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Garage Sale Reads (1)

the chosen
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From now on, let’s say, I’m only going to acquire my books at Garage Sales. And then I’m going to write about them. This, then, is the first in a series I’m super psyched about. And I think I’m going to use this opportunity, also, to get serious and personal. Well, kind of,….

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price bros

worth about $20

Okay, so a few days ago I bought Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” at a yard sale close to my house. (Lately, on weekends, I’ve been trolling the neighborhoods because my wife collects teapots and it’s romantic to bring her home something nice. Last week I found a teapot it turns out was made in 1906. It’s worth about $20. Sometimes my wife, Edith, and I go hunting together and that, maybe, is the best).

When I asked the old man standing behind the table with just six books spread over it  how much he wanted for “The Chosen” he took a few moments and then replied, “I dunno, how about two bucks?” I quickly countered with a shrug. And then: “how about a dollar?” And the book was mine! (note: this is how “the game” works at Garage Sales. Plus, I’m Jewish. Well, I was born into a Jewish family. I still identify, culturally. Blah. Blah. It’s complicated.) READ MORE >

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August 29th, 2014 / 2:00 pm

Notes on the Contemporary Horror Flicks I’ve Watched since May

Another round of catch up, periodically interrupted when I say I’m going to stop wasting time with bullshit and actually watch the legions of “art house” or “experimental” films that I’ve accumulated over the year. Despite the urge, always end up wanting to watch contemporary horror, something easy and fun about it with occasional surprises. Half of these are probably on Netflix, who knows.

Devil’s Due
dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Found-footage is all the rage right now, but I don’t actually mind that because I think it’s a totally effective mode of storytelling when it comes to the super-natural–also, it’s never really a surprise to consider people filming everything at this point (have you been to a concert lately? more people are watching whoever is performing through their phone-cameras than actually watching the stage itself). I also always love movies that deal with satan/the devil/satanism or some half-baked idea of such. And so, this is fun, though I’m always struck by the hilarity of newlywed heterosexual married couples and how ultimately futile these relationships always are. Invented symbols are also always a plus for me, as it adds a sort of abstracted flair (see also: Paranormal Activity 5: The Marked Ones).

Afflicted
dir. Derek Lee & Chris Prowse

More “found-footage”ish fun with the added bonus of jet-setting with a terminal illness? For what ultimately turns out to be a vampire movie, this is a remarkably interesting take, and avoids the pitfalls that the genre has fallen into over the last 10 years in the US. Also mostly lacking in machismo for a movie which is about “two bros travelling the world,” which is great, but the protagonist who is not afflicted is annoying as shit.

Resolution
dir. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Bizarre movie in the sense that it’s part “get you off drugs buddy movie” and part “mysterious unknown forces are controlling some crazy shit and it’s fucking with us.” But, the absent nature of the unknown forces and their bizarre manifestations that tie into, in a sense, a sort non-linearity of events is interesting enough in concept to make the movie hyper-watchable despite not totally delivering on what’s promised.

Dark Touch
dir. Marina de Van

De Van was a director who popped up among the “New French Extremism” micro-movement in the early years of the 2000s with a gore-ridden “Is-it-or-isn’t-it-autobiographical” film In My Skin about a woman (played by the director) who becomes increasingly fascinated by self-mutilation after she suffers an accident, and ends with the woman covered in blood staring into the screen, basically (and from what I can remember at least). Dark Touch takes a super-natural approach to the issue of Trauma and child-abuse, which is really interested, but also gets weirdly marred near the end of the film when things are wrapped up a bit too pat. Regardless, this movie is still really interesting and worth watching.

Contracted
dir. Eric England

Fuck this movie.

Here Comes the Devil
dir. Adrián García Bogliano

Pretty terrific Mexican horror movie that plays up, once again, issues of trauma and the difference between the horror of the supernatural (the Devil) and the horror of man (pederasts). Icy cold in its approach (save for a minor scene of presumed-revenge) which is always preferred when it comes to affecting tone. The revelations that come at the end of the film are perfect, in the sense that it doesn’t wrap anything up, it’s not some bullshit and pointless twist, but actually seethes with a mythological backing that makes the entire trip the film provides really work.

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August 29th, 2014 / 12:00 pm

 

every day i take a look at the Poem-A-Day from The Acadamy of American Poets that arrives in my email inbox because, well, it’s usually something I can laugh about if I’m in that sort of mood.

most of these poems are, of course, pale drivel. but, every now and then a real gem like this one shows up.

Reviews

You’ll Know When I’m Talking to You: A Review of Michael Earl Craig’s Talkativeness

Talkativeness_for_website_largeTalkativeness
by Michael Earl Craig
Wave Books, April 2014
104 pages / Buy from Wave Books or Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without relying on the word “reticence” to describe the work, I would have to say that the poems throughout the collection feel withdrawn, taciturn, almost. Lurking in each one, though, is a sense of something boiling, some untapped resource, and these poems, these are the spill-over that the speaker couldn’t keep from bubbling out, like pasta water before you put the wooden spoon on the pot to keep everything calm.

The poems have in them and around them the sense of a Williamsonian take on “no idea but in things,” but they sound and read like early Williams, not Patterson Williams. The problem, if we can call this a problem, which I do not necessarily think it is, comes from how the music of the poems appear. Because the poet chooses to state the thing and not the idea, not the flourish or the afterthought, the thing itself yields only what it can yield:

It is always like this.
I wear a light brown suit.
When I come upon you I grope you
for what seems like ten minutes.
As you have noticed.
from “Sleepwalking through the Mekong”

and

While sitting in the plane a man
struggling with his bags puts
his ass against my head for what
(corduroys) feels like a full
minute.
from “What Will I Call This Poem”

Two things to note, here: first thing is that, because of his reliance on the pedestrian language, on the language of the thing and the action itself, it requires a certain precision, a boldness, even, to not inflate the action or the thing, but let the thing and the action remain what they are. This isn’t a poet hiding behind his pen. This is a poet incredibly stark and revealed to us, which allows the second realization to occur: He’s funny. That small twist of, “As you have noticed,” sounds remarkably like the joke in “This Is Just To Say,” that, yes, she probably noticed the ten minute night-groping session. Same goes for the parenthetical “(corduroys),” because it’s placed exactly where it should occur to make the joke work.

When you’re working with the onliness (to invent a word) of the thing and the action, it requires great skill to know how to place it where it should belong, to actually get more out of it than what it seems to present.

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August 29th, 2014 / 10:00 am

Somebody by Miranda July

(Let’s all do this.)

‘I mean, it’s cool if you stay quiet, but… I like singing.’ – Conor Oberst

How I feel about blogging and social media and I guess performance in general.

Reviews

25 Points: Boyhood

boyhood-skip-crop

 

1. Boyhood resists most attempts to analyze it outside the circumstances of its creation. Richard Linklater has filmed a group of actors every year or so for more than a decade, collecting episodes that tell the story of a young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), and his family. The success (and the complications) of this approach and the events depicted on-screen compete for our attention, inasmuch as we can separate them. There’s no easy engaging with Boyhood purely on the level of plot and character.

2. Linklater’s experiment gives him creative latitude with the coming-of-age story that storytellers don’t always have (or don’t always grant themselves). Mason’s mom (Patricia Arquette) marries and divorces an alcoholic, then marries and divorces an alcoholic once again. In another film, this instance of repetition might play as laziness on the part of the filmmaker; in Boyhood, it plays as a function of the film’s verisimilitude. (‘That kind of thing happens in real life,’ etc.)

3. Boyhood also complicates the manner in which a viewer distinguishes a performer from his or her character, especially in the case of the film’s child actors. We are seeing these people grow up—quite literally, if only to a point. This is unsettling at times, seeing the continued physical development of a person without having any insight into his or her actual life. And Boyhood is much better at persuading us to invest in what’s on-screen than the latest item on your Facebook newsfeed about a distant cousin’s kids.

4. Between Boyhood’s documentation of the year-by-year aging of its young actors and the film’s general verisimilitude, Linklater’s decision to preserve—on film—Ellar Coltrane’s unfortunate late-teens facial hair is at once cruel and perfectly appropriate.

5. The choice also demonstrates the perils of verisimilitude. We don’t often see facial hair this ugly in cinema; underdeveloped in a manner that makes it also appear somehow unclean, a manner that communicates its own basic misguidedness. Although Coltrane’s wispy attempted goatee makes contextual sense, it also registers (perhaps too intensely) as an aberration.

6. Boyhood really only becomes a film about boyhood after an hour or so. Until that point, the film’s attention belongs to Mason’s family as a unit. Of course, many young children spend more time with their siblings and/or parents than older children do. But I missed the focus on Mason’s larger family once it was gone. A curious viewer might wonder when and how Linklater decided on the boy as his subject, when he decided on his film’s title, etc.—again, even matters of plot will likely lead the curious viewer back to thinking about the film’s production. The conceit is inescapable.

7. A curious viewer might also wonder if Linklater merely felt more comfortable telling the story of a young, male aspiring artist than he did telling a more holistic family story—or if he worried that audiences wouldn’t turn out in the same numbers for a similar movie about a young girl.

8. Patricia Arquette in particular has an arc that’s an arc as legible as Mason’s and arguably more compelling. Linklater never abandons Arquette’s character as she navigates higher education and single motherhood, but it’s a real sadness that the movie becomes more conventional in its focus as it goes on. We can see other films within this one, and that sense of possibility is bittersweet.

9. Though in fairness to Linklater, if one looks at the range of films he has made while not attending to Boyhood—the Bad News Bears remake, A Scanner Darkly, Bernie, Before Midnight—then the narrative coherence and tonal consistency of Boyhood is remarkable, whether or not the film becomes another story of a young white dude finding himself.

10. Mason’s father (Ethan Hawke), a wannabe musician, comes and goes during the first years of Mason’s life we see onscreen. He’s a consistently inconsistent presence, someone whose life as an artist has not gone as planned—which makes his scenes valuable counterweights to later scenes of Mason discovering his own artistic ambitions.

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August 28th, 2014 / 2:17 pm