Originally posted from Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland on 6.17.12: “Early yesterday afternoon I was expecting to meet Jett and Dylan at the modest Alpine-styled cabin we’re renting in Lauterbrunnen, but they weren’t there when I arrived. So I texted them and they said they were in town and would be along. The problem was that they had the only key to the place, and I was coping with a slight call of nature. But I figured I’d wait it out.
“The minutes dragged on and they didn’t show. The little devil on my left shoulder began to think about taking care of business behind the cabin. ‘No!,’ said the angel on my right shoulder, ‘don’t be an animal!’ But Jett and Dylan were taking their time.
“I looked around and noticed a narrow driveway behind the cabin — a possible problem. But nobody had driven by in quite a while. I also considered the fact that the rear of the cabin is sheltered from view by a hilly mound. Quiet, quiet, no cars, no cars. The devil won out and I stepped behind the cabin.
“Four or five seconds later a car drove up the driveway with a family in it, and with a three-year-old staring and pointing at me from the back-seat window. Five seconds after that another car drove by with a pretty girl at the wheel. She also checked me out.
“If I hadn’t stepped behind the cabin, those two cars would have never driven by.”
It took me a while but I’ve finally watched three of the four episodes in Spike Lee‘s NYC Epicenters 9/11->2021½. It’s easily one of Lee’s finest film achievements; I would even call it miraculous. Due to the fact that you can feel the soul of New York City glowing and flowing through all of it.
Episode 3, which runs two hours, focuses on the 9/11 attacks, and provides perhaps the most emotionally fulfilling and heartfelt recapturing of that day, ever. It’s so good I’m thinking of watching it again soon.
Episode 1, which is about NYC’s response to the Covid crisis, is also magnificent except, in my opinion, for one aspect. Unless I missed something, Lee doesn’t really grapple with the relatively low percentages of African American vaccinations in New York State and elsewhere.
Something like 80 million U.S. citizens have sidestepped Covid vaccinations, and we will never get out of this hole as long as tens of millions of idiots continue to refuse.
An adult all alone and on a phone, having to talk his or her way out of a tough, high-pressure situation. I don’t know how many times this set-up has been built into a compelling feature, but I’m thinking at least four**.
The very best is Steven Knight‘s Locke (’14), an 85-minute character study about a construction foreman (Tom Hardy) grappling with issues of personal vs. professional responsibility. Three years ago Gustav Möller‘s The Guilty, a gripping, Danish-made crime thriller that I just re-watched yesterday, delivered similar cards. Last weekend a same-titled remake, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, played at the Toronto Film Festival, and will debut theatrically on 9.24 before hitting Netflix.
And now there’s Phillip Noyce‘s Lakewood, which stars Naomi Watts as Amy, a widowed, small-town mom reacting not only to news of a Parkland-esque high school shooting, but to the possibility that her sullen and estranged son Noah (Colton Gobbo) may be involved in some way.
More than two-thirds of this 84-minute film (roughly 47 minutes) are focused solely on Amy and her iPhone in a remote wooded area. We’re talking about a torrent of smooth steadicam footage plus several overhead drone shots and some elegant editing (kudos to Lee Haugen), plus Watts stressing, emoting and hyperventilating her head off — a one-woman tour de force.
Right away I was thinking that Noah might be the shooter, and that, you bet, made me sit up and focus all the more. And that’s all I’ll discuss in this vein.
My second reaction was about Amy’s iPhone, and what an amazing reach it has. She’s in a woodsy area a few miles from town (I didn’t catch how many reception bars were showing) and yet she experiences only a couple of signal drop-outs, and she’s watching all kinds of video and whatnot without a hitch. I was also impressed by her iPhone’s battery — what power! (I never leave home without a back-up battery for my iPhone 12 Max Pro — I have too many active apps and the battery is always draining hand over fist.)
Despite all that’s going on at the high school and having to juggle all kinds of incoming info, Amy continues to jog during most of her phone marathon. If there’s one thing that all Lakewood viewers will be dead certain of, it’s that Watts will stumble and suffer an ankle injury. I was telepathically begging her not to. HE to Watts: “C’mon, stop…don’t…there are all kinds of obstacles on your forest path and you obviously need to focus so just start speed-walking”…down she goes!
The pace of Lakewood is very fast and cranked up, and Amy is nothing if not resourceful. She manages to persuade an auto mechanic whom she doesn’t know to supply crucial information about Noah’s whereabouts, as well as info about the possible shooter’s name and contact info. All kinds of conversations and complications ensue, and you’re always aware that Chris Sparling‘s script is determined to increase the stress and suspense factors.
Most of these efforts felt reasonable to me, or at least not overly challenging or irksome. Lakewood is a thriller. I didn’t fight it. I accepted the rules and requirements.