American Hustle And The ’70s

This afternoon Kish and I went to see American Hustle. It’s a clever, interesting, highly entertaining movie that features terrific performances by Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro, among many others.

Of course, one of the biggest stars of the movies gets no credit whatsoever. It’s the decade of the ’70s, of course. The movie screams out the ’70s, from the embarrassing hairstyles to the embarrassing clothing to the over-the-top decor of Irving and Rosalyn Rosenfeld’s suburban home. It’s a world of dancing and three-piece suits, gold chains, hairy chests, and skin, cocaine snorts and glitz, where bras apparently weren’t worn and a pop music soundtrack played all day and all night long.

I’m not sure that the movie got all of the lingo and looks exactly right — at the end of the film, for example, one character says “my boss knows you did him a solid,” which I don’t remember as a phrase that was used back then — but it’s clear that a lot of the fun of the movie came from that temporal setting that seems so absurd to us now.

The American understanding of the ’70s seems so fixed that I think it is likely that the decade will always be a popular setting for movies. Just as writers of thrillers and historical fiction can’t resist dipping into the Nazi story, so movie producers and writers will always have a tender spot for the era of leisure suits, elaborate coiffures, and disco.

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Moving On . . . And On . . . And On

Today Kish and I loaded up a panel van, and tomorrow we will be taking a bunch of Richard’s stuff to Pittsburgh to help him move in as he starts his internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As we loaded, Kish wondered aloud: how many times have we moved things from one location to another?

IMG_1704It’s a good question, and not an easy one to answer. We routinely moved from apartment to apartment in college, after college, and in Washington, D.C., gradually accumulating more stuff with each step in the process. Here in Columbus, we moved into a house, filled it up, and have moved all of our stuff twice since then. We’ve moved the boys to college and to grad school and to other locations and we moved Mom from her condo to her current apartment. And each time we’ve packed and unpacked, loaded vans and cars, lugged boxes and bags and hauled mattresses and box springs and shelves. This time we’re grateful that we don’t have something weird to move, like a fish tank.

In the process, and over the years, we’ve learned about anchoring things and bracing things so they don’t slide around, about the value of more bankers’ boxes than you initially think you’ll use, and the need to keep the heavy stuff at the rear of the van or truck. But still, there are quandaries that will never be fully solved. Like — what do you do with lamps?

True Detective

Thursday night Kish and I watched the first episode of True Detective, the new HBO series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. It was a real powerhouse that left us eager for more.

The context and set-up of the show are intriguing. In the first episode we saw the two main characters at two times and from two perspectives — recorded interviews in 2012 about a bizarre killing and the actual investigation of the murder by the two detectives in 1995. The unifying point is a highly ritualized murder of a woman who is found kneeling and bound, carefully positioned with her hands together as if in prayer, wearing a crown of deer antlers, surrounded by stick creations that are believed to catch evil spirits. It’s a terrible crime that baffles and repels one character and seems to fascinate the other.

McConaughey plays Rust Cohle, a deep-thinking, introverted loner who is battling alcoholism, is still dealing with the tragic loss of his daughter for reasons we don’t yet understand, and seems to have an almost intuitive understanding of the murder. Cohle is called the Taxman because he carries a ledger in which he makes notes and carefully draws the positioning of the victim and the other items at the crime scene. Harrelson plays Martin Hart, a good old boy and self-professed family man who is disturbed by Cohle’s unconventional comments about religion, their town, and their world and seems to be dealing with problems of his own on the home front. Both were brilliant in the first episode, and the scenes in which they interact one-on-one crackle with energy, fine dialogue, and frequent humor.

As we move back and forth between 2012 and 1995, we realize that something significant has happened. Hart is still with the police force, a little older and balder, but Cohle is not. Cohle has changed from a clean-shaven man trying to be sober into a long-haired, mustachioed guy who apparently is reconciled to his alcoholism and insists on being brought a six-pack if the interview is to continue. We know that the two men worked together for seven years after the 1995 murder and apparently caught the killer, then broke up in 2002 and haven’t spoken since.

Oh . . . and we learn that there has been another killing that certainly looks like it was performed by the same murderer who killed the woman in 1995. What happened to Hart and Cohle? How did Cohle lose his daughter? How did they catch the wrong killer? Will they be brought together again to find the real murderer? We’ll find out.