Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Van Williams 1934-2016 Oh no.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Manchester By The Sea 2016

Grief covers this film like a dense fog, so intense was the grief that I found it hard to watch at times. This is a very good film directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan who also made "You Can Count on Me" and what I consider to be a masterpiece "Margaret" his badly treated film of 2011. All concern hurt and grief, remorse and forgiveness. The film has several terrific performances especially Casey Affleck who will no doubt get the best Actor Oscar, and the film is also perfect Oscar bait, serious, very American and heart felt. I left the theater very depressed, thinking in the end nothing matters, especially material things and the ridiculous activity of making art. If you can't handle sadness right now I suggest you skip this film for at least now and slip a 3 Stooges disc into your dvd player

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Valley of the Dolls 1967

Valley Of The Dolls 1967

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Criterion has restored this camp crap which I saw the other night. Maybe they got a grant from someone? Is there a Patty Duke foundation? How else to explain the time and money that went into putting out this dud double disc that comes with a 32 full color booklet no less. The plot is ridiculous and stupid and is based on Jacqueline Susann’s ridiculous and stupid best seller. I suppose one can say that it’s a portrait of America as it was and looked in the middle of the 20th century, a time capsule of poop culture, but is that really enough.
                Here we have the cliché ridden story of 3 young women who want to make it big in show biz (a plot device and a staple of movies that has been around since the 1920’s) and in a matter of minutes they rise like a soufflé that will soon fall. It’s a brassy tale that is so rotten and tarnished that I sat there in shock and awe over what I was actually seeing parade and prance before me.
             Made by 20th Century Fox in their not so glory days with a cast that is more miss than hit and even though big bucks were spent it looks cheesy and cheap. Yes we can chuckle at the outlandish hair do’s and clothes, the art direction and decor and the garish color. The girls are played by Patty Duke who is channeling Judy Garland, more about that poor lady later, Barbara Parkins, dark haired and solemn who begins as a secretary in a law firm specializing in show biz, and who in a matter of minutes throws away her legal pad and becomes a top cosmetic company model, and Sharon Tate who is the looker showgirl with the boobies but without any talent who goes to Paris to make nudie movies.               
           Their romances are as troubled as they are, and bubble and burst quickly but there is a long running dull affair between Parkins and one of the partners of the law firm played by Paul Burke who is a bargain basement William Holden who’s first name is Lyon (lion) and their affair is the steady one in the film as if anyone cared including them. 
          Patty who is addled, addicted and troubled is as I said modeled after Garland who was actually cast in one of the leading roles as a tough Broadway musical star (think Ethel Merman) stayed around for about two minutes before she was fired taking all of her costumes with her that she wore in her final Broadway comeback at the Palace. Good for her.
             The extras have some very painful to watch out takes and costume tests in which Judy looks frail and sick. Susan Hayward took over the role and gave it her best bitch self, and does a Broadway number (Margaret Whiting does the actual singing) of a dreadful song called “I’ll Plant My Own Tree”, that has to be seen and heard to be believed and in what might be the most memorable and famous scene not only in this film but in all of campdom Susie tangles with Patty in the ladies room where Patty rips off her red wig and tosses it in the toilet. Classy.  
             Meanwhile drug and alcohol addicted Patty in what might be the worse performance in the history of cinema, has numerous breakdowns and outbursts with her final blast taking place at the end of the film where she grovels on the sidewalk in a back theatre alley screaming out curses and pleas to God that made my teeth hurt. Oh don’t worry there are many other cringe worthy stuff and nonsense to go around. It’s a richness of embarrassments, a perfect fuck you from Criterion and just in time for the holidays. Badly directed by Mark Robson who did some of the great Val Lewton RKO horror treats but then went on to Peyton Place and this deep valley of despair and dreck.  It does move I will give him that, but it’s also sloppy (Every time Barbara Parkins goes back home to her Norman Rockwell New England town its winter with snow making everything so picture perfect, what happened to spring?, and no one ages even though it is suppose to take place over years. There is also a sadness that hangs over the film because of the participation of the tragic Sharon Tate and what we know is waiting for her a few years later. The cinematography is by the great William Daniels who was Greta Garbo’s favorite cinematographer and is reduced to this, and there is the good theme song sung by the great Dionne Warwick. Cold comfort indeed.   The film is also homophobic with fag and queer slurs dropped all over the place which adds to the ugliness of the film but is still a favorite camp fest for gays and lesbians. Look for Richard Drefuss who  has a small uncredited role as a Broadway stage hand, also in the cast is Lee Grant looking embarrassed and cameos by Joey Bishop and George Jessel who looks like he had just died and was dug up for this appearance.  One of the ten worst films of the year, and maybe of all time. Oh the horror.   

November 2016 notebook drawings

Willaim Christenberry 1936-2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oddball Magazine

Oddball Magazine has just posted this recent notebook drawing of mine along with a poem by Randall. Check it out and all of my other contributions (there are a lot) over the years to Oddball Magazine.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

notebook drawing november 2016

Once Upon a Time In America 1984

         It’s inconceivable to me, how anyone viewing this great film would not be moved, excited & ultimately overwhelmed by it. For starters the film has had a very rocky road, but there is now on dvd the most complete and restored version of the film with 22 minutes of missing footage added including the sequence with Louise Fletcher, making this version the one that Sergio Leone wanted the world to see.
            The missing footage adds some clarity to the film, but the scenes are grainy and washed out because they had to work with scrapes of take-outs and you can tell by the poor quality that this is the missing footage. Overall I prefer the previous 229 minute digital dvd version of the film which is the one shown at Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and I would recommend this one if you can get your hands on it. The transfer is nicer, the colors crisper and richer in tone and quality than the complete directors cut and for me I would sacrifice the more complete version for the more beautiful version, but that’s just me.
                 From the opening with that Goddamn ringing phone, to the last shot of a smiling stoned out DeNiro (this ending always makes me cry) this film is a true work of art. Complicated & personal, Leone weaves an epic tale about a bunch of Jewish gangster-friends from their criminal childhood on New York's lower eastside in the 1900's to the1960's. And like many films of the genre, Once Upon touches on the themes of friendship, loyalty & betrayal but does so in what some find an unsettling structure.
           The film constantly weaves from past to present and back again and I think that this form of filmmaking makes some American moviegoers uneasy. They like their films with beginnings, middles & hopefully happy endings. This is a film that is all over the place, a demanding film with characters that come & go impolitely & age without aging. Leone the artist takes a sacred genre and does marvelous tricks & turns to it. Its also a very violent & sexy film, a little too "European" for a mainstream American film, so the film was butched down to a 2 hour version that got bombed by critics, and hated by audiences who came expecting another Godfather sequel, because hey after all DeNiro is in it.

I saw it in its restored 1984 version one Sunday afternoon at the now gone 8th street playhouse because a close friend told me I have to see this film. I went and was knocked out by it, but when I expressed my wild enthusiasm for it to others, we got into heated arguments because they had seen only the butched 2 hour version and of course hated it, and would have nothing to do with seeing the complete film. Their loss. This is a movie, for people who love movies who want to be challenged and wowed.
The cast is terrific with memorable work by all including DeNiro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, a very young Jennifer Connelly in her first film and the great Tuesday Weld, and is also doted by a wonderful supporting cast. The music by Ennio Morricone is one of his best scores and the beautiful cinematography is by Tonino Delli Colli. The look of the film is rich and detailed with influences from art including Reginald Marsh and Edward Hopper. Filmed all over the place including Williamsburg and Dumbo before these Brooklyn neighborhoods were gentrified. The best film of 1984 and possibly the best film of the decade.

Paul Sylbert Oscar winning production designer 1928-2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

notebook drawing november 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Notebook drawing November 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

notebook drawing november 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction The Museum Of Modern Art. Or how you’re going to keep this artist down on the farm after he’s seen Picabia

When the going gets tough the tough go to museums, and that's what I did the other day taking in the remarkable exhibition of this wonderful artist’s life work. Papa Dada. It doesn't get off to a great start, what with those wonderfully bad post impression paintings, that look like calendar art.
However we are quickly and happily pushed into his quick change (there will be many of these) with his large abstract paintings that were influenced by Cubism and are bold but without the delicate beauty that I like and associate with the great works of Cubism. These paintings look good and are in their own way very commanding, but they still didn't do it for me and the big doing it for me begins in the next gallery when his art and heart belong to Dada.
This is where it starts to get good or even great. I've always loved Picabia, this dashing playboy with his love for fast automobiles and fast action who could have been played by Vittorio De Sica or maybe Marcello Mastroianni in a past movie of his life. The only actor today who could do him justice would be Jean Dujardin.
Picabia’s vast imagination and his experimental use of materials and images that provoked and challenged art lovers at the beginning of the 20th Century (and still do) poked and prodded us to what art and especially painting can be. So here in the largest gallery we have this vast and gorgeous display of his beautiful mechanical paintings and drawings that he called mechanomorphs, intricate and crazy things that don't do anything except only herald and sing the beginning of the 20th Century and the idea of movement and machines as beautiful things, something to put down on canvas and paper.
His dada machines are strong and precise sometimes named after friends, and intricately drawn especially in the drawings and prints. It’s in these works that he started to add stuff to the canvas including words and even his signature would sometimes become a part of the painting. It is in this gallery that his large work “L’oeil Cacodlate” (reproduced on the cover of the catalog) that incorporates words, names and collage elements including a small portrait of Picabia is installed.
This is one of my favorite works in the show and indeed in all of 20th Century art. It was an inspiration for me as a young artist. Papa was everywhere or so it seemed, and because of this beautiful and expansive exhibition we can also spend some time everywhere, here and there.
Turn a corner after this large display and you come across his carnival of monsters. Lavish and garish so colorful and textured that you might need to put on your sunglasses, but don’t better you get jabbed in the eyes with these marvelous and disturbing portraits and embraces from the early 20’s. But wait there much more. Take for instance his “transparencies” where lines color and images criss cross layer upon layers of figures and intricate designs and motifs many from nature, both high and low from many sources and periods that he puts on top of each other in thin transparent layers, hence his name for them. They are large complex and of course beautiful, guaranteed to draw you in.
Then there are what might be the most controversial pieces of his career the paintings from the early 40’s that can be called camp and kitsch but also disturbing and political and precede pop by many years. In this time and place Picabia took images from soft core porn magazines and other commercial magazines and pushed and put them together in these ridiculous paintings of Aryan gods and goddesses that are somewhat erotic and that can be to some off putting but I liked the camp and political things of these works and it is here that the very scary painting “Adoration of the Calf” hangs and brings to mind the awful new president elect and his followers. I know that this is a coincidence but it’s a creepy and compelling one.
The exhibition ends in the last years of his life, the early 50’s and you might say it ends how it began with abstraction. This is the time for small and intimate paintings, circles and squares placed on areas of textured colors, they dot the walls of the final gallery as beautiful and compelling as everything that went before them. This then is the life and work of one of our great artists, generous and expansive in his talent and life. Ah Papa. One of the best exhibitions of the year.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Gwen Ifill 1955-2016

Another good soul passes. Kellyanne Conway, sarah Palin, steve Bannon, Pat Robertson still walk this earth but Gwen Ifill is gone. Unfair.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

notebook drawing november 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

Robert Vaughan 1932-2016

The Oscar nominated actor has passed. He was also a very liberal democrat and wrote a book "Only Victims. A Study Of Show Business Blacklisting" .

Nina 2016

Another stupid dumb dull fake movie about a great singer. There are so many of these things being made lately, there's the dreadful ones about Miles Davis, Chet Baker and now we can add Nina to the list. There are others which I've blocked. Here we have a petite looking pretty model looking Zoe Saldana, 50 shades too light playing Nina Simone without any of her style and unique performance style, and forget about her voice. Saldana has a nice little singing voice but so what, she does not capture Simone's rough, raw, beautiful voice which really bothered me. The film has small little points about her troubled life here and there, but makes no attempt to give it some depth or shading, its all one note, drugs, booze and nasty are the stuff that this Nina is made of. Listen she was one of my favorite singers and if she was one of yours do yourself a favor and skip this crap and just listen to her albums or watch her on Youtube and the recent doc. about her which is still not available on netflix.


Leonard Cohen 1934-2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Raoul Coutard 1924-2016

I needed this news like a hole in the head. One of the great cinematographers in the history of cinema has passed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

November 9th 2016

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