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the square (ruben östlund, 2017)

The only other movie I've seen by Ruben Östlund is Force Majeure, which I liked, although I had no idea there was humor until I read reviews. So it's progress of a sort that I laughed a few times during The Square.

You might call The Square smug ... at the least, it is quite proud of itself. Some of the set pieces (and there are several) seemed to exist solely to have something to show off, and I imagine they'd work out of context ... one notable scene with a monkey man (or whatever he was ... he was played by "animal movement specialist" Terry Notary, recently seen as the title character in Kong: Skull Island) might be interesting if you watched it on YouTube without knowing any context. I loved lead actor Claes Bang, who I had never seen before. He was perfect in the part, and reminded me of many other actors that I liked ... maybe like a Danish Sebastian Koch. And Elisabeth Moss is always surprising, plus she has that ability to look odd and completely beautiful, often at the same time. (That she had a pet chimpanzee was a bit much.)

The Square has a lot to say about the art world, and the people who live in that world, and most of what it says is pretty cutting, if not quite mean enough. None of the characters come off well, although they are pleasant enough on the surface and not exactly evil underneath. It's too long at almost 2 1/2 hours, but you knew I'd say that. I wasn't bored, so it didn't really matter.

And as for Oscars, it's the first Best Foreign Film nominee I've seen, but I much preferred First They Killed My Father, which didn't get nominated.

Here is one of the more talked-about scenes in the movie:

There is also a funny scene featuring a person with Tourette's, and I am crude enough that I am a sucker for Tourette's jokes. Partly because of that scene, I was reminded of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which also relies on cringe humor. So I'll leave you with this, a restaurant opening where the chef has Tourette's:


music friday: 1971

Marvin Gaye, "What's Goin' On". Great video with Marvin on piano and the incomparable James Jamerson on bass, from the movie Save the Children.

Led Zeppelin, "Stairway to Heaven". Overplayed, to be sure, and not even their best, but you couldn't avoid it in 1971, or 2018 for that matter. Video is from a live 1975 performance. As usual, I have no idea what Robert Plant is going on about, but this band was never about lyrics, and Plant's vocals were the perfect sonic match for whatever Jimmy Page was doing.

Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee". Great song, great performance, but I still think Big Brother was the best fit for her.

The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again". Like "Stairway", another song that is past its sell-by date, and the lyrics don't hold up. But what a band they were, and it's always fun to watch Keith Moon "lip"-syncing on drums. Another great bass player, although John Entwhistle and James Jamerson couldn't be more different. Entwhistle plays bass like a lead instrument ... Moonie does the same with drums, for that matter, which may explain why Pete Townshend was so good at rhythm guitar ... he needed to be the rhythm section.

Joni Mitchell, "A Case of You". Not as overplayed as the other songs here, but just as good.

Sly and the Family Stone, "Family Affair". #1 hit from one of the greatest albums ever, by one of the greatest bands ever. The album title, There's a Riot Goin' On, was said to be a reply to the question Marvin Gaye asked on the first song from this list.

David Bowie, "Changes". His most famous song?

Isaac Hayes, "Theme from Shaft". "You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother (Shut your mouth) / But I'm talkin' about Shaft (Then we can dig it)."

Carole King, "It's Too Late". Speaking of inescapable, this Grammy winner for Record of the Year comes from Tapestry, which sold 25 million copies.

John Lennon, "How Do You Sleep?". An answer record. To "Imagine".