‘Spotlight’ is a Film for Writers and Character Study

If I’m allowed to make a recommendation for all writers, it is this: See the 2015 Oscar-winner Spotlight. And watch it a second time.

In Spotlight, Boston Cardinal Law has a chat with Marty Baron of the Boston Globe.

Tom McCarthy’s film is all-around brilliant. What’s amazing to me is how subtle everything is. It’s a very quiet film. There’s no violent action, no in-your-face confrontation, nothing that seems over-dramatized at all. (Suffice to say, there also isn’t any comedy or romance). Yet, there’s plenty of tension and menace, magnified by the overall subject matter. (This film is about the Boston Archdiocese’s cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by priests.)

The movie humanizes both the journalist heroes and the villains (of the cloth and of the fountain pen), and most every smile is, in fact, a facade. In a way, the filmmakers got to cheat on a few things. They assume the audience has a working understanding of a big-time newspaper (where things are always complex, and timing and legal issues must be considered) and of the gravity of the whole saga. There’s little tension between the journalists and editors working on the story because, in real life, there wouldn’t be room for it. What they’re working on is so huge and horrible, it can only be eclipsed (in the film) by 9/11.

The long hours clearly take their toll. One quick scene shows Sacha Pfeiffer (played by Rachel McAdams) struggling to get the dishwasher rack in properly. She bangs it, her husband asks if she’s okay. No response, none needed. The story never calls for an awkward domestic moment: “So what did you do today at work, Honey?”

In the end, what that gives us is a 2-hour build toward a satisfying crescendo. There isn’t an erroneous scene or a wasted word of dialogue in the whole movie. That, by itself, is amazing. Some of my favorite moments were the slight or gradual facial reactions to verbal jabs and tough questions. The heroes mine for information, constantly digging for truth. Without dark TV music or flashy cut-scenes, the weight of what isn’t said almost becomes its own character.

I could probably base a college seminar on this movie alone.

One Writer’s Year in Review

So, 2017 definitely had its ups and downs (like all times in life).

Rather than focus on general life stuff (got older, gained more weight than I could stave off with exercise, drank 200 gallons of coffee, suffered 500 hours of depression) I’m looking at the year the way Kai┬áRyssdal would.

My accomplishments for the year:

Blog posts (including this one): 63.

Short stories: 2 (Fur, Droplets of Regret)

Poems: 3

Words: Too many to count, honestly

Novels published: 1 (Tempest Road)

Novels worked on: 2 (Frozen at the Wheel, Destruction [Woman at War, book 2]

Books I’ve read: 21+ (Your Republic is Calling You, Artemis, The Secret Life of Bees, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, Old Yeller, My Sister’s Grave, Persepolis, Finding Zoe, Reputations, A Laird for Christmas, Born a Crime, A Long Way Gone, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Gone Girl, The Prince of Tides, The Illegal, The Short Drop, Long Way Down, Broken Pieces, All the Light We Cannot See, The Bridges of Madison County, maybe more…)

Sales: (And this is where Ryssdal would probably shake his head and say, “Give it up, man.”) Estimate 25-30 books

Reasons to give up writing: 2 (Not enough people see/read the books, not enough money in it)

Reasons to keep going (shaking my head all the way): Too many to count!

Justin Edison's three available books on a shelf

Justin Edison’s three available books on a shelf

Happy 2018, Everybody!

 

Weir’s Artemis a Fun Space Adventure

For a book that is not and could not be The Martian (the surprise hit of the last 15 years) Andy Weir’s Artemis is a fine stand-alone adventure in a new setting. It’s life, death, bad cuisine and worse decisions in 1/6 gravity.

His heroine is the brilliant but troubled Jazz Bashara, a welder’s daughter and almost-lifelong resident of the only city on the moon. She’s a foul-mouthed smuggler (delivery woman) who is fortunate to have numerous friends of every stripe–by the end of the book, she’ll need every one of them to survive.

Justin Edison's review of Artemis by Andy Weir

Through Bashara’s eyes, Weir presents a multicultural (if fractured and flawed) society in a bubble (5 domes, actually). Though her first-person ranting, and woe-is-me attitude and proclivities (booze, sex) occasionally get tiring, Weir still imbues her with a likeable, pragmatic approach to everything. She needs money, she knows how to get it (not by prostitution, thankfully).

Without giving too much away, Weir presents a how-to for all functional aspects of life on Earth’s gray, lifeless satellite. (Though Bashara doesn’t say it, she sure has to ‘science the shit out of’ a lot of things.) Who knew, for example, you could create ample amounts of oxygen from properly smelting aluminum and silicon from regolith (moon rock)? The book is part- fun romp through chemistry and physics, as well as part-market economics lesson. Life on the moon, of course, wouldn’t be possible without a fair amount of corruption–and the financial opportunities such an environment creates. Our narrator, a streetwise Saudi woman (by birth) is keenly aware of this.

In many ways, it’s a more relevant look at our own modern world (with all its flaws and limitations) than the one presented (peripherally) in his debut bestseller. Ironically, the greatest punishment faced by Bashara (besides death by misadventure) is banishment to Earth. Complicated and anything but easy-going, Artemis is the only home she has ever known.

We’ll just have to wait 50 years to see how prescient Weir is.

Twenty (Rhetorical) Questions I Have about Star Wars Episode VIII

(not in order)

1. Why’d they dig up Hugh Hefner to play the bad guy, Scary? (Scarry? Snape? Sinistar?)

Justin Edison's humor blog on Star Wars VIII with chief bad guy Snoke being compared to Hugh Hefner.

2. Is Luke Skywalker really going to drink that?

3. Why’d they put Leia in that scene where Gamora gets blown out the window? (Wait, which movie is this?)

4. How does gravity work in space, to make those super-high-tech bombs fall onto a target?

5. Why does Hugh Hefner have a Cuisinart going in his paper-walled throne room?

6. What happened to all the other ‘kids’ Luke Skywalker trained before the Kylo Ren debacle?

7. Why was Ben Solo (pre-Kylo Ren) listening to orders from Mar-a-Lago, or wherever?

8. Why did they replace the ghost of Yoda with the ghost of Yoda’s pale, cranky, crazy uncle?

9. What was supposed to be down that beach hole before the producers replaced it with a Jack-n-Jill bathroom mirror (or the Mirror of Not Quite Erised, or the Mirror of New Year’s Regrets, or…)?

Justin Edison's humor blog on Star Wars VIII with Rey above a wicked beach hole.

10. Why’d they center the whole movie on a senior citizens scooter marathon? (Move aside, Jason Bourne!)

11. Why didn’t Kylo Ren, after the huge fight with Rey, get to the bridge (of the wrecked ship) and scream, “Yeah, this bitch is mine now!”

12. Where did Luke Skywalker Houdini himself to this time?

13. Who let a teenager write the opening sequence? (“Still holding for General Hux.”)

14. How do Rose and Finn survive playing bumper cars at 60 m.p.h.?

15. Did Rey ever apologize to the Hyatt Rock Island housekeepers for, you know, knocking over their cart of toiletries?

16. How did Amazon Prime deliver the Empire’s, er, First Order’s gorilla walkers (and Kylo Ren’s shuttle) since they couldn’t have been brought down from a dying battle cruiser?

17. General Hux? Really?

18. First Order TIE Fighters only have the range of a Nissan Leaf on half-battery?

19. Why were the sacred Jedi texts located there, in a tree, on a rainy ocean island?

20. What is the limit for lifting lines of dialogue straight from previous movies?

Escape the Holidays with Humor

Because this time of year gets a few people down…

And because I’m already all Xmas’ed out by Dec. 23rd…

And because I love humor–especially inappropriate stuff…

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite, ever-inspiring comedic moments:

(Yes, I wish I’d come up with these gems.)

 

Tropic Thunder is possible the funniest movie of all time. This film-within-a-film action romp through the Vietnamese jungle is over-the-top ridiculous from start to finish, and gives us too many hysterical moments to count. The one I’d love to have (but, for many reasons) can’t have on a T-shirt: “Never go full retard.” This was courtesy of Robert Downey Jr. in blackface. After watching the movie, you’ll also never think about ‘gravy’ or ‘arms’ the same way.

Justin Edison's blog on humor includes Robert Downey Jr. in blackface in Tropic Thunder.

In the film Up, the villainous Charles Muntz character watches young hero Russell being dragged across the dirigible’s cockpit window. Muntz’s twitch-eyed glare-stare perfectly captures his madness–and the absurdity–at work in one of Pixar’s best films. It’s also the best counterpoint to the film’s most quotable line, “Squirrel!”

Who could ever get the absurd logic employed by Milo Minderbinder–to contract with the Germans to bomb his own air base–in Catch-22?

“The Simpsons” episode known as The Fat Episode. In his continued pursuit of laziness, Homer Simpson gains enough weight to qualify as the world’s first at-home nuclear safety inspector. Among other favorites, this comedic bit features a telephone operator’s recorded message: “The fingers you have used to dial are too fat…”

Finally, this 8-minute segment from Jeff Dunham’s Controlled Chaos is one of the funniest routines I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s offensive. Yes, it pokes fun at stereotypes. Yes, it is definitely worth watching!

 

Happy Holidays!