Twice, now, my family has made the drive from Richmond, VA, to Wauwatosa, WI. On the way up we drive through a massive wind farm in Jasper County, IN. My jaw drops and I squeal like a little kid with wonder at these behemoths. So this summer I finally stopped on the way back and took some photos.
I’d rather have these around than coal power plants, but I caught some interesting anecdotes from a gas station clerk. He told me that if you stand near the base of these massive towers, you get nauseated because of the low-frequency resonance of the blades passing by, or something like that. I want to verify that for myself, but sounds like I should be glad I kept a healthy distance 😀
He also told me that, while the land owners get healthy payments for leasing the land, the whole character of the countryside has changed. Not because of the giant propellers themselves, however; he talked about how it used to be pitch dark at night, and you could easily see the stars. Now there were fields bursting with these turbines, each with bright red strobes to warn off aircraft. And they all seemed to flash in synchronization, creating a night full of endless flashing from black to red.
Why can’t this movie be as good as it ought to be? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the leads in an unconventional, indie rom-com? I wanna see that. And I did for a long time, keeping this movie in my watch list for years after its release, never quite getting a chance to watch it, until this afternoon. The problem is that I’ve heard rumblings about the unevenness of (500) Days of Summer in the intervening years, and while I’ve tried not to let writers and friends prematurely influence my opinion, I couldn’t help but worry.
And for good reason. Not since Little Miss Sunshine have I seen an movie so concerned with checking off boxes on a list of indie cinema attributes. Greeting card writer that’s also an aspiring architect? Check. Non-stop soundtrack that makes the whole enterprise feel like a feature length music video with dialog? Check. Quirky friends? Check. Scads of peculiar visual flourishes? Check. The whole movie felt expected.
Now I understand this was the first feature length work for the director and his pair of screenwriters, and boy does it show. Camera shots and movements that seem ill chosen for the moment, or perhaps for to get a cool still for a poster. Dialog and themes that telegraph character behavior. I didn’t hate this movie, but I wish, perhaps, it had been created by some folks with either more under their proverbial belts, or more inherent talent for visual storytelling.
Oh yeah – and JGL’s character? Almost completely unlikeable to me. It’s hard for me to root for our hero when he’s obsessive and jerky so frequently throughout the running time. Still, it’s hard to deny some solid performances by the leads (and almost exclusively the leads). Along with an interesting take on the genre, they saved the movie for me quite a bit.
Tonight I finally got around to watching All is Lost. This is the second feature from writer and director J. C. Chandor (a Jersey boy!), and whoa Nelly, is it fantastic. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie so purely concerned with visual storytelling – so fully taking advantage of the medium. And Robert Redford proved that he’s still one of the best with a nearly wordless performance none the less full of emotional intensity.
The New York Times has an incredible feature on their website right now called Fourteen Actors Acting, wherein the aforementioned thespians act out classic screen types in gorgeously filmed black and white videos. No sound but the harrowing music by Owen Pallett. All shorts were directed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø.
I was kinda pumped the first time I saw the trailer for the Coen Brothers’ take on True Grit. I figured, though, that I oughtta give the John Wayne classic a whirl, seeing as it earned him his only Oscar, and tread the ground of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel first (I intend to read the novel next, actually).
So yeah. John Wayne, whose acting I typically find a bit tepid, was quite good in this movie. This movie with its gorgeous location shots. This movie with it’s frequently awkward editing choices. This movie with the weak-sauce supporting job by Glen Campbell.
The stand out for me in this movie, however, was the character of Mattie Ross. Mattie, played reasonably well by Kim Darby, is a strong female lead. I may have been more than a decade from nativity when this film released, but there’s still a relative dearth of wide-release movies* with female leads as competent and confident as Mattie. She’s portrayed as independent, intelligent, business-savvy, and capable of keeping up with grizzled veterans of the open range. Bold and fearless, she’s a teenager chasing down a killer without regard for her own life, but still looking out for her travel companions. I’m sure this was rare enough in ’69, but it’s a shame we don’t see more characters like hers in contemporary cinema without it being an underdressed pistol-weilding Angelina Jolie.
The movie, overall, was pretty entertaining. John Wayne’s dialog was fantastic. I really wish the directing and editing had been better executed, but it was still worth the watch.
* This inference based on the top 10 grossing films each year for the past five years.