EDITOR'S NOTE: This writer is a recent convert to the church of Netflix Instant, that great Blockbuster killer that has changed my life and made me shun cable TV to the point that if it weren't for tornado warnings and my lovely bride's addiction to TLC's polygamists-r-us show "Sister Wives," I'd swear off the whole mess altogether. The problem with Netflix Instant is just the sheer volume of it all. It can get a bit overwhelming. Sometimes the biggest problem here in the future is that there's no limit when it comes to entertainment choices, and that's definitely our trouble with Netflix now. Sure, it's a GOOD problem, but a problem. With that in mind, we thought we might start giving you a periodic head's-up on some things on Netflix Instant you might wanna catch if you've got a couple hours to kill. It's TV after all, no matter where it comes from. So, without further ado...
THAT EVENING SUN (2009)
Starring: Ray McKinnon, Hal Holbrook, Walton Goggins
Ray McKinnon has long been one of my fave actors, a guy who can play anything from a Southern dandy ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?") to a greasy methhead ("Chrystal") with equal quality and poise. This film, shot in eastern Tennessee from a script based on a story by William Gay, is definitely one of McKinnon's best roles. It's the story of Abner Meecham (Hal Holbrook), an elderly farmer who busts out of the old folks home and catches a ride back to his beloved farm, only to find that his son has leased the place out from under him to the local no-count, Lonzo Choat (McKinnon). Undaunted, Abner takes up residence in a nearby shack and vows never to leave. While both McKinnon and Holbrook play their roles to the hilt, giving us periodic glimpses of the scared men inside them, neither Abner nor Lonzo is really likable. I say that in the most loving way possible, given that I'm thoroughly tired of films (especially Southern films) with cookie-cutter villains and heroes. Abner, in particular, is prone to fall back on that very Southern idea of Bad Blood, and you wonder just how much of that kind of community-wide thinking in small towns goes into creating the psyche of guys like Lonzo. The best films, someone once said, are those in which both people are right but they wanna fight about it anyway. "That Evening Sun" falls into that mode, and the result is a really lovely study of age, anger and moving on. Check it out.
BILL HICKS ON NETFLIX
Ask a comic — any comic — to name the five best standup acts of all time, and there's a good chance Bill Hicks is going to be at or near the top of the list. What's tragic about that is twofold: 1) Just how many Americans have never heard the name or seen him perform. And 2) That Hicks died from pancreatic cancer in Little Rock (where his mother Mary still lives) when he was just 32 years old. The idea of what Hicks might have accomplished with a life as long as somebody like George Carlin kind of boggles the mind, but what he did manage to do with the little time he had is still pretty amazing. So many other comics have ripped off his cigarette puffing, angry-man persona by now that he might seem old hat, but his material is still fresh as a daisy in most cases: riffs on existentialism, LSD, the government, religion, UFOs and others, all delivered with his biting, pull-no-punches, audience-berating style. Though Netflix still doesn't have "Bill Hicks: American," the groundbreaking documentary about Hicks' life and comedy, they do have several of his sets. First up is "Bill Hicks Live," which features three of his landmark concerts, and a documentary about his life, which (of course) covers a lot of the same ground as "American" while calling on some of the best comics in the business to provide their recollections of him. Also on Netflix Instant is Hicks' excellent documentary/standup hybrid "Bill Hicks: Sane Man," which features footage from a set Hicks performed in July 1989 in Austin. Definitely recommended for any standup fan, not to mention any sentient being in the known universe.