Screening Room: ‘The Wait’


In L’Atessa (The Wait), a grieving mother played by Juliette Binoche meets her son’s girlfriend for the first time after a funeral that’s left her emotionally devastated. Emotional gamesmanship ensues.

The Wait is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Holding the center of Piero Messina’s dark oil painting of a story is Juliette Binoche, deftly submarined as Anna, the mother in mourning, with a grief-etched countenance as striking as worn granite. Unable to come to grips with her loss, she waits in a grand, remote Sicilian estate where the mirrors are covered in black shrouds and appears uninhabited even by the people who live there. Anna’s dark watch is interrupted by the arrival of Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), the pert French girlfriend of her son Giuseppe, whom she has never met. Invited by Giuseppe to spend the days before Easter at his house, Jeanne shows up in the funeral’s aftermath to find that he’s not there to greet her. Anna is welcoming but formal, distant and evasive…

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: April 29, 2016


Screening Room: ‘How to Let Go of the World…’


The new environmental documentary from Josh Fox (Gasland) starts off as a terrifying plunge into what climate change will be doing to the Earth, and the human race, over the next few decades. But then Fox does something unusual: He tries to find what there is to be happy about in all this terrifying prognostication.

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Josh Fox’s first two films—Gasland and Gasland Part II—were micro-targeted issue documentaries about the environmental dangers of fracking for natural gas, particularly near his home in upstate New York. So it makes sense that his newest film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, would start off in the same vein. He opens on a shot of him dancing with a charming lack of rhythm to the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” It’s a way of celebrating the rare victory: After years of activism, fracking was outlawed in the Delaware River watershed…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Pay Attention, Damnit


According to possibly (but let’s hope not) apocryphal story, the great Vladimir Nabokov—born this week in 1899—once gave the following advice to a writing student:

Nabokov looks up from his reading he points to a tree outside his office window. ‘What kind of tree is that?’ he asks the student. ‘What?’ ‘What is the name of that tree?’ asks Nabokov. ‘The one outside my window.’ ‘I don’t know,’says the student. ‘You’ll never be a writer.’ says Nabokov.

Is that rule absolutely true? Of course not. The average writer has their head in the clouds most days; and Nabokov, let’s not forget, was preternaturally attuned to detail in ways that most of us would find painful.

But maybe writing should be treated with this level of attention. Every building you pass in a day, every flip of a passer-by’s hair, every faraway sound, should be jotted down in your mental notebook, to be called upon whenever needed. It’s like being a spy, just less dangerous. Usually.

Weekend Reading: April 22, 2016


Screening Room: ‘Sing Street’

Sing+Street poster

The newest musical from John Carney (Once) is an ’80s-set romance set in (of course) Dublin. Sing Street is playing now. My review is at PopMatters:

When first glimpsed in John Carney’s newest musical confection, ruddy-cheeked teenager Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) looks like the kind of kid who’s set to be chewed up and spit out by the music industry, not to mention life itself. The setting for Sing Street is Dublin, circa 1985, where the black-robed authority of the Church still rules all and the ferry to England carries more dreamers and strivers to London each day.

As the meager middle class trappings of Conor’s life are stripped away, he’s left facing a future without much in the way of armor, or security. It’s the kind of situation that pop songs were made to cure…

Here’s the trailer:


Quote of the Day: When Questlove Roller-Skated with Prince


From Questlove’s 2013 memoir, Mo’ Beta Blues, a story of that time Prince wanted to know if he wanted to go to a roller-skating party on Valentine’s Day.

Questlove, of course, said yes. He brought Eddie Murphy along. Then, after Prince asked Questlove to put his phone in coat check, he brought out his skates. And not just any skates:

Prince had the briefcase out on the floor. He clicked the lock and opened it, and took out the strangest, most singular pair of roller skates I had ever seen. They were clear skates that lit up, and the wheels sent a multicolored spark trail into your path.

He took them out and did a big lap around the rink. Man. He could skate like he could sing. I watched him go, so transfixed that I didn’t even notice Eddie Murphy appearing at my arm. “I’m going to go get your phone for you,” he said.