“Lucky” is not only a captivating film, but a noble tribute to Harry Dean Stanton. Stanton died recently at the age of 91, and no obituary could honor him more than this emotionally meaningful movie.
Here, Stanton plays Lucky, a 90-year-old man living alone in a small house at an unnamed desert location in the Southwest. He begins each day lighting a cigarette, doing a few yoga exercises and then walking into town to grab coffee at a diner where he works on a crossword puzzle. Though everyone knows him, he is a distant, atheistic recluse who is trying to make sense out of a life nearing its end.
While trying not to dwell on his past, he still considers the saddest moment in his life the day he accidently shot a mockingbird that he was only trying to scare away with a BB gun. As you listen to him tell that small, tragic story, you wish there was a way you could just enter the film to provide him some comfort.
Lucky also pays a daily visit to a local bar to have a couple of Bloody Marys. In the process, he engages in some wonderful interplay with old friends who are all wrestling with the meaning of life. One is Howard, played by actor/director David Lynch, who is in agony after his pet tortoise, named President Roosevelt, escaped from his yard. In addition, Beth Grant gives a tremendous performance as the owner of this small tavern, glorying in the fact that she has given Fred (Tom Skerritt), another patron, salvation from a lost life by simply choosing him to be her lover.
The film is filled with a collection of these moments where you see Lucky walking the streets and countryside alone in his tattered straw cowboy hat and old boots. Smoking several packs of cigarettes a day, he leaves his doctor (Ed Begley, Jr.) astounded that he didn’t die decades earlier.
Lucky firmly believes that life ends not in the hands of God, but with all of us drifting into some nameless void. However, he discovers the fundamental importance of life while attending a birthday party for a local Hispanic boy with the wonderful name Juan Wayne. In what may possibly be the most endearing moment in any film released this year, you see Lucky join three Hispanic musicians in singing a loving song completely in Spanish.
At its conclusion, you see him respond to applause by rediscovering the most powerful gesture a human being possesses, a smile. Everyone on screen and off had a smile on their face at that moment, and I was left wiping away tears of joy from my cheeks.
Ironically, given that Stanton died shortly before the release of this movie, I couldn’t help but reflect on my favorite David Lynch movie, “The Straight Story” (1999). That was an enchanting film about a 70-year-old widower, played in an Oscar-nominated performance by Richard Farnsworth, who wanted to visit a dying brother to settle old scores. Given that Farnsworth lived in Iowa and his brother lived in Wisconsin, he was forced to ride a lawnmower the entire distance given that he did not have a driver’s license.
Stanton played the dying brother in that movie, and Farnsworth passed away before the Oscar awards were passed out months later. No actor could die in more memorable fashion than these two gentlemen.
Every now and then a sci-fi film brings magic, adventure and drama to the big screen. “Thor: Ragnarok” joins “The Lord of the Rings” in that category.
Having previously displayed his satirical charm in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016) and “What We Do in the Shadows” (2015), director Taika Waititi has brought us a film that deserves to be recognized in several categories at Oscar time. The cinematography is wildly inventive, and the musical score keeps your heart pounding from the opening scene to the last battle. Filled with both heartbreak and humor, this film rivals any other movie released this year.
Australian Chris Hemsworth is chiseled in real life like the Greek god he plays, and in addition brings a sarcastic edge that Waititi exploits in a raucous fashion. This is particularly seen in his relationship with both his brother Loki and his old friend, The Hulk. Tom Hiddleston will leave you laughing uproariously in the most serious scenes, and Mark Ruffalo is unforgettable as The Hulk, a haunted soul who is just trying to rediscover how to again be the endearing human known as Bruce Banner.
But what makes this movie so special are the contributions of Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson and Carl Urban. Blanchett is at her best as Thor’s twisted sister Hela, a gorgeous woman intent on destroying everyone and everything to control the universe. Jeff Goldblum brings to the screen one of the great comic characters to be seen in recent years, here playing the Grandmaster, the leader of a distant planet. Thor finds himself trapped there with The Hulk, and Goldblum has created a replica of the Roman Coliseum where captives must fight to the death in front of a cheering crowd.
Urban has a small but meaningful performance as Skurge, a troubled man who is tormented by his indecision on whether to support Thor or Hela. Yet, Thompson comes close to stealing this movie as Valkyrie, a heavy-drinking, violent woman trying to forget her tragic past. While she is constantly a bit loaded, this is not a woman you want to piss off.
This is a film that makes movie-going a joy.•
• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.