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Echoes and Mirrors » 2014 » April

Archive for April, 2014

Movie Review: Prince Avalanche (2013)

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Prince AvalancheOh, understated dramedy, you are the apple of my eye.

Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) spend a summer working on the highway in rural Texas following wildfires that destroyed much of the countryside in 1988. Alvin is dating Lance’s sister and got Lance the job. Alvin finds Lance to be immature, feckless and irritating; Lance finds Alvin to be self-righteous and irritating. But their isolation forces them to come together and face their problems, which, as it turns out, aren’t so different.



Movie Review: See Girl Run (2012)

Monday, April 28th, 2014

See Girl RunI swear I haven’t been trying to balance the deployment of my reviews in a good-review-bad-review pattern, but it seems that that is what has been happening. No more. In fact, I think you’re in for a pile of gushing reviews about understated dramedies (lo, how I loathe that word, despite it’s somewhat perfectness). Not today, though.

See Girl Run is about a thirty-five year old woman who runs away from her husband to find closure with her boyfriend from high-school (college?) that she never “technically broke up with.” It’s a movie about closure then – and that, well, happens. While there are some bright spots, this movie is basically an unmitigated disaster. (Spoilers and gory details below.)



Some Thoughts on The Killing

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

I finished watching The Killing on Netflix. The show was addictive, grim, stylized and engaging for the majority of the series. The complexity of the search for Laura Palmer’s Rosie Larson’s murderer. The detectives are driven and intelligent, but also flawed and quick to jump to conclusions. Of course, this leads to mistaken accusations, which further leads to violence and more trouble. The story is genuinely compelling and the way it unravels is fun. The resolution to the investigation is satisfying in a way I hadn’t predicted.

It reminded me of a much more serious – or at least realistic – Twin Peaks. It lacks the surreal, the meta-critiques of its own genre and the spiritual that Lynch wove into his show. It doesn’t have the comic relief or the ironic use of tropes. It makes up for that with wonderful character development. But it does make the same fatal mistake that Twin Peaks did: they solve the murder, but continue the show. Twin Peaks may have had a really great extended plot to delve into (the film Fire Walk with Me wraps some of it up but leaves me wondering how awesome a full second or even third season could have been).

So, season three. It fast-forwards one year and we find that Linden has quit the police force and Holder has become a successful homicide detective. They stumble upon what appears to be the work of a killer they believe they caught and is scheduled to be executed.

The thing is, it while it reaches back and explores Linden’s history, a lot of the real character development is sort of eschewed for plot points. When it’s not, there are long, emotionally-charged but underwhelming episodes – the episode where the killer is executed, I think, was meant to be powerful and paced slowly to reveal a lot without much action. It does the latter, but not the former so well. Linden’s son is completely out of the picture and only sort of hand-waved away. Holder’s past as a drug addict is ignored in a similar fashion.

They also tried to up the ante by casting a few bigger names including Peter Sarsgaard and Amy Seimetz (who will likely appear and be praised in some upcoming movie reviews), both of whom give wonderful performances, even if they’re somewhat underused. Mireille Enos (Linden) and Joel Kinnaman (Holder) deliver praiseworthy performances again, even though a lot of the scripting seems uninspired. And it’s really in the story that the show simply falls a bit flat in season three. It simply can’t recapture the energy and paranoia that the first two seasons had. It is still grim and stylized. The city of Seattle remains a vital part of the of show, and possibly even more so.

Apparently (according to IMDb) there’s to be another season, though there isn’t any details on it yet. I was impressed enough to watch another season but I’m not sure how excited I am about it. It simply lost it’s energy and grip on me during the third season. It Twin Peaks’d but rather than reaching for an inspired if confusing extended plot arc, it sort of became a police procedural – one with lengthier and complicated investigations, but a police procedural none the less. Which is disappointing.


Is it so Absurd? An Argument About Class and Access

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Recently, I celebrated a birthday. What happens on my birthday every year is that I also have to renew my vehicle registration.

The Ohio BMV (Does that not sound like a child mispronouncing DMV? Ohio, you are a joke.) was within walking distance from campus. So, on my birthday, I walked from school down there to find out that they moved across town. I wasn’t upset about having to give the state money on my birthday; I’ve had to renew vehicle registration for years and I was working anyway. No big deal.

But when I got there, I found a sign informing me that they’d moved to a location clear across town. One that I couldn’t walk to. Inside the mall. Which is important because by time I got out of work, they were closed and I couldn’t drive.

Now, I’ve been trying to make time to take a bus out to the new location, which simply hasn’t worked with their hours and my work schedule being about evenly matched.

Granted, I could have done my renewal prior to the last day possible. But I drive maybe once a week and hadn’t driven anywhere in almost three weeks leading up to it. I just forgot about it. I live in town and generally walk everywhere.

And so I suppose I would be inclined to argue that moving an essential government office to a location that can only be reached by motor vehicle presupposes an ability to either spend an hour or two taking public transit or the ability to legally drive already. Having a car or other motor vehicle is really more of a necessity than a privilege outside of major metropolitan areas.

Also consider those who are simply attempting to get a valid identification card (and can’t drive, by choice or otherwise). They now have to find some sort of transportation to the office instead of being able to walk.

This strikes me as a form of class warfare. A minor blow, perhaps, but it makes assumptions about minimum ability. Specifically, it makes an assumption of what I would call a middle class ability, or middle class access. That is access to either the time to arrange for transportation or the transportation itself.

Having access and having convenient access are completely different things. Purposeful inconvenience is a method of restricting the level of access and is somewhat evil. Coincidental inconvenience, on the other hand, would simply be a form of ignorance. I’m not sure what we’re dealing with in this case but I would highly doubt any intent was had. It seems more like someone simply didn’t consider the broader consequences of moving the BMV. That is, they did not consider anyone with less than a certain level of access.


Movie Review: How I Ended This Summer (2010)

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

hietsRussian (Subtitled)

Pasha, a young intern, and Gulybin, a veteran meteorologist, spend a summer out at an Arctic research station. The two generally antagonize each other, though Gulybin seems to act as a bit of a father-figure at times. The early part of the movie sets up the mind-numbing dullness of the whole enterprise – they spend their time taking readings and calling in reports. Gulybin goes fishing and Pasha gets an urgent message that he fails to deliver to his elder compatriot – things, of course, get complicated from this point. The film is pychological and stark in its content and delivery. The drama of the isolation and the humanity of the two men really shines.


The Future, Redux

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Remember this little gem? Yeah, it was apropos and clever, at the time.

But now, as my wonderful little grad school idyll is unceremoniously coming to a close, I really am having to job hunt. And it sucks.

That is all.



Brief Encounters with Ben Fountain

Monday, April 21st, 2014

I suppose it should go without saying that I read a lot. I think I do, but sometimes I realize that I don’t read nearly as much as I ought to. Or, more specifically, I get a paranoia about not reading enough when I actually do. One thing I know I don’t read enough of is short stories. I don’t have anything against them (what could I possibly have against them?) and generally tend to enjoy the fact that I can read one while I wait between classes or any other 20 minute bit of downtime I find myself in. I can read one before going to sleep without facing the nagging questions about what’s going to happen next? They’re great.

And reading Ben Fountain’s Brief Encounters with Che Guevara reminds me of the power of short stories. The opening story “Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera,” is one of those stories that probably won’t leave me for a long time (much like Alice Munro’s “Child’s Play,” or Jess Walter’s “We Live in Water”). The ending, specifically, is so artfully done that my reaction is to simply blink at the page and say, “oh, wow.” Because it satisfies an expectation in the exact opposite way that I would expect and exactly in the way that makes the most sense: John Blair (the humble hero of this story) is rescued, but only grudgingly so, and only because he’s become more of a nuisance to his captors than he is worth. It really tips toward his being shot, instead.

Even more beautifully, his guard’s humanity is exposed through his generosity (I won’t spoil the how) in comparison to an otherwise Colombian-lensed but very Cormac MacCarthy-esque outlook on life. That is, one that is full of brutality and is washed out, desensitized. This makes his act mean more than anything John could have done and becomes more important than John’s own disillusionment and joy, if only because it is the cause for how John feels. And be cause it’s an act that’s completely organic but slides itself in unnoticed until the very end.

I think maybe I’ve become a little too complacent with what I read. It may be the case that this story is just that much better than what I’ve been reading. I’d like to think so. Because this is intimidatingly good. It sets a high bar, and one worth striving for. Certainly higher than the attempt at a clever title I used for this post, at any rate.


Movie Review: The Giving Tree (2000)

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

tgt1A group of friends meet up to see their friend Emily (Christina Applegate), who kills herself while they sleep. An earthquake wakes them up and they find her body; the earthquake also leaves them trapped on top of the mountain where they’ve assembled. Thus, they are forced to reconcile their feelings about her suicide, their history and feelings. They’ve all grown apart and there are the predictable tensions, conflicts, alliances and all that goes with long friendships.

Netflix has this movie listed as Shaded Places. It also goes by The Brutal Truth.



Movie Review: Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Blue is the Warmest Color“A French teenager, Adèle, struggles with her sexuality and meets Emma, a blue-haired art student, who allows her to become a woman and embrace her sexuality.” I’ve probably read half a dozen reviews, summaries and synopses of this Palme d’Or winning film that says, roughly, something to that effect. And it’s not a bad description – on the surface, this is exactly what this movie is about. Adèle is a sexually-confused young woman and she falls in love with Emma, who is, indeed, an art-student. I’ve also seen a bit about the controversy (which intrigued me, but ultimately has little to do with my review) and, without fail, the seven minute sex-scene (which does). But this film is so much more than a love story. It’s more than a queer love story. It’s something so much more basic and human than that. (Spoilers below)



How I Feel About Graduating With a Master’s in Creative Writing on Bad Days

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Maybe I’ll be in school forever, though.