Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Autumn Movie Rundown

Wondering what movies to see before they all get crowded out by Hunger Games 4 and holiday Oscar bait?


The Sure Things: Room and Spotlight

The less you know about either of these, the better. But even if you read the novel or read the Boston Globe fourteen years ago, you will not be disappointed. Spotlight is the best reporter movie since All The President’s Men, and a way better Boston movie than Black Mass. And Room is alternately sad-heartbreaking and joyful-heartbreaking.

On second thought, just leave him there.

The Crowd Pleaser: The Martian

AKA Mars Needs Potatoes.  It’s smart and fun and uplifting while you’re watching it, but on reflection it’s like the outer space version of one of those star-studded 50’s Cecil B DeMille extravaganzas, where the whole is smaller than the sum of its parts, and the thrills are ultimately bogus because let’s face it, none of the A-list actors are ever in any real danger. Except Sean Bean.  (Poor Sean. The older he gets, the more I wish he’d been James Bond instead of Pierce Brosnan.)

The Smart Thriller: Sicario

Remember how LA Confidential kept turning into a different movie every twenty minutes? This film doesn’t have that many jagged moves, but the movie it starts out to be is as different from what it turns into as Alice’s Victorian England is from Wonderland. A morally ambiguous poisoned cookie of a film that truly deserves to be compared to a Graham Greene thriller or a John le Carrè novel, unlike


The Faux Thriller: Bridge Of Spies

Be warned. Reviewers calling this film “morally ambiguous” or comparing it to John le Carrè are drinking the Spielberg Kool-Aid. There is never any question that Tom Hanks’ James Donovan is morally correct in everything he does, and having at least one person every ten minutes confront him by acting like a goose-stepping anti-Communist d-bag is not drama, it’s propaganda. Watch it for (a) the skillful way that Spielberg makes that propaganda feel like a real ethical struggle, instead of a foregone moral conclusion, and (b) Mark Rylance’s Rudolf Abel, whose every line and look hints at a fascinating but unknowable inner life.

The Comfort Thriller: SPECTRE

Part of the thrill of seeing Casino Royale was thinking: “Holy crap—the Bond movies can go anywhere now!” Part of the disappointment of seeing SPECTRE is thinking: “Crap—they’ve just re-set the Timothy Dalton status quo.” (And—I know it’s a big spoiler, but the pun is too good to pass up—they’ve also turned Blofeld into Bro-feld.) In a way, it’s the first old school James Bond movie Daniel Craig has made, which to me—given all that Casino Royale potential—made it like the British version of Mission Impossible 5: Our Hero Goes Rogue Again To Save The World.

The Thrill-less Gothic: Crimson Peak

Absolutely gorgeous to look at, this film would have been an instant classic if the script had been given as much work as the art direction.  But the horror movie of the trailers is actually a Gothic Bad House story, with a heroine who is like an American Bronte cousin, ghosts (all female) who actually aid her, and a mansion that is, at one and the same time, both claustrophobic and as wide-open as Grand Central Station. I walked out of this film wishing I could cast Tom Hiddleston as Percy Shelley, Mia Wasikowska as Mary Shelley, Jessica Chastain as Caroline Lamb, and Tom Hardy as Byron, and just have them tell ghost stories for two hours.


The Near Ms: Suffragette

Sometimes the way that a film is, well, filmed, gets in the way of the story it wants to tell. This film is all hand-held cameras, natural lighting, immense close-ups, and swift editing, which actually kept me at arm’s reach instead of bringing me closer to the characters. In other words, it’s a period piece filmed in a modern-day manner. You may have a different opinion about whether or not this works, but I walked out thinking that if I stripped the dialogue away, I would have no idea what was going on in the story. That said, there’s a great story here. I just thought it paled in comparison to the way this one is told.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Everyone says “Don’t say that!” when I say
   “I don’t have much time left” or “If I live.”
But thinking that there’ll always be a day
   When I’m around is foolish.  Life’s a sieve.
Days dribble out of it until they’re gone.
   We only get so many, and don’t know
The number—yet we act like we’ll see dawn
   After dawn unending in this brief show.
And that’s delusional, like living near
   Volcanoes and ignoring earth’s deep drumming.
No matter where we go, it’s coming here.
   If it’s not here already, then it’s coming.
      And when it does, I know that it will be
      The one thing I’ll live long enough to see.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Friday, November 13, 2015

You Were My Dream

You were the dream I woke up from, the warm
   Comforter magic-carpeting away
My worthless doubts, till hope became the norm
   And you became the sun that lit my day.
You were the sun that had to set, the light
   By which I saw with total clarity
A world of victories without a fight
   And lucky stars that only favored me.
You were my sky of dead and dying stars
   Whose winking was a comfort from above—
The smile that cut away my prison bars—
   The soul whose quest I never wearied of—
      My soul, my smile, my stars, my bright sun beaming,
      Who always loved me back while I was dreaming.

Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Monday, November 9, 2015

The Lady Talks Of Wisdom


“How did you get to be so wise?” you said.
   “By making tons of mistakes,” I replied,
“And it’s not really wisdom—just a head
   That catalogues the stupid things I’ve tried
And says DON’T GO THERE.” “So: experience,”
   You said, and I said: “Yes, the painful kind.
The kind with scars, the kind that builds a fence
   Around my feelings, swears all roads are mined,
And tells me not to dare because I’ll die.”
   “Not by my hand,” you said, and opened yours;
And even though I knew it was a lie,
   For vows are nothing but disguised trapdoors,
      I put my scarred and hopeful hand in his.
      It was not wise, but then love never is. 


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An Open Letter To Journalists Everywhere From The Republican Presidential Candidates

Dear “Journalists”:  After that last debate
When you refused to let us bloviate
About our plans to build a wall in Texas
To keep out all those border-crossing Mexes—
Attacked, with hand grenades of verity,
Our made-up plans for real prosperity—
And asked us to renounce some old quotations
Or sketchy corporate affiliations—
After all that, we think it’s crystal clear:
You need to be reminded why you’re here.
It’s not to nitpick record or credential;
Your job’s to make us all look Presidential—
To feed raw meat to our best attributes
And not reveal we’re all just empty suits.
Glad-handing is the purpose of this show.
Ask what we stand for, not what we don’t know.
You hear “debate” and you think “controversial.”
This isn’t a debate—it’s our commercial.
We must be treated deferentially,
Not asked hard questions about policy.
The toughest question that we want to hear
Is “Sir—I have to ask—are you sincere?” 

You say the people want honest debates?
That’s not the way this country operates.
The people want to know that what they fear
And rage at can be made to disappear.
They don’t want details—they just want it done.
That’s why we don’t need details—we’re their gun.
Just like those folks need us to point and shoot,
We need you not to question us, but root—
Root for the values that we represent:
For cheers, reward; for questions, punishment. 

The people know when they’ve been served thin beer.
We’re here to tell them what they need to hear,
While you treat them like they’re dumb and uncouth
Because they’d rather dream than hear the truth.
The truth is that the truth’s not mandatory
When all you’re doing is telling a story.
Real voters don’t believe that it makes sense
To subject our beliefs to evidence.
The error that you’re making here is grievous—
We don’t want them to know us, just believe us.
That’s why we need these dumb debates so much—
They help us to display the common touch,
So even though we have a ton of cash
From rich white backers, we can speak white trash.
And though the masquerade sticks in our throats,
It’s what we need to do to get their votes:
We run the whole machine and act like cogs—
We’re overlords who act like underdogs—
So honest folks won’t give us the stink-eye
Or plain despise us ‘cuz we own the pie.
In fact, deep down, the poorest of them love it
When we pretend they’ll get a big piece of it.
And even when we have to go among ‘em
In those depressing hick towns where God flung ‘em,
And hold our noses like we smelled a fart,
They know we have their best interests at heart
Because we say so, and they cry “Amen!”
Write that down—it’s why God gave you a pen. 

So here’s the deal, you crypto-left-wing moaners—
You treat us like we treat our well-off donors.
Show us respect, and we’ll keep you around:
When we say something dumb, don’t make a sound.
We’ll let you put us anywhere you’ve got
As long as you don’t put us on the spot.
Just be aware that you will face our wrath
When you subject our fiscal lies to math.
The people hate the scoffer who detracts.
It’s propaganda when you check our facts,
And facts are never trusted by the pious
Because they always have a left-wing bias.
Just nod your heads at all that we proclaim
To help our donors in the people’s name.
Nobody likes your smirking cynicism.
Echo the press release—that's journalism.
Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Wall

Where does it come from, that invisible
   Wall, that drops down and cuts me off from being
Touched by the joyful or the pitiful,
   And makes me blind to all my heart is seeing?
What triggers it? The fear of being hurt?
   The greater fear of feeling happiness?
Or is it just that I’m an introvert
   Who shies away from anything’s caress?
And when I say “Why bother?” or “Who cares?”
   Whose voice is that? Is it the inside me?
Is it the shell? Or one who never dares
   Because he’s too beat down for bravery?
      Who am I, that I need a wall of gray
      To save me as it shrivels me away?

Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells