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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Tuesday, July 14

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl & Max

A movie about which I have mixed feelings, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I think I loved it, or at least loved Rachel, the dying girl (Olivia Cooke, whom viewers might remember as Norman's friend with the oxygen tank in The Bates Motel), and her relationship with Greg (Thomas Mann), who spent almost six months with her during her fight with leukemia. But then my mixed feelings arise over what I consider to be an unrealistic view of high school and high school students. Granted, most movies about high school and high school life aren't meant to be realistic. Take Glee as the best example. But Me and Earl is supposed to be real. The school Greg and Earl (R. J. Cyler) and Rachel attended was unlike any school I’ve ever seen or taught in, with an odd cafeteria and odd classrooms unlike any I’ve ever seen or known, with too many students weirder than any I’ve ever known (jocks too jockey, nerds too nerdy, stoners too stoned, even one truly weird rapper who’s all by himself in a group of one), more mature and knowledgeable than any I’ve ever known, with teachers weirder and more knowledgeable than any I’ve ever known (in this case, Mr. McCarthy, the wildly tattooed history teacher). Greg has spent his high school years trying to be invisible, pretending to be in every group but never being in any group, never getting to know anyone or wanting to know anyone but his childhood friend Earl, a black kid from the lower end of the economic scale in Pittsburgh. The two of them are co-workers, as Greg describes their relationship, not really friends. They co-work at making tiny film parodies of classic films (“2:48 Cowboy,” “Senior Citizen Kane,” “A Sockworth Orange”), a total of forty-two when we first meet them in their senior year. Predictably, Greg will try to make a film for Rachel, about how he feels about her and her imminent death I realize that students today are far more knowledgeable about computers and video capabilities than they were when I last taught over twenty years ago. But still, I don’t quite buy into their film projects. I think what they were doing would be beyond their abilities. What else was I in love with? The unpredictable film techniques used to tell this predictable story of a dying girl and the growing friendship between her and Greg. Funny and poignant, with a moral about how our lives can still affect others even after we die. I guess I love it more than I dislike it. But I do wish there'd been a little less Greg and a little more Earl and Rachel, the Dying Girl. Go see it and see if your feelings are as mixed as mine.

You’d have to be a dog lover to accept the movie Max for an acceptable way to spend an afternoon at the theater. It really wasn’t very good, but it had a loveable dog named Max, a Belgian Malinois, in the center, and a dog lover could fall in love with Max’s big brown eyes. Max is a military dog who was wounded in Afghanistan when he and his handler, Kyle Wincott, were sniffing out hidden caches of enemy weapons. An IED goes off, killing Kyle and wounding Max. The dog is returned to the U.S. but is suffering PTSD and can’t be handled. The military thinks he should be put down, but instead sends him to Kyle’s family to see what they can do with him. Kyle’s younger brother Justin is given the task of taking care of Max. And, as you’d suspect, the two bond. And then the plot goes downhill into action silliness, with Kyle’s hometown buddy and Marine companion Tyler (Luke Kleintank) coming back to take a job with Justin’s father (Thomas Haden Church). Tyler, it seems, has been stealing weapons from those Afghani weapons caches and somehow shipping them home to Texas where he plans to sell them to a Mexican cartel. Silly, and way too many coincidences that are never explained. Justin and his friends stumble onto the weapon deal and are then pursued through deep woods by Tyler, the Mexican hoods, and two of the ugliest, drooling black Rottweilers you’ve ever seen. Talk about the hero dog Max and two villainous Rots. If this movie had been made sixty or seventy years ago, when Lassie was winning our hearts, we’d have said, as we so often said about one of Lassie’s amazingly human actions, “Write it in the mashed potatoes, Lassie!” Unrealistic and romanticized. For example, we see the three kids zooming through the forest on their bikes, going through dense underbrush at about a hundred miles an hour with Max galloping alongside. Do they never hit any trees? Do they ever hit a ditch or boulder and go flying over the handlebars? Does Max ever get tired? Three times no. How did Tyler manage to get all those stolen weapons from Afghanistan to Texas? Never explained. Are the kids in danger? A resounding YES. How to save the day? Have Max run back to get Justin’s dad and tell him where to go. “Write it in the mashed potatoes, Max!”
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