Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Kevinography, part 12: Bull Durham (1988)

This is part 12 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them.

Synopsis: The Minor League baseball team Durham Bulls has a new player, "Nuke" (Tim Robinson), with some promise who might help them break their losing streak, but he's his own worst enemy. So the manager brings in aging pitcher Crash Davies (Kevin Costner), whose job it is to mature the boy. This job is complicated by Annie (Susan Sarandon). She sleeps with one up-and-coming player per season, and she can't decide whether it shall be Nuke or Crash. What follows is a journey through the love life of three people, interspersed with a lot of bad baseball.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Kevinography, part 11: "The Untouchables" (1987)

This is part 11 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them.

Synopsis: In 1930, Chicago is in the grip of Al Capone and his thugs. Elliot Ness (Costner), Treasury Agent, is fresh on the job trying to bust Capone. But the police is corrupted to the core, and so, when Ness meets honest cop Jimmy (Sean Connery), he founds a new task force of untouchable cops. Taking the fight to Capone carries its own risks, though, as the mobster is gunning for lives and families....

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Kevinography, part 10: Thirteen Days (2000)

This post comes out of a series of writing I do on ASOIAF meta and other topics of popular culture over at the Patreon of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. If you like to read stuff like this, chime in just 1$ and you get access to everything I write. If you throw in 2$, you even get access to the audio version. For 5$, you get access to the mini-podcasts I'm doing with illustrious co-hosts answering questions by listeners of the podcast. At 10$, you get exclusive access to the Boiled Leather Audio Conversation bonus podcasts. Give the Patreon a look!

This is part 3 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them.

Synopsis: In 1962, the Soviet Union secretly deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba. When the US found out, a deadly game of cat and mouse started as the US administration tried to find a course of action not drawing the world into nuclear war. While the military tries to goad the cabinet into war, Kenneth O'Donnel (Costner), Special Assistant to the President, is among those trying to find a political solution. But events take on a dynamic of their own, and it seems like the world will soon bust in flames...

Monday, February 8, 2021

Kevinography, part 9: Testament (1983)

This post comes out of a series of writing I do on ASOIAF meta and other topics of popular culture over at the Patreon of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. If you like to read stuff like this, chime in just 1$ and you get access to everything I write. If you throw in 2$, you even get access to the audio version. For 5$, you get access to the mini-podcasts I'm doing with illustrious co-hosts answering questions by listeners of the podcast. At 10$, you get exclusive access to the Boiled Leather Audio Conversation bonus podcasts. Give the Patreon a look!

This is part 9 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them. 
 
Synopsis: In the spring of 1983, the United States are suffering a nuclear attack. The eastern seaboard is immediately blown to pieces, as are most major cities. The citizens of the small suburban town of Hamlin, California, experience the apocalypse as an incremental breakdown. They try to preserve as much of their previous life-styles as possible, but resources dwindle and the body-count ever increases. We follow the fate of a young family through these travails. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Kevinography, part 13 - The Highwaymen (2019)

This is part 13 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them.

Synopsis: In 1934, Bonnie and Clyde are on a murderous killing spree throughout Texas and the lower Midwest. The police is powerless to stop them. Texas governor "Ma" Ferguson employs two former Texas Rangers (Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson) to use their unique talents in employing violence to bring them down without much regard for the law. The two old veterans prepare for one final shootout... 

Analysis: This Netflix production flew under my radar when it arrived in 2019, despite being right up my wheelhouse, at least in theory: It's a period piece set in the 1930s and there's some gangsters. What's not to like?

Plenty, as it turns out. I've remarked often in this series by now that Costner tends to play roles on the conservative spectrum, and while it sure is true that Hollywood as a whole tends to hew to the progressive side of things, it's not like there aren't any right-wing movies. For every Avengers, there's an American Sniper, and every Get Out gets matched by its own Zero Dark Thirty.

This movie is clearly in the right-wing ballhouse, much like the Untouchables. We have gruff cops who have an iron sense of morality, not burdened by such details as the letter of the law. These cops are oh so very male, and violence is of course the only recourse. Sissy politicians and media people do not understand that, of course, which is why we need these manly men to take responsibility into their own firm hands and deliver us from evil, selflessly foregoing our thanks.

I hate this formula, and stuff like this just reinforces a mindset in and about police that fuels police violence all over the world, but especially so in the US. When a movie starts off my introducing our protagonists as belonging to an essentially extralegal killing squad that was dissolved because of the trail of bodies it left behind and I'm supposed to take this as a good thing, you know there's something off.

Things don't improve with the introduction of our main killer-cop, played by a Kevin Costner with a potbelly and rasping voice. He has married well and lives the American Dream, untroubled by the Great Depression, including even randomly having a pet boar in his house. His resolute wife of course "knows who I have married" and makes sandwiches for him to ease his way into a killing spree. Nothing to sweeten up retirement.

Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, plays the other veteran, down on his luck and trying to get away from booze, swaying with every step. Have you seen Harrelson in this role before? Congratulation. It's about as interesting and deep as that.

It's all downhill from there. Costner barks monologues about "the law" at people, as if he and his colleague weren't sent into retirement because they were involved in quite a lot of extralegal violence themselves (and should have been rather sent to prison for it, along with the whole corrupt government functionary caste that allowed for this shit, if you ask me). Magically, getting barked at by a 60-year-old reactionary shows everyone the error of their paths, and along with a bit of intimidation and torture the two cops manage to get the drop on the FBI and other forces of law enforcement and pump Bonnie and Clyde full of lead. Hooray.

I don't think that the one central conceit of the movie is that bad: That the lionization of Bonnie and Clyde isn't good. Those two were killers, a murderous pair, and nothing in their life and career is worth getting idolized. But in setting a counter-point to the famous 60s movie of "Bonnie and Clyde", this one only manages to be a dreary, reactionary rump with nothing much to say other than to let violent men handle stuff and get out of their way. That's an even worse message than the original had, with its allusions to counter-culture and all.

Harrelson himself started his career with the same concept, basically, which makes all of this darkly ironic. In "Natural Born Killers", he played a serial killer who got lionized by the media. In that movie, violence is also glorified, but the role of the media is explored in much more depth and nuance than here, where every democratic element of society is made into the bad guys. Weird. 

Verdict: Another Netflix production you don't need to watch, another modern Costner movie you don't need to watch. I'm starting to sense a pattern here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Kevinography, part 8: Field of Dreams (1989)

This post comes out of a series of writing I do on ASOIAF meta and other topics of popular culture over at the Patreon of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. If you like to read stuff like this, chime in just 1$ and you get access to everything I write. If you throw in 2$, you even get access to the audio version. For 5$, you get access to the mini-podcasts I'm doing with illustrious co-hosts answering questions by listeners of the podcast. At 10$, you get exclusive access to the Boiled Leather Audio Conversation bonus podcasts. Give the Patreon a look!

This is part 8 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them. 
 
Synopsis: Ray (Kevin Costner) is an amateur farmer in Iowa who, out in the fields, hears a voice telling him to "build it" and that "he will come". Ray is instinctively sure that he's supposed to build a baseball field and that Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), who died in 1951, will then come. He does so, and indeed, Jackson's ghost appears. This strangeness is only the beginning. The rest of the White Socks also appear, and Ray gets a new message that gets him into contact with writer Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones). Together, the two of them go on a quest chasing ghosts of the past, while the farm is in danger of being foreclosed...

Friday, January 8, 2021

Kevinography, part 7: The Bodyguard (1992)

This post comes out of a series of writing I do on ASOIAF meta and other topics of popular culture over at the Patreon of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. If you like to read stuff like this, chime in just 1$ and you get access to everything I write. If you throw in 2$, you even get access to the audio version. For 5$, you get access to the mini-podcasts I'm doing with illustrious co-hosts answering questions by listeners of the podcast. At 10$, you get exclusive access to the Boiled Leather Audio Conversation bonus podcasts. Give the Patreon a look!

This is part 7 in a series in which, for reasons not really clear, I watch all watchable movies with Kevin Costner. And maybe even some unwatchable ones. I will then comment on them here for you, including a synopsis in case you aren't familiar with them. 
 
Synopsis: Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) is a professional bodyguard. Reluctantly, he takes the job to protect the pop singer and actress Rachel Marran (Whitney Houston) who, her manager believes, is in danger from some obsessive fan. Said manager keeps the news from her, and unsurprisingly, she's in no mood to cooperate. This changes after Farmer protects her in a club, and she falls in love with him. Belatedly he realizes it interferes with the job, they seperate and later reunite, all the while a dangerous killer is on the loose.