A book review – Darkly Dreaming Dexter


Jeff Lindsay

Children. I should have killed him twice.

Whatever made me the way I am left me hollow, empty inside, unable to feel. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’m quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it. I fake it very well, and the feelings are never there. But I like kids. I could never have them, since the idea of sex is no idea at all. Imagine doing those things – How can you? Where’s your sense of dignity? But kids – kids are special. Father Donovan deserved to die. The Code of Harry was satisfied, along with the Dark Passenger.

Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, 2004

Writer’s block is a… hold on. Nope. Already wrote that last year when complaining about my lack of willingness to expose my prose to the world. Or to produce any for that matter. It had been half a year at the time. Almost thirteen months down the line, here I go again. As you might have noticed, my enthusiasm for both reading and writing usually ebbs and flows. Weirdly enough, it is somehow connected to how many *insert appropriate judgmental adjective here* papers I have to grade a week. My Dark Passenger, in a way. But enough about me. Jeff Lindsay deserves all the credit as far as said rekindled enthusiasm is concerned. Who? Exactly. What if I mentioned Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz or Jennifer Carpenter? Ring a bell? Yes, somewhat predictably, Dexter Morgan has become a household name as the main character of Showtime’s acclaimed TV show Dexter while leaving Jeff Lindsay’s novels in the shade. Who? Oh come on, don’t be a smart a… lec.

So here’s yet another rant, this time on behalf of unheralded Jeff Lindsay (he’ll thank me later), whose remarkable(1) talent I almost overlooked because of the sheer quality of a show (its first four to six seasons at least) which is after all a mere adaptation. The ingredients are fairly simple but highly efficient. The same Miami blood spatter analyst by day who turns into a merciless – but abiding by a very strict Code – killer by night we all remember from the show, an equally despicable boss and – that might be the one key element the show has been able to really enhance – somewhat understated supporting roles including Dexter’s sister’s Deborah (Debra on TV) who doesn’t seem to be suffering from Tourette’s syndrome as much as her small screen self just yet.


Jennifer Carpenter (Debra), Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Julie Benz (Rita)

However, the main reason why some characters might seem a little more subdued than they should be is the overwhelming presence of the story’s protagonist / first-person narrator, this ‘sociopathic vigilante’ as Wikipedia puts it. Indeed, Dexter’s voice is quite unique and the written form makes us more aware of it as we readers have to heavily rely on it to make our way through Lindsay’s plot. This literary device is akin to that which makes Emma Donoghue’s Room so much more compelling on paper than it is on the big screen for instance. Except that in this case, instead of a five-year-old’s thoughts, we’re getting those of a quirky vigilante complete with caustic humor. Triggering such a response in an avid Dexter viewer is no mean feat, believe me. It’s not as if I don’t know what’s supposed to happen or I haven’t seen Michael C. Hall’s staggering performance as everyone’s favorite serial killer. His unlikely appeal was already disturbing enough as seen through a camera. Here lies Jeff Lindsay’s seamless brilliance in his craft.

In other words, whether you enjoyed watching Dexter’s killing spree twelve weeks a year between 2006 and 2013 or you had never heard of that Dexter dude before reading this review (and let’s be quite honest, you still don’t understand all the hype surrounding him), dash to the closest book store (just kidding, type in the address of your favorite slave-owning shopping website) and go on a rampage. Did I mention there were eight books? Oh and did I allude to the fact that the first book (published in 2004) gave away the basis of a major plot twist that wasn’t written into the TV adaptation until the end of its sixth season in 2011? More proof that no Dexter fan had even opened the first book that paved the way for the show’s success and Jeff Lindsay had been utterly ignored as a trailblazer. Anyway. Rant over. Whatever you do, get acquainted with America’s most beloved serial killer one way or another. Both versions provide more than enough food for thought regarding the dichotomy between state-sanctioned justice and individual vigilantism to curb the most insatiable appetites.


Michael C. Hall (Dexter)

(1) I would have gone for ‘tremendous’ but a certain orange someone has ruined this otherwise beautiful word for me lately (and probably forever).

Picture 1: Larry D. Moore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 2: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 3: By Kristin Dos Santos (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A movie review – 10 Cloverfield Lane


Writer’s block is a nasty thing. I wrote my last piece on The Program over six months ago and today is the first time I have even remotely been willing to put words on paper (so to speak) since I last pressed the publish button in October 2015. Rant over, let’s move on to yet another one of my increasingly numerous rants. That’s what old age does to you.

Here goes. I can’t believe I almost missed 10 Cloverfield Lane because of all the hype surrounding The Revenant and Spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, both were decent but nowhere near this latest nerve-racking experience in terms of getting you on the edge of your seat without letting up until a few seconds into the ending credits. This feat was achieved mostly thanks to one man. However, despite towering over the rest of the cast, John Goodman pulling a DiCaprio at the 2017 Oscars and getting rewarded for his storied career remains almost as far-fetched as aliens settling in the Deep South. Too bad. Not only is he in a league of his own (as usual) in this movie, but I’m also pretty certain the Spanish subtitles enhanced his already stellar performance.

Joke aside, after sitting through movies in three different countries, I decided to add Spain to my tally. Little did I know that Madrid would amaze me with its Swiss-like punctuality. 8.30 on the dot, no commercials, no trailers, hang on to your hat. This is probably the first time I’ve almost missed the beginning of a movie while being physically present.


Good thing I ended up giving the opening credits my undivided attention before it was too late since I was in for a treat. Indeed, dear old Goodman isn’t the only gem lurking around J.J. Abrams’s surprisingly consistent plot. I know, he didn’t have anything to do with the writing this time but I’ve never missed an opportunity to take a pot shot at Lost‘s creator ever since I watched said show’s appalling finale. Guilty as charged.

Anyway, back on track. John Gallagher Jr, of The Newsroom fame, starts his bearded Hollywood blockbuster career with a bang (quite literally) and, of course, Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes everyone by storm after seemingly burying her career as John McClane’s daughter in the last two abysmal Die Hard installments, not to mention her being typecast as a horror movie damsel in distress (or scream queen, as Wikipedia has it). I can already hear people whispering in the back: some might say that her part in this movie labelled as a claustrophobic science fiction psychological thriller is a little too close to her usual bread and butter for comfort. But hey, stop interrupting me and go form your own opinion on her acting.


Let me now be as cryptic as the official trailer and say no more about the plot and its not-so-predictable-after-all twists except that the screenwriters explore at least three usually distinct genres in an extremely disturbing way and almost go so far as to break the fourth wall toward the end when… well, you’ll see when. So get some tapas and cerveza, reel your way to the closest movie theater, lower your guard a little and get ready to be taken off the 2016 Oscars beaten track to 10 Cloverfield Lane, Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana. Oh and check your inner monsters at the door, the movie is awash with those already.

Picture 1: By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 2: Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 3: By iDominick [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A movie review – The Program

You might remember my review on Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race. That book compelled me to dig up more and more Lance Armstrong-related stuff, including Alex Holmes’s chilling documentary Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story. When I read that one of Irish journalist David Walsh’s books on the topic (Seven Deadly Sins) was going to be adapted for the big screen, I was intrigued to say the least. How could Stephen Frears still cycle on such a beaten track without just going through the same old stages? So off I went, nineteen bucks and sixty cents lighter, I was ready to enjoy The Program in my wildly overpriced seat while sipping my soda that was nothing short of a rip-off. Little did I know that I was in for yet another fraud. And I’m not talking about Lance Armstrong himself.

As a French-speaking English teacher, I can’t allow myself to completely refute the idea of a French actor impersonating Michele Ferrari but I hope you got the fact that it’s still frowned upon in my book. Off the record. Anyway, Guillaume Canet pulls off a surprisingly decent Italian accent in what must be his second or third language. His resemblance with the infamous Ferrari being uncanny (horrible pun barely averted, I hope you appreciate the effort), I’ll turn a blind eye to a few French lapses in his intonation here and there. His duo with Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong is arguably the lone victory this movie will be able to brag about in the coming years. While not quite as impressive as leaving all one’s opponents in the shade on top of the Alpe d’Huez, Foster’s performance as the evil genius of cycling is quite convincing, at least physically. Indeed, his gaze is eerily Armstrong-like at times and some of his antics don’t leave a lot to be desired as the yellow jersey of douchebags despite bouts of stilted acting.

As far as the rest of the cast is concerned, the main problem resides in what my closest neighbors whispered to each other during the movie. « I just can’t get over the fact that he’s Roy on The IT Crowd – ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?' » (Chris O’Dowd as David Walsh) « Hey, wasn’t he that psycho on Breaking Bad? » (Jesse Plemons as Floyd Landis) « Hey, what’s Dustin Hoffman doing there? » Famous actors are usually fine in biopics, especially when they involve the main characters and you feel like no one else could have done it quite as well (e.g. Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman in Invictus). However, when celebrities start taking over supporting roles and end up outshining their fellow cast members, the viewers’ attention is inevitably diverted from the main plot. Don’t get me wrong though, that might not be such a bad thing in this case.

The main plot. Yes, I’ve been told I have to talk about that too, so buckle up. Frears barely scratches the surface of the events that led to Armstrong’s demise and that left so many deep psychological scars within his former entourage. His rise to fame as a young rider, his cancer, his comeback as a godly figure of cycling, the man who can’t be killed, his seven Tour de France triumphs, the Floyd Landis debacle and his ensuing revelations on his former mentor and Armstrong’s confession. Nothing we haven’t seen a gazillion times on TV. No surprises there. Frankie (Edward Hogg) and Betsy (Elaine Cassidy) Andreu’s predicament as Armstrong’s main accusers looks like a walk in the park, Emma O’Reilly (Laura Donnelly) is mentioned in passing and the extra hired for his likeness to Tyler Hamilton is simply brushed aside without getting a single line. I won’t even get into the shocking ellipsis that leads Lance Armstrong and Kristin Richard (Chloe Hayward) from talking about Italian food to getting married in under five seconds.

In other words, this movie is so superficial that it fails to fully address any of the issues included in the other recent (and brilliant) pieces on the Texan rider cheat and it will leave you frustrated if you have done your homework. However, if you just got back from a 16-year vacation on Mars and know absolutely zip about « The Blue Train », I’m afraid you’ll be more than a little fuzzy on the details when asked to dwelve on the subject over dinner. The good news is that now you get to explore the Internet to lay your hands on tons of evidence and testimonies related to the case starting with the above-mentioned contributions. Happy procrastinating hunting! Don’t worry, no performance-enhancing drugs will be necessary for this feat.

Picture: By Jarrett Campbell [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hewitt, Tomic, Kyrgios & Kokkinakis – an attempt to bridge the generation gap

Hewitt in 2004

Hewitt in 2015

I’ve been reading loads of tennis articles all summer and a particular series of controversies has caught my eye. Let’s call it « Kyrgios, Kokkinakis and Tomic reach puberty ». If you just got back from a vacation on Mars, here are a few links to catch you up:





In order to shed light on these incidents, let’s rewind. August 31, 2001. Arthur Ashe Stadium. Almost exactly 14 years ago, Lleyton Hewitt uttered what could easily be interpreted as racist comments about his second round opponent James Blake and was one of the main contenders for the title of Most Hated Sportsman in America. Now let’s get back to this week. September 2, 2015. As both the Grandstand on which his match was taking place and himself were getting ready to call it a career, the Aussie veteran was cheered on by a wild crowd for the best part of three hours and a half. Hewitt was even given a standing ovation as he made his way to the locker room after surrendering to his young countryman Bernard Tomic in a classic night session dogfight. A passing of the torch of sorts in more ways than one.

Bernard Tomic

Indeed, (that’s a reminder in case you were too lazy to click on the links above) Tomic got banned from the Australian Davis Cup team in the aftermath of a statement he made about his captain and his federation a few months ago. As if that wasn’t enough, he ended up spending part of the week leading up to the Davis Cup tie in a Miami jail as a result of a loud party he hosted. Just a regular week in Bernie’s world. His rap sheet includes speeding, trespassing, resisting arrest and tanking (that one’s not an actual crime yet though) as well as a sparring partner beaten up by his dad. Tabloid articles sporting his mug shots are probably piling up in the 22-year-old’s bedroom. Wait, doesn’t this remind you of another former up-and-comer from Down Under? You know, that highly respected soon to retire former Grand Slam champion from Adelaide. A guy who used to yell his signature « come on! » following pretty much every single unforced error made by his opponents, get involved in spitting contests at the Australian Open, need a security crew in Argentina, throw banknotes at Russian colleagues during press conferences and call chair umpires « spastic ». That was in the late 90s and early 2000s. And here we are, in 2015, and I’ve just been told that apart from earning the US Open crowd’s full support on the court, he’s also been hired to be a calming influence in Nick Kyrgios’s entourage behind the scenes. As his country’s Davis Cup captaincy is in the cards for 2016, his mentorship more generally encompasses the whole new (and extremely wild) Australian generation including Thanasi Kokkinakis and… Bernard Tomic. Weird, isn’t it?

Well, probably not that much. As a high school teacher, I often wonder how my students (especially the rowdy ones) would fare if they had a full time job instead of sitting in a classroom all day. Now keep high school students in mind and think about Kyrgios, Kokkinakis and Tomic again. They probably barely had time to go through middle school, let alone high school before being told they had to turn pro. Being a professional tennis player on the court and a celebrity off the court is definitely a full time job and probably even more so than most. Unless your name is Benoit Paire or Gaël Monfils, you never get to indulge your passion for junk food. You’re not supposed to unleash your inner troublemaker anywhere near a public place and please forget about throwing shapes on the dance floor this weekend. Everything you say or do is constantly subject to close scrutiny and within reach of the public eye in a matter of minutes. Oh and by the way, if you’re not very good at reading signals a girl you like might send you, worry no more, the tabloids will very diligently pick up on those for you. I wouldn’t blame any of my students for feeling lost and acting up if they were thrown into such a world overnight (hell, I’m not sure I would blame myself!). But then again, the whole world (ours, the supposedly normal one) has been tearing the Aussie trio to pieces all summer, somehow forgetting their age and background. Maybe give them a break?

Lleyton Hewitt got said break from public opinion quite late in his career, after he became close friends with the likes of Roger Federer he used to annoy to no end on the court, calmed down a little as a competitor, got married and got kids of his own. In other words, he settled down and interestingly enough everyone forgot about (forgave?) his past offenses. I’ve been wondering why all of this happened and there’s an extremely straightforward answer to that: that’s what most people do when they reach adulthood. This is why I think we should leave these kids alone and give them time to reach some kind of maturity, which might take a little longer in a society that is a far cry from a gated community to say the least.

Nick Kyrgios

Hewitt’s five-setter against his mentee the other night also gave me other reasons for wanting to cut Tomic and the Special Ks some slack. Indeed, despite the fact that the Australian grinder fought his way back into the match from a two sets to love deficit, he ended up throwing away a lead in the decider and losing that epic battle. I’m tempted to add « yet again » to this sentence. Hewitt has a win-loss record of 32-25 in five-set matches but if you break it down, as The New York Times journalist Ben Rothenberg did, you’ll notice that the former world No. 1’s record was 29-10 between December 2000 and August 2010 and has dropped to 2-11 between August 2010 and the present day. As Rothenberg had it on Twitter in the wake of Hewitt’s heartbreaking defeat, « Lleyton Hewitt has gone from the game’s best closer to the absolute worst. » I can’t help wondering if some of this decline is due to the South Australian’s slight behavior change on the court over the years (added to his getting older obviously). I strongly believe that a player like Nick Kyrgios’s loud and sometimes rowdy personality helps him be inspired in the heat of battle. So let’s not strip him of this potentially wonderful quality and risk impairing his game. Keep him in check, by all means, but, pretty please, don’t shoot him down.

Of course that’s unless you want to see all the prophets of doom and gloom crawl out of the woodwork to rant about this new boring generation of tennis players and to lament the loss of the likes of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, who hated each other’s guts and were ready to take « unsportsmanlike conduct » to another level. These party poopers are usually the same people who keep rebuking the Aussie newbies when they get a chance. Wet blankets apparently have a memory like a sieve.

Thanasi Kokkinakis

I can’t resist leaving you with an absolutely savory tidbit to take home. Here’s what former chief tennis correspondent for The Times (he went down for plagiarism in the meantime) Neil Harman wrote about a certain brat in The Telegraph on September 1, 2001: « Lleyton Hewitt would never win prizes for diplomatic decorum. In Australia, a land that expected its players to fight hard and behave on the court like freckle-faced boys-next-door Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, the brash, uncompromising Hewitt has been received with mixed reviews. » « Never » can be such a strong word at times…

Picture 1: Lleyton Hewitt on court during Wimbledon, 2004. * originally uploaded to flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/david_wilmot/3357874/ * photographer: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/david_wilmot/ daramot] * licensed under cc-by-2.0 {{cc-by-2.0}}

Picture 2: By Carine06 from UK (Lleyton Hewitt) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 3: By Steven Pisano from Brooklyn, NY, USA (2014 US Open (Tennis) – Tournament – Bernard Tomic) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 4: By Carine06 from UK (Nick Kyrgios) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 5: By Diliff (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A TV review – Episodes

I keep reading on websites such as Grantland (for example right here: http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/sitcom-tv-comedy-abc-cbs-nbc-fox/) that the TV show as a genre is dying. At least it seems to be the case in the eyes of some critics. However, it really looks like they’re not getting a lot of grassroots support. Indeed, the American audience is leaving a lasting impression of utter blindness in the face of that so-called decline. Shows like The Big Bang Theory (in its eighth season, last year’s most watched comedy), Grey’s Anatomy (in its eleventh season) or NCIS (in its twelfth season, last year’s most watched drama) have earned a near-permanent spot at the top of the charts week in, week out.* However, I find myself siding with the critics these days. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be an avid follower of these three shows (and more) but I gave up on Gibbs’s crew as well as Seattle Grace’s drama queens after 10 years and I’m currently on the brink of divorce with Sheldon and his nerdy friends.

So this first paragraph is what I wrote a few months ago when I was still crazy enough to think I was about to write an article on US TV shows as a whole. Yeah, right. In the meantime, despite Howard’s mother’s sudden death, TBBT and I have parted ways on friendly terms. Anyway, stumbling across it for the first time in weeks today, I realized said paragraph would be the perfect introduction to a somewhat less ambitious review of a more modest yet absolutely brilliant TV show. 30 minutes of off-the-wall and often black comedy a week, 9 weeks a year starting every January. In other words, completely off the 24-episode September-May beaten track. Never heard of anything like that? Don’t ask your mainstream friends about it, you’d be wasting your time. Unlike the three shows mentioned above, we’re talking about a less than stellar average of barely half a million viewers in its third season.** Light years away from The Big Bang Theory and its 6.2 million viewers a week.

Here’s the recipe for critical acclaim though: warm up a spoonful of vintage Friends, add a little Showtime (cursing included, nudity not so much, which goes to show that True Blood and Fifty Shades of Grey might not have the market cornered on human entertainment just yet) and a pinch of British salt to the mix and you’ve got yourself pure genius in a DVD box set (because you’re obviously above illegal downloading). It’s called Episodes and it’s a lot more original than its title.

The show’s freshness mostly comes from the fact that it’s as intense as its episode count suggests. No one needs long-ass seasons littered with token gestures coming in the form of countless and often utterly pointless episodes showing the world that network employees have earned their outrageous monthly paycheck. No one cares about never-ending displays of power in which only the season premiere, the mid-season cliffhanger (right before the Christmas break) and the season finale are worth interrupting your post-dinner nap. A third of the usual number of weekly sessions makes for an incredibly compelling and fast-paced experience. While this is pretty normal stuff on British TV (Sherlock delivers 3 episodes a year, Fawlty Towers and The IT Crowd used to push it to 6 and Misfits usually goes all the way to 8), it is nowhere near the norm across the Atlantic, with the notable exceptions of long-running episodes on HBO and Showtime. And believe me, this is by far not the only thing Episodes is doing right.

The most obvious of these things are to be found right in the spotlight. Matt LeBlanc has put on a few pounds and added gray hair to Joey Tribbiani’s well-known alter ego since his Friends spin-off completely flopped nine years ago. His faltering acting career was the perfect pretext for David Crane (Friends, Dream On) and Jeffrey Klarik (Dream On, Mad About You) to reopen their old bag of tricks. Bringing back both the co-creator of Friends and one of its fading stars in a comedy show was no mean feat. Needless to say, everyone immediately rose to the occasion.

Usual criticism about the former Friends cast in general and LeBlanc in particular has been revolving around the way our six New Yorkers will forever be typecast as Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler and Joey. Trying to alter that disposition has only hindered their professional trajectory so far – except maybe Jennifer Aniston’s if you like soppy rom-coms. So Crane and Klarik decided to change everything by not changing a thing – except the unavoidable above-mentioned extra weight, graying scalp and years piling up – and being as blunt as possible. Matt LeBlanc acts as (mostly) himself, acknowledging – if not really addressing – all his flaws (and probably slightly overplaying some of them) including Joey’s never-ending curse and miscasting incidents. And that works wonders. How YOU doin’? Pretty well, thank you very much.

Adding Stephen Mangan (Sean Lincoln) and Tamsin Greig (Beverly Lincoln)’s brilliant performances to the mix has obviously made everyone on the set feel even better. Especially since they’ve been living up to their billing ever since. The goofy British duo’s mission (should they decide to accept it or not, no one gives a rat’s ass across the pond) in LA is to woefully miscast Matt LeBlanc as their main character in the American version of their award-winning show. The proverbial cascade of misunderstandings and cultural differences subsequently unfolds with the help of John Pankow (Merc Lapidus, the president of the network, who’s never even seen the show in the first place), Kathleen Rose Perkins (Carol Rance, Lapidus’s second-in-command, prone to having sex with her bosses), Mircea Monroe (Morning Randolph, the ageless – and surgically enhanced – lead actress), Daisy Haggard (Myra Licht, the hilariously depressing head of comedy) and Genevieve O’Reilly (Jamie Lapidus, Merc’s blind wife, the butt of numerous dark jokes) among other supporting roles.

George Bernard Shaw once said ‘The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.’ Boy, was he right. What he failed to mention was that when these two decide to unite on the screen for a biting satire of television itself, nothing ever gets lost in translation. Here’s to gazillions more Episodes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, only 9 a year. Get ahold of this show now, it is all it’s cracked up to be, unlike some of its small screen counterparts.



Picture: Thomas Atilla Lewis [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hewitt’s career through the revolving door

On January 29, 2015, Pat Rafter, Wally Masur and Lleyton Hewitt held a joint press conference to announce that Rafter would step down as Davis Cup captain effective immediately and that Masur would assume the role for the time being. That is until Hewitt takes over in 2016. As some sort of bizarre footnote to that statement, the Aussie legend added, almost reluctantly, that he would put an end to his storied career as a player after the 2016 Australian Open – his 20th – competing in a select few of his favorite tournaments including the Queen’s Club and Wimbledon on the way to his final farewell.

That’s it. He finally dropped the R bomb. What will journalists write about after Hewitt’s (scarce) press conferences from now on? They can no longer speculate on his upcoming retirement and expressions like « he turned back the clock », « he rolled back the years » or « vintage Hewitt » will soon be off limits. Roger Federer must be praying for yet another Tommy Haas comeback not to feel too lonely at the never-say-retire table. Especially if 2015 turns out to be another Slamless year for the Swiss Maestro.

All of that happened a month ago. In the meantime, Federer even had time to drop the ball soundly regarding his Davis Cup involvement – or lack thereof – and bluntly ask his ever loyal sidekick Stan Wawrinka to pick it up for him. Some might say nothing that wouldn’t happen any month, but still. So why did it take me so long to react to possibly the saddest piece of news in my amateur writing career? Well, hindsight I guess. In the wake of Hewitt’s heartbreaking loss to journeyman Benjamin Becker – hello, Agassi’s career-ender in 2006 – all I was ready to do was say it was about time the guy retired. All I was ready to talk about was all these squandered leads and thrown away five-setters in recent years. All I was ready to discuss was the way choking on special occasions had become as much of a signature move as his grit and mental toughness on the big stage had been his trademarks back in the day. It took me a month to realize it was beside the point.

After coming to terms with the bitter disappointment brought by that tear-jerker of a match, I came to the conclusion that what mattered was elsewhere. When Andy Roddick hung up his racket, he said he was doing so because he didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to play any longer and because embarrassing defeats were starting to pile up. He also added that he was retiring on his own terms, which is not exactly what the previous sentence suggests. However, at the end of the day, tough losses aren’t the memory people go home with.

Ten years from now, absolutely no one – except Hewitt, yours truly and maybe a few pundits – will have any recollection of that pathetic excuse for tennis displayed in the last three sets against Becker. Several other massive pieces of choking will also be gone and forgotten. Lleyton Hewitt will be remembered for what he stood for in his prime: 2 Grand Slam titles, 2 Masters Cups (currently ATP Tour Finals), 2 Masters Series (currently Masters 1000) titles, youngest number 1 in history (very unlikely to be surpassed any time soon), 30 titles altogether. As far as history is concerned, he could lose every match on his farewell tour and it wouldn’t mean squat. Winning or losing second-tier matches has lost all relevance in the big picture. He’s reached the point when his legend can no longer be challenged. That’s precisely when you earn the right to go out on your own terms no matter what. And who said newly appointed Captain Hewitt was leaving the game anyway? He’ll just be on the other side of the revolving door.

Picture: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/Lleyton_Hewitt_%2814418849771%29. jpg

A movie review – Gone Girl

He’s a hotshot Southern writer who exported his talent to the Big Apple. She’s a Harvard graduate whose parents write best-selling children’s books based on her amazing self. They fall madly in love. They’re creating their own brand of happily ever after including owning a bar called “The Bar”(!) in North Carthage, Missouri, where he was born and raised. They’re about to celebrate their fifth anniversary. So corny you want to choke them. The kind of happiness that would trigger one of Dr. Cox’s long-ass speeches involving everything he hates starting with Hugh Jackman. That’s the story. That is if you take it at face value.

When he gets home on that fateful day of July 2012, his amazing wife is gone and she’s left a trail that will lead the local cops directly to him with the media hot on their heels. As the spotlight is starting to scratch the surface of their seemingly perfect marriage, it appears that there is more to it than meets the eye. “It’s always the husband”, as the old saying goes. Is it really? Where does the truth lie? Nick’s clumsy press conference comments and his inappropriate behavior including selfies with local hotties and goofy smiles next to his missing wife’s picture? Amy’s multiple diary entries littered with clues conveniently handed to the cops on a silver platter? None of the above? As the story unfolds – the real one this time – we find ourselves sucked into a whole new narrative where sheer genius and pure insanity are just two sides of the same coin.

Not only was Gillian Flynn smart enough to work on the big screen adaptation of her book with the famed Fight Club director David Fincher but she also wrote the screenplay herself. The backstage part of the project was therefore bound to be a slam dunk. The out front situation, however, was nowhere near a sure thing. Or so it seemed. A lot of people must have cringed when they saw that the notoriously mediocre Ben Affleck – he was nominated for “Worst Actor of the Decade” at the Razzie Awards in 2010 after all – would embody Nick Dunne and that How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson himself would also be part of the cast. I know I did.

Clearly, I was wrong. Ben Affleck is just pitch perfect as an average – but mostly dumb and clumsy – small-town husband falling into every possible trap set up by… oh you’ll see by whom, just watch the movie. His stilted acting and empty eyes work like a charm. I’m not sure he even has to act at all as a matter of fact. As far as Neil Patrick Harris is concerned, yes, his part is not that far from the position he held for nine years as New York’s most famous lady-killer (figuratively that time), especially since his mansion has everything and more to be considered the chick magnet par excellence. However, he’s just creepy enough to fit into Desi Collins’s shoes and help us forget that we all hear “Daddy’s home!” when he tells Amy that Mr. Collins is indeed home. Intentional allusion? Speaking of the devil, Amy Dunne is portrayed by Rosamund Pike who is nothing short of dazzling. Not only is she – according to her imdb bio – fluent in French and German, but she can also switch from a mainstream American accent (her character is a New Yorker) to a more rural and Southern drawl. Not bad for someone from West London. Talk about being cast against type… There is no miscasting taking place here though. Pike’s brilliantly disturbing rendition of America’s sweetheart turned into her husband’s worst nightmare just boggles the mind. Finally, let’s not discard some solid performances from the rest of the cast including Tyler Perry (defense lawyer Tanner Bolt, providing some comic relief), Carrie Coon (Nick’s twin sister Margo) and Kim Dickens (Detective Boney).

The result is Gone Girl, an absolute gem of darkness (and utter madness) that will keep you on the edge of your seat for a solid 149 minutes and will leave you yearning for more as well as shaken to your very core. I don’t think I’d be crossing the Rubicon of human decency if I urged you to run to the nearest movie theater to savor what might as well be deemed the most powerful movie of the year. Okay, gotta go triple check that my door and windows are locked, that I’ve gotten rid of all the sharp objects I own and that my wife is…

Woah. Careful there, almost gave out the ending. Go watch it for yourself. And if you don’t find it as riveting as I did, you’ll at least learn a new word: “twincest”. A blend Barney Stinson wouldn’t have been ashamed of.

Picture 1: By aphrodite-in-nyc from new york city (P1070621) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture 2: By aphrodite-in-nyc from new york city (P1070597) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons