Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Harriet plus (an attempt at) Short Takes on The Lighthouse

Darkness Into Light, Light Into Darkness
Reviews 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.

                           Harriet (Kasi Lemmons)   rated PG-13

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): This is a dramatized biography of Harriet Tubman, born into slavery in early-19th century-Maryland, witness to the arrogance of her White owners, by 1849 aware of facing a sale which would likely send her much further into the South where she’d never see any of her family again so she takes the bold, dangerous step of running away to freedom in the North, only to be pursued by the son of her slave-owning family, determined to bring her back.  However, she’s the one who succeeds, finally making her difficult 100-mile journey on foot to the Pennsylvania border, then on to a new life (and a new name) in Philadelphia.  After a year of different acculturation, though, she decides she must return home to help free the rest of her family (as well as get her already-free husband to join her [she didn’t let him know of her original escape plan so as not to endanger his freedom if they got caught]).  More difficulties arise for Harriet, but she perseveres, not only on that rescue mission but also in many more, working under the assumed identity of Moses for the Underground Railroad.  Just for the ongoing procedure of this blog, I’ll reserve some further details of this film for my forewarned spoilers comments in the review below, with the easy understanding you can learn even more about Harriet Tubman through some Internet searches than you will from this film (in its standard 125 min. running time it can only cover so much of her event-filled life), but what’s here on screen is marvelously well-acted, gripping in content (even when you know she’ll somehow escape her dogged pursuers), a useful history lesson about someone with some-widespread-name-recognition but likely not known in appropriate detail.  Harriet’s very likely playing in a theater nearby, so I encourage you to listen to me more than the minority of naysayers and seek out this inspiring film before its presence gets diluted by the blockbusters and other awards-hopefuls vying for your attention over these next couple of months.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

What Happens: This film begins in 1849* where “Minty” Ross (Cynthia Erivo)—born about 1822 as Araminta Ross to enslaved parents Harriet “Rit” Green (Vanessa Bell Calloway) and Ben Ross (Clarke Peters), married about 1844 to free-Black John Tubman (Zackary Momoh)—is owned, along with her mother and siblings, by Edward Brodess (Mike Marunde) and his wife, Eliza Brodess (Jennifer Nettles), although Ben was owned by someone else who, upon his death, gave Minty’s Dad his freedom.  The first actions here are John (allowed to be married to Harriet, despite her bondage because at that time in Maryland about half the Black population was enslaved, half were free) delivering the intended-good-news to Minty that a lawyer had determined Rit and all her children were also supposed to be free, whereupon Edward simply tore up that legal opinion because he wasn’t about to lose the slaves he depended on to keep his farm operational (later, Eliza further says numbers of slaves indicate status among their White community, so even when hard economic times pressure them to sell off some of their “property” she resists that option).  Edward’s adult son, Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn), wants to keep Minty around anyway for his personal interests, but the combination of his father’s death and her rejection of Gideon’s advances lead him to put Minty up for sale, sparking her decision to run north to freedom rather than be sent further into the South, permanently away from her family (as had happened to one of her sisters, as we see repeated in quick flashbacks—indicated to us by their Blue & White coloration, as are the many visions Minty has as a result of a skull injury when she was 13 due to a piece of metal thrown at another slave hitting her instead; she’s very devout, assumes her visions—as with Joan of Arc—are messages from God, although others later wonder if she somewhat suffers from brain damage), but she doesn’t ask John to join her, fearful he’ll lose his freedom if they’re caught.  As she heads out one night she stops to see Ben who tells her to go to Rev. Samuel Green (Vondie Curtis-Hall) for help (even though he keeps the slave owners unaware of his abolitionist intentions by publically preaching about how slaves must obey their masters, as called for in the holy Christian Scriptures)

*If you’d like to get a fuller exploration of Harriet Tubman’s life beyond her active-abolitionist-years—the focus of the film (which, as usual with biopics, shifts some minor facts around so don’t write any school reports about her based purely on what you see here)—there is useful biographical info at this site along with this one which gave me some extra facts I've included, not noted on screen.

 Rev. Green tells her to follow the North Star and the Delaware River to Wilmington where others will help her complete the treacherous 100-mile-journey (mostly on foot) to the border of Pennsylvania, from where she’ll continue on to Philadelphia; however, she gets trapped on a bridge by angry Gideon and his posse so she saves herself by jumping into the river, then continuing her journey with her pursuers assuming she’d died in the fall.  Once she reaches Philadelphia she contacts William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) of the Anti-Slavery Society (who’ll later connect Harriet Tubman—as she now calls herself, names taken from her mother and her husband—with the Underground Railroad); he brings her to Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monáe) who helps get Harriet settled, into a job, working on overcoming her illiteracy, so a year later she’s ready to head back to Maryland to free the rest of her family, despite pleas from Still not to undertake such a dangerous mission again.  Nevertheless, she succeeds in her travels (under an assumed identity with forged papers; she’s also got a pistol, given to her by Marie) only to find John believed she was dead so he married a woman named Caroline, leaving Harriet heartbroken.  She carries on anyway, getting 5 slaves (including her brother) from the Brodess’ farm (Mom and Dad won’t come, neither will her sister afraid to make the trek with her little child), but Gideon’s posse now includes a couple of Black slave trackers, Walter (Henry Hunter Hall) and the successful Bigger Long (Omar Dorsey).  ⇒Following one of her visions, Harriet brings her group to a river where she leads them safely across (seemingly a miracle), watched from a distance by Walter who’s swayed by this to secretly come around to the abolitionist cause.  Back in Philadelphia Harriet becomes a “conductor” with the Underground Railroad, going by the alias of Moses, quite successful in getting about 70 slaves to the North, but after 1850 they have to be helped all the way to Canada to avoid the Congressionally-passed Fugitive Slave Law allowing owners to track down runaways even into free states.  On one of her journeys she rescues her niece from the Brodess property (Harriet’s sister had died previously), finally convincing her parents to escape as well, using a sympathetic White kid in a wagon to safely get them all past a blockade on that same bridge Harriet jumped from earlier, but Gideon and Bigger Long are still in pursuit.  Gideon wants Harriet taken alive, so when Long almost shoots her Gideon kills himthen Harriet’s pistol shot to Gideon’s hand makes him drop his rifle.  She grabs it, contemplates killing him, yet her vision of freedom to come allows her to simply ride away on his horse.  Skipping ahead to 1863 we find her as the first woman to lead a U.S. military assault, on plantations along South Carolina’s Combahee River, resulting in freedom for about 750 slaves.  Other quick notices about her life are shown, including her work for the suffrage movement, ending with her death in 1913.⇐

So What?  If you don’t know all that much yet about the amazing life and accomplishments of Harriet Tubman you should see this film rather than waiting for her to replace former U.S. President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, a decision made in early 2016 while Barack Obama was still President, since delayed (for no objective reason I’ve yet to understand) by now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin until a later-enough-date Donald Trump will no longer be in office, even if he survives impeachment and is elected to a second term in 2020 (a situation more horrible than the events of The Lighthouse!).  Still, she’s been given an enormous number of other honors already, including Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park near Church Creek and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Dorchester County, along with New York’s Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in the towns of Auburn and Fleming.  There’s even an asteroid (241528 Tubman) named for her.  As far as this film goes, though, the OCCU response has been more muted, with 73% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, a 66% average score from Metacritic (more details on both in the Related Links section of this posting far below [also for my review below of The Lighthouse]).  Typical of the more-supportive-opinions is Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post: “Peppered with tense action sequences and propelled by a characteristically gorgeous musical score by Terence Blanchard, ‘Harriet’ is the kind of instructional, no-nonsense biopic that may not take many artistic risks or sophisticated stylistic departures but manages to benefit from that lack of pretension. This is an ideal introduction — or reintroduction — not just to Tubman, but to the inhumane system that she refused to accept.”  None of the others I read enough to know, respect, generally trust (even when I don’t agree) took the negative position on Harriet, but here’s one conveying feelings of those who aren’t so satisfied with this film, Angelica Jade Bastién of New York Magazine/Vulture: “The script hits the notes (triumphs of will, rousing speeches, obvious turns of fortune) we’ve come to expect from a film genre angling for award traction, but it’s bloated with clunky, expository dialogue. The score is increasingly saccharine, approaching Hallmark movie territory; the visual landscape of the film is brimming with basic shot decisions. In the end, Harriet demonstrates none of the curious, perspicacious abilities of Kasi Lemmons, who burst onto the scene with the beguiling Southern tale, Eve’s Bayou.”  (Kasi: "Ouch!")

 But if you really want to go negative (I don’t, but I'm willing to give some consideration to the viewpoint of this next testimony), check out a determined-boycott-call (7:28) from the ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) perspective with angry complaints about casting a Black British actor in the lead role (also be warned these statements get a bit profane at times if that bothers you), though I’m more in tune with what's expressed in this short video (8:26) about Tubman’s life, connecting it to Harriet.  This is an extraordinary woman whose accomplishments may at first seem too fantastic to believe when they keep rolling forth on screen, but a little delving into her history verifies her ongoing triumphs, showcased in a film that could appear at first to echo the saga of Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the final Star Wars trilogy (2015, 2017, upcoming in 2019; first and third directed by J.J. Abrams, second directed by Rian Johnson), rising up from neglected orphan status to become the last of the fabled Jedi Knights, but ultimately Harriet does an excellent job of showing how a determined woman rose above her constraints/neglect to become one of the most inspirational, honored figures of American history (at least for those willing to accept who she was, what she did).

Bottom Line Final Comments: Unlike a lot of the esoteric stuff I’ve reviewed lately, Harriett’s widely available in 2,059 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters, although its $11.7 million debut a few days ago is a pretty soft opening, demonstrative of the work lying ahead if it wants to be remembered when awards nominations get seriously discussed in the next month or so (Cynthia Erivo is dynamically-captivating as Harriet, stands a chance of an Oscar-acting-nod, although I think the 2 guys in The Lighthouse show even better power-of-performance, if enough Academy voters even see what they’re doing compared to the much wider coverage Harriet’s already attained [regarding acting quality, she’s spunky, respectable, commands a lot of screen time, but they push themselves to thespian-limits so it’s somewhat more likely we might see Willem Dafoe contending again next spring]).  Of course, just like in political prognostication, you never really know how current implications will play out in final results in a culture where even last weekend’s box-office-champ, Terminator: Dark Fate (Tim Miller), playing in 4,086 domestic venues, taking in $29 million (plus $94.5 million internationally), is considered a disappointment because it eventually needs to score about $450 million to balance its production/marketing costs (maybe Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger won’t “be back” after all); how well a less-expensive-venture like Harriet will ultimately do, both financially and in potential awards contention, remains to be seen, but I just hope the film itself is seen by lots of people, even if just to better educate those of us who need it about the enormous impact Harriet Tubman had on her era, giving us inspiration such a level of social-uplift could be achieved in our increasingly-turbulent-times.  Speaking of turbulence, I’ll wrap up these comments with my usual closing tactic of a Musical Metaphor (more obvious than usual this time [same with The Lighthouse, as I sometimes feel obvious is the best choice rather than trying to be too cutesy-allusive—besides, these films don’t lend themselves to anything cutesy anyway]) speaking to both the overt content and heritage of Harriet, a song often called the anthem of the Civil Rights movement, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” (from his 1964 Ain’t That Good News album) at, illustrated with images from the disgraceful days of slavery to the emergence of 20th-century-Black Power.  This song’s inspired by a 1963 incident in Shreveport, LA where Cooke, his wife, his band were turned away from a racist motel, arrested for disturbing the peace; the full changes from Tubman’s and Cooke’s eras are still “a long time coming [… giving far too many the fear they] couldn’t last for long But now [we can know we’ll all be] able to carry on.”  Harriet Tubman ultimately didn’t doubt she could carry on, forcing crucial changes to come in her time, reminding us to keep evolving for the better in ours.
(as is often the case, a not-so-short-version of) SHORT TAKES 
(please note that spoilers also appear here)
                  The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers)   rated R

This is an extremely bleak (maybe supernatural) story set in a late-19th-century isolated lighthouse where 2 men in constant conflict find new ways to generate misery; it’s shot in B&W, roughly in the old 4x3 format with a sense of coming from the past, particularly the filmic heritage of German Expressionism so consider this one carefully (if you can even find it).

Here’s the trailer:

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

(Normally I try to adjust my layout so—at least on my Mac desktop—I keep a single photo and its accompanying  paragraph confined to one screen, but I haven't done that with The Lighthouse in an attempt to preserve the odd 1.19:1 screen ratio of this film.  What?  You don't expect me to further edit my brilliant prose, do you?  Or, maybe I could break up these paragraphs, but, honestly, that requires more photos, with the ones
I'm using being about all that are available to an unofficial critic such as myself, so I must ask your
sloppy-layout-indulgence for these comments and uncropped-pics for this weird film, OK?) 
 What can I say about The Lighthouse?  For starters, even though it emerges in the first quarter of the 21st century it feels like something that could have been made about 100 years earlier with content taking us back even farther, shot in black & white on 35mm filmstock (which only the artiest of contemporary art films would do) within a 1.19:1 screen ratio (even more of a square than the Academy Standard of 1.33:1 width-to-height-ratio that dominated movies until the 1950s, TV for decades after that), mostly using only 2 characters who often seem at emotional war with each other (at least you don’t have to strain to keep up with the cast), in a disturbing narrative shot with much shadow (even daylight scenes are a murky grey, nothing implying brilliant sunshine) where few events seem to be verifiable given we’re told the previous assistant lighthouse keeper on this tiny, isolated New England island went mad, so for all practical purposes this film could have emerged from 1920s German Expressionism with soundtrack technology added.  I was initially intrigued by the trailer, then pushed away by scathing attacks from local critics (Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle: The movie’s got nothing, and lots of it, and intends to pile it on until it’s safely past feature length. And here’s some fantasy: that this is serious art, that it must be art because it’s so miserable to watch.”), finally intrigued enough by its CCAL hefty-support (a no-doubt 92% positive RT reviews, a very high [for them] 83% MC average score; a supporter, such as James Berardinelli of ReelViews, offers better-encouragement: The Lighthouse works because of the strength of the actors’ performances, the power of their interaction, and the aura of incipient dread that saturates everything.”) as well as its unexpected opening at my hometown, suburban Hayward theater—and a couple of other nearby multiplexes (even more unusual because it’s still only in 978 domestic venues after 3 weeks in release)—plus my ever-curious-wife, Nina, remained intrigued by the trailer, so off we went on a Sunday afternoon (our Cinemark now requires choosing specific seats, although for our screening that was hardly necessary, the few in attendance with us verifying why … Lighthouse has earned only about $6.9 million in domestic receipts so far).  What we encountered was disturbing, to say the least, although the acting by the 2 stars is phenomenal, with Willem Dafoe a potential Oscar nominee (already been there 4 times, lost, long overdue) if his approach isn’t put aside by Academy voters as being too Expressionistic, like something from the German classic, Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)—appropriate as it continues to be for The Lighthouse.

 Essentially, the plot, set in the late 19th century, has Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) still looking for his ideal occupation (last working as a logger near Hudson’s Bay, Canada) coming through the fog to an isolated lighthouse on a tiny island for a 4-week-stint under the awful-supervision of Thomas Wake (Dafoe) maintaining his previous seaman’s persona (Winslow must answer every demand with “Aye, sir!”), his negative attitudes toward most everything Ephraim does (including refusing alcohol with dinner as it’s against regulations—Wake couldn’t care less), his insistence only he can access the top of the tower to tend to the huge light.  Winslow finds a small carved mermaid in his mattress, then has visions/hallucinations/fever dreams (never clear which)—including sex with a mermaid (Valeria Karaman), sea monsters, Wake as Neptune—as the days drag on with him doing the backbreaking work while Wake mostly complains (although at times after dinner they sing, even dance), recites Old Salt poetry or aphorisms (“It’s bad luck to kill a seabird” after seeing Winslow throw a rock at an especially-pesky-seagull).  Ephraim snaps one day when their pump produces putrid water leading him to find a dead bird in the cistern, whereupon the noisy gull attacks Winslow who grabs it, literally beats the bird to a pulp.  Suddenly, the weather changes, a huge storm rolls in preventing Winslow’s departure boat from arriving so the 2 frequent-antagonists are stuck together even longer, running out of food, sharing booze which brings them closer/pushes them apart as their tensions grow.  ⇒Winslow reveals he’s actually Thomas Howard, taking the other name from a fellow logger who died in an accident Howard could have prevented, the new identity hopefully helping him find a better life.  When the alcohol runs out they're reduced to drinking honey-flavored-kerosene as the powerful storm waves smash through the windows of their cramped dwelling; next morning, “Winslow” finds Wake’s logbook with constant negative evaluations of “Ephraim,” stating he should get no pay; they fight, the younger man triumphs, forces the older one to act like a dog, then pushes him into a hole, seemingly buried alive.  Wake’s not dead, though, until their last battle ends with Howard brutally killing him with an axe.  The younger Thomas now gets the key to the lighthouse level of the Fresnel lens, with a door in it opening to him; he looks into the brilliant light which distorts his face until he falls backward down the long, circular staircase.  In the last shot we see him outside on the rocks being eaten by seagulls.⇐   If you’d like more spoiler-filled comments on this grim film, you can go here for a short video (6:33).

 For me, The Lighthouse is questionable in how actively to recommend it—or even not at all (so odd, so difficult to connect with, unlike Harriet), yet it offers challenging, haunting aspects while bringing up interesting questions about plausibility in film plots, especially concerning those critics who'd automatically dismiss an entire movie simply because of actions difficult to reconcile with the laws of physics/probability (“Nobody can drive that far that fast without crashing into something!”  “Nobody can single-handedly fight off that many would-be-assassins!”  “No romantic couple could fall into/out of/back into love that quickly just through a few cute winks, smiles, misunderstandings [Shakespeare’s Othello {1603} notwithstanding on that aspect, though done more seriously—I got into a hassle with Mrs. Rosenthal {see the footnote below} about that one also], redemptive acts!”) unless all rationality’s been dismissed in superhero stories where magic or quasi-scientific-explanations are a foundational-given, even though for the purposes of artistic license (or merely the guilty-pleasure of an irrational-genre-movie) most audience members, functioning as intended-critics or not, are willing to overlook some unlikely twists in order to keep an intriguing narrative moving along (e.g. in Parasite [Bong Joon-ho; review in our October 31, 2019 posting—although certainly The Lighthouse would have been more appropriate for that Halloween date] it’s hard to logically believe a tech-genius such as Mr. Park wouldn’t find something suspicious about how each new home-worker he takes on just happens to know the next-needed-hire until the whole poverty-stricken-Kim family’s under his roof, yet if we dismiss this chain of events we suddenly have no premise for such an intriguing film to develop), even though we can still demand a depicted story make sense within the film’s own logic (my problem with some key elements toward the end of Parasite which I detailed in my review for those willing to delve into dreaded spoilers territory).  Unlike any of what I’ve noted above, though, you can never be sure where even internal-logic is at play in The Lighthouse because it’s never clear if what we’re seeing (presumably after the opening establishing scenes) is what’s actually happening with Ephraim (given the inherent nature of cinematography causing us to assume what’s being shown exists in the normal world of this text) or whether it’s hallucinatory caused by the growing madness of a new career.  Therefore, my choice of a Musical Metaphor here’s also something up for interpretation as to symbolism or veracity,* Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)—which would be even more effective if read against this film’s disturbing Mark Korven soundtrack (sadly-accented by foghorns).

*I recall studying this poem in high-school senior English where I argued with my teacher about how the dead albatross could literally be hung around the narrator’s neck in this fictional work rather than be just be symbolic of the misery of the soon-to-die-crew.  As I recall, my grade suffered a bit in that 6-weeks' period; Mrs. Rosenthal was not to be challenged about her specific interpretations.

 In various interviews, Eggers notes inspiration for his second feature (after The Witch, 2015) in the actual (differing in details) story of 2 lighthouse keepers (both named Thomas) in conflict centuries ago, the writings of Herman Melville and others about the lives of all who work upon or near the sea, along with log entries from various 19th century mariners, yet I’m not aware of him ever mentioning the Coleridge poem despite what I see as obvious parallels (the curse upon the protagonist because he kills a sacred bird, how death befalls all those working closely with either doomed central figure, how each story is suffused with a sense of mystery if not full supernatural occurrences), so I’m being even more generous than usual with the concept of “musical” here, arguing lyrics of songs are a form of poetry when you subtract acoustical-accompaniment from their presentation, therefore for this film I’m going fully with just the “lyrics” of my “Musical” Metaphor because this long-renowned-epic-poem is so appropriate in accordance with the images, attitudes, implied messages (if you can accept that there are any) of The Lighthouse, with the appearance and solemn acceptance of the dignity of the sea in this Mariner like unto what we find in Thomas Wake ([…] grey-beard loon!”) yet his story actually parallels the actions/sufferings of Ephraim Winslow (for those few of you who’ve seen The Lighthouse, you know I could also be calling him by another name, but I’m respecting my spoiler pledge where that’s concerned) in his deadly-seabird-encounter (“And I had done a hellish thing, And it would work ‘em woe: For all averred, I had killed the bird That made the breeze to blow”), although the Mariner’s act stranded his ship in the boiling heat (“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink”) until further evils occurred while Ephraim’s sin brought about a horrific storm with even more deadly results.  Here’s a reading of The Rime ...'s full text at (25:17, with illustrations)—if you’d like to read along, you could bring up the words on the screen of another Web browser at this link, then reduce each sub-screen so you can see them together—although if you’d like to invest a bit more time with it, here’s another version (40:36) narrated by Orson Welles with even more visuals but of a rather-unfocused-quality.  While I’m not clear Eggers has a specific lesson for us to learn from his tale as the Wedding-Guest did in Coleridge’s poem we might all come away from both these works of art […] like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man [or person], He [/She] rose the morrow morn.”  All in all, this was the same fate awaiting many protagonists of those influential German Expressionist films that have permeated so many aspects of drama in world cinema, even those that ultimately take on a strong Realist attitude, such as the American classic from that same era, Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924), with this bespoke experience in The Lighthouse finally swaying me in the direction of support (even if a bit restrained) for what those who'd choose to endure this strange film would usefully encounter.
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Here’s more information about Harriet: (30:33 interview with director Kasi Lemmons, producer Debra Martin Chase, and actors Henry Hunter Hall, Omar Dorsey, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jennifer Nettles, Zachery Momoh, Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, from the 2019 
Toronto International Film Festival)

Here’s more information about The Lighthouse: (a very skimpy official site) (18:24 interview with director Robert Eggers, actors Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, also from 2019 TIFF)

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 30,724 (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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