As long-term readers of this column probably well know, we do love our strange tanglings of local ties here.

Which begs the question: When local ties get tangled, is that grounds for a knot?

In this case, we'll let you decide.

It happened last weekend, when a pair of movies debuted nationally, if not on area screens, as we were originally promised.

Opened here or no, both of these simultaneous films have roads leading back to us.

The first film is "LBJ," the Rob Reiner-directed account of the Lyndon Baines Johnson saga with Woody Harrelson in the title role. 

It co-stars our favorite workaholic IWU theater alum, Richard Jenkins, who plays Sen. Richard Russell, LBJ's segregationist nemesis during the Civil Rights legislation era.

All fine and dandy for Jenkins fans.

But it gets better.

Well, at least for those of who obsess over these things, constantly, relentlessly.

Guilty as charged.

On those terms, the REALLY big news up and down the "LBJ" cast list is the long-awaited, never-consummated — until now — screen reunion for two of the stars of "Grandview, USA" the filmed-in-Pontiac saga whose reverberations linger on 34 autumns later (for you kids who could care less, the film was shot around the Livingston County seat in over the course of September/October 1983).

On the higher end of the "LBJ" cast list is Jennifer Jason Leigh, starring as LBJ's better-dressed half, Lady Bird Johnson.

As "Grandview, USA"-philes will recall, Leigh played Cindy Webster, the straying wife of Patrick Swayze's Slam Webster, caught under covers with Troy Donahue's sleazeball local Donny Vinton.

Cue the bulldozer-leveling-the-house scene.

Billed far above Leigh in the "Grandview" cast list was the film's leading man, such as he was in 1983, C. Thomas Howell, playing Tim Pearson, the youth whose coming-of-age story this was.

Howell got his own special boudoir time, too, albeit with the film's top-billed star and leading lady, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Though Curtis and Howell were never re-teamed, "LBJ" has brought Howell and Leigh back together again, this time with Leigh on top of the list and her "Grandview" co-star, now gray and a bit grizzled, way further down.

Watch for him as top LBJ aide Walter Jenkins ... who is no relation to co-star Richard Jenkins, much as it would make a better story and more tangled web if he were.

But there's enough confusion ahead, trust us.

Opening day-and-date with "LBJ" last weekend was another new movie with ties to us.

That would be "Lady Bird," which is NOT about the Lady Bird played by the "Grandview USA" alum in the adjoining film.

But IT is a coming-of-age comedy-drama, sort of like ... "Grandview, USA."

This particular "Lady Bird" stars ISU theater alum Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson, mother of the titular Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, played by two-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement," "Brooklyn").

A year ago this time, Ronan was a co-star in another high-profile movie, "Jackie," the bio-pic in which Natalie Portman played freshly widowed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

And guess who was a co-starring character in the true life-film?

Yep.

Lady Bird Johnson, this time played by Beth Grant.

And just to bring the circle all the way back around:

Greta Gerwig, the director of "Lady Bird," has a role in "Jackie" opposite Ronan as Kennedy-era White House social secretary Nancy Tuckerman.

Friends, we just couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.

(Answers to the photo gallery quiz, left to right: Real Lady Bird Johnson, Saoirse Ronan in "Lady Bird," Beth Grant as Lady Bird Johnson in "Jackie," Jennifer Jason Leigh who plays Lady Bird Johnson in "LBJ.)

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com.

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