Call it, friend-o.

Saw “No Country for Old Men” this weekend. I don’t think I can discuss much without the tiresome “spoiler alert,” but I’ll try. If you’ve seen it, or aren’t bothered by spoilers (which aren’t as spoiler-y as usual — this movie is pretty high-concept in the plot department), go to Roy’s place, and check out his original post, as well as the comments, and the boot to Glenn Kenny’s.

I’m more easily pleased. I loved the thing pretty much beginning to end, although I understand the objection to the last 25 percent, as well as the ending, which was greeted by a few stunned Huhs in the multiplex where we saw it. Didn’t bother me. This is a film made to be watched again and again, after which the ending will become more coherent, I think. Besides, even if you take the position that the denouement is a disaster, who the hell cares? Jack Nicholson was the weakest thing about “The Departed,” but I’ll watch at least a few minutes of it every kind it comes around on cable, because Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic. If you can’t be thrilled by all that’s great about this movie, from the painterly composition of every shot to the note-perfect performances, well, you should probably go ahead and buy a ticket to “I am Legend.”

A few words about that composition: The Coen brothers are famous for storyboarding their movies from first shot to last. When you see their attention to detail — the bloodstained quarter in Javier Bardem’s palm, a dog’s leap for the throat that sends you an inch off your seat — you can appreciate movies in a whole new way.

As for Bardem, I think Roy nails it:

And if Javier Bardem had not made his monster Karloff-scale believable we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. This is the greatest kind of acting — the kind that suggests its own backstory. I can see him as a hollow-eyed, beaten boy, silently absorbing evil and taking all his lessons from it, growing into a creature that cannot be stopped or swayed, but still must have his little games to prove, in the face of uncomprehending fear (his or theirs?), that he has been right all along. Bardem’s performance is eternal in a movie that could have been.

Since we were in a mood for grim violence, but mostly because it was snowing like “Dr. Zhivago,” we opted for the verboten La Shish, our local Middle Eastern chain, for dinner before the show. Bad reputation, that place, but I justified our visit thusly:

1) The profit is probably all going to the IRS these days, not Hezbollah; and
2) It was snowing really, really hard, and it was either that or McDonald’s.

And even though the whole chain is in danger of folding like a cheap tent, the food was…heavenly. The best pita bread I’ve had in my whole damn life. A vegetable melange that tasted fresh, light, and perfectly spicy. Hummus to die for. The bread came with some sort of garlic paste I wanted to dab behind my ears, it was so good. The whole east side of Detroit is pretty slim pickins, restaurant-wise, but after one bite my only regret was that I didn’t support Hezbollah’s booster sooner. Anyone who can cook like that can’t be all bad.

Just a bit of bloggage today, via Metafilter: An 1898 letter to professional baseball players, outlining the new bad-language policy. Worth a read, if only for the chuckles. Go fuck yourself! So Al Swerengen.

Posted at 1:20 am in Movies, Popculch |

33 responses to “Call it, friend-o.”

  1. John said on December 3, 2007 at 8:29 am

    Fix the baseball link, please.

    It’s hard to accept that Nicholson was the weak link in “The Departed”, but I guess you are right about that. It is an incredible movie.

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  2. MichaelG said on December 3, 2007 at 9:08 am

    I like a girl with garlicky ears. Those La Shish people sound like quite a family. You don’t have to apologize for restaurant choices. Even fast food ones. I eat at the Carls Jr in Ontario Airport all the time. It’s the best place there — which probably says more about the airport than CJr.

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  3. Dorothy said on December 3, 2007 at 9:12 am

    I purchased the book “No Country for Old Men” with a Barnes & Noble gift card last year and have not gotten around to reading it. Now it’s packed and in a box in a storage unit, waiting for the day when I move into a house again. I bought the paperback for my son for Christmas this weekend. We plan to see it together (son, husband, me).

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  4. nancy said on December 3, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Sorry, John — can you tell it was after 1 a.m. when I hit “publish?”

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  5. brian stouder said on December 3, 2007 at 10:34 am

    can you tell it was after 1 a.m. when I hit “publish?”

    The mis-spellings of simple words were the biggest giveaway; but in fact that made the post all the more admirable, seeing all the potential pitfalls and hard words that you dashed off unerringly.

    Say – Saturday morning I visited our friends at Red Cross to do the pheresis thing, and they gave me an attractive red mug with gold writing on it…and I flipped it over and saw that it was produced in China! Now – I had sense enough not to joke with the nurse as they went down the list of questions (sex w/needle users? sex for money? sex w/another man, even once? vacation in Africa? hair-loss pills? etc etc) to which one stoically says “no” “no” “no” “no” “no”….but at the end, when they ask how you feel today – I offered that I was a little concerned about lead-contamination of my blood, thanks to their mug! – and the woman immediately laughed and said that they all noticed that, too – and that she intended to use hers as a pencil holder! (and I noted the appropriateness of her application!)

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  6. alex said on December 3, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Patronize a Pizza Hut in Fort Wayne and you’re bankrolling the Christian equivalents of Hezbollah. Dick Freeland, the franchisee for northeast Indiana, is filthy rich and gives liberally to right-wing fanatic groups. But I must say he does operate a very good business. His restaurants ought to be the benchmark for the chain. I know from having patronized others’ franchises that Pizza Hut is widely regarded as low-rent and crappy outside of this region and the quality of the food and facilities is really disappointing if you’re accustomed to Freeland’s stores.

    So far in the Fort I’ve managed to discover a decent Thai place and a so-so Indian place and some downright mediocre Chinese but haven’t happened upon a good middle-eastern restaurant yet. Maybe we don’t have one.

    I remember one of your columns, Nance, in which the folks from PETA were demonstrating outside a Freeland Pizza Hut in cow suits trying to draw attention to something positive about them — they serve soy cheese on request. Pizza Hut could have capitalized on the attention, but no, they had to go be all stick-up-the-butt about it.

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  7. brian stouder said on December 3, 2007 at 10:59 am

    I think PETA also put chicken-suited demonstrators outside local KFC’s, protesting rough treatment for the fowls served there – which is another Freeland franchise

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  8. LA mary said on December 3, 2007 at 11:12 am

    MichaelG, if you ever get a few miles west of Ontario, go to the Middle East restaurant in Alhambra. Great Lebanese food.

    I’m waiting for the movie of another Cormac McCarthy book, Blood Meridian. I think the rights have been bought and sold a few times but no one has made the movie.

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  9. Connie said on December 3, 2007 at 11:53 am

    After 7 years in Elkhart County I am still looking for a good Chinese restaurant. Lots of gyros drive throughs but no Greek or Middle Eastern places that I can find. Worth the drive to Mishawaka for Thai, and the newly discovered Sunny’s Korean Patio Garden.

    We sometimes stop for Chinese when passing through Lansing, one of those old college days favorites.

    And Alex, that goes for all pizza huts, with a super Catholic owner building his own religious community down in Florida I hear.

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  10. Danny said on December 3, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    This weekend we saw Dolores Claiborne. It has been on my list for years. Highly recommended. Kathy Bates is awesome.

    Not a big deal, but I really didn’t like The Departed. I thought the writing was lazy as evidenced by a predictable, tired plot (Hey, turn in your badge and gun Marky-Mark!) and unrealistic dialogue (unless you inhabit a world where everyone suffers from turrets). Some of the acting was adequate, but some of it was just plain lazy too. Jack Nicholson phoned that one in.

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  11. beb said on December 3, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Connie —
    And Alex, that goes for all pizza huts, with a super Catholic owner building his own religious community down in Florida I hear.

    That would be Monahan, founder of Domino’s. A real nut case.

    As for Lebanonese cooking without the terrorist aftertaste, try Steve’s Back Room, on Jefferson north of 9 Mile.

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  12. MichaelG said on December 3, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks, Mary. I’ll check it out next time I have time in Ont. The CJr is just a bite while waiting for a plane.

    I went to one of those author signs books things at Borders one time. The author (the ever excellent Lee Child) noted that several of his books had been optioned for movies but that none of the movies had ever been made. It was fine with him. He figured that he had been paid good money for nothing. He also said that he would not want to be involved in writing the screenplay for one of his books. He saw writing books and writing movies as two totally different disciplines.

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  13. nancy said on December 3, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Elmore Leonard tells a story about being in a story meeting with some executives from Lorimar — he’d been contracted to write the screenplay for one of his own novels. The execs wanted to make a fairly big and dumb change in one of the characters, and he was trying to argue that it would make no dramatic sense, etc. One turned to Leonard and sneered, “What do YOU know about this story? You just wrote the book.”

    That, he said, sort of queered him on the whole Hollywood thing. He’s still happy to sell them, but lets someone else do the scriptwriting.

    Someone I know told me once about a novelist of her acquaintance, and the meeting the latter had with a hip-hop star who wanted to option one of the writer’s books, and play the main character in the ensuing movie. Just one change, though: He wanted the character, who was gay, to be not only rewritten as heterosexual, but to have bedroom skills so awesome that when he fucks a woman, she actually loses consciousness from the ecstasy. (Having read the novel, I have zero idea how this was going to be worked into the plot, but I don’t think I want to know.)

    Novelist said no. Movie went unmade. Every time I see the hip-hop star, I wonder if that’s how he sees himself.

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  14. nancy said on December 3, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    By the way, Monahan sold his interest in Domino’s some time ago. I think he still owns the buildings the corporate offices are housed in, but otherwise, he has no financial interest. A PR guy there told me they have a page on their website explaining this, and yet a month doesn’t go by without a few angry e-mails from people about Mr. Catholic, which he (the PR guy) has to answer. I think he has the explanation on a user key by now.

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  15. John said on December 3, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the baseball yucks! That is just too funny.

    We watched “Die Hard 4” this weekend. Betsy asked to put it on the Netflix list so I bumped it up to the top of the queue as she rarely makes a movie request. She doesn’t like movies as much as I do and certainly not the films I select. Last weekend, I watched “About Schmidt” and I think “Shaft in Africa” is scheduled for next week.

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  16. LA mary said on December 3, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    You have to tell us which hip hop star this was.

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  17. alex said on December 3, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    No luck finding it on google, but Gore Vidal once wrote a hysterically funny essay on the transition of a novel to a screenplay — his own, Myra Breckinridge, 1968.

    He had nothing to do with the making of the movie, a box office bomb of such magnitude it destroyed the sales of the book, taking it from bestseller to out of print in one fell swoop.

    The book is make-you-pee-yourself funny. The movie is utterly unwatchable, although it had a fascinating cast: Mae West, Rex Reed, Raquel Welch, John Huston and Farrah Fawcett.

    Supposedly it was the first movie to employ a graphic rape scene after the death of the Hayes Code in Hollywood; not only was it a rape scene but a female in a strap-on raping a male rape scene.

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  18. michaelj said on December 3, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Painterly? I think I actually know what this means. I mean, I took a film course in jschool, supposedly for the easy A. Ahole didn’t think anybody deserved an A Jack Nicholson, my dear, was never inestimable, and I thought criticism in Departed is a reversion to form. You know, Jack just plays Jack. This is such patent pap, I suppose there’s no sense listening to anything that follows.

    Nancy, how much of your opinion, on both these movies, is based upon horrendous violence that’s really hard for a human being to watch. I find it fascinating that so many Tarrantino acolyte critics criticize violence in The Departed, etc. Apparently they’re Busheviks and believe Reservoir Dogs depicted tough interrogation rather than outright violence. Cutting up your face might make you give up the location of the putative suitcase, but why would you think your torturer would be about to kill you?

    And apropos of important things: gutdom Michigan, how did you lose to some team as immobile and unimaginative as Big Farm, and inflict Buckeyes on the football nation? When LSU smokes those guys, will the Big Ten admit playing Youngstown, Kent and Akron makes your record a sham?

    Rose Bowl takes Illinois. Yeah, well, tradition. Illinois? Tradition is camouflage for protecting the Ur-bowl from playoffs. If they wanted a midwestern conection, Mizzou beat Kansas convincingly. If there were playoffs, it’s the #1 and #2 pretenders against Georgia and USC, and USC meets Georgia in the championship. Georgia and USC are the best teams now.

    The business about LSU only lost in overtime is spectacularly stupid. Overtime was instituted to do away with ties. So losing is like kind of a tie? There are all sorts of ideas about why the Big doesn’t have a League Championship. They don’t have enough good teams.

    Anyway. Today we have the release of the NIE concerning Iran and nukes. And not only was Iran not trying to make weapons since 2003, they couldn’t until 2015. Weren’t we getting ramped up by Wolfowitz (who’s working for W again) to shock and awe?The idea that Iran wouldn’t be interested in nuclear power because they’re sitting on the ocean of oil is bittersweet. Oil? Nah? What sort of idiots would do that?

    Something that bothers me is the idea that Congress approved Shock and Awe. This is even more revoltingwith the passel-tongue Bush brain claiming it wasn’t their idea. Google the so-called authorization that Hillary takes so much grief for. Read it. It didn’t approve any invasion. What it said, is that W was supposed to try talking Saddam out of a confrontation. The Pope knew what the plan was, and it’s a good bet Democrat’s should have to. The old Polish guy said he’d go to Bagdhad to protect innocents. What a jerk.

    Two days later, the US launched several 500-lb. bombs on residential neighborhoods, and originally announced they’d killed Saddam. Mainly they killed kids at some regional version of MacDonalds.

    People that have run things for
    W are considered sensible. They blew up a country, on the basis of entirely bogus testimony they blamed on somebody else, but which history will prove they just made up. People these days wan’t to talk about why these soldiers have died, and why thousands of soldiers have been left where they’re getting no benefits. Greatest Generation? Kiss my ass. These aholes that other considerations screwed over VietVets. They’re doing this same thing with the war they chose.

    They skate. Geez, W said he was in Texas, then he said he was in Bama. Everybody else is chattel. Deal isW was protecting the O club. Kerry was sneaking up some river. Everybody in the world knows this is absolutely true. But somehow there are voters that say it isn’t? What is wrong with people?

    Or maybe the machines were just hijacked. In Sandusky County? Yeah. Maybe. We Sandusky County, we had the President, well the gut I said I’d make the president

    These dickheads chose not to believe but to promote bogus shit from a guy so whack the CIA called him curveball. I think they meant screwball. Nobody’s seen him since. I think it was Chalabi.

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  19. basset said on December 3, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    michaelj, be sure & tell your pharmacist your prescription is for the name-brand meds, OK? the generics don’t seem to be working.

    and not only do I not care who the Big Ten sends to some bowl or other, I honestly don’t think there should even BE a Big Ten. Or a SEC. Or a Pac-Ten. Or, for that matter, a MAC, Sunbelt, SWAC, none of that. No athletic scholarships, either.

    But don’t get me started.

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  20. Velvet Goldmine said on December 3, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    basset, do you and michaelj have a tradition of ribbing each other, or are you in fact being a bit of an ass? I enjoy his rants, but even if I didn’t there’s a certain civility one would hope to strive for, yes?

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  21. michaelj said on December 4, 2007 at 7:48 am

    An SEC. A Southeastern Conference.

    And love may fail, but courtesy will prevail. So will the Southeastern Conference. Football’s for dummies, of course. Not like soccer, where strategy is crucial and the plays amount to passing downfield or across the field. But there’s college soccer thanks to real football. (The Georgia football team goes to the line with two plays and the QB calls it with the snap count, or he changes the play altogether. I guess you can be dumb and still know what you’re supposed to do.)

    Football conferences fund research, and every other intercollegiate sport and activity, along with college newspapers. Football funds Title IX, for that matter (which is so number-befuddled it wiped out sporting opportunities for both women and men). So long as people buy into the myth of advertising and pay cash for watching talented and intelligent athletes play a very complicated sport, it’s doing more good than most politicians.

    Every pulling guard puts a swimmer in the Olympics. Some of them go to med school. Of course jocks are a drain on society. W wishes he had an old Big Ten lineman to pardon him, instead of a bunch of political vampires who had other priorities and chose not to serve in any sense but service to cocaine (while slandering John Kerry–and that was slander. legally) . They sure loved Pat Tillman, of the Pathetic AC 10, when he used to be a hero. Now his family is aiding and abetting terris.

    Of course, if you think college sports don’t contribute to campus life and American society, you probably still insist that Iran is building bombs, there were WMDs, Congress approved the invasion, and W giving Wolfowitz a new job are all good things.

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  22. Dorothy said on December 4, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Does anyone else have a sudden headache??

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  23. michaelj said on December 4, 2007 at 10:32 am

    I apologize for spouting opinions. I apologize for running on too long. Hell, it’s only bandwidth and I’m not taking up all that much.

    NancyNall is a seriously good writer. She almost never makes grammatic errors. No, she’s exceptionally funny, class sarcastic and just really well written. And she abides speech, no matter if its Stellazine induced (I don’t take it, my pard does, so I drink to keep back.)

    I would say if you want to talk about Detroit music, it pretty much starts with John Lee and ends with SRC and MC5 and Bob Seger and Hideout, not Iggy. And Marvin and the Supremes. We loved Motown. Why not? It was brilliant, Smokey, particuarly.

    But if I’m not primetime, if I worked for National Media, I’d hire NancyNall. Girl is a very fine writer.

    See y’all.

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  24. michaelj said on December 4, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Sorry. I won’t intrude again

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  25. brian stouder said on December 4, 2007 at 10:45 am

    edit: MichaelJ – you can’t leave this place! the hook is set! If you fight it, it will only set more deeply. (and besides, I’m more of a blowhard than you are – and I’ve much less to say!)

    My lovely wife sometimes suffers from the ‘sudden headache’ syndrome…and (selfishly enough) sometimes I think I’m the real victim!

    Here’s a ‘sudden headache syndrome’ story for the holiday season: last night Pam and the young folks and I loaded up and went to redacted Portrait Studio for family pictures. We left at 6:20 for our 6:30 appointment, and we knew things would be crowded there….and we left the place at 5 minutes after 9 pm!

    Funny little sidelight that became progressively less funny: one of the people working in redacted Portrait Studio – who may have been 20 years old – and who tended to insert dance steps and flourishes as she moved from photo area to reception desk to phone (three people were handling the three studios plus the phone and the reception desk…) also was constantly texting on her cell phone! She was literally texting while she fielded phone calls and processed peoples’ orders at the cash register. Another customer told me that she alternated between texting and conducting the photographic session in the studio! (presumeably, her time horizon for that job is approximately 3 weeks)

    Pam took all this in, and held her temper….and then – after we had waited past 7:30 for our 6:30 appointment – two people who were walk-up customers (ie – no appointment) got taken ahead of us, for passport pictures! This pushed Pam past Sudden Headache Syndrome, and well down the road toward Sudden Spontaneous Explosion….but she successfully vented (along with several other customers) with a series of appropriately caustic stage whispers (by the end of the evening, about a dozen of us neglected customers had coalesced into a sort of political action committee, commenting on the progress of the photo operations)

    And then – we got our turn, and 15 snaps of the shutter later, we were free to go! (tip: bring two cell phones. Then, the young folks plus one adult can go admire the sweepers and washers and electronic stuff, while the other adult stands watch back in the trenches. I’m pretty sure this saved us from Sudden Spontaneous Explosion)

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  26. Danny said on December 4, 2007 at 10:55 am

    michaelj, I think you should stay. It’s a free country. And if we all don’t like a particular opinion, we can just make a pigpile and have fun feeling all uppity.

    And the only other sport besides football that funds evrything else is basketball.

    Did anyone see that crazy Ravens/Pats game last night? Though I am from B’more, I am not a Ravens (aka Stolen Browns) fan. But I was actually rooting for them at the end. Which is probably why they lost.

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  27. MichaelG said on December 4, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Stick around, michaelj. The mixed bag is part of what makes this place great.

    I went to Illinois. I don’t mind in the least seeing them in the Rose Bowl. I didn’t see it coming, though.

    One thing I want to see outlawed is that stealth time out business. It’s just pure ugliness. If that’s what it takes to win, you don’t deserve to win.

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  28. Kim said on December 4, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Oh, michaelj, please stay.

    I, too, went to Illinois and my first politically incorrect thought on their Rose Bowl selection was “Wow. Wonder what the NCAA penalty would be if Chief returned at halftime.”

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  29. Dave said on December 4, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Stick around, Michaelj. Sometimes, I have to read through your posting a couple of times to see where you’ve gone with it but your tendency to write stream-of-consciousness style makes for some interesting sentences.

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  30. Cosmo Panzini said on December 4, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Michaelj is a live wire and I love his style. But y’all peoples need to give basset a break; (he)(she) just be goofin, that’s all.

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  31. joodyb said on December 4, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Kim, that is so funny. good one.

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  32. basset said on December 4, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    >>basset, do you and michaelj have a tradition of ribbing each other, or are you in fact being a bit of an ass?

    if I was being an ass you’d know it.

    usually the conversation here’s pretty good. drunken rambling you can get anywhere.

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  33. Kim said on December 4, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks, joodyb. We discussed it at dinner tonight and I had to explain to my kids that sometimes it’s ok to be a rule-breaker, esp. when time between Rose Bowls is, what, 23 years? Thank god they thought I was stupid.

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