EAST CHATHAM, N.Y.
Just as Hollywood is all abuzz with the Oscars, the avian world is twittering and tweeting about all the fab movies that have been made over the past year. Time now for the annual Golden Owlet nominations.
Films have been flying hither and thither landing in the nestboxes of the previous Owlet winners -- dabbling directors, preening peacocks, aging starchicks, passerine producers, craning cinematographers and ratite writers. Each and every previous winner screens the proffered films searching for the best of the best in all categories. This year the wealth of avian films tells many different and complicated stories -- of renegades and families distressed, of sadsacks and singers.
Did no one notice that birds of many species were withering away? Even after West Nile was identified, did no big pharma develop a cure or even a preventative drug? Well they did, but due to government rules and regs, the best pills were not allowed into this country. Go see "The Dallas Flyers Club."
Matty Road Runner and Jared Scrub Jay (here transformed into at the bejeweled Ms. Hummingbird) wither away to play the sick and needy. Angry that this medicine is not available to the bird polloi, Matty Road Runner smuggles these very necessary prescriptions from Mexico to Dallas and has a constant drug garage sale. A poignant film that hammers home how health care is often in the talons of the governing eagles.
In "Her (on)," the reclusive Gregory Green Heron, sad and introspective after the breakup of his marriage, wanders the marshes and estuaries helping others not so articulate. He comes across an avian operating system (AOS) that can retrieve all sorts of information at the drop of a gnat. Not only does this app provide data for divining say, the quickest flyway to a pool of minnows, it also sends solace and sympathy Gregory's way.
She, and it is a she, calls herself Heloise Heron, the helper of the hapless, and she squawks, squeals and soothes like the best of beautiful seductive birds. Soon Gregory is desperately in love with her, only to realize that she is playing the same game with many others -- predatory hawks, glib goldfinches and vivacious vireos.
Most house wrens of Queens, N.Y., are quite content to work and play, sing and dance, live and die in their own neighborhoods. In the mid-'80s, one of these wrens becomes overly ambitious, greedy and driven. Young Teddy Troglodytes heads to Wall Street, to expensive, impressive Manhattan, where he believes anyone can become a millionaire. He is mesmerized by the other avid avians he meets and spends a few years emulating their attitudes, habits and crooked dealings. He wants it all. He earns more than he could ever imagine.
Then the market goes bust, but that doesn't stop Mr. Troglodytes. He slips into the penny stocks market and rolls dollars into diamonds. He takes from the poor and gives to the rich -- himself. He buys wine and chicks and drugs and diamonds. He cannot be stopped.
But wait, along comes the FBI (Fowl Bureau of Investigation) and eventually all falls apart. He sells out his friends, does a little time and then reinvents himself as a motivational speaker. Whew! "Watch The Wren of Wall Street," a fine rendition of avian avarice.
All passerines are passable songsters, but some are better than others. Take "Inside Llewren Davis," another story of a wren, but so completely different from the above mentioned weasly Wall Street variety. Llewren is a winter wren, an excellent songster, sounding sweeter than most of his species with long involved intonations and tweets. He would love to become a big star, but doesn't know how. He pays little attention to those who love him or those who are trying to help him.
The life of a migrating songster is not easy. We follow him from audition to audition. He does sound well, but his performance is not catching the avian world's cochleas. As his down dips become more frequent than his soaring successes, we last see him in the club watching the audience become more and more enrapt with gravelly-voiced young Bob Tanager who to this day is writing songs and singing to the always enthralled, intergenerational flocks.
Then there is the story of the "Magpie Family of Osage County." The unstoppable Merlin Streep gives an over-the-top performance of a sick and bitter matriarch. So fierce and sharp is her constant carping that her husband, a mild-mannered professor, wanders away and literally takes a permanent dive in the nearby lake. Her sister and her three daughters come home with spouses in tow and each and every one is subjected to the most wounding of tweets and twitters.
In "Nebraska," a crazy old coot, believing that he has won a million dollars, is taken from Montana to Nebraska by his endearing cootlet to collect his dough. Along the way they are joined by his cantankerous cootess and they pass through his home town where his brother coots and old friend rails cozy up to him for a share in the coming dollars. A wry, funny account of life on the prairie.
A mixed flock forage for possibilities of intrigue, money and power in "American Scavengers." A family of mynas talk, talk, talk their relationship into the pond in "Before Midnight." And in "Nightingale," the elderly Philomena, with the help of a journalist jackdaw, searches for the nestling taken from her by the nuns in Ireland only.
Once again there are films for all tastes. Take advantage of these cold winter nights and enjoy the plethora of films from our flying friends!
Clellie Lynch is a regular Eagle contributor.