The Sins of the Fathers

Disclaimer:  This post contains a crude plot synopsis, and therefore many unreliable spoilers.  Read at your own peril.Headliner 2

Summary.

The plot of “The Place Beyond The Pines” can be broken into two parts:  the first hour, and then everything after.  The movie starts out following Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a traveling motorcycle stuntman who discovers that his one-night stand with a local waitress (Romina, played by the bra-less Eva Mendes) produced a son.

Learning he is a father sparks Luke to quit his daredevil motorcycling gig and become a less successful adult than he was originally.

He settles in and befriends a fellow motorcross enthusiast, who is immediately blown away by his dirtbiking skills and cheery disposition.  Knowing a hard worker and good person when he sees one, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) offers Luke a job at his garage and a place to live – all in the same conversation.  People in New York sure are nice!

What about Romina and baby Jason, you ask?  They live with Romina’s boyfriend, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), who turns out to be the best father in the movie.  Ironyyyy.

Luke quickly realizes that working for minimum wage sucks and expresses his frustration at not being able to provide for his family.  Robin encourages him to save his money, attend community college, and realize his dream of entrepreneurship.  Nah, but he really tells Luke he should rob banks ’cause he thinks he’d be good at it.  Oh and can he come along, too? Crash Like Thunder Poster

Despite his inability to yell at bank employees and patrons without his voice cracking like a prepubescent, Luke and Robin triumphantly rob several banks and the most popular Subway in town.

Things are going well for Luke and the family – he spends a nice day out with his kid and also hooks up with Romina.  But domestic bliss never lasts for very long in this movie, and Luke lands in jail for the felonious assault of Mr. Kofi, in the Bedroom, with the Wrench (Clue, anyone?).

After Robin bails him out, Luke becomes intent on robbing more banks and less Subways.  Robin tries to slow him down by disassembling his bike with a blow torch, but comes to the conclusion that Luke is crazy as fuck after he sticks a gun inside Robin’s mouth and demands he give back his Tamagotchi.

Alas, Luke’s next robbery goes awry and the high speed pursuit finds him holed up in a single family home, pleading with Kofi over the phone to not tell his son about him.  Unfortunately for Luke, rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is a shoot-first-ask-questions-later type of guy.  Avery shoots Luke in the chest, the force of which knocks him out an open window, but not before he shoots Avery in the thigh.

Luke falls to his death, and the movie should have ended there.  Instead, there is another hour and twenty minutes…

Avery keeps secret that he shot Luke before giving him a chance to surrender, and is given the local hero treatment by everyone and their mother.  The guilt from the shooting leads Avery to neglect his own son and wear wind breaker jackets for the rest of his life. Wind breaker

It is revealed that Avery was a practicing lawyer before changing careers, and he makes a deal with a corruption investigator to turn in a few shady policemen he worked with in exchange for the assistant district attorney job.

The story jumps ahead 15 years and everyone is pretty much the same except for Romina, who looks like she took a backhand from Father Time.  This part of the movie finds Avery in the midst of his campaign for Attorney General, while the larger story surrounds his son AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane DeHaan).  

Of course AJ and Jason somehow become friends (or drug buddies), and Jason eventually finds out that AJ’s father killed his dad.  The resulting confrontations involve at least one party not knowing why they are being attacked and the film ends with everyone basically going their own way, with the expectation that no more blood will be spilled over the sins of the fathers.

Thoughts.

My displeasure really begins with the trailer.  It’s a complete lie, false advertising – whatever you want to call it.  Luke is in about 90% of the scenes shown in the preview, but under half of the actual movie.  So if you saw this clip before going to the theaters, you probably were expecting a vastly different film than the one you got.

In the same vein, I am also critical of the character pacing – the order in which the characters were introduced and developed.  The movie begins singularly focused on Luke and his struggle to be a part of his son’s life, but more importantly, to be a father.  This storyline was easily the best, largely due to Ryan Gosling’s gritty-yet-engaging portrayal of Luke.  He was the most enigmatic character with the least expensive wardrobeLuke White TThe entire first hour completely revolved around this electric, intriguing character and then, just like that, he gets killed off.  The problem being that you’re almost halfway through the movie and there has been no other in-depth characterization of anyone besides Luke.  So the rest of the cast has to pick up the pieces, and life without Luke is invariably bleak and depressing.

I also couldn’t get over the way AJ was portrayed.  To illustrate the level of disconnect between father and son, the filmmakers decided to have him be this drug-abusing high school wigger, which made it hard to focus on anything besides how hilariously bad that turned out.

All in all, “Pines” had its fair share of good moments, but they all occurred within the first hour.  MP

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Washington’s Most Wanted Man

Mike ShanahanIt’s been almost two weeks since the ‘Skins exited the playoffs, and Mike Shanahan is still entrenched in the organization, like a stubborn red-faced weed that refuses to be uprooted.  ‘Skins fans, I’ve got to ask you – what has he done to earn another year?

I’m a diehard Patriots fan, but I also follow the ‘Skins…or do they follow me?  I read the Washington Post for breakfast, listen to sports radio on the way to work, watch the local evening news, and am dating a girl who prays to RGIII each and every night.  To sum it up, I can’t get through my day without hearing the latest out of Redskins Park.

So I know what the team has been like for the last decade.  I know how this season played out.  What I don’t know is how ‘Skins fans can stomach Shanahan after last Sunday’s loss.

When Shanahan came to the ‘Skins in 2010, he was hired as both Head Coach AND Executive Vice President of Football Operations, meaning he had “the final say in all football matters.”  There’s only one other NFL coach with the same title and amount of influence:  Bill Belichick.

I won’t waste too many words revisiting Shanahan’s first two seasons with the ‘Skins, but suffice to say it was less than stellarhere are some memorable moments: 

  1. Signing McNabb (and extending his contract midway through the season)
  2. Alienating Haynesworth
  3. Staking his reputation on John Beck

What do all three players have in common?  NONE played in the NFL this year! 

Haynesworth

Shanahan went and got his franchise QB in the offseason, albeit at a price that would make Al Davis blush.  No matter though, because who needs 1st round draft picks for the next two years when you have an All Pro caliber QB leading your team, right..?  Shanahan won some good faith with that move, but it didn’t take long for him to sour things.

Remember training camp?  Remember inexplicably releasing Graham Gano in favor of Billy Cundiff, the 2012 AFC Championship goat and my personal hero?  Remember unceremoniously cutting fan favorite Chris Cooley at the end of training camp?  Cooley had been the rock for that offense year-after-year, the same as London Fletcher for the defense and Li’l Sebastian for PawneeShow some damn respect!

So after the training camp blunders, the regular season got under way and RGIII appeared to be well worth the investment.  

Fast-forward to Week 10, with the ‘Skins sitting at 3-6 and Shanahan publicly labeling the season a dud.  I don’t believe his intention was to motivate the players to rally.  To me, it seemed like he was desperately trying to make his case for more time with the team, ‘rebuilding.’

Why else would a coach risk further injury to his already dinged-up star QB?  Mike Shanahan played RGIII because he was afraid his job was in jeopardy.  Would a coach who is certain about his place in the organization ignore the advice of world-renown knee doctor, just to win one playoff game?  Do you really think Belichick would have put Tom Brady in the playoffs after backup QB Matt Cassell led the team to a 10-6 record in 2009?  No, Belichick would have thrown his heaviest pair of Uggs at Brady before letting him play with a half-healed knee. (FYI, the Pats did not make the playoffs that year)

You can get by on reputation alone until your unimpressive body of work catches up to you.  Shanahan rolled the dice with the team’s future and lost – do you really want to see what he does next year? MP

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It Comes But Once a Year

My creative genius, that is.

In a remarkable twist of fate, the “creativity bug” has made a habit out of biting me during Halloween season.  And because it cannot stand the taste of artistic inferiority, it dies instantly.  But I don’t care because for a few days I can actually create.

This is a big deal.  I went to a high school known for its Fine and Performing Arts, and yet doodling doesn’t even come naturally to me.

Without fail, though, every October I dive headfirst into the Halloween arts and crafts like I’m the Pumpkin King.  My mind races with costume ideas and pumpkin carving designs far beyond my ability, and I usually settle on something that will take more time and talent than I have.  Somehow, though, it turns out better than I could’ve hoped for.  Here’s to keeping the streak going next Halloween. MP

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