Thursday, April 4, 2019

Dumbo and Short Takes on The Mustang

Animal Magnetism

Reviews by Ken Burke

                          Dumbo [2019] (Tim Burton)   rated PG

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): In case you’ve never heard of this story about a baby elephant able to fly because of his abnormally-large-ears (about right—or maybe a bit bigger—for an adult African elephant but truly huge for those from India), that’s essentially most of what you need to know about this first-rejected, then-embraced hero of a struggling circus back in the days just following WW I (the original Disney animated feature came out near the time of the U.S.A. entry into WW II) who has to endure humiliation from those who see him as a freak, loneliness when his mother’s sent away for being too overprotective, fear when he first has to conquer the heights but then finds wild admiration when displaying his unique talent.  However, additional complications are worked into this remake (for one, we have no talking animals to carry the story so many new human characters, with their various needs, have been added); I’ll leave discovery of those to the spoiler-filled portion of this posting’s review just below, although once the complicating premises are set in motion you could probably easily figure out how all this ends anyway (sentimentally, like it or not)If you’d rather see it for yourself, this new Dumbo’s easily available at theaters nationwide (at least in those 2 nations north of North America’s Rio Grande—but catch a charter boat over the river if need be to quickly see Dumbo before Trump attempts to close the border [hopefully, never]).

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: In 1919, WWI vet/amputee (left arm, often replaced with a prosthesis) Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) comes stateside again, finally arriving in Joplin, MO (where my father rehabbed from his WW II South Pacific wounds, but with all limbs intact) where he rejoins the ragtag Medici Brothers’ Circus as it winds its way by train (named the Casey Jr.) through the U.S. South and Midwest, struggling to stay in business as lean times have taken their toll on the size and success of the operation.  Holt was a trick rider before the war (he won’t be doing any of that now; anyway, the horses were sold to pay bills) but his difficulties continue when he finds his performing partner/wife, Annie, died from influenza during his absence, leaving him in sole care of his kids, serious Millie (Nico Parker)—who wants to be a scientist rather than a circus performer—and energetic Joe (Finley Hobbins); further, his condition reduces him to caretaker of recently-acquired-elephant Mrs. Jumbo (we get no info on Mr. Jumbo in either of the Dumbo narratives).  Soon, we find she’s pregnant, which circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito)—who doesn’t really seem to have a brother helping him run this show—hopes will provide him with a cute baby elephant attraction, only to be shocked when the little guy has ears about as big as his body, sending Max off in fury, trying to recoup his money for Mrs. Jumbo but to no avail.  An attempt is made to incorporate the baby into the show anyway, carried around in a wagon with a bonnet intended to hide his ears. When he sneezes, they pop out anyway, causing an uproar of laughter and peanuts from the crowd, with Mrs. Jumbo rushing to her son’s defense (the sign identifying him as Jumbo Jr. is damaged, accidently renaming him Dumbo, which sticks) causing chaos and the collapse of the tent (killing mean animal wrangler Rufus Sorghum [Phil Zimmerman], antagonistic to both Holt and the little pachyderm), so Max has Mrs. Jumbo sent away, producing heartbreak for the baby.  Millie and Joe attempt to comfort him in his despondency, resulting in Dumbo accidently ingesting a feather into his truck, causing a big sneeze, lifting him off the ground.  Millie continues to work with him (scientifically, of course) to develop a true aerial skill ultimately resulting in Dumbo flying around the (repaired) tent from a high platform during a fireman act, but only after Millie courageously climbs up a tall ladder to give him another feather, which he needs to jump-start his airborne-ability.

 Newspaper accounts of this fabulous flying elephant result in big crowds for Max, followed by an offer from extravagant showman/entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton)—accompanied by his French trapeze-artist/girlfriend Colette Marchant (Eva Green)—to buy out Medici’s entire operation, providing jobs for all his performers along with the vice-presidency of Vandevere’s operation for Max, in order to get Dumbo as the star attraction of his Dreamland amusement park in NYC, an innovation of bringing audiences to the entertainment site rather than hauling a circus around the country, playing to smaller crowds (however, Vandevere’s not as rich as he seems, depending on Dumbo to convince banker J. Griffin Remington [Alan Arkin] to fully finance Dreamland, which currently has its owner in massive debt).  After some initial rehearsal problems, Vandevere’s intention of partnering Dumbo with Colette is coming together well, but the boss surprises both of them on opening night by demanding there be no net.  The act opens with giant bubbles recalling the “Dance of the Pink Elephants” from the earlier Disney Dumbo; then, up on the high platform, Dumbo panics, Colette falls (saved at the last minute by Holt), but as Dumbo’s slipping off his cries of alarm are heard by his mother (now being presented as Kali the Destroyer in the adjoining Nightmare Island exhibit), so he flies to her rather than continuing to enthrall the huge audience.  ⇒To prevent future distractions of this sort, Vandevere plans to have Mrs. Jumbo hauled away (to her demise) as well as firing Medici’s entire troupe.  Holt learns of this scheme, organizes the others for a rescue operation which involves getting Mrs. Jumbo into a truck to take her to the docks where a ship will transport her back to India while Dumbo will fly with Colette through a hole in the upper part of the tent created by Holt (after a dangerous, 1-armed-climb up the exterior) to join his Mom after first stopping by the control tower to turn off the power (Dumbo pulls all the levers with his trunk), so the outer gates can be opened for the truck carrying Mrs. Jumbo.  In an attempt to prevent these escapes Vandevere rushes to the tower, disregards warnings, turns the power back on too quickly causing an energy overload, massive fire, destruction of the whole place; however, Holt and his kids are trapped inside the burning main tent so Dumbo races back from the docks and flies the kids to join Colette while Holt gets up his courage to ride away on a horse, leaving Vandevere with nothing but ruination while Remington pals up with Medici.  At the end, Max’s circus is back in business starring trick-riders Holt and Colette (the kids also have steady jobs) while our elephants return to the jungle, joining a big herd in a spectacular waterfall setting.⇐

So What? This live-action (heavily supported by computer animation—the credits are amazing in the number of people needed to bring this seemingly-photographic-presentation to life) remake of Disney’s original Dumbo (supervising director Ben Sharpsteen plus several others in charge of various segments, 1941) continues the Disney crusade of changing company policy by not keeping the animated classics in the vault for several years, then re-releasing them to a new generation of kids but instead they're now recreating these originals in various forms of live-action-mode, playing to increasing viewer sophistication, even among grammar-school-audiences, so this one joins the existing cluster of The Jungle Book (Stephen Sommers, 1994)101 Dalmatians (Stephen Herek, 1996—plus the 102 Dalmatians sequel [Kevin Lima, 2000]), Alice in Wonderland (Burton, 2010—plus the Alice Through the Looking Glass sequel [James Bobin, 2016]), Maleficent [from Sleeping Beauty] (Robert Stromberg, 2014; review in our June 6 2014 posting—with a sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil [Jaochim Rønning] set for October 18, 2019), Cinderella (Kenneth Branagh, 2015; review in our March 19, 2015 posting), another version of The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau, 2016; review in our April 28, 2016 posting), Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon, 2017; review in our March 23, 2017 posting), Christopher Robin [from Winnie the Pooh] (Marc Forster, 2018), followed later this year by Aladdin (Guy Ritchie; May 24, 2019) and The Lion King (Favreau; July 19, 2019)—many more also in the works, extensive details at this site (along with extreme embarrassment for me in pointing you toward some of these earlier Two Guys reviews with nearly-impenetrable-text-heavy-layouts).  Basically, this baby elephant story’s much the same as its predecessor regarding the circus setting, Dumbo’s traumatic isolation from Mom, Dumbo’s discovery of his unique flying ability to the delight of audiences and his circus companions, with the main additions being the focus on all those added human characters, ⇒the complication of Vandevere’s villainy along with the spectacular destruction of his intended amusement-park-complex (a wry inside joke about the Disney theme parks continued growth coupled to rising costs, perhaps?), followed by the conclusion of Medici’s circus continuing on its own without Dumbo as the elephants blissfully return to the wild (more details on changes in the second listing far below under Related Links for this movie).   The fiery demise of Dreamland may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers (especially with all of the protagonist humans in danger at some point), but overall the triumphs over fear and adversity depicted here should prove quite inspiring for audiences of all ages (except those cynical critics).⇐

Bottom Line Final Comments: Many in the critical community have been quite harsh toward this new Dumbo, with only 48% positive reviews surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes, an essentially-equal-dismissal 51% average score at Metacritic (more details in the Related Links section far below) with this statement from Time’s Stephanie Zacharek typical of the negative responses: […] ostentatious and overworked, less a work of imagination than a declaration of how imaginative Burton thinks he is.”  Audiences, though, have been considerably more supportive with a debut-weekend $116 million worldwide haul ($45 million from domestic [U.S.-Canada] venues, yet not quite up to industry predictions; my Sunday afternoon matinee was rather sparse, maybe due to ongoing March Madness and/or Major League Baseball opening weekend competition), not surprising given the built-in-appeals of a beloved Disney tale about a ridiculed outsider finding love and acceptance along with the cinematic reputation of Tim Burton (despite some flops, he’s got a lot of well-embraced-successes [Disney’s also flying high this year already—with more box-office-bonanzas expected as the Avengers and Toy Story franchises add on: the former April 26, 2019, the latter June 21, 2019]), plus a bevy of well-known-names in the cast.  Whether all those negative reviews will provide much impact on the continuing income for Dumbo will play out in coming weeks—especially as the other kid-friendly-feature, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Dean DeBlois), is on the wane after 6 weeks (having racked up an impressive sum of $502 million worldwide [$153 million of it domestically])while parents are well-advised not to take their little ones to see Us (Jordan Peele; review in our March 27, 2019 posting; doing quite well itself at $174.5 million worldwide [$128.2 million domestically])so unless Warner Bros. is able to score with Shazam! (David Sandberg; opening April 5, 2019), which promises to have some appeal to the younger crowd with teenage Billy Batson magically turning into a superhero, Dumbo will likely continue to be a solid-enough-attraction, especially among the perennial class of outcast/bullied kids (not as attractive nor popular as some of their more-dominant-classmates) who could benefit from the emotional uplift of a story where the once-rejected-protagonist (a cuddly one at that, ultimately selling scores of stuffed-animal-versions of himself [which I’m sure is happening in our world as well, knowing Disney’s marketing prowess]) not only saves the day for his human companions but also contributes mightily to the downfall of the greedy villain.  It’s a bit broader version of triumph than the compact (64 min.) 1941 original, as the small circus is revived with the human stars of this story while our elephant protagonists find their own sense of salvation in this Dumbo remake, a pleasurable encounter in your local movie theater (over 4,000 domestically, not difficult to find, including 3-D versions if you prefer) which I recommend for its satisfying sweetness.

 Bringing all this to closure is my usual wrap-up tactic of a Musical Metaphor speaking to what’s transpired above, in this case the song “You Can Fly” taken from another old-school Disney classic, Peter Pan (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske, 1953) at com/watch?v=uYhFVfkfujs, which celebrates the spirit of Dumbo’s aerial triumphs without directly connecting this current Disney movie to the more obvious song of "When I See an Elephant Fly" from the original Dumbo because of the likely-racial-connotations of the crows in this latter clip (not in the song itself); in fact, this scene’s noted as #2 in a video of the 10 Most Insanely Racist Moments in Disney features or cartoons* (some of which have been excised in re-releases), even though I’ll offer up some considerations about that earlier-Dumbo-inclusion just below.**  I’m sure I could have saved us all some trouble had I just chosen something more innocuous such as “Wind Beneath My Wings” (written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley, recorded by many but the most popular version’s by Bette Midler [from the 1989 Beaches: Original Soundtrack Recording album]), but what’s the fun in that when I can plunge us into problematic references to Disney animated classics to compete with the thoroughly-mixed responses to this new Dumbo where the naysayers seem antagonistic to Burton showing sympathy to his put-upon-characters rather than leaving us with an aura of gloom.  (Have they forgotten the romantic sentiment concluding Burton’s Edward Scissorhands [1990], which ultimately turns into a reassuring nature fable, even with the same type of religious-like-choral-music in the soundtrack’s final part?)  Still, I found a lot to like in Dumbo’s approach and conclusion, agreeing with The New York Times Manohla Dargis: [...] the movie is a welcome declaration of artistic independence for Burton, who often strains against aesthetic and industrial restrictions. Watching him cut loose (more recklessly than his flying baby elephant) is by far the most unexpected pleasure of this movie, which dusts off the 1941 animated charmer with exhilaratingly demented spirit.”  Or maybe Dargis and I are demented just because we liked Dumbo.

*Actually, YouTube took down this video before I could get it posted so here is another one in which a guy is watching/commenting on what I'm referring to (sound quickly becomes too low, but this is the best I can do on short notice; I can only hope it stays in place, but if not I can't help that either).

**(Warning! An insanely long, rambling, but well-researched [as always!]
footnote!!) Yet, before I begin some explorations of this earlier-era-Dumbo-scene, I'll first offer no defense for this video’s #1 offender, the “Negro” storyteller from Song of the South in 1946 (Harve Foster, Wilfred Jackson) even though, despite the NAACP protests, it was warmly-received in that decade, one of the best Disney money-makers of those years (Dumbo did even better) while also winning an Oscar for Best Original Song (“Zip-a-Dee
-Doo-Dah”) along with an infrequently-bestowed-to -anyone Academy Honorary Award for James Baskett as Uncle Remus.  (It’s been out of circulation for decades in the U.S. due to concerns about depictions of Reconstruction-era Blacks but is due for re-release on Disney+ streaming, September 2019)  As for my delayed comments on the “When I See An Elephant Fly” antics in Dumbo, these crows—the leader crassly named Jim—have also been problematic with many audiences since the 1940s due to their stereotypical speech and attitudes, although they do become supporters of this 2-D animated Dumbo once he overcomes his fear of going aloft.  Whether these birds are as racist as this video argues may be up to the eyes (and mind) of the beholder, because while some could easily lump them in with the worst aspects of African-American caricatures (such as what many see in this clip from the Amos 'n' Andy TV show—ran 1951-’53, continued to play in syndication until pulled from the airwaves in the mid-'60s [comments by Nick Stewart who played Lightnin’ on the show], recently creeping back in under the radar—although I admit when I saw it as a kid I found it funny, just like Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners [1951-’56] and William Bendix’s The Life of Riley [1953-‘58] because of plot situations, not because Blacks inherently were to be laughed at; I’ve known many Blacks who felt the same way about this show, despite NAACP condemnations of it [a lengthy article well worth your time to read]—but maybe the TV version was less-overtly-racist than the blackface [or voice] radio show [1928-’60] about these characters, written/vocalized by White guys Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, whom you see in this clip from Check and Double Check [Melville W. Brown, 1930], their only on-screen manifestation of those main characters [in the above TV clip Andy’s played by Spencer Williams, Kingfish by Tim Moore, Amos by Alvin Childress, Calhoun by Johnny Lee]) it's possible these Dumbo crows can be seen, at best, as like popular entertainers of the time (most of these birds were voiced by African-American members of the Hall Johnson Choir) such as musical great/occasional-Hollywood-star Cab Calloway (rose to popularity in the 1930s) whose “Hi De Ho” chorus from “Minnie the Moocher” was still roundly welcomed in The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980) even as White guys Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) Blues are committing various crimes (“justified” by raising cash to pay a tax bill, saving an orphanage).  So, decide for yourself what you think about Dumbo’s crows, while I’ll admit my “safer” choice of a Musical Metaphor from Peter Pan also has the problem of racist stereotypes with the Indians in the later Neverland scenes (detailed in the “10 Most Insanely Racist Moments …” video linked above).
(once again, a long-winded-attempt at) SHORT TAKES 
(please note that spoilers also appear here)
    The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnere)   rated R

This is a fictional story but based on real-life prison rehab where convicts tame wild horses, bringing peace to the men as well; angry, withdrawn Roman is put in this program, eventually finds a strong connection with an equally-defiant mustang, helping this man grow past his isolation, despite some ongoing challenges to his newfound stability.

Here’s the trailer:

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
 Just like with our last posting (about Gloria Bell [Sebastián Leilo] and Us [Jordan Peele]), you could easily be wondering why I’ve devoted so much space above to my slightly-lesser-lauded-movie while consigning the 4-star-film to the Short Takes section.  Part of my decision’s still based on the reality of availability each of these cinematic offerings provides for its potential audiences, with Dumbo’s premiere last weekend in 4,259 domestic theaters while The Mustang’s playing in only 181 after 3 weeks in release, thus its box-office result of $1 million so far barely registers compared to Dumbo’s huge take; there’s also the factor this time of critical support, with The Mustang doing very well—95% positive reviews at RT, 77% average score at MC (reasonably high for both of these evaluative tightwads; more info on both cumulative evaluations a bit farther below)—so I felt anyone attracted to the concept of The Mustang who has access to it will probably attend on their own without me promoting this film all that much.  But for those of you with that first inclination but lacking the second advantage, I’ll give you as much as you want to read about The Mustang, with little need for extensive plot details because the storyline’s even simpler than Dumbo, with visuals carrying much of this narrative as dialogue’s kept to a necessary minimum.  What we’re dealing with here is based on an actual situation more so than a specific cluster of events around a real individual: there are several prisons in a few Western/Midwestern states participating in a program where the U.S. government rounds up wild horses from the plains (largely to keep their population down) steering them into pens with helicopters, sends them to these isolated incarceration units where prisoners deemed worthy of the honor work with specific horses to tame them, then they're auctioned off to various agencies (Dept. of the Interior, Dept. of Homeland Security, police forces), becoming working members of such law-enforcement-teams; in the process, the men (I got no sense of women being part of this; at this film’s location I didn’t even see any female prisoners) learn to work on their own anger/self-control/self-esteem issues, the process intended to be useful for all involved (pre-final credits-graphics inform us the recidivism rate is much lower for ex-cons who’ve been in the program).  In this fictionalized version of reality, the focus is on an extremely wild mustang no one’s been able to even get close to so far and a 12-years-in-lockdown-convict, Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts), who doesn’t coexist with people very well but shows enough initial promise he’s taken into the program at his far-from-civilization-Nevada-location by gruff, cynical horsemaster Myles (Bruce Dern), with help from fellow-convict Henry (Jason Mitchell).

 Roman’s progress is soon halted, though, due to a visit from his estranged daughter, Martha (Gideon Adlon), a young woman (hard for me to tell from my advanced age [71, still actively counting] just how old she is, but she’s come to get Roman’s signature on emancipation papers in order be on her own [she’s pregnant, wants to move to Atlanta with her boyfriend] so I guess she’s still a teenager).  Their relationship is basically nonexistent, as she’s too much of a reminder to him of his miserable past life, she’s perpetually angry at him because he got in a fight with her mother all those years ago, hit her so she fell and injured her brain, leaving Martha to care for Mom since then (I’m not clear if she’s now dead, but if the girl’s heading off across the country it wouldn’t seem likely anyone else is prepared to step in as a caregiver).  Their heated interchange carries over to Roman’s next stint in the corral where the cantankerous horse brings out Roman’s fierce side, pounding the animal until others rush in to pull them apart.  From here events move rather swiftly in this limited-dialogue-showcase ⇒as Roman’s in solitary for awhile, then called to help herd horses inside as a major storm passes through (earning him another chance at taming the mustang), then allowed back with a cellmate he helps by stealing some sort of drug, then tensions run over between the Black and White cons with Roman’s cellmate (for no reason I caught) slitting Henry’s throat, leading to Roman choking the guy out back in their cell (maybe killed him; yet, no punishment so I guess the guards just saw it as justifiable restitution) after which Roman and the horse finally make peace, leading us up to the auction where Roman’s stallion, Marquis, is considered the prize of the day; however, while being put through his paces the animal gets spooked by a passing helicopter, bucks Roman off, drags and kicks him, so he’s reconsidered in wild-beast-mode (just as Dumbo’s mother was, but this horse is likely difficult to fully tame where she was just protecting her child).  When Roman learns Myles ordered the mustang to be killed he kicks through some fencing to let this horse go free, even as it earns Roman another trip to solitary.  Old wounds are healed, though, as Martha sends him a photo of her baby while we see Marquis wander by the outer fence; thus, Roman knows they’re still connected, even at a  strict distance.⇐

 While these ending events might feel a bit sentimental, in the vein of Dumbo’s happy finale (except for V.A. Vandevere), there’s a fine redemptive quality to The Mustang, enforced by those ending graphics briefly explaining the existence of this actual rehab project along with many photos accompanying the credits of real ex-cons who were part of this program while in prison, now serving as cowboy extras in The Mustang.  Like so many of the ill-fitting in our society, Roman’s as much of a danger to himself as he is to others (when he’s not in his outdoor solitary cage banging a soccer ball against the chain-link-fence, he keeps to himself in the larger prison yard, has little in the way of interactions with anyone—including the staff psychologist [Connie Britton] who has a devil of a time getting any responses from him), constantly ready to explode, so finding a way to communicate with this equally-angry-animal brings about a gradual sense of redemption in Roman; his transformation may seem written to please the audience, but I see it more as a confirmation for all of us we don’t have to be stuck in whatever mental/emotional/psychological state our lives may have led us to at this point, that we all have the capacity to evolve into better versions of ourselves if we’re willing to make the effort (difficult as it might be—even day-to-day—backsliding always threatening to keep us from moving forward rather than settling back into how we’ve programmed ourselves to be, based on our personal nature/nurture combinations).   Plot circumstances here, the actors’ interpretations of their roles, the general refusal to arrive at completed solutions when outside forces don’t always support the uplifting resolutions an audience might want (conditioned in our culture as we are by happy endings such as we find in Dumbo) give this film a satisfying sense of authentic attitudes, intentions, investments on our part: a deceptively-simple-cinematic-encounter offering much more than its overt dialogue might imply about narrative elements.  From the opening shots (including beautiful closeups) of these free-range-horses in their natural environment to the choice of filming location in an abandoned prison (allowing the actors to substantively feel the embedded history of confinement in this place) to the marvelous CU of the mustang’s eye with Roman reflected in it, Clermont-Tonnere brings us subtly, vicariously, completely into the world created here for us to observe from the comfort of our theater seats while sensing what these guys must be feeling about themselves, their lives, their choices, especially in the scene where the psychologist asks these inmates how much time elapsed between considering their crimes and actually committing them, the blunt answers all being variations upon “almost instantly.”

 To conclude, here’s my Musical Metaphor for The Mustang, the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” (from the 1971 Sticky Fingers album) at, somewhat direct to this story, somewhat not because it’s overtly about a passionate love that may well be doomed yet the singer’s determined to hold on as long as possible; still, it resonates to me for this film especially regarding the shifts in interaction between Roman and Martha (“I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain Now you decided to show me the same No sweeping exits or offstage lines Can make me feel bitter or treat you unkind”), just as Roman begins to understand the changed man he’s becoming won’t easily regress even when faced with daunting challenges (that he knows all too well by now): “Wild horses, couldn’t drag me away Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday.”*  However, in that Dumbo essentially got 2 Musical Metaphors (even if one was more official than the other) I think The Mustang deserves similar treatment so here’s another tune about a fiery horse, "Wildfire," from Michael Martin Murphy (on his 1975 Blue Sky-Night Thunder album), also a bit askew from the content of The Mustang, with lyrics about a ghost rider—[…] they say she died one winter when there came a killing frost And the pony she named Wildfire busted down his stall In a blizzard, she was lost [… but, when she may someday appear to the farmer singing this song] On Wildfire we’re gonna ride Gonna leave sodbustin’ behind Get the hard times right out of our minds Riding Wildfire”; yet, because this is a haunting song from an artist I’ve long admired (also saw perform a couple of times back in my 1970s Austin, TX days, plus got to interview him about his movie, Hard Country [David Greene, 1981; Murphy was co-screenwriter, soundtrack contributor] when I was a film critic on a radio station in Dallas) I’ll squeeze it in here with thoughts about Roman wanting to leave prison behind, knowing something better’s “coming for me, I know,” given the redemptive chance of improving his life due to a heart connection with another troubled soul, a horse he named Marquis, embodying Wildfire's fierce spirit from this song.

*Here’s hoping Stones’ 75-year-old-lead-singer Mick Jagger still feels like riding any interpretation of “wild horses” (whether he ever gets a vasectomy or not) after he undergoes heart-valve-replacement-surgery (thereby postponing the band’s tour intended to start in Miami, FL on April 20, 2019).  He’s determined to be back in action soon after the procedure, for which I wish him well, given my own circumstance of being born with a bicuspid aortic valve (most of you have a tricuspid valve in that part of your heart) which may require me to have a pig part inserted some day (so far no problems, just a mild heart murmur; if luck holds, I’ll stay that way, Mick’ll be back on the road.)

 Finally, one of my regular screening companions, Michaele O’Leary-Reiff, sent me this article on the Best Movies of 2019 (so far), which I must admit I didn’t even know of most of them except Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhang-Ke; review in our March 20, 2019 posting) and Us, with the former getting 3 stars, the latter 3½ stars from me, so that makes The Mustang my current top for 2019, at least until I might see any new ones form this recent New Yorker list.  If any of you have seen any of them, your comments are always welcome.  On a completely different note, one of my former students, Rachel Gluck, sent me this news about new technology allowing the storage of frames from an Eadweard Muybridge 19th century motion-capture-experiment within the DNA of live bacteria cells, working toward the day when entire films can be preserved in this manner.  Amazing!
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Here’s more information about Dumbo: (7:55 exploration of the Top 12 changes from the original Dumbo to the current one plus embedded Easter Eggs in this new version)

Here’s more information about The Mustang: (26:18 video of soundbite vignettes from—in order—actor Jason Mitchell, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnere, actor Matthias Schoenaerts, executive producer Robert Redford)

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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.
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