Spirit of the Beehive

Ana Torrent is "Ana" in 1973's "Spirit of the Beehive."

Ana Torrent is “Ana” in 1973’s “Spirit of the Beehive.”

After years of wanting to re-watch the Spanish film “Spirit of the Beehive,” I finally received my very own used copy of it in the mail Friday.

I immediately re-watched it, and it remains one of the most beautiful, otherworldly films I’ve ever seen. It is considered to be among the greatest of Spanish films. It’s a wonder to watch its poetic images unfold, and it is impossible not to become enraptured by the sweet innocence of Ana, the main character.

The late Roger Ebert reviewed the film last year as part of his “Great Movies” series:

This is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. Its cinematographer, Luis Cuadrado, bathes his frame in sun and earth tones, and in the interiors of the family home, he creates vistas of empty rooms where footsteps echo. The house doesn’t seem much occupied by the family. The girls are often alone. The parents also, in separate rooms. Many of the father’s poems involve the mindless churning activity of his beehives, and the house’s yellow-tinted honeycomb windows make an unmistakable reference to beehives. Presumably this reflects on the Franco regime, but when critics grow specific in spelling out the parallels they see, I feel like I’m reading term papers.

The Wikipedia entry on the film is also enlightening should you want to learn more about it.

 

‘Nebraska’ Premieres At Cannes, Receives Good Reviews

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Bruce Dern, left, and Will Forte star in “Nebraska.”

A lot of exciting news has been coming out of Cannes this past week (especially if you’re an Alejandro Jodorowsky fan), but today was the big day for “Nebraska.”

The film directed by Alexander Payne, shot in northeast Nebraska and written by Bob Nelson, who has ties to this area, had its premiere.

I’m pleased to see the reviews are generally positive, and I’ve rounded up a handful of them for your perusal.

Here is Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter:

A strong sense of a vanishing past holds sway over an illusory future in Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s wryly poignant and potent comic drama about the bereft state of things in America’s oft-vaunted heartland. Echoing the director’s most recent film, The Descendants, in its preoccupation with generational issues within families, how the smell of money contaminates the behavior of friends and relatives and the way Wasps hide and disclose secrets, this is nonetheless a more melancholy, less boisterous work. It’s also defined commercially by the difference between a colorful, Hawaii-set comedy starring George Clooney and a black-and-white, prairie-based old-age odyssey featuring a straggly and unkempt Bruce Dern. All the same, Paramount Vantage should be able to ride accolades for this very fine Cannes competition entry to respectable specialized returns in fall release.

Owen Gleiberman with Entertainment Weekly calls “Nebraska” “minor Payne” and adds:

And what’s genuinely touching about the movie is this: It allows you to glimpse the powerful entirety of even the most ordinary life. After a while, Woody’s wife shows up, and in her quarrelsome way, she’s kind of a wacky character (I mean that in both good and bad ways), a Catholic who’s fixated on gossip and the behavior of “sluts.” June Squibb, who plays her, has a great Midwestern-mom look, and we realize that it’s her Kate who has really held their lives together. Nebraska is a nice movie, and it goes through its paces in that patented Alexander Payne mode of acerbically touching homespun quirkiness. But when I just wrote that sentence, at least a part of me was tempted to replace the word “mode” with “formula.”

Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian gives it four out of five stars and says:

Dern gives a terrific performance as the blank-faced, disagreeable old Woody, who also has a bland, complaisant side. This emerges when he comes face-to-face with his old buddy and two-faced former business partner Ed Pegram, sharply played by Stacy Keach, who is grasping and credulous on the subject of Woody’s new riches. What is incidentally interesting about Nebraska is that the fiction of Woody’s lottery payout is almost as good as the non-existent fact. Bogus riches bring Woody acclaim, status, prestige. As for the cash, all he can think of to buy is a new truck. The money wouldn’t change his life. But fantasy money really has changed it, and in pursuing this fake cash, he has forced a real crisis, and forced his family to confront some real facts.

Along with these hard truths, the movie has a soft heart. Perhaps punches are being pulled, just a little. It doesn’t stop Nebraska from being a thoroughly sweet and charming movie, and a reminder of Dern’s quality as an actor.

Derek Malcolm at the London Evening Standard gives it four stars:

Bob Nelson’s scenario is full of humour but doesn’t patronise Woody and his hick friends. Dern, one of America’s best veterans, gets a chance to deliver the kind of performance he’s often been noted for. No grandstanding, but a thorough appreciation of the character he is playing.

Robbie Collin at The Telegraph gives it four out of five stars (and was not a big fan of “The Descendants”):

This is a resounding return to form for Payne: there are moments that recall his earlier road movies About Schmidt and Sideways, but it has a wistful, shuffling, grizzly-bearish rhythm all of its own.

“Nebraska” is release in the U.S. on Nov. 22.

Variations On A Velvet Morning

“Some velvet morning when I’m straight … I’m gonna open up your gate … And maybe tell you about Phaedra … And how she gave me life … And how she made it end … Some velvet morning when I’m straight …”

Lee Hazlewood wrote those lyrics in the 1960s and collaborated with Nancy Sinatra on “Some Velvet Morning.” It stands as one of my favorite songs of all time with its haunting tune and strange lyrics.

I remember first taking notice of the song as a cover by the British shoegaze band Slowdive. It was on the American version of their 1993 album “Souvlaki,” which is a masterpiece.  (I’m not exaggerating. It is an amazing piece of music that has withstood the test of time. You need to engage with it immediately and get back to me.) Their swirling version complements the original well, I think.

It was while driving late at night later in the ’90s and listening to “Coast to Coast with Art Bell” that I really got a taste of the original, though I’m sure I had heard it previously. Bell often used the song as bumper music, and it added to the sometimes creepy and mysterious nature of his show.

“Some Velvet Morning” is best suited for the night in my opinion.

In 2002, another band I really love — Primal Scream — did their own cover of the song on the album “Evil Heat.” It features Kate Moss. Yes, that Kate Moss.

It’s definitely its own beast and doesn’t live up to the original or Slowdive’s version, but it has its charms. (By the way, Primal Scream just released their new album “More Light,” and it is well worth a listen)

Chicago-based critic Jim Derogatis wrote of the back-and-forth between Hazlewood and Sinatra: “If there has ever been a more sensual psychedelic exchange in the Top 40 (the single peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard chart in January 1968), I haven’t heard it.”

I can definitely agree with that.

The London Telegraph even named it the best duet ever in a feature of their picks for the 50 best duets of all time. They wrote: “Most pop music is quickly forgotten. All too rare are the songs that endure, whose sheer otherness takes your breath away, even 30-odd years after they were conceived. Some Velvet Morning belongs in that company.”

Again, you’ll get no arguments from me.

Interestingly, Hazlewood’s granddaughter is named Phaedra. They did a duet together before he died in 2007.

Anyway, yesterday’s rain had me thinking about “Some Velvet Morning,” so I thought I’d open up your gate and maybe tell you about Phaedra …

First Clip Of ‘Nebraska’ Released — And It’s Good

I’m just going to say it: I hope you all are fans of Alexander Payne, because chances are I’m going to be posting a lot more about his new movie “Nebraska” this year.

1) It’s directed by Payne, one of the best American directors working. (Don’t argue with me on that.)

2) It’s called “Nebraska,” a state that is clearly among the most awesome states, in part because I grew up there. (Don’t argue with me on that, either.)

3) It’s written by Bob Nelson, who has roots in the Yankton/Hartington area and is a really nice guy. I’m hoping his screenplay goes on to win some serious accolades. (Seriously!? You want to argue with me on that? What is wrong with you?)

So what’s the news here?

The Cannes Film Festival has released the first clip of “Nebraska,” and it is a juicy one. Check it out:

The movie premieres at Cannes Thursday, May 23.

Hitfix is breaking down the Cannes entries this year and had the following to say about “Nebraska”:

The buzz: Strong. For those who found “The Descendants” a little too slickly Academy-packaged for their liking, the new film’s monochrome look, absence of star casting and, of course, its return to Payne’s home state exude a back-to-basics appeal. The premise, however, still promises the emotional accessibility of his more mainstream work. Its announcement in the Competition lineup was greeted with more surprise and excitement than most, as several Cannes pundits had determined it wouldn’t be ready in time, and was likelier to premiere in Toronto.

The odds: Even if early reviews prime the film as the Oscar player Paramount is hoping for, that doesn’t make it any likelier that the festival will begin furnishing its award cabinet: from “No Country for Old Men” to Payne’s own “About Schmidt,” Cannes juries are often reluctant to reward films that seem likely to garner U.S. awards success further down the road. Then again, Spielberg is the festival’s most mainstream jury president in several years: if he resists any counterintuitive urges, and indeed zigs where many are expecting him to zig, Payne seems a likely beneficiary. Jigsaw Lounge grants him reasonable Palme odds of 10-1, though a likelier-on-paper award — and one that would take the film out of the Palme running, under current festival rules — would be the Best Actor prize, either for Dern alone, or jointly with Forte.

Read the entire Hitfix breakdown of “Nebraska” here.

I also happened across some comments Payne made about the film in January 2012 in an interview with ComingSoon.net:

“I’m always just so damn desperate to find anything that can make a movie. I’m serious. I also get questioned about what statement are you making and what themes are personal to you and I’m always thinking I’m so grateful to have barely found a story that you can make a movie. I’m not eating humble pie. I just want to keep doing it and making movies. This one is not a grand statement and it’s not particularly important to me. “The Descendants” wasn’t entirely personal to me. I just thought it would make a decent movie and it would be fun to make. I also think about what would be fun to make.”

Read more of that here.

Study Leads To Mitchell Housing Boom — Will The Result Be Replicated In Yankton?

Do you think there is a shortage of housing in Yankton?

If so, you are not alone.

Local officials have commissioned a housing study that they believe will confirm their suspicions that a shortage does indeed exist.

Yankton Area Progressive Growth (YAPG) will fund the housing study, with the City of Yankton taking the lead in hiring and working with a consultant to produce a report.

“Anecdotally, we believe there is a shortage of housing availability in the Yankton community,” YAPG President Mike Dellinger told the Yankton City Commission recently. “Major employers have indicated to us that their employees are having a hard time finding places to live. We hoped we could partner with the city and the Economic Development Council to provide the scientific data and have the study indicate where we are benchmarking our current housing stock.

“Hopefully … the results of this study will stimulate the private market into doing something about this housing shortage,” he added. “Banks will recognize there is an opportunity to lend. Developers will recognize there is an opportunity to develop. And home builders will have more places to build homes. That’s our intention.”

Read more about the plans for a Yankton housing study in a story I wrote here.

Coincidentally, a housing study was completed in neighboring Mitchell last September. (It’s not so coincidental, really. Yankton officials were partly inspired to do a study because Mitchell officials believed theirs had been worthwhile.)

The Mitchell Daily Republic published a story Saturday about what has happened in the intervening months. It’s quite promising. A total of 223 rental units are currently under construction in the city.

A study released in September identified an overwhelming need for additional rental housing in Mitchell.

The study was funded by the Mitchell Area Development Corp. and several area partners in response to an apparently sudden shortage of rental housing in Mitchell that developed in the last few years, according to Bryan Hisel, executive director of MADC and the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It kind of surprised us,” Hisel said of the housing shortage. “That’s why we did the study.”

The study found the vacancy rate for all apartments in the city was just 1.3 percent.

At the time of the study, Mitchell needed another 225 to 300 apartments over the next five years, of which 110 to 150 should be conventional, non-subsidized apartments, just to keep up with demand, according to the study.

The results of the study led directly to the Pheasant Ridge project, Boote said.

“Someone passed the housing study across my desk,” Boote said. “I read it and it looked good, and it started from there.”

Other developers said the study confirmed what they already suspected — that Mitchell had a significant shortage of quality, affordable housing.

Providing adequate and affordable housing is the key component to increasing the city’s workforce, Hisel said.

“When we’re talking with companies that are trying to expand and grow,” he said, “they can’t do that without workforce and workforce can’t come here without a place to live.”

Finding workers is the No. 1 issue for businesses in Mitchell and will remain so for a long time, Hisel said.

In the last decade, the population of the six-county area surrounding Mitchell has declined by 436 households, according to the housing study.

“We depended on that area for our work force,” Hisel said. “Now we need to reach out to as many as we can.”

According to Hisel, up to 40 percent of the area’s workforce commutes from smaller communities into Mitchell for employment.

“From a community standpoint,” Hisel said, “if we add the housing, that will accommodate the workforce.”

According to Hisel, the success of Mitchell and the companies doing business in the city will depend largely on the ability of the housing market to keep up with the needs of a workforce with the potential to grow.

“If you don’t have apartments or housing for people,” he said, “how do you build a community?”

With the possibility of Yankton’s housing study being completed by the end of the year, it will be interesting to see whether the results in Mitchell are replicated here in 2014 — assuming, of course, a shortage is found.

Buried In Laughter: Aziz Ansari Offers Thoughts On Marriage, Kids During Omaha Show

Aziz Ansari stopped at the Omaha Music Hall Thursday as part of his "Buried Alive" tour.

Aziz Ansari stopped at the Omaha Music Hall Thursday as part of his “Buried Alive” tour.

Aziz Ansari is 30 and single.
He shared those vital statistics early on with the audience at the Omaha Music Hall Thursday night during a stop on his “Buried Alive!” tour.
“Buried Alive” could very well refer to what Ansari thinks happens after people get married or have kids. More precisely, it’s what he is afraid could happen if one chooses to erect either one of those two pillars. They can just as easily fall down on top of you, after all.
If you don’t know Ansari, it’s time to change that. He was part of the hilarious “Human Giant” team that sadly only had a sketch show on MTV2 for two seasons. He is also a regular character on NBC’s “Parks and Rec,” and has had roles in many films.
The one common denominator in Ansari’s work is that he almost always makes me laugh. He’s confident yet self-deprecating, and he can do things with his voice alone that crack me up.
So, as I was saying, Ansari is 30, single and has some serious(-ly funny) questions about why people would get married and have kids.
“How long did you know each other before you got married?” he asked the audience. “Five years?” Applause followed from those who had five years under their belt before getting married. He continued down to two years, stopped and looked at the crowd incredulously before laughing: “We’re all laughing at you (people who knew each other less than two years) cuz you’re going to get a divorce!” he said. “Why would you do that?”
He noted he had maintained longer relationships with sweaters and thrown them out after realizing they were no good.
Still, despite all the brazen talk, it felt to me that Ansari is a bit of a romantic underneath it all. That’s probably due to his views on people sending nude photos to one another. I’ll leave it at that. Tantalizing, I know.
Of course, a man of Indian descent (but who grew up in South Carolina) in the heart of Huskerland couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming whiteness of the crowd. Ansari joked that it may be slightly offensive that a bunch of white people were laughing at a man of color on stage.
However, he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Ansari put on a great show. My friends and I gave up a lot of laughs, and that’s good medicine under any circumstances. Thanks, Aziz!

Kevin Coffey of the Omaha World-Herald actually took notes during last night’s performance, so his review is a little more thorough. Read it here.

Coffey’s description of Ansari’s style is accurate:

Ansari’s style is to take regular topics and turn them completely absurd. A story about visiting his family in India segued into a bit about sex and robots. Another about online dating turned into a joke about gay sex and then later into being a superhero.

Whenever he started taking it to a silly place, Ansari would often smirk as if he knew how absurd it all was.

For a taste of Ansari’s “Buried Alive!” material, check out this interview on “Conan”:

Learn more about Ansari here.

Moshe Kasher, who opened for Ansari, was also quite funny. This has some NSFW language.

Delving Into A ‘Big Deal’ Of A Mystery

You’ve probably never heard of Big Deal.

And you’re probably thinking, “Big deal!”

On their first album, “Lights Out,” Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood played two guitars and shared vocal duties. Many of the songs focused on matters of love. It was very earnest and endearing, and I immediately got interested in the band.

My favorite song was “Talk.” (It has some NSFW lyrics.)

Big Deal is releasing a new album called “June Gloom” in, well, June. Judging from the two songs released so far, they’ve left the two-guitar formula behind and gone for a 90s alternative rock, sometimes shoegaze sound that is like music crack to a teen of the 90s like myself. It hits a lot of sweet spots.

One of the songs released is called “In Your Car.”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xylb7f_big-deal-in-your-car_music#.UYkv1IWBD4g

Among the lyrics are, “I’ve got a friend who never lets me down.”

This gets bells going off in my head, and reminds me of this:

I’m taking a ride
With my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
He knows where he’s taking me
Taking me where I want to be
I’m taking a ride
With my best friend

That’s Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again”:

So in my mind, “In Your Car” is some sort of nod to Depeche Mode! Makes total sense, right!?

Well, it may seem like a stretch.

But, it is worth pointing out that Big Deal is on Mute Records, a label that Depeche Mode was on for three decades. It’s quite possible Big Deal are Depeche Mode fans sending faint signals to fellow fans astute enough to pick up the wavelength.

I’m not crazy, right? I’m just very astute. Right!?