Thursday, October 08, 2015

Fact or Fiction? Fact-Checking Pan

On December 27, 1904 an apple-faced adolescent named Peter Pan invited Wendy Darling to join him in a place called Neverland along with his good-hearted gang, The Lost Boys. Famous adventures followed, involving an infamous showdown with an infamous privateer, Captain Hook. Director Joe Wright has fashioned a motion picture based on the exploits of Mr. Pan – titled, appropriately, “Pan” – and we here at Cinema Romantico have investigated the pertinent facts to determine where Mr. Wright sticks close to the truth and where he deviates.

Peter Pan. The real life Peter Pan quite famously dressed in “autumn leaves and cobwebs.” Does this look like autumn leaves and cobwebs to you? No, he just looks like Oliver Twist. That’s an entirely different kind of story altogether. Grade: F

Blackbeard. In “Pan”, Hugh Jackman’s Blackbeard kidnaps children and forces them to work in the mines of Neverland to harvest Pixum. Blackbeard, of course, was actually Edward Teach, a privateer turned pirate who caused mayhem in the West Indies and along the Atlantic coastline of the Americas after the War of Spanish Succession. While Blackbeard plundered many merchant ships, there are no verified accounts of his kidnapping children and it’s a historical absolute that he oversaw no Pixum mines. Grade: F

Jolly Roger. The Jolly Roger, of course, is the black flag adorned with a menacing skull and crossbones, flown by pirates to signal their nefariousness. And while the origin of the Jolly Roger is up for debate, we can authoritatively confirm the Jolly Roger was specifically a flag, never a ship. The Jolly Roger being presented as a ship in “Pan”, let alone a ship that can fly (ships, as is known, are specifically watercrafts), is monumental absurdity. Grade: F

Neverland. Neverland, as documented in many historical texts, was found in the minds of children. Neverland of “Pan” takes place in the mind of Joe Wright. He is 43 years old. He is not a child. Grade: F

Tick Tock the Crocodile. The infamous croc, his name bestowed upon him by Henry C. Mann, who first recounted the story in which the reptile bit off the hand of Captain for the Annapolis Herald, was “no bigger than an average croc.” Tick Tock the Crocodile in “Pan”, on the other hand, is the size of a dragon from feudal England. Grade: F

Pixum. In “Pan,” pixie dust is the street name for Pixum, a crystalline substance mined from deep within the earth that can restore youth. In reality, Pixum is a photo shop in Köln, Germany. Grade: F

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Catching Hell

Principally 2011’s “Catching Hell” is a re-telling of the Steve Bartman story. You know the guy – Cubs ball cap, green turtleneck, glasses, rickety old headphones, interfering with a foul ball that Cubs outfielder Moises Alou might’ve caught when his perennially cursed franchise was an improbable five outs from reaching the World Series in 2003. When Alou turned on Bartman in the immediate aftermath, so did Wrigley Field, so did the city of Chicago, so did the world. The Cubs lost that game not because of the comedy of playing errors that followed, they’d tell you, but because of Bartman’s intrusion. Director Alex Gibney, however, is not content simply to limit his story to the Friendly Confines and this event’s prelude and aftermath. No, he welcomingly broadens his scope, transforming his film into a ruminating on the meaning and need of sports scapegoats.

The film opens not with Bartman but with Buckner, as in Bill, as in the former Boston Red Sox first baseman who infamously had the ball go between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when his squad was but one out away from breaking The Curse of the Bambino and winning the World Series. Even after suffering defeat, a Game 7 remained, sure, but that was beside the point and Buckner was metaphorically strung up in effigy, the Goat of Goats, a man remembered not for a batting title and Gold Gloves but for one single play. For nearly twenty years he and his family were forced to endure abuse from a public mob that put the onus squarely on him for an entire team’s familiar and, frankly, for their own failings as human beings. Gibney sees Buckner’s tale as tantamount to Bartman’s. “I hope you rot in hell!” an amateur camera catches some unnamed Cubs fan hollering at Bartman. “Bill Buckner can rot in hell,” says an unnamed irate caller to some radio show in the aftermath of 1986’s Game 6. Bartman and Buckner, bless their put upon souls, were one in the same, unintentionally exposing the dark side of fandom.

Gibney scores a number of interviews, with players, reporters and fans (but not Bartman who has, rightfully, respectfully, wonderfully, turned down every single interview and public appearance and moneymaking scheme since that fateful night); but his biggest coup might be the fan who hurled a beer at Bartman and was ejected from the stadium. On camera, he appears a mild-mannered regular joe, but also, oddly (or not), unapologetic. His face is twisted into a smile the entire interview, and while it might be tinged with a teensy bit of embarrassment, mostly it’s without contrition. It’s actually kind of terrifying. And more than anything, “Catching Hell” captures the terror of a place where fans can go when they unite in the common interest of vengeance.

“Catching Hell” is about us, about fans, and our need for scapegoats; it’s about the incredible dangers of mass and instantaneous hysteria. Reams of amateur footage showing Bartman attempting to flee Wrigley Field with security elicit not simply sickness for the fate of humanity but deserved pangs of guilt for your own despicable moments as a fan. (I have a few.) A freeze-frame of Bartman that captures him in the moment when he’s suddenly made to realize the ferocious Cub-blue colossus he’s up against, is a split-second that should echo for an eternity, the fear a flash mob enraged members of a flash mob screaming and threatening to attack from all angles. A freeze-frame of Bartman that captures him in the moment when he’s suddenly made to realize the ferocious Cub-blue colossus he’s up against, is a split-second that should echo for an eternity, the fear a flash mob enraged members of a flash mob screaming and threatening to attack from all angles. I don’t mean to belittle police and military members who truly put their lives on the line day in and day out when I say the following, but the look in Bartman’s eyes in that instant is unmistakable – it is the look of a man internally thinking, “Oh my God, these people might actually kill me.”

Late in the film Gibney interviews Kathleen Rolenz, a Unitarian minister, one who knew nothing of the Cubs’ curse or of Bartman but came upon the story in researching a sermon on the nature of scapegoats. She eloquently describes the term in a religious context, how on the day of atonement a goat was chosen, and a priest took the goat into the temple in order to confer the sins of the people onto that animal.

Gibney offers a visual aid in the form of a historical painting rendering this ritual, but the truth is that we don’t really need it. He’s already caught this ritual in action, served up in the terror of that freeze frame, the most infamous baseball fan in the sport’s long history. He’s the scapegoat and you can see – literally see – incredibly sad human beings conferring their sins onto Bartman.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Who Is the MVP of Kicking and Screaming?

Twenty years ago this week “Kicking and Screaming” was released to great fanfare. Well, “great” might be a Trump-ian exaggeration. It was released, per Box Office Mojo, into a single theater. It pulled down $28,000. “Batman Forever”, which had been out 17 weeks already, pulled down $142,000 more. “Assassins”, which I remember going to see in the theater, made $12 million. The Times They Aren’t A Changin’. Still, “Kicking and Screaming” has lived on via a moderate cult of which I am totally part. My dear friends Jacob and Ashley both pushed me in the direction of this film way back when. I watched it. I loved it. I cherish it. To this day Ashley and I will often sign off on emails to one another not with our name but with a “Kicking and Screaming” quote. Like… “Who the hell bought black eyed peas”? Or: “There’s also that dark side to the nose ring.”

But I have addressed my affection for “Kicking and Screaming’s” dialogue and for the film itself years ago. And the truth is that Noah Baumbach’s film is defined just as much by its great characters and the exemplary performances that bring them life. It’s an ensemble filled to the brim, so much so that it begs indifferently asks the question... Who is “Kicking and Screaming’s” MVP? You (didn’t) ask, we deliver.

Who Is the MVP of Kicking and Screaming?

10. Jason Wiles. Even if Parker Posey (and we’ll get to her shortly) is supposed to be dating someone not quite right for her, her natural state of Posey-ness is nonetheless too much for Wiles to keep up with. And in comparison to the rest of his fellow “Cougars!”, sorry, but Wiles is breathing underwater.

9. Cara Buono. As a teenager tutee of Josh Hamilton’s Grover, it’s not so much that she infiltrates the group by displaying a wisdom beyond her years as she earns their respect by demonstrating a self-confidence by way of a confrontational attitude that these neurotic knuckleheads can’t help but admire.

8. Josh Hamilton. Remember when Winston Wolf said “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character”? Hamilton’s Grover might be the most fully developed character in “Kicking and Screaming”, but compared to his fellow actors Hamilton doesn’t create as much of a character.

7. Christopher Reed. His European student, the immortal Friedrich, is hardly in the film yet utterly indelible, egregiously pretentious and somehow still totally self-effacing. It’s a trick they should teach at the Actors Studio. “Two grapes!”

6. Olivia d’Abo. She affects a similar dialect to all the boys around her while simultaneously emitting an aura that suggests she is just slightly more emotional advanced if still struggling in her own way. Still, she never quite stands out, as it were. She’s good, yes, undoubtedly, but in terms of MVP, well, you’re left thinking that someone such as Jennifer Connelly could gotten this same job done.

5. Eric Stoltz. Implicitly captures a twenty-something elder statesman.

4. Parker Posey. Posey’s famed Face of Mock Bemusement is at supersonic; her patented “what the hell is wrong with you?” disinterest is at DEFCON 1. I have seven thousand favorite Parker Posey moments but “I use that fan all the time…all the time” is in the Top 2. She is younger than these doofuses but wise enough to know they’re full of shit.

3. Elliot Gould. As the main character’s Dad, one in the midst of a divorce, Gould has essentially only one scene and makes it count. He’s sad-eyed and reserved, the embodiment of what so many years can render, tired out and all too accepting of Cheez Whiz instead of cheese, the surest sign a man is worn to the nub.

2. Chris Eigeman. It’s quintessential Eigeman, an exemplary, exhausting accounting of a young adult fancying himself a sophisticated old man who knows full well his own faults yet tries to cover for it with erudite hauteur. When he gazes into the non-existent distance and remarks “I wish I was retiring after a lifetime of hard labor,” you know it’s the one thing he really, truly means.

1. Carlos Jacott. In the interviews Noah Baumbach conducted with the principal cast members on the “Kicking and Screaming” Criterion edition, both Eigeman and Hamilton concede that throughout filming they were convinced Jacott was walking away with the movie. His character is described as having two moods, “testy and antsy”, though Jacott plays him much more antsy than testy. And that antsiness is crucial tonic to the considerable churlishness of his friends. Jacott is funny, sure, in a brilliantly neurotic way, but through his neurosis he also communicates something distinctly humane. When he fails to read “All the Pretty Horses” (twice!) for his two-man book club, he’s not devious in trying to cover it up, he’s apologetic; he’s a slacker with the noblest of intentions.

Monday, October 05, 2015


As “Sicario” opens, a low rumble pervades the soundtrack, like thunder percolating in the distance. The picture comes up on the Arizonan desert as members of a SWAT Team dart in from screen’s right, a nondescript house their target. That low rumble grows, threatening, menacing and then... It explodes. An ARV smashes through the house’s wall. Shooting erupts. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), commander of a high-tech top-notch kidnap unit responding to a call, kills someone. But what they find isn’t what they expected. Dead bodies, rows of them, victims of a drug cartel’s vengeance, rot inside the home’s drywall. These thick-skinned agents bend over and vomit. And it gets worse when someone opens a trap door, detonating a bomb, taking a few of the good guys with it. Lucky to survive, Kate sits in the post-blast dust, dazed, and sees a severed arm on the ground. This is American soil but it’s like the opening of “Saving Private Ryan.” The War on Drugs is a nifty label; you can use it in stump speeches; you can put it on bumper stickers; you can say we’re “winning” it or “losing” it or anything in-between. But it’s all distant ambient noise compared to the high-watt screams of this sequence. This, “Sicario” is saying with a punch to the goddam gut, is your War on Drugs.

Working in conjunction with Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay, one that favors keen subtext over explicit speechifying, Denis Villeneuve’s immaculate two hour film feels extraordinarily lean, packaged with nary a moment of dead air. His action set pieces are unfathomably intense, yet no less exhilarating for the way in which he genuinely, inexorably and breathlessly builds tension; he builds and builds and then…releases, quickly and viciously, maximizing the impact before barreling on. And if these and other events are brutal, he never glorifies the violence, giving us just enough sense of the carnage to grasp the enormous real world stakes and then cutting away. And “Sicario’s” photography, courtesy of the impeccable Roger Deakins, repeatedly ruminates in breathless images of the southwestern landscape, such as the red sun cutting through the low hanging clouds like arrows of flaming fire even as machine gun fire pops in the distance, nature’s beauty juxtaposed against the film’s ferocious anger.

Kate is our entry point this story of extravagant governmental murk and mire, enlisted to join a nebulous outfit captained by a guy whose position is vague but clearly high up, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, effortlessly rendering drug enforcement as dinner theater), introduced wearing flip-flops to a top level meeting, swift characterization that establishes his easygoing familiarity with such weighty derring-do that stands in stark contrast to Kate’s naivety. Played by Blunt with taciturn intensity, Kate is something of a cipher, but that’s deliberate rather than a writing failure. Matt ensures she has no family ties because he wants her to be a social nonentity. The film’s only real pause in momentum is a seeming cut-from-cardboard sequence of Kate going out for drinks that devolves into something horrifying. The horror, however, while conventional on the surface, expresses an existence where every personal relationship retains the possibility of being compromised. To lead her life, you inevitably see the world upside down, evoked in an indelible shot reflected in a coffee table of Kate at a delicate instant.

Physically, Blunt’s performance is rock steady. Her eyes, on the other hand, searching, skeptical, fearful, tell a dissimilar story, one in which confusion merely balloons by the moment; she’s down the rabbit hole. Normally a movie so devoted to withholding pertinent information from its protagonist would be guilty of a cheap ploy to prolong suspense; in “Sicario” it feels spot-on. Cryptic is the language of bureaucracy in this brave new world. Matt speaks in vacuous riddles. You keep waiting for Kate to transform into a fed-up ass-kicker taking names, the requisite unstoppable anti-drug action movie force. That doesn’t happen. The only real knowledge she gleans is the war’s continually moving boundaries. Anything goes.

Those moving goalposts pertain just as much to the movie’s narrative. If Matt seems the big cheese, that is proven partially illusory the more Kate gets to know his ostensible right-hand man, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). His intent, his attitude, even his nationality, shift scene to scene, and that elusiveness is personified most in his relationship with Kate, one that persistently re-sets. If you think they’re friends, they’re probably enemies, and vice-versa. Fifteen years ago Del Toro won an Oscar for “Traffic” playing a Mexican cop, Javier, caught up in the War on Drugs on the other side of the border. Alejandro may as well be Javier with a lot more mileage on him. If Javier was hopeful, Alejandro, played by Del Toro with a fiercely inscrutable poker face, is dark and doubtful, and the lines in his face unconsciously evoke the toil this border battle takes.

The “Traffic” comparison is imperative. Steven Soderbergh’s fine film encompassed all aspects of this unwinnable war, from corrupt Mexican cops to DEA agents stuck between a rock and a hard place to the drug war coming home to affluent America. “Sicario” deliberately takes a narrower approach, presenting the front lines rather than the fallout, money poured into the logistics and gear to maintain a fight where the finish line is an omnipresent mirage. One scene finds Kate descending into a drug tunnel beneath the border where yet another harsh revelation awaits. Emblemizing the entire film, she is made to burrow deeper and deeper, hoping to reach the bottom of this crusade, only to find the bottom repeatedly giving way to more layers, more and more, on and on into forever, etc. It's a cynical viewpoint, yes, but from that cynicism emerges a paradoxical clarity, the only kind that can exist in a conflict of such awe-inspiring ethical elasticity. The further she plunges into darkness, the closer she gets to seeing the light.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Where Other Academy Award Winners Keep Their Oscars

Kate Winslet recently explained she kept her Academy Award, the one she won for “The Reader” (suck it, Rosenbaum), a long overdue benefaction from the motion picture gods, in the bathroom. “The whole point,” she told The Wall Street Journal, “is for everybody to pick it up and go, ‘I’d like to thank my son and my dad.’ And you can always tell when someone has, because they’re in there a little bit longer after they flushed.” That’s pretty awesome. It also, as it absolutely had to, got us here at Cinema Romantico to thinking…where do other Academy Award winners keep their Oscars? Hmmmmmm.

Where Other Academy Award Winners Keep Their Oscars

Chris Cooper

Keeps His Oscar In: the tool shed, next to the riding mower.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Keeps Her Oscar In: the Guest Bathroom, next to her La Chaux-de-Fonds bath soap and Neuchâtel scented candles, with a rustic donation jar in which visitors can leave contributions as a means to pay homage to their host's luminosity.

Nicolas Cage 

Keeps His Oscar In: on top of the ejector seat pool table in the solarium meant to approximate Superman's Fortress of Solitude.

Melissa Leo

Keeps Her Oscar In: her purse, so she can show it off any time or anywhere to anyone.

Jennifer Lawrence

Keeps Her Oscar In: currently it's in the Lost & Found box at the TCBY.

Matthew McConaughey

Keeps His Oscar In: "The cosmos of my own mind, hombre, where I can see it and touch it, with the spiritual forces that drive an actor toward unknowable plains we strive to reach in the context of performative assumptions heretofore not made that need to be."

Mary Steenburgen

Keeps Her Oscar In: the bedroom, but on Ted's nightstand, so he sees it every morning and remembers who the hell wears the pants in this relationship. 

Ben Affleck

Keeps His Oscar(s) In: Christine Ouzounian's bling closet.

Tommy Lee Jones

Keeps His Oscar In: melted it down in order to construct a very efficient paperweight.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Keeps His Oscar(s) In: fastened to a carrying pole he hauls on his back during a daily ten mile run to remind himself THAT HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS MEAN NOTHING.

Nicole Kidman

Keeps Her Oscar In: The Throne Room from which she rules the world.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

This One Scene in Chain Reaction with Kevin Dunn

Bear with me and this post might make sense. (Might, I said, though we here at Cinema Romantico make no promises about “sense” or “points”.) It all began with a dream, and not a dream like Robert Fulton and the steamboat, but a dream you have while you’re asleep. In late August I had a dream involving an Ice Boat somewhere on some frozen lake. I don’t remember much else. I imagine this was my subconscious pining for winter in the midst of summer’s insufferable humid sop but who knows? That’s for dreamologists to debate and I don’t know any. The point is, when I awoke, suddenly, with images of an Ice Boat still dancing in my head, I returned in my now-awake mind to 1996’s Keanu-infused action-adventure opus “Chain Reaction” because 1.) I’m a complete idiot who brings everything down to movies and 2.) There is a scene in “Chain Reaction” that involves Keanu and his fugitive-ish accomplice Rachel Weisz making a dramatic escape aboard an Ice Boat.

So a couple weeks later with the Toronto International Film Festival imminent, when I simply could not stomach one more Top 10 Movies To See At TIFF list, I made a Top 10 Not-At-TIFF Movies To See list. As I composed it, I remembered my dream and “Chain Reaction”, which I hadn’t thought about in years. I wanted a screen cap of Ms. Weisz onboard the Ice Boat. As it turns out, those are tough to find. Ah, but someone, perhaps an Andrew Davis devotee, had uploaded all of “Chain Reaction” to Youtube and it was still there, if only because copyright law doesn’t much concern 20th Century Fox in the case of “Chain Reaction.”

I started watching, merely with the intent to fast forward to the Ice Boat sequence. But oddly, or perhaps because I had a cocktail in hand, or maybe because I’m an idiot, I found myself drawn in to this mediocre movie, possibly because it’s set in Chicago and I live in Chicago and when I watched it lo so many years ago in a Des Moines movie theater I had no idea that I would live in Chicago and walk across that bridge that Keanu slides down which I’m usually walking across in a harried attempt to make a movie on time which means I have to sashay around tourists like Ameer Abdullah because I’m a ten-year Chitown veteran, yo, and that’s what we do – we complain about tourists.

But let me skip ahead to this past Sunday. While eating lunch, I watched, like, four minutes of “Veep.” I’ve never seen it and I probably won’t watch anymore of it even though I’m sure it’s brilliant and please spare me your “you’ve gotta watch it” rants because we know my policy on TV (that is – I’d always rather be watching a movie) and the point here isn’t really “Veep” itself. The point is, “Veep” apparently stars Kevin Dunn. I can’t believe no one mentions this more. Then again, I can. I mean, JLD is JLD. Tony Hale is beloved and Anna Chlumsky should be a superstar and Gary Cole is a character actor extraordinaire. But you do know who else is a character actor extraordinaire? KEVIN DUNN, THAT’S WHO.

My man Alex has you covered on that count. He went all in last year on summarizing Mr. Dunn as one of our more capable character actors. Dunn is a “that guy” and a damn good one too. You need one guy to show up in the comic escapade “Hot Shots!” and not be funny? That’s Dunn. You need someone to put on the fatigues in “Godzilla” and shout a lot? That’s Dunn. You need someone to portray Nixon’s Hatchet Man? That’s Dunn. You need someone back at base command to yell at Denzel Washington and be wrong about everything? That’s Dunn. Of course, Dunn is such a valuable cinematic resource because outfits each of these parts with genuine behavior. You know how sports announcers always like to say of certain players that what they do doesn’t show up on the stat sheet? That’s Dunn. What he does fails to appear on the stat sheet. But it’s there, in plain sight. To wit…

So I’m watching “Chain Reaction”. And in it, Dunn plays the FBI Agent summoned after this big explosion that Keanu escapes by the awe-inspiring speed of his motorcycle because it’s still Hollywood even if it’s Chicago. Except that Dunn isn’t the main FBI agent; Fred Ward is. Dunn is the other FBI Agent which is so immaculately Kevin Dunn. As they arrive at the location of the explosion, they have the following conversation. (You can watch the scene here. Fast forward to about 17:30.)

Ward: “Have the locals move the perimeter back about a thousand feet.”
Dunn: “You got it.”
Ward: “Find me a friendly judge. I want wiretaps, search warrants, on everyone that worked here. I want it ten minutes ago.”
Dunn: “All right.”

It sounds like nothing much, of course, particularly in the case of Dunn. But then, that’s the secret to a That Guy. The whole movie takes place during a harsh Chicago winter and this scene is set outdoors in the thick of the freezing Midwest; you can see the characters’ breath. A Chicago winter is a glacial affair. “The liquid in your eyes would freeze,” I heard some woman on the elevator tell her companion the other day as a means to describe Chicago in January. Winter here makes you so frozen inside that when you’re walking and talking you might be able to make sense of what the other person is saying but the temperature is low it prevents any response other than terse acknowledgement. And that’s precisely how Dunn plays it. The “You got it” is a man not wearing a stocking cap outdoors on a severely cold morning who can barely feel his face. The “All right” is a man who’ll get this done, sure, all right, but seriously, can we go somewhere warm first and get a damn cup of coffee?

He was born in Chicago so he understands the intensity of this frigidity. Maybe he called on that experience in playing this scene. However he harnessed it, he did, and he turned a handful of seconds, barely a blip in The Grand Scheme of Things into something special, because Kevin Dunn doesn’t take those seconds off.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

To See or Not to See

Re-enactments have become all the rage in documentaries. Rather than simply allowing talking heads to espouse details of past events, filmmakers stage them with lookalikes and settings that are approximations of actual locations and occurrences. Sometimes these re-enactments go too far, more intent to seem like works of fiction than documentaries, but sometimes they hit just the right notes and leave us with a deliberately heightened sensation of the ways thing were, not unlike how crucial events of our past become, if not larger than life, heightened to a greater degree than what took place in real time.

James Marsh’s “Man on Wire” (2008) is one such documentary. Involving Philippe Petit and a crew of several men that snuck into the World Trade Center in 1974 so he could famously walk on a tightrope between the two towers, the film imagines this as a heist and often produces fuzzy black and white images that elicit a wondrous kind of dreamy haze, as if the principal subjects are returning to these landmark moments in memories aboard an Amtrak bound for some faraway destination, as if this is all becoming communicated to us in a dream.

My favorite moment, taken to even greater heights by the momentous soundtrack, involves Petit’s accomplice, Jean-Francois Heckel, on Tower One who exclaimed with a not unnoticeable grin of the joyful that “the Statue of Liberty, the UN building, all looking so tiny. It was magnificent.” He continues: “And the sounds as well, the police sirens all night long. It was all so alive! And we were kings!” God, it’s grand, and in this moment, Marsh offers an opaque black & white shot of Lady Liberty in the distance, how she might have looked on August 7, 1974 from 102 stories up, through the darkness, in the midst of such marvelous real world drama. But that’s all we get. And I wonder, is that all we should get?

I mention this because director Robert Zemeckis is set to drop a dramatized version of these events on us this forthcoming fall in a film called “The Walk.” Now, before we go further, I want to make clear that I am not impugning “The Walk’s” quality sight unseen. That’s not my bag. Perhaps it’s an impeccably crafted motion picture, rendered with great artistry and acted with aplomb. If I saw “The Walk” I would judge it as a standalone piece, separate from “Man on Wire”. But that’s the thing, I’m not going to see the “The Walk.”

I’m reminded of the Bill Simmons piece on the 2008 Summer Olympics basketball gold medal game between the United States and Spain. He wrote: “And that’s why I hope neither NBA TV nor ESPN Classic ever replays this game. It belongs to me and the lucky few who watched it live and sweated it out.” I was one of the lucky few. I got up to watch it in the middle of the night. I remember the tension and the joy and the sheer breathlessness of the entire event. It’s selfish, sure, but I get where Simmons was coming from because to experience it as it happened was this treasure that belonged to those of us watching in real time and no one else. And for Zemeckis to grant us access to what Petit’s private moment...

I recognize the semi-absurdity of this stance. After all, movies are based on real events all the time. Should we have no movies based on real events? Should “Zero Dark Thirty” have its memory wiped? Should “Bonnie and Clyde” be put down the incinerator shaft? Well, no and no. In principle I have no objections to movies based on real life events. These movies can not only re-create, they can re-assess, examine, consider, and impart wisdom. And the majority of “The Walk”, no doubt, was already dramatized in “Man on Wire.” But I’m not talking about those things; I’m talking about the one detail “Man on Wire” did not dramatize, not truly – that is, The Walk itself. In “Man on Wire” we saw the walk from a distance; we saw it in still photographs; we saw it from above and below; it was real but it was not tangible, not to us.

“I looked all the way down,” Petit himself said of the moment in his walk when he sat down on the wire and gazed upon the expanse spread out below him, “to see something in my life that I would never see again.” We were not on that wire; we did not live it; it is not ours. He saw what he saw and we did not. And I don’t think we deserve to.