Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Shape Of Water 2017

                 A fairy tale for adults so you should leave the kids at home unless you want to explain to them what Sally Hawkins is doing in the bathtub and why is Michael Shannon lying bare ass on top of his wife. I would also give a warning to cat lovers and violence and gore haters, this is after all a Guillermo del Toro film.
                Set in a dank Baltimore at the height of the cold war circa 1962 this tale of a lost princess of sorts concerns a mute young woman who is a badly treated cleaning woman at a vast and creepy scientific facility who tolls away on the night shift along side her co-cleaner and close friend the darling Octavia Spencer. The place is run by a towering pile of evil and misdeed Michael Shannon who is in danger of forever being cast as kings of meanness if he’s not careful but still he is fun to watch as he goes about his nasty deeds.
                     Into this cold wet and forbidding center of secrets and fear comes a creature brought back from not a black lagoon but a Technicolor one, and all of the problems that meet and greet our little Eliza begin with this fabulous creature. There are all sorts of nasties hanging and running around including a Russian spy and his cold war cohorts who fit snugly into a rusty tin of stereotypical cookies. Eliza lives above a falling down but beautiful movie palace in a crummy loft like space along with her best friend who lives next door and is an old but still struggling commercial artist who happens to be gay and has his own problems including making a living doing illustrations for ads just when the industry is changing over from art to photography.
               This part is beautifully rendered by the great Richard Jenkins who pretty much steals every scene he’s in which is not a easy task considering who he’s acting with.  The plot line about commercial art is a nice touch among many including a vivid feel for the period with all the commercial products and services in place including a beautiful array of vintage shiny cars, black and white television programs and perfect attire. Del Toro wears his heart and soul on his sleeve along with his vast and affectionate knowledge and love of old movies, pulp fiction especially of the sci-fi kind, toys and games.
                  He is also political and always finds ways to bring his liberal leanings into his films, and “Water is no exception. There are side trips to racism and homophobia along with sexual workplace harassment that is presented to us in the movie before it had become one of the main topics of discussion in the media and everywhere else and serves to show us how it has always been with us.
                     But this is a love story above all else and the side bars of vast conspiracies, the military-industrial  complex, racial and sexual injustices take a back seat to the odd and unusual love story between Hawkins and the “creature”. For most of this strange and lovely film I was enchanted and moved even though it slows down towards the end with somewhat expected twists, turns and comeuppances.  A special nod must be given to the marvelous Sally Hawkins who delivers a wonderful almost pantomime performance that is nuanced and one might say choreographed and she is as usual a marvel to watch.         

Friday, December 15, 2017

Large Collage December 2017

South 85 Journal

South 85 Journal has just posted one of my recent collages. You can view it at this link.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Merry Christmas

Call me by your name 2017

           A Sun drenched voyage to a small town in northern Italy that tells the story of a 17-year-old boy coming of sexual age during a 6 week visit by a strapping handsome sexually stunning American. Played with delicacy and charm by Timothee Chalamet as the 17 year old Eilio who is experimenting with his sexuality during a warm summer of 1983. He is ripe for this experimenting and does so with a lovely young Italian girl but his longing is reserved for the visiting American Intern and assistant Oliver played with subtlety and high sexuality by Armie Hammer.
                     Hammer has been picked for a 6 week internship to study, assist and stay at the family home of Elio’s father who is a professor and expert of classical archeology and who every summer open their lovely villa to a lucky person to assist him in his studies.
                   This is the set up, the door that is not only opened to Hammer but also to us. Doors opening and closing play an important visual metaphor in the film, along with food (especially fruit), water and of course the ravishing Italian countryside. You can almost feel the warm sun and smell the ripeness of this beautiful landscape.
                 The family and Hammer are Jewish and this too plays an important role in the film, it’s part of their identity and is also an historical marker, this is after all Italy whose not too distant past was fascistic.
                      The American father and Italian mother played beautifully by Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar are both intelligent and sensitive parents and both give wonderful, authetic and warm performances especially Stuhlbarg whose monologue at the end of the film should give you chills and tear your heart apart at the same time possibly rending you in tears.
                   Elio is in many ways a typical teenager but he is also sensitive, a talented musician and avid reader who is also smart and sassy but is also a generous and kind young person  which we see in his relationships with his parents, the servants and his friends. This is a lovely performance that I think we will be viewing with relish for years to come.
                            The film is beautifully directed by Luca Guadagnino who also made one of my favorite films from a few years ago “I Am Love” which has some similarities with this film both in its themes and look and have at it’s core the poking and dangerous nail in the wall of “forbidden love” in “I Am Love” it’s adultery (and also a hint of lesbianism) and here its homosexuality.
                     The back and forth encounters between Elio and Oliver are playful and light as they go on bike rides, swim and attend dances but they are also very sensual, sexual and erotic and we are almost grateful when the two finally melt and meld into a sexual relationship. It might be troubling to some since Oliver is a few years older than Elio but its consensual and very real and is known and excepted by Elio’s sophisticated parents, although nothing is said. 
           There are many memorable scenes in the film that will be talked about and remembered for a long time to come including the final goodbye at a train station that is right up there with similar farewells in such films as “Brief Encounter”, “Summertime” and “Since You Went Away”.  The screenplay is by James Ivory no stranger himself to themes of male love and the look and music of the film are also beautiful and memorable. Is this the best film of 2017? It might very well be.    

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2 from Oddball Magazine

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Edvard Munch: Between The Clock And The Bed.

                      It is possible and even probable that one can leave the stunning Munch exhibition now up at the Met Breuer feeling exalted and yes even happy even though the show itself is filled and fueled with anguish, despair, depression, sickness and death. One of the reasons for the uplift is of course the paintings themselves and how after a century they look as fresh and beautiful as though they were painted yesterday.
                  Munch was a superb draftsman and colorist who even though he was struggling year after year with illness and depression was still able to produce works of grandeur and beauty using a wide range of techniques some of which were shocking and new at the time and still have the nerve to surprise us even today.
                  Also I need to mention his great sense and use of color even when his palette was limited to blacks, blues and grays. The exhibition is small with only 43 paintings included and is mainly concerned with biography and the artist himself which is presented in the many self portraits that Munch did throughout his long life, with one large gallery including most of them.
                The star self- portrait of the show whose title is also the name of the exhibition “Self Portrait: Between the Clock and The Bed” which he painted late in his life greets us as the large elevator doors open. The painting is sad for sure but is brightly painted in light colors and loose strokes and presents the artist posed upright and stiff standing between the two objects of the title a large grandfather clock and a meager bed and looking straight ahead at us like a deer caught in the headlights of an on coming car.
                 The bedspread is the only thing of hope in the painting with its colorful brush strokes and looks like a snatch of a Jasper Johns painting. Those looking for an array of “The Scream’ will be disappointed as there is only one small lithograph of his most famous work and along with Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” the most parodied painting maybe in the history of art. But don’t or maybe do despair as there is plenty of grief to go around here including several versions of “The Sick Child” which was inspired by the death of his sister Sophie and various nightmares hung in a gallery with the theme of nocturnes that should take care of those who require a heavy dose of dread and depression. 

                  Also in the show are two versions of Madonna one tightly painted and is the more famous of the two shown, the second of which is pale and more loosely painted than the first one. Both of them are gorgeous and have always been favorites of mine even though I’ve only known them through reproductions and it was thrilling to finally see them up close and personal. Mainly missing from the exhibition are his images of desire and sex although a few shown allude to the erotic including the great “The Death Of Marat II” and his poignant and shocking “Puberty” which would probably get me banned from facebook if I posted it there. This beautiful and moving exhibition will be on view at the Met Breuer until Feb. 4th.   

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Shashi Kapoor 1938-2017

Monday, December 04, 2017

Large collage december 2017

person of the year

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Ivan Chermayeff 1932-2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beach Rats 2017

                 Small intimate and sensual. This is Eliza Hittman’s second film and once again she explores teenage sexuality and the perils and landmines that goes with it. In her first film 2013’s “It Felt Like Love” she took us into the South Brooklyn life of a young female teen and her confused attempts at sexuality.
                      In her latest film “Beach Rats” we are still in the area of South Brooklyn, which by the way is where I grew up and still live. In this film she gives us the closeted life of Frankie a breathtakingly beautiful 19 year old who is living a dull but conflicted life of a closeted gay teen. Played with conviction by the British newcomer Harris Dickinson who has the Brooklyn accent down perfectly. He is by day a typical late teen who hangs out with his small pose of like minded teenage boys, all played by the way by non actors, it is however by night when like some vampire that he turns into a different sort of teen.
              He sits down in his basement trolling a gay website called Brooklyn Boys where he meets up on line with older gay men, and goes off into the night to meet up with them for sex. He is conflicted to say the least because while he is leading his secret gay life he is also dating a hot Sheepshead Bay teen babe knowingly played by Madeline Weinstein who knows the ropes when it comes to sex and also knows that something is not up with Frankie.
              She calls him a “fixer upper” which is not a good sign for their budding relationship and Frankie’s heart and soul along with another part of his body is just not into her. They go on a few dates to Coney Island even though she was hoping to go “into the city”.  This is an accurate and good sign that Hittman knows her New York City jargon because this is what we outer borough folks call Manhattan, never New York, but always “The City.” A small note but worth mentioning because it’s one of the many authentic things about this brightly colored and garish movie.
                  Frankie lives with his recently widowed hassled and harassed mom (this seems to be the season for hassled and harassed moms in the movies) and his little sister in a modest house again an authentic feeling resides here with them, and spends his summer loafing without a shirt most of the time.
                This is a sad film because of this beautiful boy’s terrible situation and the few options afford him. The film is erotic and sexual with bits and pieces of sex and nudity but it’s hardly a celebration of either. The director it seemed to me takes the easy way out on the way to the ending,  one that I saw coming early on, and wished that she didn’t pick this obvious road to take, because for me it mars the narrative and makes the outcome seems rushed and predictable.  Still this is an engrossing film and indicates that both Hittman and Dickinson are due for big career moves. One of the best films of 2017 

I hate his fucking guts

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Some recent photographs

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