Film Review Podcast: “The Kominsky Method”

Posted: November 29th, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

You know how some time you see a movie or a TV series, and, after watching a bit, you say to yourself, that character or those characters, I’m just like them?

Happens every so often.

And it did with me, when I checked out the new Netflix series, “The Kominsky Method.”

Which sweet endeavor features Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas as a couple of alter cockers, dealing with those issues which come with that territory.

If you want more specifics, listen to my podcasted review, or just watch the series.

Anyway, I personally loved it. Partially because I related so much with the two characters. But also because it’s excellently done, and it is eminently endearing and entertaining.

Not as out there as the Larry David Show, with which it shares some elements. Just daily interaction of a couple old pals coping with the exigencies of their well worn lives as pals.

For more, listen up:

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“A Simple Favor”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 16th, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

It is generally a good thing when mystery/ mysterious disappearance/ murder mystery films makes some sense. When some hint of plausibility exists as the plots unfolds. A hole here and there in the scheme of things is OK, unless it’s totally out of sync with the evolution of the events portrayed.

Films of that genre without a sense of cogency rarely work.

But, as the Anna Kendrick/ Blake Lively-starring “A Simple Favor” proves, a preposterous scenario can still be entertaining . . . somewhat.

Which, I guess I’m admitting, is that I stayed with this movie to the end, despite plot developments best described as farfetched.

The ladies become besties because their sons are school pals. One’s a nerd. One’s enigmatic. The latter disappears.

Developments both absurd and inconsistent come forth.

The scenery remains marvelous. The players, the above ladies and Henry Golding, are pretty and charismatic.

I’ve spent worse two hours at the cineplex.

For more, listen up:

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Two Lady Shouters Extraordinaire: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: August 9th, 2018 | Filed under: Music, Ruminations | 2 Comments »

One of the great uses of rock & roll in a movie soundtrack — my personal favorite — comes in Martin Scorcese’s portion of the otherwise forgettable three short films released as one feature in 1989, “New York Stories.”

I frankly have no recollection of what Woody Allen’s “Oedipus Wrecks” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “Life Without Zoe” portions of the film trio are about. And have but faint recollection of Scorcese’s contribution titled “Life Lessons.”

Except for this one scene.

Nick Nolte’s an artist who has taken comely Rosanna Arquette, twenty years his junior, under his wing to teach her, understand, “life lessons.” To be his, uh, muse, giving lip service to the development of a deep and meaningful relationship. Truth be told, as best as I recall, what he wants is for her to be available as a hot young thing on his arm at gallery openings and be around when he’s ready for the down and dirty.

I forget the details, but that’s the gist of it. Their relationship is tempestuous. To say the least.

Finally there’s a breach. Either he sends her packing. Or she stomps out after telling him she’s had enough.

He’s in his studio, where the showdown played out, pissed, full of sexual frustration, and intent on working out his roiling anger on canvas.

Before grabbing his brush and palette, he punches his paint splattered cassette boom box to Play.

Here’s what blasts from the speaker, the perfect song for the moment. Read the rest of this entry »


“Sharp Objects”: TV Review Podcast

Posted: July 27th, 2018 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, Ruminations | No Comments »

I don’t know about you, but through the years, more often than not I’ve taken to spending the last hours of the weekend with whatever usually splendid offering is on HBO.

Turns out this summer is no different.

On Sunday nights, it’s a multi-layered dark and murky tale that’s playing.

“Sharp Objects.”

Amy Adams, compelling as always, is Camille, a St. Louis reporter with issues. She’s sent by her editor back to the hometown of her unhappy youth in search of the story of a couple of teenaged girls gone missing.

Camille is forced to confront small town gossip, her troubled past, and the seriously strained relationship with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), while trying to track down stories to send back to her paper.

Lots of vodka. Lots of flashbacks. Lots of stuff left out for the viewer to figure out for him or herself.

For more, listen up:

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“Sorry To Bother You”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: July 15th, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

Boots Riley’s first foray into film, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, is so provocative, so hilarious, so off the charts, it is difficult to describe.

Let’s just say you’ve never seen anything quite like it. I know I haven’t.

There are films that come to mind, but their only similarity is the extent to which their creativity comes to the fore. “Inside John Malkovich.” “Putney Swope.” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

But the mention of those may be a disservice, since “Sorry To Bother You” has its own intriguing pushing of the envelope.

On its face, it’s about a guy just trying to make it in the world, and finds a niche as a telemarketer. But that doesn’t come close to giving you any idea how many directions this thing goes in. Or how funny and thought provoking it is.

It’s my favorite film of the year, so you might actually listen to the podcast, in which I attempt to give more info.

Either way, it has my stamp of approval, such as that is.

Audio MP3

“Mystery Train”: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: June 7th, 2018 | Filed under: Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

If contemplating the origins of rock & roll, the music that delivered a haymaker to Eisenhower’s America in the mid 50s, one can never stray too far from Elvis.

Soon enough after Dewey Phillips big reveal on WHBQ560, and his forsaking of that job at Crown Electric, the undisputed King of Rock & Roll was leading the charge around the globe, where back-beated shots to the solar plexus jolted pop culture for the good and the forever.

The airwaves were freed at last. In rushed Little Richard, shouting rockers about the trannies of rural Ga., Lieber and Stoller acolytes with tales of unsoiled young lasses with yellow ribbons in their hair, and the Killer with balls aflame. No longer just “race music” as it was then dubbed, the real stuff raced over from the WLOUs on the edges of the dial into pure, unadultered, transistorized WAKYness.

It was more than a bit prescient that the impresario of 706 Union Ave 38103, Sun Studio’s major-domo Sam Phillips — no blood relation to DJ Dewey — was adamant that the young Mr. Presley cover Junior Parker’s enigmatic “Mystery Train” not long before the boss man sold E’s contract to RCA for pocket change. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest Day Deux: Sona, Hora, Aurora & Fats

Posted: April 29th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

Though I didn’t realize it then, my affinity to New Orleans music dates back to my first 45s, which I listened to on a $19.95 record player I bought with my own earned money at Ben Snyder’s Department Store, and my second LP my grandparents bought me at a shop in Detroit.

I had more of Fats Domino’s Imperial singles than any other of the Founding Fathers. And that LP was also Fats. (The first was Little Richard, also a gift from Grandpa Max & Grandma Tillie.)

I guess I realized, even in junior high, that Fats was from New Orleans, but it wasn’t until years later that I discovered we share the same birthday.

I was fortunate to hear him back when, and several times at Fest, including his last gig of consequence here, what, ten years ago or so, when he played the big stage, reunited with long time collaborator Dave Bartholomew for the first time in decades. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest Day #1: Sidi, Samantha, Flutes, Fiddles & Tres Hombres

Posted: April 28th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

My favorite t-shirt of the day is as good a place to start as any.

While walking in my direction the clean shaven, apparently pretty middle of the road kind of fellow, saw something in the crowd that brought a bemused smirk  to his face. It was obvious he was, like all, having a great time, reveling in his presence at Fest and soaking in the scene.

In black Times Courier on his plain white t-shirt, it read, “Not In The Office.”

Which was akin to my thoughts earlier on a gloriously temperate, humidity-free opening day. At 12:17 when the sun was high, Breaux Bridge’s Yvette Landry and her contingent, including a boffo pedal steel guy and fiddler Beau Thomas, took the Fais Do Do stage.

A big down beat kicked off their suitably rockin’ cover of Wanda Jackson’s classic.

“I never kissed a bear/ I never kissed a goose/ But I can shake a chicken in the middle of the room/ Let’s Have A Party.” Read the rest of this entry »


Reckless Road Trip to JazzFest

Posted: April 25th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Food, Ruminations | 3 Comments »

I could have jammed all the way through to New Orleans in one day. I’ve done it many a time. But that’s when I was younger and my piss and vinegar levels were higher.

So I had a res at one of these generic interstate service area motels, the ones that keep their lights on for you, even if the baseboards are falling away from the plastic wallpaper. And I was getting close to it and Meridian, home of Jimmie Rodgers, and couldn’t decide whether to be prudent, stop, get a good night’s rest and finish up on the morrow as planned? Or, put the pedal to the metal and sleep under the Crescent City’s yellow moon yellow moon?

That’s when I noticed that I, with a penchant for mph in the 80s, was trundling along at 56 miles per hour.

Taking the internal hint, I figured it was best to stop, pulled off, cruised by Cracker Barrel and Applebee’s and into the parking lot of my fully laminated hostel. There will be no late night snacking at Café du Monde this evening.

And then a weird trip got more furshlungener. Read the rest of this entry »


Crescent City is Calling My Name

Posted: April 19th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 4 Comments »

Am I obsessed?

Well, I guess.

Thus, truth is I really didn’t need the first t-shirt. At least not “now” which is when I wanted it and got it about the time of the Cubes reveal.

Nor the second one the initial one begat, thanks to digital marketing. At the very least I could have waited until my annual visit down to New Orleans, now less than a week away. Then I could have checked out Dirty Coast, the store selling them, unencumbered by these previous purchases. Which, frankly, won’t be weighing on my mind if there’s some other Crescent City-centric tchotchke or item of apparel that grabs my attention.

The first shirt is a mash up of New Orleans street names, done up like one of those charts at the ophthalmologist’s office that you’re ordered to view with one eye closed and read the smallest letters you can.

If you’ve ever spent any time around and about in the town, you couldn’t have missed that the street names aren’t just a step or three beyond Market, Main and Shady Lane, but venture into a whole different dimension.

If you’ve ever smiled as a first time visitor tries to pronounce Tchoupitoulas when asking directions from the hotel concierge, you know what I mean.

(It’s chop-ah-too-luss. Remember, this is a town where many thoroughfares are named for Greek muses, but you’d never suspect, even if forced to study Greek somewhere along the way that Calliope Street would be pronounced kal-eee-ope.) Read the rest of this entry »


“The Death of Stalin”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: April 2nd, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

When it comes to scathing, incisive and truly hilarious political satire, Armando Iannucci sits at the top of the heap, the master of masters.

2009’s “In the Loop,” a film about British and American pols and military folks trying to figure out whether to go to war or not and how to manage it, was my first exposure. It was so obsessively funny, I kept thinking who thought this stuff up?

Armando Iannucci, that’s whom.

If you’ve ever chortled over HBO’s “Veep,” know that he’s one of those most responsible for that spot on take on D.C. political machinations. (Incidentally, he wrote a fabulous op ed piece recently in the Washington Post, explaining why the current administration is bad for the political satire biz, because what’s actually going on is beyond believability, too absurd, would be dismissed if fiction as bad comedy.)

Well, he’s back and biting and entertaining as ever. The premise this time — take your seats — is the wackiness that might have ensued inside the Kremlin when dictator Josef Stalin died.

Really? Really.

Come on now, Steve Buscemi, Brooklyn accent and all, as Khrushchev. Is your appetite whetted? Well, it should be.

One line zingers are ever present. There is physical slapstick.

The ensemble cast is marvelous, portraying all your faves from that poli sci class in Soviet history. Beria. Molotov. Malenkov, Field Marshall Zhukov.

“The Death of Stalin” is wise. It is insightful. And it’s a hoot.

For more, listen up:

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“The Deuce”: David Simon Returns with Another Winner

Posted: September 12th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Ruminations, TV | 1 Comment »

Back in the day, a musician pal played a couple of gigs with an ersatz rock & roll band up I-65 from Louisville, in the less than Biblical Nimrod Room of an otherwise closed hotel in Seymour, Indiana.

“Come on up,” he implored, “there’s lots of local ladies.”

While flirting with one, the city of Columbus somehow popped up in the conversation.

“I’ve been to Columbus,” she bragged.

After chiming in that I’d been to several Ohio State football games that fall, it turned out she was talking about Columbus, Indiana, a few miles up the road from Seymour.

Perspective. With that one revelation, I understood the difference in our life experiences, the relatively limited expanse of her world.

In the details, there is to be learned much of a person’s personality and world view.

It is just such subtle, telling instances that make David Simon’s TV work so fulfilling. Usually always for the better, but sometime not, Simon immerses the viewer in the culture he’s talking about, giving the plotline context. The characters, personalities, foibles, humanity are constantly being revealed; they are given dimension. Read the rest of this entry »