Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: Not your typical dysfunctional family

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is “The Hollars” (2016):

First off, “The Hollars” is not another blockbuster out to break the latest blockbuster records. But it’s even better. It’s a small film that took only three million to make. In today’s movie budgets, that’s loose change. It would even cover Iron Man’s wardrobe.

The Holars are not just another dysfunctional family. They’re dysfunctional in a way that takes the cliche out of dysfunctional. They’ve got the same kind of charm I found in the Southern family of “Crimes of the Heart” or “Home for the Holidays”.

Sally Hollar has been married to Don Hollar (Richard Jenkins) for thirty-eight years. She has two sons. Don is a small business owner whose business is going bottom upsky. Her son, Ron (Sharito Copley), is living at home because he lost his job. He’s divorced because he wanted to be divorced. Now he’s missing his kids and wants his marriage back. His ex-wife is seeing a youth pastor (Josh Groban). And her son, John (John Krasinski), is off in New York City, trying to make it as a graphic artist. He lives with his pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick).

Then Mom has a seizure in the bathroom one morning.  And she is the glue that holds the family together with her love, her honesty and her sense of humor. But now she is not going to be the one to hold the family.

Filled with a solid cast of wonderful character actors, “The Hollars” is well worth seeing. It’s a movie that made me smile. And kudos go to Anna Kendrick. This is the second off-beat movie I’ve seen her in recently. The second was “Table 19”. And she is making quite an impact as a character actor.

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Uncle Bardie’s Music Spot: Miss Ella sings

Today’s song calls attention to the fact that they don’t write songs like they used to. And they don’t sing them like they used to either. With the exception of a few artists.

If you want to know what an angel sounds like when they sing, check out Ella Fitzgerald. Whether she sang a little ditty like “Tisket a tasket” or a song like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” she could take you to the moon and back with her voice. Listening to her, we’re listening to perfection.

And she makes it look so easy. When I’m listening to Miss Ella singing, I know what a song was meant to sound like. She invites you for a ride and it is so smooth and easy and wonderful, you want to take a second ride, then a third, and a fourth and a fifth.

So relax and listen to a true master. The choice for today’s Thursday’s Music Spotlight is Miss Ella giving us “But Not for Me.” It’s from George and Ira Gershwin’s musical, “Girl Crazy,” originally performed by Ginger Rogers. It’s one of the great love songs of the twentieth century.

Near 500 words: TW makes an appointment

Episode 13 of The Writer.

Cat would not come out from under the bed no matter how much TW (aka The Writer) pleaded. Finally TW gave up and went into the kitchen and made breakfast. After breakfast, he readied himself for work, taking a shower, shaving, then getting dressed.

As he finished his dressing, Cat walked across his feet. He reached down and picked her up and stroked her in his arms.

“What’s with you, Cat?” he asked about her strange behavior. She had never ran away and hid under the bed, not coming out when he called her. What had spooked her? Maybe it was the smell from outdoors.

A kind of sulfury smell. Yes, that must be it. And he had carried it on him when he came back indoors. The smell must be from the streak of light the night before. He thought about going to investigate but he had to get to work. He could always investigate later. Or not.

He sat Cat back down on the floor and went into the kitchen and filled her bowl. This was her food for the afternoon. Then he headed out for work.

As usual he was early for work. In the break room, he ran into Buddy Grady, his closest friend at work. Ten years younger than TW, they had become friends over the years, going out bowling from time to time. It had been Buddy who introduced Helen to him.

“I ran into Helen this weekend.”

“Yeah?” TW tucked his lunch into the refrigerator and closed the door. “How is she?”

“She wants you to call her.”

TW thought about the suggestion for a minute or so while Buddy made coffee, then, “Maybe I will.”

Buddy wrote Helen’s number down on a piece of paper and passed it over to TW.

“Buddy, you know anyone at the school who is good with languages? Ancient languages?”

“A number of people, yes.”

“I know the usual bunch. I’m talking about someone who can translate something that doesn’t fall into the usual suspects.”

Buddy gave TW a strange look.

“Oh, I’m doing some research for a alien story I’m working on. It’s stumped me.”

“In that case, you’ll want to talk to Mark Hand. He does all the advising for those movies and tv shows about aliens.”

“No, I don’t need that kind of expert. I need someone who knows some obscure ancient languages.”

Disappointed, TW’s head dropped. “I guess I’ll have to go outside the University. I really didn’t want to do that. It will take much longer.”

Buddy’s face changed into a smile. “I think I’ve got the right person. Dr. Baxter. She’s a whiz at languages and she loves puzzles.”

“Christine Baxter?”

“Yes. She’s up for a challenge.”

TW went to his desk, thinking about Buddy’s suggestion. He’d only met Christine Baxter once and she seemed to be a strange bird. For a teacher, she was extremely shy. Everybody said she kept to herself. Only came out of her office to teach her two classes, “An Examination on Sumerian Culture” and “Who needs the Hittites anyway?”

He sat down at his desk, unlocked his drawer, then logged onto his computer. He sent Dr. Baxter an email, asking for a meet. Then he ran through his email. Most of it was University stuff or Departmental requests. One student had emailed him a request for help with his research for a new game he was trying to build.

Then Dr. Baxter’s email arrived. “Will tomorrow at ten a.m. be sufficient? If so, meet me in my office.”

TW shot her back an email, agreeing to the appointment. Then he decided he had to see the Library Director.

Spoiled Rotten

Madeleine Snipe was one spoiled rotten little girl. I’m here to tell you she was spoiled rotten to the core. So spoiled she’d get down right persnickety if’n a body called her Maddy. It was Miss Madeleine to regular folks, and Madeleine to her nearest and dearest, thank you very much. And what Miss Madeleine wanted Miss Madeleine got.  ‘Cause her daddy was the richest man in five counties. Come to think of it, he was the richest man in the whole darn state.

When Miss Madeleine was nigh on three years old, she decided she had to have a tricycle. And not just any tricycle. It had to be a hot red tricycle with a motor on it. She didn’t see the need in peddling. That was a complete waste of her time. Peddling was for them who needed their exercise. Being she had the waist of a goddess, why would she be in the need of exercise?

When she started school she demanded a servant to follow her around, carrying her books and such and responding to her every need. Not just any servant either. He had to be a tall, dark and handsome fellow. And he wasn’t about to wear any old thing. He had to wear a tuxedo. This, she believed, would make others mind her status as someone who was to be looked up to. Then, from her pedestal, she could give out her blessings upon the truly deserving.

And talk about snooty. She was not about to attend the Debutante Cotillion until she was crowned its Queen. She drove up to that Cotillion in her bright red Ferrari. When she stepped out of that Ferrari, she walked onto the red carpet being rolled out just for her in her Pierre Cardin gown. As she walked up the steps to the ballroom, the carpet was rolled up behind her. It was her red carpet, and she darn well was not going to share it with anybody. 

When it came to marrying, she would only marry a blue blood. To be her dearly beloved she hitched up with Beau Beau Beauregard, of the Louisiana Beauregards, not the Mississippi Beauregards. It didn’t matter that he had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. The Louisiana Beauregards were descended from royalty. If Miss Madeleine cared about anything, she cared that one and all recognized her for the blue blood flowing through her veins.

Her Daddy, being happy when his precious Princess smiled upon him with those teeth of hers that were the best that money could buy, gave her a mansion on a hill for a wedding present. And it wasn’t just any mansion. At first, she insisted on the Taj Mahal. But she changed her mind when she found out the Taj Mahal was a mausoleum. For you folks that don’t know what a mausoleum is, it’s where you put dead people after they’ve died. So she had to settle for the Versailles Palace. Anything for his one and only darling daughter.

Beau Beau and Miss Madeleine returned from their around-the world-cruise-on-the-Queen-Mary-2 honeymoon. They settled into their new residence as easy as slidin’ off a greasy log back’ards. The following Saturday afternoon the creme de la creme of American society came to tête-à-tête with our Miss Madeleine and her Prince Charming. It was a chance for the high societies to get by and say their howdies. Or else.

Of all the times God would have to be off duty, it just had to be that Saturday afternoon. Seems he was on the greens finishing up a game of nine hole with Arnold Palmer and the Archangel Gabriel. That had to be the only way a tornado could slip through and head straight for Miss Madeleine’s gathering at the Versailles Palace.

That tornado went through the Palace like a lawn mower. It hit half the houses in the state and then it gave the Palace a haircut, leaving nothing behind. Fortunately Miss Madeleine and her guests ducked for cover.

Unfortunately Prince Charming didn’t have the sense God gave a billy goat. He dashed over to save the Venus de Milo sitting out on a stand for show and gave it a grab. Just as he turned to join his beloved, that tornado picked Charming up into its arms and threw him right into the state capitol building butt last.

Well, you’d think Miss Madeleine would have gone into mourning from her tippy-tippy toes to her fake blonde hair and crying all over everybody. But she didn’t. She had always wanted an occasion to wear black, and now she had one.

Once they had settled Charming his last resting place, it was time to get down to brass tacks. Miss Madeleine did what she always did. She made her demands known. And her demands were that FEMA and the Federal Disaster folks replace her beloved Versailles, and not just as good as new. Better.

“No, no, no,” Mr. FEMA said.

“No, no, no,” Mrs. Federal Disaster Aid said.

“Oh, yes, yes, yes,” Miss Madeleine said.

“We have to take care of all those other folks who lost their homes,” the head of Homeland Security said.

“Now, y’all just don’t get it,” Miss Madeleine let them know.

And they didn’t. But the folks in that part of the state did. They knew they would never hear the end of it if Miss Madeleine Snipe-Charming didn’t get her way. She’d throw a hissy fit that would make the Civil War look like a hootinanny. They started a petition. And that petition went all the way up to the Oval Office in the White House.

The President took one little gander at the petition and said, “Doggone if’n we’re gonna.”

His Chief of Staff disagreed. He too knew that Miss Madeleine would come calling on him and bawl her eyes out, then blame him ’cause she was near blind. “Mr. President, please. ‘Cause you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.”

The President looked over and saw the desperation in his Chief’s eyes. “Well, what about all those other folks?”

“I know,” Chief said, “and they know.”

So it was lickety split, and Miss Madeleine had her new Palace. Everybody else in that part of the country ended up living in tents.

Three months later one Wednesday night, a tornado, and I mean this one was a tsunami of a tornado, went blasting across the landscape. It picked up the new Palace and slammed it down hard enough to make folks believe it was an earthquake. Then it took off for only God knows where.

When the dust had cleared, folks gathered round and saw that a house had landed on the Palace, and on top of Miss Madeleine. All that was showing were her shoes. Out of the house stepped a young girl. She looked around at all the stunned folks, then she said to the puppy dog tucked in her arms, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Joseph Reed Hayes, Playwright

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is Joseph Reed Hayes, a Central Florida Playwright: 

A clip from Joseph Hayes’ play, Destination Moon. “Two people in two little rooms. A young woman, a bed, an unseen voice, music in the night. “Destination Moon” tells the story of a young woman recovering from a serious illness, attempting to deal with the consequences of actually surviving by forming a relationship with a disembodied voice in the night; a veteran late-night radio personality. Featuring Emilie Scheetz, Chan Sterling, Lauren Carder Fox and a live soundtrack composed and performed by La Lucha pianist John O’Leary. © 2018 Joseph Hayes hayesplays.com”
     A major reason I feature creative artists and their work here is my hope that they will inspire my readers to do their creative work. Joseph Reed Hayes is one of those who inspire me. He has established himself as a playwright and continues doing marvelous work. Thank you, Joseph, for participating in Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight for Creative Artists.
     Here is a short bio, then his answers to five questions concerning his work as a dramatist:
    “I’m a full-time freelance food and travel writer, feature writer, theater and music critic and cultural explorer. My other hat is worn in performance spaces, as an award-winning playwright, jazz event producer and advocate for new, original creative work for in-house and online audiences. http://www.hayesplays.com.”
1.What made you want to become a playwright?
“I don’t think “want” enters into the picture. I was in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, working with writer/artist Douglas Coupland, when he told me to put aside my path of short story mediocrity (the exact words were “Stop writing that shit”) and take up playwrighting. Six months later I had my first play in front of a paying audience.”
2.How many plays have you written and have they all been produced?
“I always do first production of my plays, so I can see how they work in front of people before sending the little darlings out, along with readings and my own performances. So factoring in every public presentation of my work locally and around the world, my play in June of next year will be #40.”
3.What inspires you to start a new play?
“What inspires anyone? An overheard conversation, a strange and unusual fact that sticks into my strange and unusual brain, bits and pieces of my life and family and friends, music … I’ve got no shortage of ideas, there are at least (at least!) six plays waiting in the queue.”
4.What do you enjoy the most as a playwright?
“Everything. Every single thing about the process, from procrastinating about writing it to making the poster (make the poster first) to finding actors and musicians (not always easy) to my favorite thing, the First Read, to rehearsal to when the audience comes in. The only part I dread is the half-hour before curtain, when I lose my mind and am certain everyone will realize I don’t know what I’m doing.”
5.What’s your latest play being performed?
“I just finished a production of A Slow Ride in April. Bēma Productions in Victoria BC will be putting on my play, A Little Crazy, as part of the Victoria Fringe Festival in August. My next local play is In Five at the Timucua white house in June, 2020; I’m sure something else will pop up between now and then.”