Screening Room: ‘The Program’


In the new bicycling melodrama (a category that yes, does sound oxymoronic) The Program, director Stephen Frears tells the story of the rise and fall (and fall) of Lance Armstrong, played by Ben Foster.

The Program is opening this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

There is almost no other modern athletic hero beside Lance Armstrong who was more lionized in his success and more scorned in his downfall. His rise to fame was the kind of story that sports journalists live for: A previously good but unremarkable biker doesn’t just beat a cancer diagnosis, he follows it up by winning one Tour de France after another in unprecedented fashion. His ignominious fall from grace was a story that any journalist would want…

Here’s the trailer:

Quote of the Day: The Easter Rising


On this day in 1916, Irish rebels rose up around the country. The short-lived Easter Rising to establish a free Irish Republic was put down by British forces on April 29.

From W.B. Yeats’s commemorative epic poem, “Easter 1916“:

We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Writer’s Desk: Writing a (Sex) Scene


Every now and then when you’re writing fiction it’s time to figure out the scene(s) where a couple of your characters well, you know, ahem…

With some handy advice for how to handle such delicate moments, here’s Marc Almond, who after a dozen steps for things to keep in mind, comes up with this bit of inspiration:

Bonus Step! Step 13: Read the Song of Songs.
The Song of Songs, for those of you who haven’t read the Bible in a while, is a long erotic poem that somehow got smuggled into the Old Testament. It is the single most instructive document you can read if you want to learn how to write effectively about the nature of physical love.

By the way, if you’re following that bit, make sure to go with the King James translation. The language is just that much richer.

Weekend Reading: March 25, 2016


Screening Room: ‘Midnight Special’

midnight special1

Midnight Special, the new film from Jeff Nichols (Mud, the upcoming Loving), opened this past weekend. My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

There’s nothing more American than a chase scene. That’s one of the reasons that, looking back on Jeff Nichols’s somber science-fiction thriller Midnight Special, it’s the moments of movement and noise that come to mind. The dark Texas and Louisiana highways, an old Detroit beater with its deeply thrumming engine, the hushed sentinel lines of trees on either side, the man at the wheel driving with the lights off and night-vision goggles on, the special cargo in the back seat wearing protective goggles and reading comic books by flashlight. All the great and terrifying forces of post-millennial America are gathering in the night and searching for them: an alphabet soup of government agencies, breaking-news television with its Amber alerts, and an end-times sect convinced that they have found their messiah…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Updike on Scheduling

updike1One of the hardest things to deal with as a writer can be figuring out how much you have to do. Is it pages or hours of writing in a day that mark achievement? John Updike, who wrote a few books in his time, had a good answer:

Since I’ve gone to some trouble not to teach, and not to have any other employment, I have no reason not to go to my desk after breakfast and work there until lunch. So, I work three or four hours in the morning, and it’s not all covering blank paper with beautiful phrases. You begin by answering a letter or two. There’s a lot of junk in your life as a writer and most people have junk in their lives. But, I try to give about three hours to the project at hand and to move it along. There’s a danger if you don’t move it along steadily that you’re going to forget what it’s about, so you must keep in touch with it I figure. So once embarked, yes, I do try to stick to a schedule.

“Most people have junk in their lives.” That seems like almost the best part of what he says. Don’t pretend that you can perfectly shut the world out and be in your little writing cocoon. Deal with the noise, bring it in, and move past it to get on with your work. That seems key.

(h/t: Open Culture)

Weekend Reading: March 18, 2016