With each brother blander than the next, however, the big reveal wields all the dramatic heft of a balloon. Music Teacher Not to paint India or its cinema with too broad a brush, but it sure has plenty of movies about developmentally stunted men getting in touch with their feelings because of the efforts of tolerant, accommodating women. Take Beni Manav Kaul , an educator with a chip on his shoulder and unrealized fantasies of musical superstardom.
To make matters more agonizing, his former pupil Jyotsna Amrita Bagchi announces a homecoming concert after eight years of making a name for herself at the uppermost pop echelon. Will they find love? Erotic-thriller sex should be scary in a hot way, not scary in a 50 Shades of Grey way. Shimmer Lake Smarter than the average Coen Brothers ripoff looking at you, Cut Bank , this one has the good sense to also be a Memento ripoff.
A little bit of money. Throwing more money at a production rarely solves problems, but for a premise that wholly orients itself around the near-pornographic gazing upon military weaponry — much of it fantastical, engineered with futuristic technologies explained at length — looking good is everything. Brain on Fire Susannah Cahalan had it all: a great job writing for the New York Post , a devoted boyfriend, bright prospects.
On both counts, the answer is a confidently intoned yes. And that title? The title is an enigma more engrossing than the film containing it. Coin Heist Coins are amazing — designed using lasers, mass-produced through an elaborate assembly line of casting and forging, inspected down to the tiniest detail for flaws so minute only professionals can see them, and all for something we keep in our pockets only to trade for chewing gum.
It is, regrettably, an apt pairing of auteur and subject. After auditioning and being rejected for the role years earlier, Larson gets the last laugh by leading as Kit, an art student booted from her program when a professor deems her Lisa Frank—esque paintings insufficiently serious. Bomb Scared You thought eating disorders were a testy source for laughs?
This Spanish-language comedy focuses on a dunderheaded gang of Basque-separatist extremists, impatiently awaiting their next mission while Spain makes a run at the World Cup in the background. Director Borja Cobeaga treats their mission to await instruction in a safe house like a tedious office job and the characters like bumbling wage slaves instead of radicalized killers. One hopes that top-flight choreography might pick up the slack left by cookie-cutter writing, but alas, these Scandinavian posers have already been served by their American cousins. Skam -heads aside, best moonwalk your way to Step Sisters instead.
Until, of course, we figure out the game — at which point all that remains are some eye-catching diversions with pink, green, and yellow, along with a few practical effects shots not worth writing home about. There is only one Tyler Durden. Walraven van Hall is no Oskar Schindler — though this biopic wants him to be so very badly — and star Barry Atsma does a commendable job of giving this real-life human being an identity of his own.
His White Fang had teeth, speaking to a young-adult audience prepared to reckon with the hazards of the natural world, but this kiddie spin strips the woods of their formidable might. A scene depicting dogfighting feels out of place in a film so mushy. The title pretty much translates to Lost Girl.
The preceding weeks saw an influx of photo enthusiasts streaming in from across the country to get their exposures while they still could, and this drama follows once such road trip between cancer-stricken snapshotter Ben Ed Harris , his good-natured assistant—nurse Zoe Elizabeth Olsen , and his adult son Matt Jason Sudeikis. From the mm. A good villain could have made up for the scripting, but the trio of little undead girls only serves to add The Shining to the laundry list of superior films from which this one has leeched. Free Pugh. Take the 10 For those viewers in search of a scattershot, fitfully funny crime caper in which Tony Revolori spends one long day scrambling around the outskirts of L.
At least that one had a more charming leading man in Shameik Moore than this one gets in Josh Peck, playing a sleazebag with the pretty face of a former child TV star. That movie had some entry-level commentary on race, too, and a nifty soundtrack from Pharrell. All this dime-store knockoff has is a Pulp Fiction— lite nonchronological structure, a closeted coke baron, and one great Danny Brown needle drop it unloads in the first 15 minutes.
The most a critic can say is that its pop-culture references are very of-the-moment. Evil , about a pair of convivial rednecks who, through a series of unfortunate accidents and coincidences, present as bloodthirsty lunatics to a gaggle of nubile vacationers. Noah Centineo, a name doodled in diaries worldwide, plays a lower-middle-class high-school senior putting together cash for college by posing as an escort for girls in need of some arm candy. Handsome From the opening narration in which the culprit introduces himself and confesses to his crime, this comedy purports to be a different breed of murder mystery.
Sahara In the abattoir of lowest-common-denominator kiddie entertainment, a viewer can sometimes read between the lines and see the grown-up writers starting to crack under their own madness. I credit this cut-rate French-Canadian co-production with offering the most glimpses into the frustration that comes alongside making a cartoon about the desert adventures of a scorpion and a cobra.
Lucid Dream Among the curiously large backlog of East Asian sci-fi projects that Netflix has imported, this does not rank among the more memorable. She then squandered part of that goodwill on limp-noodle biopic Mary Shelley , and now threatens to completely deplete it on this rom-com lacking both volume and a lustrous aesthetic shine. Uptight advertising exec Violet Sanaa Lathan keeps her life as rigorously controlled as her elaborately treated do, but she must forsake the picture-perfect fakery to go natural up top and find herself.
Sunanda Usha Jadhav is precisely the sort of character that Chopra and other outspoken advocates for women in the entertainment industry have called for. A lawyer ardently arguing for abused women against their alcoholic husbands, she has a feminist yen for justice at war with an inner turmoil that still haunts her. Take a wild guess at what happened in her past to make her pursue this particular line of work.
For a while, the character is more fully-developed than the film around her, until the final twenty minutes take some shall-we-say-unanticipated turns that seriously undercut its progressive messaging. Slightly coercive sex and cuckolding: the cure to a flagging marriage?
Revenger The seventh art started going downhill the day that CGI blood was ruled more cost-effective than squib packs and karo syrup. Hopefully, powerhouse star Bruce Khan will find more sure-handed tutelage elsewhere, and soon. The most costly production in Malay film history often feels like an extended recruitment video, showing how PASKAL soldiers save lives and assist the U.
Leader of men Commander Anwar Hairul Azreen entertains the notion that he may not be able to serve his country and his family at the same time, a nagging doubt typical of the war film, but the film settles that with the conclusion that country and family are one and the same. Though the three tactical operations around which the script has been molded are executed with the precision and efficiency expected of the military, the shut-up-and-put-up thinking leaves its topic only half-covered.
The online Keanumania sparked by the episode in the middle featuring Reeves as a funhouse-mirror version of himself, however, has been well-founded. Nowhere outside Pinterest have canned aphorisms ever carried this much clout. If only it was funnier. On the other hand, there is something slightly risky and revisionist about placing a half-Korean character in a role so historically steeped in whiteness. If nothing else, the specter of Long Duk Dong will have been forever dispelled.
From a city-block bombing to a shooting spree at a campground, Greengrass treats discretion like weakness as he shows and shows and shows. Benji The Great Louisiana Tax Break Production Boom has attracted many stars to the oak-lined streets of New Orleans over the past decade, and the latest addition to the list is the hottest star on four legs, wonder dog Benji. The best that can be said for this neutered reboot of the musty mutt franchise is that it makes active use of its surroundings where so many have attempted to obscure them.
And yet nu-Benji lacks a certain canine charisma present in his doggy forebears, and weirder still, this film plays up the element of Christian dogma — thank you, thank you — traditionally constrained to the subtextual level. Rebirth The first rule of this anti-corporate psychological thriller is do not talk about Fight Club. Goldberg breaks his pal out of a funk by inviting him to join a new movement of self-actualization he recently discovered, where instead of therapeutically punching the bologna out of one another, members chant creepy affirmations about accessing inner truth.
Ugarte slowly comes undone as a nurse capable of communicating via haunted VHS tape with a boy who died 25 years earlier. Paulo has a week-one-freshman grasp on chaos theory, and succeeds only in dumbing the concepts down while falling into the same grandfather paradox facing any time-travel movie. Not even the broad shoulders of Ugarte can carry a film so poorly thought-through. How else to account for the absolute absence of any signs of life whatsoever in each and every performance?
As a mother grieving her young son recently nabbed by wolves, Riley Keough never breaks her heart-monitor monotone, and Jeffrey Wright matches her mumble-for-mumble as the nature expert who comes to find the missing boy. Director David E. Talbert uses this pressure cooker as a breeding ground for a black comedy of schemers and bumblers, brought to life by a cast seemingly picked at random from a hat.
Tim Allen! Jessica Alba! A viewer gets the impression that nobody in this motley troupe was in contact with one another during shooting. The cartoonishly inept lawmen plotting to resolve the situation have a Keystone Kops thing going on, the news team broadcasting the events occupy a more cynical atmosphere, and on the scene indoors, the shooter and his bargaining chips are doing Coen brothers cosplay.
Been So Long I am of the steadfast belief that any bad movie can be improved at least slightly with the addition of musical numbers, a principle supported by this adaptation of a London stage smash. Without the occasional ditty to spice things up, this would be a standard-issue guy-meets-gal romance about a single mother trying to get back out there.
While the music suffers from Repo! Burning Sands Yet another clone movie, this one retreading the stomach-churning account of hazing gone too far undertaken by Goat the previous year. But instead of tiptoeing around the jocks, prevailing attitudes of mandated prudence mean that our boys must tiptoe around their parents, their nation, and their own guilt. The sword of Damocles finally drops when his partners turn against him, his wife sends a messenger boy to announce her request for a divorce, and his substance-based hobbies threaten to worsen into habits, all on the same Monday.
In America, it feels like the Sundance-industrial complex gives us another one of these every couple of years. He casts a bold silhouette as the image of gallantry, oftentimes to disbelief-testing extents. Did he really wait to deflower his teen bride, played by a poorly utilized Florence Pugh, until she was ready to give her consent?
Mackenzie wants us to gawp at his lengthy tracking shots and flaming catapult, but the bouquet of loose screw-ups has a way of holding the attention. The resulting uproar destroyed treasured relationships and put him through a great test of faith in line with Christian lore, and director Joshua Marston chooses to relate this with all the dramatic nuance of a Lifetime Original Movie. Not even a sensitive turn as an AIDS-positive organist from the unerring Lakeith Stanfield can earn this film salvation.
The Killer And now for something completely different: a Western by way of Brazil, where a scar-faced killer those excited for a film about Spanish bullfighters are in for a rude awakening plays the cowboy liberating a dusty village from a ruthless capitalist. Diogo Morgado cuts a commanding figure as our man Shaggy, a couple notches closer to feral than the usual gunslinger.
The Warning Spanish filmmaker Daniel Calparsoro could have a long career ahead of him in Hollywood, where they crank out ambitious but imperfect conceptual thrillers like this one by the bushel. To work off his debt, Gudio joins the shadowy league of collectors and rapidly learns the ropes of a dishonest yet highly seductive profession where all rules have a bit of wiggle room.
The painterly photography has been supplanted by the flatness of prestige TV, and the long, pensive gaps in which viewers were once free to appreciate the rustling of tree branches or distant chiming of bells are now filled with meaningless exposition. Formulaic as his handiwork may be, director Julien Leclerq has his head on straighter than his characters, moving his minute run time at a swift clip with a few Mannly action sequences. A national cinema once limited by censorship and old-fashioned ideas about propriety is now exploring new sexual frontiers, this romantic anthology being a bracingly blunt case in point.
Behold, the first onscreen appearance of a vibrator in the history of Indian film! Four separate stories revolve around women in various states of dissatisfaction — carnal, sure, but more frequently emotional. A lot of the comedy errs on the side of the sophomoric, with one randy set piece taking cues from the risible The Ugly Truth , but what this effort represents still counts for quite a bit.
Imperial Dreams A curious specimen, this film was made and released in two dramatically different worlds. When the picture first premiered at Sundance in , John Boyega was another handsome young Brit with a lot of promise and a stare capable of cutting metal. By the time Netflix unveiled it in , he was an A-lister with a leading role in the biggest blockbuster franchise on the planet. Not an easy sit by any measure, but director Sudabeh Mortezai maximizes the pain to unclear ends, drawing all the dread out from an upsetting rape scene early on until it feels like horror cinema and not in the good way.
The Angel By , tensions along the Egyptian-Israeli border had escalated to powder-keg levels, and a violent engagement was all but imminent. This true-to-life thriller contemplates the answer and settles somewhere between the two in a conflicted character study that resists simple heroism. If only director Ariel Vromen had put a little more oomph in the scenes where things happen and sunk less time into scenes in which people talk about things happening. What could have been an amoral romp in the vein of American Made lands in a more subdued, inert mode, never quite reveling in its own misdeeds.
Solo All right, cards on the table, Netflix. Two days later, this Spanish tribute to real-life perseverance popped up under a nearly identical title. The retelling of one Irish U. That results in a weird dissonance, where the film works as a discrete whole but fails on a scene-by-scene basis. The ensuing dash to get the sinewy hellion back in his container drably shuffles through its action sequences and has a, shall we say, utilitarian relationship to language. Tallulah Former Orange Is the New Black writer Sian Heder tries her hand behind the camera for this study in contrasts about three women all chafing under the demands of motherhood in their own way.
In the title role, Ellen Page is a street urchin feeling lost after her good-for-nothing boyfriend abandons her, but finds new meaning in life when fate puts a helpless infant in her custody. Well-measured restraint improves the acting across the board, which in turn keeps this film away from the treacly sentiment that occasionally rears its weepy head.
Janney takes it in a walk, naturally. Targarona has a perceptible admiration for Boix and the bravery required to surreptitiously document some of the most heinous crimes against humanity that history has ever seen. Targarona, a veteran of the Spanish film industry, has earned the right to have a little more faith in herself.
The Titan Sam Worthington is one of those actors whose blank expression and generically handsome features make him the perfect candidate to portray a robot. See also: Emily Ratajkowski, Jamie Dornan. Forestalling the inevitable, this sci-fi thought exercise gets near the mark by casting Worthington as something other than human — in this case, the next stage in evolution. The film lacks focus, however, glancing past a number of thoughtful paths in an effort to simultaneously take all of them. Pickpockets Those small-time hoodlums rationalizing theft as a victimless crime often tend to not realize that after long enough, they will become the real victims.
A sense of coiled-spring energy and an emphasis on the fascinating nuts and bolts of ripping strangers off can make a hundred-dollar job feel as exciting as a bank heist, both for us and the purloiners onscreen, who steal for the sheer rush as much as the money. Director Peter Webber is never better than when exalting in the kinetic glory of petty larceny, his camera as weightless and carefree as its subjects, but the need to impose an arc on their lifestyle mucks up the merrymaking.
The arrival of an elder mentor in misdemeanors steers the younger leads to betrayal, jealousy, and internal conflict, all of which makes for adequate drama at the price of the poetry-in-motion exhilaration of their earlier cooperation. Emmet Walsh could be altogether bad. Still, the script arrives at the same inevitable endpoint as any other movie about someone avenging a loved one.
You know the old saying — before you embark upon a journey of revenge, dig two graves. The hole acts as a statement bangle for the film, a pop of difference standing out from the sameness. Terron leaves his fellow middle-schoolers in the dust on the basketball court, and before long, a coach Josh Charles from an elite private academy headhunts him for their team. Koo misses the three, but sinks the layup. The grainy mm. He gives a much better showing than the rest of the movie deserves, the room-temperature casserole of saccharine little-kid antics and uncanny-valley-plumbing CGI elves that it is.
The Italian case of Stefano Cucchi, dramatized in this work of righteous outrage by Alessio Cremonini, sounds all too familiar: After getting apprehended by the feared martial peacekeeping force known as the Carabinieri on a minor drug-possession charge and held in custody, the young infrastructure worker was winnowed down to a malnourished husk of himself, beaten, and ultimately killed. I sincerely wish the best of luck to open-minded viewers making heads or tails of this, but anyone put off by obtuseness may wind up wanting their minutes back.
Steel Rain Japanese anxiety over the devastation of the atomic bomb gave us Godzilla, and now the ongoing nuclear tensions between North and South Korea have yielded this jittery, paranoid missile thriller. The Discovery In the vast gulf between conception and execution, we have this down-tempo thought experiment from Charlie McDowell. In a world where Robert Redford has conclusively proven the existence of an idyllic afterlife, the suicide rate has mushroomed.
Jason Segel and Rooney Mara are strangers with a mysterious attraction and conflicting opinions about what to do with this frightening new frontier. Director Anne Fletcher and screenwriter Kristin Hahn placed themselves in an advantageous position by building their adaptation of a YA smash around the music and philosophy of Her Dollyness, an idol to plus-size Willowdean Danielle MacDonald.
She wants to teach her negligent mother Jennifer Aniston, bringing it a lesson by winning the beauty pageant that occupies her every waking moment, and the baldly stated moral of body acceptance is all well and good. The Laws of Thermodynamics Screenwriters are always trying to impose reason on the thorny tangle of contradictions that is love, but Spanish genre tinkerer Mateo Gil does so with more studied rigor.
His script proposes that the laws of physics governing the chaotic movement of subatomic particles and the delicate space-time continuum can also be applied to the bonds between people. Gil brings a zingy, Gondry-esque energy to his experiment in bridging the gap between the mind and the soul, but his characters nonetheless possess all the pathos of a textbook word problem.
It starts with mommy dearest Marisa Paredes dying, and her four daughters convening for the first time in a long time. Their late mom informs the adult sisters that the man they know as father did not personally sire them, setting off a search for the five men responsible for their conceptions.
The family that divulges hair-curlingly frank erotic specifics together, stays together. In this daft laugher from across the pond, Julian Barratt plays the washed-up Thorncroft in the present day, as he shills his way through middle-age in humbling commercial spots. He gets a shot at redemption when a homicidal maniac demands the police put him in contact with the real Mindhorn, and much to the displeasure of his real-cop partners, Thorncroft gets back into character.
Barry Barack Obama is the coolest commander-in-chief to have ever graced the Oval Office — this is fact. Remember back when those were qualities the president had? A Kickstarter campaign to drum up a budget outlined a daring plan to shoot guerrilla-style inside of real moments as they unfold: a bustling EDM music festival, protests and riots in the wake of the Parisian terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan. This two-hander drama is situated at the inevitable point where sickness bleeds over into the more meaningfully personal — friends, romantic relationships, family.
Over the course of one evening, grueling even at a brief 71 minutes, she goes from tough-love counselor to enabler as she helps Seth score to keep him from dying of withdrawal. Both Jacobson and Franco are up to the task, never coming off as tourists in the genre like so many comedic actors stretching their range, and the ending is a lot darker than they play it.
All the more frustrating, then, that the script would hamstring their work with such missteps as easy symbolism, voice-over overload, and crucial lines that ring false. Bespectacled young C. Virtuous intent can only get a film so far, however, and the hoary kinks in the plot along with feigned naturalism of the patter between the kids stop the film dead in its tracks.
Anyone over the age of 60 will most likely be charmed by this softly told romance between seniors-who-still-got-it Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, but everyone can share in the warmth this sweet-natured, if mild, film radiates. Adult children Judy Greer and Matthias Schoenaerts bring trouble into their geriatric Eden, but the prevailing tone is that of comfort. Even so, he still needs to formulate a sense of artistic self in terms of both originality and control before he can join the ranks of the proud troublemakers he so clearly idolizes.
The Package For a movie about a kid who cuts his own dick off while drinking and camping, it could be a lot worse! Not a high bar to clear, admittedly, but Geraldine Viswanathan makes it look easy. Brassy and quick with a cutting aside, the Blockers scene-stealer acts circles around the rest of the cast particularly lead Daniel Doheny, as forgettably handsome here as in Alex Strangelove as they go on a mad dash through the woods to return the recovered member to its owner after their pal gets airlifted to the nearest hospital.
The movie formerly known as Eggplant Emoji does a bang-up job of stretching this thin premise to feature length, throwing obstacles at the characters and mining laughs from the solutions they have to gin up on the fly. In the future metropolis of Grainland creators Kevin R. Her mom Molly Constance Wu spends all her time fiddling with the family bots, leading Mai Su to wander off on an adventure where she becomes acquainted with a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art model labeled Her assignment to have him eliminate his mechanical brethren is only the first unexpected move in a series of zags-over-zigs, culminating in poignant scenes featuring the inspired concept of artificial amnesia.
Step Sisters The Bring It On series, the clear antecedent to this dance flick which is, mercifully, far superior to Dance Flick , kept considerations of class and race in the mix through its many installments. Note: A supporting performance from Matt McGorry as a semi-self-aware, even more intolerable version of his already intolerable self instantly validates the casting.
He gives us someone to cheer for in Nirma Mithila Palkar , a motivational-tape-listening eager beaver out to get hers. She wants more for herself than lying to Chinese tourist groups about taking them through Slumdog Millionaire shooting locations — Danny Boyle gets dissed in one of the pointier wisecracks — and gets a new lease on life after a conman absconds with her car.
Calibre The forbidding Scottish highlands provide a spooky backdrop for a back-to-basics horror movie — of sorts. A pair of lads working the classic yin and yang of manliness one rips lines of coke and chases skirt, the other is a dutiful husband to a pregnant wife go out for a hunting holiday in the untamed U. Plus she got it from Goodwill, which completely grossed me out, since I had just read that article on for and found on 50 Shades library books.
I think 50 shades and Twilight are successful in that they depict an immersive fantasy in a world that is so different to our own. This is Twilight-land, where vampires exist. My mother did the same thing about 50 shades. I think my Mom one-upped your Mom though, because she then told me she could lend me one of her two copies since she and my father read it together….
Yeah, and I had to keep a semi-straight face when I found this out because we were out at a restaurant. I would also question them for reading and liking a book which features abuse, rape, and extremely poor consent practises. The issue is that 50 Shades of Grey is all about how wonderful a relationship full of abuse and rape is. I tend to read very esoteric material my interests run towards statistics and criminological studies but I can usually come up with a popular book title that I have enjoyed.
I usually deflect and talk about travel, LOL. If I was asked what my interests are… driving, cars and trains. Yes, actually. I can spend hours upon hours just driving… My sister went to rowing this morning, I dropped her off at ish or whatever, and just drove around for an hour. Watching trains. Admiring cool cars. Hahaha… It would probably sound quite strange! I rarely ever watch TV or movies, either!
I hate the free time question. Free time, lol. But second, all of my hobbies are quiet, unimpressive, homey hobbies. I feel like it would come off better if I ran marathons or restored classic cars or something. No, I am writing a novel, with cops and blood and death and sex in it, thank you very much!
Heh, yeah. I put down cooking, knitting and reading. When my profile went out, I sounded like the office grandma. My female coworkers and I had a similar conversation when we wrote up professional bios for our webpage. My female coworker misread it and thought he was saying he was an avid werewolf hunter. THAT would be something interesting and potentially professionally advantageous to put in your bio.
But now I giggle when ever people include their hobbies in a professional bio, thinking of Mike, the avid werewolf hunter. What people think it would be entertaining to lie about doing can be more interesting than what they actually do. I can do worse. My hobbies include pole dancing and airsofting … Just imagine the impression that gives. I tend to pick out books on topics of interest.
But yeah, my tastes tend towards investigative nonfiction about kind of bleak-sounding topics. So tell me about your role at OldJob. Not a book, but along the same lines: one of my favorite magazine articles ever was a New Yorker story about elevators. The New Yorker does such a great job of showing how the mundane can be fascinating. They just recently had a good one on those metal police barricades — it was pretty mundane and interesting! It goes into the design behind mundane things like the handicapped logo, high heels, and the Pizza Hut building.
I like video games and TV and not no one is impressed by that. Then they tell me what games their kids play with one raised eyebrow… I feel like I actually need to hide it, honestly. Though I think people will become ok with that one once I age another few decades. Ah, I just posted a comment about this issue below! Last night I literally spent all my free time playing Fire Emblem while watching reruns of 30 Rock.
Imagine if it were the other way around and sports were just gaining popularity and acceptance. To throw the ball better than each other? And then you make fake teams out of these people and bet against your friends for who makes the best fake team? And sometimes they get awards for it!? They just watch? Just watch? Why do they do that? I have to admit, they ARE funny. But as an avid baseball and soccer fan…huh. I never really correlated the two hobbies before. Hey, a college friend just finished doing her PhD in English about narrative structures and tropes in video games.
Academia recognizes their legitimacy! I know an anthropology professor whose specialty is the study of societies in virtual worlds, which is actually really interesting despite how entirely silly it sounds. We also watched another lecture on YouTube that was filmed in Second Life. It was a little odd for me because a lot of my own life in online.
Not in a virtual world like MMOs, but forums and comments sections like this one. The fact that I play video games as a 39 y. I play a lot of games and am fortunate, as a 30 y. I work in a creative field, though, which may have something to do with it. Unfortunately, outside the tech community anyway, nerdy hobbies like video games and comics are considered a childish waste of time, and lead people to question your work ethic and ability to act like a professional adult in the workplace.
At least I have other hobbies outside of nerdy stuff to talk about, namely swing dancing. This is it exactly. The most common thing people will say is sarcastically ask how I have time to do that, as if somehow time spent on my hobby is in a different plane of reality than the time they use to relax. When I was hired for my first job, I clicked with the department head because we both liked a certain video game franchise. And when I started, a couple of my teammates also liked video games. Cool stuff, right? My first reaction is that this would be really cool, and then I realized how extremely in line with the stereotype we are.
You know, the one that got started by the guys that made internet comics. I knew I was a geek when I can could claim 4 years of membership in the university Star Trek club and brag about never having attended a convention. Most people would find the latter part normal and not an accomplishment. You and I can watch e-sports together.
I mentioned this hobby once over lunch with a coworker and have never mentioned it again. But I love watching it. As an atheist, Flash is the only god I believe in XD e-sports fans unite! Win :D. I am probably the only 53 year old in corporate america who would squeal with enthusiasm when you brought it up. I wish SC and gaming in general is more socially accepted. And huh, I figured SC could be an advantage in only in gaming circles. Yeah, most of my free time currently is taken up with… tabletop roleplaying. I think it would be more weird if you were alone at the time.
I generally tell people I went camping. My fellow nerds, however, get photographs. I loved video games. All my book and movie preferences are guilty pleasure things — Yes, I spent 4 hours last night watching Hoarders. I stumbled on it a few weeks ago. The lady who ate whatever that was out of the jar, the crew found.
I hate these kinds of questions. I got the book question once, and named the first book I could think of, which was a David Sedaris book. Not exactly high literature. I did get the job, though! Note: I do spend time on theater, running, and travel. I just spend far more of it on the internet. I had one interviewer flat out ask me if I enjoyed playing sports. We have a city-wide sports competition every year where companies form teams and participate in various sporting activities, which apparently they take very seriously. Now that was just sad.
I just figured out like a month ago that Saul from Homeland and Inigo Montoya were played by the same actor Mandy Patinkin. This kind of rocked my world for a day or so. Did you know that Mandy Patinkin is a singer? Pretty spectacular voice, truly amazing. Oh yes. The old YouTube clips are amazing. I was crushed when I found out that Mandy P.
I loved him so much in Princess Bride. Me too! I am very good friends with one of his close relatives who told me that he is a nasty piece of work and ends up estranged from almost everyone he becomes close to. I had heard this before when he was on Criminal Minds, the cast hated him.
The guy who plays the boss refused to do scenes with him after a while. But he seemed to have a good experience on Homeland, so who really knows? It is now my goal in life to have a Princess Bride quote off in real life. In an interview is even better. That always got me a laugh until the last job, when it was point-blank ignored. Still got the job, though.
Good work. Sleep well. This is one my brother and I watched so much as children, that we can quote practically the whole movie back and forth. They had a retro movie night at a local theater last year and it was awesome seeing it on the big screen! It was awesome.
Made even more awesome by the fact that my mom had never seen The Princess Bride and was so thoroughly confused. Second only to the guy who did the Talladega Nights blessing at the kick-off of a stock car race. I pretty much only read sci-fi and fantasy. Or Terry Pratchett. One of my friends posted on Facebook asking if you could only have one CD to listen to in your car, what would it be? My favourite book is an uber-classic, but nevertheless probably challenging to fess up to: Lolita. Oh man… This is a little different because it was absolutely relevant, but when interviewing for book publishing internships a couple years back I was asked what I had been reading lately and completely froze up.
I was actually offered the internship on the spot, but ended up declining. That definitely ranks in my top ten awkward interview moments, though. Also, the internship I ended up taking over that one was at an erotica publisher, and I had many fascinating conversations with folks there about the relative merits of 50 Shades of Grey!
Everyone at our company hated it, but one of our top authors thought it was great that it was bringing more people to the genre. Time and a place, I guess. This is one where I would brush up on what some of the latest Oscar nominated movies were. OP here. Thanks Alison! My favourite book is Wuthering Heights and I always say that as an answer. I love that book too, and I agree. But I do like it a lot. A big one that happened recently was description of thing and how I handled it. When pressed, I find it hard to pick just one favorite. Thankfully, I have read and actually liked a few non-fiction books related to my field, so I have a ready-made neutral and job-specific answer.
I answered honestly and got a few laughs… Did I mention this was in a mass interview with 7 people?? If I had seen a grammatical error on my resume I would have fixed it before sending in of course lol. Oxford comma? I ask the question to try and elicit some answer that shows a personal interest. For me, there is no right or wrong answer. I have also gotten great book recommendations from it!
I loved this book as a kid! My grandma had it at her house, and I would make her read it to me whenever we stayed the night. She would do the Grover voice and everything. Those Sesame Street books from the 70s were pretty good. I looooved that book. I truly get excited about campy movies and music where I can get down with my sweet, sweet moves. You both went to her funeral. Especially Michael Bolton. See, I would love that answer. I would passionately disagree with you, but I would find it funny and would love that you were so passionate about it. But still, the principle holds—give a passionate, interesting answer and you can make almost anything work in this context.
That is my attitude toward movies and books! Oh thank you, I now know the answer if anyone asks me my favourite song in an interview. I referenced this movie TPS reports — the 2nd most ubiquitous theme after the red stapler! I got one laugh of recognition and five blank stares.
And no job offer. This millennial loves that movie! My son was born in and has been watching this on TV with me at least once every few years. He loves it. What are parents thinking, not introducing kids to this classic? One time, I was trying to help my boss fight the copier, and it gave a weird message.
My interview answer for the movie question would be Amelie. People would be totally fine with Groundhog Day! She was personally offended because I said all of their songs sound alike to me. The difference is that everything Coldplay have produced after their second album is terrible, and Bill Murray is objectively awesomesauce ;. I kid, I kid.
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Or was that just with me? I maintain that Coldplay is what you get if you feed the complete works of U2 to a computer and tell it to construct something really, really popular. I find Coldplay so bland and inoffensive that they make me actually angry. But it seemed like everything after that was some kind of paint-by-numbers attempt to replicate the success of the first two albums by copying the same formula while stripping out all the soul of the original.
I mean, Viva la Vida sure. But the good Coldplay? I recently watched Amelie again and was struck by how dark and explicit it is at some times! I do love it. Yes my French is at that point too — I know just enough to get myself into trouble! I console myself by thinking there are clever visual cues you can pick up. And then looking up when the next French conversational classes are at the university.
That one tidbit has made me suspicious of all translations since then. I stopped reading translated books after I worked as a copy editor for a few years. Some most! The classic one for me was when my cousin and I took a boat trip down the Seine. It used to be a train station. They have paintings by Monet and other artists. We laughed so hard that everyone else started turning around to glare at us! They also fall in the category of things that have more depth than they might be credited with… I love Moominvalley In November especially for that quality.
I posted too soon! Moominvalley in November is great. I have never worked with anyone who had even heard of these books. Loved these books as a kid! I should read them all again, I think. The strips by themselves look shallow at first glance but reading them all collected together in a book shows how nuanced and joyful they are. I would love to create something as she has done. Have you read the novels yet, or only the collections of comics?
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I read the books as a kid and only discovered the comics as an adult. I was thrown off more than I should have been and over thought my response. I was about my favorite website, and I gave this one! I always assumed that the question was to see how well I fit in with the office culture. I got that question once! But it gives me joy, so I like it. This has been especially helpful in hiring relatively inexperienced people because it says a little about how they engage with the world.
I was asked this once and I was lucky enough to have just finished reading Don Quixote. Besides pointing to whether you have a passion for some topic, it can give a sense of your personality and how you might fit in. So some brilliant IT person or textile expert with no interest in sports has to fumble an answer about the athlete they most admired thirty years ago, the last time they paid attention to sports. Unlike most workplaces, we make no pretense of trying to focus solely on work when major sporting events are going on. I once totally bombed an interview for a fundraising position at our local zoo.
The interviewer was clearly not happy with my response. Probably not yet 6 years old, she was being marched toward the sewing room, compelled by a furious nun. Sally had been caught running and giggling in the dormitory. Sister Jane of the Rosary took Sally to the little bedroom off the sewing room and made her lie facedown, dress yanked up, panties pulled down. Then the nun sent in Eva, a seamstress, who along with another lay employee, Irene, was one of the only two people that Sally felt safe with. Eva came into the little room, looked at Sally — face down, dress up, defenseless — and stood frozen for a few long moments.
The strap lay beside her on the bed. Then she left. Even Sister Jane of the Rosary, usually so quick to punish, came in but did nothing. Entering the room, she brought the strap down hard on Sally, from the back of her neck all the way down to her ankles. Once, twice. Ten times. Too many times to count. Sally recoiled with each downstroke, but she tried her best to hold back the tears. The silence only enraged Sister James Mary, who kept hitting her.
On and on, the blows kept coming. If you smile, the whole world smiles with you. Irene brought Sally across the long hallway, down the marble stairs, past the foyer, and into the office of the mother superior herself. The next time Sally was sent to Irene and Eva for a beating, Irene said she would deal with the child herself.
Irene hit her, but only on her bottom. Sally was so overwhelmed with gratitude that the next day, she told Irene that she loved her. As the Burlington survivors group gained momentum, Joseph Barquin emerged as an extraordinary force for change. A judge had allowed his sexual assault case to go forward, and he was proving himself to be a tenacious litigant, rallying others to the cause and even doing his own investigative work.
Having been the first to come forward, he believed that his ideas should carry extra weight. His relationship with White deteriorated over what Barquin perceived to be a lack of respect. Relations with the group frayed as well. Eventually a delegate said several members felt threatened by Barquin. White came to the painful conclusion that he could not continue to represent Barquin and encouraged him to find new counsel.
White planned to focus on the claims of the other former residents. He had two children, one of them newborn, and it became clear that his firm was too small to provide all the resources needed to handle all the cases coming his way. White realized that if he was going to represent the orphans with integrity and competence, he would have to sacrifice everything else.
White hated to see the cases end like that, but he knew that the statute of limitations would have prevented some of the plaintiffs from ever getting their day in court. He told his clients that he could not advise them what path to choose, but if anyone wanted to settle, he would help. The Burlington Free Press reported that according to church officials, people accepted the payment, for abuse they said they suffered. If G dropped his arms before the requisite time was up, he would be beaten and forced to repeat the punishment all over again.
The bishop published a letter around the same time. In a larger sense they were all victims, he said: children who had been abused, as well as the good priests and brothers and nuns. She said he told her that if modern-day laws had been in place when he was a child, his own father would have been charged with child abuse, and yet he had got over what had happened to him. Well, these nuns were just frustrated ladies , she said he replied. He gave himself a few weeks to try to get to the bottom of what had happened.
The two men toured Vermont in early and Widman met with the survivors of St. The more people he spoke to, the starker the patterns that emerged. People who had been at St. They remembered a ruler, a paddle, a strap, a small ax, a light bulb, clappers, and a set of large rosary beads. They spoke about lit matches being held against skin. They described a cavernous attic.
When they were good, they had gone up there two-by-two to retrieve Sunday clothes, play clothes, and winter gear. When they were bad, they were pushed, dragged, and blasted up the stairs to sit alone and scream into the void. The aftershocks of the orphanage reverberated through their entire lives. Many of the people Widman met had spent time in jail or struggled with addiction, facts that a defense lawyer could use to discredit them in front of a jury.
Not until the day he made the four-hour drive to Middletown, Connecticut, to meet Sally Dale. Sally took him in through a mudroom with lots of tiny boots flung about, to a kitchen filled with the inviting smell of cooking. They sat down at the table and ended up speaking for hours.
Then, and in subsequent conversations, she told him about the little boy who was thrown out of a fourth-story window by a nun. She told him about a day when the nuns sent her into the fire pit to retrieve a ball and her snow pants caught on fire, and about how weeks later, as the nuns pulled blackened skin off her arms and her legs with tweezers and she cried out in pain, they told her it was happening because she was a real bad girl.
She told Widman about a boy who went under the surface of Lake Champlain and did not come up again, and a very sad and very frightening story of a little boy who was electrocuted, whom the nuns made her kiss in his coffin. When Widman walked out of her house that day, he stood in her driveway with tears in his eyes. Widman asked Sally to write down what she remembered. She liked the idea, and over many months, she sent him a series of powerful and detailed letters.
I had a dream last night about the orphanage. But the funny part is my eyes were wide open. I saw a sister come into the girls small dorm and she came over to my bed and told me to come with her. She took me by the hand and brought me to her room. She put me on her bed and started to touch me all over, I was so afraid but would not make a sound so she would get mad and [unclear] me.
Then she took my hands and told me to rub her all over while she put her fingers were it really hurt and I did not like it. Then she told me to put her fingers were she had touch me on her and I said no. She got so mad that she gave me a strapping real hard and sent me back to my bed in the dorm and told me to never say anything about it, so I did what she sayed because I really was afraid she would hurt me again. I remember when I was real little and would get mad I would throw a temper tantrum.
They would get so mad at me they would grab me wherever they could and bring me into the bathroom and put me on my back over the tub and pour cold water into my face until I would stop scream and kicking. The water would come down so hard on me. As I really got older they used to make me babysit the real little ones in the nursery. There were times when I would see things the nuns were doing to them but did not know where to go to tell someone. Sometimes I would ask them why they did those things and they would say because they were very bad boys or girls.
In the winter we would have these funny looking things that heat and steam would come out off. They would put the little kids on them sometimes just to sit but others they would stand them on it and then push them and of course sometimes there little legs would get caught between the wall and radiator and the little kids would really scream and cry. They would pull them out and some kids would have real nasty burns and blisters from it. If they did not stop crying they would then lock them in the same closet they used to put me in. You could here them but you could do nothing for them because they would keep the keys on them till they were ready to let them out.
But what could I do I was still just a kid myself. Boy sometimes I would pray that either we would get killed or they would but it never happened. I really believed that nobody even God did not love any of us and that we would have to stay there forever. Church lawyers would ask the most painful questions possible. If plaintiffs had ever visited a psychologist or psychiatrist, the lawyers could demand to see their files. If they were divorced, the church would want to talk to their exes and their children. And after all that, there was no guarantee that they would win.
He threw himself into the discovery process. He learned fast, but the more he heard, the more questions he had. How had St. Who had lived there? Where had they come from? How did money flow through the place? And one of the hardest things to understand: How could atrocities and happiness exist in the same place? Even residents who spoke about extreme abuse also laughed about sliding down bannisters, appreciated learning how to sew, or expressed pride about starring in an orphanage play. Noble lived at St. When a cut under her fingernail developed into a throbbing, toxic infection, she had been too afraid to tell the nuns until it was almost too late.
But she still cherished the memory of when the von Trapps, the Austrian family whose flight from the Nazis inspired The Sound of Music, came to visit St. For the singing of the benediction, Noble was placed next to Maria herself. The kindest and most beloved stepmother in the world leaned down and told Noble that she sang beautifully.
Even basic information about how orphanages operated was hard to find. Widman located no books or studies on the subject. What little press coverage the institutions had received over the course of the century was usually about jolly excursions or the happy recovery of a runaway scamp. The more Widman spoke to people who had lived at St. Thousands of people all over the United States had at some time worked in an orphanage, yet none had come forward to reminisce about their time, at least not anywhere that Widman could find.
The diocesan hierarchy had oversight of the orphanage, and the nuns had lived and worked there, but none of them were forthcoming with their recollections. It was the same with the children. Siblings who had once been in the same orphanage together had often not discussed it with each other, much less with friends or even spouses.
In the earliest days of the orphanage, it had housed the aged as well as the young. Eventually, the elderly residents left. The children remained. Hundreds of them. As Widman came to see, however, many of them were not actually orphans. Most were extremely poor. One girl had milk for the first time at St. One girl had seen an egg at the dining table only a few times a year.
But lack of money was usually just one of their problems. Some parents delivered their own children to the nuns, believing they were leaving them in a safe place. Many were brought by the state, after their homes were deemed unacceptable. Sometimes they ended up in an orphanage simply because their mother was unmarried.
They arrived in every imaginable condition, dirty and lice-ridden, covered in bruises, recently raped, or perfectly healthy. Once the doors of St. They even took on different identities, as the nuns addressed them by number , not by name. The women of the Sisters of Providence had been renamed, too, when they joined the order and took their vows.
Leonille Racicot became Sister James Mary. Jeanne Campbell became Sister Jane of the Rosary. And various men moved in and out of the drama: priests, seminarians, counselors, and others, recurring characters who kept their given names and who would appear for a time, then step back offstage and into the rest of the world. In , members of the survivors group asked for permission to return to the old brick building, which had stopped admitting children back in the s and now housed only a few church offices.
Initially they were turned away at the door. Months later some were allowed to walk through, but usually just one at a time. The diocese reached out to one former resident, whom they believed would testify for them, and flew her in from Utah for a tour. So one day he just walked in the front door, said he was visiting from out of town, and politely asked if he could look around.
The person at reception told him to go ahead. The grand, marble, circular staircase, up which children had trudged, and down which some had fallen or been thrown, was removed in the s to accommodate an elevator, an innovation that was exciting enough to warrant a newspaper article, bearing a photograph with a spectacled, smiling nun and grinning, well-dressed children. The replacement staircase, now old and chipped, was narrow and utilitarian.
Widman followed it straight up to the top floor. Several orphans had told him it was a terrifying place inhabited by scurrying mice and the occasional bat, along with sheet-draped statues that seemed to come to life when the wind blew through. Sally had told him about an electric chair — or something that looked just like one — that a nun used to strap her into for hours, taunting her that the chair would fry her.
Even for an adult, the shadowy chamber was immense and disorienting. Widman gazed at the rafters and the loft and the door that concealed the spiral staircase to the cupola. Names had been scratched in the wood of the doorframe. Widman found a huge metal water tank with pipes coming out of it. It had a big lid, and as he stood there and looked at it, he remembered that Sally Dale had told him that nuns made her climb up the little ladder and drop herself in.
Then they pulled the lid back over and left. Widman always went with the best case first. The first 12 new cases, including all the out-of-state plaintiffs, went to federal court. The other 13 went to state court. Other St. One attorney told me that local lawyers referred to him as Darth Vader. Traveling back and forth from Florida for a week or two at a time, Widman drove through Vermont in search of St.
One person would lead him to five more, and those five would lead to another And the more stories that Widman gathered, the more they began to knit themselves together, as happened in the case of the girl who stole a piece of candy. A number of women separately told Widman they remembered a day when they were gathered together to witness a punishment. One thought it happened near the girls dining room. Another thought it was in the room where the children took off their coats and hats. Everyone agreed it happened downstairs.
Three women recalled that a girl was placed facedown over a desk and beaten. Two remembered that the nun used a paddle. Eventually the handle of the paddle snapped, so she got another paddle and used that one until she was finished. All the women remembered that the nun pulled out some matches. One woman thought the nun had a whole box of them. Another remembered only a single stick. One recalled that the girl had struggled and cried; another remembered that all the girls cried; one believed that she herself had spoken out, but that no one else said a word.
Still, they all remembered what happened next. If the children mentioned the incident, one witness remembered a nun saying, they would never see their parents again. He was desperate to find her, but none of his searches yielded anything. Until one day he got a call. About the burning? That was me. Then she told Widman her story. It was just as everyone had said.
The witnesses remembered that the girl had stolen some candy, and they all remembered that a nun caught her. Often, traumatic memory worked just like normal memory, meaning that an episode might blur over time. For some people, the more intense an experience had been, the likelier they were to retain it as a vivid narrative. But there was a threshold, at least for some. If an experience was too disturbing, it sometimes vanished. Whether the experience was actively repressed or just forgotten, it seemed to disappear from consciousness for decades, returning only in response to a specific trigger, such as driving by an orphanage or seeing a nun at the supermarket.
After each interview, Widman took notes on who he met, what had happened to them, and who they named. Inside his bursting binder was not just a list of events or a big picture; it was a whole world that had spun quietly for decades on the edge of a small and oblivious community.
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Every story that Widman gathered was a kind of proof of concept for every other. It might be hard for someone to believe that a child at St. Emerging from a lifetime of silence and fear, Barquin was compelling in front of a microphone. And he had been a powerful leader, at least until relations deteriorated. He had inspired many reluctant former residents to join him in speaking out.
The mediation was not an easy process, and there were a few false starts. In the end, Barquin said, the church settled for a significant amount of money — and a provision that the agreement and the amount be kept secret. I was unable to obtain any of the documentation for the settlement. In his final meeting with the chancellor of the diocese, Barquin recalled, he and the chancellor asked their attorneys to leave the room, and with only a mediator present, they hashed out the details of the settlement. Both men wept. In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, Barquin said that he wanted to find a non-adversarial way for his fellow orphans to resolve their claims.
Barquin began to phone Sally Dale to suggest that he could have the bishop and some nuns drop by her house to talk about things. Dale, who was horrified by the suggestion, said no. It was a summer day, and the girls had gone down a huge green hill and through a field of lilac bushes, scattered wildflowers, and floating cottonwood that went right up to the edge of a thick oak forest. They plunged in, following a steep, winding path, crossing over a railway track, and continuing down through the trees until the forest stopped so abruptly that when they came out the other side of it, it was like they had walked through a solid green wall.
There in front of them was North Beach, where the water was clear and lovely and shallow, with tiny little fish darting around as the girls chased each other. As she waded in the shallows, Sally saw two nuns and a boy in a rowboat head out to where the water was deep.
Sally had been taken out in that boat too, as had many other children, and she knew what came next: The nuns threw you in the water. They said it taught you how to swim. When it was her turn, Sally had discovered she was in fact a strong swimmer, making her way back to the beach on her own with some pride. But the boy in the boat was screaming.
Sally watched as the nuns threw him in, then she waited and wondered what had happened to him. When the children trudged back up the hill, Sally asked a nun if the boy had drowned. There were other mysterious disappearances, such as the little girl whom a nun had pushed down the stairs. Irene, one of the lay employees, told Sally to keep the girl awake and get her to talk, but the little girl just moaned.
She had a huge bump coming up on her forehead and big, dark bruises around her eyes. Sally helped Irene take her to the hospital. Someone took the girl from them. Oh, another mishap? Another accident-prone? The nuns who worked there hated the sound of crying. She just made tearless little sobbing sounds, and the nuns hated that most of all. They did everything they could to make her weep properly. They slapped and punched her and kicked her feet out from under her. That was the last time Sally saw Mary, although a short while later, one of the older girls announced that Mary had it made.
She was with her parents, the other girl said. Mary, too, had gone home for good. There was another child, a boy, who she heard had run away from the orphanage with his cousin. He was wearing a metal helmet, and somewhere along the way he crawled under a fence and was electrocuted. To teach Sally a lesson, the nun brought her, along with other naughty children, to his funeral. The little boy lay in a small open coffin. A nun made Sally go up to the coffin. Then she told her to kiss the boy. Sally was trapped.
As she bent down toward the boy, the nun whispered that if Sally ran away, the same thing would happen to her. During the day, she went about her business, and at night, lying there in the darkened dormitory, she tried to go right to sleep. The nuns made the girls lie on their side and face the same direction. They had to put their hands together, as in prayer, and rest their head on them, then stay like that all through the night.
When Sally moved, a nun yanked her up by her hair and whipped her, before sending her back to bed — once more, hands in prayer on the pillow. I met Robert Widman at his house in Sarasota, Florida, on a balmy day in spring He had slightly wild gray hair and a deep tan, and his face crinkled up when he smiled, which he did a lot. He had retired from legal practice, and that morning, like every other, he had gone for a three-hour bicycle ride. Now he was dressed casually, in jeans and sandals. He was 70, but he stood and moved like someone who was much younger.
We sat down in a bright, airy room that opened out to a garden. Widman explained finer points of law, pausing to illustrate them with stories from his long career. Sometimes his wife, Cynthia, joined us. Enraged, the nun who was in charge that day told her to clean it up. You get down there and you lap it up. Widman knew that kind of unfairness. Growing up in Norwalk, Ohio, in a Catholic family with its fair share of nuns and priests, he had been sent against his will to a Jesuit boarding school in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Give us a boy, the Jesuits told the parents of prospective students, and get back a man. Every night before bed, he said, boys who had earned a demerit were made to pull down their pants, bend over, and grab their ankles, so they could be beaten with a footwide paddle. Decades later, he still remembered so many of the details from the St. I showed him the video of Sally Dale talking about the boy she saw pushed out a window. He sounded proud of her. On the video, Sally recalls looking up to the fourth floor. Widman let out a big sigh. Of all of the plaintiffs, Sally occupied a special place in his memory.
I just loved her. She was really a special person. But whenever Sally or another orphan told Widman about witnessing a death, his silent reaction was that there were no bodies, no witnesses, and no proof of any kind. Even countries that have conducted official government inquiries into the terrible stories of the orphanage system have shied away from stories about children who died there.
The narrowed focus distinguished between tortures in a way that made little sense to the people who had experienced them, and it made the stories about deaths seem more like hallucinatory one-offs than inevitable outcomes in a world of dehumanizing brutality. Canada is perhaps the only country to have convened a special investigation into the thousands of Indigenous children who had gone to residential schools and never returned home. Kimberly Murray, an assistant deputy attorney general in Ontario who led the Missing Children Project, told me about former residents who recalled witnessing other children beaten to death or pushed from a window.
The stories I read of dead children at St. In addition to the boy thrown from a window and the other one pushed into the lake, there was a story about another boy tied to a tree and left to freeze, and a newborn smothered in a crib. The stories haunted me, but despite the many resonances with tales from different orphanages, I found some of them just too much to believe. She said there were holes in his face?
And that he had been wearing a metal helmet? The details were too awful, too bizarre. Surely there was at least an element of delusion at work. And if it could creep into that story, what other recollections might it have colored? How could anyone ever nail down the facts? At the start of the litigation, the stories of dead children were already between 30 and 60 years old. As with any cold case, the more time that passes between a crime and its investigation, the more likely it is that evidence will get corrupted or lost, that details will blur, that witnesses will die.
These cases presented additional challenges. They depended on accounts that took years to emerge into public view. That lag is common among victims of trauma, from children who were abused by family members to soldiers who suffered a devastating event on the battlefield. But at the time, psychology and neuroscience were only beginning to understand that delay; even now there remains tremendous cultural anxiety about the reliability of memories from the distant past, especially from childhood. Finally, understanding these deaths required stepping fully into an eerie otherworld that few people today even know existed.
Even when they were ubiquitous, orphanages were walled off from the rest of society. No one on the outside really knew what went on in them. Few really cared to. And she kept hitting me until finally I said okay, I did it, to stop the hitting. Then I watched it get white. It had been obvious to Widman from the beginning, and only more so as the stories of his witnesses started to knit together, that he needed to bring all the plaintiffs together in front of the same jury in a consolidated trial.
In isolation, any one account could be more easily picked apart and cast into doubt. The plaintiffs would be vulnerable outcasts going up against one of the most powerful institutions in the world. Together they had a chance. Joining the cases was critical on a practical level, too. The plaintiffs would need to call on each other as witnesses, but if each case was tried separately, they would have to return to the court and tell each story perhaps a dozen times, in front of strangers, an experience that many of his clients would find unbearable.
The expert witnesses would have to be summoned again and again, and the court would need to assemble different juries for each case. The cost would be extraordinary. The defense fought hard against letting all the plaintiffs join their cases together for a consolidated trial. It argued that it could prejudice a jury to hear stories from such a long timespan. The letters would have been invaluable, practically a database of abuse and abusers. Widman was also unable to get the letters directly from White, for reasons neither lawyer can now recall.
The defense argued that when the bishop had asked former orphans to share their stories with him, he had done so out of a sense of compassion, and that he had given them the settlement money out of concern for their well-being. If by paying the money, the diocese had also bought itself protection from further legal action, well, that was just incidental.
Long enough that no allegation, no matter how concrete, could ever be verified. There was simply no way to know any of it. The facts were lost in the mists of time. It was a smart strategy. For the plaintiffs, it was also a cruel one. From their perspective, their long silence was not an accident; it had been forced on them, a direct result of the abuse they had suffered.
How many times had the children learned the lesson that no one was interested in their pain? If you cry, you cry alone. How many times had they been punished for speaking up, leaving them to conclude that no one in power was interested in their problems? That their pain had no meaning inside or outside the orphanage walls? Again and again, they learned that their firsthand observations were not valid.
The nun told Sally she had a vivid imagination. It took years — decades — for these survivors of St. Still, the list of victims was growing, and so was the list of abusers. Multiple laymen were also accused of molestation and other abuse. Fred Adams, who worked at the orphanage in the s and sometimes wore a Boy Scout uniform, still haunted some of the boys of St. Adams told one boy he would one day go to battle for America and needed to be able to tolerate torture if captured. Adams trussed the boy up and hung him from the ceiling. Then he tied a string to his penis.
As he pulled on the string, the boy swung back and forth and smacked repeatedly into a hot bulb that was hanging behind him. Adams said, You can't say anything to jeopardize your fellow man… This is definitely going to happen to you. Vivid though these images were, Widman was nervous about how they would fare in the litigation.
In sex abuse cases across the United States, defense lawyers had started to challenge recovered memories. Then in Bennington, Vermont, he deposed two siblings, a brother and sister, former residents of St. The sister, a slight woman in her forties, spoke positively about her time in the orphanage. At some point, Widman told me, he mentioned the name of the nun who had sewn with the girls, and who was said to have sexually assaulted more than one of them.
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For one beat, no one moved. Then, Widman recalled, pandemonium broke out. The defense attorneys started yelling and screaming. What had Widman done? Had he given her money? Widman himself was frantic. What are you talking about? The woman said that she remembered what the nun had done to everyone, and that she had done it to her too. She continued to serve as a witness — but for the plaintiffs. It was happening in Canada too. In Montreal, less than miles north of Burlington, former residents of Catholic orphanages were now coming forward to say that as long ago as the s and as recently as , they had been subjected to the most extraordinary abuse.
Just as with St. Widman went to Montreal to learn more. Duplessis observed that orphanages received only half the amount for each resident that hospitals and mental institutions received. And they were pulled out of the orphanages where they had lived and moved into mental institutions. Often it was the defiant ones who were shipped off first. Some orphanages were simply rebranded as asylums, and untrained nuns were elevated to the status of psychiatric nurses — armed not just with their wooden paddles but with all the tools for treating mental illness in the s, including restraints and intravenous sedatives.
Many killed themselves or struggled with addiction and other damage. But many of those who survived were ready for a fight. Their struggles had been chronicled in a book, Les Enfants de Duplessis , by the sociologist Pauline Gill.