Screening Room: Chaos Reigns in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Vroom, vroom - 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (Warner Bros.)

Vroom, vroom – ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (Warner Bros.)

madmaxfuryroad-posterIt’s been three decades since George Miller’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Things have changed. No more Mel Gibson, for one. Also, the postapocalyptic subgenre that Miller’s series helped sparked off has practically gone full mainstream. Sadly, no Tina Turner. Now, here comes Mad Max: Fury Road, with Tom Hardy in the driver’s seat.

Mad Max: Fury Road (aka, the fourth one) is playing pretty much everywhere now. My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

A demolition derby of a chase scene occasionally interrupted by scraps of crackpot wit and Aussie slang-strangled dialogue, Mad Max: Fury Road burns through ammunition and fuel with abandon. You would think that the characters were video-game avatars possessed of endlessly replenishable digital supplies, not the starving and sickly remnants of humanity barely surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Unlike many action films, though, where such profligacy is determined by need for trailer-ready action beats, here it’s central to the film’s story and message…

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fight the future (Warner Bros.)

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fight the future (Warner Bros.)

Here’s the trailer, dig it:

Now Playing: ‘Every Secret Thing’

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Diane Lane and Danielle Macdonald in ‘Every Secret Thing’ (Starz Digital)

In Amy Berg’s adaptation of the Laura Lippman domestic thriller Every Secret Thing, a pair of teenaged girls are suspected of abducting a small child years after they were convicted of stealing and murdering a baby of strikingly similar looks.

Every Secret Thing is out now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Alice (Danielle Macdonald) is both a ball of cheer and a pit of frustrated desires. She perkily pretends to audition for a reality show like some bedroom-dreaming girl many years her junior, and talks eagerly about her exercise and diet regimen. A few flashbacks to childhood humiliations and some choice scenes with her mother Helen (Diane Lane, dripping with well-meaning malice), though, make clear that Alice is marinating in a cold, calculated outsider rage even before the police come calling. Her fellow convict, Ronnie (Dakota Fanning), wears her anger right out on her raccoon-eyed, heavily made-up face. The story circumnavigates around Ronnie’s poor, straitened existence for most of the earlier stretches, focusing instead on Alice and her dreamy fantasy world in which few glimmers of reality ever seem to intrude…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Posterity and the Lack Thereof

Yes, Nebraska has writers.

Yes, Nebraska has writers.

Used to be, once a writer’s books went out of print, that was it for most of them. There might be a few copies moldering in a library’s backshelves somewhere, but generally not being out there in a bookstore or taught in a classroom meant that your work was going to be forgotten.

It would be nice to think that in the era of digital publishing, that nobody’s work will ever be forgotten. It will just sit there in the cloud, each bundle of bytes ready for download just in case anybody ever wants to read that 1960s coming-of-age novel or 1920s society-lady memoir or 2010s zombie romance (first in a tetralogy).

That’s not going to be the case for most of us, of course. The average writer lucky enough to get a chance at getting her or his book published will get that one moment of attention (maybe) before returning to the anonymity from whence they came. And that’s okay; one has to make room for the next chap coming down the way.

For some writers, there may be something like this great project from Nebrasksa’s PBS affiliate on “The Lost Writers of the Plains.” Using written and audio essays, they cover everyone from black intellectual activist Bertram Austin Lewis (who fought the good fight on minority inclusion in the academy decades before it was au courant) and Margaret Haughawout (a poet who brought modernist literature and a taste for men’s clothing to her obscure little country college).

Even those lost to time may eventually get one more shot at being remembered.

Weekend Reading: May 15, 2015

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Now Playing: ‘Slow West’

Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee in 'Slow West' (A24)

Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee get acquainted in ‘Slow West’ (A24)

Slow West Final PosterA teenaged boy embarks on an epic journey to track down the woman he loves … and bad guys intervene.

Slow West is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Indie westerns have blazed and snuck across screens for the past few years in a variety of flavors, from the lo-fi musings of Meek’s Cutoff to the bloody-minded vengeance of The Salvation. But none has been quite as surreptitiously odd and original as John Maclean’s Slow West. There are times when it plays as such a straightforward oater you wouldn’t be surprised to see a craggy Robert Duvall come riding up, Winchester rifle perched casually but authoritatively on his hip. At other moments the story slants sideways to resemble a loonier frontier-mad dream piece like Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja. It never quite stays in reach…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: But is it a Job?

Thomas Mann; he wrote.

Thomas Mann; he wrote.

In his essay for the Times on whether or not being a writer is a job or not (as opposed to a calling, hobby, or what have you), Benjamin Moser comes down very firmly on the side of, well, maybe.

He knows what it is: Grueling, exasperating, time-sucking, unavoidable.

He knows what it is not: Easy to define or easy to do.

Then there’s this:

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people,” Thomas Mann said; and it is good that no beginner suspects how torturous writing is, or how little it improves with practice, or how the real rejections come not from editors but from our own awareness of the gap yawning between measly talent and lofty vocation. Fear of that gap destroys writers: through the failure of purpose called writer’s block; through the crutches we use to carry us past it.

It gets easier, of course. For some of us, at least. But easy or hard, there is rarely a choice in the matter. As Moser says, writing is simply what one does. Whether or not it’s a job is in the end irrelevant.

Readers’ Corner: Collecting Rare Editions

Trarebooks1here are book lovers who don’t care about condition, they will take books in any kind of format: split-back hardcover, old 50-cent Bantam paperback with yellowing pages slipping out of the binding. It doesn’t matter: just gimme.

Then there are the book collectors, many of whom are still book lovers, but who are also entranced by the physical thing itself, the heft and weight of the paper and the delicate tracery of an embossed slipcase from the previous century.

You would think the latter type would be slipping into obscurity. But according to the Wall Street Journal (and they should know), book collecting is still a strong business in the ebook age:

Take JT Bachman, a 28-year-old architect with Rockwell Group in New York. He gets his news from digital sources but prefers printed material when reading for pleasure and says he has become a recent convert to book collecting. Mr. Bachman says he has about 100 new, used and out-of-print titles on his shelves, including the architectural tome “Herzog & de Meuron: Natural History” by Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, and plans on buying more.

Of course, it’s best if one doesn’t get into the business looking to actually make a quick buck:

Annette Campbell-White, the founder of venture-capital firm MedVenture Associates, in Emeryville, Calif., says collectors should be driven by their interest in books, not by the prospect of financial gain. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone looking for a quick profit to turn to book collecting,” she says. “If you make money, it is incidental.”