with her sister, Joan Fontaine. It was really, really unsavory and they would snipe and bicker at each other constantly.
Although the two were always competitive most of the public had no idea of their distaste for one another until their ill will manifested itself at the 1942 Oscars. That year their rivalry became really personal when they were both nominated for Best Actress; DeHaviland for Hold Back The Dawn and Fontaine for Suspicion.
Upsetting her sister who was the favorite to grab an Academy Award, Fontaine won and then blew off her sister’s congratulations. Five years later, when DeHaviland grabbed an Oscar for To Each His Own, she returned the favor by not acknowledging her sibling.
If that was not enough their feud was also rooted to affairs of the heart as evidenced by Fontaine’s marriage to her sister’s ex, Brian Aherne. Fontaine also was critical of Olivia’s marriage to the novelist, Marcus Goodrich, something that didn’t help things get better. The sordid history between these two plays out like an episode of Dynasty. It just goes on an on and on. It is kind of sad really.
Speaking of Fontaine, I really like Suspicion. Hitchcock was smart to cast Cary Grant with Fontaine and their chemistry onscreen really worked. I also like how it has some comedic lightness to it that is not found in a lot of Hitchcock films.
Weirdly, Joan Fontaine was in a Cannon two parter I watched last week. Fontaine played a reclusive Hollywood starlet.
Even though her guest starring turn was clearly a cash grab she was pretty entertaining in it. Incidentally, the part of her son was played by Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica and The Streets of San Francisco.
Earlier in the week I watched Three Strangers, a nifty little noir from 1946. It was co-written by John Huston and stars Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
I can watch Lorre and Greenstreet in pretty much anything and they both are great here. Lorre plays a down on his luck drunk while Greenstreet plays a solicitor who has fiddled with a wealthy client’s books. Fitzgerald is pretty intense as a scheming woman trying to get her husband back. Alan Napier (Alfred from the Batman tv series) is pretty terrific as David, Fitzgerald’s doomed spouse.
It is set in London on the eve of Chinese New Year in 1938.The whole crux of the film lay in the supernatural belief that Kwan Yin, the Chinese goddess of fortune and destiny will grant their wish, provided they all want the same thing. They settle for money since it appears to be the cure for all ills.
Setting all of their hopes in a winning ticket for the Grand National (a horse race head annually near Liverpool) things go drastically wrong for each of them, leading up to a really dramatic conclusion.
Since we appear to be living in the 1920s again I thought I would kick it old school and watch some silent movies. I began with 1927’s Wings, the first film to win the Academy Award for best picture.
At a time when Lindbergh’s flight made everyone giddy about aviation, William Wellman’s tense drama about two small-town lads who become WW! flying aces is perfect for the time.
Wellman, a former fighter pilot who directed over 80 films, was the perfect person to put this whole thing together. He was the Jerry Bruckheimer of the late 1920s and early 30s.
With Wings, he has crafted an action film loaded with rich characters and plenty of action.
It is easy to see why Clara Bow was such a big deal. She exudes this sort of girl next door charm and certainly is adept at comedy and drama. She also plays an intelligent, albeit lovelorn, character. Here she got top billing even though the film’s load was carried by co-stars Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers.
I saw Wings a few years ago at Webster University and it was cool seeing it on a big screen. Watching it now on a TV, I thought it was just as spirited and adventurous.For a film that is 93 years old it holds up surprisingly well.
When they say that Louise Brooks was the embodiment of the Roaring ’20s they are pretty right. The epitome of an uninhibited flapper, her work in Pandora’s Box, a film widely panned in 1929 and now hailed as a stunning work of Weimar cinema, made her immortal.
Leaving Kansas for big city aspirations Brooks was a Ziegfeld Girl in NYC before going on to Hollywood and being in W.R. Heart’s posse. There she had a film career that was decent but no shakes in making her a star.
When an opportunity arose to film this movie in Germany, she skipped town, literally dropping everything and bailing. it was smart because she may three film there that launched her to international stardom. The first was G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box.
Despite being made in 1929 there is a lot of stuff that would make the conservative film watcher of today freak out. For starters, it doesn’t have a cheery, crisp, all smiles ending. Then there is the lesbianism, sexual innuendo and murder. Although I am sure they would love the guns.
Starring as Lulu, Brooks is not a willowing dove. A carefree mistress of vacuous morals and selfish motives, she is feisty, freewilled and determined to live on her own terms. Sadly, this is not always the best course of action as she finds herself in terrible situation after terrible situation. As a result, Pandora’s Box is a tense drama that serves as a stylish visual template for Weimar Germany as well as a bold work of cinema.
Without realizing I was following a theme I saw a few of chaplain’s early short films. In those films it is pretty cleat that while Fatty Arbuckle is the star, Chaplin is on a meteoric rise.
This is especially true in The Rounders, The Knockout and Tango Tangles, three pre-WW1 shorts that find Chaplin in hilarious escapades featuring much more physical comedy than the pictures he made later on.
I am a little behind in my book reading for the month. This is mostly because I have been catching up on some magazines that have been piling up. I was overjoyed to find The Believer again. Even though it is, at times, really pretentious, I do love their music coverage.
I also am revved up to read Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. His memoir details how he became a cartoonist and digs into the nitty gritty of the indie comics industry.
It also is a love affair to comics by an illustrator who really knows how to capture humanity in his work.
This week the exciting world of pandemic cooking includes fresh green peppers and cucumbers that a friend left me. I can use the peppers for curries, some Mexican food and in breakfast omelets while the cucumbers can be incorporated into a sale or some of the Greek stuff I have been making. I also have a few cocktails I want to make with gin and cucumbers.
In appliance news there are some nifty MERV 13 furnace filters installed. A HEPA air filter is likely coming too. With vey allergies and stuff it will get used.
Finally, I have been meaning to mention the hoosier hot tub for awhile now. This started a few weeks ago when we had that nasty heat spell. It reminded me of this woman named Linda I worked with who drove down to the boonies to get a horse trough.
As she explained it, she did this because when it was hot she could fill it with cold water and when it was cold she could use warm water and then sit inside it. I was later informed that this is called a “hoosier hot tub.” Wow.
So for the next week or so, I am hoping to finish a writing project and then get on with a freelance piece that I am getting assigned. I hope to get some more reading in and find as better job. But mostly, I just want to cope and get by like everybody else.