McFarland, USA

I watched the last half-hour of CBS This Morning and the chef segment. Justin Warner’s signature dishes were Lemongrass Meat Marinade, Korean Caesar Salad, Broccoli and Cheese-y Cheese Wontons, Chilled Cucumber Soup, Mentaiko Deviled Eggs, Cabarnet-Cherry-Chocolate Almost Healthy No Bake cookies, and Kalimotxos. I looked at the American Top 40 playlist for this weekend. The Top 10 songs on February 20, 1971 were “Lonely Days,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “Sweet Mary,” “Groove Me,” “Mama’s Pearl,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “I Hear You Knocking,” “Rose Garden,” “Knock Three Times,” and “One Bad Apple.” I took the bus over to the Grand Lake Theater to see “McFarland, USA.” The news about the movie after one day in the theaters was that it was a bomb, but it seemed like decent entertainment with a chance of drawing an audience. The star was Kevin Costner, who isn’t the hottest movie star around, and the movie was yet another sports-themed story. I guess the idea of watching cross-country high school athletes wasn’t too appealing to the public. This whole tale takes place over the course of a few months in 1987. Costner is Jim White, who is a football coach in Idaho who gets fired. He and his family relocate to California in a Latino community. The daughter complains about what a dump their new house is, reminiscent of a scene from “The Karate Kid.” In fact, this movie had familiar elements from other Disney sports movies, like “Miracle,” “Cool Runnings,” and “Million Dollar Arm.” There is the culture clash of the white family living in a Spanish-speaking, poor community. They don’t know anything about the various types of tacos there are, or car clubs, or the difficulty in farm work. Costner is not Jaime Escalante, though he teaches a life science class. After a clash with the football coach, he comes up with the idea of forming a cross-country running team. The odds are against this team that has toughness but not the resources of Palo Alto High School. Success is so improbable that you know exactly what is going to happen. Kevin Costner gave the same performance he did in the days of “Bull Durham.” There were some interesting moments that involved White learning about the lives of the people in town. He spends a day working in the fields to see how hard it is. I know that if I ever had to do that kind of picking, I wouldn’t last too long. He also learns about what a quinceañera is. I thought I detected the hint that the daughter went from being scornful of the town to having sex. If she turned 15 in 1987, she was born in 1972 and will be 43 this year. White trains his group of seven runners with makeshift arrangements and doing things on the fly. Again, there is something of “The Karate Kid” in this tale. There is a limit to the drama that long-distance running can bring to the screen. I cannot remember the last time I tried to watch a marathon on television. I think you can’t help rooting for these young men who have to work so hard for their families to win. I had the feeling this movie came out because of the changes in the population in places like California over the past few decades. You can’t ignore the importance of the Latino people in the economy and the culture of this country. I noticed the Spanish language version of “I Only Want to Be with You.” A group of young girls to my right laughed heartily at some of the bits about family life and life in small towns. There was a scene about eating a lot of food that was rather amusing. I thought some of the extras did a mediocre job of acting excited about the success of these runners. I wasn’t totally convinced that Kevin Costner would win over this group of teenagers, but I guess this whole story was based upon someone’s real life. It was hard for me to believe that it was 28 years ago. How much coaching did this man actually do? It seems that he should have known from the start about running uphill. I wondered how he could drive the bus with only five dollars in his pocket. The movie wasn’t brilliant, but it got a good response from the audience. They applauded and cheered. I liked this movie more than “Draft Day.” At least it touched on something resembling real emotion. We don’t see anyone die or degrade themselves. It was cleaner than most television shows I see these days. It reminded me of some struggles I went through. I noticed that I saw a lot of Coke and Gatorade in the movie. At the end, we get a look at whatever happened to the people in the story in real life. The runners went on from high school and didn’t stray too far. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. I noticed that two of the people in the audience were the twins I often see at A’s games. I stuck around to see all the end credits. I wanted to know what kind of music was used on the soundtrack. I had some interest in listening to it again. I took two buses towards home, but first stopped at Trader Joe’s to buy some groceries. I watched the news when I got home, and I saw that a major story of the night was the outdoor hockey game in the stadium in Santa Clara. John Fogerty was supposed to perform there. I watched a few minutes of a Batman episode with Catwoman. I did not see Lesley Gore in it. The Star Trek episode was “A Taste of Armageddon,” which had a planet that conducted a war by computer. Some of the people who died on February 22 include Mabel Normand (1930), Florence Ballard (1976), Andy Warhol (1987), John Fahey (2001), and Chuck Jones (2002). Today is a birthday for Drew Barrymore (40), Kyle Maclachlan (56), Julie Walters (65), and James Hong (86). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 22, The Police appeared in a Wrigley’s chewing gum commercial in 1978. In 1989, Jethro Tull won the Grammy in the new category of Best Hard Rock Metal Performance over Metallica and Anthrax. In 2001, Steely Dan won a Grammy for Album of the Year for “Two Against Nature.”

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