December 21st, 2003


Mystic River

Last night I saw Mystic River, the new film by Clint Eastwood. Loved the movie. This one better get a few Oscor nominations, at least for the acting. The story is good too. It uses one overused plot device that I don't much like normally, though in this case it uses the device to do the opposite of what you would expect. The only description of the movie i can give would repeat what you would find on the official web site, or on IMDB, because to tell anymore would ruin a first time viewing. It's a movie I'll see again though, because the story is compelling. Go read the synopses at those sites. Beyond the story, the acting is wonderful. I also appreciate the movie for not taking a cliché moral stance. It portrays characters as doing bad things, evil things. It allows for their acts to be evil, and in some respects the characters to be evil, but provides the characters with altruism that is not born of duty (i.e., Mafia altruism).

Tim Robbins plays a beaten man. Molested as a child, he's never quite recovered. But he still has a hard edge to him the comes out when he needs it. There's no trace of the smug character that Robbins normally portrays (e.g., Shawshank Redemption). Just an incredible multi-faceted character that Robbins brings to life in every respect. You never get the feeling that Robbins is acting.

Sean Penn also does a good job as well, but here is the feeling that he is acting. He plays a tough former con who has mostly gone straight with his own convenience store. His daughter is murdered near the beginning of the movie. Some of the acting missteps can be laid at the doorstep of Clint Eastwood and the screenwriter, for they call for histrionics and various emotional scenes that we typically see in movies where someone has to show how much they loved the dear departed. Penn does better in his more domestic scenes, such as when he is called on to cover for his missing daughter at the convenience store before she turns up dead.

Kevin Bacon is the detective investigating the murder. All three were former boyhood friends who see each other on occasion around the city. Bacon also performs admirably as a cynical cop, still soft enough to care about the effect of a murder on the victims. His partner, played by Laurence Fishburne, gets the easier role of the business as usual cop.

I looked at Laura Linney's filmography on IMDB. I remember her from The Truman Show but I swear I've seen her elsewhere, though nothing on that list stands out. She plays a character she's really good at. In this case it's the wife/mother who is not troubled by the rough things her husband does, as long as it helps the family. Some day, I'd love to see her portray a real psychopathic character. She'd be good at it.

Marcia Gay Harden also appears as Tim Robbins' character's wife. She's a person who would expect would marry a back on his heels character like Robbins plays. She's constantly buffeted by events around her, and only occasionally can steel herself to a strong will. She does a good job, though I hope she doesn't get any awards for the role. I'd rather see awards go to actresses who do not play weak-willed women.


Christmas Eve Pie Night

This is short notice and all, so I won't feel bad if people don't make it.

Christmas Eve will be an impromptu Pie Night™. All day. Stop in for a bit, or hang out for a while. Hopefully the late notice and holiday status will keep it from getting too crowded like last time.

Address is 2301 Fairview Ave E in Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood (ring WEISS on the call board).


Curt Colbert, Rat City

Get ready for a slew of book reviews. I read five books on my vacation to New Zealand, and just finished one more. As with a bunch of other stuff about that trip, I'm behind. The first book to be reviewed is Rat City. I already read the second book in this series, Sayonaraville a few months ago. I picked up the book at the Northwest Bookfest on October, along with Gun Monkeys.

Rat City introduces the pair of Jake Rossiter and his soon to be junior partner Ms. Jenkins. Jake Rossiter starts the story by turning the tables on a killer who bursts into his office. The rest of the book deals with his investigation to find out why the criminal wanted to kill him. The second investigation that intertwines is one where he is searching for the lost son of a local black man. As in Sayonaraville Colbert has both mysteries tied togetheer through something approximately coincidence. I don't like the plot device, and the story itself isn't horribly original. But as bubblegum mysteries go, it's a fun read. Colbert tries to use language as if it came from an old Bogart detective movie. He paces the story fast enough that I didn't get bored, even if I could guess what the characters would do next. The other fun thing is that the book is set in post-war Seattle. Unlike other writers who set stories in Seattle as if they know something the reader doesn't, or who throw in Seattle's landmarks and feel the need to explain the geography to non-locals, Colbert makes Seattle a fun place to be. He doesn't describe the geography so much as he does landmarks and neighborhoods. It's not written in the I've-got-a-secret-and-it's-Seattle way I've seen done too often.

Anyway, good bubblegum, semi-noirish mystery. Just don't expect a great mystery.