Sunday, March 18, 2018

the florida project 2017

The film gets its title from the original Disney name given for the massive Amusement park located in Orlando Florida when it was in the planning stages. Directed by the impressive Sean Baker who shot his last film “Tangerine” on the budget of well a tangerine and on several iPhones no less blasts out and on to the major filmmakers circle of honor with this touching yet sometimes obvious take on childhood with its simple joys and large perils.
The film is set in a lavender colored motel called “The Magic Castle” a hop skip and a big jump from the Disney castle but might as well be on another planet and sometimes the movie does have an otherworldly feel to it. This is a place where down and outs, welfare moms and other marginalized folks live in simple rooms for $38.00 a day and all the bed bugs you can kill. Helicopters fly overhead day and night, and the threat of violence is always there ready to pounce without warning, and it sometimes does.
The motel is managed by Bobby played with realism and soul by the great Willem daFoe who just received a well deserved Oscar nomination for his performance. Bobby, daFoe’s character has sympathy and humanity but doesn’t take crap from anyone including an ancient pedophile who hangs out at the pool where the young kids play or the ragged blowsy old dame who insists on going topless also at the pool. His main take up time is with keeping the motel in good shape and keeping the troubled single mom Halley played with hard surfaces, blue hair and lots of tats by a very good Bria Vinaite in line.
Her usually impossible 6 year old daughter Moonee who is played winningly and I might add annoyingly (I would have a hard time with this kid) by Brooklynn Prince and a star is born. Moonee runs wild with her small pack of like minded friends and are constantly causing problems and trouble sometimes in dangerous ways.
Baker takes great pleasure showing us the down and outs of life and in “Tangerine” he did this with the underbelly of L.A. all dark and neon lit with all night diners and stark incidents and sassy dialogue involving transvestites and their wayward boyfriends, nasty stuff but with lovely humanity.
Here in Florida its all pastel but still nasty and rundown even with a glorious real rainbow making an appearance and fireworks in the nighttime sky, still this life shown is also down and out, even if there is a nice pool. The mother is trouble, nasty, foul language and sometimes criminal but there is no doubt that she loves her Moonee but treats her like a sister or friend instead of a daughter and this is no good for anyone especially the child. There are some passages that are obvious and some have complained that the characters are superficial and thin, not filled in with much depth and that the climax is expected and obvious but then Baker throws in an unexpected ending which should make you hum or at least smile. He co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Bergoch and Baker also is credited with the editing and a special note of pleasure to the great cinematographer Alexis Zabe for this beautifully filmed work. I’ve always loved and related to movies about kids from The 400 Blows, Night Of The Hunter, Kes, The Long Day Closes, Forbidden Games, The Little Fugitive, The Fallen Idol and many others and I can now add This joyous little gem to the group. One of the best films of 2017

Friday, March 16, 2018

Robert Grossman 1940-2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


By one of my senior students

stephen hawking 1942-2018

And trump still walks this earth. Unfair

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bryan and flowers

I am now the proud owner of Bryan seated by the wonderful painter Joe Radoccia and he is the owner of two of my summer collages. We traded today and I am thrilled to own this beautiful small gem.

Hubert de Givenchy 1927-2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Phantom Thread 2017

                 I haven’t liked a Paul Thomas Anderson film in a long time, so I was pleased that I was pretty much pleased by this attractive smooth as silk take on the British fashion scene circa 1955. Of course there is much more to the film than just a brilliant and sometimes biting satire of fashion and all that goes with it. Much of my glee is because of Daniel Day Lewis’s brilliant performance, supposedly his last one. Maybe he’ll come back in a few years and play Lady Macbeth or Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, nothing having to do with this great actor would be far fetched or surprise me.
                 In the meantime we have this great complex performance of his to relish and enjoy. In this film he plays a famous world renowned fashion designer by the name of Reynolds Woodcock, (yes I kid you not) who rules his elegant house of haute couture with an iron fist a neurotic persona and his hard as nails sister Cyril played with style and coldness by the great actress Lesley Manville.
                      Cyril dressed always in black with her dyed black hair tightly coiffed in a short cut moves through the house and indeed the film like a small tank in high heels. She’s tough and when she tells a character  “Don't pick a fight with me, you certainly won't come out alive. I'll go right through you and it'll be you who ends up on the floor. Understood? You understand. Manville is wonderful, and when she’s on, in tight close-ups you can’t take your eyes off her.
                    Into their lives comes the young and inexperienced Alma who Reynolds meets and picks up in a small village restaurant where Alma is a waitress and is played by the newcomer Vicky Krieps. She becomes his muse, moves into the house and they are soon in some kind of a relationship that bubbles over in s&m games and unpleasant confrontations. We really don’t know who these people are, they are sketched like one of Woodcock’s fashion drawings with much left out.
              As a glimpse into a made up idea of the fashion world the movie is fun, full of richly textured scenes on how a gown is made and even though some of the dresses are quite hideous, a few are quite elegant and Krieps wears most of them with class and style. The problem with the film is that it doesn’t know what it is, is it a woman’s melodrama, a thriller, a romantic semi-comedy, and I think this schizoid road map will be confusing and maybe even upsetting to an audience especially those who have never seen a Paul Thomas Anderson film before.
                     Anderson uses the film as a dress form to pin and clip his ideas on and sometimes this doesn’t work all that well, but in spite of this the film offers an abundance of pleasures. Then there are the critics with their points and ideas on Anderson’s influences and in this film the winner by far is Alfred Hitchcock and I don’t think I’ve ever come across so many silly and far out assumptions about a film’s references and influences. Yes Anderson is a movie buff and knows and loves film and the people who made them, his influences are deeply rooted and there’s no denying that. My problem is the silly and wrong assumptions about the Hitchcock glances in this film. A favorite one is that Cyril is Miss Danvers from Rebecca, which just doesn’t fit Cyril. For one thing she is not evil or crazy and as far as I can tell not a lesbian and is not trying to drive Alma out. In fact several times she remarks that she is fond of Alma and is never seen as plotting her demise. There are also remarks about Alma being Hitchcock’s wife’s name, that the green dress refers to “Vertigo” and on and on. It’s all quite silly, but for my two silly cents worth I would throw in Josef Von Sternberg and Michael Powell as two influences on the film. The lush cinematography is by an uncredited Anderson and the beautiful music score is by Jonny Greenwood.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

March 2018 Mixed on paper

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Silence Of The Lambs 1991

           I have always been on shaky ground when it comes to this horror thriller, and my opinion of it after seeing the sharp criterion transfer the other night hasn’t changed. I still consider it overcooked and confusing, and yes I still think it is outrageously homophobic just like it did in 1991, but more about that later. I much prefer Michael Mann’s stylish brightly colored take on this story that was titled “Manhunter” and was released in 1986 to mixed reviews and poor box office, but had a much better Lecktor (his last name is spelled differently in this film) played by Brian Cox a better actor than Anthony Hopkins. Lambs which I sarcastically called the silence of the lamb chops which my friends found amusing opened to great reviews and big box office. Granted the film especially when seen for the first time can make one nervous and creeped out, but its also as I said confusing and far fetched even though these criticisms can be thrown at most films of the horror thriller genre.
                      When I first saw it at a packed theatre on a cold Sunday afternoon the audience gasped and screamed at all the right places, and giggled coolly at Anthony Hopkins snide remarks and nasty innuendos mostly directed at the young and naive FBI agent played well by Jodi Foster.
                   The look of the film shot by Jonathan Demme’s reliable and fine cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and the richly textured production design by Kristi Zea add a lot to the mood and stress of the film as does the nicely placed cast especially those in the tiny meager roles. So why wasn’t I more engaged and impressed with this modern day Grand Guignol? As I hinted at earlier in my review a lot of my hostility and disgust has to do with Demme’s making the serial killer “Buffalo Bill” a great big gay queen who killed because of his hatred of women and his desire to become one hence his skinning of victims and his attempt at making a garment from their skins.
                I didn’t read the book and for all I know this nasty gay baiting might be there as well.  All the gay baiting markers and nasty little innuendos were in place in the film including that damn little poodle named precious no less. I remember how offended I was and how angry I felt that after all the steps taken by the gay community all the battles and fights both won and lost, movies were still presenting gay men as sick fucks who did horrible things especially to women.
                  The excuses and the chest beating from the makers of the film came hard and fast, and even today excuses are still being made for the homophobia in the film by some apologetic critics including Amy Taubin who in the essay that she did for the Criterion dvd booklet actually says “I have no doubt that if  demme were alive to remake the silence of the lambs today, the character of bill would be modified” An admission of guilt and great Amy except Demme only made remakes of other people’s films. I still boil and  peak with anger at Jodi Foster for her gushing and pathetic embracing of the film as not being homophobic. Take the money and run Jodi and this coming from a defender of Mel Gibson and a still more or less in the closet lesbian shouldn’t surprise me, and it doesn’t.                  
                    So Demme wins an Oscar as does the film and the two stars and to make it up to the Gay community Demme makes a whishy washy preachy film about AIDS and casts a homophobic black actor (don’t you be kissing a man he warned a young black actor who was about to start filming an adaptation of an important play) as a homophobic black lawyer who eventually comes around just as everyone is wiping the tears from their eyes as Tom Hanks dies a touching and beautiful Oscar death. Cut and print, and we’re on our way to the Academy Awards once more.  To be fair to Demme I do have a fondness for some of his films and consider “Stop Making Sense” the best concert film ever made, but my problems and criticisms of  “lambs” still remain. See it if you must. 

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Three Tall Women

Saw this today and the thrill of seeing Glenda Jackson in person was stunning. Even though I was way up in the last row of the mezzanine she still came through loud and clear. She was amazing. Also terrific was Laurie Metcalf who held her own. The only pill for me was Alison Pill who I thought was out of her league with these two great actresses. Albee never an easy playwright mixes his usual doses of realism with surreal and fantastic moments which goes back to his early plays especially "The American Dream" which I saw in its original off broadway run when I was I guess 16 or 17. The first Broadway play I saw was the matinee company of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf when I was 15 and Elaine Stritch was martha. Albee was important to me as a teenager and much later in my life I had a short correspondence with him. The theatre was full and there
was no solo bows by Ms. Jackson.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Some more nice work from my seniors

As you know I have been teaching art to seniors at an Asian senior center. This is my second year working with Asian seniors through the Su-Casa Program via The Brooklyn Arts Council. A few nice pieces from this week.

Counterclock Journal

Counterclock Journal has just posted 3 of my pieces check them out at the link below.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lewis Gilbert 1920-2018 Director

James Bond movies and Alfie
what's it all about Louie?

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Woman Who Left 2016

             I don’t know much about the Philippines. I do know that they have suffered at the hands of various conquering nations including the United States throughout their long history.  They have been pushed and shoved by various dictators and have been the victims of many kidnappings and much bloodshed including the on going murderous campaign against the drug trade lead by their current heinous dictator.
                   I also know nothing about their film industry which it turns out is strong, vivid and vibrant and at one time produced over 200 films a year. This brings me to this film and If you have a spare four hours you might want to jump at the opportunity to watch this small scale tremendous epic from the Philippine director Lav Diaz who happens to live in Queens and is known for his very long intimate intricate films.
             I watched this lush and strong film that is set in 1997 over two nights and that might be the way to go. The story is based and inspired by a short story by Tolstoy and concerns the harsh life of a woman convicted for a crime she did not commit and spends 30 years in a penal colony where she teaches and inspires the other female prisoners and their children who are locked up with their mothers. The film opens and closes with a tale she wrote and reads that symbolically mirrors her own life. 
              One fine day she is set free because the person who committed the crime confesses before she takes her own life and Horacia sets out to find her son and daughter and to find the man a lover who caused her this grief and get her revenge. Diaz who also wrote edited and did the beautiful wide screen black and white cinematography presents us with this complex and complicated woman as she crosses paths with many different people both in the daylight and the dark nights of lost souls.
              She is conflicted and angry with duo personalities one kind and giving, the other harsh and cruel and is played by the well known Philippine actress Charo Santos who gave up acting to work in the executive board rooms of the Philippine media world and came back to do this film and gives an extraordinary performance.
             Finding her daughter after 30 years is easy but she doesn’t pull up a stuffed chair and settle in for comfortable old age, instead she moves through the country side searching for her lost son, and her ex lover a rich powerful and corrupt power broker who betrayed her 30 years before. 
             During her days and nights she prowls the back alleys and dark streets sometimes dressed in men’s clothes calling herself Renata and offering kindness and mercy to a motley crew of beggars, street vendors and others including a mad woman who sees demons everywhere and who Horacia lovingly washes and cleans, no doubt cleaning her own troubled soul as well. The most intense relationship is between Horacia and an epileptic transvestite prostitute Hollanda played by one of the Philippines biggest heart throbs and idols John Lloyd Cruz who gives a remarkable performance. Their long scenes together are touching and riveting as Horacia nurses her back to health after a horrible rape and beating (not shown as is most of the violence which is kept off screen) and are among the most memorable and searing sequences I have ever seen in a film.  Diaz fills his large screen with images mostly with medium and long shots there is to my memory no close-ups and his sense of spaces both intimate and vast are stunning. He is an artist and as Meryl Streep said about his eight hour film “A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery” “This film, this director, changed the molecules of my brain.”  Granted his films are not for everyone, I give you that, but anyone interested in film should at some point give his works a look even if that look lasts a few days and nights.       

Saturday, February 24, 2018

February 2018 mixed

Friday, February 23, 2018


Nanette Fabray 1920-2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A few more drawings from my senior class

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