Peggi manages our Netflix dvd queue and I usually bring the mail in and so it is always a surprise for me when I open the red envelope. “Devil Girl From Mars” from 1954! I read the description: “With the male population of Mars on the decline, the future of the red planet rests squarely in the hands of a long-legged alien named Nyah (Patricia Laffan), who’s come to Earth in search of virile, able-bodied men.” That hit the spot.
On Sparky’s recommendation we took our car to Jerome’s Automotive. His chief mechanic, the miracle worker was Igor and he spoke very little English. The guy who installed our alarm system, Vlad spoke English with a heavy Russian accent and dropped most pronouns. His helper, Al, was an intellectual. He took note of my art books and easily went off topic, telling stories that he laughed at. Our niece, a real sweetheart, was born in Moscow and her siblings still live there. I have a soft spot for Russians so “Nalvany” blew me away.
The Leonard Cohen documentary focused on “Hallelujah,” his masterpiece. Funny how Columbia’s Walter Yetnikoff turned the song down. John Cale released a beautiful version on a Hall Wilmer album accompanied by only his piano. For some reason Jeff Buckley took it mainstream. And it now the most popular song at weddings.
Angel recommended “Dinner In America” so we gave that a try. We bailed after fifteen minutes but the rental was good for 48 hours so we continued the next night. The obnoxious characters from the night before turned almost charming. The Watermelon song was the highlight.
The six part Showtime series, “George & Tammy,” is so good. When we finished the last episode we called our friends in Nashville, to encourage them to find a way to watch and just to talk George. Jessica Chastain made a fantastic Tammy Faye Bakker but she makes a better Tammy Wynette. Michael Shannon doesn’t really look or sound like George Jones but he embodies him. And both actors are so good it is thrill to watch them go for it.
The George and Tammy catalogs, both separate and together, form the foundation of classic country. Their life stories are legendary. They are untouchable as talents and stars. Chastain and Shannon sing their own parts in the movie knowing they can’t touch the originals. They pay tribute in their performances. We are all so familiar with the original versions of these classic songs, we can hear them in our head as Shannon reaches for notes only George could find. And it is fine that he can’t put as many notes in one syllable. No one but George can do that. They deepen your appreciation of the real George and Tammy.
Somehowww this all different than what cover bands do. I can’t put my finger on it. It is the same reason Karen Black in is so good in “Five Easy Pieces” when she sings Tammy’s “Don’t Touch Me” to Bobby.
Dave Ripton asked if I spend much time thinking about death. I said, “Not really,” but I wondered at the same time if maybe I did. He said he’ll go down a road and think, “This is probably the last time I’ll go down this road.” Do thoughts like this indicate depression or is he just being realistic? He added, “It’s probably the Black Irish in me.” I have a good bit of Irish in me but had not heard this term. I took it to mean dark thoughts. If that assumption is correct, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is Black Irish.
I loved the movie and all its contradictions. The idyllic, island setting, the cozy pub, the fiddle music, the simple life set against the loneliness, the boredom, and the sense that time is running out. The laugh-out-loud comedy interwoven with the despair. The confessional scene was music to any former Catholic’s ears. The self mutilation was a bit much. The whole cast was brilliant. Best Picture in my little book.
Steve was already sound asleep in his seat aboard a flight back to Detroit when the flight attendant informed him that the plane was grounded due to a nationwide FAA meltdown. Peggi and I had already gone back to bed after dropping him off at 5:30 but we were happy to have him stay with us for a third night. He was in town for a meeting with the Strong Museum of Play on an AR project. Steve is super productive and we rise to the occasion in his midst.
We were psyched enough to see Noah Baumbach’s new movie, “White Noise,” that we planned on going to the theater. But on the same day it opened here, Netflix announced the movie was available to stream so we stayed in. I didn’t read the book it was based on and I didn’t have the patience to watch the movie. This was no Squid and the Whale, Greenberg or Meyerowitz Story. The movie felt like a complete mess, a cop of Altman, Buñuel and others, built on a book about modern life in the eighties. I fell asleep and missed the whole murder section.
We watched Truffaut’s “Day for Night” the next night and found it completely satisfying. And so much fun. His nods to his favorite directors, Hitchcock and Orson Wells, pay tribute. And last night we started “Tar.” Kate Blanchett is a force of nature. The music is fantastic and the script is timely and witty. I can’t wait to get back to it.
We started out searching for an old horror movie, maybe a Vincent Price movie we hadn’t seen. Some of the best of those were directed by Roger Corman and his name led us to “The Trip,” his 1967 movie written by Jack Nicholson, starring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper. Not exactly horror but close (39% “Rotten” score) and neither one of us could remember seeing the movie.
I didn’t have any experience with psychedelics until 1969 but this movie from two years earlier already looked like a cliche Hollywood version of a cool thing. Like wealthy people today Peter Fonda took his LSD in the home office of a guide, Bruce Dean. And when he started tripping he was shown running around in billowy sleeves. Peggi said Peter Fonda reminded her of Dave Mahoney. His buddy, Dennis Hopper’s character, looked like he went “hippie” to pick up chicks. The actors looked like people we called “weekend hippies” in 1969, the ones Poly Styrene called “poseurs” in the 70s. But again, this movie is from’67.
Psychedelics, of course, are older than the hills. Peggi read “How to Change Your Mind” and we watched Michael Pollen’s four part Netflix show. Bob and Liz recommended “Fantastic Fungi” and all those lay out out the long history of mind opening drugs.
Maybe a guide is a good idea. A group us us walked halfway across town looking for Thorazine but Andy, who eventually died from overdose of Valium and alcohol, was not home. We were only able to talk to one another for fleeting moments between astonishing hallucinations and what can only be described as wide-awake nightmares. Later that night I found myself in an elevator in the IU Health Center with a nurse who had her hands on my shoulders while she repeated “What is your name?” over and over. I had no idea. I had other things on my mind. I woke up in the morning with a hospital gown on. Apparently I had gotten my Thorazine. I walked to the window and looked out at cars swimming around in the parking lot. I stopped tripping after that but am thankful for the many extraordinarily beautiful experiences.
The utility pole in this picture is brand new. A big delivery truck, bigger than the one shown here was delivering something to the house on the corner last week and while turning around it took out the power lines and pulled down the utility poles in both directions. The neighbors down here were without power throughout the night.
Our tv is nowhere near as big as the ones on this truck. We sit close to watch La Liga matches but they are still on break. We watched “The House of Gucci.” Started out fun but then crashed. Should have been made in Italian. The bad Italian accented English reminded me of the way kids talked in high school. We watched the Spanish horror movie “Passenger,” just because it was Spanish. The truck driver played cassettes of the traditional music you might hear at a bullfight and that was the best part of that movie. We’re watching “Resurrection” now and that is really good. Love the lead actress and the way she runs. I know something bad is going to happen to her. I feel asleep during it last night and then woke up when someone screamed. We’ll get back to it tonight.
It was 90 degrees out on Sunday and we don’t have air so we went to the 3 o’clock showing of “Memoria” at the Little Theatre. I loved it but hardly anything happened so I can hardly remember it. I loved how it spaced me right out. Tilda Swinton is fabulous. She registered what we were feeling as we watched. Uncertainty and dislocation with the panic. The movie can’t be streamed, it is touring the country like a traveling art show. And we watched the 1973 movie, “Badlands,” with Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. It was a perfect movie except for one thing. They killed Warren Oats off too fast.
We’re planning a trip to Boston in May. We played there a few times with Personal Effects but never spent any time there. “Philip Guston Now,” the retrospective that was planned to tour four major museums in 2020 but then crashed when angst-ridden curators felt they would have to explain the Klan imagery. Not enough to just let the public look at visual art that explains itself.
We’ve had the King Richard dvd sitting here long enough. We were sort of afraid to watch it after Will Smith’s performance at the Oscars but we finally stuck it in. It’s a feel good flick, clunky in spots, as far as having the actors say things for historical reasons, but really enjoyable. Will Smith deserves the statue.
Phil Marshall won’t be able to join us tonight at the Little so Jack Schaefer plans to bring his bass clarinet and sit in.
I have a digital subscription to AD Espana. I love the way it looks on my iPad mini. Each issue transports me to the Iberian peninsula. AD in Spain is much lighter on architecture and features primarily home design. I find myself ogling over ads for faucets and light switches. After Franco died Spain took modernism to new heights. Anything goes. You can’t put your finger on the style. It is all a mashup.
Pedro Almodóvar brings this to the big screen in dramatic fashion. The sets, the clothes, the interiors are 100 percent Spanish. “Parallel Mothers” is worth watching just to see Milena Smit in a new outfit for every scene. Of course Penelope Cruz is sensational. But the red toaster and the green oven and the paintings on the walls threaten to steal the show. We needed to watch it a second time so we could skip the subtitles and just look at it.
I loved “Pain and Glory” and was hoping Almodóvar would reach for something that human again. The relationship between and story around Janis and Ana, the Parallel Mothers, is beautiful and plenty for one movie. When Almodóvar piles the Franco horror show, the mass grave of Janis’s relatives, onto this movie, parallel movies, he only does disservice to a much weightier subject.
But that was about as close we’re going to get to Spain for a bit. After the movie we looked the Café Moderna where Ana worked and there was, on Google in street view.
I wasn’t able to walk with Peggi today so I took a photo of her as she walked by on the street below. I sprained my ankle watching a soccer match, the Brazil Argentina World Cup qualifier. The PA at Urgent Care thought I must have overstretched it while sitting with my legs under me down in front of the tv where I can see who’s who on the pitch. And then as I descended our basement stairs, trying not to put too much weight on my sprain, I stubbed the big toe on my good leg. There was a crack and it hurts worse than my good leg.
The artificial intelligence on our tv apps recommended two stellar movies based on what we they think we like. “The Wicker Man” from the golden year of 1973 was sensational. Extolling the virtues of paganism over Christianity I felt like was inside a Bruegel painting. When that was over we started “Trilogy of Terror” with Karen Black from 1975. I can’t wait to get back to that one.
We probably won’t be able to watch as much television when this pandemic is over and that is probably a good thing. Maybe we can trim our programing bill. We’re finding some dynamite stuff on HBO. “Olive Kitterridge ” is the best thing we have seen since Breaking Bad. Our bass player, Ken Frank, turned us on to that one. Frances McDormand kills it and Richard Jenkins, who plays her husband, is sensational.
A few years back we rationalized getting an Apple Music subscription by looking at the monthly costs as the price of buying one album. Yesterday we streamed Pharaoh Sanders new one, his first in twenty years, and Archie Shepp’s duo with Jason Moran. It was the early seventies all over again and it felt good.
We put our third row of greens in this afternoon, a short row of arugula next to the spinach and butter crunch. We’ll plant more of each in a few weeks and work the Swiss chard, mesclun and kale in. We started some of this indoors last year but found the things we planted directly were more productive. It was warm enough today to break out the Cumbia records and have dinner on the porch.
We are in the middle of a soccer drought as La Liga is off for Holy Week. We knew this was coming so to tide us over we recorded a Sevilla match. They are in fourth place just behind Atletico, Barcelona and Real Madrid, our three favorite teams. It looked like Sevilla was going to lose 1-0 to Valladolid but in the last minute of stoppage time they pulled out all the stops, left their goal empty and guess who put the tying goal in the net. Bono, the Montreal born Moroccan goalie!
Peggi just finished re-reading Strangers on a Train. (I think that might still be her favorite movie. I haven’t checked in a while.) Peggi read Patricia Highsmith’s bio and passed that on to Louise. We watched the French version of the Talented Mr. Ripley a few days ago and found it much more exiting than the American one which we loved. We plan to watch that again tonight. And last night we rewatched Carol. I hardly remembered it but loved it this time.
Naturally Kodak’s Coloramas, the giant photos that graced Grand Central Terminal for so many years, have wound up in the collection of the George Eastman Museum. And brilliantly, they have decided to show some of them in their parking lot. I love how the image is so disassociated from the surroundings. We’ve been doing a lot of that in our living room as we stream a disparate array of content on these deep winter evenings.
“M” Fritz Lang, Berlin 1931, Peter Lorre and tough subject matter. The movie feels utterly contemporary. The filmmaking and directing is so good he hardly needs sound and in some cases he lets the scenes play out without. The movie is like getting swallowed up in a Beckmann painting or maybe an August Sander photo. This is a masterpiece. We kept the disc a second night and watched it again.
“Pretend It’s A City” I loved these episodes but I became concerned, finding I share so many of Fran’s curmudgeonly views. Scorsese’s straight man and editing were brilliant.
“Notes on Marie Menken” We knew nothing about Marie Menken, “the mother of the avant-garde.” She inspired Warhol, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger and Gerard Malanga. A larger than life character, Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was based on her.
“The Dissident” A rage-maker of a documentary. We know the story so it was painful to watch it laid out in detail. This MBS guy buys so much military hardware from the US that we’ll let this slide. A reporter, Khashoggi, is sawed into pieces in the video conference room of an embassy while the action is streamed to the boss. and then some dude walks out past Khashoggi’s widow while wearing Khashoggi’s clothes.
“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold” We watched for a second time. Just because she is brilliant and beautiful.
We each came home from Aman’s with a peck of apples in our backpack. Peggi had 20 Ouncers for apple sauce and I had Snap Dragons, our new favorite eating apple. I also had a six pack of Buffalo’s Big Ditch in mine and a quart of raw honey. It was a big shop and our packs were heavier than they have ever been.
We found a couple movies to stream on the Film Forum website and both were fantastic. “Gunda,” filmed entirely in Spain, featured no actors, only farm animals, mostly a pig family, and it was riveting. There was was no voice over either, just the animals’ voices.
“Crock of Gold” features the great Shane MacGowan and Ireland and Irish culture, it’s history, the Catholic Church and the IRA. Johnny Depp put up some money so we have to put up with him but he is hardly there until the end. Sensational songs, mostly Shane’s, with a handful of traditional ones and at the end a short tribute to Shane with Bono and Nick Cave who only serve to point out how great MacGowan is. (He is still alive.)
Although the Little Theatre five screens are still closed they have been movies that would have been shown there as streams. The Little gets a cut but we still work about them. “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President” seemed like a stretch of a concept but they pull it off. And on top of that it is a real feel good film. Imagine that considering the current occupant.
Present day Carter has a nice looking turntable. Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers are featured. I could never figure out the appeal of that last one but they were fellow Georgians. A glaring omission though was not featuring “Jimmy Carter Says Yes.”
We’ve seen/heard the Tulsa, Oklahoma band, Jacob Fred Odyssey, three times at Rochester’s jazz fest. In 2006, 2010 and 2012 when they performed their Race Riot Suite. We bought the record and had them sign it. The band was so damn musical in a free wheeling boozy way. The back of the lp had a brief history of Tulsa’s Race Riot, enough to get me to read more about it. How come we weren’t taught about this in school?
We’ve been pitching in to help the Little Theatre by renting the movies they offer during the pandemic. The last is a threesome, three movies for twelve bucks! We started with the raw but powerful documentary on Ferguson. Six years on and Minneapolis has just unfolded as a video rewind of Ferguson. The Toni Morrison documentary was second up, a rich tribute to a clear headed, powerful voice. And then the great James Baldwin movie, “I Am Not Your Negro.” We had already seen this one when it played at the Little. We sat right next to total strangers without masks back then. The movie is so jam packed it deserves a least a second viewing.
Cuba Cheese makes some kick ass extra sharp cheddar. Imagine a slice of that with a Honey Crisp apple. Aman’s was our first stop today and then Wegman’s where we bought so much stuff it didn’t all fit in our back packs. Peggi had two packages of rice cakes sticking out of the top of her backpack. When we got home we discovered one was missing. Peggi went back with the car and spotted it next to the sidewalk on East Ridge Road. And our loaf of whole wheat bread sitting right beside it.
I feel like Kanye dumping on Taylor Swift when I say I was disappointed that Parasite won so many awards. We worked hard to see as many of the nominated movies as we could before the ceremony and the only one I fell asleep in was Parasite. It was right around when all the characters started getting killed off. I was liking the movie up until it became obvious that the sister was going to get a job in the rich people’s house too. And then of course, the father and mother. Best screenplay was certainly a stretch.
I liked “Pain and Glory,” “Once Upon A Time” and “The Irishman.” All old school.
If every winter day was like this one we wouldn’t appreciate this one as much. Full sun can turn the ski trails to mush so you need temperatures well below freezing for crisp, squeaky traction and today was perfect. Except for the part when I went off trail on short hill and caught my skis under a frozen branch. It was pretty much a face plant but I did manage to break the impact with my arms. I would go out there again in a second but I have jury duty tomorrow.
We’re scrambling to watch the Oscar nominated movies before the awards so our queue is all contenders. I’m hoping Anthony Hopkins gets best supporting actor for his role in The Two Popes. He made the creep he played enduring. And I’m pulling for Antonio Banderas for best actor in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.” We had more fun watching “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” than any other movie so that gets our vote.
We watched the Linda Ronstadt documentary, “The Sound of My Voice'” and I was blown away by how good she was. She was so popular I pretty much dismissed her. The Gilbert and Sullivan and especially the Mexican work she did near the end of her career was amazing. And I really liked listening to her talk. We have three friends with Parkinson’s and her story made the debilitating effects all too clear.
I’m still digesting the photos I brought back from our Portugal to Spain walk. There is art in public spaces throughout the Iberian peninsula. A lot of it is really good art, good being “I must take a photo of this so I can enjoy it again.” I’m always reminding myself not to let that act interfere with my appreciation of the piece in real time. These fishermen’s wives are really expressive, very physical. And the bathers in the distance, in mid October, accentuate the story.
“It is solved by walking.” This giant spoon was on the lawn in front of a house on the side street we took to Wegmans. The house was for sale, empty inside and this thing was sitting in that patch of land between the sidewalk and the street.
We had “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” back in the red Netfllx envelope and by the door on its way to the mailbox when we decided to cut it open and watch the movie again. Luis Bunuel’s masterpiece keeps getting better. We made sure we digested the subtitles the first time through and we just sat back and enjoyed it the following night.
We watched “The Shining” last night. It’s the perfect horror movie but once you’ve seen it a few times its all about the amazing Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall performances. My favorite scene was Grady (the first caretaker) and Jack in the red and white bathroom. And after that it would have to be the interchanges between the bartender and Jack. Third favorite scene would be the interview when Jack officially gets the Overlook position. Plus the soundtrack takes centerstage and almost usurps the storyline. Whoever it was that put that altogether kicked ass.
I’m guessing that we have seen the coming attractions for the David Crosby documentary four times now, each time in front of another movie. I know we asked for this by the movie choices we made.
“Echo in the Canyon,” ostensibly about the significance of Laurel Canyon in the sixties, is full of Jacob Dylan as MC and then bandleader with a roundup of contemporary artists when the only people who’d come to this movie would only want the real stuff from that magical period. The Tom Petty footage was good though.
“‘Marianne & Leonard” was a better movie but it would have played just as well on the small screen because the best footage was old movies and still shots. Leonard was a ladies man and the Marianne & Leonard thing was doomed. His guitar player, interviewed in the movie, said he realized early on that most of the people who came to see the band were young, depressed women. The love story was touching. This movie could appeal to a younger crowd because Cohen’s music is so universal but there weren’t any young people in the theater when we saw it.
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” was really great to look at, especially in the film version that our city is lucky to have. And the acting was was just as good but there wasn’t much story here. It was more like a few days back in the day. Some weird stuff happened. A lot of ordinary stuff happened. I was so back there I never noticed how long the film was until I had to go to the bathroom.
The movies, cover bands, Americana, MAGA. Everybody wants to go back. It’s getting a little depressing. I think I’ll go put my Silver Apples lp on.