[Beware of SPOILERS]: If you’re watching Soul today, please respond to a notion I posted on 11.29.20, to wit: Soul betrays its audience by (a) encouraging them to identify with and believe in Joe Gardner‘s long-denied dream about becoming a jazz musician instead of a frustrated middle-school music teacher, only to (b) pull the rug out on Joe’s dream in Act Three and end things with Joe feeling uncertain about what he really wants to do with his remaining time on earth. Possibly jazz, possibly teaching…who knows?
Repeating: And what of our jazz-loving protagonist changing his mind at the last minute so he can save Tina Fey’s “22”? I hated that. A major audience betrayal.
I didn’t hate that he cared for and wanted to save 22, of course, but his whole big dream is to escape the perceived mediocrity of being a middle-school music teacher. We’re encouraged to identify with his quest to become a real musician and to share the joy of being in the groove.
And then, after interminable delays, temporary blockages and goofy complications, he finally gets to play with the hot jazz group. And finally, all is well.
But then Joe changes his mind! He decides to go back to the celestial nether realm to “save” 22 from her hellish deflated existence, and in so doing sacrifices (according to the Great Before rules) his own chance at life.
And THEN the Picasso-like powers-that-be decide to bend the rules because he’s inspired them.
And THEN when he’s back on planet earth Joe is STILL not sure what really matters to him. Will he continue to gig with the jazz group? Or will he embrace his full-tine teaching job? He’s not sure, but one thing he’s ABSOLUTELY sure of is that he’s going to treasure each & every day of his life from then on.
In short, Soul is all over the place. It doesn’t know itself, can’t make up its mind, can’t finally decide what Joe wants. Deciding to save 22 is obviously a selfless and generous act of love, but generally speaking that kind of fundamental either-or choice (fulfill your destiny or make someone else’s life complete) is rarely if ever something that any of us have to face.
Our basic task is to figure out what we really love and then, if we’re lucky or extra-willful, make it happen on our own steam (or not).
Many most of us never find inspirational love (a creative calling matched with the talent to bring it off) and just settle into lives of mezzo-mezzo mediocrity.
Yes, the best of those leading semi-mediocre lives discover that feeling and showing real love (caring more for the happiness of a wife or a child than your own) can add a dimensional glow to life. But for those of us lucky enough to find a great creative passion or calling, it’s all-consuming — a demanding but glorious taskmaster.
Posted on 1.22.20: I didn’t listen to Bill Maher’s 1.17 visit to the Joe Rogan Experience (#1413) until last night. Watch or listen away, but it doesn’t get really good until 52:56 when Rogan says we’re all living “in such a strange time.” Here’s an mp3 that I captured, and here’s a partial transcript.
Maher: “I feel at times, and I’m sure you do too, like a man without a country. There’s a group of us — Sam Harris, people you’ve had on, Jordan Peterson, Bari Weiss. We’re all progressives, but sensible progressives. Real progressives — not blindly ideological. And we don’t chase these virtue signallers who are always…as a friend of mine said, they wake up offended.
“And I am always reading a story — like daily — I read something, and what goes through my mind is that this country is now completely binary. Two camps, totally trible. You’re either red or blue. Liberal or conservative. And you have to own anything that anyone says from your side. People go “oh, you’re the party of…” So whenever there’s something on the left that’s cuckoo krazy, we all own it.
“And that’s one reason why Trump won. Because when you go through the polling, people [in the right-leaning middle and the right] are not oblivious to his myriad flaws. What they love about him…what they all say they love is that he isn’t politically correct. It’s hard to measure how much people have been choking on political correctness. They do not want to walk on eggshells. They don’t want to think that one little misstep and they’ll get fired, get castigated.
“These are not just famous people but regular people. And I think when someone reads stories [about this syndrome], and it’s an eye-roll. An eye-roll at the left. That’s when you lose people.
“Two weeks ago the N.Y. Giants, my football team, cut Janoris Jenkins because he used the “r” word. Do we have to say the “r” word? [“Retard”] He was cut from the team. First he said ‘I though it was a ‘hood thing.’ Maybe Jinoris Jenkins didn’t get the memo. Because he’s not on Twitter 24/7 and living with the wokesters, that you don’t do this anymore. There’s no room any more for someone just to say ‘oh, I didn’t realize…sorry, my bad’ and then move on with our lives. No — you’re cancelled, you’re cut, you’re irredeemable. And it’s ridiculous.
“And every day there’s some story like that, and it just all goes into the left wing bin, and that’s when people go, ‘You know what? Trump’s an asshole and I don’t like him but I don’t want to live in that [woke punitive] world. Because these [woke] people are even fucking crazier.’ And that is the great danger [that may lead] to reelecting [Trump]. And he very well may do it.”
Posted on 1.25.20: All I’m hearing from people on the Sundance ’20 beat so far is “duds”,” “wait until Monday or Tuesday”, “nobody’s really flipped for anything yet,” “nothing better than a B” and so on.
The general feeling I’m getting is (a) “we want to be as enthusiastic and attuned as possible to whatever people are seeing or talking about” and/or (b) “we certainly don’t want to post any flatline responses to films that others are digging or getting off on on some level, as that would indicate we don’t get it and therefore might not return to Sundance next year.”
Who can be trusted? Is there anyone up there with a Hollywood Elsewhere-type attitude? Anyone who constantly struggles with his/her negative feelings about wokesters and has to really fight to tap out fair-minded reviews because they don’t want to sound too toxic or dismissive? What critics or columnists can be semi-reliably counted upon to not swim with the school of little fishies? Who’s most likely to write “take it or leave it but this is what I think about a Sundance film that everyone is giving a pass to or flipping out for”?
My basic reaction to Team Indiewire so far is one of absolute distance. I don’t trust a single word they’re saying about any film debuting in Park City. I believe they’re in the tank for just about anything and everything, and if they have a less-than-enthusiastic response they’ll downplay or muffle it as much as possible.
In my mind Indiewire is basically Woke Pravda — an organ of the p.c. commentariat that hands out approval notices based largely on WHAT a movie is saying as opposed to HOW it is saying it.
Tell me I’m misguided or prejudiced against them and that I need to hit reset and flush my head out.
I really hate critics who seem determined to smile all the time and radiate as much positivity as they can at all times, and have rarely if ever posted a mezzo-mezzo review of anything, much less a pan. I’m thinking of one critic in particular who smiles so much she makes my own facial muscles ache. A determination to be relentlessly positive and borderline euphoric about damn near everything is much, much worse than having a generally negative attitude.
All this aside, I remain hopeful, based on the last 25 or 26 years of attending Sundance, that four or five worthwhile films will have emerged by next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Posted on 1.29.20: Bernie Sanders’ recent poll surges have me worried and thinking something I never thought I’d admit to myself, much less post in this column. I’m deathly afraid of what might happen if the devotional blues, Bernie Bros and under-30s manage to enable Bernie to capture the Democratic nomination. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but for all his gaffes, droolings, weaknesses and vulnerabilities I want Joe Biden to beat Bernie.
And I really don’t feel much enthusiasm for Joe. Does anyone?
I realize that my favorite guy, Pete Buttigieg, is done, but I’m furious that the race has come down to this. Neither of these geezers has that magic-wandy current. People don’t want a crusty Democratic socialist trying (and almost certainly failing) to push through Medicare For All — they just want a return to sanity and normality. Buttigieg could be that “normal” but he’s been gored so many times by African Americans and the progressive left that it’s a miracle he’s still standing.
I agree with Bernie for the most part. People want change. I would love to see this country turn into Finland. But I’m terrified of what’s happening now.
From “Democrats court doom by backing Bernie Sanders,” a 1./29 USA Today piece by Matt Bennett and Lanae Erickson:
Subhead: “[Sanders’] ideas are toxic outside blue America. He’s never won anything that really matters outside of Vermont, and all the available data shows his brand is a flop in red and purple states.
Excerpt: “Sanders has never won anything that really matters outside of Vermont, and all the available data shows that his ideas are politically toxic. Yet a week before primary voting begins, he is surging in Iowa, New Hampshire and California.
“Democrats now face a monumental choice. Deciding which presidential candidate should go head to head with Donald Trump is the paramount political calculation of our lifetimes.
“In the past, when Sanders has declared himself and his ideas to be ‘winners’ in red and purple areas, it has turned out to be demonstrably false. Democrats must not be fooled by him now.
Plus: “Don’t ignore reality: Democrats need to face facts about Bernie Sanders, his heart attack and his health.”
Text from Santa Barbara friendo: “Hey, cranky Jeff – ghost from Christmas Future here. All is going to be okay. You are loved. You’ve got Tatiana by your side. Count your blessings instead of sheep. To paraphrase good ole Mary Tyler Moore, ‘You’re gonna make it after all.’ Love and Merry Christmas.”
“It’s a moderately diverting sequel. That means it’s also a distinct drop down from the 2017 origin story” — Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips. 59% Metacritic, 70% Rotten Tomatoes
I tried to find a cat-sized Santa hat for Anya, but failed. Tatiana found one online, but it won’t arrive until Monday. Yes, I know — I look like Captain Idiot.
Help! has been out on Bluray for six or seven years, but for some dumb reason you aren’t allowed to stream it as a rental. It’s a moderately bad film — just not worth owning. Someone needs to explain why director Richard Lester insisted on a 1.75 aspect ratio for the Criterion Hard Day’s Night Bluray, but waved nonchalantly at Help! being presented at 1.66:1.
“I realize, looking back, how advanced it was. It was a precursor to the Batman ‘Pow! Bam! Wow!’ on TV…that kind of stuff. But [Richard Lester] never explained it to us. Partly, maybe, because we hadn’t spent a lot of time together between A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and partly because we were smoking marijuana for breakfast during that period. Nobody could communicate with us, it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time. In our own world. It’s like doing nothing most of the time, but still having to rise at 7 am, so we became bored.” — John Lennon. “If you look at pictures of us you can see a lot of red-eyed shots; they were red from the dope we were smoking. And these were those clean-cut boys! Dick Lester knew that very little would get done after lunch. In the afternoon we very seldom got past the first line of the script. We had such hysterics that no one could do anything. It was just that we had a lot of fun…a lot of fun in those days.” — Ringo Starr.
The elegant “Slim” Keith (1917-1990) was in fact quite slim in her 1930s and ’40x heyday; somewhat less so from the mid ’50s onward. Slim was the inspiration for the classic Hawksian woman — sly, bluntly spoken, takes no guff. This shot was apparently snapped in the early ’40s, a year or two into her eight-year marriage to Howard Hawks (’41 to ’49). Slim and Hawks split over infidelity — i.e., his.
Taken outside Lennon’s home in Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, during the recording of “Imagine.”
The appropriate headline is “Wretched Slimy Bedbugs.”