SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

A Clear Cut Extreme

US Forest Service offers $5,000 reward for those responsible for clear cutting hundreds of trees in Santa Fe National Forest

Local NewsTuesday, October 13, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Anything for the pow-pow, even if it's a matter of breaking the law.

There are no leads yet, but a $5,000 reward still stands in connection with the arrests and convictions of those responsible for clear cutting a couple hundred trees near the Santa Fe ski basin in what federal officials officials believe was an attempt to make their own ski run.

Julie Anne Overton, a spokeswoman with the Forest Service, tells SFR on Tuesday that the destruction was reported by a hiker in late September after he discovered the felled pines in the Pecos-Santa Fe Wilderness District.

“It looks like whoever did it was arranging some sort of backcountry run because it’s this long narrow line,” says Overton, who’s seen photographs the hiker took of the stumps and says federal investigators believe the instigators were waiting for the winter's snowpack to cover their tracks.

The hiker apparently noticed the missing trees a couple years ago, but only recently did it dawn on him that their numbers continued to grow, and that something illegal must be going on, Overton says. A friend then encouraged him to contact the feds, which he did, sending photos as well.

The trees were not “gargantuan like the Redwoods,” says Overton, in explaining how such a fete could be accomplished over the course of 24 months.

The crime is classified as a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by jail time and/or a fine, she says, emphasizing that cutting just one tree within the wilderness area is illegal. 

Mike Gardiner, an assistant special agent in charge of the US Forest Service’s Law Enforcement and Investigations, is heading up the investigation. He’s taking tips at 842-3363.

There are five designated wilderness districts within the Santa Fe National Forest. They were established decades ago as a conservation area to avoid instances such as the very cutting that apparently has taking place. 

Morning Word: Gas Prices Rise

Production slowdown leads to a 10 percent jump

Morning WordTuesday, October 13, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Pumped Up
After bottoming out this summer, it looks like gas prices are back on the rise. We all paid about 10 percent more to fill up our tanks last week. Still, the average price in New Mexico is $2.26.  Analysts say the increase is the result of an oil production slowdown.

Campaign Fine
Bail bondsman Patrick Madrid says a $16,000 campaign reporting violation fine levied against him by the secretary of state isn’t “logical.” Madrid said no one ever told him he had to zero out his accounts after he dropped out of the Bernalillo County Commissioners race. Madrid was one of 31 cases Dianna Duran referred to the New Mexico attorney general’s office for investigation, only to have Hector Balderas return them to her, since he’s stopped providing the secretary any legal services following her indictments on 65 felony charges.

Shut Down the Park
A group of Sunland Park city residents are so disgruntled with their city leaders that they’re preparing to circulate a petition to dissolve the city government. Sam Gutierrez tells the Las Cruces Sun-News, "Their corruptiveness [stet] has gone on too long, too far, and we're tired of it. They have proven they can't rule themselves, much less us. We're ready to fight this all the way. It's not about when it's going to happen, it will happen." Petition organizers don’t think it will take them long to collect about 1,400 signatures. If they do, there will be a citywide vote on the issue.

Transparency Still Not a Priority 
This just isn’t cool. Another public servant is putting transparency on the back burner. The administrator for the chairman of Gov. Susan Martinez’ Judicial Nominating Commission told journalist Phaedra Haywood she doesn’t have the time to release applications submitted by people interested in replacing retiring New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Richard C Bosson. With the documents' release delayed until at least tomorrow, some folks are suggesting that a public hearing to review applications be rescheduled. 

Plant Retrofits
To comply with strict new federal haze rules, engineers have started installing pollution control equipment on those two coal-fired plants near Farmington. The work at the San Juan Generation Station and Four Corners Power Plant should be done by 2018.

Latino Surge
Joey Peters, who has been spending time in Roswell working on stories for New Mexico Political Report, has an interesting piece profiling an immigration and workers rights group’s effort to recruit new members and organize the city’s majority Hispanic population ahead of next year’s election.

Asian Population Booming
While Hispanics learn to leverage their majority in old Republican dominions like Roswell, Asian Americans are the fastest growing demographic segment in New Mexico. By 2065, the Asian population, according to the Pew Research Group, will be even larger than Hispanics. In the last census, their group saw a 46 percent increase in the state.

Student Passports
While demographers track shifting populations here, UNM students who want to study abroad are making Spain their top classroom destination. Semesters in Mexico and the United Kingdom are also popular.

Political Infighting
Dan Lewis, an Albuquerque city councilor, says he’s planning to introduce a motion to censure the council’s retiring president. Lewis is upset with public comments Councilor Rey Garduño made after Republican councilors decided to oppose a proclamation for making the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day. Despite the political infighting, hundreds of people marched outside City Hall carrying signs and shouting, “Native lives matter.” In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning public schools from using the “Redskins” name for their sports teams. At least four schools will have to come up with a new mascot.

Democrats Debate Tonight
If you’re like us and hoping to get away from the office in time to watch the Democratic presidential debate, here are six things to watch for tonight. Who knows, maybe the conversation will alter the race. Can Hillary Clinton protect her lead or will Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continue to close the gap? 

A Picture Is Worth ... Two Hours
A California company that specializes in collectibles and rare American coins says it authenticated a tintype picture of Billy the Kid and members of his notorious gang playing croquet in Lincoln County. The photo, which has been appraised and insured for $5 million, will be featured during a two-hour special on the National Geographic Channel on October 18.

Rumors Squelched
Roch Hart, the man who manages Diamond Tail Ranch east of Placitas, says he’s decided to allow film production companies to keep using the land for location shots after studio executives “squelched rumors that actors stole American Indian artifacts while filming Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials there” this summer. Hart, who offers tourists Jeep tours on the ranch, tells the AP that film production is a better option than cattle ranching. 

If you’ve ever gazed at the moon and noticed what looks like big cracks in the surface, now you can blame the earth. As it turns out, our little world’s gravity is responsible for creating some of the lunar faults and crevices. The pulling and pushing is reciprocal, since we already know the moon’s own gravity is responsible for creating ocean waves here.

'Cocks Not Glocks'
Students at public universities in Texas, who are upset that guns will be allowed on campus next August, are protesting the new rules by carrying dildos to school

For the Record
We blew it yesterday and published the wrong first name of the Rio Arriba political operative struggling with heroin addiction. It should have been Carlos Trujillo.

Morning Word: Property Crimes Plague NM Cities

Fewer police officers and drug addictions contribute to the problem

Morning WordMonday, October 12, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Property Crime
Newly released FBI crime statistics show that New Mexico led the nation in burglaries per capita last year. Police chiefs told Uriel Garcia that a lack of patrol officers and the state’s drug addiction epidemic are primary contributors to the 8.87 burglaries per 1,000 people, which is way ahead of the national average of 5.42.

Struggling with Addiction
Speaking of addictions, Carlos Trujillo, a former political operative, is speaking out about his heroin use after being popped for driving under the influence of drugs in Española earlier this month.

Criminal Justice Reform
Sen. Lisa Torraco, D-Albuquerque, whose own home has been hit three times in three weeks, says, “Property crime offenders and repeat violent offenders are a real and serious threat; they threaten our safety and our children.” Torraco says criminal justice reform needs to start with better ways to deal with career criminals.

Debate Prep
While President Barack Obama says he thinks Hillary Clinton made a mistake using a private server to store her emails, he told 60 Minutes over the weekend it did not pose a national security risk. While the charges may be “ginned up,” Clinton is working double-time to shore up her presidential campaign ahead of tomorrow’s debate in Las Vegas.

Fixed Income
If you were counting on a cost-of-living increase in your Social Security benefits next year, you’ll be disappointed. For the only the third time in 40 years, there won’t be one because gas prices are down.

Lingering Claim
US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined state, tribal and local leaders Saturday to celebrate the designation of Valles Caldera National Preserve, one of the country’s newest additions to the National Park Service. Jemez Pueblo leaders attended the event but aren’t giving up their claim to the 89,000 acres nestled inside a 13-mile-wide collapsed volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains.

Job Cuts
Citing more than a $2 million drop in tuition and student fees, the University of New Mexico plans to cut 100 jobs through attrition.

Two Celebrations
Not everyone is honoring Columbus Day. Instead, some folks are celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.

Flight Delays
If you’re headed out of town on Southwest Airlines today you’ll want to arrive at the Sunport at least two hours early. Unknown technical computer glitches led to hundreds of flights being delayed yesterday. The company says there’s no indication its systems were hacked, but still doesn’t know what caused the breakdown that had gate agents handwriting boarding passes.

Green Flags
Great weather helped make this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta one of the best since 1996. At least one couple got engaged during the week-long event. If you missed any of it, you’ll enjoy this time lapse video of the special shapes rodeo.

A History of Sunshine
Finally, the Albuquerque Journal had a great piece on the history of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government on Sunday. The group has been advocating for sunshine laws and more government transparency for 25 years.

Last Call

Blue Rooster shuts its doors, citing too much competition from new bars and free music

Local NewsFriday, October 9, 2015 by Julie Ann Grimm

Almost exactly a year to the day after opening Blue Rooster as Santa Fe's downtown destination bar for the gay community, friends and family helped dismantle its interior decorations this afternoon.

Co-owner Doug Nava tells SFR that the decision has been a little while in the making, but he purposely didn't tell anyone that Thursday, Oct. 8 was the last night the joint would stay open. 

"When we started off, we were like one of the places to be, but then all of these other venues opened up and people starting going and checking out the new stuff and little by little, you just start falling a place in the line," he says. 

Barstools and tall tables that once filled the upstairs of the space at the corner of Marcy Street and Lincoln Avenue are heading as donations to Skylight, ironically one of the places that Nava says made it hard for Blue Rooster to compete. 

Another challenge Nava cites are the very things the city has been cultivating to draw people to the downtown area. 

"Music on the Plaza, music on the Railyard, music on the hill, all of this free stuff, people go there for four hours a night in the summer and they don't make your bar until 11 pm so there were times when we would go hours with one or two people because everyone was at the free stuff," he says. 

Nava and his partner Mark England opened the bar "as a place for the gay community to go," he says, filling a void from the abrupt closure of Rouge Cat at the same location, with much the same mission. But he notes in a parting thought that more than half the regular customers were straight.  

"I'm happy and I'm sad," he says with a face that says more the latter than the former. 

Outside on the sidewalk, he accepted a hug and a well wish. So it goes. 

Morning Word: Duran Gets More Time

Judge resets preliminary hearing for Dec. 1

Morning WordFriday, October 9, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Prep Time
New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran and her attorney have a little more time to prepare for a preliminary hearing. While several legal motions will still be heard this month, First Judicial District Court Judge Glenn Ellington has rescheduled Duran’s preliminary hearing for Dec. 1.

Narrow Focus
The attorney representing the state’s teacher’s union wants a state district judge reviewing the Public Education Department’s teacher evaluation program to focus on a provision that allows schools to fire instructors who are put on a 90-day improvement plan and agreed the rest of the program can stay in place at least until more data is collected.

Political Shock
Speaker of the House John Boehner’s worst congressional nightmare may be coming true. He may have to stay on the job after Kevin McCarthy shocked Washington and withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday. New Mexico's only Republican in the delegation, Rep. Steve Pearce, is reacting to the chaos, telling Michael Coleman he supports Daniel Webster, a conservative representative from Florida.

Clean Up
A nuclear waste watchdog group hopes settlement talks between the New Mexico Environment Department and Los Alamos National Labs finally leads to a genuine investigation and cleanup of industrial waste buried around the 40-acre site, including a plume of hexavalent chromium that has creeped past the lab’s boundaries.

Run to the Border
If you weren’t able to see Pope Francis on the East Coast, then you might have a second opportunity next year when he visits Mexico, especially if he adds Juarez to his itinerary.

Environmental groups are pleading with the federal government to order the release of at least five packs of Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico. They contend it will bolster the genetics of animals.

Another Sunland Park city councilor has been arrested in as many weeks. Councilor Daniel De Los Santos is charged with a fourth-degree felony after he gave beer to a friend and girlfriend who haven’t turned 21 yet. The other councilor, Sergio R Carrillo, was busted during a special council meeting on Sept. 29 and charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Money Fix
New Mexico’s Native American tribes are getting more than $4 million for a program aimed at reducing drug use, suicide and domestic violence.

Honor Mount 
The Albuquerque Police Department has named its two new horses Justice and Nigel to honor Rio Rancho Police Officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner, who was shot and killed earlier this year.

There are typos and then there are really bad (and sometimes funny) typos. We had a pretty bad one yesterday morning when we typed "guys" instead of "guns" in the email header of the Morning Word. Thanks for sending your hilarious comments reminding us you can purchase “guns” but it’s illegal to be a “guy buyer.” Have a good weekend.

Wheel These Guys Back In

Thieves stealing mountain bikes from atop cars, inside homes

Local NewsThursday, October 8, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

At least five valuable mountain bikes have been stolen in the city during the last week, often from cars parked at retail locations after the cable locks securing those bikes were chopped in broad daylight, says the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society. And two were taken from inside a locked home in the middle of the afternoon. 

The group has asked a Santa Fe police officer to attend its next meeting, but the department didn't respond to an inquiry from SFR about the apparent uptick of bicycle theft. 

“It seems like a lot of people are coming from trailheads and I believe somebody is watching people leaving from trailheads and it also looks like they’re targeting specific kinds of bikes, high-end specific kinds of bikes,” Pat Brown, president of the Fat Tire Society, tells SFR five minutes after another report of a bike theft, this one from the hospital parking lot Thursday afternoon. “In at least two incidences, it was people coming off the trailhead, going to a retail center or a retail shop and stopping to buy something and coming back out and their bikes are gone.”

If that weren’t disconcerting enough, someone broke into a Santa Fe home and stole two bikes this week. Mat Long, who cites 30 years of working in the biking industry (though he has since moved on to making furniture), came home Wednesday afternoon to find two Santa Cruz mountain bikes, their total value at $14,000, missing from inside his locked house. Marks on the door showed where the lock had been shimmied on a back room used to store the bicycles. 

Long had returned home twice in the last seven days to find locks and doors in his house tampered with. The first time, the lock on the French doors to the bike room, which is blocked from view from the street by an 8-10 foot coyote fence and windows covered with shades, had been removed from the latch, and the second, the front door was left hanging open. This, despite ADT Security Systems stickers on the windows. 

He’d been gone the afternoon the bikes were stolen from 2:30pm and 5pm. Though he had ridden that morning from the ski area to his house in Casa Solana, that was his first in a while, he says, so he doesn’t think being tracked from a trailhead was how the thieves knew to target his home. Rather, he suspects the bike rack sporting a Santa Cruz sticker on his vehicle parked outside. 

“They’re looking for specific things, because I had another bike in there that is very expensive, but it’s not a very common name, you would only really know about it if you were really into bikes, and they left that there…[and] that’s a $6,000 bike,” he says. “So I think it’s the brand. They’re looking for brands, and they’re looking for full suspensions. And these bikes were both carbon fiber.”

The brands targeted appear to be Yeti and Santa Cruz, both expensive, highly coveted boutique-type mountain bike brands. Santa Cruz bicycles can retail for up to $8,200, and Yetis as high as about $12,000. 

“They’re easy to sell, they’re easy to get rid of, and everybody always wants them,” Long says.

At Mellow Velo, bike owners have reported two stolen Yetis and a Santa Cruz to keep an eye out for. One was reported stolen from the Trader Joe’s parking lot and one from Susan’s Fine Wine and Spirits. 

SFR asked the police department for additional information on bike crimes in the area, but a spokeswoman did not immediately reply.

Long suspects his bikes are already in another state, or in a warehouse being stripped to the frame. 

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s gone,” he says. “We have insurance that’s going to cover it, but for me, it’s just the fact that they broke into the house. That just seems crazy.”

The Fat Tire Society has asked for a police officer to attend their meeting 6pm Monday, Oct. 12, at REI, and perhaps a police presence at trailheads. 

“When people are following you home, there’s not much you can do, and you don’t even know they’re following you—who’s looking in the rearview mirror?” says Brown. He advises being aware of your surroundings and who might be leaving at the same time as you from a trailhead, and, of course, cable locks are what’s getting chopped, not U-locks. 

“I can tell you it’s on the radar now,” Long said. “People are freaked out.”

This Weekend

Axle Contemporary puts the spotlight on Santa Feans.

Weekend PicksFriday, October 9, 2015 by SFR

100 Portraits

Axle Contemporary and CCA present Hye Coh's 100 6 inch square oil paintings of local residents. Through Dec. 6

More Info >>

Barkin' Ball

The theme of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter's annual fundraiser is Harvest Gala. The ball begins with Yappy Hour cocktails followed by a seated dinner and silent auction with live music from the Buckarettes. As always, dogs are welcome to this formal event.

More Info >>

Gene Kelly: The Legacy

The legendary dancer's wife and biographer takes us behind the scenes of his life.

More Info >>

5th Annual Fiesta Fela

Founded as a tribute to Nigerian musician/activist, Fela Kuti, Fela Fest has grown over the years into a free, family-friendly event with all kinds of music, food, art and more. Jaka, Matthew Andrae, Rujeko and many more provide the tunes.

More Info >>

Rae Sikora: Brilliant Chickens, Einstein Squad

JourneySantaFe presents a lecture on animal intelligence and emotions.

More Info >>

Santa Fe Community Farm Produce Sale

Shop for locally grown, organic produce from one of Santa Fe's oldest and largest farms.

More Info >>

Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Morning Word: Dems Want to Broaden Background Checks

Entrenched in the country's gun culture, Republicans have no interest in allowing a vote

Morning WordThursday, October 8, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Gun Background Checks
A week after the mass shooting in Oregon, Democrats in the US Senate are preparing new legislation to broaden federal background checks. A similar proposal was blocked by the NRA two years ago. Meanwhile, US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is also calling for action to curb gun violence. Matthew Reichbach reports Lujan Grisham is concerned that people with mental illness “are susceptible to the gun culture that glorifies gun violence on a daily basis.”

Not a Pretty Picture
The governor and lawmakers who put together the state’s budget can’t be happy with the 2016 oil and gas market outlook. New Mexico relies on revenue from the energy sector to bolster its budget, but oil field production could remain flat or even weaken over the next 12 months, according to national reports.

Pay Increase
Hoping to attract high-quality candidates for its chief of staff job, Public Regulation commissioners voted to up the annual salary for the position from $90,000 to $130,000.

Las Cruces Candidate Stuck 
A Las Cruces City Council candidate apparently has had a change of heart and wants off the ballot, but Steve Calderazzo learned his request is too late. Heath Haussamen has the behind-the-scenes analysis.

Nobel Honors
Congratulations are in order for Paul Modrich, who grew up in Raton and was part of a team that won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry yesterday for their work studying DNA.

Students Revved Up
Students in Santa Fe aren’t happy about having to pay up to $5 to attend some school events like football games and dances. Official say they need the money to offset the revenue it lost when they stopped charging $35 for an activity card.

Business Transparency
Walt Bogdanich, an investigative reporter at The New York Times, suggests New Mexico businesses would benefit if they were more transparent about their operations. We wonder if he had the state’s 35 medical marijuana producers in mind when he delivered a keynote speech during the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s annual luncheon in Albuquerque yesterday.

Veto Survives
Speaking of marijuana, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s marijuana decriminalization veto survived an override. Democrats on the council were unable to persuade any of the four Republican members to switch their vote.

Space Age 2
A NASA executive says New Mexico can have a huge role in a second space age, including Spaceport America’s role in testing reusable rockets.

Morning Word: PNM Defends Projections

Utility's numbers disputed by renewable energy advocates

Morning WordWednesday, October 7, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
PNM Defends Numbers
The Public Service Company of New Mexico and an out-of-state consultant working for the New Mexico attorney general’s office are defending numbers the investor-owned utility provided to the Public Regulation Commission to justify a rate increase. The problem: PNM has submitted a different set of numbers in its power replacement plan. Executives at PNM are upset that a renewable energy group is questioning the firm’s integrity, but the president of New Energy Economy is defending her organization’s analysis, telling Steve Terrell, "If the Attorney General actually looked at this settlement himself, he would see that it is designed to keep New Mexico in the energy dark ages for years to come while much of the rest of the country is moving on from fossil fuels to solar and wind, and saving ratepayers millions." 

PED Expert Doesn't Waiver on Teacher Evaluations
A witness for the Public Education Department suggests that if a judge halts the new teacher evaluation program, New Mexico could lose its federal funding and its waiver for certain federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates.

Long Live Miniatures
So it turns out you really can fight City Hall after all, and liquor store owners will keep ringing up sales of miniature booze bottles. Yesterday, SFR reports, a state district judge ruled the bottle ban was unconstitutional. City councilors had adopted the ordinance hoping to cut down on the amount of litter in the City Different.

Fewer Deportations
While the number of immigrants being tossed out of the country has increased during President Barack Obama’s administration, the number of families broken apart fell last year. Still, the share of criminal immigrants deported in relation to overall immigrants deported rose slightly, from 56 percent to 59 percent.

Voter Apathy Wins
As expected, voter turnout was really low (just over 8 percent) in Albuquerque’s municipal elections yesterday. Three incumbent city councilors won re-election. With almost 70 percent of the vote, Progressive Pat Davis easily won his campaign to replace retiring City Council President Rey Garduño. 

Power Bonds
Duke City voters also approved bonds to spruce up the ABQ BioPark and city streets, and they gave city councilors a say on who gets hired to be police and fire chiefs in the future.

Election Analysis
Political pundits aren’t blaming voters for not showing up to the polls. Former city councilor Grey Payne claims voters don’t believe leaders are interested in solving problems. Still, Heath Haussamen says something has to be done to engage voters.

Billions Flow
Gov. Susana Martinez says tourism in New Mexico accounts for about $6 billion a year in direct spending in the Land of Enchantment. Santa Fe County saw $781 million in visitor spending in 2014. The record tourism numbers also support over 89,000 jobs.

Empowering Afghan Women
It’s sure to be a risky adventure, but an Albuquerque water polo instructor is headed to Afghanistan to teach women there how to play the sport. Robbie Bova, who both played and coached water polo with the US national program, tells KOB she wants women in the war-torn country to “find peace through sport.” Now Bova just needs to figure out a way to design a swimsuit that won’t get the 100 women or so who have expressed an interesting in playing from getting into trouble for exposing too much skin.

Out on the Tiles, Permanently

'Time Out of Mind' is an OK movie but a better Steely Dan song

OkWednesday, October 7, 2015 by David Riedel

Time Out of Mind, Oren Moverman’s latest, is sometimes compelling, sometimes exasperating, and often hugely frustrating. That doesn’t stop it from being an occasionally poignant tale of homelessness and mental illness, but it just doesn’t know when to quit.


When I write it doesn’t know when to quit, I don’t mean like Ironweed or The Pursuit of Happyness or The Soloist, movies featuring homeless characters that are so bleak as to leave the audience despondent; I mean Moverman doesn’t know when to get out of the way and let his story tell itself.


There is so much street noise, background chatter and brouhaha from moment to moment in Time Out of Mind that it eventually starts to overpower the narrative. It’s not like Moverman’s choices don’t make sense; George (Richard Gere, mostly avoiding Richard Gere-isms) is framed throughout much of the movie so as to appear invisible to people around him. Moverman places the camera across the street from George, or down a hallway or inside a store peering out so that he is eclipsed by his surroundings and buried beneath natural sound. But eventually it’s overwhelming, as if Moverman doesn’t trust the audience to make the connection that George is completely marginalized.


That’s to say nothing of George’s plight. While it doesn’t look easy, it also looks like cafeteria-style homelessness—take the stuff audiences can handle and leave out the truly horrible stuff.


We first meet George squatting in a Queens apartment. He’s asleep in the bathtub and kicked out by a contractor (Steve Buscemi) looking to clean the place up. It’s also here that we see George may suffer from some kind of mental illness—he’s distracted, but not because he was just shaken awake. It’s mild as far as movie mental illness goes, but not so mild it doesn’t keep George from being homeless.


George ends up selling his winter coat for alcohol (a trick he returns to again and again) and lands in a shelter. It’s at this point the movie strains some credibility; George acts as if he has no idea how shelters operate.


Of course, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe one of the symptoms of whatever affliction he suffers is an inability to remember things. But it’s not clear from the screenplay how George does and doesn’t know things.


Eventually, George makes a sort-of friend in Dixon (Ben Vereen—where has this guy been?), a homeless maybe-jazz musician who pisses off everyone he meets, even George. But George needs help, and Dixon fills that void.


Moverman makes a wise decision to let Dixon be the needy one in this uneasy friendship; that way the movie avoids becoming a Homelessness 101 class. Plus, the Dixon character teases some information out of George that we may not otherwise learn.


Mostly, though, we remain distanced from George (except when he’s sitting in Battery Park with homeless Kyra Sedgwick [!!], the Statue of Liberty shimmering behind them, as if we haven’t gotten the message), and that’s a smart choice. It makes it harder to spot the stunt casting (including Michael K Williams, and Jena Malone as George’s estranged daughter) and also gives Gere the space to let the performance do the expositing.


For anyone hoping Moverman has made a movie as affecting as The Messenger, wonder no more. This isn’t it. It’s more like Rampart—good but muddled, as if it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a piece of entertainment or a polemic. Such is life.



Directed by Oren Moverman

With Gere, Malone and Vereen

The Screen

109 min.

A Clear Cut Extreme

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