Thursday, June 20, 2019

Late Night and Short Takes on Shaft [2019] and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

Glory Days Revamped

Reviews by Ken Burke
                             Late Night (Nisha Ganatra)   rated R

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Katherine Newbury’s (Emma Thompson) been a big hit for almost 30 years on late-night-TV, but ratings slippage and a new network boss have put her on track to be fired so she tries to get relevant, a difficult task given her imperial personality (she’ll fire anyone for the slightest reason) enhanced by the distance she keeps from her mostly-young, all-male writing staff, so her producer sets out to hire a woman comic writer, a job oddly-enough pursued by Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling; doubles as screenwriter for Late Night) despite her complete lack of experience, just a sense she’s funny.  Molly’s hired by impatient Katherine but brings no solutions to the show’s dilemma, only honest constructive criticism which puts her at odds with everyone else in the place.  Katherine tries to get more into youth-oriented pop culture but utterly fails, finally takes some useful advice from Molly about playing satirically to her age and Whiteness; however, scandal breaks about Katherine having an affair with one of her young men a few years ago (devastating her loyal-but-ill husband [John Lithgow]) so she’s soon back on the chopping block despite her own clever scheme to trick her intended replacement into supporting her continuance during a broadcast one night.  Beyond that, in this no-spoiler zone, I’ll just have to encourage you to see Late Night for yourself or maybe read my full review below, saving yourself a few bucks in the process for something with excellent intentions yet a result coming across (to me, at least) as more instructional than insightful, despite the useful spotlight it shines on discrimination within the workplace.  There’s hearty humor here, interesting characters, and the type of lead actor in Molly you don’t find very often except in Aladdin (review in our May 29, 2019 posting).  This is an enjoyable, socially-conscious movie, just not as successful as its critics’ cumulative numbers imply. 

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: Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a successful-staple of later-than-primetime-TV for 28 years with her Tonight with Katherine Newbury show, is the only female host in this genre (with a reputation of not liking other women), winning 43 (!) Emmy awards (excessive even in this fictional scenario), but suddenly she’s faced with a “this is your last year” ultimatum from new network president Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) because of sagging ratings as this talk-show-icon's losing touch with a larger potential audience by booking politicians, authors, and other non-trendy-guests while her competition makes better inroads with viewers more attuned to what’s happening on social media than what’s (hopefully) more relevant in terms of ultimate social stability.  Katherine’s situation isn’t helped by her being so out of touch with her writing staff—all male, all White, mostly young—whom she hasn’t visited in person for years (the one she fondly remembers died in 2012) so when she does enter their territory she just numbers them in a counterclockwise direction around the table rather than trying to learn their names (a further distancing tactic is only the monologue writer, Tom Campbell [Reid Scott], gets to be in the studio when she’s recording the show, the others just have to watch her on a TV monitor, hoping that if their jokes actually make the cut for the night the studio audience will laugh).  Katherine’s first attempt to get relevant leads to the booking of “Mimi Mismatch,” a YouTube sensation (something about dog-butt-sniffing; that’s all I care to remember) whom the host truly has no interest in, with the young woman picking up on this implied-dismissal, then storming out after hurling some ageist insults, gathering active publicity for Katherine but not of the type her producer hoped to achieve.  In a desperate attempt to bring some form of diversity to her writing staff a search goes out for a female, prompting Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling [who also wrote the screenplay]), a no-social-life, single-mother, efficiency expert at a Pennsylvania chemical plant (“not a factory” she frequently reminds everyone) to apply (she fancies herself a comedian, given her wisecracking over the PA system at work), getting the job simply because Katherine’s in a hurry to move on, desperate for quick remedies to her growing problems.

 Molly knows how to analyze shortcomings in a system (recognizing Katherine’s too old, too White to broaden her appeal unless she makes some changes) but doesn’t have any solutions.  Katherine berates her for her brash-rookie-insolence, upsetting Molly until her long-on-the-staff-officemate encourages her to establish a place for herself on the show by writing something useful.  Molly responds with a good joke about anti-abortion-politicians but is again devastated when Katherine rejects it at the last minute, cautioned to not get too controversial.  The host-switch is still a priority for Caroline, the intended replacement being up-and-coming-comic Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz), a semi-sexist-guy whom Katherine loathes, yet she has no strategy for blocking him, nor can her loving-but-Parkinson’s-hampered-husband (NYU Emeritus Prof.), Walter Newbury (John Lithgow), offer much help beyond ongoing support, which even he retreats from when scandalous stories leak about an affair Katherine had 3 years ago with charming writer Charlie Fain (Hugh Dancy)—Wait!  I thought she didn’t even know who the writers are?—which hurts Molly as well because Charlie’d been flirting with her, then when she surprises him at his apartment one night with Champagne and dessert she has to leave when he quietly indicates that “anyway, I’m not alone” (to steal a line from Bob Dylan’s—more on him later—"It Ain't Me Babe" [from his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan]) ⇒At first, we might believe the woman he’s with is Katherine until the historical context gets established, so once that’s clear Charlie just disappears leaving Molly to encourage Katherine to take responsibility for her earlier-indiscretion (to misquote Elton John, “Sorry seems not to be the hardest word” in contemporary-media-public-lives), which she eventually does, along with her clever tactic of having Tennant on as a guest, then tricking him to join in with the audience supporting her remaining on her show rather than turning it over to him.  Despite her again-rising-profile, though, Katherine thinks Molly’s butting into her life too much so she’s fired (an ongoing tactic of hers, keeping that writing staff in constant fear), with Molly managing to impress Seth Meyers (playing himself) enough in a clumsy interview to offer her a spot on his staff.  However, Katherine has a change of heart, brings Molly back into her fold, both keep their jobs, Katherine reconciles with Walter, then when it wraps up a year later Molly’s in a leading position on Katherine’s staff which is considerably more diversified, Molly’s an item with Tom, as all’s well that ends well.⇐

So What? Many reviews of Late Night harp on some of its unlikely plot premises.  (Not that we should discount for a minute the reality Kaling drew on from her own experience as a “minority hire” intern for TV shows before she broke into entertainment’s upper-levels, as she recounts her own situation prior to [and in the early days of] being cast in NBC’s ensemble-comedy The Office [2005-2013] before achieving her respected positions as actor, writer, executive producer, and director during the run of the show nor the parallel realities both Kaling and Thompson note in various interviews about the dual situations of lack of prominent women on both sides of the camera in films and commercial TV—especially as writers for comedy shows—along with the disrespect females endure in what all-too-often remain as male-dominated-environments [also in government, business, the military … need I go on?].)  Those complaints include: If Newbury’s been on her talk show for nearly 30 years why isn't she aware of audience decline (given how TV's incessantly-driven by ratings/related-advertising-revenues) before being abruptly told she’s on her way out?; Is Molly the only female writer Newbury’s team can find, especially given she has no industry experience?; Can a TV personality really convince her network execs to change their minds about replacing her, or, at least, can such an established celebrity really catch her intended-replacement so off-guard on camera he’d bow out of the competition? (On a minor level, how does 1 show win 43 Emmys in 28 years, yet go so quickly into decline?)  What matters for the movie, though, is not so much the plausibility of actual network TV operations but more how effectively the plot-premises provide viable opportunities for the script’s needed conflicts/resolutions to play out across 102 min. running time on screen.  In the present case of Late Night, Kaling (who’s worked/ succeeded in TV long enough to be aware of the twisted-reality-complaints she’s facing due to her script) moves actively ahead anyway so as to get into her focuses on both gender-discrimination (racial as well) and the difficulty of older stars making proper sense of their changing cultural milieu, thereby losing relevance as they “age out” of the very demographics they need to appeal to.  (As I’ve aged out even more than Katherine—she’s a mere 56 to my increasingly-closer-to-72—I continue to be amused at ad-targeting where you become increasingly irrelevant after 49, almost forgotten after 55, even though I’m now in the most financially-secure-position of my life [much more so than at those “upper-limit” younger ages], yet advertisers generally [except for medical products and ED pills] fail to notice I exist; maybe it’s due to how this financial-stability I’m now enjoying is largely because I’m not very swayed by impulse purchasing, so even though I could buy more than I do I don’t usually have interest in such acquisitions, possibly justifying why the Don Drapers [AMC TV’s  Mad Men, 2007-'15] of 2019 aren’t concerned with marketing products to me.)

 Of course, the true bottom line here (even before I get to that usual section of my structure to conclude this review) is whether Kaling’s intentions come across in an encouraging, “You make me want to be a better man”-manner (line by Jack Nicholson’s Melvin Udall character to Helen Hunt’s Carol Connelly in As Good as It Gets [James L. Brooks, 1997]) or do they seem preachy, in a more-didactic “Listen to me, damn it!”-manner (line from nowhere, unless I’m somehow channeling it).  I’ve read many reviews praising her script for succeeding with the former result whereas I found the messages (valuable as they are) to be more of the latter, even though there’s a good bit of genuinely-felt, let’s-learn-from-these-situations humor throughout the story, which has its crisis points for both Molly and Katherine but ultimately gives you plenty of encouragement both of these talented, determined women will end up triumphant.  Sure, some guys could complain that except for the show’s producer, Molly’s officemate, and Tom, the men in general here leave much to be desired as people, let alone characters, but given how many decades of movie women have been presented as little more than bimbos, sexless caregivers, or near-invisible-background-workers there’s nothing wrong with calling out men for their chauvinistic and/or entitled-superiority attitudes, especially when you can find plenty of supportive testimony about the reality of such behavior in many tell-all-books about most of our industries (TV being no exception, especially from what I’ve read about the manic men on any side of the camera at NBC’s Saturday Night Live [the older I get, the more the ongoing frat-boy-humor of some of their sketches becomes generationally-lost on medespite sharing the gender of most of their writersever since Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and other impactful-females aren’t there any more to offer a level of balance to some of the truly juvenile stuff continuing decade-after-decade]), with the worst of it skewing into various abusive forms of harassment (fortunately, there’s little of that in Late Night—at least from my [possibly dense] male perspective—as Molly’s just as interested in some of the men around her as they are in her but she sets the limits, doesn’t assume she has to tolerate anything she’s not willing to share).  All in all, this is an enjoyable movie, but for me it’s not quite as organically-hilarious and liberating as intended; it's more like a mandated-diversity-training-video than the insightful exposé Kaling was aiming for.

Bottom Line Final Comments: In the process of seeing how Late Night’s doing with the taste-arbiters (I often call them the CCAL—Collective Critics at Large), I noted it has a 79% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, plus a healthy (for them) 71% average score at Metacritic, which also encouraged me to look up what it takes for a contender such as this one to achieve the desired RT status of “Certified Fresh”—turns out you need a minimum of 75% positive from a minimum of 80 reviews (40 for more-limited-releases) by "Tomatometer" critics, including at least 5 of their Top Critics (not sure how to get this designation as I was deemed unworthy for their collective, the snots!).  So, despite hesitations about plausible renditions of the TV industry cited in many of those reviews, the overall response is supportive, as it should be based on some well-crafted-humor, the social importance of showing people not part of an established elite not taken seriously if seen as merely “minority hires” (even as the Supreme Court’s constraining affirmative action even being used in attempts to bring equity to a society dominated by rich, White men).  Audiences, though, are still slowly coming around, as this Amazon-produced-product in its second week in release made a huge jump from only 4 domestic (U.S-Canada) theaters to 2,220 although box-office-gross remains at a mere $6.1 million (plus $540 thousand from international markets), so either interest will suddenly grow (if so, find a screening soon) or Late Night will just be another benefit for subscriptions to Amazon Prime.  With that consideration, I'll close this review via my usual Musical Metaphor; In this case, given how the premise is about Molly Patel saving the day (late night, actually) for Katherine Newbury by showing her how to be tastefully irreverent I’ll do the same (maybe except for the “tastefully” part) with Little Richard’s “Good Golly, Miss Molly” (from his 1958 Little Richard album) at (a wildly-live-performance where he stands on the piano, throws his shoes and necklace to the crowd, then the video stops abruptly at 3:51) as we’ll just have to assume because “Miss Molly, sure like to ball […] From the early, early mornin’ till the early, early night” (How did he get away with these lyrics on commercial AM radio in the 1950s?  Must have been a bunch of clueless-honky-censors.) this must be referring to … basketball (Yeah!), while “the house of blue light” must be a sports arena (Yeah again!)—or maybe this is using a basketball term to describe Ms. Patel’s TV victories in the writers’ room (Even more so, yeah!), but at least she’s ultimately a fine woman (of course!) because the singer’s “going to the corner, gonna buy a diamond ring” for her, celebrating how when she’s “rockin’ and a rollin’ [she] can’t hear [Katherine] call.”  (That’s gotta be what it means!  Mucho yeah!)
(aspiring toward) SHORT TAKES (but, once again, unsuccessfully) 
(please note that spoilers also appear here)
                              Shaft [2019] (Tim Story)   rated R

We’re back in the realm of the “Black private dick That’s a sex machine to all the chicks,” except now it’s 3 generations of John Shaft, NYC’s “bad mother …,” all with the same name, all focused on righting a grievous wrong while stirring up nostalgia for earlier Shaft movies.  You’ll either groove to the familiar or dismiss it as antiquated.

Here’s the trailer:

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

 As already this year with Dumbo (Tim Burton; review in our April 4, 2019 posting) and Aladdin (Guy Ritchie; review in our May 29, 2019 posting), there’s a need here to add [2019] to the title of this movie to keep it from being confused with an earlier version with the same title, although in the case of these 2 Disney live-action-features (with much computer-generated-imagery-enhancement) it’s a case of animation-classics being remade in more-contemporary-modes whereas with Shaft there are 2 previous versions with this exact title (Gordon Parks, 1971 [starring Richard Roundtree]; John Singleton, 2000 [starring Samuel L. Jackson]), in which each one added a new generation of the John Shaft family tree (J.S. II [odd, in that he’s supposedly the nephew, not the son, of the original John Shaft] in 2000; J.S. III, even though he’s called John Jr. or JJ [no explanation given, except possibly for the quick, cryptic statement toward the end of this latest sequel—there were 2 earlier ones starring Roundtree: Shaft’s Big Score! {Parks, 1972}Shaft in Africa {John Guillerman, 1973} plus some made-for-TV-movies I’m barely aware of—from Jackson to Roundtree verifying the older man’s his father, not his uncle as was the premise of the 2000 episode], played by Jessie T. Usher), so it might be easy enough to assume these various Shafts are remakes rather than sequels, but that’s not really the case, although there’s enough repetition of the old-school-macho-posturing (including snide gay disparagements) and near-superhuman-triumph of the superior-protagonist(s) against overwhelming odds for any viewer to see each iteration of Shaft as being something very familiar (at least to this “hardboiled” [as film historians would call it] aspect of the genre of private-detective-protagonists, easily traced back to Sam Spade [Humphrey Bogart] in The Maltese Falcon [John Huston, 1941]—as compared/contrasted to the older, more urbane “super-sleuth” prototype with a heritage in the 19th-century tales of Sherlock Holmes [or another Dashiell Hammett literary-creation—as was Spade—brought to the big screen as sophisticated-detectives Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man {W.S. Van Dyke, 1934}]).  This time, JJ, like his father before him in the 2000 Shaft, begins as part of an official-law-enforcement-agency, the FBI, where’s he’s a super-sharp, Harvard-degreed data analyst (Dad was a cop until he grew tired of working within the constraints of the system [unlike Dirty Harry in those Clint Eastwood 1970s-‘80s movies who simply defied the system while remaining in it, always accomplishing just enough to keep from being fired]; both Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry [Don Siegel, 1971] and John Shaft [Jackson] toss away their badges in disgust in their first-franchise-appearances, but Shaft goes into private practice, like his Dad from those earlier Shaft … stories, while Harry returns to his old role of official “peace” officer).

 JJ finds he needs to be away from his desk, to work out in the streets, when his childhood friend Karim Hassan (Avan Jogia) mysteriously dies, seemingly from a huge heroin overdose, although JJ’s convinced Karim was killed, but his failed attempt to extract info from a local drug lord leads him to swallow his pride, seek out Dad (in the 1989 opening scene of this latest Shaft we see Jackson, JJ’s Mom, Maya [Regina Hall], and little JJ being shot at in their car, with [for clarification, let’s just refer to Jackson as John from now on] John saving their lives but Maya choosing to move upstate from NYC to raise JJ away from his father’s harsh world of crime; Dad tries to be involved with his son by sending annual birthday presents [useful things, such as a box of condoms], but years of separation plus anti-Dad-indoctrination from Mom have left JJ with a firm case of father-rejection, overcome only his need to avenge Karim), accept some advice in becoming more street-wise (to complement his trained skills in marksmanship and capoeira dance/martial-arts moves).  John’s ultimate reason for getting involved in his son’s quest, though, is to follow revealed leads to his long-time arch-enemy Pierro “Gordito” Carrera (Isaach de Bankolé), which ultimately requires father and son to recruit the original John Shaft (Roundtree, henceforth just called Shaft) from his uptown, retired existence to join their quest (his huge arsenal of weapons helps as well).  Without bothering to get into unnecessary details (just know there are the requisite assassination attempts on the Shafts, furious gunfights, tire-screeching car chases, lots of booze for all the Shafts, and a close-friend-turned-love-interest for JJ, medical doctor Sasha Arias [Alexandra Shipp]), ⇒as things turn out, Karim’s involvement with a group of vets supposedly helping other vets led to him discovering it was a front for drug smuggling (hence his death), an operation tied to Carrera, leading to additional violent confrontations, Sasha held hostage, the Shaft men attacking Carrera in his penthouse fortress with all the baddies dead at the end, followed by JJ rejecting his FBI reinstatement (he was dismissed earlier when a raid/arrest on a mosque and its imam he orchestrated didn’t yield what it was supposed to)joining the older Shafts as “Black private dick[s—pun intended, as is the name “Shaft” for that matter—who are] sex machine[s] to all the chicks” (as all is resolved Maya warms up to John, especially when she and JJ realize John was so focused on Carrera rather than them because this was the hood who ordered the hit on their family that ultimately pulled them apart).⇐

 In that I’ve already tipped off what this Musical Metaphor just has to be (we’ll get to it very soon), I'll conclude these remarks by saying this latest incarnation of Shaft is enjoyable in its constant use of humor (much of it JJ’s frustration with the sexist, violent world his Dad so delights in, along with the sarcastic comments from John about the various Green New Deal-type-attitudes espoused by his Millennial-son), its intentional flaunting of political correctness by indulgent-in-every-way John, its nostalgic reincorporation of everything that made the original Shaft so swaggeringly-belligerent in the Blaxploitation-era, as well as its well-choreographed action scenes for those who don’t mind finding most of the cast shot dead by the end, with only John taking a semi-serious-hit while all the other casualties come from the guns of the Shaft attacks.  However, except just for the guilty pleasure of indulging in such hedonistic extravagance, there was probably no reason to even go beyond the original entry in this series, as everything following has just been a bloody rehash of Black pride standing up against the White establishment or various criminals of myriad colors.  Certainly, the critical community at large finds little to praise here, with RT surveying a miserable collection of 34% positive reviews while MC surprisingly goes a bit higher with a 40% average score.  (Unlike with Late Night where I dove under the consensus numbers, this time I came in higher, enjoying this potboiler's inconsequential-allure.)  Audience response wasn’t very energetic on opening weekend either with a mere $8.9 million at the domestic box-office against a budget of $30-35 million (ironically, men who are Black lost out badly in the ticket-sales-race to Men in Black International [F. Gary Gray] which took in a domestic total of $30 million [globally, $103.7 million], although it did even worse with the critics—RT 24% positive reviews, MC 38% average score—a primary reason why I limited my nostalgia choice to Shaft [2019]).  I guess it’s true what my Musical Metaphor says (“Theme from Shaft” at [from the 1971 Shaft soundtrack album, video's the opening scene from that movie]): “He’s a complicated man But no one understands him but his woman” (whichever J. Shaft's referred to at the moment), so I’ll be kind again in my closing by offering another Metaphor reliving positive aspects of long-gone "Glory Days" (from Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 Born in the U.S.A. album) for the Shaft franchise and all who may still find some reminiscing-pleasure with it (the Shaft song had its own “glory days” too, taking the Oscar for Best Original Song; here's how Hayes [first African-American to win in that category], backed by an army of dancers, presented it at that 1972 ceremony).  I’ve had some other thoughts on “glory days” as well, leading to an addition to my regular cluster of closing songs at the very end of the Related Links section below if you'd care to scroll down there.

 One last thing on my way out of this posting is to draw attention to a film streaming on Netflix, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (if you watch, you’ll need to give it your attention for awhile as it runs 142 min.), a chronicle (of sorts) of a tour by Bob Dylan, along with various musician friends including Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ronee Blakely, Joni Mitchell (joined along the way), violinist Scarlet Riviera, poet Allen Ginsberg, and several others, that wound its way through New England, Canada, and NYC in fall 1975, often in small venues with little advance notice.  Scorsese combines footage of several on-stage-performances, rehearsals and backstage chatter (all shot by filmmaker Stefan Van Dorp), and more contemporary interviews with some of those involved (especially Dylan, who talks more—and more directly—here than any time I’ve seen him at many concerts), including Sharon Stone describing how as a teenager she went to a Rolling Thunder show (wearing a Kiss T-shirt) with her mother, then—like Mitchell—spontaneously became part of the traveling crowd, along with Sam Shephard who purposely accompanied the tour to write a script fleshing out Dylan’s intentions with this rambling circus of an experience (the band and crew traveled on buses, Dylan driving one of them), which he ultimately contributed to the confusing-collage of concert segments, rehearsal activities, dramatic (largely adlib) vignettes, etc. collected into the near-universally-panned, 4-hr. (!) Renaldo and Clara (Dylan, 1978)—what from I understand (couldn’t bring myself to see my enigmatic musical/cultural icon in a travesty of his own making), it sounds like what would have happened with the similar-critical-catastrophe of The Beatles’ TV movie, Magical Mystery Tour (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bernard Knowles; 1967) if they hadn’t bothered to exercise any of the modest restraint they did put in place.  Anyway, Rolling Thunder … ‘s a fascinating look at a largely-little-known period of Dylan’s seemingly-never-ending-touring-life (simply because the places the Revue stopped were frequently small, with no live album [just bootleg stuff] intended to capture the event, although songs from the early-1976-release of the Desire album were part of the act), featuring dynamic performances with lyrical enunciations you’d be hard-pressed to find in Bob’s current stage work—especially in the plea for justice for convicted Rubin Carter in “Hurricane”—despite the disconcerting appearance of Dylan in white-face-makeup (inspired by traditional Italian commedia dell’arte), topped off with a flowered-hat (Baez got into the spirit of this costume, once dressing like Dylan; she fooled some members of the troupe at first until they realized who she was).

 Scorsese adds a wry aspect of his own into this broad conception of the Rolling Thunder Revue with some completely bogus material you can explore in more detail in articles from Forbes and Variety, where we learn “filmmaker” Stefan Van Dorp is actually Bette Midler’s husband Martin Van Haselberg taking on a fictional-role (so I don’t know who actually shot the extensive 1975 footage) while Sharon Stone’s "recollections" are a likewise-lie.  Why Scorsese “enhances” his documentary (making it more of a “Story” than expected) might be explained by this Dylan statement: "Life isn't about finding yourself or finding anything.  Life is about creating yourself and creating things.”*  One thing here not created is Rubin Carter’s** unjust-guilty-verdict for murder (in 1967; retried—to some degree as a result of the focus on his situation by Dylan’s song—in 1976 but found guilty again; conviction overturned in 1985; finally completely cleared in 1988), so I’ll leave you with a final Musical Metaphor (despite not actually reviewing nor rating Rolling Thunder …) of "Hurricane" (on Desire), celebrating not only an aspect of Dylan’s tour (although this video’s from then yet not from the Revue's shows) but also his larger intention of playing in a more spontaneous fashion for the benefit of those not privileged with strategies for grabbing prime (expensive) arena seats (nor having access to effective attorneys for the circuses often happening in our controversial courtrooms—but if you want to see more about Carter’s trials you might watch The Hurricane [Norman Jewison, 1999], Denzel Washington in the title role, with much praise for the acting but some complaints the narrative’s too biased in favor of Carter in dispute of what some see as facts otherwise in this case).

*I have a particular fondness for this film’s material because I saw the version of the Rolling Thunder Revue done as a benefit for “Hurricane” Carter at Houston’s Astrodome on January 25, 1976, a day-night-doubleheader with afternoon shows by Dr. John, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes (can’t remember if he did the Shaft theme), plus a phone call on the sound system from Carter in prison, then the Revue that night enhanced by guests such as Ringo Starr on drums and a sizzling guitar duet (can’t remember the song) by Stephen Stills and Carlos Santana, an amazing event of endless talent.  As a follow-up, I was at a Joni Mitchell concert in home-base-Austin a few nights later when Dylan joined her for a final encore (of course I can’t remember what they sang), an odd situation in which the standing ovation for his appearance led to both of them crouching down low to sing, apparently in an effort to encourage all of us to sit; it didn’t work, so they sang practically from their knees while hardly anyone could see them (the spirit of the Rolling Thunder Revue remained intact).

**Like Sam Shepard, dead since 2017, Rubin Carter’s interviewed for this film although he died in 2014, so Scorsese must have been working on his concept for Rolling Thunder … for quite awhile.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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Here’s more information about Late Night: (2:52 anatomy of a scene from the movie by director Nisha Ganatra) and  (10:45 interview with actors Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson)

Here’s more information about Shaft [2019]: (53:04 interview with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree, Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, and Luna Lauren Velez) 

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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.)

If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world.  I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.
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 36,775 (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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