Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Dinner and (somewhat) Short Takes on Get Out

                   Skip the Meal, We’ll Just Fight Over the Bill

                                                 Reviews by Ken Burke
                            The Dinner (Oren Moverman)
2 brothers, 1 with mental issues who has ongoing anger against his politician sibling, are at an exquisite dinner with their wives, but the real reason is a need to discuss some private strategy for dealing with a yet-unpublicized-tragedy connected to their teenage sons; this all gets a bit sidetracked at times with a lot of flashbacks but contains powerful performances.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Hostility’s been simmering between 2 brothers, Stan and Paul Lohman, for years due to a good number of factors: Paul’s perception that their mother favored Stan; Paul’s struggle with mental illness (a family trait that troubled Mom also, with Stan having to take early responsibility for her) leaving him grouchy about a lot of things in addition to his sibling; Stan’s success as a Congressman now running for Governor with Paul perceiving his brother as a phony, preening politician.  All those problems aside, they—along with their wives—meet at an exclusive restaurant for an absurdly-upscale dinner (Stan picks up the tab) because a family discussion’s needed to address a horrible situation perpetrated by the brothers’ teenage sons, although nothing has come to light yet about who was involved in this incident except for an ambiguous Internet video showing the crime.  Tensions mount throughout the meal as the film constantly shifts between the present scene and various flashbacks guiding our understanding of what’s brought about this current crisis.  To say more would get me out of “no spoilers” territory (although that’s available just below) except that the interpersonal dynamics within the 2 couples as well as among these 4 hostile parents alternates marvelously between cynical humor from Paul to scorching interchanges all across the table that give each of these excellent actors their proper due.

 My praise of this cinematic experience runs quite counter to the overall critical consensus (Rotten Tomatoes 53%, Metacritic 58%), so take my supportive 4 of 5 stars with however many grains of salt my past comments have shown about what harmony may exist between your sensibilities and mine.  However, while I acknowledge the constant use of flashbacks serves to artificially-prolong the revelations and ultimate climax of this narrative, that’s not necessarily as much of a detriment to The Dinner as many reviewers have protested.  I recommend this film for your viewing pleasure, even if just in the experience of seeing what a ridiculously-priced-meal looks like, saving you the need (and expense) of indulging in that yourself, depending on how much such a culinary-adventure gnaws at your curiosity (however, I think you’d also appreciate this complex family drama as well).

So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.
(I'll admit from the start that the accompanying photos for this review are of limited 
content and quality; despite my due-diligence-attempts to find others, the ones I've 
used are not only the best I could find but they're also about the only ones available.)
What Happens: While most of The Dinner’s onscreen presentation is marked by titles that designate aspects of a fancy meal, the opening scenes simply lead up to this underlying metaphor with closeups of various exquisite foods (depending on your tastes, that is; more on that in this review’s next section), followed by our introduction to 3 important teenagers—Michael Lohman (Charlie Plummer), his blood-cousin Rick Lohman (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), his adopted-cousin Beau Lohman (Miles J. Harvey)—at a party where they leave when the cops show up; next we meet Michael’s Dad, Paul (Steve Coogan), giving us a lengthy voiceover soliloquy about how wonderful ancient Italy was until it (and the rest of civilization) was ruined by the onward flow of history since the Renaissance, as he and wife Claire (Laura Linney) prepare to attend the film’s upscale-titular-banquet, which he has no interest in due to both the extravagance of the setting (pompous absurdity in his opinion [although in the tradition of Roman feasts, which I’d think he’d admire]) and having to spend time with his brother, Stan (Richard Gere), a Congressman running for Governor (hard to tell if Paul loathes sibling Stan more for who he is or what he does)—although he’s got problems with Michael as well for dating a slightly-older-woman, Anna (Laura Hajek), whose “sophisticated” age of 20 gives him pause about his son’s ability to think clearly (more on that as we go).  From here on out, each film segment is titled by a serving name (aperitif, appetizer, main course, cheese course, dessert, digestif: most of them with items too complicated for me to even take notes on), although it’s hard to say such designations aren’t just convenient breaks in ever-escalating-tension among these 4 protagonists (including Stan’s second wife, Kate [Rebecca Hall]).

 Kate tries to put on a game face during the meal, covering up her disgust with hubby Stan’s constant breakaways to handle political issues, usually through repetitive interruptions brought  by his hovering campaign-manager, Nina (Adepero Oduye); Claire’s long ago learned how to lift herself up from the overriding gloom that follows Paul around (like the raincloud constantly hovering over Joe Btfsplk’s head in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip from long ago) but her patience will finally collapse by the time we get to the last segment of this narrative; Paul’s so openly disdainful of Stan it’s amazing that they can even coexist in the same room (although the group moves into increasingly-secluded-quarters as the story moves toward climax).  At various times during the evening Kate and Paul storm off separately while Stan fills in their absences by continuing to work the room with anyone available to help polish his campaign image.  During all this, we learn through flashbacks of Paul’s mental breakdown during his former career as a high-school-history-teacher (where distain for himself, everything around him became so evident Stan had to take him on a recovery trip to the site of his Civil War obsession, the slaughter that was the battle of Gettysburg [50,000 dead]), how this struggle with sanity was pushed to the limit when Claire had her own battle with lung cancer (highlighted by a scene when Michael’s basketball crashes through the window of a smoke shop where Claire got her cigarettes, supposedly an accident but probably Paul’s anger erupting), and the critical plot point of how our 3 teens from the opening scenes were making their way home, needed to stop at an ATM to get some cash, found a homeless woman sleeping there leading to a senseless attack initiated by Michael, helped by Rick (Beau, horrified at the situation, ran off) that ended with her being set on fire, filmed on Michael’s cellphone, with the crime posted anonymously on the Internet later by Beau but still unsolved because the images don’t identify the 2 perpetrators.

 All of this past/present trauma finally leads these couples to a private room in this swanky restaurant where Stan reveals he’s not willing to allow the boys to get away with this senseless murder so he’s calling a press conference the next day to announce his withdrawal from the Governor’s race followed by an admission of Rick and Michael’s instigation of their heartless action (there’s also concern all around that Beau’s about to go public as well, with the guilt making him far too emotionally unstable to be silent much longer regarding the atrocity).  At this point, Stan gets intense pushback, not only from Claire who doesn’t want her son’s future ruined by the publicity of his heinous act (despite Stan’s regrets, she’s convinced they can find a mutually-agreeable-solution to keep Michael and Rick’s involvement hidden) but also from Kate who’s clearly enamored of the even-higher-profile-life she’s about to enter (Stan’s a likely election-shoo-in—unless he’s got some disgruntled ex-coal miners, former factory workers, or fired FBI Directors in his state [unspecified, as best I understood, although Pennsylvania or New Jersey seemed possible] who haven’t been accounted for well enough in the polls) despite her disgust at the 24/7 realities of winning such a media-intensive-race.  Stan gets flack from Nina also, who finally convinces him to take a 3-day-cooling-off-break before deciding anything, but Paul’s not too cool because he admits he hasn't been taking his meds for months, so as to not be so numb in his
(As evidence of how difficult it was to find reasonable
photos for this review, I find I have to pad them with
this silly shot of Gere "looking" at the book cover.)
encounters with Claire, so he hustles off to talk with Beau; however, in reality Paul pulls the kid into the woods behind his house, about to kill him with a big rock just when the others arrive.  There’s  some confusion (at least for me) as to what happens to Beau,* but Stan’s clearly at the point of reconsideration because he  then gets a phone call he’ll have the needed votes tomorrow for his bill to provide better national mental health services, leaving us with the implication he thinks his growing political capital could be publically-beneficial for him after all.  Abruptly, though, this film ends.

*Since seeing The Dinner last weekend, my wife, Nina (another sharp woman but with no interest [thank heaven] in being anyone’s campaign-manager), now has the book (from which this film was adapted) of the same name (those Amazon drones work overtime)—a Dutch novel** by Herman Koch (2009), set in The Netherlands—so I could probably take a look at its final pages to see if I can find out what happens with Beau (a summary I’ve read shows that the novel largely parallels the film’s narrative but it doesn't clarify the ending's details) but I’m just going to wait until she finishes reading it so that I don’t give anything away to her when she soon gets a chance to read this review.

**There are 2 other cinematic adaptations of this book, all with the same title, a Dutch film by Menno Meyjes (2013) and an Italian one by Ivano De Matteo (2014), but I know nothing about them.

(As my attempts to find reasonably-relevant photos continue, I'll use
this shot of the French Laundry family dinner, with Nina in the left
front, me next to her, then her brother; I won't name the others so
they can remain innocently anonymous in this public posting.)
So What? I have no experience whatsoever with teenage-criminal-sons (although my cat, Inky, has killed a couple of innocent birds on our condo-porch), nor with sibling-rivalry (like Beau, I’m adopted, but unlike him I'm an only child; to further note our other differences he's African-American [with me as mostly-Caucasian {?} *], a possible factor in his horror at the abuse of the homeless woman, not only because he’s appalled his relatives would perform such a cruel act but also she appeared [to my eyes] to be a light-skinned Black woman so maybe he had more empathy for her than they did, although race may have had nothing to do with how Michael felt some deep-seated-need to lash out at the rift he has with Paul while Rick may have been just too weak to restrain his irrational [and likely drunk] cousin), but I have had a massive-splurge-dinner of such extremely-lavish-elements, a few years ago to celebrate Nina’s 60th (and her brother’s [also named Ken {Kindblad}, to keep things as confusing as possible at family gatherings] 65th) birthday, at the famous French Laundry, a bit north of us in Yountville, CA (where I made out in bandit-fashion because some of those fishy-dishes weren’t so delightful for Nina so I ate at least a 3rd of her meal also).  In truth, our 9 courses were as exotic as the ones in the film (although no little vegetables were still nestled in an ant-farm-like dirt container that we all begin The Dinner with; however, we had no embarrassing family events, probably because one of our wise nieces had the
(This looks like a bad high-school-yearbook photo.)
good sense not to tell my sweet Nina that famed actor Sean Penn [with his unidentified date of that night but, fortunately for all of us involved, no stalking paparazzi] was walking out just after we walked in; despite the useful context, though, I’d best not go into the 1968 Richard Harris Disneyland incident because the restraining order on Nina may not have expired yet, even though Mr. Harris sadly has), giving us a “taste” of what it must be like to regularly indulge in the rarified air, heady extravagances of that upper 1%.

*Depending on which DNA test you believe; one shows me as having some notable Native American, South Asian, and Middle Eastern ancestry, another has me as all Europeanmostly Irish, Scandinavian, and Iberian Peninsula.

 That dinner of ours allowed me to better appreciate Kate’s firm, sudden steeliness about giving up this type of luxurious lifestyle (I don’t want it on a fulltime basis, just as a memorable indulgence), yet without experience being a parent I still have to ponder Claire’s desire to protect her son at the expense of an innocent, social-outcast person killed needlessly by her irrationally-cruel-child.  (I do relate to Stan being left by first wife, Barbara [Chloë Sevigny]—after both kids were in their lives—as I also experienced that fate long ago [just without any kids], but for me it ultimately was for the better; based on what I see of Kate in this film I’m not so sure Stan could sincerely say the same.)

 All of these characters are quite complex, with us as observers best able to make sense of Paul’s motivations (twisted and hurtful as some of them are), having to surmise as best we can the larger range of influences that may have shaped the attitudes and actions of all the others: Stan seems to be truly concerned about Paul’s well being when he takes him on the trip to Gettysburg, even though his angry brother continues to push him away; Claire’s worried if Paul may actually be a racist when he voices hesitation about Beau’s entry into the Lohman family, an accusation Paul denies, with his strained explanation there’s just something he doesn’t feel comfortable with about the kid (although we later witness Beau as the one who ultimately shows a bit more integrity than his brother or cousin; yet, it may be less about innate morality on Beau's part, more about some revenge for his relatives' ongoing teasing about his “otherness").  Moverman often presents these flashbacks of Paul in overexposed, high-key light, as if trying to better illuminate for us (and Paul?) the cluster of emotional experiences which shaped him into the bitter, estranged man he is today, while the scenes of the teenagers are all dark (even at the initial party), reasonable given their locations but inherently providing for a dramatic contrast when the woman’s set on fire (supposedly to chase her out of the ATM-cubicle because the boys can’t stand her odor as they want to withdraw their cash but obviously as an excuse for Michael to act out his own estrangement from an overbearing father, along with a too-supportive mother), all part of the attempt to help us separate time/action scenes from the past that have led these characters to their slowly-building-moment-of-truth in the present.

 As noted before, many reviews of The Dinner have been quite negative toward this heavy use of the flashback structure, claiming that these past-based-intrusion-scenes hinder the film's steady-build-toward-emotional-explosion in the present.  Upon initial encounter, I also shared that feeling—although, even with that concern, I still preferred in this case to see some aspect of a thoughtfully-doled-out-reveal of what shaped Paul’s instability/ negativity to just some traditionally-constructed, chronological-event-by-event account of his past problems, then the horrid action of the boys on that fateful night, followed by a lengthy, angry clash over dinner as we work our way into the present day of this sad, terribly-disaster-prone family.  However, when discussing the film with Nina I came to understand her interpretation of this fragmented structure as being immensely effective, so while you might not agree the frequent time shifts work well if you see this story (on screen now or via video at a later date)—and, again, I can’t yet speak to whether this even occurs, let alone works better in the book—I see her point that our minds don’t work in constant linear fashion, with some sense of our own chronology clearly in place as we add new entries to the long parade of what’s gone before with everything in context of how it relates to all else (as most narratives in our media do, a clear flow from start to finish we’re expected to remember notable events from so we can easily appreciate how something in the present is a relatable-payoff to what we were introduced to earlier); rather, those files of memories are randomly-accessible, so a song on the car radio, a smell as we walk past a café, a color combination in a magazine or TV ad suddenly brings back a specific moment (or collage of them) that can either be a fleeting reminder of something long forgotten or the beginning of an engrossing return to a former event (or chain of them), possibly intruding on the stability of the present, possibly helping make sense of an unsettling-yet-inexplicable-feeling.  In retrospect, I see The Dinner functioning like this, in a usefully-non-linear-fashion, mirroring the jumbled-psyches of these characters who are dealing with disasters none of them want to accept.

(Insightful?) Bottom Line 
Final Comments: If you take
my advice to see The Dinner (oh, give it a try; you might run into Sean Penn at the theater), you'll have to endure (or, appreciate, as your tastes may be) Paul’s occasional VO narration in which he rails against his brother (which you can probably dismiss if you like, unless he reminds you too much of your own experiences of relatives/friends/co-workers/bosses/ political leaders/celebrities) but also our modern world of technology, Hollywood entertainment packages, instant gratification; however, you’ll also see how generally self-serving all of these characters are (Stan shows the most hope of enlightenment, until the ambiguous ending in which he seems to be getting onto the same warped wavelength as we find with his wife, brother, and sister-in-law, although Paul’s also disgusted with Claire’s easy acceptance of Michael’s crime as an “accident,” the woman as a “violent, disgusting bum,” which Paul knows isn’t true, unless you’d somehow link it to a temporary insanity plea, which I’m sure Paul would see as another cynical copout), even to the point of Paul rehearsing a lecture to his highschoolers about how war is useful in helping eliminate oppressive members of families who need to die for our common good, as we see another flashback where he rejects Stan and Barbara’s offer to take Michael while Claire’s hospitalized (before her undetailed-recovery), given that Paul’s losing all coherence as a father as the house is overrun with clutter, just as he’s unfocused so he’s often wavering between hostility and incompetence, not pleasant to watch but a true depiction of a person lost in his own sorrow yet blaming everyone else for his shortcomings as he hits Stan with a saucepan while Michael watches his father’s deterioration.  (Coogan’s just magnificent in his role, even in his VO Orwellian statement that “war is love” as he prepares to kill poor Beau; everyone else is excellent in their roles as well.)

(As a final example of what I had to work with
regarding images to accompany this review,
I decided to use this Italian poster for the film.)
 You’re not going to find a lot of other evidence to convince you to see The Dinner beyond my recommendation (it’s scored a less-than-enthusiastic-collective-cluster-of-responses at both Rotten Tomatoes—53% positive reviews—and Metacritic—a slightly-higher-than-RT-for-a-change 58%, with more details in the links far below; a very small domestic [U.S.-Canada] take of only $655.5 thousand gross from 505 theaters during opening week), so either take it from me that this film’s better than most others will make it seem or go with the crowd (especially if you don’t want to endure a downer drama about a severely-dysfunctional-family) to something more silly, showy, and upbeat such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (James Gunn; scored $441.4 million worldwide in its opening week).  Whatever your choice, I’ll leave you with my appropriate … Dinner Musical Metaphor (to finalize the review from the perspective of another artform), Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” (from their 1979 album The Wall) found at com/watch?v=q1bbE_TOsd8 (this is a 1994 live performance but without Roger Waters from the original group*) with its similarity to The Dinner’s characters “out there in the cold Getting lonely, getting old […] sitting naked by the phone […] breaking bottles in the hall [… quietly saying to anyone who’ll listen] don’t tell me there’s no hope at all,” even when it seems there won’t be much chance for a dose of liberating-relief for either the song's distraught singer or these distressed, lost souls in this grim film unless some hearts change soon.

*If you’re a purist, needing Waters in the mix, here’s the original from the album.
(another noble—but failed—attempt at actual) SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)

                                                     Get Out (Jordan Peele)

A young interracial couple goes one weekend for him to meet her upper-class White parents, a trip which turns increasingly weird from his perspective because not only do the family’s friends fawn all over him but also he gets strange vibes from the 2 Black servants; this is the rare effective blend of comedy and psychological horror, spiced with satirical racial comedy.

 I put this film into my category of Short Takes reviews only because it’s already been in release for quite a while so I doubt there are too many potential viewers who'd wait this long without having yet seen it—even though I just got around to it myself, thanks to Nina’s (who often has better insights about what might be our weekly filmic choices) ongoing-interest in seeking out this oddball-yet-enticing-experience—so I doubt anything I’d say at this point would make much difference given its solid market saturation already (it’s taken in an astonishing $173 million domestically over the past 10 weeks plus another $21.8 million internationally, against a mere $4.5 million budget, so director Peele’s gone from initial offering to a solid deal with Universal Pictures for more of his conceptions; my solid attempt at an actual Short Take review’s dubious, though, because there’s a lot to say about this marvelously-twisted-story, so please hear me out, concise presentation or not); I’ll acknowledge I got sidetracked when Get Out was first released, reading some reviews that made it seem like Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968) meets The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes, 1975; Frank Oz, 2004)—which to some degree it is but in a much better result that such a description would indicate—with the implication that this supposedly-liberal Northeastern White community was simply lusting for Black blood (again, not completely wrong, yet nowhere near what’s actually on screen here) so I kept putting it off.  When I finally saw it I was astonished at the complexity, humor, and social implications permeating this film, understanding better now why the cumulative critical response is so very much better than what I initially encountered (99% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, 84% average score at Metacritic, with more details in the links below).

 A quick summary of the plot gives us a surprise opening abduction of a young Black man in a suburban neighborhood (I had to put that aside for awhile but later finally saw how this kidnapping of a guy we'll learn is Andre Hayworth [LaKeith Stanfield] plays into the main plot), followed by the introduction of young couple Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya)—Black—Rose Armitage (Allison Williams)—White—when after 5 months together she’s ready to introduce him to her parents.  On the trip to her wooded-home (her driving), they hit a deer which damages the car somewhat, kills the animal; after reporting the accident to the local authorities Chris endures some racist gruff from a highway patrolman, with Rose angrily coming to his defense.  Once they reach their destination, Chris is welcomed easily by parents Dean (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and Missy (Catherine Keener), a psychiatrist/hypnotherapist, although younger brother Jeremy’s (Caleb Landry Jones) somewhat unsettling while servants Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) are just downright weird in some of their reactions to Chris, with an annual gathering of family friends the next day yielding even more odd responses from the only other Black guest at this grand, lavish
occasion.  Chris does try to make contact with this strange guy, Logan King [Stanfield], (once known as Andre Hayworth, to finally explain that weird opening scene) whose offsetting behavior turns hostile when Chris (who's a noted photographer) takes a flash photo of him.  Further weirdness came in the early morning hours before this event when Chris snuck outside for a cigarette (he’s trying to quit) only to find Missy in the living room, wide awake; she hypnotizes him (with the clever use of a spoon in a teacup) into a paralytic state, sending him to what she calls “the sunken place” until he wakes up later that morning rattled by it all (but with his nicotine attraction gone).  Chris wants to leave but soon finds he’s a prisoner of this family, with a video explanation from Grandpa Roman Armitage (Richard Herd) that he’ll soon be part of their circle after Dean implants high-bidder/blind-art-dealer Jim Hudson’s (Stephen Root) brain into Chris’ head, with the host retaining only the vaguest awareness of his past life.  (Chris was warned against getting involved with these folks by his close friend/TSA Officer Rod Williams [Lil Rel Howery], but Rod assumed his friend was destined to be turned into a zombie-like-sex-slave—which comes across as much funnier than it sounds when he explains it.)

Another (less-riveting) side of Rose
 Through a series of plotted circumstances, Chris manages to get free of his confinement, kills Jeremy, Dean, and Missy, attempts to drive away from the secluded Armitage mansion but then hits Georgina in the process so he puts her in the passenger seat (somewhat in guilt for how as an 11-year-old-boy he just watched TV rather than trying to find out the reason that his mother didn’t return on the night she suffered an agonizing death due to a horrid hit-and-run-driver); Georgina then suddenly comes to (with our clarity that the body of this woman contains the brain of Grandma Armitage, the type of surgery that Dean’s been doing for years to put ailing White identities into virile Black bodies), angrily distracts Chris for destroying her house (it caught on fire in the process of his escape), so he smashes the car into a tree, apparently killing her for good.  Rose and Walter (with Grandpa’s brain [he was always miffed he lost an Olympic trial to Jesse Owens so he wanted a Black body to give himself a 2nd chance at top-flight-athleticism]) are right behind as bloodied-Chris crawls away from the smashed auto; when they catch up, he uses the phone-camera-flash again to awaken the submerged-consciousness of Walter who asks Rose for the rifle to kill Chris, instead shoots her, then kills himself.  Rose isn’t quite dead, though, so Chris starts to choke her, relents when a flashing-light-car pulls up with our assumption Chris will be arrested for all these deaths (apparently that was the original script intention) but it turns out to be super-sleuth-Rod to the rescue (who tried to report his earlier concerns to the police when he recognized the photo of long-missing-Andre that Chris sent him of “Logan,” only to be laughed off).

 There’s a constant sense of unease in Get Out that evolves into full-fledged-horror as circumstances (and lying Rose, who’s lured many Black men into her seductive-grasp) escalate against Chris, with our assumptions for his final demise turned into satirical humor when the “authority” arriving at the end isn’t the racist cop from earlier but instead Rod, who’s not about to report any of this to anyone lest Chris need to take any responsibility for all the deaths he caused in his frantic escape from the Armitage madhouse.  A perverse sense of humor pervades this unique film (despite the scene of Dean cutting off Jim Hudson‘s skull in order to take out his brain for the intended transfer, giving me memories of a similar grotesque event in Hannibal [Ridley Scott, 2001] when the title character finally overcomes his own capture to take revenge on antagonist Paul Krendler [Ray Liotta] by doping him, then removing the top of his skull, slicing off sections of Paul‘s brain for the deluded-prisoner to eat) even as the tension of betrayal, forced-surrender of identity, and the warped assumption of the Armitages and their retinue that such bodily-theft is acceptable, only because they’re of a class privileged enough to devise it.  The surface horrors of Get Out (a most appropriate title as a warning to Chris and all he represents) are blended well with the social satire of a narrative where Blacks are prized not for their humanity (as the Armitages and their social circle keep saying) but rather for their physical attractiveness as a vehicle for elderly Whites to escape death (reminiscent of a similar attempt of old folks entering into younger bodies in Being John Malkovich [Spike Jonze, 1999]—which also featured Keener), the sudden turn by Rose at the end is completely unexpected, the comic scenes featuring Rod’s paranoia are hilarious, with the whole enterprise of Get Out as one of the more unusual cinematic pleasures I’ve had in quite some time.

 I’ll leave my fascination with this most-unusual-but-satisfying-film in the offering of a Musical Metaphor, “A Hymn to Him” (lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner along with music by Frederick Loewe from their play, My Fair Lady [its Broadway premiere in 1956], then adapted to film by George Cukor in 1964, available on either version's cast soundtrack album) at https://www. PPfTEv-YxI (sung by Rex Harrison from the movie) because it takes such an odd stretch to connect this song to the events of Get Out, resembling this film’s odd stretch of race-relations-commentary put into the vehicles of comedy and horror movies, just as the song’s male (ego)-centric-lyrics (“why can’t a woman be more like a man?”) remind me of how this film’s satire of Black Lives Matter-caring White liberals (a real-world-group which generically includes me, although hopefully not as characterized by these manipulative-filmic-monsters) are enamored of their “dark neighbors” enough to crave their attractive bodies but only as vessels for their White identities—social privilege now manifested in a more robust tone—purified of all their unseemly “racial” aspects just as this song asks why women must be “exasperating, irritating, Vacillating, calculating, agitating Maddening and infuriating hags!” rather than men who “are so friendly, good natured and kind.  A better companion you never will find.”  These wealthy, warped liberals (I know; some of you are saying “Is there any other kind?”) in 
Get Out certainly aren’t the only harsh, doctrinaire societal or ethnic groups to feel this way about whomever they perceive as “the other,” but, as summed up in the above song, this patronizing (at best; sexist at its worst) attitude shown by men (Whites, oligarchs, etc.) as being “so honest, so thoroughly square; [not to mention] Eternally noble, historically fair” [!], setting forth such “excellent” [?] examples (with disastrous health-care-plans or their “big, beautiful” walls) to serve as the template for the “irrational” who just can’t seem to understand why “can’t a woman [or any of “them”] be like us?” comes together well as a condemnation on screen, whether we’re dealing with the Armitages or Prof. Henry Higgins.  As Chris and Rod demonstrate clearly in the fascinating, unnerving Get Out, there can be plenty of reasons not to follow such offered “models,” especially when the “us” displays any of the fawning-yet-horrid, (literally) mind-altering aspects of this repulsive mentality.*

*Some additional commentary on the intentions and attitudes of Get Out can be found at the following links, focused on 2 important-but-likely-unnoticed-symbols (7:11) in the narrative, an examination of its inner messages (10:24), along with a precise 25 facts about the film (6:33).
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Here’s more information about The Dinner: (6:19 commentary from actors Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall, Laura Linney, Chloë Sevigny, and director Oren Moverman; given that Steve Coogan’s not available there I’ll also offer Gere and Hall’s praise for Coogan in this very short video at

Here’s more information about Get Out: (41:34 interview with director Jordan Peele and actors Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams [begins with the same trailer as noted just above])

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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*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I have to keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 4/12/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

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.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 18,753 (a bit lower than previously; I guess I’m dropping out of fashion); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week (I see I’m big in Russia again; I hope I’m not going to be called to D.C. to testify about clandestine contacts because, believe me, there’s been no payoffs coming from that direction—or anywhere else—to my bank account [if anything, I should be commended for maintaining the U.S.A. balance of trade relative to limited imports]):


  1. Get Out's trailer leads you into believing this film is the modern version of 1967's Look Who's Coming to Dinner (an early black-white romance during the heat of the Civil Rights movement depicting Sidney Poitier and his white girlfriend visiting the home of an aging and perhaps racist Spencer Tracey along with Katharine Hepburn). That film which was primarily worthwhile for a look at the aging Tracey and Hepburn and for its mainstream shock value at the time. So when Get Out's trailer seemed to reflect more of the same, I too neglected it for a time. But here's where film reviews and critics payoff; It was hard to bypass something so universally appreciated by those who saw it. And clearly, this is not another stereotypical black white retread. It's a gripping psychological drama that turns into something totally menacing. Another excellent film that should not be missed on the big screen with an audience.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for the extensive comments, all of which are right in line with my own responses. Ken