I found myself this week watching Sullivan's Travels, the classic 1941 Preston Sturges movie that seemed like an appropriate antidote to the often grim times in which we live. I was right to revisit the movie, which I don't think I've seen since it was shown during one of my college film courses; while it is very much of its time, it absolutely stands up.
Sullivan's Travels is the story of Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), who always has made slapstick comedies and musicals, but who feels the urge to make something serious that reflects the Great Depression the country has just gone through and the World War on the horizon. The name of his passion project: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?." (Yes, the Coen brothers stole the name for their film.)
In order to better understand what he thinks of as the plight of the common man, Sullivan decided to become a hobo, an effort complicated both by circumstance and made more pleasurable by his encounter with a wannabe actress, played by veronica Lake. The plot takes twists and turns, and does veer into both the melodramatic and what we would now think of as political incorrectness, but the ultimate message is an enduring one - the power of laughter as a cure for much of what plagues us.
There's a new series running of HBO Max called "Hacks," which would seem a little derivative if it weren't for two terrific lead performances that are totally worth watching.
The plot does like this: a young comedy writer gets blackballed because she's posted a politically incorrect joke on social media. She's desperate for work, and so her agent pairs her with another of his clients, a aging standup comic who is closer to the end of her career than the beginning and who, to be honest, could use some fresh material. Two episodes in, all they've really done to this point is get on each other's nerves, but you can tell that there is going to be redemption and renewal emerging from the culture and generational clashes.
What makes it special - other than the writing, which is slam-bag - are the actresses who breathe life and vigor (and a little bit of vinegar) into their roles. Jean Smart, who can apparently do anything (judging from how different she is these days in HBO's "Mare of Easttown"), plays the older woman without vanity and with simmering rage at an industry that seems to be all about tomorrow, with no memory of yesterday. Hannah Einbinder, a standup comic I've never heard of, plays the younger comedy writer and is absolutely fearless as she struggles to figure out her next career move and this new employer who may be her last shot.
There is an exchange, at the end of episode two, that seems like it is the stuff of a business class in 2021. Smart's character, fed up with her employee's whining, says:
Good is the minimum. Good is the baseline. You have to be so much more than good. And even if you're great, and lucky, you still have to work really bleeping hard. And even that is not enough. You have to scratch and claw and it never bleeping ends. And it doesn't get better. it just gets harder.
"Hacks." You have to have HBO Max to watch it, but it is totally worth it.
Amazon has announced when the seventh and final season of "Bosch," based on the Michael Connelly novels, will drop. June 25. Can't wait, though I'll be sad to see it go (but happy a spinoff will move to Amazon's IMDB channel).
Here's a preview:
My wine of the week is the 2017 Mary Taylor Pascal Biotteau Anjou Blanc 2017, a delicious Chenin Blanc which is subtle and honeyed and perfect when served ice cold on a warm day.
That's it for this week.
I hope you have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.
Stay safe. Be healthy.