Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs along with Short Takes about The Other Side of the Wind

                                                 Masterful Misfires

                                                         Reviews by Ken Burke

 Last weekend I was traveling, attending a sanctioned ashes-scattering-ceremony down in San Diego for one of my dear college-era-friends (goodbye, Jeannie Monahan; may you continue to rest in peace) during my usual moviegoing days so I chose to try something different by watching a couple of current films (plus a documentary on one of them) in their Netflix streaming versions (both of these dramatic narratives partially financed, now distributed by Netflix as well) rather than in a theater (besides, I had wanted to see both of them anyway, yet the 2nd one below is no longer available on the big screen even in the vast San Francisco area while the 1st one’s now reduced to 1 theater in Berkeley where it shows only a couple of times a day).  It is convenient to take pauses when needed without missing anything, but I'll still take theaters over streaming whenever possible.  Now, on with the comments which I’ll begin with here, noting it cost me less to order this streaming for 1 month than it would have for even 1 ticket to either film, so what they lack in impact for me at least is made up for just a bit financially. As for that impact, however …
                             The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 
                             (Ethan and Joel Cohen)   rated R
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): You wouldn’t expect the Coen brothers to give you a traditional (which for many means “sanitized”) exploration of the Old West, which they certainly don’t in their latest release (but you’ll have to stream it on Netflix because it’s barely available in theaters).  Presented as an anthology where none of the 6 component stories are interconnected in any way, we find ourselves with a singing cowboy who shoots the fingers off his gunfighter opponents, a bank robber whose hanging gets postponed in a most unusual fashion, a limbless orator facing a new challenge, an ambushed gold prospector, a thwarted love story during a wagon train trek to Oregon, and a mysterious trip in a stagecoach that we’re left to ponder the meaning of.  All together, this collection of downbeat tales—leavened at times with humor but mostly evolving toward more serious situations about survival or death—has garnered a good bit of critical support, but I’ll praise it (sparingly) for specific elements within its overall structure rather than for a winning combination of well-told-tales, although the very oddities of what we experience here may well be more worthwhile than I’ve interpreted them.  There’s a lot more detail below if you’re ready to indulge in spoilers, but if not then fire up your streaming device, take a look at these unsettling-stories for yourself, then amble back here later for further (insightful?) ruminations.

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: This is an anthology of 6 short stories (the latter ones being notably longer than the others) so I’ll give their descriptions individually because they don’t overlap or interact, with the only common feature being their settings in various locations of the rugged American Old West.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” This is a generally-humorous-tale about a self-confident-cowboy (dressed in a white outfit appropriate for decades-ago-showtime at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry) who carries a guitar on his back to serenade us (we also get plenty of direct address or voiceover-narration from Buster [Tim Blake Nelson] while his events continue) as he rides along on his horse, Fancy, into a town new to him where he has to surrender his guns upon entering the saloon.  Soon he’s involved in a poker game where he’s challenged by belligerent Çurly Joe (Clancy Brown)—who does have a gun, oddly enough—but Buster’s swift enough in his response to cause the guy to kill himself (here’s the scene to give you a sense of this episode), whereupon everyone breaks into a song about Joe (!) until his brother (Danny McCarthy) challenges Buster to a shootout to avenge the family honor (this scene's also available for you, giving an even better sense of the mood of this opening piece).  Next, a young gunslinger (Willie Watson) dressed in black shows up, also looking for a gunfight with Buster, which he surprisingly wins by being even faster on the draw, leading to a brief duet before Buster’s spirit sprouts wings, the “San Saba Songbird” (some say the “West Texas Twit”) floating up into the heavens, having learned the hard way “you can’t be top dog forever.”⇐

“Near Algodones” Aspects of the humorous tone of the previous story continue here, although death as the wages of sin also figures prominently.  A would-be-robber (James Franco) enters a lone bank out in the wilderness where the chatty teller (Stephen Root)—probably also the manager, janitor, etc.—is better prepared than expected, so even as our thief manages to escape with a bag of cash his adversary’s ready for him, protecting himself from returned fire by wearing a homemade suit of armor consisting largely of pots and pans deflecting the bullets, allowing him to overcome the robber.  As the outlaw’s about to be hanged by the local posse, they’re suddenly attacked by Comanches who kill the lawmen and their leader (Ralph Ineson) but leave the thief on his horse with the noose still in place.  Eventually, he’s rescued by a passerby (Jesse Luken), who recruits him to help with a cattle drive, only to be arrested again when his savior turns out to be a cattle rustler. As he’s about to be hanged for the second time, along with 3 others, one guy's crying so our protagonist asks “First time?” just as his execution’s carried out, with a fast cut to screen black.⇐

“Meal Ticket” In this one events take a darker turn, with only a sardonic sense of humor toward the end.  A man calling himself the Impresario (Liam Neeson) provides entertainment to townspeople in the wilderness as he travels from place to place in his horsedrawn-wagon with his companion, Harrison the Artist (Harry Melling), a man with no arms or legs who sits on a chair reciting passages from such writings as Percy Shelly’s poem “Ozymandias,” the Bible, Shakespeare, and Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” after which his boss passes the hat, although as their journey continues the crowds—and their contributions—grow steadily smaller.  After one performance yielding no income at all, Impresario notices a nearby huckster making a good bit of cash with his “mathematician” chicken who pecks on numbers mounted on a wall, giving answers to addition or subtraction problems shouted from the audience.   ⇒The Impresario buys the chicken, then continues on his journey until one night he comes upon a bridge over a river; we watch him drop a stone into it, seemingly gauging the depth, followed by the final shot where we see inside the wagon but with only the chicken in its cage, no sign of Harrison as we’d seen in previous wagon-interior-shots.⇐

“All Gold Canyon” As with the previous stories, death’s involved but nothing much happens in the manner of humor (unless you consider the final ironic twist to be somewhat funny), although this one’s adapted from a Jack London story rather than being a Coen original.  An old prospector (Tom Waits) is digging/panning for gold along a riverbank until he finally hits pay dirt with a substantial lode inside a deep hole he’s dug near the river.  His joy’s short-lived, though, as a shadow falls over him, revealing the presence of a thief (Sam Dillon) who’s been secretly watching him until something substantial was found; our prospector’s soon shot in the back, leaving the gold to his assassin. In an unexpected twist, the prospector’s still alive (the bullet went right through him, not damaging any vital organs), so when the killer jumps into the hole to grab the gold he’s suddenly attacked by the prospector, awaiting his chance for revenge; they struggle, with the would-be-killer ultimately shot dead, buried in the gold-hole, followed by the old man’s departure flush with new-found riches.⇐

“The Gal Who Got Rattled” Inspired by a Stewart Edward White story, we find siblings Alice (Zoe Kazan) and Gilbert Longabaugh (Jefferson Mays) traveling with a wagon train headed for Oregon where Gilbert’s new business partner is supposed to marry his sister.  However, Gilbert dies of cholera so Alice continues alone except for her brother’s dog, President Pierce, although she has the help of the journey’s leaders, Mr. Arthur (Grainger Hines) and Billy Knapp (Bill Heck), the latter taking a liking to her.  Alice has a problem, though, because Gilbert promised their young wagon driver, Matt (Ethan Dubin), $400 for his services, half to be paid when they reach Fort Laramie, WY, but apparently Gilbert’s cash was accidently buried with him so Alice has no money.  Billy pledges to help Alice (hoping she’ll come with him to land he intends to claim under the Homestead Act), gets her out of trouble with the other travelers by chasing off her dog whose barking’s become too annoying, then proposes but she takes until the next morning to accept.  For some unknown reason, Alice disappears so Mr. Arthur rides around until he finds her (she finds the dog as well).  Before they can return to the wagon train, they’re overtaken by some Sioux warriors who attack, with Mr. Arthur holding them off by rifle marksmanship, giving a pistol to Alice so if he dies she can shoot herself rather than be captured.  He apparently is killed by by one of the attackers, but he (like the old prospector in the previous story) was just playing dead until he could retaliate; unfortunately, Alice has already followed his instructions, killing herself.  Mr. Arthur rides back to the pioneers, unsure what he’ll tell Billy (complicated by him not really wanting Billy to leave anyway).⇐

“The Mortal Remains” We continue within serious narrative territory as 5 people are traveling at night (often with a blue overtone throughout the episode) in a stagecoach to Fort Morgan, CO.  Englishman Thigpen (Jonjo O’Neill) and Irishman Clarence (Brendan Gleeson) are bounty hunters transporting a dead body to collect their reward.  A trapper (Chelcie Ross) talks of his previous relationship with a Native American woman in which neither knew the other’s language but still connected well enough, leading him to surmise all people are alike.  This draws a rebuke from devout Christian Mrs. Betjeman ( Tyne Daly)on her way to reunite with her husband after a 3-year-separation due to his businesswho says people either are upright or sinners, a position challenged by Frenchman René (Saul Rubinek) who says human nature is complex, highly individual, wondering if the lady's husband sees love the way she does, maybe has been unfaithful in their time apart.  Mrs. Betjamen has a traumatic spell at the mere thought of such infidelity so Clarence sings “The Unfortunate Lad” (more about that at the end of this review) to calm everyone, after which Thigpen explains how he distracts their prey while Clarence “thumps” them, a revelation unsettling the other passengers.  When they reach their destination, the bounty hunters drag their corpse into the hotel as the other 3 warily wait behind, then follow inside (leaving us with the eerie sense that these "hunters" may actually be Grim Reapers who take the living onto their next phase of existence, at least as I sensed the travelers’ trepidation over what’s to come next.)⇐

So What? Both my review choices for this posting premiered at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, … Scruggs winning the Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay—obviously, I wasn’t one of the voters, nor am I a member of the National Board of Review which included it in their 2018 Top 10.  So, there’s no doubt I’m in a minority where this latest Coen brothers’ film is concerned, despite my overall admiration for all they’ve created before (with special affection for Blood Simple [1984], Raising Arizona [1987], Barton Fink [1991], Fargo [1996], No Country for Old Men [2007]).  I admire them for continuing to find new avenues of exploration, always with something worthwhile even if the entire film might be lacking, but that doesn’t mean everything they release resonates equally with me (nor can I cite other filmmakers whose total track records have produced a hit every time, although in my opinion the ones who probably come the closest to such idealized-plateaus [not considering those who only have a few credits to their names, such as the died-much-too-young-Jean Vigo, with the marvelous 1934 L’Atalante as his only feature] are John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, as long as we’re assessing only their mature works).  Certainly there are effective moments in The Ballad … but not enough of them to count this as one of their great successes, although others have been more supportive in offering praise, for example James Berardinelli (a guy whose opinions I’ve long admired) says: “The movie strikes an effective balance between satire and homage and mines the most common ore of the old-time Westerns of John Ford and his brethren.  Or maybe Roy Rogers.”  (He’s not alone at the critical-collective-Rotten Tomatoes-site where this film receives an enthusiastic 93% positive reviews; meanwhile, at normally-less-effusive-Metacritic it gets a 78% average score, still rather high compared to many of their results so far this year.)  On the other hand, another of my long-time-go-to-film-analysts, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribute, rides more in my direction (although going a bit farther than I do): “The material’s pretty meager, though.  Every tale in ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ runs out of steam before it runs out of story.”  So, much as I hate itdespite intriguing aspects in each episode, first and last ones especiallyThe Ballad … won’t go into my Coen brothers Hall of Fame.

Bottom Line Final Comments: As with The Other Side of the Wind (reviewed just below)—which, along with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, would provide a nightmare-double-feature for any theater employee attempting to cram these lengthy titles onto an outdoor marquee (at those remaining older venues where such aspects of a building still exist)—I can’t give you any reports on income for The Ballad … because it had a limited span of theatrical release (just a few locations, for just a couple of weeks) with so little impact on domestic (U.S-Canada) ticket sales it has no presence in the weekly tallies reported by Box Office Mojo.  (How it generates income for Netflix from streaming I have no idea, although I’ve found some indication such figures aren’t made public anyway so I just have to assume this financing/distribution powerhouse will be satisfied enough with the results to keep investing in such independent fare while the major studios continue to put their big support behind variations of the wide-ranging Fantasy genre—from Black Panther [Ryan Coogler; review in our February 22, 2018 posting] at #1 for 2018 domestic movie income [$700 million], to Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch [Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier; no Two Guys review, we didn’t bother] at #10 [$206.2 million, still adding on as it continues in release]—with only Mission: Impossible-Fallout [Christopher McQuarrie; review in our August 2, 2018 posting] in the current Top 10 representing some other kind of story [specifically, the espionage aspects of the Supercop genre], although the romantic Modern Musical, A Star Is Born [Bradley Cooper; review in our October 11, 2018 posting], is at #11 [$194.2 million] may move higher as well.)  Even though I’m not all that drawn to the entire experience of … Buster Scruggs, at least such a quirky, individualistic option’s available for those of us who prefer some occasional alternatives to the genre-heavy-theatrical-dominators (no mater how good some of them may be [I rated both Black Panther and A Star Is Born at 4 stars, as high as I normally go except for really exceptional accomplishments]) ruling the weekly box-office (of those current Top 100 domestic money-earners, I’d say only a few such as BlacKkKlansman [Spike Lee; review in our August 16, 2018 posting], First Man [Damien Chezelle; review in our October 18, 2018 posting], Isle of Dogs [Wes Anderson; review in our April 5, 2018 posting], White Boy Rick [Yann Demange; review in our September 29, 2018 posting], Sorry to Bother You [Boots Riley; review in our July 12, 2018 posting] truly get beyond the formulas needed for escapist entertainment), so I praise the Coens for constantly pushing themselves in new directions (within their basic snide attitudinal style), even if they don’t always triumph every time out.

 To conclude this review before moving on to another one, I’ll leave you with my standard Musical Metaphor (my tactic of using one last avenue of commentary, although done with song lyrics rather than more prattle from me) which in this case I feel should be “Streets of Laredo” (evolved from a much-older-Irish-folk-song, “The Unfortunate Lad” [or “… Rake”], as sung to his companions by Clarence in “The Mortal Remains” segment of ... Scruggs) recorded by a good number of country/western singers but likely most well known from the version by Marty Robbins (on his 1961 album More Greatest Hits: Marty Robbins), so I’ll give you 2 options of him singing it: (1) in a duet with Johnny Cash (one of the many others with his own take on the song) from a 1969 episode of Cash’s ABC TV show (1969-’71) at, where the audio’s fine but the video imagery’s horribly inferior, or (2) just the original Robbins recorded version (enhanced with a lot of photos of him, various cowboys [even Indians in a drum circle], western landscapes, etc., some of which are terribly out of focus but help convey the spirit of what the song’s all about), dealing with the demise of a young cowhand (just as death overshadows every segment of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) who knows he’s “done wrong” (just as pride, crime, greed, or misinterpreted situations undo some of the characters in each story within … The Ballad), taking us back to Buster himself in his version of being “all dressed in white linen,” the beginning of this exploration by the Coen brothers of the unsavory realities that infested the actual Old West, more so than what we see in the romantic revisionism of classic Hollywood westerns which have been challenged by more-historically-accurate, downbeat narratives of such films as Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992) or the Coens’ own remake of True Grit (2010).  As so many of the occupants of the plots within … Buster Scruggs must admit, the most likely fate awaiting their venture into the wilderness west of the Mississippi will merely be events that someday will require someone to “Please, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly Play the Death March as you carry me along.”
SHORT(er) TAKES (still a bit long, but this film’s marinated forever) 
(spoilers here also, but they're difficult to isolate so just beware)
The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles) rated R

Welles began this film in 1970, but due to various insurmountable problems it remained unfinished upon his death in 1985 with its various components in storage until a herculean effort finally brings it to release now; it’s weird in many of its approaches, providing a satire on New Hollywood replacing Old Hollywood including a risqué film-within-this-film, a project ironically hounding a famous director who needs financing to complete it.

Here’s the trailer:

      Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
 Having been a devotee of Orson Welles since I first encountered Citizen Kane (1941) while I was an undergraduate in the late ‘60s, to the point I still personally consider that smashing debut of his to be the all-time-#1-cinematic-accomplishment from him or anyone else attempting the difficult task of direction (despite  it publicly dropping to #2 on the British film magazine Sight and Sound’s once-a-decade-poll [last one in 2012] to Vertigo [Alfred Hitchcock, 1958] after ... Kane's 50-year-reign at the top in the opinions of their many surveyed international critics)—even though, due to such barriers as industry-ostracization, financing problems, some audience-inability to find interest in his subject matter Welles rarely had a chance to make the same sort of impact he did with … Kane (yet, aspects of such Welles films as The Magnificent Ambersons [1942], The Lady from Shanghai [1948], along with the revised version [1998] of Touch of Evil [1958], re-edited to his original specifications, certainly display the unique vision he had when applied to scripting, cinematography, sound design, and editing)—I was anxious to finally see the long-awaited, “legendary,” finished version of his final work, The Other Side of the Wind, even if I had to watch it on a relatively-large-TV-screen at home rather than in my preferred choice of a moviehouse screening.Besides, I had no option, given its brief, limited theatrical run (allowing for possible Oscar consideration, I assume) was already done.

*As a result of which, I got yet another lesson in streaming-reality (my movie-loving-wife, Nina, and I don’t stream on a regular basis given the time already committed to filmic theater, live theatre, a few TV series, and a weekly Netflix DVD) when using our easiest hookup, a direct feed from our laptop into the TV set.  Oddly enough, when watching … Wind we found—for our first time ever using streaming in this fashion—after the first time we paused the playback (about 40 min. in) then starting up again the sound was out of sync with the picture (something I didn’t think was possible once the film’s been properly transferred to any video format), a continuing problem through a few more pauses until the last one (with about 40 min. to go) when it all came together again (at first, I wondered if this wasn’t intentional, given how experimental Welles had originally designed this uncharacteristic film).  After our viewing, I spot-checked it to find there was no audio-sync-problem when fast-forwarding, then playing the content, so I called Netflix just out of curiosity to find they don’t support this direct-computer-to-TV-connection-option, but instead recommend running their streaming through an auxiliary device such as Roku, which many—if not all—of you probably know already, but I just pass along my clumsy experience in case any of our fabulous readers also still do your best to continue living in the 20th century, as I do whenever possible because the farther we get into this one the worst things seem to get, although I’m hoping for notable turnaround by 2020.

 However, even without my audio mismatch, I must admit I’m not all that enthralled with what I saw, despite a strong performance from John Huston as aging Hollywood lion Jake Hannaford trying to conform to the revolutionary cinematic ideals of the 1970s (Hannaford’s consciously modeled on Ernest Hemingway, although it’s hard to not see aspects of Welles in him, despite denials of such); an interesting meta-cinematic-approach in the overall structure of this narrative; along with marvelous cinematography, especially in the intentionally-avant-garde “film within a film” (also titled The Other Side of the Wind).*   The premise—based on what I saw plus what I’ve researched in an attempt to better understand what I saw—is Jake’s trying, in a difficult manner, to transition from his traditional success with standard filmic approaches of Old Hollywood to postwar-cinematic-values championed by Ingmar Bergman, the French New Wave, Michelangelo Antonioni, along with how they were influencing the New Hollywood of Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967), Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969), Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969), etc. (with Hannaford’s … Wind looking to me like a cross between Blow-Up [Antonioni, 1966] and The Trip [Roger Corman, 1967]).  What we see in Welles’ film (as finally finished this year by a dedicated production team, including director Peter Bogdanovich and powerhouse-producer Frank Marshall, after Welles' production began in 1970, principal cinematography wrapped in 1976) is ostensibly presented as an after-the-fact-look at Hannaford’s last days, when he threw a lavish birthday party for himself at an Arizona ranch house to show unfinished segments of his film (including the ironic inclusion of “Scene Missing” title cards at various places) only to die in a car crash the next day (no surprise given how much he drank the night before).  What results is seemingly compiled by Hannaford “apostle” Brooks Otterlake (Bogdanovich, in his younger years), a successful director himself, from footage shot by various documentarians (as well as the party guests with their amateur cameras), intercut with scenes from the internal … Wind (featuring a lot of nudity and sex between The Actress [Oja Kodar—Welles’ somewhat-secret-lover from the early ‘60s until his death in 1985, despite him being considerably older than her as well as being married at the time] and Oscar “John” Dale [Bob Random], although there’s no dialogue used in their scenes).

*in the same manner as Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), where the movie Cecilia (Mia Farrow) watches many times until Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) creates a crisis by coming off the screen, enthralled with her, is also named The Purple Rose … .  In both cases, though, the dual-titling makes sense because the larger stories these films present are each so heavily impacted by situations surrounding completion or public presentation of those internal, same-named-narratives.

 Welles satirized these new cinema directions (emerging in Europe since the 1950s, rapidly catching up in Hollywood with the shift from Hays Code censorship to our current ratings system in 1968 which freed him to include imagery and language not available in his previous works) while lamenting the decline of the traditional American studio system, especially as presented in the provocative-contents of the internal … Wind, but the overarching film’s also presented in distinctly-influenced-New Wave-style with rapidly-edited-imagery constantly shifting back and forth from color to black & white, scenes frequently intercut between the party and the attempted-screening-content (stopped by a power outage, then a generator failure, so the final footage’s shown at a locally-rented drive-in for some more shots of nude wanderings before everyone leaves at sunrise) with the party intercut as well to focus on interactions/interviews with Hannaford, Otterlake, ranch-owner Zarah Valeska (Lilli Palmer)—a retired 1930s actress patterned on Marlene Dietrich—or vicious film critic Juliette Rich (Susan Strasberg), channeling Welles’ antagonist Pauline Kael (there are also a good number of actual older or younger directors in the cast, essentially playing fictional versions of themselves, with Dennis Hopper, Paul Mazursky, and Claude Chabrol possibly the best known today of the many Welles brought together during his years of filming this hoped-for-epic)—although some of this supposed-actuality-footage seems impossible to have been shot as various characters talked privately to each other, but maybe the concept wasn’t intended to be totally consistent, just implied as such.  While this final Welles opus has generated a good bit of critical praise (RT 82% positive reviews, MC 79% average score) I can’t say how it’s done financially because it’s mostly available through Netflix streaming nor can I say I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would as it comes across in such an (intentionally, I’d say) incoherent jumble, seemingly made more as a repudiation by Welles of where the film industry was headed in the early 1970s (while still holding him at arm’s-length, as it had for decades) with lots of insider jabs, editorializing, and challenges to cinema snobs (including a brief argument over dolly shots vs. zooms) than something intended to have much stand-alone-value, even if he had been able to finish/distribute it as intended in that long-ago-era.  If you’d like to read extensively more about Welles’ … Wind, please go here (admittedly, some areas could use more verifying citations, but overall what’s presented is well-documented with an additional, useful bibliography).  You might also enjoy the detailed, insightful 98 min. doc about … Wind called They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Morgan Neville), also on Netflix (91% positive RT reviews, 78% average MC score), with a fabulous array of imagery, much more coherent in intention and result than what emerges in … Wind, at least for me.

 For now, though, I’ll just bring my modulated-disappointment with what I perceive as the garbled vision of The Other Side of the Wind (which might have resonated better with me if Welles had fully finished it himself, rather than inadvertently leaving its closure to notes, speculations, and good intentions after coming back to the U.S. in 1970 after a 2-decade-self-imposed-exile in Europe then spending his last 15 years trying to find a strategy for completing … Wind [despite its mixture of unexpected elements such as cinema-industry-commentary, sex in a car’s front setwith another guy while the woman’s boyfriend’s driving in the rainor on empty bedsprings, dwarfs shooting fireworks from the ranch-house-roof]) to my own closure with the Musical Metaphor of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (from his 1965 Bringin’ It All Back Home album) at https://www. (this video's from the opening of Don’t Look Back [1967], D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary on Dylan’s 1965 concert tour of England, with Bob tossing word cards of the lyrics aside while poet Allen Ginsberg, singer Bob Neuwirth chat in the background) as its verbal assault on coherence (still offering eloquence in its allusions, as with … Wind) seems a fitting companion for Welles’ cinematic-swan-song (further it serves as a precursor for later music videos transcending simple footage of the performer singing the song, just as it’s claimed Welles’ conceit of seemingly using “found footage” to construct the larger context of … Wind will eventually lead us to more extensive use of such tactics in The Blair Witch Project [Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick; 1999] or Cloverfield [Matt Reeves, 2008]); moreover, in that I gave you 2 versions of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs review’s Metaphors, I’ll sort of do the same thing here by following in Welles’ intentions of parodying what he’s presenting even as he presents it while I leave you with Weird Al Yankovic’s "Bob" (from the 2003 Poodle Hat album) where he revisits “… Homesick Blues” in particular, Dylan in general, piling absurdity onto more absurdity as I sneak away until next we meet.
 But, in case you need something further to occupy your time waiting for the next missive from Two Guys in the Dark you might be interested in this announcement that Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) is the New York Film Critics Circle choice for Best Film of 2018, which actually serves more as a reminder from me to you that under the Related Links section just below I’ve now reintroduced the Metacritic link to their ongoing list of such nominations and awards, plus my link to the Golden Globes (to be followed when available over the next few months with other links to critics’ Top 10 lists for the year, then Oscar nominations and winners).  Finally, in case you tend to dismiss those Oscar choices as mere Hollywood hoopla here's an article exploring why they still remain relevant. 
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.

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2018’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 24, 2019 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2018 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)
but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the "various awards" list above, here are the Golden Globe nominees for films and TV from 2018.

Here’s more information about The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: (22:48 interview with directors Joel and Ethan Coen, actors Tim Blake Nelson, Zoe Kazan, and Bill Heck)

Here’s more information about The Other Side of the Wind: (25:52 interview with editor Bob Murawski and producer Filip Jan Rymsza [begins in a haphazard manner of the late arrival of Rymsza due to a weather-delayed-flight, feels reminiscent of the film’s rambling structure to me; the audio seems a bit out of sync here])

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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 5,798 (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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