Thursday, August 28, 2008

That Was Fast

Whoever just cast the first vote in the new poll did so literally seconds after I posted it. I wanted to add a fourth response - "I go to a theatre that serves slushies," and the little gadget doohickey said I couldn't change the poll because someone had already voted. Who else is up right now besides me? (Actually, I know Ryan is...but who else?)

Vet The Willie!

So while I was out having falafel dinner and enjoying my first experiences with both hooka and Turkish coffee (though not at the same time) at our summer staff party deal at The Egyptian, a self-styled “café and hooka bar” in Broad Ripple, those wacky Democrats went and nominated themselves up one Barack Obama to run for the Presidentiality in the upcoming electorate. Not that it was a surprise, mind you, but now everyone can rest a bit easier knowing that neither Hillary Clinton nor Al Gore’s supporters will attempt any sort of insurrection from the floor.

Bill Clinton gave a speech before Delaware Senator Joe Biden accepted the nomination for campaign attack dog - er, Vice President - and while I’m not entirely convinced that anybody named Clinton is really behind Obama, I am somewhat convinced that they are behind the Democrat. They may not ever like the fact that it’s Barack Obama, but now it’s time to get out there and take the White House away from the Galactic Empire and give it back to the Republic. (The end of that last sentence was steeped in fiction, of course - though that fiction itself was based on the reality of the Roman Empire - but it’s a little too close to reality for comfort, isn’t it?)

It’s time for Barack Obama to prove that he’s a savvy politician as well as a brilliant orator - and the first thing he needs to do after he gets the polls showing the size of the post-convention bump is to set a group of his best aides to work on vetting at least one, if not both, of the Clintons. That there was nowhere near enough time to vet Hillary - a sort of misleading way of saying there wasn’t enough time to vet Bill and where his foundation gets its money - was touted as the primary reason Obama did not lock up the election by taking Hillary as his running mate.

I don’t know exactly how much time they need to vet someone properly. It’s two months and change to the election, and two more months and change after the election to the inauguration; and there’s no real timetable, I don’t think, for filling cabinet posts or ambassadorships, after the inauguration. Bill Clinton himself took quite a bit of time to fill out his cabinet - most of which was spent vetting three different potential candidates for Attorney General. If there is enough time to vet the Clintons properly, Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to call back into service one of the most intelligent, gifted, and popular politicians in the post-war era - not to mention the only politically viable ex-President in recent memory. In what capacity? I’m thinking something really tasty, like Secretary of State. Of course, if Obama is leery of keeping the leering ex-President in Washington, he could make him Ambassador to China. Or India.

He’d have to be confirmed, though, too, which could be a dicey proposition for someone like Bill Clinton. currently shows the Dems adding to their majority in the Senate, though not by enough to break a filibuster on party lines. Their 2008 Senate map, as of this writing, shows 54 Dems and 43 Republicans, with 1 toss-up going Republican, and 2 “other,” which are the two Independents, both of whom caucus (one openly), I believe, with the Democrats. Give the toss-up, North Carolina incumbent Elizabeth Dole, to the Republicans and the two “other” seats to the Dems, and that’s 56-44, four short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. A simple majority would do it, of course, but I wonder that that might not be a bit of a fight. Either way, Obama needs to swallow his pride and do a good thing for the party by reaching out to both Bill and Hillary Clinton as the general election campaign ramps up into high gear.

Monday, August 25, 2008

3 Sisters Café

Amy asked if there was anything in Broad Ripple that we should try, so we headed in that direction for a very late lunch this afternoon - and I actually managed to think of a place that we should try before we even got close to Broad Ripple. Before it hit me, we took a brief detour along Pendleton Pike, between Shadeland Avenue and Mitthoeffer Road, wondering if there might be something along that stretch of depressed neighborhood to tempt the palate; but the only thing that would have fit the bill was the Heidelberg Café, and I just wasn’t feeling the German thing today, so we kept moving. Between there and Post Road, we decided on Broad Ripple, so I figured I’d just shoot up Post to 56th Street and get to Broad Ripple that way. No such luck. Can’t turn north onto Post Road from Pendleton Pike due to construction. On to Mitthoeffer! There we were able to turn north and ran into 56th Street almost immediately, and from there to the eclectic hippie enclave of Broad Ripple with no problems.

The destination? 3 Sisters Café, at 6360 North Guilford Avenue - yet another of those places I have passed by many a time without visiting. We lifted the stroller up the two steps from the sidewalk to the porch of the old house that now contains this charming café and stepped through the front door, where we waited in the long entrance hall to be seated. Laminated copies of the menu were tacked to the wall, so we could ponder our choices while we waited (briefly) to be seated. I also noticed a little door at the end of the entrance hall, tucked into the space beneath the steps leading to the building’s second level, and I chuckled and pointed it out to Amy as I realized what I was looking at - the cupboard under the stairs!

We were then seated in what might have been one of the bedrooms when the place was being used a house, but which now contains a handful of tables with non-matching chairs, mostly made of wood and various other materials. A very large window to our left looked out onto the porch, where we might have chosen to sit had it been a bit less hot and humid outside. I was pleased immediately - it was creaky and comfortable and unpretentious, and portended an excellent late lunch (especially with advance knowledge of what might be ordered, thanks to the menus on the wall in the hallway).

The menu consists of an all-day breakfast section, plus sandwiches and salads, with an eye toward vegetarian and vegan offerings and healthy choices even for the carnivores. Daily specials are scrawled on a long horizontal chalkboard hanging on the wall in what I think was the main dining room, but which was visible from where I sat - meaning that I had to sit there and look at the daily omelette special, which contained spinach, mushrooms, mozzerella, parmesan, and oregano. Oh, snap. And yet...I chose to pass on that. Why? Something called the Green Grilled Turkey Sandwich ($8.75), featuring turkey, avocado, red onion, swiss cheese, and...pesto. Once more...oh, snap. Amy selected the Florentine omelette ($6.75), which consisted of three eggs wrapped around tomatoes, spinach, basil, mozzerella, and parmesan. She got a side of calico potatoes ($3.00) with that - roasted yellow and sweet potatoes with rosemary and one other herb that I can’t recall. Damned journalistic ineptitude. There’s an online menu, but methinks it’s a bit outdated, as the prices don’t match what we paid, the sandwich I ordered is nowhere to be found, and a number of things listed on the online menu were not on the menu at the restaurant today. We also ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich ($3.50) for Jackson.

My grilled turkey sandwich came out perfectly grilled on marble rye bread, with thick slices of grilled turkey breast and a remarkable aroma of pesto as I took the first bite. It fell apart a bit as I made it disappear, but that pesto was there on every sloppy bite. Sandwiches come with a side, and I chose the homemade applesauce - the first bite of which actually made me recoil, it was that divorced from what I generally expect applesauce to taste like. It was very sweet and tasted almost as though it had been laced with rum, but I eventually got used to it, and it proved a solid counterpoint to the savory sandwich. Amy pronounced her omelette delicious, and the calico potatoes were excellent - perfectly cooked and nicely herbed, if perhaps a bit underseasoned.

Our server was very attentive and pleasant - and even took note of the fact that Jackson was being a cranky little turd. She brought his peanut butter and jelly sandwich out before our food was ready, so we could attempt to get Jackson fed and calmed first and not have to do that while our food got cold. A different person on the wait staff brought a second high chair when it turned out that the first one had a seat belt clasp that did not, in fact, clasp.

This may be my new favorite place to eat in Broad Ripple, even though there is also a Bazbeaux Pizza and a Dagwood’s sandwich shop. (I’ve always preferred the downtown Bazbeaux to the one in Broad Ripple, especially since the one in Broad Ripple moved into the old NUVO building. If you never got a chance to eat at Bazbeaux when it was in that house across the street, you missed out.) A second trip will be necessary to determine that for sure, but I’m fairly certain that my opinion on this one will hold up.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Fill Your Day With Picture Pages

I have been deplorably lax here lately when it comes to posting photos on my Picasa photo site. August is almost all the way in the books, and nary a shot. I've taken plenty of pictures, just haven't managed to organize them, nor even upload all of them. However, tonight I have made a bit of progress, so without further ado, here are some links to various things I have taken pictures of during the month of August. (I added a link to my photo site up there next to the picture of Jackson and me.)

As some of you know by now, my very good friend Steve got married on August 2nd. I was one of Steve's groomsmen, so I didn't get any shots of the ceremony itself, but I did get some pictures of Steve hanging around before it started, and some of Steve and Kendra during their photo shoot after the ceremony. Click here for a small representative sample of shots from Steve's wedding.

The 2008 edition of the Indiana State Fair came and went this month, too. The three of us went on both Wednesdays during the 12-day run - the first time I can recall that we had the chance to go on opening day. Jackson was - wait for it - a cranky little turd both times, at the beginning and end of the first day, and pretty much throughout the second trip. For reasons passing understanding, he can't seem to fall asleep unless he's in his crib. This, clearly, is not the result of any genetic code that I passed on to him. Nevertheless, there are some pictures from the first day, including a couple of Jackson trying his first corn dog.

I have more pictures to post of various other things we've been up to this month, but I don't have them ready just yet. There will be some pictures from the Irvington Farmers Market and a set from our second trip to the fair, so I'm pretty sure that this post will be updated in a day or two.

Free Bumper Sticker - Warning! Applying Sticker To Car May Cause Car To Lean Left (#3)

MoveOn, not surprisingly, has a bumper sticker for the newly minted Democratic ticket of Obama/Biden. The first one is free for the asking (including shipping) - and they'll send you five for a mere $3, or fifty for $20. Click here to get yours today, and come on board for the big win! Don't you love your country?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Sports Question, Sort Of

From Hey Rube: Blood Sport, The Bush Doctrine, And The Downward Spiral Of Dumbness - Modern History From The Sports Desk, by Hunter S. Thompson (page 79):

"It was Beer that finally ended my career as a full-time Athlete - first Beer, then Girls, and finally a brief fling with Crime. That is a fatal mix for any star athlete."

When did this - the second sentence - stop being true? Was it ever true?

Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm Not Keeping Track Because I Don't Care

I don't give a frog's fat ass how many houses John McCain has. I also don't care whether or not he can remember how many houses he has. Why not ask Cindy? Maybe she knows. I suppose, however, that that might depend on which half of her brain she's been using to store that knowledge. (Get it?) (That was a joke.) Michael Phelps just won his ninth gold medal for most mentions by a television broadcaster during the course of a single Olympics, and people really care about how many houses John McCain has? (That was a joke, too.) We the people would never elect Cletus from down in the holler to be President, so why do we pretend that it's a problem to elect someone who is super-rich and out of touch with ordinary Americans? (That sort of sounded like a joke, but wasn't.) They're all super-rich and out of touch with the base (or qaeda, if you will) - especially the ones in the Senate, who never have to worry about paying for health care again. (That should be a joke, but isn't.)

This whole business of electing people to office has gotten badly out of control and needs to be completely revamped. First step: Ban television ads. All of them. Forever. This would have the added benefit of fixing all of that campaign finance nonsense. Second step: Force people to prove that their voices deserve to be heard. The people who think Barack Obama is a Muslim? No vote for you! The people who think John McCain fathered a bastard child in a Dhaka whorehouse? No vote for you! Anyone who would have voted for Mike Huckabee? No vote for you! People who take Rush Limbaugh seriously? No vote for you! Got a Power Of Pride sticker on your vehicle? No vote for you! (Speaking of those, has anybody seen one of those imbecilic stickers on a Japanese or German vehicle? Or on one that does not appear to be in desperate need of at least one major repair?)

Ugh. So there's a little rant, I guess. And all of that without having heard who Obama's running mate will be. So help me Darwin, if it's Evan Bayh, I may just give up on electoral politics and start writing in names of Muppets. The only thing that would mitigate Obama's selecting Bayh would be if McCain took Bobby Jindal as his running mate - but surely neither of them is that stupid, right?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Runcible Spoon

I used to walk by the Runcible Spoon at least once a week for the first few months that I was in college, which was way back in the fall of 1993. Before I realized that there was no way I could afford to keep doing it, I used to go out to Vintage Phoenix every Wednesday after classes were over (assuming that I went to all of them, which was not always a given) to buy comics; and along the way, going straight out 6th Street, I would pass the Runcible Spoon and look at the hand-painted signpost with the picture of the owl from the poem. I never went in, but I passed by it all the time. I didn’t manage to eat there until almost fifteen years after that first fall semester in college.

It’s an old house converted into a restaurant, with high ceilings and creaky floorboards that evoke words like rustic and hobbit. I don’t know that I would have appreciated such a place those many years ago when I first walked by it, but it certainly appeals to me now. It’s unique, which is one of the many things that make independent restaurants superior to chains. Amy and I stopped in for lunch (what technically might have been termed brunch) on an early Sunday afternoon ovver a month ago now, the same trip to Bloomington that served up the pictures of the the Jordan River flooding and my review of Bistro et Crèpe.

Unfortunately, since it was so long ago that we ate there, I’ve forgotten some of the smaller details, especially concerning the service, which I seem to remember was pretty good, considering what time of day we were there and how busy they were. I also don’t recall what Amy ordered, and perusing the online menu isn’t ringing any bells. So...all apologies for such journalistic ineptitude, and for the relative brevity of the review and for tangential ramblings contained herein (see first paragraph).

I chose the Chef’s Choice omelette ($6.50), which contained, within its three eggs, corned beef, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and provolone cheese. I thought corned beef was sort of an odd thing to put in an omelette, but it worked pretty well. Everyone knows that ham works well with eggs - though come to think of it, so does steak - and corned beef isn’t all that far off from ham (both being cured with copious amounts of salt - the term corned beef derives from the original curing process, which used large pellets of salt that closely resembled kernels of corn). The ratio of corned beef to the other ingredients was not disproportionate, which can be a problem with omelettes sometimes. Also, cheese in an omelette often comes out not all the way melted, though that was not the case here. All of the flavors worked and played well with each other, making for a quite excellent omelette, though not the best I have ever had. That was an amazing little omelette at a place called Pigalle, in New York City. Runcible Spoon was a close second, though, and the ambience probably puts it above Pigalle overall, but damn...Pigalle makes a fine omelette.

We also shared a bowl of fresh fruit for $5.50, and if you think that better than five bucks is a bit steep for a bowl of fruit, you might be right - but you have also not seen this bowl of fruit, which can be glimpsed at the top of the picture of the omelette I ordered. This was a big, deep bowl of fruit, piled extra high - you could have taken a knife or a spatula and skimmed the fruit off to the level top of the bowl and come away with enough fruit - apples, pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, blueberries, grapes - to mostly fill a second bowl.

After the meal, I got a hazelnut latté to go, as it would have been remiss of me to have brunched at a place where they roast their own coffee and not sampled the wares while I was there. However, we were heading out and about for some walking around Bloomington, and it’s always good to have a cup of coffee at hand when doing that, so I got it to go - and it was an excellent cup of coffee, far superior to the cup I had at the Copper Cup, the Starbucks clone I think I mentioned in a previous post somewhere. It had a strong, rich flavor that rivals the quality of the espresso drinks found here in Indianapolis at Lazy Daze, which is without question the finest coffee shop ever.

The Runcible Spoon, then, comes highly recommended, and I get the feeling that this is going to be a place that gets put into the regular rotation, along with Snow Lion and Café Pizzaria (Nick’s when Jackson isn’t with us) - certainly for the cup of coffee to accompany the walkabout, and maybe also for the meal when we’re in Bloomington. (The dinner menu has a roasted peanut soup with curry, coriander, and cumin that makes me want to cry just thinking about it.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Man On Wire

Even if Man On Wire were solely a documentary about a tightrope-walking lunatic who decided it would be a good idea to walk across the space between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, it would have been a delightful success. In addition to the documentary, though, there is a fictionalized dramatic feature embedded between the interviews of the principal players in the adventure and the stock footage of tightrope walker Philippe Petit (there is also some stock footage of the construction of the twin towers, which in itself is fascinating) - a series of black and white vignettes showing how the team of adventurers gains access to the rooftops of both towers and manages to rig the wire that will allow Petit to complete what he refers to as “le coup.”

Petit’s story plays like high adventure in large part because Petit himself, the primary storyteller, is as energetic and animated a subject as documentary film has perhaps ever seen. (I’m speculating here, somewhat, as I have not seen every documentary ever made.) The story he spins is of how he and a group of friends and associates - some French, some American, and an Australian - plotted and planned a scheme to gain access to the roof of each tower of the World Trade Center in order to rig a cable that Petit would then walk across; and he tells the tale with such excitement and energy that he might well be a small child talking about his very first trip to the zoo or his first day at school.

The bits that are fictionalized drama are the ones that show the timeline of arriving at the World Trade Center, getting up to the top floor, waiting out security guards who seem like they will never leave, and getting onto the roof. The players who assist Petit in this part of the adventure are introduced with title cards that give each one a nickname, and the whole thing has a farcical element that reminded of the video for the Beastie Boys song “Sabotage.”

As these scenes unfold, Petit also describes his previous two tightrope walks on public structures - between two towers of the Notre Dame cathedral (while a service was going on inside) in 1971, and between two pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge (with traffic roaring by below) in 1973 - leading up to his August 7, 1974, walk between the towers of the World Trade Center, two buildings that he says he felt an immediate connection to as soon as he read that they were going to be built, as though someone had conceived of those towers the way they had done just so that he would have something to use for a stunt.

Despite the fact that you know what’s coming, that knowledge takes nothing away from seeing the footage of him walking across Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the stills of the eight walks in forty-five minutes that he made between the towers of the World Trade Center; and then there are the shots of Petit lying down on the wire, flat on his back, that render what began as amazing - a coup, indeed - into an achievement that is simply mind-boggling.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Republicans Suck #5

I'll admit it, though it won't surprise you. I'm on the MoveOn Political Action e-mail list. Why? Well...I guess the main reason is that every once in awhile (and here I'm thinking in the neighborhood of 10-20% of the time) they send out an e-mail complaining about something that's actually interesting. They also from time to time offer free bumper stickers and buttons and whatnot. I'm far to the left (which should also not come as a surprise), but MoveOn is way out there on the lunatic fringe, beyond even the bombastic Keith Olbermann, west of Haight-Ashbury.

But from time to time they do manage to jump on something for all sensible people to get behind, not just the vast majority of sensible people who are all on the left.

The Bush administration, by way of the Department of Health and Human Services, is considering something called a "draft regulation" that would classify quite a lot of contraceptive devices - including most birth control pills - as forms of abortion. (Want to read all about it? Okay: Houston Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, and especially an excellent "letter" to HHS secretary Michael Leavitt posted at Slate. A Medical News Today article gets into a bit more detail about what the draft regulation would do. You can also click here to sign the MoveOn petition to Secretary Leavitt protesting this ridiculous nonsense.)

Yeah, that's right. Birth control pills would be considered abortion. How do you think John McCain feels about the Bush administration right now? Here he is doing everything he can to convince hard-right conservatives that he's on their team without at the same alienating the rest of the voters (the sensible ones). Abortion, of course, is the single issue on which he has always been reliably hard-right. But if he supports this laughable measure - and he'll have to say something about it at some point, and at some point soon, because the Obama camp will jump all over it - he'll lose the election. All those women who have thought about jumping ship since Obama defeated Hillary Clinton will jump as one, feet first and loudly, into (or more lkely, back into) Obama's camp. If he does not support it, he loses the ultra-hard-right conservative nazis he aboslutely has to have even to have a chance - slim as it might be - to defeat Obama in November.

Maybe you noticed that I haven't used the word "legislation" yet. That's because this proposed rule isn't legislation - it's a "draft regulation," which, like Bushtard's famous "signing statements," allow him to do the thing other than get American soldiers killed for no good reason that he's actually had success with during his presidency - bypass Congress.

Fortunately, it will be overturned, or repealed, or whatever, shortly after Obama takes office in January. If Bushtard wanted to enodrse Obama, why didn't he just come out and say so? Or will they not let you into the Republican clubhouse if you aren't constantly pissing off women and praising Jesus?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This Is A Good Example To Set

So let me see if I understand this. I get a ticket for parking too far from the curb in front of the building that used to be City Hall, then the State Museum, then the interim Cenral Library and is now nothing. But this:

is allowed? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

No, I didn't actually measure to see if it was really more than two feet from the curb. It was close, though.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Big List #10

Haven’t had a Big List post for awhile, and four of these came to me at work yesterday while we were busy not being busy, so here we go.

By the way, just as an aside, we opened three new movies this weekend, and the Indianapolis Star printed reviews for none of them. There are a number of reasons why art houses all over the country - not just here in Indianapolis, but you know, whatever - have played more mainstream film this summer than is the norm. I don’t imagine many indie distributors would be too eager to place their films in markets where there is such pathetic support from the local newspaper of record. (Yes, the weather, state fair, and Olympics were factors, too; combined, those three had more of an impact on business than the lack of reviews. Taken individually, however, the lack of reviews in the paper would get the biggest slice on the pie graph.)

So anyway, whilst the tumbleweeds were blowing across the lobby yesterday afternoon, I stumbled across the first four of these stories. I read about the fifth earlier in the week.


Anyone who remembers Kramer’s male support garment called the Bro from that episode of Seinfeld will probably get a kick out of this.

Kilt Equality

Speaking of unusual garments, there’s a male mail carrier in the state of Washington who wants to wear a kilt while delivering mail on his route. I’m okay with that. But what if Newman had worn a kilt?

Venezuelan Vampire Bats

This one is less silly and more serious than the other two, if perhaps no less bizarre. It appears to be a rabies outbreak in remote villages in Venezuela. The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez (a lunatic), is a populist who wins raves from the people of Venezuela because he uses oil revenue to take care of his people. Apparently he missed the 38 Warao Indians who have died in these remote villages in the last year.

If They Want To Drink Merlot, We’re Drinking Merlot

More fun from the state of Washington! This time we’ve got marijuana planters buying up vineyards in order to grow pot. I’m okay with that, too, especially if it results in really good wine. The article calls them “drug dealers,” but that’s too harsh for guys running pot. I like “marijuana planters” better. And yes, it should be decriminalized.

And finally...

Perseids Hit Maximum Early Tuesday Morning

The annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its maximum in the wee early hours of Tuesday morning (for some of us, that’s still Monday night). Rates are expected to be on the order of 50-60 per hour in places where skies are clear and there is very little light. Meteor showers are one of the few good reasons I can think of to live in the country. Everybody on our street keeps their porch lights on all night.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Savage Grace

I think the natural place to begin a review of this film would be to describe who the story is about, but the problem is that I am not entirely sure who the story is about. There is also the possible angle of describing what the story is about, but here I run into trouble, too - it’s either about a dysfunctional family, or about the truly twisted ends to which wealth and extravagance can drive the people who possess both those things and who also have virtually no boundaries in their personal lives behind closed doors, a sense of entitlement and self-righteousness born of old money and perpetuated by the grueling engine of high society.

It would probably help if I had read (completely) the source material on which the film is based, a book called Savage Grace: The True Story Of Fatal Relations In A Rich And Famous American Family, by Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson - an oral history of a chapter in the lives of Brooks and Barbara Baekeland (he the heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune, she his appearances-driven and exceedingly pretentious wife) and their only son, Tony. Trouble is, the book didn’t grab me. Most of the names of the people who contribute to the conversation are names that ring no bells with me, and the biographical notes at the back are only occasionally helpful (to wit, there are only so many times you can flip to the back in order to find out who someone is and how they are significant, only to discover that their note says simply that they now live in New York City, before you stop consulting the notes entirely).

I started the book again from page one after I got home from screening the film Thursday night, and the movie does help to inform the book; but as I am sure that the movie was made to stand as a work of art on its own merits, it therefore does not hold that the movie was made solely to illuminate the book. This brings us to another problem to do with talking about the story - the suspenseful end to which the film builds is the first event described in the book. The whole point of the book is to try to present an idea of how such a thing could come to pass - the exploration of this idea is what makes the story compelling, but without first knowing of the event to which the story leads, the series of vignettes presented in the film feels random and arbitrary. Because the film is based on true events, it is conceivable - perhaps even likely - that most of the people who are interested in this film will know ahead of time how it is going to end.

Yet the film is presented as a dramatic psychosexual thriller, and the fatal flaw in presenting the story as such a thing is that it is not that kind of thing. A dramatic thriller (psychosexual or otherwise) must have a compelling plot and engaging characters (No Country For Old Men, The Silence Of The Lambs, Seven, The Usual Suspects). Savage Grace has neither, and it has the further misfortune of featuring perhaps the most unlikable principal cast of characters in the history of cinema.

The problem with Savage Grace is not that the subject matter is so lurid, though it is that; and it is not that the lurid subject matter is so graphically depicted (though it is that, too), nor even that such a tragic human melodrama is so melodramatically presented; rather, the problem is that why this story unfolds the way it does is but hinted at in oblique references to Brooks Baekeland’s ancestors and Barbara Baekeland’s seemingly random bouts of rage and equally random bouts of tenderness.

The audience is dropped abruptly into the early middle of the unhappy marriage of Brooks and Barbara Baekeland, two of New York’s moneyed elite in the middle twentieth century. They want for nothing but happiness, but we are not meant to understand why; and it is this unhappiness that drives their pathologies (and informs Tony’s pathology, as well), though there is precious little frame of reference to the inner demons that devour these characters. The result is that the events that unfold seem gratuitously perverse; the characters are entirely unsympathetic; and the film as a whole feels like a highly-stylized soft porn snuff film.

(One little side note on the acting: I generally adore Julianne Moore. I think she is a brilliant actress, and though her work in this film is fine, it is not her best [that would be Far From Heaven - and if you managed to miss that one, well, then...I can’t help you] - so much of what she projects feels awkward and forced [notwithstanding the fact that the subject matter in some instances necessitates this], almost as though she knows she is working with bad material and feels actively guilty about it.)