Gray Days

We arrived at Cedar Hill State Park on a mild Friday afternoon under overcast skies. The cloud cover, which lasted throughout the weekend, kept temperatures in the 40s and 50s, making for chilly meal preparations on the Big Green Egg and Blackstone grill. While preventing us from dining al fresco, the weather was perfect for relaxing inside with the doggies, watching movies new and old.

On Friday, following a delicious thin-cut ribeye and grilled veggies, we watched “Don’t Look Up,” the satirical science-fiction film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as astronomers who attempt to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy life as we know it. Although it received a lot of positive buzz, we found the film to be cynical and smug. We wanted its portrayals of politicians and journalists to be more nuanced, more pointed, rather than greedy, foolish and vapid caricatures. We prefer a more sophisticated, less condescending satire, but the film did succeed in drawing attention to our mind-bogglingly irrational, incompetent response to the impending disaster of climate change.

On Saturday, we watched “The Tender Bar,” a coming-of-age drama starring Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, and Christopher Lloyd. Based on a memoir by J. R. Moehringer, the film focuses on a boy who bonds with his bartender uncle while growing up on Long Island. Our response: meh. Eventually, someone will have to break the news to Ben Affleck that he’s a mediocre actor, really no further developed than when we first took notice of him in “Good Will Hunting” back in 1997.

As a tribute to Sidney Poitier, who died on Thursday at the age of 94, we decided to end our evening by watching what has been described as one of the greatest American movies of all time, “In the Heat of the Night.” In the now-iconic, groundbreaking 1967 film, made at the height of civil rights tensions, Poitier played Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs, who becomes embroiled in a murder in rural Mississippi, butting heads with racist locals while earning the respect of the bigoted police chief, played by Rod Steiger. That same year, Poitier also starred in “To Sir, With Love,” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” equally consequential films that we’ve seen several times. Interestingly, “In the Heat of the Night” was filmed primarily in Sparta, Illinois, with additional scenes shot in Chester and Freeburg. All of these southern Illinois towns are familiar to Jon as he grew up in Belleville, just a short drive away.

Sunday found us pursuing our typical delights: watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” reading The New York Times, enjoying breakfast cocktails and then brunching and napping. We reserved the same campsite for next weekend, so, weather-permitting, we’ll be back to relax as we reflect on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.