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Archive for December 20th, 2016

pdvd_001by J.D. Lafrance

They say that the best stories are right in front of our eyes. No one is more aware of this idea than filmmaker Gus Van Sant. In his first two motion pictures, Mala Noche (1986) and Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Van Sant skillfully legitimized everyday existence on film by presenting fascinating explorations into street life. Coming from a well-to-do middle class family, he became interested in the street life of Portland that he saw as “a secret world I knew nothing about.” These films never exploited or romanticized their rather seedy subject matter, but viewed the characters impartially, leaving it up to the viewer to make a value judgment. Both films, however, were based on other people’s work — a warm-up for Van Sant’s next film, My Own Private Idaho (1991). This feature is arguably his best effort to date because it is his most personal project, a labor of love that shows a filmmaker at the apex of his powers.

Idaho is an ambitious blend of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and the lives of Portland street hustlers. The film focuses on the adventures of two social outcasts. Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), a modern-day Prince Hal and a rich kid from an affluent family slumming with street folk as an act of rebellion against his father, the mayor of Portland. It is only a few days until he turns 21 years old, at which point he will inherit a lot of money. His close friend, Mike Waters (River Phoenix), is a gay, narcoleptic street hustler prone to lapsing into a deep sleep during times of stress at the most inopportune moments. Mike is the son of a mysterious waitress, (we only catch glimpses of her through his grainy, Super-8 reminiscences) and this results in a desire to track her down. It is a quest that takes both hustlers from the streets of Portland to America’s heartland, as symbolized by Idaho, and finally a trip to Italy. But the film and Mike keep returning to “both the literal Idaho of his early years and the utopian Idaho of rooted love.”
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mole-1

by Sam Juliano

Only the hardest of hearts would fail to fall for mole.  In the end he turned out to be not only a good skate and a purveyor of effervescence, but he proved himself that rare bird – ah mammal- who will help someone else with their disability when in fact he suffers through one of his own.  While mole will never win any animal beauty contests, though he’d surely finish ahead of the aardvark- his most pressing problem is seeing during daytime.  Whomever designed his body only gave him tiny eyes and ears to avoid them getting damaged during his subterranean burrowing.  But mole, who is technically a “boar” as a male of his species was able to overcome this short changing by avoiding any situation that would require him to surface.  Truth be said, the mole who plays the starring role in Nancy Armo’s irresistible bonding book A Friend for Mole never had the opportunity to socialize, much less stoke a friendship, being much too fond as it is to surrender the safe and cozy burrow, and the pleasing earthy scent and soft bed of leaves he could rely on day in and day….err, night in and night out.  Armo’s mole, as opposed to some others in his labour was solitary because there was almost never an opportunity to convey his basic good nature.  He was content to imagine what might be happening in the world above the earth based on “tapping rain, buzzing insects and scampering footsteps.

Perhaps better than 99% of the mole population would steer clear of the temptation to investigate all that above surface hoopla, but after a burst of loud shouting and laughter, and a subsequent near cave in, this most sensitive of his species falls pray to the idiom curiosity killed the cat by venturing out into an infinite terrain, one seemingly governed by blinding light and deafening noises -remember this mole comes physically ill equipped for this kind of bombast- and after moving around dazed while a beaver, skunk and rabbit scamper by, he realizes the error of his ways and frantically searches for the opening to return to his impregnable bungalow.  But as these kind of situations usually prove the return back is so much more difficult.  Alas, our inexperienced worldly traveler trips over a root, tumbles into a bush and is seduced into sleep by the combination of exhaustion and homey comfort. (more…)

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