The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

You could be forgiven for never having read James Thurber’s 1939 short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” for The New Yorker or for not having seen the eponymous 1947 movie adaptation, since neither tend to be as famous today as they would deserve to be. Indeed, on Empire Magazine’s list of Top 500 films, it only made it onto 479th place, even though it has been fundamental in inspiring the heroic daydreaming trope.

Thurber was dismayed with the 1947 adaptation, as he made clear in a letter to Life magazine at the time, and while we will never know what his opinions on Ben Stiller’s adaptation are – he died in 1961, and the movie has very little in common with his, largely plotless, short story or indeed the classic film – it has a lot of merits and is a fantastic feel-good comedy.

Produced by Samuel Goldwyn Jr., the son of the 1947’s movie producer, Ben Stiller plays the titular character of Walter Mitty who works, in a wonderfully ironic nod to Thurber, in the photolab of Life magazine. He is madly in love with the newly hired girl upstairs, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) and frequently zones out when he has one of his daydreams of leading a much more interesting, heroic life. Cheryl isn’t the only new face at the company however, as Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) introduces himself to staff as the transition manager – the transition of shutting down Life as a print magazine and becoming online-only, all while laying off most of the staff. As the antagonist, Ted is a slick bully with a beard that makes him look like an arrogant, corporate idiot. As an actor, Adam Scott gets to show off his talent with a character infinitely nastier than his lovable geek on Parks & Recreation.

A love story about a daydreaming guy doesn’t offer many new creative challenges, and this is where Goldwyn Jr. and Stiller decided to make Walter’s life more complicated. Life’s go-to photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) with an anachronistic penchant for SLRs has sent Walter a wallet and some negatives, asking for frame twenty-five to be considered for the final cover. He calls it his most accomplished photograph ever, ‘The Quintessence of Life’, yet much to Walter’s and his assistant’s horror, that exact frame is missing and they can’t seem to find it anywhere in the lab.

In between discussing his eHarmony profile with a guy from customer support called Todd (Patton Oswalt), Walter manages to strike up a friendship with Cheryl, who convinces him to track down Sean and find the photograph. And so, Walter jumps on a plane to Greenland, and his real life slowly becomes a lot more interesting and heroic than his daydreams have ever been. Indeed, his travels lead him from Greenland to Iceland and even as far as the Himalayas. He jumps out of a helicopter, travels through a war-torn country and skateboards towards an erupting volcano (the infamous Eyjafjallajökull).

If you’ve seen the trailer, you might be surprised to learn that “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” isn’t a story about finding love. It is a story about a man finding himself. The breathtaking scenery of Iceland, where much of the first half of the film is set, definitely helps with creating a sense of awe, but it is in the details where the movie truly shines. Throughout the film, we see small glimpses of who Walter really is underneath his shell, most notably during a particularly powerful scene where he teaches Cheryl’s son how to skateboard and later on during the revelation of why he turned into such a socially awkward man.

You might think you know why Walter couldn’t find the negative. You might think you know what the photograph is. You’ll probably be wrong. The story is a blend of funny, sad and surreal moments and fantasies, and if you find the final scene anything but heartwarming, you might have to check if your heart is still functioning properly.

Ben Stiller has made funnier movies, but he has never made a more honest one. The transitions between real life and Walter’s fantasy worlds are seamless and frequently feature subtle, perfect blending of both worlds, sometimes when snow flies across the office, and sometimes with words that ingeniously appear in the scenery. Stiller’s held-back use of CGI is refreshing to see in an age when more is often considered better, and apart from a sarcastic reference to Fincher’s adaptation of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, the movie thankfully holds back on overly sweet imagery as much as it holds back on special effects.

Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn may have deserved more screen time, but they excel in their short appearances, and anything else would arguably have distracted from the aloneness that allows Walter to find his courage. Overall, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a beautiful piece of cinema, a poignant Bildungsroman-type drama as much as an uplifting comedy, with a brilliant performance by Stiller and cinematography that’ll take your breath away. It is one of the most memorable movies of the season and one that invites multiple viewings.

At 114 minutes, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” lacks any boring moments and isn’t one minute too long.

Heles & Heles: Déi éischt Episod

Zwou Saache si scho vill ze laang hier: éischtens, dass et hei neie Contenu gouf an zweetens, dass ech op Lëtzebuergesch gepodcast hunn. Béid Zoustänn ginn heimatter geännert, mat der Première vun engem neie Podcast, deen ech ab elo eemol de Mount – esou hu mer eis dat emol virgeholl – mat mengem Brudder ophuele wäert.
An onser éischter Episod diskutéieren mer iwwer d’Walen zu Lëtzebuerg, iwwer den 11. September a Relioun an der Schoul, iwwer dem JFK an der Kennedy Famill hieren Afloss op d’US Politik, an iwwer Journalismus zu Lëtzebuerg.
Keen huet Esch gär.

http://podcast.sadautumn.com/2013-11-27.mp3
Eroflueden | Abonnéieren | iTunes

Den Intro ass “There It Is” vum Kevin MacLeod a steet ënnert enger CC By Lizenz.

Any Day Now

Baséierend op reelen Évenementer erzielt de Film d’Geschicht vum Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming) a Paul Fleiger (Garret Dillahunt), déi sech 1979 an engem Café kenneléieren an op den éischte Bléck anenee verléiwen. D’Liewen beweegt sech direkt schnell fir déi zwee, wéi de Rudy de Bouf vu senger kokainsüchteger Nopesch bei sech ophëlt wéi déi am Prisong lant. Well weder de Rudy nach de Paul wëllen zouloossen, dass de Marco – deen um Down Syndrom leid – am System verschwënnt, iwwerzeegen se d’Mamm hinnen temporär Adoptivrechter ze ginn. Alles schéngt gutt – bis dem Paul säi Chef realiséiert, dass se eng homosexuell Koppel an net Kosenge sinn, an se beim Geriicht mellt.
De Film schwankt tëscht dem gléckleche Familieliewen, dat déi dräi sech opbauen, dem Rudy sengem Wonsch Sänger ze sinn, an der Geriichtsverhandlung – eng Mëschung déi aussergewéinlech gutt geléngt. Virun allem den Alan Cumming liwwert den Héichpunkt vu senger schauspillerescher Carrière of, mat engem tour de force déi engem dem Rudy seng Léiwt fir de Marco an seng Qual iwwer d’Onverständnis vun der Gesellschaft esou déif matspiere loossen dass et ferm wéi deet.
Obwuel dat Ganzt sech 1979 an 1980 ofspillt, huet d’Geschicht haut esou vill Wichtegkeet ewéi deemools – d’Rechter an d’Léift vun der homosexueller Koppel als Elteren ginn a Fro gestallt, si gi mat Pädophile gläichgestallt an ëmmer nees gëtt drop gepocht, dass et ee lifestyle choice an net eng sexuell Orientéierung ass. De Fait, dass d’Verhandlungen gréisstendeels vun enger Riichterin ofgehale ginn mécht d’Absurditéit nëmmen nach méi offensichtlech.
‘t ass déi Art Film, déi iech är Séil mat esouvill Traueregkeet futti schléit, dass der nom Film mol nach e puer Minutte sëtze bleift. ‘t ass déi Art Film, déi esou voller Léift ass, dass ee guer net anescht kann ewéi sech ze froen firwat mer haut nach ëmmer net weider sinn als Gesellschaft ewéi virun 40 Joer. ‘t ass déi Art Film, déi ee wierklech muss gesinn hunn.
De Film kritt 5/5 Stären, och well den Alan Cumming a Garret Dillahunt eng wierklech léif Koppel ofginn an ee kee Moment un hierer Léift zweifelt.

“Hermione just stole all of our shit.”

James Franco. Seth Rogen. Jonah Hill. Jay Baruchel. Danny McBride. Craig Robinson. Michael Cera. Emma Watson. Jason Segel. Mindy Kaling. Aziz Ansari. Channing Tatum. D’Lëscht vun de Staren am This is the End ass praktesch endlos. D’Prämiss ass séier erklärt: d’Schauspiller, déi all sech selwer spillen, treffen sech am James Franco sengem neien Haus fir eng gigantesch Party – a während se feieren, fänkt op eemol d’Apokalyps un an si stellen fest, dass kee vun hinnen an den Himmel gerett gouf an se elo op der Äerd festsëtzen an sech géint Dämonen wiere mussen.

De Film ass total iwwerdriwwen – de Michael Cera kritt ee Blowjob vun zwee Fraleit nodeems en dem Rihanna op den Hënner klappt, den David Krumholtz stierwt een absurd offensichtlechen Doud, d’Emma Watson zerschléit de Seth Rogen a klaut hinnen all d’Waasser an Iessen, si dréien aus Langeweil een horrend schlechten “Pineapple Express 2”, et gëtt een Exorzismus mat Kichenutensilien an si drénken, saufen a fëmmen sech duerch de Weltënnergang. Kuerz: weder d’Story nach d’Schauspiller huelen sech och nëmmen fir eng eenzeg Sekonn e bëssen eescht. An de Schluss, bei deem ech bal Tréine gekrasch hu vu Laachen, ass esou wonnerbar iwweraschend an absurd, dass e wierklech net virauszegesinn ass.

Kuerz: This is the End ass Comedy vum Allerfeinsten. An dem Danny McBride säi Kommentar, nodeems d’Emma Watson hinnen alles geklaut huet, ass wuel ee vun de groussartegste Säz, déi jemools op enger Leinwand gesot goufen. Woubäi d’Tatsaach, dass d’Watson net an den Himmel kënnt bal nach besser ass.

Muss een e gesinn hunn? Jo, et ass eng vun de groussartegsten, topege Komödien, déi der iech wäert eranzéien. 5/5

Bullet

The drowsy waves collapsing against the shore lull
me into forgetting the buckling bay behind
me, and its pallid noises coagulating against my skull:
a hopeful army of sunbeams marching in forever so inclined
to proclaim tomorrow against all my desires
to let this be my end, final, relentless and unkind.
With the wish to perish in darkness before tonight expires,
sand cuts through my soul like splinters through fingertips –
the truth disguised as freeing pain slowly transpires –
I raise the barrel to forge my own lunar eclipse.
An opaque world oscillates around me in hazes of auroral blue:
hovering, in the distance, washed out lights of ships.
What is this existence if not also the possibility to eschew
its own self: my soul into you, dear world, I imbue.

Glimpses

She swirls her finger around the chanting bottleneck:
I don’t know where we end.
She looks at the sunbeam crackling in her ring:
I don’t know where we begin.

It’s raining colours around us
through sunglasses, through tree leaves,
through the windows of the 58 bus.

She raises her head, slowly, and squints:
her eyes a dozen meadows of green.
She lifts her bottle, takes a sip of lemonade:
her sigh a dozen serenades.

It’s raining colours around us
through sunglasses, through tree leaves,
as she vanishes with the 58 bus.

Totem

Down the abyss, storming, over rocks, rushing,
towards the waves crushing the cliff
with the force of a thousand armies:
I gaze from otherwhere.

I contemplated a man from Paris once, sitting,
head between hands on knees, sobbing,
on a metal chair by the international terminal:
I orchestrate from everywhere.

Across cheeks, blushing, over eyes, wandering,
towards the dreams palpitating against reality
with the force of a thousand prophets:
I vivify from nowhere.

I contemplated a woman from St Louis once, sitting,
eating a slice of pumpkin pie, laughing,
on a Davenport in the lounge of her friend:
I dance from evermore.

The Hollows

Here, the uneasy nothingness of fingers intertwined,
there, the heavy evaporation of lips locked,
always the swinging oblivion of thoughts dreamed,
forever the towering ravage of feelings seduced —
surrounded by lightning and leaves spinning out of reach
we would never find cover if we started running.
Here, the dripping raindrops bursting into our blinded eyes
there, the haunting harmony of washed out worlds —
we have always been: we will never be.

Vermilion

They move lightly across the desert plane.
They have small clouds of sand dancing underneath their wings like carefree children
and ludic dust whirling in sunbeams around them.

Here, the good outweighs the bad tenfold,
rainbows kept in drops of water carried on their feathers
like dots of happiness layered over an unsuspecting embrace.

They move lightly across the desert plane.
They whisper their songs as if outsiders eavesdropping would take them away
and they sing them proudly into each other’s ears.

Here, the good outweighs the bad tenfold,
like sunbeams shining through clouds into drops of water
when they move lightly across the desert plane.

Stone Skipping

What was, now isn’t — what will be, not yet.
The taste of perishing cold on your lips and nothing
else. Uncomfortable comforting
laughter at the surrealism of ourselves.
This is too… not close enough.
I’m looking at the future through breathed upon glass,
a shadow on the other side of this
liminal space of slivered possibilities.
Perhaps in a hundred sunsets the glass will be clear
and this side the faded memory we’d like it to be.