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  • Climax

    Climax

    ★★★★½

    Part of March Around the World 2019

    “Life is a collective impossibility.”

    There were so many languages. Aramaic, Phoenician, Etruscan, Tamil, Moabite, Umbrian. Too many languages. From where did they all come? It was a puzzlement, especially if you believed—and if you were authoring the Pentateuch you no doubt did—that all these speakers were branches of a single family tree. Why would Noah’s descendants, leaving the Ark to replenish the Earth, differ so greatly from one another? You needed an…

  • Burning

    Burning

    ★★★★½

    Part of March Around the World 2019

    “She just...disappeared. Like a puff of smoke.”

    Having finally married his one true love, Estelle Oldham, after her intervening-but-ultimately-failed marriage to Cornell Franklin (he of the law degree and the respectable name and the top prospects and the antecedent family friendship with the Oldhams (Mr. and Mrs.)), William Cuthbert Faulkner required a home for his new family. And so he purchased The Sheegog Place (so named for its builder, Robert Sheegog), an old…

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    ★★★

    “The joke is on you, Mildred. Haha, and I hope they do not kill you.”

    Since the admission of New Mexico and Arizona to the Union in 1912, the physical center of the lower 48 states has been located just south of the Nebraska-Kansas border, in the town of Lebanon. This is distinct from the geographic center of the United States as a whole—since the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, that point has sat in Belle Fourche, South…

  • mother!

    mother!

    ★★★★½

    Part of Hoop-Tober 2017

    “I am I.”

    In 1848, Orson Squires Fowler published The Octagon House: A Home for All, or A New, Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building, a tome dedicated to the virtues of eight-sided dwellings as opposed to the four-sided ones in which your everyday unenlightened Victorian lived. Octagonal houses had many benefits according to Fowler’s concisely titled treatise—cheaper construction, easier heating and cooling, expanded living space, increased natural light. Fowler was not a professional architect…

  • Raising Cain

    Raising Cain

    ★★★

    Part of Hoop-Tober 2017

    “I know what you’re going to do! It’s a bad thing and I’m gonna tell!”

    **NOTE: Because discussing its structure is necessary to any discussion of Raising Cain, spoilers inevitably follow.**

    The source of an idiom is not always clear from the idiom itself. For example, the phrase “the skin of my teeth” comes from the Book of Job, but this is not evident from the content of the phrase—no one using the saying is likely…

  • Baby Driver

    Baby Driver

    ★★★★

    “You in?” “I’m in, Baby.”

    For the pop culture obsessive, every thought, every conversation, every interaction is freighted with meaning. The music, books, films, and television we love become the prism through which we view the universe. A group of umbrellas on a rainy day brings to mind a hapless brigade of nannies in Mary Poppins or a gifted assassin’s divertissement in Foreign Correspondent or a lovelorn Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. A bus ride recalls the ambiguous…

  • The Driver

    The Driver

    ★★★½

    “You can do better than that.” “I don’t have to.”

    The New Hollywood, that glorious time from the late 1960s until the one-two punch of Heaven’s Gate and One from the Heart, produced some of American cinema’s finest output. Narrative norms were upended, content restrictions were cast aside, the pomp and glamour of the studio system were replaced with grit and darkness. That’s the prevailing story, anyway—and there’s a lot of truth to it. But as with any prevailing story,…

  • Darling

    Darling

    ★★

    “I think I’ll become one of your ghost stories now.”

    “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left; remove thy foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:26-27, like so many aphorisms, religious and otherwise, operates under the guise of a traveling metaphor. Less trite than the “Footprints” needlework adorning your Aunt Lorraine’s throw pillows and full of the “thys” so sadly missing from modern discourse, its message…

  • Paterson

    Paterson

    ★★★½

    “Most people call it rain.”

    There is one transcendent moment in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Walking home from the depot after his day driving a New Jersey Transit bus, Paterson (Adam Driver) spots a girl (Sterling Jerins) sitting by herself, reading. She is young, about 10 or 11—not so young that her solitude is negligent, but young enough that it triggers a sense of protectiveness in the former Marine. He asks if she is alone; she says she’s waiting for her…

  • Beauty and the Beast

    Beauty and the Beast

    ★★★★½

    “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere; I want it more than I can tell.”

    Contrary to Bob Wiley’s assertion, there are more than two types of people in this world. One’s fondness for Neil Diamond may be illuminating when it comes to the amount of visible chest hair with which one is comfortable, but it does not make for a comprehensive taxonomy of Earth’s inhabitants. For that, one would be better served—at least with respect to people of…

  • Get Out

    Get Out

    ★★★★

    “I told you not to go in that house.”

    George Orwell, it is widely acknowledged, is one of the finest writers the English language has known. In his 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell decried the sorry state of English writing—mostly political writing, though other types as well—and offered by way of corrective a set of six rules, including the following: (1) “Never use a long word where a short one will do”; and (2) “If it is…

  • Late Marriage

    Late Marriage

    ★★★★

    Part of March Around the World 2017

    “You like to see me suffer, don’t you?”

    Religion—one of the great undiscussable topics of Thanksgiving dinners and family reunions everywhere—is, at the risk of stating the obvious, a vexing topic. On a macro level, much good and much ill can be and have been done in its name. One need not look far, whether to the Crusades or to ISIS, to find examples of atrocity overlain with a veneer of divine superiority;…