A Serious Man: Seriously Good

A Serious Man, click to view trailer
A Serious Man, click to view trailer

A Serious Man, the new Coen brothers’ film, is not one of those indie flicks that take you on some long-winded journey in an attempt to make you feel empowered and boisterous. But rather, this witty film spins you around and around in circles until you get dizzy. And when you catch your breath to refocus, you realize you are exactly where you started off: comfortable and confused.

A Serious Man, features Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) a father, husband and physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university.  He is a figure everyone can relate to. Larry is somewhere in his 40’s, has a stable career, and what would seem like a stable life. His hopeless brother Arthur (Richard Kind) yells at him for being given everything. However, the grass is always greener on the other side, Larry is tormented with the everyday.

The everyday, in Larry’s case is: Bribery from students for a passing grade; a wife heavily engaged in a love affair- ensuing a request for a divorce; a daughter who launders his money for the purpose of a nose job; a financial and emotionally dependent brother; a taunting naked sun-bathing neighbor and an anonymous writer who sends vulgar letters to the University in an effort to hinder his chances at tenure. Okay, so this is not everyone’s everyday qualms; but everybody has those little everyday issues that poke at us, as they squeal for a non-existent resolution.

In an attempt to rid himself of the constantly jabbing everyday qualms, Larry turns to the temple­­–more specifically, the Rabbi. Larry meets with three different Rabbis, each of which offers little insight into his dilemmas.  One Rabbi almost outright argues that it all means nothing and that he should just continue on with his life. Of course this was not the eye-opening insight Larry, or the viewer was hoping for. With this analysis, Larry continues to continue with the everyday, struggling and juggling his problems as the plot bounces between dilemmas.

So, I guess the question becomes, why watch a movie that just makes you dizzy? I am no Rabbi, and I too don’t have an answer. But, perhaps it is a chance to get away from our nagging everyday issues and instead, relish in the fact that squirming characters like Larry are getting no further in relinquishing their personal issues than we all are.

Conclusion:  Not a must-see, but a good way to appreciate your own lawn.

REVIEW: A Come Back Story: Where The Wild Things Are


Where The Wild Things Are
Where The Wild Things Are

I remember having Where the Wild Things Are read to me as a child. I remember a picture of “Wild Things” on an island. And when I saw the new motion picture Where the Wild Things Are, the imagery took on a whole new meaning, a much darker one.

The film starts with the main character, an eight-year-old boy, Max chasing and tackling his pet dog. He seems like a maniac howling and shrieking as he rages through his house with all the energy of the firecrackers I use to play with as a child. And from that moment, I was not a watcher but a participant in the film.

This inclusive feeling takes sail later in film when Max bites his mother, while she is on a date with a new companion. The mother shrieks, and questions her menace son’s behavior, who, then decides to run out of the house and into the woods.  The viewer then sets sail with Max to a boisterous island.

There, Max encounters a monster, Carol, similar to himself. He is aggressive and destructive and all in the name of family. No matter what age you are, it is difficult to encounter change. And while this film represented the difficulties a young boy may face, these were issues anyone can relate to: Life and relationships, with family or otherwise, are dynamic, even when we don’t want it to be.

But before I get too sentimental, I will instead revert to a more direct review of the film. It was flawless:

1. It was dynamic in that it had all the adventure a child would desire, while containing all the depth an older audience would value.

2. It was an action packed film, minus all the anxiety and violence of a Terminator film.

3. There were large hairy monsters.

4. The angle use, film quality, colors, costumes and music were all perfect.


Conclusion: A must see. For any age.

REVIEW: Grizzly Bear without the Scare


Grizzly Bear(s)
Grizzly Bear(s)

Grizzly Bear, a Brooklyn-based indie rock band, was more solitary than one might expect. Just their band name should have you thinking their sound is powerful. But what was powerful, was not their show, but their lighting and following.

 “It seems as though everyone secretly bought tickets to this show,” whispered my roommate. And as I walked toward the Michigan Theater, I saw pairs of emaciated students clasping onto cigarettes, squabbling with other pairs of emaciated cigarette holders. I was pulled in, “did you see Beach House?” (Beach House was the opening band for Grizzly Bear, and is classified as dream-pop, indie rock. Together the duo, uses the guitar, keyboard, organ and vocals to create music.) Having missed the performance, I was told by clamorers and cigarette smoke that they were great.

Anxious not to miss any of Grizzly Bear, I walked into the theater, and climbed into my back balcony seats. Half a song went by before I heard a rumble from my roommate, “the sound is weak; they sound better on my headphones.” I couldn’t argue, she was absolutely right, the sound was better on my headphones (I have good headphones). Unwilling to accept this to be the reality, we got up from our seats to sneak into the front.

One wrong door later and we were outside, schmoozing with a different scene, the set-up crew. Believe it or not, the sound was better from outside. Turned out that the poor sound was not the fault of the Michigan Theater, but instead was the fault of Grizzly Bear, who brought their own sound-guy. A song later, and we heard one of their better known pieces, The Knife, come on. My roommate insisted we go inside, and we re-entered through the main floor. We walked near the front, and leaned against the wall with several like-minded people.

While the music was louder, the performance did not improve. Grizzly Bear did not put on much of a show. Their electronic music made me feel ambivalent, and their individual singing sounded more like their electronic instruments than passionate voices. My favorite parts were when the musicians harmonized, and their voices came together to make more of a godly organ sound. The four performers didn’t transcend from the stage, they stood there almost bashfully strumming/hitting/poking their instrument in a soft, sheltered fashion.

The most successful aspect of the show was the lighting. Behind the Grizzly Bears were lights in glass jars. There were about twelve of these glass jars dangling horizontally behind the Bears. Different lights would go off at different times, and twinkle with the charm of a fire-fly. Then, on the floor of the stage, next to each performer were other lights, neon’s- green, blue and occasionally red. But in addition to all this were bright white lights that came down as rays from the ceiling. The combination of the neon lights on the ground and the beams from above created a very dramatic feeling. Then the jars would go off sporadically, and make the show seem almost surreal.

Conclusion: Interested in lighting go see Grizzly Bear, interested in Grizzly Bear get good headphones.