Mud (2012) – Movie Review

Directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey, Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Taylor Lofner, Michael Shannon…wait, what? Wasn’t he Zod in Man of Steel? Huh, what else has he OH MY GOSH THERE’S A HANK THE COWDOG PODCAST ADAPTATION THAT JUST CAME OUT LAST YEAR OH MY GOSH AND IT’S AVAILABLE ONLINE (okay, back to business)

TLDR 1: This movie did not represent me…unless you take into consideration representation actually is.

TLDR 2: it’s really good.

This movie is easily two hours long, and it was around an hour and a half in that something–right around the time all the threads pull together and the plot starts moving on nitro–bumped it up for me from “I’m watching intently” to “Oh, I’m gonna to show this to my friends”…whether they like it or not.

It’s a boy’s movie, and the women in it are secondarily characters and primarily sources (and forces) of conflict. So why did I like it? How can I like a movie that doesn’t represent me?

Because representation is not about what the character’s skin color is. There never has been, ever, a heroine who looks like me, even the ones who stare at themselves in a mirror and whine about having brown hair instead of blonde. But there have been many heroines that I can sympathize with–and many heroes.

This movie spoke to me because I can sympathize with the protagonists when they learn that the people you admire and look up to might not be worth that admiration or don’t have all the answers, that love might not conquer all; that your parents are fallible, and yet still love you, and still are worthy of respect. I can sympathize with the struggles of having to leave a familiar, beloved home but still know that my friends have got my back. And though the target has changed and changes often, sometimes I just totally wanna beat the hell out of people, you can totally understand why. And hell, I still flip out over Hank the Cowdog because I loved those books to pieces when I was a kid and I was not, at last check, a dog.

This movie is excellent because I can admire the protagonists, even though they’re imperfect, frequently make bad decisions and quite often stupid ones, work hard but still need outside resources, fight hard and still need help. They’re courageous, generous, loyal, and honorable. When they think something ought to be done, they go and try do it, regardless of odds or reasons. They’re good men–or trying to be–or learning to be.

And it’s a good story, told in a way I personally really like: with tons and tons of implied backstory that motivates everyone, shapes their reactions and explains their actions but which isn’t actually shown, merely implied. I love that one. It means someone has sat down and thought things through.

So what is the story?

Well, there’s these two kids, (Tye Sheridan as main hero Ellis, and Taylor Lofner as Neckbone)–who are out exploring an island on the Mississippi river where unexplained events have somehow stranded a boat in a tree. They claim the boat as their own but soon discover that someone else has gotten there first: a man with hob-nailed boots, snakes tattooed on his hands, a white shirt with a wolf’s eye sewn into it that protects him (and a pocketful of other weird superstitions) who calls himself “Mud.” (Matthew McConaughey)

Mud is on the island, hiding out, and waiting for someone. He asks the boys to bring him food and keep an eye out for his girl, the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. This turns out to be Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), and the relationship between her and Mud turns out to be a lot more complicated than first appearance. Mud has been infatuated with Juniper since they were children, but, it is later revealed to the boys, he also has a history of violently attacking anyone else who gets involved with her…or maybe Juniper sets him off on purpose. That’s been their pattern for a long, lont time–but this time he’s killed someone. Mud’s story is that he did it to protect Juniper from being outright murdered by an abusive boyfriend…and though circumstances seem to bear him out, the guy’s family has muscle, money, and is out for blood. Oh, and they have a couple of informants in the Sheriff’s department, the hospital, and the state police.

Mud recruits the boys to help him to repair the boat so he and Juniper can make it down the river to God knows what but he seems to think it’ll be freedom.

Ellis throws himself into the project as a way of escaping from, or seeking answers to, the problems in his own life that he doesn’t have the power or vocabulary to address directly. His parents are separating: his mother is done with their rickety houseboat and hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his father isn’t taking this at all well. At the same time, Ellis’s love life is taking its first tentative steps, only for him to discover that, while girls might find doglike infatuation flattering, they are vain and deceitful at heart and not to be trusted…

So it goes, right up until the part when the wheels come, inevitably and completely, crashing off.

Again, why is it good?

Because it’s an interesting story, well-told. It has themes which, while meaningful, are never over-emphasized. Because it has, first and foremost, well-realized, deeply human characters who are flawed but basically good and who learn from their mistakes to become better. Or, at least, learn not to make those particular mistakes again. In Mud’s case, it’s taken a lifetime. Ellis, though, might not take so long and might not have to end up hiding out on a deserted island running from the cops and your girlfriend’s boyfriend’s vengeful father’s henchmen.

What else? Oh yeah, the acting is superb, including the child actors; the script never once made me cringe (possibly because even the more, shall we say “thematic” bits were delivered so well), so, props for the casting as well as the acting; the cinematography is very pretty and the colors are–well, actually the color is pretty washed out and brown but Arkansas, amirite? There’s also a pretty badass shootout at the end.

You’re a good man movie, Mud.


“So that was T.”
“She don’ seem to like ya.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think it’s personal.”

“The form confuses people, because it doesn’t have a place for [item].”
“It does! It has the place where they can upload it!”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t say that. It says CEUs and proof of show–”
“Oh no no no, I had MR put in some language about [item] there. It says [item] now on the upload box!”
“On the web form it does?”
“Oh. Okay. That’s good.”
“Oh, I feel validated now.”


hank_icon_no_logo3-scaled-e1602884287144BEGIN TRANSMISSION


ADAPTED AND DIRECTED BY JEFF NICHOLS AND STARRING THE VOICE OF MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY incidentally there is an audio trailer at the link and he does a really good job sounding like a dumbass farm dog who thinks he’s badass but he’s a good boy to the bone really




Poetry Corner – The Song of Seven Cities

 I WAS Lord of Cities very sumptuously builded.
 Seven roaring Cities paid me tribute from afar.
 Ivory their outposts were—the guardrooms of them gilded,
 And garrisoned with Amazons invincible in war. 

All the world went softly when it walked before my Cities—
 Neither King nor Army vexed my peoples at their toil,
 Never horse nor chariot irked or overbore my Cities,
 Never Mob nor Ruler questioned whence they drew their spoil. 

Banded, mailed and arrogant from sunrise unto sunset;
 Singing while they sacked it, they possessed the land at large.
 Yet when men would rob them, they resisted, they made onset
 And pierced the smoke of battle with a thousand-sabred charge. 

 So they warred and trafficked only yesterday, my Cities.
 To-day there is no mark or mound of where my Cities stood.
 For the River rose at midnight and it washed away my Cities.
 They are evened with Atlantis and the towns before the Flood. 

Rain on rain-gorged channels raised the water-levels round them,
 Freshet backed on freshet swelled and swept their world from sight,
 Till the emboldened floods linked arms and, flashing forward, drowned them—
 Drowned my Seven Cities and their peoples in one night! 

Low among the alders lie their derelict foundations,
 The beams wherein they trusted and the plinths whereon they built—
 My rulers and their treasure and their unborn populations,
 Dead, destroyed, aborted, and defiled with mud and silt! 

The Daughters of the Palace whom they cherished in my Cities,
 My silver-tongued Princesses, and the promise of their May—
 Their bridegrooms of the June-tide—all have perished in my Cities,
 With the harsh envenomed virgins that can neither love nor play. 

I was Lord of Cities—I will build anew my Cities,
 Seven, set on rocks, above the wrath of any flood.
 Nor will I rest from search till I have filled anew my Cities
 With peoples undefeated of the dark, enduring blood. 

To the sound of trumpets shall their seed restore my Cities
 Wealthy and well-weaponed, that once more may I behold
 All the world go softly when it walks before my Cities,
 And the horses and the chariots fleeing from them as of old! 
- Rudyard Kipling

The Rebel Princess – Episode 9 – Recap

[Previously: our heroine was kidnapped by flying ninjas, motives unknown–but her husband suspects that it’s aimed at him.]

XQ continues: if I’m the target, then she’s heading this way. He divides his forces and sends them out. And as for the guy (Xu Shou) who ordered them to do a parade?–the guy who knew she’d been taken and commands us to not go after her?

XQ says (and man, his quiet, soft voice is positively chilling here in the best possible way): entertain him well. Take very good care of him.

The sidekicks salute, beaming.

Meanwhile, A’Wu’s maidservant has gone to get Prince #3. This involves, unfortunately for him, leaving his house arrest. Oh, oh gosh. Looks like maidservant (Jin’er) has a crush on him, if her reaction to his giving her a cloak means anything. Hoooo boy.

So A’Wu’s kidnappers are sitting around discussing things. Their boss has ordered that she not be harmed. On the other hand, her being so pretty means that Xiaoye is going to torture her. Cue Xiaoye, who may or may not be a swordsgirl but definitely is someone to be careful around.

Back at home, Brother and Dad are carefully keeping the news from Mom. Brother puts on his very best face, but it’s hard on the poor boy.

And, at the kidnapping lair, the titular young master is….in bed in his underwear, being fed medicine by someone. Not an auspicious beginning. (Especially with Xiaoye, his intensely jealous female minion, still in the room.) He promptly throws XY out. A’Wu points out that a) he’s sick, b) he’s not going to kill ber, c) if he wants her to be useful, he’d better not harm her.

So this guy is from the Liupan Clan, and his grudge is against XQ because XQ wrongfully killed his family, it seems.

Back at the palace, the Emperor is awake and playing chess against himself. He’s not really in his right mind, though, it seems, and the Empress can’t get any useful help or information out of him. (He might be pretending.) She leaves, frustrated. (he is pretending, but the eunuch who is the spy for the Wangs hasn’t figured it out yet.)

A’Wu says: I heard that the Liupan had it coming when they broke their treaty oaths.

Liupan Guy promptly attempts to strangle her.

(outside, lol, one of the guys attempts to sidle up to XiaoYe, only to find a dagger in the way. She, however, is focused on her jealousy of A’Wu.)

Liupan Guy then collapses, with blood from the mouth. A’Wu grabs his knife, frees her hands, and climbs out a window. She gets to the horses, but at this point XY whacks her on the head with a stick and is about to do worse before the others catch up with them.

Empress Auntie does seem to be genuinely worried about A’Wu, because she’s asking Grand Vizier Dad for any news. He’s pieced together the information about the fake funeral/corpse, and that they are heading for the border (XQ’s territory).

Prince #2, meanwhile, has his finger in the pie to at least some degree. They think, or at least say: that Liupan Guy is working with the exiled Duke Xie and they’ll take out XQ. #2 is slightly worried at the fact that XQ dead means Xu Shou in control of the army, while he, Prince #2, still has no military support.

Meanwhile elsewhere, the Crown Prince is also upset about A’Wu being missing. He wants to issue a royal decree and mobilize massive forces, but all those old guys aren’t actually letting him. Wan’ru uses her feminine wiles to soothe and flatter him. Poor guy. He means well!

A’Wu is calm but defiant in the face of XY–which gets her a ladlefull of water to the face–but she merely goes ahead and continues to wash up anyway.

Back at the fort, some guy burns a message before XQ shows up to talk to him. XQ notices but says nothing. I’m guessing this is Xu Shou. He’s a peach.

Back at A’Wu, she’s meeting with Liupan Guy again. He thanks her for not killing him and then hits on her some more, just so she’s nice and sorry about the whole not-killing him thing. Outside, meanwhile, Liupan’s sidekicks finally hear enough that they get worried AKA jealous enough to try bursting in again. A’Wu is worried enough at this point that she’s thinking about trying the stabbing thing again. (She can’t go through with it).

XQ orders Sidekick to watch Xu Shou closely and not prevent him from doing anything. They are pretty strongly sure he’s involved.

A’Wu is still trying to keep Liupan Guy off of her, with little success. She finally tries the what would your mother think of this card, only to get slapped. But then she does stab him with her hairpin, so there’s that…..and then she threatens to kill herself and disrupt their plans that way.

The Emperor, meanwhile, confesses that despite his love for A’Wu, he’s willing to sacrifice her to save his son. And so he has…

Liupan Guy wants to change the plan, meanwhile: he wants A’Wu.

Meanwhile! The world’s most inept cavalry buy themselves a seat on a random peasant cart, rattling along to an eventual rescue.

A’Wu and Liupan Guy, meanwhile, have a bit of a chat in the carriage as they’re moving out. He’s doing this for his mother, you see…she’s dead.


Overheard….or spoken on the job

“[…] depends on how advanced the Salem people are going to be.”
“Well, really, it depends on if they’re still burning witches.”
“Hahaha…oh wait: excuse me!”
“It’s kind of a primitive….oh. Oh, uh, no personal comment was meant.”

“….mind you, I can’t imagine anyone trying to set S on fire.”
“Yeah, she’s more of a woodchipper person.”
“She definitely weighs more than a duck, though!”
“Well….not much more than a duck. She’s not that much taller than a duck. You can tell her I said all of this, by the way.”

“One of my goals is to have someone shoot at me on the line of duty.”
“Well, [court case]–”
“I said shoot at, not necessarily die.”

Love is like…

 A wolf that wards       the scattered sheep
 Keeping curtailed        its fine-honed fangs
 Holding hard               its hopeless hunger
 Forgetting not             its force and fierceness
 Hanging its head         low for the lashing.
 A storm that sweeps   the scorched fields
 Promising plenty         to the parched prairies
 Sating the swards        the sun had seared
 Renewing the rains     when the rivers are risen
 Tearing the tall trees    down in its deluge.
 A sark without               a spun thread woven.
 Sourceless strung        are the warp and weft
 Handless hie                the speeding shuttles
 Slow but sure              are the shears that sever
 The threads that tie     the ceaseless cloth!