The Overnighters

MPAA Rated – Not Rated
It’s 1:30 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

The Overnighters
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Jay Reinke
MPAA Rated: Not Rated
Released By: Drafthouse Films
Video Release Date: February 3, 2015
Kiddie Movie: Nah, it’s about a lot of down-and-out people.
Date Movie: If she’s interested in a good documentary and not something mushy.
Gratuitous Sex: Some talk of sex offenders, but nothing graphic.
Gratuitous Violence: Just one person trying to get the Reverend off of their property and threatening to shoot him.
Action: Nah.
Laughs: Ehh.
Memorable Scene: The reveal by Rev. Jay of something from his past.
Memorable Quote: “A man with no teeth and living with his daughter calling other people trash.
Directed By: Jesse Moss
Cool things about the DVD: Some of the deleted scenes actually should have been left in the film, and the extended interview with Rev. Jay is actually interesting.

The OvernightersThe stories were out there: Move to North Dakota! There are tons of jobs, waitresses are making $15+ dollars an hour, and you can easily find a job making over $100k a year! While some of this may be true, when stories like this get published what happens? Tens of thousands of people, mostly out of work, consider moving to North Dakota to find work. Here’s the problem. While there are jobs, there aren’t that many, and it’s North Dakota. The fracking boom has come mostly to smaller towns that don’t have the resources to accommodate such a giant influx of folks, many of whom are down on their luck, have questionable pasts, and think that North Dakota, or in the case of the documentary “The Overnighters,” Williston, North Dakota, is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “The Overnighters” focuses on these people, the ones not getting the jobs, as well as Rev. Jay Reinke, a pastor in Williston who opened his church to those who couldn’t find a place to say, much to the dismay of the town, especially when the questionable pasts of those seeking shelter came to light.

As the documentary opens we see the Reverend waking up the people he has sheltered for the night. Most of them are men, those who came by bus or train are sleeping throughout the complex, in hallways and rooms, while those with cars would sleep in the parking lot, and the documentary begins to key in on a few of them with Rev. Jay, trying to help them through the transition to find a job. He advises them to clean up, cut their hair, get a resume together, and keep trying, but challenges await most of them, especially as background checks reveal criminal records, but more importantly for the documentary, people on the sex offender list.

We see Rev. Jay’s family who is trying to do the Christian thing and help everyone they can, but you can see the strain the situation is placing on them as well. The key to this story is the town of Williston, torn by wanting to be good Christians, yet wanting to keep their small-town feel, worried about crime, and trying to keep their children safe.

Progressing through the documentary we learn that the Reverend is housing men with sex offender pasts, both in the church and in his home, and while some might be a blip on a record that follows them for life, others are not so seemingly insignificant, and when the local paper brings this to light, the blow-back for Reinke is insurmountable, especially as he is harboring some of his own secrets.

What I loved about this documentary was that it really showed the flip side to the stories of the boom of North Dakota. You see the people and some you root for, but many you question because at one instance they seem like people just trying to restart their lives, but then you see them slip into being assholes again. The thing is this even happens with Rev. Jay when one minute he seems like the great-natured guy, just trying to help, but, and sure every story has two sides, from the commentary by some of the people he helps, there are times even his motives seem questionable. There is an extra with a detailed follow-up interview with Reverend Jay when he addresses this, mostly in a manner consistent with his personality shown in the film.

There are a few times the documentary drags, but other than that “The Overnighters” is a fantastic look at the other side of the North Dakota story. Sure, those with a little bit of a better plan than the people just “showing up” and thinking millions await them probably have a decent chance of the good jobs, but it’s this other side people don’t hear about.

This documentary shows people doing a lot of soul-searching, losing even more, like their families, by even coming to North Dakota, and a Reverend who has his own demons that he can’t come to grips with. It’s a great look at the town reaction, those who don’t have it so easy, and the challenges faced when the “boomtown” event happens because not everyone is happy about it. It’s 4 stars out of 5 for “The Overnighters.” I guess I would have liked a few success stories on people who really made it, though there was the one dude who was excited because he was actually going to have someone to supervise. Other than the little blurb of “What is happening now,” a little more follow-up on some of the characters might have been nice. Also there is some “niceness” about the documentary, although one of the outtakes, “I Used to Stay Here,” really shows the flip-side and the volatility that can be there. I think I might have like to have seen a little more of that.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Another Story of Super Bowl Gluttony

Chicken Wing Preparation for the Super BowlEric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune had a story about gluttony, or at least the preponderance of gluttony as explained by The National Chicken Council in Washington. The National Chicken Council came out with some crazy number of chicken wings that would be eaten during the Super Bowl. Eric’s story explains how his father did the math and pretty much the average consumption of chicken wings during the game would be 11+ wings should the Council’s numbers be accurate, and that upon further review, or a phone call to the chicken people, Eric found out that they meant the number of chicken wings during the entire Super Bowl weekend would be over 1.25 billion, Sure, that’s still a lot of chicken wings, but nowhere near the boisterous chicken slaughter needed for Americans to get their chicken wing fix during the Super Bowl.

Missing in the story, though, is the fact that we have a National Chicken Council. I guess it’s not really missing, I mean there are trade groups for just about everything and their dual purpose is usually to promote their goods to the public as well as make sure Congress has their group’s best interest at heart, in other words, doesn’t screw them over with bad legislation.

Me, although I helped the National Chicken Council work to achieve their boisterous claims of chicken wing consumption, it seems I came a bit short of the average needed because, from the preparation photo of our chicken wings, we’ll fall a bit short of the average between me and my wife. I do wonder however: Did you eat more than ten chicken wings during the Super Bowl?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

 

The Real Office Competition

It’s Girl Scout Cookie time. Yup, the postings are happening on Facebook (“Ashley is selling Girl Scout Cookies! Let me know how many boxes you want!”), the girls are walking the neighborhoods with their parents selling them door-to-door (at least I assume they still do that, though no one has shown up at my door, yet), we’ll probably hear of some enterprising young girl outside of the fitness center, and in corporate offices nationwide the rush is on to be the first to announce, “My daughter is selling Girl Scout Cookies! Place your orders now!” The problem is what happens when multiple people work in an office, and said multiple people have daughters selling the Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos? Do you wait for the co-worker who is your “friend” to sell them, or just fill out the giant form from the first person who leaves it in the break room? If you’re waiting for your friend, what happens if you don’t fill out the form for the first person only to find out your friend isn’t selling them? Maybe you just put in an order with every parent selling the cookies, finding that when delivery day comes you are stuck with enough Tagalongs to last until 2018? I image the office complexities of selling Girl Scout Cookies can be a challenge. It’s probably important to be that first Dad putting out the form so you don’t have to lie to your daughter that your entire office is on a diet right now and won’t be buying her cookies, only to have her find out on Bring Your Daughter to Work Day that Shelly’s dad sold 10,000 boxes because he was there first.

Usually I end up buying my Girl Scout Cookies from the girls in front of the grocery store. First, it’s kind of an impulse buy, which is nice, because I can get some instant gratification, and it was also fun the one time I bought them for my Mom, who likes to freeze them, and I asked for a dozen boxes and the girl’s eyes lit up. I have to say I rarely buy them from people I know, mostly because I don’t have time to wait for them, but at the end of today I wonder: Who do you buy Girl Scout Cookies from?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Eww, it’s gross in there!

I’m not an everyday flier, but as I’ve written in earlier blogs, I have been on an airplane before. In my earlier flying days, whether solo or with friends, I have to admit that I never thought twice about pulling magazines, and especially SkyMall, out from the seat-back pocket in front of me. I would always check out the airline magazine to search out the crossword puzzle to kill some time for the flight, but SkyMall was always where the entertainment was at, and I was a little sad to hear it was going away, filing for bankruptcy because people use their electronic devices for everything nowadays, including buying that speaker that looks like a rock.

If you’ve flown you probably remember something in the SkyMall magazine that you wanted to have, thought was inventive, imagined would look good in your front yard, or even thought would be perfect for your pet. Undoubtedly you would put the magazine back in the pocket when done, get along with your flight, and most likely forget about the pet feeder that was going to free you from that daily chore of feeding your best friend. SkyMall was there to help you discover a world of things available around you that you didn’t know existed, and sadly, even though the internet is filled with the same crap you don’t really need and can find at a cheaper price, it was the discovery that made SkyMall great, but because no one would buy, or even look at the magazine any longer, it’s going away, along with cool items like the Brew to Go Sippy Cup and the proverbial globe that was also a bar.

The thing is, with the end of SkyMall, I really have no reason to gross out my wife when we go for a trip somewhere. I recall the first time we flew together, and I reached for that seat-back pocket. You would have thought I was digging into a diaper to take out some poop and smear it under my nose by the look on her face, and while yes, I knew there was probably gross-ness in that pocket, there are many times I just do my best to ignore what might have been left there, who might have been touching those magazines earlier, and sit back with the “Why didn’t I think of that?” thought constantly in my head.

My wife will probably be happy it’s gone so I won’t have a reason to take anything out of the seat-back pocket, but I wonder, at least up until this demise of SkyMall, do you take anything out of the seat-back pocket in an airplane?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Cyber-Seniors

MPAA Rated – Not Rate
It’s 1:15 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

Cyber-Seniors
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Shura Eadie, Ebert Hobbs, Henri Pelletier, Max Schellenberg
MPAA Rated: Not Rated
Released By: Virgil Films
Release Date: January 27, 2015 – Online and VOD
Kiddie Movie: Not too young. It’s a documentary and there’s a lot of talking.
Date Movie: It’s cute enough for the two of you.
Gratuitous Sex: Nothing that will make you blush.
Gratuitous Violence: Nah.
Action: Nah.
Laughs: The seniors with no governor on some of the things they say.
Memorable Scene: Shura cooking the grilled cheese with an iron.
Memorable Quote: Annette says “I’m not eccentric.” and Henri the mentor just rolls his eyes.
Directed By: Saffron Cassaday

As I was watching Cyber-Seniors I couldn’t help but think of three people, my Mom, my Mom-in-Law, and my Dad-in-Law, and although a little older than all of the mentors in the documentary, my experience with each my seniors was pretty much the same as the mentors had with theirs. My Mom was an early adopter to the Internet though she passed away before Facebook hit it big which would have helped her re-connect with many more people she lost touch with than she had found just through email and Google searches. My Mom-in-Law’s adoption, especially on her iPhone, quickly accelerated once she hit Facebook, even to the point she has now discovered Snapchat as “GrandmaEleanor” and loves posting her “stories” while keeping in touch with the Grandkids. My Dad-in-Law stays away from social media, but loves finding any news site he can discover. Teaching all of them various aspects of the internet and social media takes a lot of patience, but as the mentors show in the movie, the patience pays off the minute you see the smile of the elder discovering the wonders of Skype, Facebook, and finding out that the younger generation swears too much in their Facebook postings.

As the documentary goes, Macaulee and Kasha Cassady had a high school project back in the late 2000’s after they witnessed their grandparents discovery of the Internet, and they started a program to help other seniors get online. They ended up setting up a group, recruited friends to help teach the seniors, and their sister, Director Saffron Cassaday, started filming the sessions. The documentary keys in on a few of the seniors, their mentors, the elder’s challenges in understanding the concept of the Internet with the youngin’s challenges in finding ways to help point the elders in the right directions, and the excitement of discovery as the elders realize their is another world out there beyond the walls of the retirement home by becoming part of their families everyday lives again.

The training progress showing everything from just turning on a laptop, to using webcams and Skype, even to online dating, while the movie concludes with a contest amongst the seniors, namely to see who can be the biggest “YouTube” star amongst them. Their worlds open up again, and it’s a joy to see.

The beauty in training seniors is that they rarely have a governor any longer, and some of the best moments in the documentary are times when the seniors don’t hold back about people’s looks and their opinions on life, and while some are a little hesitant at first, worrying that if they unfriend someone on Facebook that said “unfriend” will come and attack them, eventually, once they see the benefits, they love it.

All in all it’s a nice documentary about the youngins helping the oldins learn how to get online. There is a little bit of a side story as Macaulee and her grandfather came down with cancer during filming which kind of took the story off the rails a bit, and things dragged a tad as we came to the YouTube contest, but the touching commentary by Ebert Hobbs on having a purpose in life long past your retirement is both poignant and a nice ending to the movie.

A fun look at the old folks learning about technology and it’s 3 1/2 stars out of 5 for “Cyber-Seniors.” If you’ve ever tried to help an elder learn about technology you can relate to the patience the mentors have, but mostly you can relate to the joy when the senior finally “gets it.”

On a side note, if you are interested more about the movie, want to be a mentor or cyber-senior, be sure to check out the the Cyber-Seniors website.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Ernie Banks – Lets Play Two

Cubs  Opening Day 2008With the passing of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, as much as I thought he seemed like a nice guy, I don’t recall ever seeing, or reading, in the social media world, such an outpouring of support and kindness for a person. I’m sure there are some “Glad he’s gone,” posts somewhere, but it seemed everyone loved the guy, or at least respected his contribution to baseball. Sure, there were the normal, celebrity remembrances, but across my Facebook friends, people I grew up with in Ohio whom I wouldn’t have imagined really knew who he was, were there posting “Rest in Peace” comments, “He will be missed,” and even the White Sox fans, who are supposed to despise with all of their being anything Cub, had nice things to say. The other thing? Most of them had an Ernie Banks story. There were the stories of meeting him at a Cubs Convention, in an airport, on the street, and I’m sure there was someone regaling to his friends how he took a pee next to Ernie Banks in a bathroom somewhere.

And yes, even I have an Ernie Banks story.

Cubs Opening Day 2008I never did meet the man, though from everything everyone has posted I’m sure he would have been nice to me, but my story relates to his statue that is currently being tidied up for the next Cubs season and not available for fans to lay flowers, or other mementos, out of respect for him. It was back in 2008, another Cubs Opening Day with kind of crappy weather, but it was the official unveiling of the Ernie Banks statue. I wrote about it in a blog post at the time, and remember it to this day, because his saying, “Let’s play two!”, was synonymous with Cubs baseball, was spelled wrong. There, for eternity, or at least until it could be corrected, on the base of the statue, was an English teacher’s nightmare, “Lets play two.” Silly me, I didn’t take a picture of it, instead just some pictures of the crappy weather, but it’s one of those thing you look at and might wonder “Is that correct? I mean, it’s on the statue?” Sure enough, the apostrophe was added, all was right with the Ernie Banks legacy, and me, I at least have the story of seeing his statue with “Let’s” engraved incorrectly.

I’ll admit I’m not always the best at my own editing, that I’ll miss an apostrophe or two, but there’s my Ernie Banks story. It’s not much, and I do wish I would have met him I suppose, but I also wonder: Do you have an Ernie Banks story?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

 

Refrigerator Stickiness

Growing up, well, I suppose not even growing up but just back at home at the old homestead, my mom had all kinds of crap stuck to the refrigerator. Schedules, appointments, maybe the occasional report card, hell, I don’t really remember it all, I just remember there was a lot of stuff on there. It was her version of the pocket organizer, only it involved a lot of magnets and a lovely, brown, refrigerator. Refrigerators have come a long way since then, especially in color (good luck finding a brown refrigerator on the floor of your local appliance store), as well in features, but one thing that still seems to be sort of a status quo, at least for people I know is there is stuff stuck to them.

I know some of the new stainless refrigerators won’t let magnets stick, but there are tons of ways to get around that with a variety of sticky solutions to the posting of your child’s latest artwork. Our current refrigerator is also a kind of hodgepodge of stuff (and my wife might kill me for posting the picture), but it includes a little magnet of Chicago, some magnets of vegetables, a nice saying about God, and a giant calendar we received from our local church, complete with an advertisement for a funeral home to remind of our final destination that will come eventually. There are also these magnetic hooks that aren’t really strong enough to hold much, yet there they are, but oddly none of the photos she had up at our old house made the move, or at least made it up on the refrigerator yet.

There are some people who prefer a clean slate if you will, no clutter, no magnets, no sticky-tack, and although not the daily organizer my mom had, it does make me happy that my wife likes stuff on the fridge. It also makes wonder: Do you have anything stuck to your refrigerator?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Your Workaholic Siblings

Every now and then I check out my horoscope. Usually it’s on Sunday when I’m reading the actual newspaper, made of paper, and there they are, at the end of the Arts & Entertainment section, but since things have gone online for most of my reading one of the things that has gotten lost is my daily horoscope. Not that I really take much stock in what the horoscope says, especially because if you happen to do something crazy, like read every horoscope for every sign for the day, you will find all of them remarkably similar many times, but sometimes there is some entertainment value to what some person can write, in the most general terms, of how your day should go. Sometimes, though, they also make me sad because I know I’ve got no chance to accomplish what my horoscope says I should.

My case in point was a horoscope of mine from a few weeks ago. Me, I’m a Taurus, born in May, which supposedly lends me to being stubborn and liking gardening. As I started with the horoscope there was hope on the horizon: “Focus on making money for a few days.” I thought, “Who doesn’t want to do that? I’m in!” It then went on to tell me to strengthen my infrastructure, whatever that means, that I should “enter an intense work phase” and that would lead to reaping the rewards, and sure, I’m still going along. Suddenly it all came crashing down. “Partner with an older workaholic, especially a sibling.” I realized “I’m screwed.” Yup, I thought of my sister and brother, the basic definition of sibling, and while they have been known to work hard, I wouldn’t consider either of them addicted to work. My sister might be addicted to cats, but not work, and my brother, well, not the workaholic there if I recall unless something has changed in the last five years I don’t know about.

So much for making money for a few days, but reading that horoscope did make me wonder: Do you have a workaholic sibling?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Bound by Flesh

MPAA Rated – Not Rated
It’s 1:30 Long
A Review by:
Andy Labis

Bound By Flesh
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Daisy Hilton, Violet Hilton
MPAA Rated: Not Rated
Released By: IFC Films
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Kiddie Movie: Nah, it’s a documentary. They’d be bored.
Date Movie: If she’s a documentary kind of girl.
Gratuitous Sex: There’s talk.
Gratuitous Violence: Nah.
Action: Nah.
Laughs: Some chuckles at some stories.
Memorable Scene: It was interesting seeing the sisters performing together.
Memorable Quote: “Freakery sells.”
Directed By: Leslie Zemeckis

Think about your best friend, your wife, your sibling. You like them, don’t you? You probably generally like to be around them? Now picture being attached to them, and I’m not talking emotionally, but physically attached, kind of around the butt area, for 60 years. Granted you didn’t start out that way, but Daisy and Violet Hilton were born, as conjoined twins, and “Bound By Flesh” gives a fascinating, yet kind of sad look at the ladies who had fame, sort of, but because of the people around them had nothing, really, but each other.

“Bound By Flesh” takes you on the journey, from birth to death, of Daisy and Violet. We learn early on that their Mom was devastated when they were born, feeling punished by God because she was having children out of wedlock. Mom was a barmaid, and though she wanted no part of the kids, her boss, Mary Hilton, saw financial potential in exploiting the kids so she bought them from mom. Thus began a life of being trotted out in front of people, bar patrons “testing” their connection, and isolation and control so that the girls couldn’t have a life.

The girls were taught music and dancing, oddly enough, so as their life progressed they ended up in the carnival circuit mostly thanks to Edith and Myer Myers, a couple who ended up with the twins after Mary Hilton died. They did well because, as one guy puts it in the documentary, “Freakery sells.”

Eventually a few people around them gave them the courage to sue Myer, and they won, but a life of isolation, and getting older, didn’t prove helpful to the sisters as bad business decisions and failed relationships followed them for most of the rest of their lives. Yes, they became one of the highest grossing acts in Vaudeville, but as is cautioned in the documentary, be careful what you wish for because now, without the control of Myers, the girls were free, promiscuous, and general party girls who could never figure out who the con-men were, and also never had decent guidance for the rest of their lives, losing touch with the changing world and not being able to understand why people didn’t want to see them any longer, nor understanding the business of it all, and failing to see that as they grew older their popularity went away.

Stranded in North Carolina by their tour manager and left with nothing, the twins, who at a time seemingly had it all, were hired by a local grocery store, and it’s there they lived out the rest of their lives. Working at the store gave them a little money, but more for the ladies, it gave them time to reminisce with the staff and customers as all they really wanted to do was entertain.

They could have been separated later in life, but Daisy and Violet, by this time, realized their lives were one, and they probably couldn’t survive without each other, and in the end Violet came down with the flu. Daisy made the decision to lie there, in their little home, and die along side her sister.

“Bound by Flesh” is a fantastic documentary showing both the ups, but mostly downs, of the Hilton sisters. Their lives are reminiscent of many child and young actors, where the manager or family pretty much steals everything from them, and eventually they become “whatever happened” anecdotes. The other thing about the documentary is that as much as it’s about the sisters, it’s also a great look a the early days of the carnival and of the side-show, how the shows got their start as outgrowths of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, as well as the rise and fall of Vaudeville, and it’s relation to the sisters.

Fascinating yet sad lives, if you are looking for a wonderful documentary I must say I really enjoyed “Bound by Flesh.” It’s 4 out of 5 stars for this great look at two ladies who could have had so much more if it weren’t for the scumbags around them.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

Everyone Has Gotten Caught Shoplifting

I’ll admit the title of this “Andy Wonders” is a little bit of an exaggeration, but it occurred to me the other day when I was shopping at Target that most everyone has gotten caught shoplifting, or nearly everyone at least in the eyes of the scanners that sound off an alarm when you leave the store if the anti-shoplifting tag hasn’t been de-activated properly. I know it’s happened to me. Sometimes it has happened when I bagged my own stuff at the store, which of course makes me wonder if I did forget to scan something, and then there are the times when it happens after I go to a real, live check-out person, and I’m pissed that either they A) Didn’t scan something and that makes me a shoplifter, or B) They didn’t deactivate the anti-shoplifting tag thereby having everyone look at me as I’m leaving the store thinking I’ve just stolen the latest Taylor Swift CD or porterhouse steak.

What I find mostly, though, is that for all of the times I’ve gone through the scanners and they’ve gone off, or when I’ve seen other people go through the scanners and they sound the alarm, I’ve never seen anyone actually care. I generally just keep on walking, maybe making a motion that I noticed the alarm, but also making the motion and face of “What, I didn’t steal nothin’.” Most other people seem to have the same reaction, and I can’t recall ever seeing a store employee jump to action, yelling “Halt! Thief! We must check your bags because that little metal strip inside your DVD says you are stealing it!”

I’ve never seen anyone really care up until the other day.

There I found myself, about twenty to thirty feet behind two girls as they were leaving, and the alarm sounded as they were leaving the store. Rather than act like 99.9999% of every human being, these two girls actually stopped in their tracks, turned around, and I heard the one girl tell the other “We have to go back to see if they forgot to scan something.” I wasn’t sure if I was proud of the girl for her honesty, guilty because I know I would have just kept walking, or mystified at their decision to verify their purchase.

I also wondered another couple of things. One has always been how those little things protecting the merchandise actually set off the alarm. I mean, I’ve taken them apart and it just looks like a couple of strips of metal in a plastic container. For this post I actually took one apart for you to see, at least the one inside a Reservoir Dogs DVD I had. The other thing was a little more people related, so for this post I wonder: Have you ever gone back into the store to verify your purchase when the anti-shoplifting alarm goes off?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!