Matterlightblooming and Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

In an ancient cemetery on a hill near Washington D. C. the dead-who-know-not-they-are-dead rise from their sick boxes at night to cavort, cajole, console and wonder, wander, ponder. They have developed their own culture, their own shadowy cadence of “living” in this self-inflicted purgatory, patiently waiting for some sign to know what to do next, while fellow spirits vanish in the matterlightblooming and others join them in fresh sick boxes, an eternally spiraling phantom world of temporary inhabits…ships passing in a melancholic feverishly nightmarish harbor where the waters are haunted by memories of thier life in that other place from before they so long for…

One such spirit is left dispirited by another (who committed suicide)…exclaiming…

“You did not give this place a proper chance, but fled it recklessly, leaving behind forever the beautiful things of this world…Forgoing eternally, sir, such things as, for example: two fresh-shorn lambs bleat in a new-mown field; four parallel blind-cast linear shadows creep across a sleeping tabby’s midday flank; down a bleached-slate roof and into a patch of wilting heather bounce nine gust-loosened acorns; up past a shaving fellow wafts the smell of a warming griddle (and early morning pot-clangs and kitchen-girl chatter); in a nearby harbor a mansion-sized schooner tilts to port, sent so by a flag-rippling, chime-inciting breeze that causes, in a port-side schoolyard, a chorus of childish squeals and the mad barking of what sounds like -” (p. 140-141)

Apparently in George Saunders’ purgatorious bardo, every ghost is a poet…and a grammarian champion of the semi-colon. Saunders’ ghosts go through the metaphysical motions, getting bawdy like Shakespeare in their regaling of tales and nihilistic like Beckett’s Godot waiters…waiting, for something…someone…to rock their boats. Continue reading

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Spotlight on The Independent Arts: The Better Angels

Better Angels 3

A. J. Edwards, a student and artistic son of Terrence Malick, opens his debut film with cold, haunting shots of the Lincoln Memorial.  A crackling Malickian voice-over of a backwoods fella talkin’ bout being Lincoln’s cousin and having lived with him for a spell when he was just a boy in Indiana begins to shape the story as the image moves to a rambling creak.  Water is transporting us back in time, back into a dream, and we’re suddenly there watching young Abe make his way in the world.  The film ends just a brief 90 minutes later with a chilling bookend…a nicely appointed cabin in Illinois (a clear step-up from the backwoods cabins of his father) where that same warbling cousin waxes about the moment Lincoln’s beloved stepmother (Diane Kruger) learns of his passing.  It’s the grand beautiful stuff of myth.

Watching The Better Angels and comparing it to the work of Malick is akin to comparing painters from the same family.  One can’t help but think of the generations of Wyeths or Renoirs.  Edwards does something Malick never did – he films in black and white – but the movements and framing and pacing and focus are eerily the same.  A low shot panning up to an open gate…or door…or window.  The actors and actresses moving about as if in interpretative dance.  Beautiful music.  Ethereal cinematography of nature.  There’s one shot of Lincoln’s mother (Brit Marling) on her death-bed where Edwards actually photographs her last breath…you see it hang in the air after her exhale, and its captured in a perfect light.  Dust and smoke and light…the black and white photography does wonders for all that Edwards and Malick love to capture.

Continue reading

A Director, an Actor and an Icon Clothed in Immense Power in Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln…in Spielberg’s perfect light.

Steven Spielberg is a director/producer clothed in immense power.  He has carte blanche to do whatever his heart desires in Hollywood after years of pleasing audiences.  Sometimes his whims and faults get the better of him – as lame attempts to resurrect past haunts (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) or return to childhood wonder (The Adventures of Tin Tin) often are rendered mute in artifice and strained sentiment.  Yet, when left to his own devices in pursuit of his most sincere ambitions, once in a blue moon, Spielberg is able to pull a rabbit out of his magician’s hat.  He did it with Schindler’s List.  And he has done it again here with Lincoln – perhaps the crowning achievement of his career and the greatest American film since Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

Not surprisingly, like There Will Be Blood, Lincoln is anchored by an impossibly great performance by Daniel Day Lewis.  If Lincoln’s political successes (among them the passing of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, a process brought to painstaking and lively light here in the film) teach us anything, it’s that no matter how much power one is clothed in…nobody can do it alone.  There must be compromise, teamwork, and appeals to individual sentiments to achieve the greater good.  Continue reading

The Pros and Cons of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Abe Lincoln has an axe to grind with you!

I am disheartened to report, ladies and gentlemen, that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (the film based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel) is a most spurious piece of anti-Vampire-American propaganda that tarnishes their good name and celebrates their horrific and callous mass destruction!  The litany of crimes attributed to Vampire-Americans is legion.  Would you believe the following?

The reason slavery flourished in the American South?  Vampires!

The reason a young Abraham Lincoln got into politics?  Vampires!

The main cause of the Civil War?  Vampires!

The reason poor Willie Lincoln became ill and died in childhood?  Vampires!

The source of Mary Todd Lincoln’s depression and madness?  Vampires!

But seriously…to all of those crying foul over this preposterously premised film not containing a single note of humor…well, you obviously missed the joke.  I applaud the filmmakers’ absolute conviction in presenting the material dead seriously.  Taking a Zombieland approach wouldn’t have worked and would’ve made the film even more painful to sit through.

What are fair game, however, are the film’s obvious flaws such as the clamoring sound design that rendered some dialogue incomprehensible coupled with some of the most hacksawed editing this side of a Michael Bay film where scenes or spoken lines were often cut off mid-thought only to race to another scene before the viewer could even digest what happened.  Continue reading

Elizabeth R You Free for Dinner?

Okay, Caveman, what will it be tonight? Bison steaks?

 

Would her Majesty care for a spot of tea after whuppin' Spain's Armada-Ass?

 

Go ahead and smile, Mr. Greene, I'll pour the scotch.

 
The concept is simple: You can go back in time and meet ten people (either in their prime or near their deathbed) and share one meal with them where you can ask them anything, and they have to give you honest answers. Who would it be? Who would you want to separate the myth from the fact and finally set the record straight? Whose head would you want to crawl inside and find what made them tick? Who do you admire and just want to spend some time with shooting the breeze?

The idea for this sprang from an unlikely place. To make a short story long….it all started with that damnable Netflix!

With a dearth of interesting new titles to fill my Netflix queue, I’ve relied on their recommendation algorithm to unearth previous works unbeknownst to me. Thus into my instant queue popped Elizabeth R – a 6-part BBC/Masterpiece Theater miniseries from 1971 starring Glenda Jackson in the title role. Continue reading

Election Night Drinking Game

Well, folks, Tuesday November 4th is just around the corner, so here’s what all of you Joe the Drinkers have been waiting for:

Your 2008 Election Night Drinking Game Initiative!

The rules for this one are simple and come courtesy of my friends Karen and Diane.

Just follow these 5 easy steps:

1.  VOTE!   (If possible, early and often)

This is the most important step, good citizens.  Remember:

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”  -Plato

2.  Purchase your favorite bottle of vodka.  I recommend sending an olive branch to Palin’s neighbors and buying Stolichnaya. Continue reading