Sunday, October 4, 2009

What's going on in Nebraska's DIY scene? Mark Thimijan's BARSTOOL COWBOY

Nebraska's film industry? I guess there is one, based on the movie I've just viewed -- making its debut this month on DVD -- BARSTOOL COWBOY. Written, directed and produced by Mark Thimijan (shown below), a fellow born and raised in Lincoln, Neb-
raska, who has received an

Individual Artists Fellowship
from the Nebraska Arts Council, "Cowboy" is his first full-length feature and he's currently at work on #2.

It's been about 60 years since I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I imagine the place has changed some since then. (I was a pre-teen kid, visiting my deaf-and-dumb grandmother (I know, I know -- but that's what we called the non hearing/non-speaking back then) during a summer vacation. Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, this trip proved the first time I had encountered "signing," fireflies and humidity, and I was amazed and delighted by the first two discoveries and non-stop sweaty from the third. Since then, Nebraska has held a special, if tenuous, place in my heart, and so I was wondering if my first Nebraska-bred movie experience might do something similar.
Close -- but no cigar.

Barstool Cowboy is a quiet, slightly humorous, somewhat humdrum account of a middle-aged, unemployed midwesterner (that's the guy, bearded, on the left), recently dumped by his woman. He determines to drink himself into a bender until a new young lady (accent on the young) appears and draws him into her mildly diverting, well: "Web" would be way too strong a word to use for the machinations of this femme-fatale-lite. Early in the relationship (which lasts maybe two-to-three days), girl says to guy, "Don't fall in love with me." I am not certain why, but I would almost bet my life that there has yet to be a single movie male who takes serious-
ly a woman who gives him this warning. Is this a macho thing? Must guys always interpret the statement as a dare? As you might guess, our cowboy "hero" is not about to prove the exception to the rule.

Along the way, the twosome drinks, eats (above), dances, sleeps (oh-so-chastely) and even looks at sculpture (below). An early indication of -- let's call it amateur-time -- comes when the pair first meet (semi-cute) at the bar, where the young woman sits sketching, out front. She and her "cowboy" chat a bit and then leave for his motel, where she suggests that she will sketch him. But then she (and the director) forget to have her take her drawing materials along. Which could mean that she is no art student at all, adding to her "mystery." But no: We later learn that she is, and so, as we feared, the movie has a major continuity problem. (No artist forgets her sketching pad -- without at least returning to pick it up.) But we forgive and soldier on.

The two actors provide some pleasant chemistry, and leading man Tim Woodward is very well cast. Not unattractive, with a pleasant face and decent body -- still, you can understand why a woman might call him boring -- the actor does quite well with what his writer/director has provided him. As the young artist, Rachel Lien is pretty and peppy but the screenplay offers little clue to anything other than the now-famous Don't fall in love with me line. Possible cowboy employment arises, accompanied by interviews and drug testing. Slight comedic moments, as well as a few dark ones, follow and we come full circle.

At this point I'd call Thimijan's filmmaking skills fairly rudimentary but not without promise. His budget was small but I suspect he could have done more with it, as well as with his screenplay which rarely rises above the just-necessary. The characters/plot/locale prove pretty much Midwest generic. Still, I 'll look forward to Thimijan's next project to see where he goes and what he's learned.

You'll find links to purchase Barstool Cowboy here. If you'd rather rent, you can do that via Netflix. At the Netflix site for the film, however, you'll discover an interesting juxtaposition. The first and only Netflix "member reviews" give the film the highest rating -- five stars -- meaning the reviewers LOVED IT! If you click on these reviewers, you'll discover that three of the four (and perhaps the fourth, as well) are from Lincoln, Nebraska. Further, when you click on the link to "Read my other reviews," you'll find that there are no other reviews: This is the only Netflix film that any of them have ever reviewed. I wonder why? Further suspicion arises from the fact that the general rating scale for the movie ( a total of 88 members have now rated it) is only two stars, meaning "Didn't Like it."

If you peruse the production company web site for the film, and then click on the links to the reviews that Barstool Cowboy has so far amassed, the results are more promising. Out of five reviews, the results range from C# up to four stars, with all five reviews finding worthwhile things in the film, some more than others. Which is pretty much how TrustMovies feels about it, too: some worthwhile things, of which we'll hope to find more in Thimijan's next outing.

(All photos, except that of Mr. Thimijan, are from his film.)

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