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Last Call in the Mitten (for now)

My post counter tells me that this is entry no. 313, which I think is a super coincidence, since today is move-out day from “The 313” aka Metro Detroit.

I’m certain that this is not a final goodbye from the state of Michigan, which has been a friendlier place than I could have expected over the past 4 years, and I’ve become quite loyal to in a variety of ways, such as defending Detroit itself from its national low-brow stereotype, and offering insight on the cultural differences from one part of this large state to another.

This could be the part where I get all sentimental about the journey of the last four years, and perhaps that is warranted in due course. But the main thing to remember is the process of evolution that I went through with my time in this state, where I arrived for one thing, which led to another, which led to another … all in a very natural and organic and welcoming way.

So I will close with an embrace of Michigan itself, which has the highest amount of freshwater coastline in the US and the second longest total shoreline in the country short of Alaska. There are many other perks to life here in the Great Lakes State and I feel a sense of continued appreciation and gratitude for them all.

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Mocha Latte or Not

Tim Hortons, Food Court Style

Tim Hortons, Food Court Style

Living in Michigan has brought about what could be seen as my destined interest in Tim Horton’s coffee. Destined in the sense that it’s a company I’ve been aware of for seemingly all my life, thanks to my born in Montreal father who saw Tim Horton himself play hockey and then became acquainted with their distinct dark and hearty brand of coffee, becoming a big fan and even having a plastic Tim’s cup affixed in one of his car dashboards for a period of time when I was growing up. On the couple of occasions that he and I made a point of traveling to Canada, or to Northern New England where the chain had a few outposts, it was a Big Deal to visit Tim Horton’s en route or as part of the trip.

So when I first arrived in Michigan nearly four years ago, it was an “oh, yeah” moment of realizing that Tim Horton’s was both in the neighborhood and could be easily accessed over the border in Canada as well. While I initially referred to Tim’s visits as a “making good on the proximity to Canada” – and it was – at some point they became a more regular routine, possibly around my time of living in a building that had a Tim’s on the first floor and thus I came to somewhat over-rely on at times.

Since I don’t live in that building anymore, and am now more aware as to which Tim’s locations are more consistent than others, visits to Tim’s have since turned into more of a “Where’s Waldo” or by convenience based experience.

This was true today, when I found myself in an area that has multiple Tim’s in close proximity to one another. I chose the smallest of the locations, which I have visited occasionally, and found that they were having an overloaded moment. I ought to have used the backup of cars from the drive through as a sign to go elsewhere, but I was able to get a parking space and went inside.

Despite having at least five cars in the drive-through, the interior of the store was COMPLETELY EMPTY of customers. The clerk gave me a harried expression worthy of a novel (his co-workers were hurriedly attending to the drive – through customers) and took down my order. When the order arrived, it became a humorous mistake in that he gave me two sandwiches instead of one (so there’s tomorrow’s breakfast!) and forgot about my drink. When I reminded him of it, it was on the house, since I’m pretty sure I wasn’t charged for it in the first place. Knowing the menu so well at this point – and sticking to more or less the same order – has allowed me to memorize the typical price of things or what is comboed together. The clerk and I exchanged an understanding glance again worthy of a short scene, and that was that. But definitely one of my most memorable Tim’s visits in recent memory, as it veered from the routine and had an element of surprise and unpredictability.

Relatedly, my favorite Tim’s drink, a mocha latte, recently disappeared from their advertised menu and is now considered part of their “secret menu” – I guess – because it isn’t publicized and yet they still make it. (While in Canada recently I learned that some locations have changed espresso machines entirely, accounting for that switch, but the adjustment doesn’t seem to have been carried out across the whole chain.)

Some locations in this metro Detroit area appear to be more familiar with the mocha latte than others, so that contributes to part of my guessing game with the chain, and part of the fun, admittedly, of going back to that original intention of enjoying geographic proximity to our Northern Neighbor. And also making sure that I’m fully alert for the continuing rigors of a busy lifestyle.

Audiences Await World Premieres, in Michigan

It was a special treat this week to focus again on theatregoing instead of my currently more customary filmgoing. It was also intriguing and exciting to be able to see two world premiere plays right in my (relative) backyard.

img_8280First up was a trip back out to The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, well-known for its founder, actor Jeff Daniels, and its role as a cornerstone of the economy in Chelsea, a small yet well-settled town that is more or less the end of the metro Detroit sprawl as one heads west towards Kalamazoo, Chicago and other south/westerly points. The “Rose” makes a point of presenting new work – their fall play which I had also seen was a first-time presentation – but this time they did things particularly well with a strong script and production. In fact, I feel this play was one of the best I’ve seen in the entirety of my nearly four years living in Michigan.

Smart Love told a relatable story of a recent widow, Sandy, who at first glance appears to be doing OK at getting on with her life following the recent death of her husband. We’re introduced to her in the midst of a night spent with new boyfriend Victor at her home, said to be in the Detroit area. Just when things seem like they’re going to continue in a pleasingly domestic manner, Sandy’s son Benji appears at the door, urgently knocking and urging his mother to let him inside, even though it’s the middle of the night and they haven’t seen each other for a number of months. Benji is a scientific researcher at MIT (coincidental for me as a Massachusetts native) and chooses to come back to Michigan as he is eager to share some new creative developments related to his career and research.

And the story unspools from there, in surprising and often thought-provoking directions. Never going too far into the provocation category, the play stays in realistic gravity thanks to Kamoo, one of this area’s finest actresses IMO, who sells every moment from surprise to tenderness to anger to contemplation and beyond. The rest of the cast holds strong with the material and the twists and turns of the story. The key dramatic questions stay grounded in humane and familial realism, which was helpful to me as an audience member.

The second show of the weekend enabled a very belated first visit to Matrix Theatre Company in southwest Detroit. This group is thoroughly grounded in the tight-knit community of the city, and I’d intended to attend one of their shows on a couple times during the past few years, but didn’t make it until now. This play, Intentions, by Abbey Fenbert, looked at a small community of residents in an intentional living house outside Chicago. I wondered at times how the drama would reveal itself, and at multiple occasions the scenarios reminded me of the on-campus housing environments at my own college, where issues of green living, creating with purpose, entanglements with housemates and questions of how to conduct oneself in the outside world are often hot topics.

A mostly youthful five person ensemble cast keeps the tables turning on each other, and the script knew how to keep things fresh without falling into tropes of just two people talking or the scene going on too long. While some story elements were fairly predictable in my eyes, there was an appealing continued emphasis on nuances and the value of relationships. Several scene transitions carried the story along in its silent moments, as well.

Overall an appealing pair of newer plays, each with their own quirks and appeal, that I’ll continue to remember and appreciate for their origins right here in Michigan.

On the Road Again – and Again

In my current travel mode I’ve decided to make an effort to blog more. So I wrote this a few days ago attempting to recap the initial driving on the road experience of this summer.

I spend a lot of time looking forward to traveling, but I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on traveling. But maybe that will change with this summer on the road. I’m writing this from almost as far south as one can go in the USA, just 100 miles or so from Miami and the end of the road.

It was a fun challenge to come down here from Michigan and do the trip almost entirely on the same road, Interstate 75, which extends up the middle-center of the country from just outside Miami to the Canadian border at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. I, of course, know the road particularly well in the Detroit area, and had encountered portions of its Florida path before.

This time, the decision to travel southbound included significant stretches of Kentucky and Tennessee, two states I’d never set foot in before, and (in going through them it is) now bringing my remaining states yet to visit to just four, with the lower 48 set to be clinched next month. I expected to see more pastoral farmland than I did in Kentucky, and I wished I’d had more time to explore the surroundings of the area. Nonetheless, both Kentucky and Tennessee offered a surprising (to the visitor) range of pastoral mountain scenery, similar to what I know from the northern reaches of back home in New England. (It also served as a reminder that my car is not the best one for mountain environments.)

Road scene captured during Lexington, Kentucky area rush hour.

Road scene captured during Lexington, Kentucky area rush hour.

This rugged environment continued farther south into Georgia than I expected before abruptly giving way to the Atlanta area sprawl. Well, maybe the gradual widening of the highway was a clue, but the sudden merging of two major highways brought traffic to a full stop. As the traffic inched forward again, the exits revealed a veritable golden highway of tourist attractions. Carter Center! Turner Center! MLK Jr National Historic Site! Downtown Atlanta itself! If I’d had more time, I would have arranged to explore a few of those places. But it will have to wait for some other opportunity.

As for Florida, the state is “open for business” as the sign at its welcome center proudly proclaims. In a cute touch, they even offered free orange juice at the center, with an attendant cheerfully handing the beverage out (in a small cup) to anyone who wanted it. I needed the fortification when, an hour or so later, the clear skies abruptly gave way to rain so heavy it was like a flash flood. The deluge continued for maybe 10-15 minutes and I turned off the stereo to concentrate solely on navigation. In this case I was grateful for my small car and easy maneuvering from the slower to middle lane. It was a relief to see the rain go away and I needed to pull off at the next big town, Gainesville, to recover from the excitement.

It was rush hour in Gainesville and the stop served as a quick redux of a city I wouldn’t have expected to get to know over the past few years; this brief stop was my third time there in the past three months. The main commercial area near the highway has undergone modest to sizable changes since the first time I was there in 2012, with increasing emphasis on sprawl and congestion, which looks unlikely to change anytime soon. Because of the heavy traffic I was unable to look for a “cheap” gas price and had to settle for the currently high $2.34 per gallon, which was clearly an overage from what other stations were offering.

The process of making a long trip quickly and succinctly reminded me of the value of Intentional Traveling, where there is value in taking a quick look at a map before you get underway and deciding on a tentative outline of where and how frequently to stop on the way to your destination. I will be following that mode as summer on the road continues.

Changing lanes of a thoroughfare

It’s coming up to one year ago that I first ventured east on Mack Avenue in Detroit beyond the comfortable confines of the city’s midtown district. At that time, the street seemed to be a forlorn and past its prime place. The feeling was likely accentuated by that day’s last snow of the season, a sensation I have recalled in the past couple of days with similarly cold weather and mild amounts of end of season snowfall.

But what really intrigues me is the total 180 degree turn in impressions of Mack Avenue in the year since. I now drive at least a segment of the road on a (week)daily basis for my regular commute, but the length of time spent on the street has gotten progressively shorter as my displeasure with the street has increased. It seems there’s no other street in Detroit that is essentially a very wide one lane road (well, there are a few, but they’re not on my regular itineraries except one other) – and drivers that constantly disregard the rules of said road and pass you on the right and then come to an abrupt stop. I’ll admit that I’ve joined this game on a few occasions – if you can’t beat them, join them – but my underlying displeasure with the road itself (not to mention its potholes, poor paving and other peculiarities) means that I limit my time engaging with it to as little as possible.

And yet, all of this is in stark contrast to that wide open desolate feeling of just one year ago.

My Yelp page is more of a blog than my own blog these days

  • 4870 Cass Ave
    Detroit, MI 48201
    3/23/2016

    I’m glad this establishment has joined the ranks of area dining destinations, but I’m not sure it was worth the nearly two years of anticipation. (Signs advertising the restaurant have been in place since at least the middle of 2014.)

    I’ve visited here for a handful of meals since their opening in late February, and have decided I need to take a break at this point, with the possibility of a revisit in a month or so. Not because their service has been poor to me – though there was one occasion where a long line formed not long after I placed my order – but because the novelty and excitement of a mac and cheese restaurant has worn off faster than I expected. i recognize that I’d previously enjoyed their countertop offerings at Somerset and Great Lakes Crossing, but, those were experiences that only happened around once per month.

    The menu offerings that I have tried have kept up the hearty consistency that I found in their other locations, with the “four cheese” and “pesto mac” being particular personal favorites. The dine-in environment is colorful and welcoming, but could clearly use a little more thought, not only in terms of how and where customers wait, but also how to dispose of trash and if the seating can be mixed up a little.

    It’s fun that they offer some “brewz” in addition to the standard menu, but I’ve noticed that the servers have seemed a bit befuddled regarding how that section operates, so I hope they develop a clearer distinction or simply better integration between the main menu and the libations. And that they are willing to buckle up and make things work for lasting in the neighborhood!

  • 4830 Cass Ave
    Detroit, MI 48201

    Dependable if not fantastic destination serving Mediterranean fare mostly to the campus crowd. I’ve been living and working near here for a while, but paid little attention to the restaurant until last fall, over a year into my stint in the area. I think I would have enjoyed it if I had noticed it sooner.

    The restaurant places particular emphasis on the freshness of their food, for the most part, so I’d advise an eat-in experience over the take-out. As well, the take-out options can be annoyingly overly wrapped, which decreases from their freshness in the case of the fries and leads to spillage with some of the wrap sandwiches. Take the time to get to know the servers if you are coming here regularly, as they are personable and happy to help.

  • 50675 Gratiot Ave
    Chesterfield, MI 48051

    3/23/2016

    I found this theatre to be disappointing after getting to know other (newer) MJR locations in Troy, Clinton and Sterling Heights. While MJR is always endearing to the community with its great theme song and affordable pricing, this theatre suffers from a tight layout and currently a literally in-between status as it converts to those roomier seating arrangements that are taking over the industry. The location is relatively convenient in that it’s close to I-94 and various shopping attractions, but I’m not sure I’d come again.

  • 2124 Michigan Ave
    Detroit, MI 48216

    I’ve made a couple of visits here in the past year, and can’t shake an impression of it being overly hipster pretentious for its own good. If the space was larger and had a better sense of crowd control, plus built-in wifi for customers, I might think higher of it.

    I have enjoyed some of their food products, including the particularly good egg sandwiches and some other baked goods, but haven’t felt inclined to stay and enjoy or linger since the crowds tend to be large. It is worth noting that the business is an anchor of the Corktown district and certainly offers appealing local flavor if you’re willing to try it.

  • 2200 W Lafayette Blvd
    Detroit, MI 48216

    3/23/2016

    Recently made a belated first visit here. One of the most tasteful places I’ve discovered in Detroit, with a delightful and extensive array of sliders, all very inexpensively priced. I also tried the New England clam chowder, since I hail from that part of the country, but felt it should have a different name since that dish is NOT meant to have red sauce and more of a potato emphasis.

    The service here was on the slow side – how long can it take to make a small slider? – and one might suggest they should have a better system to get things all sorted out than the array of visible slips on the kitchen window. But that wasn’t a total negative for the visit and I could see myself coming here again if the occasion presented itself. Extra points for the provided parking, too, and not having to do awkward searches on the street.

  • 151 E Wacker Dr
    Chicago, IL 60601

    3/20/2016

    One of the most full service hotels I’ve ever visited and in a perfect location to take advantage of downtown Chicago. Very generously sized single room, practically double the size of what the “average” might be, and a good range of resources within the hotel to take advantage of, including a fitness center, general store, conference rooms, and several dining options.

    I get that they are trying to maximize the efficiency with an automated check-in system, and it worked fine for me, but they might want to consider having staff members more clearly visible for questions and helping the visitors, perhaps in a clearly marked information desk type area.

    No trouble with the hotel wifi (just enter your name and room number) or any of the additional customer offerings at the hotel. The lobby itself has more of an airport feel since it is so busy, but it is welcoming and does the job well of treating guests to a comfortable base for all that Chicago has to offer!

  • 643 Hastings Ave
    Holland, MI 49423

    3/20/2016

    Generally I appreciate the modest aesthetic of Microtels and that’s why I chose this place to stay in during a brief visit to Holland this weekend.

    The location is odd: close to route 31, but not much activity going on around the hotel, and the downtown and other regional attractions are a driveable, not walking distance away. The room I was assigned on the second floor offered the typical layout of the chain, with a generously sized bed, but smaller surrounding area in the room. It did have the nice window nook that I have particularly enjoyed at other Microtels.

    As someone who can be sensitive to light in dark places, I didn’t appreciate that the in-room satellite dish seemed to not have an “off” option, so that it created a constant blue light in the room even when lights were off, which was magnified by the in-room mirror. It’s possible I did not find the off switch, but, not everyone watches or needs TV.

    The included breakfast was OK the next morning, with a good range of basic pastries, fruit and yogurt, although the waffle machine was running low on its mix.

  • 4202 SW 40th Blvd
    Gainesville, FL 32608

    No frills and literally on the edge of town next to the highway, but seems to have good character and good value for the price. Staff also seem relatable and not pretentious or looking down at you.

  • 5295 International Dr.
    Orlando, FL 32819

    Possibly the most well stocked Ross I have ever been in! (I have been deprived lately since the company is not present in my current home state of Michigan.)

    I’m sure I fell right into their target consumer mode this morning, stopping by right when they opened (at 8:30am, perfect to keep the day going on a good start) to stock up on a few additional travel supplies and apparel items. If I wasn’t on a tight schedule, I probably would have stayed to browse longer and see what additional deals I could find.

  • 8001 International Drive
    Orlando, FL 32819

    3/14/2016

    Stayed here last night and felt that the place was serviceable but didn’t really know what it wanted to be. It presents a “resort” atmosphere but it is right on the corner of a very busy stretch of Orlando. My rate, admittedly negotiated through a third party site, was just a room and nothing else such as breakfast included. The grounds are nice if one looks at them a certain way (not facing the sprawl of International Drive) and does not have to walk too far. I found the floors to be quite thin as well, and could hear my upstairs neighbors in building 7 stomping well into the night. The place is not terrible, but it’s not as appealing as the name branding and other advertising led me to believe it might be. And I couldn’t believe they wanted me to pay extra for wifi – get with the times!

Focusing in on the Minutiae

Some blogs do a great job of focusing in on the little details, the big moments in their author’s memories that seem to stand out in their author’s memories. Or maybe they have been embellished for detail and only the author knows the truth. In any case, this is a detail that I feel like my writing is only periodically successful with, and it’s something I’d like to work on. So I present this entry in a deliberately more active style.

Today, the Monday before Thanksgiving break, had that “ehh…” feeling that most Mondays tend to have. It was likely amplified for a variety of reasons, including our impending time off from the academic calendar (which will start tomorrow night for me), the sense of just hanging around after my midday class concluded, and, broadly, Michigan’s sudden shift back into winter weather this weekend, with up to a foot of snow in some parts of the state, and a relatively mild dusting here in metro Detroit.

Two brief interactions over the course of my day (which hasn’t ended yet, so there could be more!) made me feel like I had an invisible “(YOU CAN) TALK TO ME!” stamp on my face.

A recent morning view from Tim Horton's

A recent morning view from Tim Horton’s

In the first instance, I ordered my usual beverage at my on-the-way-to-work Tim Horton’s (where I’ve just recently crossed over into being “a familiar customer”), and an older man in his 40’s or 50’s was sitting near the counter. He suddenly started talking to me about gas prices and how it is notable that Michigan prices have recently fallen to around $1.75 per gallon or higher (which completes a cycle of up then down that started at the beginning of this calendar year.) I replied with some standard conversation and seemed to surprise him when I said the lowest gas prices I remember are around 89 cents per gallon in the late 1990’s.

I’d also like to note my impressed feeling that this Tim Horton’s location is often a hangout for US-Canadian Border Patrol officers.

In the second instance, I’m in my work elevator, which is generally the usual spot for awkward silences, since it draws a mixture of faculty and students. The fellow passenger actually engaged me in conversation, and I don’t remember what it was about! I do remember a similar instance sometime last week where the elevator briefly stopped in its path and seemed to be deciding whether to actually get stuck or continue, (it did proceed) – but the next day, the power went out in the building for at least an hour, and I wondered if that was a precursor.

Maple Theatre

Visiting the Bloomfield Great Lakes Coffee (inside the Maple Theatre), January 2015

A detailed blog post could be written about the venue where I am writing at this moment, known as the Great Lakes Coffee Company. It is a small chain of fair trade coffee shops in the metro Detroit region, and this location also has a beer and wine license. In the past I have enjoyed another of their locations adjacent to The Maple Theatre in Bloomfield Hills, where I took the picture displayed here at one of their very classy jazz evenings, but it is no longer as convenient a trip for me in my current living arrangement.

Nonetheless, this location on Woodward Avenue in Detroit could easily be seen as a hipster capital of Detroit, and I once heard it referred to as “capital of the New Detroit” (though I forget who or what said that) – meaning that the people who have flocked to Detroit within the past 5 years are more likely to turn up here than long-time residents. A friend says that the venue once served as a music club, and it’s easy to see its roots with exposed brick walls and rough hardwood floors. For a time I felt like I was watching the place change, as it instituted an awkward reserved seating policy involving hosts and table service, and seemed to want to deliberately elevate itself to a fast-casual type of place. I also felt like I didn’t particularly want to associate with that “new Detroit” energy (although I admit I could be seen as part of that same crowd) coming here and being seen, just because.

But … things seem more relaxed this time around, and it’s only the second or third time I’ve been here since returning to Detroit for the school year. I can’t tell if this is a permanent relaxation or increased comfort among the venue itself, but I think it does warrant a return visit sometime down the road.

The Road Geek Returns

US 101

With a familiar highway in California

This week has seen a sudden return to my “old habits” of geeking out about road related matters, specifically road signs. I’d love to know when and where this attraction originated… but it’s been a fascination as long as I can remember, most notably with a long-running childhood project of drawing exit signs.

In this regard it’s exciting to live in Michigan, with its oh-so-slightly different standards of signage to the rest of the US – if anything, more close to European standards than you find elsewhere in this country. Some examples of this include the angular directional signs that are sometimes seen on highways going in different directions (one good example being here on the way into Ann Arbor) and a general penchant for smaller, angular signs that say what they need to say in a more compact orientation than one might find in another state. Finally, those same signs often don’t indicate the cardinal direction of the route, as I memorably captured in the photo below at an earlier point this year.

IMG_1222

BUT, all of this interest in signs somehow generated itself from growing up in Massachusetts, which has its own infamous system of highways that were designed one way and then went another, courtesy of the freeway revolts of the 1970’s and a (rightly) growing sentiment that the region shouldn’t be decimated by a ring of urban highways tearing apart neighborhoods.

The highway to my hometown in Massachusetts

The highway to my hometown in Massachusetts

So this renewed fascination has taken me onto a few highway forums, most notably this one, from which I learned that Massachusetts plans to belatedly convert all of its highway exits to mile-marker based, as opposed to sequential, over the next year or so.

I feel like there should be more to say about my home state catching up to the rest of the country in this regard. But … it’s all well and good. And I’ll believe it when I see it.

Blogging is an Art

One of my cousins started a blog. And it’s not simply a commentary blog, it’s a detailed personal blog about life in the Big Apple. I’m not sure I would want to do the same thing for life in Detroit and surroundings, but it does remind me of what I call “the old days” of blogging, first when a long update on life via LiveJournal – sometimes several times per week – was the norm, later in a more public blog off and on for a few years, then morphing into Twitter updates that continue through to this day, and finally embracing the increasingly verbose and visually sophisticated art of Facebook status updates, which now IMO are currently more about the art of the “share” from another source, and less about the actual written status of the friend.

All of which to say is that this blog was originally intended as a way to “go back” to the habit of a more detailed description of daily life, and since its creation in 2009, I’ve come back to that objective periodically. But recently, for one reason or another – starting with no internet in the place I lived over the summer, and then going into a new residence from there and choosing not to have internet – this blog has felt more distant. It’s time to correct that!

SO, this weekend I spent a good deal of time in Canada, which I generally like to do, since it is literally right down the street and there are many subtle, fun cultural differences in going just over the border. At some point I became aware that the artistic culture is different as well, and I also learned that the Canadian film culture is occasionally ahead of the game from its US counterparts, as in a film is released earlier or simply comes to the area but doesn’t come to southeastern Michigan. And this fact is the most apparent when the Windsor Film Festival rolls around for another year, as it did this past week.

On the final day yesterday, the festival director excitedly noted that 17,000 tickets were sold during the five day event, a new record for their offerings. Three of those tickets were from me for three distinct films.

45 years posterFirst up on Friday night was 45 Years, a buzz-building drama expected to be rolled out in the US around Christmas. Star Charlotte Rampling is also expected to factor in the end of year awards season conversation for her role in this film. She plays Kate, a retired schoolteacher living in rural Norfolk, England, with her husband, Geoff. The couple is mere days away from their 45th wedding anniversary as the film opens, and due to some health problems they experienced five years before, they’ve decided to host a large scale celebration this time. The drama gets going when Geoff receives an unexpected reminder of his past, and the narrative moves forward from there.

I notice that the synopsis sounds more like a mystery or horror film, and 45 Years very much treads in that realm at times during its 95 or so minute running time. A crucial choice made by director Andrew Haigh involves leaving many details to the viewer’s imagination and almost nothing spelled out in the narrative. That is something that I greatly approve of in film storytelling, and is yet all too rarely seen!

It’s not a surprise that Rampling (whom I had the pleasure of seeing perform onstage in 2004, sort-of met after the show, and owe my appreciation of her work to this Avengers episode) ably carries the film on her veteran shoulders. But it was refreshing to see her drop a certain steely demeanor she’s become known for IMO in some of her recent roles over the past 5-10 years – she was believable as a person who enjoys the more relaxed side of life, and life in retirement phase. But when her husband’s surprising news affects her as well, there are many questions and she conveys the lonely confusion and disarray that envelops the character’s life.

As for the other two films, I’ll have to do a separate entry.

Throwback Thursday: Reflecting on the Scream Series

Four years ago I was very excited that there was a new “Scream” film. I didn’t note at the time that it had coincidentally been filmed right here in Michigan. I wasn’t living here at the time but had learned of the filming from local friends.

I’m having some giddy enthusiasm over the prospect of seeing SCREAM 4 today at the movies. I’m sure this is due to the memory of the SCREAM series being a big deal “back in the day” and the curiosity of seeing if this film lives up to its predecessors. I’m deliberately holding off reading any reviews of the film and will do so after seeing it. In a few other recent film-going experiences (BLACK SWAN comes to mind) I regretted taking a close look at the publicity before seeing the film.

I never saw the original SCREAM in the cinemas …. in fact, I don’t think it was originally released to the North Shore. This was before the Danvers 20 screen megaplex opened, and screening options were limited. I do remember the runaway success of the film, and watching with interest as it continued to be shown well into mid 1997. I do miss those days of long running movie hits, as the screen to DVD window is so tight now, it’s almost better to wait for the video. I did find out recently that the original film was shot in my area of California. A friend of a friend had a small supporting role. The climax of the film was shot at a house which I have driven by a few times, without realizing its so-called historical significance.

SCREAM 2 was another story. This time, it was a big deal to see the film as soon as it came out, and I eagerly compared impressions with my classmates. My dad and I were regular visitors to the Solomon Pond Mall cinema in Marlborough, MA. This complex had achieved local acclaim as “New England’s first stadium seating megaplex” and was virtually unique for the first 6 months to 1 year of operations. Hoyts quickly opened similar complexes in nearby Westborough and Bellingham, but there was something special about the first space. Or it could have been “never as good as the first time” for film goers. I think I actually saw the film again a few weeks later in Vermont, either sneaking in to the R-rated movie or going with an accompanying adult. The “live” nature of seeing it on opening weekend, with a full sold out audience also looking at it for the first time, stands out very clearly in my memory. It also helped that it was on an enormous cinema screen with stadium seating and perfect presentation.

SCREAM 3 was also a unique experience. This time, we traveled to the Showcase Cinemas in Randolph for my first (and still only) visit to that South Shore megaplex. I could tell from the start that the enthusiasm wasn’t there for the production team in this installment. Neve Campbell’s virtual absence from the story, and the overly tongue in cheek Hollywood nature of the script, suggested to me that there was not a lot of excitement in the tale.

What will SCREAM 4 bring? I’m looking forward to going over to the Larkspur Landing Cinema this afternoon to find out.