Thursday, October 18, 2018

First Man and The Old Man & the Gun

                                           A First and (alas) A Last

                                                           Reviews by Ken Burke

 I indicated in my last posting I might only be able to review 1 film per week for the next month or so, but I was able to see 2 of them recently so here’s more than originally intended this time around.
                                   First Man (Damien Chezelle)
Executive Summary” (no spoilers): As we’re once again in “based on a true story” territory I can’t see what could be a spoiler, given it’s common knowledge Neil Armstrong and his astronaut team were able to successfully accomplish history’s first landing on our moon in 1969 so I’m not going to designate any of the review below in my typical spoiler fashion (although I’ll still state my standard explanation of how that works, just for the record) because the only thing you might not know about this historic event is how conflicted the astronauts and their families were about that dangerous enterprise, but such inner-turmoil serves as background context for the more overt events of this film so there’s nothing really to hide from you there either).  Essentially, this is how NASA pushed itself into completely unknown territory in the 1960s by inventing technology, making bold steps toward conquering the substantial challenges of space travel—losing a few lives in the process—with the quest culminating in the July 1969 landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as the first humans to walk upon our distant lunar surface.  There’s plenty of tension along the way in this extremely well made, engrossing film, as well as a grand sense of personal accomplishment as success of these missions depended not only on following carefully-worked-out-protocols but also responding spontaneously to unforeseen dangers that could easily have aborted even more of these missions in similar tragic manners than those which actually occurred, horrible in their happenings but relatively few given the numbers of U.S. space flights successfully accomplished before Apollo 11 ever blasted off from Florida.  Despite the occasional-roller-coaster-aspects of spaceships in peril, though, most of what happens in the flow of First Man is of inner-contemplative-nature, cautiously-brave-men dreaming of conquering the stars while realizing death is just one unanticipated crisis away.  Marvelously acted by Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, Claire Foy as his wife, and the entire cast, this film merits your attention, easily found in thousands of theaters.

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: Despite idealistic pronouncements by President John Kennedy, the U.S.A. space program was notably behind the efforts of the Soviet Union in the early 1960s so NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) heads found it imperative to realize JFK’s goals of landing a man (no women in the astronaut corps in those days, but they would come later) on the moon, safely returning him (and his crew) to Earth. This story traces the true exploits of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) to become that historical moonwalker, beginning with footage in 1961 of him as a jet pilot challenging the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, barely able to keep his X-15 plane (and himself) intact before landing safely (what's shown in the photo above's from a different, not-so-celebrated-result) on the Mojave Desert (with plenty of point-of-view bouncing closeup shots from inside his cockpit, making it clear to us both the danger he faced and the disruptive-reality of such a traumatic event, further enhancing our admiration for his piloting skills when he’s able to tame such a technological-bucking-bronco).  While there are a lot of important dates (and significant individuals) in the U.S. space program of that era noted throughout the next 2/3 or so of First Man’s 141 minutes, what really matters is what’s happening inside the mind of Armstrong as he simultaneously grieves the loss of his 2-year-old-daughter, Karen (Lucy Stafford), to a brain tumor and asserts his willingness to be part of a mission to accomplish the first-ever-moon-landing within a few short years, requiring Neil to move his family—wife Janet (Claire Foy), son Rick (Gavin Warren)—to Houston where he undergoes rigorous trials designed to determine his ability to withstand both the physical and psychological rigors of space travel (burdens further accentuated throughout the film by the horrors of test pilots killed in trial runs, the terrifying deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts on the launching pad due to a freak fire in their capsule bringing collective sorrow to these close-knit-space-program-families, living near each other as well near Houston).  Armstrong had faced his own crisis when his Gemini 8 capsule almost crashed upon atmospheric re-entry after a successful test of a docking mission with another spacecraft, requiring him to take difficult manual control of his ship even in opposition to instructions from his ground-based Mission Control.

(Full disclosure: This photo's from the actual Apollo 17 mission [1972 , the last one], but I use it to show how
well Chazelle's captured the reality of moon landings in his film because this could easily be from First Man.)
 Neil’s chosen to lead the Apollo 11 mission (then survives an almost-fatal-crash testing the lunar-landing-vehicle), this introverted man faces the dual challenge of being publicly optimistic ("pleased") theoretical science will support him, privately terrified it could all go wrong.  He pulls back from Jan, facing her anger before blasting off, forced to admit to his sons (Luke Winters now as Rick, younger Mark [Connor Blodgett]) he might not return from this dangerous endeavor. Just as we’d been rocked around in claustrophobic-inner-capsule POV shots in other danger scenes, we also get plenty of that just above the moon’s surface, further emphasized by fuel running low even as anticipated landing areas prove to be unusable fields of large boulders.  Finally, a flat enough spot occurs, with Neil and (more outgoing) fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (Corey Stoll) able to say “The Eagle has landed,” then Neil cautiously descends the Lunar Module’s ladder onto the moon July 20, 1969 with a camera broadcasting his historic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”*  We then get a bit of lunar exploration by Armstrong and Aldrin, including a wide shot of one of them standing by the American flag (even more controversial, I’m afraid, than the grumbling over no shot of them actually planting that flag is the “justification” naysayers of this historic event can now make about how there was never a moon landing at all [just a staged film to drum up support for a space program not as successful nor triumphant as claimed to be], given how even more convincing this footage looks [admittedly, not shot on the moon] than the grainy 1969 visuals).  After Neil drops Karen’s little bracelet into a crater, followed by a successful return to Earth, the 3 crew members (Michael Collins [Lukas Haas] orbited the moon while the others descended; they then linked up with his module for the long trip home) stayed in quarantine for a month in case they picked up any microscopic intruders.  Jan visits, but she and Neil are separated by a large glass wall (seemingly with no telephone contact, which we’d expect to see even in an ordinary jail-visit-scene of another context [yet related to this story]).  She comes in, still looking angry (probably because of the strained manner in which Neil left for the moon trip), although they seem to emotionally connect, “touching” hands on each side of the restrictive glass.

*The intention was supposedly "A small step for a man ..." but that preposition didn’t transmit so this odd statement lives on, repeated in First Man with no attempt to clean up this presumed error.

So What? In one sense, First Man succeeds by evoking aspects of previous outer-space-exploration films: to cite a few examples, in The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983) we have a skilled pilot (Chuck Yeager [Sam Shepherd]) almost dying because of atmospheric conditions battering his airplane, followed by NASA astronauts bringing great successes for the emerging U.S.A. space program capped by John Glenn (Ed Harris) as the first American to orbit Earth; Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 1995) presents an almost-fatal-flight-situation which nearly results in the deaths of astronauts just a year after Apollo 11’s triumph; even the fictional Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón 2013; review in our October 9, 2013 posting) is relevant here, where a series of seemingly-impossible-heroic-actions under great duress result in calamity being avoided.  However, unlike the ultimate sense of victory accompanying those films, First Man surrounds its triumphs with a constant sense of impending doom or post-mission-regret, both to emphasize/verify how continually-dangerous these extra-terrestrial-flights were for all the brave men (and, later, women) who endured these technological challenges where everything constantly depended on precise calculations, split-second-timing, clear-headed-thinking when problems arose and to depict Neil Armstrong not as some confident rah-rah-warrior of the skies (as Glenn was shown in The Right Stuff) but as a man haunted by personal tragedy, nagging doubts this perilous mission to the moon could be pulled off as planned, a self-imposed-distancing from his family leading to his departure from Jan being much more tense than you’d expect from a loving couple: a sense of lingering anger from her, trepidation from him in that final shot in the isolation ward where they slowly, hesitantly make minimal contact through the glass wall separating them.  My first reaction to all this was to feel almost as removed from what I was seeing (and expecting to be impacted by, knowing how well-reviewed it is) as Armstrong was from most everything around him, sensing the Gemini 8 near-disaster scene was running on too long, forcing us to slog through this sense of impending-failure as our space program inched its wary way farther out from the known realm of Earth’s atmosphere, delaying for a sense of eternity what would seem to be the film’s intended-focus on the all-important moon landing.  Even when it was all over, I still wasn’t completely as caught up by it as I assumed I should be, even though Nina, my wife and alert-viewing-companion, found herself easily enthralled by it all.

 What finally brought me around to full appreciation of First Man was thinking about a song I’d heard many decades ago, sung by Alan Damron (a first-rate troubadour from Texas) at the Kerrville Folk Festival* sometime in the mid-1970s about how “a man named Armstrong walk[ed] upon the moon.”  I’ll talk more about the specifics of the song in this review’s next section below, but for now I’ll just say its lyrics helped me better understand Chazelle’s approach focusing on the dread, the uncertainty, the inner conflicts lurking in the backstory (and the psyches) of these supposed unflappable heroes who set out on voyages as scary, unpredictable, yet hopeful as those of sailors centuries ago who found our planet to contain its own unknown regions (except, of course, for the people who’d already lived there for millennia).  This film gives a balanced comparison between how astonishing it was for these 3 men to fly a lunar landing module to an historic landing culminating those decades of preparation (along with the deaths of those sacrificed in this process of progression through the previous Mercury, Gemini, Apollo programs) vs. the sense of misplaced priorities from some on Earth who felt all this effort and financing could have been better spent on helping humans right here on this planet rise above their constant generations of poverty, rejection, desperation.  That’s a problem we’ve yet to overcome as a species, trying to best decide how to allocate limited resources when the stakes are so high in both directions (heal the planet we’re on now before it becomes truly unlivable or find a sustainable process for establishing human extraterrestrial colonies to save us from the demise of our current home from human-inflicted-wounds); it’s a difficult decision which we can only hope will find some answer before all alternatives have been exhausted (yes, I have no doubt climate change is real; more so, it's deadly).

*Sadly, Damron died at age 66 in 2005, but you can see him in action here at the 2001 finale of the famous (in central Texas anyway), still ongoing Kerrville Folk Festival (an event begun in 1972, originally produced by Rod Kennedynoted in this video as their 30th anniversary rather than just their 30th festival, but I can attest things are often different in Texas from standard conceptions or measurements), although I’d say Damron’s best remembered for his rendition of the traditional Irish ballad "Nancy Whiskey", a great, easy sing-a-long, even if you’ve never heard it before.  He also managed Kennedy’s folk club, The Chequered Flag, in Austin where sometime in the late 1960s my close friend/musical collaborator/roommate Jerry Graham and I once performed on a Sunday night open mike session, nervous as hell but well-received by the crowd; however, we had to first prove ourselves in a private audition to Damron, who graciously accepted us upon his stage.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Like anyone else who was alive during that summer of 1969, I doubt I’ll ever forget where I was while watching the televised moon landing as Armstrong made his historic descent down that simple-but-crucial-ladder. (For me, it was at the apartment of good friend Mike McMurtry in Austin, first seeing the science-reality of an eons-old-dream-come-true on a small screen, then stepping out onto a balcony that July night, looking up at the moon itself, knowing full well this was a near-unmatched-moment in human history, a sight hopefully always to be remembered—even as sociopolitical unrest rattled our Earth, with the American nation largely united in triumph over the Soviets by our accomplishment on a faraway-orb but so divided back home, a tribalization of opposing values still in conflict today, even to the point of the harsh criticism leveled against this film for not showing American astronauts explicitly planting our flag on this lunar surface, as if we owned it in the same way European explorers claimed ownership of the Americas simply because they saw themselves as superior to the civilizations already entrenched there long before most Europeans even accepted the world as round rather than flat.)  But the embrace of history fades over time, so a somber exploration of what such explorations really offer our conflicted/possibly-doomed species (as long as political decisions keep being made on the premise of fossil-fuel-profits and climate-change as a “hoax”) can turn a reasonably-successful-box-office-debut ($19.1 million domestically [U.S.-Canada, trade alliances notwithstanding] plus $10.4 million internationally) into a distant 3rd place finish behind the continued embrace of a mutant superhero (Venom [2018], [Ruben Fleischer]), which in 2 weeks has racked up $148.7 million domestically, $236.5 million in other markets), making it sadly clear how flamboyance over substance continues to dominate what happens in our local cinemas—which might not be so bad a situation if movies weren’t the primary means by which many members of younger generations learn history, as long as it’s dramatized for maximum audience appeal.  First Man may well be remembered when awards season gets into full swing (critics are quite high on it, with those surveyed at Rotten Tomatoes offering a healthy 88% positive reviews while those at Metacritic come in with a highly-supportive [for them] 84% average score), but its probing into the existential reality of fear of failure haunting the 1960s space program may result in its own fading from future embrace when compared to such celebratory fare to be found in presentations like The Right Stuff.

 OK, enough yapping about what’s ultimately the enduring impact of First Man vs. how it may be hard to handle for those who want to see Neil Armstrong as a warrior out of ages-old-tradition personifying American imperialism into a vastly-removed-realm from Earth, so let’s bring this to a close.  As alluded to above, this review’s Musical Metaphor—my standard device for wrapping up whatever’s gone before in a review—is “Armstrong,” a song by John Stewart (replaced Dave Guard in the Kingston Trio, performed with Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane under that heading 1961-1967 [which means I saw him in Las Vegas in 1964 at one of the only shows I could get in at age 16 while traveling through there with my parents]; he also wrote “Daydream Believer” for the Monkees in 1967) from 1969 in response to the historic lunar landing, then re-recorded by him (for his 1973 Cannons in the Rain album) so what I have here for you is a combo of those versions at (illustrated by just a photo of an astronaut on the moon, presumably Neil but could be Buzz [one of them had to take this shot]; however, if you’d prefer just Stewart’s 1969 original here it is, along with another single photo of one of those first moonwalkers and the "essential" American flag [which may help calm down those—such as President Trump—upset First Man didn’t emphasize the actual planting of this flag, as if claiming Earth’s only celestial-satellite for the U.S.A., although such jingoism clearly isn’t what this film’s all about]). The song notes problems/struggles all around the world while also acknowledging the grandeur of the moon landing, giving some hope such an accomplishment might find resonance in overcoming Earthly troubles as well, reflective to me of the thoughtful aspects of First Man, even as I’ve read this song—like the current film—was criticized for not being “patriotic” enough, as if we can never get beyond the thinking of “zero-sum games” where there must be winners and losers instead of events just being able to celebrate triumphs as global expressions of humanity’s progress, hampered as it may be by countless other areas where progress struggles to merely exist.
                      The Old Man & the Gun (David Lowery)
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Here too we have a narrative based in fact, but there are reasonable places in the review just below to save you from spoilers because the events of bank-robber/escape-artist Forrest Tucker aren’t nearly as well known as Neil Armstrong’s walk upon the moon so I’ll offer appropriate warnings to preserve the pleasant surprises of this odd-but-intriguing-story of a man who loved to commit crimes just for the pure pleasure of it, often following up his heists with clever ways of escaping from jail allowing him to continue his outlaw-life unencumbered by such annoyances as prison sentences.  This specific slice of his somewhat-fictionalized biography takes place mostly in and around Dallas, TX in 1981 as this sophisticated criminal balances blatant-but-successful bank holdups with a budding romance as he becomes attracted to a local widow who has no idea he’s serious about how he earns his comfortable living.  Add in a local cop who’s determined to bust Tucker and his “Over-The-Hill-Gang” out of pure spite and you have something in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde without all that violence.  Despite supportive reviews this movie’s not playing widely just yet (or maybe ever), but I do encourage you to find it if you can, both for its whimsical nature and for Robert Redford's announced acting finale.

Here’s the trailer:

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
What Happens: As with the film above, this one’s based in fact, although it defines itself as “This story is mostly true,” about a guy who delighted in pulling off simple-but-effective-robberies, then achieving unforeseen escapes from confinement in response to the various times he was caught in the act.  While I can’t say how much liberty has been taken with the truth here, what we learn about Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is he’s a man of advanced years living in Ft. Worth, TX across the street from a cemetery (although he treats this as another of the jokes about his freewheeling life, unlike when I lived next to a huge graveyard in Queens, NYC in the early ‘70s which gave me a sense of dread—appropriate, considering how my job there, along with my first marriage, played out).  Tucker delights in robbing banks, done in a lighthearted, respectful way as in this movie’s first scene in 1981 where (sporting a fake moustache and his constant dark blue suit) he simply strolls into his chosen location, shows a teller his pistol so she quickly fills his briefcase with cash, races out to avoid the pursuing cops (sometimes he works with his long-time-buddies Teddy Green [Danny Glover] and Waller [Tom Waits], but they mostly get a couple of strong scenes apiece, not all that crucial to the overall narrative).  Following this most-current-robbery, Tucker’s speeding along I-35 (seemingly in Dallas, rather than heading south for Austin [my choice, but that relates to my life post-NYC, which we’ll discuss another time]) when he sees a woman with a nonfunctioning pickup truck so he stops to help, although neither knows much about cars.  Soon, he and she, Jewel (Sissy Spacek), adjourn to a diner where he learns she’s a widow with a nearby-horse-ranch plus an open attitude toward this charming guy she’s just met although she doesn’t buy his story he’s a traveling salesman.  Oddly enough, he admits his “career” is bank-robbery, which he explains in detail how to be successful at, although she assumes he’s kidding which he encourages lest she break off their budding friendship immediately.  From here, much of the movie continues in a familiar pattern with Tucker robbing banks (sometimes assisted by Teddy and Waller when the venue’s more challenging), courting Jewel, then finally intersecting with our other main character, Dallas police Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck)—with his Black wife, Maureen (Tika Sumpter), 2 mixed-race-kids (having lived in Dallas in 1981 I can testify how bold that situation would have been back then)—who’s mortified he was in one of Tucker’s banks with his young son but had no idea there was a robbery happening until Tucker was long gone, vanished into the rain.

 Due to some razzing about the incident from his colleagues, Hunt determines to catch this suave, charming thief (and his accomplices, collectively now referred to by Hunt and the news media as the Over-The-Hill-Gang) whose exploits are now seen to form a pattern across several states all the way to California, with TV interviews of Hunt’s intentions bringing in the FBI, essentially telling Hunt to take a hike (to which he responds he will … until he breaks the case—although he’s taunted by Tucker’s latest heist when the old man leaves a note on a $100 bill for him)⇒Actually, Hunt does discover Tucker’s identity but it’s purely by chance because he gets a letter from the robber’s estranged daughter, Dorothy (Elisabeth Moss), in San Francisco, telling the cop descriptions of this thief sound like her dad, whom she feels should be locked up because of the disrupted childhood she suffered due to him (although her mother continued to love this rogue until her death).  By this point, things are getting serious between Forrest and Jewel (he’s even looking into quietly paying off the mortgage on her ranch), but as they’re eating in that favorite diner one night Tucker notices Hunt’s also in the place so he confronts his adversary in the restroom, each laying down mutual challenges.  After Tucker drops Jewel off back at her home he returns to his place only to find Teddy already there with a bunch of cops ready to pounce so he drives away frantically, finally commanders another car from a frightened woman to race back to Jewel’s ranch where he starts to ride away on one of her horses but stops when he sees a fleet of cops racing up to her house.  Seemingly having given himself up to spare her any problems about him, he serves his assigned time (not escaping as he normally did, even from San Quentin), until she happily picks him up upon release.  They stay together for awhile (he tells about his 16 previous escapes, which we see brief bits of in a series of flashbacks), but the criminal calling’s too strong in him so he leaves her house one day saying he’ll return soon, calls Hunt to imply he’ll be back in action, followed by closing graphics telling us he robbed 4 banks in 1 day before being captured again, smiling all the way.⇐

So What? The Old Man & the Gun makes for a pleasant story, based on the life of an actual career-criminal/prison-escapee, Forrest Silva “Woody” Tucker (1920-2004, so if the guy Redford portrays continued to live off-screen after that final capture noted in the ending-graphics [unclear when he was last caught as we don’t know how long he was in jail following his 1981 arrest] he may have been able to accomplish the 18 times the real guy says he slipped out of custody [along with 12 unsuccessful attempts, not noted in the movie, except maybe that was why he was in long enough for his marriage to deteriorate—along with the reality that he apparently never came back to his family whenever his term for that particular conviction was done, either officially finished or through another planned disappearance]), who was actually married 3 times, had 2 kids, yet none of his wives knew about his criminal acts (he married using fake names) until convictions interrupted the marriages, with his final capture in Florida in 2000 leading to his death while incarcerated (as reported by David Grann in The New Yorker, but most of this article's information isn’t revealed to us in The Old Man …, presumably to not clutter up the storyline of the brief part of Tucker’s life we get to share [for his final Florida robberies he was also more well-armed than the single pistol toted by this movie’s Tucker, probably making him a bit more dangerous along with being charmingly courteous, as depicted by Redford]—you can get more specifics on movie vs. history here)⇒Besides, the whimsical situation of Tucker leaving what could have easily been a satisfying life with Jewel (for many men his age, I’ll easily speculate) because he’s so compelled to rob banks just fits nicely with the  movie's pre-release-announcements this would be Redford’s last acting role so both performer and character go out on a high note here as The Old Man … rolls its final credits.⇐

Bottom Line Final Comments: Critics are solidly behind The Old Man & the Gun also with RT’s positive reviews at 89%, MC’s average score at 79% (high for them as most of what both they and I have reviewed so far this year show their average rarely getting above 80%, even if it remains difficult to figure out how some of those numbers are assigned to the reviews).  However, audiences haven’t been so receptive to Redford’s finale with a domestic gross after 3 weeks in release a measly $1.7 million; playing in only 228 theaters doesn’t help much either, so obviously Fox Searchlight wasn’t expecting a big response, despite the well-established-careers of the major stars. (Admittedly, the only one of this older generation to win an acting Oscar is Spacek [Coal Miner’s Daughter {Michael Apted, 1980—the only press junket I was ever sent to L.A. to cover; an amazing weekend even as Tommy Lee Jones was an intimidating-interviewee as usual, softened by a marvelous concert at a Sunset Strip club where Spacek, Loretta Lynn, and Levon Helm from the cast performed}], yet younger-Oscar-winner-Affleck [Manchester by the Sea {Kenneth Lonergan, 2016; review in our December 8, 2016 posting}] and other more-trendy-inclusions such as Moss or John David Washington as Affleck’s boss, Lt. Kelley, haven’t drawn in the potentially-curious either).  I’ll admit The Old Man … is more genial, casual, relaxed (especially where bank-robbery-plots are concerned) than most of what topped its 15th place showing last weekend, but for those of us with wrinkles to match those of the older stars on screen, this is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, especially when given substance at the end of how Tucker was able to prove himself one of the greatest escape artists since Harry Houdini.  That may not be enough to entice you into a theater, although I certainly hope you give it a look in some video format someday when you start wondering whatever happened to the charming screen presence of Robert Redford (which is all I have left of him anyway, given I attended 2 years of his Sundance Film Festival without his presence at either one because he was working on something needing to be finished for release both times).

 My Musical Metaphor this time around is Neil Young’s “Old Man” (from his 1972 Harvest album) at (a song originally about Young and the elderly caretaker, Luis Avila, of a large ranch Neil had recently bought) because—in a strictly metaphorical sense (work with me on this)it feels like the young Forrest Tucker speaking across the decades to his much-more-aged-self we see in this film, reminding the “old man” that “I’m a lot like you were,” just as we see in that montage of flashbacks near the end of our story how this guy was not only driven to commit crimes throughout his time on Earth but also challenged himself to escape from the penalties of his actions, with such constant disconnection from all aspects of society that he couldn't sustain his marriage or his parenthood (leading to his capture in 1981 due to that disenchanted-daughter) nor even a life he’d clearly tried to settle into with Jewel, causing him to “Live alone in a paradise [of his own compulsions] That makes me think of two [despite his inability to accept that two-ness, leading to] Love lost, such a cost [so he’s more comfortable with circumstances that] Give me things that don’t get lost [mostly his success with bending social mores to his own victories so, ultimately, despite what he thinks he might find in a relationship he has to admit it] Doesn’t mean that much to me To mean that much to you [Sorry, Jewel.  So, as with this posting’s title and explorations, those ultimate loners such as Armstrong and Tucker can say] I’ve been first and last Look at how the time goes past But I’m all alone at last Rolling home to you.”

 I’ll be rolling along as well but do hope to see you again next week (presumably, for both of us) with another dose of Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark.  But before I go, this old man’s been hit with a wave of nostalgia due to all this focus on aspects of the ‘60s-‘80s so I’ll offer you one more Metaphor tune, this one in tribute to the departures of Neil Armstrong—died 2012—(along with moon exploration, at least for the time being), Alan Damron, Forrest Tucker, and the end of Robert Redford’s on-screen-career with another Texas troubadour, Michael Martin Murphy, singing "Cherokee Fiddle" (on his 1976 Flowing Free Forever album), about other departures of certain ways of life also about frontier themes (which should include space travel and bank robberies, although the musician in this song gets his money honestly for the nutrition of “good whiskey,” whether named Nancy or Jack [I’ll also testify it “never lets you lose your place,” as I have its companionship moving into early morning hours each week posting these reviews]).  I’m not “gone forever,” though; I'm just putting my keyboard back in its case for awhile.  See you later, buckaroos.
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Here’s more information about First Man: (click the little 3-line-box in the upper left corner for more specific areas within this site) (15:19 interview with director Damien Chazelle, actors Ryan Gosling [with a tiny bit from] Claire Foy, and actual Armstrong sons Mark and Rick)

Here’s more information about The Old Man & the Gun: (18:59 interview with director David Lowery and actors Tika Sumpter, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Sissy Spacek, Robert Redford [producers Jeremy Steckler, Jim Stern, Julie Goldstein, Anthony Mastromauro are also introduced but aren’t part of the interview session])

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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 4,363 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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