One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal: Old News – The Best Pictures of 2017

I saw lots of amazing movies last year, thanks to Netflix X. Many of them were foreign. But Hollywood makes good movies too. I finally got through most of the films that were nominated for the 2018 Best Picture Academy Award. The Awards were given out on March 4. But here – after the fact – are my thoughts on (and grades for) them:

The Shape of Water: This one got the Oscar. My opinion? Beauty & the Beast meets Marvel Comics. C

Darkest HourWell directed and with several superb performances. The story of Churchill’s selection as prime minister and his challenge in persuading his country to stand up to the Nazis, despite plenty of good reasons to capitulate. This one will leave you thinking about the impossibility of rationalizing war. A-

DunkirkAlso well directed and well acted. An action-packed recounting of the rescue of 300,000 British troops trapped in the French city of Dunkirk, waiting to be slaughtered by the Nazis. B++

Get Out: A clever and engaging reinvention of the scary movie – except that the boogey men are cultivated white racists. If you read a treatment of the film, you’d think it could never work. Yet it does. B+

Lady BirdAmazingly engaging for a story that is essentially a memoir about a modestly bright but enormously self-centered teenage girl that feels oppressed by a mother who refuses to be manipulated by her. B+

Call Me by Your Name: Made to be pretty. And to rationalize man-boy love. I couldn’t get through it. D

The Post: An impressively executed movie about Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee’s battle to keep The Washington Post alive in the early 1970s. And the great success they had in publishing the Pentagon Papers after the NYT was sued by the government for doing so. If you didn’t believe in the military industrial complex before, this very good movie will make you a convert. A-

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: There were several moments during the film when I felt manipulated by the plot. But overall, it was moving and compelling. B++

The movie that should have won – and it wasn’t even nominated: The Florida Project. An astonishingly good film from every point of view: script, direction, acting, cinematography, set design, etc. What is remarkable about it is its point of view. It’s a complex and disturbing story told from the perspective of children. I was wowed by it. It exists in a genre unto itself. A+


Fun Fact

$30 worth of raw popcorn = $3,000 worth of popcorn sales in theatres.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Moon Image

(after J H)

Moon clichés fluttering into the mind’s basket

when, at the swamp house after the Sunday visit,

lying back, looking upward, nicely, gently alone

that rare speckled darkness in which I can find

the bear and the belt and most touchingly

in the mirror of the pond

the unclouded moon

whose image in real time

is but seconds old but in culture’s

memory has lived for hundreds of years


It cannot stay that way – you reminded me of that

you called it a “miraculous cliché”?

and it is and it gives up sheets of pale yet luminous

expression reprinted a thousand times into now

running through memory’s closet or alley or bin

looking for the one true thing that could

raise up again our strength which means

willingness to see it that way


But it was always different for you… for you

the night sky was busy with “nightjars”

(I didn’t and still don’t know what they are)

for you there were “bullbats” and swallows

eating noisily the mosquitos and bobcats and

deer and birds, all angry, eating – noisy eating

eating, eating, angrily eating…

until the turmoil of the day is subsided


I can’t imagine how you suffered.

Yet for me now the sky is this thing

this field of speckled darkness and the moon

is a huge cliché and the cicadas are humming

and the owls are hooting ever so gently

and the moonlight spills over again for me

Today’s Word: tendentious (adjective)

Tendentious (ten-DEN-shus) means biased, in favor of a particular point of view (especially one that is controversial). As used by Bjornstjerne Bjornson, a Norwegian writer who received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature: “The writers who reject tendentiousness and purpose in their work are the very ones who display it in every word they write. I could draw countless examples from the history of literature to show that the more a writer clamours for spiritual freedom, the more tendentious his work is liable to be.”


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