The CVU girls tennis team competed in the Vermont State Individual Tournament , a three-day event held in Montpelier. In a draw of 44 of the top high school players, Andrea Joseph (right) from Williston came in 3rd place and Emily Polhemus (left) from Shelburne came in 4th place. Coach Amy DeGroot (center) was there to encourage the team during the tournament.
Stranger Than Fiction
By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
Echoing the quandary my great, great grandfather, Shmuel the Philosopher, voiced when he asked, “Who’s to say what’s real?” filmmaker Richard Linklater takes truth and reality as entertainment to a whole nother level in “Bernie.” Loosely based on the circumstances revolving around a 1996 murder in Carthage, Texas, it is oddly charming…very oddly.
Controversial from the get go, chances are the documentary style account wouldn’t be nearly as funny and engaging without Jack Black’s stellar performance as the title character. Meet Bernie Tiede, the stranger who rode into town, got a job as assistant funeral director and within a very short time became Carthage’s number one citizen.
A great early scene, wherein Bernie is the invited alumnus giving a demonstration to a mortuary class, offers us a peek into his persona, perhaps explaining the innate charm that has gained him such profound esteem in the community. He’s the everyman, the caring soul personified, whether overseeing a burial or championing a new wing for the church.
If the local players need someone to iron out the wrinkles in their latest production, heck, he can go one better by singing the lead role…proving himself a veritable Music Man in more ways than one. Yet of all his talents and accomplishments, the most amazing feat is when he wins the friendship of filthy rich, much hated town curmudgeon, Marge Nugent.
Portrayed to a T by Shirley Maclaine in a role she’s made her very own in recent years, no one likes Marge…not even her kin, most of whom have tried to sue her for wealth that isn’t coming to them either now or after her demise. She’s made that clear. But with Bernie it’s different. His dedication is transcending; he’s soon her constant companion.
But then something shocking occurs…an event so untoward that people just can’t digest it. All of which focuses the director’s ruminations on the prismatic fickleness of perception…a monograph on the subjectivity that decides what we embrace as the truth. Then, bumping up the stakes, the screenplay opines how that can affect our morality.
It’s told in flashback, after the facts we don’t know, unless you’re familiar with the 1998 “Texas Magazine” article originally written by Skip Hollandsworth. Mirroring the real life complications inherent to the tale, Mr. Linklater takes the very questionable liberty of mixing actors with interviews of actual denizens of the East Texas burg.
It’s the reality show transposed to the big screen, challenging the very concepts of fiction, truth and that great crucible of understanding that lies in-between: the gray area. While Confucian scholars might deem the dramatic interrogatory a no-brainer, for us Westerners the smile it forms on your mouth belies the furrows it puts on your forehead.
Most of the townsfolk like Bernie, as do we, thanks entirely to Mr. Black’s ingratiating portrayal. While it foretells a broader possibility of roles for the primarily comic actor, the tricky foray into black comedy brings us to an amusing dilemma— the ethical conundrum that beats at the heart of the film— though I won’t tell you exactly why.
Suffice it to note that Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck, the district attorney, never buys into the Super Bernie syndrome that transfixes Carthage. In fact, he’s rather suspect of the adopted favorite son. Also suffice it to note, he may or may not be vindicated when aforementioned events put the town on its ear and culminate in a cause celebre.
Working backwards to the big finale from a script he penned with writer Hollandsworth, director Linklater manages a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. If you were to read it, it wouldn’t be half as enamoring as what results from the smorgasbord of down home colloquialisms his largely amateur cast uses to state their colorful points of view.
It’s a delirious panoply of ostensibly heartfelt verbiage, a lazy Susan of well-meant prejudices and assumptions skillfully juxtaposed with down-home wisdom and native intelligence. It’s part of why comedy can be such a great conveyor of truth… unshaded opinions told for what they are, delivered here as if auditioning to portray Will Rogers.
Which reminds me of a great tall-tale teller in college who, on the dorm fire escape during warm fall nights, told the most outlandish stories, all inevitably ending with him coaxing the dean’s daughter to an assignation. But we let him, because it was so much fun. You see, we’re being had a bit, or not, depending on how your antennae receive it.
A provocative exercise that’s the cinematic equivalent of a brain teaser or a magician’s conjuration, you can take its implicit challenge or allow yourself to enjoy it on face value. And because it’s so intriguing, especially in light of the specious smoke and mirrors its storytelling style employs, I’d be interested in knowing exactly which “Bernie” you see.
“Bernie,” rated PG-13, is a Millennium Entertainment release directed by Richard Linklater and stars Jack Black, Shirley Maclaine and the townspeople of Carthage, Texas. Running time: 104 minutes
Williston Police are investigating the theft of a purse from Hannaford in Williston on May 23—from a 92-year-old woman who was shopping—subsequently cited Nicholas Bartlett, 32, of Johnson and Emily Bagley, 35, of Hardwick on charges of felony theft, according to police. Bartlett and Bagley were arraigned on May 30. No further details were available as of press time.
Driving with suspended license
Samuel F. Wolcott Jr., 40, of St. Albans was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 14, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.
Glenn K. Blanchard, 62, of Milton was cited on a charge of aggravated assault on May 16 after a “road rage incident,” according to police reports. A caller told police that after he accidently cut off a vehicle when trying to use exit 12, the suspect, later identified as Blanchard by police, jumped out of his vehicle and began “choking” the caller after he came to a stop at the traffic light, according to a police affidavit. Blanchard “fled in his vehicle” after the altercation, according to the affidavit. Police noted that the caller’s neck was “extremely red” and that he had “two raised scratches” consistent with marks left from fingernails, the affidavit noted. Blanchard was cited to appear in court on July 2.
On May 18, a Terry Lane resident reported that his truck had been “egged” the previous night while parked in his driveway. The case is under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Williston Police at 878-6611.
Inhumane treatment of animals
A violation ticket for inhumane treatment of animals was issued to an unnamed person on May 18 after police investigated a report of a dog locked in a vehicle with the windows rolled up at Wal-Mart, according to police reports. Police remind residents to leave their animals at home this summer, as it is not safe to leave them unattended in vehicles during the warm weather months.
Phone lines down
An equipment glitch over Memorial Day weekend left phone lines answered by the Vermont State Police in Williston down for three days. The 911 system was unaffected.
Officer James Cronan said the phones were down from Sunday morning to Tuesday night. Officers had to wait for a replacement part, which took longer than normal due to the holiday, he said. The station had several cell phones on hand so that other stations could reach officers at the Williston barracks. The main phone lines have been restored.
Charles Lyman III, 21, of Essex Junction was cited on a charge of possession of 10 grams of marijuana on May 19, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court on July 2.
Police notes are written based on information provided by the Williston Police Department and the Vermont State Police. Please note that all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
By Mal Boright
The Vermont Principals Association announced post-season playoff pairings on Monday in six sports, with Champlain Valley Union High teams picking one top seed and a second seed.
The number one seed went to coach Amy deGroot’s undefeated girls tennis team (14-0), which opened its playoffs Wednesday on its home Shelburne courts against 16th seed St. Johnsbury Academy (1-12).
The 14-2 baseball team drew the second Division 1 playoff seed and also opened the playoffs at home Wednesday against 15th seeded North Country Union (2-13).
Coach Dave Trevithick’s defending Division 1 champion boys lacrosse team earned a fifth seed with its 11-5 season mark and played off in Hinesburg Wednesday against 12th seeded Burlington High (1-15).
The girls lacrosse team, under first-year head coach Erin Malone, drew a fourth seed as a result of its 9-5 mark and will have a home match on Friday (4:30 p.m.) against fifth seeded Brattleboro High, 9-5.
A road trip awaits the 7-7 boys lacrosse team, which travels to Newport on Wednesday to meet fourth-seeded North Country Union (9-1-1). CVU drew
Also on the road Wednesday will be the 14th seeded softball team (1-15), which hops a bus to Brattleboro Union High for a session with the third seeded 14-2 Colonels.
Wednesday games and matched were played after the Observer’s press deadline.
By Mal Boright
Essex High junior David Ro won his third consecutive Vermont Interscholastic boys individual tennis title on Saturday at Burlington’s Leddy Park.
This year his foe in the championship match was a very familiar person: his younger brother, Daniel, a freshman at Essex High.
David Ro won the match 6-1, 6-1 and became the first three-time champion since Alex Davydov won his third straight in 1998.
David and Daniel are the sons of Chris and Una Ro of Williston.
In winning another crown, David extended an unbeaten streak against state high school competitors that goes back to his first match his freshman year. In that unblemished time, he has not even lost a set.
In his first season this year, Daniel went undefeated in his individual matches and earned the trip to the title test with a close, tense victory over Brattelboro Union’s Isaiah Ungerleider 4-6, 7-5, 6-0.
Playoffs underway for CVU baseball, softball
Champlain Valley Union High baseball and softball teams began their second (playoff) seasons on Wednesday, with the14-2, second-seeded baseball aggregation home to 12th-seeded North Country Union and the 1-15 softball team on the road against third-seeded 9-5 Brattleboro Union.
Wednesday’s games were after the Observer’s press deadline.
The baseball team’s game with 3-13 North Country was postponed from Tuesday due to weather.
An opening round victory would give the Redhawks a home encounter on Friday at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of a Wednesday pairing between 10th-seeded South Burlington High, 7-9, at seventh-seed Essex High, 11-5.
Coach Tim Albertson’s CVU combine, blanked 7-0 with but two hits by Colchester ace Zach Tandy, got the raps back on Friday with a 6-1 triumph at Middlebury Union.
The slugging came from Larry Halvorson with a two-run double, Curt Echo’s triple, single and RBI, plus Brendan Davitt’s two hits.
Dylan Ireland pitched into the sixth inning, allowing seven hits while whiffing five to get the win. Davis Mikell worked the final inning and two-thirds, fanning three.
The softball team, should it win at Brattleboro, would play on Saturday against Wednesday’s winner between sixth-seeded Mount Mansfield Union and 11th-seed North Country Union. That game would also be on the road.
CVU bowed to Colchester and Middlebury in its final two regular season tests.
State meet up next for CVU track and field
With 17 athletes qualifying for the New England meet on June 9 in Saco, Maine, the Champlain Valley Union High track and field team will now focus on the Vermont Division 1 State Meet on Saturday at Burlington High.
In the highly regarded Essex Invitational on Saturday, which drew upward of 1,000 competitors, 11 CVU girls and six boys punched their tickets for Saco by finishing in the top six in their events.
“In general the day went well,” CVU assistant coach James Donegan wrote in an email. “There were several season’s bests and personal bests for individuals.”
The Redhawks took a first in the 4×800 relay as the team of Taylor Spillane, Autumn Eastman, Claire Trotter and Isabelle Unger hot-footed to the triumph.
The 4×100 relay team of Tallon Tomasi, Abigail Eddy, Abbey Norris and Sienna Searles took third.
The boys 4×800 team earned a third place finish. The team included Elijah Cory, Sam Longenbach, Sean Delaney and Jared Keyes.
Double individual qualifiers included: Spillane with a second and third in the girls 1,600 and 3,200 runs; sprinter Haliana Burhans in the 100 and 200 dashes (third, fourth); and Matt Baurer with a runner-up and fifth in the boys high jump and triple jump.
In addition, Eastman took second in the girls 800, Unger was third in the 300 hurdles, Sara Lewis finished third in the pole vault and Brianna Hake fifth in javelin.
Brian Boisjoli captured a fifth place in boys pole vault.