One of the first images in the film “Nostalgia” is of an heirloom necklace dangling on the neck of a diner waitress. One of the last images is of a massive puffy cloud, ever shifting in the wide sky.
Between these symbols of permanence and flux is a deeply meditative movie about time, loss and the stuff we fiercely hold onto along the way. “Nostalgia” is thoughtful and lyrical, an unrushed poem with a first-rate cast.
Directed by Mark Pellington with a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, the film is a mosaic of interconnected stories, linking a grizzled grandfather (Bruce Dern), an insurance assessor (John Ortiz,) a widow (Ellen Burstyn), a memorabilia dealer (Jon Hamm) and his family (including Catherine Keener as his sister).
Ortiz’s patient, empathetic assessor is the glue that connects the first two characters we meet, the first of which is the grandfather, whose home is filled with personal mementos that are priceless to him but junk to anyone else.
His pregnant granddaughter — the second pregnant woman we see, stressing history and lineage — wants to know everything’s value. But what is the price of memories, of old love letters, of a life lived? When the assessor wants to take a picture of the grandfather, he shoots back, “I’m not a relic.”
The assessor next visits the widow, whose house has burned down and whom he meets in the sooty remains of the place she’s called home for decades. She had a split second during the fire to save as much as she could and, after grabbing jewelry, snatched her husband’s prized baseball.
That ball leads Burstyn to Hamm as she debates what to do with an object that meant so much to her husband but so little to her. It’s just a thing, so why does it have such a gravitational pull? If she sells it, her future is secure but her family’s connection to it is severed. “You won’t remember me,” she tells the collector.
Hamm’s character, as you might guess, is not wistful when it comes to things. He buys and sells artifacts for a living, after all, and is unsentimental, even when he goes to help his sister clean out his childhood home. When she complains there are so many memories attached to the home, he curtly responds: “Make new ones.”
It’s at this point — roughly halfway through “Nostalgia “ — when things take a tragic turn and the memorabilia dealer must soon confront his own callous views of mementos. This painful detour into profound grief threatens to warp the film, unbalance it — but stick with it. Hamm’s character is redeemed in a dumpster.
In terms of acting, the fact that Burstyn once more offers a complex, haunted heroine is no surprise. But everyone here is excellent. Ortiz delivers a slightly magical paper-pusher, Keener is a woman broken by sadness as we watch helplessly, and Hamm is as stoic outside as he is broken inside. Some tiny roles are made to sparkle in the hands of Nick Offerman, Patton Oswalt, James Le Gros, Annalise Basso and Mikey Madison.
Much of “Nostalgia” is shot as in a quiet dream, often lingering in the dark shadows. The camera never captures key dramatic events — that house fire, for example — but rather the immediate aftereffects. It never flashes back, as you might expect in a film about memories, but instead lingers on the faces of actors as they process emotions or focuses on simple items that hold intense meaning, like keychains.
It sometimes takes on the quality of a play, especially in several thought-provoking monologues. But there are also cinematic touches, like a gauzy trip to Las Vegas. “Nostalgia” is not a perfect film but it is moving and sensitive. You leave with your head in the clouds and a new view of your precious stuff.
LAS VEGAS — Marty Allen, the baby-faced, bug-eyed comedian with wild black hair who was a staple of TV variety shows, game shows and talk shows for decades, died Monday night. He was 95.
Allen died in Las Vegas of complications from pneumonia with his wife and performing partner of the last three decades Karon Kate Blackwell by his side, Allen’s spokeswoman Candi Cazau told The Associated press.
Allen, known for his greeting and catchphrase “hello dere,” was a living link late in life to a generation of long-dead superstars with whom he shared a stage, including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Elvis Presley
He first found fame as half of the duo Allen & Rossi with partner Steve Rossi, who died in 2014. Allen & Rossi appeared 44 times on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” including the episodes where the Beatles performed and most of America watched.
“Everyone remembers those shows with The Beatles, and they were great, but we appeared on all the shows,” Allen said in 2014. “There wasn’t a talk show on TV that didn’t want Allen & Rossi.”
The duo appeared regularly on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” and “The Merv Griffin Show.” They also toured comedy clubs nationwide, headlined shows at major Las Vegas casinos and released a series of hit albums until their amicable breakup in 1968.
Allen then took on a series of serious roles on daytime television and made-for-TV movies, and was a regular on “The Hollywood Squares” and other celebrity-themed game shows.
He was a regular entertainer on the Las Vegas Strip for much of his life, and tributes from there poured in Monday night.
“We have lost another iconic Las Vegas entertainer, Marty Allen,” Las Vegas magician Lance Burton tweeted. “What a funny man who brought joy to millions of people for 95 years.”
Ventriloquist and Strip luminary Terry Fator tweeted that “Las Vegas and show business lost a legend tonight ... and I lost a friend.”
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried tweeted: “Farewell to one of the funniest people onstage and off.”
Allen was born in Pittsburgh and served in Italy in the Army Air Corps in World War II, earning a Soldier’s Medal for valor.
He was married to Lorraine “Frenchy” Allen from 1960 until she died in 1976.
Then in 1984 he married Blackwell, a singer-songwriter who became his performing partner in his last decades and acted as the goofy Allen’s “straight man” just as Rossi did half a century earlier.
He kept making crowds laugh into his mid-90s.
“It’s unbelievable to be 94 years old,” Marty Allen told a New York audience in 2016. “My wife says, ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ I told her, ‘An antique.’ So she framed my birth certificate.”
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Feb. 14, 1918, Russia converted from the Old Style Julian calendar to the New Style Gregorian calendar, “losing” 13 days in the process (for Russians, the day before was Jan. 31).
On this date:
In 1663, New France (Canada) became a royal province under King Louis XIV.
In 1778, the American ship Ranger carried the recently adopted Stars and Stripes to a foreign port for the first time as it arrived in France.
In 1849, President James K. Polk became the first U.S. chief executive to be photographed while in office as he posed for Matthew Brady in New York City.
In 1859, Oregon was admitted to the Union as the 33rd state.
In 1903, the Department of Commerce and Labor was established. (It was divided into separate departments of Commerce and Labor in 1913.)
In 1912, Arizona became the 48th state of the Union as President William Howard Taft signed a proclamation.
In 1929, the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” took place in a Chicago garage as seven rivals of Al Capone’s gang were gunned down.
In 1949, Israel’s Knesset convened for the first time.
In 1962, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy conducted a televised tour of the White House in a videotaped special that was broadcast on CBS and NBC (and several nights later on ABC).
In 1979, Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped in Kabul by Muslim extremists and killed in a shootout between his abductors and police.
In 1988, Broadway composer Frederick Loewe, who wrote the scores for “Brigadoon,” ‘’My Fair Lady” and “Camelot,” died in Palm Springs, California, at age 86.
In 1990, 92 people were killed when an Indian Airlines passenger jet crashed while landing at a southern Indian airport.
Ten years ago: A former student dressed in black walked onto the stage of a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and opened fire on a packed science class; the 27-year-old gunman killed five students before committing suicide.
Thought for Today: “Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.” — Jack Benny, American actor-comedian (born this date in 1894, died in 1974).
TV personality Hugh Downs is 97. Country singer Razzy Bailey is 79. Jazz saxophonist Maceo Parker is 75. TV personality Pat O’Brien is 70. Magician Teller of Penn and Teller is 70. Actor Ken Wahl is 61. Actress Meg Tilly is 58. Actress Sakina Jaffey is 56. Actor Enrico Colantoni is 55. Actor Zach Galligan is 54. Actor Simon Pegg is 48. Singer Rob Thomas is 46. Actor Jake Lacy is 32. Actor Brett Dier is 28. Actor Freddie Highmore is 26.