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    Sunday, February 25, 2024

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

    BOOK TIP

    Dark Ride

    Lou Berney

    Eternally rocking in the arms of his bong, amusement park worker Hardy “Hardly” Reed is shocked when he randomly observes two kids sitting on a bench with what appears to be cigarette burns on their arms. And he’s as surprised as anyone — if any of his slacker friends even notice — when he can’t get the image out of his head and decides to do something about it. In clumsy fashion, Hardly begins to try and negotiate the maddening bureaucratic and legal avenues that will hopefully lead to at least an explanation as to who the children are and why they’ve been abused. When Hardly realizes the system is overworked and often indifferent, and sorta unaware that he’s doing so, he activates the wile and courage to match the suddenly fully developed conscience he’d probably never had occasion to notice before. But Hardly is better at investigation than he thought, and he bumbles into a truly dangerous situation. Berney, an Edgar Award winner for “November Road,” is so, so good at the psychically wounded hero, and his plots and smoothly descriptive style are a pleasure. For too long, Berney has labored brilliantly without much notice. Following the Edgar up with a book like “Dark Ride” should ensure his time draweth nigh!

    — Rick Koster

    MOVIE TIP

    Priscilla

    At first, I was worried I wouldn’t make it through all of “Priscilla.” It was so moody, so atmospheric, so deliberate. But slowly it became more involving as the character of Priscilla Presley — the movie was inspired by her 1985 memoir “Elvis & Me” — grows … and grows up. She was just 14 when she met Elvis, and she found herself in his controlling and, for her, often lonely world until she finally left him. Sofia Coppola’s screenplay and direction show Priscilla’s adoration for Elvis and her slowly dawning realization that she wanted to live her own life and be her own person. (One of Priscilla’s draws to Elvis must have been his performances, but the Presley estate didn’t give Coppola permission to use Elvis songs, so we mostly miss out on that element of his charm and charisma.) Cailee Spaeny gives a nuanced performance as Priscilla, navigating every shift in the character’s mindset. Jacob Elordi can’t compete with Austin Butler’s Elvis in the movie of the same name, but he provides the appeal and the contradictions of the man. He also towers over the petite Spaeny, which serves as a visual reflection of the power imbalance that the film explores.

    – Kristina Dorsey

    CD TIP

    The Remembering

    Dave Bainbridge

    Bainbridge is one of the maddeningly gifted, always-smiling multi-instrumentalists whose musical and compositional talents have graced the lineups of Strawbs, Iona and Lifesigns. A longtime fan of Keith Jarrett’s solo improvisational piano works — which extend far beyond “The Köln Concert,” BTW — Bainbridge in 2016 decided to task his 10 fluid finger with a similar pianistic experiment that resulted in “The Remembering.” I just now discovered this album, which is magnificent and ideal for sitting quietly while the brittle autumn sunshine angles through the window and a fine hound dozes on your lap. Bainbridge’s meditations indeed echo Jarrett at his most elegantly wistful. But Bainbridge also throws in a few haunting sleights of hand(s) reminiscent of Debussy, Chopin, Satie and Winston. Of course, it’s all anchored in Bainbridge’s own melodic instinct and chordal complexities — and it’s a substantially rewarding and gorgeously recorded work.

    — Rick Koster

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