Thursday, June 21, 2018

First Reformed and Short Takes on Incredibles 2

     Take Your Pick: Crisis Christianity or All-Out Animated Action 
                                               (maybe both)

                                       Reviews by Ken Burke
                                 First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Pastor Toller, of a small Dutch Reformed Church’s parish in upstate NY, is facing several crises: his faith is being challenged so he’s keeping a journal of his thoughts in an attempt to understand his concerns; he’s facing serious medical problems but doesn’t admit them to anyone else; a parishioner wants his wife to abort their child because he wants no more children brought into a world facing chaos from climate change; an important climate-change-denier is financing the elaborate 250th anniversary re-consecration of his church even as this pastor begins to embrace the fears of his troubled parishioner; the pastor’s ex-wife's still marginally in his life although he rails against her because of the guilt she stirs up in him.  All of this is presented in consistently-serious-fashion (except for one joke about Martin Luther on the toilet) by the hard-edged-screenwriter (sometimes director, as with this film) who came to prominence with his script for Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), giving us a character here who may be as disturbed (but for different reasons, with different actions) as Travis Bickle in that much-earlier-story.  There’s a good bit in First Reformed likely to be upsetting to devout Christians (as was another Schrader script, The Last Temptation of Christ), while ecological-crisis-cynics probably won’t care for it either, but for anyone else who can find this obscure offering, then give it a serious viewing, I think you’ll be impressed with the sincerely-considered-yet-consistently-disturbing-result.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

What Happens: The centuries-old First Reformed church (of the Dutch Reformed tradition)—a plain structure with little adornment, not much more in parishioner participation—in upstate Snowbridge, NY is presided over by Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), a man constantly struggling with finding meaning in his life or his religion, still distraught over the death of his son whom he encouraged to join the army when Ernst was a military chaplain, with the bitter results of the son dying in a meaningless Middle East war leading to divorce from ex-wife Esther (Victoria Hill) who’s still active in the much larger Abundant Life Fellowship which owns First Reformed, with its Pastor Jeffers (Cedric [“The Entertainer”] Kyles) trying to help Toller get by (they find some levity joking over the story of Martin Luther writing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” while dealing with his own bowel-struggles in the outhouse) despite his troubled nature and marginal need at First Reformed, more of a small museum now (it once was a stop on the Underground Railroad, giving reprieves to runaway slaves), despite the ongoing preparations for a huge 250th anniversary re-consecration to be attended by the Governor, bankrolled (when Toller admits the organ’s still not working expensive repairs begin immediately) by hypocritical-“environmentalist” Edward Balq (Michael Gaston), CEO of a large corporation.  Toller tries committing himself to a year’s worth of daily journal entries (scratched-out lines, removed pages, and all) in an attempt to understand the grim feelings he constantly wrestles with trying to balance despair with hope (telling himself he’s not lost his faith).  Toller’s life becomes even more complicated when regular-church-attendee Mary (Amanda Seyfried) asks the Reverend to meet with her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger), a radical environmentalist who wants Mary to get an abortion to save this future child from a world becoming unlivable due to the oncoming harsh extremes of climate change.  ⇒Toller struggles to offer any arguments beyond unwavering faith (even in the face of doubt about the will of God in the ongoing rape of the Earth) to sway Michael’s position, then Mary finds a suicide vest in their garage which Toller removes, but as the next meeting with Michael approaches he gets a call to meet the man in the nearby woods, whereupon arriving he finds Michael now dead from a suicide shotgun blast.⇐

 In accordance with Michael’s will, his ashes are scattered in a local toxic dump which angers Balq, concerns Jeffers as the event brings about some bad PR for the upcoming First Reformed ceremony, especially because the supervising pastor knows Toller’s been drinking at an alarming rate (even as we know he’s got worse problems when he sees blood in his urine).  Ultimately, Toller agrees to a medical checkup which indicates stomach cancer, with more tests to follow, but he’s more concerned about the implications of Michael’s ecological panic—staving off his internal pain by mixing Pepto-Bismol into his whiskey—wondering if God’s allowing us to ruin our planet so He can then save it, just as He allows sin so we can gain redemption, a quandary he can't solve not knowing the mind of God.  With Michael gone, Mary increasingly turns to Toller for comfort, one night visiting him to request he join her in a non-sexual-exercise she used to do with her husband where she lays on the man, they look deeply into each other’s eyes, then experience a form of existential connection.  When Toller does this with Mary we see them levitate, float in deep space, then continue their travels over various pristine natural locations followed by polluted areas until they come to quiet closure back in Toller’s sparse living quarters connected to the small church.  However, he tells her not to attend the upcoming ceremony; we soon learn it’s because he intends to wear the suicide vest in order to take out Balq and others who refuse to accept human responsibility for our deteriorating planet.  When he sees she’s come anyway, he repents his violent desires, takes off the vest, endures self-mutilation by wrapping barbed-wire around his torso, prepares to kill himself by drinking toilet drain-cleaner.  Pastor Jeffers attempts to find Toller as the ceremony begins with Esther singing a slow, extended version of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (just as she continued to encourage Toller to lean on her, despite their divorce, which drove him further into a rage of guilt-induced-agony), but the door to his quarters is locked yet Mary somehow gets in so Ernst turns away from the intended poison to embrace her (although she doesn’t seem to feel the sharp metal on his body, even as spots of blood appear on his white clerical garment).⇐

So What? If my above summary sounds somewhat like Ingmar Bergman meets Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) you couldn’t be more right, especially concerning Bergman’s Winter Light (1963)—also focused on a cleric with doubts about God, morality, and his appropriate response to these challenges—and the (in)famous-vigilante-film where Robert Di Nero’s character functions as a terrorist (although praised in the press due to the underworld men he killed) because Taxi Driver and First Reformed are written by Schrader (who also co-wrote [with Mardik Martin] Raging Bull about another man—this one based in reality—with deeply-disturbed-self-inflicted-wounds [of the psychological sort]).  All of this is appropriate to a screenwriter/director who was raised in the religiously-conservative Calvinist Christian Reformed Church, did some seminary study early on, has consistently dealt with traumas in human life in juxtaposition with the seeming lack of divine guidance* in scripts such as The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988) or his own American Gigolo (1980); he’s also respected as a film critic, with an influential essay, "Notes on Film Noir" (in various editions of Barry K. Grant’s Film Genre Reader) which explores a type of cinema relevant to Schrader’s interests with its post-WW II disillusionment, influences of German Expressionism and hardboiled-detective-fiction on this unsettling stylistic movement which still finds powerful expression in the neo-noir work of such filmmakers as David Lynch and the Coen brothers.  Schrader’s films, especially this one, provide uncompromising looks at some of the worst aspects of human nature (akin to the raw, unsettling Bergman oeuvre), challenging us as viewers to find workable solutions—or at least understandings—often unavailable to the characters he’s created.**

*When I journeyed to the Sundance Film Festival in 1998 or 2004 (I forget), I attended a panel discussion including Schrader on the topic of how mainstream films would need to move away from mindless sci-fi/fantasy extravaganzas into the higher realm of more spiritually-based-stories as deteriorating conditions in the world called for collective rescue of our species and planet; sadly, I've seen so little movement in such a direction except for individual stories such as First Reformed.

**If you’d like to know more about Schrader, here’s an interview (26:48) placing this most current cinema offering within the context of his previous films, including some interesting comments about the difference between film critics and filmmakers, from his viewpoint having worked in both arenas.

 One aspect of First Reformed harkening back to The Last Temptation (in addition to Rev. Toller’s internal struggles over how he’s supposed to properly serve a God whose intentions he can’t fully understand) is how in that earlier, extremely-controversial film (whose “blasphemous” challenges-to-orthodox-Christianity-content aren’t fully Schrader's fault, as he adapted his screenplay from a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis) Jesus is allowed to come down from the cross by an angel, marry, have children, and lead a normal human life until he learns as an old man the angel was actually Satan so he crawls back to the site of his crucifixion, begging God to restore his original sacrifice for the good of humankind, so all that occurred in his alternate life either was a vision or a failed history needing to be erased (none of which satisfied the vocal, sometimes violent critics of this earlier film).  Similarly, in … Reformed we know the scene where Ernst and Mary (whose name could conjure up associations with the Blessed Mother [because of her pregnancy] or more likely Mary Magdalene, either in providing a temptation for Toller from renouncing what he considers his “sins of the flesh” or providing him with needed temporal comfort, as does the Magdalene character in The Last Temptation … [depending on how you might choose to interpret Seyfried’s Mary]) ⇒float through their transcendental travels is merely a mental projection of the exhilerating connection they share (an aspect of what liberates/limits cinema in that most of what we see we assume to be actual events as cinematography in and of itself doesn’t distinguish fantasy from reality), but so might be that final scene where she rescues him from suicide or, at least, that’s a viable conjecture in this "explanation" of First Reformed's ending, with speculation their reconciliation is just another Toller mental-manifestation prior to his actual death because it’s both unclear how Mary got into Ernst’s living quarters when Jeffers couldn’t and strange that she seems to have no awareness of the brutal barbed wire encircling his body as they passionately hug.⇐   Schrader doesn’t provide definitive answers here as he did with The Last Temptation of Christ, giving us even more to speculate about what all we could try to learn from this masterfulyet terribly-troublingnarrative.

Bottom Line Final Comments: When I began writing my responses to the cinematic stimuli I’d seen a few days prior in local theaters I assumed I could whip through my thoughts about Incredibles 2 quickly, given its fast-action, family-friendly (as well as family-focused) nature, although when I tried to cram my review of it into the supposed-confines of my Short Takes section I found myself infected enough by this shiny-surface-movie’s energy that I shot off on one of my frequent tangents when attempting to introduce my usual analysis-concluding-trope of a Musical Metaphor (just like Incredibles 2 follows its own tangent of introducing a host of other superheroes who clutter up the flow of their narrative somewhat, possibly in acknowledgement of how that same tactic keeps bloating the storylines of the X-Men and Avengers franchises).  Still, those flighty words flowed easily (as did links to variations on a notable Beach Boys song) while it’s been much more difficult to get my thoughts around a considerably more difficult film in Schrader’s First Reformed.  Not that it’s uninteresting or off-putting (although nothing in its content is even remotely as pleasantly-amusing as any 2 minutes of Incredibles 2), a fact easily illustrated by its warm embrace by the film critics community-at-large, garnering a huge 96% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, a notably-high 85% average score from the usually-restrained-folks surveyed at Metacritic.  Still, it’s not easy to watch, given the miseries some of the main characters constantly suffer, the frequent gloomy voiceover narration from Rev. Toller, the off-putting-disgust he spews out toward Esther when she attempts to be a comfort for him, his preoccupation with self-pride leading him into a decision of embracing trauma in a mistaken (according to Schrader’s comments in my links here) embrace of misery attempting to emulate Jesus’ tortures rather than accepting God’s love as a means of salvation (having been raised Catholic, I can certainly relate to that skewed rationale), his conviction that what Michael needs is “courage” rather than “intellect” in accepting the world will somehow be rectified even though courage isn’t enough to sustain Toller in his own tribulations.  Audience response to all this on-screen-pain reflects the difficulty in embracing Schrader’s visions this time, with the film now playing in only 273 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters, even after 5 weeks in release, having generated an anemic-collection-basket-take of $2.4 million in box-office-receipts.

Full-frame photo from the film showing how the 4 x 3 ratio format fits into standard widescreen.
 Even the filmmaking process is discomforting (again, through Schrader’s intentions, plus little camera movement) as the format is in the old 4 x 3 ratio (an almost-square-configuration) recalling earlier decades of both cinema and TV prior to the universal switch to wider-screens—along with all credits presented during the opening shot (a long, slow trucking move toward the old, austere church) rather than at the end, with the graphics in cursive script, all indicating an earlier time of more-declarative-assumptions where answers were often expected to exist by faith alone, even if Rev. Toller’s having great difficulty finding that certainty in this quiet, somber story where his connections to this religious relic of a parish are overshadowed by the prestigious pomp of (cynically-named) Abundant Life, so dependent on material support from sanctimonious financiers such as Balq.  With nowhere near the ongoing action of Incredibles 2, where someone’s racing around on foot or wheels practically every minute, First Reformed presents a restrained experience mostly dependent on conversations (the lengthy, terse one between Toller and Michael about moral responsibility in an increasingly immoral world; the gently-chastising exchange between Jeffers and Toller as the latter’s criticized for caring more about environmental than pastoral concerns) with Michael’s death shown after-the-fact, only Toller’s gruesome wrapping himself in barbed-wire a direct assault on our viewing.  This isn't an easy film to recommend both because it offers so little relief from its gloom (even the union of Ernst and Mary at the end may be suspect) and because it’ll be hard to find except on video (not to mention how unacceptable it probably is to those who’d reject its take on ineffectual Christianity), but after serious consideration I do find it a worthwhile viewing challenge, of the sort we need more of in our media content to balance the escapist frivolity of such socially-reaffirming-fare as presented in Incredibles 2 (we need that too, but not at the expense of ignoring rather than challenging the massive problems we face in our global existence).

 As noted, I end my reviews with those Musical Metaphors speaking in a different (aural) voice to what’s been explored in my verbal commentary; in the case of First Reformed an obvious choice might be Neil Young’s "Who's Gonna Stand Up?" (on his 2014 Storeytone album), a direct challenge to the fossil-fuel-industry used in the film’s soundtrack during Michael’s symbolic-funeral at the toxic-dump-site, but while it’s relevant to the specific ecological issues raised in … Reformed about the dangers of drastic climate change I wanted to go even more “global” (in terms of social disconnections also undermining our societies even if we could somehow get the environmental crisis under control [maybe the rest of the planet can while the U.S. backtracks under Trump’s fat-cat-funded-retrograde-“guidance”]) so I went much farther back to Bob Dylan’s confrontation of interpersonal/intercultural ills in "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," a warning about what may destroy us from within even as we’re trying to find solutions for the pollution/climate assaults more visible in the droughts, storms, and rising oceans that may never be rectified if destructive human attitudes keep undermining our waning options, a prophecy made tangible at watch?v=hXn9ZKPx6CY (from the February 1964 broadcast of Canada's CBC-TV Quest series, which I now see as the site of another Dylan performance, “Girl from the North Country,” I used in my last posting in reference to Disobedience [Sebastián Lelio]“A Hard Rain …," like "Girl ..." is on 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album), unless we can transcend the ever-growing-situation “Where the people are many and their hands are all empty Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten.”  Decades later, the “hard rain’s [still likely] a-gonna fall,” although other prophets such as Paul Schrader continue to warn us to go “back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’ […] walk to the depths of the deepest black forest” before succumbing to self-inflicted-wounds, accepting the condemnations of deluded-above-the-fray-elites, allowing despair to overcome love, renouncing healing hope in favor of that suicide vest. 
(once again, not as short a) SHORT TAKES (as I originally intended) 
(please note that spoilers also appear here)
                                       Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird)
In this latest Disney/Pixar release we return (after a very long wait) to the adventures of the superpowered Parr family as they keep trying to use their unique abilities to fight crime but are restrained by their kind having been made illegal some years ago.  As they begin to reassert themselves the focus is on Mom Helen rather than Dad Bob, who’s now a househusband.

Here’s the trailer:

        Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.

 So, here I am once again consigning a widely-acclaimed (RT 94% positive reviews, MC 80% average score), hugely-successful movie (jumped out to $259.5 million, all but $53 million domestically, giving it the All-Time Highest Opening Weekend Gross for an animated feature) under the Short Takes heading while focusing my more-detailed-attention on an obscure oddity most of you won’t seek out even if you wanted to given its scant availability.  Once again, that’s because the hype, impact, and easily-understood-content (trailer tells you everything you need to know) of this mammoth-cultural-phenomenon’s already determines its power in the marketplace; thus, it’s doubtful anything I’d say would have much bearing on your attendance (if you’re among the few who haven’t already seen it) while my spoiler-filled-comments (for those looking to save a few bucks) don’t have to be very detailed to cover the main points of this mostly-predictable-yet-highly-entertaining-romp.  In brief, despite the 14 years since The Incredibles (Bird, 2004), this sequel picks up where the previous one ended (in case you’ve forgotten, the 15-year-mention early on in this script is how long superheroes have been outlawed* not how long their lives have continued, explaining why our protagonists haven’t aged during the hiatus), with the superpowered Parr family battling The Underminer (voice of John Ratzenberger) who’s tunneling into the Metroville Bank.  Despite Herculean efforts, their adversary—taking a huge haul of cash—eludes them and fellow crimefighter Lucius Best/Frozone, the ice-maker (Samuel L. Jackson), further discrediting attempts by superheroes to re-establish their civic presence, until a secret offer comes from Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), CEO of huge DEVTECH, to sway public opinion with lauded heroic actions, but he wants the face of this renovation to be Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), leaving crestfallen Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) to keep his superstrength at home with the kids: angsty-teenager Violet (Sarah Vowell)—armed with invisibility, force-field projection—10-year-old speedster Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), whose powers keep manifesting at inopportune times.**

*Their “crimes” combine the budgetarily-overwhelming-destruction caused from battling their many adversaries (similar to recent storylines in both DC and Marvel Cinematic Universes) and the (effectively-sarcastic) note our lawmakers can’t believe anyone would do go good for altruistic reasons so these odd superheroes must be up to something devious despite the lack of evidence. 

**Here’s an explanation of 17 abilities so far displayed by this cute, incomparable Parr superbaby.

 While Mom makes headlines by preventing the crash of a runaway high-speed-train Dad finds frustration on all sides: Violet’s steamed because potential boyfriend Tony’s (Michael Bird) memory’s been wiped away about her existence by agent Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks) because the kid accidently saw Violet without her mask in an early scene; Dash’s frustrated Bob can’t help him understand his New Math homework (neither can I); Jack-Jack creates all sorts of havoc with his fire/laser/disappearance, etc. abilities.  Using help from superhero-costume-designer Edna Mode (Brad Bird), Bob gets an outfit that helps him manage Jack-Jack’s abilities (so he can also be used as a weapon), but ⇒Helen's duped by Winston’s sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), the hidden villain of our story, operating as the Screenslaver (hypnotizing her victims through pulsating patterns on video screens* or commanding their wills by putting special goggles on them), determined to cause havoc due not only to the population’s preoccupation with image-addiction (not the worst motivation for a villain) but also to her distain for superheroes because her father was shot dead by a burglar while waiting for a superhero to save him rather than going to a saferoom within the family mansion.  Although Elastigirl thinks she’s caught this adversary, it’s all a ruse leading to an elaborate plan that soon has the Parr parents, Frozone, and other superheroes from around the world under Evelyn’s power.  To save the day, the Parr kids manage to free everyone from Evelyn’s control so the “supers” can keep the enormous DEVTECH yacht from crashing into the city, then save Evelyn from a watery death so she can be sent off to jail, all of which results in a multi-nation-agreement (although the only potential U.S. Presidential character I saw looks a lot more like Barack Obama than Donald Trump—damn!) restoring superheroes to public crimefighting status, even as Bob conquers New Math for Dash’s benefit, Violet's back with Tony, Jack-Jack confounds everyone.⇐ 

*These scenes have led to public warnings in our world about how such strobe effects could trigger epilepsy or related light-sensitivity attacks for susceptible viewers, so do be aware if necessary.

 This is all played for laughs (quite effectively)—although the serendipitous commentary about unfair laws, clueless politicians, and personal vengeance by the powerful to settle scores without regard for public safety likely give adults in the audience some satisfaction screenwriter Bird couldn’t have imagined when this long-delayed, long-to-create movie finally began production about 4 years ago.  The exaggerated-character-animation is amazingly fluid in portraying human movements, the many buried references (see this movie's 2nd entry under Related Links just below) are sure to please trivia-hunters, the action is non-stop-but-PG-sanitized so this truly is cartoon violence, with the overall impact being delightful if ultimately inconsequential except as a rewarding escape (although pushing the limits of narrative endurance for an animated feature at just under 2 hours) from the traumatic reality of real-world-strategies-masquerading-as-legal-requirements where actual children are used as pawns in political maneuverings, even if you may be a bit overloaded with the constant onslaught of superheroes on the silver screen (note: this one’s set up for another sequel as Underminer’s still at large with a quick graphic reference to him toward the conclusion of the credits).  Given all of the heroes and villains racing around non-stop in this movie, it seemed only appropriate that I use the song by that name (from the Beach Boys 1967 Smiley Smile album) as my Musical Metaphor, with just the audio from the record, no added video at com/watch?v=fMi7IWGhT20although, for clarity of the complex lyrics, you might benefit from a back-up transcription of them in a link also providing commentary on this song’s original release.

 Still, given how complex the recording process was for this song (just as the computer-based-process for Incredibles 2 is enormously complicated [watch all of those end credits]), I thought you might also like to see it performed live in that version of aural complexity so I explored a couple of unsatisfactory videos from the Boys’ 2012 50th anniversary Reunion Tour, settled instead on this version from a 1971 NYC Central Park concert (with a sense of psychedelic hangover) featuring all the original members except Brian Wilson* so here’s his version with a large group of non-Beach Boys musicians doing this even-more-complicated-arrangement as it appears on the long-awaited-completion of the Smile album (2014)—forcing a wait even more extreme (since 1967) than the Incredibles sequelwith some additional lyrics for enhancement of this semi-symphonic showcase.

*In the 1971 concert, drummer Dennis Wilson’s moved to keyboards; ironically—as the most “outlaw” of the group with his mild connection to Charles Manson—he's the only one of the core group without a hippie-era-beard.  Short-term-original-member David Marks (who replaced Al Jardine for a couple of years as they first gained popularity) also wasn’t there in 1971, not back with the remaining founding folks (after Dennis and Carl’s deaths) until that 2012 reunion tour; in this 1971 “Heroes and Villains” video Jardine sings lead in Brian’s absence (he stopped touring in 1964; by the time I got to see them, early1967, Bruce Johnson permanently took Brian's place on stage).

 However, if all this has become too complicated for a mere Musical Metaphor I’ll trim it down to the kind of American protagonist that thrived in American fiction and film long before superheroes even debuted* with Willie Nelson’s "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" (from the 1980 album The Electric Horseman: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; written by Sharon Rice, first recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1976 on the Wanted! The Outlaws album, also featuring Nelson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaster in various solos and duets, a collection of talent—like the original Beach Boys, not the ongoing facsimile of that group now just including Mike Love and Bruce Johnson—that could also be called “The Incredibles,” even though none of them [including the Beach Boys in any configuration] wore spandex costumes).  As is usually the case with my ramblings, this attempt at Short Takes didn’t end up being so short, but if you want a truly fascinating “short” experience be sure to be on time for a screening of Incredibles 2 so you can also see what precedes it, Pixar’s newest short animation (a likely Oscar contender in 2019, as may be the feature movie as well) Bao (Domee Shi) in which a Chinese woman seemingly experiences a dumpling come alive in her dinner one night, a joyous addition to her life she treats like a child until years later when it becomes rebellious, ⇒then wants to run off to marry a young woman so Mom eats him to prevent him leaving her without his consistent company.  In her grief over the loss, the actual young man comes home (by which time we’ve understood all we’ve seen before was simply visual metaphor) to reunite with his parents, the new fiancée joining in as well.⇐  Here you can get a brief (30 sec.) “taste” of Bao along with clips from other Disney/Pixar shorts (in addition, if you’re fully on time you’ll begin your screening with a series of quick “thank you” remarks from some of Incredibles 2’s voice talent [returning from the original], acknowledging their appreciation for our patience in waiting for this sequel to arrive, just as I thank you for reading through all this clutter).

*See Douglas Pye, "The Western (Genre and Movies)" (also found in various editions of Barry K. Grant’s Film Genre Reader [this link should come up on the article but if not scroll down to p. 203])
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about First Reformed: (36:48 interview with writer-director Paul Schrader and actors Ethan Hawke, Cedric Kyles [begins with the trailer far above; this page on YouTube contains other extensive interviews with Schrader in the right-side-column if you’re interested])

Here’s more information about Incredibles 2: (20:11 exploration of 107 facts about the movie) along with (8:58 on Easter Eggs and 
Pixar references in the movie)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

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.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
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 3,527 (still considerably smaller than our best numbers, but we continue to appreciate those of you worldwide attending to Two Guys in the Dark); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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