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Wild at Heart at 30: David Lynch’s divisive and unruly road movie | Film

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There’s a defining moment in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart where Lula (Laura Dern), a liberated southern belle, takes the wheel of a 1965 Ford Thunderbird convertible while Sailor (Nicolas Cage), her parole-skipping boyfriend, nods off in the back seat. On some dusty stretch of highway outside San Antonio, Texas, she starts flipping through the AM dial for something to listen to, but every station is surreal or gruesome or both: “… severed …”, “… recent divorce, shot and killed her three children …”, “…shot right between …”, “… a heinous …”, “… had sex with the corpse …” and one final grisly item about the crocodiles brought in to devour the floating corpses of 500 turtles released into the Ganges to help reduce human pollution.

Lula pulls the car over in disgust. “Sailor Ripley, you get me some music on that radio this instant!” she screams, and he obliges, scanning past more talk-radio mayhem before landing, improbably, on a track by the Minneapolis speed metal band Powermad. As the two thrash along in the embankment – Sailor, with his karate-kick dancing style, seems like a terror in nightclubs – Lynch’s camera cranes upwards to a magic-hour sunset across the field. And then suddenly, the adrenalized thump of Powermad’s Slaughterhouse fades out and the lush strings of Richard Strauss overwhelm the soundtrack. Romance pokes through the violence and discord like a bloom through cracks in the pavement. Love conquers all.

The sequence is Wild at Heart in microcosm, with the AM stations representing treacherous pitstops on the lost highways between a deep south correctional facility and sunny California, where Sailor and Lula hope to carve out some place for themselves. The appeal of road movies is that they allow for a certain amount of narrative spontaneity, with every exit teasing the possibility of a new and unexpected subplot. That uneasiness is the lifeblood of Wild at Heart, which sets a love of the purest and most passionate kind against a sun-scorched landscape of ceaseless hostility. The forces of good and evil that Lynch had limited to a small town four years earlier with Blue Velvet are blown out into the larger expanse of the American road.

Thirty years ago, Wild at Heart arrived in theaters after winning the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was greeted, according to the critic Dave Kehr, with “the most violent chorus of boos and hisses to be heard in a decade”. Such a reception at Cannes can often be a badge of honor – L’Avventura and Taxi Driver also got an earful – and Lynch would get booed again when he premiered Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me at the festival two years later. But Wild at Heart opening to polarized reviews and middling box office, and its reputation over the years hasn’t improved as much as Fire Walk with Me or Lost Highway, which both seemed ahead of their audience at the time. While other Lynch films have been treated to Criterion editions and repertory play, it was hard to find on DVD in the US for years and it’s still not available to stream anywhere. This was not the expected fate for a Palme-winner from one of the greatest film-makers.

And yet, it’s not impossible to understand why it’s slipped through the cracks a little. Wild at Heart is a film of extreme violence and ugliness, and it’s far more conceptually loaded than it needs to be, with a complicated thicket of murderous lowlifes and Wizard of Oz references that are sometimes clumsily grafted on to the action and the dialogue. Coming after a tightly constructed noir like Blue Velvet, the film feels deliberately unruly, loaded with discursive flashbacks and soap opera twists, and moments of glib provocation, as if Lynch were aiming to repulse people as a lark. John Waters once said, “If someone vomits watching one of my films, it’s like getting a standing ovation.” Perhaps that’s what those Cannes boos felt like for Lynch.

But the chaos that surrounds Sailor and Lula – “Well, we’re really out in the middle of it now, ain’t we?” she declares – has the effect of heightening their relationship, much like the pop of three-strip Technicolor when Dorothy emerges into Munchkinland. For all the scenes of them grinding away in seedy motel rooms, and for all the past traumas and injustices they can never escape, Lynch sees Sailor and Lula as innocents, so pure in their love that they would make the robin tweet in Blue Velvet. When Sailor serenades Lula with Elvis tunes, it’s easy to get hung up on Nicolas Cage’s kitschy impersonation of The King or the piped-in screams of young women from an old live recording. But Lynch is utterly sincere about Sailor and Lula, and optimistic that they can overcome the evil forces that are aligned against them.

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Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Polygram

The key to Wild at Heart is Laura Dern’s performance as Lula, who craves freedom from a pathological mother (Diane Ladd, Dern’s real mom) and from a childhood shaped by sexual assault and the death of her father under dubious circumstances. She clings to the most flawed imaginable vessel in Sailor, who’d be the type to stumble into prison stints under the best of circumstances, but who also happens to have witnessed the fire that killed her father. As she and Sailor dodge the bloodhounds and assassins her mother sends after them – Harry Dean Stanton, JE Freeman, Grace Zabriskie, Isabella Rossellini and David Patrick Kelly are only a partial list of their pursuers – Lula insists on finding some place where they can be happy together. Maybe it’s a dancefloor, maybe it’s cigarettes on a motel bed, maybe it’s a sunset on the side of the road – she will eke out pleasure in the moment, even if they have no future together.

Lynch puts Dern through the emotional wringer here, like a devastating encounter with a car crash victim (Sherilyn Fenn) who spends her last moments in shocked delirium or an extended stay in the Texas hellpit of Big Tuna, where the oily Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) identifies and exploits her deepest vulnerabilities. When Lula tells Sailor, “You mark me the deepest,” Lynch makes sure the audience knows all the marks she’s accumulated. He engineers a happy ending for her because she deserves it. There’s a place for her and Sailor off the doom and static of the radio dial, somewhere over the rainbow.

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Movie Plot Holes So Big You Could Drive A Truck Through Them — Reddit

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Now it’s your turn! What plot hole was so big, it 100% took you out of the movie? You know…a plot hole so big, you could “drive a truck through it”? Sound off in the comments below!

Some responses were edited for length and/or clarity. H/T Reddit.


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Rick Riordan: ‘I feel very protective of my fans. I am aware of my responsibility to make them feel safe’ | Books

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After Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan had a plan. Once he’d finished The Tower of Nero, the final novel in his hugely popular 15-book arc about demigod teens descended from ancient Greek gods and goddesses, the YA author was aiming for “semi-retirement”, in the form of a Celtic mythology PhD at Harvard, just down the road from him. Then Disney came calling with a plan of their own: to adapt the Percy Jackson books for Disney+.

Riordan has a particularly thorny history with adaptations. When Chris Columbus was adapting the first Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, in 2009, Riordan sent producers an excoriating and now legendary note laying out his issues with the script. In the manner of the high school teacher he once was, Riordan begins with faint praise (“there are things I like about this adaptation”) before an abrupt volte face.

“Having said that, here’s the bad news: The script as a whole is terrible,” he wrote, in a letter so beloved by his fans that it’s even been given dramatic readings. “I don’t simply mean that it deviates from the book, though certainly it does that to point of being almost unrecognisable as the same story. Fans of the books will be angry and disappointed. They will leave the theater in droves and generate horrible word of mouth.”

From l-r: Brandon T Jackson as Grover Underwood, Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson and Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth Chase in Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.



(From left) Brandon T Jackson as Grover Underwood, Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson and Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth Chase in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

It had been 10 years since The Lightning Thief hit screens (it was a box-office success and spawned a sequel, despite mediocre reviews from fans and critics). Riordan was understandably nervous when Disney called. But then Netflix was also interested in adapting The Kane Chronicles, in which siblings Sadie and Carter Kane take on the gods of ancient Egypt. And Fox, which owned the rights to the Percy Jackson books, had been sold to Disney. It felt like a sea change was coming.

“Because of the streaming wars, there is a new sense in Hollywood that they need content badly. There’s a new willingness to work with the content creators that perhaps hasn’t been present before,” he says. “So we had to make kind of a soul-searching decision. I had a plan for what the next few years would look like. I was ready to be a PhD student. And I’m not a fan of Hollywood, I’ve never been starstruck. I could[n’t] care less about TV and film, honestly. But that’s not true of my fans. They really wanted new adaptations, and they felt bitterly disappointed by the movies.”

Riordan and his wife, Becky, decided they “owed it to the fans to try one more time”. Both of them are now producers on the Carter Kane and Percy Jackson series, and are working on the script for the pilot of the latter.

“So instead of learning Celtic languages, I’m now learning the language of the film industry, which definitely has its own lingo,” Riordan says. “But I do feel excited. I’m guardedly optimistic.”

Riordan is speaking by Zoom from Boston, with a pile of copies of The Tower of Nero behind him. The fifth and final book in The Trials of Apollo series sees the god, sent to Earth in the form of teenager Lester Papadopoulos, trying to regain his place on Mount Olympus. It’s the last book set in the world of Percy Jackson, although Riordan doesn’t rule out visiting the world again.

“What started with The Lightning Thief ends with The Trials of Apollo. If I do go back to this world, it might be for the occasional one-off, but I like the feeling of being able to pivot more quickly from one idea to the other,” he says. In the absence of that PhD, this is another kind of graduation, he thinks, “in the sense that there’s a sense of accomplishment and excitement, I’m glad to have finished it, and I’m excited for what comes next. But it is also the last time I’m with these characters and it’s bittersweet to say goodbye. I hope I’ve given the readers a good send-off.”

The Tower of Nero features appearances from some of Riordan’s most beloved characters: Nico di Angelo, the son of Hades; Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena; and Percy Jackson himself, of course. Riordan’s young hero first appeared in the author’s debut children’s novel, 2005’s The Lightning Thief, dreamed up by Riordan for his son Haley’s bedtime story. Out of myths to retell, the teacher remembered a task he used to set his sixth-graders, where he asked them to create a demigod hero and give them a quest. He came up with Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon and a mortal woman, and sent him on a quest to recover Zeus’s lightning bolt in modern America.

Haley had been struggling in school, having been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. So was Percy: but in Riordan’s world, ADHD is a sign you might be a demigod, while Percy’s dyslexia is attributed to his being hard-wired to read ancient Greek.

Riordan showed the novel to the kids he was teaching: they approved. Riordan quit his job as a teacher after landing his book deal – “it was not enormous, but it was a lot of money for a middle-school teacher” – and spent the first few years touring relentlessly. By the third book, Riordan was starting to top the charts.

“I thought five books would be all I would need to completely cover Greek mythology. Of course, I was wrong. I barely scratched the surface,” he says.

As well as the five Percy Jackson books – which take place around Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for the descendants of the Greek gods – Riordan wrote the Heroes of Olympus series, focusing on the Roman Camp Jupiter. Then there’s the Kane Chronicles, set in the same world but with Egyptian myth; the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy, set around Norse myth; and the five Trials of Apollo novels. Today, millions of copies of his books have sold throughout the world (and Haley has a master’s in higher education specialising in learning differences, of which Riordan is very proud).

“There were a lot of reasons I decided to keep going,” Riordan says. “But as more readers discovered it and wanted to be included in the world, I felt like it was a really special and important opportunity to expand the range of characters in Percy’s world.”

Riordan’s cast is notably diverse, in terms of race, gender and sexuality. When he made it clear that Nico di Angelo was gay (his boyfriend is the son of Apollo), there was some backlash. “I’d been writing his character long enough to realise this is simply who he is,” Riordan says. “I lost some readers on that. But some of them came back and told me they’d had a conversation with, say, a brother who they later found out was gay. Nico was the way that we found to communicate with each other, and for me to learn a bit more and to become more accepting.”

His Gods of Asgard books feature the character Alex Fierro, the gender-fluid child of the Norse god Loki, who shifts gender frequently in myths. Riordan created Alex after remembering children he had taught who were not comfortable with their assigned gender, for whom he wished he had done more at the time.

“I tried to be there for them, but I wish I had understood what those students were dealing with, and had the language and the emotional capacity to help them more than I did. So that’s always sat with me,” he says. “It made perfect sense to me that a child of Loki would be gender-fluid.”

Alex, he says, wrote herself – she uses the pronouns she and her, “unless she is in a place where she feels like her pronouns are he and him, in which case Alex will tell you that”. He read a lot, spoke to a lot of people, “and just tried to do the best job I could, knowing, of course, that as a straight, cis, white guy, I wasn’t going to be able to inhabit her experience totally. But I did the best job I could. And I got a lot of feedback that people felt really empowered by having a character like that in a mainstream children’s book.” In 2017, he won a Stonewall award for The Hammer of Thor, for exceptional merit in his depiction of LGBTQ teenagers.

“All of the kids that I write about, at one time or another, have been in my classroom. I feel very protective of them. I am very aware of my responsibility to do right by them, to make them feel safe,” he says. “One of the greatest things about interacting with the fans is when they come up to me and they say, ‘This the first time that I saw a character like me and I felt so validated, it helped me through a really rough time.’ To think that maybe, at least in some cases, I had some role in building a sense of acceptance, is amazing.”

Since The Lightning Thief in 2005, Riordan has published around two books a year. He currently has nothing under contract at all, and feels somewhat relieved. He’s still writing, of course, but all he will reveal is that it is “not a mythology book”.

“When I have a manuscript that I want to share, I’ll send it off to my agent, and we’ll see where it goes,” he says.

But for all his successes, he still misses teaching. At least once a week, he dreams he is standing in the classroom and realises he’s forgotten to do a lesson plan, or grade a bunch of essays.

“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” he says. “But the good news is, I still feel like I am a teacher. I just have millions of kids in the classroom now. And I don’t have to mark the papers, which is nice.”

  • The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan is published by Puffin. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com.


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Zen and the art of torso maintenance: Matthew McConaughey’s guide to life | Matthew McConaughey

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The biggest question in the universe, writes Matthew McConaughey in his new autobiography (of sorts) is “WHOWHATWHEREWHENHOW?? – and that’s the truth. WHY? is even bigger.” With Greenlights, his love letter to livin, McConaughey attempts to answer these questions and others, such as why he never puts a “g” on the end of “living” – “because life’s a verb”.

Greenlights is not a memoir, though it tells true stories from his life in chronological order. Nor is it “an advice book”. It is “an approach book”, bringing together McConaughey’s insights from 35 years of writing journals, and more of collecting bumper stickers. These “philosophies can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted”. A few are shared here.

‘The value of denial depends on one’s level of commitment’

“Like a good southern boy should”, McConaughey begins with his mother. When McConaughey is eight years old, she enters him into the Little Mr Texas contest. He wins, and his mom hangs a framed picture of him holding his trophy on the kitchen wall. Every morning at breakfast, she gestures to it. “Look at you: winner, Little Mr Texas, 1977.”

Now 50, McConaughey is an Oscar-winning actor, a bankable star and still one of the most handsome men in Hollywood. He has been up and down, endured boom and bust, gone from livin on easy street to trailer parks. He has weathered hard winters of the soul, and long professional droughts. Through it all he’s always been Winner, Little Mr Texas, 1977.

Last year, McConaughey came across the same photo in a scrapbook. The trophy reads “runner-up”. When he confronted his mother, she said the winner was wealthy and won with his fancy suit. “We call that cheatin. No, you’re Little Mr Texas.” McConaughey calls this the lesson of “audacious existentialism”.

‘To lose the power of confrontation is to lose the power of unity’

This proclamation, on a bumper sticker reproduced in the book, captures the young McConaughey’s home life: full of love and also violence. (“I’ve always loved bumper stickers, so much so that I’ve stuck bumper to sticker and made them one word, bumpersticker.”)

McConaughey’s parents divorced twice and married thrice, to each other. His father broke his mother’s finger four times, “to get it out of his face”; he later died from a heart attack mid-intercourse, as he’d always said he would. “Yes,” writes McConaughey, “he called his shot all right.”

McConaughey as Jake Tyler Brigance in A Time to Kill, 1996.
McConaughey as Jake Tyler Brigance in A Time to Kill, 1996. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

At dinner one Wednesday night, his father asks for more potatoes. His mother calls him fat. His father overturns the table. His mother breaks his nose with the phone receiver while calling 911. She pulls out a 12in knife. His father grabs a 14oz ketchup bottle. They circle each other, him slashing her with sauce, dodging her knife.

Their gazes meet, “Mom thumbing the ketchup from her wet eyes, Dad just standing there, letting the blood drip from his nose down his chest … They dropped to their knees, then to the bloody, ketchup-covered linoleum kitchen floor … and made love. A red light turned green. This is how my parents communicated.”

Don’t lose your truck

High school for McConaughey was summer time, all the time. He got straight As and dated the best-looking girl at his school and the other schools. He had a job, no curfew, and a golf handicap of four.

He had two years of acne, brought on by a cosmetic called Oil of Mink that his mother was selling door to door – but, blighted by whiteheads (“blistering geysers of pus”), he was still voted most handsome in his year. “Yeah, I was catching greenlights.”

McConaughey was the fun guy. Not for him, leaning against the wall at the party, smoking and looking cool. He engaged. He took the girls four-wheel driving in his truck, and flirted with them through a megaphone: “Look at the jeans Cathy Cook’s got on today, lookin gooooooood!” “Everyone laughed. Especially Cathy Cook.”

With Rory Cochrane, left, in Dazed and Confused, 1993.
With Rory Cochrane, left, in Dazed and Confused, 1993. Photograph: Alamy

One day he trades in his truck for a sports car that he knew the chicks would dig even more. He gets to school early each day and just leeeaaans against it. “I was so cool. My red sports car was so cool.”

But after a few weeks, he notices a cloud has cast across his summer sky: “The chicks, they weren’t digging me like they used to.” They were out four-wheel driving with someone else. It hits him: “I lost the effort, the hustle, the mudding, and the megaphone. I lost the fun.” He gets his truck back.

It’s never just outside Sydney

Mrs McConaughey suggests McConaughey go on a year-long foreign exchange. His response is immediate: “Sounds adventurous and wild, I’m in.”

His host family in Australia tell him they lived in paradise, near the beach, on the outskirts of Sydney. It turns out to be two hours north and inland – a one-street country town of fewer than 2,000 people.

His host family soon reveal themselves to be intensely strange and, at school, Australian chicks do not dig him. Though the “cultural differences” start to get to him quickly, McConaughey has signed a contract saying he will not leave within a year. And so, for the first time, meaningfully, in his life McConaughey is forced into winter.

McConaughey with his mother, Kay, at the premiere of Two for the Money in 2005.
McConaughey with his mother, Kay, at the premiere of Two for the Money in 2005. Photograph: UPI/Alamy

In Australia, “Macka” hits nothing but red lights. He starts writing nine-, 12-, 16-page letters home – and then, when no one replies, to himself. Seeking discipline, he becomes a vegetarian, eating iceberg lettuce with ketchup for dinner every night, and practises abstinence.

In Texas, McConaughey had planned on becoming a lawyer. But increasingly he believes it is his calling to become a monk and free Nelson Mandela. By day 148, he is down to 140 pounds, has not only quit school but is on to his sixth job, and actively at war with his host family. His only solaces are the U2 album Rattle and Hum and poetry. “I was in the bathtub every night before sundown jacking off to Lord Byron.”

‘Form good habits and become their slave’

Back in Texas, in college, McConaughey starts to have doubts about his plans to study law. These are cemented when he stumbles upon a self-help book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, at a friend’s house.

The book’s decree to become a “slave” to self-discipline – intended to be read three times a day for 30 days – absorbs McConaughey completely. Soon afterwards he starts film school, where he is a frat guy among goths, an outcast for liking popular movies.

While bartending, he meets casting director Don Phillips, who casts him for a small part in a film called Dazed and Confused. The first words McConaughey ever says on film are: “All right, all right, all right.”

‘When you can, ask yourself if you want to’

McConaughey lands an agent and parts in Angels in America and Boys on the Side. He adopts a puppy – Ms Hud, a lab-chow mix who becomes his longtime companion – and rents a quaint guesthouse on the edge of a national park in Tucson, Arizona. The house comes with a maid, who cooks and cleans.

McConaughey can’t believe his fortunes. “She even presses my jeans!” he raves to a friend, holding up his Levi’s to show her the crisp, starched-white line. His friend smiles, then says something McConaughey would never forget: “That’s great, Matthew, if you want your jeans pressed.”

“I’d never had my jeans pressed before,” he writes. “I’d never had anyone to press my jeans before. I’d never thought to ask myself if I wanted my jeans pressed … Of course I wanted my jeans pressed. Or did I?

“No, actually. I didn’t.”

Follow your dreams

In 1996, A Time to Kill makes McConaughey famous overnight. The press credits him with saving the movies. “Hell, I didn’t know they needed saving, and if they did, I wasn’t sure I was or wanted to be the one to save them.”

Then his mother gives a television crew a guided tour of McConaughey’s childhood home, pointing out “the bed where he lost his virginity to Melissa, I think her name was” – straining their relationship for the next eight years.

McConaughey as Rusty Cohle in season one of True Detective.
McConaughey as Rusty Cohle in season one of True Detective. Photograph: HBO

McConaughey desperately desires to disappear, to go somewhere he can hear himself think, to check out so that he can check in. Then he has a strange dream. He sees himself naked, on his back, floating down the Amazon river, African tribesmen lined up shoulder to shoulder on the shore. Then he ejaculates. It had “all the elements of a nightmare,” McConaughey marvels, “but it was a wet dream.”

After poring over his atlas for more than two hours, searching for meaning, he learns the Amazon is not in Africa

‘When you’re up to nothin’, no good’s usually next’

In 2000, a few years after his last hit, McConaughey accepts a generous offer to star in The Wedding Planner opposite Jennifer Lopez. He moves – with Ms Hud and his conga drums (“the purest and most instinctual instruments”) – into the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood.

“Single, healthy, honest and eligible”, he revels in the mischief and transience afforded by a high-class hotel. Days of “it’d be rude not to” are followed by mornings of “I don’t knows”. He showers in the daytime, “rarely alone”, and cooks steaks at 3am. He partakes.

But after 18 months of hedonism, the booze, the women, the gluttony start to wear thin. McConaughey tires of livin on easy street: “I needed some yellow lights.” He finds himself questioning the existence of a God. “An existential crisis? I’d call it an existential challenge.”

Unrelatedly, he is also losing his hair.

Sometimes it will be the same sign

After shaving his head to encourage thicker regrowth, a two-year course of a product called Regenix applied twice daily and “an aboriginal handshake with a friend that guarantees what two people agree on will happen if they both believe it”, McConaughey’s hairline bounces back better than ever.

Then, shooting Reign of Fire in Ireland, he has a strange dream. He sees himself naked, on his back, floating down the Amazon river, African tribesmen lined up shoulder to shoulder on the shore – then he ejaculates. “Yes, the exact same wet dream I had had five years earlier.”

It was a sign. “It was now time to go to Africa.”

Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club.
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Photograph: Allstar/Focus Features/Sportsphoto/Allstar

‘Truth’s like a jalapeño. The closer to the root, the hotter it gets’

As Hollywood’s go-to romcom guy, McConaughey is at first unbothered by the fact he is a critical write-off. “I enjoyed making romantic comedies, and their pay checks rented the houses on the beaches I ran shirtless on.”

In July 2005 he meets his future wife, embraces family life, and becomes increasingly unsatisfied by his parts. He tells his agent: no more romcoms. And he waits.

He gets offers of $5m, $8m, $14.5m for two months’ work. He turns them down. For nearly two years, he refuses to give the industry what it wants from him – and one day he is discovered again.

The offers come in droves, almost as many as after A Time to Kill in 1996 – from Linklater, Soderbergh, Scorsese. While shooting The Wolf of Wall Street McConaughey thumps his chest and hums to relax before each take. Leonardo DiCaprio suggests he do it in the scene.

Despite lack of interest from directors and financiers, McConaughey perseveres with making Dallas Buyers Club – and wins an Oscar for it. He is offered the part of Marty Hart in True Detective, holds out for Rustin Cohle, and gets it. “It was my favourite thing on TV. Still is.”

McConaughey is as fulfilled as he’s ever been. He has flipped the script, tipped the scale. They are calling it the McConnaissance. Ever wonder who came up with that? He did. At Sundance in 2013, McConaughey had told one reporter that another reporter had told him, knowing that it would stick. He figured he needed a bumpersticker.


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