A few thoughts on a rainy Sunday

As I type upstairs underneath a sky light which is being pummeled by the constant rain, it offers a serene mood inducing backdrop with the screen illuminated by a small lamp nearby. Since I use an older laptop, some of the keys are missing, so I need to see them as I type to assure I hit them. Missing a few keys does alter the passwords I choose.

In no particular order, I have a few rainy day thoughts.

I read where the actress and singer Irene Cara died yesterday at the age of 63. It hit me a little harder than some other celebrity deaths as I remember Cara as the young and youthful looking student from the movie “Fame” as she sang the title song. Around that same time, she also sang the theme from the movie “Flash Dance” called “What a feeling.” Both of these movies were about the newfound angst of young adults and older teens as they made their way forward, so to see Cara pass before I did is unsettling.

My wife and I caught the beginning of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony after seeing only the last two-thirds before. In particular, I wanted to see Pat Benatar and her guitarist husband Neil Giraldo get inducted. Not only did the two make powerful music using her marvelous voice and chutzpah and his excellent play, but they have lived a wonderful life as a couple complete with kids and grandkids. They obviously are in love even still and also can still belt out some good old rock and roll.

The other thing that struck me about this year’s awards, is the number of top-drawer female artists who attended to honor the inductees such as Benatar, Dolly Parton, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon and a couple of music producers that helped women with their careers. Just to name a few, Pink, Sheryl Crow, Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige, and Brandi Carlisle, all took active rolls in honoring the new inductees. These women were inspired by the inductees and it was nice to see them sing word for word the songs performed.

During the ceremony, they also paid tribute to lesser known African-American artists who influenced many, but never got acclaim due to the Jim Crow era. One such person was Elizabeth Cotten, a left-handed guitarist who played a right-handed guitar upside down. We saw footage of Pete Seeger speaking with her as well as watching her enormous skill as she played, rhythm, lead and bass at the same time on the guitar. Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family used the method called the “Carter Clutch,” but she self-confessed learning it from some African-American players in the mountains where she was raised. As an aside, Duane Allman, an excellent guitarist, taught his kids the “Carter Clutch” years after she passed.

I was fortunate to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with my oldest son. We were there four and 1/2 hours and never were bored. The best part is where you get to listen to snippets of who influenced these performers in contrast to how and what they played. If you love music, I encourage you to go.

Now, stay warm and dry today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cotten

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The Hour – a British miniseries that captivates

“The Hour” is a miniseries which only lasted two years, but in my view it certainly was not due to the quality of the program, the actors or the story. More on that later.

Filmed about ten years ago, “The Hour” is set in the mid-1950s when the BBC was launching a “60 Minutes” type news show called the same name as the title and advertised as the most important hour of your week. It is well casted starring Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Domenic West. Here is the Wikipedia summary:

The Hour is a British television drama series broadcast on BBC. The series was centred on a then-new current-affairs show being launched by the BBC in June 1956, at the time of the Hungarian Revolution and Suez Crisis. It stars Ben WhishawDominic West, and Romola Garai, with a supporting cast including Tim Pigott-SmithJuliet StevensonBurn GormanAnton LesserAnna ChancellorJulian Rhind-Tutt, and Oona Chaplin. It was written by Abi Morgan (also one of the executive producers, alongside Jane Featherstone and Derek Wax).”

Whishaw is excellent in his role as Freddie Lyon, the sharp-minded crusading journalist looking for the truth and the real story. West is Hector Madden, the camera-friendly host who learns a great deal from Freddie and his boss Bel Rowley played by Romola Garai, as well as his patient and supportive wife Marnie played by Oona Chaplin. Madden’s philandering and drinking require as much as tolerance from Marnie as possible.

Garai is excellent in her role as she is supportive of Freddie as he often rubs people the wrong way. She is also human, so she makes relationship mistakes that make her job more challenging. Other key roles are played by the spin-doctoring PR man for the Prime Minister Angus McCain played by Julian Rhind-Tutt. The remaining recurring cast is excellent, as are the guest stars for the two seasons, especially Anton Lesser and Peter Capaldi.

The first season focuses on a underlying story of a Russian spy being somewhere in the BBC along with the other news stories of the day, in particular the Suez Canal crisis. In the second season, the underlying story is bribery and corruption in various halls of power.

The show is excellent and when it was canceled it caused a lot of consternation. I think the ratings fell off in the second season for one reason I won’t mention so as not to spoli it, but I found the storyline just as compelling as the first season’s. Outside of Freddie, my favorite character is Oona Chaplin’s Marnie. The stuff she has to put up from her husband is on a long list. Yet, she reveals what she always was, her own woman. The chemistry between Bel and Freddie and the other crew members on the news team (Anna Chancellor in particular) makes the show. The kindredship is compelling.

Give the show a try. There are only twelve episodes, six per season, so it won’t take long to go through them. If you have seen the show, tell me what you think. If you have not, beware of spoiler alerts in the comments.

You are never ‘all dead’ on a soap opera

One of the movies my kids and wife enjoy as much as I do is “The Princess Bride.” You smile throughout the movie following the escapades of the Dreaded Pirate Roberts, who is a cult-like anti-hero named Wesley who is smitten with the future Princess Buttercup.

One of the funnier scenes is when we think Wesley is dead, so his comrades take him to Miracle Max played by Billy Crystal, with his wife played by Carol Kane. We learn from Miracle Max, that Wesley is not ‘all dead’ he is only “mostly dead.” After checking him out, Max says “I have seen worse.”

Why am I bringing this up? Soap opera characters who have been killed off are never ‘all dead,’ they are only ‘mostly dead.’ My wife loves “General Hospital” and has watched it for years dating back to when her mom and aunt were alive.

On occasion, I assume when contract difficulties arise or an actor is moving to another show, he or she may be killed off. Sometimes, it will be a coma related incident, as you don’t know if the studio can re-sign the actor through negotiations and they might recover. Usually, it is some accident where they cannot find the body. But, once the actor leaves, it is fair game to kill his or her character off. The body is either discovered, or he or she is just gone.

The problem arises when the actor returns to the show a couple of years later. So, when you thought the actor was ‘all dead,’ they character was not really dead at all. They were only ‘mostly dead.’ I will watch a little every once in a while and ask I thought he was dead? The explanations are usually less than satisfying.

What gets more complicated is when they use another actor to play a character when someone leaves. Then, the old actor returns a couple of years later and plays another character altogether. This is quite confusing for the occasional viewer.

In one case, the new actor played what everyone thought was the old character, but he had been in an accident had facial surgery and loss of memory. So his wife re-fell in love with what she thought was her husband and actually had more children. Then, the real husband returned to the show playing the real husband and the wife realized the guy in her bed was not him. Oops.

I must confess I think these soap opera writers must get a kick out of the machinations they must go through. They also need a historian to keep tracks of the who’s and what’s and why’s.

So, don’t mourn a soap opera death too long. They just may be ‘mostly dead.’

A few more excellent movies

I usually pick eight or so movies to highlight on my movie posts. Today, I am going to keep it to a manageable few to list some that are top drawer in my mind. Please remember, my wife and I like dialogue, plot and good characters, so we will lean away from the more recent CGI films. At the end, I will list a few honorable mentions.

“Where the crawdads sing” is just out in theaters based on Delia Owen’s book by the same name. Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya, known in town as the Marsh girl, it is fairly true to the book and tells the story in a flashback form, which works for the movie. Taylor John Smith stars as her friend Tate, Harris Dickinson as her boyfriend Chase, David Straithairn as her attorney, and Sterling Macer and Michael Hyatt as the store owners who help her out from time to time. The movie starts out with Chase’s body being found and Kya being arrested for his murder. She has been treated as an outsider her whole life as her violent father runs off her mother and siblings. He eventually leaves as well when she is only ten and she fends for herself in their marsh cabin. We loved the book and the movie.

“Last night in Soho” was released last year and is categorized as a horror/ thriller. It stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise, a fashion designer trainee just arrived in school in London who has a curse of seeing glimpses of her deceased mother. After being teased by others for coming from rural England, she moves to lease a bed and bath from a landlord played by Diana Rigg shortly before the actress died. Apparently, there was a murder in the room and when Eloise sleeps she goes back in time to the late 1960s in Soho, an era she loved for fashion and music. She becomes infatuated with a singer named Sandie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. The movie keeps your interest and is not too horror oriented, although you do get lulled into thinking it will only be macabre. We give it a thumbs up.

“84 Charing Cross Road” is an older movie that may sound dull, but it is fascinating to see good actors tell a story. It stars Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel, a British bookstore co-owner and Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff, a New Yorker who loves non-fiction books. With her search for inexpensive earlier editions, she befriends Frank and his whole staff and eventually his wife played by Judi Dench. Their relationships starts just after WWII and lasts into the 1970s and is based on a book Hanff wrote about their interactions. The story is in essence told as a series of letters and asides to the camera. This movie is one of the better ones you will see, if you choose to give it a go. It should be noted Mel Brooks produced this movie as he wanted his wife, the great Ms. Bancroft, to play the role she loved from a similar named play.

“The immigrant” is a true to life story about predatory people taking advantage of women traveling to the states from Europe in small numbers or alone. This story will make you angry, but it is a must watch to see how it happened, and likely still does. The movie stars Marion Cotillard as Ewa, an immigrant woman before WWI whose sister is told she has TB and must be quarantined on Ellis Island. Cotillard is charged with prostitution on ship, as she was raped by another passenger and is about to be deported. An advocate steps in played by Joaquin Phoenix, who pays off an Ellis Island official to “help” Ewa. He, of course, is taking her into prostitution. Jeremy Renner stars as Phoenix’ cousin. The number of people who are involved in the predatory relationship is what will make you angry the most.

A few other movies worth the watch include:

“Love and mercy” a biopic about Beach Boy Brian Wilson and his struggles and how his second wife saved him from a domineering therapist starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elzabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti.

“A promise” about an older German owner of a manufacturing facility played by Alan Rickman who becomes ill, his young wife played by Rebecca Hall, and his new right-hand secretary played by Richard Madden. The younger two have an attraction, but make a promise to be there for each other in the future so as not to betray the trust of the boss/ husband. This is one of Rickman’s final movies.

“33 postcards” is an Australian movie about a man played by Guy Pearce who sponsors an orphan girl in China named Mei Mei (which means little sister) played by Zhu Lin. They exchange 33 postcards over the years and when she travels to Australia with her orphanage choral group, she wants to meet her mysterious benefactor who she finds in prison.

“Sunset song” is a movie about an Irish woman (starring Agyness Deyn) before WWI who endures the tough hand over of her father after her mother died and brother moved on. She keeps the land after her father dies and eventually marries a man who will come back from WWI with PTSD.

A couple of others include “Caroline?,” “Hush,” “The go-between” and “Up against the ropes.” Each of these is good, with the first one being an unexpected surprise.

Compliance – a movie that will disturb you

The other day, my wife and I were reading summaries of movies as we selected one to watch. We passed on a thriller where one critic said it was the most disturbing movie he ever watched. Ironically, we selected a Sundance award winning movie that was powerful, but may have been the most disturbing movie we ever watched. It is called “Compliance.”

NOTE: A small spoiler alert is needed, but I only touched on it a little more than the summary does for the movie.

The movie is based on a true story that happened in a Kentucky fast food restaurant in 2004. Sadly, it has happened in quite a few other places. In essence, a young female cashier was picked out to be accused on the phone by a man pretending to be a police officer. I am not giving too much away, as you learn shortly therein what you already have figured out.

The man uses the name of a regional manager who he says is on the other line to enlist the help of the female store manager. He says a female customer has accused the cashier of stealing from her purse and they have surveillance footage. Since the police is too busy, he enlists the manager to do a strip search to save the accused the trouble of coming down and being booked. The ruse gets much uglier for this gullible young woman and her naive boss. I will spare the details, but their compliance with the requests of this beyond-creepy man is very disturbing.

The red flags are many throughout the call, but they are missed by the accused, the manager, and the manager’s fiancé who she enlists to help as the store is busy. If you watch this movie, you will be talking at the TV pleading with someone to think about what is happening. And, sadly it is based on a true story which happened over seventy times elsewhere.

The movie is meant to be disturbing. The director is Craig Zobel and it stars Dreama Walker as the young woman, Ann Dowd as the store manager, Pat Healy as the pretend cop, Bill Camp as Dowd’s boyfriend, Ashlie Atkinson and Philip Ettinger as co-workers and Stephen Payne as the maintenance worker who plays a pivotal role. The lessons in the movie are many, which is its intent, so if you do watch it, be forewarned that you will be perturbed.

Endings and next chapters

Have you ever noticed how some movies, series, or books just end without tidying up the conclusion? As my more frequent readers know, I enjoy watching movies, and tend to watch those with a good plot and dialogue.

Yet, I have noticed of late, a non-inconsequential number of more recently made movies about life’s challenges, seem to end without real resolution. Maybe they are emulating life, where we keep on going, often without resolution. We may get back on a better path, but the problems still persist.

The screenwriters and directors are seemingly leaving it up to us to figure out what happens next. It is not uncommon for my wife and I to look at each other and say “is that the end?” when the credits start to run.

To me, a writer can leave it to our imagination and still add needed clarity. In “Casablanca,” the ending had clarity for the two new members of the resistance who walked off to the “beginning of a beautiful friendship,” but we will always speculate what happened to Ilsa, Laslo and Rick in the future. It had closure as well as letting us converse about what’s next?

I was watching a movie where the ending basically was the child of a young mother (who got in her own way) would not leave her even when she tried to bus him to relatives. The woman would still be getting in her own way and had problems she had not remedied, but the movie just ended with them walking down a road in the snow with no money and the clothes on their backs. The only takeaway is they were still together.

Another movie about a husband acting rashly with a young woman (who was staying at his and his wife’s guest house as the two worked together on a film project) just ended without clarity. The movie faded out with the guest riding away in a taxi, leaving us to decipher if the wife would give the husband another chance or kick him out. It afforded my wife and I good what-if conversation, but it would have been interesting to see the writer’s take on it. To me, the question could have been left open-ended, but the wife could have left or said he needed to leave to let her think about next steps.

In one of the more famous movie endings in “Gone with the Wind,” Rhett Butler provided the needed clarity as he walked out the door. But, we are left to discuss what may have happened as Scarlett noted “tomorrow is another day.” If you have not seen the movie, you will need to move past the sugar coated racism and make lots of popcorn due to its length.

Of course, some endings may be too cheesy and cliche. When a movie, series or book ends with a more unexpected or against the grain twist, that can be more intriguing. Too obvious an ending can be less fulfilling, so leaving it somewhat open ended or imperfect can be more entertaining. The famous movie “The way we were” ended in the way it should have, but not in the way a Hallmark movie would have.

What are your thoughts? Do you like endngs that leave a lot to your imagination? Or would you prefer some or a lot of clarity? I would note the answer may depend on whether you are watching the movie with someone. I would love to hear from some of our authors out there.

Let’s go to a concert – when it is safe again

This is a repeat of an older post dating back before the pandemic. When it is safe to go back, let’s take precautions and start returning to concerts. Again, I encourage all to have the three vaccine shots and wear a mask in any large gathering. We are contemplating returning to a Steely Dan/ Steve Winwood joint billing later this year.

Whether it is a local band or one who has sold millions of songs, attending a venue to hear live music is thrilling and makes you feel alive. My wife and I have stumbled into live music on vacation which was a treat and we have made special plans to attend artists of renown. We have even gone to see our friend play piano in one of his bands  on very short notice. This post is dedicated to him as he suffered a stoke yesterday and may not make it. We are thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Let’s honor him together and take a trip down memory lane. Please feel free to offer some of your thoughts and experiences.Together, my wife and I have seen some fairly big name performers and with very few exceptions were worth trip. I have even taken my boys to see some artists that my wife has not cared for, but were excellent to us – I could not drag her to see ACDC, Styx or Rush, for example, but we enjoyed the heck out of them. Yet, I was able to get her to see the Allman Brothers, which was well worth the effort.

Some of the well-known artists we have been fortunate enough to see include: Bruce Springsteen, who will leave you worn out, but you could hear just one more; Paul McCartney, from which I had to text my Beatles fanatical brother to guess where we were, Elton John, where we saw three generations of fans singing word for word with Elton; Eric Clapton, who brought along Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks for kicks; Tina Turner, the best performer around; Heart, led by Ann Wilson, one of the greatest Rock and Roll singers around; Tom Petty, who was so very underrated even with his tremendous body of work; Steve Winwood, what a thrill; Rod Stewart, who my wife had to see, but I enjoyed as well; Bob Seger, one of my all time favorites where we got tickets in the nose bleed section; KD Lang (once with Tony Bennett),  who can sing almost anything and does the best version of “Hallelujah” you will ever hear; Bonnie Raitt, God she is great; Peter, Paul and Marya wonderful treat, Chicago, where it rained half the concert, and George Benson, a great guitarist and performer.

In some smaller venues, we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is genuine, talented and funny; Elvis Costello, who my wife did not want to see, but enjoyed immensely; James Taylor, several times and always a treat; Jimmy Buffett, who is especially entertaining when seen with your drunk brother-in-law; Jackson Browne, who actually disappointed (avoid the first concert tour date), but whose music I love nonetheless and Flogging Molly, which was a wonderfully unique experience. We also saw: Arlo Guthrie (twice), John Sebastian, The Association, Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball (go see her if you can), Marshall Tucker (a band with a tragic history), Altan, a neat Irish band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Fourplay, Harry Connick, Jr. and I am sure I am leaving off several others. My wife has gone to several with my daughter that were interesting from Owl City to Emilie Autumn, who apparently throws muffins at her audience.

Yet, we have seen some nice local bands that were a thrill, from Jazz to Blues to Swing to Pop. We have bought their CDs to honor their performance and help them out. But, the CDs also provide some memories taking us back to Montreal, New Orleans, Killarney, San Francisco, Blowing Rock or even home in Charlotte or Winston-Salem when we lived there. There is a Cajun restaurant in my home city that has live music every day. A neat memory of ours is my oldest son being asked to sing along with an Irish family in a pub near Watertown, Ireland as he was the lone American who knew the words to “Molly Malone.”.

Music heard at home or in your car is a wonderful experience, but hearing live music makes it memorable. My wife won’t listen to Elvis Costello at home, but she enjoyed his concert, e.g. Yet, let me close with a tribute and memory of our friend Eddie, who had the stroke. Eddie plays in several groups, but the last time we heard him play was at his oldest daughter’s wedding a few months ago. It was also memorable as my wife played social director and got everyone up to dance, including Eddie’s mother. God be with you Eddie. You make us feel better about our lives with your music.

So, let me hear from all of you. What are some of your memorable experiences? Have you seen some of same folks? Do you have friends that play?

And, a few more movies

Here are a few more movies that caught our eye the past few weeks. Most of these are on Tubi, but some were on HBO and Showtime. We did see “House of Gucci” in the theatre.

“House of Gucci” starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto, Salma Hayek and Jack Huston about the intriguing story beneath the Gucci name. It is based on a true story which took place from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. It is a good movie with Driver and Lady Gaga in the leads as the son and wife of one of the 50% Gucci owners played by Irons. Pacino plays the other 50% owner, whose son, played by Leto is not the most capable of people to take over the business. Pacino and Irons are excellent, but Leto is hidden underneath a lot of prosthetics and his performance is a little over the top, which is unusual for such an acclaimed performer.

Body of Evidence” starring Willem Dafoe, Madonna, Julianne Moore, Joe Montegna, and Frank Langella is a steamy criminal trial story about a woman accused of killing her rich lover to gain a large portion of his inheritance. The challenge for Dafoe, who plays the defense attorney, is his client played Madonna, prefers a risque style of sex. Caution, do not watch this in front of younger pairs of eyes.

“The Company Men” starring Ben Afleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Rosemarie Dewitt, Eamonn Walker, Craig T. Nelson and Kevin Costner is about people getting let go from a shipbuilding company after years of service. The focus is on the first three cast members above, but the other supporting cast play key roles. I feel Rosemarie Dewitt plays the supportive, but realistic wife of Afleck’s character perfectly. This may be the best of the movies noted here.

“Misconduct” starring Josh Duhamel, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Mailin Akerman, Alicia Eve and Julia Stiles is one of the lowest rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes that I ever liked. It has a great cast, with a somewhat predictable plot, but is entertaining. Hopkins perfectly plays a wealthy guy who is used to getting his way. The story is about an ambitious attorney played by Duhamel who brings a case against Hopkin’s pharmaceutical company and he gets involved with corruption and cover-up.

“A Perfect Murder” starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortenson is about a husband hiring his wife’s lover to kill her. There is more to it than that, but it is an intriguing movie about the reasons why the husband is so keen and why Mortenson is so agreeable.

“Solitary Man” starring Michael Douglas, Mary Louis Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito and Imogene Poots is about a womanizing divorced man who ruined his business doing something corrupt and has now learned his health is poor. His answer is to go after every woman he comes across. For some reason, Douglas plays a cad better than many, as his role reminds me of the lecherous character he played in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” with Jennifer Garner and Mathew McConnaughey.

“The Good Shepherd” starring Christian Slater, Molly Parker, Stephen Rea, and Von Flores is about a priest who has second thoughts about his calling, so he volunteers to find out who killed a priest, the police have ruled a suicide. He continues the investigation against the wishes of the Bishop as he feels the church owes it to the priest to find out what happened. Parker plays a reporter who works with Slater to get to the truth, primarily because they had a previous relationship before he became a priest. This movie should not be confused with the Matt Damon story by the same title. I think in Canada, it was released under the name “The Confessor.”

“Charade” starring Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy and James Coburn is about a woman who loses her husband only to find out he sold all their possessions and owes $250,000 to the US government which is missing. At least three other men think the money belongs to them, so she is in danger. Hepburn remains one of the most beautiful and elegant actresses ever, so it is always a treat to watch her.

“The Choice” starring Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Grace, and Tom Welling is based on the Nicholas Sparks novel about a couple played by Walker and Palmer who have an attraction, but “bother” each other from the outset. She has a fiance, but no one affects her like Walker’s character Travis does. The story is more intriguing to us as it is set in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach and my wife and I recognized the scenery and even ate at one of the restaurants featured.

As I review the above, a good cast can overcome a weak plot and poor dialogue to a certain extent. “Misconduct” is a little predictable which is why it is rated so poorly, but is still good. “Solitary Man” is well-played, but Douglas is not a very endearing character in this, which is the intent. “Body of Evidence” is good, but be prepared for some pretty racy scenes for a movie with such name actors. “House of Gucci” is good, but it is on the longer side of most movies and can run on at times. “The Choice” is a little cheesy at times, but the banter between the couple is different than most romantic movies and Palmer, who played in “Hacksaw Ridge,” is intriguing to watch.

Peter Bogdanovich in three movies (may he RIP)

The acclaimed movie director Peter Bogdanovich passed away yesterday at the age of 82. He directed several excellent films, but let me highlight three to give people a look into his work. Ironically, I watched two of his older films, “Paper Moon” and “The Last Picture Show” in the last few days, so I wonder if someone new the end was near and aired them..

Yet, the one I like the most he made in 1985 with Cher as a caring but tough mother in “Mask.” “Mask” starred Eric Stolz as a young teen whose facial bones grew in a distorted manner causing acute, tremendous pain and leaving him with a mask-like look. His mother would help him meditate through the pain to avoid giving him debilitating pain medicine. In my view, this movie was Cher’s best work, even better than in “Moonstruck,” where she won an Oscar.

The first scene in which you realize she is comforting her in-pain son is extremely poignant. Sam Elliot stars as Cher’s biker boyfriend. In spite of the pain and scary countenance, the teen was very smart and congenial, making fun of himself before others would. And, unless you saw the credits, you would never know the lead is played by Stolz, who is excellent, as well.

“The Last Picture Show” usually gets the most fanfare. Based on Larry McMurtry’s book and his co-written screen play with Bogdanovich, it is a black and white movie about small town life in Anarene, Texas in 1953. Cybil Shephard (in her first role), Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Sam Bottoms and Randy Quaid are the high schoolers featured, but a great cast of adults play key roles with Cloris Leachman (who won an Oscar for Supporting Actress), Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Ben Johnson and Clu Gulager.

Teen and adult angst are the key themes portrayed showing people will look for love even when they appear to have someone who fills the role. Interestingly, the only overtly protagonist is the silent role played by Sam Bottoms and maybe the sage like role of Ben Johnson, with all of the other characters being various shades of gray revealing our imperfections. Yet, you do feel for many of them at times, even though they do things you may not care for. Leachman’s Oscar is very deserving as she plays a dramatic role very different from her comedic future ones.

“Paper Moon” is another black and white film about a depression era con man played by Ryan O’Neal who travels Kansas and Missouri with his daughter. His actual daughter, Tatum O’Neal steals the show in the role and wins a deserved Oscar for her first performance. Madeline Kahn also plays a key role as the father’s new girlfriend and threat to the welfare of the younger O’Neal.

The lessons of making money through cons are passed down to the daughter, who he is traveling with to take her to stay with her aunt after her mother passes. She turns out to be an even savvier business-person than her father, knowing when to push on the accelerator or hit the brakes. She could also give an up-to-date accounting of the money her father owed her.

I wonder if the adult actor realized he was the straight man for this rising star. He does a great job in the role, but your eyes are on her facial expressions most of the time, as she is frustrated and bewildered by her father. Bogdanovich would later team with Ryan O’Neal in “What’s up Doc? with Barbra Streisand.

All three are excellent movies. “The Last Picture Show” though had an extra hurdle to overcome when it was given an X rating. It included a skinny dipping scene where some full frontal nudity is visible for a few females. To me, the scene was unneeded the way it was shot and much could have been accomplished with more subtlety. I forewarn you in case there are younger eyes in the room. Nonetheless, the story is good and worth the effort, as are the other two.

Dune – a remake that surpasses the original movie

“Dune” is a very good, complex movie about Frank Herbert’s complex novel. Yet, unlike the OK first movie, the remake did not take it on as one movie. So, there will be a sequel forthcoming.

Dune is a science fiction story around the politics and power of controlling production of a spice that aids in the navigation through the universe. The spice is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, where only the resilient can survive, primarily a vast tribe of people called the Fremen who value water and survival of the fittest.

The patriarch (the Duke Leto) of the Atreides family has been asked to oversee production on Arrakis by the emperor, but he is being set-up for failure. The story is more around his son Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica who both have a capability that makes them each a powerful force. Paul is played by Timothee Challamet, Lady Jessica by Rebecca Ferguson, and the Duke by Oscar Isaac. Zendaya plays Chani who Paul dreams of and finally meets on the planet. 

Dune has a great ensemble cast to support the primary characters. Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Mamoa, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Babs Olusanmokun, et al, all add value to their roles. Skarsgard is quite good as major antagonist Baron Harkonnen, who used to oversee the spice production. Bardem and Zendaya will feature more in the sequel as Paul and the Lady Jessica have shown their worth to the Fremen toward the end of the movie.

The screenplay was written by the director Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. They deserve a lot of credit for boiling the plot down from the book. While the movie includes violence, the underlying story of intrigue comes out. Plus, there is an allegiance to the unrelenting desert life in the filming. For example, Lady Jessica appears without make-up throughout which would not serve her well in the sandy heat. The Fremen debate whether an infiltrator is worthy of being kept alive versus the water his or death would result in for their benefit. The mechanical transport and machinery must withstand the deterioration of the sand.

I will leave out more detailed plot description. The movie is quite good, even for those who are not huge science fiction fans. Yet, I don’t want to undersell the plot intrigue and otherworldly context. It helped me to have seen the first movie. One of my sons has read the novel, so he said this version is more closely resembling the book the earlier one. So, he and my other son join me in giving it a thumbs up.