The big 4-0, no longer young, but now middle age. Radha Blank has dropped on Netflix a sensational new autobiographical movie. It talks art, NYC, being black, being a woman and getting older. That’s a lot of shit! Enough to weigh down any show. Instead Radha persists, perseveres and pushes on through. Her movie is profane, at times poignant, at others embarrassing, but always engrossing. And as stellar is her performance, writing and directing, the accompanying ensemble cast is even more radiant. You must watch this amazing new work.
Turning forty, Radha was once herald as the next new thing and one of thirty-under-thirty to lookout for. Once a promising young playwright, she hasn’t done anything new in ten-years and now makes rent by teaching a high school drama class. This Greek chorus of youths offers her no praise either. Her agent, her only booster, her gay Korean high school alum keeps pushing her to workshop, collaborate, sellout, but she is ambivalent. There is a lot to unpack in this movie.
She eventually relents creating a play within a play. This work competes with a foray into hip-hop, showing that even at forty, she is still trying to define herself. She is pretty good at it too. These major plot elements are leavened with a series of one-off characters, like a bus driver, a homeless man and an old lady that depart from the main storyline, but adds a running commentary on Radha’s life.
Shot in black and white, this movie pays homage to its NYC predecessors, like She’s Gotta Have It and Manhattan and its titular Judd Apatow reference. Like that reference, Version keeps raising themes that whites, men and/or the young might be more comfortable with, before casting them aside, but this is Radha’s story and she’s got to be keeping it real. This movie offers a funny, moving and novel glimpse at a world few Netflix viewers will ever see. An inner city world, but also a world devoid of poverty porn. A real world that features real people. People you might see on the street, but never meet. Yo, yo-yo, watch it. I’m out.
We entertained on Friday. Hosts and guest alike were all attired in American casual as befit the evening’s low-key festive atmosphere. The receiving line was short, as befits these pandemic times. We had invited Joanie over for dinner, to celebrate her birthday and in honor of the Jewish new year. The night’s menu featured a new recipe, sheet-pan chicken with roasted plums and onions. Anne had found this recipe in the NY Times that had published it in honor of the Jewish holidays. I added couscous to the mix, peppered with frozen mixed vegetables, that added touch that gave the table a certain declassee appeal. One shouldn’t serve too much pretentiousness with dinner, because that might cause indigestion later. Anyway, it made for a wonderful meal. Dessert was another Times recipe, key lime pie bars, which have been served before, both with and without a Cuisinart used in prep and it is a lot easier to do them with one than without. With their tart sweetness, they were a big hit at dinner too.
For the evening’s entertainment, we all watched the 2019 Greta Gerwig version of the classic Louisa May Alcott story, Little Women. It features an all-star cast, headlined by Saoirse Ronan as Jo and Emma Watson as Meg, the two older March sisters. Interestingly, the previous year Watson had appeared in a BBC-PBS version of this tale. In this production she played the role of the mother, Marmee, which in this night’s showing was performed by Laura Dern. Gerwig chose to begin in the middle of the story and then jump backwards and forward, which traditionalist among the audience found disconcerting. Still, the movie is well grounded in its excellent source material, solidly acted and a joy to watch.
The previous evening, Anne and I had viewed the new Netflix offering, Enola Holmes. Enola, which is ‘alone’ spelled backwards soon finds herself left home alone. She is the younger sister of her much older and famous brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. The movie begins with Enola waking up in bed on her sixteenth birthday, only to discover that her mother has disappeared. The bros soon arrive with plans to whisk her away to boarding school, but she’ll have none of that and chooses to runaway instead. On the road, she has a chance encounter with a boy, who is also on the run and the game is soon afoot. As YA entertainment, Enola has met with enthusiastic audiences, rocketing to #1 on the streaming service. With its protagonist’s asides that break the fourth wall, this story makes for a delightful coming of age story and is anything but elementary.
When we were watching Dan’s movie, Blow the Man Down, there was a scene where one of the actresses was cutting the head off of a fish. Dan explained that he had to go to some effort to acquire a fresh fish with its head still attached. Up above is a photo of a fisherman’s normal procedure, where they clean the catch before they reach port. The three fisherman on-deck are busy cleaning their day’s haul and tossing the excess waste overboard to the hovering gulls. Mine!
While Anne and I were supervising the roofers, Dan and Britt were filming with their drone. They first redid the Clyde’s shoot, this time with an upbound boat, then they revisited Point Iroquois. They ended their flying off of the beach at sunset. I think that they iterate, learning as they go and always trying to improve.
This morning Anne was looking out at the beach and thought that she saw Betty. Dan didn’t think the person looked like Betty. I think that no self respecting Finlayson ghost would appear in broad daylight. Finlayson’s are traditionalists. Their ghosts would only appear at night, as all good Scottish ghost do. IMHO
We first filmed at Raco, doing longer runway shots then before. After the batteries recharged, they filmed Mr. Bill doing donuts in the water with his motorboat. Finally, they launched with a delayed supper, for a beautiful sunset. In anticipation of tomorrow’s bad weather, they plan on doing more processing.
Basically, this afternoon was a beach day. The first one that we’ve enjoyed in too long. We all convened with Anne and Bill at their back bench for the afternoon. I had to peel layers, as the sun heated us up. Anne and I eventually began walking the beach. We only walked the short end, where CJ, husband of Lisa, the local lighthouse keeper was burning brush. It’s hard to believe that only last summer, he and I rode our bicycles out to the Dancing Crane and then after a brief repast double-timed home. Racing the storm, we outpaced it almost to the Birch Point Loop, before it pelted us all the rest of the way home, it could have been electric.
The Soo set their gale warning flags for the St. Mary’s River, from Point Iroquois down to Drummond Island. We’ve got wind, we’ve got waves, we’ve got a lake boat hove to in the parking lot, but we don’t have any beach left. So, not a beach day, but we have a nice fire to keep us comfy and warm. Last night, thunderstorms swept out across the lake, serving as our electrifying substitute for the normal evening sunset display.
While the waves on the beach don’t look all that much higher than after a normal blow, they must be though, because the waves are reaching all of the way up to the beach grass. I got the kitchen porch stove going well enough that I could continue to feed it the wood from the downed birch branch. We were all huddled around the kitchen table, heads down into our various devices. It was toasty warm there, especially after I heated up a batch of tater-tots for snacking on.
With the ongoing gale, Anne convinced me that it was safe to walk the road and then into the swamp. We walked to the end of the beach, past the old lighthouse keeper’s place and then onto Cedar Point Row. We walked that road up to what would become 5 Mile. We headed west and found the Jim Finlayson Trail. We walked the short part that ran along a bluff. On the Winding Ridge end of the trail we ran into Mr. Bill, who accompanied us over to Birch Point Loop and then back to the cabin. It was a long walk and the kids were a little worried for us. We did see what could be bear footprints, but didn’t see any bears.
We re-watched the movie that Dan worked on, Blow the Man Down, which seemed somehow fitting considering the weather. With his running patter, it felt a little like inside Hollywood. I hooked up Rey’s wedding speaker to give the movie’s soundtrack a fighting chance. With pauses, the show ran an extra hour. It was fun, part Hollywood, part home movies. Afterwards, I asked him my big question, who was sleeping with whom? And…