Wednesday, July 30, 2014

30 for 30: Slaying the Badger

Recently I labeled Lance Armstrong, once a seven time Tour de France champion, now an excommunicated pariah of the sport (except in Iowa where, as always, my native state proves its willingness to turn the other cheek), an asshole, and I stand by that comment. Yet watching "Slaying the Badger", the most recent 30 for 30 documentary, directed by John Dower and based on a book by Richard Moore, which centers around the 1986 Tour de France and a friendship between American Greg LeMond and Frenchman Bernard “The Badger” Hinault turned rivalry, I sensed an understanding of Armstrong’s mindset. It happened around the time LeMond's wife, Kathy, interviewed on camera right alongside her husband, often providing assessments of the past we know must be accurate because her husband so forcefully bristles at them, recounts how the two of them and LeMond's father were forced to literally buy LeMond's food themselves ahead of the various racing stages and taste it. They did this for fear that members of Hinault’s team or perhaps even a deranged supporter of his might tamper with it. I thought: cycling is surreal. No, no, no, that's not it. I thought: cycling is batshit insane.

The film forgoes backstory aside from the most fundamental to focus exclusively on that ’86 Tour, though it also forgoes cycling specifics for any newcomers that might not immediately grasp terms like “peloton” or understand precisely how the world’s pre-eminent bike race is scored. Then again, I don’t know how the world’s pre-eminent bike race is scored, but I understand Winning and Losing and Heroes and Villains and that it’s always more complex than those capital letters would imply. “Slaying the Badger” portrays the Tour as a sort of asphalt-set soap opera where hubris and grudges duke it out amidst the majestic French Pyrenees.


Coming to Europe from America at a time when cycling was “counter-culture” in the States, Greg LeMond was a patriotic outlier, a prodigy, so damn good that cycling's pre-eminent figure, Hinault, shrewdly negated the necessity of defeating him by enlisting him and bringing him aboard his all-powerful Team Renault. And while they began as friends, their role as teammates was specifically what made their conflict flourish. The seeds of discontent were sewn at the 1985 Tour de France where Hinault was gunning for his fifth championship and LeMond was his second-in-command, expected to aid the general’s ascent. Yet when LeMond had a chance to go for the win, the team and its director, Paul Koechli, interviewed and seemingly so slippery I was surprised he didn’t slide out of his chair, shouted him down. His was not to win, his was to help Hinault win, and he reluctantly agreed, based on the verbal stipulation that in 1986 the racing cleat would be on the other foot.

Alas, at the 1986 Tour, Hinault, devious like Peter Lorre, aided LeMond until he stopped aiding LeMond to try and win himself until he couldn’t win himself and resorted to re-aiding LeMond even if he might not technically have been re-aiding him at all. He claims on camera today in interviews that are awesome for how little he really says even though you can sense him saying EVERYTHING with his impish grin that he helped LeMond because he legitimized the LeMond win by making him work for it. If you honestly believe that then have a Lance Armstrong Approved EPO Juicebox.

Yet Hinault’s reasoning intrigues me. He expected LeMond to help him in ’85 and LeMond expected Hinault to help him in ’86. You must adhere to unwritten cycling dogma, like Adam Wainwright grooving a pitch to The Captain. This is how they do. It also once and for all refutes that Dollar General philosophical hooey about there being no “I” in team. The doc's thesis essentially takes the words of sportswriter Sam Abt, that cycling “is an individual sport practiced by teams.” Indeed, their teammate, personable American Andrew Hampsten, is reduced to a grunt, doing heavy lifting for no glory, forever in the midst of these ten speed duels of machismo. It is not merely “not a sport for the weak” because it is a sport in which psychological warfare is waged while peddling the hell all over France. It is, in the words of Koechli, “a game”, a game he defines in a classic WTF? Ethos this way: “The enemy of the enemy is my friend.”

What’s that modern day urban slang? Hate the game, not the player. Should you/we hate Lance Armstrong for playing the game as the game is? Because the game in cycling, it seems to me, based upon the evidence submitted by “Slaying the Badger”, is lies and deception as much as feats of strength. It's espionage for the endurance-inclined.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lucy

At roughly the halfway point of “Lucy”, Scarlett Johansson's face appears on a flat screen TV and being that her titular character has by the mercurial stroke of fate gained superhuman intelligence on account of additional cerebral capacity – we can only use 10% of it but she’s able to employ a whole lot more – which is made possible by a precise movie-esque thingamajig, she recites a monotone spew of facts and information at such jaw-dropping speed with such little effort that she leaves the one person in the room stammering and stumbling for the words to respond. And what is crucial is the person playing that stammering, stumbling person – Morgan Freeman. He is perhaps our most eloquent actor, his distinct baritone routinely employed for cinematic voiceover to automatically lend authentic gravitas no matter the words. He's been the voice of God, after all, and yet in this moment, the man who gave God a voice can hardly find his own. Finally he locates a few words and says something of sustenance, but that takes longer than it's ever taken Mr. Freeman before. He may be playing a Professor of significant esteem but he is hapless and tongue-tied in the face of ScarJo, and in that moment he is essentially (not) speaking for all us flabbergasted organisms in the theater seats. 


Johansson starts dumb, dressed like a Jersey Girl living in Taipei and dating an even dumber dude (Pilou Asbæk) in a faux-Stetson who heedlessly chains a briefcase to her wrist and sends her into a high-rise to deliver it to a gangster named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). It seems death awaits but rather it’s servitude as a drug mule, whereby Mr. Jang removes a baggie of mysterious blue powder from inside the case and has it sewn into poor Lucy’s abdomen. The bag, however, breaks and leaks inside her, and soon she learns in one of the film's glorious bits of unabashed how-much-more-obvious-can-this-be exposition that the powder is CPH4, specifically a molecule carried by pregnant mothers when.....oh, who cares? It might as well be called the MacGuffin. Whether any of the film's “science” is credible is of no concern to me, and should be of no concern to you. Science belongs in this movie like ketchup belongs on a hot dog. CPH4 is the rocket fuel that provides Johansson liftoff into the cinematic stratosphere.

Once in the stratosphere, she wields epic brainpower and ass kicking survival skills like a Jason Bourne in Louboutin heels, if Jason Bourne could time travel and bend matter at will. Her main objective is to locate Samuel Norman (Freeman), the aforementioned Professor, not necessarily because his research can save her but because she wants to find someone to whom she can pass along this treasure trove of unexplainably radical knowledge. But the secondary objective is to survive the wrath of Mr. Jang because he wants his drugs back because this is a Luc Besson film and in every Luc Besson film there must be countless handguns outfitted with silencers. And there also must be the obligatory "slam-bang" sequence where an entire posse of bad dudes gather a plethora of automatic weapons and go after the heroine and discharge as many bullets as the budget ($40 million in this case) will allow. All these gun-firing, car-chasing, Scar-fu scenes, however, are essentially beneath Lucy, much like they would be beneath anyone possessing the power of telekinesis, but they are also beneath their leading lady, and that’s the whole damn point.


The film itself begins as dumb as the protagonist, contrasting images of a cheetah stalking its prey with Lucy herself being stalked. That would suggest its own capacity for intelligence intensifies along with the character, but all of Besson’s commentary on mankind’s aversion to growth and knowledge as well as stabs at “Tree of Life”-esque ruminations on existence come across blockheaded, less Plato’s Dialogues than a long form essay in Vanity Fair with lots of chic pictures. But then that’s all just window dressing for his central contention.

To call Ms. Johansson an actress in this context is simply not doing her justice. This is not suggest she isn't acting, which is ridiculous, because she understands that in this era of sensory cinematic overload it is smarter to downplay. Still, what she achieves here is something much more rarefied. “Lucy” opens with an image of a cell dividing into gigantic silvery, shimmery block lettering bearing our leading actress’s name. A Star Is Born, and she is a Movie Star whose charisma and presence render pyrotechnics and plot machinations pointless because the Movie Star is the main attraction. The thrill of the chase is simply to see Johansson in the midst of it, her persona coalescing with her characterization, and when she dispenses with a whole row of antagonists by lifting a finger it speaks directly to the spell a Movie Star can hold. Any time Jean Harlow appeared on screen in a movie the What, Where, When, Why and How all melted away because of the Who – that is to say, Her. And in "Lucy", Johansson, striding through the proceedings like an alien unfit for this asinine world, is truly Her. 

She is everything, and all the rest of Besson’s phantasm melts away.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Boyhood

Perhaps the most astonishing element of the astonishing “Boyhood”, a virtually unprecedented project in which director Richard Linklater filmed the same actors over a twelve year period in an effort to truly convey the rhythms and effects of an entire upbringing, is its utter conventionality. When such laudatory ambition is a film’s calling card, it typically signals an unheard of narrative slant or filmmaking innovation, but aside from a number of simply elegant frames intended to capture the fundamentally picturesque - like a sunset in Texas, or a camping trip pseudo-sing along – the visual style is unshowy, and the narrative is almost aggressively formulaic. Yet without saying much new at all, “Boyhood” manages to convey an enlightening cinematic experience that feels entirely original. 


The film essentially opens with our protagonist of the title, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), laying in the grass in his native Texas, staring up at the sky, his head, as he is quickly told afterwards, in the clouds. It is a poetical opening perfectly juxtaposing with the weight of quietly crushing reality to follow. He and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the auteur’s daughter), a few years older, are the children of a struggling single mother (Patricia Arquette), who returns to school to carve out a better future and gets involved with a string of men whose quality seems beneath her true-to-life nobility. Their father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), is requisitely absentee, beginning in Alaska (is that where all confused men flee?) and returning home to be with his kids, but without necessarily wanting responsibility's weight. This traditionally untraditional family’s ups and downs and middles are then chronicled, with little to no surprise. But surprises are not the point. “Boyhood”, observational without becoming a docudrama, is about existence. Not existence as in “why are we here?”, though that question is addressed with its own sort of everyman philosophy, but in existing, in how our lives are marked by the passage of time.

By its very nature, “Boyhood” is episodic. Beginning in the past – 2002 to be precise – and then moving forward, the film functions as a time capsule – indulging in the dated sites of oversized tabletop computers and Harry Potter book signings. Yet in spite of these elements and many others, the film resists an annoying overt and jokey insistence on them. They merely are. When Mason Sr. later in the film laments he learns about his kids’ life on Facebook, it’s incredible how natural it feels. At one point in time, it isn't; then, it is.


But by its very nature the film also requires time-jumping, not just in years but in months and days, and it yields one of the film's few flaws as crucial texture necessary for arc and characterization is jettisoned. In particular, Arquette’s post-Mason Sr. spouses both devolve into alcoholics, the first a monster and the second more inwardly enraged. These tangents wreak of cliché (and the Oscar-nominated French short from last year, “Just Before Losing Everything”, is a more affecting dramatization of a family fleeing an abusive spouse) but it’s difficult to gauge the characters’ precise metamorphoses into drunken louts when the majority of these transformations are required on account of running time to happen off screen. Then again, that lack of specifics – or, more appropriately, the loss of those specifics, is unwittingly a strength. So many specifics get lost in the accumulating dust of years gone by, and if the kids and their mother remember the alcoholic outbursts, maybe they don’t quite remember what brought them about.

Ellar Coltrane was six when filming started and eighteen when it ended, mirroring his role, and so we actually see Coltrane – er, Mason Jr. – navigate the pitfalls of going through puberty on camera. His youthful long hair is chopped away (reluctantly) for a buzz cut and then grown back out. He changes his style, his clothes, his attitude. His voice registers different octaves. And it’s not just Coltrane. It’s Linklater. “When you go through all of those awkward things that happen to us in adolescence and post-adolescence,” the singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis recently said in an interview, “to experience that in front of the camera and in front of other people is really uncomfortable.” And here are Coltrane and Linklater, having those experiences in front of the camera and in front of us. And it’s not just them. It’s Patricia Arquette, and her willingness to let her physical shifts be documented is the epitome of that word which is “supposed” to be avoided in film reviews at all costs – namely, brave. It’s brave because this is Hollywood and in Hollywood even the slightest sign of an actress aging can find her unceremoniously dumped into the “Not” column of a hideous “Hot or Not?” list.


And the though the film's title is “Boyhood”, the subtitle may well be Parenthood, because Linklater explores the maturation process not merely for children but for adults. Arquette’s mom struggles with insecurity even as she experiences professional success, and Hawke’s dad becomes a singular illustration of a life as a work in progress. Hawke, in fact, sneakily gives the best performance in the film, and one of the best performances I can recall of a semi-deadbeat dad, a man-child, to use the parlance of our movie times, but obliterating the archetype in the process, breaking off into something wholly authentic. It is subtly layered, deceptively complex, a man growing by feet and inches rather than leaps and bounds, but the change he makes by the end is real, and it is made all the more affecting because the actor conveys how difficult it was to come by and how far he still has to go – how far we (you, me, all of us) have to go.

“Boyhood” runs for two hours and forty-four minutes, a seeming eternity when it starts, gone in the blink of an eye when it ends. It would appear to demand re-visitation, yet part of me feels that to re-visit it would compromise the film's very spirit for we merely re-visit the past in our mind. What’s gone is gone. We shed our skins. We forge ahead.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Though he may be a Lt. Commander in the US Navy in the throes of World War II, Charlie Madison (James Garner) is more like a party-planner, an event coordinator with a military insignia. His role is not on the front lines but behind the scenes, quickly and expertly tending to the convivial needs of various Generals. He has no idea about barrage balloons, but he for sure knows how every high-ranking official in the Navy likes his eggs. And while his ability to keep the men deciding the world’s fate properly vetted with wine and women is vital to the (cough, cough) war effort, Charlie is less like the John Wayne of the movies than the John Wayne of real life, which is to say he prefers to avoid anything actually having to do with combat at all costs. He’s a coward, you see, self-professed and proud of it. Gallant men don’t fight wars, he explains, and the Generals he labors over would seem to back up that claim. No, war is what makes men gallant.


Paddy Chayefsky, screenwriter extraordinaire, who served in WWII, based his script on a novel by William Bradford Huie, himself a WWII vet and a civilly conscious author. And while “The Americanization of Emily” was released into theaters not long after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and could very much be described as one of those films set in the past but about the present, it is still infinitely bold in tackling the so-called Last Great War with such irreverence. To be certain, it’s not brazenly arguing against America’s involvement, but it’s also leaning toward pacifism. Was pacifism mute in the face of Hitler and his Nazi thugs? Yes, it probably was, and Chayefsky just sort of skirts that topic. Yet, “The Americanization of Emily”, I might argue, is less about war itself than the military machine – in particular, the American military machine, and how even in spite of a virtuous cause, bureaucracy and public relations reign supreme. Our true American instincts – consumerism, sex and Hershey bars – cannot be stifled just because we’re The Good Guys.

Those instincts are precisely what bother Emily (Julie Andrews), a driver in the motor pool and a war widow, an Englishwoman who sees her American allies as pleasure-seeking scoundrels stocking entire rooms with bourbon for the officers and perfume for the ladies with whom the officers frequent while London and half of Europe have been reduced to rubble. Charlie, in fact, suggests she be one of the Generals’ escorts, and this ruffles her feathers. It’s a classic ploy, putting them at each other’s throats before having them wind up in each other’s arms, and might be why it’s the film’s weakest element, overtly contrasting her activism with his pacifism and rushing them into a relationship and then the brink of marriage to elevate those pesky “stakes” for later in the proceedings when Charlie is shipped off on a Normandy landing craft.

“The Americanization of Emily” is set on the eve of D-Day, its grand strategic particulars being discussed over a game of bridge, a subtly brilliant evocation of how even when the future of the world is at stake different branches of the military would just as well sit around and try to score points against one another. And to Charlie’s superior, Admiral William Jessup (Melvyn Douglas) it quickly becomes clear – or perhaps we should say, - that the first man to perish on the beaches at Normandy should belong to the Navy. Why? Because the Army and the Marines don’t respect their compatriots in the white combination caps, and so Jessup devises a ploy whereby Charlie will be sent in with the first wave at Omaha Beach to make a movie of the first man to meet his Maker. Marketing doesn’t stop just because you’re liberating France, after all.


Naturally this runs counter to Charlie’s nonaggression. Remember the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where the titular character played by Matt Damon gives the big speech about how we won’t leave his pseudo-brothers behind because it is his job to stay at Bastogne and defend the bridge? Yeah, imagine Charlie giving the exact opposite speech. It doesn’t matter. He’s going, his commanding officer citing “the essence of military structure and the inviolability of its command", and so the coward is roused to action. Eh, sort of. 

James Garner’s performance, routinely cited as one of his best, really is worthy of the acclaim, an astonishing and seemingly effortless achievement of duality. The actor’s caddish charm makes the character impossible to dislike despite all he does to avoid harm’s way, and when that cowardice inadvertently renders him the hero, it becomes the film’s ultimate joke, and one Garner is in on. “The Americanization of Emily” ultimate stance turns out to be not so much anti-war as a friendly, funny reminder that even the most altruistic of conflicts come equipped with self-interest.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Actresses To Play Jesse Wallace's Ex-Wife

I recently re-took the distressing “Before Midnight” plunge after avoiding it for a year and a couple months after having my ardent (pitiful) Jesse & Celine Idealism shattered. And. Well. Yeah. It still hurt. I came around to seeing the ending in a bit more of a positive light – not positive as in “good” but positive as in “happy” – but not entirely. I don’t think I’ll ever get there. And in other ways, it was an even more brutal emotional experience than the first go-around. So brutal, in fact, that I unleashed yet another essay regarding my relationship with these films. And. Well. Yeah. I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I almost trashed the whole thing. Not because I wasn’t pleased with it but because it kinda freaked me out. Perhaps I’ll put the post up on my birthday because an emotionally terrifying post coinciding with my birthday totally seems Cinema Romantico-esque.

Anyway, in lieu of that post, I still got to thinking. Because I’m always getting to thinking, if not about interesting things, per se, at least about things that I find “interesting” at which point I subject my few loyal readers who haven’t already flown this cinematic coop on account of my Katy Perry references to ponderings about them. ANYWAY, I got to thinking about the character in “Before Midnight” who is never seen but still a major player – that is, The Other Woman. The one to whom Jesse was previously married and gave birth to his son and whom he left Celine for because Jesse was meant to be with Celine because the world is perfect and wonderful (it isn’t). She is a major player because, as we learn, she moved Jesse’s son out of New York under the cover of darkness to limit her ex-spouse’s visitation rights. Cold. About as cold as the ways in which she’s referenced. In order, she is referred to as being “drunk and abusive psychologically”, possessing “the mother instinct of Medea” and – oh boy, here we go – “a hateful cunt” (Celine’s words! CELINE’S WORDS!!!).

So let’s say in nine years when “After Noon” (it’s a play on words) is released that Linklater, based upon our above criteria, wants to cast the ex-Ms. Wallace. To whom does he turn?

5 Actresses To Play Jesse Wallace's Ex-Wife

Marisa Tomei

Well, obviously. I mean, she should be in everything after all.

Winona Ryder

I concede both the predictability of this choice and its blatant self-referentialism, that casting the woman who acted opposite Hawke in the angstiest of angst fests, “Reality Bites”, would be an in-joke of epic proportions in a film series that should have nothing to do with in-jokes. And yet. Set all past history aside and simply envision Ms. Ryder in a metaphorical vaccum as a woman with “the mother instinct of Medea.” Yeah, you did.

Amy Adams

If you thought “The Fighter” was against type, this would totally go against the “Enchanted”, Probably The Nicest Person In The Whole World grain, and she could do it. Beware all ye who doubt the versatile skillz of AA. (I’m also assuming that in nine years she’ll have six Oscars and can just get cast in whatever she wants.)

Rosemarie DeWitt

God. God, what I would give to see Rosemarie DeWitt bust out the scoff face as Jesse does his Verbal Scat thing and then just cut him off and lay a titanic DeWitt-ish “You're so full of shit” on him. “I know what you’re doing, Jesse, okay? You’re answering all my questions with questions. I mean, I know you think you’re being really cagey, but you’ve used this same evasive methodology since I met you. It’s pretty obvious. And by the way, shoehorning a Dostoevsky reference into the middle of an argument? There’s no peanut gallery. There aren’t judges awarding you literary style points.” GOD, what I’d give.

Rachelle LaFevre

I am not a movie casting director because if I was a movie casting director I would do things like cast Billy Dee Williams as Batman and cast Kate Beckinsale as a version of Guinevere that told that charlatan Arthur and that lip server Lancelot what to go do with themselves and ruled the kingdom her damn self, but still… I like to imagine casting directors having epiphanies like the one Eddie Adams from Torrance had in the hot tub in “Boogie Nights.” And that was exactly the kind of epiphany I had when considering who should play Jesse Wallace’s ex-wife. When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign, it just blows up because the name is so powerful. Rachelle LaFevre.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cloud City Twin Pod Revealed On Set Of Star Wars: Episode VII?

Recently I was sitting in front of my laptop, hard at work on yet another painstaking review, or possibly watching Katy Perry videos on Youtube, when I received an email from an anonymous tipster claiming to be an extra for the currently filming "Star Wars: Episode VII" and saying he had captured a covert image of the Twin Pod spaceship on set. This, of course, caught my attention because the Twin Pod was the primary mode of air travel at the Bespin mining colony in scenic Cloud City. And the administrator of the Cloud City facility was, of course, Lando Calrissian who was, of course, played by Billy Dee Williams. This led to the natural speculation: is Billy Dee Williams in "Episode VII"?

Visual proof "Star Wars: Episode VII" will return to Cloud City?
My curiosity piqued, I forwarded the photo to my friend, who shall remain nameless, a photograph authenticator in Guatemala who has sussed out many a phony image in his day but also verified some of the most historically astonishing images of the past decade. His reply, which has not been altered or embellished, is as follows...

"Jesus Christ, dude. What's wrong with you? That's a toy fucking spaceship. It's sitting on someone's kitchen floor. How could you not tell that's a toy? Are you fucking with me? Is that what you're doing? Is the whole world fucking with me? Seriously. I've had it up to here. Look, I love movies and you love movies and we all love movies, but this? This is just going too far. People have GOT to calm down. They have GOT to stop obsessing over it. You know when they can obsess over it? The day it gets released. That's when. Wait in line for it and freak out about it and wear your stupid costumes and LEAVE THE REST OF US ALONE BECAUSE WE CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE BECAUSE YOU'RE CAUSING US EXTREMELY LITERAL BRAIN DAMAGE! I'm becoming a monk."

The jury is still out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Age Of Reason

There is a time in the life of every teenage boy, often on the precipice of adulthood, particularly if social interaction is limited, when angst and rage consumes him, and his outlets for its necessary release are scarce. Thus, he drives around and listens to loud music and talks back to his parents and breaks shit. He wants out but there is nowhere to go. Maybe with a little luck and motivation, he’ll fashion the first draft of a life plan, or at the very least find a way to make peace with his duress and simply put one foot in front of other. Maybe he'll find the courage to seek his dream. “The Age Of Reason”, directed with notable assurance by Andrew Schrader and Jordan Harris (they also wrote the script), is about a pair of teenage boys caught in that ancient state of adolescent limbo, and who come across less like best friends than two loners trapped in cookie cutter suburbia recognizing something of himself in the other, clambering toward self-actualization.


Set over the course of seventy-two hours, Friday to Sunday, evoking the youthful sensation that a weekend can feel like forever, we follow Oz (Myles Tufts) and Freddy (Blake Sheldon), the former without a mother and the latter without a father. Freddy, his appearance unkempt and grungy, accentuated by the fact that he literally digs around in trash, as if he figures that’s where he belongs, is without a father and filled with pent-up rage, stuffing food in his face in a desperate attempt to quell it. Oz, with his shaggy hair and blistering fastball, yearns to be the next Tim Lincecum. That daydream, however, runs aground on the bullishness of his father, Robert (Tom Sizemore), self-medicating with a bottle, and determined to prevent his son from ditching home for what he perceives as a fairytale Major League tryout in Nashville. Besides, how can Oz run away and leave his little sister (Avi Lake), outfitted in nearly every scene with a leotard in a bit of spot-on costume design, who is at the wondrous age where teenage agony seems so far away.

There is a girl too, Ruby (Megan Devine), because there always is, but don’t presume that she comes between the boys in a simplistic teenage love triangle, as it turns more on mere connection than any kind of popcorn love. Saddled with parental problems of her own, like an ornery stepfather whose attempts at connection are ill-advised, she recognizes something of herself in them, and inadvertently they form a sort of therapy group where rather than talk out their feelings they are willing to let each person exist on his or her own terms.


The recurring motif in “The Age Of Reason” is destruction; destruction of both a physical variety, whether it’s the opening sequence of Oz and Freddy bashing up a car or Freddy, in a weirdly hysterical moment, trashing the bike of a neighborhood kid for no reason whatsoever, and an emotional variety and the torment it yields which is emblemized in Oz’s broken down father. Ultimately their relationship becomes the film’s most crucial. He deters his son’s dreams not from spite but from a genuine fear that Oz’s brashness will lead him down the same dead-end road, oppression as a form of protection, which in its own way is as oddly admirable as it is it deplorable. And Sizemore, carving out subtle notes amidst the endless hangovers, strikes that difficult balance with a withering dignity.

The concept of baseball as saving grace could have been rote, a more lo-fi version of “The Rookie”, but baseball is merely the vessel by which the film explores the age when reality has begun beckoning even if we are not yet ready to relinquish our dreams. They say youth is wasted on the young but “The Age Of Reason” is about characters finding the conviction not to waste it any longer, to get out, to leave the old world behind, to see what a new one may have to offer, and to reach for the stars. Whether they latch onto them is of no consequence.