Movies: Braveheart and Outlaw King

I should really cover more history here.  The history of the Scots-English border region is the history of hillbillies.

Netflix’s recently released Outlaw/King starring Chris Pine spurred me to finally pick up my old review copy of Michael Penman’s Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots.  I haven’t gotten very far, but Penman’s book is focused on the Bruce’s reign after Bannockburn, so William Wallace appears relatively early.  And I can’t read about William Wallace without pulling out Braveheart.  I took advantage of needing to grade a giant stack of essays to watch Outlaw/King and rewatch Braveheart.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: Varsity Blues

American Pie made a hundred million dollars in 1999, but for those of us living in wide swathes of the country, there was another high school movie that was just as important: Varsity Blues.  I include it in Friday Night Lights Friday because (1) any chance to talk about Varsity Blues is a good one, and (2) Varsity Blues, like Friday Night Lights, was also based on the Permian Panthers.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 5

I like this season, but FNL emphatically does not go out with a bang.  The actual series ending, though, as opposed to the last season itself, is just about perfect.  The heart of season 5 is the story of Vince and his dad.  Michael B. Jordan is just about perfect, and Cress Williams is excellent, but most of the rest of the season feels tacked on.

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Friday Night Lights Friday (early): FNL season 4

Season 4 of Friday Night Lights represents one of the ballsiest moves in television history.  Peter Berg moved Coach Taylor to an entirely new school, in the process dropping much of the old cast, adding several major new characters, and drastically increasing the number of African-American characters.  And it works.  Man, does it work!  Season 4 is arguably the finest season of FNL (I rank it second).

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Daredevil Season 3 is the Best Netflix MCU Season Yet

Daredevil season 3 makes heavy use of a common trope: threatening a character’s family to compel them to do whatever it is the villain wants. Daredevil uses this trope well, in large part because characters do eventually push back, but a couple things have long bugged me about it.

One, I hate the way family winds up being used as a tool to show the character’s selfishness. Worse, the writers frequently seem to simply not believe it is possible to have some higher duty, whether to God, country, or what have you.

Two, there is a certain amount of cultural dissonance. Threatening a hillbilly’s family is a good way to wind up with an entire family wanting to kill your ass. And you might kill me and my entire family, but we have cousins, and our cousins got cousins.

Every Day Should Be Tuesday

Season 3 of Daredevil isn’t just the best season of Daredevil—it is the best Netflix MCU season period.  Which makes sense, I suppose, since season 1 of Daredevil was previously the best Netflix MCU season.  What is more remarkable is that season 3 not only exceeds it, but significantly so.

What makes it so great?  The action set pieces, a carefully crafted plot, and the best villain of them all.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 3

I’m going to come right out and say it: Season 3 is the best season of FNL.  It is not a coincidence, I think, that season 3 is also the first season after FNL moved from being a straight network show and the first season with a planned short season (Season 2 being artificially shortened by the writers’ strike, as I recall).

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 2

Oh season 2.  Much, much maligned season 2.  And not entirely unfairly.  I won’t argue that season 2 isn’t the weakest season of Friday Night Lights.  But as weakest seasons go, it could be worse (I’m looking at you, season 5 of The Wire).  There is a lot to like here, and, frankly, the Landry-Tyra murder storyline isn’t as bad as advertised.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 1

God I love the Friday Night Lights TV show.  It is my top 3 all-time.  It probably squeaks by The Wire and rivals The Shield as the best ever.  I took advantage of the baby to rewatch all five seasons.  Let’s start with season 1 (available on Prime).

Season 1 is damned good television.  Everything great about FNL—except Vince Howard—is there.  But FNL only really hits its stride when it moves away from network TV purgatory in season 3.  But this is a damned fine season of television nonetheless.

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RIP Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds died yesterday at 82.

I love 70s movies, as I have said here before and will say again.  It was a cinematic decade of the auteur.  Post-1960s disillusion left a thick layer of cynicism over cinema that made for some great storytelling.  But, most of all, the 70s was the last decade Hollywood was comfortable telling stories about the working class in flyover country.  And the king of those movies was Burt Reynolds

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Movies: Rush (1991)

I love 70s movies.  This is a topic I will return to.  The most relevant reason for my love of 70s cinema is that it was the last time Hollywood dealt regularly and evenly with the rural working class.  My original choice for this week was the Burt Reynolds vehicle Gator (available to stream for free with Amazon Prime), but I wound up rewatching Rush with my wife’s family, so Rush it is.  Rush was made in 1991, but it is a 70s movie in more than setting.  And it is a period piece that doesn’t commit the usual sin of getting cutesy and clever about it.

Rush takes place in 1975. Rush is based on a largely autobiographical novel inspired by Kim Wozencraft’s stint as a narc in Tyler, Texas, but the movie is set in an undisclosed location that is probably somewhere on the Gulf coast between Houston and Corpus.

Kristen Cates, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is a rookie narcotics officer is paired up with veteran officer Jim Raynor, played by Jason Patric.  Jim isn’t old, but after going for early-career Jim Morrison in The Lost Boys, Jason Patric goes for late-career Jim Morrison here, and like late-career Jim Morrison, Jim Raynor wears his years pretty damn heavy.

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