January 11 – 22, 2016

Big couple of weeks. Yesterday there was a sleet storm here. In Raleigh it was apparently an ice storm; throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic states it’s a 2-foot blizzard. If you have a theater near enough to walk to, go see The Revenant. It complements the weather perfectly.

I’m tempted to just make a bulleted list of pros/cons of the movie.

  • Absolutely gorgeous cinematography. If it doesn’t win an Oscar, there’s something wrong. Or too many Academy voters watched DVD screeners. I’m not usually one of those “see it on the big screen” people, but seriously.
  • Second-most horrifying grizzly bear attack of any movie ever in the history of movies. Permanent top spot reserved for Grizzly Man because, well, it’s a documentary & Tim Treadwell actually died in real life. But it’s hard to imagine any other fiction film ever topping The Revenant, grizzly-bear-attack-wise.
  • Tom Hardy’s accent must be heard to be believed.


  • If people start giving Leo awards for acting then I guess we’re redefining acting as stunt-manning. He did some impressive stunt work, for sure. I haven’t read enough of the deep-dive articles to know how much of it was actually him, but I have the impression that he’s one of those goofballs who wanted to do it all.
  • You sit through a 150-minute-long movie & it turns out the whole thing was just a buildup to one of those dumb bro-on-bro dude-man fight scenes at the end.
  • The portrayal of Native Americans is actually more nuanced than in most classic westerns, but they’re still portrayed almost entirely as inscrutable unstoppable murder machines. OTOH, as someone who has grown increasingly uncomfortable with the entirety of the history of white ppl in North America, I actually enjoyed the fact that the Native Americans win every skirmish in the movie. If you’re rooting for them, there’s a lot to root for. And man, the scene early on of the raid on the trappers’ camp, with arrows flying in silently from all directions, is nearly as harrowing as the opening sequences of Saving Private Ryan.

The day after we saw The Revenant, David Bowie died.

It’s nearly impossible for me to say anything about David Bowie, particularly now, a week or so later. I will say that for the entirety of my adult life, my appreciation of Bowie has been heavily skewed by an ill-advised purchase of the Sound+Vision box set in 1989. Nobody made it clear to me that it was mostly alternate takes & deep cuts. So the versions of many Bowie songs in my head are literally incorrect. And in many cases inferior, although I like the “John I’m Only Dancing” in the box better than the album version.

One other thought: I can’t remember whether I pooh-poohed Let’s Dance when it came out. It was so early in the history of MTV that they played those videos ALL THE TIME. And I was pretty much glued to MTV during as much of the early 80s as was physically possible. This despite the fact that I was mostly a huge nerdy Rush fan during the period 1981-1985.

So yeah, I know I never owned a copy of Let’s Dance, but the singles are *all* fully embedded in my brain, in the same way that every other MTV single from the first half of the 80s is. And the Bowie stuff has definitely held up better than the majority of what it was surrounded by.

Anyway. The enormity of the collective mourning on social media was like nothing else I’ve seen on Teh Internets. It was fascinating to see the different subcategories of ppl — the Hunky Dory ppl, the Berlin Trilogy ppl, the Modern Love ppl. No infighting, though.

I do recommend watching the BBC Five Years documentary. The biggest takeaway for me was that all of the many musicians interviewed seemed to have extraordinarily fond memories of their time working with Bowie, and of the music they made.

Last night we tried to go to the brand-new sushi restaurant next door to the Durham hotel, but Michael had decided (sanely) to send his staff home & not open. Which is a drag for him, because yesterday was supposed to be his first day open, and he said he’d bought like $2k worth of fish.

Anyway, he & his wife & the folks from Alliance Architecture (who own the building) were hanging out, so they invited us in, showed us around, and shared some bourbon with us. The space looks *totally* different than it did when it was a cavelike bike shop, to be sure. But the ceiling is still ultra-low, which gives it a nice intimate feeling. The decor is super-simple, and it’s clear that the focus is going to be on the food. I’m unquestionably excited to have a high-quality sushi place three blocks from my house, but I’m guessing it’ll be a monthly splurge rather than a weekly staple.

Yesterday I got fabulous new albums from Savages, Naked Naps, and al riggs. Fabulous.

January 11 – 22, 2016

2 thoughts on “January 11 – 22, 2016

  1. It’s satisfying to read a well-written response to The Revenant. You say exactly what I thought. I didn’t watch much of the bear attack — hands over eyes. I can vouch for the soundman’s work, though. I felt bear-attacked. Agreed: it’s an impressive spectacle but not much of a movie. I think I’ll watch Jeremiah Johnson again. You’ve saved yr mom and dad $16 or more. I’m a friend of theirs.

  2. Annette says:

    The Bowie doc Five Years is excellent. I used it to introduce my teenager to the depth and breadth of Bowie’s artistry and influence.

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