Monday, October 31, 2016

Week in Seven Words #311

The desk chair that's meant to be sat on, not ridden, breaks. She slides off it with an expression that's part-guilty, part-puzzled. We live in a strange world indeed, where desk chairs just fall apart without warning, she seems to say.

Watching the Matilda movie from the 1990s, and the only person truly freaking out from Trunchbull is another adult in the room. "Is this... how can this be real? How can she get away with this?" he asks.

People looking for a purpose and a place find neither, seek someone near them to blame.

He prefers passive-aggressive insults. Instead of telling me directly what he thinks about my character, mind, and looks, he'll discuss someone I bear a resemblance to and make hostile remarks about the qualities I share with them.

In an orange coffee mug, she's growing what looks like a valiant twig. Whatever it is has sprouted a couple of leaves and angled itself towards the window.

Pages whirring, books thudding, students sniffling over their assignments.

A pink evening glow of laughter and play.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Two film noirs where hitch-hiking goes horribly wrong

Title: Detour (1945)
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Language: English
Rating: Unrated

Detour was made on a shoestring budget, which works for its overall mood. A musician, Al Roberts (Tom Neal), hitch-hikes across the US to get to his fiancée in California. She represents the sort of life that a schlimazel and, ultimately, murderer like him will never enjoy. He's not only unlucky, but wallows in his unluckiness, seems to rush out to meet opportunities that will further make him unlucky. One of the best shots is of his face, full of stubble and despair, as he sits in a diner.

The only time he seems to struggle against his character and fate is when he plays piano. The music feels like a protest against his worst impulses.

Most memorable of all is Vera, a woman Al meets on the road. Ann Savage plays Vera as a wildly creepy sexual hellcat, full of rage and bitterness. Her eyes alone promise torment. She could have been one of the Furies in a Greek tragedy. I like how Savage's performance evokes both a particular woman and vengeance incarnate. Al is almost definitely not the worst man Vera has ever had to deal with, but he's there, in her path, ready to embrace unluckiness.

Title: The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
Director: Ida Lupino
Language: English and some Spanish
Rating: Unrated

Two men on a fishing trip pick up a stranded motorist. He's Emmett Myers (William Talman), a psychotic criminal who has escaped from prison. One of his eyes never fully closes, so even when his victims think he might have fallen asleep (and they can maybe make a break for it), they aren't sure if he's watching them.

The filmmakers maintain strong psychological tension throughout the movie. Roy (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy), the fishing trip buddies, know that at some point Emmett will kill them. They just don't know when. (A fact that he torments them with.) Subtle contrasts emerge between them, in how they react to their likely fate, while struggling to stick together, stay sane, and find an opportunity to fight back.

There's an excellent use of music in this film, including some classical music in a scene out in a desert by a well where a killer may be disposed to drop bodies. There's also light Mexican folk music in a moment where Roy and Gilbert may very well die. The suspense is especially strong during one scene involving a long walk on a dock through shadows.

Part of the movie is set in Baja California, and notably it portrays the locals as people, not as caricatures of another culture. Another impression the movie made on me is how it never gets melodramatic. It just lets the tension stretch out, the feelings churn and from time to time erupt.

Week in Seven Words #310

The wind slashes at us all the way up the hill.

She lingers in her daydream. Its air smells like a bakery, and its streets are cobblestone. Roses burst from a breach in the wooden fence around her Queen Anne house.

Sidewalks held together with cement, gum, and mashed litter.

It's a rumbly night with noises from parts unknown.

Receive an email from her. Attached, a selfie with our faces wreathed in hearts.

A movie stitched together from nostalgic moments, explosions, and characters who arrive with pre-packaged, top-level abilities. Dressed conveniently in white for good, black for bad.

An academic article, written as if each sentence was held to a fire and partially melted.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Week in Seven Words #309

They're all in flames except for the destroyers. He hunts for mine, and I for his, across the war-torn grids.

He's assigned an essay on the Battle of Gettysburg, and chooses to write it the length of the Gettysburg Address, 272 words. It reads naturally, without too many adjectives thrown in for padding.

The cold rain has crawled into my socks.

We play to 100 points. As soon as we're both close, he lies on the floor, hands flailing, so that if I win, he can say that he let me.

The harpsichord music is fury and frayed nerves. Forked lightning kept in a crystal vial.

For the sake of inefficiency, they invite us to an in-person orientation. We spend fifteen minutes signing in, finding our seats, and picking up a thin packet of information we could have received via email. Following a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation chock-full of information already contained in the packets, the Q&A session begins. Crickets chirp. We leave.

Cuddling on the couch, because it can't already be time to say good night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Postmodern Jukebox Delights

Postmodern Jukebox does covers of contemporary pop songs in older styles.

For instance, Rihanna's "Umbrella" (ella, ella...) in a Singin' in the Rain style with tap-dancing.

And Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" in soul music style (and so beautiful, how it builds).

Other gems I've found so far: Radiohead's "Creep", Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance", and Beyonce's "Halo".

Friday, October 14, 2016

Week in Seven Words #308

Before he finally gets locked out of his account, he tries one password after another, probing at his unresponsive memory. Each time, he's convinced that he's only off by one character.

Through cracks in the window, the cold seeps in and curls around my hands and ankles.

Around my wrists, they've placed interlocking plastic chains - some in pastels, others in night-glowing neon.

Cloudy bins of candies in toxic colors line the cold, bright aisles.

His nose has puffed up like a sponge toy that expands in water.

Dark-haired and silver-haired, they play a violin duet in the dim light.

"Don't worry, don't worry," he pleads. He doesn't know what else to do. He only wishes she'd relax, even as his frantic voice communicates the uselessness of such a wish.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Week in Seven Words #307

As children they're learning the art of wearing different masks: the politely engaged one with their teachers, the unruffled, easygoing, coolly knowing one for their classmates.

He appears with a handlebar mustache on a Time Magazine cover. "Impressed?" he asks.

He compares my defense skills to a professional player's, in a game of basketball involving a small plastic hoop lodged above a closet door.

At the end of the week, a cold grips my throat and wrestles me down.

The words don't hurt so much as stick to me like random rubbish, a scrap of paper I've stepped on when it's raining out.

She likes to make each occasion more special with a handmade card. The thought and care she puts into her work creates closeness.

One of those awkward conversations where you feel as if you're surrounded by tripwires. Even a safe topic, taken slightly off course, is liable to lead to an explosion.