Weekend Reading: July 1, 2016


New in Theaters: ‘Boyhood’ is Magic

Ellar Coltrane in 'Boyhood' (IFC Films)
Ellar Coltrane in ‘Boyhood’ (IFC Films)

boyhood-poster1Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy) spent twelve years shooting a movie about a boy growing up in Texas with divorced parents, filming the actors as they naturally aged. It’s an experiment, yes, following this kid from age six to his first day at college, but one that pays off rich dividends more often than not.

Boyhood opens in limited release this week and should creep into more theaters around the country over the summer. My review is at Film Racket:

Wobbly at times but still magical in an everyday way, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood proves that intimate doesn’t have to equal melodrama and experimental can still be perfectly approachable. The film follows a quiet and daydream-prone boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane, likable if sometimes stiff), growing up in Texas with snarky older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and divorced parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke). There’s no story, per se, it’s just his life from about age 7 to 18. The look is straightforward and shorn of obvious directorial flair, the often affectless dialogue even more so. But that deceptively simple framework is rich with accrued detail and even some backhanded insight….

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck fiercely in love in 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'.
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck fiercely in love in ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’.

aintthembodiessaints-posterThe award for this year’s least likely to be remembered movie title goes to David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a Terence Malick-inflected story of a young Texas couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) separated by prison after a crime spree. Keith Carradine and Ben Foster also star in this gorgeously photographed but rambling film.

My review ran in Film Racket:

Sunsets flood David Lowery’s soulful robber-on-the-run story, lens-flaring the screen and painting everything in a rustic ochre patina. It’s beautiful but gets in the way, as though distracting writer/director Lowery from getting to the business at hand. The cinematography is by Bradford Young (Pariah), whose patient lens captures the dusky halo of tree-shaded Texas streets and grassy fields under a humbling sky. What it can’t do is transform Lowery’s stretched-out short of a piece into a full-fledged story…

Here’s the trailer:

Reader’s Corner: The Bookless Library


It’s an idea that sounds ridiculous on its face but might turn out to have some merit. Texas’s Bexar County, which includes the city of San Antonio, is planning to open up a new library that will hold no printed books. Not one. Instead, patrons will be able to borrow digital reading devices and ebooks. There will also be dozens of computer terminals for public use. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The trial location, opening in a satellite government office on San Antonio’s south side in the fall, will have a selection of about 10,000 titles, and 150 e-readers for patrons to check out, including 50 designed for children. The library will allow users to access books remotely, and will feature 25 laptops and 25 tablets for use on site, as well as 50 desktop computers. It will also have its own coffee house.

Staffers will help patrons with technical questions, but there will be no designated research assistants. County officials, who estimate startup costs at $1.5 million, believe overall costs will be lower than running traditional libraries, and are considering additional locations.

library2There are some problems with this plan, most particularly the still-high cost of entry  (not everybody has an e-reader, and not everybody will be able to borrow one of the library’s) and the also much-higher costs for libraries to buy rental digital copies of some popular books.

That being said, it’s refreshing to see a local government still striving to create open spaces for its citizens to gather, receive services, and access free literature and information. Plus: coffee.

Now, if somebody could just revitalize the bookmobile as a traveling free Wi-Fi spot with great books (maybe coffee too), they’d really be on to something.

Side note: very cool slideshow of bookmobiles here.


At the Movies: Don’t Talk, Really

As anybody who has gone to a movie in the theater in the last few decades can attest, the whole “no talking” thing has never been completely adopted by the larger population. Some people, in fact, seem to view exercise of going to the movie theater as no different from watching TV at home with family and friends. Different strokes.

All theaters make some pretense of telling people to be quiet and turn off their phones. But nobody is as hardcore about it as the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. The Alamo (which is now starting to expand around the country) has long been an oasis of film fandom, with their mix of deep repertory selections, cult classics and smartly curated second-runs—not to mention a great menu and beer selection.

They also really don’t like talkers and texters, bless their hearts. As can be attested to here:

Dept. of Literary Commerce

When novelist/screenwriter/storeowner Larry McMurtry announced The Last Book Sale, he didn’t really know how many people would trek down to his retail emporium in Archer City, Texas to buy up some of the 300,000+ titles that were on offer. In the end, he reported in the New York Review of Books, “everything sold but the fiction … I was irritated to discover that I still had 30,000 novels to sell.”

The auction went well, overall, particularly in regards to this title:

The star item on the first day was typescript of some twenty-nine story-ettes of an erotic nature. These had been commissioned in the 40s by the oilman in Ardmore, Oklahoma; among the writers who wrote these trifles were Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell and others. The late G. Legman knew the oil man’s name but never revealed it. I have owned this curiosity for more than twenty years; it went to Between the Covers for $2,750.

Reading Spaces: The Wal-Mart Library

It’s a common problem: Wal-Mart comes to town, builds a ginormous hypermart just outside of town, local businesses shut down, and then eventually Wal-Mart closes as well, leaving a giant crumbling edifice surrounded by a weedy parking lot. Charles Fishman wrote a great and judicious book about it a few years ago called The Wal-Mart Effect (my Chicago Reader piece on that here).

When the Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas closed down, though, the town came up with an ingenious solution. Take the empty space — the size of almost 2 1/2 football fields — and turn it into the nation’s largest one-story library. It’s been open since December 2011 and as you can see in this Los Angeles Times story, is a wondrous reading space and one of those increasingly rare things in America: a true community center.