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Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Writer's Life 9/3 - Anesthesia

We all have ways of coping with existential angst. Many seem to simply ignore it, which may be the best course, given that there is no answer to the why of life's bittersweet mystery. It's what we make it. This is the gist of Anesthesia (2015), which I watched last night courtesy of Netflix. It is the story of strangers connected by a horrific crime. It covers a myriad of problems: adultery, addiction, illness, alcoholism, self mutilation, violence. The linchpin is a retiring professor, wonderfully played by Sam Waterston. He is matched by the ensemble cast of recognizable big and small screen vets: Glenn Close, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, Gretchen Mol, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Annie Parisse, and Tim Blake Nelson, who wrote and directed the piece. Among the actors with whom I was unfamiliar, K. Todd Freeman stood out as an embittered addict. Nelson seems influenced by the works of Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen. He has an interesting career going: 73 credits as an actor, eight as director, seven as screenwriter. His comic turn as a dumb escaped con is what I remember most about the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Anesthesia is solid work. Unfortunately, it seems old hat. It is almost entirely downbeat. The professor and his wife are the only characters who have gotten life right, being positive and loving despite its unsolvable mystery. I woke up thinking about the film, which is always a good sign. Here are excerpts, culled from IMDb, of the prof's address to his class on his last day: "...They ask, what is a life? Does to live any longer have a how? Does it any longer have a why?... Nietzsche was right: we are beautifully, finally, achingly, alone. In this void, philosophy at its worst becomes self-reflective, linguistic, semantic relativism having rendered any discussion of right and wrong, good and evil, to be the quaint concerns of another age... 'why do we live at all?' and 'what makes us who we are?' They ask, 'what now?' And we're still asking it. What will fortify us as another century, your century, commences? Do we abandon finally the search for truths that seem ever more elusive, even silly to some? The ethical? The moral? The good?... you and those who pause to question, carry the light..." The metaphor of "light" has always intrigued me. It was used to great effect by John Steinbeck in The Winter of Our Discontent. I've frequently said to others: "We're all just stumblin' around in the dark." I think "twilight" is more appropriate, at least regarding most of life. 1700+ users at IMDb have rated Anesthesia, forging to a consensus of 6.1 of ten, a little low in my opinion. It runs only 90 minutes. Anyone turned off by the downbeat should pass. Kudos to Nelson for taking on serious work, risking ridicule.

RIP Jon Polito, 65, veteran of stage and big and small screen, who succumbed to cancer. He attended Villanova University on a theater scholarship and graduated with honors. He has 218 credits listed under his name at IMDb, which doesn't include multiple appearances on TV series. He was in five Coen brothers movies. He also made a single appearance on Seinfeld as Sylvio the Super in The Reverse Peephole episode. Here's a quote attributed to him: "I've accepted everything that was offered to me in my life. I'm a total whore. I have no standards. I do everything." His name may not ring a bell, but his face will:

Well done, goombah.

My thanks to Johnny, who bought Killing, the first street sale of one of my books since 7/11. My thanks also to the other kind folks who bought and donated books.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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