Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wild and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

                “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!  I’m walkin’ here!”  Ratzo Rizzo
                                                                                          Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
                                                Review by Ken Burke
                                                                           Wild (Jean-Marc Vallee)

Another dramatized biography, this one of Cheryl Strayed’s 1995 many-miles journey in the wilderness in an attempt to find meaning in her life after a series of tragedies.
      A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amipour)
In a fictionalized Iran, a young-adult female vampire dispenses quiet justice in a rough town where she meets up with a troubled young human man longingly attracted to her.

[Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ superbly insightful reviews.  This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.

We also encourage you to check your tastes against ours with the summary of Two Guys reviews, which we update with each new posting (please note that Two Guys critic Ken Burke is a bit odd—in more ways than one—using a 5-star-rating-system but rarely going to the level of 4 ½ or 5 stars, reserving those rankings for films that have been or should be acknowledged as time-honored masterpieces so that a 4 is about the best you can hope for from star-stingy Ken).  But we ask you to be aware that the links we recommend within our many reviews may have been removed or modified without our knowledge.  Other overall notations for this blog may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage.  Now, onward to illumination; you may want to protect your eyes from the dazzling, radiant brilliance.

But one more thing first:  If you’d like to Like us on Facebook you’re welcome to find us on our Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark page by typing that name into their “Search for people, places and things” box or just Google twoguysinthedark.  We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!]

AND ... at least until the Oscars for 2014’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 22, 2015 I’m also going to include reminders in each review posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2014 films made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success, which you can monitor hereand what wins the awards)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

 I realize that all of these opening statements may put you to sleep before you even get to the reviews, but I’ve found, via feedback, that I need to say them somewhere to avoid repetitious explanations, yet if I put it all at the end hardly anyone ever reads it before asking for those same answers so thanks for wading through all of this opening drivel and now on to the reviews.

What Happens: In Wild we have another of this year’s many awards contenders that are based on actual people and events, in this case the 94-day-journey of Cheryl Strayed (played by Reece Witherspoon) in 1995 along much of the 2,663 miles Pacific Crest Trail, spanning the entire latitudinal distance from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington (although she starts near Mojave, CA, so she doesn’t cover the entire distance; below I note that she also stops well short of Canada—not that's there's anything wrong with that).  The film is structured as a collage that mixes Cheryl’s travails (and eventual triumph) with flashbacks (at times, flashbacks within flashbacks) of this woman at a loss as to how to manage a life that at age 26 had already presented her with divorce, the death from lung cancer at 45 of her sometimes-confounded-but-always-lovingly-supportive mother, Bobbi Grey (Laura Dern), and a dangerous descent into overindulgence in booze, heroin, and easily-chosen-sex (for those who found Nymphomaniac: Part I and Part II [Lars von Trier, 2013; reviews in our March 20 and April 3, 2014 postings]—a strong contender for Worst Film of the Year, although not from wacky-dissenter-me—too indulgent in this sort of debauchery, maybe the small doses of such in Wild will be more digestible).  This scrambled-chronological-approach works very well, as it helps those non-long-distance-hikers among us (probably outnumbered by those of us with traumatic events in our lives that we’re struggling to gain better control over) appreciate what’s going on in Cheryl’s mind (I keep avoiding “Strayed” so as not to be seen as constantly working a pun on the name of a woman who clearly, admittedly “strayed” from a productive life until she was able to defeat her raging demons) as she struggles to keep putting one foot in front of the other on this arduous trail, with her dialogue (mumbled occasionally in a manner reminiscent of the consciously-undermixed-speech in Interstellar [Christopher Nolan; review in our November 13, 2014 posting]) sometimes verbalized, sometimes heard as voiceover to her image trudging ever-forward as the waiting miles continue to taunt her while her heavy backpack constantly reminds her that gravity isn’t just a theoretical concept in the mind of Stephen Hawking (as explored in The Theory of Everything [James Marsh], noted in our November 19, 2014 review and follow-up-mentions in succeeding weeks) or the plot complications of Interstellar.

 Chief among those flashbacks are the memories of her mother, a woman who also had to make a momentous decision about a personal journey when she left her abusive husband in order to protect herself and her young children, Cheryl and baby-brother Leif (Keene McRae as the teenager).  Earlier scenes of this economically-struggling-family show Bobbi as constantly offering emotional and physical nurturance to her kids, but as they get older Leif’s still willing to allow his mother to look after his needs as Cheryl grows more independent, leading to both support and rejection of Mom’s parenting decisions.  Still, Bobbi’s loss at an unexpected early age weighs even heavier on Cheryl than her nagging backpack (or “stone” as some hikers call it, from my one experience with such on an overnight climb in 1975 up 12,445 ft. Mt. Baldy, outside of Santa Fe, NM, a grand immersion into unspoiled nature—water in the form of handfuls of snow near the top never tasted better on that hot summer day—but every step was a conscious decision, every consideration about taking off the “stone” for a brief rest was an inner-debate, with the knowledge that climbing into it again would just make it seem all the heavier; we get some humor early on in Wild as Cheryl finds that her rig is so overburdened—she learns later how to lighten it some—that she literally must sit down to strap it on, then strugglingly crawl into an upright position in order to maneuver her monster), as she longs again for Mom’s lost comfort and admonishes herself for the occasional ruptures she caused, in a family situation that found both women in college at the same time; we get the sense that Mom got more from schooling during Cheryl’s increasingly rebellious years, although our dedicated hiker does remember enough of what she studied to verbally illustrate her journal and the periodic hikers’ logbooks with relevant quotes from various well-known-predecessors on our shared journey of life.  Despite an aching body, an initial-bruising-mistake in hiking-boot-size, difficult patches of trail over boulders and snow (with too much of the latter in one point, forcing her to take a bus to Reno then rejoin the trail after some hitchhiking), and the disturbing presence of men (foreshadowed early on in the desert when she has to carefully walk around a rattlesnake in her path) who seem all too eager to encounter a woman alone in the woods (one gruff but ultimately benign, one ambivalently helpful but who drops out while she soldiers on, one clearly a dangerous creep that she quickly walked away from—although she does meet one decent guy whom she shares a night with, but with no further expectations from either of them), she finally reaches the river bridge that finishes her physical journey, verifying a victory in her intrapersonal journey as well (leading to the real Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the template for this film, along with her many other writings and prizes for such work).

So What? With our national news (which is often made up of various local clashes and disturbances, constantly reminding us that we’re never removed from simmering problems ready to boil over, from Staten Island, NY to Berkeley, CA) and similar troubling situations on the international scene offering us daily reminders of how vicious existence can be, even for those innocently caught up in events around them (or injured in the process of trying to do good, as was one local protester in my area who tried to stop a looter from adding violence to a demonstration against oppressive uses of police power, only to be beaten into hospital-condition by the looter’s equally-oppressive hammer), it’s always uplifting to see a well-crafted-narrative about people who rise up against their troubling situations to gain a better control over who they’ve become and what long-range-lfie-path they’ve been traversing.  Admittedly, despite her personal troubles Cheryl Strayed was in a situation where there was no one at home depending on her while she was away for months, plus she had the resources to buy the food and camping equipment needed for her daily survival (along with getting the occasional package of material support from those who knew how to send ahead to her next destination) but she’s still to be greatly admired for taking on a task that she wasn’t expert at—an inspiration for anyone to adjust to their own specific circumstances, whatever they may be—in fact, we see many times how basically ill-prepared she was to attempt this difficult challenge, giving us all the more reason to admire her for continuing the trek even when she was easily ready to just stop, when she could have admired herself for pushing as far as she did, claimed victory, and just gone home (a tactic often used for governmental-PR-purposes, even though most such “victories” have to be carefully rationalized in order to be even incredulously-credible).  Further, Strayed’s personal victory is marvelously acted out by already-Oscar-rewarded (for Walk the Line [James Mangold, 2005]) Witherspoon, who (fortunately for the cinema industry but not so much for her) faces a strong group of competitors for the Academy’s Best Actress of 2014 (as you can see from those Top 10 critics’ lists and Awards Nominations lists I cited at the head of this posting, but her stock just went up as she’s received 1 of the 5 Screen Actors Guild noms for Outstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role) but nevertheless provides an impressive performance, one that truly shows she puts her money where her heart is by shepherding this project as producer as well as demanding-acting-process-beaten-down-lead-performer.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Witherspoon as Strayed gives us a compelling turn as a person who knows that her life is already spinning out of control (even as she rejects whatever help and support are available to her in her pre-hike-life—including shamelessly indulging in the infidelities that broke up her marriage), despite being at the early stage of just blossoming into youthful maturity, so she sets herself a commanding challenge which she lives up to, even with self-chastisement along the way both for dragging herself into such a pit as to need salvation from it as well as picking this particular path to redemption which is killing her body even as it reinvigorates her soul.  Further, as a cinematic experience we get a rich structure of present informed by accumulating-glimpses into the past (I could see Wild as a contender for editing prizes, given how effectively the overall narrative is presented without the benefit of any clarifying clues save the occasional graphic of how many days or miles have elapsed on Cheryl’s journey) which help us grasp Strayed’s steely personality which has both self-undermining and fiercely-determined aspects as she trudges along on her 1,100-mile-trek.  (I never was sure if that was actual distance walked or also included the snow-necessitated-bus-detour to Reno; further, I’ll admit that I wrongly perceived her journey’s victorious end as a passage into Canada, giving her a virtual cross-continental tour of the contiguous U.S. Pacific states, but it’s since come clear to me that her long-awaited-arrival at the Bridge of the Gods is a span over the Columbia River separating Oregon from Washington, not to the trail’s eventual end in British Columbia, so while she makes a monumental hike it’s still just about half of what the film at times implies—not that I’d be willing to attempt it; I trot about 6 miles a week on a treadmill so even if I walked roughly that distance every day for 3 months I’d still be only at about 500 miles [without a heavy backpack], a pittance compared to what she endured in the extremes of hot to frigid temperatures and lofty ascents; however, by chance, I do have a vague connection to Strayed’s hike in that she reached Ashland, OR when the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia died in early August 1995 while about the same time I was taking a walk through the woods somewhat south of there near Redding, CA—wearing a tie-dye-T-shirt below my usual hairy head—when a guy came along who told me that for a moment he thought that Garcia had returned [sadly, reincarnations don’t work that way nor have I inherited any touch of his guitar-playing-ability.)

 If you’d like to get some sense of what the actual hiker had to say about herself and her self-imposed-task, you can explore Cheryl Strayed's website where you can also find a long excerpt from her Wild … book, but I’d encourage you to see this film as well because it’s very invigorating for the human spirit in general, encouraging all of us to take on our own seemingly-impossible-challenges, to take command of our lives no matter how limiting our circumstances may be at present, to become active hammers rather than passive nails (to borrow from the Simon and Garfunkel song, “El Condor Pasa (If I Could),” from their 1970 Bridge over Troubled Water album
[a version available at, grainy video but you get to see the marvelous backing musicians, Los Incas, adding their contributions to this rendition of a traditional Peruvian folk tune with new lyrics by Paul Simon], used very appropriately in Wild’s soundtrack) in the construction—or reconstruction—of whatever is left to us of our time in this
present existence. However, just so you don’t think I’m getting too granola-preachy on you—which is not what I think either Witherspoon or Strayed would want you to take away from this encounter (although they probably both ate plenty of that roughage-mix in their various connections to this story)—I’ll close this review with silly “walking” Musical Metaphors beginning with an uptight-looking Ricky Nelson’s version of “I’m Walking” at from 1957, when it was also a hit for its writer, Fats Domino (co-written with Dave Bartholomew), so here’s a duet of that song at with Fats and Ricky.  As an extra-added-attraction, though, I just couldn’t resist tossing in Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” (from her 1966 album Boots) at watch?v=MnQcExGaEvk, in tribute both to Strayed’s first pair of ill-fitting-footwear that aren’t properly made for Cheryl’s walking because they're a painful size too small (which provides for a great opening to Wild as we hear a woman groan in what seems to be orgiastic-pleasure only to be revealed as misery-moaning as she takes her hiking boots off to reveal ghastly bruises; then she accidently drops one, furiously throws the other down a mountainside, a scene repeated later when she then has to rescue her frustration—and feet—by duct-taping her sandals on so as to provide better support until she can get to some new boots) and to her determination to “walk all over you,” with the “you” not being a rejected man as in the song but instead her own past-persona, a self she’s determined to trample before leaving it behind in the wilderness.

What Happens:  A Girl Walks Home Alone in the Dark takes us to a different kind of wilderness, that of a fictionalized version of Iran where desolate Bad City is inhabited by a large collection of losers, some of whom are destined to meet their fate at the fangs of a young woman vampire, known to us only as The Girl (Shelia Vand), who walks the dark, lonely nighttime streets either in search of victims or to serve as a sort of community enforcer, taking eternal revenge on those who prey upon others in a different way than she does or scaring a young boy into growing up to be a decent man.  There’s not a lot of plot as such here beyond our meeting the rest of the cast as they variously interact with The Girl:  Arash (Arash Marandi, first photo below), a young man who seems to want to channel Marlon Brando from The Wild One (László Benedek, 1953) but is more like a brooding version of Danny Zuko (John Travolta) in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978), yet his attraction to The Girl (beginning when he meets her on a dark street, lost as he staggers home in a drugged-haze from a party, ironically dressed as Dracula) finally wins out over her mutual interest kept in check by hesitation to get involved with a human (although she accepts his gift of earrings stolen from the constantly-teasing-rich-girl of the family he works for as a gardener, even though he has to stab her earlobes in order to put them on her "virgin" ears); Hossein (Marshall Manesh), Arash’s father, an old man hobbled by various vices, terribly critical of his son, ultimately a victim of The Girl—who kills him after he forces himself on a prostitute, injecting her with heroin—leading to our vampire’s willingness to finally escape … to somewhere … with Arash (sort of reminds me of the “plot” of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” [from her self-named1988 album; here’s a listen at FQ from a 1989 performance, poor video quality but her voice still rings out clearly]); Saeed (Dominic Rains), local pimp/drug dealer/loan shark who seizes Arash’s prized classic-model-T Bird in repayment for Hossein’s debts until he’s also dispatched by The Girl, with the car keys and a briefcase full of drugs and cash grabbed later by Arash, setting himself up as a dealer in Saeed’s absence; and Atti (Mozhan Marnò, second photo below), a prostitute under the thumb of Saeed (and a regular with Hossein until his fatal abuse of her, noted above), then an accomplice of The Girl in dragging Hossein’s lifeless body into an alley (she’s also rewarded at another time with a big handful of valuable jewelry, taken by The Girl from the lairs of Saeed and others of his now-departed-ilk).

 The rest of this narrative is mainly presented as a means of exploring the dismally-polluted (in more ways than one)-oil-refinery-atmosphere (I speak from experience here, having grown up on the island of Galveston, TX, just across the bay from Texas City where a cluster of refineries gave you clear indication of the wind’s direction—as in Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" at [song from the 1965 Bringing It All Back Home album, film clip from D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 documentary, Dont Look Back], where "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," a statement that gave rise to a major group of violence-inclinded-1960's-anti-Establishment protestors, the seeming models for the more rabid of those currently demonstrating against racial injustice regarding White police killing unarmed young Black men without an indictment in sight), mostly in night scenes (we’re never clear just how horror-movie-traditional The Girl’s vampirism is, but I don’t recall seeing her in daylight so I assume that non-nocturnal-wanderings are off-limits for her; I'm not sure about crucifixes or garlic) shot by Lyle Vincent in glorious black-and-white-wide-screen-images that I’d love to see honored with awards nominations (although that’d be rare for such a low-budget, independent, debut film, especially with the caliber of higher-level-contenders currently jostling for success noted in that Awards & Nominations link back up at this posting’s beginning; still, A Girl … has been nominated in this category for the Independent Spirit Awards, but even there it’ll have to contend with my favorite so far, Birdman [Alejandro González Iñárritu, cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, Oscar-winner for Gravity; review of the former in our November 6, 2014 posting, the latter in the October 9, 2013 one]).  This is a marvelously eerie film to watch, not so much as a vampire flick but more for what the director admits is a collection of references and influences from a wide range of previous aspects of popular culture—with the name and low-life-character of Bad City being the most blatant, a clear reference to Frank Miller’s Sin City movies (Miller, Robert Rodriquez; 2005, 
[… A Dame to Die For] 2014) and graphic novels (see her interview in the links far below).

So What? A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night dispels a lot of assumptions, regarding movies and otherwise: (1) That the director needs to be from a certain country in order for a person’s work to be categorized as part of that nationality; here, Amipour is of Iranian descent but was born in the U.K., raised in the U.S., with this film being shot in Taft, CA (close to Bakersfield, a petroleum-industry-driven-city—where those constantly-moving-oil-pumps look like some kind of grotesque metallic monsters—from where you could travel east for a bit before finding yourself in the Mojave Desert where Cheryl Strayed began her horrendous hike), although she works with a cadre of other Iranian-Americans to bring a blended Amer-Euro-Persian-perspective to a story that displays its Middle Eastern roots by being shot in Farsi (thus, many of us will have to deal with subtitles—a major American-audience-killer sure to further hamper a film that won’t get wide play to begin with), all contributing to A Girl … being consistently referred to as an Iranian film; (2) That all you have to do with your film to get it called a “western”—as this one has often been, in its compound description that usually includes “Iranian” and “vampire” as well—is set it in a wide-open-spaces-location that would have been natural for John Ford/Howard Hawks/Budd Boetticher’s 19th-century-based-genre with no concern that the setting is now contemporary with none of the civilization-wilderness-conflict that defines these seminal American stories (except maybe the interpretation that this Bad City “civilization” is a wilderness of materialistically-obsessed-lost-souls who need vigilante-justice from a vampire to keep things on a even keel in this emotionally-desolate-desert-environment, along with some occasional Sergio Leone “spaghetti western”-type-music and one scene where Atti’s wearing a western-fringed-shirt as she dances in an alley with a balloon); (3) That vampires can be very sympathetic, community-concerned-characters (although I guess I could have gotten that from the Twilight books [Stephenie Meyer, 2005-2008] and movies [Catherine Hardwicke, 2008; Chris Weitz, 2009; David Slade, 2010; Bill Condon, 2011, 2012] if I could ever have brought myself to be exposed to such ... stuff), although that doesn’t prevent them from still feasting on the blood of their neighbors, not only just the wretched ones but also, in The Girl’s case, a random homeless guy who just happens to be chosen as dinner for the night; and (4) There are other ways to picture Iran than just as the repressive-theocracy-military-state depicted so well in Best-Picture-Oscar Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012), as we see here in A Girl … ; while both The Girl and Atti always go outside with a least a scarf covering their heads (although The Girl’s cloak extends down her entire body, worn with the same striped blouse in just about every scene conveying her identity more as an assumed role rather than as any sort of individual—even though the wall coverings in her dwelling are quite pop-culture-eclectic, including a big poster of the Bee Gees) there’s not much else here to remind us of the expected depictions of Iran that we usually see, as the nightclub scene, drug sales, and an unaccompanied woman walking around by herself in the night are all images that belong more to Amipour’s fantasy-depiction than to decades of newscasts about a harsh Islamic state bent on the destruction of the West.

 When you combine these disparate elements with solid acting and well-polished-cinematic-production-values in A Girl ... you get a very strange but alluring result, one that may have a hard-distribution-time finding an audience (it reminds me in tone of another independent film about a non-human-killer-female, Under the Skin [Jonathan Glazer, 2013; review in our April 16, 2014 posting], which also offers competition in the cinematography category—and is beginning to pick up some recognition as such—as well as continuing to add to the screen-allure-career of Scarlett Johansson) but has already made a positive impact on critics (Rotten Tomatoes, 95% positive; Metacritic, 80% [more details in the links below if you like], but based on a somewhat smallish sample of reviews so you might check back later to see if this laudatory trend is holding up).  Even if necks being bitten with bloody-mouth-aftermaths make you a bit squeamish, there’s not much of that here with even those few scenes less-off-putting than you might expect, given that the blood now looks black rather than vivid red, so I highly recommend A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (even if you have to find it later on video or streaming) for its enthralling atmosphere, as if Jim Jarmusch had decided to remake Giant (George Stevens, 1956) after throwing out just about all of the original script except for the oil wells and the James Dean-ish character's attitudes.

Bottom Line Final Comments: There’s not much else I can say here; this film is one of the most unique offerings of 2014, one that hopefully will find enough of an audience and media coverage to encourage further bizarre-but-compelling work from director Amipour.  While the atmospherically-enticing soundtrack in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (mostly Iranian rock and 1980s techno-pop) is clearly out of the boundaries of my familiarity-wheelhouse, I’ll create a comfort zone for myself by wrapping up here with a couple of Musical Metaphors that are intended to be more tongue-in-cheek than fangs-in-neck, beginning with Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” (from her self-named 1957 debut album), presented here at watch?v=HwOWX6b8HHw in a grainy video of a 1958 performance but one with relevance to the “western” aspects of A Girl … with Patsy’s full cowgirl outfit that evokes Atti’s fringy-shirt from the film.  Then, because of the near-Bakersfield-connection and the other-worldly-aspects of vampires I just couldn’t resist adding another one, the C&W-flavored (OK, saturated) “Far Away Eyes” (from the Rolling Stones’ 1978 Some Girls album) at  And, speaking of music …

Final Concert Comments for 2014

 While the many fine concerts that my fabulous wife, Nina, and I have attended this year don’t directly have anything to do with my various reviews of the cinema industry’s offerings, I have been able to rationalize songs from some of them into those reviews as part of my Musical Metaphors commentary.  As we move toward wrapping up this calendar year and the much-more-than-usual-live-performance-venues that we’ve attended in 2014 (Rodriguez, Barry Gibb’s tribute to the Bee Gees, James Taylor, Judy Collins, America, Don McLean, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac) I find the same situation with the amazing performance we just saw last week headed by Stevie Wonder at the Oakland (CA) Arena.  Once again, with photography restrictions in place, we had to depend on our less-than-fabulous-skills with Nina’s iPhone from up in the balcony but this overall shot of the controlled chaos on stage gives you an idea of the enormous energy being generated that night by those talent-driven-artists (with Stevie’s image hovering above them on the flanking video screens).  When you look at the even-fuzzier second shot you can get another of our Impressionistic-photo-interpretations of the events but with some vague hope of seeing who was up there during this
rousing finale of the supercharged song, “Superstition” (if you can locate the guy in the red jacket slightly-below-right of center, Stevie’s the grey blob at the grand piano just below him; then if you flow from there to the far right first you see [in a vague manner of speaking] 6 backup singers—the taller one with blondish-red hair is Wonder’s daughter, Aisha Morris, for whom the “Isn’t She Lovely” song was written—with guest artist Shelia E. on her drums, flanked at the far right by another guest artist, India Arie).  While that vibrant number brought a tremendous end to a 4-hr. concert, I’ll instead add in here one of Stevie’s many hits that he didn’t get to that night (at least I don’t think he did, but my memory’s nothing to make bets on), “Higher Ground” (from the 1973 Innervisions album, with a live version at com/watch?v=XV1DK9tSHio, performed with a smaller backing group but clear audio at The Beat Club during his 1974 European tour; here’s another version at, from London’s O2 Arena, 2008, more in keeping with what I saw but unfortunately with more muffled audio) because it relates to both Wild and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, in that the lead characters in those films are seeking something better than what they’ve been experiencing so far in their lives, with journeys that literally trek into “higher ground” in the former, search for meaningful existence within an environment of various constraints in the latter.
(My apologies for the sloppy layout here with a few paragraphs in single space [as intended] and the others in space-and-a-half, which messes up the intended flow of the text as well as the posting's appearance, but it's another case of Google Blogspot software taking random control which I can't override as I'm not HTML-trained.  If you ever start your own blog, I advise you to avoid this f***ing product, as it's caused me no end of misery.

(It's also frustrating that I spend a lot of posting time and energy trying to shape the line flow of paragraphs each week until it finally looks good on my Safari Web browser but then it gets skewed on Firefox, Google Chrome, and probably every other browser out there [but that's totally beyond my control, as any content will read slightly differently on each one; compare it for yourself] so I encourage you to read this blog on Safari because that's where it looks best—at least on a Mac, but computers are another compatibility-world-issue entirely. However, thanks for reading this mess at all, however you choose to do it.)
If you’d like to know more about Wild here are some suggested links: (4:33 interview with actors Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern and author/film subject Cheryl Strayed)

If you’d like to know more about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night here are some suggested links: (5:07 interview with director Ana Lily Amirpour)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our extremely-limited-level of technological control.

Please note that to Post a Comment you need to either have a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Wild must be one of those movies that is better as a book (which was a #1 best seller). While effectively telling the story, the production was weak in my mind and the casting was suspect. Nevertheless, it did engage me and I continue to reflect on parts of the narrative. I feel the backstory was not portrayed well enough and the hiking ordeal and rape concerns were probably overblown for dramatic effect. However I was intrigued about the ending where Cheryl is married four years later on the same bridge and now has two children. Was her new husband, Brian Lindstrom, one of the men she was interested in along the trail or in Oregon? Apparently they met nine days after the Bridge of the Gods.

  2. Hi rj, Well, I guess Wild just caught me a bit more actively than it did you (I liked the way the backstory was more implied than clarified). Interesting question about Cheryl's new husband, though, especially given how quickly the film wraps up when she finally gets to the bridge. Ken

  3. The content which is given in good clarity is the biggest plus of the blog.

    1. Sorry I’ve been so dreadfully long in getting your comment published and replying to it but there was some kind of glitch so I wasn’t even notified you’d sent it in. In the future, I’ll go into my Blogspot mailbox once a week to make sure I’m aware of any submitted comments. Ken Burke