Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Laundromat (along with some additional commentary on our 10/2/2019 review of Judy)

Spin Cycle

Review by Ken Burke

I invite you to join me on a regular basis to see how my responses to current cinematic offerings compare to the critical establishment, which I’ll refer to as either the CCAL (Collective Critics at Large) if they agree with me or the OCCU (Often Cranky Critics Universe) if they choose to disagree.

            The Laundromat (Steven Soderbergh)   rated R

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Once again we find ourselves roaming in the Hollywood-fictionalization-territory of “based on a true story,” even though that phrase doesn’t appear in the on-screen-graphics for this film.  Here the events concern awful revelations from the Panama Papers,* 11.5 million documents leaked by a still-unidentified-whistleblower (published by various journalists in 2016) from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama showing how they set up well over 214,000 offshore entities, most of them meaningless shell corporations used for money laundering, tax evasion, other illegal activities or at least ethically-questionable-ones such as tax havens (over $1.2 billion’s been recovered by various countries in back taxes and penalties from these nefarious past actions).  In The Laundromat the flow of the narrative is often interrupted by exaggerated versions of these 2 actual primary lawyers explaining the process of crooked financial schemes, with an intention to mix our understanding of these complex, shady (ultimately dastardly) money-driven procedures with humorous situations in an attempt to keep audiences intrigued about something they might find too confusing (if not boring at times) to even keep watching were this a 1-hour-investigative-documentary.  We do see Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) at times in their actual roles as running this vast, secret empire—when they’re not relaxing on a beach with tropical drinks, detailing how the wealthy stay that way while the rest of us at times hustle hard to scrape up enough cash to even buy a movie ticket—as they’re being unsuccessfully pursued by a woman (Meryl Streep) who lost her husband in a boating accident, yet gets a pittance of an insurance payment because of the hollow structures set up to defraud unsuspecting people such as herself, as well as another story about the daughter of a rich African businessman who gains control of a company from her father only to discover there’s nothing tangible to bequeath to her.  Any further plot details take us into the spoiler zone so either forge ahead below into the secrets I reveal or seek out this (not as successful as I’d like) film for yourself, not available in many theaters but due for debut on Netflix streaming this Friday, October 18, 2019.

*You might also consult this extensive, well-documented source for more on this global scandal.

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: At various times during this film the narrative flow’s interrupted by direct-address from outrageously-crooked lawyers (based, but extensively-fictionalized I’m sure—or at least, hope—on the villains in this warped-scenario) Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas), nattily-dressed in highly-stylized-settings (African plains, upscale nightclub, tropical beach), who explain to us the power of money and its extended extrapolations in the modern world—some highly-illegal—such as credit, bonds, etc., beginning with their voiceover comments as the image of Benjamin Franklin on a U.S. $100 bill slowly zooms out; other such graphically-enhanced-“chapter”-introductions continue throughout this film, although we do see these lawyers (certainly not "lawmen," although they'll eventually meet some) as their workaday-criminal-selves in Panama in various scenes also (with some women employees at their firm nominally as presidents of their many bogus companies worldwide).  I’ll break down the sections of the film as these graphic introductions do, starting with “Secret 1: The Meek Are Screwed.”  Here we find elderly couple Ellen (Meryl Streep) and Joe (James Cromwell) Martin taking a holiday boat ride on an upstate NY lake, suddenly struck by a huge wave, capsizing the boat, killing 21 passengers including Joe.  Later, we see Matthew Quirk (David Schwimmer), apparently the owner of the tour company, nervously talking in a dark bar with a woman who explains his insurance policy was bought by someone else on the island of Nevis (in the Caribbean Sea’s West Indies), it’s expired, there’s no compensation for the families of the victims.  “Secret 2: It’s Just Shells”—Based on what she assumes she’ll get in payment for Joe’s death, Ellen thinks she’s buying a condo in a Las Vegas high-rise with a view of where she met Joe, until she’s crushed by real-estate-agent Hannah (Sharon Stone) who tells her she’s been outbid by someone who’s buying 3 adjoining suites (a quick shot seems to reveal Mossack and Fonseca as the buyers); to add further insult to injury, back home she learns about the insurance problem leaving her with a very small settlement.  Incensed, she heads off to Nevis but finds the new insurance company’s address is just a post office; while it does her no good, we see the guy in charge of this sham establishment, Irvin Boncamper (Jeffrey Wright), get arrested when he flies to Miami because he has a family there as well as one in Nevis; in the back of the shot, Ellen seems to witness this (although, given the plot’s overall structure it’s not clear if she’s a literal presence there or not).  Beyond that, she has no luck in finding anything tangible of the numerous shell companies wherein that boat insurance vanished.

 “Secret 3: Tell a Friend”—Mossack and Fonseca give us direct-address-backstories on their lives, how their illicit fortunes came about.  “Secret 4: Bribery”—Charles (Nonso Anozie), a successful African businessman (now living in luxury, in L.A. as best I surmised) is carrying on an affair with daughter Simone’s (Jessica Allain) roommate, Astrid (Miracle Washington); when Simone stumbles onto this, just prior to her lavish college (USC?) graduation party at their home, she threatens to tell Mom so Dad tries to buy her silence by giving her one of his companies; Mom accidentally blows the secret, though, by naïvely insisting Astrid attend the party where the horrible truth comes out.  None of this seemed to have any connection to Ellen’s story, though, until Simone and Mom go to establish the girl’s new monetary status, only to find out White Cloud Enterprises is just another empty shell devised by Mossack Fonseca.  (Oddly, though, I couldn’t find any promo photos for this Black section of the story.  What’s up with that, Netflix?)  “Secret 5: Making a Killing”—In China, apparently another financially-profitable-scam (I assume also connected to Mossack Fonseca, yet I can’t honestly offer any verification except this segment's within this same film) is run by Maywood (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Madame Gu (Rosalind Chao), who's smoothly-dangerous, demands loyalty (nearly always accompanied by her devoted female assistant [Lydia Looke]), then kills Maywood, explaining to the police she was taking a personal stand against his corruption; however, both she and her prominent husband are arrested anyway (?), with the rest of this segment consisting of Jürgen and Ramón explaining the difference between illegal tax evasion vs. tolerated (at least up to a point) tax avoidance.  Then, in April 2016 the huge data leak occurs from whistleblower “John Doe,” leading to worldwide scandals, although Mossack and Fonseca spent just 3 months in jail.  ⇒At the end there’s a quick scene where one of the law firm women supposed to be the president of a sham company starts taking off body padding and other disguise elements, revealing herself as Ellen Martin as she talks directly to us, claiming to be the whistleblower, but that seems more metaphorical than actual as we’ve seen this character much earlier in Panama, very unlikely it could be Ellen; to confuse things even further, Streep takes off her blonde Ellen wig (having previously disposed of a brunette one), now seemingly Streep speaking as herself making a plea for political-campaign-finance-reform, stressing the need to get massive (and dirty) money out of this crucial process to preserve the integrity of our democratic governments.⇐

So What? Last weekend my wonderful wife (much more on her much farther below) and I faced a minor cinematic dilemma because we knew that with other plans we’d have time for only 1 screening, yet of the various options available to us which we hadn’t already seen the one seeming the most-plausibly-interesting was The Laundromat which we could have watched for free a week later when it debuts on Netflix streaming (well, not exactly free, but we’re already Netflix subscribers so our ticket costs would be covered plus being able to watch anything else we might want to on that service over the month), but rather than pass on a regularly-scheduled, enjoyable evening out with a couple of friends we chose to see The Laundromat on the big screen after all (I guess we’re lucky we live close to Berkeley, CA as it’s not very available in theaters nationwide, probably will be less so once the download-option’s in place) largely because, despite the off-putting OCCU numbers (Rotten Tomatoes, 44% positive reviews; Metacritic, 58% average score—more details on both in the Related Links section far below), it’s hard to pass up something with the combined pedigrees of Soderbergh, Streep, Oldman, and Banderas, not to mention the unexpected pleasure of cameos from Cromwell, Wright, Schwimmer, Stone, and others whose presence wasn’t even noted in local reviews.It wasn’t hard to watch, either, although at times it is a tad difficult to follow.

*From the standpoint of choosing a better-reviewed-film focused on whistleblower activities, we pondered Official Secrets (Gavin Hood), with 82% positive RT reviews, although a not-that-much-better-MC response of a 63% average score, but given: (1) it’s been out for 7 weeks yet is down to only 43 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters, taking in a mere $1.9 million gross, so it hasn’t made much of an impact; (2) while we’re completely in support of this also-fact-based-film about British Government Communications Headquarters employee Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) being a whistleblower (yet condemned by some countrymen as a traitor, just as our President attempts to smear the U.S. informant that revealed Trump’s shady dealings with Ukraine, actively prompting a Constitutionally-sanctioned-impeachment-investigation) who leaked a memo showing how the U.S. spied on U.N. diplomats in an attempt to pressure them into supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq, we’re also a bit weary of revisiting this unnecessary, ultimately-disastrous foreign-affairs-foray, even if not supporting its condemnation with ticket money puts us in league with Ellen DeGeneres for not continuing to dismiss former-Pres. George W. Bush for his insistence on the Iraqi incursion and other shortcomings of his time in office (which we did often loudly complain about at the time).

 Not helping our decision to forge on with The Laundromat was the generally-dismissive-review from our local most-impactful film critic, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle"[…] a scattered and seemingly trivial movie about a serious subject — a lighthearted, jolly expose of international money laundering. […] unfortunately in this movie, the explanations are too opaque to spark our interest, and the story is too diffused to grab our emotions."  But we pushed ahead anyway, with me finding the overall presentation much more engaging than LaSalle or most of his OCCU brethren, although it does have limitations which I’ll note in just a moment.  First, though, given my occasional disagreements with LaSalle (a notable one is detailed at the end of the review comments of this posting farther below), it’s only fair to note a very intriguing column he wrote for the … Chronicle’s Sunday “Datebook” (although these online versions of his reviews also come from that source, posted earlier than the print versions I read) in which he thoughtfully explores the intriguing phenomenon* of the several current/upcoming whistleblower films which dovetail so serendipitously into our current headlines about Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Ukraine, and all connected to what’s constantly emerging (I can only hope) as a huge political scandal, growing by the day with new testimony to Congressional committees (by former/current government officials with the courage to talk, even as others with top positions refuse to comply with their subpoenas).  LaSalle cites Official Secrets, The Laundromat, and others for their immediate relevance to our times (yes, whistleblowing’s ultimately responsible for the full narrative of our current-film-under-exploration; however, it’s a relatively-minor-aspect of the 96-min. plot, its presence causing chaos right toward the end but not the focus of the story as with Official Secrets), so I encourage you to read LaSalle’s whistleblower-exploration, even though it may not be easily-accessible as other links I’ve cited here.

*Unlike other … Chronicle “Datebook” links I’ve noted, this one (October 13, 2019) appears in a pressreader format compressing the original column in a manner undermining its useful detail and clarity unless you buy a subscription which will unlock the full version (if you have no access to that particular “Datebook” in print).  Oddly enough, though, LaSalle’s accompanying listing of 6 great whistleblower films from Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973) to The Post (Steven Spielberg, 2017; review in our January 18, 2018 posting)—the latter also starring Streep—is available in pressreader free, in full context (use your cursor to scroll text to the right by pushing screen contents to the left).

 As for what's not fully working for me about The Laundromat, I'll begin with as you’re going through it you can truly feel Ellen Martin’s anger, frustration, despair as she gets nowhere in her attempts to uncover the scam that’s left her virtually-uncompensated for the tragic loss of her husband, yet a little over halfway through what begins as her story she completely disappears until a couple of brief later appearances, the final one providing an initial shock which then doesn’t truly clarify itself because, despite the wardrobe-deconstruction, we have no reason to believe Ellen was actually an insider masquerading as an Hispanic woman in the Mossack Fonseca law firm who was the mysterious whistleblower (maybe the actual woman employee was the unknown truth-teller, but this final scene doesn’t really attempt to confirm that; besides, some vague testimony from this actual person implies it was a man), then she steps out of the Ellen character to deliver a final plea for election-finance-reform which has a tangential relationship to the content of this film, yet it’s not what we’ve been watching/learning about for the past hours.⇐   Likewise, the African father-daughter story seems completely unrelated to anything about Ellen’s tribulations (although it makes for a juicy soap-opera-interlude) until Simone and her mother consult a lawyer, finding out they’re also victims of this ongoing, international scam.  Worse yet, when it’s all over, Mossack and Fonseca go to jail for only 3 months frustrating our need for more severe convictions, and while the whistleblower’s massive Panama Papers revelations lead to extensive journalistic inquiries and various governmental actions into this sham palace of empty constructions their law firm had created we’re left with little reassurance such ongoing manipulation of global finances has been put under better legal control, let alone stopped in its insidious program of protection of the ultra-wealthy while most of the world’s population just hopes to make a living wage/enjoy a peaceful retirement when careers wind down, so if the ultimate purpose of this film is to give us some hope justice will ultimately triumph at best it gives us hope brave whistleblowers will continue to expose audacious public/private behavior even as scandals continue to come to light on a regular basis.⇐  I couldn’t scribble all the details fast enough from some graphics just before the final credits, but as best I got the information some 60 of the richest American companies in 2018 paid no income tax despite raking in resources in the billions of dollars (yet, even though my wife and I are retired we still pay taxes on her pensions, my Social Security).  I applaud Soderbergh for exposing such disgusting inequities, yet leave this film frustrated this has happened, will likely continue to happen, with little governmental action so far to control/eradicate it.  Maybe that final plea for thorough campaign-finance-reform (sorry; spoiler info I can’t elaborate on here) isn’t too off-the-wall after all.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Normally within these reviews I attempt to note how my subject of analysis is doing—in addition to its encounter with the critical establishment—at the domestic box office (plus international figures if available), along with the number of theaters showing it.  In the case of The Laundromat, it’s primary availability will be Netflix streaming starting on October 18, 2019 although it’s playing in a few select venues before that; however, either they’re so select they don’t even show up in the weekly Box Office Mojo statistics or maybe BOM doesn’t include titles primarily produced for Internet downloads.  Whatever the case may be, I have no income tally to report to you, so if The Laundromat was given a limited theatrical run for the possibility of being considered for Academy Award nominations its critical thrashing along with its viewer obscurity (Netflix doesn’t release any info on audience size for anything on its streaming service) likely will preclude such Oscar considerations unless some (unlikely) groundswell should manifest itself between now and next January.  I have no idea how limited this public release may be, although I’ll wager you’d be much more likely to find it on Netflix than anywhere near you nor if you’re not already a Netflix streaming subscriber can I feel confident you’d want to purchase such for even a month just to gain access to The Laundromat (although with the way evening movie ticket prices have jumped up in recent years the cost would likely be about the same, plus you’d have access to a lot of other Netflix offerings at least for 30 days, so if anything I’ve said about this film sounds intriguing maybe you should check out that subscription option [I get nothing from them if you do, so don’t sign up on my account—or avoid it for the same reason]).  Overall, there’s too much talent on display in both the conception and performances in The Laundromat to just easily dismiss it—although given its lousy OCCU numbers it’s clear many have chosen to do just that—but it likely has much better intentions than final results, thus renting something like The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015; review in our January 7, 2016 posting), also based on real-world-financial-shenanigans-and-disasters (the Great Recession of 2007-’09 [and beyond]), also starring big-name-talent (Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt) as well as helmed by a top-flight-director (McKay’s not as long-lauded as Soderbergh but he’s secure in my esteem given Vice [2018; review in our January 10, 2019 posting], one of the top films I’ve reviewed in 8 years of this blog), also using direct-address-tactics to attempt to explain the intricacies (and constant-borderline-illegalities) of the U.S. financial system/stock market but also facing difficulties in conveying the intricacies of its subject by means of a semi-fictional-cinematic-structure (although I did find ... Short more successful, 3½ stars of 5), might ultimately be easier, cheaper, more satisfying for you.

 If awards are a major factor in your screening decisions then, again, your time might best be spent with The Big Short, as it won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (also the Writers Guild of America award for that category) while also competing for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Bale), Best Film Editing; by comparison, The Laundromat will be lucky to even score a nomination in any Oscar category (except maybe Best Political Message Disguised as a Feature Film), with even an attempt it might have tried to gain traction by premiering at the 2019 Venice Film Festival being greatly overshadowed there by Joker (Todd Phillips; review in our October 9, 2019 posting) winning the prestigious Golden Lion award, now continuing to dominate the domestic box-office with another $55.9 million for a $193.6 million gross after only 2 weeks, now up to #8 for this year in total (plus another $354.7 million from international markets)The Laundromat’s clearly outclassed by both of the other films I’ve just referred to, but it is a pleasant experience to watch, its stars turn in their usual impressive performances, and it certainly feels relevant to our intriguing (although fundamentally-demoralizing) ongoing political news about whistleblowers, collapsed schemes, financial crimes, but limited justice, restrained improvements in the many structures where all these scandals occur.  OK, time to sign out on this part of the posting with my usual review-wrap-up-tactic of a Musical Metaphor, providing one last comment on what’s been discussed.  This time, though, the chosen song really has nothing to do with the film’s content but more so its upbeat, even frivolous, attitude toward serious matters, punctuated by the point so little happened to bring true justice to these presented situations.  Therefore, in the spirit of Soderbergh’s snappy, direct-address accounts of the joys of criminality by the Oldman and Banderas characters I’ll leave you with The Detergents’ “Leader of the Laundromat” (from their 1965 album The Many Faces of the Detergents) at, which you can only truly appreciate if you first remind yourself (become initially-exposed?) of the Shangri-Las’ top hit of 1964 (from their album named for the song), "Leader of the Pack", although I realize after you listen to all this silliness you may doubt there could ever be any reason why you’d want to bother with seeing The Laundromat; if so, and you haven’t seen the much-more-impressive Judy (Rupert Goold) yet, read on for some sniping at one of that film’s most outspoken dissenters.

 As I've noted above, while I’m happy to offer words of support to … Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle whenever we’re in agreement I’m also quite open to citing areas of disagreement as I did in my review of Judy (see our astonishing October 2, 2019 posting) in regard to his review of this film where he lambasts Renée Zelleweger’s vocal ability, makes it abundantly clear these filmmakers should have used recordings of Garland singing; further, he followed that up with a “Datebook” column on 10/6/2019 (online version
posted October 2, 2019*) in which he continues to beat this poor horse: How could anyone who appreciates Judy Garland’s voice not know that she couldn’t be imitated? […] The people who made ‘Judy’ had one and only play here, and they didn’t see it. They should have put Zellweger onstage, have her move her lips, and put Judy to work for them.”  However, with no prompting from me whatsoever (nor mention of my review so Mick wouldn’t think I put her up to it), my wife, Nina Kindblad, sent LaSalle the following email: Dear Mick, Have I got a bone to pick with you! The movie ‘Judy’ was an incredible work of art and if the studio had dubbed Judy's voice into Renée's lips, it would have been a disaster due to her weakened state at the time the movie was depicting, before her death in 1969.  I'm attaching a website ( where Judy Garland is singing 'Over the Rainbow' for the last time in 1969 shortly before she dies. Her voice is shaky, weak and strained. She is, after all, continuing her pill popping and getting weaker by the day. Judy's marvelous voice would have been so out of place here.”  To which she got this reply (in full; not even a "Dear Nina," salutation) from LaSalle: “I don't need her marvelous voice. I needed THIS voice. Someone who sounds like she used to be great. Not someone who sounds like she was never better than OK.”  Which I take to mean he could only be satisfied with Garland’s voice or someone better (in his opinion) than Zellweger is capable of (apparently he didn’t do a review of Chicago [Rob Marshall, 2002]—not that I can locate anyway—so I don’t know his reaction to her singing in this earlier film).  

*Unlike the “Datebook” link noted in the previous section of this review this link and another one just below don’t require you to pay to use pressreader to get the full versions, but don’t spread this around too loud or the folks at the … Chronicle might catch on, put it all in the subscription service.

 Interestingly enough for this discussion, LaSalle’s former co-worker at the San Francisco Chronicle, now a frequent freelance contributor to this paper, Carla Meyer, in the latest (October 13, 2019) online (as well as print version of the) weekend “Datebook” magazine, in commentary regarding the upcoming Lifetime TV movie about Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and the “dub or sing live” question makes a strong point: “Renée Zellweger does not sound like Judy Garland in ‘Judy,’ but she had to sing in the movie, an intimate backstage story. It would have been disastrous if Zellweger, as Garland, had stumbled on stage drunk only to have the real Garland’s voice burst out when she reached the microphone”*—exactly the point Nina was trying to make (along with me in my Judy review).  I’ll offer one final bit of evidence to close out this situation (again, in Renée’s defense), a comparison of how Garland sounded, still in her adult prime in 1964 (14:18) vs. a late 1968/early '69 recording (5:33; not clear exactly when) from the time of those final London shows for her Judy.London.1969. album (released 1970) which I think settles the dispute between Nina/Carla and Mick (not that this would change his mind a bit, I'll wager).  Further, if you’d like more extensive background info on the actual Judy, how her life was constantly undermined by drugs (along with booze as an adult) which led to the deterioration (in my opinion) of her legendary singing voice in her last years prior to her tragically-early-death at 47 in mid-1969, here’s an extensive biography (1:26:21) called “The Last Days of Judy Garland,” although her actual last days (about 6 months worth) occupy only about the last 10 min. of this documentary, 6 of those on her death and its aftermath with no footage/recordings at all from that period.  (Beware: you’ll get ad interruptions at roughly 28:00, 49:00, 1:02:00, 1:22:00.)   Maybe you agree with LaSalle more than me.  If so, feel free to say so in the Comments segment at the very end of this posting; if not, I’m glad to build more of an army in my defense, but I’m happy Nina and Carla are in harmony, even if they never had intended to be part of this Two Guys posting.

*This is another complete pressreader posting you don't have to pay for, although within it the paragraph about The Buddy Holly Story (Steve Rash, 1978) and The Rose (Mark Rydell, 1979) should be inserted into the one just above it, but overall that's a minor jumble for a free read.
 Finally, here’s a CBS news link (courtesy of my friend/retired film critic, Barry Caine) about the 51 worst movies of this century so far.  I’m proud to say I haven’t seen a damn one of them, thanks to trying to learn enough about what’s currently showing to avoid dreck such as these (apologies to those who find any of them to be better than they’re categorized here), a reason why the Summary of Two Guys Reviews (noted just below) doesn’t feature very much landing below our 3 stars-level.
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 Laundromat: (29:52 interview with director Steven Soderbergh,, actors Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, and Jake Bernstein, author of the 2016 book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite [adapted to the screenplay by Scott Z. Burns]; the content of this video actually starts at about 2:24 so either be patient or skim ahead to get to the actual conversation at the Venice Film Festival)

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 30,648 (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:


  1. I think what we need is Mike LaSalle and you doing a special edition of Two Guys. Siskle and Ebert were best when they disagreed. Clearly the singing in Judy was appropriate as was the makeup and depressed demeanor of Zellweger as she depicted the last days of Garland. It is easy to question the "Live vs Memorex" decision until the end. I was questioning the choice until the last sequence where "Judy" has been fired from the London gig. She unexpectantly walks out and fully delivers two classics while looking fully vibrant and glamorous for the film's finale. Clearly the film gives us an "encore" of sorts and an opportunity fully witness Renee Zellweger's skills. Others may have dubbed the original recordings or offered an epilogue of Garland during the credits. The film was fine as executed and was a showcase for Renee aw well.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for your comments, with which I completely agree. However, getting LaSalle to take time to share anything with me (including a reply to a request I sent him probably a couple of years ago now) is highly unlikely, although someone I know who also knows Mick says in person he's quite an amiable guy. Ken