Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Lion King [2019] and a rather long Short Takes on David Crosby: Remember My Name

Roaring And Reckoning
Reviews by Ken Burke

               The Lion King [2019] (Jon Favreau)   rated PG

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): If you’ve ever seen (or even heard of) the 1994 Disney animated classic, The Lion King, then you know exactly what you’re in for here (although I’ll designate some of the plot summary as spoilers just in case this is new territory for any of you).  Visually, this would seem to be a live-action-remake (as Disney’s done lately with many of their older movies) except the exquisite images are computer-created no matter how realistic they may look, so this isn’t quite what you’ve seen from Disney already this year in Dumbo and Aladdin where photographed actors and sets combine with sophisticated computer effects because here there are no humans, only animals who talk or sing in very natural presentations, nor any actual landscapes, just amazing visuals you’d swear are shot on location.  This basic story follows the original very closely as the lion king and queen are proud of their new cub, but the little guy (and his father) face danger from the king’s jealous brother who wants the throne for himself; he plots with vicious hyenas to kill his relatives so he can become the new king.  The little cub survives the assassination plan but leaves his homeland, presumably forever, convinced he was responsible for his father’s death.  If you don’t already know what comes next, I’ll stop here, unless you care to wander into the spoiler zone just below or want to see this new version of The Lion King for yourself before reading all that’s there to share with you in this latest posting from Two Guys in the Dark (it shouldn’t be too hard to find a screening nearby as the movie’s playing in 2-D or 3-D just about anywhere you’d choose to look).  While critical response has tended toward the negative (not from me, though), I found quite a bit to admire, appreciate, accept here, with hopes it would also work as well for you.

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: If this summary begins to sound very familiar to the Disney 1994 hand-drawn-animation-version of The Lion King, don’t be surprised because these narratives are quite similar (although the new one’s considerably longer at almost 2 hours whereas the earlier one’s only 88 min.) except the obvious (although sophisticated) cartoon style of the original’s been replaced with computer-generated-imagery looking near-photographic in almost every frame (although I did find the night sky stars seeming just a tiny bit fake at times, but that’s been a difficult visual to properly render in a variety of movie genres).  Thus, with an expectation this story’s well known (probably enough to not need to concern ourselves with spoilers but I'll designate some crucial ones for those who somehow may not have encountered The Lion King previously), here we go with the basic elements of a dramatic tale—funny at times, very tragic at others—set in Africa with only animal characters, no sense of human existence at all (so much the better for these noble beasts, many of them facing extinction due to our intrusion into their native habitats).  We begin in the Pride Lands, dominated by massive Pride Rock, home of the lions who rule this territory as far as the sun reaches, with magnificent male Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones [as in the original]) as king of this territory with his queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), calling all their various subject species to witness mandrill Rafiki (John Kani), shaman to the royals (as well as the other lionesses and cubs of the pride), formally present cub Simba (JD McCrary), their future king, to the assembly.  However, despite the sage advice from father to son about the importance of the “circle of life” (defending the need for carnivores to eat herbivores [although we see little of that on screen], then die themselves) along with watchful surveillance from hornbill bird Zazu (John Oliver)—majordomo to Mufasa—Simba and his playmate Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph) wander off to the forbidden shadowlands (the elephants’ graveyard) where they’re about to be eaten by Pride Lands’ enemies, the hungry pack of hyenas, until a last-minute-rescue arrives in mighty Mufasa.  After these lions leave, another one, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), shows up to make dastardly plans with the vicious canines because as Mufasa’s younger brother he covets the throne (why he says he was in line for it I don’t understand), plots to bring about an overthrow with the hyenas then to be given leave to hunt in the Pride Lands.

 First, Scar tricks Simba into practicing his roar in a gorge where he’s suddenly in danger of being trampled by a rampaging herd of wildebeests chased there by the hyenas; Scar tells Mufasa of his cub’s dilemma so Dad rushes to the rescue again, manages to get Simba up onto a low cliff, but when Mufasa struggles to climb to the top of it Scar’s there waiting for him, pushes him down to be killed by the fall and the rampaging animals.  Simba’s heartbroken, yet Scar blames this all on him, telling him to go far away, never to return (he also tells a couple of hyenas to kill Simba, but when they rush him over a cliff, assuming his demise before leaving, they don’t know he’s survived to roam far from his home trying to put his tragedy behind him).  ⇒Ultimately, he’s found, taken in by meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), whose “hakuna matata” (Swahili for “no worries”) outlook finally gives Simba a new perspective on life (as well as providing another opportunity for a song, which this movie has plenty of).  Simba (now Donald Glover) lives with them in a jungle environment for a few years, learns to eat bugs rather than antelope or zebra, has a pleasant life until one day Nala (now Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) shows up, looking for help for the Pride Lands now grimly desolate under the rule of Scar and his hyena thugs.  Clearly, this couple’s connected at more than a friendship level, but Simba refuses to return because of the burden of his past until Rafiki also shows up, takes Simba to a lake where the spirit of Mufasa appears in thunderclouds, urging his son to go home, accept his challenges, which Simba does (along with Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki).  Once back in the Pride Lands, Pumbaa butts a bunch of hyenas around allowing Simba to directly confront Scar at Pride Rock where his evil uncle’s just viciously swatted Sarabi for refusing to mate with him.  At first Scar shames Simba by telling all the lionesses how the younger lion was responsible for Mufasa’s death; however, he says too much, revealing himself as the murderer so the fierce battle’s on between Scar and his hyenas vs. Simba, Pumbaa, Timon, Rafiki, Zazu, and the lionesses, while lightning-caused-fire roars in the background.  Finally, Simba and Scar face off on the top of Pride Rock, with Scar asking for mercy, claiming he was tricked by the hyenas, planned to attack them; yet, when Simba’s willing to simply banish him he suddenly jumps his nephew, leading to Scar tumbling over the cliff, as rain puts out the raging fire.  However, Scar survives the fall, instead faces off-screen-death from some angry hyenas, followed by a happy ending sometime later when peace and prosperity have returned to the Pride Lands as Rafiki presides over another glorious cub presentation, this time the new son of Simba and Nala.⇐

So What? While the plot elements within any version of The Lion King bear resemblance to Shakespeare’s Hamlet (written between 1599 to 1602) with Mustafa (ultimately) as the dead King Hamlet (killed by his ambitious brother); Simba as his son, Prince Hamlet (although I wasn't clear on why the prince didn’t ascend to the throne in place of his devious uncle, but I’m sure there’s an easy explanation*); Scar as murderous-uncle Claudius who claims not only the kingship of Denmark for himself but also marries once-and-present Queen Gertrude (unlike lioness-queen Sarabi who accepts Scar’s rule—because [a] Simba’s just a cub so it would have been more acceptable for adult Scar to take command of the pride of lionesses, [b] Simba’s not there anyway, presumably dead according to Scar’s lies, [c] she respects the concept of familial succession to the Pride Lands throne even if she has no respect for Scar—although, unlike Gertrude, she refuses marriage to Mustafa’s evil brother, whose pact with the hyenas has destroyed everything good about the Pride Lands, despite Scar’s claims to benevolent rule, just as “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” in Hamlet).  That’s about where the similarities end, though (except for Simba getting encouragement from the ghost of his father [not just a call for revenge as with older and younger Hamlets], the climactic death of Claudius/Scar) as neither Sarabi nor Nala (marginally in Ophelia’s role as consort to Prince Hamlet) die, nor does Simba or anyone else (maybe hyenas are killed in the final battle but that’s not clear; one herbivore of some kind with long horns is shown as a meal for Scar and his henchmen, although that’s the only thing eaten by the carnivores in this movie except for the grubs Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa regularly feast on—I guess even in movie rationale mammals have to eat something, so insects become acceptable meals given they have no charming eyes or well-rendered fur to spark our affection).  However, the impact of intrafamilial-homicide’s still a powerful element within this narrative, as is the sense of Simba coming actively into combat with his treacherous uncle (along with those brutal hyenas) rather than using trickery along with hidden poisons to finally settle the score with Claudius, as was the case with indecisive-Prince Hamlet.  ⇒As in the original … Lion King, though, Simba doesn’t emulate Scar by pushing Scar to his death from atop Pride Rock (although the fall does occur in the process of their personal battle), instead leaving him to be butchered by the hyenas he’d tried to betray with a final cluster of lies to Simba, in an attempt to not be killed by his nephew (although he obviously never intended to accept the banishment-sentence Simba pronounced on him).⇐  Ultimately, I’d never recommend seeing The Lion King as an attempted-substitute (quick make-up classwork, possibly) for Hamlet, but as an echo of that magnificent theatrical tragedy it still carries some notable substance as well as its confirmation about the continuity of life even in the face of the frightening challenges of death.

*See this site I've now found for clarification of royal Danish succession protocol of this ancient era.

 While it's certainly not as crucial to discuss as are the overt resemblances, underlying thematic connections between Hamlet and The Lion King, it's reasonable to note as well the fundamental difference between the male-dominated-assumptions of this fictional story (with the old trope of “king of the jungle” ascribed to lions, connecting to eons of human patriarchal rulers of various sorts, especially kings) and the way actual lions operate in Africa (at least when free to roam without human intervention, as is the case with this movie script, which must either take place in some alternate universe or happens long before the evolution of mankind [I’m intentionally using what some people now consider a pejorative word—with its male-priority-connotations—in link with the pejorative reality of dominating male humans constantly encroaching on the habitats of African animals so that lions are now on the verge of becoming an endangered species] because we see no human presence in this story, allowing it to evolve purely within the context of animal characters and behavior, although the element of Scar’s sordid jealousy of his brother is clearly more of a human trait than one normally found in the wild).  Actually, according to this article from The New York Times, there are other animal behaviors shown here which don’t hold up when compared to nature’s realities, with the main ones being: (1) the pride would be run by a dominant female (Sarabi) rather than a male, so Mufasa wouldn’t have been in charge, Scar wouldn’t have taken over; (2) males don’t stay with the pride after they’ve helped some cubs come along, rather they move on to join up with another pride, so even if Mufasa and Scar were both there they wouldn’t have been battling for domination; (3) while nothing’s noted about it in the script, Mufasa seems to be the only father for other cubs in the pride (none of the lionesses seem to want to have anything to do with Scar) but he shows no interest in his offspring except Simba although in the wild any male in the pride will be affectionate with any cub, until they get to about 2, after which they’d be run off to find a pride of their own; (4) based on the above info, it would seem very likely Nala is actually Simba’s sister, but we won’t discuss that any further in regard to this family-friendly PG movie, now will we?

 What does need to be discussed—or at least acknowledged prior to getting into the details of negative critical commentary toward this Disney remake of their own animated classic—is the furious response of many film critics (as well as some audience members, although the reactions shown by the assertive act of purchasing tickets indicate a much more welcoming attitude by viewers than by those given the responsibility to critique what goes onto our theatrical screens).  Basically, there’s been a lot of rejection from the critical community, not only of this particular Disney animation-remake into the semblance of a live-action-movie (although it’s all computer-generated-imagery) but also the photographic-CGI hybrids of the other recent Disney remakes (also discussed below and in this review’s next section) as unnecessary, failing to live up to the magic of the hand-drawn-originals, existing only to haul in a lot of cash from the current generation of young moviegoers. (I have to admit there’s some reality in that argument because—as best I understand people who are six [or a bit more] decades younger than me—I assume they’re so inundated with plausible graphics of any sort of content they see on their various screens [the photos or videos also terrifying politicians as imagery can be manipulated to make anything seem visually-verifiable even if it’s completely fabricated] that the earlier Disney hand-drawn-versions of these stories may seem quaint at best but these kids would much prefer something absorbing their eyeballs in at least a high-quality-photorealism-manner, if not an experience totally in 3-D or virtual-reality imagery.)

 However, as this detailed article from the Hollywood Reporter argues, there are other complaints: Hollywood filmmakers don’t have the creativity to come up with new stories (given the box-office-bonanzas represented by Disney’s now-owned Star Wars and Marvel franchises with constant sequels mining the original concepts, this premise has validity, yet we must note most all of the well-loved-Disney-classics are themselves borrowed from earlier stories [as was Hamlet and much of Shakespeare’s work]); nostalgia for the Disney movies of our youth (or our kids’ youth as we re-watch the older ones, get familiar with the slightly-more-recent ones); complaints these remakes are only intended to reap greater profits (a hard argument to fully dispute [see just above] but likely not all that matters, given the quality directors associated with these current reboots).  For me, as I’ll explore more in the final section of this review just below, these Disney remakes (so far, at least) hold a good bit of fascination but they just don’t seem to be able to crack my 3½ stars-barrier very often as that’s what I’ve given to the ones released this year (details below) as well as 2 others I’ve seen: Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014; review in our June 6, 2014 posting), Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon, 2017; review in our March 23, 2017 posting)—and would likely have given the same to Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010) had Two Guys in the Dark been in business a year earlier than our Dec. 2011 debut.  Furthermore, I dropped down to 3 stars for Cinderella (Kenneth Branagh, 2015; review in our March 19, 2015 posting), rising to the 4 stars-level only for The Jungle Book (Favreau, 2016; review in our April 28, 2016 posting).  Overall, I respect what’s attempted (mostly realized) in these remakes but don’t necessarily find them to be unique enough in cinematic accomplishment to see them as celebrated-improvements over the originals (but, then, I’m not all that drawn to remakes in general except where modern technology can truly improve what was first attempted years ago, as in various reboots of other fantasy staples such as King Kong or Godzilla).

Bottom Line Final Comments: While it’s clear the answer is “yes” from Simba and Nala to the sung-question, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” when they meet again after (years [?] of) his self-imposed-exile from the Pride Lands, the accountants at Disney must be feeling it as well after a domestic (U.S.-Canada) debut for this new ... Lion King of $212.8 million, the all-time-domestic-record for a July opening (plus another $351 million internationally for a global total of $564.7 million in less than a week—already #6 for 2019 domestically [the top 4 are all from Disney, with #5 being Sony’s Spider-Man: Far from Home {Jon Watts; review in our July 11, 2019 posting} which probably also has some shared revenue with Disney given the Avengers references in it] but still seeming-light-years away from Avengers: Endgame [Anthony and Joe Russo; review in our May 1, 2019 posting] now at $854.8 domestically, $2,790.8 billion worldwide [making it the All-Time #1 globally over Avatar’s {James Cameron, 2009} $2,789.7 billion—even as my wife , Nina, legitimately moans over how much housing for the world's homeless this money could provide, but in regard to such human concerns maybe we’re supposed to feel some satisfaction when we see pre-feature movie-ads telling us how much Coca-Cola’s donating to help provide the world with clean water—which, of course, they need to make more Coca-Cola]), although similar love from the critical community (this time I’m calling it the OCCU—Often Cranky Critics Universe) is hesitant at best, with Rotten Tomatoes offering only 52% positive reviews, MC an almost-equal 55% average score, with most of the complaints centering on a sense this remake doesn’t convey the heart, the soul of the  1994 original.  (Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle provides a most unique critique complaining about how the soundtrack intrudes upon this gorgeously-visualized-movie of animals populating the African savannas and jungles: “This music does not belong here [the opening scene] or in any other part of this film […] the songs seem like something laid on, like ice cream on a steak, or spaghetti sauce on a waffle.  Who wants to look at that, much less consume it?”  Not him, ever!)

 However, some reviewers, like me, find more consistent levels of wonder and amazement in this CGI remake (still animation, but of a different kind) whether it incorporates music or not.  (I admit it’s odd these animals break out in song but so do the warring urban gangs in West Side Story [Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins; 1961] so I wonder what LaSalle thinks about that, because the cinematic setting’s of West Side Story is certainly “opened up” considerably from the original stage version, which is what he says makes this new … Lion King so notably-different—thus, lacking by his determined standards—compared to its earlier hand-drawn-animated and theatrical versions?)  One of those … Lion King supporters is also from the SF Bay Area, Randy Myers, who says in The [San Jose] Mercury News: “Two of the best numbers—and yes, the film frequently comes off like a huge Broadway stage production—are the soaring ‘Circle of Life,’ which jet-fuels the film from the start, and the hilarious crowd-pleaser ‘Hakuna Matata’ with Timon, Pumbaa and Simba. Complementing the action and drama is the score from returning composer Hans Zimmer, whose music swells like an emotional tidal wave.”  While I’m more in line with Randy than Mick regarding this latest rendition of The Lion King I’ll also say I have my limits with these Disney live-action (more-or-less, where … Lion King’s concerned) remakes of their animated classics (with the remakes actively incorporating CGI special effects, so animation clearly remains in the conversation here), given I’ve only been able to assign 3½ stars-ratings to this one, along with the other 2019 Disney remakes, Dumbo (Tim Burton; review in our April 4, 2019 posting), Aladdin (Guy Ritchie; review in our May 29, 2019 posting), although my stars notably outshine the OCCU’s responses (RT 48%, MC 51% for Dumbo; RT 57%, MC 53% for Aladdin; my roughly 70% is considerably higher, even more if you factor in how I rarely exceed 4 stars [only 13 times since Dec. 2011; see the Two Guys Summary in Related Links far below], so if you interpret me as 3½ of 4 stars [just like Randy, whereas Mick’s rating is interpreted at 62%—2.5 of 4—by RT] I’d rise up to be at 87% supportive).

 Any way you fiddle with these subjective critical responses and attempts at corresponding numbers shows I’m considerably more open to these recent Disney remakes than are many of my critical brethren because in the case of Dumbo I found Burton had taken an innovative approach in changing a good many aspects of the original story whereas Aladdin offers a stunning live-action-account of the original (minimizing some of its more-offensive-aspects as well) while this … Lion King is spectacular in its visualization (yes, it’s pseudo-live-action but generally believable as a nature documentary where the animals could speak for themselves rather than having human interpretations attached to their actions as is often the case with those kinds of movies), possibly more disturbing for young viewers in the death scenes because of that sense of photorealism but, really, how many kids will come to this update not having already seen the tragic aspects of the 1994 original?  (For that matter, how many of them will be virgins to viewings of violence from TV news or video games?  Please understand, I’m not advocating traumatizing anyone before they can attempt to comprehend the context of death as a shadow aspect of life, but given how available the 1994 movie is in video format I just can’t imagine today’s children are nearly as shocked—even heartbroken—as I was as a youngster witnessing the unforeseen death of the little faun’s mother in Bambi [David Hand, many other sequence-directors; 1942] when I first saw that back in the 1950s during a scheduled re-release).  But if death is to be understood (if not always embraced) as a necessary aspect of life (just think, if everyone lived forever we’d still be dealing with Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Richard Nixon, and their ilk, all crammed into gigantic apartment houses worldwide), then let’s at least celebrate it the way the animals do in the (maligned by LaSalle, praised by Myers) opening scene of The Lion King as we reach the point in my review where it’s all put together by a Musical Metaphor, this time “The Circle of Life” (music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice) which you may have as the full first scene from the 1994 movie at 4d4gc (sung by Carmen Twille, Lebo M.), audio only from the 2019 remake at com/watch?v=CF-c1K3WWg4 (sung by Brown Lindiwe Mkhize, Lebo M.), or even with this intercut version of both.  While Mufasa may glide over the realities of lions eating antelopes and zebras even though they serve as loyal subjects, lions dying then fertilizing the ground for grass to grow for new generations of herbivores when explaining this foundational circle to his boy, the joy the entire animal kingdom has in welcoming first-cub Simba, then years later his first son to Pride Rock is displayed in energetic, communal fashion in the opening activity of all versions of The Lion King, giving us hope for growth-within-stability in our own communities as well as in this great circle that “moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love ‘Til we find our place On the path unwinding,” as we go (with Joni Mitchell in one of the 4 songs always found at the very end of our Related Links section in each Two Guys' posting) “round and round and round In the circle game.”
(well, Déjà Vu, here's another longer-than-intended) SHORT TAKES
(but it is short compared to the rambling exploration just above)
                     David Crosby: Remember My Name
                                (A.J. Eaton)   rated R

A biography of renowned (despised by some) rock star David Crosby offering a fairly complete scan of his life from boyhood to today but focuses on contemporary interviews in which he takes total responsibility for the fissures that have developed between him and his former bandmates, as well as most of the women in his life except wife-of-many-years, Jan, even as his new music emerges.

Here’s the trailer:

 Normally, before reading any further, I’d call your attention to the plot spoilers warning far above, but there’s nothing of fact (just opinions) in this documentary you couldn’t easily find in Wikipedia searches so please feel free to read on with no problem of secrets divulged.

 While this documentary couldn’t be called an autobiography (it's not based, even partially, on a personal account written by David Crosby nor is it a film directed by him as he speaks directly to the camera, then determines through editing what to include), it comes as close as you can get to that designation of the story of someone’s life because it’s not constructed as a composed script read by an off-screen-narrator, illustrated with occasional footage of its subject talking; rather, while it does contain a chronological presentation of Crosby’s life from youth to present it’s mostly focused on contemporary interviews of the man by producer Cameron Crowe (who’s known Crosby since Crowe was a teenager reporter for Rolling Stone, going on tour with rock greats such as Crosby, Stills & Nash or Led Zeppelin) intercut with the biographical stuff, illustrated with newsreel footage, old photos, home movies, even some animation, along with interview clips from various times in the past with people who’ve known him including former bandmates Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young (along with former Byrds partner, Roger McGuinn).*  While Baby Boomer-nostalgia-freaks (like me) might be happy to see short bits of footage on Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Woodstock, or other hallmarks of those days gone by, the emphasis here is on Crosby—admitting he’s cheated death by still being alive at age 76 (in the film, now 77) after years of massive drug ingestion, heart attacks (he’s got 8 stints, knowing all too well another attack will surely finish him off), diabetes, a liver transplant from hepatitis C—who’s as brutally honest as anyone could be about his many years, even up until recently, being a self-absorbed-jerk who was kicked out of the Byrds for his focus on idiosyncratic music and distractions with his left-wing-political-obsessions, then causing rifts with former CSN&Y collaborators to the point none of them (nor McGuinn, apparently) will even talk to him any longer.  He offers no excuses for this past behavior, just admits he was a world-champion-jerk, hopes to better himself in whatever time he has left sharing love with wife Jan Dance (married since 1987), continuing to make new music and tour a bit with a young band including son James Raymond (put up for adoption in 1962 when Crosby was about 21), now reunited with his father who considers James the better musician of the family.  According to the press notes, it took another family connection to bring about the initial inspiration for this film, director Eaton’s brother, Marcus, a “virtuoso guitarist” who, about 6 years ago, noted his enthusiasm for Crosby’s recent musical directions, encouraging filmmaker A.J. to explore this complex, controversial man.  It took quite some time to get completed, but here we are.

*As noted in the lengthy video interview as the second item about this film in the posting’s Related Links section just below (which might be your best option for awhile to hear not only from Crosby but also director Eaton, producer Crowe, given the slow rollout intended for this film—I got a chance to attend a critics’ screening last week or I wouldn’t have seen it for awhile either; another option of getting some insights into what a small part of Eaton’s film is about is to see Echo In The Canyon [Andrew Slater]—exploring the mid/late 1960s pop-music-scene in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon with Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob, tracking down members of the Byrds [including Crosby], The Mamas & the Papas, Buffalo Springfield [Stills], the Beach Boys, along with other icons from that era such as Ringo Starr, John Sebastian, Eric Clapton or later on [Tom Petty]—although that might not be too easy either, as … Canyon’s been out for 9 weeks, now playing in a mere 133 domestic theaters), none of the other CSN&Y guys were sought out for this Crosby biopic so as to not let it degenerate into old recriminations, ongoing feuds, endless speculations about yet-another-reconciliation-reunion, etc.  Also, in addition to Echo … you could further get a sense of late-1960s-Crosby by watching Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969), because David makes a plausible claim Hopper’s character is based on him (certainly the physical resemblance with the mustache, flowing hair, and long-fringed-leather-jacket are there; also, probably Billy’s [Hopper] knee-jerk-responses to almost everything could easily be inspired by 1960s drug-fueled-Crosby as well).  While notations such as this go a bit beyond what’s easily found in website postings, I doubt they really count as spoilers, so while I’m in the unusual situation of being able to have my review ready as the film opens (unlike my usual process of seeing something, often on debut weekend, but not writing about it until days thereafter)—at least in my San Francisco area, although it’s been out for a week in a few other markets but in just 4 theaters, bringing in about $43.5 thousand so far, a huge per-theater-average [except where The Lion King’s concerned with its $40.5 p-t-a from 4,725 domestic venues]—I doubt there’s anything of substance I could “reveal” about the content here, so I’m just going to cite whatever seems interesting enough to give you a decent insight into Eaton’s efforts to give essential context to a guy twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of the Byrds and CS&N—although he says CSN&Y is a completely different band, deserving of induction also) yet now known (erroneously) as a has-been-druggie, although wife Jan says he’s been sober since the ‘80s while releasing 4 albums of new music in recent years, defying death while working on his fifth.

 In the process of watching this concise (95 min.) yet-highly-informative-film we find Crosby had little guidance from his emotionally-reserved-father, Floyd (a career cinematographer, won an Oscar early on for Tabu: A Story of the South Seas [F.W. Murnau, 1931]), was a problem character in his youth and early-musical-career-days (in his latter time with the Byrds he wore a Russian hat and coat, calling attention to himself on stage; while revisiting the Laurel Canyon grocery store he directs some sharp words toward a poster of The Doors’ deceased-dynamo, Jim Morrison, so if admitted-asshole-Crosby carries such memories Morrison must have really been an A-1 prick), shot to international fame into the ‘70s in CS&N (sometimes Y)—including sobering reminders shown of National Guard gunfire killing 4 Ohio State students during the protests against our 1970 invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, leading to Neil Young’s “Ohio” song (I took part in the huge march at the U. of Texas back then, a very uncomfortable situation with all the cops around, helicopters flying overhead, but, thankfully, all remained peaceful in Austin)—which didn’t help him curb his addictions (after being a fugitive from the law for drug [heroin and cocaine] and weapons crimes he spent 9 months in a Texas prison in 1982 [hard to imagine a more-ironic-situation than facing an illegal-gun-charge in my old home state; I still lived there at the time so I guess I should have tried to visit him], turning himself in at an FBI office in Florida after hiding out on his semi-abandoned-sailboat; footage from his release shows a clean-shaven, short-haired guy totally unrecognizable as David Crosby except for his girth).  Thus, the bulk of this film takes us only into the early ‘80s (with a notable portion devoted to his romance with Christine Hinton [after breaking up with Joni Mitchell, one of many women Crosby now says he wasn’t decent to during whatever time he was involved with them] whose memory still haunts him somewhat, long after she was tragically killed in a car wreck in 1969), although we do get some performance footage of the new music he’s making with his recent collaborators (sadly, just brief samples, not enough to really get a feel for these tunes except being able to recognize how his light, clear voice hasn’t suffered over all those traumatic years, even if his reputation and self-esteem have taken some vicious hits).  Ideally, I’d like to have seen a bit more of this new music, as writing it, performing it seems to be his chief motivation as he knows death could easily come to such a battered body (he notes he’s had to cut a recent tour short because of the toll traveling takes on him; Jan, interviewed while David’s out on the road, admits she's always worried when he’s gone because she may never see him alive again).

 Further—here I’m giving in to the worst aspects of popular culture by wanting to know more about a celebrity’s failures—I’d like more details on what Crosby did to turn Stills, Nash, and Young against him so fiercely.  (I know he criticized Neil’s relationship with actor Daryl Hannah [they’re now married], apologized for it later, but what pushed close friend Nash so drastically away isn’t specified, although an archival interview with Nash plus a new one with Crosby regarding Young doesn’t get into specifics, just a hopeless sense repairs are very unlikely—although Crosby admits maybe if any of them choose to see this film, maybe [a distant chance, he knows] somehow some attempt at connection might occur, but he might be dead by then.)  So, do I penalize this film for not including everything I’d prefer?  That’s what often happens in film reviews; however, to be fair to Eaton I need to respond to what’s there, not what I might have wanted (along with respecting the difficulties he faced in getting this version onto the screen, given how hard it was finding the needed financing, possibly because while there are plenty of Baby Boomers who might be interested in knowing more about David Crosby, we’re not usually responsible for a lot of ticket-buying—especially away from the few, usual metropolises where a film like this would be booked, providing minimal options for solid returns on investments; therefore, these 95 min. are what could likely best be marketed).  Given those considerations, along with the swell of enthusiasm for what I’d seen when the lights came up, I’m quite willing to eagerly support … Remember My Name (a play on Crosby’s first solo album, 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name) with hopes it might find a theater near you as the summer rolls along (or gets onto your video queue at a later date, joining a 97% positive response at RT, a quite-hearty (for them) 82% MC average score (based, though, on only 35 reviews at the former, 15 at the latter, so those numbers might change; check back later at the links below if you’re interested).  For now, though, I’ll leave you with Crosby’s “The Lee Shore” (first on the CSN&Y 1971 4 Way Street double album of various 1970 live performances, then a studio version's on the 1991 CSN box set) at, a 1970 BBC duet with Nash, chosen because: (1) it’s my favorite of Crosby’s songs; (2) it reminds me of when I saw these 2 in concert in summer 1975, at the Universal Studios amphitheater in L.A.*; (3) it fits well with Crosby’s love for sailing, one of the few joys he seemed to have during those turbulent earlier years, so honestly addressed in this straightforward film celebrating David Crosby.

*I also saw CS&N a couple of times in the late 1970s-early ‘80s, then CSN&Y twice, sometime in the late ‘90s, again in about 2004.  I remember the fabulous music from each occasion and the locations (Dallas, Oklahoma City, Oakland and Concord CA), just not the specific dates.  (But at least I remember my name ... for today, but as Scarlett O'Hara warmed, "Tomorrow is another day.")
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

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

Here’s more information about The Lion King [2019]: (10:03 video of director Jon Favreau explaining his approach to this remake of the 1994 animated original, focused on the opening scene [interrupted by an ad about halfway in, but you can skip it])

Here’s more information about David Crosby: Remember My Name: (40:28 interview with musician/documentary subject David Crosby, director A.J. Eaton, producer Cameron Crowe)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.  You can also leave comments at our Facebook page, although you may have to somehow connect with us at that site in order to do it (most FB procedures are still a bit of a mystery to us old farts).

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 8,408 (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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