Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Tom's review: "Ozark" on Netflix

I grew up in rural Missouri, an hour or so north of Lake Ozark, the huge man-made lake locals like to boast has more shoreline than California has Pacific coastline. My parents honeymooned at The Lake (that’s what Missourians call it). I have friends and relatives who either live there full-time or spend every summer weekend at their vacation homes or aboard their houseboats. 

So I was excited to watch Ozark, a new Netflix series about Chicago financial planner Marty Byrde (played by Jason Bateman who also produced and directed) and his wife Wendy (Oscar nominee Laura Linney) who move to Lake Ozark to launder drug cartel money.

While staying in a fleabag motel, a suitcase containing millions in fresh crisp bills is stolen from their room by Ruth, a devious blonde with a painfully phony southern accent (played by New York actress Julia Garner whose performance has received stellar reviews). Ruth’s accent is doubly wrong because rural Missourians don’t speak with southern accents, they speak a derivation of Appalachian English, as spoken by the western Virginia/eastern Kentucky Scotch-Irish folks who settled the region 200 years ago. While Yankee viewers won't notice it, there’s a very real difference between a southern accent and the accent Ruth’s character should have used that will stick in the craw of any Missourian.

Marty confronts Ruth and, in return for a vague promise of eventually funneling some of the money back to her and her trailer-trash family, convinces her to give him back the suitcase. Ruth says sure.

A few episodes later, Marty makes Ruth the manager of a titty bar he has just bought from its unwilling-to-sell owner in order to launder cartel money. Ruth, who gave back $8 million in cash, happily agrees to a salary of $1,000/week. She hires new strippers, replacing one who appears to be nine months pregnant – the natives, the directors apparently assume, are so stupid and/or perpetually stoned they’ll watch anything – and rakes in $80,000 in revenue the first weekend. Not bad.

The bar’s former owner is murdered by the series’ main antagonist (more about him later) and found floating around the dock of Marty’s house but Marty convinces the sheriff it’s an unfortunate coincidence. The sheriff, a moron like every Missourian in Ozark, buys the story.

One Sunday morning Marty happens upon a church service being conducted on the lake by a minister preaching from a boat and has a Eureka moment; he can launder money faster by offering to build the congregation a physical church on land and inflating the costs. He and Wendy meet with the minister to propose the new building and the minister accepts. As if any preacher would say okay to such a generous gift from city slickers who just moved to town and bought a strip club.

Construction begins immediately but Marty, who, all things considered, has had an easy time because everyone he has dealt with up to this point has the IQ of a deer tick, finally meets his match, a local heroin dealer who has been laundering his ill-gotten gains through the strip club. The dealer is pissed not only because his launder-mat, the club, is under new ownership but because, once the church is built, he will have no way to distribute his heroin, a task he has been accomplishing by hiding it in hymnals passed out every Sunday to boat owners posing as church congregants.

There is no other way for the dealer to smuggle his heroin out of town. It is, apparently, impossible for him to drive it out, hidden in the wheel wells of his pick-up truck. Or to load it on boats, as the dealers did in Bloodline, another Netflix series. Nor does it occur to him to pack it in condoms and stick it up the orifices of his hillbilly buddies.

No, the only way to get that heroin on the street (and the whole plot revolves around this idiotic premise) is to continue packing it in hymnals distributed on the water, so it is absolutely, positively, essential that Marty not build that church. The dealer orders Marty to cease construction … or else.

The writers clearly didn't take into account that the dealer might want to consider another means of distribution because eight months out of the year, the boat church wouldn't be operational anyway due to the weather. Nor did they consider, when the dealer points out to Marty that the heroin-filled hymnals are a different shade of blue than the ones handed out to bona-fide worshipers, that they might as well hire skywriters to spell out, "Hey po-lice! We're doing something shady here!"

After seven episodes, I couldn't take any more and turned Ozark off.

There are dozens of other issues, large and small, that anyone who has ever spent any time at The Lake will spot instantly. For instance, a rich city kid, who winds up deflowering Marty’s 15-year-old daughter played by an actress who could easily pass for someone in her mid-thirties, purchases a six-pack of Busch. Any Missourian knows that rich kids buy Bud, not its cheaper sister brand. Busch is for po’ folk.

Ozark, in my opinion but not the opinions of professional reviewers who have generally given it favorable (albeit tepid) reviews, is unwatchable. The script is God-awful; the writers obviously believe viewers are as dumb as the natives. The characters are either crooked, stupid, insane, inbred, or any combination thereof. There isn’t one who is likable or even vaguely admirable, including Marty’s 13-year-old son for whom viewers should have some sympathy because, through no fault of his own, he was just yanked from his cushy suburban Chicago existence and set down in Deliverance, but he eviscerates animals for fun.

What is, ultimately, most disturbing is that the lead actors agreed to lend their names to this dreadful soap opera. Didn’t it ever occur to them to say, “Wait a minute, this is really bad writing?” Or did they simply take the job for the money? Either way, viewers need to hold Bateman and Linney accountable when deciding whether to watch future series or movies in which they may appear lest those vehicles turn out to be as simple-minded as Ozark.

To add insult to injury for Missourians who hoped to enjoy the scenery of their home state, the exteriors weren’t even shot around Lake Ozark but in Georgia. Missouri officials, according to an interview I read with the show’s creator, a St. Louis headhunter turned screenwriter, wouldn’t give the producers tax breaks.

Good for them.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why the Osmonds are going to hell

I was driving my car down the highway a few days ago, listening to Seventies on Seven on XM radio, when the most excruciatingly obnoxious song of the previous century started playing.

Under normal circumstances I would have switched stations instantly but I couldn’t at that particular moment because I was driving Roo Roo, our new dachshund, to his weekly session with his trainer. (Turns out he has trust issues. Don’t we all?)

Of the seven dachshunds we’ve owned, Roo Roo is, hands-down, the worst passenger ever – worse even than Bonnie who, whenever it rained, lunged Cujo-like at the windshield wipers, simultaneously growling and crying with every swipe. One day we drove 500 miles in the rain and she didn’t let up, even for a second.

When I confine Roo Roo to his crate, he projectile vomits chunks of Purina Pro Plan Salmon & Rice formula all over the upholstery. To avoid having to clean and air out the car, I place him in the front passenger seat where he spends the entire drive struggling to cross the console and sit in my lap where, if he succeeded, he'd no doubt steer us directly into the path of an oncoming semi. So I have to hold the steering wheel with my left hand, and use my right to fend him off. But back to the song.

I was a sophomore in college when it was released and almost immediately soared to number one on the charts, where, according to Wikipedia,  it remained for five agonizing weeks. I remember a disc jockey on KTGR in Columbia, Mo., locked himself in the control room and played it nonstop for two hours. When he was finished, he announced he had played it the number of times he would be required to play it over the next week, befitting its number one position, so his listeners wouldn’t have to suffer through it again for seven more days.

This morning when I woke up this effing song was playing on the jukebox inside my head where it keeps repeating. And repeating. And repeating. I do believe I’m going mad.

The Osmond Brothers may be good Mormons but they’re going straight to hell for the agony they’ve inflicted on millions with this one song.

Click on the above video at your own peril because, once you do, you won't be able to get it out of your head either. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The wedding of the century

The bridal couple with their parents - Ervin and Ina Nolte,
and Ruby and G.L. (Bud) Dryden

The most extensively documented wedding of the previous century wasn't that of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten in 1947, of Monaco's Prince Rainer to actress Grace Kelly in 1956, or of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles in 1981.

It was the wedding of Nancy Ann Nolte to my brother, Jerry, on August 4, 1957, sixty years ago this week, which was documented in painstaking detail by the world's most observant reporter, Mrs. Dula Hook, in the August 7, 1957 issue of the Auxvasse (Mo.) Review, my hometown paper. 

Mrs. Hook was the one and only reporter for the weekly, which was typeset and printed by her husband, Clayton, who also printed up all the farm sale bills for the northern half of Callaway County, Mo. Every Wednesday afternoon, the four-page Review, which couldn't have possibly had more than 200 subscribers because there were only 507 people in the town, rolled off the press with excruciatingly detailed stories about every single thing that had happened in and around Auxvasse during the previous week -- every birthday party, every death, every gathering of every club, every wedding, and every social event (including families "calling" on each other on Sunday afternoons and the refreshments they enjoyed -- sometimes Coca-Cola, other times Pepsi or RC). 

It's tempting to scoff at the picayune details Mrs. Hook wrote about in describing Jerry and Nancy's wedding  -- for instance, not only the bride's dress but the fabric covering the buttons on the dress -- but, when you think about it, it's a remarkable and impressive piece of journalism. Had she lived anywhere but Auxvasse, Mrs. Hook, with an eye for details a casual observer would never notice, could have been a reporter for any paper, anywhere. Read her wedding coverage below and see if you have ever seen a story containing this much information. I learned some new words as I typed the story and I bet you will, too.

The one detail Mrs. Hook didn't mention is that the flower girl, five-year-old little Miss Karen Nolte, niece of the bride, got into a fistfight in the front yard of her grandparents' home where the reception was held, with the five-year-old ring bearer, Tommy Dryden. For years my mother kept as a souvenir the white suit I wore that was covered in grass stains and blood. 

But, before you read about the wedding of the century, please join me in wishing Jerry and Nancy a happy 60th anniversary. While they grew up in the same small town, they could have searched the world over and never found anyone as perfectly suited for each other as they were and are. During his career as a military officer, they lived all over the US, in Asia and Europe, raised four accomplished children and, for the last 40 years, have lived in a Dayton suburb.  

Jerry and Nancy, I love, admire and respect you more than you will ever know. And I'm sure I speak for the flower girl when I say I'm sorry about that unfortunate incident at the reception.

Miss Nolte Becomes Bride of Jerry Dryden

Shades of pink predominated at the wedding of Miss Nancy Ann Nolte and Jerry Tate Dryden on Sunday afternoon at the Grand Prairie Baptist Church in Auxvasse. The church pastor, the Rev. Dale Norfolk, officiated at the three o'clock double ring ceremony. Large arrangements of emerald foliage formed the background for the twenty-eight pink altar tapers in tall candelabra.

Mr. and Mrs. Ervin Nolte and Mr. and Mrs. G.L. Dryden, Jr., parents of the couple, were seated in pews marked with large white satin bows.

A half-hour prelude of love songs played by Mrs. J.M. Motley of Fulton preceded the ceremony and she also accompanied the two soloists. Mrs. Motley's selections included "To A Wild Rose" (MacDowell); "Romance" (A. d'Ambrosio, op 9); "Thais" Meditation (J. Massennet); "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (J.S. Bach); "The Rosary" (E. Nevin); "Poem" (Fibich); "Thou Art Like Unto a Flower" ((Rubenstein, arrg. by C. Pigg); "My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice" (from Samson & Delilah by C. Saint-Saens); "White Orchids" Bridal Prelude (J.F. Cooke); "Ave Maria" (Bach-Gounod).

"I Love You Truly" by Bond was sung by Gene Magruder of Auxvasse preceding the ceremony, and Mrs. Harold Nolte of Jefferson City sang "The Lord's Prayer" by Malette as the couple knelt for the benediction.

As the bridal party approached the altar, Mrs. Motley played the Bridal Chorus from "Lohengrin" by Wagner, and used the Wedding March from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by F. Mendelssohn as the recessional.

Given in marriage by her father, the bride wore a gown of frost-white Chantilly lace over satin. The modified V neckline was embroidered with tiny seed pearls and iridescent sequins and the fitted bodice was closed down the back with tiny self-covered buttons. The long sleeves that came to a point over the hands also closed with tiny self-covered buttons. The aisle-wide skirt was worn over crinolines and hoops and extended into a medium-length train. Her veil was made in three tiers of French illusion and fastened to a pearl tiara. The bride carried an arrangement of white orchids and agapanthus on a lace covered prayerbook with satin streamers, tied at intervals in lovers' knots.

Preceding the bride down the aisle were four attendants, Miss Faye Anne Hellyer of Mexico, maid of honor, Miss Dixie Ehler of Omaha, Nebr., cousin of the bride, Miss Judy Dryden, sister of the bridegroom, and Miss Janice Bartholow, both of Auxvasse. The four were gowned alike in chalk-white embroidered organdy over blush pink taffeta, with matching mitts. The bodices featured a scalloped neckline and short sleeves. Sashes of pink taffeta were tied in butterfly bows at the back, with streamers falling to the scalloped hems of the terrace-length skirts. They wore picture hats of white organdy over taffeta, and pink slippers. Instead of flowers, each carried an old-fashioned lace-tiered fan.

Pink rose petals were scattered in the bride's path by the flower girl, Little Miss Karen Louise Nolte, niece of the bride, and 5-year-old daughter of Dr and Mrs. Roger E. Nolte of  Rolla, Mo. She wore a terrace-length dress similar to that of the bridesmaids, of white embroidered organdy over a deeper shade of pink, with matching mitts. A pink cummerbund encircled her waist and tied in a bow at back with streamers down the back. Her tiny hat was of white organdy over pink taffeta, and her shoes were pink. Her corsage was of pink carnations.

Tommy Dryden, 5-year-old brother of the bridegroom, was ring bearer. He wore a white suit and carried the rings on a heart-shaped pillow edged with lace and white satin ribbon streamers.

The altar tapers were lighted by Susan and Marilyn Nolte, nieces of the bride and also daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Nolte of Rolla. They wore identical dresses of embroidered white organdy over American Beauty rose faille, with matching mitts. Their hats also were of white embroidered organdy over American Beauty rose faille, and their shoes were pink. Each had a corsage of pink carnations. Their pink lighting candles were decorated with pink flowers and ribbon streamers. After lighting the tapers, they stood during the ceremony on the first step of the altar.

Robert Owens of Gerald, fraternity brother of the bridegroom at Westminster College in Fulton, was best man. Ushers were Gilbert Dryden of High Hill, cousin of the groom, Clayton Mottaz of Columbia, Gary Pasley of Auxvasse, Dr. Roger Nolte of Rolla, Gordon Nolte of Wellsville and Larry Nolte of Auxvasse, brothers of the bride.

Mrs. Ervin Nolte, mother of the bride, wore a navy lace dress with pink accessories and her corsage was a white orchid. Mrs. Dryden, mother of the bridegroom, wore a beige dress with matching accessories and also had a white orchid corsage.

Grandmothers of the bridegroom, Mrs. G.L. Dryden, Sr., of High Hill, and Mrs. J. Burton Tate of Montgomery City, each wore a corsage of pink carnations.

Presiding at the guest book were Mrs. Richard Lubbers of Auxvasse and Miss Jo Ellen Pearl of Mexico. They also accepted gifts at a table covered with a pink cloth. Each wore a corsage of pink carnations.

Pink summer flowers were used on the mantelpiece and throughout the home of Mrs. and Mrs. Ervin Nolte southeast of Auxvasse, where the reception was held immediately following the ceremony.

The bride's table was covered with white lace over pink, and centered with a four-tier wedding cake topped with a miniature bride and groom. The cake was surrounded by ropes of honeysuckle and flanked by pink tapers in crystal holders and pink roses. After the bridal couple cut the first piece of cake, the remainder was cut and served by Mrs. Roger Nolte, sister-in-law of the bride. Presiding at the punch bowls were Miss Mildred Creasy of Mexico and Mrs. Don Hale of Martinsburg. Assisting in serving the guests were Mrs. Gordon Nolte, sister-in-law of the bride, and Miss Doris McPheeters and Mrs. David Smithee of Auxvasse.  Each of those serving had a corsage of pink carnations.

For going away the new Mrs. Dryden wore a white with poudre blue embroidered cotton sheath and a wide pleated poudre blue cummerbund. She wore a white picture hat and white gloves, and her shoes and purse were navy. Her corsage was two white orchids from the bridal bouquet.

She graduated from the Auxvasse High School as salutatorian of the class of 1954.

After a two weeks' wedding trip to Canada, the couple will reside in Mexico where the bride will continue working at the A.P. Green Fire Brick Co. Mr. Dryden will be employed in his father's store, Dryden's Store, in Auxvasse. He received his B.S. degree from Westminster College in Fulton on August 2. His fraternity is Kappa Alpha.

The wedding rehearsal was held at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Prairie Baptist Church, after which the wedding party was entertained at dinner at the home of Mr. Dryden's parents. The hostess was assisted in preparing and serving the dinner by her sister-in-law, Mrs. Ralph Simmons of High Hill, Mo.

Those present in addition to Mr. Dryden and his fiancee, were Dr. and Mrs. Roger Nolte and daughters Susan, Marilyn and Karen, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Nolte, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Nolte, Mr. and Mrs. Ervin Nolte, Miss Dixie Ehler, Miss Faye Ann Hellyer, Miss Mary Frances Duffen, Miss Jean Ann Wilks, Clayton Mottaz, Robert Owens, Gilbert Dryden, Miss Janice Bartholow, Gary Pasley, Gene Magruder, Larry Nolte, Miss Judy Dryden and Tommy Dryden.