Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Taken as a whole, Justin Lerner’s debut feature “Girlfriend” — a surprise hit at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival — is a modest, uneven example of regional American independent film. But it has tremendous heart and integrity, and also offers remarkable chemistry in its unlikely central pairing of Shannon Woodward, a young actress who has performed several film and TV roles, and Evan Sneider, a young man with Down syndrome. Sneider’s performance is not a novelty act or an affirmative action gesture; he’s playing a complex and affecting character who is slightly out of step with the society around him but seeks to find his own place within it. (Sneider is being billed as the first actor with Down syndrome to play a starring role in an American feature film, and I can’t disprove that hypothesis.)
Left on his own in his Massachusetts small town after his mother’s sudden death, Sneider’s character (also called Evan) begins to fixate on Candy (Woodward), who was once the prettiest girl in his high school class and is now a struggling single mom with a handsome, bad-news ex named Russ (Jackson Rathbone from the “Twilight” movies). With a combination of compassion and detachment, Lerner’s script captures the dilemma faced by many high-functioning Down syndrome adults (I apologize if that terminology is old-fashioned or imprecise). Evan has a vivid emotional and psychological life and is fully capable of an adult sexual response, but has difficulty reading social cues or understanding when he’s being lied to or manipulated.
Candy is genuinely conflicted about taking money from Evan, for instance, but she’s also facing eviction and cannot rely on Russ, and it’s not entirely clear what Evan means when he tells her, “I always thought we would make a good boyfriend and girlfriend.” Some of Lerner’s melodramatic plot elements involving Russ and Candy’s son feel a bit forced, but the menacing mood, bucolic scenery and slowly unfolding relationship between Candy and Evan are all highly effective. And don’t worry — “Girlfriend” never ventures into the truly dark places it sometimes threatens to, and the way things end with Evan and Candy is gentle, optimistic and just about right.
“Girlfriend” is now playing at the Quad Cinema in New York, with other cities and DVD release to follow.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.