Tag Archives: indiana

Movie Reviews: Different Drum

I picked this movie because it looked lonely and unrated on Amazon Instant Watch. Well, and because the description mentions Indiana. As a dude from Indiana, I can totally speak to that bit.

The nutshell summary is that this is a travelogue movie that’s shot in a very informal and random manner. You feel like you were there but all in all nothing of great consequence happens. A couple travels from point A to point B and have pretty realistic adventures that result in a pregnant woman with a bedazzled eyepatch, urinating on the train tracks and changing a flat tire.

In the end…. yeah, it’s not a picture that’s ABOUT something. There’s no grand crescendo but it’s a story that really, we’ve all lived. As the picture wraps you don’t say to yourself “wow!” so much as you do, “yeah, I remember when…” We have all lived some vague insubstantial version of this story but unlike this filmmaker, we didn’t bother to record it.

This is a movie that doesn’t make you remember IT so much as it makes it remember your analogous version of what you just saw. This is a movie for when you’re in a contemplative and reminiscent mood.

Notes from my viewing…

The style is that clumsy but endearing one in which everything is shot in a very informal way. Shots get cut off at times, don’t quite work out, sometimes out of focus, but very lifelike. It makes you feel like you’re there but it’s not got that over-processed look that most of the Hollywood junk does. I love this aspect of the film.

The credits are exceptionally high tech and come in about 11 minutes into the film. They add a distinctly charming air to the whole thing. They also act as chapter markers.

The whole thing feels VERY midwestern. I would swear that I’ve been in some of these places. There are some great shots photographically; very similar to what I’d take when I’m traveling.

The dialog in this film is so… pedestrian… there’s a bit talking about uncles and great uncles and how that works and it’s just so… real. It’s very much like a real life conversation that’s really ABOUT nothing but it’s the sort of thing that makes up our entire lives.

Movie is filled with lifelike little contradictions… like the pregnant protagonist who smokes and drinks at times but then acts terribly guilty about it. And her identical coats in yellow and green.

My god; some of these painfully nondescript settings are completely and utterly realistic. Case in point, visiting the protagonist’s cousin. The situation is rather bizarre but the setting is completely natural.

This movie….. this movie has the MOST polite armed robbery in the history of … well, of history. Holy CRAP that was nonchalant. That is the Midwestern way. “Give me all your money but, you know, whenever you want.” OK, not quite a quote, but that’s the general idea.

Eight minutes from the end, it’s time for Indiana!!!!!

Yeah, that’s Indiana. Northern Indiana at least. Lots of Amish.

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Book Reviews: The Siege by James Hanna (*****)

Firstly, and as usual, I received this book free in exchange for a review. Also as usual I give my candid thoughts below despite the delightful privilege of receiving a free book.

From the standpoint of narrative form the book is comprised of two parts. In the first 100 pages the narrator is in the midst of a hostage recovery effort but through the use of well-organized flashbacks we see the days that lead up to the incident in meticulous detail. The second part deals with the aftermath in a more straightforward narrative flow.

On the positive side, the writer quite obviously knows what he’s talking about. This is NOT the parboiled Hollywood version of prison drama; this is the raw, gritty and complex reality of life in a prison and the best of its genre that I’ve ever come across. The author’s style is rich and engaging painting a vivid picture of his setting and his very believable characters. If you want the truth behind life in prison administration this is probably the book you’ll want to pick up first.

The only negative that I would note isn’t really a negative so much as a caution to readers who might be looking for a guns-blazing action novel. This isn’t that. As I said, this is real life and real life seldom lives up to the idiotic standard set by the movies. There are moments of what one would call “action” but for the most part the novel is one of psychology and tangled mental interactions between the varied cast of characters.

In summary, highly recommended if you like your novels with engaging ideas over fountains of blood and violence.

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Book Reviews: Chains by Bobbie Sue Nicholson (**)

CaptureFor once I picked up this book on purpose rather than receiving it free in exchange for a review. It seemed a reasonable choice from among all those books available because, like the author, I spent some time at “Perdue” (as the author spells it in her biography) though I prefer the more traditional spelling of Purdue.

The best way I can sum up the writing style of this author is to quote directly from her editorial blurb for the book on Amazon because this short paragraph reflects closely the entirety of the contents of the book:

After graduating from Denver University, with a degree in Art Education, I attended Indiana State University for my master’s degree. Having earned two degrees in 5 years, I begin teaching and continued to take classes. I now have a lifetime teaching license in Indiana. I have taught Art at all grade levels from Kindergarten to College. I’m married and still living in Indiana. We have two sons who lived nearby. I wrote my first story when I was in grade school. My mother was the only one kindness to read it. My children were in grade school before I started to write seriously. I took a writing class from Perdue University. My stories are a joy to write. The characters can form to my winds and wishes.

Like the bio quoted above, the text of this book is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and at times borders on incomprehensible. As I’ve said of so many books in the past, this one needs the devoted attention of a good editor. The frequent transposition of the number 1 and the letter l make me think this book was transcribed electronically from typewritten pages and never even spell-checked or read over to make sure it was correct. Lastly in the vein of formatting, the narrative switches points of view violently without so much as a blank line to indicate it. This leaves the reader wondering what’s going on and forced to go back and re-read whole pages before coming to the conclusion that one section has ended and another begun.

As for the plot, it consists of a story told by an aging grandmother to her curious grandson. Unfortunately, the story is rather flat and predictable and has that rather typical quality of only being truly interesting in the event that you know the person telling the story. It is a frequent and persistent truism that most stories told around the dinner table among family are not usually interesting enough for the general populous to consume and enjoy. This story falls into the rather cliche category of “had to be there”.

In summary, the author has obviously paid a great deal of attention to certain aspects of this book but has failed utterly to compose a coherent and readable work. Perhaps with a bit of care and attention to the textual components the story would be brought to light more effectively but in its current form it contains very little to recommend it unless you happen to have some personal connection to the events portrayed by this novel.

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The Bane of Expectations

Today I left the apartment with fervor, energy and drive that I haven’t felt in a while (at least a week!).  Motivation is a costly commodity when the temperature is 38 degrees and the wind is gusting at 30 miles per hour.  I like to get out and do the photo thing but let’s face it, I’m a wimp.  If it’s a choice between taking photos or keeping all my appendages intact, I’ll just go pull something out of the big box of books and turn the heat up.  But this afternoon I poured out the door like a bucket of water over Niagra falls; I was ready to take on the day and whatever it happened to bring.

As with weather, I’m also a wimp when it comes to parking.  I’d rather park somewhere a mile or two away than bother with a parking garage.  As I got out of the car at the Indianapolis Zoo and headed across the river on foot towards Lucas Oil Stadium I could feel the wind pushing at my back like an impatient mother trying desperately to give birth to an overly plump child. I knew that the walk back was not going to be a pleasant one.  Regardless, the car was safely parked, I had camera in hand, tripod and other equipment on my back and I had a destination.  Frozen face of the future be damned.  It was now time.

Then I arrived at downtown and saw all the… stuff.  Here was the city I had photographed at least a dozen times and it was all made up for a monumental event.  It’s almost as if the place looked at me and said, “OK, Mr. Smart-guy, I’m waiting.  Take my picture already.”  And, as happens to me anytime that an entire city anthropomorphizes and mocks me, I found myself rather locked up artistically.  Rather than relaxing and just letting the photos come to me in a natural way, I ended up playing a complex three-dimensional game of “where’s Waldo” in which Waldo is that perfect shot that I just have to get and if I don’t get it then I would look back on the day a month from now and be furious with myself.

And really, I think that’s exactly the problem with such events.  If I just show up at some random spot and glide around for three hours I know with absolute certainty that I’m going to find something I really like.  I can summon something from nothing without much forethought or difficulty.  But when you go to an event wherein people EXPECT you to get good shots it’s a much different mindset.  It’s almost as if because I know there’s something to be found I end up impatiently looking for it and missing the more natural or artistic bits that are all around us at all times.  As a result, I always see the photos I come back with after an event as rather disappointing because I never feel that I found that ineffable “it” that was lurking waiting to be captured.

Despite my disappointment, I come home and post my rot online so that at the least I can say that I documented the day.  Inevitably though, somebody will come along and notice something in the album that really does have more to say than I thought.  The hangover of expectations, it seems, not only saturates the act of taking the photos but also finds its way into post-processing and would last forever except for the input of people from outside my own skull.   I’m a terrible judge of my own work in general and the issue of expecting something from a situation seems to make it much, much worse.

Clearly though I need an attitude adjustment.  If I choose a random direction and drive then I see photography as a fun recreation that can turn any locale into hours of fun and produce something I like at the end.  If I go somewhere on purpose then photography becomes a gauntlet of challenge thrown down that must be picked up and accepted at all costs.  I find myself walking faster and faster in an attempt to locate that redeeming photo op that will make the miles of walking all worthwhile.  I won’t deny that I’m often a hopelessly competitive person, but in this case I’m just competing with myself in a pointless and circular way that does more to burn calories and wear out my jeans than it does to advance my art.

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