Montana Media: Clay Pigeons

New Category: “Montana Media!” I’ll feature a book, movie, or TV show that features Montana and give a brief review. First up is “Clay Pigeons,” which I first saw about two years ago.

Clay PigeonsWhat a unique movie. It’s set in Montana, which is what originally got me to watch it, although it was filmed in Utah. “Clay Pigeons” revolves around Clay, whose best friend commits suicide and tries to frame Clay for it, because he discovered that Clay was having an affair with his wife. Clay manages to hide the body, but then more bodies begin appearing around town, and Clay…well, he has a connection to all of them, unfortunately, which gets the attention of the sheriff, who knows that Clay didn’t kill anyone but has to follow the rules…and then two FBI agents show up once the body count climbs. Joaquin Phoenix is very good as Clay, convincingly portraying a man who has entered the Twilight Zone and is not quite sure how to get out, and keeps getting deeper and deeper…

And then there’s Lester. Lester shows up and becomes a “fishin’ buddy” of Clay’s, and Lester’s extroverted, enigmatic presence is like a force of nature. The way that Lester interacts with people – the sexy widow, the waitress, an office co-worker, the FBI agent, and of course Clay – must be seen to be believed. He is always just one second short of either bursting into laughter – or something menacing. Vince Vaughn deserves an award for his portrayal of Clay; even if the rest of the movie was unwatchable, you would watch it just to observe Lester and try to figure him out.
The sheriff is a friend of Clay’s, and although he knows that Clay didn’t murder anyone, he has to follow the rules. His deputy, named Barney, is a narcoleptic who doesn’t quite know how to behave around corpses. The FBI agents are dry, by-the-book people, although when the female agent tries to relax in a bar, her off-the-clock vulnerability provides some of the movie’s most intense moments.
Like many great movies, “Clay Pigeons” teeters on the edge of plausibility; if it had gone just one step further, the disbelief would have begun to show around the edges. As it stands, however, this is an absolutely quirky, oddly intense, and oft-times funny movie, highly recommended, and has been added to my list of favorite movies.

And in terms of Montana…yeah, I think it accurately captures the feel of a small Montana town, where everybody knows everybody else, the scenery is integral to understanding the people, and outsiders are viewed with some skepticism.

The bottom line: like many great movies, “Clay Pigeons” teeters on the edge of plausibility; if it had gone just one step further, the disbelief would have begun to show around the edges. As it stands, however, this is an absolutely quirky, oddly intense, and oft-times funny movie, highly recommended, and has been added to my list of Favorite Movies.

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Tom and Jerry @ City Bar

Lived here for over five years, but never even heard of a “Tom and Jerry” until a few weeks ago…and Saturday, I finally had one at the City Bar. Pretty good – it really went well with the chilly temps and holiday atmosphere.

tom and jerry @ the city bar

I don’t know exactly how the City Bar prepares their T&J, but there are plenty of recipes online.

And yes, my T&J was non-alcoholic.

Basketball, Hockey, & Jazz in Great Falls

There are plenty of events going on in Great Falls this month, and a few of them really got my attention. These are not quite holiday-themed, but I suspect that they all will deliver more “good cheer” than a stuffy office party!

First, our own Great Falls Explorers basketball team begin a nine-game home series, and December is a perfect time to stay warm and cheer loudly for our home team. Call 216-3033 for more information and to buy tickets.

Second, if you’ve ever seen the movie “Slap Shot” you know that the Hanson Brothers were the highlight of the show. Their “unconventional” hockey skills transformed the movie from a hum-drum sports flick into a rowdy, hilarious time. And now you get the chance to meet the Hanson Brothers! It’s a fundraiser for the Great Falls Community Ice Foundation, and for only $10 you get to watch the movie with the trio, get their autographs, and participate in a silent auction. The action is on Saturday night – call 455-8514 for more information.

Third, an amazing vocal/jazz concert featuring the Jeni Fleming Trio will be held on Tuesday, December 18th. This is good stuff – listen for yourself. Call 455-8514 for tickets, or purchase them online.

So – if you’re tired of people complaining that there isn’t anything to do in Great Falls, e-mail this entry to them: we’ve got semi-pro sports, nationally-recognized jazz artists, and sports/movie legends – all in the same month!

Great Falls in National Media

Our fair community has been featured in three national media spots in the last several weeks. First, a look at the Montana “meth project” on “Nightline” back in October. Then the crime-drama “Criminal Minds” set an episode here in Great Falls, and received pretty negative reviews in terms of accuracy and portrayal of our town. And over the weekend an MTV documentary profiled Great Falls resident Jennifer Fontenot in a program about living in federal housing projects.

Now, remember that the news pieces were focused on positive things, overall: the success of the meth ads in reducing the use of meth; and the hard-working Fontenot who is going to school and raising two children in a housing project that is not at all like those of large urban areas.

But to an outsider – someone who has never been to Great Falls, or even Montana – I wonder about the cumulative effect of these three programs. Meth, murder and militia, housing projects…do you think that this trio of programs has helped or hurt the image of Great Falls as a place to live, work, and raise a family?

“To Do” List

1. Attend the Christmas Stroll downtown tomorrow!

2. Take a look at AJ Tooley’s video entry and help him win $25K!

3. Plan your holiday TV viewing – classic TV shows and movies, plus some more modern fare.

4. Sign up to be a volunteer judge at the high school debate tourney!

5. Help the Landon family by attending a spaghetti dinner and silent auction tomorrow! “Boo” Landon and his three kids lost everything in a fire a few weeks ago, so the benefit at the Sand Coulee Fire Hall is designed to help the family get back on their feet.

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