Category Archives: Entertainment

Michael K. Williams aka Omar

Michael K. Williams was more than just his character Omar Little. That’s how legacy works, though. We become filtered by perception. People are often reduced to singular acts or traits. Michael didn’t suffer the fate of being reduced, though; Omar was larger than life.

If we’re lucky enough, we find a role like Omar Little, something which defines us and gives us a platform to flourish.

“The Wire” was a slow-burning show, one which I loved when it aired. Omar fascinated me, in part because he didn’t adapt to please, and his code put his feet in motion. I loved the show more when I discovered that his killer, a young boy, and sociopath, had previously been in an episode mimicking Omar and saying he wanted to be “the next Omar.” Knowing that many of the characters on the show were based on real people gave the plot a little more kick.

Michael Williams was initially a dancer, of all things.

His scar, one earned in a horrific birthday fight when he was 25, gave him an unintended sinister look that allowed him to blossom as an actor, a career he’d never imagined. An unexpected horror surprised him with his shot in life. Michael Williams had other significant roles; it’s Omar that I picture in my head.

The above picture is one I made a couple of years ago. It’s a 16X20 custom canvas that I have in my weird sink window. I attempted to pack in meaningful references to movies, books, and icons that inspired me. I chose a few “musts,” and the rest I picked at random from a list of about 50.

Omar is in the bottom right-hand corner.

Michael died when he was 54, the same age as me. He’d struggled with drug use for years.

There are a lot of Omars walking the streets. This fact made “The Wire” such an incredible show.

There was only one Michael Williams, and his fly feet will no longer grace the Earth.

“A man gotta have a code,” Omar taught us.

I hope yours serves you well.

Love, X

Dexter+ Vindicated

Since Dexter ended, I’ve told at least five hundred people, “The show will be back. I have no doubt about it.” Many fans were upset by how the show ended. Not me. I get it. The showrunners wanted Dexter to survive the original series.

Three times since Dexter ended, I wrote short pieces regarding my certainty of its return. As Hall opted for other series, I knew that someone would look at the metrics and dollar signs.

It’s a win-win. If you don’t want to ‘spoil’ the original Dexter, don’t watch the new Season 9. For the rest of us, it all hinges on how much creativity the writers bring to the revival.

A little over two years ago, I wrote another piece about the fact that I just KNEW Dexter would return. Turns out, I was right. We’re getting it later this year. My opinion is that its return is perfectly timed. We’ll be in a different frame of mind after the pandemic.

Here’s the blog post from early 2019: https://xteri.me/2019/02/14/dexter-returns-to-kill-us-all/

After all, I told you so!

“What’s Remembered, Lives” Nomadland

The title of this, “What’s remembered, lives,” is a quote attributed to the father of Frances McDormand’s character, Fern. It’s a pithy encapsulation of a truth many of us remember when we lose someone close. Fern finds herself trapped in a self-fulfilling cocoon of memory.

I tried “Nomadland” without knowing much about it. I heard buzz about it before. Frances McDormand seems to bring depth to everything. Though she’s not a classic beauty, she’s aged beautifully. Despite being sixty-four, she appears nude in this movie and does not shirk from any realistic depiction of her character. Some moments will shock you, but none of them are gratuitous.

Frances McDormand’s character is experiencing the hollow of life after her husband died. The town they lived in died due to economics. She travels in a van as a nomad. Each place she visits greets her with fascinating and complicated people, many of whom are portrayed by ‘real’ people from the nomad movement.

It was one continuous, unutterable emotion rendered as a movie.

I might compare it to a dream, one punctuated by hyperrealistic moments that don’t let you flinch away from them. The scenery is beautiful, as is the simple music by Ludovico Einaudi. (Who I discovered accidentally a couple of years ago.) There is an odd assortment of live music in the movie, and all of it is performed with creative intimacy – by people you would love to get to know.

The movie paces with an intentional speed that might confuse some people. This movie is a bit of poetry and prose set in motion. It might well be a creative second cousin to Pat Conroy’s writing.

If I had to compare this movie to something, I might say it’s a photograph of the love of your life found after a violent storm, half-hidden in debris. Or a woman’s beautiful singing voice rendered hoarse from exertion. The beauty is bare for you to see.

Like I always do, I found little pieces of myself in this movie, and in unexpected places.

As for the ending, after Fern experiences her catharsis, it is evident that Fern chooses herself and the nomad life over one filled with people and intimate love. She is a nomad once again.

She will see us all later, though.

How To With John Wilson

If you are looking for a deep, profane, and funny show that takes a single life and amplifies it to include everyone and everything, “How To With John Wilson” will be a show you need to try. I used the word “profane” so that those who have a problem with a full range of language and visual storytelling will know they will have to grimace a few times. As for me, the juxtaposition of the possibility of everything and anything being said or seen is precisely one of the reasons why I love this show.

While it is rooted in New York City, the delight of this show is in the random connections. I laughed at several strange moments.

Each short episode is allegedly centered on a single topic, but only inasmuch as John Wilson wishes it to be. The fringes are what make the show sublime. The last episode, the one decidedly at the beginning of the epidemic, feels like ancient history and yesterday.

You’ll learn something interesting. You’ll also learn something about yourself.

In a nutshell, it is a show worth watching because it slams the boring pieces of life against a curious eye. We live in a boring, mundane, fascinating, and complicated world.

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Rectify Revisit

If you want to try a show that I think should be universally loved, this is the one. Each of us will discover something about what we think we know as we watch.

A few years ago, I watched a show that defied me to dislike it: Rectify. It’s still available on Netflix. As many said, it was the best tv show that no one was watching when it first aired.

“It’s the beauty, not the ugly, that hurts the most.” As wounding as this quote was, I laughed when I heard it again this week. Laughter emanates from the recognition of at least a kernel of truth. Though I was prepared for The Stranger scene in Rectify, the wallop it hit me with caught me off guard. If this quote seems strange to you, it is because you didn’t visit the emotional world created in this tv series.

When Daniel violently taught Teddy a lesson about his ignorance of assault, I laughed at that too, even though the lesson was graphic.

Like other shows such as Six Feet Under, Rectify tore through me like a tornado. It uses language and emotion so close to my own inner monologue that I felt like someone strip-mined me a bit to create this show. I learned more from SFU during the second viewing. Rewatching Season 1 of Rectify both amplified and soothed my past life for me. For those not exposed to brutality, it may seem counterintuitive to find redemption in seeing someone else suffer to find it.

Along with books like “The Prince of Tides” or “A Prayer For Owen Meany,” I add “Rectify” to the list of great works that line the perimeter of the sublime for me. If you watch “Rectify” with a keen eye, you will see bits of me hidden in there.

Watching the show again, I must admit that a couple of the scenes almost led me to burst into tears. I think it’s because I recognized the beauty in the struggle. We’re never the same person twice.

Here’s a link from something I wrote a few years ago:

https://xteri.me/2017/12/28/the-gift-of-rectify/

Security Camera Theater

Yesterday, I exited through the back door of my house to collect the trash blown loose from my villainous neighbors. I went house left to the front.

Note: I am using the term “house left” just like actors would when reading or hearing “stage left.” It’s a handy trick to distinguish which side of the house you’re talking about, mostly when gossiping about your neighbors. If you don’t gossip or speculate about your neighbors, chances are you’re not one of my people.

My Latinx neighbor was outside with another gentleman. A ladder was near the front of the garage. I peered up to see that they were installing security cameras. The neighbor tends to work at nights, leaving his wife nervously at home. I used to tease him that his encompassing fence managed to conceal potential intruders rather than thwart them. Additionally, when working, his lights often pointed annoyingly in my face or a random direction.

Now that I know he has installed cameras, I can’t get the idea out of my head of doing weird puppet or stick figure shows above the fenceline so that the rear-facing camera on the right side of his house will capture my imagination come to life. I laughed earlier this afternoon when I realized that I was Googling creative and bizarre characters to buy for just such an endeavor. The internet being what it is, there are a lot of websites for this sort of zaniness.

Now that it’s starting to take form, the urge to bring the idea to fruition is almost insurmountably overwhelming me.

The idea of my neighbor’s face reviewing his camera footage to discover that someone has staged a stick or puppet show above his fenceline brings me joy.

It’s Just a Song

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A couple of nights ago, I was scrolling YouTube on the FireTv app. I tend to discover a trove of songs in other languages. When I began to learn Spanish enough to discover nuance, music in Spanish opened my mind and heart to other styles I hadn’t appreciated. There are many words that I still associate with the first time I understood them through music. Artists with clear voices gave my dubious English-oriented mind the opportunity to understand them.

If I’ve heard it before, I don’t remember it. A song titled, “¿Quién Dice Que No?” by Oscar Cruz played. The video was overly dramatic but the song in its simplicity hit me in the face. Listening to the song again, I was struck by the simple majesty of Oscar’s voice.

As I do with all such songs, I listened to it several more times the next day.

Curiosity overtook me. I discovered that Oscar Cruz won the first season of the Mexican version of “The Voice.” And rightly so. The show and his judge/coach failed to return Oscar’s contribution by helping him afterward. After all, people like Oscar are what makes the judges million dollar salaries possible. While Oscar plays several instruments and has a booming voice, his advancing age make stardom an elusive goal for him.

While there is a lot of his music I’m not partial too, I will always remember the first time I heard this song. Oscar plays several instruments.

After reading about Oscar’s story, I realized I had seen his performance of Piano Man in Spanish on La Voz Mexico a few years ago.

I wonder what he thinks of his momentary fame a decade ago.

¿Quién Dice Que No?

Top Gun, Otis Redding, And a Coincidence

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In the movie Top Gun, when Maverick (Tom Cruise) goes to Charlie’s House, most people remember the iconic song “Take My Breath Away.” For me, though, the song that stole the moment was Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay.” Toto originally was supposed to do the “Danger Zone” song, as well as another that would have been the song used instead of “Take My Breath Away.” Judas Priest was going to do a song for the soundtrack too but thought the movie would flop, as did many critics. Tom Cruise declined to do the movie repeatedly.

Most people with harsh criticisms of the movie tended to knock “the talking scenes” such as the one following the love scene at Charlie’s beach house. We all endured the testosterone-laden antics of our male friends in the late 80s as a result of this movie. For most of us who survived the 80s, each of us has at least one guilty pleasure in a song from the movie. I don’t think any of us miss the aviator sunglasses that seemed to be everywhere. None of us fully escaped the energy of Kenny Loggins as he sang “Danger Zone,” the fourth or fifth choice to sing the song.

What most people don’t consider is the unintentional coincidence of Otis’ biggest hit being in the scenes at the beach house. Maverick was about to go on the biggest mission of his life in one of the most modern airplanes in history, where death followed at every high-G spin.

Otis Redding recorded “Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay” two times in 1967, with the second time being shortly before he died in December. The song was never officially finished. Otis is heard whistling in the song because he forgot the riffs he intended to fill in and started whistling to preserve the session. After Otis died, the beach sounds were added to this famous song by Steve Cropper, who helped Otis co-write the song.

I forgot to mention: Otis died in a plane crash.

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

I know it’s weird to be excited to see a movie about someone who was utterly annihilated by the media and law enforcement.

I’m thankful that Clint Eastwood is making the Richard Jewell movie. Movies like this, of course, cause my blood pressure to jump, but they always remind me that people can go amazingly wrong, especially when the are righteously convinced of the inerrancy of their conclusions and motives. People are accused of all manner of things for which they might not be guilty. We’d like to think that some imaginary justice will prevail to help anyone wrongfully accused. Our system doesn’t function that way.

If you’ve forgotten the mess that the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta created, I recommend that you start with the Wikipedia page for Richard Jewell, the man whose life was ruined by law enforcement and the media. Follow it by reading about the wacko anti-abortionist/ anti-gay Eric Rudolph, who was actually the culprit for the Olympic bombings – and others.

It’s challenging to fault Clint Eastwood when he narrows his focus on a subject. Some of his films have been both sublime and amazing. The movie, “Richard Jewell,” is supposed to be in theaters sometime in mid-December. I’ll make sure to take a double-dose of my blood pressure medication when I go see it.

If the movie is 1/4 as good as the trailer, we’re all going to be fuming.

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood