Down And Out (Manchester By The Sea review)

Life is an inexplicably complex thing, which we are constantly striving to simplify for ourselves. Unfortunately this is neither realistic nor healthy for us. We have to confront our problems head on, for fear of losing ourselves to a sea of sorrows.




Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
released on blu-ray February 21, 2017
********* 10/10


IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Audience Score 80%
The Guardian: *****/*****


Kenneth Lonergan is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director.

Something of a selective creator, he’s best known for his writing ability, having written the scripts for Analyze This, You Can Count On Me, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Analyze That, Gangs of New York, Margaret, Manchester by the Sea, and an upcoming miniseries called Howard. His directorial offerings are a little more slim but stemmed from his writing career – You Cant Count On Me, Margaret, Manchester by the Sea. I should also mention that while Lonergan is also a little slow to the table with his creative projects, when he serves as both director and writer, something good consistently happens.

Manchester by the Sea is the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an anti-social janitor and handyman in  Quincy, Massachusetts, who learns from a family friend that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has had a heart attack. Unfortunately Joe dies before Lee arrives at the hospital, and Lee heads to his home-town Manchester-by-the-Sea to bring his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) the news. While arranging the funeral, Lee learns that Joe wanted him to be Patrick’s guardian.

Lee is unwilling to move back to Manchester, but does not want Patrick to be with his alcoholic mother, so he works to move Patrick to Boston instead. Patrick has many friends, two girlfriends and is in a band; he hates this idea.

We also learn that Lee used to live in Manchester with his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and their three kids, but due to a mistake he made while intoxicated, a house fire took the lives of the children. He was never prosecuted, but Randi blamed him and they divorced. Lee then attempted suicide in a police station after he was found not guilty, but was contained. He moved to Boston shortly afterwards.

While they wait for the ground to thaw, Joe’s body remains in cold storage,and Lee stays in Manchester. Uncle and nephew become better friends and eventually Patrick’s mother Elise finds out about the situation. She offers to take Patrick in, but her sobriety is largely the responsibility of her controlling fiance Jeffrey. Lee also runs into a remarried Randi and her newborn. She regrets the things she said and confesses she still loves him. Lee does everything he can not to break down and leaves because he cannot stay in Manchester with her – He later picks a fight at a bar.

After finally arranging for family friend George to act as a legal guardian for Patrick, the pair have a heated discussion about why Lee cannot stay in Manchester any longer. After the funeral, Lee lets Patrick know that he is searching for a place with an extra room, so that Patrick can visit whenever he wants.

Pros: This might be a cliche, but this film is affecting. I was genuinely bummed out after watching it. The combination of raw performances, subtle scoring choices, and a well-laid script that pulls right out of the everyday make this film about death and mourning all the more powerful.

Cons: It takes a really long time to make it’s major points and there are a couple of moments where it feels like more of an exercise then a story.

Runtime: 2 hours 17 minutes

Points of Interest: This is the first film distributed by a streaming service to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Matt Damon and John Krasinski were originators of the idea, asking for Damon to direct and Lonergan to write, and Damon to star in it, Damon eventually opted out due to scheduling conflicts, but remained on as a producer.

Lonergan understands intimately that life is full of grief. Wrongs which are never corrected plague us and while it can be nice to assume a storybook ending from a film, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. The character of Lee is an excellent case study of a life unfulfilled, a responsibility not asked for, and working around the pain. A story about life lived in the world as it is, loose ends and all.

theories Summarized

Allegations and personal issues of Casey Affleck aside, the arresting nature of this story, and what it addresses capture the pains of life. It seriously broke my heart to watch this movie, ever so slowly, because I’ve loved and lost, and I’ve been on the ends of good and of bad as well. Affleck never redeems his character, but the glimmer of movement forward despite that unresolved pain makes it a worthwhile story, at least that’s my theory anyway.


Been There For You For Decades (Alison Krauss, Windy City review)

I’m not sure why this myself, is but it’s been proven time and again that familiar music is much more likely to incite positive feelings than anything else.

So if you want to induce a good mood for yourself, listen to something you already love. Whether you’re on the road, cleaning house, at work or in the middle of the creative act. Music we’ve personally identifed as good just breeds positive feelings.

Emotional and slowly simmering over decades, this week’s album review features classic tracks, by a familiar voice.

Alison Krauss – Windy City
released February 17, 2017
******* 7/10


Alison Krauss is an American bluegrass-country singer and musician. Having been active in the music industry since ten years old, and now forty five years of age, Krauss has released fourteen studio length albums since 1987, including songs on soundtracks such as Cold Mountain.

When it comes to accolades, Krauss has won a total of twenty seven Grammy Awards, no small feat given that she is one of the top recording artists in the history of the awards; now second only to Hungarian-British conductor Sir Georg Solti, who has thirty one awards.

But truthfully I can say it best when I say nothing at all, and let the music speak for itself.

As you all know, I kind of had to grow up listening to country music, so I’m well versed with Krauss’ ability to break hearts and take names over a three minute interval. And this album is no different. Windy City is the fifth solo album by Alison Krauss and features covers of ten classic country songs originally from Brenda Lee, The Osborne Brothers, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Vern Gosdin, Glen Campbell, Bill Monroe and Eddy Arnold.

The question remains the same – is Windy City a fitting tribute or a cold wasteland. Well, I would argue it fits well, but is a bit of a biter.

Krauss is three decades into her career now, and she has an established voice, but unlike so many other artists before her, she has never explored a cover song album previously, and she’s not known for taking the unbeaten path. For instance, I’ve already eluded to her 1995 hit which was a cover of Keith Whitley’s When You Say Nothing At All. She’s always been a staple of the industry, with a touch of refinement, so Windy City doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, though it does sounds amazingly touching throughout. After all, Krauss was particular to record only on days that she felt at her optimal performance levels.

It’s a gentle reminder that there is a reason this lady has twenty seven Grammys; she has talent and intelligence to back it up. Now, I’m not going to spend time digging into each track to justify the existence of each one within the scope of Windy City, but I will write this – Dream of Me, I Never Cared for You, and You Don’t Know Me all made me rather emotional, heck, that last one got me all teary eyed. But that’s probably because ballads are Alison’s bread and butter.

Another point to note, the fire and passion throughout this record are very welcome additions, and something a fan of bluegrass at any age will appreciate. If you’re a fan of classic country, which apparently I am now (thanks for force-feeding me from a young age Dad), Windy City will feel like a well-worn pair of driving gloves, warm, comforting and protective. Also it serves as a bit of an education on what preceded her in the genre.

Krauss’ legacy is well intact and reinforced with Windy City.


There’s no way for Alison Krauss to compete with her early successes, people already have decades of time spent with those first few  singles, but playing homage to other well worn tracks is a smart move, and one which plays to her strengths. Windy City might not be the most original offering of the year, but it’s a familiar one, and fun to boot.


Improvised Efforts (The Unsexy Truth About Fame)

I watched a really good movie last night, dear readers.

The movie was called Don’t Think Twice, and it featured a cast of prominent comedians in roles as members of an improv troupe.

I’d been meaning to watch it for some time now, but after HMV Canada announced their bankruptcy at the end of January 2017, I had to reassess my buying habits and do the best I could to prepare for a conversion to shopping through Amazon and other online stores instead. I actually don’t think it will be terrible for me in the long-run, in fact, it may have skyrocketed my ideal collection size preemptively – I’ve bought over 150 new movies in the past few weeks… and I don’t think I’m done just yet.

Point being, I held off on buying this movie because I knew I’d likely have an opportunity to get it at a discount down the line.

Now, as I’ve mentioned on a few other occasions, both of my brothers are involved in an improve troupe themselves (read: The 11 O’Clock Number), which is organized and run by our mutual friend Byron Martin. In fact, Byron was the featured interview for January on timotheories. Cool story right?


We’re Not Gonna Take It

Ryan (the youngest of my two younger brothers) originally decided he wanted to watch Don’t Think Twice with me last night because he had high expectations for a solid comedy, and we had just knocked out a slog playing Dead of Winter. After all, the movie had a certified fresh logo from Rotten Tomatoes, and features the talents of Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, and Tami Sagher – but I knew better. I probably should have warned him what he was getting into, but I didn’t, because I thought he would be delightfully surprised at the results.

You see creative cuties, Don’t Think Twice is actually a dramedy about the impact the sudden solo success of Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) has on the improv troup he is a part of, The Commune. The majority of the film is about how his relationships change with each of his friends. It features honest portrayals of fame, anger, sadness, jealousy, betrayal, how romance changes, and everything in between.

The difference is that the comedy only happens on the stage and in the rehearsals, so we are never helped along to comfortably address the problems which show up. Much like real life, the success of Jack don’t come bundled with irreverent comedy, but heartaches and lots of negative feedback from the group. And eventually some compromise.

Funny People

It’s a very relatable story, and I think it serves a very opportunistic purpose. Yet another of my theories about the arts.

Now don’t get me wrong, my intent with this post was not to jump ahead on the Theatrical Tuesday review or even skirt around a topic, but I needed to give you a set up before I explained what the theory is about.

People are funny.


Sometimes they’re funny in an entertaining way, and sometimes funny in a surprising and disturbing way. We often assume that when we engage in art, whether it’s film, theatre, music or visual art, that we are looking at something be transported away from the world in front of us, but a good artist knows that they are a lens, a focal point to share a message.

And sometimes that message is not one embedded in escapism.

My brother, bless his heart, is a very emotive person, so for him expecting a comedy and getting a drama, is surprising. He didn’t expect to experience a message which hit so closely to home with his own experience being involved in drama, but the theory rings true – we enjoy that which is alien to us, but whenever we engage with some that is familiar, there is an opportunity to be taken in and to experience real emotions.

Would that movie have had as strong of an impact on someone who doesn’t like theatre or support the arts? Not very likely, but because Ryan performs in his spare time, all of the awkward exchanges hit home for him directly, and made the film all the more real. Which is what is what a good film should do. Engage you and activate your mind.

theories Summarized

Do I regret that we didn’t watch something that made us laugh all the way through? No, not really. Do I regret the surprise I laid for my brother? No, not really. Because there is another lesson that the general public will learn watching that film, improv is life, we all improvise our way through it, these people just get on-stage and say yes… and. Yes… and. Yes… and.

Effectively sharing truths through comedy. But that’s just my theory.


On The Shoulders Of Giants (89th Annual Academy Awards)

Last year the two words whitewashing and oscars seemed to be synonymous with each other. I wrote a rather exhaustive post about it, point of fact. To be fair, I am an artist though, so it’s quite difficult not to be a lens for the big issues I find wrapped around my heart. Sigh.

Now, I have written about this theory before, but let me remind you that there is an idea out there which states that creative professional experience the highs and lows of life even more deeply than an average person. I want to posit something different from that.

We all feel things very deeply, and humans are capable of amazing things when we work together. In fact, I think it’s because we should work together that we achieve greatness.

Children start out with the same basic abilities and aptitudes, as we age, personalities come through and environments shape us into complex individuals.


The Full List of Nominees

I’ve always been a fan of film. Cinema. The movies. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve celebrated motion pictures in my life.

Sitting here at my desk, I’m watching the trailers for the nine films which have been nominated for Best Picture 2017. La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By The Sea, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, Hell or High Water, Lion, Fences. I’ve seen more than half of these movies already and I cannot wait to watch the remaining ones I’ve missed. Films make my heart ache with joy, fear, sadness, compassion, anger, excitement, achievement and a number of other emotions.

It’s because so many creative people come together to engage our sense that films mean something. And I think that this year in particular, the academy has done an excellent job listening to the public. 4 of the 9 choices are headed by minority actors, and that’s a big deal.

La La Land has the most votes by far, and while it is an excellent film, it is something of a self-congratulatory piece about Hollywood. So I really hope that this movie doesn’t take it, because we’ve been there, and done that. And Arrival is my new favourite first contact film. On the other side of the coin, Hell or High Water is a classic film on all accounts – I reviewed it late last year and I loved it. It perfectly serves as to what film making is all about. It would be an excellent dark horse entry.

But looking more closely at the nominees, I have to notice something. I’ve only seen the 5 films with white actors headlining them, and that’s an important point.

Award Winning

When you give an award you are truly GIVING something as payment, compensation or as prize. Consider that statement for a second. How many billions of people are there in the world? 30? And how many different ethnicities make up that total?

The challenge we face is that for decades the Academy Awards (like many other institutions) have focused on certain types of people, non necessarily because those people were the most deserving, but because they were singled out for compensation. As the global community expands, it makes sense that we continue to honour those who do the best job, but in instances where many are deserving, it’s those who go over and above should be awarded. By default these means minority groups which need more representation. I haven’t seen Moonlight or Fences, but could easily see them taking it.

I hope they do. Hidden Figures and Lion would be fantastic as well, but based on what I’ve read, Moonlight and Fences are better films. Guess we’ll find out in three days though.

theories Summarized

#OscarsSoWhite was a necessary rebellion against disrespectful authority. I think with it came even more artists working together this year to create films that represent life as it is, and even better, the voters now have an opportunity to choose recipients that better depict humanity. We may be standing on the shoulders of giants, but while every statue has a head of gold, the feet are always made of clay, and liable to crumble towards the end. It’s time to choose a different champion, and that’s my theory.


Grey Matter (Governance)


Decision making is hard, dear readers.

And sometimes implementing an easy decision really is the wrong thing to do, while implementing the complex decision turns out to be the right one. Unfortunately for all of us, life is not quite so simple as those black and white principles, and even Luke Skywalker is probably going to realize that going grey is the most pragmatic solution. But don’t take my word for it, read this theory about why jedi and sith are likely old news, and that by Episode IX’s end, we’ll likely see a new type of force user emerge victorious.

I hold that this theoretical decision making on Skywalkers part will come down to good governance. We cannot have light without dark, and if you increase one over the other, the secondary element must evolve in kind. But when we combine elements of light and dark, the contrasts give way for subtle shifts in grey and a much stronger range of tonality.

I personally believe this applies to how governments should operate as well. Well as much as I can say in 1000 words or less.

When public funded institutions conduct their public affairs and manage public resources in a responsible and effective way, they are enacting good governance. Those actions cannot be conducted only out of selfish needs nor can the patrons be so altruistic that they never stand up and fight for their people.

But what is governance anyway?

According to wikipedia, governance refers to

all of the processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through the laws, norms, power or language.

That means working with many different people of many different functions to organize and operate all of those functions in a way that benefits those people.

Not Just A Liberal’s Fancy-Free Dream

What this means to me is that we HAVE TO work together to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and that decisions are made which always put safety and welfare FIRST and which are for the aid of as many constituents as possible. Good government operates as a sum of it’s parts, the light, the dark, and everything in between. The grey matter of the body.

As an example of support by representation, The Canada Council for the Arts exists primarily to ensure the Canadian people are given a range of public art projects regularly, by investing in the arts through grants and services which bolster the broad range of cultures which make up Canada.

That and they help to raise awareness for the arts too.

But this is just one example of many types of programs which exist in modern day governments, and which are key to the success and development of our communities in a state of global communication.

Programs exist for the disabled, for impoverished, for sports, and for education.


But, and I hesitate to share this, there is this notion out there that a great many conservative supporters like to say fairly often – creative types are bleeding hearts, and successful ones are supposedly so far removed from the real world that they cannot see the forest for the trees – but I strongly disagree with this notion.

And I don’t share this point lightly, because it is true that we can’t all be movie stars and music geniuses, a great many of us live our lives in the working class, and that ain’t so bad. But good governance should see through classism and recognize the issues at hand first and foremost, no matter what voice an issued is raised with.

Ashton Kutcher – Smart Cookie and Model Citizen

I originally planned for this post on governance (inspired by the Postconsumers response to the OECD index) to be about how artists can uniquely contribute to our communities in the voting process, and where supporting local initiatives and pitching in in ways other than with our pocket money DO make a difference… But then I ran across a tweet about Ashton Kutcher this morning.

In case you aren’t familiar, Ashton Kutcher got his start as a professional model before eventually breaking out into television and film as an actor, and then working his way into investment opportunities as a venture capitalist. He’s been involved in numerous startups over the years including Skype, Foursquare and Airbnb. He’s a smart cookie, though he plays a dummy on TV.

Probably the most impressive thing about him though, is that in 2009 he established an international human rights organization called Thorn with now ex-wife Demi Moore. It’s goal is to address the sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking on a global scale. I mention this because in the tweet that twitter user shared, the author acknowledged how ludicrous it was that Kutcher had to defend his profession as an actor before he could address a US senate committee on the successes of the software his company has developed to fight human trafficking.

He then explains how his technology will helps save thousands of lives, and how investing in it is necessary for us to commit to good governance.

I’m going to share a clip of his speech because I cannot do it more justice than Mr. Kutcher did himself.

theories Summarized

When we practice good governance, we are using our grey matter appropriately. And my hope is that by recognizing all human beings have the capacity for light, dark, and grey actions in-between, that creative professionals are not limited by their hearts, rather their strengths of language allow them to communicate what good governance is. At least, that’s the theory anyway.