Thursday, February 28, 2019


"When you get older there isn't a lot left to be frightened of."
Mrs. Ada Quonsett  Airport (1970)

I was an easy scare as a kid. Afraid of the dark, I posed little challenge to older sisters who loved to leap out at me from closets and shadowy rooms; their shouts of “Boo!” eliciting the usual shriek of terror or tearful outburst (often both) followed by the to be expected threat-yelled-in-retreat, “I’m gonna tell momma!”

When not being terrorized by siblings, I did a pretty good job of terrorizing myself by habitually (read: masochistically) raiding one sister’s collection of horror comic books; the macabre stories on the pages of The Witching Hour and House of Mystery ensuring that more than a few nights were to be spent with bedcovers pulled completely over my head. From television I learned at an early age that fear comes with its own soundtrack; consequently, whenever I felt frightened, my mind obligingly supplied the background music: i.e., John Williams’ nerve-jangling Suspense Theater theme or that creepy whistling intro to Journey to the Unknown.
Toni Collette as Annie Graham
Gabriel Byrne as Steve Graham
With the waning of the 1960s, the make-believe horrors of Wait Until Dark (“What did they want with her? What did they want with her?” screamed the films poster ad copy--to my abject terror) and Rosemary’s Baby (“What have you done to its eyes?”) vied with the real-life variety (Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the Zodiac Killer, & the Manson Family) for dominance over my exposed-nerve psyche; puberty ultimately claiming final victory as my teens ushered in a phase of such acute self-consciousness, all other anxieties took a back seat. No doubt out of a need for cathartic release, it’s around this time that I began to actively seek out the vicarious thrills of horror movies, happily, of which there was no shortage in the ‘70s. The strenuously orchestrated scares of The Exorcist, The Omen, Burnt Offerings, and The Sentinel gave my burgeoning id an outlet while providing me with ample opportunity for stress release and a risk-free exposure to jeopardy and fear.
Alex Wolff as Peter Graham
Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham
While I don’t tend to think of myself as a fan of horror movies, I am most definitely a fan of movies that seize my imagination and draw me into their reality. When this occurs, I become engrossed in the narrative, intrigued by the characters, and invested (emotionally or psychologically) in their fate. It’s an exhilarating sensation when this happens with any genre of film, but when it happens by way of the fright flick experience—where tension, mystery, suspense, anxiety, and all the other forms of delectable discomfiture that come with exploring the unknown from the safety of a movie theater seat…well, it’s a pleasure unique for the film fan who’s come to appreciate the adrenaline rush of a good, scary horror movie. 

But I haven't been that easily-frightened kid for some time now. Maturity (OK, old age) and life experience have significantly reduced the number of things that frighten me; while a steady diet of movie consumption has resulted in an over-familiarity with the tropes of the horror genre. It feels like all of sudden it's become very difficult to find a movie I consider to be genuinely scary. And by scary, I don’t mean those formulaic fright franchises that toss a goulash of gore, jump-cuts, and amplified sound at me as a substitute for not understanding how horror works. I mean scary as in that certain “something” that happens when a film grabs you on some visceral level, taps into some hidden, subliminal, nameless anxiety, and then takes you on a journey where your inner voice is screaming you don’t want to go.
I love when a movie can make me feel that way, but it doesn’t happen often these days.
Ann Dowd as Joan
It happened in 2017 when Get Out, the brilliant feature film debut of director/screenwriter Jordan Peele, chilled me to the bone with the canny ingeniousness of its horror premise; a perfect nightmare metaphor for benevolent racism’s daily micro-terrorisms. And it happened again in 2018 with another film by an emerging talent making his directing/screenwriting debut: Ari Aster’s Hereditary; the first movie in ages to reawaken that pleasurable unpleasantness known as being truly scared by a movie. 
The Dollhouse Effect
Hereditary toys with the concept of perception. Physical reality, visual perspective, psychological cognizance, and even auditory recognition are manipulated to create a sense of unease and disequilibrium. 

I came to Hereditary without foreknowledge of its plot, merely the awareness of Toni Collette--an actress I can watch in anything--being its star. I’d just finished binge-watching Collette in the limited BBC One series Wanderlust on Netflix, her extraordinary performance in that program leaving me clamoring for more. Always intrigued when an actor of her caliber appears in a horror movie (Collette’s only Oscar nomination to date was for her supporting role in 1999’s The Sixth Sense), I purposely avoided reading anything about Hereditary beforehand and thus dove in blindly with eyes wide open, curiosity piqued, and with a great deal of enthusiasm.
I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I’m not sure it's actually even possible to be disappointed by Hereditary; for it doggedly refuses to be what you think it will be, go where you assume it will go, or in any way deliver the expected. (From what I’ve read of those who didn't care for Hereditary, a significant degree of dissatisfaction seems to stem precisely from the film failing to conform to what one has been programmed and conditioned to expect from horror movies.)
Portrait in Black

Plot: The death of a family matriarch is the catalyst event sparking an interlinked eruption of remorse, reflection, and revelation that ultimately sends an already loosely-tethered family spiraling completely and horrifically out of control. Annie (Toni Collette) whose mother it was died in hospice after a long, grasping illness, is an artist who copes with her troubled childhood (a mother who suffered from dissociative identity disorder, a father whose clinical depression led him to starve himself to death, an older brother who committed suicide when she was just a teen) by recreating traumatic life events in breathtakingly disturbing miniature dioramas.
Annie hasn’t exactly escaped her family’s legacy of mental illness, intimated in the film by her having married her therapist, psychiatrist Steve Graham (Gabriel Byrne), and later disclosed explicitly by Annie herself when she confides to a friend how, two years earlier, during a sleepwalking incident linked to a nervous breakdown, she doused herself and her two sleeping children in paint thinner, awakening only as she heard herself striking a match. As a result of that harrowing incident, her relationship her with 16-year-old son Peter (Alex Wolff) has grown strained and contentious, while her 13-year-old developmentally disabled daughter Charlie—who shared an unnaturally close relationship to the deceased—is emotionally remote and (like Annie) channels her dissociation into the creation of unsettling, pagan-like works of art.
Milly Shapiro
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Afflicted with a lethal allergy to nuts, Charlie's sweet tooth and love of chocolate
turns every member of the family into around-the-clock sentinels 

The stage has thus been set for an intense drama of familial dysfunction set in the aftermath of a tragedy, exploring the complexities surrounding how each goes about the business of processing loss. And there’s plenty of complexities to go around. Bereavement: at the loss of her grandmother, Charlie is (peculiarly) fretful that there is no one now to take care of her. Conciliation: Steve straining under the (self-assumed) burden of always having to be the steadying force and take the placatory role in family conflicts; he turns to drink. Blame: Peter, feeling unsafe with his mother and holding her responsible for their estrangement, retreats into drug use. Guilt: While harboring concern for her own sanity, Annie tortures herself with the fear that she has passed along her family’s legacy of mental illness to her children. Reluctant to compound what she sees as a burden already placed upon them, she has no one to open up to and represses her resentment of that fact.
Intimate Strangers
Hereditary is a family drama cloaked in a horror film. Using the tight, closed-off spaces of dollhouses as a visual and emotional motif, the film shows us a family that shares a great deal of trauma, yet they shut themselves off from one another. Barely speaking to one another, they all remain in their separate, isolated spaces, developing isolated ways of processing their pains and fears. Hereditary is smart enough to place the emotional conflicts dead center of its story, daring enough to take grief and loss seriously, but audacious enough to stretch its narrative to the most grotesque limits of the truly horrific.
Like the sinister sculpture that stands near the stairwell of the Graham house (another of Annie’s grim works of art, it’s a depiction of three deteriorating houses sinking, one atop the other, deep into the bowels of the earth) director Ari Aster presents us with a damaged family slowly sinking into the quicksand of personality pathology, and stacks upon them compounding layers of crisis and catastrophe worthy of Greek Tragedy. When the film erupts into nightmarish chaos and preternatural hysteria, it feels expected (from the beginning the tone of dread is so pervasive, it's as if we are being primed for the worst) yet totally catches you unawares. It's an experience that left me feeling both shaken and stirred.
And oh, so delighted to be surprised at the movies again.
Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, and Alex Wolff

I'd given up hope that it could happen to any more, but after seeing Hereditary I was so unnerved that for a day or so after I saw it, I experienced that apprehensive sensation of being subliminally over-aware of things like shadows, vaguely seen shapes in the darkness, creaky noises, dark rooms, and too-quiet outdoor areas at night. Just like when I saw a scary movie as a kid!
When film critic Pauline Kael titled her 1965 collection of reviews I Lost it at The Movies she was (wittily) referencing the loss of innocence (intellectual, illusions, spiritual, emotional) that happens every time one sees a film. What the title doesn't address is that while the film enthusiast does indeed grow and develop with each movie consumed, to remain receptive to the art form they must also find ways of reclaiming that lost innocence...their "fresh eyes," if you will...each time they embark upon a new film experience.
Milly Shapiro and Toni Collette
Of late, achieving the level of emotional and intellectual surrender necessary to acquire the suspension of disbelief demanded by most horror films has become a task Herculean. But whether due to the persuasiveness of the performances (believable characters are the key to making the impossible plausible) or cleverness of its concept, Hereditary impressed me with how often it caught me off guard. Like so many of my favorites from the ‘70s, Hereditary tells its story its own way, with its own voice, and with a distinct world view. This uniqueness of perspective makes for a compelling and thoroughly engrossing filmgoing, full of surprises. And though it’s easy to forget what with Hollywood grinding out something like 90 iterations of Halloween, Friday the 13th, or The Amityville Horror, the element of surprise is still a good thing in a horror movie.
A layered and masterfully modulate exercise in tension, Hereditary is not just a film so good you want to see it twice; the way it's constructed it demands a return engagement simply to sort out all that your senses have been bombarded with. The family drama element is so painful and tortuously actualized, that's the part that brought me back for a second (and a third) viewing. Add to this the film's hypnotic production design (the eerie shade of bluish green that floods nearly every scene) and the nerve-janglingly good sound editing, and you've got a feast for the eyes and ears--the music is wonderfully creepy, too). Each frame is crammed to overflowing with information, clues, and foreshadowing, but the film—blissfully free of exposition and spelling things out—leaves it to you to discover these pieces of the puzzle for yourself.
Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne

OK, we all know horror films, like comedies, rarely get any respect come award season. And given the long and impressive list of films and performances that have been overlooked over the years, it's hard to get too worked up over any of it. But, seriously, Hereditary was robbed. Toni Collette is al raw, exposed nerve endings in what I think is the best performance of her career to date.  I'm just gonna say my own personal Le Cinema Awards would go to go to Toni Collette and Alex Wolff, and then from there, I take in direction, screenplay, cinematography, sound, and art direction/production design.
Hereditary boasts superb and sensitive performances from its entire cast, but Toni Collette is nothing short of astounding. The strength of the entire film rests on the push-pull antagonism between Collette and Wolf, and the explosive, symbiotic contrast of their achingly tormented performances amounts to some of the finest acting I've ever seen. In saner times the dinner table scene alone would have won Collette a nomination. Similarly, Wolff's agonizingly recognizable depiction of adolescent grief is unforgettable. There's a brief moment where he's seen silently trying to gather the courage to simply enter his house, and it's simply heartbreaking. Hereditary is full of beautiful, painful scenes of people just trying to cope, but they're tragically alone.

Should New Wave cinema’s long-dead Auteur Theory ever be revived, singular-vision horror films like Hereditary and Get Out would make a persuasive case. The 5 years it took for Ari Aster to bring Hereditary to the screen finds it to be a work of uncompromising individuality bearing the stamp of a distinct world view and unflinchingly naked emotions.
The visual style adopted for the film play off of the dollhouse/diorama motif, drawing upon themes of restriction, fate, and predestination.
The compositions of shots, both interior and exterior, trick the eye and suggest the isolated and claustrophobic spaces of dollhouses. Annie's art installation dioramas were created by Steve Newburn, Hereditary's stunning production design by Grace Yun. Everything from Colin Stetson's shivery music to cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski's eerily burnished images (which, when combined with Aster's sculptural blocking and emphatic use of stillness, turns the characters into mannequins) work in concert to formulate Hereditary's unwavering atmosphere of uneasiness.
The members of the Graham family move about from one isolated space to another. Even when they leave the confines of their homes, they merely find new places to be alone.

If such terms as “humane horror” or “eerily empathic” exist, Heredity would fit the bill. Horror films are hollow films without an emotional core to which to attach the mayhem. For me, the mark of a truly effective horror film, a quality evident in favorites like Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, or Don’t Look Now, has always been its ability to make me feel something for the characters. To get me to relate to and/or empathize with their circumstances to the degree that I care what happens and I’m engaged in whatever conflicts—emotional or psychological—arise.
Annie finds someone outside of the home to whom she can confide 
In its study of a family in a state of disintegration, Hereditary is as heart-rending as it is horrifying. A horror film that gripped me from its first images, and one that I was sorry to see it end. I got so caught up with the life of these people that once the horror elements began to reveal themselves, I was actually afraid for them and found myself hoping for their deliverance. To get you to care that much for its characters is a major achievement for a film. To also scare the bejesus out of you in the process is a triumph.

Unsafe Cinema
Nothing's more terrifying than a horror film that takes death, loss, and grief seriously

From 2008 to 2010, Gabriel Byrne played psychologist Paul Weston on the HBO series In Treatment. Alex Wolff portrayed his son in the show's last season.
Father & Son (again)

Modern Family / Ordinary People 
The original cut of Hereditary ran 60-minutes longer than the theatrical release.
The original shooting script is available to read HERE

Copyright © Ken Anderson

Monday, February 11, 2019


“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” Mary Wollstonecraft -1790

The plot of A Simple Plan initiates with the simplest of premises and most relatable of fantasies: found wealth. Three men hunting in the snowy woods of Minnesota happen upon a downed private plane in whose wreckage is discovered a dead pilot and a bag containing $4.4 million in cash. Reasoning that no one is likely to lose that kind of money without someone eventually coming to look for it, Hank (Bill Paxton), the most level headed and intelligent of the trio, suggests they alert the authorities and hope for a reward. But motivated by chronic unemployment and an inability to fully grasp all that’s at stake, the remaining two discoverers: Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), Hank’s slow-witted older brother, and Lou Brent Briscoe), Jacob’s equally slow-on-the-uptake best friend--argue that such a sizable cash sum MUST mean the money is drug-related and therefore less likely to be reported as lost or missing; and so vote instead to keep the money and split it three ways. 
Bad Omen
The violent act of a fox attacking a henhouse sets into motion a series of events which bear the stamp of good luck, but the film's recurring visual motif of crows signals something entirely different

Hank, outnumbered, already an accomplice, and swayed by circumstances of his own—his job is dead-end and his expectant wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) is due any day—agrees not to report the money on the proviso it remains in his possession and they do nothing until enough time has passed to assure no one is looking for it.
Sounds simple enough. 
The bad luck crow motif materializes in Hank and Sarah's home

But in this contemporary morality tale, if good fortune opens the door by awarding these men “The American dream in a goddamn gym bag,” then the trio’s fatal flaw proves to be their failing to heed the dark omen augured by such a stroke of good luck coming at the cost of someone’s life (the anonymous pilot). Once the deal to keep the money is struck, the group (which now has come to include Hank’s wife, Sarah, exhibiting heretofore-untapped reservoirs of resourcefulness and guile) is soon beset by a veritable Pandora’s Box of disasters born of bad judgement, greed, mistrust, and betrayal.
Bill Paxton as Hank Mitchell
Bridget Fonda as Sarah Mitchell
Billy Bob Thornton as Jacob Mitchell
Brent Briscoe as Lou Chambers 

Combine the intricate plotting of Alfred Hitchcock with the psychological complexity of Claude Chabrol, and you’ve got an idea of how deftly A Simple Plan mines both the suspense and moral ambiguity in a group of otherwise decent people entering into a hastily-conceived plot to stealth away a fortune in ill-gotten gains. But as much as the film’s plot makes for a roller-coaster thrill ride of unforeseen obstacles and grievous, sometimes fatal, errors in judgment; it’s the complicated, contradictory impulses of its characters—their individual personalities, motivations, and interrelationships—that give the film its most memorable jolts of knots-in-the-stomach intensity.

Merging elements of plot-driven genres like the crime thriller, the heist film, and the murder mystery, A Simple Plan’s unique perspective distinguishes itself in never feeling as though the machinations of plot and genre are the forces moving the characters along. Everything that happens—even those events furthest beyond the scope of the expected—feel like the organic, inevitable consequence of the combustible, putting-out-fire-with-gasoline interactions and personalities of individuals forced by circumstance into an unlikely, unlucky alliance.
Three on a Match

I’m not overly familiar with the work of director Sam Raimi. Fans of the director will cite his series of Evil Dead cult films, but of the director’s to-date 15 feature film releases, I’ve only seen The Gift (2000) and Spiderman (2002); two films I can’t for the moment recall a single detail about, other than Spiderman’s upside-down kiss (which is pretty cool) and that staring thing Tobey Maguire does. My sense is that I’ve either been missing out on a lot, or A Simple Plan represents Raimi at his best. The only thing that stops me from calling it a perfect suspense thriller is that I don’t believe in perfect. I can’t find fault in any aspect of it.      
Happy New Year
I saw A Simple Plan when it was released on DVD in 1999 not long after Billy Bob Thornton lost that year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar (the film’s sole acting nod) to James Coburn in Affliction. Drawn to the film because of the raves I’d heard about Thornton and his physical transformation, I was instantly caught up by the overall (I hate to overuse that word) simplicity of the premise and how, by giving the story the affecting intimacy of a character study, resulted in something so fresh and unexpected. Raimi builds suspense like a master (to often unbearable levels) overlaying small-town details in character and setting with a well-sustained tone of enveloping dread and tragedy. Contributing significantly to the latter is the how keenly a sense of atmosphere is established, and how evocatively the bleakness of winter in a small, rural town is conveyed.
Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton, and Brent Briscoe
I credit Raimi with giving his film a look representative of what its nearing middle-age characters’ lives must feel like: constrained, hemmed-in, and as anchored as the figures in a snow globe. As Sarah brutally lays out in a scene of clear-eyed, the die is cast when it comes to what possibilities life holds for these average, unexceptional people.
Many scenes begin with shots of vast, icy stillness or crow’s-eye-views of limitless banks of snow and nothingness that make you shiver just looking at them. Even at the very start of the film, when the streets are adorned with Christmas decorations, and Hank walks with a lightness we’ll never see again; at no time is the snow made to appear picturesque or poetic. From the frosted windows, slate-gray skies, and characters swathed in layers and layers of insulated clothing (even indoors); the weather is presented as another character in the story: severe, isolating, and suffocating of life.
Gary Cole as Neil Baxter

Credit must be given to first-time screenwriter Scott B. Smith who, in adapting his first novel (which, ironically enough, started out life as a screenplay and earned him an Oscar-nomination, to boot), writes with an economy that suggests he has lived with these characters a long time. Paring down his 1993 novel to the bare bones of its suspense-thriller structure, Smith writes in a visual, non-static style that is ever on the move. The riveting narrative flows easily from plot twist to plot twist, never once feeling contrived or labored. Best of all, he manages to do so while keeping the film’s central focus on the disintegrating relationships between the characters and the telling ways they respond to having their theoretical (superficial?) morality tested by a real-life moral dilemma.
Without the benefit of much in the way of backstory, Smith’s characters, whether in moments of monstrous callousness or pitiable despair, are granted a level of humanity lacking in the novel. A grace attributable to the truly outstanding performances of the film’s cast.

Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton (who appeared together in 1992’s One False Move) share a symbiotic anti-chemistry as the brothers with nothing in common “…except maybe our last name.” The late Bill Paxton, whose settled-in boyishness lends his Hank the look of a self-disappointed fair-haired child, is all agitated exasperation and impatience in his scenes with Thornton. College-educated and preppy fastidious next to the town’s hayseed casual, one senses Hank enjoys feeling like the civilized big fish in a little pond. Paxton taps into the seeds of dissatisfaction lying just the below surface. It's no mistake he was so often cast as likeable characters, for he radiated an openness and accessibility. But he was also such a talented, dimensional actor.
Sarah Discovers the Source of the Money 
Personal fave Bridget Fonda (Single White Female), exuding almost Shakespearean-levels of steeliness, proves to be as much of a surprise and dramatic force to be reckoned with as Thornton. From the moment her character is introduced we’re made aware of how smart she is, but as the promise of “what can be” comes to poison her tolerance for “what is,” she morphs into a domestic underworld mastermind…like Carroll Baker running that all-lady hit squad out of her kitchen in Andy Warhol’s BAD.

Brent Briscoe as the oafish Lou is a Master Class lesson in how to play a stock character with dimension and detail. Pouring a lifespan’s worth of resentment in the way he unfailingly refers to Hank as “Mr. Accountant,” Briscoe has a pivotal drunk scene that calls for whiplash shifts from jocularity, betrayal, heartsickness, desperation, and rage. It’s a stunning bit of character work.
Billy Bob Thornton pulls off something similar, but on a much more heroic scale, with his brilliant turn as Jacob. True, it’s become an Oscar-bait cliché for an actor to deglamorize, adopt intellectual disabilities, or lose themselves under pounds of prosthetics, but to draw such a parallel here would seriously dishonor Thornton’s remarkable portrayal. In showing us the man behind the loser’s countenance, Thornton sidesteps the easy pathos, revealing Jacob to be one of the least self-deluded characters in the film, and one wholly lacking in self-pity. One of A Simple Plan’s many twists is the upending of the expectation that the relationship of these polar-opposite brothers might bear a trace of a George and Lennie Of Mice and Men dynamic. Far from it. In a particularly uncomfortable scene (exceptionally well-played by Paxton), the casually supercilious Hank learns that Jacob not only mocks him behind his back, but regards him with a level of disdain that borders on contempt.

I think one of the major reasons I love movies about “plans gone awry” is because I’m a control freak and lifelong non-joiner who goes out of his way to avoid groups, teams, and collaborations of any kind. These movies confirm my worst fears. My favorites: Silent Partner (1978), Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, (2007), What Became of Jack and Jill? (1972), Jackie Brown (1997), The Killing (1956), Fargo (1996), and Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)—all have in common the human error factor (misunderstandings, temperament, trust issues) and that magical interactive phenomenon wherein the filmmaker manipulates the viewer’s identification-with/sympathy-for its protagonists.
"Did you tell him about the plane?"
A major thrill to had in watching A Simple Plan is getting caught up in the yo-yo pull of being initially drawn to one character, only to be confronted with something unsavory and suddenly having your sympathies shifted elsewhere. The trick of making the viewer complicit in a crime is nothing new (Hitchcock’s Psycho); but the quality of performances in A Simple Plan adds so much depth to the characters that you’re apt to find yourself wrung out and in an emotional heap by the film’s crushing conclusion.

The first words spoken in A Simple Plan belong to Hank, recounting in voiceover something his late father (a simple farmer who lost his land to debt) once said to him about what it takes for a man to be happy: “A wife he loves, a decent job, friends and neighbors who like and respect him.”  Hank, in carving out a life for himself substantially more advantaged than that of his parents, has attained all of these. Sure, his wife helps make ends meet by working at the library, and his accounting job at the local feed mill offers little chance for advancement; but with a wife he loves, a nice home, and a baby on the way, Hank has attained a humble share of the American Dream.
But alas, built into the American Dream is a paradox: a reverence for achievement, ambition, and accumulation that’s at fundamental cross-purposes with being content with what one has. I mean our culture has devised names for people who are happy in their lot…we call them slackers and underachievers. However, few equally disparaging words exist for those who devote their time to amassing obscene levels of wealth they could never spend in several lifetimes.
Therefore, like many in this country who have been taught that having more is always preferable to having enough; Hank can’t conceive of happiness as a place in the present, only an idealized destination point on the horizon of some nebulous “future.”
A Simple Plan’s brutal and poignant subtext touches upon the moral distinction between need and want, and the kind of ethical questions voters never seem to ask themselves when making choices for personal financial security that will detrimentally impact the lives of the most marginalized and vulnerable. When is the cost of personal happiness too high a price to pay?

As each news day brings with it increasingly disheartening evidence of America’s rapidly disintegrating moral compass; as absurd and corrupt “leaders” normalize justification and deception while distorting the values of truth and honesty in the interest of money and power; I’m afraid A Simple Plan already reveals itself to be a bit of a timepiece in suggesting that the loss of one’s humanity is a loss of considerable significance.

Mr. Schmitt, a disgruntled customer accusing Hank of faulty bookkeeping, was played by John Paxton, the 77-year-old father of Bill Paxton. John Paxton died in 2011.

Copyright © Ken Anderson