Why I Abandoned Compliance

Between 1994 and 2004, strip search prank call scams happened several times.

In each scenario, a perverse prank caller phoned a small business—usually a fast food joint—and persuaded employees to perform acts of sexual abuse. His targets cooperated, convinced they were assisting law enforcement.

I remember the news reports. I remember feeling disbelief, then disgust. How could people be so spectacularly gullible, so hard-hearted? When they put security camera footage of the crimes on television, I flinched. What could be gained from witnessing such behavior?

Now you can see this scenario reenacted on the big screen. [Read more...]

In the Company of Women, Part 2

“You’re the sort of man who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman.”

That may be the most stinging, hurtful reprimand I’ve ever heard.

Thank God it wasn’t aimed at me: Those words were spoken by Miss Lucy Honeychurch to her fiancé, Mr. Cesil Vyse, in 1985’s A Room With a View.

The insult broke their engagement. It also broke the poor man’s heart, just as it would have broken mine.

As I wrote yesterday in Part One, movies have influenced how I feel and what I think in the company of women. [Read more...]

In the Company of Women, Part 1

This two-part post is dedicated to the summertime brides of Good Letters. Congratulations to Allison Backous Troy and Kelly Foster!

Twenty years ago this week, Batman Returns ruled the box office.

I bought a ticket for something else: A film about two married women and a grumpy widow who take a holiday and, as The Seattle Times put it, “rediscover their sensuality on the sunny Mediterranean.”

Strange, I know. But there I was, a twenty-one-year-old male, spending what little money I had to see Enchanted April.

How many college guys would you guess were in the audience watching this ladies-only getaway, listening to women ponder, dream, commiserate, and grumble about their husbands? I doubt that the film’s marketing strategists considered my demographic. [Read more...]

Moonrise Kingdom and the Divine Symphony

“It’s the rhythm in rock music that summons the demons,” said the church community of my childhood. So I took my musical thrills where I could find them. In front of my grandfather’s turntable, I air-conducted Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite,” Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” and Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.”

In the latter, a narrator introduces each instrument and section, then the orchestra weaves those signature melodies into a symphonic harmony that left me breathless.

In the latest film from Wes Anderson World—Moonrise Kingdom—Britten’s orchestral guide becomes the central metaphor for the way the world should be. Through that lens, all of Anderson’s films (especially The Royal Tenenbaums) make more sense.

No American filmmaker—not even Woody Allen—has a more recognizable aesthetic or a stronger authorial voice, and this may be the most, well, Andersonian movie yet. His style recalls storybook illustrations, puppet shows, school-project dioramas, and community theatre productions. And in his out-of-tune communities, one rowdy musician—a somewhat holy fool — plays a theme that inspires the rest of the orchestra toward harmony. [Read more...]

First Position and the Competition Crucible

All of the dollars and expertise that produced The Avengers, Men in Black 3, and the rest of this summer’s block-busting movie events could never produce a spectacle as wondrous as eleven-year-old Aran Bell dancing his heart out.

Aran is reason enough for you to buy a ticket for First Position. That’s director Bess Kargman’s new documentary about young ballet dancers training to compete in New York’s Youth America Grand Prix. Her cameras roll as the dancers rehearse, and the tension inspired by the upcoming high-stakes competition rises from a simmer to a boil. There, young adult dancers can win places in great ballet companies, younger dancers can earn scholarships to world-class ballet schools, and even younger dancers can earn early recognition. Or, their dreams can come crashing down. [Read more...]


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