Mother! Hard to track at first … and then fascinating

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I see where the media that caters to and to a certain extent is supported by an audience of devout and literal-minded Christian believers have stepped to the forefront waving a flag of religious offendedness at the message of this spectacularly intriguing, fascinating and thought-provoking film.

I went to see Mother! because my beautiful lady had read about it and wanted to see it. I knew nothing about the film, had never heard of it, and expected – oh, I don’t know, perhaps some sort of Mommy Dearest or Flowers in the Attic or some such melodrama.

It took about 20 minutes for me to involve myself in what I saw as slow-moving action and unfolding. Had I realized from the get-go that I was about to see a powerful metaphor of an assortment of moral ecological and religious themes defined by human behavior, I might have picked up on all the clues early on and found myself anticipating a predictable outcome.

It didn’t happen that way. After those 20 minutes or so I found myself intensely tracking every word of dialogue, camera angles, indoor and outdoor views while attempting to mentally cache each hint or clue and thereby foresee what would happen. Such a process led me to an intuited notion that the meaning and intent of the film was not hidden but layered.

Comparisons are being made to the public reaction to Martin Scorcese’s  The Last Temptation of Christ as a film to either love or hate. The mood engendered in me by Mother! reminded me of my mood when I watched The Witch (2015).

Love it or hate it as a film with a message rather than an endorsement of a cause or attack on a religion, if the film is so well done as to force you to actually WORK at picking up the metaphorical intent and message, it is a movie well made.

The “villains” in this film are none of the principal characters. The villains are in fact the almost mindless extras whose main function seems to be that of home invaders who show no respect for the protagonists or the home.

As we will probably see a furtherance of the amazing polarization between the religious,  the not-religious and the secular in the context of this film’s message, I point to the thin-skinned reaction to whoever challenges a cause or belief from both polarized points of view.

Remember the religious hysteria around the Da Vinci Code?

Remember the back and forth between the religious and nonreligious about the graphic violence of The Passion of the Christ, Mr. Gibson’s faith-driven homage to the Roman Catholic version of the crucifixion?

Those who want to offend will offend.

Those who look to be offended will be offended.

The media-who-sensationalize-for-money will eat it all up.

It’s probably an autumn preview of the War on Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guess where I went today?

Bolshoi Ballet in Video in U.S.

My wife Lietta wrote this on Facebook

I got to share this Special Holiday Treat with my mother, Joy today. It is one of my all time favorite holiday treats – it is magical!! Loved it. It was an extra treat to be able to share the magic with my mother.
Special thanks to my husband, Arthur for taking the driving risk – weather in Spokane has had us hunkered down in our home with frozen weather temperatures in single digits. Have enjoyed being snowed in with my husband. Curtailed several of our holiday events this season. It is all Good, all of it!

The last Lions’ Train Ride between Ione and Metalline Falls.

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My wife, Lietta, wrote the best description of our Sunday afternoon:

On the train, a moment in history for NE Washington. It is the last Lions Train Ride they will be offering from Ione, WA to Metaline Falls, WA after 32 years. A WW II veteran was our host on the train car, named for him, John’s Car, and he broke down in tears as he gave departing talk about history, his time with the annual train rides, and this being the last that the train would operate.

He explained that the engine and therefore the train cars would be taken away as the usual route the engine takes on the rail road tracks to Usk, WA to haul lumber – those railroad tracks were condemned. Too costly to be repaired.

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This is John, a long-time member of the Lion’s Club and, believe, has volunteered all 32 years of the Train Rides. A proud WWII Vet who gave us a tearful appreciation and farewell … very impressive gentleman, even if when in his all-business mode he threatened to smack me with his cane if I raised the window and stuck my head out while we were moving.

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Trestle overlooking Box Canyon Dam

Lion’s Club train ride along the Pend Oreille River to end after fall season

 

Hey … Don’t be messing with one of my favorite films!

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I don’t care if it was prophetic …

Back to the Future: Biff Tannen based on Donald Trump

There’s a very specific analog between Biff Tannen, the bully and bad guy in almost every timeline in Back to the Future Part II, and a certain political figure who is rather popular in the United States right now. He’s been handed the keys to fortune, he’s unrepentantly used that fortune exclusively for himself, and he’s even become a public advocate for plastic surgery for women in his family.

It is not hard to put two and two together.

So, Bob Gale—writer of Back to the Future Part II and man who helped predict the IMAX theater and the self-checkout line—in these past few months, were you thinking what we’re all thinking?

Or this:

This Video Transplants Trump Into the 1960 JFK vs. Nixon Debate, With Creepy Results

 

 

Left to our own devices

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The moment to moment of living …

Which is best, encounter with each moment according to a schedule or surprise at what happens next? What is there about routine that engenders a sense of secure stability or stable security while at the same time devolves routine into staleness?

What do devices for me? In this moment or out of this moment would I be able to experience the day without devices? Or, being addicted to my devices, would living in their absence drive me crazy?

There are implications then to the idea of being “left to one’s own devices.” I begin with a question, “which devices?” Mechanical devices we use to rule our days. Creative devices we use to nourish the heart. Is there a point past which we stop thinking about what we do, both mechanically and creatively? Past that point do we become mechanically mindless or creatively mindful?

Do boredom and melancholy dwell within the mindless? Is the mindful the only context where flourishes imagination and excitement? Does the mind have a locking device as part of its design? Or, do we install a locking device at some point when reason, passion and imagination are challenged by chattering scattered thoughts at the expense of contemplated ideas and the desire to find ways to express them?

Does thou mind pout when it doesn’t get its way, taking it out on the heart? Perhaps there’s more of a contest between entertainment and creativity. It is not difficult to find entertainment once one learns the means. It is however more challenging as well as satisfying to imagine a creative that also entertains. Entertains whom? Whomever … but first and foremost the entertainment and satisfaction of one’s self.

Such is when the heart parents the mind; the way things ought to be.

What is in the mind makes things possible. What is in the heart makes things worth it. If the mind is satisfied, the path to the possible remains open. The heart will not also be satisfied in the presence of the mind’s open path because the heart isn’t primarily about satisfaction. Rather, the heart’s purpose is the continuing powerful beating for aspects of beauty that can be imagine, expressed and brought to fruit in a variety of forms.

Devices then are or can be one’s friends. They may as good friends be in a closer relationship that one realizes. In some cases, close friends – such as drinking buddies – may never know when you’ve had too much. So long as you are imbibing they are supporting and participating in your consuming activity.

In other cases there are devices that are like loyal and trusted friends. In this mechanical and electronic age of friendship, trusted devices – from cars to refrigerators, to working tools, vacuum cleaners and the like – are what we trust to help us get things done. Another is the word processer with which I write this and it’s access to the Internet where research and questions with answers are almost without limits; a writer’s absolute necessity.

Then there are instrumental devices – in my case, the piano, the keyboard, music players that enhance the creative mood.

And there are devices for pure entertainment and information via films of all kinds and television.

What then about life with devices? Let them not be dominated by mind addicted to routine and struggling with boredom. Rather, let them best be utilized by the heart seeking expression through a venue of creativity and imagination.

Now you’re talkin! The more the merrier.

OK Everybody!! Try to look Presidential.

From Crooks and Liars website

Just hope the Dems can field as big a lineup.

Only in America can just any old body run for office and maybe become POTUS.

Mebbe I’ll throw my own hat into the ring too.

Vote Fer Me Cause I’m Tuff on Stuff

Course, I ain’t much at lookin Presidential” … but then again …

Let’s see … this would be 2016 Madness eh?

There’s this Sweet Sixteen that are in the bracket …

after a round or two there’ll be mebbe the Eloquent Eight …

then a round or two later … the Final Four …

then the Towering Two …

then the Crowned Candidate.

BTW, here’s something from that outfit back East usin my name wthout payin me royalties. Got a good campaign talkng point though.

This oughta get me into the Clown Car.

This oughta get me into the Clown Car.

Twinkle Toes: Sock-Hop Arthur escorts his Swan Lake Sweetheart to the Senior Center Dances

I was never trained to dance.

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I remember us boys being led into the gym when I was in grade school and taught to dance a waltz with  girls we didn’t want to touch but were told to grab one of their hands and put the other hand on her hip.


Then we all moved like stick robots counting to three over and over and stepping in some sort of box figure while listening to classical waltz music.

My sweetheart trained to dance.
We have at least one picture of her at an age between 8 and 11 on a stage and part of a line of beauties in lacey dresses posed in a graceful dance move with arms extended like delicate branches of a willow tree.

While I was perfunctorily taught to dance stick-like in a parody of the tin man movements in The Wizard of Oz, she was learning to prepare for essentially solo performances – even if in group formation – but involving no partner taking her hand, placing his other hand on her hip and driving her around a dance floor like one would push a wheel barrow.

So there we go … dancing for the first time in twenty years at one of the several senior centers we joined a couple of months ago.

Let me tell you about the Corbin Senior Center in Spokane

and their weekly Monday night dancing.


2-3 hours dancing to music of the 1940’s to 1990’s (but mostly the 50’s and 60’s) played by a professional two-person duo with one playing an electronic guitar and singing and the other playing an electronic keyboard and singing harmony.

Fast stuff, slow stuff, graceful couples who dance like they graduated from Arthur Murray ballroom dance class and others who dance like they learned it the way I did. Only difference is that after a while they don’t look like stick robots – which is exactly how I felt when I first wandered out on the floor (cause they played a slow one) and Sweetheart and I could dance slowly and leisurely and cheek-to-cheek like we both used to do 40 years ago in our separate high schools.
If the dancing music is faster, then … well …. there’s always what we used to call the Jitterbug which, when I was a boy, I learned to do by watching American Bandstand.

Back in the present and most of the quick-step stuff is from the 60’s and later, the slower waltzy stuff from earlier times or from a source I’ve never appreciated that much: Country and Western.

Regardless, after a while my Sweetheart and I (who in our twenty years together have done very little dancing) sort of figured out how to get comfortable … except for one thing.

If you tell an Idaho farm kid all grown up to grab a ballet-trained dancer and drive her around the floor like you’d push a wheel barrow, yer askin fer trouble.

She learned to dance SOLO performance stuff. She never learned to follow a wheel-barrow driver’s lead … but –

Well, when she’s moving jerkily in almost a parody of the stick-movements I learned in the 4the grade,  I’m assuming that it is not because she never learned how to be led, but that I’m just a rural kid whose grace and movement can’t compare to her flowing and stylish movement.

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And I ain’t exaggerating. I remember the first time I saw her work in the kitchen when she invited me fer supper. Now, when I pull dishes down from the cupboard or put them into the cupboard I do it directly and almost roughly like I was bucking hay bales.

Not my Sweetheart. She reaches up to the cupboard and touches a plate lovingly and gracefully as if she were carefully plucking a leaf or planting it back on the  branch.  And her posture is right out of a museum where a beautifully sculpted woman looks like she’s … oh you know.

So we’re on the Senior Center dance floor and she’s moving jerkily because she’s trying to follow my lead and you can almost hear her counting the steps in her head as she tries to move in tandem with me … which ain’t no easy task since my old high school habit of dancing came back alive as soon as I had to start dancing.

Finally she tells me that she doesn’t know how to follow that well cause she didn’t dance much couple dancing in her previous life – mostly the rock and roll stuff of the late sixties and seventies.

Well don’t that beat all … she’s graceful and old Club Foot Jackson isn’t aware that the problem is not just his big feet.

Then she tells me that during one song when we changed partners with another couple at our table, the guy dancing with her told her she was always trying to lead.

Well … we’re working on it. We do well together and each dance session seems more fun that the previous.

One more thing … my Sweetheart absolutely does not want me to do my “chicken thing” which is what she calls it when we are jitterbugging and I go solo for a moment moving my hips, raising my elbows to shoulder height and start waving them while jazzing around in circles.

Wolf Dancers and the Toughest Pawnee

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First of a series of articles where I don’t have to make money doing the reviews, get to back-seat drive the criticisms, monday-morning criticize the criticizers.

Cause I’m talking about my favorite movies.

We don’t do much broadcast TV nowadays for a couple of reasons. What we seem to get whether it’s a few major broadcast channels or 150+ cable channels is not much more than a tasking of sifting through 97 % of them as different flavors of the same koolaid.

No sense spending cable money when our Roku lets us catch up of the same things at a rate of $0 after the less-than-$100 outlay for equipment and a mere $7.98 monthly for Hulu. Throw in our already cheap live stream account at Netflix (and-a-one-DV-at-a-time option for stuff not found live-streamed online) and the annual prime membership at Amazon and our flat screen serves quite well as mini-theater in our living room.

Among other specific interests we like historical-based stuff from documentaries, historical docu-dramas and movies based on actual historical events we are easily lured.

Which brings me to today’s pensitivity: What do we learn and how are our perceptions impacted by dramatic (with massive doses of dramatic license) fictional portrayals of history intended to sell tickets more than educate a society addicted to entertainment?

Dances With Wolves

When I go to the movies I expect to be entertained. Dances was entertainment – my kind of entertainment; what I like to watch; how I like to be carried away so I can enter into the mystery of the tale … and that’s what fiction, video or otherwise, is.

It ain’t no dang classroom. So Dances was worth the price of the ticket. Now what did the reviewers say and how do I respond?

The Austin Chronicle:

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 6, 1991
Despite its incongruity in today’s entertainment marketplace, Dances With Wolves is an audacious gamble that succeeds; it’s an old-fashioned movie with a smart, contemporary perspective. The film’s politically correct repudiation of the familiar black-and-white characterizations of the white and red man is ultimately undermined, however, when the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. As director, actor, and producer, Costner has risked his secured bankability and come out a winner.

Reading that is like watching a football game while sitting with and listening to the constant prattle of the guy who built the megatron. He ain’t interested in the game, more the performance of the scoreboard.

New York Times:

The exact place is never stated. This is the mythic American West. Because the film was shot largely on magnificent locations in South Dakota, it can be assumed to be the Dakota Territory, where, just a few years later, in 1876, Gen. George Armstrong Custer was to have his fatal encounter with the Sioux in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

“Dances With Wolves” is by way of being a rationale for the ferocity of the fate that awaited Custer and his men.

Yeah so? I guess that’s what reviewers do, describe the action like football announcers who feel they have to add anecdotes and background bio stories in order for that last long pass to make sense.

But then there weren’t no Custer or no 7th Cavalry. From a story telling standpoint the movie didn’t need to allude to June 1876 and the Little Big Horn. It wasn’t about that.

Mr. Blake’s screenplay and Mr. Costner’s direction of it are, with the exception of three memorable sequences, commonplace. The film is painstakingly composed of small details of frontier and tribal life that should be riveting. Most of the time they aren’t.

Well hell … how can I enter into the story and be able to imagine I’m walking, riding and fighting with the characters without non-riveting details of frontier and tribal life? What does it mean to be riveting?

Perhaps within the genre (I can’t believe I used that milquetoast word) riveting means Dunbar has to have a handlebar mustache, chew tobacco, and sleep with his horse. The Lakota have to tie prisoners to wagon wheels or on ant piles and talk in sloppy American pidgin (another milquetoast word) rather than clearly and intelligently in the real thing.

What the hell does riveting have to do with feeling of being in on the action?

Though the details are specific (about, among other things, the Sioux rules for mourning the dead), they are presented in the perfunctory way of generalized statements in guidebooks.

I didn’t see, hear or understand them in any perfunctory way. But who am I? Maybe this reviewer is telling me I should have gone to the library BEFORE seeing the movie rather than being excited to search out the most non-riveting details that still captured my attention.

The Civil War battle sequence that opens the film is a beauty. There is another fine, almost Ambrose Bierce-like vignette involving a shell-shocked Union officer Dunbar meets as he is traveling west.

There ya go… if only I had seen or heard the words, “Ambrose Bierce-like vignette” in a trailer, maybe I’d gone to see the movie more excitedly and earlier than when I eventually got around to it.

The film’s buffalo stampede is stunning.

Awe shucks, every buffalo stampede I saw in all the westerns I’ve watched have been stunning in one way or another since at an early age I knew there weren’t enough buffalo to create even half a stampede.

Once Dunbar has taken up with the Sioux and starts strutting around with a feather stuck in his hair, the movie teeters on the edge of Boy’s Life literature, that is, on the brink of earnest silliness.

This Sioux camp not only looks as neat as a hausfrau’s pin, but also unlived-in. It’s a theme-park evocation, without rude odors to offend the sensitive nostril.

They say that those who can’t write become critics. This NY Times reviewer doesn’t appear to be able to write riveting stuff that doesn’t sound snobbish, posturingly intellectual and milquetoast as hell.

Rather, I can close my eyes and see one of my favorite all time fictional characters, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, strutting into the Times building, teetering on the edge of the Godwulf Manuscript (look it up) and throwing the reviewer out the window on said reviewer’s sensitive nostril.

Now Roger Ebert, on the other hand, knows how to write about fiction from an emotional space.

They meet at first in the middle of the prairie, holding themselves formally and a little awkwardly, the cavalry officer and Sioux Indians.

There should be instant mistrust between them, but they take each other’s measure and keep an open mind. A civilized man is a person whose curiosity outweighs his prejudices, and these are curious men.

They know no words of each other’s languages. Dunbar, the white man, tries to pantomime a buffalo. Wind in His Hair, a fierce warrior, looks at the charade and says, “His mind is gone.” But Kicking Bird, the holy man, thinks he understands what the stranger is trying to say, and at last they exchange the word for “buffalo” in each other’s languages.

That’s the best wordage ever to describe my reactions from the get-go when Dunbar gets to his post while the Civil War continues receding in both actual distance and mental awareness. This is a story … and I’ve always liked stories even when I couldn’t tell why classics were classics. For example, I had to read Silas Marner in high school and that was like eating sand one spoonful at a time. Guess I’m more of an action-adventure kind of guy.

But then, Dances had to set the stage before the action (except for that ride across the battlefield in the opener and “Don’t take my foot!”

Ebert:
As Dunbar discovers the culture of the Sioux, so do we. The Indians know the white man is coming, and they want to learn more about his plans. They have seen other invaders in these parts: the Spanish, the Mexicans, but they always left. Now the Indians fear the white man is here to stay. They want Dunbar to share his knowledge, but at first he holds back. He does not wish to discourage them. And when he finally tells how many whites will be coming (“As many as the stars in the sky”), the words fall like a death knell.

So do we … constantly throughout the film … so do we … I don’t care how precise the authenticity was. I care that the characters, their context and nature all fit within the fictional paradigm of the story.

There are some of the plot points we would expect in a story like this.
The buffalo hunt (thrillingly photographed).
A bloody fight with a hostile tribe. (I noticed that among the cast of actors and characters, Wes Studi was only identified as “The Toughest Pawnee.”)
The inevitable love story between Dunbar and Stands With a Fist.

But all is done with an eye to detail, with a respect for tradition, and with a certain sweetness of disposition. The love story is especially delicate; this isn’t one of those exercises in romantic cliche, but a courtship conducted mostly through the eyes, through these two people looking at one another.

There is a delicate, humorous sequence showing how the tribe observes and approves of the romance, when Kicking Bird’s wife, Black Shawl tells her husband it is time for Stands With a Fist to stop mourning her dead husband and accept this new man into her arms.

Meanwhile, we get to know many members of the Sioux tribe, most especially Kicking Bird, Wind in His Hair and the old wise chief, Ten Bears .

The effort made by Costner and crew to create multiple-dimensional characters was notable. The more you felt that each character had more to tell you, the more immersed in the story you became.

Ebert then describes the creative in crafting believable fictional characters and circumstances.

Each has a strong personality; these are men who know exactly who they are, and at one point, after Dunbar has killed in battle beside them, he realizes he never knew who “John Dunbar” was but he knows who Dances With Wolves is.

The futility he felt on his suicidal day as a Union officer has been replaced by utter clarity: He knows why he was fighting, and he knows why he was willing to risk losing his life.

Dances was one of the earliest rebuttals of what perhaps entertained me but also mislead me as a child as I wide-eyed my way through Roy Rogers and Randolph Scott while munching Red Hots, Big Hunks and Junior Mints at the small theater in my Idaho home town.

Ebert again:

Now he (Costner) has realized his dream again by making one of the best Westerns I’ve seen. The movie makes amends, of a sort, for hundreds of racist and small-minded Westerns that went before it. By allowing the Sioux to speak in their own tongue, by entering their villages and observing their ways, it sees them as people, not as whooping savages in the sights of an Army rifle.

I miss westerns … not Randolph and Roy, but more thoughtful pieces. I suppose I miss the stereotypes too, in many respects. One stereotype, however, for me has a good riddance sense to it: Hollywood Indians.

Thirty years ago I picked up a copy of Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and realized I was reading American History as it should have always been presented and wasn’t. As I’ve said before, the kind of history I can relate to is best found in Howard Zinn’s histories.

History was taught in our country as a serious of guidebook reports on war, dates and judicial decisions rather than portrayals into which you could imaginatively enter the life experiences of heroes like Lewis and Clark.

Brown’s book wasn’t war, dates and judges. Not too far into it as I went back to the library and chased some of the references (this was prior to the laziness of internet searching) I was able to say in both anger and shame, one of my early western heroes, George A. Custer, was not that … as was said before me, he had it coming.

Other aspects of Hollywood westerns have redefined many of its most common cliches.This is more than glorifying anti-hero types made common by Clint Eastwood. It has to do with making more believable and conflicted cowboys, gunfighters and outlaws. Eastwood in Unforgiven as compared to Josey Wales works for me. Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn is more believable (can’t believe I used that word) than John Wayne’s.

Along with films like Dances and Into the West, those are the westerns I miss.

Next: Into The West (TNT and Steven Spielberg)