DID YOU READ

“Blackthorn,” reviewed

“Blackthorn,” reviewed (photo)

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You remember what John Ford taught us about the Old West: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. The legend about Butch Cassidy goes that he died with his partner, The Sundance Kid, in a shootout in Bolivia in 1908. But what if the legend was wrong? The new film “Blackthorn” proposes a counter-legend: Cassidy survived and retired to a life of quiet anonymity as “James Blackthorn,” a rancher in the Bolivian mountains. Twenty years later, Blackthorn decides if he’s getting old enough to die, he might as well die at home, so he sets off for America. But getting back on his horse and picking up his guns seems to bring back all the old ways of the Old West, and before long James Blackthorn is acting like Butch Cassidy again.

The simple but effective “Blackthorn” casts playwright and actor Sam Shepard in the title role, and if ever a man deserved the nickname “Butch,” it’s Sam Shepard. Gruff and silvered but still handsome at age 67, he looks every bit the badass cowboy in the autumn of his years. The film puts most of the dramatic load on Shepard’s grizzled shoulders; his understated line readings carry most of the film while beautiful frontier cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchía does the rest. Shepard’s worldweary performance and Anchía’s stark camerawork elevate the material beyond your standard revisionist Western fare (odd how revisionist Westerns are now the standard; perhaps revisionism is due for its own revision).

Blackthorn’s return to America in 1927 gets sidetracked when a passing stranger knocks him off his horse and separates him from the life savings hidden in his saddlebags. This man, Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), has stolen $50,000 dollars from a corrupt mining baron, and offers to split it with Blackthorn if he’ll help him escape from the armed men who are chasing him. Blackthorn does and the two slowly develop a friendship and partnership not unlike the one he shared decades earlier with the Sundance Kid. Occasional flashbacks to the famous partners’ last days together in Bolivia provide nostalgic counterpoint to the elegiac “modern” sequences. Shepard and Noriega have decent onscreen chemistry together, but Noriega makes a few serious missteps in his final scenes, crying and screaming and cursing in a way that feels wildly out of place in an otherwise quiet and reflective film.

In Blackthorn’s present, the West — or really the South, where Butch and Sundance fled when there was no West left to explore — has turned bleak and cold. I lost track of how many horses died of exhaustion after death marches through the unforgiving deserts of Bolivia but the number’s got to be close to double digits; director Mateo Gil (screenwriter of “Open Your Eyes” and “The Sea Inside”) holds little back in depicting the grim brutality of the frontier. The West of John Ford’s time was the home to many myths about personal freedom and discovery. The revised West of modern cinema is a sadder, darker place. Shepard is fun to watch but life in Bolivia sure looks like no fun at all. There’s no freedom left to discover, just the labored breathing of a simpler time trudging along on its last legs.

“Blackthorn” is now playing and is also available on VOD. If you see it we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

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It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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