James, who's afraid of shaving cream

Last week my son James had a funny reaction to seeing my face covered in shaving cream. It prompted me to think about the things James has been afraid of during his first 16 months, and to consider how the reasons he fears compare to the reasons I fear. I talk about those in an essay appearing this morning at The Millions:

These are the things my son James has been afraid of in the 16-months that he’s been alive: The grinding blender, the roaring vacuum, disembodied voices on the speaker phone, the time I pantomimed a broken leg, being put to bed alone in his crib. Most recently he ran in fright from shaving cream.

Ben Affleck's The Town and the Elements of Bad Drama

I saw The Town last week. Not a big fan, and in thinking about the problems with the movie I thought they described a lot of the more frustrating experiences I’ve had with film and television drama in recent years. I write about this in an essay appearing at The Millions today.

But instead of doing something meaningful with this setup, The Town titillates and teases, and then wanders off. It never acts on the tension it’s created and as a viewer you’re left feeling like you’ve been manipulated by a cheap trick with no payoff. This is unpleasant in its own right and it indicates the con-artist spirit in which The Town was produced. The filmmakers seem to have approached the movie by asking themselves, “how can we elicit a response from the audience” as opposed to the more appropriate question, “how can we tell a good story.”