Film Review: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Affleck/Middleton Project, B Story, Big Indie Pictures, R, 137 min) Starring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, and Lucas Hedges. Armchair Psychology Putting on my armchair psychologist bow tie, I’ll make an unfounded proclamation: we link emotional resonance to physical location. For example, we develop deep, nostalgic feelings for locations around the campus of our alma mater. Personally, my wedding location conjures feelings of love and joy. The sights, sounds, and smells of an area lodge deep in our souls. While watching the acclaimed Manchester by the Sea, I kept thinking about this phenomenon. New England Meets the Atlantic Set in New England, Manchester by the Sea depicts… Read More →

Book Review: LaRose

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRose: A Novel by Louise Erdrich (New York: Harper, 2016. 384 pp) Louise Erdrich lives with her family in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore. She is also the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels for adults, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves and the National Book Award finalist The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is also the author of the picture book Grandmother’s Pigeon, illustrated by Jim LaMarche. Woke Context plays an important role in the consumption of art. Outside of one-off art installations or performances, a reaction to any specific art form may transform over the years. NeverEnding Story played differently in my childhood… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Night Of

The Night Of

The Night Of created by Richard Price and Steven Zallian (BBC Worldwide Productions, HBO, Film Rites) Starring Riz Ahmed, Peyman Moaadi, Poorna Jagannathan, John Turturro, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Sparks, Amara Karan, Bill Camp, and Michael Kenneth Williams. Put the Kettle On Surprise! The systems around which you operate influence you. Example: I work with a British expatriate. My lexicon now skews toward sayings like “Put the kettle on” instead of “Boil water” and “Two weeks’ time” instead of “Two weeks from now.” It’s a small example but it goes to show how external influences alter who we are, how we act, and what we believe. When it comes to murder mysteries, most narrative arcs focus on the “whodunnit” aspect of… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Last Man on Earth: Season 2

The Last Man on Earth Season 2

The Last Man on Earth: Season 2 created by Will Forte (Si Fi Company, Lord Miller, 20th Century Fox Television) Starring Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Sudeikis, and Boris Kodjoe. *SPOILER ALERT FOR PREVIOUS SEASONS* Can the End of the World Last? The extermination of humanity shouldn’t be funny. Yet, Season 1 of The Last Man on Earth took a high-concept premise about a future dystopia in the wake of a global pandemic and weaves a humorous story about self-centeredness and the need for other people. While much of its success emerges from its premise, the longevity of the series was my lasting question mark. Is it even possible to tell a… Read More →

Television Show Review: Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos (Synthesis Films, Netflix) Starring Steven Avery. Behind Bars I haven’t spent much of my waking tine daydreaming about what it would be like to live my life behind bars. Prison remains an ethereal concept. I know “bad” people are there; I realize a disproportionate number of inmates emerge from low socio-economic status. In truth, I don’t proceed on a daily basis with any level of fear about breaking the law and the corresponding need to do time. Aside from a riveting story of true crime, Making a Murderer renders me apart because of the way it portrays systemic issues in the judicial system that can lead to broken outcomes seeped… Read More →

Television Show Review: Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1

Fear of the Walking Dead Season 1

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1 created by Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman (AMC, Circle of Confusion, Symbound, Valhalla Entertainment) Starring Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Sandrine Holt, and Colman Domingo. I Know Too Much It’s odd to know more about a show’s universe than the characters do. Structurally, most stories—whether on the page or on the screen—provide the rules for engagement. These cues let the reader/viewer understand the kind of story they are perceiving and they set expectations for what lies ahead. These rules point out the hero and the villain. They suggest what you should find funny and what should be serious. And, they dictate expectations… Read More →

Book Review: The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 256 pp) Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933. One of six children, Cormac’s family moved multiple times in his childhood as his father accepted different occupations. In 1951, McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee majoring in Liberal Arts. Midway through his studies, McCarthy served in the Air Force for four years. After his service, McCarthy returned to college, writing his first short stories. In 1959 and 1960, he won the Ingram-Merrill Award for Creative Writing. Mccarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965. Several years, grants, and fellowships later, McCarthy published Suttree, Blood Meridian, and All the Pretty Horses marking his rise in literary acclaim…. Read More →

Book Review: When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke: A Novel by Hillary Jordan (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2011. 368 pp) Hillary Jordan earned her B.A. in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. She worked as an advertising copywriter for 15 years before she became a full-time author. Jordan has received the Bellwether Prize and an Alex Award from the American Library Association. The Scarlet Letter When I was a wee boy learning the ways of the six string, I would attempt to write a new guitar riff every day. Most of these musical progressions stunk like durian fruit. Occasionally, I would write something adequate. These moments excite. Something I could share with the world! Maybe?… Read More →

Book Review: Swamplandia!

Swamplandia! by Karen Rusell

Swamplandia!: A Novel by Karen Russell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 336 pp) Karen Russell is an American novelist and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” She received her B.A. in Spanish from Northwestern University and earned her M.F.A. from Columbia University. Needless Danger Do you recall the needless danger of your youth? Did you run away from home only to make it as far as your tree house in the backyard? Did you decide to make a cross-country trip over summer break with your friends without a dollar in your pocket? I’m sure most of us did something stupid when we were younger. Do you remember why? There seems to be an aura of youth where decisions… Read More →

Book Review: State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett (New York: First Harper Perennial Olive Edition, 2014; originally published in 2012. 448 pp) Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. Notably, she has won the Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books. The Power of Story Classically, the power of story resides in its ability to present a character that overcomes the odds. It might be the lowly knight that slays the dragon, the outcast in high school that gets the girl, the hard-working genius that pulls herself out of the standard stereotypes to be a… Read More →