The Squid and the Whale

Photo of a whale at the Museum of Natural HistoryThe wife, her aunt and I went to see The Squid and the Whale last night and I have to say that’s a pretty damn good movie. It almost slipped under my radar because the title sounds like a Disney animated feature to me, so I’m glad we watched part of the Golden Globes the other night because it reminded me about the film.

It’s a comedy/drama (I can’t bring myself to type the word ‘dramedy’) about divorce and I know that sounds like a downer, but it was funny and the characters were ultra believable. Jeff Daniels did an excellent job, but I think the kids in the movie were the real stars. They did a great job mimicking their parents’ behaviors. The youngest one, Frank, would bark out obscenities just like his dad and the oldest, Walt, tried to be an intellectual like his father, but really only collected his father’s opinions and didn’t have any real appreciation of art.

Anyway, I highly recommend this movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the title refers to an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History that I saw when I was in New York a few years ago. I took the above whale photo at that exhibit as I was wandering around waiting to meet back up with the wife. That trip to NY was fun, we need to go again.

We Jam Econo

The wife and I went down to the EARL last night to catch the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo. Overall, I’d say it was a solid effort, but it didn’t blow me away. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10 on the “I just now made up a movie rating system for” chart. And now, here are some random thoughts about the film and the band.

The film basically had 3 different devices: interviews with Mike Watt, interviews with various famous (and not so famous) people and live performances by the Minutemen. The editing job was pretty much just a grab bag of interviews and live performances sequenced into a movie. I would have wished that there was some type of narrative device that tied everything together better and gave you a sense of the historical ramifications of what the Minutemen accomplished. I kept getting the feeling that I wanted a step back so I could survey the scene instead of constantly being shuttled back and forth between interviews and live performances. This is probably more a stylistic wish on my part because as I think back about the film, there really aren’t that many unanswered questions I have about the band. I just think it might help the non-fan to get into the film a bit more.

It was great getting to look back on a time when bands like the Minutemen could hop in a van and just make up a life for themselves. As Mike Watt puts it, “our life was art.” Mike is, of course, the star of the movie and provides the most laughs. He is such an original guy. Watching him drive his van around San Pedro telling stories about D. Boon and the early years of the Minutemen is the best part about the movie. I’d love to see just that entire interview uncut.

I only recently heard Double Nickels on the Dime for the first time. It’s one of those albums I had always meant to listen to but just forgot about over time. I’ve listened to it pretty much non-stop for the last few weeks on my commute to work and it was a great coincidence that this documentary played in my town last night. I have to say that all the hype I’ve heard about this album is right on target. It’s a quirky, sprawling document of two lifelong friends’ musical ambitions captured in double album form. I think D. Boon already had his band’s documentary in mind when he wrote History Lesson (Part II):

our band could be your life
real names be proof
me and mike watt
we played for years
punk rock changed our lives
we learned punk rock in hollywood
drove up from pedro
we were fucking corndawgs
we’d go drink and pogo
“mr narrator!”
this is bob dylan to me
my story could be his songs
i’m his soldier child
our band is scientist rock
but i was e bloom
then richard hell
joe strummer
and john doe
me and mike watt
playing guitar

It’s crazy that 25 years after the fact, about 100 people went down to a rock club on a Monday night in Atlanta, Georgia to watch a film about 3 guys from San Pedro, California. What a cool legacy.

The Dude Prophetizes

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Lebowski. It’s a brilliant comedy that’s endlessly quotable and has some of the most memorable characters in recent film history. There is so much going on in this movie, that I could take up your whole browser trying to summarize it, so I’m just going to have to assume at this point that you’ve seen it. If you haven’t, go rent it, watch it and come back to this web page. It ain’t going nowhere.

One of the themes of the movie is unchecked aggression. Some direct parallels are made between Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and The Dude’s harassment by Jackie Treehorn (his goons pee on The Dude’s rug). At one point, The Dude’s stoned brain rattles off a line from something he had overheard on TV: “this aggression will not stand.” It’s a line from George H.W. Bush’s speech about Kuwait that the Dude heard as he bought some half & half from Ralph’s grocery store. The Dude is so broke, incidentally, that he actually has to write a check for $0.69.

Watching The Dude try to piece together all the events of his life is fun to watch. He is such a burnout that his synapses don’t always connect and he stumbles as he tries to solve the mysteries of the storyline. It’s not entirely unlike watching George W Bush try to make his way through a press conference. Which brings me to Iraq again and our recent history with that country.

At this point the reasons for America’s war with Iraq are so obscured by excuses and lies and manipulations that I sometimes feel like The Dude trying to piece it all together. 42% of Americans believe Iraq was DIRECTLY involved with the attacks of 9/11 (Newsweek poll from Sept ’04, found on this page). Almost half the country believes something that has repeatedly been proven to be false. What the hell?

So, what am I talking about? Oh, yeah, the Big Lebowski, Iraq, Kuwait, The Dude, 9/11, etc. Well, imagine my surprise when it was pointed out to me today that there is a prophetic message in the Big Lebowski that ties all of this together (kind of like The Dude’s rug).

Remember earlier when The Dude writes that check for $0.69 at Ralph’s? Well, check out the date on that check:

Photo from The Big Lebowski

September 11, 1991. Exactly ten years before the attacks. Coincidence? Yes. Weird? Definitely. I need to go sit down for a while. Mind if I do a J?

Buy the Big Lebowski on