To Be Alone (2017): Cold Grief (Review)

Timothy J CoxWritten and directed by Matthew Mahler, To Be Alone charts William (played by Timothy J. Cox) as he deals with grief in a cold environment. Mahler takes the audience through a short journey with the disturbed, and recent, widower, and uses a number of settings to show just what has happened here.

William’s wife is upstairs in the bedroom, lifeless under the bedsheets, and he spends his time watching television evangelical programs when he is not constructing something in the back garden. Clearly the man is grieving but struggling to deal with the reality of the situation.

Mahler plants a number of messages in is film. To Be Alone works on a number of levels. Its imagery implies suicide, check out the line on the woman’s arm and the noose at the end of William’s rope, and the opulence of the kitchen.

His theme seems to suggest that material things cannot make us happy or give us the ability to cope. The voice over preaching of the church lady, who really does sound like Dana Carvey’s SNL creation, implies that grasping at conventional religion is not the answer.  William does take some of the “gospel” in but he alters it to fit his needs.

Timothy J. Cox makes the most of his silent portrayal of a man attempting to cope with unexpected death and the devastating time spent alone  after the event.  Watching TV and eating, almost automatically, is only part of the emotional response and Cox manages to snap out of his robotic trance in a manner that convinces.

There are many questions generated by Mahler’s coldly shot film. Why did Mary kill herself?  Did she, in fact, commit suicide?  William is clearly upset about the death, but did he orchestrate it? Is this the reason behind the “ornate” cross in the back garden?

To Be Alone is a 4 star film that looks at death, survivors and the grieving process without a lot of dialogue. The film moves forward with external inputs: the church lady, the sheriff’s phone calls, and William’s silent journey to complete his ceremony.

Repeated viewing of the film reveals more details and raises more questions. It is an interesting offering that prompts the viewer to think about the events unfolding.

 

Anton Yelchin: Dead at 27 – Freak Accident Ends Talented Actor’s Life

Anton Yelchin dead at 27

Anton Yelchin died age 27 in what has been described as a freak accident by police.  His own vehicle rolled back and ended the talented actor’s life in the early hours of Sunday morning, 19 June, 2016.  Yelchin was a busy and exceptional actor who worked steadily in Hollywood.

Anton; born Anton Viktorovich Yelchin in St Petersburg, Russia, had over 65 credits under his belt and three projects in post production at the time of his death. (Star Trek Beyond, Rememory and Thoroughbred)  Yelchin had major roles in Terminator: Salvation, Fright Night and Alpha Dog.

But it was Star Trek,  where Anton played Chekov,  that threw the young actor into the limelight.  Although fans of his work could point to other films that he starred in where his performances were above and beyond.

He was quite adept at  “horror/comedy.”  Playing the title roles in Odd Thomas and Burying the Ex showed he could do more than play Kyle Reese or the rebooted Charley Brewster or the newly imagined Chekov in the Star Trek franchise.

Anton Yelchin as Chekov
Yelchin as Chekov

Anton Yelchin was convincing in whatever role he played and was comfortable in any genre. Comedy horror – Fright Night,  Science Fiction – Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation,  Drama – Alpha Dog and Romance – Like Crazy The Russian born actor also worked in television and did voice over work for video games.

Tributes to Yelchin have been pouring in via social media with reactions from Chris Evans, Tyler Shields and Fran Kranz to name but  a few. The shocking news of Anton’s death is trending on Twitter as fans and friends alike rush to share their grief.

Fran Kranz @frankranz

Anton Yelchin was a very talented actor who would have graced our screens for many years  to come. The 27 year old actor’s death was confirmed by spokesperson Jennifer Houser from the LAPD.

Chekov, Odd Thomas, Jacob, Max, Kyle Reese, Charley Brewster and all the other characters Yelchin portrayed will live on. RIP Anton Yelchin.  Gone far too soon with so much left to give. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the friends and family of this talented actor.

 

 

Life in the Real Desert: Death is a Red Car

Red Volkswagen sans heavy set woman driver
While the urge to apologize is almost overwhelming, I will post this Life in the Real Desert sans soppy sorries and jump straight in. Death, I have learned, is a red car. A Volkswagen Beetle, current model and the driver is a middle aged woman of Mexican lineage, or possible Native American, and the portly lady wears glasses that are coke bottle thick. Were it not for sheer luck and the later warnings of two lorry drivers on break, my life would have ended a three weeks ago.

On my daily pilgrimage back from the local town, I was on the long straight stretch of road that runs between a pest control warehouse and the “Super 8” hotel. Both sides of the road are covered in aggregate, sand and rock. In the evening, around 6 or 7 o’clock, there are not many drivers out and about and it is usually this spot where I stop for my first gulp of water and where, if it is hot enough, I take off my shirt for the remainder of the ride home.

The night that I met death, and defeated it, it was not too hot, but it was uncomfortable enough to warrant removing my vest, aka T-Shirt. Coasting on the edge of the paved road, I pulled off onto the aggregate just as a red Beetle passed through the space on the road that a scant second previously I, and my trusty Schwinn, had occupied.

Practically falling off the bike, I stared at the vehicle, which was moving so slowly that I could have caught up to the driver by walking quickly. As I watched, the car crept forward and swung out to the right as it began a long leisurely about-face in the road ahead. When the car was facing my way again, it pulled over onto the aggregate shoulder and sat idling.

The driver, as mentioned above, was a heavy set female, black hair with grey shot-through and thick glasses. The lenses distorted her eyes, making them look insectile and huge. I froze and waited to see if I could be quick enough to get out of this mad woman’s way when she headed back to town. After a moment she took off, hugging the shoulder on her side of the road.

I stood watching the spotless red Volkswagen move slowly towards the truck stop and the entrance to the highway. When she drove out of sight, I turned and shakily got back on my bike. The thoughts running through my head had to do with luck and timing saving the day. I was so rattled that the T-Shirt stayed on and I continued on toward the hotel.

Two men, lorry drivers, stood outside the back of the building next to the road. They were drinking either Red Bull or some local equivalent. As I approached the two chaps they turned toward me staring. I checked to make sure I had my pepper spray handy, as a precautionary measure since it was getting dark, and one leaned toward me.

“You want to move man, she’s not looking,” he said. His companion repeated the warning, “Yeah, get off the road man, she is not looking at all.” The alarm in his voice got me onto the aggregate once again and just as before, the red Volkswagen Beetle passed the space that I had just vacated by nano seconds.

One of the drivers muttered something about the driver and I said, “That’s the second time she almost got me.” I never stopped the bike and kept pedaling, attempting to put as much distance between me and death as possible. Around 10 minutes later, I heard a car coming up behind me. With my heart in my throat I zoomed off the road and onto the shoulder.

It was not the red death car but a truck. While this driver did not give up too much space on the road, he did not get close enough to run me down either.

Later, as I sat sweating in the night heat, I reflected on the way the woman had driven and then sat looking at me with those huge eyes magnified by glasses so thick that they did not look real.

I got the shakes. The way you do when surviving a close call and having the gravity of situation hit all at once.

In my mind I could see myself not leaving the road the first time. The bug-eyed woman would have driven slowly over me and my own red vehicle. I would be knocked down and under those Beetle wheels, which would roll over my bones crushing them as I screamed in agony. This vision was so real and disturbing that for the next two weeks, if I heard a car coming up behind me on the road, I would scramble off and on the shoulder, heart racing and blood rushing to my head.

Finally, I have calmed down enough that I do not see that heavy woman and her red instrument of death sitting on the side of the road and looking myopically in my direction, in my mind’s eye. I have racked my brain wondering who I may have upset enough to try to run me down, in slow motion, not once but twice, turning around and having another go but missing each time.

Who ever it was has left me with a phobia about red Volkswagens, not to mention one’s driven by visually challenged heavy set Latino women who do not go faster than a crawl. All the better to drive quietly and sneak up behind someone to run them down.

Life in the Real Desert: Close to Death

Buzzard in desert,
It is safe to say that my day got off to a bad start. The old prospector next door, with his eight noisy mongrels, woke me up when two of the animals began barking at just before 6 a.m. Despite best attempts to head back to the Land of Nod (I was tired as sleep in the night was interrupted by an idiot who was trying to start an engine with no muffler, aka exhaust pipe, attached to it from 23:30 to 00:30, that is half 11 pm to half gone midnight for those who have difficulty with the 24 hour clock) I was unsuccessful, it was too light and I was too annoyed. On top of that it was blooming hot and once awake, both at night and in the morning, sleep was, in the former instance a long time coming and in the latter, not approachable at all.

To exacerbate the poor start to my day, literally yards from my desert dwelling, an elderly neighbour came within a cat’s whisker of knocking me and my bike right off the road. Completely oblivious, at least I hope he was and that this was not a deliberate attempt to help me meet my maker, the sod never slowed down, although to be fair he was not travelling that fast, nor did he acknowledge my shouts of fury and my, very, rude gestures. As my adrenaline surged, I found myself making obscene remarks about his lineage and accusing him of self masturbation, in other words of being a wanker. Had I thought of it, I would have grabbed a rock and sincerely tried to hit the windscreen on the back of his Chevy pickup truck.

I am, it is safe to say, still furious. I still have the huge bump and bruising on my right leg from the other unconscious prat who knocked me off the car park surface, aka parking lot, at Love’s Truck Stop. *A place I have avoided like the plague since that little incident in March.* After my close brush with yet another attempt on my life, I was paranoid about every vehicle that passed me.

I realize that many of my fellow desert dwellers are, as stated in the title, close to death. Failing skill sets, a lack of cohesive attention to tasks at hand, failing health and, in some cases, just a bad attitude full stop, do not make these folks the best of neighbours.

Needless to say, blogging while angry is not a good idea, but, like the Incredible Hulk, sans the green and the increased size, my rage has been running on high since this idiot almost hit me with his bloody truck. All the way to the public library, titles for my first blog post scampered across my imaginary laptop screen, the one in my head, each more annoyed and insulting than the last.

Title’s like, “Rednecks Never Die, They Just Move to Quartzsite,” was the least offensive of the lot. The thing that calmed me down was the continual attempt to rework the old mot, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed Jack is king.” This last internal dialogue, where I kept trying to substitute several annoyed phrases in place of blind, finally allowed the worst of my vitriol to dissipate.

Not completely though.

Just enough to stop the “Hulk smash” urge.

The problem is not just living amongst folks who are closer to death than I am, at least in terms of age. With an existing hole, apparently still in my aortic arch and damage to veins and arteries, as well as in one kidney, I may pop off more quickly than they will. With the exception of a dear new neighbour who has only a short time to live, and this lovely chap will be sorely missed by all who know him, the rest of the population in the neighborhood are a mixed bag who may all outlive me, especially if they persist in trying to kill me with their effing motor vehicles and that is where the problem lies.

These inept drivers may be quite nice away from their cars, trucks, vans and ATVs, although others seem to have the type of bad attitude that brings out the worst in me. If I can keep from becoming road statistic, I will remain tickled to death to have survived my further close brushes with the grim reaper.

Hopefully writing this rant out on a hot and dry day in the desert will help my anger and annoyance to abate further. If not my next update may come from behind bars and not, I hasten to add, the kind that serve drinks.

1 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Life in the Real Desert: And Death

Death of a deer
Riding home last night after having spent hours in the Burger King making use of their wonderful Wi-Fi, I noticed a lot of buzzards in the darkening sky. Oddly, on my way to town much earlier in the day, a lone bird stood in the road just outside the estate. Standing motionless, it was seemed to be staring off into the desert at God knows what. The buzzard only moved when I stopped my bike to take a picture. Very camera shy these carrion eaters.

The first thing that sprang to mind was the scene from Wild Hogs where Woody, Doug, Bobby and Dudley (played with hilarious precision by William H. Macy) are walking their motorcycles along the desert road and a buzzard is patiently following the small group of men. I was not too perturbed as the featured creature was not paying any attention to me at all.

As I rounded a corner of the road, just before a deep wash that reeks of either dog or coyote, off to the right about 25 feet from the pavement lay a deer. Face pointed to the road, long eyelashes still as death and not a mark on him or her, at least not that I could see. It was quickly getting dark and despite the light being strong enough for my old eyes to see everything in stark detail, the iPhone 5 could not compensate for the dwindling sunlight.

I took a few pictures and then had to “tweak” them at home in order to make out the details. After remounting my bike, I started again for home. The buzzards who had been circling the deer flew down to the fresh carcass to join the one bold chappy who did not mind me taking his photo. There were roughly 10 of the birds scattered around the deer.

After a couple of strong pumps on the pedal, I was on my way. I looked the the left and broke out into gooseflesh. On two trees, mesquite I believe, there were another 30 buzzards all waiting for their turn. I know it was 30 as I stopped and counted. I was so shaken by this sight that I quite forgot to attempt a photo. It was, by now, a lot darker and most likely would not have come out.

Today on my way into town I watched for the body. I could not remember how far away the poor deceased creature lay from my house. Much further than I thought as it turned out. The huge amount of buzzards had disappeared and only around 5 to 10 were feasting on the creature’s body.

As I approached, using the video on my iPhone, the birds all took off. This enabled me to get a bit closer to inspect the “damage” done.

WARNING: This next bit is not for the squeamish.

Last evening, the deer was pretty much whole. It could have been sleeping as, from what I could see, there was no apparent cause of death. I remember wondering if it had been bitten by a rattlesnake as no wounds were visible. Today, the animal’s remains were dramatically reduced from their full state the day before. Apparently after I left the area a feeding frenzy ensued with not only buzzards eating their fill but coyotes as well?

Here is the uncut video:

I wondered, ever so briefly, whether or not this was the same deer who almost crossed in front of me back in February as I walked back to the estate after dark. It certainly had the same “lack of horn” as that one did, but it is highly unlikely. Just another reminder that the desert is not just full of life but death as well and that both rely upon the other to exist.

27 April 2015

Michael Knox-Smith