God Has A Tiger By The Tail

It’s as if God has a tiger by the tail.

Do you feel like the world is spinning out of control? That the center cannot hold? Or that the universe is spinning so fast it will self-destruct by centrifugal force? Or some other, as yet unidentified, force? 

The scary thoughts I’m having at the end of one bad year and the start of an unknowable New Year were sparked by seeing the movie, “Star Wars.” However, this witches’ brew has been bubbling in my brain for some time.

Change comes fast and furious, and I wonder if we are near a convergence of forces that could bring on catastrophic change. I’m flashing on the Age of Aquarius, but this is not what hippies and free thinkers were hoping for in 1967-1969.

Think about it. All Black Swan scenarios are on the table.


Global warming.

Technology off the leash.

Government. Or worse, the absence of government.

Economic collapse.

Social upheaval.

Mass migration(s).

Epidemics or pandemic.

Water scarcity.






“Star Wars” is a brilliant, futuristic story of the battle between Good and Evil. The Light side and the Dark side.

(Aside: Does Star Wars glamorize war?  Don’t worry, this won’t be on the final exam.)

Back to the battle. Is it a battle between Good and Evil, or between God and Satan? I suppose it depends on whether you have a religious point of view, or a secular point of view.

Maybe it’s not a battle so much between Good and Evil, but rather, a battle between Truth and Lie. Or Truth and Illusion?

In 21st century political discourse, we have difficulty agreeing on facts. Maybe it’s a battle between Fact and Falsehood? Or Fact and Ignorance? Love and Fear?  These are some of my disorderly thoughts at the turn of the year, questions sparked by Star Wars. I should not wade too far into philosophy or theology, lest I be in over my head.

That’s enough uncensored thinking for the first day of the year.

What say you? A tiger by the tail? Spinning out of control?

— John Hayden

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in While We’re Young

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts

Here’s a movie, “While We’re Young”,  that contrasts two stages of adult life — middle-aged forties vs. twenty somethings —  and touches on enough marriage and family angst to satisfy ten films.

Writer-Director Noah Baumbach packs four fictional documentary filmmakers — all of them quirky — into one narrative, creating excess competitive tension.

Ben Stiller (Josh) is a middle-aged documentary filmmaker who’s stuck on a project. His wife Naomi Watts (Cornelia) is also a documentary filmmaker who works with her father.  Not surprisingly, the father, Charles Grodin (Leslie), who appears to be the dean of documentary filmmakers, has a strained relationship with his son-in-law Josh. How many times am I going to have to write “documentary filmmaker” in this one movie review?

The story might be better without the intrusion of the older filmmaker. Charles Grodin’s take on the character is great, but really, the old guy is a peripheral character. Most of the tension, comic and dramatic, is between the two couples, one young and the other middle-aged..

Adam Driver (Jamie) is the fourth and youngest documentary filmmaker. He’s married to Amanda Sayfried (Darby). I’m relieved to report that Darby makes ice cream, not films. I was impressed by Driver’s deft portrayal of the young and somewhat ruthless filmmaker. Stiller, with his piercing eyes, puts heartfelt intensity into the  conflict between Josh and Jamie.

Actors Ben Stiller and Adam Driver

The two couples embark on an improbable intergenerational friendship, filled with glowing mutual admiration and envy in the beginning. The awkwardness of the friendship is good for humorous scenes at first.  Alas, the friendship begins to sour about halfway through, and the comedy morphs into serious drama.

I won’t give away any more of the complicated plot, except to say that it leads to a serious dispute over documentary ethics between Josh and Jamie. A secondary theme about parenthood is not fully developed, but it’s a worthwhile counterpoint to the main theme, professional striving.

While We’re Young might disappoint if you’re looking for a barrel of laughs from beginning to end. The comedic part of the film is good, but the drama at the end is excellent. I’d see it again.

— John Hayden

Lawyer Fiction: John Grisham and Michael Connelly, Part 2

books headerWriting without an outline is like walking a tightrope without a net. Dangerous! I should know better.

But the truth is, I nearly always write without an outline. It’s more exciting that way. When I start a story, I think I know where I’m going. I often end up someplace else entirely. (Kids, don’t try writing without an outline in English class; it makes the teacher crazy.)

On New Year’s Eve, I set out to compare authors John Grisham and Michael Connelly.  Turns out the two men and their careers are as similar as Coke and Pepsi. But when you open the covers of their books, there’s a definite contrast, like salt and pepper. If you’d like to read Part 1 of this extended post first, click here.

Grisham and Connelly are writers of the same generation, both productive enough to wear out a reader, but good enough to keep customers coming back for more.

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White Men Can’t Jump

Cover of "White Men Can't Jump"

Cover of White Men Can’t Jump

I missed a lot of movies during my long life as a wage slave, working usually at night. In retirement, I hope to make up for a lot of missed movies.

Tonight I saw the urban basketball movie, White Men Can’t Jump,” for the first time ever. What a great story! What trash talk! Male bonding! Best music sound track of a sports movie since Bull Durham.” Best romantic scenes in a sports movie since “Bull Durham.” I measure all movies by the “Bull Durham” standard.

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Bull Durham: 25 Years Later

Also: “Some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains.” And for another baseball movie, starring Clint Eastwood, which may or may not stand the test of time, see “Trouble With The Curve.” (my review from Sept. 2012)  –John

Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake in “Trouble With The Curve”

You want romance and character development? See Bull Durham.  Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams in Trouble With The Curve aren’t in the same league with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham.

Trouble With The Curve is all Clint Eastwood. The romance is fluff. Baseball is only the setting. Trouble With The Curve is about life and loss, failure and decline, maybe even aging gracefully. Not that I’m calling Clint Eastwood graceful.

Trouble With The Curve begins as a baseball movie that only a grumpy old man could love. But it fools you like a curveball in the dirt, and turns into, of all things, a chick flick. It might be the best baseball/romance combination since Bull Durham. Both movies are about life-changing events, about going with the curveballs life throws at you.

How do you get away with casting Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake in the same film? You add Amy Adams as daughter of the old man and love interest of the young one.

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