Take, for instance, the three-minute introductory sequence of Busted Hub. A logy wipe like the cockeyed rising of Venetian blinds opens the film. Trevor Czewski, greasy-haired and wrapped in a blue/black flannel, sighs in the cracked vinyl front seat of his Chevette.* His left cheekbone bears a recently popped pimple which one will watch Trevor, throughout the course of the film, try unsuccessfully to hide with his knuckles, a wine glass, a wall, &c. This pimple is not insignificant: while some critics deride it as a grotesque and superfluous flourish, it is anything but. If it seems so, it is because one rarely sees pimples in film; the pimple isn’t a “gritty” affectation, just hideous realism. It’s also an ideal introduction to Ryan’s idea of cinema: over 122 minutes, Busted Hub, typified by such discomfiting realism, is by turns beguiling, unsettling, embarrassing, frustrating, exhausting, consuming, and disappointing. In that order.
Trevor’s dashboard ashtray is distended and full up with ash like TV static. No butts. He is not smoking. He pushes both hands through his hair; the camera focuses on his fingernails, slightly overgrown and vampiric, cuticles gnawed red-raw. He pinches a silver button control, pops the glovebox, and lugs forth a gun: snub-nosed, scuffed chrome, a .44—the weight of which one can feel from the other side of the screen. He laces his thin index finger through the trigger guard, behind the implement, then presses down on the knuckle to crack it. Trevor sighs.
There are no opening credits. The title appears in the bottom right corner in a miniscule Helvetica as the protagonist lopes from his car up a crumbling grey driveway—ominously, because the audience recalls the gun, but without any evident sense of urgency. It’s early spring, not winter; several tulips have bloomed in the corner of an inchoate garden of soggy-looking, store-bought black dirt and not much else.* As Trevor turns the unlocked doorknob and stalks across the threshold of a townhouse—with cheap, sunflower-colored vinyl siding—distant cacophonic hollering of untamed children can be heard. Trevor’s breathing is labored; his shoulders fold increasingly inward with every forward step. The simultaneous slap-patter of several pairs of flip-flops bounding over linoleum loudens until it is more than unbearable.*
Three children—towheaded, with untrimmed, mud- and bruise-blackened toenails, a smattering of unexplained scabs, and magenta Kool-Aid moustaches (or severely chapped lips)—become visible through a quivering beaded curtain at stage right. One has a weeping cold sore smack in the middle of his philtrum. Colliding into each other, Stooge-like, they stop dead on the hard floor just outside of the matted shag carpet of the family room in which Trevor stands. With the children’s entrance, the camera snaps into first-person perspective; the audience can no longer see Trevor, but sees as him. The children’s trapezoidal rictuses tell the viewer what she needs to know: the .44 is hoisted, pointed. The handheld camera gets jittery—the film’s documentary-style cinematography allows for another level of subtle emotional manipulation—then swings jarringly back into its usual perspective, falling on Trevor, standing dead center in the frame (an awkward blocking decision). His face is grave. The camera backs off; the viewer can see his palm, perpendicular to the floor and parallel to the walls, a wedge of negative space between splayed middle and ring fingers, held in a gesture familiar to geeks the world over as salutation of those sci-fi stoics, the Vulcans. The gun is not drawn; it never was.
Trevor takes the .44 from his pocket and gently sets it atop a granite mantle in front of a dinged wooden plaque that seems to have been designed to hold it.* Less than three minutes into the film, Ryan has placed an ostensibly loaded gun on the family’s mantle. And as an obvious allusion and affront to Chekhov, it never goes off. In fact, it is never mentioned again. Despite the first-time viewer’s breath-baited waiting, nothing comes of it—it’s not even clear why Trevor had removed it from the house, nor why he is returning it. This purposively antidramatic gesture, supposedly disastrous, is, like the pimple, an effective method of pointmaking for Ryan: Life is rarely dramatically appropriate, regardless of how very much humanity would like it to be.
 On the passenger seat is a crisp-looking copy of what proves to be Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (Scribner, 2003). Its front jacket flap covers the first twenty-some pages of the book, and marks the beginning of the essay “What Happens When People Stop Being Polite,” a treatise on postmodernity’s tendency to attempt to dramatize undramatic quotidian existence.[BACK]
 A few white tulips; not so many (nor vulgarly pink) that one is (sub)consciously readied for the formulaic hyperironic juxtaposition of violence and quaintness that’s become stock and trade of Tarantino since Reservoir Dogs’ use of Stealers Wheel.[BACK]
 In Interview magazine (Nov., 2008), Ryan tells staff writer Kevin Keating that he mastered this scene—six pairs of flip-flops flapping arrhythmically—hoping that the audience would come to appreciate the fact that “‘the sound of the suction between cheap plastic and sweaty feet is maybe the world’s most obnoxious…like something you’d hear gutterside at the coke-fueled orgy after Roseanne Barr’s wedding. Or divorce.’” Ryan’s formal training as a sound engineer—Prix vulcain-nominated for his work on Gilliam’s adaptation of Osman Lins’ 1976 A Rainha dos Cárceres de Grécia—vitally impacts his directorial efforts.[BACK]
It’s never explicitly mentioned, but it can be fairly assumed that the gun once belonged to the Czewski family’s late matriarch—probably the service revolver she attempted and failed to unholster in time (an incident which is explicitly mentioned).[BACK]