To The Wonder (Of Terrence Malick)

Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams star in "To The Wonder."

Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams star in “To The Wonder.”

Is there any director that more skillfully captures the beauty of humanity and the natural world in which we live than Terrence Malick?

At this moment, I would venture to say, “No.”

Watching this trailer for Terrence Malick’s new film, “To The Wonder,” reminded me of that today. I will forever owe a debt to this artist for showing me the world in a way I couldn’t see it on my own.

I still haven’t decided if “Days of Heaven” or “Tree of Life” is my favorite Malick film. It’s a good excuse to watch both again. If you haven’t seen them, I, of course, highly recommend that you do.

The advance word on “To The Wonder” is mixed, but I’m just happy to have another new movie from him in such a short time. It’s certainly unprecedented.

So watch this trailer for “To The Wonder.” Get some chills. And get excited. It comes out in April.

Candidates Set For Yankton City Commission, School Board Elections

The lists of candidates for the Yankton City Commission and the Yankton School Board elections are now complete.

There were some last-minute additions that I hadn’t heard were running. Maybe you hadn’t, either. Here is a little write-up on the candidates that will appear in Saturday’s Press & Dakotan

———
The lists of candidates for the Yankton City Commission and Yankton School Board elections scheduled for April 9 are now final.
Those vying for seats on both boards had to submit petitions by 5 p.m. Friday.
The City Commission has seven candidates competing for three seats. Each term is three years.
Charlie Gross and Brad Woerner will attempt to retain the positions they now hold. A third incumbent, Paul Lowrie, decided not to seek re-election.
The remaining candidates are Thomas Bixler, Brooke Blaalid, Chris Ferdig, Edward Gleich and Michael Schumacher.
The Yankton School Board will have four candidates for its two open seats.
Jim Fitzgerald is seeking re-election for another three-year term, while Chris Specht has chosen to end a long tenure on the board.
Other candidates for the seats are Duane “Butch” Becker, Sarah Carda and Wayne Wurth.  
The deadline for voter registration for the spring election is March 25.

Make Pizza, Not War: A Story Of Pizza And Pacifism

ZiosPizza is a powerful tool that can foster peace or conflict.
I know this from experience.
As a boy, I often wielded the pizza cutter in the household. When my mother was at work, I was most likely to be tasked with doing the cooking for the family after completing my farm chores. These meals could consist of 1) hotdogs with macaroni and cheese 2) chicken strips and shrimp — with macaroni and cheese or 3) canned spaghetti with tuna thrown in to spice things up. As you can see, we were culinary connoisseurs.
But the most popular supper option when Mom was out of the house was Tombstone Pizza. My two younger brothers, dad and I loved that special brand of frozen pizza, although I’ve no idea who thought it was a good idea to link pizza to the Wild West. (I should also add that Tombstone Pizza isn’t anywhere near as good as the homemade pizza Mom would make if she was at home.)
I would bake two Tombstones so that, between the four of us, there were four pieces each.
It sounds so simple on paper.
But as the wielder of the cutter, I had great power that I did not always use responsibly. I knew that a pizza does not necessarily have to be divided equally.
Sometimes, I’m not proud to admit, I was tempted by that alluring pizza staring me in the eyes to give in to greed and slice the pie in a way that provided me with more than the rest of the family. (Remember, since I was doing the slicing, I also had first dibs on claiming what was mine.)
This unequal distribution, of course, did not escape the attention of my equally pizza-loving brothers and inevitably led to some conflicts.
However, we survived those “Pizza Wars” and are still on speaking terms today.
Now, let’s fast-forward to last weekend.
I found myself at Zio’s Pizzeria, located in Omaha’s Old Market, with Mom, Dad and my middle brother. The franchise has been voted the “Best of Omaha” in Omaha Magazine, so we wanted to give it a try.
While ordering, we were told it could be 45 minutes before receiving our pizzas. Considering how busy every eatery in the Old Market was that night, we didn’t consider the potential wait unreasonable.
So, the four of us sat and chatted about family matters, politics, entertainment and whatever else came to mind.
An hour passed, and I found my stomach growing impatient. Being hungry and inhaling the rich aroma of pizza for an hour can be exhausting and wear down one’s sense of decorum.
That’s when the devastating news arrived.
The waitress approached timidly before launching her attack. It was the Pearl Harbor of pizza non-delivery.
“I have some really bad news,” she said, doing her best to ignore the long strands of saliva that were now trailing out of our hungry mouths and onto the table. “They left your pizzas in too long and now they’re all burnt. The manager said that if you still want your pizzas, we will give them to you for free. Do you want us to re-make them?”
Suddenly, we were on war footing. Our supply lines had been breached and our future was in peril.
The unfulfilled promise of pizza could have led lesser souls to retaliate by storming out of the restaurant, making a rude comment to the waitress or declaring all-out war on Zio’s Pizzeria — scenarios that I briefly entertained in my hungry delirium.
Instead, the whole family looked at each other for guidance — and this is where I became quite proud of us.
We kept our calm, looked to the server and said, “Yes, we’ll wait for our pizzas.”
My middle brother, who I think it is fair to say can be the most impatient among the four of us due to the simple fact that he is a middle child, remained calm and observed with sarcasm, “That was really nice of the manager to make the waitress come and deliver the bad news instead of doing it himself.”
We all nodded our heads in agreement.
“The waitress is such a sweetheart,” Mom added.
“I guess this just means more quality time together for us,” I said, only half-joking.
And so we did the only thing we could do — we chatted some more and enjoyed each other’s company.
In another 20 minutes, we were devouring our free pizza with the intensity of soldiers who hadn’t seen food in days.
ZiosIIIt was good pizza and, as I watched the red tomato sauce drip onto my plate, I was grateful that this favorite food would not be a source of conflict as it had been in my past.
Mom told Dad to tip the waitress well, and he did as instructed (just as he always does in matters where Mom provides instruction, I can assure you).
We got up and peacefully made our way to the door, content with the pizza in our stomachs. The only “piece” I was armed with now was a slice left over for breakfast.
Pizza could have been the catalyst for war on this fine day. Instead, it was used to facilitate peace. The world could learn something from this simple equation.
I would also add this small bit of advice: When life throws you pepperoni, have some patience and maybe it will throw in a free pizza.

Celebrating ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’

PerksI think most of us feel like a wallflower at some point in our lives.
Certainly, I often feel like a wallflower to some degree. Being social outside of my established friends does not come to me naturally and involves a lot of anxiety.
This brings me to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
I had first heard of the book a couple of years ago because I was reading about the song “Vapour Trail” by Ride.
It’s a fantastic tune and one of the highlights of Britain’s “shoegaze” era. As a teenager, the sound of “Vapour Trail” defined love for me. The layers of guitars and keyboards soar to the heavens, and of course the girl you love is “A vapour trail in the deep blue sky …”


In my Wikipedia reading, it was mentioned that the song appears on a mixtape made by the lead character in the book, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Upon seeing that, I figured the book had to be pretty cool. It had received a lot of praise in general, and I made a mental note of all this but didn’t seek out the book.
Last year, with the release of a film version of “Perks” approaching, I decided it was time to read the novel.
I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing the book is. Had “Perks” been around when I was in high school (it was published in 1999), I’ve little doubt it would have been among my favorite novels.
I totally fell in love with the main character, whose real name is never revealed but refers to himself as “Charlie.” He is the titular “wallflower” — an amazing and generous teenager who has a hard time connecting with people and has some mental issues.
I’ve heard some complain that the book deals with so many things — drugs, suicide, homosexuality, domestic violence and more — that it seems like an after school special. But I felt all of those topics are dealt with very naturally, and they absolutely do rear their heads in some manner during most of our lives.
Because of its honesty about these subjects, some people have sought to ban the book from libraries.
What has endeared the novel to so many, however, is the characters. Charlie and his friends are the circle of support we wish we all had. Some of us are lucky enough to get that and, unfortunately, some of us are not.

One of the most important messages of the book is that we accept the love we think we deserve. It’s so very true, and it’s something I’ve seen time and again throughout my life.

According to writer/director Stephen Chbosky, it's during this scene of Emma Watson riding in the back of a truck through the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh that she felt she became "Sam" in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

According to writer/director Stephen Chbosky, it’s during this scene of Emma Watson riding in the back of a truck through the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh that she felt she became “Sam” in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

I’m not ashamed to say that, by the end of the book, I was choking back tears like a hormone-laden teenager. It is such a beautiful, tragic and ultimately uplifting story that I still get emotional thinking about it months later.
I read the book just in time to see the movie in the theater last fall. It’s the first time in a long time where I had a piece of literature fresh in my mind and was eager to see how it would play out on screen. These people meant so much to me that I wanted to see their stories told right.
My fears were somewhat eased by the fact that the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, also directed the film. Certainly, he cared just as much, if not more, for these characters than I did.
I ended up seeing the film in the theater twice. Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and the rest of the cast are fantastic. And, just like the book, I was reduced to tears by the end. Both times.
For those unfamiliar with the book or movie, now is a good time to catch up with either or both. (I highly recommend the novel, as it is able to flesh things out in a way the film cannot.)
“Perks” was released on DVD this week, and I had to add it to my collection. It has a lot of deleted scenes that are a must-see for any fan.
But I think the most important extra is the solo commentary Chbosky does for the film.
Rarely do I listen to an entire DVD commentary, but Chbosky is such a kind, gracious and understanding soul that I couldn’t stop listening. It’s one of the best commentaries I’ve ever heard, if not the best. Sure, he talks about how much he loves the actors and addresses differences between the novel and the film, but he also talks about the issues with which his characters have to live. At several points, he assures viewers that if they are living with secrets and things that are weighing on them, they can get through it. Life is not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you’re going from here.
By now, you’re going to think I’m an absurdly emotional fellow, but I’ll tell you that once again, Stephen Chbosky had me in tears because of the beauty of his message. He is so earnest about his empathy for other humans.
Chbosky has made a connection with people, especially teens. He has heard from individuals who said they were thinking about suicide but changed their minds after reading his book. Now, I’m certain the same thing will happen because of his movie.
Art is that powerful. It can remind us that, no matter how alone we feel, there are other people who have gone through or are going through the same thing. That fact alone can give us enough hope to face another day and work toward a life we are happy to be living.

Valentine’s Day: When Is It Time To Say Goodbye (To Underwear)?

BelovedUnderwear2013-02-13

Franklies, my trusted pair of underwear, has been with me for years. Sadly, these drawers haven’t taught me anything about drawing, so I’ve composed perhaps the saddest excuse ever for a heart with an arrow through it. Still, you get the point.

When is it time to say goodbye to a loved one?
I struggled with this question today when I took off my underwear and got into the shower.
I looked down at my beloved briefs, which I call Franklies. Time and wear had dulled his bright white glow. His elastic had the beaten and bruised features of a veteran boxer. Various holes now marred the once smooth stretches of fabric, as if Franklies had barely endured an onslaught of grasshoppers during the Dust Bowl. Or perhaps a spurned lover had thrown acid in the face of these poor briefs, scarring Franklies for eternity.
Is it time to throw this loyal pair of underwear onto the garbage heap after perhaps a decade of the two of us in unity?
I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it.
Franklies has seen me at my most triumphant and, of course, my most despairing moments.
These briefs have known my growing excitement when having good, old-fashioned natural fun with a woman. They’ve experienced the relief provided by any number of bathroom visits.
Franklies is a trusted friend, a blessed brother in this journey of life. Would I allow anything less to provide protection for my most delicate features?
In the past, I’ve counted on others to do the dirty work of escorting underwear out of my life. My mother or significant other would no longer be able to stand the sight of battered briefs and dispose of them despite my protestations.
But on this Valentine’s Day, it is just me and Franklies. Face to fabric.
The thought of a future without this dear friend frightens me, but perhaps Franklies has earned his retirement away from the challenging and frightening sights, sounds and smells a life so close to me requires.
If anyone out there knows how to make this any easier, please share your wisdom so that my soul, and most private parts, may live on without shame and guilt. Is that even possible?
Love you always, Franklies. — XOXO —

Mystery Dog Captures Hearts, Finds Home

Last Saturday, I had a cat rescue story in the Press & Dakotan. This Saturday, I’ve got a dog rescue story.

It’s a good one.

———

As the photo shows, this mystery dog has brought a lot of joy to the lives of (from left) Christine Vlahakis and her nieces Amanda Johnson Feimer and Amy Johnson. The three women became concerned about the welfare of the dog after spotting it near the Vishay plant along Highway 50 in Yankton and were later able to capture it.

As the photo shows, this mystery dog has brought a lot of joy to the lives of (from left) Christine Vlahakis and her nieces Amanda Johnson Feimer and Amy Johnson. The three women became concerned about the welfare of the dog after spotting it near the Vishay plant along Highway 50 in Yankton and were later able to capture it.

For months, a mystery dog patrolled the area around the Vishay plant on the east side of Yankton, capturing the hearts of those who saw him.

However, until this week the canine had always managed to elude capture himself.

Employees of the manufacturing firm and nearby Sturdevant’s Auto Parts, as well as citizens from near and far, would try to get close to the dog and would regularly set out food and water for him. A dog house was even placed in the area.

But the unnamed dog would not get close to humans. Various attempts to catch the canine were foiled.

“I was getting a lot of calls,” said Lisa Brasel, Yankton’s animal control officer. “Sturdevant’s was getting complaints that they were letting their dog run loose. Vishay may have gotten the same complaints. I even crawled into a culvert after the dog, but couldn’t capture it. It wouldn’t let me get within 25 feet.”

Part of what made it so hard to capture the dog was that it got such good care.

“It makes it harder when a whole bunch of people are feeding the dog, because it won’t go into a trap if it isn’t hungry,” Brasel stated.

Mike Husman of Vishay said employees at the plant took what responsibility they could to make sure the dog didn’t freeze, starve or get dehydrated.

“I think that little dog had a pretty good life going on out here,” he stated. “He had about 300 people looking after him.

“He was like a sentinel of some sort,” Husman continued. “He sat by this tree near our plant. He’d be there night and day.”

When the weather got to be too extreme, the dog sought shelter in a nearby culvert.

It was around Thanksgiving when Amanda Johnson Feimer became aware of the dog. Her aunt, Christine Vlahakis, had seen him and expressed concerns about the dog’s welfare.

“I had gone out there, but I couldn’t see him,” Feimer said. “About two weeks ago was the first time I saw him. I couldn’t believe he had survived out in the cold.”

Feimer said she and her sister, Amy Johnson, spent hours talking to the dog and trying to coax it to seek shelter with them.

“We would be out there and the Sturdevant’s driver would come every night with treats and try to capture him,” Johnson said. “There were so many people in the community trying to catch this dog and making sure it was fed.”

Feimer’s concern peaked last week as temperatures dipped below zero.

“If there is an animal in peril, I can’t stand it,” she said. “(Jan. 31) was my birthday, and it was 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill. I told my husband I wanted to get this dog to safety for my present. We were out there, and all the culverts were filled with ice. There were areas the dog could go to get out of the wind, but he would just sit by a tree on a coat (he had been given).”

On Sunday morning, Feimer’s husband, Mike, said he was going out to try again. She doubted he would have any luck.

However, she received a phone call that the dog was cornered in a culvert.

It quickly became a family effort to capture the canine. Joining Mike and Amanda were Doug Feimer, Mark Langley, Ethan Langley and Amy.

The dog was placed in a cage and went home with Mike and Amanda.

“I didn’t know if he would ever trust me or warm up to anyone, as he clearly had been abused in some way in the past and had been a wild dog for so long with no human contact,” Feimer said. “Even though he was shy and scared, he let me pet him.”

While allowing the dog time to rest, Feimer would come in periodically during the day to pet and talk with him.

On Sunday night, something special happened.

“He made eye contact for the first time, belly-crawled over to me, laid his paw over my hand and found my other hand and started kissing and kissing and kissing,” Feimer said. “He sat up, got on his hind legs and wrapped his front paws around my neck and continued kissing. Needless to say, I was a goner. He wrapped himself right around my heart.”

AmandaJohnsonIIOn Monday morning, he was groomed and checked by a veterinarian.

“By Monday afternoon, he was rolling around playing and frolicking with our other dogs,” Feimer said. “He smiles non-stop and is so sweet and precious.”

The dog was potty trained from the moment he was captured and, when the Press & Dakotan visited the Feimer home this week, he was so comfortable in Feimer’s lap that you’d never know he had led a life outdoors.

Feimer said she notified people at Sturdevant’s and Vishay that the dog was in her care so they would know it was OK.

She will likely keep the dog and is still searching for a fitting name — something that reflects his special story.

“I don’t get your story,” Feimer told the dog. “How were you living out there like a stray dog and you have no knots in your hair, your teeth are perfect and you are well fed?”

Like others who came in contact with him, Feimer said she wonders about the dog’s past. Some people said they had seen him near Vishay’s as early as late summer.

“He was definitely scared of someone. Someone must have hurt him in the past,” she stated. “He seems leery around men.”

The animal control officer said she was pleased when she found out the dog had been captured and was living a good life.

“I’m very happy that he has been taken off the streets,” Brasel stated. “I hope he realizes how lucky he is, too.”

The Top Films Of 2012 (And Most Sultry Striptease, Too!)

Michael Rogers plays a creepy scientist in "Beyond the Black Rainbow."

Michael Rogers plays a creepy scientist in “Beyond the Black Rainbow.”

Be honest.

I fooled you.
Come on, I know you thought year-end list season was over and the only list you’d have to read about these days was the elusive Yankton County tax list.
Well, my film list is important. It’s the most important. And I didn’t want you to miss it among the lists of “Everything That Is Less Important Than NATHAN’S FILM LIST.”
With the Oscars approaching Feb. 24, it’s a perfect excuse for me to look back on the year in film that was 2012. It was a good one.
Let’s begin with my personal best picture nominees:
10. “Beyond the Black Rainbow” — Imagine throwing together some Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg and David Lynch, along with an awesome Moog synthesizer soundtrack, and you might get this Canadian film that is heavy on mood and light on plot but absolutely mesmerizing. Fun fact: It was made in large part with DVD residuals from the movie, “Tombstone.”
9. “Django Unchained” — I vastly preferred Quentin Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western revenge fantasy to his last film, “Inglourious Basterds.” I loved that he even makes room for the original Django, actor Franco Nero.
8. “Kill List” — This film takes the aging hitman genre, the domestic drama genre and the horror genre to gloomy and tense new heights. This would have made a much better sequel to “The Wicker Man” than the terrible “The Wicker Tree.”
7. “Cloud Atlas” — This movie is perhaps the most beautiful visualization I’ve seen of a symphony. All the parts fit together, and it’s up to you to keep up with them. Beautiful and unfairly maligned by some critics.
6. “The Comedy” — Warning: This is not a comedy. Rather, it’s an endurance test with a character who may really not have any redeeming qualities. But darn if I didn’t find myself watching it two times in 24 hours and pondering it for some time later. Director Rick Alverson is a real talent.
5. “Killing Them Softly” — Ostensibly, this is a film about crime. But it’s actually a story about how America is not a country. It’s just a business. Better pay up before Brad Pitt comes to collect.

Courtesy Photo —“The Kid with a Bike” scored big at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 when it won the Grand Prix. It finally got a U.S. release in 2012. The film stars Cecile de France and Thomas Doret.

Courtesy Photo —
“The Kid with a Bike” scored big at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 when it won the Grand Prix. It finally got a U.S. release in 2012. The film stars Cecile de France and Thomas Doret.

4. “The Master” — You had me at (director) Paul Thomas Anderson. Say no more.
3. “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” — In this story, the aftermath of a violent act is drawn out to absurd lengths. But in those long, lingering moments we learn much about humanity and the power of a small act of mercy.
2. “The Kid with a Bike” — Perhaps the simplest but most moving movie I saw all year. It doesn’t stray far from the title, but to see “the kid” grow is a wonderful thing. All in a film’s work for the Belgian directing team, the Dardenne brothers.
1. “Moonrise Kingdom” — Such a complete mythical world. It’s like something my brother, cousins and I would dream up — or at least want to dream up — as children. I’ve seen “Moonrise Kingdom” three times now, and I may be ready to declare it my favorite Wes Anderson film, which is saying quite a lot.
———
Best Documentaries:
10. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” — I thought I loved sushi. I’ve got nothing on Jiro.
9. “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” — A fascinating look at the social, economic and legislative issues that led to the decline of public housing in America.
8. “Samsara” — Transcendent images from around the world.
7. “Detropia” — Detroit has fallen on hard times. These people are committed to its survival.
6. “Searching for Sugar Man” — I’m glad I finally got to hear this music.
5. “The Imposter” — At the end of the day, this story of a man who assumed a lost boy’s identity leaves more questions than answers.
4. “How To Survive a Plague” — A forgotten history of how those most impacted by the AIDS epidemic had to fight indifference and find a way to survive.
3. “5 Broken Cameras” — A Palestinian community’s non-violent fight to preserve its way of life even as the Israeli army and Jewish settlers choose a violent path.
2. “The Invisible War” — This documentary about rampant sexual assaults in the U.S. military and how it is covered up, and the victims often punished, crushed and angered me.
1. “Surviving Progress” — This film opened up so many intellectual frontiers for me and introduced new ideas. The world is not well. Most of us just choose not to notice.
———
If I was handing out my own Oscars, it would go like this:
Best Picture: “Moonrise Kingdom”
Best Actor: Yes, I thought “Lincoln” was overrated, but I’d still give the award to Daniel Day-Lewis.
Best Actress: Rachel Weisz in “The Deep Blue Sea”

Courtesy Photo — Matthew McConaughey was not one to be messed with as "Killer" Joe Cooper in the film "Killer Joe."

Courtesy Photo — Matthew McConaughey was not one to be messed with as “Killer” Joe Cooper in the film “Killer Joe.”

Best Supporting Actor: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d give it to Matthew McConaughey for his turns in “Killer Joe,” “Bernie” and “The Paperboy.” I didn’t even see “Magic Mike,” so I was not influenced by his pecs or dancing.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway was just as amazing as you heard she was in “Les Misérables.” No over-hyping there.
Best Director: Andrew Dominik for “Killing Them Softly.”
———
And here are some non-Oscar awards:
Films from 2012 that I most need to see yet: “Amour,” “Holy Motors” and “Life of Pi.”
Best coming-of-age film: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Film that made me squeal with the excitement of a little girl: “The Avengers.”
Best comedy: “Klown.”
Best horror film: “The Cabin in the Woods.”
Best use of a chicken leg: Matthew McConaughey in “Killer Joe.”
Best use of a cravat: Christopher Walken in “Seven Psychopaths.”
Best use of bodily fluids to kill the pain of jellyfish stings: Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy.”
Most overrated movie: “Lincoln” (Steven Spielberg also gets my nod for most overrated director.) “Argo” is coming in a close second.
Best use of “Doctor Who” memorabilia: “Dark Horse.”
Most sultry striptease (female): Salma Hayek in “Americano.”
Most sultry striptease (male): I haven’t been able to see it yet, but I’m going to go with the cast of “Magic Mike” anyway!
Most creative use of non-traditional instruments on a soundtrack: “Sound of Noise.”
Most messed up family story: “Incendies.”
Worst cameo by a director in his own film: I have no idea what Quentin Tarantino thought he was doing in “Django Unchained,” but it wasn’t acting. It was something no movie-goer should ever have to experience.
Biggest disappointment: “Cosmopolis.” I just didn’t get it — at all. The film was just as uncomfortable as the prostate exam Robert Pattinson’s character undergoes in a limo.