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A Quiet Place

A quiet place indeed, any movie theater (I'm extrapolating from my own experience at a small screening room at Chicago's New 400 Cinema, usually a lively neighborhood house) in which one might take in John Krasinski's A Quiet Place during its highly successful first run.

One of the points on which A Quiet Place impressively succeeds is immersing its audience into the experience and plight of the Abbot family, stepping very softly through some sort of post-monster-invasion American landscape in which drawing attention to oneself with any sort of noise can quickly prove fatal.  So too does the audience almost breathlessly proceed through the film, especially the nearly silent early stages.  While it is both unusual and extremely refreshing to be among an American film audience in which such a hush - nary a smart phone; virtually no resounding ruminant chomp of popcorn -  prevails, A Quiet Place ultimately resorts to all manner of loud plot mechanism, clunking logic.


The nea…
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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three billboards with bold black letters in and an attention-grabbing orange field.  These the work of grieving mother Mildred Hayes, goading local Sheriff Bill Willoughby and his police force to show more initiative in solving the rape and murder of her daughter seven months earlier.

 Three films now for Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, each a kind of blazing billboard in its own right, full of provocation, contrivance, violence, heart and amusement.  Yes, all of that.  Audiences and critics have responded much more enthusiastically to the latest provocation of Mr. McDonagh than most of the residents of the fictional Ebbing, Missouri to those billboards of Mildred.  And yet, skepticism of the film seems even more justified than the disapproval of Ebbing for Mildred's roadside gesture; which is to say - what's the point? 

Accomplished both as a playwright and a filmmaker, Mr. McDonagh is, by his own acknowledgement, more comfortable in the role of the latter. …

The Florida Project

Fuuuck you!  Lest we miss these final, flagrant word from Halley (Bria Vinaite) in Sean Baker's The Florida Project, the director practically inserts his camera into roaring mouth of the young woman.   This close close up is both typical of Sean Baker the director and Sean Baker the humanist.  There's arguably not much admirable to be found in Halley, but Baker lets her speak, or shout her piece.  This before The Florida Project at its climax spins off into high and sad irony like a firework into the night sky. 


One of our best and most valuable filmmakers, Mr. Baker continues to present us with the travails of those scrapping at the edges of the American economy and society, or at least those generally beyond the interest of politicians, demographers and the like.  Read many reviews of the The Florida Project and you will regularly be served variations on the word margin.  True enough, many of the characters in Baker's half dozen features operate, in a sense, on the mar…

Urania II

While we still have our grand rail stations in America - Grand Central, Union (Chicago and Los Angeles), we would seem to have nothing like the above ground zeppelin hangar vastness of some of the great European rail portals.  So it is with Budapest's Keleti Station. 


Even in the midst of a journey of one's own, how peaceful it is to wander into such a barn of existential possibility.   To sit on a bench adjacent to one of the platforms as if to board some train to a nearby suburb or far-flung city.  To be still among all the slightly feverish coming and going.  Until you are reminded that you have not had a proper meal yet this day and it is high time you go and find a cheeseburger.   


Street scenes and images, Pest.




A lazy afternoon seems not out of place with the light if insistent rain.  But with the evening, the conversation must continue.  A panini restaurant along the Danube in Ujlipotvaros.   And then the Budapest Jazz Club.  As at the Liszt, you understand not one…