Sunday!

About half of the Coen Brothers movies leave you devastated. Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, A Serious Man… the Coens put together a cast of characters and then the plot takes them pretty much through the only places that these characters could possibly go, making the only choices that they could possibly make, and ending up in the only places they could possibly end up. It’s a recipe for a fatalistic hopelessness as you walk out of the theater.

This isn’t about those.

This is about the really awesome happy endings that they’re capable of putting together when they’re inclined to do so:

Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy, Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou… Each of these gave us a grand cast of characters, had the plot take them through some surprising places, having good insights that allow them to make good choices, and then ending up in a pretty good place, all things considered.

Hail, Caesar, if you ask me, is their best film in years and years. (I mean, I could say that it’s their best since True Grit but that pretty much just says “it was better than Inside Llewyn Davis”… this is their best comedy since O Brother and it might even be better. I haven’t decided yet.)

The basic story is simple. We’re following the life of Eddie Mannix, a “fixer” for Capitol Pictures (huh… Eddie Mannix is based on a real guy) and we see him deal with problems involving a young starlet who finds herself in a family way, a popular actor in cowboy movies transitioning to grown-up fare, and a prestige picture about the life of Jesus Christ that he wants to throw past a rabbi, a patriarch, a priest, and a minister (as a setup to a joke goes, you can’t get any better than that).

Of course, everything begins to go awry when the star of the prestige picture gets himself kidnapped.

Along the way, we visit all kinds of movies and see all kinds of scenes. Cowboy movie scenes, Busby Berkley swimming pool choreography, a dance scene starring a whole bunch of Navy Sailors heading out to sea, black tie elegant drama scenes, and a lovely little moment where Hobie Doyle, the cowboy actor, picks up Carlotta Valdez (an ersatz Carmen Miranda) before dinner and they discuss dancing.

If you grew up watching the big and little films of the 1940’s and 1950’s, you’ll find yourself absolutely entranced to be visiting them again, even if only for 10 minutes at a time. They find the perfect way to leave you wanting more and saying “Man, I’d love to see Hail, Caesar… and Lazy Ol’ Moon… and Merrily We Dance… and definitely On Wings Of Eagles.”

And the best part? It’s got a happy ending. You should seriously check it out.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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24 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. The whole film is full of perfect little moments.

    https://youtu.be/VVQ0JFzXMgY

    Here’s “No Dames”, the song and dance number… and you can feel yourself going from “are they doing that deliberately?” to “I think they’re doing that deliberately” to “how in the heck did I ever question whether they were doing that deliberately?”

    And, all the while, “this is a really good song and dance number”.

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  2. Lois Bujold is writing a new book in her Five Gods universe, a novella at a time. So far parts one and two. Part one has this great thing you have to be a Bujold fan to appreciate. The hero is about to be robbed by two bad guys, and he pulls the standard Miles Vorkosigan move of pointing out that their interests aren’t identical, to get them to turn on each other. It always works for Miles, but in this book they look at the hero and say “Yeah, we already talked about that. What do you think we are, idiots?”

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    • I’m getting the same vibe from the Five Gods universe that I did from Glen Cook’s “Black Company” (which, interestingly, is in a similar place on the Mohs scale WRT high vs. low fantasy).

      It starts out kicking ass, setting up a situation and knocking down the resolution, then some new characters come on stage and the tone shifts a bit while we follow up the ramifications, while traveling to a different cultural milieu. Some time passes. During the layoff, the author has a better idea about what they were up to all along, and the series takes a turn so abrupt that only Stig-level talent keeps it on the road. And I start to question if it’s still the same trip I signed up for way back when. The author is so good that it’s still interesting, but it’s more like an all-new unconnected experience.

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      • Very well stated. It’s a series I’ve always thought went downhill, from one of her best books, to an OK book [2], to a book that’s so angsty that it’s very hard to enjoy [1]. The new novellas featuring Penric are a big improvement on the last novel, though they’re again set in the equivalent of the German-speaking world, this time Switzerland.

        1. Though very faithful to some of the medieval legends I’ve read. Does anyone know of the one where pagan armies of the dead are doomed to repeat the battle that killed them through eternity, until a Christian kills them and they can finally rest? I read it when I was quite young, and I have no idea where.

        2. Yes, I know it won the Hugo.

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  3. With GoT now done for the year, I needed at least a week to decompress. I went super-deep this year, spending a lot of time with podcasts, fan theories, etc so unplugging will take a little time. It was fun though.

    I’m now preparing for some serious binge-viewing of a few other shows I like. I’m talking a 1-week mini sabbatical again this year, with the wife and kids out of town, and I have queued up Penny Dreadful’s final season, Black Sails S3 and Outlander S2. Should be fun.

    On the movie front, I have been slipping big time this summer. Just can’t seem to drag myself to the theater. I did catch Suffragette yesterday and have to say it was pretty good, even if a little bleak. Probably need to have my youngest daughter watch it so she understands women’s rights a little better.

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    • The friend I watch AGoT with and I had fallen way behind, and he was about to go away for a few weeks, so we binge-watched the last five of them one night, while drinking some Bulleit 10-year-old bourbon I’d gotten as an informal bonus at work. Quite a night.

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      • I do miss the binge days of GoT. When Dave Ramsay ruled our household budget I would let two seasons go by, then persuade the cable company to give me a free trial of HBO for one month and steamroll through 20 episodes. I did that for Seasons 1 & 2 and then again for Seasons 3 & 4. Now I’m in front of the TV every Sunday night. I can only imagine how epic the second half of S6 was in a big block like that.

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  4. I really like Hail Caesar! My girlfriend did not like it so much. Apparently the movie bombed though and seemed to divide Coen Brothers fans. I thought it was great. My girlfriend and I generally seem to have very different tastes in movies. She does not like Noah Baumbach movies or Whit Stillman movies which I adore.

    There was a whole debate about whether Hail Caesar! was cyrpto-conservatism.

    I am currently reading the Brazen Age which is a social and cultural history of NYC from 1945-1950. In other words, a very Saul book.

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  5. I’ve been mainlining Republic of Doyle ever since I figured out there were more seasons on Netflix than I had already watched.

    And I read a book about a fox and his boy that made me cry, but not for the usual reasons that YA novels about animals make one cry. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker. Was really good. Was surprised to see Chris Crutcher in the acknowledgements, but it actually made a lot of sense once I stopped to think about it.

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  6. (taps microphone) (clears throat) Um…Hey…

    Mary Poppins. The first time with a 7-year-old-that’s-never-seen-it. He’s been singing “A spoonful of sugar…” at the top of his lungs every waking moment since. And, all the other songs…

    Thinking of the original Willie Wonka next, maybe some Miyazaki… We just watched Episode 7 over 2 nights (with Mom, who hadn’t seen it. 13-year-old and I saw in theater) – and he’s a Star Wars, Hobbit/LOTR, LEGO super freak, so yeah. Don’t judge.

    Halfway through Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With A Thousand Faces”. Yeah, ok. I didn’t go to college. Don’t judge.

    Re-reading Twain’s short stories, speeches, et al. “A Dog’s Tale” is the saddest story ever written. It’s like that Monty Python skit about the deadliest joke, but saddest story. Seriously, do not read it unless you want to read the saddest story you’ve ever read or ever will read. It will stay with you for days or perhaps a lifetime. Ok, maybe just me. Really though, I warned you, it’s really short and you won’t be ready. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3174/3174-h/3174-h.htm

    Slowly re-reading my way through Brian Greene’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos”. I just really like his science writing, even though it’s outdated now. Much better than Hawking’s Brief History (though, he did pave the way a bit…).

    Re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-…-watching Connections series (original) by James Burke. Love his stuff. Can’t watch it enough. Watch “After the Warming” if you’re into it and while you’re watching it, think about the fact that he made it in before 1990 (the two episodes are on youtube, I think).

    Hmmm, board games – Boss Monster 2: The Next Level. Be a Boss Monster. Build a Dungeon. Lure Heroes and Kill Them. Win. All Cards.

    “We Didn’t Playtest This At All” by Asmadi Games (also cards). Think “faster than Flux” and “funnier than Munchkin” and “more ridiculous than Cards Against Humanity (sort of)”. Game time 5 seconds to 5 minutes (occasionally 45 minutes if someone plays that damn card…). Extra double plus good if everyone is imbibing…

    Teaching 13-year-old son 1st Edition AD&D (that’s the books I have. Don’t judge.)

    Armello – video game that’s actually a board game – for PS4, don’t know about others. Amazingly fun. Reminds me of some of the early PC games, NES/SNES games. Fun fun. Single player, multi (net). We all play together and argue the best things we should do next for our single character. Wish there was an actual board game of it (we may build out own, don’t tell anyone…)…

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    • Oh, man. Campbell will blow your mind. Just be sure to read the criticism of him when you’re done because he steals some bases and he’s pretty sneaky about how he did so.

      Boss Monster 2: The Next Level sounds interesting.

      Next week’s Saturday post will probably be about Legendary.

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    • I’d love to watch The Ascent of Man again. No idea where to find it, though. ($70+ for DVDs is a bit steep.) obMontyPython:

      (Two Pythons in drag spot a penguin.)
      Pepperpot 2: Perhaps it’s from the zoo.
      Pepperpot 1: Which zoo?
      Pepperpot 2: How should I know which zoo? I’m not Dr. Bloody Bronowski!
      Pepperpot 1: How does Dr. Bronowski know which zoo it came from?
      Pepperpot 2: He knows everything.
      Pepperpot 1: Ooh, I wouldn’t like that. It’d take all the mystery out of life.

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    • I miss having other people to drink and play We Didn’t Playtest This At All with. A fine fine game.

      And I promise I’m not judging. (Dude, I haven’t read The Hero With a Thousand Faces either.)

      *rereads A Dog’s Tale*

      Oh! You are right. (I remembered that you were, but felt the need to reread it anyway.)

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