In Absentia

I finished the first few drafts of my new short story. It took two days to write the first draft (longhand), which ended up being 4900 words. It’s funny how many of my stories end up being close to 5k. This was probably one of the easiest stories I’ve written in a long time. All the beats came right where I thought they needed to, and I felt like I was taking dictation as I scrawled on the pages of my notebook.

I dictated the story into Word on Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend’s writing sessions cleaning up the transcription errors and researching a few points that I’d annotated in my holographic manuscript. Two or three passes through and I have a solid draft that I’ll let sit for a couple of weeks before I take another pass at it and then turn it in to its prospective home. I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever written.

We saw Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri on Saturday. I missed it during its initial release, but it came back to theaters after it was nominated for a bunch of awards, so we got to see it on the big screen. It’s a remarkable film for a number of reasons. The performances are top notch. The story is compelling, and the choices they make in telling the story aren’t the obvious ones. It’s easy to feel compassion for Frances McDormand’s character, because who wouldn’t feel compassion for a mother whose daughter was murdered? But she’s a challenging individual in a lot of other ways. Was she a good mother? She said some terrible things to her kids before the tragedy, things that come back to haunt her. She speaks her mind, even when it’s not necessarily in her best interests to do so. Then there’s the racist deputy played by Sam Rockwell. One of several characters who are as dumb as bags of rocks. I know there has been some push-back against the movie because of the transition his character makes, which some people feel was undeserved and unearned. And Woody Harrelson is charming as the cussing sheriff.

The movie never goes where you think it will. It looks like it is headed for a tidy ending in which everything gets neatly resolved, but then you get to the end and it looks like the movie is designed for a Thelma & Louise style sequel. There are a lot of things you have to swallow—there is an exaggerated set of incidents where, in the “real world,” one hopes the consequences would be more severe for the perpetrators. But even with all that, it is a helluva film. Highly recommended.

I wish Absentia on Amazon Prime were better than it is. I had high hopes. I’m a big fan of Stana Katic from Castle, who is always interesting to watch because you always feel like she’s present in scenes. Re-acting as much as acting. Her character, an FBI agent, vanished six years ago and was presumed dead. Her husband remarried. Her little boy is now a bigger boy. But she returns with a splash, upsetting all manner of apple carts, and there’s growing evidence that perhaps her disappearance wasn’t what it seemed and that she might be involved in shady things. Or not. The script probably looked good to Katic, but the execution is weak. It was filmed in Bulgaria, but it’s supposed to be Boston, but they didn’t go to many lengths to Americanize the staging and things feel off. Many of the secondary cast members speak accented English, and it ain’t Bah-ston English. It feels like a run-of-the-mill TV series compared to some of the stellar streaming series we’ve been treated to lately. I’ll stick through to the end, but it’s not as good as I’d hoped.

I’m not a huge football fan. We went out to dinner when the Superbowl was on (the restaurant wasn’t completely empty, but almost), returning home mid-way through the third quarter. Decided to watch the rest, and that was pretty exciting. It occurred to me that football is basically a sport in which two different teams play two other teams. There’s the quarterback and the offensive line against the other team’s defense, and vice versa. The two quarterbacks never play against each other. When one of these team leaders is in command, the other guy is on the sidelines, looking on helplessly. It’s a strange configuration, and not the head-to-head challenge its often portrayed as. Still, exciting finale. I think a lot of people expected Brady to pull off a miracle as if it was par for the course (to mix sports metaphors). He tried.

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