Reviews — November 16
What you think of “Take Shelter” ultimately depends on what you make of the ending, which may explain and/or undermine everything leading up to it. I won’t reveal it, of course, but I’m not even sure I really could, because I did not understand it. But the ride was worth it, and the presence of star Michael Shannon makes it more than worth it.
Shannon played the brutally honest character in “Revolutionary Road,” another film dealing with domestic malaise. Here, he may — or may not — be on to the truth again, but it comes to him (and only him) in the form of apocalyptic dreams and visions. He’s a working class Ohio family man who desperately wants to hold his family together, but to do that, he must hold himself together. It’s a remarkable performance, and Jessica Chastain as his wife is also compelling and sympathetic.
Whatever else “Take Shelter” may be (at times it plays like a horror film), it definitely has a finger on the pulse of American working class life — the knife’s edge nature of a tight family budget, anguish about health care, the precariousness of a job. Shannon’s character may be tuned into those things and their broader implications more deeply than others, or maybe he’s just losing it. Again, it depends on what you make of the ending. Wait for it.
“Take Shelter” (2011) Written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham and Kathy Baker. 121 minutes. Rated R for some language and disturbing images.
Brooklyn-based band Fort Lean, fronted by Sheridan native Keenan Mitchell, has a place where all its music comes from. It’s a dreamlike place. After all, in the band’s words, “The weather there is perfect all the time.”
I think of Fort Lean — the place — as an island, and with each new project, the band describes a different district.
The four songs making up the group’s new EP, “Change Your Name,” evoke an open town square lighted with a late-night glow.
Opener “Do You Remember?” slow dances the album in with a witty mix of modern and classic rock balladry. You also notice on track No. 1 the giant step a band takes when the production level is increased.
“The Mall” follows, with a tale that starts with a joyful jaunt that’s cut short at the hand of love’s demise. Handclaps accentuate the happy-go-lucky feeling in the beginning — a feeling shredded a couple minutes in by the record’s most intense guitar solo. The track’s send-off combines the two elements for a cynical brand of ’60s power pop.
“Envious” shoots past the lovelorn and into a quick hit of united bravado. A carefree rhythm dominates for a jam-packed two minutes, 30 seconds, while Mitchell proclaims, “You could never make us envious / Oh, there’s nothing you could do … I’ll buy anything I want / I’ll buy anything at all / I’ll throw it all away.”
The finale, “All the Lights,” serenades the town square with its swan song — “about estrangement, deception, infidelity and death,” guitarist Zach Fried recently explained on Diffuser.fm.
The song rises and falls with the glow of the lights. Mitchell belts out his tale, step by step, amid gnarled guitar riffs and heavy-hitting drum crescendos. “Don’t get caught up in living / It’s just a choice you’re given,” Mitchell proclaims as the colorful composition fades to gray.
“Change Your Name,” Fort Lean. Self-released, 2012. Listen at fortlean.bandcamp.com.
“Some of Tim’s Stories” is a simply-but-beautifully written series of stories that can stand alone or be taken together as a novel. A book with hard themes, it fits better in the adult section of the library than in the youth area, where author S.E. Hinton’s other works are shelved.
Hinton rocketed to fame in the 1960s with “The Outsiders,” the first novel written in the vocabulary of teens — and no wonder, since the writer was a teenager herself. Her insightful book still speaks to young people today, as witnessed by the McMinnville High School students who are excited about performing the stage version this week.
“Some of Tim’s Stories” probably will stand up just as well four decades after its publication date. Its characters struggle with universal problems and exhibit emotions that are timeless.
Mike and Terry are double cousins — offspring of two sisters who married two brothers — who grow up together, “closer than twins.” They are best friends who spend all their time together, whether it’s for good or for bad.
Then, in one story, a simple stop for a beverage forces their lives to diverge. One of the cousins goes to prison; the other becomes a prisoner of guilt. One will eventually be released; the other may never release himself.
There’s very little description in the book, letting the reader mentally fill in details such as what the lake looks like. The lean writing works well in directing the focus of the narrative on the characters’ emotions.
This brief novel is packaged with the transcripts of a public broadcasting host’s interviews with the author.
In the interviews, Hinton talks about coming up with “The Outsiders” and the rest of her books, dealing with early fame and writing in general.
She says she always gets to know her characters completely, discovering what they eat for dinner and how they feel about voting, for instance, even if those aspects of their personality are not included her books. That’s a particularly interesting revelation, given the spareness of “Some of Tim’s Stories.”
But it also fits with another of her revelations: that she considers the book’s “Mike” to be the name “Tim” of the title has given himself as he penned the stories in the third person.
“Some of Tim’s Stories,” S.E. Hinton, 2004, University of Oklahoma Press.