28 Weeks Later

Look at me, seeing more movies in the past few weeks than for most of last year…

28 Weeks Later is the zombie-filled sequel to Danny Boyle’s terrific 28 Days Later, which sort of single-handedly brought the zombie film back into vogue. This new film picks up—you guessed it—six months after the first as a U.S.-led NATO force slowly begins to repopulate a restricted area of London with surviving residents. Most notable among the cast is a defeated-looking Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty, Tomorrow Never Dies), who flees to London in time to join his children as they are returned to the quarantined area.

The film takes handheld camera work to a nauseating and uncomfortable level within the first few minutes in order to capture the violence and confusion of a large-scale zombie attack, but thankfully the filming flattens out from there and returns to a greater sense of order in London. The zombie special effects are horrifying not because they people look so gross, but because they still look so human, just coughing and spitting up blood and snarling instead of, you know, reciting poems and drinking wine.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, although the “family” aspect of it was a tad overdone. The two actors who played the kids did a fine job of capturing fear and vulnerability with the recklessness and hubris of youth, and the actress who played the chief medical officer, while often espousing dull dialogue (can you say e-x-p-o-s-i-t-i-o-n?), did good work too. What I loved about this film was the way it built most of its characters—the director focused more on silent close-ups to reveal what the characters wanted and needed rather than resorting to dialogue.

It was timely seeing this film the same wee as Distubria. Both films evidence a preoccupation with being watched or monitored—and, to some degree, threatened by the unseeable. In a post-9/11 world and particularly in America, where the Patriot Act promises to tattle on our phone conversations, library check-out histories, and other private or privileged information, this preoccupation is becoming more pronouned. In 28 Weeks Later, like in America, the citizens are closely monitored by video cameras, snipers, and ground troops “for their own safety,” while in Disturbia is it precisely our irresistible urge to look back that causes most of the problems. In each film, these situations are far from ideal. After all, wouldn’t we be safer if we were unaware of the eyes on us or what goes on next door?

Further food for thought: saw a preview for Captivity before this film, in which Elisha Cuthbert is inexplicably kidnapped by someone who has been watching her for months—and then proceeds to monitor her activities remotely while she is trapped…somewhere. Add to the list films like the Saw franchise, and you could say that Americans are positively paranoid about being watched.

Domestic Disturbia

Not one to pass on by a “Hitchcokian” thriller (or, a thriller of nearly any variety, really), I corralled some friends last weekend to go see Disturbia at my local neighborhood multiplex.

It is a slow film. That doesn’t bother me; I’m a patient viewer and I can find many things to enjoy (visually/aurally/compositionally) about a film if the narrative is slacking a bit. Disturbia is better, more artistically rendered than your average thriller film, particularly one in which the primary characters are teenagers.

The set-up is vaguely familiar: a good teenage boy, after experiencing a life-altering trauma, blames himself for what went wrong and turns somewhat delinquent, ending up spending his summer under house arrest. Separated from his friends, cut off from TV, iTunes, and other forms of communication, he turns to staring out his window to get to know his neighbors a little better…without their knowledge.

As someone who peeks into every uncurtained window he passes by (and really, isn’t that just an invitation to look?), I thought the film captured the complexity of curiosity, desire, and confinement well. To be fair, I often keep my own blinds open in my house, in case someone like me is wandering around wondering what I do with my time (which, admittedly, usually involves TiVo and a kitchen). I am also polite enough to know when it’s time to close the blinds. All’s fair…

The performances in this film are good enough; I’d hesitate to say above average. David Morse is wasted in his role, stuck playing your typcial menace, but Shia LeBoeuf is pretty mezmerizing as the “Martha’d” teen stuck in his (of course, beautiful) home. If you’re twelve years old, you’ll remember LeBoeuf as one half of the tween pair in Even Stevens; here, he, like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window serves as an unlikely hero—incapacited, emotionally broken, uncertain—convincingly. In fact, the three “teenage” actors in this film all turn in worthy performances, capturing the tentative personalities of that time of life with aplomb.

The ending—creepy, yes—wasn’t unpredictible. Despite this, one of my moviegoing friends was crouched down in his seat hiding under his track jacket during the last half hour.

Review of Living Things

Collin wrote a review of my chapbook over at The Pedestal. (Thanks!) Click to the quote to read the whole review:

Jensen could have easily bogged Living Things down with melancholy and self-pity, and while you might shed a few tears, it won’t be in the places you might expect. There’s a sharp clarity and acceptance of death in these poems, yet both the narrator and the dead lover live and breathe on these black and white pages. There’s a cinematic quality to the scenes and details. It’s a short film waiting to be made, with Jensen’s words as dialog or voice-over.

On the Shortbus

I bought the John Cameron Mitchell film Shortbus recently based on some recommendations from friends who’d seen it and thought it amazing. I love Hedwig and the Angry Inch, too, so I thought I’d like this one.

Well, when I was shopping online for the DVD, I saw there was an unrated version, so I thought, “Well, why not? I’m an adult, after all.”

The DVD came in the mail yesterday, and I very nearly mean that as the double entendre it sounds like.

Case in point.

The story of the film concerns several late twenties/early thirties folks struggling with various issues. Sofia, a “couples counseler” (neé sex therapist), has never had an orgasm. Her husband, Rob, watches internet porn. Sofia counsels gay couple Jamie and James on whether or not they should have an open relationship because, as Jamie reveals, “I need to love everybody.” James doesn’t know who he loves. Dominatrix Severin is a hard-edged goth-punk chick with an axe to grind a name she’s afraid to be called. Ceth is looking for love, and a mysterious voyeur across the way has been documenting Jamie and James’s lives for several years.

All these characters commingle at a private sex club called “Shortbus,” where anything and anyone goes…whichever way they want. The world of Shortbus is a buffet of naked bodies, orgasm faces, and frank conversation, all presided over by drag queen Justin Bond, who ministers to this flock with a sense of reckless abandon and hope.

But what’s interesting about Shortbus is that it’s less about sex—although there’s tons of it, and in more varieties than you knew existed—and all about catharsis. Each character has become numb, paralyzed, trapped in him or herself. As Justin Bond explains, everyone comes to New York after 9/11 because they’re empty. These characters aren’t empty—they’re blocked. They all have something they need to get out, and soon.

Mitchell captures the lost souls he perceives to populate a post-terrorism New York City with both tenderness and consternation. Why can’t Sofia just come already? Why can’t Severin just move on? These are important questions, timely questions, age-appropriate questions, too, it seems. Trapped in time, the many bodies of Shortbus are seeking one true thing—connection—and although the metaphor is now trope and overdone, Mitchell’s blatant, in-your-face approach to it takes no prisoners

Chapbook Update

William Vandergrift had this to say about Living Things:

“A couple days ago, I received Charlie’s chapbook Living Things. (signed too!) WOW! What a powerful collection of poems this one is! Jensen explores a lover’s suicide effectively using taut prose that creates a distance between him and his readers so that the poems do not come near being melodramatic as they might have been had they been written by lesser writer. With a watchful eye and a keen ear, Jensen objectively explores and conveys the process of dealing with death and being the one left behind who must go on living. Wake Ecstasy is my particular favorite in this collection. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work hopefully in the near future!”

Ron, Eduardo, Montgomery, Josh, and Jules, your chapbooks are coming soon!

Praise for Living Things

Thank you to Justin Evans for his kind words:

“As for the new year, I started early with my goal to buy a book of poetry per month. For December, I traded Charlie Jensen for his chapbook, Living Things. A marvelous read, a great tandem read with Donald Hall’s poetry (The Painted Bed) about his wife, Jane, which I happened to buy with my annual giftcard from my in-laws. Chariie certainly has his own voice, though, and is able to, in his spare language, express grief with the best of them. In not naming the ‘you’ addressed in his book, or shifting to the third person, Charlie forces the reader to question more. There are no certainties, no safe harbor for the reader. Thank you, Charlie, for offering the trade. I loved the book. This from Hall, which I think your poems are equal to (I hope you don’t mind the comparison):

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

Like I said earlier. Your book, along with Hall’s was a double shot of grief. I really enjoy the contrast of your spare words.”

And thanks also to Anne Haines:

“I started out wanting to describe these poems as elegiac, but I think of elegies as being in some way about the person being mourned, and in this chapbook, the deceased beloved is present only as body — we don’t get a strong sense of what he was like in life. Instead, the experience of mourning itself takes center stage and serves almost as a character, a personage. There is the necessity of dealing with the body of the deceased, the necessity of funeral and ritual, the necessity of coping with the day-to-day post-funeral mundanities (e.g. bills that continue to arrive), and there is the way mourning rings out into the world and, for a time, changes everything the mourner sees. These poems aren’t about the dead, or even really about the memory of the dead: they’re about the living. I’d read many of these poems before, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read them in the context of this small collection.”