Butcher's beef diagram with movies and podcasts instead of cuts of meat

Curated Beef, March 2022


Welcome to March!

In my southwestern Pennsylvania corner of the world, we’re a month or two away from good weather, but change is on the wind. I moved the outdoor furniture to the backyard and refilled the feeders to help out all of the poor critters shaken out of their hibernation.  Mother Nature retaliated with a few more sub-20s days, but that’s all right. Daylight Saving Time is next week, despite being an institution based on zero logic and existing solely due to inertia. Get ready for 6am sunrises.

Before we get to Spring, enjoy some pączki and fish fry Fridays, and here is a list of choice entertainments for these last few weeks before the sun graces us with its presence once again. As befitting a limbo season where we are still in our caves but are opening the blinds and cracking the windows, this is a hangout-heavy list. The April edition will focus more on activities and events outside the house.


Moving Pictures

The Batman

In theaters March 3

I was not particularly high on the last two Planets of the Apes movies. There is a fatalism to the Apes franchise that depresses me, and the new series even more so. I appreciated the symbolism and the silliness of the old films. Roddy MacDowell in a latex mask adds a layer of theatricality that keeps even the most dreary moments from being too dready. But in the new movies, a photorealistic gibbon being machine-gunned to death is not enjoyable. On top of that, the movies, as befitting their big budgets and modern tentpole filmmaking requirements, were far too James Bond/ Marvel in their setpieces. I don’t want a forty-minute finale in a crumbling, burning skyscraper in any movie for the rest of my life unless it is The Towering Inferno (1974) or Die Hard (1988). So while I enjoyed the performance, implementation, and aesthetics of the new Planets, I didn’t care for the flabby blockbuster frame on which they were grafted.

HAVING SAID THAT, the director of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes is Matt Reeves, and he’s helming this Batman project, and I am excited for it. The cast is wild (Colin Farrell, Zoe Kravitz, Robert Pattinson, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano, ANDY SERKIS) and the trailer looks gorgeous. On top of that, initial reviews peg this as the most detective-focused of all of the Batman movies. For the youngsters, back before the big-idea / big-stupid Bush-era politics of the Nolan Batmans and the messiah symbolism of the Snyderverse, there was this whole “the world’s greatest detective” angle to Batman for, oh, about 70 years or so.

We’ll have our review up on Sunday after we see this dang thing.


Runaway Train

(1985), HBO Max

I’ve been on an Eric Roberts kick for a few months. In recent years, Roberts has put in excellent supporting work in The Righteous Gemstones second season (2022), the Lebowski-but-strung-out mystery Inherent Vice (2014), and as the mob guy in The Dark Knight (2009) who Batman drops off a second floor ledge. So if you never saw the performances that made his career, I understand. Thankfully, two of those films are on the same streaming service right meow. While The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) is a fascinating drama about ne’er-do-wells, I’m recommending the taut thriller Runaway Train.

In a remote Alaska prison, Manny (Jon Voight) has spent the last three years in solitary confinement, and is released into general population because of a court order. This rankles the warden, who has developed an obsession with breaking the unbreakable Manny. Manny and the jittery Buck (Eric Roberts) escape and stow away onto a cargo train. Then, bad luck: the conductor has a fatal heart attack and soon the train is barreling full speed through the tundra with no one at the wheel. The movie becomes a fascinating game of cat-and-mouse-and-cat:

    • the train company works from their headquarters to track and delay the runaway train before it collides with another train or a station, not knowing about the stowaways;
    • the prisoners fight with each other and the only other crewman on the train;
    • the manaical warden chases the train in a helicopter, determined to catch Manny at any cost.


Runaway Train is an incredible film, and the fact that it was made by schlock-factory Cannon Group adds another layer. The director Andrei Konchalovsky was chiefly known for his Soviet prestige films until he was lured in by Golan and Globus, and the cinematographer Alan Hume shot The Return of the Jedi, several Hammer Horror films, and A Fish Called Wanda, so right away, this movie is better than the usual Cannon output. The two leads were both nominated for Academy Awards, and the nominations are well deserved. Buck (Roberts) is blustery but young and unsure, and he has life goals surely constructed by someone in prison for most of their youth (mansions, Las Vegas casino trips, etc.). Manny is fatalistic and knows that, if they do escape to freedom, they’ll spend their lives in hiding, so the best one can hope for is menial labor. At its heart, this is a chamber drama between the escapees and Rebecca DeMornay’s train worker. But don’t let that dissuade you: the movie has incredible landscape shots, there are jaw-dropping stunts, and the train makes for an unforgettable set.




The National

I dunno, every danged song, I guess

It’s not a secret that my musical tastes are both eclectic and normcore. I love jazz and bluegrass, folk and R&B, but mostly I’m into sad bastard music (do click both links).

There’s not a new record by The National since 2019’s I Am Easy to Find, but goddamn, who needs new music? High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me neatly slot into my top 100 all-time favorite records. There is something deeply resonant about the aching and loneliness of their lyrics, and the musicianship is baffling in the modern world. I am a crummy guitarist, but will often get an earworm from The Mountain Goats or Donovan or Bill Callahan or whoever stuck in my head, and can get a passable cover going after an hour or so. But The National have this amazing multi-guitar, horn, multi-keyboard wall-of-sound thing that is as retro as the references to John Cheever and Thomas Pynchon.

So to pick one of these three records and play the hell out of it on your loudest speakers: High Violet; Trouble Will Find Me; Sleep Well Beast. Accompany it with some red wine or the recreational of your choice. I mean, they are giving you a how-to in the lyrics to “Day I Die” :

Don’t do this, I don’t do this to you,
Don’t expect me to enjoy it,
‘Cause I really don’t have the courage not to turn the volume up inside my ears/
For years I used to put my head inside the speakers
In the hallway when you’d get too high and talk for hours.


Get carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees.



Weather (2019), Epoch (2016)

I learned about Tycho from an Australian Magic: The Gathering YouTuber. If that sounds as esoteric to you as it does to me, welcome to the future   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For me, shifting mental gears from life stuff to programming stuff requires music. And specifically, I need good instrumental music to keep my brain in the right place. I rely upon Bill Evans and Johann Sebastian Bach, but I’m trying not to be such a danged bohemian square. So I’m recommending Tycho. The music ranges from incredible Brian Eno-esque atmospherics to kinda-annoying electro (particularly on Dive), but they are a compelling listen if you want something to segue from work stress to evening activities.


Fruit Bats

Gold Past Life (2019)

There is this magical talky bullshit about Fruit Bats. They are at once hokey yacht rock and Bob Dylan-esque introspection. The hooks are incredible, especially on tracks like “The Bottom of It’ and “A Lingering Love.”

If you listen to indie stations like WYEP here in Pittsburgh, you probably heard their tracks “If You Love Somebody” or “Humbug Mountain Song” a million years ago, but this recent record is their best. If you ever found Bon Iver too precious but still wanted to feel something, this is probably the band for you.



Elden Ring

(2022) Windows, XBox, Playstation

I am breaking the format a bit here, as I’m not recommending this brand new game from the studio that created Dark Souls and Bloodbourne and Sekiro. Instead, I’d like to know if any of you have played it and if you enjoyed it. I really dislike the playstyle of the FromSoftware releases. I prefer games that require me to think and strategize. I really don’t want to lose 49 times at defeating a boss and then do a dodge at exactly the right moment to win on the 50th attempt. That’s just muscle memory and rote memorization; I thought we left that style of game back in the NES days.

This is not to yuck your yum. Those games are popular and it’s ok to like a game. I’m just curious about whether Elden Ring is in that tradition or whether it feels more like Skyrim.