Category Archives: Documentaries

Catching up with My Friend Dean

IMG_2081Well I’ve seen four movies in the last two weeks. I guess I really am failing at me trying to be me in 2016 when I was watching the equivalent of a movie a day.

In reality, toward the end of the DLM Challenge, weekends would mean watching several movies in one day and thinking that if things went south during “Sleepwalk With Me” my obit writer from The New York Times could at least lead with “She died doing what she loved.”

For those of you fascinated with The New York Times, (see also “Page One: Inside the New York Times), there is a new documentary with an inside look at the obits department … wait for it … “Obit,” and the process the writers use to have information on those who are still with us at the ready to publish when they become the opposite. Two of the film’s subjects, Bruce Weber and Margalit Fox, were recently interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Even if you can’t stand her voice like me, it’s a good listen. Good news, “Obit” is coming soon to the Lagoon Cinema and there are several other screenings listed on the film’s website.

I also saw a sold-out screening of “Dean,” Demetri Martin’s first feature film at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Festival.

Judging from the crowd and audience’s reaction, and its festival buzz, this film will make the rounds at independent theaters again this summer.

Martin stars in the film as Dean, a wayward writer coping with his mother’s death and how his father is coping with it by selling the family home. Dean runs away to Los Angeles to work on his book only to find old and new friends and a healthy dose of complicated romance. The mix of sadness and comedy in the film seemed a little uneven at times, to the point where you may forget what the premise of the story is, but maybe that’s the point. Who really wants to think about what’s making them sad when they can go on impromptu road trips and chill at the beach?

The film is also illustrated with Martin’s own drawings to depict Dean’s feelings, which adds to the distance from his struggle with processing mortality (for the viewer) while you see him try to woo Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) at a party in LA.

The mortality theme comes back with full force in the end, ultimately making the whole audience cry, from what I could tell. That said, you may want to watch “Dean” at home and really let it all out. Then you can watch some of his stand-up comedy as a palate cleanser.

I returned to the film festival the next night for a Finnish film “Little Wing” and a Q&A with the lead actress Paula Vesala.

It also stars Linnea Skog as the young girl in the film, Varpu, struggling with her own independence while in some ways taking care of her mother. Varpu defines her independence by stealing a car and driving overnight to find her birth father.

That journey ultimately brings Varpu and her mother closer together. Vesala talked about the music she wrote for the film and the connection between the title “Little Wing” and a Jimi Hendrix song of the same name. Skog, who is 12, won the Finnish Academy Award for her performance and it’s one that deserves more attention in the United States if the film gets distribution here. Unfortunately Vesala said they’ve struggled with video on demand rights and other streaming distribution, but if you can find it I definitely recommend this film. I also listened to the song “Little Wing” today and can see the connection and inspiration between the lyrics and the character of Varpu.

“Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairly tales

That’s all she ever thinks about

Riding the wind

When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles
She gives to me free

It’s alright, she says
It’s alright
Take anything you want from me

Fly on, little wing.”

The story has a happy ending overall, so you shouldn’t need any comedic relief after watching it.

If you need some anyway try Pete Holmes’ new special on HBO “Faces and Sounds” or Maria Bamford’s “Old Baby” on Netflix.

I ordered a T-shirt I am going to try to incorporate into my wardrobe … not pajamas … just because Bamford’s special is so wonderfully uncomfortable and brilliant comedy.


I’ve watched “Faces and Sounds” twice now and will again because with Pete Holmes, joy is everywhere.

It’s also the perfect follow up to any episode of season 2 of “Fargo,” or anything from “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos” in case you’re still catching up on those. For me, each episode of “Fargo” is 45 minutes of worrying that Jesse Plemons’ character is going to be brutally murdered. Landry Clarke CANNOT Die. Wait, wrong show, but you know what I mean.

Last thing (I am not in the best writing mood today and my usual perfect transitions are just not coming to me) there is a podcast for all of you Fargoheads “Aw Jeez: A Fargo Podcast” that analyzes each episode based on historical accuracy, the actors’ Minnesota accents and a view hidden plot points.

Okay, that is all for today. Bye!





A Pod, a Pod, a Pod for You

IMG_1780Hello? Is this the Podcasts Anonymous support group?

I am sure (or hope) that I am not alone here in saying that I listen to — hold on let me turn off this episode of Spontaneanation — podcasts all the time (when I’m showering — a distraction that I am sure increases my likelihood of being murdered by a serial killer, just like in the movies —  driving, cleaning, as a saving grace when I have to shop at any large retailer on a weekend, etc.) I am also sure I’ve mentioned this fact before and you may consider this a cry for help or take it as a recommendation to join in the fun, at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Seriously, you’re going to develop an addiction from this.

Still here? Okay.

I’ll listen to anything movie or improv-comedy related and I certainly dabble in the true crime and newsy stuff from time-to-time. I’m mostly looking for any show that can serve as an escape from the real world for about an hour, or 10.

My latest obsession is the Craig’s List Podcast, which actually combines movies and a little improv comedy. As a basis for the show, Craig and Carla Cackowski are working their way through Craig’s 100 favorite movies of all time and then discuss them on air. They have guest hosts from the comedy world from time to time and at the end of each episode perform an improv comedy scene based on the film they watched.

The list covers the gamut in film genres and I’m pleased to say I’ve actually seen a lot of Craig’s favorites, from classics to comedy and documentaries to biopics and horror films.

The latest episode combines classics and horror to dissect Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” with special guest composer Jonathan Dinerstein providing comedic and musical accompaniment.

He joined the show to talk about the score that adds the tension and fright to “Psycho” and even plays tidbits of it on the piano in the background.

They also discussed a new documentary about the film “78/52,” which cuts into the intricacies of the infamous shower scene directed by Hitchcock.

I think I know what my next double feature will be. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen “Psycho,” but it’s one of the films with scenes I remember the most from my formative years as a movie lover and Craig’s List took me right back to that place.

Some of my other favorite episodes include their discussion of “Se7en” (Craig does a killer impersonation of Morgan Freeman,) “Diner,” (a lot of factoids about Baltimore in this one,) “It Happened One Night,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Rushmore.”

Follow Craig’s List Podcast on Twitter to catch up on their episodes and the coming attractions.

In other news, I haven’t watched any movies (in their entirety) in the last week, but I do recommend “Afternoon Delight” starring Kathryn Hahn and Jessica St. Clair. Rachel (Hahn), after a night at strip club with her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor), Stephanie (St. Clair) and her husband Bo (Keegan-Michael Key), befriends one of the dancers (Juno Temple) and eventually takes her in as their live-in nanny.

The film takes a plot line that could be your average raunchy sex comedy and strips it down (sorry) to a story focused on the characters and their happiness, much like “The Overnight.”

As Dr. Steve Brule would say, Check it Out!

Okay, (as John Hodgman would say – more or less) I think that is all for today.

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is on its way in a matter of days and I need to pick out what I want to try to see this year. There are hundreds of options and I’ve missed going to the event the past couple of years.

It may seriously take away from my podcast time, but if I’m lucky they’ll be showing a movie about podcasts.








Movie Week in Review: Spies and Romance

audreyhepburn-carygrant-charadeBig news from last week, I made it to movie 100! The film I watched wasn’t exactly what I intended to for such a milestone in this challenge; but after yet another stressful day at the office I wanted to see something at the theater I also work at (a place that is oddly calming for me) and unwind a bit.

The First Monday in May, a documentary about the celebrity-filled Met Gala organized to raise money for exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is for the most part an entertaining glimpse at art, fashion and film while presenting a small argument that they are one in the same. The curator for the exhibit at the center of the documentary and Met Gala hubbub, Andrew Bolton, said fashion especially should be considered as art and wanted to reflect that in his display of outfits and costumes inspired by Chinese culture.

Documentaries can be hit or miss and I will say this one perhaps could have went deeper into its subject matter and the development of the exhibit vs. the seating arrangement of famous people at the Met Gala and Anna Wintour wearing her sunglasses indoors. Those topics were a bit superficial to cover, while the portions of the film that provided a peek into her work on the Met board while leading Vogue and Bolton’s lifelong dream to be a museum curator were worth the coverage and left me wanting more. My favorite part (yes other than Rihanna’s appearance and the awkward moment with Larry David on the red carpet), was also a brief mention of how fashion was part of film in Chinese history and cinema’s influence in Bolton’s exhibit. If you want to check out more work by director Andrew Rossi, I (although I’m little bit biased here because of my former career as a journalist) prefer Page One: Inside the New York Times. The First Monday in May is a visual accomplishment in documentary film making, but lacks a little bit on the storytelling side.

Moving on, Charade, mixed with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, started a theme of movies about spies and romance during the week also including An Affair to Remember and Badlands (minus the spies and plus a very dark and unsettling “love story.”)

MCDCOOF EC032Charade is one of the top films I’ve watched this year now and I really loved the build to the true dynamic between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant’s characters as well as the secrets behind her husband’s death, his identity and the money at the center of everyone’s trust issues. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, from George Clooney and Charlie Kaufman, takes the memoir of game show host Chuck Barris to explore his rumored time as a CIA operative and how he balanced that with career and his love with Penny (Drew Barrymore.) In addition to being funny and mysterious, the film is visually on par using angles, close-ups on its characters and artistic technique to further tell the story. I’ve always liked Sam Rockwell, and this could be his best work that I’ve seen. He embodies Barris’ persona, yet makes it look effortless.

Badlands has the visual appeal carried by Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but the more I think about it, the harder it is to say I like the film. I think that’s because the characters, primarily Martin Sheen as a murderous wayward soul from the wrong side of the tracks, are so dark and nonchalant about their actions that I found it very hard to relate to them on any level. I often associate films with how they make me feel and memories of when or where I watched them in addition to their cinematic quality, so Badlands is hard to fit into that complete picture. That said, Sheen and Sissy Spacek are dynamic together on screen as forbidden lovers whose characters are loosely based on a real-life couple on a crime spree that ends in the badlands of South Dakota. I think the film must have also inspired True Romance (definitely one of my favorite films of all time), if nothing else through the use of this song as Clarence and Alabama embark on their own crime spree.

I switched from romance and crime in the beginning of the week to a healthy balance of comedy, space, science and a little horror to make it to movie 106 on Saturday. Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar is worth the three hours of time and will keep you guessing as to what will happen; especially in the last hour. I think, while I haven’t seen every space-themed movie, it’s one of the most (pardon the overuse) visually-appealing while being scientific, emotional and plus Matt Damon is in it. MATT DAMON!

I feel as though I am rambling at this point, but I do want to cover my last two entries of the week spanning the comedy-horror-parody genres: Best in Show and The Final Girls.

Christopher Guest’s look at the world of dog shows, in a “mockumentary” style, is pretty flawless and I could watch Parker Posey’s meltdowns over her dog and issues with her husband all day. I know nothing about the dog show world, but Guest seems to be spot on in his depiction while adding just the right amount of drama and quirk to his characters while they fight to be Best in Show.

Finally (bad segue) The Final Girls … one of many horror movie parody/tributes (think The Cabin in the Woods or even Scream) out there takes it to another level with a movie-in-a-movie format where the characters are challenged to find their way out by following the classic plot points used in the genre. Thomas Middleditch’s performance was my favorite in the film and it overall delivers a unique addition to what can be an overly-formulaic genre of movies.

Up next this week I am going to explore more Cary Grant films and want to collect enough titles to go on a binge of sports movies. There are a lot in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (sadly Major League isn’t one of them) so it’s time I expand my horizons in that regard. I welcome any recommendations.

“When you are young, your potential is infinite. You might do anything, really. You might be Einstein. You might be DiMaggio. Then you get to an age where what you might be gives way to what you have been. You weren’t Einstein. You weren’t anything. That’s a bad moment.”

Chuck Barris – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

82 of 366: City of Gold


It’s my dream, or one of them, to go to Los Angeles one day and see all the famous comedy venues, Largo, UCB, Comedy Store, Nerdist; and now, thanks to the documentary City of Gold, I know where to eat while I am there.

The documentary focuses on food critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold as he navigates his way through the different culinary neighborhoods of Los Angeles for the purpose of honoring good food from many regions while showing there is more to offer beyond Hollywood Boulevard; if you’re willing to search for it.

As food trucks become more and more popular, all you would have to do in LA is follow the owners and popular chefs like Roy Choi on Twitter to find their location and the hot menu item of the day.

Gold, writing for the Los Angeles Times and formerly LA Weekly, is known in the culinary world as a fair critic. Chefs want him to come to their restaurant, but deep down hope he doesn’t strictly to avoid the angst of knowing someone is judging their work. We’ve all been there, right?

At least the chefs, from all parts of the world and culinary influences, can rest assured Gold will visit a restaurant four to five times before writing a review; often why he misses his deadlines at the newspaper.

Gold discovers mom-and-pop restaurants, gourmet food trucks hidden on a corner downtown and world-class shops throughout the city. The documentary only skims the surface of the restaurateurs’ stories; perhaps that could be the sequel.

One year early in Gold’s career he “ate Pico Boulevard,” meaning he tried every restaurant along the 15 mile roadway.

I could try to hit a few of those hot spots when I go to LA, in hopes they are near a comedy club.

I would say City of Gold is more of a literary and storytelling achievement rather than one of high cinematic caliber because of how many threads of Gold’s life and work, as well as the city, filmmaker Laura Gabbert managed to fit into 90 minutes.

Gabbert, though interviews with Gold, his family, many other journalists and chefs, covered the definition of food criticism, how restaurant owners find their way to Los Angeles and the underlying character beneath Gold’s writing.

I recommend the film for its glimpse into the hidden treasures of the city of Los Angeles and people making their life there; and as I said for some tips about restaurants to try if you’re planning a comedic tour like me anytime soon.

Another plus of the film and Gold’s favorite eateries: it seems most of the restaurants and food trucks he tries are affordable. Just don’t leave your wallet in El Segundo.




71 of 366: Finding Vivian Maier


Movies are magical and depictions of art in many different ways. As a documentary, Finding Vivian Maier embodies those characteristics telling the story of the subject in such a way that it feels like you are learning about her at the same time the filmmakers are.

At times the filmmakers, mainly writer and director John Maloof, share information they learned about Maier with people live on camera, thus amplifying the effect of their reaction as it happened.

Maier was a photographer working as a nanny and housekeeper and Maloof, on a whim, purchased some of her negatives at an auction.

The negatives were enough of a glimpse at Maier, her life and work, to lead Maloof on a mission to find out who she was and why she was that way through studying hundreds of thousands of photographs, letters, tapes and more.

Maier had a lot of secrets, even in the way she took photographs of unsuspecting subjects on the street, that people in her life didn’t even know until she passed away.

The study of her work and person in Maloof’s film shows a woman who would have only wanted the attention after she died, or she would have tried to make a career out of her photography.

Films about art and artists are especially interesting to me because they are also an art form in themselves and the two combined, with Finding Vivian Maier as a perfect example, are beautiful to watch.

She is described as eccentric, private, mysterious yet with a dark side from her past that presented a share of struggles as she tried to go through life unnoticed but also to be loved in some way.

Finding Vivian Maier can be considered a tragedy because she never got to experience what other people saw in her work, but again Maloof through his research and those who did know her said she would have preferred it that way.

The film, streaming on Netflix, is worth watching to see Maloof uncover a brilliant artist while at the same time develop his art and a little-known (at least for me) story uncovered over time.

“I supposed nothing is meant to last forever.”

Vivian Maier.






52 of 366: The Look of Silence





I thought The Act of Killing was a dark and disturbing first-hand depiction of the genocide in Indonesia in 1965, then I watched The Look of Silence.

The Look of Silence is a sequel to Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, which focuses on the perspective of murderous leaders asked to tell or re-enact how they killed many people suspected to be communists.

The second film in the series turns the tables as one of the families victimized by the killings seeks to find those responsible, in particular for the death of their brother and son, Ramli.

Seeking the truth and a sense that the killers feel any responsibility and regret for what they did, Abi interviews many death squad leaders and those who ultimately took his brother’s life.

Abi’s mother fears they will take her other son’s life as a result of his questioning, but Abi will stop at nothing to get the answers he needs.

You can tell the effect hearing what happened from those who did it has on Abi, especially in scenes when he silently watches Oppenheimer’s past interview footage, and the pain it all causes.

Without the visual elements used in The Act of Killing, as the subjects made their own movie about what they did, The Look of Silence is a raw glimpse at one family’s life, heartbreak, sadness and fear that you only wish could have some resolution.




49 of 366: The Act of Killing

This may not be a fitting introduction to a post about a very dark and hard to watch documentary, but Doug Benson mentioned my movie challenge progress during one of his Doug Loves Minis episodes this week. I heard it this morning and had an extreme geek-out moment when he mentioned my Three Kings post and how that is his favorite David O. Russell movie.

I don’t expect that he has read my blog, but I was happy to make it into the mix of other fans he has mentioned for their movie challenge status and want to say that so far this challenge has been very positive in my life as a goal I know I can accomplish this year and who knows where it will take me. So thank you, Mr. Benson.


There really is no proper segue from that to The Act of Killing, so I am just going to get into it. I rented the film so I could ultimately keep up with seeing the Oscar nominees this year, including the follow-up to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence.

The first of the two focuses on Indonesia in 1965 after the government is overthrown by the military and anyone who challenges the new leaders was considered a communist and ultimately killed.

The killing came from gangsters in the country with a reputation for violence and who willingly formed death squads to execute the supposed traitors. They killed more than a million people and their leader, Anwar Congo, did many of the acts with his own hands. They used inhumane, brutal practices and supposedly felt no wrongdoing or remorse. They used violence they had seen in the movies and when The Act of Killing came about were tasked with reenacting or retelling what they did in 1965 as they saw fit.

The result in the film by Joshua Oppenheimer is an open look into their madness translated into of movie of its own to show how they plotted the deaths. Throughout the documentary and making of Anwar’s movie,  I just kept trying to uncover or analyze what they really felt about their acts.

Did they have to do it? Did they deep down think it was wrong or struggle with taking so many human lives using extreme violence?

For the most part I thought it was hard to tell, but Anwar was left with nightmares and some struggle with it — on what level is unclear.

Of course it’s never even close to the point where you feel bad for them, and you wonder if participating in the new film was just a push for more attention on what they did, but in the end how the story was told was effective. Other than that, it leaves many unanswered questions. My manager at work, no spoilers here really, told me there was some controversy about the final scene of the film and that the timing of when it happened  was not consistent with its placement in the story, causing some over-dramatization.

My first reaction was I wanted to read more about the controversy, but then I decided I would rather not know. It is unsettling, to say the least, that what the death squad members did  was allowed and how they have carried on in their lives since then.

It’s important to see The Act of Killing and come to your own conclusion. It’s as much educational about that point in history as it is disturbing and heartbreaking on all sides.

I will leave it at that and, even though I am sure it is equally if not more dark, I look forward to watching The Look of Silence. From what I know it focuses on the victims’ side of what happened and I am trying to go into watching it without any more details.

Maybe it will complete the picture of The Act of Killing, or present more questions, but from what I have seen so far both films are new accomplishments in storytelling worth seeing for that reason and so many more.








48 of 366: Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words


If you think about it, actors and actresses in Hollywood have a lot more of their lives documented than the average person. Granted that documentation on camera stems from characters they are playing, but there is also behind the scenes time and interviews to look back on other than the finished product.

I thought about this tonight while watching Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Wordsa documentary about the actress starring in films such as Casablanca and Notorious including readings from her diaries growing up and home movies throughout her life. The home movies show the balance, often uneven, between Bergman’s work life and life as a wife and mother of four children.

They all appear in the documentary, speaking of Bergman’s charm and larger-than-life character that they miss without criticism of the lack of time she was there growing up.

The film, directed by Stig Bjorkman, shows the highs and lows of Bergman’s short life including what she also may not have wanted on camera.

On the other hand she didn’t seem to have fear in being completely honest about her thoughts in her diaries and dedication to her career above all else.

Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words is a documentary for movie-lovers and fans of her work alike to watch for its glimpse into Hollywood life as much as her life story. It certainly piqued my interest to watch more of her films this year now that I’ve seen the background on how they came to be.

“I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.”

Ingrid Bergman


34 and 35 of 366: Life Itself and Desk Set

“For me, the movies are like a machine that generate empathy.”

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in screening room for photo shoot for People Weekly, June 13, 1984; Chicago

It was hard to find a pairing to go with Life Itselfthe documentary about the life of Roger Ebert and based on his memoir, tonight but something about Desk Set fit the bill.

The film doesn’t come up in Ebert’s critiques presented in Life Itself and I’d like to leave it as a mystery if he did review it during his long career writing for the Chicago Sun-Times and talking through films on television with Gene Siskel.

Life Itself was finished years after Siskel passed away and after Ebert’s death as well. But, as Ebert’s wife Chaz describes in the film, he came to realize death is a part of life and was as open about his highs as much as his lows during Steve James’ filming and interviews.

James, through interviews and footage of Siskel & Ebert’s show as well as Ebert’s solo ventures, tells about his love of movies and writing and the love-hate relationship between the two critics as well as their colleagues in the business.

I wonder how many films Ebert watched and wrote about in his lifetime, maybe in the madness of my movie challenge I’ll get around to reading his memoir, but it’s clear he loved being at the movies and talking about them. I found the tales of his trips to the Cannes Film Festival to be the most interesting and the moments later in his life hardest to watch.

That also influenced choosing a pairing to follow Life Itself … it had to be funny and uplifting in some way.


Desk Set is a romance and office comedy of the 1950s about the switch of a longtime television network’s reference library to a computerized system.

That, said the library’s leader Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn – the early inventor of the top knot) would never happen because the computer couldn’t provide cross references much less a list of Santa’s reindeer at the drop of the hat, but unfortunately times changed and the IBM took over.

It’s a charming movie and Hepburn lights up the screen as she tries to save her library and has fun in her life as woman in New York City along the way. Her coworkers in the library provide added comedic relief as does Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), the efficiency expert assigned to modernize the system.

Desk Set, whether intentional or not, clearly influenced movies of its kind for years going forward and has to have one of the best office Christmas party scenes with the champagne flowing well before Mad Men came along.

Life Itself and Desk Set are perfect for anyone with a love and respect of film and will certainly inspire you to keep on going with your goals and appreciate the small things in life.

“I’ll see you at the movies.”

— Roger Ebert




32 of 366: What Happened Miss Simone?




What Happened Miss Simone?, nominated for Best Documentary Featurepresents a comprehensive look at Nina Simone starting with her early years wanting to be a classical pianist and progressing through her rise as a jazz star and civil rights activist through her music.

The documentary, by Liz Garbus in collaboration with Netflix, also explores the singer’s dark moments in her family and career life and the health issues she suffered from.

Those aspects of her life couldn’t be ignored, but overall the film shed light on a powerful woman with a lot of struggles who accomplished an extraordinary career.

While she always dreamed of being a classical pianist, Simone landed in the world of jazz music and found ways to incorporate the two styles into her compositions. She achieved stardom, got married and had a daughter but her family life wasn’t without struggle, either.

She eventually divorced her abusive husband and was estranged from her daughter, interviewed in the film, as a result of subsequent abuse she committed in their relationship.

The rest of the story, much like Amy (also nominated for best documentary), is told through archival footage and interviews with Nina Simone throughout her career. I was enamored with Simone’s style on stage but, as her friend and band member Al Schackman described it, there was something else there and she did seem to be hiding her pain.

It’s a sad story in a lot of ways, also like Amy, but both films show the imprint their subjects left on the world and society they lived in. I didn’t know a lot about Nina Simone and I imagine, because of the film’s in-depth look at her life, even her fans and history buffs learned a thing or two from the personal story.

In other news, here is a quote of the day my everything Paul F. Tompkins posted on Twitter yesterday:

“Tired. Awakened too early by the sounds of Manhattan: traffic, stickball, the cry of the fishmonger, explosions, a heavily accented rat.”