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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Buckley-Vidal: The shape of things to come

I was in the army during the presidential conventions of 1968, just a couple of months removed from heading to Vietnam. But I recall watching the debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal. If you never got to see them, you might want to check out "Best of Enemies," the documentary film about those debates that opens today at the Magic Lantern.

My review of the film, which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio, follows:

Anyone who is old enough to remember the presidential conventions of 1968 likely remembers just how turbulent that year truly was. People took to the streets to protest everything from Civil Rights to the Vietnam War, and nearly 17,000 U.S. troops would die in Vietnam – making 1968 the war’s deadliest year. America was shaken by a series of assassinations, most recently that of Bobby Kennedy, and President Lyndon Johnson – realizing that he could not win a second elected term – had declared he would not run.

Everything, in short, was changing. And as the British writer Arnold Bennett once wrote, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”

One of the changes involved television news coverage. In those days, TV viewers could tune into three networks and, if they were lucky, maybe a publicly run station. Everything else was snow. Of those networks, NBC and CBS attracted the most viewers, with ABC continually attempting to find inventive ways to catch up.

During the 1968 Republican and Democratic presidential conventions, both of which were held in August, ABC News decided to break with tradition and find a different way to cover the events. Until then, all three networks had opted for gavel-to-gavel coverage. But ABC – which, like its competitors, was filming the conventions in color for the first time – decided to offer 90-minute nightly reports that included political commentary – debates, if you will – from two of that era’s most recognizable intellectuals: the conservative writer and TV host William F. Buckley and the acerbic, liberal essayist and novelist Gore Vidal.

And as co-directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville make clear in their documentary “Best of Enemies,” which opens today at the Magic Lantern, the pairing of Buckley and Vidal was almost as fiery as the violence that hit the streets during the Democratic convention in Chicago. Both were from the same social class, both attended Eastern prep schools, both were patrician in manner (if not necessarily, referring to Vidal, in manners), and both were witheringly intelligent, quick-witted and well-prepared to defend their polar-opposite points of view.

Oh, and personally, they didn’t really much care for each other.

To tell the story of the debates, Gordon and Neville – the latter of whom won an Oscar for the 2013 documentary “Twenty Feet From Stardom” – amassed archival TV footage and employed both a range of experts (including the late Christopher Hitchens) to provide subtext and the actors Kelsey Grammer and John Lithgow to give voice to comments made by the debate principals, both of whom are now dead.

The result is a fascinating look at both the men – similar in so many ways while being so different in as many others – and at the age in which they lived and worked. Gordon and Neville may over-reach a bit in attempting to make a larger statement about the lingering effects of the Buckley-Vidal debates. But not by much.

Just look at what political commentary has devolved to in this era of social-media trolling and ask yourself: Are we any better off?

Movie endings: A study of ‘Seven’

Discussing movie endings is a tricky exercise. Mainly that's because even years afterward, some people still haven't seen the movie in question and don't like to have their viewing experience spoiled.

I've always believed that there is a time limit on talking about movies, including their endings. And while I try never to reveal a movie's ending in a review — unless it is a really, really bad movie, or unless the movie is really, really old — I think talking about a 20-year-old movie is perfectly fine.

And so that's why I'm offering up this link to a Yahoo! Movies story about "Seven" (sometimes spelled "Se7en"), David Fincher's 1995 film that stars Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as two cops investigating a series of murders involving the Seven Deadly Sins.

The story is a study of the film's dramatic and surprising ending, which helped confirm Fincher's reputation as a talented filmmaker if only because it is such a startling cinematic moment. At the story's end, you'll get the chance to watch the entire scene.

So watch. And enjoy. But not if you haven't already seen the film.

By the way, did you know that Rosebud is a sled?

GU Law School film takes you to Africa - for free

One nice thing about having local access to three universities and two community-college campuses is the variety of programs these institutions offer to the general public. (And if you are willing to drive, other institutions can be found in Coeur d'Alene, Pullman and Moscow; the riches just never end).

For example, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Peace and Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state, will speak at Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center at 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4.

To prepare yourself for the talk, you might want to attend a free screening of the film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a documentary about Liberia's civil war and the Christian and Muslim women’s peace movement in that country. The film will screen at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Barbieri Courtroom at the Gonzaga Law School. GU Law professor Mary Pat Treuthart, cohost of the Spokane Public Radio show "Movies 101," will facilitate a discussion afterward.

And, yes, full disclosure: Prof. Treuthart and I are married. But don't let that influence you. Let the fact that the screening offers up a view of the world the mainstream seldom addresses speak for itself.

Also, did I mention that the screening was free?

Friday’s openings II: In and out of emotion

This just in from the Magic Lantern: Along with "Best of Enemies," Spokane's arthouse movie theater will be picking up a couple of second runs. One will be "Inside Out," the clever animated feature from Disney-Pixar, and "most likely" (manager Jonathan Abramson provided that qualifier) the metaphor-as-life study "Learning to Drive."

The one sure thing at this point about "Learning to Drive," a movie that is based on a 17-page essay written by Katha Pollitt, is that Thursday is its last day at AMC River Park Square. The one thing I can say about "Learning to Drive" is that it is better — or at least better directed — than the mainstream-oriented trailer below would indicate.

Friday’s openings: Mountains and monumental jerks

On this overcast Monday morning, it seems as if summer has already deserted us. Oh, please, say it ain't so. Anyway, we always have the coming week's movie openings to look forward to. Friday's openings are as follows:

"Captive": Here is what IMDB has to say: "A single mother (Kate Mara) struggling with drug addiction is taken hostage in her own apartment by a man on the run (David Oyelowo) after breaking out of jail and murdering the judge assigned to his case." Happens every day, right?

"Black Mass": Johnny Depp portrays the notorious Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, whose exploits included co-opting local and federal authorities and going on a decades-long run from the law. Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud, arrrgh!

"Everest" (3D IMAX only): Thrills, chills, storms and impending death, all portrayed in 3D on the BIG screen. Bring a sweater.

"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials": After escaping the Maze, our protagonists must adapt to a desolate landscape. What, no iPhones?

"Grandma": Lily Tomlin returns to the big screen to play a non-PC elderly woman who decides to help out her pregnant granddaughter. And that's the truth.

And at the Magic Lantern:

"Best of Enemies": This documentary explores the battle between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal that took place during television coverage of the 1968 presidential conventions. If you weren't watching, the blood was all metaphorical.

Foo Fighters rock the Gorge

(Above: a photo taken with my iPhone of the Foo Fighters at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night. As it's impossible to get a good concert photo with an iPhone, this is the best we can do.)

It’s been 20 years since Dave Grohl created Foo Fighters. The group’s self-titled debut, recorded single-handedly by Grohl in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana’s demise, was a fast and furious 44-minute blast of melodic rock.

Two decades, seven albums and multiple Grammy Awards later, Grohl and his band are still making raucous music. And if Saturday night’s show at the Gorge Amphitheatre is an indication, they’ll be doing it for years to come.

The show was high energy, loud, and fun – all that you’d want from a Foo Fighters set. And Grohl proved himself to be one of the hardest working showmen around. Earlier this summer, he fell off a stage in Sweden and broke his leg. Not only did he come back to finish that show that same night, he was determined to complete the band’s 20th anniversary tour.

His solution: a kickass rock ’n’ roll throne bedecked by guitar necks, situated atop a set of speakers and complete with laser lights. “It has a cup holder,” he told the crowd, grabbing a red Solo cup and taking a swig of his “vocal medicine.” He designed it himself, he said – apparently under the influence of oxycontin – and flashed that first sketch on the screen above the stage. The throne is an eye-catching set piece, one that Grohl used to full effect. With his right leg still in a cast boot, Grohl may be confined to the seat but in no way was immobilized. He managed to headbang at will and give his upper body one hell of a workout while the throne traveled up and down the stage.

The show opened with a blistering four-song sprint through “All My Life,” “Times Like These,” “Learn to Fly” and “Something From Nothing.” The band – Nate Mendel on bass, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear on guitar, Taylor Hawkins on drums and Rami Jaffee on keyboards – next launched into “The Pretender.” A fan favorite, judging from the crowd rocking along with fists pumping.

Grohl then slowed things down for “Big Me,” performing it illuminated by fans’ cellphones and lighters. It looked and sounded pretty great.

Anyone who’s been to a Foo Fighters show knows Grohl loves to talk. And he did. He talked about this being a quasi hometown show, given the band’s birthplace in Seattle, and how he appreciated the beautiful setting above the Columbia River. He talked about parenthood and the 7:45 a.m. school drop-off. One of the best anecdotes involved Fred Meyer and how much he misses the Northwest superstore now that he lives where there aren’t any. It’s the kind of store, he said, where you can buy a Fugazzi cassette and a ceiling fan. He used the story to introduce his song “Aurora” off the third album, “There Is Nothing Left to Lose.” It was a highlight of the night as the song showcased Grohl’s singing.

Any complaints are minimal. There was a 10-minute section of guitar noodling that seemed more at home at a Dave Matthews Band show. More troubling was that the sound mix was off at times. Once it sounded as if Grohl’s mic was turned off, and other times the thunderous band completely swallowed his vocals.

Still, as the band rolled through a great cover of Queen’s “Under Pressure,” sung by Hawkins, “This is a Call,” “Alone and Easy Target,” and a rollicking rendition of “Monkey Wrench,” the fans stayed with them for the long haul, as happy to be there as Grohl and his comrades appeared to be. With the opening riff of “Everlong” – the band’s traditional closer – the audience erupted. It’s considered by many to be the best Foo Fighters song; Rolling Stone readers called it such in a 2013 survey. “The only thing I’ll ever ask of you,” Grohl sang, “you gotta promise not to stop when I say when.” And no matter how much many in the crowd didn’t want it to stop, the 2.½-hour set came to a fantastic end.

‘Z Nation’ stars have little use for Spokane

I've never understood why people who come to Spokane for the first time are amazed at just how beautiful the setting is, how surprised they are to find some actual gourmet restaurants here and, in general, learn just how satisfying the experience is. Not energizing, maybe, but certainly enjoyable.

But if they're in the media, and they go return home to a mecca like Los Angeles, they have no problem taking snarky shots … well, just because.

Two of the stars of "Z Nation," which is filmed in Spokane, did exactly that when egged on by the talking heads at Los Angeles television station KTLA last Wednesday. Their names: Michael Welch and Kellita Smith. And their comments are already having an effect on some local filmmakers and erstwhile supporters of the show.

This whole thing would be sad if it weren't actually so stupid. As Clancy Bundy of "Transolar Galactica" put it, "Spokane is post apocalyptic? Your state doesn't even have water."

Holbert, Marshall, Farrell, Gordon earn Washington Book Award nominations

Six East Side writers – four of them from Spokane – are finalists for the Washington State Book Awards, the Washington Center for the Book announced on Friday.

The Spokane nominees are Bruce Holbert, Tod Marshall, Mary Cronk Farrell and Greg Gordon. Joining them are Moses Lake native Heather Brittain Bergstrom, who now lives in California, and Richland writer Maureen McQuerry.

Holbert (pictured above) and Bergstrom are finalists in the fiction category, he for “The Hour of Lead,” she for “Steal the North.”

Holbert’s novel, his second, was released in July 2014 from Counterpoint Press. The work of historical fiction centers on Matt Lawson, whose family life is marred by tragedy and who struggles to find love. It’s a tough story where the landscape – Eastern Washington’s coulees, scablands, and wheat fields – is as much a character as any person. Bergstrom’s book touches on questions of faith and family when a teenage girl is sent to stay in Eastern Washington with an aunt and uncle she never knew.

The other finalists in the fiction category are “A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain” by Adrianne Harun of Port Townsend; “The Iron Sickle” by Seattle’s Martin Limon; and “The Dismal Science” by Peter Mountford, also of Seattle.

Holbert, a teacher at Mount Spokane High School, is also the author of the 2012 novel “Lonesome Animals.”

Marshall (above), who teaches at Gonzaga University, is a finalist in the poetry category for his acclaimed collection, “Bugle.” It’s a tough collection, as Rich Smith noted in a review for Poetry Northwest: “Here and throughout, Marshall tries to use poetry to redeem humankind’s brutality, reaching back to the old masters for formal guidance. But when he plies his trade, he finds that we don’t deserve redemption. We bludgeon the natural world with our fear of death, and we’ll continue to do so as long as that fear maintains.” "Bugle" is his third poetry collection.

Other finalists in the poetry category are “Hourglass Museum” by Kelli Russell Agodon of Kingston; “In Orbit” by the late Kim-An Lieberman of Seattle; and “The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse” (Copper Canyon Press) by Red Pine, of Port Townsend.

In the books for young adults category, Farrell (below) earned an nod for “Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific.” A Junior Library Guild selection, the book tells the story of Army and Navy nurses caught up in the war in the Pacific.

Farrell’s fellow finalists are three Seattle authors: “Between Two Worlds” by Katherine Kirkpatrick; “Six Feet Over It” by Jennifer Longo; and “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” by Leslye Walton.

In the history/general nonfiction section, Gonzaga University’s Gordon earned a nod for “When Money Grew on Trees: A.B. Hammond and the Age of the Timber Baron.” He’s up against “In Season: Culinary Adventures of a Pacific Northwest Chef” by Greg Atkinson of Bainbridge Island; “The North Cascades: Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby” by William Dietrich of Anacortes; “Mary Randlett Portraits” by Frances McCue  of Seattle; and “Trying Home: The Rise and Fall of an Anarchist Utopia on Puget Sound” by Tacoma’s Justin Wadland.

McQuerry’s “Time Out of Time: Book One: Beyond the Door,” is a finalist in the middle readers category, along with “Phoebe and Her Unicorn” by Dana Simpson of Des Moines, and “Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides: Maps and Geography” by Seattle “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings.

The awards will be presented on Oct. 10 at the Seattle Central Library. For more information, visit www.spl.org/audiences/adults/washington-state-book-awards.

An acting career for Martin?

Entertainment Weekly reported this week that “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has a cameo in an upcoming episode of the SyFy zombie series “Z Nation,” which is filmed in Spokane.

Martin, who was in town this summer for Sasquan, the international science-fiction convention, took some time to appear as a zombie in the series’ eighth episode of the new season. As EW reports, the zombie Martin is being held captive by the Collector, who keeps celebrity zombies.

The second season of “Z Nation” debuts today at 10 p.m. Catch the premiere on the big screen starting at 8 p.m. at the Garland Theater. There will be a costume contest and actors from the show will be on hand. Admission is $10, with proceeds to benefit KRYS Thin Air Community Radio.

Writers are heading to GU

Gonzaga University’s Visiting Writers Series will kick off Oct. 1 with a presentation by Kimberly Meyer, whose latest is “The Book of Wanderings,” released in March.

In it, Meyer writes about her travels with her daughter, Ellie, as the two women form a tighter bond and face their futures and their pasts.

Meyer has been heard on “This American Life” and has had her nonfiction featured in The Southern Review, Ecotone, Best American Travel Writing 2012 and Agni. (Oct. 1, Cataldo Globe Room, 7:30 pm.)

The rest of the schedule follows.

Oct. 28:  “What is Eco-poetry: a forum and reading,” featuring Roger Dunsmore, Megan Kaminski, Linda Russo, and Derek Sheffield. (7:30 p.m., Cataldo Globe Room, with a forum at 2:10 p.m. in the Foley Library Writing Center, moderated by Eastern Washington University’s Paul Lindholdt)

Nov. 19: Rattawut Lapcharoensap, whose stories have appeared in Granta and Zoetrope. His first collection, “Sightseeing,” was released in 2005. (7:30 p.m., Cataldo Globe Room)

Jan. 27: Manuel Gonzales, the author of “The Miniature Wife and Other Stories” (Riverhead) and the forthcoming novel, “The Regional Office is Under Attack.” (7:30 p.m., Cataldo Globe Room)

Feb. 16: Tony Hoagland, whose five volumes of poetry are “Application for Release from the Dream” (being released this fall), “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty,” “Sweet Ruin,” “Donkey Gospel,” and “What Narcissism Means to Me,” all from Graywolf Press. (7:30 p.m., Hemmingson Ballroom)

March Robyn Schiff, the author of the poetry collections “Revolver” and “Worth.” A third collection, from Penguin, is due out in 2016. (7:30 p.m., Wolff Auditorium).

The series is organized by Tod Marshall, and presented by the GU English, religious studies and environmental studies departments, the Unity and Multicultural Education Center, Spokane Falls Community College and the Davenport Hotel.

See the secret side of Brando at the Lantern

Many of us who grew up watching Marlon Brando act were amazed at how uneven his performances could be. He'd be great one movie, and then it was as if he would phone in his performance the next. "Listen to Me Marlon," a documentary that opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater, provides some answers as to why this was so.

Following is the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio: 

Movie stars are about as close to royalty as America has ever experienced. This is less true today, maybe, other than at the occasional red-carpet opening or at any one of a half-dozen awards shows. But it was certainly the case during Hollywood’s golden era, which lasted from the late 1920s to the early 1960s.

In fact, that so-called Golden Age withered away less than a decade after a distinctive non-Hollywood actor named Marlon Brando entered the scene. I won’t claim cause and effect here, but the timing is indeed suspicious.

It was in 1951 that Brando – who four years before had stunned Broadway by playing Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” – brought his performance to the big screen. And even these six decades later, Brando’s Stanley stands as a study in brutality, in an ignorance barely informed by inherent vulnerability, but most of all in authenticity. It remains a great screen performance, and it set the stage – so to speak – for a career that would garner two Best Actor Oscars and influence the generations of actors who would follow.

But just as fresh and distinctive as Brando’s acting style was – a style that earned as many barbs as it did compliments when applied to his Oscar-winning, 1954 performance in “On the Waterfront” – so was his reaction to the fame that followed: He hated it. And as he would come to claim, he also came to hate screen acting itself – seeing it as a job, the only one he was good at and the only one that would pay him a handsome amount for a few month’s work every year.

So followed a string of films, some curious, many mediocre, one or two great, that only rarely seem worthy of such a talent. At the same time, the lurid headlines involving Brando’s marriages and divorces, his reportedly troublesome relationship with directors, his reluctance to play friendly – especially in later years – with the press, his 1973 refusal of his second Oscar and, ultimately, the murder-suicide case involving two of his 11 children, would further color Brando’s reputation as a quixotic, mercurial and inordinately strange blend of nonconformity and talent.

Which is why I recommend the Stevan Riley documentary “Listen to Me Marlon,” which opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater. Based on some 300 hours of audiotapes that Brando made, the film gives a personal portrait of both the actor and the man that both explains him AND confirms his status as anything but conventional.

Using the tapes, augmented by archival footage of Brando both offstage and on – including some of his movie performances and interviews with the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Dick Cavett – Riley has created a documentary film that might appeal mostly to Brando fans. But, too, it does provide a penetrating examination of a man, raised in a lonely and abusive atmosphere, who uses his native genius to succeed in a world of celebrity fantasy and make-believe.

Just like, say, the Kardashians. Only with talent.

See prolific J.A. Jance tonight at The Bing

Some writers work all their lives to craft a couple of books. Others, like Stephen King, seem to be able to slap out one a day. Judy Jance, who will appear at 7 onstage at the Bing Crosby Theater tonight, belongs in that second category.

Jance — whose pen name is J.A. Jance — splits time between Seattle and Arizona (she grew up in Bisbee). And these days, she writes mysteries that are set in both places. She began in Seattle, her protagonist being Seattle Police Detective J.P. Beaumont. But she's since stretched to include series around three other protagonists: Sheriff Joanna Brady, former L.A. newscaster Ali Reynolds and an ex-sheriff named Brandon Walker.

In all, Jance — according to her website — has written 24 books in the Beaumont series, 17 in the Brady series, 11 in the Reynolds series, five in the Walker series, plus a poetry collection and a number of short stories. By my count that's some 58 books. And she's done it all in just over 30 years.

By anyone's measure, that's an admirable feat. Jance will appear in support of her latest novel, which features Beaumont and Walker, tonight at The Bing. A $3 donation is suggested.

If you go, pay attention. Jance just might dash out a novel in between signing autographs.

No Kevin Hart tix? Head over to Auntie’s

If you weren't able to score tickets to see Kevin Hart — who's appearing at 7 tonight at Gonzaga University's McCarthey Center — don't despair. Just visit your local video store. After all, the guy's act has been on display on every other movie released over the past three years.

Or seemingly so.

Anyway, if you are free tonight, you can always shuffle down to Auntie's Bookstore to hear author Lloyd Johnson read from, and sign, his two novels "Living Stones" and "Cry of Hope." Johnson, a retired Seattle surgeon who now lives in Edmonds, blogs regularly on Israel/Palestine relations.

To read a feature on Johnson, click here.

To read about the range of quality in Kevin Hart movie, click here.

The calendar’s officially full

Here in Spokane, many of us labor under the belief that our sleepy little burg is lacking in things to do. Some weeks, sure, it's as dead as a cemetery out there. This will not be one of those weeks. The list below is what we just pulled from our "Looking ahead" calendar. There's A LOT of stuff going on the week of Sept. 11-17:

“Last Comic Standing” Live: Sept. 11, the Fox, $27.50-$45 TW

Yes with Toto: Sept. 11, Northern Quest, $45-$75 NQ

Jelly Bread: Sept. 11, the Hive, Sandpoint, $15 TW

Iris DeMent: Sept. 11, the Bing, $29 TW

Sir-Mix-A-Lot: Sept. 12, Perry Street Shakedown, Free

Foo Fighters: Sept. 12, Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Wash. $45-$75 TM

Shania Twain: Sept. 12, Spokane Arena, $46-$136 TW

“Weird Al” Yankovic: Sept. 13, $-35-$45 NQ

(SOLD OUT) Noah Gunderson: Sept. 13, the Bartlett, $17-$20 BT

Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach: Sept. 13, Spokane Arena, $39.75-$45 TW

Stars of “Duck Dynasty”: Sept. 13, Spokane County Interstate Fair, $25-$35 TW

Air Supply: Sept. 14, Spokane County Interstate Fair, $20-$30 TW

John Hiatt & the Combo: Sept. 14, the Bing, $32.50 TW

Craig Morgan, Dan + Shay: Sept. 15, Spokane County Interstate Fair, $25-$35 TW

Hopsin, Dizzy Wright: Sept. 15, Knitting Factory, $20-$23 TB

Orleans, the Guess Who: Sept. 16, Spokane County Interstate Fair, $15-$25 TW

Flux Pavilion: Sept. 16, Knitting Factory, $20 TB

Lee Brice: Sept. 16, Coeur d’Alene Casino, $50-$60 TW

St. Lucia: Sept. 16, the Bartlett, $20 BT

Todd Snider: Sept. 17, the Bing, $27-$37 TW

Lost Lander: Sept. 17, the Bartlett, $10-$12 BT

Cheap Trick: Sept. 17, Spokane County Interstate Fair, $20-$30 TW

Plus, there's the rock 'n' roll musical "Rock of Ages"  - featuring all your favorite hair bands from the 1980s - opening at the Modern Theater Coeur d'Alene. For those who aren't about to rock, but who still enjoy good music, Opera Coeur d'Alene will stage "The Magic Flute" this weekend on the North Idaho College campus.

So get out there and do something. No excuses.

*Those initials at the end of each entry? The ticketing agency where one can buy tickets: TicketsWest, Ticketmaster, the Bartlett, Northern Quest.

Two more chances to discuss those books you read

Summer's over. And at the moment, I can't think of two more sad words.

What did we accomplish? Got a bit older. Survived some truly smoke-filled air. Some of us traveled. Others of us spent time in the sun.

And the readers among us did some serious damage to that pile of books that sit next to our beds. The best books I read this summer were:

"The Narrow Road to the Deep North," by Richard Flanagan.

"The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," by Elizabeth Kolbert.

"Stoner," by John Edward Williams.

I read a number of others, too, though they turned out to be far less memorable. Anyway, I mention reading as a way of listing two book discussion groups that will meet today at Auntie's Bookstore. Both are open to new members.

The first meets at the store this morning at 11. The book under discussion is “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S.C. Gwynne. The second meets, also at the store, this evening at 7. That group will discuss the book “The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair” by Joel Dicker.

For more information, call the store at (509) 838-0206. Or just come on down. Or at least consider it.

Because the only thing sadder than the end of summer is having read a good book but not having anyone with whom you can talk about it. Or, if you prefer, argue.

Friday’s openings: Student drivers and Mexican chickens

The only thing better than a short work week is looking forward to the movies you can see at the end of that week. So as we begin this post-Labor Day week, let's check out what's opening on Friday:

"Learning to Drive": After being left by her husband, a 50-something New Yorker decides to take driving lessons and gets more for her money than expected. And it doesn't involve parallel parking.

"The Visit": M. Night Shyamalan returns with this tale about children visiting their grandparents only to discover true family horror. What, are they forced to eat tuna casserole?

"The Perfect Guy": When a woman breaks up with her boyfriend, she meets someone who she thinks reflects the film's title. Uh, think again.

"Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos": This Mexican-made animated film focuses on a young chicken who must stand up against an evil rancher to save his family. The title's pun doesn't work in English, but this is being called an "egg-cellent" adventure. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Also, "Mad Max: Fury Road" returns in IMAX 3D. And on Sept. 15-16 a special Fathom Event at AMC River Park Square will feature a 3D showing of "Doctor Who: Dark Water/Death in Heaven."

And at the Magic Lantern:

"Listen to Me Marlon": The late actor Marlon Brando is revealed through personally recorded audiotapes and archival footage. What this documentary shows is that, indeed, Brando coulda been a contenda.

Hit Pig Out while you still have a chance

Above: My brother devours his shrimp and crab wrap.

By now, you've probably sampled something of what the 2015 Pig Out in the Park event has to offer. That includes food (I had noodles from Dim Sum Wok, while my brother ate a shrimp and crab wrap from a place whose name I can't recall) and music (featuring Saturday night's performance of Big Brother and the Holding Company).

I had hoped to catch the performance on Thursday of The Working Spliffs, but I could never find the stage at which they were performing. It was that hard navigating the crowds with my only partially ambulatory brother (call him Little Brother and the Hand-Holding Company). 

Anyway, if you want to give this final day a try, here's today's music schedule.

And try the noodles, if Dim Sum Wok is still open. They're just the thing for an overcast, somewhat chilly day.

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