Inspired by Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book, ‘Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century‘, the Oscar winning film, ‘Nomadland‘ plays out pretty much as expected, at least in regards to the meandering narrative that feels as free flowing as the desert wind. But on an emotional level, well, that is where this film, as directed with a clairvoyant understanding of a person’s internalized pain by Chloé Zhao, truly flies up and out into the heavens. She unearths a raw quiet energy and discomfort that finds a way, maybe powered by that free flowing wind, to get under your skin and into your blood. It isn’t overly powerful nor does it shower you with high-end emotions at the cinematic climax (if there even is one), but the resulting engagement subtly burrows in like a bug into a rug. IThe film, which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director, intricately cradles the hardship and heartache that lives and breaths inside Frances McDormand’s intricate portrayal of a complicated middle-aged woman, Fern, who finds herself adrift on the road, much to her internal delight.
The tender, quiet nomad’s journey is as devastatingly moving as the radical nomadist and anti-capitalist leader Bob Wells’ complicated emotional monologue that he delivers near the end of this beautiful film. His story seems to be etched into the celluloid, appearing as himself at the center of this nomadic circle. The film packs up the emotional responses as tight and compressed as the inside of Fern’s van, beating its own rhythm outward into those gorgeous night skies. “I’m not homeless, I’m just houseless. Not the same thing, right?” There is a level of euphoria and freedom that exists inside her and this tribe, one that echos a psychological detachment that many seek in order to find peace. Their sadness and grief exist, in a way, as their loving companion, and only those that understand are tolerable to be around. It might read as something more deadly painful to witness, and in a way it is, especially for some of the people that come around Fern who aren’t of that pack, but their need for this structure is a heartache that only is bearable when curled up in their own bed inside their van, safe and secure in their much-needed autonomy and sense of control.
Although ‘Nomadland‘ focuses on the spectacularly well defined Fern, thanks to the very fine work of McDormand, this stellar piece of filmatic art is really about a generation of lost older Americans who have found their foundations altered with the proverbial rug pulled out from under their feet, possibly by the 2008 crash, but in many ways, that’s not the causation entirely. It is about a New America that has no need for these hard working souls. Rather than volunteering to rot away in squalor or isolation, these grey-haired middle class survivors have literally taken to the road. Unable to afford ‘typical’ retirement, they find their way to some other meaning in the madness. They float, naked in a stream of water, roaming the country in camper vans called home. They gather together as nomadic tribes from time to time around a campfire for the sake of community and connection, but prefer to live out their days sleeping and living in their mobile homes, and by that, I’m not referring to those colossal vehicles that Fern and her buddies wander into one day, marveling at their luxury, like middle class homeowners getting a tour of a McMansion. Fulfilling their internalized work ethics with seasonal jobs in bars, restaurants or an Amazon warehouse in Nevada, they find a level of peace with themselves that one can truly buy into. There is purpose, and meaning in their wanderings. Fern’s sister, in one of the most touching scenes, compares them to American pioneers, touring the wilderness with a nobility and honor that can’t really be denied. The moment sings with an honesty that can’t be denied, as we watch this brave wanderer set of by foot down the road, determined to return to her broken down home on wheels.
McDormand, already an Oscar winner for ‘Fargo‘ and ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,Missouri’, inhabits Fern as radiantly and simply as all those atoms in our bodies that have been transported from a blown-up star many light years away. Her engagement with those other nomads help smile away the tears, as the cast of mostly amateur actors tickle those engaging ivories with generosity and care. They look after one another in a way that maybe neighbors in this current self-centered America never would. Fern remembers, with a widow’s grief, all that matters to her well being, and in that remembrance, she lives, solidly and honestly. “I’m sure you took good care of him, Fern,” she is told with an authentic air that is both intimate and straightforward. “I did” she answers, with a knowledge and clarity that speaks volumes. This former substitute teacher from Empire, Nevada, a town that was unmercifully shut down and wiped off the map when the factory in town closed, finds unknown comfort inside her ratty van. Filled with memories and a Wedding Poem that will break your heart with its sweet passion, she stands clear as part of the ones who had to depart, packing up as much as she could when she took to the road void of all self pity. There is anger, submerged deep, but it filters out here and there, especially when others try to sell the American dream of home-ownership, or when they try to make her believe that the way she is living isn’t what it needs to be.
‘Nomadland‘ is an epic poem and portrait of an emotional space void of all commercial bells and whistles. It’s a communal embrace of the pain and understanding that exists in the people who she meets on the road. McDormand’s energy connects, simply, with a smile and a nod, but not too much else. She is comfortable in her aloneness, turning away from hands that reach out, while offering what she can to others who get it. She’s a symbolic narrator, taking us through a barren rocky landscape of souls that don’t fit into the common structure. McDormand and Zhao give this visually powerful creation life and honor, steering us with a high level of empathetic care into the vans and the existence of all these other nomads with an eye for vivid richness. The two (and everyone else involved) do stellar work together, as if made for this mystical landscape, side-stepping the rabbit holes of dramatic tension that would normally pull in the theatrical, and finding only the truest of vistas to take in with all our heart.
The only other fictional character is a fellow nomad who tries to form a deeper bond with the standoffish Fern. Played by the magnificent David Strathairn (‘Good Night, and Good Luck‘), the entanglement he attempts to establish is simple and kind, but ultimately doesn’t fit into the tight quarters of Fern’s van. His crush is tender enough, and although I kept having pangs of anxiety that something terrible was going to happen to this lone woman in a van, Zhao has a different energy and roadmap for this woman to travel down. It’s a spiritualized quest for inner understanding, that sometimes feels sad while retaining a sense of self awareness that is compelling and deep. The balance sings on the wind, as we look out over the Badlands of South Dakota and take in the lonely clouds on the horizon. It’s a glorious sight, one that Fern truly takes in with wonder, never losing her exceptional focus and drive. ‘Nomadland‘ is an intelligent road trip through a person’s psyche by way of the smaller rougher roads less travelled. It’s a thoughtful journey into grief and survival worth taking, mainly because of the depth of Zhao’s film-making skill, and the wonder within the eyes of McDormand’s Oscar winning performance. Thank you Linda May, and Swankie for sharing your kayak swallow song. It will live in my heart for the length of my eternal human life road trip.
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The Glorious Corner
TREE LIKE ME — Monday morning, gossip-sites were ablaze with this missive from one Tree Paine – Taylor Swift’s publicist – about swirling rumors about the singer’s love life: Travis Kelce’s sister-in-law, Kylie Kelce, subtly supported Taylor Swift after the “Anti-Hero” singer’s publicist clapped back at rumors about her love life. Eagled-eyed fans noticed that Kylie “liked” a post from the Today Show about Tree Paine slamming celebrity gossip blog DeuxMoi for spreading “fabricated lies” about Swift’s relationship with ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn.
Ms. Paine’s PR-firm is called Premium PR and by all accounts, the Nashville-based mistress has had a great ride with Swift. As we go to press, Time Magazine just named her their person of the year.
Back in the day, ZZ Top and Michael Jackson had Howard Bloom; Debbie Gibson and Run DMC had David Salidor; Elton and the Rolling Stones have Fran Curtis; and Billy and Alexa Joel and Christie Brinkley have Claire Mecuri … all stars in our book, but Ms. Paine has Swift.
BRENDA LEE — (from People) Brenda Lee has a reason to celebrate the holidays early this year.
On Monday, the singer’s 1958 classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time, 65 years following its debut.
In claiming the top spot, Lee broke many records — including those held by Mariah Carey and her mega hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” — as her hit became the third holiday No. 1 ever to be featured on the Hot 100, per a press release.
This marks Lee’s third No. 1 hit in her career. She earned her first No. 1 with her 1960 single “I’m Sorry.”
Lee was just 13 years old when she recorded the Johnny Marks-penned hit debut, and at 78, she’s now the oldest woman to top the Hot 100, surpassing previous record-holders Cher for “Believe” when she was 52 and Carey for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at 53.
In a press release statement, Lee called the song’s latest achievement “amazing. “I cannot believe that ‘Rockin’’ has hit No. 1 65 years after it was released, this is just so special!” she said. “Thank you to the team at UMG/UMe who worked so hard to celebrate the song’s anniversary this year. But most importantly, thank you to the fans who keep listening.”
Lee continued: “The song came out when I was a young teenager and now to know that it has resonated with multiple generations and continues to resonate — it is one of the best gifts I have ever received. Keep on Rockin’ and Merry Christmas!”
Last month, Lee released the first-ever music video for her Christmas classic, which features cameos from Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood. Here’s the link:
In addition to the music video, she shared the EP, A Rockin’ Christmas with Brenda Lee, in November featuring “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and other holiday favorites including “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bell Rock” “A Marshmallow World” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” reimagined by Filous.
For record aficionados: The song was originally released on Decca Records in 1958. Dub Allbritten became Lee’s personal manager in 1956 and remained in that position throughout her formative years. In May 1956, Lee signed with Decca and two months later had her first recording session, supervised by Paul Cohen with the assistance of Owen Bradley
SHORT TAKES — RIP Denny Laine – best remembered from The Moody Blues (“Go Now”) and Paul McCartney’s Wings – and their best album Band On The Run. I loved “Go Now” btw. Here’s Roger Friedman’s take via SHOWBIZ 411: https://www.showbiz411.com/2023/12/05/rip-denny-laine-79-original-member-of-wings-and-the-moody-blues-wrote-the-hit-go-now …
I didn’t see any reviews from Debbie Gibson’s 2 shows last week at NYC’s Gramercy Theater but Yahoo did run a headline that she had 5 costume changes! They were in support of her 2022 holiday Winterlicious album …The Kennedy Center Honors had their event this past weekend. Congrats all. Can’t wait to see the show next week. Here’s Deadline’s take: https://deadline.com/2023/12/kennedy-center-honors-joe-biden-robert-de-niro-billy-crystal-1235650306/ …
Here’s celebrity-biographer Mark Bego’s interview with NEWHD’s Zach Martin: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bigfatamerican/mark-bego-copy … RIP Norman Lear; Happy Bday Anthony Noto … On the mend: Jerry Lembo!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Kimberly Cornell; Joe Lynch; Victor Kastel; Peter Shendell; Eppy; Kent Kotal; Roy Trakin; Melinda Newman; Tyson Terror; Vincent D’Onofrio; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Sasha Peres; Jacqueline Boyd; Cairo; Tanya Tenor; Jonathan Wolfson; Brad LeBeau; Wayne Rosso; Thomas Silverman; and ZIGGY!
The Glorious Corner
TAP 2 — (Via Rock Cellar) Doubling down after a May 2022 report that indicated everything was a go for a sequel to 1984’s classic comedy/music industry satire This Is Spinal Tap, filmmaker Rob Reiner has now confirmed that plans are taking shape in a big way.
Not only is the sequel on tap (pun intended) to begin filming in early 2024, but Reiner recently told comedian/podcast host Richard Herring that “everybody’s back” for the sequel. This no doubt refers to principal cast members Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, though Tony Hendra (who portrayed the band’s manager, Ian Faith, passed away in 2021).
The U.K.’s Guardian notes that the plot will reportedly center on Faith’s death, after which his widow inherits a contract that requires the band to do one last concert. Reiner is also due to return in the character of film-maker Marty DiBergi, a figure supposedly based on Martin Scorsese, who had directed celebrated music documentary The Last Waltz in 1976.
What’s more, Reiner also spilled the beans that appearances from Sirs Paul McCartney and Elton John and Garth Brooks are in the works too, among what one must assume will be a million other amusing cameos. After all, a film as beloved and influential as the original This Is Spinal Tap counts pretty much every living musician as a fan (give or take), so you know the sequel will hold nothing back when it comes to the entertainment factor.
In the podcast, Reiner also talked about This Is Spinal Tap’s remarkable afterlife, culminating in selection for the National Film Registry in 2002, after its initially unfavourable reception on its first release. “To wind up in the National Film Registry, that’s bizarre,” Reiner said. “We previewed it in a theatre in Dallas, Texas, and the people didn’t know what the heck they were looking at. They came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I don’t understand, why would you make a movie about a band that no one has ever heard of, and they are so bad? Why would you ever do that? Why don’t you make a movie about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?’ I would say, ‘It’s satire,’ and I tried to explain. But over the years people got it, and started to like it.”
Personally, I found the 1984 original movie just hilarious. Aside from a great send-up of the music biz, the cameos were just fascinating: Paul Shaffer as PR-man Artie Fufkin; Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal as ‘mime’ waiters; Fred Willard; Anjelica Houston; Russ Kunkel; Danny Kortchmar and Fran Drescher as promo-gal Bobbi Fleckman … all just inspired.
Reiner’s on a roll – his Albert Brooks doc Defending My Life is sensational. A must-see.
Maybe an update of The Monkees’ HEAD next?
SHORT TAKES — Mark Bego’s Joe Cocker tome hit #4 on theAmazon charts this week. Here’s a great review from Goldmine on the book by their Lee Zimmerman: https://l.messenger.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goldminemag.com%2Freviews%2Fjoe-cocker-book-shines-light-on-unfortunate-undercurrents-of-a-stars-career&h=AT2zaG2QKuxuHdpJO1nPHKaiO7IWkbAHCBRAeq3m4-J45axSc_wBott7ABve8Wcd7GpQC13gybDWb2Hale6D809pTdtqqmpDoxC4u6FLA7SNNJ2jHbVKKpSaH1kxX4Ide1AyXDJXSZL2idNWvOch4A
… Micky Dolenz sang “Silly Love Songs” at Monday’s Troubadour benefit for Denny Laine and our spy said he really rocked it. Maybe a Dolenz Sings McCartney album is next? … So, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is authentic? Interesting choice for sure …
Writer and reporter Pablo Guzman passed this last weekend. An original member of The Young Lords, Guzman was a fierce fighter and brilliant writer. On Fox 5/Good Day NY for decades, he most recently was a reporter at WCBS. Here’s the Daily News take: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12799071/Legendary-NYC-news-anchor-Pablo-Guzman-dies-aged-73-Big-Apple-veteran-reporter-dubbed-son-Bronx-founded-Puerto-Rican-activist-group-Young-Lords-journalist.html …
And it’s official, the NY-launch for the Mark Bego Joe Cocker book will be Tuesday, January 9 at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Sara Gore; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Daryl Estrea; Tony King; Ace Shortly; Kjersti and Jeremy Long; Debbie Gibson; Van Dean; Liz Skollar; Maude Adams; Robert Vaughn; Steve McQueen; Zach Martin; Coati Mundi; Avery Sharp; Steve Walter; Gary Gershoff; Jane Blunkell; Kimberly Cornell; Paul Iorio; Lee Jeske; MArt Ostrow; Peter Shendell; Sharon White; and ZIGGY!
Avengers Tower Sets Meet And Greet With Signing
C. B. Cebulski, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, and The LEGO Group Senior Graphic Designer Mark Tranter will be at the Fifth Ave LEGO Store this Friday, December 1st from 5pm-6pm signing the Avengers Tower set—the most iconic building in the Avengers Universe, with 5,201 pieces and an all-star cast of 31 figures.
The Avengers Tower, formerly known as Stark Tower, was a high-rise building complex located in Manhattan. Constructed by Tony Stark, the tower was powered by an Arc Reactor that made it capable of running itself for over a year. The top ten floors housed the research and development initiatives.
Following the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark Tower became the main headquarters of the Avengers. However, after the Ultron Offensive, Stark refurbished a Stark Industries warehouse upstate into the Avengers Compound to use as their primary base while Avengers Tower was repurposed for Stark Industries’ use. In the aftermath of the Avengers Civil War, Stark sold the tower and moved all of its equipment to the Avengers Compound.
By 2024, the tower, under its new ownership, had gone through extensive construction and renovation.
The Glorious Corner
A CHER STEAL — This year’s 97th edition of the Macy’s Day Parade was a rather underwhelming one, save for Chicago – inexplicably singing “Your My Inspiration” – and the always, indefatigable Cher, singing a track “DJ Play a Christmas Song” off her new holiday-themed album. The first few bars will terribly auto-tuned, but that seemed to disappear and Cher’s vocals rang full and bold.
She was, typically, a pro. Mixing effortlessly and emotionally with the dancers in a terrific set. Some pundits reported the clip was shot days earlier, but she was live and, just sensational. I wish more of today’s performers possessed her vigor and skills. That’s why most of the current acts, here today, will be gone tomorrow.
As we went to press, we learned that this parade was Macy’s most-watched edition ever! Congrats.
HALL VS. OATES — Some terrible news appeared in Wednesday’s media that Daryl Hall had taken out a TRO against partner-John Oates. I’ve loved what these two have done for decades and I loved Hall’s solo albums; especially the one he did with Robert Fripp in 1977 Sacred Songs. His record company at the time (RCA) hated it so much, they held up its release for three years.
I also well remember them in the 80’s when it seemed you could’t turn on a radio without hearing their music. 29 of their 33 singles were major chart hits on Billboard. But I do go back to them even in the 70’s, with their terrific “She’s Gone” which basically launched them. And, my favorite album of their War Babies, produced by Todd Rundgren. Quick note: That album sounds as good and relevant as it did when it came out in 1974.
The problem seems to arise from Oates wanting to sell his portion of certain songs to Primary Wave Artists – which ironically owns several of their songs already. It’s a small point, but that seems to be the issue. In all actuality, it’s another case of a classic-rocker selling his music.
In Oates’ book several years ago (Change of Seasons: A Memoir), he hardly mentioned Hall and regrettably that animus has apparently reared its angry head. They’re Philly boys, I’m from Philly and it’s just an awful coda to what was one of music’s major success stories. Sad all around.
SHORT TAKES — Terrific article in this week’s Closer on Micky Dolenz. Check it out here: https://www.closerweekly.com/posts/micky-dolenz-on-telling-stories-on-stage-and-in-his-book/
btw: Dolenz tapes KTLA’s Countdown To 2024 this week in LA …
I first met Phil Quartararo in the lobby of the old Mondrian Hotel in LA with John Sykes and we struck up a friendship that lasted until he passed last week. He was at Virgin for a time and worked with the artists there including The Spice Girls and Paul Abdul. In these fast-changing-times in the music business, he remained somewhat behind the scenes of late, but admitted he missed working with the artists. Phil was a guy you never ever heard a bad word about. Huge loss. Here’s Billboard’s take on Phil:
… As you’ve not doubt read, there is trouble in the Marvel-comic kingdom. The latest Captain Marvel movie (The Marvels) didn’t perform nearly as well as everyone hoped for and their newest star, Jonathan Majors as Kang, is tied up in several court matters.
So, we hear that Kang is out and Doctor Doom is in. Stay tuned …
And Forbes’ James M. Clash has released Amplified; culled from his terrific interviews with the icons of rock ‘n roll; including Grace Slick; Art Garfunkel; Ginger Baker; Micky Dolenz; and Roger Daltry. Here’s the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CNJZYW2J?ref_=cm_sw_r_apan_dp_WKCSH7AC0ZTK18RZF4ED&language=en-US NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Leeds; Kate Hyman; Bono; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Peter Abraham; Bobby Bank; Dina Pitenis; Frank DiLella; Donnie Kehr; Steve Leber; Don Wardell; Anne Adams; Billy Smith; John Boulos; Kimberly Cornell; Sam Rubin; Nexstar; and ZIGGY!
Midnight Moment For December: Doku: Digital Reincarnation
The shape-shifting protagonist in this five-channel work is Doku – the name derived from the phrase “Dokusho Dokushi,” which translates to “We are born alone, and we die alone,” and references a canonical Buddhist scripture. While sharing Lu Yang’s facial expressions and features, the nonbinary character was generated from an amalgamation of various dancers and musicians, and created in collaboration with a team of scientists, 3D animators, and digital technicians using the latest in motion capture technology. Through this repeated incarnation, the artist is reborn as an ever-present avatar, endowed with talents surpassing physical limitations – uniting ancient concepts such as reincarnation with the latest technological innovations.
Lu Yang is a Shanghai-based artist who creates work exploring themes and formats, inspired by both traditional Chinese medicine and contemporary digital cultures. Through the medium of video, installation and performance, Lu Yang explores the fluidity of gender representation through 3D animated works inspired by Japanese manga and gaming subcultures. With a fascination with the human body and neurology, Lu Yang’s work bridges the scientific and the technological with aesthetics drawn from popular youth culture creating new visions of China in the face of modernity.
Born in 1986 in Shanghai where they are currently based, Lu Yang prefers to play with pronouns and insists she “lives on the internet” to further confuse fixed notions of identity. They attended the China Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou, BFA and MFA, under the tutelage of Zhang Peili, the godfather of Chinese video art. A 2019 winner of the BMW Art Journey award, she has shown internationally including the M Woods Museum in Beijing, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, and in many other shows, including the Asia Society Triennial in New York.
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