Monday Evening Open Thread

I recently had a birthday, and here’s my favorite present, which was from my kiddo:

Programming note: By popular demand, we will have a Black Panther open thread with secret spoiler discussion at some point tomorrow, so stay tuned for that, film fanatics.

Aside from that, I got nothing. Open thread!

Keep your electric eye on me, babe

Thought we could use a fun post as we may be nearing the constitutional abyss….

I just read there’s a one-man show about Lester Bangs playing in New York and I wished that I could go! It got me thinking about “Almost Famous”. I thought the movie was fun but a bit of a snooze when Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t on screen killing it as Lester Bangs (F-Mac was good too, but that was really comic relief). Billy Crudup is a wonderful actor (“Jesus’ Son” is great), Kate Hudson is charming in her own way, and the kid was fine but…they’re all a bit boring. When PSH comes on screen, you suddenly wake up and pay attention. The content of his speech about being uncool was stupid — come on, if good-looking people’s art doesn’t last, then why do people still watch Audrey Hepburn and Paul Newman movies, why do they still listen to Marvin Gaye and early Sinatra, why do they still love early Hemingway and Welles? But the delivery…

I felt a bit the same way about PSH, and also Jude Law in Mr. Ripley. When they were both dead, I wanted to leave. Do I really want to spend an hour with Matt Damon and Gwyenth? No.

I was thinking, what are other examples where one particular actor blows everyone else off the screen? Could be more than one actor but has to be a supporting role, no Mommy Dearest or There Will Be Blood.

For me, the first time I was ever struck by this was Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. Another more recent example was Holly Hunter in Big Sick. I liked the movie but the two kids aren’t engaging screen presences, the movie only took off when Holly Hunter came in. Though it’s a larger role, I also think of Denzel Washington in Philadelphia as opposed to Tom Hanks. The stuff with Denzel coming to grips with not being homophobic draws you in, then you have to watch Tom Hanks pretend to love opera and musical theater for ten minutes. I guess this one’s twofer: Denzel is infinitely more charismatic than Tom Hanks and he also has a more interesting role.

Another good one is Daniel Day Lewis in “Room With A View”. That character he plays is a prig, but he’s just got an intensity and presence the others don’t have.

What are some other good examples?

Estonia Considers Its Monuments

Estonia’s Justice Minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said early in January that the government could take down the Soviet war memorial at Maarjamäe because it is falling apart and it is not on the official list of historic monuments. This led Prime Minister Jüri Ratas to suggest that the entire area, which includes a German cemetary and a memorial under construction to the victims of Communism, be designated a historic area.

The Soviet Union built many war memorials across its territory, particularly to commemorate World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as they call it. I find those monuments moving; they are, after all, memorials to people who died in wars and who had families who grieved them. I’ve been to the Maarjamäe memorial a few times.

One of those times I visited with a graduate student who was studying monuments in the former Soviet Union. As we see now in the United States, monuments are a part of a country’s story of itself. The Soviet Union wanted to erase the past.

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The Last Jedi: Open Thread with Hidden Spoilers Discussion

I saw “The Last Jedi” yesterday evening with a couple of teens, and we loved it. I’ll probably see it again in the next couple of weeks because my husband couldn’t make it to last night’s show and will want to see it on the big screen too. I already look forward to a second viewing and to discovering new Easter Eggs I missed the first time around.

It’s been interesting, as a fan of the franchise, reading comments here and elsewhere that sharply criticize or vociferously defend TLJ. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. I’ve landed firmly in the pro-TLJ camp after seeing it. I think it struck an excellent balance between staying true to the spirit of the franchise and striking out in a new direction.

That’s about as much as I can say without getting into specifics, which we don’t want to do because a lot of folks haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet. So, if you’re in the mood to discuss the film with spoilers, click on the image above. That’ll take you to a hidden thread, which is entitled “Last Jedi Hidden Spoilers Thread.”

Otherwise, the NON-hidden comment section below is open for any topic — except spoilers!

Monday Afternoon Spoiler Alert (Open Thread)

Whoa if true:

I’ve noticed a stealth phenomenon that may just exist in my imagination: You know how Trump keeps implying that he made it legal to say “Merry Christmas” again, as if people who accidentally uttered the words in a retail setting were dragged off to FEMA reeducation camps during the Obama administration? And now Trump supporters who aggressively wish strangers a “Merry Christmas” are actually saying “Fuck your feelings”?

Well, in Trump country, saying “Happy Holidays” feels like a mildly subversive act now, and I’ve returned that greeting in exchanges with retail clerks in deeply Republican locations with a knowing arch of the eyebrow and a half smile. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Speaking of “Happy Holidays,” all my holiday shopping is done. I believe this is a personal record for me, finishing a week before Christmas, and I owe it all to online shopping. I used to be one of those miserable people who ransacked crowded malls on Christmas Eve. In the future, if I’m ever about to be murdered by a sentient robot, I’ll try to keep in mind that, in many ways, technology was worth it!

Open thread!

What have we got? Magnificence!

I thought of a fun game. Name your seven all-time favorite movie experiences — the movie, when you saw it (approximately), who you saw it with, where you saw it.

Should be in a theater and it doesn’t have to be your favorite movies. Most of my favorite movies I saw the first time on VHS back in the day and usually the first cut is deepest.

Here’s mine:

1. “Tootsie”, Christmas Eve 1982, Copley Plaza, Boston, with my grandfather and uncle.
2. “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, 1986, Hamilton, NY, with my friend Jim.
3. “Pulp Fiction”, opening night 1994, California Theatre, Berkeley, a big group of friends.
4. “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”, 1995 or so, Solano Theater, Albany, CA, with my friend Ben.
5. “Murmur of Youth”, 1997, Pacific Film Archives Berkeley, with my friend Vlada.
6. “The Departed”, 2006, some theater in Manhattan, with my friend Maryann.
7. “Nashville”, 2013, Dryden Theater, Rochester, NY with my wife.

I really love movies so I’ll throw in some more.

Best double features: “Glengarry Glen Ross”/”Reservoir Dogs” and “Sunset Boulevard”/”In A Lonely Place”.

Best theaters: Paramount Theater, Oakland and Castro Theater, San Francisco.

In some ways, I think my most intense movie experiences were “Chinatown” (on VHS) and “Vertigo”, which I saw by myself, I can’t remember on VHS or in a theater. I just remember the movie! I also can’t remember where I first saw “The Wild Bunch”.

Anyway, what’s your magnificent seven?

Who Dis? (Open Thread)

Name this actor and the 1970s horror film in which he stars below:

God lord, that movie is a giant slab of Velveeta. No more hints! Open thread!