Natural panoramas! American war history! Pandemic-era disappointment! Food! This one has ’em all, in sparing amounts!
Back in 2016 Anne and I visited the Indiana State House on the occasion of our state bicentennial and enjoyed the up-close look at where our local government met and worked in easier times before work-from-home became a survival option and later became simply the latest fashion. Before our centrally situated hometown of Indianapolis became the official workplace of the governor and all the rest, Hoosiers reported to the State House’s prequel structure near our southern border.
Full disclosure: I suck at fathoming and sorting the full breadth and scope of classical music in all its storied splendor. I can be taught, but my retention sucks through no conscious choice on my part. My wife Anne is far more skilled at recognizing symphonies and suites, catching nuances, spotting themes in film scores and remembering titles of lyricless songs. But she hasn’t seen Tár and prefers to let/watch/make me write my own blog, so here we are with a philistine on the keys, hopefully not too tone-deaf.
Not that I wasn’t looking forward to this! I still recall writer/director Todd Field’s debut, 2001’s In the Bedroom, a Best Picture nominee in which Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek were equally moving as parents dealing with the death of their adult son, Terminator 3‘s John Connor. I never got around to his follow-up Little Children, but that’s my fault, not Field’s. This time I didn’t wait to be prompted by my annual Oscar quest to run out and catch his next work, a taut drama so impeccably dressed and so meticulously crafted within its very specific milieu that you’re halfway into the film before you realize you’re viewing the entire edifice through an unreliable vantage.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: after going 2-for-2 on his first feature films Fruitvale Station and Creed, director Ryan Coogler raised the bar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther, and in turn gave Chadwick Boseman a long-overdue boost into super-stardom after years of his own fine works such as 42 and the still-underrated Persons Unknown. His death was among the many, many, many reasons we will never forgive the year 2020 for its endless curses.
Though we were blessed with chances to celebrate his life and talent posthumously in Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and the grand surprisie of an alt-timeline Panther reprise in What If…? season one, the MCU proper never got a chance to say goodbye, to give King T’Challa of Wakanda the big sendoff he would’ve deserved if only Boseman could’ve had a couple more years to perform the honors. Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole return for that very purpose — and so, so much more — with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
If you’ve seen director Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, perhaps you get why his name might strike fear into my heart, because I can never unsee that film nor unfeel the Grand Guignol trauma I carried for days after. (I can’t think of a single reason to seek out Spike Lee’s remake, and pray no one ever makes an all-ages cartoon prequel called Oldbaby.) I’ve been afraid to watch any of Park’s other films until now. His latest, the crime-drama romance Decision to Leave, likewise follows broken souls careening off each other amidst secrets and death, but is far more interested in examining the emotional contents of two hearts than in spatchcocking them.
Years ago I heard a pastor (not at our home church) sermonize to an auditorium full of men about what he called “radical amputations” — times in his life when he made conscious, arguably over-the-top decisions to remove potential chances for sin to enter his life by any means necessary. He knew his limits and his temptations, and took hard measures to avoid jeopardizing his family, his job, his church, and/or his relationship with Christ. Historically speaking, some pastors have fared far worse at their sin management than others. God bless those who find ways to turn away from impulsive stupidity.
The most drastic example he cited from his own past concerned a onetime assistant of his, apparently a lovely woman who was good at her job. They were frequently alone in the office. She didn’t jokingly flirt with him or do anything remotely resembling a romantic gesture in his direction, but he felt himself growing attracted to her and, shall we say, entertaining impure thoughts on a recurring basis. He never acted on those thoughts or tried to perpetrate anything Weinsteinian on her, but his imagination and hormones wouldn’t shut up. After this had gone on for a bit, he realized something needed to change. So he fired her.
This “radical amputation” on his part amounted to punishment for her despite absolutely no wrongdoing on her part — no performance issues, no rules broken, no red marks on her permanent record or whatever. But he could feel himself in danger of moral/spiritual slippage and decided he needed her permanently and immediately out of his orbit for the sake of everyone and everything that depended on him. Years later that story still doesn’t sit well with me (not once in his sermon did he suggest perhaps he should’ve hit the road), but the concept stuck in my head.
I was graphically reminded of that confession (which he positioned to us as family-man advice) as I sat raptly through The Banshees of Inisherin, the latest film from writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), in which blunt decisions, sin, and stupidity become man’s worst friends.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I do the democracy thing twice a year (yes, even primaries) because I believe I ought to and because they keep letting me. I don’t recall why I didn’t post about it last year. Maybe society was to blame? Or maybe the reason was so dumb that I was counting on my aging brain to forget the reason why, just so I couldn’t blame myself for not writing about it I can’t recall, so maybe Past-Me’s plan worked. Politicians prefer long-term memory loss in their constituents anyway, so really this is just my brain getting into the spirit of the occasion.
We’re not high-end shoppers who get caught anywhere near boutiques, jewelers, perfumeries, fashion trendsetters, or home decor artisans unless they happen to be next door to the retailers we’d rather visit. And by “we” I especially mean “I”. Anne’s collecting habits are modest bordering on spartan, whereas I’m the one on the lookout for brick-and-mortar purveyors who cater to my hobbies and pop culture interests. Fortunately Burlington had just the district for us.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: each year since 2008 I’ve kept statistics on the number of trick-or-treaters brave enough to approach our doorstep during the Halloween celebration of neighborhood unity and no-strings-attached strangers with candy. I began tracking our numbers partly for future candy inventory purposes and partly out of curiosity, so now it’s a tradition for me. Like many bloggers I’m a stats fiend who thrives on taking head counts, even when we’re expecting discouraging results.
Longtime MCC readers may recall a quainter era when sitting through the end credits of every single film used to be my thing, a longtime viewing habit I share with my wife that the resulting traffic stats kept encouraging me to indulge here. Sometimes that still works for me, as borne out in the first few months of 2022 when search engine users wouldn’t stop clicking on my months-old, disposable entries for Venom 2 and Encanto. (The latter didn’t even have an end credits scene — just a single fancy clip-art image that amused me. And yet, for weeks strangers kept clicking and clicking and clicking, like hundreds of twitchy-fingered Energizer Bunnies.)
Now every geek-news site has at least one fan-writer on retainer who’s more than willing to sacrifice ten extra minutes of their lives to sit all the way through films in case of any clickbait opportunities. I can’t fault those gig-economy freelancers for getting paid to crank out what I’ve been giving away for free for ten years now. Nice work if you can network with the right people to get it.
For the sake of my mental health and sensible allocation of my free-time resources, I try not to treat the end-credits thing as a competition. If I did, after last Sunday’s nonstop busyness I’d have been neck-deep in despair the next morning when the scene during the Black Adam end credits took mainstream entertainment headlines by storm. The sincerely shocking surprise had already been ruined online by boorish bigmouths over a week earlier, but after opening weekend Warner Brothers and Dwayne Johnson jointly decided it was cool to spread the same major spoiler to anyone with narrower internet feeds who’d missed out. So my pro bono end-credits monitoring services aren’t needed here.
Fun trivia, though: did you know if you pay to see the scene during the Black Adam end credits in theaters, you also get a whole movie for free? It’s true! It’s called Black Adam. I sat through that too, for better or worse. It’s miles ahead of the worst thing I’ve seen in theaters so far this year, and a few streets ahead of Justice League, but it isn’t making my Top 10.