Do you remember when little girls were made of sugar and spice and everything nice? And little boys were made of slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails? (And maybe some kids were the other way around?)
Well, no more worries!
Now we have cell phones. And we're all made of wires.
"I couldn't possibly join the search party," I said to my guests. "I walked 11 KM last night at work. I'm a wreck." Indeed they had witnessed my slow painful descent on the staircase.
When we broke for dinner, off to pick up something cheap, the giant police van was still there, down the lane, and the mounted police and the crowd, and the ambulance crew still waiting around hopefully, the stretcher all ready to go, laden with life-saving gear, piled on it and hanging off of it with just enough room left upon it for an undersized twelve year-old; just 60 pounds worth, should one turn up.
The boy had health issues, an under-developed mentality and a penchant for hiding. He'd limped away without shoes and without his medications. He couldn't have gone far, everyone said. We'd all checked our garages and backyards and even our closets. And later we checked them again.
When darkness came I checked the internet, sure he must have been found. "I'm sorry," I told my guests. "I'm really at loose ends." They understood. We called it a night.
The crowd had dwindled down to a few. The officer said, "I'm sorry, we can't suggest what you should do. After dark it's not safe. We can't ask anything of the public after dark."
"Look," I said, knowing I was about to be profoundly lame: "I'm a Commissionaire. I have training. I know safety; first-aid. I've worked in corrections. I've worked with sex offenders. Trust me. Be indulgent. Tell me where you need someone looking."
He smiled painfully. shook his head and shook my hand. "Anywhere."
People had been searching all day. What was I going to accomplish by following their tracks in the dark? Was there a really any chance at all I could save someone or was this just about comforting myself?"
Still willing to act like a fool I called an old friend who believed she was psychic; who'd dreamed of missing children before and believed in the visions; who'd once told me that my writer's blocks were nothing but fear. But I could not reach her on the phone.
I stared at the Google map and all my intuition pointed at the golf course.
A golf course is a dark dark alien world at night, the ground invisible and treacherously hilly; the greens and ponds indistinguishable at a distance. A sky full of stars that portend nothing. I'd expected to run into other hopefuls there but there were none.
I had to be sparing with the flashlight batteries. A discarded shopping bag; a lost towel, things like these became a white Special Olympics t-shirt in the dark and I fumbled to turn on the beam with hope and dread. "What the fuck am I doing here?" I kept asking. And why aren't my legs hurting? What's up with that?
The route I had planned went out the window the moment I left the parking lot. I had no clue where I was and it didn't matter. I was pretty sure I'd twist and ankle soon and roll down a hill and in the morning some golfers - or searchers - would find me instead of the boy and I'd have to apologize for their disappointment.
In the morning I talked to neighbors. I could not share their optimism. Abductions are very rare, I know, but nothing else made sense at this point. He was small and walked with a limp. Yet again I thought of his parents and yet again I had to push the thought away. I cannot imagine. It's unimaginable.
This afternoon the phone rang but I could not get it because I was busy holding the roommate's ancient shadow of a dog in an ersatz standing position so she could drink from her bowl; an accomplishment too rare to dare interrupt.
The message was from a friend. "They found him! I don't know any details but they found him!"
"Yes!" I shouted at the ceiling. "Yes! Yes!" I squeezed into shoes and bustled outside. "They found him?" I asked at the first gathering. They had. He'd gone in precisely the opposite direction as the golf course. All along he'd been a few dozen yards away from my own backyard in some kind of drainage tunnel. So close! How had they missed him again and again?
"Is he okay?"
None were eager to answer. "I don't think so," said the man.
"He's pretty sick?"
"The paramedics didn't go to the boy," said the woman. "They went to the mother."
I don’t know that I should apologize for my long absence here. I don’t
presume that my writings here are doing anyone any great favours.
I seem to have stumbled into some major aversion to writing of late
which is kind of ridiculous since I basically gave up a decent career in order
to write (in essence) and doubly so given this is a camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel
Writing) month and I have a goal to reach and I’m barely 15% of the way there.
I’ve been bloody lazy frankly and it’s no surprise to me because I
haven’t been sleeping well for a long time now and when I’m tired I make
nothing but lame, short-sighted decisions.
Sleeping is a very complicated thing for me due to shift work and a serious sleep
apnea condition which is treated by a CPAP machine which requires regular care in order to
perform well. There are actually a lot of little things I need to proactively do in
order to make good sleep possible and many of them I am not doing nearly enough
due to laziness and poor decision-making... due to lack of sleep. Vicious
There are a few more reasons why it’s odd timing for this falling out of love with writing but I
will bother you with only this one: I started a new novel which is literally
the fifth different attempt to basically try to express the same set of core
ideas. The first four all derailed for various reasons but they were learning
experiences which I think was really the main goal.
This time I seem to be right on the mark. The first few chapters look
great. And the weird thing is: I think that makes me afraid. And perhaps I’ll
figure out how to properly explain that sometime soon.
Anyways… I’m trying to get back on the bandwagon. I’m vowing to get
busy attending to my sleep issues and to get back to this blog very regularly.
But I’ll be trying to keep the posts short.
This was a lame post, I know. They’ll get better. I’m just happy to
hear my fingers tapping. Baby steps.
“I'm from a working-class family. We didn't have a lot, but we had the
arts. You're talking to a guy who is making a living at doing what he loves
doing - acting, singing and dancing. So any career ups and downs were not that
significant to me; the only things that really powerfully impinged on me were
my losses, and there were many in my life.”—John Travolta, undoubtedly
thinking of his first child, Jett, who died at age sixteen following a seizure.
“I don't think I'm very cool as a person. I'm just better than anyone
else at acting cool.”
The heart is a lonely hunter…
74. A Love Song for Bobby Long(2004, USA)
Scarlett Johansson, John Travolta,
This is a warm earthy film with rich dialogue and much to say on the fragile
nature of relationships: friendship, family, pseudo-family and self.
Roger Ebert explains it well: "What can be said is that the three
actors inhabit this material with ease and gratitude: It is good to act on a
simmer sometimes, instead of at a fast boil. It's unusual to find an American
movie that takes its time. It's remarkable to listen to dialogue that assumes
the audience is well-read. It is refreshing to hear literate conversation.
These are modest pleasures, but real enough."
Said Carina Chocano of the L. A. Times: "…deep-down, a redemptive
makeover story drenched in alcohol, Southern literature and the damp
romanticism of the bohemian lush life in New Orleans. A lovely noble rot
pervades the film in much the same way that it does the city, a longtime
repository of lost-cause romanticism. If there's something a little bit moldy
about the setup (drunken literary types, hope on the doorstep, healing from
beyond the grave), the movie is no less charming or involving for it, and it's
no less pleasant to succumb to its wayward allure and wastrel lyricism.”
The ending might be accused of being predictable, but so what? The
story is legitimate and like any other, should not be perverted for the sake of
John Travolta, Andie McDowell,
William Hurt, Jean Stapleton, Robert Pastorelli
Here Travolta’s capacity for bold presence is put to work as a heavenly
angel with some very down-to-earth habits; a sort of divine mind with very
human urges. If categorized a comedy, it is one of depth. I found
it delightful and amusing though critics seemed not to know what to make if it.
Nonetheless it was a box office hit, ranking in the year’s top twenty.
Writers: Peter Dexter (Mulholland Falls), Jim Quinlan
John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick,
Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall
Oddly, Travolta starred in a second 1996 fantasy-drama box office hit,
also about a character with extraordinary powers put to work in rather
altruistic aid of those around him; but here an everyman turned genius by some
apparently supernatural event.
This story is more serious; more of romantic bent than comedic and
touches the heart a little deeper.
The film and its principle actors earned attention from a variety of
awards including MTV wins for best kiss
(Travolta/Sedgwick) and Eric Clapton’s song Change
If cats have nine lives, how many lives does capitalism have?
Nobody ever builds or buys corporations in order to maintain their wealth;
but only to increase it. The wealthiest of Western society keep getting
wealthier, yet money doesn’t grow on trees. Money is still just points on a
ledger; a share in a finite system. The rich can only get richer through growth
within a limited pool. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme and the base of that
pyramid maxed out the realm of North American productivity a long time ago, when
our particular manifestation of capitalism (be it pure or perverted) should
Yet this ghost of capitalism keeps feeding the elite.
What are these bonus lives which keep money flowing uphill? I see it as
1 – Waste. Though the workers of society cannot collectively afford to
purchase all the products they collectively produce, we keep on producing too
much, and we stockpile shelves and warehouses and destroy “non-fresh” food and
imperfect-looking produce and breed billions of livestock to eat far more food
quantity than what they eventually return to us in meat. We advertise
everything to death which addresses no consumer need, which convinces our dull
brains to buy outrageous shit we don’t need (and which in fact harm us) and redundantly pits brands
against each other for no greater purpose but just to fight one another in the
pursuit of growing faster than the other guy grows. And best of all, we produce
enormous volumes of weapons, ammunition and war machines and outrageously phony
excuses to declare enemies and blow things up so as to then have to manufacture
them again, along with all the pretty coffins.
2 – Globalization. We drag poorer nations into the capitalism game by
lording power over them, inflicting world
trade conditions upon them in drag as charity and forcing them to bid for
the privilege of being our slaves and producing our groovy swag at the lowest
possible cost, thus unavoidable: child labor, slave labor, compromises in
safety, compromises in environmental protection. A lovely boon: we outsource
our pollution and divert blame for global warming when truly it is squarely ours.
3 – Oil. We destroy critical components of the biosphere in order to
dig up millions of years worth of liquid sunshine (and other fossil fuels),
releasing those toxins into the air and powering machines, the sub-slaves which
give we elite slaves; you and me, a privileged life. For as long as oil lasts
(a mere blip of time by any real perspective) it is the machines harnessed to
the grindstone instead of us.
4 – Matricide. North American natives have always understood Mother
Earth; have always known that it is she who gives us life. We feed the Western
Imperialist machine beyond the capacity of our own labour by mortgaging the
Earth with no means to repay. Already we’ve destroyed more than half of fresh
water sources, more than half of the world’s topsoil and more than half of the
critical wetlands and rain forests. We have literally crippled the biosphere to
the point that it is no longer a game of rampant subtraction. We are into
exponents now because we have triggered massive feedback loops in the system. We
have drawn down the Earth’s capacity to support life to the point that it is already
5. Financial buggery. When the pros from various financial corners try
to explain their little vistas of the ever-increasing complexities around the
thousand-and-one ways we’ve concocted for money to change hands without any
product or value of any kind materializing, I quickly run into acronyms or
jargon which I do not understand and I wonder if there is a human being
anywhere who has a handle on the whole entire picture? I suspect there is not
one. It’s just becoming clear that our capitalist system of the rich skimming
off the labour of the not-rich is growing and complexifying to allow greater
means and layers of skimming and re-skimming.
6. Population explosion. Do I need to explain why seven-point-something
billion people on a planet with as limited a biosphere as ours is an obscene
perversion? I am going to assume that I do not need to explain why seven-point-something
billion people on a planet with as limited a biosphere as ours is an obscene
7. And here I will concede. I’m not going to get to nine. Winner: cats.
The obvious problem with all of these bonus lives is that they are all
very swiftly drying up. Oil reserves, all other natural resources, opportunities
for global imperialist frontiers; all of it is currently maxing out as we
speak. We’re heading into crash mode.
And as everything crashes; water, food, social stability, the viability
of individual nations and the U.N., unraveling slowly at first and gathering
momentum, the global hatred toward Europe and North America and (fairly or
unfairly) especially toward the United States of America, will rapidly
increase, not just out of blame but from desperation, as elite nations
(generally the least affected by climate disaster thanks in part to wealth and
in part to geographical irony) maintain slower depletion of privileges, as
other societies descend more swiftly into unavoidable hunger and violence.
As America draws even more hatred and is targeted for its rarefying
assets, it will require more and more justification for privilege and exclusion
and militancy and will need more and more delusional reasons to hate back. Hate,
however deluded, will literally become the essential ingredient to the new
dwindling version of the American Dream/Nightmare.
I don’t presume that Trump understands this or that perhaps his people
do; his elite cohorts who usher him down this path. More likely, I suspect, understanding
only exists in the collective insanity of their instinctive minds. In any event
Trump is serving as a shock absorber. Just as gas prices spiked hugely in the
early millennium, taming our reaction, soothing our outrage, falling back down
before soon migrating upwards again, Trump is normalizing hatred of the other and getting killed by the backlash that some of
us are still capable of.
Trump won’t win this presidency, I suggest, because it’s still too
early for hate to overtly and unapologetically rule, but later, when the
essential wave of hatred must roll into the realm of normal, it will not be so
noticeable. And the media will be bored of it. Perhaps Trump is a martyr to his
people, perhaps a sacrificial lamb.
He may be scum. But at least he’s taking one for his team.
In a very special town the laws
of nature are bending wildly to spectacular effect just as the
"rules" of literature have moved aside to clear the path for this
unique story of intimate neighbors in an infinite landscape, delivered by a
voice of rare grace and presence. It is perhaps a fairy tale; one of immediate
warmth, gathering momentum and a glimpse of cosmic joy; a resonant celebration
of life and a rare celebration of narrative!
"Sanity" is a very interesting
word if you really look at it. It suggests a level of clarity which I rarely witness. Indeed I
don’t perceive that the infantile state of human consciousness allows for legitimate
sanity, (or perhaps not without a lot of work and good fortune) despite how
much the instinctive mind goads us to believe otherwise. I don’t perceive that
the human being is a sane creature; not even remotely close. I gather this from
the way people talk and how it demonstrates the way they think. I see it in most normal behavior and all that we inflict as a society. And I see my own tenuous dance
with sanity, or at least the shadows thereof, when I immerse myself in solitude and penetrate my internal mind to
a degree I have only learned to do in the last nine or so years, and which I
very easily might never have learned to do without good fortune.
Let us explore the slipperiness
of the ever-struggling human mind:
70. Happiness(1998, USA)
Jane Adams, Lara Flynn Boyle, Philip
Seymour Hoffman, Camryn Manheim, Dylan Baker, Cynthia Stevenson, Jon Lovitz, Louise
Lasser, Ben Gazzara, Molly Shannon, Elizabeth Ashley, Jared Harris
Ten minutes into this film I was glaring at my partner demanding to
know how this perverse material had entered our home.
“I don’t know! It was in the comedy section!”
Soon though, I caught on that the comedy was dry and dark and yet,
ultimately refreshing. A lot of buried baggage gets dragged up from a lot
of deeply developed characters in a way that bears some
honesty and responsibility and artfully lights it in a way that we can safely
deal with it - unless you bear some specific traumas perhaps? And are prone to
the trigger concept?
Todd Solondz is one of the best character-driven movie makers out there
and this one is a bold example.
Its themes, while very important and under-represented, caused havoc
for the project in terms of marketing and accessibility while the excellent Roger
Ebert ranked it the fifth best film of the year, stating, “...the depraved are
only seeking what we all seek, but with a lack of ordinary moral vision... In a
film that looks into the abyss of human despair, there is the horrifying
suggestion that these characters may not be grotesque exceptions, but may in
fact be part of the mainstream of humanity....It is not a film for most people.
It is certainly for adults only. But it shows Todd Solondz as a filmmaker who
deserves attention, who hears the unhappiness in the air and seeks its
Pruitt Taylor Vince, Liv Tyler,
Deborah Harry, Shelley WInters
And here’s another low-budget
masterpiece of singular vision which delves deep into the human psyche with
startling realism and which again, will probably, tragically, be hard to find:
The deceptively simple tableau concerns a diner where ordinary people
work. The magic of the film reveals there is nothing ordinary about ordinary.
Says Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times: "…a small, quiet miracle of a
movie in which tenderness, compassion and insight combine to create a tension
that yields a quality of perception that's almost painful to experience." Well
said. This patient, integral film bled buckets of empathy out of me.
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis,
Winona Ryder, Benjamin MIllepied, Vincent Cassel
Watching this film was like handling dynamite. It’s a spring-loaded cerebral
To capture and maintain the penultimate role: the Swan Queen of
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, is life or death to a young ballet dancer, and what
she experiences is… compelling to say the least. The layers of duality richly explored
here: black swan versus white swan; instinct versus consciousness; person
versus artist, and in a strange particular light: primary dancer versus
understudy, make for an almost psychedelic viewer experience.
I suppose that officially, this was awkwardly crammed into the horror
movie genre but I don’t personally see it that way, and if you bear any allergy to the horror genre, I suggest
it should not apply here.
Portman won Best Actress Oscar; one of five nominations for the film.
Writers: Mark Heyman (the Skeleton Twins), Andres Heinz (Love Written
Documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig
starring Daniel Johnston
I believe this is honestly the most fascinating and deeply moving true
story in the history of music. There is no doubt at all that Daniel Johnston’s
story is thrillingly unique.
What would cause a major record label to enter a mental institution and
offer a patient the most generous, forgiving, open-ended multi-album recording
contract in the history of lawyers? I will surrender no spoilers. You’ve got to
see this to believe it.
The film takes us deep into the realms of mental illness, of the beast
called fame, and of the critical value of music and the arts well beyond the
Johnston came into this world with every deck stacked against him and
in a rigid society driven by contrived false-drama-building structures, he cut
straight through the whole mess, and leaving his own messes in the wake,
granted, he forged a life of legitimate adventure and almost inexplicable
success. Stunning, truthful, painful and beautiful.
A lot of people are understandably at a loss; who can’t understand why
other people regard Johnston as a genius. Of course, genius is a totally
subjective word, but I am immovably one of those other people.
Writer/Director: Jeff Feuerzeig (Half Japanese: The Man That Would Be
Okay, I’m two days behind but
determined to catch up by Sunday! I’ll be trying to keep it short.
I love road trip stories. Such an
excellent tool for throwing characters into whatever environment they require
along their journey, that they might learn something about the world, and more
significantly, about themselves. Here we catch heroes at pivotal moments of
their own lives; their greater journeys, with the opportunity to grow.
66. Sideways (2004, USA/Hungary)
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden
Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Everyone raves about this best-pal California wine tour movie and it
can be hard to know why. It seems like such a simple affair. But there is
something really magical in a subtle, witty, down-to-earth comedy that is really genuinely funny while
remaining genuine in every other way. It reflects our most common dealings with
friendships and intimate relationships in a way that is penetrating but
ultimately a celebration. Sandra Oh is gorgeous with a spot-on performance and Paul
Giamatti is dynamite as the struggling everyman with fears and insecurities we
have all known too well.
Very special and re-watchable. Deliciously funny and the perfect movie
to watch with five friends and twelve bottles of wine. Yes, if you’d like to know
how to host an Official Interactive Sideways Night at your own home, I am the
original architect! just shoot me a message, and plan on a lot of sleeping
Dozens of accolades include nominations for five Oscars including best
picture. It won for best adapted screenplay. Ebert called it “the best human
comedy of the year.”
Writers: Rex Pickett (the novel), Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Jurassic
Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg
Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Master actor Jack Nicholson was born to portray every possible variety
of off-balanced character. This role required a softer touch than usual and
Nicholson responds with subtlety, taking the Oscar for lead male. Hunt took the
counterpart Oscar and Kinnear’s supporting role was one of five additional
nominations for the film. Hunt and Nicholson also won the matching Screen
Actors Guild awards which I personally consider of more integrity and substance
than the Acadamy Awards.
Of course these performances could not have reached this apex without the
sensitive writing and brilliant arsenal of laugh-out-loud one-liners provided
by writer Mark Andrus.
Struggle, redemption and an excellent lesson in the joy that can be had
while living within our limitations. Sweet, endearing and damn funny!
Sean Astin, Jeff Cohen, Josh
Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Kerri Green, Corey Feldman, Jonathan Ke Quan
I’m not sure any actual roads appeared in this movie but it strikes me
as having that sort of adventurous plot structure.
The magic here is in the style which is one that mesmerises me: from
the film’s beginning to end it is a frenetic
jumble of conversation which miraculously pours out smoothly. It’s like
every character is lit up and naturally bursting
out without queues and yet somehow not tripping over one other. It appears as meticulously
aligned, inexplicably genius acting across a wide group of actors, yet how
could such a jackpot occur? And among children
no less! This is so rare to see and I can only assume the genius lies in the
script (adapted by Chris Columbus from a Spielberg story) and in some brilliant
director’s process which I cannot imagine! and still requiring a set of actors
all running at top form. Even though it is supposedly just a kids movie, I am
in awe of that accomplishment.
Pure magic for the kid in all of us!
A sometimes-possible-sometimes-probable sequel exploration has been bantered
about for what seems like forever. Astin has been quoted saying, “It’s
definitely going to happen!” but I really have my doubts. Too much time has
passed which only snowballs the difficulties, and I doubt it would garner a
budget suitable to such aspirations as would naturally arise out of the
surprise success of the original.
Perhaps some magic is just not meant to be worn thin.
Writers: Steven Spielberg (Poltergeist), Chris Columbus (Gremlins)
I can think of no better performances in the careers of either of these actors:
Here Cruise and Hoffman portray such warmth and pain and persistence in this
conflict of priorities. It is a testament to the power of love and the gravitational
pull of family; a finally crafted emotional ride on the path of self-discovery,
intentional or accidental. Hoffman and the film ran rampant over the Oscars and
two dozen other award enterprises.
Always a special experience to watch this every five years or so.
Writers: Barry Morrow (Bill), Ronald Bass (Snow Falling on Cedars)