It's not a blog. It's a midlife crisis.

Review: St. Elmo’s Fire

Monday 14 April 2014 - Filed under film

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
Mare Winningham, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, and Andie McDowell. Directed by Joel Schumacher.

stNo fan of Brat Pack films should admit he’s in his mid-forties and still hasn’t seen Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire, one of two films that literally define the Brat Pack itself, yet until this weekend I had not seen it. It was rated R by the MPAA and I was sixteen when it was in theaters, and for some reason I just never got caught up. My parents were strict about movies, and although I’d seen The Breakfast Club in high school at my father’s urging, the number of R-rated films I saw before I turned eighteen is about equal to the number of Brat Packers who served their detention at Shermer High School on that storied Saturday.

I’m kind of glad I waited this long, because what the movie lacks in believable script, admirable characters, and thoughtful dialogue, it makes up for, twenty-nine years later, in nostalgia, at least for an aging Gen-Xer like me. The quality of this nostalgia makes the movie much more likable than it deserves, and that’s okay with me.

elmosSeven recent Georgetown University graduates, best friends in college and still best friends a few months later, work through a variety of issues. Wendy, a welfare worker played by Mare Winningham, struggles to find an identity separate from her wealthy family’s greeting-card business, wanting to make her own way on her terms, and not to rush into marriage and family with another of her father’s hand-picked employees. She’s not-so-secretly in love with Billy (Rob Lowe in typically creepy fashion). Billy’s still trying to hang onto a frat-boy life, despite being the only one in the group with a spouse and child. He’s good enough a saxophone player to have his own band and a regular gig at a favorite bar, but he can’t hold down any of the regular day jobs he gets recommended for by his friend Alec.

fireAlec, played by Judd Nelson, is an aspiring politico, working for a Democratic congressman but making a move to work instead for a Republican, because there’s more money there. He’s living with (and begging to be married to) Leslie (Ally Sheedy). Leslie’s not in a hurry to wed because she hasn’t established a career yet, and doesn’t want to be identified as someone’s wife before she’s found an identity as her own person. Alec’s best friend Kevin, an aspiring newspaper writer played by Andrew McCarthy, seems to be struggling with sexual identity issues after a conversation in which Jules (Demi Moore) tries to convince him he’s gay. Jules, a bank employee, is living well beyond her means in a huge apartment and in what we’ve come now to think of as a stereotypical partying yuppie lifestyle.

fireThe group’s seventh member, and the only one who doesn’t seem to have issues with any of the others, is Kirby, played by Emilio Estevez. He’s a waiter in the group’s hangout, St. Elmo’s Bar, and I write about him separately because his piece of the plot surrounds the pursuit of an older Georgetown alumna, Dale (Andie McDowell), a physician at an area hospital, and Kirby’s interactions with the group are a lot less involved. Kirby goes to ridiculous lengths to woo Dale, and if certain other characters remind one of the better teen films of the Eighties, Kirby seems to be there to remind one of the most juvenile, least believable of those films. Or, to give Schumacher the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he’s there as a foil for Billy. Where Billy has the reality of a real grown-up life with grown-up responsibilities he’s too immature to deal with, Kirby is still playing a child’s game with grown-up pieces and no sense for real, post-college relationships.

forIn one sense, St. Elmo’s Fire seems to do a pretty good job of tapping into what we now remember as Gen-X angst. Those first uncertain steps out of college and into career are riddled for all of us with countless missteps and misconceptions; for people my age they were also complicated by a few issues unique to us: following in the ridiculous wake left by the Boomers before us in a suddenly post-Cold-War world where things we learned to fear were slowly fading and things we learned to value were crashing down around us. Three of seven characters in this film have marriage issues at age 22, something that should not be lost on critics who might accuse it of lacking relevance.

just aYet where the film manages to find that space where characters struggle with the things we really struggled with, they are sequined with details and plot elements that do not do those characters (or the talented actors who play them) justice. Schumacher’s crimes are not egregious; except for the entirety of the Kirby plot, the story is mostly believable and not difficult to relate to. But where John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club gave us the feeling that its five characters might possibly say and do the things they say and do, the St. Elmo’s gang doesn’t seem to know how to have an interesting conversation.

momentAnd this is unfortunate, because where most of my nostalgia comes from is this group of beautiful, likable, fairly talented actors who are an indelible memory of my childhood, actors who played characters who played a part in my defining who I was, separate from the Boomers of my parents’ generation and yet destined in retrospect to figure it out in a way that was my own and yet not that different. Ally Sheedy’s pointed chin, Judd Nelson’s flared nostrils, Demi Moore’s raspy come-hither voice: they immediately take me back to a time when I naively thought that I would never sell out, when I thought I was different, a future world-changer.

demiThere’s no way Schumacher could have know that’s what these actors, not yet dubbed the Brat Pack, would come to represent. He could not possibly have known he was making an iconic film with an iconic soundtrack and iconic actors that someone like me, forty years later, could even get this wistful about, but maybe that’s my biggest criticism. My nostalgia deserves a better movie than this. John Hughes did it, and I think it’s fair to criticize Schumacher for not doing it too.

Despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed the heck out of this movie and will likely see it again. If not the ten million times I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, then perhaps just one or two million.


1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-14  ::  me


Sunday 13 April 2014 - Filed under five

From here.

  1. What field trips, one from elementary school and one from high school, do you remember most fondly?
    I loved field trips. Loved them so much. The world is our classroom; that was the lesson I learned from even the earliest years. It’s something that has stuck with me, in my everyday life and in my profession. So there were very few field trips I didn’t care much for. I really like the performances at Honolulu Theater for Youth. I think those were my favorite. In high school, it would have to be our senior class trip to the island of Hawaii, but for day field trips, I remember our all-school picnic at Castle Park (a long-gone water park where there is now a K-Mart) in tenth grade with particular fondness.
  2. How does your handwriting today differ from your handwriting in high school?
    It’s basically the same, but quite a bit messier. Since my graduation from high school, I’ve added an all-lowercase style of handwriting for casual communication, something inspired by letters from V, to go with my long-established all-caps handwriting. Somewhere in the past few years, I’ve also developed an I’m-not-really-paying-attention style that blends the all-caps style with the all-lowercase style with no apparent lowercase-upppercase pattern. That one annoys me; I would like to cut it out.
  3. What let’s-pretend game did you most enjoy when you were a child?
    My sister and I had a kind of hybrid game of let’s-pretend that involved my Hot Wheels cars and our combined collections of stuffed animals. I often played that by myself, too. I still remember some of those games very fondly and have been tempted to buy a few Hot Wheels to try and recreate them.
  4. If you had to take the name of any one-named celebrity, whose would work best?
    I wish I could say Sting or Bono or (mostly) Coolio. But I think I’m going to go with Ichiro, which is a pretty boring answer.
  5. A brain, a princess, an athlete, a basket case, and a criminal: Which of these roles will you take, and which friends fill the rest?
  6. Probably the brain. Princess: Angela. Basket case: Desiree. Criminal: Ryan. Athlete: Clint. Names which mean nothing to anyone reading this, but there you go.

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-13  ::  me

Power Rankings for Week 15

Thursday 10 April 2014 - Filed under power

Power rankings for the week of April 9 to April 15.

Comment This week Last week Weeks on Peak
The Tony Kornheiser Show Will be off Thursday and Friday; I predict a new #1 next week. 1 1 15 1
Baseball The MLB at Bat app and my $20 season-long subscription may be the best two sawbucks I’ve spent in a really long time 2 2 7 2
Anna Kendrick Her SNL appearance wasn’t the greatest, but it was cute and sweet and fun, and she got to do a lot of singing. And that Ariel costume? Oh my. 3 5 6 3
Mom (TV series) False alarm on the baby; season finale coming up. Renewed for season 2! 4 3 15 3
Grantland Bill Simmons’s recap of the Letterman retirement announcement was excellent. He also (correctly) said without qualification that Colbert would be the replacement. 5 11 2 5
The Big Bang Theory I feel an essay coming on. 6 4 15 3
The Dan Le Batard Show I’m falling behind on the podcasts. Need a good long weekend of pod-vegging. 7 7 15 2
Kaley Cuoco TiVo picked up a stupid celebrity gossip show in which her anatomy is discussed. It was only about a minute, but it was a good minute 8 7 15 6
John Green Looking for Alaska was a good book. I still have a few reservations; going to read that OTHER title of his this month. 9 9 2 9
Kindle Paperwhite Still reading work-related stuff on it. Dedicating the next month or so to catching up on my pile of physical books. Can’t wait! 10 8 14 1
Scrivener Oh, Scrivener, my faithful auto-saving, lost-words-recovering companion. 11 10 13 7
HootSuite * This is some powerful stuff. Just scratching the surface so far. 12  – 1 12
Spotify April’s going to be a lean month; Spotify is going to see increased use. 13 13 14 2
Twitter I’ve been thinking that Google Glass would be pretty cool if you can make it show you your Twitter stream all the time. I’d use that. 14 14 15 7
Facebook I don’t want to be one of those complainers, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to track the activity I want; I need to be able to sort my stream by terms I define. 15 15 15 8
Five Thirty-Eight The infographics are a nice aide. Good, good material from Nate Silver’s crew. 16 23 3 16
Scramble with Friends There’s only one opponent I really care about lately, and I’m just about up to 50% against her. This pleases me a great deal. 17 16 15 8
Words with Friends Am considering a renewed focus on improving at this game. The opponent who I think is cheating keeps beating me. 18 17 15 7
Diet Pepsi I’ve actually had some at home recently. Very unusual. 19 19 9 10
Feedly Really need to spend some time customizing this some more. 20 12 2 12
Rockstar cherry citrus A recent addition to the morning lineup. Good energy and a nice, light flavor. Zero sugar. 20  – 1 20
Pardon the Interruption Off the air during the Masters, and probably not a bad thing. 21 22 14 11
iTunes Shuffle mode has me rediscovering all kinds of stuff I forgot I had. 22 18 8 4
Outshine fruit bars The pomegranate flavor is pretty good. Not as sweet as the strawberry. Grape is up next. 23 24 2 23
Patton Oswalt New Comedy Central special nailed it. I wish they wouldn’t bleep it even the tiny amount they do. 24  – 1 24
Ricky Skaggs Listened to a TON of bluegrass this past week. Skaggs is just the best. 25  – 1 25

*Biggest jump

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-10  ::  me

Take Me to the Old Playground

Monday 7 April 2014 - Filed under reading

madscientistsYou don’t have to know me very well to know that I amass enormous numbers of books that I will probably never get around to reading or that I’ve read so many times I can recite them practically by heart, so all they do is sit on my shelf, like the treasured baseball cards of my youth.

But I am alarmed (alarmed!) by how many of the books I loved as a kid are no longer available in print. When I first began to notice this terrible trend, I didn’t sweat it much because the libraries still had copies, many of them probably the very copies I borrowed. But shoot, that was thirty years ago, and the libraries don’t have them anymore either.

But then there were eBay and and the Amazon marketplace, a fresh source of the old books (especially those darned Scholastic titles, which seemed to be printed once, sold ten million times in those TAB and Troll book order forms, and then forgotten forever). I purchased a few of the ones I really needed, thinking I’d save the rest for later.

It’s later, and now many of those books are going for ridiculous prices, not because they’re in demand, but because they’re in short supply. Most can still be purchased for very reasonable prices, if one is willing to look; however, the trend is clear: except in the rare instances of reprints (thank you, publishers of The Mad Scientists Club), the numbers of these copies are dwindling, and I have to confess a small feeling of panic is settling in. I have to fight that off, because I have a feeling that if I’m merely attentive and patient for the next few years, I don’t have to rush out and buy everything.

As the likelihood of my ever having kids decreases by the day, there should be less panic. With no kids to share them with, I can get rid of the 42 episodes on VHS I still have in plastic cases of Little House on the Prairie (the TV show), and I don’t need all fifteen Danny Dunn books (which are getting more and more difficult to find!). And I still have my original copy of The Wednesday Witch, handed down by my uncle when he was done with it at age 11 and still marked by his elementary-school curly cursive signature on the inside cover. That book, and a few from the same period, have been with me for nearly forty years. Maybe that’s all I need.

wednesday I can, for now, still find acceptable copies of Jason and the Money Tree for $1.50 plus reasonable shipping, but will it be much longer before, if I really want it, I’m going to have to pay $96.36 because that’s all that’s left?

Part of me thinks I’m looking at this the wrong way. The decreased likelihood of my ever having kids is maybe a stronger reason for my getting these books back on my shelf. I can think of very few companions by which I’d rather be escorted into the end of my years than these lifelong friends.

Darn it.

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-07  ::  me

A High Lonesome Sound

Sunday 6 April 2014 - Filed under work + writing

I hit a weird little patch of the doldrums with my prose fiction project.  Kept writing but not with any kind of big picture in mind, writing just to have something to share with my group every two weeks.  It was fun writing, and I got a few good things out of it, but most of what I did developed neither plot nor character, and I have this looming May 1 deadline I set myself for the first draft.

But my writing partner has been great, nothing but encouragement and a little bit of butt-whipping from her.  She could tell immediately my heart wasn’t in the stuff I was sharing, but she still found some good things to say about it.  So I sat down for a little while today, did some reflective free-writing on the work so far, and came up with an outline for the rest of the story.  The good news is that the outlining process itself helped me come up with a few answers to some nagging questions I’ve had about the characters and plot, something I didn’t at all expect.  The bad news is that I have three weeks to get through that outline, and I’m only on number 7 of like a 17-item bulleted list.

I still feel okay about things, though.  It’s going to take a little bit of focus, yet I am optimistic about getting through it.  I mean, three weeks is 75% of a NaNoWriMo, so I know from experience that if it’s just a matter of focus, I can certainly come up with that somehow.

I had to apologize to my writing partner a couple of weeks ago.  We met a few times not to share work, but just to sit down and work separately.  It was fun.  She said she’d never done it before and wanted to know if that’s what NaNoWriMo is like.  I said yes, it’s one of the best things about it.  Anyway, I had to apologize and explain that while she was the sort who psyched herself up to sit down and write, I very frequently have to psyche myself down in order to get to work. I call myself names. I get myself depressed. I remind myself of all those years of telling myself I was a writer but never really producing anything to show for it, and that I am forty-five years old now and if I’m not going to write TODAY, when the heck am I going to write? next year? There are no next years. There is only now.

I was really worried that I was going to drag her down. So I apologized. And she said (first) that she hadn’t even noticed, and (second) that she’s known me long enough to know how I am, and if I was too much of a downer, she would just ignore me the way she always ignored me when I was like that.

It’s good to have friends who know you, understand you, and still love you. This is a good partnership for me; I can only pray that somehow I’m making it a good partnership for her, too. She’s so young, and she doesn’t have that sense of desperation that I have. This project of hers is relatively new; she can’t look at her life as a writer and conclude that she’s so far been nothing but a failure.

If nothing else, I know that just the commitment we’ve made to each other to meet every two weeks and talk about our work has been enough to motivate her, most of the time. I have to remember that: if nothing else, my consistency and my encouragement are valuable to her, it not whatever expertise I might pretend to have.

No details about my project, but I was wrestling with a major decision about who should narrate this thing, and I reluctantly came to the conclusion that the narrator I was experimenting with was much, much better for narrating this story than the character I was secretly hoping to switch to in a future draft. I somehow, by some miracle, have stumbled upon a narrative voice that really, really works for this story, and she’s likable and interesting and smart, and the sort of character I think my audience will admire. Even though at first, second, and third glances, the story’s not at all about her.

It feels good. I feel like I’ve untangled a lot of tangled thoughts about this project, and that first decision about who’s narrating this thing led me to a few pretty good ideas about how to make this story more about her.

I’ve been encouraged to apply for a short gig teaching non-credit business writing courses at the school where I work. That should be fun. There are no details on when the course would be offered or who would be taking it. The people who encouraged me to apply have been super nice, and even though that particular shade of writing is not my thing, I already know how I would teach it, and look forward to the challenge. Man, the people I’ve worked with so far in that department have been nothing but super super super nice and super encouraging. In fact, I’ve gotten a bit of that from some contacts I’ve made in other departments on campus, too. It’s nice to be valued for what I can do.

The workers at my neighborhood Starbucks have been getting too familiar. I try to avoid being too regular at any Starbucks for this reason, but my self-imposed grounding means I can’t really go to the cafes I prefer, the open-all-night joints where I actually don’t mind a little bit of familiarity. So I’m kind of stuck with the Starbucks cafes near my house and near my office. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I’ve spent most of my day listening to bluegrass and bluegrass-tinged stuff. Such good, good music. It’s been strangely good for the productivity, too, which isn’t always the case.

This week: a big deadline at work I need to power through, probably a day off Wednesday, a little bit of long-overdue car maintenance, a lot of writing, and figuring out a schedule for my side gig. Gotta finish reading the new Michael Lewis book, too, and do a review, then write a couple of articles. Good times.

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-06  ::  me

Power Rankings for Week 14

Friday 4 April 2014 - Filed under power

Power rankings for the week of April 2 to April 9.

Comment This week Last week Weeks on Peak
The Tony Kornheiser Show A listener email destroyed the program one day last week. Funniest thing I’ve heard in years. 1 1 14 1
Baseball Ah, it feels like I’ve come home after a long journey. 2 9 6 2
Mom (TV series) Ooh, two very good episodes in a row. 3 15 14 3
The Big Bang Theory A nice, new, normal episode this week. And funny. 4 16 14 3
Anna Kendrick SNL this weeeeeeeeek! 5 19 5 5
Kaley Cuoco She’s on the cover of Cosmopolitan. Oh my. 6 22 14 6
The Dan Le Batard Show A few days this week were yawners, but there were also some great moments. 7 2 14 2
Kindle Paperwhite Immediate gratification on payday. Dangerous. 8 5 13 1
John Green Just about done with Looking for Alaska. 9  – 1 9
Scrivener Novel back on track, and using Scrivener for outlining too. 10 23 12 7
Grantland I think it’s finally reeled me in. 11  – 1 11
Feedly Tried to get along with an aggregator but I have too man jobs that require attention to too many websites now. Need feed. 12  – 1 12
Spotify Less music now that it’s baseball season. 13 6 13 2
Twitter Do you know about Tweet a Coffee by Starbucks? Try it; it’s pretty fun. 14 7 14 7
Facebook I wish it were more configurable so my stream shows up the way I want it. 15 8 14 8
Scramble with Friends I’m back, baby. 16 11 14 8
Words with Friends You should be playing me. 17 12 14 7
iTunes Listening as I go to sleep lately. 18 4 7 4
Diet Pepsi I’ve actually had some at home recently. Very unusual. 19 10 8 10
Starbucks App The new app is slicker but less elegant. 20 13 13 9
Secret My secrets never get hearts. 21 14 3 13
Pardon the Interruption And they get everyone with their April Fool’s joke AGAIN because they are so credible. 22 20 13 11
Five Thirty-Eight Baseball managers: there’s no evidence most of them make any difference in wins and losses. 23 24 2 24
Outshine fruit bars Not sure how this happened. I’ve developed a little bit of an addiction. 24  – 1 24
Louis C.K. Binging on Louis recordings while I do chores. New way to get through them. 25  – 4 10

*Biggest jump

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-04  ::  me

Cry Heart

Friday 4 April 2014 - Filed under decluttering

Digitizing some old letters and notes, hopefully to toss out eventually, and came upon this. Don’t remember getting it, and I am not sure who sent it. The handwriting has it narrowed down to three strong candidates, but I can’t tell which.


 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-04-04  ::  me

Review: Short Term 12

Sunday 30 March 2014 - Filed under film

Short Term 12 (2013)
Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz. Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

shortWriter-director Destin Daniel Cretton (who’s from my home state of Hawaii), worked for a time after college in a group home for at-risk youth. He had to have, because the authenticity of the film whose setting and name are Short Term 12 and the authenticity of the characters who live and work there can only be explained by either employment or actual residence in such a home, which I explain now as a disclaimer for my really, really liking this film. My bias is strong (I have worked in such homes), and I was sold by the time seventeen minutes of film had spooled.

termThere is an awkward early moment provided by Nate (Rami Malek) on his first day as a counselor in the home. My own first days weren’t exactly like Nate’s, but they had their own awkwardness, which I remember with some embarrassment, and I have witnessed the same from many others on their first days. The movie’s not even secondarily about him, so deep does the realness of this movie go.

It’s about Grace (Brie Larson), who runs the daily operations of the house, and kind of about Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a new resident who resists the structure of the residence. Grace’s skill at managing the home are obvious and kind of amazing, and she demonstrates it in one scene after another, from the beginning of the film to the end. What makes someone so good at handling a workplace with such fragile, vulnerable clients and with the potential at any moment to explode from the pressure that seems always to be mere seconds from seeking release? There isn’t merely a single answer for this, aand Cretton gives us a few suggestions by showing us how Grace and the counselors make it happen.

12Although its name suggests this is a short-term residence for kids awaiting placement in foster homes or reunification with biological parents, most of them call it home for under a year and a few have been there for nearly three years. Each has his or her own story, of course, and we get to know a few of them as they are talked off the ledges (mostly figuratively) of the daily perils of their lives.

st12I’m sticking to descriptions of setting because to summarize the plot will either make it sound like a teen-problem-of-the-week movie or give away more about its primary characters than I would like, because this is not a movie about the kids, as great as the kids are. It’s about Grace, and it’s about her relationship with Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.), one of the counselors in the home, and it’s about what makes them and the others good at what they do and still maybe not so good at managing their own lives.

I should probably let this one settle in for a few days and then see it again before rating it, because I’m infatuated with one particular aspect of this movie, the kind of thing that tends to warp perspective, but with my disclaimer fully in place and my bias explained probably more than is necessary, I’m going ahead and saying I really, really like Short Term 12 and might grow to love it after another viewing or two. Highly recommended.


 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-30  ::  me

Check Your Head

Sunday 30 March 2014 - Filed under body

(I originally titled this “License to Ill” but then I looked it up and I used that title in 2008. So I changed it to “Ill Communication,” but I used that in 2006. So now even though it’s not relevant, I chose the title of a Beastie Boys album I just like)

One specific I can get into with my shifting work situation is my teaching a couple of non-credit classes in MS Office at the school where I work. It’s not part of my job, but a sort of second job at the same place. Three-hour classes, three days per week, seven weeks. Two classes. The hourly pay is better (by two or three times; that’s still being worked out) than the primary gig, and I’ve already gotten permission by my boss to do it. I’ve taught MS Office (and similar stuff) for most of my teaching career, so I step into it with utmost confidence. The only question marks are (a) doing it on Windows 8 machines which I’ve never messed around with, and (b) teaching Outlook, a mail client I’ve never used and will advise my students not to use unless forced to by the employers who are paying for this training. I’m not too worried about either, but it means I’m going to have to spend a little bit of my own time in the lab at school so I know what I’m doing.

I’ve been without health insurance for longer than I should. It’s a stupid, messed-up situation that I’m mostly responsible for, but now that I’m forced by law to have it, I finally tightened the belt in a few areas and dove in. In this state, full-time employees are entitled to health care paid for by employers, but my current situation at work, ‘though a full time gig, doesn’t provide it because it’s not a permanent job (I have to reapply every eighty-nine days, effectively resetting the clock on the state of Hawaii’s responsibility for my health insurance). I was paying for COBRA benefits for quite a while; I let them lapse when it looked like that situation was about to get cleared up.

It didn’t! What the heck? How do I always seem to find these weird in-between spaces?

I was paying just over three hundred bucks a month for COBRA coverage. Obamacare was probably going to run me $150 to $200, so after much thought and some hair-pulling, I just re-upped with my previous provider, paying $240 myself, opting for a more expensive plan than required by law because I have a few conditions that need regular attention, and with the copay plan I selected, I’ll be motivated to get medical attention as often as I need it just to get my money’s worth. I do not know what the optical situation is; I’m going to have to ask once my application is approved.

Plus, I can’t justify skimping on medical care when the difference between the minimum plan and the plan I purchased is about what I spend at Starbucks every month.

Coverage takes effect May 1, and you can believe I’ll be making appointments on that date for multiple things. Ha. Weird how when it was paid for by someone else, I just about never went.

Until I start getting a little more pay each month, it’s going to be kind of a scrape, but I’ll live. Which is sort of the whole point, right?

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-30  ::  me

Review: In a World…

Saturday 29 March 2014 - Filed under film

In a World… (2013)
Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Robb Corddry, Michaela Watkins. Written and directed by Lake Bell.

inCarol Solomon (Lake Bell) is a vocal coach, but what she really wants is to do movie-trailer voice-overs, like her legendary father, Sam (Fred Melamed), who is set to receive a lifetime achievement at the Golden Trailer awards for work in voice-over movie-trailer work.  One of Carol’s obstacles is that women are seldom given these jobs; another is that her father favors another male movie-trailer voice-over actor and recommends him for the trailer work in a coveted multi-part film series.

aSam is an enormous presence, not only for Carol, who is trying to move into the same professional space, but for her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins), a concierge in a local hotel, who shares Carol’s disapproval of their father’s thirty-something live-in girlfriend.  He appears to have been a pretty lousy father, incapable of encouragement or praise, and maybe it’s too easy to blame one person for two women’s issues in a ninety-three-minute movie, but he does seem to be the primary culprit.

worldI know I get a bit repetitive about this, but it doesn’t seem too difficult for a writer to give his or her secondary characters enough personality to be as interesting as the central characters, yet when it happens, you realize how seldom you actually see that.  I think of movies like Notting Hill and Ulee’s Gold as examples, and am hard-pressed to list very many more.  The strength of Lake Bell’s script is not in its different take on the make-it-big-in-Hollywood story, but in the attention she pays to her secondary characters, such as Dani’s husband (Robb Corddry), Sam’s girlfriend (Alexandra Holden), and Carol’s admirer Louis (Demetri Martin).  Except for one sorta villainous character and maybe Sam, everyone in this movie seems admirable in some way, and when two romantic sub-plots come into play, you really want things to work out because by now you really kind of care about everyone involved.

Bell as writer does make a few missteps which keep me from loving this film.  There is a musical montage sequence involving two characters on a first date, and if that weren’t bad enough, contained within that cliche are two more: bonding by karaoke and bonding by Dance Dance Revolution.  There’s also a rather heavy-handed speech by Geena Davis in a ladies’ room that probably had to happen the way it happens, but it would have been nice to see something slightly less predictable.

iawAs director, I admire Bell’s visual approach, presenting Los Angeles the way I remember it, as a kind of depressing, ugly, flat, polluted, sprawling nothingness whose only appeal can be that this is somehow the entertainment capital of the world.  There’s a kind of mumblecore sensibility in the visual backdrops of this movie’s exterior shots.  The visuals change slightly as the film goes along, but I’ll leave that for the pleasure of other discoverers.  There are also some interesting feminist takes lying beneath the more obvious feminist messages that give the movie a little more richness than might be expected.

Bell as an actress has undeniable charm, like a slightly less obnoxiously cute Zooey Deschanel, and her interactions with most of the other characters, especially with her sister and brother-in-law, make it almost impossible not to like her.

Although I wouldn’t fall over myself to see In a World…, it’s a good view for people who appreciate the indie vibe a smart actor/writer/director can sustain when she’s got a good idea and a good cast.


 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-29  ::  me