Nighttime Interruptions

I wake up at the sound of the doorknob turning. Someone is trying to get in the apartment. I can feel it to my bones. I can see it on the walls, the shadows from the trees, streetlights trying to pry into my window and extend shadows to my forehead.

The metallic clank of the doorknob stops. I wait for the door to move, for the deadbolt to slide into “unlocked” and my face grows cold while my ears are burning, straining to hear a clue, a noise, anything to tell me what is real and what is near.

Sweat forms, pores leaking and droplets tensing on my cheeks. My temples are wet, my pillow soaked through already, and my shoulders tense, locked in place to protect the rest of my body. I can open my eyes, but what if I see something? Will I be able to close them ever again?

Did I lock the door when I got home? Or is that doorknob turning at someone else’s apartment and the hallway is throwing acoustic waves in multiple directions? Who is about to enter my apartment? What will they do?

I hear footsteps, paws padding across the carpet. My cat sometimes wakes me in the middle of the night — a food dish running low, water somehow tainted — but tonight I hope he won’t jump on the bed.

But, what if something jumps on the bed, and it’s NOT the cat? What if something else is stepping across the floor, making its way to me, watching, hoping I turn to face it and open my eyes so it can suck out my soul?

I can’t move. My toes are curled and starting to cramp but I won’t extend them and it takes every fiber of every tendon to resist the urge to turn over, or to climb out of bed and run to the door to make sure it’s locked. Whatever is watching me can see movement, it can feel warm breath when I exhale, it can absorb fear and use it as strength.

And so I lie there and wait, sweat trickling down across my nose and tickling me, teasing me to make a move to wipe it away. My ear lope trembles, and feels something, a vibration in the air, an interruption in the space around me.

Then there is stillness, and silence. I look for sleep, reaching into the depths of consciousness for an escape.

Wipe me away into a dream and I’ll be able to avoid looking up at the horror that stands over me and wants to take my soul.

Mercy.

Sleep comes and takes me away, and in the morning the cat watches me do my morning routine, wondering why I’m nervous to get out of bed and then staring at the doorknob while I cook breakfast.

Maybe he’s waiting for something, too.

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2017 Movies – Pezzly’s tops!

Because it’s almost past that time of year, here’s my list of the top pictures from 2017 out of what I’ve seen…

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  • THE SHAPE OF WATER – I fell in love with the characters, the story, the simple plot and the strength of the filmmaking on display. I can’t get enough of Richard Jenkins’s narration, and Sally Hawkins is divine. Please do not miss this one.

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  • GET OUT – A helluva scary / funny / sad / thrilling ride. Jordan Peele is a proven performer, and he’s studied hard to make this feature debut behind the camera a winning film. Unexpected twists and turns, with performances that are deep and real for any movie, not just a horror picture.

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  • I, TONYA – I wasn’t sure if the trailers for this movie were over-selling the style, or the style was too much to contain. But every minute is entertaining, heart-breaking, and well-told. A movie that breaks pretty much every boundary of what-to-do storytelling, and packs a punch.

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  • BABY DRIVER – I love all of Edgar Wright’s flicks and shows, and this is no exception. The practical passion of editing, music, sound, and a lyrical rhythm that graces the first 2/3’s of the picture wash away a mediocre 3rd act to save this one for me, and kept it one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

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  • LADY BIRD – I feel like this one has waves of “should I like it” vs. “did I like it” with not only me, but many friends and film lovers. But at the end of the day, not only did I like it, I think I loved it. All the acting is superb, the tone is constant, keeping us on-edge with the tension in Lady Bird’s house and among her friends as she’s constantly finding herself, trying to decipher her life while also keeping her mother at bay. At the end of the day, the perceptions of her mother are finally recognized, and a key scene tells us that sometimes the clash with parents is more a sign of love than any hugs and kisses will do.

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  • DUNKIRK – A movie that truly celebrates BIG SCREEN storytelling works, for me, on the small-screen as well because it is, at its heart, a kind of pursuit. A run-out-the-clock escape the ‘bad guys’ situation. The chopped up timeline keeps us in check and our characters each have simple goals, even if they feel shallow as people: To get off the beach (get home), to save whoever they can, and to provide protection and cover during the escape. Simple goals, told through cinematic language with very little dialogue. Done.

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  • THE BIG SICK – A relationship movie with the core relationship being out of most of the second act is a challenge indeed, but the special care that Kumail has with each character (friends, parents, girlfriend) is treated with such love that it’s hard not to fall for everyone in this movie. Ray Romano for the underrated win.

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  • WIND RIVER – Came and went for many people, but there is a real, physical environment brought to screen that we rarely see, fraught with tension and despair but the storytelling is solid, the performances nearly flawless, and every step in the snow is felt down to your toes. Chilling and important, try to get to this one.

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  • COCO – Pixar again for the win and the pull of the heartstrings. Beautiful visuals, music, and a plot that stretches a heckuva coincidence to a full-length adventure, but never lets you doubt the sincerity. I love, in this, the family first themes and the understanding that comes together at the end.

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  • CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – I only just recently caught this one, and thought I’d known what to expect but those expectations were overturned pretty quick. What I thought was going to be a melodramatic love story between two men turned out to be so much more — often funny, endearing, and a deep dive into the understanding of love – what it means to love, to be loved, and to discover yourself along the way. Every scene is treated with such a wonderful tenderness. And the photography is neither subtle nor showy, but right where it needs to be.

A few honorable mentions…

  • PHANTOM THREAD – Always a great film experience, Paul Thomas Anderson paints a pretty picture with this, Daniel Day-Lewis’s (alleged) final performance, and the score is just outstanding.
  • WONDER WOMAN – Finally. It’s here. And it’s great.
  • LOGAN – The Wolverine we’ve been waiting for.
  • THOR: RAGNAROK – Plots a possible course for future Marvel movies in terms of tone, this is an adventure worth taking.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AGAIN

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I may have even written about CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND before, but I just got a chance to see it again last night during the 40th Anniversary release, and I just wanted to write a bit about it.

It’s hard to explain why, but this has become one of my favorite films.

I love the pacing of the scenes and sequences, the way Spielberg starts a scene on an intriguing image and ends it as such. The small character touches like Balaban’s interpreter, in the opening scene, declaring that he was a cartographer before interpreting French, and how that smoothly comes into play when the coordinates come in the picture. And then the scientists, in an era before Google Maps and iPhones, grab a globe, roll it through the facility to look up coordinates.

Also, this movie is remembered as the story of Richard Dreyfuss’s “Roy”, basically, yet as the protagonist he’s about the last major character introduced. We get the mysterious opening and meet Lacombe (Francois Truffaut, perfectly cast), then we meet Jillian and her son, Barry, when the mystery of the opening now touches home and becoming real to an outsider. Then, finally, we meet Roy, our “main character”, at home with is family, perhaps in their happiest moment that we see them during the film.

When I watch older movies, I often wonder what they would look like if made today, what kinds of studio notes would come into play, and then I get kind of sad that we don’t see many movies like these any more. Wide shots displaying a grand location, or even the layout of a house so that we understand where everyone is, where they’re going, and what they can do in their environments. The measured, sparse use of a closeup to really convey emotional beats and character moments. The use of music to build tension and expose character struggles, rather than telling an audience how to feel. Even characters talking over each other, the realistic nature of a chaotic house with kids reflecting the confusion that’s setting in with the scientists as they figure out where the signals are coming from.

And what I really like is that, other than a big moment in the middle when Roy breaks down in his shower, his family the next day leaving him to his madness, there are no huge, melodramatic character revelations or extreme arcs. They just ARE who they are.

Lacombe is fascinated by the discovery, looking to find a way to communicate, even if he doesn’t understand what is being said. He has a soft spot for Roy, for the drive of a person to find purpose just as much as he has or has wanted to.

And Jillian has her son — she lives alone in a rural farmhouse – and when her son is taken, she has to get him back. That’s her mission, to get her son back, to protect him. He is the meaning she is searching for, and becomes a simple A- to – B plot, in the end.

And for Roy, whose family he is disconnected from, he is searching for that connection. His wife seems on a different wavelength, can’t understand his job (she passes him the phone when the boss tries to tell her what’s going on), his kids want Goofy Golf rather than see PINOCCHIO, a childhood favorite of Roy’s that stokes his inner kid, the curiosity that’s been buried in years of “living and working” and that is restless to come out, and does so when he’s been “encountered.”

I love this film, encourage you to watch it again if you haven’t seen it in a while, and fill your imagination with possibilities.