A question I like to ask when I travel: “What would I be like if I grew up here?”
Song to Song. Rooney Mara might be the best dizzy princess Malick’s ever had. This one also has some of the best music. It’s also one of the few Malick’s to ever make me laugh multiple times. I was surprisingly swept up for the first hour or so. And yet… the staying power wasn’t there for me. Still good, though.
Updated Terrence Malick power rankings:
- Days of Heaven (as if!)
- The New World
- The Thin Red Line
- The Tree of Life (maybe one spot higher?)
- Song to Song
- To the Wonder
- Knight of Cups
That is a solid body of work.
The Neon Demon. This is Nicolas Winding Refn‘s best movie, haters. I think it was More Than One Lesson, their episode on this movie, where Tyler Smith talked about this being a perfect pairing: Refn loves image and surface and sheen, and here he finds characters to match. Mirrors everywhere, all-consumptive. Don’t forget it’s a horror movie.
My Refn power rankings:
A Ghost Story. I loved this movie. I will probably put it on my favorites-of-2018 list. I like this view of ghosts as sort of outside of time, in both directions. Ghosts as unfinished business. Ghosts with flaws and hang-ups. And the idea that places are saturated with history, and by the same token history isn’t just events in time but in a space. Solid soundtrack, too.
War for the Planet of the Apes. Kind of a bummer. At first I was really into the melodrama. Eventually, it became very tedious. It seemed like they were stopping for a sappy moment every 5-10 minutes. The Gollum/Jar Jar ape didn’t help. I also don’t understand why a crucial character uses a crossbow in a world with guns. Another hang-up was that I couldn’t figure out how the world fit together. That’s one thing I liked about Rise… and Dawn… – the geography was clear. You knew who was where. This one started in those awesome rainforests, then moved to a snowscape, and then to the Sierras? Or Tahoe? The previous ones were strong in that they felt like our world. I don’t know what happened to it here. Bummer. Filed under: Planet of the Apes.
When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts.
– Ferris Jabr.
Margaret. The first film of the new year was so damn good. Takes the everyday and shows its operatic moments. The surly, volatile teen protagonist is all of us at some point, many points – heroes of our own story, center of the universe, disappointed by and disappointing those who care about us. One especially nice touch is the sound. Throughout there are interludes where you hear snippets of other conversations, city life, sometimes even more clearly than the main characters. Loved it. Bright Wall/Dark Room did an entire issue about Margaret; lots of good reading there. The only other Lonergan movie I’ve seen is Manchester By the Sea. Solid, but I’d rank this one way, way higher.
This year was terrible in many ways but really really wonderful in many others. Some good stuff…
In July I spent a few weeks in Sweden, most of it hiking. A couple cold, soggy, windy days were terrible, but I can laugh about them now. And some of those days were right up there with the best days of my life, period. One of them was so especially grand that I still haven’t quite yet found the words, and may never, and maybe I shouldn’t.
Other travel highlights: a trip to see friends get married in Maryland; a workation to Chicago to spend time with the best team on the planet; and a visit to New Orleans to celebrate my grandfather’s birthday. Along with his travel and stay in Georgia for a few months, I got to spend more time with him than I had in decades. I don’t take it for granted.
I mastered sleep. Oh my lord has this been huge. My family spent the previous two Christmases at the beach. Both times, I ended up sleeping 10, 12, 14 hours a night… and napping in the afternoons.
After a few days like that, I felt like I was seeing in color again.
The freshness didn’t last after the first awakening – I spent a year squandering it – but the second time around I realized it was dumb to let myself spend months decaying into zombie mode. I just can’t thrive on 6-7 hours a night; I’m more of a 9er. A regular, earlier bedtime has cost me a few dozen late-night movies, but it’s been so, so, so worth it.
I started making collages every now and then. I tried it on impulse because I had some magazines and scissors nearby, and it was instantly therapeutic.
I found a meditation routine and got into a groove with it, and fell out and found it again, and again, etc.. I eat veggies every day (pretty much, mostly, I try?). I don’t do as many straight-up workouts as I used to, but the average day is more active.
I biked more in 2017 than any year since I was a kid. I barely drove at all (yaaassssss), outside of trips to my parents’ house or out for a hike.
Aside from the Sweden trip, I had a lovely day knocking out a 35K at Cloudland Canyon for my 35th birthday. And on a lark one Saturday I walked 20-something urban miles from my house in downtown Atlanta to the summit of Stone Mountain. Really glad I did it, and I will never do it again.
I put in a bunch of miles at my favorite state park once or twice a month.
I read a bunch of good books (8 them by John Mcphee 😎). Here’s the best of my reading year, with the top 5 distinguished with a *:
- Assembling California 😎
- Black Flags: The Rise of Isis *
- The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream *
- Death: A Graveside Companion
- How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds
- Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI *
- Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
- Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data
- The Odyssey (trans. Emily Wilson)
- On Trails: An Exploration
- A Philosophy of Walking *
- The Pine Barrens 😎
- Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games
- The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
- The Survival of the Bark Canoe 😎
- Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals *
- What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen
(On a related note, I’m in the market for more fiction…)
I didn’t see any movies released in 2017, which was fun for a few months… and then didn’t feel any particular way for the bulk of the year… and then felt deeply miserable for the last few weeks. But for the last few days it’s been nice to salivate and plan what I want to catch up on. Instead of trying to keep up with whatever happened to be new, I saw a lot of great old stuff and re-watched a lot of things I love.
The best of the new-to-me for 2017:
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- 20th Century Women
- Allied *
- American Honey *
- Children of Heaven
- End of Watch *
- Frankenstein *
- In the Bedroom
- The Invitation
- Love & Friendship
- Punch-Drunk Love
- Shaun of the Dead
- Stagecoach *
- The Village
I perfected a bunch of small things. And I still feel really smug about these dumb little tweaks and upgrades to stuff that doesn’t matter very much but still makes a difference. I got a trim wallet and a fresh key fob and new keyrings that better fit my ideal pocket situation. I switched over to wireless earbuds and thin linen bath towels. I got new pens and longer Lightning cables and made fine-tuned some hiking gear. I donated a bunch of clothes, and standardized much of the rest (blue oxford-collar button-downs, grey sweatshirts, grey t-shirts, and jeans, or GTFO).
I finally took care of a bunch of tedious finance/household administration that I’d been putting off for, uh, years. I asked people where to spend more on charity, did it, and it felt wonderful.
Afters years of being inactive, I deleted my Facebook account and never looked back.
I let my 8-year-old Tumblr drift into dormancy, ported the posts over here, and decommissioned it entirely.
I let this blog lie fallow. And I started it again. ❤️
I loved this Robert Moor essay on environmentalism and masculinity.
Even as progressive men renounce the traditional notion of subordinated femininity, many still harbor conflicted notions about manhood. They want to feel individually reckless, but not socially irresponsible. They want to minimize carbon emissions, but not to scold, scrimp, or carry tote bags. They want to be pure of deed but wild at heart. So they dig ever deeper into the past, searching for a way of life that existed before “real” men and their ecological consciences parted ways.
His book On Trails was one of my faves of 2017.
Heat. A half-dozen screenings and it keeps on delivering. One thing that really stood out this time was the use of the color blue with McCauley’s character.
For example, early on, there’s the famous shot at his house, echoing Colville’s “Pacific” painting, but saturated in a moody blue. This is McCauley as the cool, remote professional. During a following celebration dinner with his team, you see his appreciation and envy of his crew’s families. He goes to call Eadie. The shot of him on the phone has the frame split in half. He’s on the left against a cool blue background, the right side is warmer. In the course of conversation with her he steps from left to right. Later in the movie, McCauley is on his way to escape, home-free. He gets a farewell call from Nate, who also tells him where Waingro is. He dismisses the idea of going back, and keeps driving, content. The camera stays on him at the wheel, and we can see through the rear window. As he enters a tunnel the lighting is a bright wash… that transitions to blue. He turns grim and decides on revenge before escape.
Speaking of Waingro, interesting how his actions play up the appetites. In his introduction, he’s looking for more coffee before the score. After the heist, he’s smugly enjoying some pie while the main crew stares at him in disdainful silence. Later we see him with cigarettes, booze, women.
Last little clever bit: in the course of the famous diner meeting, McCauley mentions, “There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down?” At the final climax, we see McCauley escaping into the airfield, making his last stand behind a shed, backgrounded with its large checkerboard pattern. Boxed in, the chess match coming to its endgame.
Filed under: Heat.