^ Marty Walsh at his humble and practical best : at BostInno Mayor Forum

One candidate speaks the syntax of hi-technology, the other means well. The folks who bring us the media publication BostInno — voice of the “Innovation District,” Inno for short — know the difference. They go first-name with john Connolly, who helped set up the Inno; with Marty Walsh, not so readily. Yet at this morning’s Forum the moderators clearly appreciated Walsh’s humility and readiness to listen to the concerns of people very different from his base. Walsh’s 45 minutes of question and answer showed him at his best : not exactly ready with the answer, and willing to be seen as such. And when an answer was given, it proved practical; and the Forum attendees appreciated Walsh’s practicality and laughed at his self-deprecations. But his answers also proved revealing.

Walsh offered no radical transformations, sees no major shifts. He will bring new kinds of people into his circle of advisors. There will be diverse conversations, diverse decision making. Clearly, Walsh sees access to the Mayor’s ear as his top priority.

Some questions that Connolly would have dined on, Walsh ducked. Asked “how will you win the support of THIS community as you have the unions,” Walsh said “Innovation will be central to my cabinet.” To, ” a question about keeping the city open late at night, he offered “if people want to get a meal late or to install a juke box” — he laughed : “do they still call it that ?” — “it’s a matter of permitting.” Quizzed on what will be his Big Idea — the moderators cited New York mayor Bloomberg creating a technology campus high school — Walsh said “not sure….growing the City is what I’m focused on.”

At other points, however, Walsh outlined regionalized economic initiatives, innovation districts all through the city, arts festivals all weekend; and spoke of them all easily and in detail. Within his comfort zone, Walsh commanded the Forum-goers’ quiet attention, just as he had throughout the marathon of Forums held prior to the Primary. He may not win any debate prizes, but at the BostInno Forum he showed once again that when interviewed, he is an appealing figure.


^ the passionate bold innovator : John Connolly being moderatored

Then it was John Connolly’s turn. He too ducked the toughest question. Asked how he would handle fights with the Teachers Union, he responded “I want to fundamentally alter the culture in city administration, make it like the apple store” — which is his mantra: but sweet ear candy to the folks at this Forum. He also gave boiler plate answers to many questions and talked on too long, in a drone that dissipated the drama. It wasn’t the strongest start I have heard from him, not at all. But then he found his feet and began to assert, as only he can do.

“We aren’t preparing kids to compete in today’s economy…We need highly talented principals… and reforming the teacher contract. We have one of the most antiquated contracts in the country. We have to change it. Seniority cannot be the only way to choose teachers.”

So why, asked the moderators, haven ‘t you changed it ? Connolly replied thus: ” on the Council I don’t get to make any decisions. All we (the Council’s education Committe, which Connolly chaired) could do was be a watchdog…and to redirect some resources. (And) we had hearings on the teachers’ contract. A thing that they hadn’t thought possible. We had parents testify, we even had teachers come in and say that the teachers’ contract was wrong.”

Connolly then mentioned Walsh’s bill to take away from City Councils the power to review labor arbitrators’ awards. He said “The mayor has to represent the whole city…be independent…he can’t just represent one interest. My opponent’s legislation would damage the City’s bond rating and hurt city programs.” He was then asked the same question that was asked of Walsh : “what is your Big Idea — like the Mayor Bloomberg technology campus ?”

Connolly smiled that broad teddy bear smile.”My big idea ? It’s that every child in Boston get a quality education !”

The Forum people loved it. Connolly was among friends, and the rest of his time on stage was devoted to technology advance questions, innovation district questions, late night open hours discussion. It was less a Q and A than an office conversation.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : All is Lost ( 3 STARS )


^ nameless upon the sea shall he chance : Robert Redford as “Our Man” in J. C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost”

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Open vastness can be an aesthetic wonderment, breathtaking to behold, like the dark cold of outer space in “Gravity” or the endless desert in “Lawrence of Arabia,” but given a rip in a suit or a missed rendezvous at an oasis, that hypnotic intoxication with the serene forever can quickly become the edge of a hapless demise where outside intervention becomes a mathematic improbability and personal perseverance, the only shot at salvation.

In his sophomore effort, “All is Lost,” young filmmaker J. C. Chandor, who received an Academy Award nomination for his bold debut “Margin Call,” employs the sea as his beauteous hell. The film’s title is a shard from a letter written by a hopeless yachtsman adrift at sea in a life raft. No, this is not the second coming of “The Life of Pi”; “All is Lost” is not that existential, though the lone character, who has no name (the credits list him as ‘Our Man’) does go through an existential crisis of sorts. He also endures a series of Jobian trials that would force most people to just cash in their chips and go swimming with the sharks.

The imperiled seaman is played by none other than Robert Redford. Who, well into his later years, has the handsome grizzled look of one who has been at sea for some time. Not a salty old tar mind you, but the preppy, pleasure cruising version of Hemingway’s ‘Old Man,’ dressed ruggedly effete in cable knit sweaters and Bermuda accoutrements.
When we first catch up with Our Man penning his letter, we make just a tang of his hopelessness and sense of imminent demise before the story back-jumps eight days. Our Man now comfortably rests in a well-stocked, thirty-nine foot yacht somewhere in the Indian Sea. But the tranquil moment falls ephemeral to a sudden disturbance that rocks his boat violently from the side, the way that Bruce, the pet named shark in “Jaws,” effusively, fatally weakened the Orca. Examination atop reveals that a shipping container from a passing cargo ship has fallen off and ruptured his hull, and, without the divine intervention of a foaming mad Robert Shaw wielding a baseball bat, has also trashed his communication systems too.

So there he is, marooned on the high seas, and we don’t know much about Our Man. We don’t know if solo cruises in exotic and far flung places is something he does on a regular basis, or who exactly might be waiting for his letter back home. What we do know is that he’s confident at sea and at terms with himself as he takes to mending the ship’s hull calmly and methodically. He’s no MacGyver per se; there’s no presto-magico invention to save the day, just slow knuckle-breaking work and hopeful trial and error validation.

The repair merely stays his execution, as violent tempests and other extreme maladies close upon Our Man. Redford’s understated and nuanced performance along with Chandor’s simple, yet embraced rendering of the open ocean both as celestial body and chalice of death, fill the film’s sails with wonderment and purpose. There’s nothing else, and both players are on their game. In each ensuing ‘it can’t get any worse’ (and it does) scenario, you can always see in the corner of Redford’s eye a faint trace of fear. It’s a brilliant touch. Like Sandra Bullock’s astronaut in “Gravity,” his sailor knows, that to give into panic would result in his immediate demise and that calm perfunctory progress is the only way to remain alive and afloat. That struggle plays palpably upon the storied actor’s face without word or unnecessary exposition. In saying nothing it tells us oceans about the man who’s name we don’t even know.

If there’s any short coming to “All is Lost” it comes in the ending, which is neither a closed loop nor satisfactory. Perhaps Chandor was reaching for something more. It’s a bold but hollow grab. No matter, the film still showcases the talents before and at the helm and will only add to Chandor’s nascent reputation as one to watch.
— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies