Posts Tagged ‘Beth Grant’

Jon Hamm

“NOSTALGIA” My rating: C-

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Nostalgia” is a points-in-heaven movie.

Basically it’s a little art film (well, it wants to be art, anyway) that has attracted an astounding cast of recognizable actors (Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Beth Grant, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, James le Gros, Nick Offerman, John Ortiz, Amber Tamblyn) who are working for little or no pay to be part of a noncommercial effort that they hope will have something to say.

Call it movie star penance. These actors are trying to rack up some points in heaven.

Let’s hope they do, because “Nostalgia” isn’t going to make a ding in either the box office or critical circles.

Written and directed by Mark Pellington (“Arlington Road,” “The Mothman Prophecies,” “The Last Word”), “Nostalgia” offers an interesting premise.  It’s about how humans connect with objects and how giving up or losing those possessions can result in both trauma and a positive re-examination of one’s life.

Plotted less as one contiguous story than as a series of interconnected shorts, the film begins with an insurance investigator (Ortiz) checking out the home of an old man (Dern) who is preparing to sell  everything to finance his last years.

Exactly what the insurance guy does is a bit vague. He says he’s there to see if there are items in the house worth bringing in an appraiser…but on whose behalf we don’t know.  Maybe an evaluation of home’s contents has been requested by the old man’s granddaughter and heir (Tamblyn).

Anyway, the insurance guy’s real job — narratively speaking — is to be a sounding board for other characters. (If “Nostalgia” were given to metaphysical musings, you might view the character as a sympathetic angel.)

His next “customer” is a widow (Burstyn) whose home has just burned to the ground.  She’s lost everything except her late husband’s most cherished possession, a baseball signed by Ted Williams.  Eventually the old lady will travel to Las Vegas and a sports memorabilia shop where the copacetic owner (Hamm) buys the baseball for mucho dinero.

Then we follow the sports memorabilia guy to his home town, where he joins his sister (Keener) in clearing out their late parents’ home. This reunion is marred by a family tragedy. (more…)


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Harry Dean Stanton

“LUCKY” My rating: B+ 

88 minutes | No MPAA rating

Late in the sublime “Lucky” our title character, an ancient desert-dwelling reprobate played by Harry Dean Stanton, informs the customers of his favorite watering hole that, in his opinion, all we have waiting for us is nothingness.

“What do we do with that piece of news?” someone asks.

Exactly. What do you do, how do you live your life, knowing  your time on Earth is limited and that there are no guarantees of a hereafter?

If that sounds heavy…well, it is and it isn’t.

“Lucky” is a deadpan comedy about small town eccentricity that morphs into a meditation on mortality.  It’s a classic case of laugh-sob-laugh storytelling.

The screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja is so solid that it would be a terrific vehicle for any mature actor. That the role of Lucky went to Harry Dean Stanton, who died in September at the age of 91, is one of those made-in-heaven movie miracles.

The script plays perfectly to Stanton’s physicality (sunken eyes, hopeless hair, wraith-like figure) and his tough-crusty demeanor.  How lovely… in an acting career that goes back a half century with films like “Alien,” “Repo Man” and “Paris, Texas,” Stanton’s last big role features what may be his greatest performance.

Add to this the wondrous directing debut of John Carroll Lynch, a much-in-demand character actor (he played Frances McDormand’s stamp-designing husband in “Fargo”), and you have a low-keyed, rib-tickling, heart-tugging wonder.

Lucky — who never married — lives alone on the outskirts of a small town (the setting looks like New Mexico or Arizona). He is a creature of habit.

That means getting up and doing yoga exercises in his underwear, pausing to take a few long drag on a cigarette.  Lucky’s closet contains  blue jeans and identical well-worn red plaid shirts. His diet appears limited to milk, caffeine and Bloody Marys (though he never eats the celery).

He’s got no car, so he walks into town, making the rounds of the diner, Post Office and shops before settling onto his stool at a bar where everybody knows everybody else’s name. He makes a point of baiting the chatty owner (the great Beth Grant), her pretty-boy squeeze (James Darren) and the philosophical bartender (Hugo Armstrong).


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