Unevenly Forged

Man of SteelMan of Steel (2013)

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Written by: David Goyer

Cinematography by: Amir Mokri

Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane

Rating: D

The first film I reviewed for this site was The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), coincidentally another reboot of a popular comic book franchise. My issues with that film had a lot to do with the fact that a lot of the character work was overshadowed by the need to tell a much larger story–one that quite frankly never materialized in the finished film itself. I found that to be the case yet again, disappointingly enough, with Superman’s reemergence on the big screen. All cards on the table, because you can’t seem to have a discussion online about this film without them: I have an immense fondness for Donner’s Superman universe, which includes The Movie (1978), The Richard Donner Cut of II (1980), and Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006). By no means however does that mean it is the definitive version of the Man of Steel on film. As with any potential reboot, I like to judge it based on its own merits.

Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel fails to sustain all the ideas it presents (especially for being an origin story), for no matter how wonderful the intent and execution may be, the film is ultimately not consistent.

Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) is sent to Earth by his Kryptonian parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) as the planet, already on the brink of destruction, erupts in a chaos of rebellion led by General Zod (Michael Shannon). On Earth, Clark is raised by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Keaton) Kent on their farm in Smallville, where he learns of his alien origin, and discovers his superhuman abilities, eventually wandering from place to place to search for answers. Along the way, he encounters Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and despite his best attempts to remain a hidden good Samaritan, Superman is eventually found out by Zod (and thereby the people of Earth), and made to fight for not just his, but for the survival of humanity.

I realize that seems like a lot to take in, and the filmmakers must have realized this early on in the scripting process, because they end up shortening anything and everything that makes a person connect to what should ultimately be the theme of this film: discovery. As with Spider-Man, this film should be less the story of Superman, and more about the emergence of Clark Kent finally realizing his potential to become the Man of Steel. He spends the entire first hour of the film performing acts of heroism, all the while flashing back to his life in Smallville struggling with his abilities (yet performing acts of heroism nonetheles), all in an attempt to figure out what his purpose is. We know that’s who Superman ultimately becomes, but short of those criminally brief glimpses into his past, how they’ve affected his present, and what they mean to his journey in the future, we’re never made to truly connect with Clark before he dons the iconic cape and suit. I know it’s called Man of Steel, but that position is rendered pointless if it’s not backed by the strong foundation of Clark Kent.

A huge and well deserved shout out to the underrated actors who portray young Clark: Cooper Timberline (at age 9) and Dylan Sprayberry (at age 13). They have the monumental task of giving us our only glimpse into the mind of what it’s like to be a child living with what must feel like an enormous burden–having and discovering the abilities of x-ray vision, heat vision, flight, and superhuman strength–when all you want to do is help the very people who will shun you for it. It must be an utterly terrifying realization, and Clark has trouble coming to terms with how he should behave, as evidenced in a poignant scene when he’s told by Jonathan to keep his powers a secret. “What was I supposed to do? Let them die?” he asks, only to get a deeply profound and highly troubled “Maybe.” The film greatly needs more moments like these, and not regulated to quick flashbacks either. It becomes painfully clear where Henry Cavill later shines in the role, and that’s when he’s playing Clark Kent. His entire dynamic changes, be it when he’s talking with Diane Keaton prior to the arrival of Zod, or when he’s sharing a crucial glance with Kevin Costner. In fact, it’s safe to say that the heart of this film lies solely with Keaton and Costner’s interactions with Clark, and is thereby sorely missing because someone thought it wise not to spend too much time on the Kent farm.

Superman’s Kryptonian parents don’t fare too well either. There’s not much to say for Lara for obvious reasons, but even less can be said about Russell Crowe’s Jor-El. He doesn’t have much to do other than spout uplifting exposition while being a hologram. On that level, I suppose neither did Marlon Brando, but I felt a genuine sense of weight there; that this was a man who gave up his son for the good of the people of Earth (and that’s not the only, nor is it the most blatant Christ parallel this film makes). In fact, the entire, more than twenty minute sequence on Krypton could have been shortened. It’s glamorous to look at, but ultimately unnecessary, at least in getting across the point that the planet is in ruins and Zod is partially responsible. That brings me to Zod himself. At literally the one hour mark, the film stops and shifts gears to a place I clearly wasn’t ready for it to go with his arrival. I think it’s fair to say it was ironically uneventful. Don’t get me wrong, Michael Shannon does his best with the material he’s given (though for a more chilling portrayal, I’d recommend The Iceman), but it doesn’t work for me, probably because we don’t see him again until that point. After his declaration of “I will find him!” before being banished to the Phantom Zone in the opening, we never see him again until he arrives on Earth courtesy of a rather well pieced (and globally savvy) ultimatum message. I was finally watching Henry Cavill master the role, and it’s all wiped away in favor of what comes next, which is practically a checklist for any film attempting to be a worthy summer blockbuster these days. From that point forward, no one is given anything to do, other then to surrender themselves to their CGI counterparts and surroundings, and let all hell literally break loose around them to the sound of John Williams’ effective score.

It’s rather telling I think, that I found Zod’s right hand woman, Faora (Antje Traue) far more menacing in her role, and a much better villain for Superman to go up against. She seemed to be the more relentless one, right from her first frame, and she gets her pick of some great lines and moments. Rounding off the prominent women in the cast is Amy Adams, who again, is given a lot more to do than previous Lois’, and does a decent job of giving some semblance of depth to the relationship between Lois and Superman. However, because it’s Lois and Superman, and not Lois and Clark (yet), any sense of chemistry is left to her being saved and reassuring Superman that things will be okay. For the sake of this story, there’s no immediate connection for Clark to The Daily Planet, short of getting to know Lois, who unlike previous incarnations of the character, is well ahead of the game, already following Superman’s trail, which I suppose was a welcome change, though it clearly takes away a prominent arc in their relationship. The Daily Planet crew themselves don’t register for a second; all characters wasted until a sequel no doubt, which is a shame, because much of the film’s final act–the part where we sympathize with the human characters–rests on a group of characters we’ve spent maybe two minor scenes with.

Much has been made about the film’s ending, but I honestly don’t think that’s the fault of the film, nor do I think it’s necessarily out of character for this Superman. It’s a perfectly good third act. The problem? There’s no proper first or second act; they’ve both been compromised, perhaps to rapidly get to what amounts to an hour’s worth of collateral damage of both the scene and the senses. This is Superman’s first big bout, so damage is to be expected, especially with a foe as heavily armed and evenly matched as Zod, and yet, there’s no weight to it. It’s magnificent eye candy at its absolute best, but it’s empty spectacle at its worst, and I found myself growing tired of it. Superman’s actions aren’t what bothered me, it’s the thought (or lack thereof) behind them that did. When all is said and done, Superman literally stands amid complete devastation while kissing Lois. It’s an image out of Snyder’s own Watchmen (2008), but in this case, it’s not a nightmare scenario; it’s this film’s reality, one that I don’t think it fully earns. It’s also worth noting that I found the film’s final two scenes immensely jarring, not because they perhaps could’ve fit into the narrative earlier, but because they actually do not belong in this film; like at all. In what can only be described as a bizarre flashforward, we first witness a Superman who probably belongs in the sequel, confidently charming, with a huge grin, cracking wise with the Army about his role in the world, which is immediately followed by Clark Kent’s introduction at The Daily Planet; again a scene that would probably work better in the sequel, and does nothing but establish “Clark Kent,” something this film treated as an afterthought to begin with.

I hate to keep coming back to The Amazing Spider-Man, but unlike that film, which to be honest has grown on me with every subsequent viewing because of its character work, I find that Man of Steel has a much more uphill battle ahead of it. Where as it would seem Marc Webb is interested in building a intertwining narrative among his series, however at the initial minor expense of the characters, he understands that it’s ultimately about those characters, and uses them to effectively tell the story. I can’t imagine what Snyder, or even screenwriter David Goyer hoped to accomplish here, given that they offer even less character work at the outset; that too, in a series that has yet to introduce the likes of Lex Luthor, a working relationship in the offices of The Daily Planet, and possibly set up a Justice League film in the process. Snyder is a capable filmmaker, and this film only further adds, if not greatly lifts his ability to new heights. As someone who greatly enjoys 300, and openly defends Watchmen (even if it slightly misses the point)–both films which contain an immense and impressive visual pallete that can sometimes hinder the actual narrative–Man of Steel manages to remain similar to his particular body of work. I haven’t yet bothered to mention Christopher Nolan’s name in this review, partly because I believe that short of a story and production credit, he was primarily hands off, not to mention it’s unfair to put the expectations of Nolan on Snyder, but I really wasn’t expecting a Superman film in the vein of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This is an entirely different monster, and requires in my opinion, an entirely different approach. While it is possible to say that my views could change on how I view this first installment as a sum of the whole, if this is the standard of filmmaking I can expect out of its sequels–all style and no substance, all flashbang with limited flashbacks, all carnage with none of the characters–then I’m awfully concerned for the future of Superman.

You have abandoned the principles that held us together. […] I will honor the man you once were; not this monster you have become.

A Bold Return

Star Trek Into DarknessStar Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex
Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof

Cinematography by: Dan Mindel

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, John Cho,  Zoe Saldana,  Benedict Cumberbatch

Rating: B

I am not a Trekkie; far from it. I am however pop culturally knowledgeable about certain things Star Trek. So where as I haven’t entirely seen The Original Series (1966), The Next Generation (1987), or the multitude of other TV universes, I have seen The Motion Picture (1979) and The Wrath of Khan (1982), and I at least know enough to pinpoint previous cast members, the actors that portrayed them, and their significance towards the franchise as a whole. Does being a Trekkie necessarily enhance one’s appreciation (or disdain) for J.J. Abrams’ reboot? I really can’t say. I will say, that not being an avid fan of the franchise has only added to my enjoyment of his vision for it. Having said that, while its 2009 predecessor surprised me, its sequel did not, at least not in the same way, even though ironically, it managed to seem awfully familiar.

Star Trek Into Darkness works best when its completely doing its own thing. In fact, I’d say it damn near excels when it has a firm grasp on the story it wants to tell rather than relying too heavily on its past.

Part of the first film’s appeal was the instant chemistry between the cast, who were given the enormous task of trying to not just play iconic characters, but to take them back to their unexplored roots. They continue to push the material to even greater heights, and much of the film’s success rest squarely on their shoulders, as our investment in the story is only as strong as their interactions with one another. Since we last saw the Enterprise crew, Kirk (Chris Pine) is eagerly/arrogantly awaiting to take command of a classic five-year mission until he breaks the Prime Directive by saving Spock (Zachary Quinto), and is demoted. The usual suspects of Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), McCoy (Karl Urban), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Sulu (John Cho) are all back, but they’re joined this time around by John Harrison/Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), a terrorist hell bent on destroying any semblance of peace the Federation intends to keep.

If you’ve seen the first film, you already know that the cast aboard the Enterprise gels extremely well. They’ve only further cemented themselves in their roles this time around, and it is Cumberbatch that remains the real revelation. I first noticed him in Sherlock, and small roles here and there in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse. This is his shining moment. This is the performance in which the world finally stops and takes notice if they haven’t already. The fact that his role in this film is already an iconic one within the franchise, and thereby reinvented here, is far from a cause of concern. True to this reboot’s form, Cumberbatch is Khan. He’s cunning, he’s ruthless, and he’s absolutely devoted to his cause and his crew. No, he’s not the Khan of the The Original Series, or even its extension via The Wrath of Khan, but he doesn’t have to be. This version of Khan is precisely what I meant when I said the film excels when following its own agenda. He’s a full realized character in this universe–one part terrorist, and one part freedom fighter–carrying the burden of peace through war, and portraying that anguish on screen effortlessly.

Fans and non-fans of the franchise need to understand that these films will always be tethered to everything that came before, whether it wants to be or not. It made that decision early on in the first film when it decided to include all that came before even when introducing an alternate timeline. What this film is not beholden to however, is where it decides to take that alternate timeline. Would I have liked a more traditional, original series version Khan Noonien Singh (especially as a fellow Singh myself)? Maybe, but what we get here is not a knock on Ricardo Montalbán’s take, much like Pine’s or Quinto’s aren’t disrespectful towards Shatner and Nimoy (respectively). They’re true this particular vision, and that’s all that ultimately matters; that regardless of when this version takes place, these characters will forever remain consistent. If you’re familiar with the source material, they indubitably enhance those past performances, and if you’re not, they bring something entirely new altogether. Having said that, when the film does eventually borrow (and I’m using that term with the slightest hint of spite) from existing canon, I immediately found myself pulling away.

Star Trek, as a franchise envisioned by its creator Gene Rodenberry, was perhaps always meant to evoke a sense of déjà vu; a sense of having taken the real world into account when presenting its own story. Star Trek Into Darkness continues to preserve that tradition, perfectly encapsulating a fitting allegory to such things as the war on terror, terrorism in general, due process, and/or the ramped up nature of our continuing military-industrialized complex in an effort to create peace. Yet, even with such prevalent themes running parallel, the film remains fun, exciting, and fresh. Much of that energy is due in large part to director J.J. Abrams, a self-proclaimed non-Trekkie, who may not always get the underlying lore of what made the original series work so well, but knows and trusts that his writers (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof) do, and presents their vision flawlessly; so flawlessly in fact, that I can’t wait to see what he does with a franchise that actually thrives on being a literal space opera, without getting too bogged down with philosophy or allegories (I’m talking of course about Star Wars). Abrams has managed to retain as much as he possibly can of the old, while building the franchise anew, creating a mainstream sci-fi action film–full of awe-inspiring special effects with an equal level of heart (and lens flare) behind them–that is sure to please everyone, and return Star Trek to its once prominent place in the world of science fiction.

You think your world is safe? It is an illusion, a comforting lie told to protect you. Enjoy these final moments of peace, for I have returned to have my vengeance.

Forever in Waiting

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas (2012)

Directed by: Andy & Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer

Written by: Andy & Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer

Cinematography by: Frank Griebe, John Toll

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess,
Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Bae Doona

Rating: A

I’d love to provide a rundown of the basic plot, main characters, and actions that make up Cloud Atlas, but I don’t want to, or rather, I don’t think I have to, but more importantly, I don’t think I can do it any kind of justice. Look no further than its official synopsis: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. I get it; that can sound extremely overwhelming, dare I say even pretentious, but if you’re honestly not even the slightest bit intrigued to see all that unfold (especially if this is all you saw and/or knew of the film), then I’d suggest you stop reading right now.

It was almost a year ago that I saw that extended six minute trailer about six interconnecting stories spanning six different timelines. That was enough of a glimpse to make me eagerly await the day that I could watch those six minutes turn into a nearly three hour film. In anticipation, I read the David Mitchell book it’s based upon, and absolutely devoured the score until it became ingrained into my every thought. Unfortunately, I did not get to witness the film during its initial run in the theater, and it would appear neither did many of you. Yet, six months later, not only have I finally seen Cloud Atlas, but I’ve reseen it, and reseen it, and every viewing gives me a newer, if not better appreciation for its intricacy, its beauty, and its sheer scope—each story at once standing apart, but continuously being woven together—relentless in its approach, yet never compromising on its vision.

A lot of that has to do with the actors and their commitment to that vision, from the always reliable Tom Hanks, to the absolute revelation that is Doona Bae; from the endearing Jim Sturgess and Ben Whishaw, to a highly effective Hugo Weaving, not to mention a charismatic Jim Broadbent; even Halle Berry delivers a subdued performance. To handle any one of these roles must have been a daunting task, but to juggle six of them, all various degrees of separation from one another is commendable to say the least. Sure, some of them are minor, or serve as nothing more than glorified cameos, but each one works and elicits a reaction and works towards the narrative as a whole. Most of that narrative’s success lies solely with its directors: Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer. The Wachowski’s are no doubt household names due to The Matrix (1999), but Tykwer has his own somewhat underrated track record which includes Run Lola Run (1998) and The International (2009). A special and much needed honor needs to go to the film’s editors Alexander Berner and Chris Wehlisch. Together, they manage to tell six different stories as one, focusing on love, courage, and destiny, in the past, present, and future, creating a symphony of emotions. To their credit, it never feels rushed or unnecessary. In fact, I could watch each individual story play itself out in its entirety without cutting back and forth among the others. The fact that the film warrants multiple viewings doesn’t work against it; in fact, you’d be remiss not to watch it again and again. The film actively requires nothing more than your full, undivided attention, and I think that scares some people.

Absolutely nothing about this production screams easy. Hell, nothing about this production even reaches the level of cookie cutter we’ve come to accustom such big budget fare to. Perhaps that is why, I suppose, the average moviegoer refused to give this a film even a first look, let alone a second or a third. I’m not saying the film succeeds in everything it sets out to accomplish, but very rarely am I in sheer awe at a film’s sense of ambition. Surely something must be said when a film manages to not only exceed one’s expectations, but outright create them. We hear this all the time about cinema; that it’s an experience, that when powerful enough, can stay with you, and transcend the screen, and really make an impression on our lives and how our imagination sees and understands things. We hear it all the time, but how many times can we honestly say we actually experience it? How many of us can truly say that every film viewing experience we’ve had is akin to having seen something like Star Wars for the first time, or even The Matrix, where everything just clicks a certain way on both the screen and in our minds perfectly?

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and a lot of you will be making the difficult choice of whether or not to spend your hard earned money on Fast and Furious 6 or The Hangover Part III, and you’re all free to make whatever decision you like, but just think about this: movies like that are literally a dime a dozen, and if one fails, another one immediately takes its place, and no one’s the wiser. You could however make a third choice. You could seek out Cloud Atlas, a film that no one will probably attempt to ever make again, a true one of a kind in every sense of the word. I’m not even saying you have to like it, but you owe it to yourself to find out, and to not dismiss it because it seems to mash multiple genres and ideas together.

Don’t let them say I killed myself for love; had my infatuations, but we both know in our hearts who is the sole love of my short, bright life.

Morning Sickness [feat. Ani]

how could I ever close my eyes, how could I ever turn off my mind, if each image projected onto my eyelids is still you, and it’s 4AM and I’m miles away and you’re sleeping home, dreaming safe, and I’m lying here watching the neon of my clock tick my minutes away, the minutes that don’t matter because you’re not here anyway, tick tick tick, but it’s digital, the ticking’s in my mind, it’s metaphysical. how are you my ghost when you’re alive, how can I miss you when you’re by my side? love lost is not love at all. it’s making me physically sick not to call. but the unknown trumps the unwanted truth. I don’t want to know if it’s no use, for me to base my world on a shaky future, that exists 13% of the time, if I’m lucky, for sure. hey man, get in line. the first time machine is mine.

No, I’m sorry, but DMC went bankrupt. Clocktower didn’t exist, it was always on the backlot. Now I’m backtracking, my heart’s set on flashbacking, and I’ve got my time circuits on with my flux capacitor attacking the infinite futures in which I’m just an analog romantic in a digital situation, no texts, calls, or relations. Ship already set sail, it’s a difficult navigation, where SnapChat’s not a substitute and it’s starting to become a nuisance, to really express my feelings when there’s never an absolution. Your future’s not Parkinson’s, though much love to M. Fox, but his family ties are making you become a has been. I wish I could dream it off, I wish I could sleep you off, I wish I could reap the rewards had I kept you in my life, but now I know it’ll always be me and my total loss.

Hey now, this isn’t a suspension of disbelief. At least there’s a possibility in my reality. Foundations to run back to, and no I’m not trying to attack you. I tried to cold turkey it, I swear I tried to quit. But it’s like picking up a book you left ages ago because you couldn’t handle the ending, except this is a choose your own adventure – finish line, pending. I don’t model my life after any m-fox, Michael or Megan. My only problem’s with the box, and letting the cat out again. Trust me, I’m not a has been; especially when, the universe has only afforded me the flaws of monsters and men. Trust me, I don’t need any lessons alienating people and losing my friends. Though it’s funny you mention my shaky hands, or do you mean my shaky plans? Because I really can’t sign any more leases, the loans on my heartstrings could be my thesis. I’ve spent two years writing about Schrodinger, only to realize I was wrong about Winger. I don’t need DMC to tell me to run, I’ve been marathoning since day one. Okay so I’m not completely innocent, I wish his paternal umbilical cord was spent. I’m not above wishing manipulators into comas, or turning see you laters into temporary homes, ah, well I guess infinity’s not infinity and snapchat and whatsapp aren’t new to me – no it’s not a substitute, but then again what’s the use? There’s no such thing as a clean break, a new beginning. So I might as well keep score, and hope that soon I can go back to winning.

I don’t choose my own adventure, I write my own literature, and I hope I can connect to, but I only further disconnect her. You’re right, she’s not my reality, simulation, or otherwise, and I would know, I’ve run them all with clarity, precision, and love in my eyes; but it’s my demise, and I am truly happy with it. No cold turkey, or Ninja Turtles’ sidekick, the only fox I am is Mr. Fantastic. He was voiced by Mr. Clooney, who’s trajectory I’m following, I bet he’s never had a problem communicating with his sex’s opposite. Facebook purge, I am not familiar with it, though if people get rid of me, I probably wasn’t worth the bandwidth. You keep saying “Trust me,” and I do wholeheartedly, but I fear half-heartedly that you’ll leave me with no-heart-in-me. I was always the box, and the question forever confined in it, but you were the answer to “dead or alive or nonexistent ” I’m no longer wanted, no one gets the bounty; take my name off the milk carton, cats don’t even drink me. I’ve been in the real world for close to a year, and I don’t have a job yet, and I’m told writing doesn’t pay the bills, so I should stop with this bullshit. I’m pretty sure I’ve rented out my flatlined heart twice before, and they’ve only come back broken every time with a ruined safety deposit box down by the shore. She’s become my tabula rasa, I didn’t ask for a clean slate; I was just trying to play for keeps, but she kept keeping score on me–of all the times she laughed and cried, and all the times I made her angry, and all the times I was never there, and all the times I was nowhere else but by her side still feeling lonely.

i could’ve easily told you rent-a-heart’s not lucrative, switch to stealing them, status: fugitive. god i wish my heart would stop beating, that it would stop his misleading, cause each time, it kickstarts my pulse, only to come back again, results? false. i’m forgetting how to talk without drinking, i’m too caught up over thinking. tabula rasa? man there’s a reason latin died, i mean who thinks anything is bona fide? okay scratch that delorean, I don’t need to relive the past again. as long as it’s not a streetcar, because that’s my yellow card. give me a penalty, take him away from me. yelling for stella while depending on the kindness of others? i wish i had their help now. where art thou, o brother? i mean i thought the albatross was mine, when we had a skype date on valentine’s, and i made the cat wait patiently in the other room, if only i knew what i had that soon. same night we watched 500 days of summer, and we thought we had our roles set. you still think i’m zooey? yeah, take a second guess. i’m the hero of the story all right, tmnt off in the night. spare me the opposite of batman fight, both me and gotham need our dark knight. the real world’s overrated, two seasons in new york? both outdated. yeah, fine i’ll admit it. i know all we are is disjointed, or sure, just full of shit. i wish it were that easy – to put his face on the carton and have someone bring him home to me. since when did these cats gain agency? i let him walk into my condo without a key? i’m thinking this is no longer my story. the second i became a carnival prize, some kind of glory. he never learned love’s for two, not three. or four. no wait, you’re right. i’ll stop keeping score. here’s the grand finale – my entire life is a failed pep rally.

Rent-a-heart? Swag’s missing. And Haverford? He was with the worst. I seem to have a thing for them regardless of which show I’m in, and I always wish to be renewed for a new season of me and you, though all of our finales end too soon, cancelled early, with a posthumous following like The Last Tycoon. Cause of death? Involuntary manslaughter, watching our Dundler Mifflin end was the real Scranton Strangler. I’m trying to forget last Valentine’s, but all I can remember is when you resigned. Knowing what you know now, and knowing what I knew then, would you have acted differently? Would you have thrown it all away? I almost did, of me and my dream, of me on the screen, where I’m the writer/director of my own team. I never had a budget, and you want to talk indie work? I’m the Indian Clerks: Dante insecure, and happily a Randall jerk. I grew up in the real world, and it ain’t so scary, though I had the benefit of a quiet suburb in New Jersey. We didn’t have streetcars, I hated being a mallrat, and I never thought I’d fall for Zelda as a tomboy. She wasn’t a Paris wife, that would be the wrong city. She wasn’t in my sights, that would be the wrong country. My scope’s no longer at the ready, even while drones fly nearby, but warfare seems stupid when love’s on standby, because love’s not worth it, because love’s on lockdown, because love’s just jealous that I’m happier without it. So why am I so excited? I wasn’t even invited to join in on the festivities that don’t include me standing atop a wedding cake, or you throwing a bouquet to a crowd of girlfriends I’ve never met, though I’m pretty sure they know me, I’m pretty sure I’m infamous – damaged goods in a ruined dress, now six months later with morning sickness.

AA

Grounded in Reality

Iron Man 3Iron Man 3 (2013)

Directed by: Shane Black

Written by: Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Cinematography by: John Toll

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley

Rating: B+

Marvel kicks off Phase Two of its cinematic universe much in the way it did Phase One back in 2008 with the first Iron Man: with a simple, yet highly effective film that’s immensely grounded in reality. I know we hear that a lot. Every film of this genre is said to be grounded in some sense of reality, but there aren’t many that make you forget you’re watching what in essence is a “superhero movie.” Now that may sound degrading to the genre, but I assure you it’s not. In fact, I’d say it’s a testament to that genre if I no longer wish to call it just a “superhero movie.” The genre is allowing itself to be taken a little more seriously, with an exceptional balance of humor and heart, which can only be a good thing for audiences looking to get more than your generically scripted, pointlessly loud, special effects driven fare.

It also helps that Iron Man 3 is incredibly standalone once all is said and done.

The Iron Man of The Avengers is almost nowhere to be found here, no longer having a super solider, the God of Thunder, or a Hulk to play off of, but they’re not necessarily needed here either, and the film greatly benefits from this sometimes literal stripped down approach. Since we last saw him, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has been keeping extremely busy building numerous variations of his armor because he’s experiencing post traumatic stress after the events that took place in New York. Taking a break from saving the world, that responsibility falls on Colonel James Rhodes’ (Don Cheadle) Iron Patriot, while Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) heads Stark Industries, with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) now being promoted to Chief of Security. When old faces from the past Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) resurface, Stark is forced to confront them, as well as a maniacal Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) behind the scenes, along with an army of regenerative, flame resistant, Extremis laced super soldiers.

There’s a reason Iron Man 3 falls closer in line with the original rather than its predecessor, and that’s because it’s not bogged down by anything. There’s no detour with S.H.I.E.L.D. or Nick Fury, and the few times the events of The Avengers are brought up, it’s to further explore Stark’s own worsening condition. There’s no question that Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. What’s remarkable is that now four films in, he can still find a way to create a character that’s not only still interesting, but refreshingly so. Stark has always been charismatic, and brilliantly arrogant, but for the majority of this film, he’s not the cocksure man in the iron mask we’ve come to expect. He’s vulnerable in a way we haven’t seen before, precisely because the story is very contained, very personal, and very much in the here and now–that sense of grounded in reality I had mentioned earlier–even when Stark is nowhere near his element. He’s a man on the run, with limited resources, and only his mind and vengeful drive to work with. The rest of the cast gets a lot more to do this time around, from a highly involved Paltrow, a finally engaged Cheadle, and even Favreau manages to infuse Hogan with a great backstory, all of them further building upon their relationships with Tony.

On the flip side, Rebecca Hall feels vastly underused, having shown great promise in just the opening flashback alone. Conversely, Guy Pearce’s Killian feels like Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2 finally done right (and far more competent at that), with just the right amount of brawn to back up the brain, giving the character a sense of gradual growth as we watch him go from scientist to supervillain. That leaves the versatile, and I do mean that in every sense of the word, Sir Ben Kingsley, who takes the Mandarin in a direction that I assume many will not expect. It fits the narrative of the story extremely well, and further enhanced my appreciation for the grounded in reality approach this film, by creating a terrorist much in the vain of OBL. The man plays his part not only effectively, but efficiently, never letting on anymore than we have or need to know.

Of course none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the masterful execution by writer/director Shane Black. From the ongoing narration, to the eventual team up of Rhodes and Stark, I was all smiles at how reminiscent it was of his feature debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as his other scripted features like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. From taking place around Christmas, to the witty and sharp bits of humor throughout, not to mention the extremely clever placement of the action set pieces (especially with all of the different suits), Black not only picks up the mantle from Favreau effortlessly, but infuses the franchise with his unique brand. Iron Man 3‘s model really accentuates its individual character, and despite Marvel taking great pride in its ability to successfully connect every possible thread among its films during Phase One, one can hope that the rest of Phase Two follows suit before converging again in The Avengers 2.

You know, it’s moments like these when I realize how much of a superhero I am.

Deleted Scene [Part II]

INT. APARTMENT COMPLEX – JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY – NIGHT

Jai stands near the entrance by the intercom. Light snow amasses upon his green plaid pajamas and navy blue t-shirt. Farah stands on the sidewalk in front of him, smiling in a winter coat over an elegant purple dress, with newly done hair, and holding a small white rose in her left hand.

“Well, don’t I feel under dressed,” he starts, arms folded, and leaning against the glass.

“What the hell, why aren’t you ready yet?” she begins to make her way towards him, “If we don’t get there early, we won’t find seats.”

“She’s your roommate,” he gives her a smug smile, “if she didn’t reserve you a table, then I think it’s time to seriously reevaluate your friendship.”

“I hate you,” she stops a few inches from him. A smile escapes her lips. “Can’t you just let me be mad at you?”

“Not when you look like that I can’t.” He waves his hands over her hair. “Wouldn’t want to mess up this Anastasia look you got going on.” She grabs him by the arm, and drags him into the lobby.

“Get up there, put on a suit, and meet me down here in ten minutes.” She does a miserable job of pouting, yet is quick to push him into an elevator. He stops the door from closing with his foot.

“Aren’t you coming up? Plenty of room.” He gestures towards the empty elevator space like a magician’s assistant.

“Do you need help picking out a shirt? Because I’m not your mom.” She pushes the up button. He lunges forward and stops the elevator with the side of his arm.

“Just for that remark, I will not be matching my tie to your dress.”

“Okay. Don’t. Now go.”

They slowly back away from each other; he to the far end of the elevator, and she towards the reflecting wall behind her. The elevator door closes.

Lit my first cigarette; got choked by my own second hand.
I read my own shit and laugh, because I am my biggest fan.
I am my only critic who’s worth it and/or gives a damn,
yet I still write myself hate mail, with death threats and stalker spam.
I watched it burn out beneath my feet; I sympathize, it used to be me.
If love is truly blindness, then I’m going to need an organ donor.
Forget human interaction, nowadays it only takes a computer.
I think 21st century American Lit should thank me for not drinking,
or else I’d Hemingway this shit; no disrespect, but I’ve been thinking
that young and beautiful were never really my adjectives.
They were always yours to represent, and for me to bask in.
All it ever took from you was a “how are you doing?”
I should’ve stopped you [and me] right there with a “thanks for asking.”

Yes, my hear’ts a mess, but you’re getting harder to miss;
in the lost cause of hopelessness lies the source of my anonymous failures.
Pillowcase dreams ruined by bedsheets’
ghosts from the past that we can’t repeat;
offenders of time, we never had a chance to meet
the parents we’d become if we ever got some sleep.
Walking by, stealing glances, and breaking hearts weep,
while distant eyes painfully continue to seek
affection not limited to everything we read
in chapters bleeding indigo tears so sweet;
hereafter, the future looks bleak without your smile as my peak.

My Nissan uses a push button to start, but I miss turning the key.
I keep looking back in the rear view, and your face there seems like a distant memory.
Believing in that green light goes against all that’s in my red,
to never feel yellow about expressing being blue forever in your head.
We are not together Nick Carraway, you’re full of shit.
West Egg went ahead and cracked into a self-made Gatsby omelet.
My dreams are now more ambiguous; why do you think I’m writing this?
Horoscope told me to indulge in simple pleasures, and I was clearly not listening.
Told me to accept the inevitable, when it was just an abandoned script I wrote.
Now I’ve got writer’s block after sixty pages, and
this is on the cutting room floor?

Jai strains his eyes staring into the metallic control panel of the elevator, trying to loosen his purple tie. He finishes tucking in his shirt. He reaches into his suit’s pocket and pulls out a pack of gum, taps it on his palm three times, before lifting the tab and pulling out a stick of gum with his teeth. He lets it linger on the tip of his tongue before withdrawing it between his index and middle finger. He unfolds, puts the piece in his mouth, and crumples the wrapper into a tiny ball. The elevator door opens before he has a chance to flick it away. He steps out, notices a trash can, and tries to toss it, yet even from a short distance, it’s an air ball.

“I hope you’re happy,” he bends down to pick up the wrapper and throws it away properly; underhand. “You know how long it took me to tie this? Why do I even have a purple tie?” He turns around and notices Farah fixing a tie of her own; it’s Zakhir’s, and it’s yellow. When she sees Jai, a smile escapes her lips, causing Zakhir to turn around and face him.

“Well aren’t we all just dressed to impress today?” Zakhir tightens his tie.

“I’d say you have me beat there sir.” Jai makes his way towards them.

“Windsor?”

“No, I’m actually from Jersey.” Zakhir smiles, and points to Jai’s tie. “Oh, right. I don’t know, it was probably made in like Sri Lanka. What ever happened to clip-on’s, am I right?” He raises his hand midway for a high five.

“Zakhir, this is–” Farah manages to step in.

“Jay.” He turns his failed gesture into an extended handshake.

“It’s nice to meet you Jay.” The two shake hands. “How do you know Farah?”

“I live in the same apartment.” Farah eyes widen, making a ‘go die’ face, as Jai continues to smile at her. “The floor. I’m in 1212.”

“That’s great. Where are you headed tonight?”

“Just a small party up in the East Egg.”

“That’s great. I’m pretty well connected up there. What do you do?”

“I’m a comedian.”

“Oh, that’s rich. Are you performing for them?” Farah runs her hands over Zakhir’s shoulders, clearing some leftover lint. “Right. We should actually get going; running a little late for this reception, but it was nice to meet you Jay. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again. You could even MC our reception if you’d like.” The two shake hands. “Honey, I’ll bring the car around.” Farah nods, as Zakhir makes his way out of the lobby.

“So, yellow, huh? Bold.” Jai strokes the purple silk on his chest.

“Shut up,” she lightly flicks the tie out of his hands, “yellow compliments purple.”

“And clearly purple hits purple.” He fixes the tie, closing the buttons on his coat. “Make sure you let me know when you’re on your way back, and I’ll try to be out by then.”

“Out? Come with us. Tell him your party got cancelled, and I’ll suggest you come along.”

“You know I can’t do that Farah. Didn’t you hear? I’m performing there.”

“He didn’t mean it like that, and what am I supposed to tell Alice?”

“It’s okay, she’ll understand. Besides, I already got to go to her wedding with you.” He gives her a wink and a light nudge. “You’re going to be moving into a full-time job, and I’ll rent out a place closer to the club. We always said this would only be an arrangement of a few weeks. I’d say this is end of the line.”

A car horn honks twice from outside.

“I guess it is.” She smiles, and closes are coat by wrapping the buckle around her waist.

“You should tell your folks about him. Yellow tie aside, he’s quite the catch.”

“Yeah, he’s great. So, I’ll see you tonight?”

“Something like that. Have fun.”

She gives him a hug, and hands him the white rose. They slowly back away from each other; him towards the elevators, and her towards the lobby doors. The elevator opens, and he enters, never glancing back to see her drive away.

She asked me why I was smiling.
I told her, it’s been a good night.
She said it still was, and could continue to be.
I told her, it’s been a good night.
I’m finally going to see
Cloud Atlas.

Familiar Horizons

OblivionOblivion (2013)

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Written by: Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt

Cinematography by: Claudio Miranda

Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman,
Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough

Rating: B+

Familiar’s not always a bad thing; at least not on the big screen. We’ve allowed for countless remakes, reimaginings, and reiterations, of every possible genre–be it drama, horror, or romantic comedy. Science fiction however, is trickier in that regard. By its very nature, it’s almost required–by both the audience, and those creating it–to expand upon the unconventional, showing us things we’ve perhaps never seen before. It’s expected to challenge us while still charming us, and failure to do so leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, so we begin to make comparisons to all that came before, and throw upon it allegations of trying to be something it couldn’t be; trying to be something it’s not, but more importantly [to us], trying to be something we won’t allow it be.

Oblivion is not the most original sci-fi film you’ll ever see, and I’m totally okay with that.

It’s the year 2077. We are told that Earth was destroyed 60 years ago when aliens known as Scavs took out our moon, invaded, and decimated the land, making it uninhabitable. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), along with his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are in charge of protecting Earth’s remaining resources, and sending them to a space station called Tet, controlled by Sally (Melissa Leo), which in turn sends those resources to Titan, a survivor’s colony on Saturn’s largest moon. When an unexpected spacecraft crashes while Jack is on patrol, he meets its lone survivor Julia (Olga Kurylenko), sending him on a journey of self-discovery.

Tom Cruise has yet to disappoint me in a role. There’s a reason Cruise’s lasting power at the box office has remained, and it’s primarily because no matter how far his star rises, he is ultimately believable as an everyman, even on an uninhabited planet where he is literally the only man. We happily follow him to the ends of the Earth because we feel the same sense of attachment to this planet that he does; that despite the ruins, it is still our home, and perhaps can be once again. Andrea Riseborough is exceptional in her role, and I only wish I’d noticed her sooner. She breathes immense life into Victoria, and makes for a perfect partner to Harper; the right balance of heartfelt and heartbreaking confusion. Likewise, Olga’s portrayal of Julia, while full of unwritten depth, fell short for me primarily because it was not nearly as well explored as Victoria’s, in relation to Jack. Melissa Leo’s Sally is absolutely grating in the best possible way, and Morgan Freeman is effective without being excessive.

Take your pick: Total Recall (1990), The Matrix (1999)Wall-E (2008), and even Moon (2009) come to mind, among many others, when attempting to make connections to Oblivion, either as mere visual cues or even to vague plot points; but as my preface to this review states: it’s not necessarily a hindrance towards my enjoyment of the final product. If anything, I see it less as a sense of lacking originality, and more of a director’s deep love of the material, but more importantly, the genre itself; almost a tribute to all that has come before it, and an attempt to carve one’s name upon it as well.

This is director Joseph Kosinski’s second feature, after TRON: Legacy (2011), and to say the man has improved leaps and bounds in almost every aspect of his production/direction efforts is perhaps an understatement. I adored Legacy, probably for all the wrong reasons (Daft Punk score represent), but even its many detractors couldn’t argue with the visual aesthetics and ability to create a unique world for the moviegoer. Oblivion only places its bets a little higher, and in the process, Kosinski manages to create a world that has a lot more heart to go along with its well designed architecture than his previous venture. Everything feels a lot more tangible given Kosinski’s deft handling of not just the material, but the actors and attributes involved in bringing it to life in such vivid detail.

I was surprised most by the film’s simplicity in both presenting and piecing together this seemingly complex world and everything in it. For the film’s first hour or so, all we witness is Jack doing his job, doing it well, and coming back to base. He detours every now and then, so we can catch a glimpse of how ravaged the Earth has become, but all the while, there is an unmistakable sense of humanity forever searching to find beauty again; and never has a dystopian future looked truly so magnificent. If you get a chance to catch it in IMAX, you’ll no doubt be in awe at the lush clouds while in flight, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets as far as the eye can see, unexplored snow covered mountains, deep canyons, and even the base itself, complete with a suspended swimming pool. This world is carefully crafted, right down to the types of vehicles and weapons, and we’re left to immerse ourselves in it at every turn–sometimes I’d argue, at the expense of the narrative. Add to it an absolutely enchanting score by M83, and it’s a world I never wanted to leave, and wouldn’t mind exploring further without such constraints.

Is it possible to miss a place you’ve never been? To mourn a time you never lived?

Spontaneous Regeneration

There’s a green light in my eyes,
and my lover on my mind,

I hate weddings; past, present, and future. Reading email in a tux, I call it GMail swag. Piano plays inside, I hope you can ballroom dance well to that. I never learned to waltz, or salsa, but I repped hard on those bhangra tracks. Now I hate those very parties that brought me up to be a family man. It was like Godfather loyalty, that no one ever questioned or gave a damn. The invitation that sits on my desk has been opened many times, until orange juice RSVP’d, and ruined a Tropicana paradise. Stain defender Dockers, with a corduroy sweater vest seems like a waste of an outfit, especially in all of those pictures. I still remember that winter outside of your apartment wearing nothing but pajamas and a Ninja Turtles t-shirt. The smile on my face then vanished without a trace then, only to find itself hanging out in the open bar in this place instead. I stole some nicely folded napkins, and name tags from nearby tables, reserving myself some center pieces, along with some new identities, hoping to go home with a personified math problem; a plus one by the way of a long con, and because of our [hours] long division, we never multiplied—only subtracted away until we were odd numbers.

and I sing from the piano,
tear my yellow dress and,

I hate rejection, and they’ve all spoken; closed the door on any further education. I came out of university living up to my degree; I am an honored bachelor who means nothing to nobody, and comes home to me, myself, and all my movies. At the time of this writing, I binge ate the following: a small bag of Ruffles’ chips, a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios, and two (make it three) chocolate chip cookies. Classical music in the background, where Für Elise is still my favorite piece, musically and spiritually, since I learned to play it on my Fisher Price piano when I was three. I used to be smarter then, back when I was taking fake phone calls with Shredder’s henchmen, while a video camera taped my every move, and my every speech. I guess some things never change. I come from grudging on Tyra Banks, and Vaseline namesakes. I monologued about Sly Stallone’s career path, and a note on a microwave was insanely cute, and made us all laugh. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it only took two years to make so many memories instantly. My first bootleg was Mulan from Columbus’ flea market, and it was free. This is my thought catalog, no need for a therapist. On the latest Community, I tell Britta I’ve had enough of this, and that we’re better off just being friends? I wrote that episode six months ago Jim Rash, but freaky Friday never goes my way, and things are pretty bad if it took TV to do something I never dreamed of with someone I only dream of—but never had.

cry and cry and cry
over the love of you.

I hate receptions; my phone’s with you, and after weddings. I’m almost done this script, creative non-fiction for the win, but nothing is distinguished by mere distinction thirty pages in. The only thing that’s extinguished are the intimate lives of those infinite lies caused by spontaneous combustion. Think of the implications: I know you’re not supposed to put so much emphasis on one person. I don’t know why, but I know that it’s not true. I know my faith, I know my God, and I know that it’s not you. Open eyes can’t stand the sight of me, but when closed, mine still fill the darkness with yours. Shot like HRG, I need a blood transfusion; hurry up, find me someone who’s got the ability of spontaneous regeneration. I chewed gum a lot; well now my jaw is broke. I feel dislocated, disconnected, and it pains too much to yawn. It finally shut me up though, seeing as talking was my fatal flaw. I wear a safety vest at work, and tell ’em I’m under construction. My rubble tells a different story from Barney’s, of a bedrock’s destruction. Hi my name is Jack, and I wish I could forget that you’ve already forgotten—that I’ve already been forgotten.

I think that voice held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it couldn’t be over-dreamed—that voice was a deathless song.

Autopsy [feat. F. Scott Fitzgerald]

I was on my way to work when it hit me, going back and forth between NPR and Culdesac. My light was green, but the rain blinded me; black eyes of black magic, they stole my dreams. Driving parallel to the sunrise when it blindsided me, listening to the violins from Final Fantasy. Shards of glass floating seemed like tranquility, cut across my cheek, let the air out the bag that was supposed to be protecting me. I shattered my time bone, and time is not the antidote. They told me to stop dreaming. I’m not sure when I stopped breathing. I am not the lead, I work better in ensembles. I am nothing without We, the People (see: The Preamble). I seem to only get Christian Mingle and J-Dates in my inbox, when I’m an atheist in bed, I’m holding out for my own house. They say that’s where the heart is, but the two of us, we’re separated. It was an asshole, and with my brain it always feuded. I was just trying to be your friendly savior; they called me Buddy Christ. You could easily find my hidden thoughts; you read me like I was Kids’ Highlights. A year ago, I was the very definition of an April’s Fool. Now, an empty bench among gravestones to me seems kind of beautiful, like a kind of truth; it’s a kinder truth.

It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart. Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure and the memory so possessed him that for the moment there was nothing to do but to pretend. I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others–young clerks in the dusk, waiting the most poignant moments of night and life.

The wind only blows back echoes, while it carries forth our memories, that you never hear, down in the canyon beneath my wings. Sinkholes, a new Pope, and you know what’s the real tragedy? We used to fly kites, and dream bigger than reality. You exist in words now, no longer in my heart; trust me, that’s better. I used to have a pool table, now I don’t have a leg to stand on. Sometimes I wish I had a similar fate to my character from The Election. Fake is now the real real, and fake is now the only truth that’s being told, and I’m starting to feel solely responsible for everyone that chooses to forget me. I mean that internally, I’m talking about myself there. We’ve been at war with terror since I was aged just twelve years. I’m the enemy within, who signs off on all his own wire taps; reverse Driving Miss Daisy, at midnight, hoping to fall into a speed trap. Sure I’m designated, but you want to talk generation gap? I still watch Rugrats, and these six year olds don’t even have an app for that. They used to call me Crab, I finally get that now. I’ve finally added Hermit to it, throw me back into the marina now. Reminiscing about the past is not at all like how it sounds. They used to call me back, but I finally shut that down; finally shut me out.

I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless life. I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life. I hope something happens. I’m restless as the devil and have a horror of getting fat or falling in love and growing domestic. They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered. There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired. I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.

Read Across America no longer means the same thing. Sure I did it for some Pizza Hut, but I also did it with sincerity, and a lot of those books still remain with me, not only on overlooked shelves, but on my mind, and in my speech, with some sense of regularity. Touch screens are the tyranny, as such familiarity is a rarity of prosperity, when the only true clarity is the dexterity of feeling those pages turn in your own hands like therapy. So austerity? You can find it all in a good book for free like charity. Legacy. Community. Britta’d them like she ruined me. Unfiltered, making videos, shouting “Campus News!” while my heart was broke. Went around and touted that we never gonna’ stop. Well, them stopped us. Period. And me no pause, because me upset, that we all forget, is it over yet? Is this a thing now? Throwing cats and pasts in boxes and drowning ’em? Fuck you Cameron, you don’t know unobtanium. People will read this and say I’m acting Childish. You’re right, I mimic, I don’t even know what my own voice is. Unless you put it up on screen, I don’t know what you mean. All I see is static, channel flips on my dreams. So the good old days? Yeah, I miss them, but they’re history. That was my story. Those were our lives clouded in memories. Shot, captured, edited, uploaded. We were uprooted. We went unnoticed. Now I just sit back and watch our self-created Zapruder films.

He’s sensitive and I don’t want him to break his heart over somebody who doesn’t care about him. If he had to bring all the bitterness and hatred of the world into his heart, he was not going to be in love with her again. Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear. Beauty means the scent of roses and then the death of roses.

I’ve started framing rejection letters. It feels good to be discarded. Tired of being a WNGWhore, anonymity is how I started, back when I didn’t have an email, and had concerns that I’d be fired. My diploma’s still sitting in its envelope, buried underneath my Blu shelf, for even when it dies, this well will forever be tapped. I’ve been on Oceanic, now I just want to take Ajira back. I miss eating Girl Scout cookies. I like the smell of things burning. Intelligent conversation is my idea of intelligent design. If I moved into the basement, my roommate would literally be God’s lines. My sense of faith is akin to Affleck’s in Dogma. I squandered it, but at least Serendipity was an honest bitch, while I was a douchebag of Congressional proportions. Last year, I was living like an Archie comic. Betty and Veronica? I only had eyes for [redacted]. Let’s be real a sec, and pretend that I’m no longer single, and think of how many hearts I’ll really break with that revelation? A year ago, was a century, of when we hit the iceberg. We didn’t sink, at least not until the exam was finally over. If I’d have played my cards right then, I might be celebrating an anniversary. We were never meant to be, but this is not the end of me, and this is not my chapter eight, though we were both Gatsby-esque. You were always American Lit, while everyone called me American-Lite. My idea of Daisy isn’t a blonde Carey Mulligan, so please try again, and please try brunette. Runaway yellow car, this accident is hard to forget.

April is over, April is over. There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice. I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendoulsy sorry, I turned away. I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.

Roads are paved with the accidents of drunk drivers, and crying mothers, mechanical pencil weapons with Beanie Baby ammunition. Everything I put in my mouth is a cigarette, from gum to pens; how’s that for an oral fixation? Life was construction paper, and Elmer’s glue; I used scissors wrong for much of the first grade. Pretzels and fruit punch bottles on field day, it was Honors Geometry that really kicked my ass. Now the only given I know is that I have proofs of all my failures. I couldn’t toss a washer, serve and volley, or even stack cups, but I was good at crab soccer (namesake irony, go figure). In the war against dreams, reality took many casualties. Went to Wal-Mart, and bought some licensed tees, from the kids’ section, boys, ages seven to sixteen. My mom doesn’t ask why I feel the need to wear Renaissance names on my chest; she knows they’re not painters, they’re my childhood friends. I used to wear plaid button downs, now I bleed the colors of my uniform. Time of death, no pulse;  it’s whenever I hit publish, it’s whenever I hit pavement. The best ones usually aren’t our own; stories, words, friends, loves, and deaths. I feel bad for whoever has to follow you; to pay the price, for not being the muse.

The Red Door [Chapter 2]

Prologue      I     Chapter 1

Fight or Flight

Alice stands outside by the terminal marked “International Flights,” a handbag in one hand, and a suitcase resting alongside her feet. Her coat lies sprawled across the top of her luggage. The sleeves overlap over part of her name tag, decorated in stars and stripes. Every so often, she shifts her position behind one of the pillars to avoid the sunlight. It illuminates her sleep deprived face, hair that has likely fought with a stewardess or two, and eyes that have watched reruns of Community one too many times. She’s midway putting on her coat when Ryan’s car pulls up in front of the entrance.

“Get in!” He shouts through a small slit of window. Before Alice can register anything, he’s already beside her, grabbing her suitcase and tossing it in his back seat amid campaign posters. She still stands by the pillar, even when he rushes back to take her handbag. He gets back into the car when he notices she hasn’t moved. “Alice! Come on!” She slowly makes her way towards the car, and gets in. Ryan begins to drive, checking his rear view mirror, before finally exiting the ramp onto the highway. “Pretty sure that cop back there’s been following me. I’ve circled the terminal four times.”

“It’s cold.” Alice murmurs, rolling up her window. Her stare looks through the terminal’s clear glass entrance where future travelers–mostly women pushing their luggage and children in carts–set to embark upon a much needed vacation. “It’s a winter hellscape.”

“The irony of that sentence aside, they say it’s supposed to snow in a few hours. What’d you expect from the middle of December?” He’s wearing sunglasses and his hair is slightly longer than the last time she saw him. It moves gently across his forehead with the wind.

“You could roll up your window for starters.” She rests her head against the seat, opening and closing her eyes rapidly as she looks out the window. The skyline appears and disappears into darkness with every blink, as the sound of Ryan’s voice acts as a sort of running commentary.

“You do know you used to live here once upon a time, right?”

“I think you answered your own question.”

“I imagine a lot’s changed for you in almost, what, like five years?”

“Or it’s stayed exactly the same, and I’ll just never know.” Alice continues to stare outside. The roads seem newly paved, and what used to be long stretches of developmental housing–literal Jenga pieces piled upon mounds of dirt–are now rows of townhouses and apartments as far as she allows her neck to strain itself to see. “Where’s my bag?”

“Back seat.” Alice turns around to check the back seat, and underneath her suitcase and handbag are multiple signs. She can only faintly make out the words Buch 2017.

“Congratulations. I haven’t been keeping up as much since you guys announced, but you and Pat were bound to find your way into politics sooner or later.” Alice takes her cell phone out of her bag, and sets it inside one of Ryan’s cup holders  She also takes out some make up, pulling down the mirror in the visor to apply it. “Thanks for picking me up by the way,” she says through fluttered eyes and newly glossed lips.

“Where are you staying?”

“I’ll probably crash at Jack’s. I sent him a text when I landed.”

“We’ve got a cot. You could always sleep in the office.”

“I stopped doing that years ago.”

“How long are you in town?”

“Just a few days.”

“You came all this way for the Red Door?”

“Not just for the Red Door. I had some time off, and needed to spend it–”

“Home?”

Alice gives him a wry smile. Ryan stops the car and looks at her. He puts it in park, and turns off the engine. Alice puts the make up away, and fixes her hair. Closing the mirror, she puts the visor back up, and focuses outside. The car is parked in front of Buchanan Campaign Headquarters. It starts to lightly snow.

“Why are we here? Is Pat here?”

“Just needed to drop off these signs. Pat should be coming down in a few hours. You hear from Jack?”

“Not yet.”

“Help me set up some things for the fundraiser, and then we’ll head to the Red Door together.” The two exit the car, and grab their stuff from the back seat. “You can leave your suitcase here.” Ryan pulls the signs out and carries them under his arm to the front door. He stacks them vertically against the window, covering up Patrick’s face on a poster in the process, while he takes the keys out of his jacket pocket. Alice looks around at the quiet street corner. The CN Tower is seen in the distance.

“Welcome home, Alice.” Ryan opens the door, switches on the lights, and tosses the signs through the front door, making a loud thud as they hit the hardwood floor.

“Don’t flatter yourself Toronto.” Alice takes one last look around, as her breath begins to form in the cold, and enters the office.

[Chapter 3]