Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last notebook drawing of January 2012. Paint, ink and collage on notebook paper

Thursday, January 26, 2012

There’s No Business Like Show Business. 1954

This garish ,brash fun musical was made in the second year of the cinemascope revolution and directed by 20th Century Fox’s in house director Walter Lang. Lang who had a very long career that began with silent films and went on directing  movies right  up to 1961 with the lowly and ludicrous  Snow White and The Three Stooges. He was a decent enough director and is mostly known for directing Betty Grable and Alice Faye in all those interminable 1940’s lavish musicals along with some Shirley Temple features.  His biggest achievement to some was directing The King And I for which he received his only Oscar nomination .  No Biz as I shall refer to it is big in every sense of the word and features a rousing cast, Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Mitzi Gaynor, Donald O’Connor, Johnny Ray and Marilyn Monroe. The film chronicles the life and career of a vaudeville couple played by Merman and Dailey who when the film opens is singing and dancing their hearts out on the vaudeville circuit circa 1919. They soon are having kids who also perform with them, and swiftly grow up to become O’Connor, Gaynor and Ray. At first the look of the film including the costumes tries to indicate the period but soon we are in a 1950’s version of the 1920’s through the 1940’s. The film is cramped with movement and color, and is lush with the wonderful music of Irving Berlin and a “sing out Louise”  Ethel Merman, who looks like an over wrapped Christmas present. Lang’s use of the wide screen is rather ordinary, a more imaginative use of the process would have to wait for the likes of Nicholas Ray, Sam Fuller and Vincente Minnelli to show us what could be done with it. The costumes are also on the whole jaw dropping and look like they were designed by Katy Keene the comic book fashionista of the 1950’s who by the way I loved. The gals look like they were poured or sewed into them.  There are the usual family trials and tribulations that one associates with this kind of film, and it floats along nicely but doesn’t really grab you until Monroe appears. She sizzles and shines and does several great numbers including “After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It” and the justly famous “Heat Wave” that was originally slated for Merman, but was given to Monroe to entice her to come aboard the project.  The finale with the entire cast singing surrounded by lots of chorus boys and girls (every dancer worked that week in Hollywood) is vividly colored and kinetic.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Notebook Drawing. Collage and paint on notebook paper. Jan. 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

art looking or looking at art

Today on my skip to my lou jaunt through Chelsea I took in the magnificent exhibition Jean Dubuffet: The Last Two Years at The Pace Gallery. The large and spacious space is filled with about 20 of this art brute’s paintings that mostly are very large in size consisting mostly of the colors red, blue yellow and white in abstract swirls and shapes and painted with acrylics. The sheer beauty of these works, (and they are indeed beautiful) made me dizzy with pleasure and delight. The guard on duty was eyeing me weirdly maybe because I had a soft big old smile on my face and was lingering longer than is usual and that I kept going back and forth between the two galleries. I’ve always loved this man Dubuffet’s work ever since I was a teenager. Here was an older artist with a young artist’s daring do, and he still had this daring & do right up to his death. This is an exhibit that I might have to go to again before it comes down in March. The other show that I liked quite a bit, but with some very minor reservations was the complex and sometimes daunting The Wedding (The Walker Evans Polaroid Project) which was curated by Ydessa Hendeles, who calls it a curatorial composition. This is on view at the Adrea Rosen Gallery only until Feb. 4th. Hendeles who is also a wealthy collector and curator has brought together some intriguing objects including 83 of Walker Evans’s last works that are small color polaroids of buildings and structures + several photographs by Muybridge, Atget and bird photos by Roni Horn which are of taxidermied Icelandic wildfowl in close up and from the back. All are installed on walls that surround the main piece, the focus of the show, a large and beautiful mid 19th century birdhouse from England which is more like a playhouse than a refuge for birds. This lovely structure is surround by child’s settees designed by Stickley at the turn of the 20th Century that invite the viewer to sit for a while. It all gives the appearance of a stage set waiting for the play to begin and all told this is indeed an odd and intriguing installation that some might find dense and pedantic. In fact the gallery has piled on a counter in the front room small 35pg.very nice Spiral bound catalogs for the taking in which the curator goes to great lengths to explain the meanings behind the installation and the objects included written in a clear and casual text. Also on hand in the foyer of the gallery is an architectural model of a cooper’s workshop that sits on a Stickely child’s table, all of this is visually arresting but would this elegant installation work without a 35pg. Explanation of what we are looking at. The whole thing does have the feeling of being in a church and in the press release Hendeles writes how she has never come into the Andrea Rosen Gallery “without feeling the majesty of the cathedral-like architecture of its main gallery,” a feeling I might say I have never felt. So in spite of the several lousy shows that I also saw, this is a good time to check out Chelsea not only for these two exhibits but also for the Lori Ellison, Bill Jensen Wegee and Vivian Maier shows that are still on view.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Midnight in Paris 2011

I have to admit that I did not rush out to see this film mainly because my least favorite actor in the world Owen Wilson was starring in it. Ok I should clarify that, he’s one of my least favorite actors and is in a dead heat with Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler for that dubious honor. So suddenly one day it appeared in my mailbox from Netflix and I wondered did I really have it on my queue?  Well I finally watched it the other night and I can say that it was not the most painful experience I’ve ever had in the movies, in fact I quite enjoyed this little bauble from Woody Allen. Set in contemporary Paris (beautifully photographed by the way, but can anyone not beautifully photograph this city?) it stars Wilson who is the most recent stand in for Allen and plays a successful but unhappy Hollywood screenwriter. Wilson is on a holiday with the very beautiful but interchangeable   with several other young beautiful blonde actresses, Rachel McAdams. They are not exactly the couple of the year, and things get more dour for Wilson, when McAdams staunch conservative Republican parents arrive who are wonderfully played by Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller. This pretty much sets up the story. Wilson who longs for yesterday, 1920’s Paris to be exact is for no given reason jolted back to that era one night and mixes it up with some of his literary heroes including Hemingway, Fitzgerald and G. Stein. Complications with his real life naturally set in, some of them quite amusing, but after a while his nocturnal wanderings for me started to become somewhat dull and expected. True there was a very funny encounter with Luis Bunuel who just doesn’t get Wilson’s idea for a movie where dinner guests can’t leave, and keeps asking but why can’t  they just walk out. I think we’ve all had longings to go back in time, to escape our frantic dull or unhappy lives I know I do, and quite often me and a close friend moan and groan  about if only we can go back in time to the city that once was New York.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James 1938-2012

The great singer Etta James has passed. She was always one of my favorite singers and in the early 70's  I introduced her music to many art world friends playing her music at dinners. About 12 years or so ago, I went to a concert of soul and blues divas at Lincoln Center which featured Ruth Brown, Irma Thomas, Coco Taylor and Etta. She was the last on the bill, and was very heavy and most likely not well at this time, she came out kicked off her shoes and did her set in her bare feet. She was extraordinary and brought the house down. I'm feeling sad, but so happy that I did hear and see her in person.

The Ides of March 2011


Just in time for the campaign of 2012 comes this glib and somewhat condescending little political drama starring George Clooney (who also directed) as a charismatic governor who as the film opens is running for president of the country. The action (if one can call it that) takes place over a period of days in Ohio where Clooney is running neck to neck in the democratic primary with a somewhat phantom (we never really see him) rival. Dirty deals and political intrigues abound as his two top advisors played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling finagle, lie and coerce in order to get him over the top, and on his way to the nomination.  Clooney is not covering anything new in this sub genre, we’ve seen it all before from The Great McGinty (politics as surreal satire) to Primary Colors (thinly disguised Bill and Hilary take on the world).  All the clichés and stereotypical characters are in place, and most are entertaining and well acted by Hoffman, a ferocious Paul Giamatti  as the rival’s main advisor and a rodent like and very fine Marisa Tomei as a prying journalist. A predictable and dull scandal erupts that threatens to bring Clooney down, and I was somewhat bothered by the unnecessary lamb to the slaughter plot device that happens to the most vulnerable character and by the cynical and expected ending. Still it’s not a boring or bad film mostly because of its short running time. If only the current political campaign was this short.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Notebook Drawing. Collage, ink and paint on notebook paper. 2012


In spite of the crummy weather yesterday I took in a few shows in Chelsea, and no I did not see the Damien Hurst dots, but I did see the terrific Weegee show at Kasher. I've always loved his photographs, and I have an original edition of his Naked City. His work kinda smashes you in the face. Also of note was Bill Jensen's elegant show of diptychs and triptychs at Cheim & Read. His surfaces are always compelling. I should add that he is an old friend, and I had for many years one of his early paintings which I sold in the late 80's, a sad day for me. The piece of mine that Bill had was destroyed in the awful fire in Margrit's loft, another sad day for me. I also liked Thomas Woodruff's show of strange and mysterious gorgeous paintings that you can really get lost in. I wish that I liked the Joyce Pensato show more than I did, yes accumulations can be fun, but these were just too obvious and her batman paintings are totally without interest.


 Missive literary Magazine has just posted 5 of my notebook drawing-collages. You can view them at this link


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Two Mrs. Carrolls. 1947

Somewhat creaky stage bound thriller starring Humphrey Bogart as a psychopathic American painter living in England with his second wife played by Barbara Stanwyck. Based on a play that had a decent run in the early 40’s on Broadway, which explains its static boxed in look. Stanwyck should have known better falling for Bogie but if she did then we wouldn’t have a movie, so it’s all well and good. Short on logic and exposition, this Warner Bros nearly B movie does have nice production values, and some good atmospheric touches including lots of rain and windy nights. Stanwyck is a rich heiress, (she’s British but Babs doesn’t even attempt an accent) who is madly in love with Bogie, but who slowly realizes that he is completely nuts, (Don’t drink that milk Babs) and that’s when the film picks up. Also on hand is a very beautiful but nasty Alexis Smith who would like to become the third Mrs. Carroll, Nigel Bruce as a country doctor, the marvelous Isobel Elsom as Alexis’s bitchy mom and the lovely child actess Ann Carter, (you might recall her as the haunted child in Curse of The Cat People) as Bogie’s daughter by the first Mrs. Carroll. There are a few jolts near the end, which made me spill my cranberry juice all over myself.  Directed by the competent but forgettable Peter Godfrey who was an in house B director at Warner Bros. In the 1940’s. Only available from the Warner Bros. Archive.

Some Recent Photographs

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beginners 2011

Beginners. 2011.

This film only comes alive when Christopher Plummer is on screen and for my money this is not long enough. Plummer who gives an elegant and moving performance (the kind of role that wins Oscars) plays the father of Ewan McGregor who finally comes to grips with being gay at the age of 75 and begins to live his life as he always wanted to. Never mind he was married to McGregor’s mother for 44 years, and existed in a very deep and dark closet, but now he’s out with a vengeance. The writer director Mike Mills based the film on his own life and his relationship with his father, but unfortunately instead of focusing on Plummer, he throws in his deadly dull affair with a somewhat broken young and pretty (but vapid) French woman played by Mélanie Laurent whose accent is as thick as an old piece of fromage. Once more a current film has a cute dog running around in it, but the really wonderful moments are the ones that show Plummer with his new gay friends and his lover who is much younger than he is. I don’t doubt that Mills is a sincere person, who really wanted to tell his unusual story, but unfortunately only half of his story is vibrant and compelling. A big disappointment.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Hugo 2011

I saw this Martin Scorsese valentine to childhood and the movies today at the first screening in one of those ugly theatres on union square and I was the only person in the theatre which was fantastic. It was like my own private screening, except they kept the heat off, and I nearly plotzed when the ticket seller said $14.00 please, and that was a senior ticket. Anyway I really enjoyed it, Scorsese uses 3-D in a delicate, imaginative and smart way, and some of the scenes just take your breath away. I really didn't know much about the story, and was so delighted to find Georges Méliès as one of the main characters. The cast is good, and finally a 3-D movie that is truly special. It’s like a fantastic pop-up book. Try to see this one on a big screen and in 3-D. Charming all the way and easily one of the ten best films of the year.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Orion Headless

 Orion Headless has just posted five of my photographs from California and Tijuana 1982. You can view them at the link below.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

3 paintings on paper from the early 80's recently photographed

Eve Arnold Photographer 1912-2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2 movie reviews

Betrayed (when Strangers Marry) 1944
This is a really good and cheap little Monogram thriller directed by of all people William Castle before he became the gimmicky schlock master of Hollywood B's. The original title "When Strangers Marry" was changed for some reason to Betrayed, and this little thing is loaded with many nice touches. The story is about a very sweet but naive young waitress played by Kim Hunter who comes to New York City to meet up with her mysterious husband who she married after knowing him for only 3 days. A murder happens in Philadelphia (why Philadelphia?) and her husband played by Dean Jagger in a rare romantic lead is the main suspect. Kim spends most of the quick 67 minutes trying to prove his innocence with the help of former boyfriend Robert Mitchum. As I said its very cheap and somewhat sordid just they way I like my men and movies, so I had a really good time with it. Influenced by Hitchcock and the films of Val Lewton there are scenes set in movie theatres, an after hours jazz joint in Harlem, various hotel rooms and paper thin New York Streets. The very young Ronda Fleming has a tiny part at the end of the film Its available only through the Warner bros. archive, and you might be able to get it from your library.

Bridesmaids 2011.
 I really can't understand all the love shown this film. It’s not horrible, but its really like an overlong sitcom, it looks like a sitcom and sounds like one, (I almost expected to hear a laugh track) and that's probably because of the cast which is filled with tv performers. I wouldn't know Kristen Wiig if I tripped over her, since I have never seen her on SNL She's not bad, looks a little too much like a taller meg ryan and she tired me out after a while as did the rest of the cast and I found none of these women likable or believable. Maybe it’s me, but I just don't know women like these, and I don't want to. Basically they are presented as vain, stupid, materialistic vulgar insensitive tarts and I had trouble thinking that they can maneuver through a day without getting run over by a bus. I really don't like scatological humor, so the big set piece at the wedding dress salon only grossed me out but I suppose one can say that this is a big step forward for feminism and woman's equal rights proving that they can be just as gross as men

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

First two new notebook drawings of 2012. Collage and paint on notebook paper

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