Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Battle of the Sexes and Short Takes on American Made

Conflicts of Interest (in movie plotlines and historical timelines)

                                                    Reviews by Ken Burke
                   
      Battle of the Sexes (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris)
                
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Given how historically-based this movie is and how much is revealed already in the trailer there’s really nothing I could say that would be a spoiler, but if you’re currently unaware of the famous 1973 media event/tennis match between 29-year-old Billie Jean King (a champion in her prime back then) and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs (a former champ still with a lot of effective moves plus a chauvinist reputation intended to prove female athletes are inferior to their male counterparts) I won’t say anything further here about who won nor the personal impact on King from off-the-court-complications; however, I will say this is a very enjoyable story still resonating much truth about problems with continuing attitudes of misogyny and homophobia in our society, with this presentation offering at least some optimistic counters for these backward attitudes even though more superficial fare’s the predominant presence at the box office recently.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)


If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: ⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.  OK, continue on if you like.⇐
            
What Happens: We begin with a montage of still photos (slo-mo blurred shots) of a female tennis player in action; we soon learn it was Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) in her triumphant singles win at the 1972 U.S. Open (a little research reminds us she also won at Wimbledon and the French Open that year although no mention’s made of those victories because this storyline needs to streamline conflicts and resolutions within her own society).  Happy as she is with her successes she’s not at all satisfied that women winners in United States Lawn Tennis Association events only get about 1/8 of the prize money awarded to men, despite equal ticket sales for the events.  When Billie Jean and Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman)—publisher of World Tennis magazine—push their way into a men-only-club to confront USLTA honcho Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) about this discrepancy, only to be told men are more exciting to watch, have families to support, etc. (the same tired crap some businesses still trot out today when attempting to justify these continued inequities), they establish the Women’s Tennis Association (still in operation today) to organize their own tours; in counter-response Kramer throws the 9 founding players of the WTA out of the USLTA.

 The earliest days of the new tennis organization are rough but soon brighten with sponsorship for a tour from Virginia Slims cigarettes (“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” [in retrospect, not exactly as feminist an image as the slogan was intended to project])—which I see as counterproductive when associated with athletes (although in the 1970s the cancer-causing-properties of smoking were still under more debate—as well as being supported by lies from the major tobacco companies about these health issues—with Heldman being the only one in the WTA to make much use of the product) along with the big-name-addition of Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), who held even more titles than King along with a rather haughty attitude toward her new colleagues as her husband and baby accompany her on the tour.  (Billie Jean’s married as well, to Larry King [Austin Stowell]—not to be confused with the TV personality of the same name, with no physical confusion possible as this Larry resembles a Ken doll next to his later counterpart [even though Billie Jean, attractive as she is, looks nothing like the anatomically-extreme Barbie of those times]—but asks him not to come with her on tour so as to not interfere with her obsessive devotion to her game.)

 As soon as all of this falls into place complications arise for Billie Jean, first because as the WTA team’s getting a makeover prior to their inaugural press conference our happily-married (since 1965) protagonist finds herself surprisingly attracted to hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), a personal/professional distraction for King, intensified when the other women want Marilyn to join the tour to keep freshening up their appearances so she ends up as Billie Jean’s roommate with hesitation quickly giving way to sexual temptation, further complicated when Larry arrives unannounced one day.  The women do their best to hide their affair, but it’s clear he’s aware of his wife’s sudden change of teammates off-court.  However, the real complications come from Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), a former champion in his own right, now a tennis hustler and compulsive gambler looking to make a buck (or several) with oddball publicity matches where he triumphs even when using a frying pan instead of a racket or having to hold 2 big dogs on a leash (the latter situation still allowing him to beat Kramer in a private challenge, Riggs winning a Rolls-Royce he has to hide from wife Priscilla Wheelan [Elisabeth Shue], an heiress disgusted with his gambling, instead expecting Bobby to make efforts in succeeding at the job her father has already provided).  

 Even though he won the car, when it’s finally delivered Priscilla’s had enough, throws Bobby out (he moves in with son Larry [Lewis Pullman]—yes, same name as Billie Jean’s husband—as the adult kid eventually becomes a kind of coach/manager for Dad, who, even at his Gamblers Anonymous meeting just berates the others as losers, saying they wouldn’t need help if they were more successful [as shown in the trailer link above]), only to see him shoot for a high-stakes-promotional-event by challenging Court to a $35,000 match (he tried with King; she refused).  For reasons never clearly explained she fell to him quickly (6-2, 6-1) on May 13, 1973 in what came to be known as the Mother’s Day Massacre, leaving Billie Jean to take up his challenge in defense of women’s tennis as he arranges a winner-take-all $100,000 payday, backed up by a big national broadcast on ABC-TV.

 King’s not really able to focus though, because of the situation with Larry and Marilyn (he went home shortly after his arrival, noting to Marilyn that both of them are just auxiliary interests to Billie Jean’s passion for tennis; Marilyn also decides it’s best to leave), then as game day approaches she gets the flu so the general speculation is Riggs has the advantage even though King’s been training as much as she can while he’s clowned around with various gimmicks (including a somewhat-discreet nude photo), putting his faith in a huge vitamin regiment provided by Rheo Blair (Fred Armisen).  ⇒When September 20, 1973 finally arrives at the Houston Astrodome (both Larry K. and Marilyn return for moral support [Larry R.’s there too, but decides to watch from his hotel room]) with an extreme circus atmosphere (Billie Jean’s carried in by 4 muscular guys as if she’s Cleopatra, Bobby arrives in a rickshaw pulled by women he calls “bosom buddies,” he gives her roses, she gives him a baby pig) the best 3-of-5-sets-showdown begins with Riggs surprised by his opponent’s abilities.  While the action’s compressed so as to give those of us who aren’t tennis-knowledgeables a sense of the sport without having to understand every point, we do see some fine strategies—along with countermoves—that help any level of viewer appreciate what it takes to succeed in this intense sport.  At times Bobby seems to regain his swagger, but overall it’s clear Billie Jean’s in charge, taking the match in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) then heading backstage for a brief breakdown before returning for the adulation of the huge crowd (many of them anyway; I doubt the guys with the sexist posters were all that happy nor was Bobby as he’d betted heavily on himself, although he gets a warm-locker-room-reunion with Priscilla).  Pre-credits-graphics give us some brief info on how the main characters fared in succeeding years (including Kramer, whose intended $1 million match between Bobby Riggs and Chris Evert never happened, costing Jack a huge financial triumph just as he was also forced to accept WTA players back into his events).⇐

So What? As with just about any cinematic attempt to depict an historical event within the context of a marketable format (including documentaries such as Ken Burns’ current epic PBS exploration, The Vietnam War) there’s likely to be the need to condense, rearrange, even reconstruct the facts to better fit the structures of dramatic narrative's conflict-to-resolution (with docs also needing a sense of such "plots").  Changes to the actual timeline aren’t likely to bother those with little investment in the absolute accuracy of the presentation but can generate some hostility from others who feel their own portions of these stories aren’t treated properly or there can be concerns about verisimilitude from scholars of these experiences (this also happens with docs, as some U.S. and South Vietnamese vets are complaining their patriotic perspectives are minimized in Burns’ latest effort).  In the case of Battle of the Sexes there are a good number of these factual shifts (but not nearly as many as in American Made, another docudrama reviewed just below), although in my opinion they don’t amount to much in terms of turning the King-Riggs conflict into anything even beginning to resemble “fake news” (if you want that, tune in to our current White House press briefings) with such minor alterations as the Virginia Slims tour beginning in 1970 just as the Billie Jean-Marilyn affair starts in 1971 despite the movie depicting both of these as originating in 1973, almost simultaneously.  (Further, King and Court contested across the net many times, Margaret winning many of them, not just in the 1973 Virginia Slims finals where she beats Billie Jean, prompting Riggs challenge to her; if you want to know more about such minor factual discrepancies you can consult sources such as this Slate article, this History vs Hollywood comparison, or a decent contextual overview in this documentary [some parts have very low audio]—for that matter, if you want an extremely detailed biography of King I suggest you refer to this one, but if you’re not willing to trust a Wikipedia presentation [despite extensive citations] here’s another option for you.)

 A good bit of this movie’s presented in a breezy, colorful manner reminiscent of later-20th-century-TV-sitcoms (as if to assure us there’s nothing to be too worried about here), although there are dark scenes, intense closeups that emphasize the worry on both Billy Jean’s and Bobby’s faces as it’s clear this huge showcase competition’s not just some media stunt but instead is a crucial challenge for both of them, her not only to reinforce her growing legacy but also to preserve the value of professional women’s tennis that she and the other WTA founders truly believed in just as he needed to verify his impactful years weren’t over, that even though he was well past his prime on the court (but not with Court, whatever her problems were in her humiliating defeat at his hands) circuit he could still hustle up unique deals that would simultaneously stroke his privately-concerned-ego as well as set up lucrative paydays keeping him in material comfort even without his wife’s financial lifelines.  (Closeups are also useful in displaying Billie Jean’s unexpected responses to Marilyn’s first haircut, as the figurative steam begins to rise between them.)  ⇒Therefore, even though we get a little bit more information about King (including her later, lifelong relationship with Ilana Kloss—not shown at all in this presentation) and Riggs in the final pre-credits-intertitles we’re not burdened with the later facts of Billie Jean’s divorce from Larry in 1987 nor her acrimonious 1981 “palimony” suit from Marilyn (King prevailed but, as predicted in Battle … the “outing” of her lesbianism resulted in the loss of endorsements and sponsorships, forcing her to continue on the circuit longer than she intended just to raise enough cash for her legal bills), all of which would have undermined the intended takeaway from this movie, featuring the ongoing struggle for gender equality, not just in terms of equal pay for equal work but also in terms of social acceptance of gender identities unconformed to either social expectations or seeming-biological-determinants.⇐

 As the story on screen wraps up we understand how the signs shown in the Astrodome crowd promoting “Libbers Not Lobbers” are indicative of how women will slowly but surely be taken more seriously as athletes (and human beings) in coming decades, just as gay fashion-designer Ted Tinling’s (Alan Cumming) advice to Billie Jean—⇒just before she heads back out into the media circus awaiting after her victory⇐—that someday society'll accept their then-demonized-identity-realities is intended to verify sociosexual-barriers are an absurd aspect of the past with no place in our current culture (despite the opinions of many politicians whose embrace of homophobia continues to inspire the guardians of hetero-“normalist”-nostalgia-attitudes by the “undesirables” in their districts [not being a candidate for office, I offer no hesitation in using such language where it fits]).  Thus, the downsides of women pushed into direct competition with men in specific disciplines (with the resulting fears of how the gender gap would widen if the women should prove incapable of beating the men [although King continued to emphasize equality, not superiority]) as well as the social ostricization awaiting announced homosexuals (still more of a stigma for athletes than entertainers) are acknowledged in Battle …, but the emphatic sense we’re left with is that trauma can be overcome, social attitudes can change, and personal happiness can triumph over social bigotry (although we see no shot of Billie Jean hugging Marilyn after her victory, just as we don’t find a crack in this wall of triumph by any direct suggestion the seemingly-necessary-encouragement King found from Barnett in her win over Riggs was to be short-lived, that this awakening stimulus to King’s true sexuality was not even as solid as the presented-reconstituted-connection between Bobby and Priscilla [although they actually divorced in 1971, then much later remarried in 1991 with both of them dying in 1995, her in March followed by him in October]).  You could criticize Battle … for not somehow bringing in these later complications or you can accept its uplift-at-the-moment-of-triumph-tone for the ongoing encouragement it offers; I choose the latter.

Bottom Line Final Comments: I’ll easily admit I have no idea if I watched the actual “Battle of the Sexes” TV spectacle or not (it was on a Thursday night according to a calendar I consulted, probably on a bit late—with work awaiting me the next day—in NYC where I lived at the time) although, despite my almost-complete-lack-of-knowledge about any form of tennis, I was certainly aware of the media hype for the event, quite hopeful King would triumph as I’d already become aware even in my late 20s how absurd, degrading, and unfair (to borrow one of our current President’s favorite words) was the male chauvinism embodied by Riggs (no matter in retrospect how much of an act that might have been in order to increase attention to this constructed event).  Further, with no real understanding of how good Riggs had been in his own day I couldn’t easily understand why any young female pro at the height of her game couldn’t beat this self-described “old man” (according to this article I wasn’t the only one who thought that way) although had I known about the Mother’s Day Massacre at the time I’d have been a lot more concerned about King’s chances for victory.  If I did watch this match, though, in addition to being elated about Billie Jean’s triumph I’m sure I’d have been impressed with seeing the enormous crowd in the Astrodome (30,472, still the largest in-person-crowd for professional tennis, with tens of millions more watching this ABC-TV special at home), the famous first domed sports stadium which opened in 1965 just 50 miles away from where I grew up in Galveston but a place I’d never been to before I went away to Austin for my long university career (most of 1966-’76)—although I did, at some point later, see Brewster McCloud (Robert Altman, 1970) with many scenes shot inside this massive structure as well as finally attend an event there on January 25, 1976, one of the stops on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue done as a benefit to raise money for  boxer Hurricane Carter's appeal expenses.

 I know I never saw the ABC-TV movie, When Billie Beat Bobbie (Jane Anderson, 2001), which gets a lot of mention in several reviews I’ve read of the current rendition of this gender-defined-sports-conflict, so, despite what I’ve looked up since attending my screening last weekend, I came into Battle of the Sexes with little true background on what happened 44 years ago except for the memory of the outcome, followed by a result of women’s tennis continuing to gain momentum, popularity, prestige since then (helped by the ongoing athletic prowess of such tennis superstars as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graff, the Williams sisters, and many others [here’s an alternate accounting of this info if you prefer]).  So, for me this movie needed to work as an entity unto itself, not as a recollection of something I have a solid memory-investment in; I’m happy to report it does just that, giving me great respect for King’s dedication to the cause of increased status for women tennis players as a whole, not just the achievement of a personal triumph for herself against an obnoxious opponent (no matter how exaggerated Riggs’ statements might have been for audience-building-purposes they were still insulting to all women—and easily agreed-upon by Riggs’ male supportersjust as King refused to continue if ABC went through with their original intention of allowing Kramer to comment on the match during the broadcast, with her fear he’d find fault [so to speak] with every misstep she might make, further denigrating the concept of women tennis pros as equal in talent to the men [thus, Howard Cosell was joined on camera only by WTA's Rosie Casals {Natalie Morales}, with excellent post-production-work magically joining the images of this current actor with old 1973 footage of Cosell]) or to prove herself superior to Margaret Court.

 Battle of the Sexes also makes a successful (but unfortunately-still-needed) plea for gender-identity-equality in terms of making clear how personally, publically, and financially destructive it was even in the latter 20th century for a star athlete—hell, just a human being, without all the fame attached—to be officially known as a lesbian, so Billie Jean’s bravery in following her heart (even clandestinely) with Marilyn also comes across as uplifting, despite the ugly homophobia this story also reminds us is still a cancer on our collective-social-body.  I’m not alone in my admiration for this heart-warming-movie, as the reviewers surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes have offered 85% positive responses along with a 73% average score from the usually-more-reserved folks at Metacritic (more info on both in the links to Battle … farther below), although audiences have been distracted by considerably-less-significant (even superficial) but much-better-received fare such as Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Matthew Vaughn), The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan), the continuing juggernaut of It (Andres Muschietti; now up to about $555.6 million in worldwide box-office), even Tom Cruise’s latest adventures (reviewed below) in American Made, all of which took in double-figure-millions last weekend in domestic (U.S.-Canada) receipts, while Battle …’s made only about $4 million even after 2 weeks in release, playing widely in 1,213 theaters (but that’s also paltry compared to Kingsman …’s 4,038 domestic-on-screen-presence).  

 So, I’d say Battle … deserves a bit more respect for what it's presenting as well as how it's being received, leading me to an obvious choice (no, not Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” which offers nothing more than a useful title in this context) for my standard review-finishing Musical Metaphor to be applied to this movie, which would have to be “Respect” (written and originally recorded by Otis Redding in 1965) with this version (from her 1967 I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You album) by Aretha Franklin at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0* being the most well-known; even though the song’s fundamentally about romantic relationships it still speaks to women’s professional needs for “propers [… and] A little respect [because they] get tired [but they] Keep on tryin,” just as men who expect to dominate relationships when they “get home […] might walk in And find out [the women are] gone,” possibly to the arms of other women who’re willing to give “just a little bit” (if not a lot more) as King shows Riggs, Kramer, and their ilk to learn how to not only spell “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” but also how to “Find out what it means to me” (and all of her sisters).

*In addition to this short original Aretha recording I’m also including a more lengthy (7:22) live performance as a little birthday present this week to my fabulous wife Nina (let’s just say she’s now even further over 21) where the Queen of Soul offers a crowd-pleasing encore to finish off a successful concert (as noted in reviews from the time) at the Oakland (CA) Oracle Arena on August 10, 2015 (with her admonition to “Believe in yourself!”), my partial penance for not being enthusiastic enough at the time to pay the necessary jacked-up StubHub prices for tickets even though Nina would loved to have seen Aretha then, especially because Ms. Franklin says she’s now done with touring (damn it!).  I’m hopefully somewhat making it up to her this November (and still paying just as much) with already-purchased-tickets to see the Four Tops and the Temptations (even though each group’s got only 1 original member left but—like the Beach Boys—they’ve still managed to retain their signature sounds).  I’ll report back later on that event when the time comes.
                  
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
              
                               American Made (Doug Liman)
                
Here’s another “Based On A True Story” movie, about a Louisiana pilot in the 1970s-‘80s who—at various times—worked for TWA, the CIA, and the Medellín drug cartel with much of his activity in either clandestine or illegal mode, although he managed to amass a fortune before running into trouble with various government agencies and his South American “amigos.”

Here's the trailer:


        Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
                
 In our current situation as the U.S.A. is reeling from horrific disasters, both natural (the hurricanes that have devastated a wide swath from Texas to Florida to Puerto Rico among other hard-hit-locations) and man-made (the gruesome slaughter of innocent concert fans in Las Vegas), it’s not easy to sell tickets to a movie about a guy whose claim to fame was working with the CIA in the late 1970s/mid-‘80s to smuggle guns to the Contras in their U.S.-backed-insurrection against the revolutionary, leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua all the while also smuggling cocaine into our country from Colombia’s Medellín Cartel.  So, if you’re going to attempt such a task it goes a lot easier if the criminal (or should I say government agent?) protagonist, Barry Seal, is played by ever-charismatic Tom Cruise.  Even more so than Battle of the Sexes we find American Made takes considerable liberties with the historical record of Seal’s exploits bringing all sorts of contraband by air from North America into Central and South America as well as on his return trips (see this site and this one for more details on fact vs. fiction regarding this movie’s plot, which basically uses Seals’ life as a jumping-off-place for what's on screen here), so it helps if you just accept Liman’s position that this is entertainment based on actual events more so than an attempt at a defendable account of it all.  Although there’s a lot of plot squeezed into American Made’s 115 min. it all flows in a quick, efficient manner (with activity after activity speeding by so fast you don’t have time to reflect on any of them so you can just enjoy the ride, even though you know in your heart you shouldn’t be rooting for this guy to keep pulling off his constant escapes ⇒until time finally runs out for him when he’s targeted for a hit by the Cartel as a result of his turn against them in order to avoid prison time for his extensive (successful, to the tune of about $60 million) crimes.)⇐

 Briefly, hot-shot-pilot Seal’s living in Louisiana, working for TWA in 1978 when he’s recruited by (fictitious but fact-inspired) CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) to use a state-of-the-art-twin-prop-plane to gather surveillance photos of Communist bases in Central America, the success of which leads to him being an under-the-table-transaction-courier with General Manuel Noriega in Panama; while there on a mission he’s further recruited by Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) of the infamous Colombian cartel to fly their drugs into the U.S. (a well-paid venture, $2,000 per kilo) which Seal does via a drop into the Louisiana swamps in order to avoid Customs.  This gets complicated when the CIA ups the ante with Barry flying guns to the Contras (he's also given his own small airport on 2,000 acres of land near Mena, AK; he recruits 4 other pilots) which morphs into some of that firepower going to the Cartel, then their drugs flown into Nicaragua to be shipped to Miami, all the while Seal’s just getting so much cash he can’t launder all of it through phony local businesses so he even buries some of it in the back yard (wife Lucy [Sarah Wright] is initially upset by all this until she sees the enormity of their windfall).  Eventually all of this comes apart when the CIA abandons their scheme (cutting Barry off), Barry’s deadbeat brother-in-law JB (Caleb Landry Jones) is arrested with a stash of the cash but then killed by the Cartel before he can cause further trouble, then the DEA finally catches Barry but he’s saved from prosecution by the White House when Col. Oliver North (Robert Farrior) sends Seal back to Nicaragua to get photos of the Sandinistas receiving drugs from the Medellín thugs, but President Reagan blows Barry’s cover with a TV address in which he shows the photos thereby exposing Seal along with Ochoa and Pablo Escobar (Mauicio Mejia) so even though Barry’s given a light sentence of 1,000 hours of community service at the local Salvation Army shelter he’s marked for execution by the Cartel, which finally happens in 1986 although he’s made extensive testimonial-VHS-tapes about his escapades (which we occasionally see excerpts of), confiscated by the FBI just after his death (and then?).  Pre-credits graphics note the CIA turned to their Iran-Contra strategy to continue arming the rebels.⇐

 Despite how American Made plays fast and loose with facts about Seal’s exploits (working in some humor with scenes such as one with a cameo appearance by future-President George W. Bush [Connor Trinneer]), making him seem much more heroic (even patriotic if you go that far) than accounts of him I've read lead me to believe (but, again, proper casting is exactly what "seals" the deal, with Cruise at his constantly-smug-smiling-best—except a couple of times when he's truly worried), it makes for a nice escape from the horrors of the news in our real world today, with Seal’s death even serving, if necessary, to bolster whatever prejudices you may come into the theater with (he’s a despicable criminal who got what he deserved even if our own government was reluctant to administer any true punishment vs. look how evil those Hispanics are so let’s start building that wall).  I wouldn’t recommend this as a recruitment tool for flight-training-schools, but if you can emphasize the fictionality more so than the sordid illegalities by everyone involved (or even use it, if you like, for whatever arguments suit you about not further glorifying the Reagan presidential heritage) I think you’d find it to be enjoyable as a typical-Tom Cruise-action-movie-experience; the RT critics certainly did with 87% positive reviews, although the MC folks were more hesitant with a 65% average score.  Audiences have also been enthusiastic with a worldwide total of about $82.9 million ($18 million of that domestically from 3,024 theaters) in American Made’s debut weekend, although the Monday early-afternoon-screening Nina and I saw was sparsely-attended, even more so than the surprisingly small crowd that joined us last Friday afternoon to see Battle of the Sexes.

 I’ll fly out of here for now with my Musical Metaphor for Cruise’s latest death-defying-acts (he’s the pilot in many of the scenes, supposedly including the dangerous takeoff from the short runway in Colombia and the crazy landing in a suburban Louisiana neighborhood avoiding pursuing DEA planes*) being a song from some other Southern boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, doing “Free Bird” (from their 1973 debut Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr3dWscslo8 (a lengthy 2003 version [13:11], reminiscent of the building impact of American Made [I’m not wild about the Confederate flag used as a prop in this music video, but as a Southern band—with 3 members who died in a 1977 plane crash—they’re got a lot of reasonable overlap with Barry Seal's heritage and the making of this movie {see footnote below} so I’ll just ignore that minor distraction]) as its lyrics about “I must be traveling on now ‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see […] ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now And this bird you can’t change [… even though the singer confesses his bad decisions the] Lord knows I’m to blame […] Lord, help me, I can’t change.”  Barry apparently couldn’t change either, getting himself ever deeper into trouble even when he had too much money to find anything to spend it on, ultimately leading to an inevitable death.  But, then again, given the kind of associates he was working with once his usefulness was over that was likely always his fate, so he probably wasn’t as “free” as he thought he was anyway.

*Some other pilots weren’t so fortunate in the making of this movie because a crash on the set during the production shoots in Colombia on September 11, 2015 resulted in 2 being killed, another seriously injured during a bad weather mishap along with a current lawsuit seeking large damages.
               
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
             
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Here’s more information about Battle of the Sexes:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy4ZkCk0EbU (14:16 interview with directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, tennis legend Billy Jean King, actors Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Elizabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, and scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy [audio’s a bit low])



Here’s more information about American Made:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9hs0HWiYFI (5:50 collage of behind the scenes shots from the movie to give you some idea how a movie’s made)



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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken*

*YouTube keeps deleting links to this Eagles performance so I keep putting a newer version back in but you’ll just find dead links in our previous postings prior to July 6, 2017, so don’t be confused.

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.

OUR POSTINGS PROBABLY LOOK BEST ON THE MOST CURRENT VERSIONS OF MAC OS AND THE SAFARI WEB BROWSER (although Google Chrome usually is decent also); OTHERWISE, BE FOREWARNED THE LAYOUT MAY SEEM MESSY AT TIMES.

Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 13,733; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week (welcome, Romania!):

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