Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies!
Ride the Divide: 2700 Miles Canada to Mexico (2010)
Starring: Mike Dion, Michael ‘Mac’ McCoy, Steve King, Kevin Montgomery, Matthew Lee, Mary Metcalf-Collier, Steven Gleasner, Leighton White, Adrian Stingaciu, Reuben Kline, Kevin Hall, Dominic Scherer, Alan Goldsmith, Hunter Weeks
Director: Hunter Weeks
Synopsis: imdb: “A small group of adventurous mountain bikers attempt to race the longest mountain bike route in the world traversing over 2700 miles along the Rocky Mountains from Banff, Canada to the Mexican border.” Although it is usually just a tour route, this group of riders decided to turn it into a race.
Impressions: Does a fairly good job of covering the rides of three or four of the group as they each attempt to finish the grueling route. Most of the riders go solo and a few group up over time. It shows the physical challenges mostly (e.g. sides of mountains covered with snow they could slide down; rugged roads; nowhere to get water; fatigue; giant blisters; swelling legs) but also how the extended solitude in the middle of wilderness can take its toll on one’s mental state. It shows small towns on the route where they can have the luxury of a motel bed, a hot meal and camaraderie of others. Lots of wildlife is seen along the way, including bears, sheep, and deer.
Etc.: Learn more about Tour Divide here.
Awards: 1 win
Starring: Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Tyler Hinman, Trip Payne, Al Sanders, Ellen Ripstein, John Delfin, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Amy Ray, Emily Saliers, Daniel Okrent, Mike Mussina, Bob Dole, Bill Clinton, Muriel Raphael, Liane Hansen, Alex Ripitsky, Nancy Ellwood Fasulo, Marc Roman, Eileen Mogan, Patrick Jordan, Joy Dewing, Selmer Bringsjord, Brian Dominy, Vic Fleming, Stella Daily, Ben Tausig, Fred Piscop, Byron Walden, Amy Reynaldo, Kiran Kedlaya, Lloyd Mazer, Katherine Bryant, Jim Jenista, Dan Katz, Norma Mindell, Judy Berger, Leslie Billig, Doug Heller, Mel Rosen, Neil Conan, Stanley Newman, Susan Hoffman, Julia Royter, Chris Astoyan
Director: Patrick Creadon
Synopsis: The main focus is on the annual crossword puzzle competition at Stamford University that was first started in 1978, but it also covers other aspects of crossword puzzles, from the individuals who create the puzzles to the individuals who do them. Also prominently featured is The New York Times crossword puzzle and how each day of the week determines how difficult, with the Sunday edition being the granddaddy of them all. The editor of the NYT puzzles is interviewed at length about how he came to be editor and how the puzzle has morphed over the years. Many cameos by well-known faces, including Jon Stewart, former POTUS, Bill Clinton, and The Indigo Girls.
Impressions: It’s a feel-good intimate portrait of a segment of the population that is usually out of the limelight, engaging in a solo hobby, but who choose to gather for puzzles and camaraderie once a year. The competition has grown over the years, but many of the participants have been there since the beginning. I found it interesting and somehow calming. Jon Stewart is a hoot in this. I miss him!
Awards: 1 win and 7 nominations
Strange Weather (2016)
Starring: Holly Hunter, Carrie Coon, Kim Coates, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Choppy Guillotte, Turner Crumbley, Stacy Nicole Peoples, Susan Gallagher, Walker Babington, Shane Jacobsen, Glenne Headly, Johnny McPhail, Ransom Ashley, and many others.
Director and Writer: Katherine Dieckmann
Genres: drama, indie
Synopsis: Hunter plays Darcy, a Georgia single mother who works at the university but is also studying for a post-graduate degree. She’s next-door neighbors with her partnered friends and co-workers, Byrd and Geri (played by Coon and Ward-Hammond.) Darcy’s college-age son committed suicide 7 years prior and she’s been trying to recover from it ever since. Something happens that triggers a desperate need in her to learn more about the events that led up to her son’s death. It sparks a road-trip odyssey in Darcy’s search for the truth.
Impressions: Holly Hunter has gotten some plum roles along the way (Raising Arizona, The Piano, Crash, O Brother Where Art Thou, Manglehorn.) This may be the best role of her career so far. The grief and the yearning for her baby boy are palpable. The rest of the ensemble as her support system are attuned and believable. Her cozy home and yard play a big part of setting the atmosphere; a place where her son’s absence is acutely felt. The road trip also shows interesting landscape as flooding has taken a toll and people have been evacuated from their homes. Darcy’s walk through the past to learn the truth pulls the viewer in for a need to learn what happened. Director did a great job with this!
Etc.: LGBTQI+ friendly; set in GA, but filmed in 4 locations in Mississippi and 1 in Louisiana
Awards: 1 win and 1 nomination
Starring: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollak, Elizabeth Perkins, Eve Gordon, Joan Plowright, Lou Jacobi, Israel Rubinek, Elijah Wood, Grant Gelt, Mindy Loren Isenstein, and many more.
Director and Writer: Barry Levinson
Genres: drama, historical
Synopsis: Begins in the late 1940s with a Polish-Jewish man reminiscing about when he immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland in 1914, joining his 3 brothers who had already immigrated and are operating a dry-wall business. It shows how the family grows with time, new generations are born, how the families try to better themselves through business, and the setbacks they face along the way. Family is all without question through much of the film, but it takes a turn as societal changes influence the family structure.
Impressions: Mueller-Stahl as the patriarch and Plowright as the matriarch are exceptional in their roles. Quinn as their son and Wood as the grandson elevate the story from good to great. Everything about the film is quality. It’s a time capsule of an era where the nuclear family was standard, extended family all living in the same home was common, and television was a quaint novelty item. Talk of the Holocaust, survivors from concentration camps, and long-lost relatives in the old country are woven into the plot.
Etc.: filmed in 20+ locations in Baltimore; imdb trivia: “The home in the suburbs where the Kaye family moves from Avalon is Writer, Producer, and Director Barry Levinson’s actual childhood home in Forest Park, west of Baltimore’s city center.” There is a wealth of trivia to read about the film at imdb.com.
Awards: 2 wins and 23 nominations
Outside the Wire (2021) netflix
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Enzo Cilenti, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Brady Doward, Henry Garrett, Alexandra Szucs, Gabor Krausz, Louis Boyer, Velibor Topic, and many more.
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Genres: action, adventure, war
Synopsis: Set in the near future, drone pilots blow things up while safe at home, where it is difficult to understand that the explosions are real and not part of a video game. Harp (played by Idris) is a drone pilot that goes against direct orders, where people die and soon finds himself being assigned to top secret android officer Captain Leo (played by Mackie) in the middle of a combat operation. The base is safely behind a giant fence, but once they go “outside the wire” anything can happen. Harp is defensive at first about his insubordination and punishment, but that soon fades while he follows Captain Leo on what feels a lot like a suicide mission.
Impressions: Mackie is great in this as the super android with discretionary powers. Idris is great as the greenhorn who is trying to figure out what’s going on and trying to stay alive at the same time. The location is very real in its bombed-out rubble appearance. Lots of well-choreographed butt-kicking by the super android that reminded me of Neo and Trinity in The Matrix. The enemies remain faceless and not well developed for the most part, but they are no less menacing as their intent is to acquire nuclear devices and fire them at the U.S.
Etc.: filmed in 5 locations in Hungary
Awards: too soon
Harp says that he trained at Parris Island… that’s the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot (aka boot camp) in South Carolina. Enlisted recruits are trained there, not Air Force drone pilots, who train at the Little Rock, Arkansas Air Force Base. But this is an alternate future, so…
First Cow (2019)
Starring: John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, Gary Farmer, Sabrina Morrison, and many more.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Genres: drama; indie
Synopsis: Set during the fur-trading days of Oregon in the 1820’s it shows a very rustic way of living in the dirt, muck, and wilderness for the first white settlers. The very simple story focuses on Cookie (played by Magaro) a transient loner cook and King-Lu, a Chinese immigrant trying to get ahead in the world. Both men find themselves in what passes for a trader settlement and end up being friends. Right about that time, the one rich guy in the area, Chief Factor (played by Jones) receives a cow, the area’s first, that was barged on the river to their remote location. Evie the Cow’s presence in the settlement ripples to all in one way or another.
Impressions: This is a slow and steady film. Don’t expect any jump-scares or riveting surprises, which is much different than many films. The entertainment is found in the small details and in observing the comfort of two people quietly enjoying each other’s friendship. That said, there is the underlying message that the “haves” can do whatever the f*** they want and the “have-nots” have to scrabble just to stay alive.
Etc.: imdb trivia: “Slow Elk” was suggested as an alternate title, as that’s how cattle were known to Oregon’s First People.; The film is based on the book “The Half-Life” by Jonathan Raymond.; filmed in Oxbow Regional Park, Multnomah County, Oregon.
Awards: 14 wins and 92 nominations