It’s a Gas


Gas, Edward Hopper, 1940

The end of the road begins here, disappearing into an already darkened woods. It is not a very promising locale for a gas station. The last car seems to have already passed by long ago. The lone attendant is shutting down his pumps for the night, soon he will turn off the lights, lock up and go home. Like a last outpost, the station sits at the edge of civilization, surrounded by wilderness, at the moment of twilight between day and night. All that is missing is a hand painted warning sign, No Gas – Next 50 Miles. The brand new then Tokheim 39 pumps stand as sentinels, with their illuminated lamps held high, ever watchful for any last minute traveler. They stand silently ready to dispense the magic elixir that will then speed these lonely individuals to their eventual destinations.

I mailed one letter today and tomorrow will mail another. Each one dispensing another car from my fleet. In little over a year, we will have gone from owning four vehicles to soon only one. Dan’s car died in LA. Living now in Brooklyn, he is doing without. With the letter I mailed today, Dave will take ownership of his car in Boston, clearing it from my books. Tomorrow, I’ll mail the title to Anne’s ancient automobile off to NPR and I expect that within a couple of weeks and hopefully, before MSD comes calling, we’ll be a one car family again, with only the Prius owned. It has been a while since we were a one car family, a long while, but think about how much gas we will be saving. Our fleet average will jump to 50 MPG. Jockeying schedules are already stressing this plan though. If it eventually breaks down that will simply present us with a buying opportunity. I would gladly trade a new car for one that is 22-years-old.

I succumbed to reality and broke out warmer wear for bicycling in the park. There is a chill in the air now. Shadows, even at noon are longer, as with each passing day the light turns further away from us. While the crickets still chirp at length, soon only the ants will quietly toil. GoT to admit it, winter is coming. 😉

Blade Runner 2049


Blade Runner 2049

Phillip K Dick’s prediction of the future has not improved with age. The world is even bleaker than in the Ridley Scott rendition of the Blade Runner franchise. But who would have thought that nothing could be more dystopian than a LA snowstorm? It’s a good thing that SoCal drivers don’t need to worry about traction anymore, what with flying cars finally having arrived on the scene. 

Director Denis Villeneuve and Cinematographer Roger Deakins have created a stunningly beautiful spectacle, wrapped up in a ponderously long narrative. At almost three hours, I found myself checking the time, twice, which is never a good sign. Who would have thought that by 2049, not only have all the trees gone extinct in California, but also have all the film editors?

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.
– “Pale Fire”, Vladimir Nabokov

Ryan Gosling ably headlines as the android K, short for KD6.3-7. The preceding poem is used as script in a call and response that is used to rebaseline him after a particularly harrowing fight. With characteristically calm demeanor, Gosling  passes this test and lives to fight another day. A synthetic human in his society, K is a slave and must do his masters bidding or suffer the consequences.

Harrison Ford reprises his twin roles as Deckard and old Harrison Ford cashing in on roles originally created by his younger self. You’ve got only one more franchise left, Mister Jones. Beneath this marquee duo is a strong cast, primarily composed of strong women, where K gets only tough love from Luv and has only fleeting joy with Joi. This neo-noir detective story plods along as any able gumshoe would, to its inevitable conclusion. 

I actually liked the movie. I just wish that it could have been more by being less. As sequels go it does more than a journeyman’s job. It answers questions from the original Blade Runner, but also poses new ones too. Fan-boys are left with plenty of questions to ponder. This next time around, let’s just hope that they are not given so many years in which to formulate them. 

On a lighter note, I’ve included the following YouTube link. It is an expertly done fake trailer that mixes Gosling’s last two big movies, La La Land and Blade Runner. It is pretty much the visuals from Blade Runner with the audio from La La Land. If you’ve seen both movies, you should enjoy it, because, well, “things were simpler then.” 

Mindhunter


Mindhunter

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them. – Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s quote well encapsulates the new Netflix crime drama, Mindhunter. A police procedural that describes the genesis of the FBI’s serial killer unit. Set in 1977, I guess making it a period piece now, the show follows the travels of two FBI agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany). They’re running a dog and pony roadshow, trying to disseminate Bureau knowledge to local police departments. Occasionally, after their talks a reluctant officer will solicit their advice on a particularly disturbing local case.

In the crime drama genre this FBI unit’s story has been well told. From Clarice to the present, countless variations have been presented. Two things make this telling unique. First, it is an origin story. The show captures well the feel of the late seventies, particularly all of those annoyingly ineffective American cars. A Pinto crash scene is even included, albeit not a fiery rear-end one. Second, is the reliance on chatter over splatter, opening credits are played over the meticulous threading of a reel-to-reel tape recorder that’s used for interrogations. Except for the gratuitous initial scene the only gore shown is in the crime scene photos.

Groff as Ford brings a young naïve idealism to the team that seldom falters, even in the face of so much unspeakable evil. McCallany as Tench plays the grizzled old veteran. As an actor, he seems destined now to land any hardboiled detective role he may want. Together, they appear to have been selected to play good cop-bad cop from central casting. Later this boys club solidarity is violated with the introduction of Anna Torv, who plays a behavioral psychologist. She brings scientific rigor to what had been a do what feels good approach. 

As misogyny goes it doesn’t get much worse than depicted in this series, but it’s still on the spectrum. If you slide downward, you’ll find Harvey Weinstein, the groper-in-chief and their ilk are all there too. It is just a matter of degree, as is murder in the first. In the end, it all comes down to convictions.