“Judas and the Black Messiah” and the Madding Crowd

Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah".

Knock knock, America.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

I don’t subscribe to either HBO or HBO Max and try not to get attached to their programming announcements. That’s included everything from Jumbo Largo Justice League to Judas and the Black Messiah, despite the latter’s two awesome lead actors.  When it was announced as one of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, I had a quandary on my hands: do I (a) wait for the eventual release on other home video platforms (as will be granted next week to Wonder Woman 1984), even if that means waiting till after the Oscars ceremony on April 25th; (b) sign up for a free HBO Max trial and pull the plug seconds before the first charge hits my credit card; or (c) see it in theaters and take every possible measure to avoid the COVID?

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Our Retroactive “Nomadland” Vacation Memories

Frances McDormand and friend in "Nomadland"/

“We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood / And these Badlands start treating us good…”

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. One of my few accomplishments in 2020 was at long last filling a gap in my list by catching the elusive 1996 nominee Secrets and Lies, which had been out of print for ages but of course is just now scheduled for a Criterion physical release at the end of this very month. Regardless, having crossed that off, I can now say I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt, Secrets and Lies enthusiastically included.

The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge. In a standard Oscar season, the Best Picture nominees would be re-released to theaters for a limited time, I’d run out and see each one, and that would be that, a bit costly but easy-peasy. Since March 2020 I’ve walked into theaters exactly twice (which each left me frustrated and disappointed) and haven’t been eager to test those revolutionary new air filtration systems or the other patrons’ pandemic manners. Using my four-step listicled viewing method helped calm my fears and, I think, helped not to get myself or my family killed, so it wasn’t all for naught. I’m not sure how many more times I feel like tempting fate. Getting fully vaccinated would allay all remaining concerns, but as my schedule happens to be working out, I won’t reach peak immunization (i.e., 14 days after my second Pfizer shot) until literally the day before the Oscars.

By the end of 2020 I’d seen Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7 of my own accord. Two weeks prior to the nomination announcement on March 15th I caught a third nominee in advance, certain that it was a lock for a nomination based on its universal critical acclaim — Nomadland, the one with Two-Time Academy Award Winner Frances McDormand, from the director of Marvel’s eventually forthcoming Eternals. The Powers That Be were kind enough to release it on Hulu as well as in theaters. I appreciated the humane gesture, and was surprised to see several scenes were filmed in locations familiar to me and to longtime MCC readers who’ve followed along on our road trip experiences.

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A Sunday Brunch Between Hope and Impatience

Pandemic Dining.

The lovely lady and stalwart companion peruses the menu in a dining room section we nearly have all to ourselves.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: over the past several months my wife Anne and I have made infrequent outings to local restaurants using the guidelines I set forth in my previous listicle about how we do pandemic dining without getting killed or killing others. The TL;DR version:

  • Masks, masks, masks, masks for for all the reasons
  • Multinational chains will survive without us, so aim for locals
  • Just the two of us, no guests from other households
  • Places that take reservations generally plan better, so make them
  • Eat pricey for maximum desertion
  • Eat during slow hours when no one else is eating
  • Don’t overstay the welcome

Last Sunday morning we stepped out of the house again. In a way, we had cause for celebration. That phrase hasn’t come up for us often during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Should We Have Taken a “One Year Later” Time Jump to Today?

covers from DC Comics "One Year Later", 2006!

I had four of these six issues. In hindsight I wish I’d gone out of my way for the covers by Adam Hughes and Jock. Alas, that time has passed.

Once upon a time in 2006, The Powers That Be at DC Comics continued their tradition of biannual publishing stunts with “One Year Later”, in which all ongoing series leapt forward in time twelve full months, dropped their heroes into weird new scenarios with no initial explanations, then kept the stories moving forward from there while occasionally braking for flashbacks to all the important events that messed up the status quo during the year they skipped. As superheroic special events go, it was kindasorta fun for about ten minutes till the next publishing stunt came along.

Meanwhile this past weekend, my social media feeds have been filled with friends, family, strangers and other users reminiscing of the Before Times way back when — whether wistfully or ruefully — all recalling “one year ago today” and “this time last year” and other non-milestones before the world was upended by horrid little microorganisms that exploited our weaknesses, and not just the physiological ones.

If you had the option to skip the past twelve months in real life so you wouldn’t have to have lived it one minute at a time, one failure at a time, one agony at a time, one calamity at a time…how confused would you be if your timeline ended “this time last year” and then you returned to your story today, and your supporting cast had to catch you up on everything you missed?

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24 Super Awesome “WandaVision” Clickbait Articles You Can’t Live Without

WandaVision!

America’s sweethearts! Live before a transfixed audience with or without lockdown orders.

If you’ve opened an internet device within the past two months, chances are you’ve been inundated with discussions, arguments, and most importantly nonstop headlines about the latest Disney+ series to mesmerize the nation, Marvel’s WandaVision. Thanks to the pandemic this nine-episode miniseries is the first new Marvel Cinematic Universe story we’ve been allowed to watch since Spider-Man: Far From Home was released in theaters, if you can remember those from your childhood. Picking up the pieces of Avengers: Endgame and everything that led up to it…well, I could assume you’re not watching it and need me to summarize its premise, but will it help? Will this make it more tempting to you? Now that the MCU is bogged down in a dozen years of its own increasingly insular continuity, take it on faith my rinky-dink one-man site is not the set of buggy steps you’d need to hop on board this bandwagon.

Nevertheless, WandaVision fever is sweeping the nation faster than that other, deadlier joykilling fever that’s been all the rage over the past year. Everyone loves WandaVision so much that WandaVision news, reviews, rumors, and contrived WandaVision bloviations are now a cottage industry unto themselves, particularly on geek news sites that thrive on new content including but not limited to speculative prattle about geek products that people are actually consuming and enjoying en masse, as opposed to the poorly selling comic books that made them possible. Try Googling any topic today and the first five search results will tell you how that topic relates to WandaVision. Day or night, geeks or norms, social media or niche sites, everything’s coming up WandaVision, WandaVision, WandaVision.

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Our 2003 Road Trip: The Lost Photos

Yosemite Sam statue at Six Flags America.

Hanging out at Six Flags America with Yosemite Sam and avoiding the fashion police in my backwards cap, fanny pack, and souvenir T-shirt from our 2000 road trip to a sci-fi convention in St. Louis.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college.

Sure, a lot of couples prefer to spend their downtime at the nearest beach, book passage on a cruise, or max out their credit cards on a Paris dream trip. We have our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Digging for gems in unusual places — sometimes geek-related, sometimes peculiar, sometimes normal yet above average. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

We’ve shared stories and photos from all our annual excursions here on MCC. The experiences that predated this site were recaptured in hindsight from the photos, memories, and previous online write-ups at our disposal. In a few cases our archival searches were disappointing, as we could’ve sworn we took more photos than what we found. Once I’d finished reposting every single vacation, I assumed that was that and moved on. Then a few months ago, Anne happened to be combing our library for something and stumbled across a pair of forgotten, small, old-fashioned photo albums that had been buried behind or beneath other albums and scrapbooks in some overshadowed nook. Within those mini-albums we rediscovered a secret stash of unused pics from our 2003 road trip to Washington, DC. Suddenly my completed online project had a gaping hole in it.

Mind you, they’re not the best photos ever. They were taken by amateurs on cheap cameras using 35mm film before we switched exclusively to digital photos in 2009. No one was filling our inboxes with requests to revisit our road trips. But in my mind, now that I can see these did exist after all, the omission of these unintentional outtakes leaves the original MCC miniseries incomplete. And the older we get, the more excited we get at the thought of restoring missing memories, grit and blurs and all.

Presented here, then, are bonus images from that time my best friend and I drove my son out to DC, learned a bit of American history, found a lot of places shut down for post-9/11 renovations, walked too many miles, and came to hate Subway sandwiches because it was the only cheap restaurant we could find near our hotel.

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My 2021 Reading Stacks #1

Owen Books 2020!

Two different 2020 releases, each about a youngster named Owen who acquires great power that makes others jealous, but only one of them can handle it.

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read lately that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, give away one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my recent reading results.

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Stranded 40 Feet from Home

My car, stuck at the foot of our stupid driveway.

Cold day. Cold irony.

This week the teeming cloud hordes of Old Man Winter barreled across the American skies and bludgeoned entire states and regions into total pandemonium. Blizzards dumped heavy swaths all around as if half the United States were now honorary Minnesotas. Schools and other community activities that had opened their doors to welcome COVID-19 and its carriers reneged and locked their doors. Power grids failed. Water pipes seized up. Numerous utility companies faced wrathful accountability for their shortsightedness, for skimping on precautionary upgrades, and for being smug greed-heads. Homes became inhospitable and even dangerous, forcing families to seek shelter, charity, and survival elsewhere. The turmoil dragged on for hours and days even after the snowfall ceasefire. Millions of internet users distracted themselves by logging onto their devices by candlelight, their batteries down to 15% or less, and channeling their unchecked rage into scathing verbal attacks on the Zodiac Killer. This week was like 2020 all over again, much like all the 2021 weeks that preceded it, but, like, somehow in its own way even 2020-ier.

Me? I got my car stuck at the end of our driveway.

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Sunday Morning with Two Valentine’s Day Early Birds

Yellow rose in a restaurant vase.

A yellow rose in full bloom. A dining room with empty tables. Yet another illustration of The Duality of Man™.

It’s that time again! It’s Valentine’s Day and the internet reactions are more divided than ever. One camp hates the occasion consistently annually and never wants to hear about it again, which is fair. Another camp is bitter because current events and has exercised their freedom of choice to be captivated only by endless sources of bitterness. Meanwhile, Anne and I escaped the house for a short while to enjoy each other’s company before the rest of the world emerges to glut up all the establishments.

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Delighting in Delicacies, Not Pounds of Pasta

Agnello & Caprino!

Dinner for Anne at Catellos: the Agnello and Caprino — rack of lamb atop pappardelle in a red wine sauce with shallots and herbs on a bed of goat cream sauce.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last fall we shared our tips for supporting local restaurants in person during the never-ending pandemic without a churlish kill-or-be-killed approach. We still don’t dine out too often because COVID-19, but when we do, that listicle’s ten bullet points remain firmly at the forefront of my planning anxieties.

That entry was written during another Devour Indy occasion, a twice-yearly citywide event here in Indianapolis when local restaurateurs — nationwide chains need not apply — offer specially priced prix fixe menus to entice new customers to come sample a few of their wares. My wife Anne and I are fans of the event, but we usually skip the sale items and check out what’s on the main menu. It lets us try places we’ve never been, and it helps them recoup the considerable costs of participation. A few weeks ago, it was that time again.

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