Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Seven Year Itch 1955 and Kiss Me Stupid 1964

On a close friend’s recommendation I decided to take another look at Billy Wilder’s The Seven year Itch. I've always had problems with this film, mainly because I find Tom Ewell to be so unattractive and well almost repulsive. I know he's suppose to represent the ordinary every man, but no matter how far I stretch my imagination I cannot ever see Marilyn giving this guy a tumble, in spite of his air conditioning. The few brief exterior scenes of a lost New York City, the third ave el, the interior of the lost Penn Station and some of the 50's period décor held my attention, but the famous skirt flying scene was slashed almost to smithereens by the censors, and I disliked all those annoying fantasy inserts and monologues. Still there are some pleasures to be had from this film and that is mostly due to Monroe who is delicious and not surprisingly gives a wonderful performance. The other Wilder bomb I saw for the first time was the lecherous and lewd “Kiss Me Stupid”, that starred that other 50’s blonde bombshell Kim Novak who gives a really bad performance and the casting of Dean Martin playing himself may have looked cute and witty on paper, but on film it’s a painful experience. There are some nice bits by Barbara Pepper, Doro Merande and Alice Pearce but not enough to make the movie worthwhile. This one made me scratch my head and wonder why it was ever made.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Harry Crews 1935-2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Warren Stevens (1919-2012)

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012

Absence of Malice 1981

Dull and dour movie about newspapers and the rules that reporters sometimes break and  stretch to get a story. Of course there is more to this lemon of a movie but that pretty much sums it up. Ok the plot goes something like this Sally Field plays a pushy and what I consider unprofessional reporter on a Florida newspaper, who steps on the truth with her sexy and very small size open toe heels in order to get her story.  She writes an unproven and ultimately untrue story about Paul Newman who plays the son of a dead gangster, who Sally insinuates is tied up in the recent disappearance of a labor leader. Newman is nice, not a gangster and for most of the running time of the movie tries to get at the source of this false story. Its hard to believe that Sally would last one minute at a newspaper writing the kind of stuff  that she publishes, and it is also  amazing that a newspaper would last two minutes after putting so much unsubstantiated rubbish between their pages.  Both Newman (who is too old for the part by 10 years) and Field are miscast and their performances are lazy and laid back, Newman looks bored and seems to be sleepwalking through the film, but still  got an Oscar nomination for his performance.  Sally all pert and cute in her 80’s outfits is just not convincing to me as a reporter, the role calls out for a Jane Fonda or Faye Dunaway. The only good moments in the film come from the wonderful Melinda Dillon (also Oscar nominated ) who plays a close friend of Newman’s and pays a steep price for a story that Sally publishes about her. What is shocking and surprising to me is that this sort of taking down of a sweet, vulnerable and sympathetic young woman is still being used in movies as late as last year’s “The Ides of March”. The one memorable scene in the film (and indeed one of the most moving and memorable scenes of the decade) is of Dillon  racing across her neighbors lawns at dawn picking up the offending issues of the newspaper with the damaging story about her, before they can be read over morning coffee by her neighbors.  A moment of truth and feeling in an otherwise dead and limp movie. With direction by Sydney Pollock and a script (also Oscar nominated), by Kurt Luedtke.  The good supporting cast includes Bob Balaban, Wilford  Brimley and Josef Sommer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Maintenant 6

Just got the print issue of Maintenant 6 in the mail with one of my collages printed in black and white.

you can order the issue at this link.

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John Chamberlain: Choices. The Guggenheim Museum

saw this rousing retrospective today of John Chamberlain at the Guggenheim Museum. I wasn't feeling all that great, but I've always loved his work. But be aware the Guggenheim has hired some young men from Hitler's youth organization who are extremely rude and aggressive. I was snapping a few innocent photos when this young piece of shit screamed at me to stop taking pictures. I said that I'm surprised that we can't take pictures of this extraordinary building, only on the ground floor he garbage answered. So I put my camera away and went back to looking at the sculptures, and he had the audacity to tell me I'm not done don't turn your back on me. Can you imagine. At that point I should have gone downstairs and filed a complaint against this little turd. I told him to stop harassing me. Have a good day the prick said. Really. Didn't care much for Francesca Woodman's photos found them surprisingly unmoving and not too special.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March Collage 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In Memory of my brother Philip Haber Feb. 1934-March 2012

My Week With Marilyn 2011

Oh goody just what we need another biopic. This one is about the time that Marilyn Monroe went to England to make ‘The Prince and the Showgirl” (the working title was called “The Sleeping Prince”) that Laurence Olivier was directing and co-starring in. Some of us know the problems that erupted during the making of this movie between Monroe and Olivier and for this movie the misery is based on a book written by Colin Clark the son of the historian Kenneth Clark who as a young man was employed by Olivier (thank you daddy) as a third assistant director, which is better known as a go for. The young man dully played by Eddie Redmayne of course falls heads over heels for Marilyn  who is portrayed by a valiant but over her head Michelle Williams. The two form a bond that helps Marilyn float on the very troubled waters that she finds herself in, most of which was her own fault. The film itself  is as slow as an old person trying to cross Broadway and 86th street before the green light turns red, and all it did for me was to make me want to see an actual Monroe film. Williams kinda looks like Monroe at times, if you squint your eyes, and she tries her darnest to channel her without it becoming too much of an imitation, but Williams is not built like Monroe, nor does she make any attempt at her voice and I rarely thought wow she is really getting Monroe down.   Also doing some channeling is the miscast Kenneth Branagh as Olivier, the very miscast Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh ( Viv deserved better than this) and a nearly invisible  Dougray Scott as the unsympathetic Arthur Miller.  The best things in the film are the recreated costumes that Marilyn wore for the film and the tangy work done by the wonderful Zoe Wannamaker as the wicked witch of the east Paula Strasberg, and the always brilliant Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike who comes to Marilyn’s rescue time and time again. Maybe a better film would have been My Week with Dame Sybil. Happily we have the brilliant performances left by Monroe, this icon of the 20th Century, this sex symbol to end all sex symbols, this great actress who during her brief lifetime was not considered anything but a broad, a dame, a slut a convenient lay to be used and then tossed away, but happily we have the films that prove them wrong.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Man From London 2007

well I finally saw my first and last bela tarr film. Talk about watching paint dry, talk about pretentious. Sure it looked good, beautiful black and white silky smooth cinematography but bela can take his tarr and go home, me I'll stick with hitchcock, lang and welles all three of which have influenced him. Yes I know he's a darling of a certain segment of the cinema going public, but I don't give two ricky scrotumorums if he is. I only watched it anyway because the great tilda swinton was in it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde

 Saw this beautiful exhibit today at the Met which is my home away from home and I urge all to see it. As usual with shows here, the installation is stunning, and the paintings well what can I say. The only gallery that I could have done without is the one devoted to some of the work done at Matisse's private studio classes that he gave. I suppose they felt they had to include it because Sarah Stein took classes there, and some of her work is included. Interesting because I never knew this about Matisse. Also of note were the wonderful little dolls and models that Florine Stettheimer designed for Four Saints In Three Acts, and photos of the fabulous house that Le Corbusier designed for Sarah & Michael Stein, also there is short movies of four saints and home movies of the steins at the Le Corbusier house. At times viewing the show brought tears to my eyes, that's how moving I found it. The crowds are manageable if you get there early.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another day at the galleries

Another day doing the galleries in Chelsea. My God where does all this crap art come from. I really shouldn't spend time moaning over the lousy shows I saw, but I’ll make some exceptions. Eric Fischl at the Mary Boone gallery has to be one of the worst exhibitions of the year, and it's only March. These portraits loosely  painted in his now common and I mean common style  have absolutely nothing to say about his rich and famous subjects, the art or state of representational art or portraits in general. They look like illustrations that you might have seen in old copies of Playboy Magazine. He is to representational-figurative art what Terry Winters is to abstract art, both are empty and vapid and highly overrated artists. I was also disappointed in the Georg Baselitz show, talk about vapid. Yes they are big, but so what. These are semi abstract like portraits that look like monsters.  Painted with lyrical and dainty paint strokes they don’t hold weight they don’t compel the viewer and they don’t hold  the huge Gagosian space. I also disliked the empty photographs of Paul Graham at the Pace Gallery and comparing him to the great street photographers ie. Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Garry Winogrand is an insult to these great photographers.  Gimmicky in theme and presentation.  Also dull and empty is the Roy Lichtenstein show at the other big Gagosian space and is a big strike out as far as I'm concerned.  They’re take off’s on Chinese painting and they’re so light and nothing that they almost seem to float away before our eyes. Well you're probably thinking did I like anything. Yes actually I did. The Janet Fish show at D.C. Moore of still life's are bold and complex in her handling of her paint and her set ups, also in the smaller gallery is a marvelous small show of watercolor Landscapes by the great Charles Burchfield.  The Tom Friedman show which closes soon, has some of his wow sculptures. His work usually brings a smile to my face, and although not all of them are successful this is still a very good show. The two shows that I liked the most is the wonderful exhibit of Milton Avery that the painter McWillie Chambers put together for Fischbach Gallery and the really beautiful show of Jonathan Lasker at Cheim & Read. These are "early works" from 1977-1985 and there is not a weak work in the entire exhibition. So there you have it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Skin I live In. 2011

A twisty and twisted film from Pedro Almodovar that reunites him with his favorite male actor from his early career the still handsome and sexy Antonio Banderas who plays a wealthy demented plastic surgeon who is doing some very nasty research studies and experiments involving new techniques in skin transplants & synthetic skin that will make your own skin crawl and your  hair stand on end. Banderas has suffered a string of tragedies in his life which pushes him over the edge, way over the edge and these tragic circumstances is what fuels this very entertaining film. It’s not easy to review this film without giving it away, but I will say that there is much in it that you won’t see coming and if you do, you’ll want to duck. Odd characters are introduced it seems every 8 minutes, and the plot twists are also fast and loose. The Almodovar touch and his humanity is there throughout the film along with his recurring  themes of family, the love of parents for their children, off the wall sexual encounters, gender and the cards that life deals us even if we don’t want to play. The film is also rich and overflowing with his careful use of color, décor and fashion (which by the way plays an important part in the film) that helps propel this wild film along its curvy and dangerous road. Almodovar has always been a referential director and this film is no exception  with influences as wide and varied as Frankenstein, Vertigo, Cronenberg, Oscar Wilde and Charles Ludlam. Also in the cast is another one of his regulars,  the marvelous  Marisa Paredes who plays his loving and dedicated housekeeper and has enough of her own secrets to fuel another film. Not one of his great films, for that you have to see “Talk To Her” or “All About My Mother” but it’s still first rate Almodovar. One of the ten best films  of 2011.  

Friday, March 09, 2012

Smile 1975

No doubt Christopher Guest who has spent many years making topical parodies that mock the American scene saw this terrific little comedy directed by Michael Ritchie about a Southern California beauty pageant. Toxic in its humor and jaundiced in it’s view of this beloved American past time  along with many other things that Americans hold near and dear it’s also a laugh out loud film.  The movie is set in Santa Rosa during the finals of a teen beauty pageant, and when the film opens we are treated to some really lousy (is there any other) talent hopefuls. My favorite contender was a ditzy teen who for her talent showed how to pack a suitcase and of course she scores high in the competition. The pageant is being run by the marvelous Barbara Feldon who is falling apart from the tension and stress of putting this show together and  a failing marriage. The head judge is played with dead pan style by Bruce Dern a used car salesman, and together they make one hell of a team. Also on hand is a sarcastic and testy 3rd rate chorographer- director who is hired to push and pull the production numbers featuring these klutzy teens into shape played by the first rate chorographer Michael Kidd. Among the contestants look for a very young Melanie Griffith already a vixen and the wonderful Annette O’Toole. Some what controversial is the treatment of the only Mexican American contestant  who is mocked, picked on and whose talent consists of  a zany patriotic send up that is sabotaged by some of the other girls. True she is also pushy and nasty in her own right and makes buckets of Guacamole to bribe the judges with. I won’t say if it does her any good.
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