Monthly Archives: January 2016

An Innocent Abroad

After graduating from Kansas State, I obtained a work permit, and flew to England. There I found work at a hotel pub for a few months, then traveled around Europe some. It was amazing of course and I’d recommend it to everyone. This letter is a lesson in “Life can be great even if you don’t do all you planned.” Of all my plans listed in this letter from early on at the hotel, most didn’t happen. (I’ve listed those below.) And I still had a great time.

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Thursday 15th [June 1989]

Family, thanks for the letter.  I’ll see if I can’t give you a run down on what’s going on.  Right now I’m on my afternoon break. A typical day starts about 9:00 am with setting up the bar, cleaning a little bit, etc. then there is breakfast. This morning I had egg, bacon, toast & juice. The bar opens at 11:00 am. I tend the bar, keep things clean, pick up, etc. At 3 in the afternoon the bar closes until 5:30. During this time there is a little clean up, lunch–today cottage pie & vegetables, then about 1 1/2 hour break. At 5:30 it’s back to the bar til 11:00 pm–closing time. And usually done cleaning up before 12:00 pm. I get Wednesday off and Thurs am or Tues pm off also–not sure which one yet (neither this week). Yesterday I went to Canterbury with Rob–the manager. Went through the cathedral and then a little Chaucer thing. It was neat. The city itself is very touristy–like a giant shopping mall.  But the cathedral was good.  That evening I watched the film Becket on Rob & Sheila’s VCR–about Thomas Becket and his murder in the Canterbury Cathedral. In a couple of weeks we may go to France for a day or so.  Also I’ve been invited to go golfing at Leeds Castle sometime, and to a cricket game, and to the local church. I’m going to see if I can’t work out church next Sunday morning.

Rob and Sheila are nice people.  They and the rest of the staff have made an effort to make me feel at home. (Rob told me yesterday that if I find a girl while I’m here, she will have to pass Sheila’s approval.) I’m making L120 a week I think. That will be about L80 after taxes. I receive free room, board, and laundry facilities as well. I can’t think of anything I need yet. I bought a tape player.  Also–w pair of black pants, 2 white shirts, and some black socks for work. I am already making plans for travel after I am done working. I’m not sure ho long I will last working over here. It seems to me if you are going to have to put up with England, you ought to be doing something fun–not working. But I will put up with it at least a couple of months–perhaps then I will move on to to something else. Also I will look for BBC stuff. Right now I feel like I should stay awhile, as they are training me and putting up with my screw-ups. I haven’t written anything in my book yet.  Don’t know what to write–don’t want to fill it up with crap. I’ll write more when I know more.  See you later.

Love,

Matt

[I did not: go to France with my boss, play any golf in England, attend a cricket game, go to church across the street, find a girl there, find work at the BBC, or write much more than crap in that blank journal.]

Plainview #35

This is a short and sweet one.  We talk a bit about the preparation for Maly’s 6th birthday party, share some of the cute things the kids have said recently, and talk about a movie, Talk to Her, which I think is critically liked (if not adored) and that we didn’t care for much.

Other films 10-18

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Twister. Effective monster movie, the monster being a real thing we sometimes have to hide from.  Tense, funny, cheesy but nice kiss at end.

How to Marry a Millionaire. I think I’d watch Monroe and Bacall in about anything. Made me laugh a couple times. Pleasant enough movie.

Creed. Wow. Great Rocky sequel/remake. Loved the subtle references to part 1. Stallone was amazing. Single shot round! Dusty in the theater?

Big Fish. Your life is what you make it. Both in how you choose to live it, and in how you choose to tell it. Fun and very cool to look at.

The Force Awakens. Oh snap! It just got real! Enjoyed the Episode IV-ness of the whole thing (except the droid). Great cast. Ready for more.

Black Sheep. Like a long Three Stooges movie. Chris Farley is all the stooges and nothing makes sense. I laughed. Now gotta take a squeege.

Die Hard. Anti-80s 80s movie and Christmas classic. Merry shitload of screen doors. Happy more F.B.I. guys. And yippee-ki-yay us, every one.

When Harry Met Sally. The best funniest sweetest romantic comedy ever made. When Billy starts running I want to cry. I must be getting old.

Monsters. “It’s different looking at America from the outside in.” What are those monsters coming across our border? Some good scares too.

Movies of 2015

This year I wrote 124 very short reviews for films that I saw this year.  I’ve seen more than this, but it wasn’t until about two-thirds through the year that I started writing reviews for all the movies I watched. Before that I just wrote about the movies that appeared on the list from the app Whatisonnetflix. These are the top Rotten-Tomatoes-rated films on Netflix. By cramming in four films the last week of 2015, I was able to complete that list (for now–the list is occasionally updated). At the end of the year, I also wrote a few short reviews for films I’d seen on the big screen earlier in the year.

Picking the best of the year was difficult. One person picking “the best” is pretty arbitrary. Films I’d seen more recently had an advantage over films from earlier in the year. And I found that films made more recently had an advantage over older films. For many of these categories I could have a different winner depending on the day. I used the Golden Globe categories. Some of these are old categories that are no longer used by the Golden Globes, but I used them. I only used films from the Whatisonnetflix app for the award winners, for the most part.  There are some ties.  That all said, here are my winners. Followed by all my short reviews for 2015.

Golden Globe Award for Best Cinematography – (something I don’t generally notice)

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Best Film Promoting International Understanding
The Square

Best English-Language Foreign Film
The Lady Vanishes

Best Documentary Film
The Square

Wasteland

Act of Killing

Restrepo

Best Animated Feature Film
Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Best Foreign Language Film

Tomboy

Best Original Song
Hate the Sport” from We are the Best

“Tonight I’m Gonna Rock Ya” from This is Spinal Tap

Best Original Score (Something else I rarely notice. These were both pretty noticeable.)
Patton

Taxi Driver

Best Screenplay
His Girl Friday

Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Amanda Langlet in Summer’s Tale

Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Both kids: Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland in Mud

Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Mya Taylor in Tangerine

Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Recent Foreign Film: Paulina García in Gloria

Old American Film: Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Hugh Grant: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Recent Foreign Film: Thomas Doret in Kid with a Bike

Old American Film: Paul Newman in The Hustler

Best Director

Jeremy Saulnier for Blue Ruin

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Tangerine
Best Motion Picture – Drama
App List: Short Term 12

Big Screen: Mad Max: Fury Road

Neither of the above: Die Hard

 

13 Assassins. Bit fuzzy on the opening politics. Then a good Japanese western. And when they drop their bows and draw their swords–Oh snap!

20 Feet From Stardom. Mary C. singing for the Stones about brought tears. These women are amazing. Energy, joy, failure, hope. Loved this doc!

2001: A Space Odyssey. Apemen! I’m freaking out, man. You are freaking out, old man. I’m a space baby! Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer. .

56 Up. Saw 28 & 42 too. The nonlinear viewing of these kids’ lives brings a peace and perspective that I’d like to have about my own kids.

The Act of Killing. How to deal with guilt: Denial, justification, be a moron. What’s scary: They’re not monsters. They’re people. Like us.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. This cat has some cojones. Sad to see what 80 days of torture will do to a man. I wish him well. Fight the power.

Airplane. My dad angrily in 1980: You want to watch a movie where they throw shit into a fan?!
Me sheepishly: No Dad.
Dated but still funny.

All About Eve. 1950. Betty Davis at her Betty Davisest. Hey there’s Marylin. Smart dialogue holds up after 65 years. A bit too long in the end.

Almost Famous. I totally relate to that teen-age boy’s rock and roll fantasy. And then mom’s on the screen and suddenly I’m her. Great film!

Amadeus. My kids: That looks like the most boring movie ever. Me: I know, but it’s really good. The first adult movie I remember liking.

Annie Hall. Cute in dictionary=Diane Keaton after tennis game. This exploration of relationships holds up till–Did he say 16-year olds? Eek

Antz. A pretty good Woody Allen movie. Fun visuals. A lot of noticeable voices. The infamous, “You da bug.” Kids and me laughed quite a bit.

The Babadook. Fun scary movie with super creepy moments. Metaphor a bit spot on (DadaBook?) So I appreciate ambiguous bowl of worms ending.

Battleship Potemkin, 1925. Silent soviet propaganda. Civil disobedience scene on the steps is amazingly shot, moving, still too relevant.

Beware of Mr Baker. How much nonsense will be forgiven for great art. There is a limit. So, d-bag artists, strike while the iron is hot.

Big Fish. Your life is what you make it. Both in how you choose to live it, and in how you choose to tell it. Fun and very cool to look at.

Big Night. Love this movie. Great cast. Great food. Don’t watch hungry. A metaphor here for how one should live life, i.e. big & generous.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Surprisingly: steroids not really that bad for you. Less so: ignorance, hypocrisy & corruption in U.S. government.

Bill Cunningham New York–Street fashion photographer. What a pleasant person! Still don’t care about fashion. But enjoyed time spent w Bill a lot

Black Sheep. Like a long Three Stooges movie. Chris Farley is all the stooges and nothing makes sense. I laughed. Now gotta take a squeege.

Blackfish. Love of money vs. creation care. I hope he’s right, the guy who said we’d look back and be embarrassed. We can do better.

Blue Ruin. If you ever forget what it is that violence begets, this will remind you. Sometimes it’s too late. Sometimes, hope. Great film.

Brooklyn Castle. I’d vote for Pobo right now. Or Rochelle. Should we have to beg for quality public ed? Maybe these kids can change things.

Call Me Kuchu. What does the kingdom of god look like? A party, a shared meal, a celebration? Or a fist, a prison, a hammer? We are all one.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Doc. Fascinating to imagine what we were thinking about 30k years ago. What was that last bit about albino gators?

Chasing Ice. A very cool and ambitious project.  Some beautiful photography. The glaciers are clearly retreating.Too late to do anything?

Chinatown. Much to discuss. We do what we can to keep those we love from getting hurt, but they’re going to get hurt anyway, seems the gist.

The Conformist, 1970. Italian expressionist fascist thriller. Interesting/beautiful moments. I think the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Control Room. Every point of view is a view from a point (R. Rohr). So easy to think ours is the only/right one. Some glimmers of hope here.

The Conversation. Liked all the parts–sound, scenes, performances, music, the 1974ishness of it all. But altogether it didn’t click for me.

Creed. Wow. Great Rocky sequel/remake. Loved the subtle references to part 1. Stallone was amazing. Single shot round! Dusty in the theater?

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Shakespearean Kung Fu. So good. Life’s short. Tell people you love them and ninja fight others while you can.

The Croupier. A lot is cool about this movie’s plot and protagonist. Too cool maybe? And who zoomed who at the end? I didn’t quite follow.

The Crying Game. A film about honesty, consequences, and not recognizing a man in makeup. Nice legs though. Lyle Lovett at end a nice touch.

Deep Water. Makes you wonder how close any of us are to losing it and sailing over the edge. A circumnavigation away, or just down the road?

Die Hard. Anti-80s 80s movie and Christmas classic. Merry shitload of screen doors. Happy more F.B.I. guys. And yippee-ki-yay us, every one.

Doc Hollywood. Few surprises (except the full frontal). 20 minutes in you know the ending. But funny. And the dance scene is pretty sweet.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. It’s not being able to keep working when you’re old. It’s doing you’re entire life what you want to keep doing.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Lives are ruined when the most important thing to people is their lust for power and money. No shit.

Exit Through the Gift Shop. Real or not, this film, the artists and their art are fascinating whether trying to make a statement or a buck.

Fantasia. 1940. Surprised a bit by the frontal nudity. I wanted to like it more than I did. Enjoyed best in 7 min. chunks. Oh, Looney Tunes.

First Blood. Got heavy at the end. Didn’t remember that after 35 years. An America where a vet wearing a flag was seen as a trouble maker?

Food, Inc. Loved the happy farmer. Now I need to find a local pork and poultry source. Oh, and #Monsanto seems like a butthole of a company.

For the Bible Tells Me So. Brothers and sisters, just watch this and then let’s talk. The bible says a lot of things. That’s all I’m saying.

The Force Awakens. Oh snap! It just got real! Enjoyed the Episode IV-ness of the whole thing (except the droid). Great cast. Ready for more.

Four Weddings and a Funeral. Our old priest loved it. Holds up. Funny. Sweet. The funeral eulogy crushed me. Her list of lovers, a bit long?

French Connection. Hard to root for racist drug war cop nowadays. Popeye’s too close to Mitchell & 48 Hrs Nolte. Chase holds up pretty well.

Glen Campbell. I’ll Be Me. Heartbreaking portrait. I Told Mare just leave me in the woods. She won’t. And I’m not half as charming as Glen.

Gloria. A lovely portrait. We are never too old. Never too old to try, to fail, to seek, to find, to lose, to try again. The tough survive.

Heathers. Longtime favorite. High school can be hell. Just need someone to fight the power. But not blow up the school. Lick it up, baby.

High Noon. Well executed tension–myth of redemptive violence vs. restorative justice. Sheriff vs Quaker. 1950s America, so sherif wins.

His Girl Friday ’40. Grant & Russell make murder, suicide, and politically motivated execution a conniving, rollicking, break-neck good time.

History of the World Part I. Funny parts I remember after 30 years, still very funny. Other 95% doesn’t hold up. Especially the rapey parts.

Hoop Dreams. Intriguing doc. Hard to watch without googling where they are now. Dreams change. No NBA, but they both seem to be doing well.

Hot Fuzz. Hilarious, disgusting, fun, satisfying flick. Action-packed, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride? I think so. Aaaaaaaa! Bang bang bang!

Housebound. Surprising scary treat. Many great “holy crap” moments. Daughter may have dropped real swear at one point. Funny too. Watch it.

How to Marry a Millionaire. I think I’d watch Monroe and Bacall in about anything. Made me laugh a couple times. Pleasant enough movie.

How to Survive a Plague. People remind our leaders where their power comes from. many protests, only one cop baton swung. Ahh the 90s.

How to Train Your Dragon 2. Funny. Great action scenes. Cool dragons. Good is more powerful than evil. Still . . . Tasty but empty calories.

Hunt for Red October. Holds up pretty well. I don’t remember it being so actiony. And I just want to pinch little Alec Baldwin’s cheeks.

The Hurt Locker. Every frame of this beautifully shot film makes me tense, from the gun fights to the grocery store. Like I was a soldier.

The Hustler. Is it only possible to win by cutting all ties & standing alone? Does money ruin the purity of competition? Isn’t Paul dreamy?

I am Divine. An interesting cat. Glad he felt successful at the end. Also, Beloved heavy actors–Take care of yourselves, for heaven’s sake.

The Impostor. If Hitchcock directed a documentary. I enjoy being led down the primrose path then clubbed from behind. Or was I? Or did they?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978. I like a slow burn, gross special effects, and feeling of impending doom. Plus it creeped out the kids.

The Invisible War. This film shows the U.S. Military is not completely full of rapists and assholes. But there’s way too many. Needs fixed.

The Island President. Impressive man. Important issue. But there’s money to be made, so we’re going to use this baby up til it’s all gone.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Doc about old sushi master and what it takes to become a master of anything. Spoiler: a lot. Too much?

The Kid with a Bike. Heart breaking, heart warming quiet little good samaritan story. Love looks like this: saying hold on, but not so hard.

The Lady Vanishes.1938 Hitchcock. Great shots, fun characters, intriguing plot. It all holds up but the haircuts. And maybe the fight scene.

Lawrence of Arabia. Super long, but don’t know what I’d cut. Interesting cat, Larry. Beautiful film. They’ll never make ’em like this again.

Let the Fire Burn. Good god, what a mess. More than enough blame to go around. Thankful for the brief focus on the good. Some hope at least.

Let the Right One In. Swedish vampire! How much difference between the undead protagonist and bully antagonist? Do we choose who we are?

Life Itself. Watched Sneak Preview in high school. Owned three of his books before the internet proper. Loved Ebert even more after this.

Los Angeles Plays Itself. Good if a bit lengthy essay on L.A. in film. Film, architecture, police and class discussions pretty interesting.

Mad Max Fury Road. Loved it and all its awesome weirdness–war boys, guitar man, car chases and battles, Joe, Max, and of course Charlize.

Man on Wire. “Life should be lived on the edge of life- every year, every idea as a true challenge.” Can you imagine being there. Doing that.

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Early on I rolled my eyes at her work. Before it was over I found myself moved and sort of a fan.

Marley. Compelling doc on an intriguing dude. Much here I didn’t know (all of it). And then I listened to his music for three days straight.

Metropolis. German silent version of Mocking Jay. Some beautiful shots & least-sexy sexy dancing ever. Hopeful ending I can’t quite buy.

The Missing Picture. How do you eat and watch people starve, Khmer Rouge? How do we do it too. Too many missing pictures to think about.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Sweet action. Agent Tom Cruise is a stone cold bad ass. Rebecca Ferguson is even better. And Simon Pegg.

Mud. Huck and Jim, and can a boy believe in love, and family and friendship is hard but worth it, and great performances. Amazing movie.

Muscle Shoals. Interesting people. Amazing music (goosebumps). (Jerry Wexler once sat and told me (and classmates) back in the day stories.)

Night of the Living Dead. The OZ! Love this movie. A lot going on here: race, community, fear, politics, family. And black dude is a badass.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2. I thought this was one of the good ones. Not so much. But the kids and I had fun watching the dumbness together.

Once Upon a Time in America. Boy, can Sergio take his time. Pretty to look at. A well told story. Good actors. Fun music. But that sound.

Oslo Aug 31. A clean junkie spends a day searching for life’s meaning. Finds none. Side of heroin with your nihilism? Well made & sad.

Patton. Some great stuff here. The speech. The battles. The slap. The kiss. The prayer. The toast. The music. Oh . . . and George C. Scott.

Poetry. To make poetry you have to look at things closely. More questions raised than answers given, but in the right way. Poetry=Life?

Restrepo. 50 soldiers died for that hill (plus local kids); we left 3 years later. Probably jaded to wonder who made how much. Good film.

Risky Business. Man, we were self-centered in the 80s. Bit sad. Film’s still funny. And I’m reworking calendar so kids are never home alone.

Roman Holiday. Plot? I could watch super cute Hepburn, hunky Peck, & beatnik Albert just tour Rome, have clever dialogue, and look amazing.

Rosemary’s Baby. The good old days when women let us men take care of all the decision making. But if the result is a devil baby, forget it.

The Secret of Roan Inish. A pleasant slow-paced little fairy tale of a film that kind of makes me want to live in a hut on an Irish island.

Short Term 12. Yes, hurt people hurt people. And they often help people the rest of us don’t want to help. Hard to run and cry. See it. Great!

Snow Piercer. Hunger games for adults? Is that humanity’s only hope? Not to take over the system, but destroy it and start from scratch.

Spy. McCarthy and Statham are great. “Made it, didn’t I.”

The Square. Doc re recent Egyptian revolutions that should be shown in classes teaching the American revolution. We don’t appreciate our lot

The Station Agent. I totally get it. People can be such an intrusion and a bother. I like a reminder that theyre also the reason we’re here.

Stories We Tell. Intriguing & surprising. Much to ponder: the effect our lives have, how well can we know each other, & love despite it all.

Supercop. Don’t know if they can really Kung-fu, but Chan and Yeoh pull off some amazing stunts. End credits show the really scary stuff.

Surfwise. Crazy dad seems right about this: It’s easier to die when you’ve lived. So go out and make memories. That way you don’t die alone.

A Summer’s Tale.Much walking and talking.Longest wait for a 1st kiss ever (worth it). And sometimes that’s all you get. Oh to be young again.

Sunset Blvd. Norma Desmond, the original cougar. Smart words, smart shots, noir, sad. Swanson was so good & so crazy. Fun to see young Webb.

Tangerine. Loved the pacing, dialog, music and cast. Funny, sad, hopeful. Sex isn’t a cure for loneliness. We can do better. We often don’t.

The Taste of Others. French rom-com about snobbery, reverse snobbery; high, middle, & low brow. I thought it was good. Disagree? No taste.

Taxi Driver. My theory: Travis Bickle is America of the 1960s/70’s. We don’t know how to solve our problems here, so we use guns far away.

Terminator. Best 80s/Arnold/action/horror/time-paradox/stop-motion-animation/quotable-lines/Linda-Hamilton-rocking-the-mom-jeans movie EVAR!

The Thing. Kurt Russel, as always, is the man. Paranoia, Wilfred Brimley, and so much drippy alien goo. The blood thing about made me poop.

This Is Not a Film. Intriguing and compelling sequences between the parts that seem like grandma walking around with her new video camera.

This is Spinal Tap. Yes, I watched it again. And again and again. This free form jazz odyssey of a film goes to 11! Talk about mud flaps!

Tomboy. Oh to wrap our kids up and keep them safe. Best father daughter hug ever. Amazingly talented young actors. A lot good here. See it.

Trainwreck. I wanted to like this film and Schumer’s character more than I did. Smart stuff and good moments (LeBron) but too far apart.

True Lies. An action packed comedic over the top thrill ride.  Tom swearing, Jamie Lee as sexy accountant, plus Arnold. Holds up after 20.

Twister. Effective monster movie, the monster being a real thing we sometimes have to hide from.  Tense, funny, cheesy but nice kiss at end.

Undefeated. Great football doc. about relationships and people struggling to do the right thing and sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding.

Waste Land. Doc shows art is amazing because people are amazing. Circumstances have little to do with how amazing and happy. A joy. See it.

We Are the Best! 1982 punk rock kids. Wanted to like this, but didn’t quite. A nice story of friendship. Is every Swedish teenager a jerk?

We Were Here. Doc tells an important/moving story well–how gay community handled aids epidemic. Didn’t seem like one of the best films ever.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Just like the cartoons it celebrates, there’s more going on here than you noticed as a kid. And fun stuff holds up.

The Wild Bunch. A western. Never sure where it was going. Had its moments–bridge, gun fights. About getting old. Or Vietnam. Or something.

When Harry Met Sally. The best funniest sweetest romantic comedy ever made. When Billy starts running I want to cry. I must be getting old.

With a Friend Like Harry. Clues you have a bad friend: kills your parents; kills your brother; then wife & little girls? Oh, spoiler alert.

Treadmill Films 91-99

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How to Train Your Dragon 2. Funny. Great action scenes. Cool dragons. Good is more powerful than evil. Still . . . Tasty but empty calories.

Terminator. Best 80s/Arnold/action/horror/time-paradox/stop-motion-animation/quotable-lines/Linda-Hamilton-rocking-the-mom-jeans movie EVAR!

Risky Business. Man, we were self-centered in the 80s. Bit sad. Film’s still funny. And I’m reworking calendar so kids are never home alone.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Surprisingly: steroids not really that bad for you. Less so: ignorance, hypocrisy & corruption in U.S. government.

Tangerine. Loved the pacing, dialog, music and cast. Funny, sad, hopeful. Sex isn’t a cure for loneliness. We can do better. We often don’t.

Marley. Compelling doc on an intriguing dude. Much here I didn’t know (all of it). And then I listened to his music for three days straight.

Los Angeles Plays Itself. Good if a bit lengthy essay on L.A. in film. Film, architecture, police and class discussions pretty interesting.

The Act of Killing. How to deal with guilt: Denial, justification, be a moron. What’s scary: They’re not monsters. They’re people. Like us.

Exit Through the Gift Shop. Real or not, this film, the artists and their art are fascinating whether trying to make a statement or a buck.