Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal. 1925- 2012

Leolo. 1992

A masterpiece. Set in the 1950’s and early 60’s in a teeming slum of Montreal (the film is in French with subtitles) this magical yet realistic and poetic autobiographical film about childhood was directed by Jean-Claude Lauzon who died in a plane crash in 1997, that he was piloting. This was only his 2nd film. By all accounts Lauzon was a troubled and difficult man, and it is said that he lost his chance of winning the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Leolo because he made a crude sexual advance towards Jamie Lee Curtis who was one of the judges that year. That may be, but happily we still have this beautiful yet difficult film to cherish. The movie concerns the troubled childhood of Leo Lauzon, who tells everyone to call him Leolo Lozone because he has this wild idea that he is Sicilian and was born when his mother became pregnant by a tomato filled with the sperm of an Italian farmer, how the sperm got into the tomato is shown in a scene that opens this fantastical film. The whole movie is a mixture of damp, deep and dirty realism with large dollops of fantasy and magic and after all weren’t all our childhoods somewhat like that? Leolo’s family has big mental health and dysfunctional problems which at one point in heartbreaking scenes lands the entire large family in the local mental hospital. Leolo who is a brilliant and talented boy fills notebooks with his poetic writings about his family, but has only one book to read, left by a mysterious old man called the Word Tamer who lives in a strange house filled with books and objects of art who encourages Leolo in his writings, and who comes and goes throughout the film like a poetic ghost. Also living in the cramped apartment are Leolo’s two troubled sisters one who is obese and tends to hang out in the basement obsessively brushing her surrounded by her large collection of insects, and a bullied older brother who takes up strenuous weight lifting in order to protect himself from the neighborhood bully but as Leolo in voice over says when his brother is once again beaten up "That day I understood that fear lived in our deepest being, and that a mountain of muscles or a thousand soldiers couldn't change a thing." There is also the randy grandfather who lusts after the beautiful young Sicilian girl living next door, and who Leolo blames for his family’s mental disorders. Both grandfather and grandson try to kill each other off in several offbeat and somewhat shocking scenes. Then there is the mother, overweight, a portable moving mountain, loving, warm and the only member of the family who doesn’t fall into mental disarray, wonderfully played by the great Ginette Reno. Some might find several of the scenes and images off putting (there are a number of scatological sequences and some sexual episodes including one with a piece of raw liver and another involving a cat, but as I said this is a damp, deep and dirty film with large portions of humor and sadness. The performances are all wonderful especially that of Maxime Collin who fearlessly and endearingly plays Leolo. Also of note is the eclectic musical soundtrack that includes Tibetan chants, Tom Waits and the Rolling Stones. One of the ten best films of 1992.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

End of July Noteook drawing. Ink, wax,paint and collage on notebook paper

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lupe Ontiveros 1942-2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000. The Museum Of Modern Art

I really enjoyed this exhibition and seeing it at a member’s only showing without the hoards helped. But that being said I do have my reservations. This being a typical Moma “historical” show it looks great as it sprawls its way through those large galleries on the 6th floor. The exhibit documents how children around the world played and learned from 1900 to 2000. However this being the Museum Of Modern Art the work is geared to modernism and “good” design, so I found it to be somewhat narrow and elitist in its approach and curatorial decisions. Don’t get me wrong I love Lyonel Feininger’s wooden toys as much as the next artist, and there are many beautiful examples of other toys, books, furniture and games by other artists, architects and designers but it helps if one keeps in mind that this is a show for MOMA’s kinder and not for mommy’s kids. So everything in the show is beautiful and well designed, after all we know that children only like beautiful and well-designed toys. There is a nod to the commercial toy which includes colorforms (loved those colorforms as a kid), Etch A Sketch (loved my Etch A Sketch, but its too much in the news these days), Lego and slinky but not a can of Play Doh is to be found, nor are marbles, pick up sticks, Jacks or any toy that one could have purchased at a Woolworth’s. Most of the toys and games look like they were expensive even when new, and now they look like the toys that sometimes turn up on Antiques Road show, you know those great tin cars in their original boxes which is also represented in the show. But where are the Lionel Train sets, the Lincoln Logs (the only building block set that turns up is of course very Bauhausy even though it’s from the 1950’s)  or a View Master (would it have killed them to include a View Master?), and not one doll. The Moma’s idea of a doll is some of Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s wonderful puppets. There is not one toy from the Disney Empire, in fact there are no movie or TV tie-in games at all. There is not a ball, or a cheap beach toy either; in fact games and toys of the streets are completely left out. Like many of these historical shows, by the time you get to the final galleries, it’s a big downer, I mean why would the curators devoted an entire wall pasted with pages from The Whole Earth Catalog along with a poster of the Mai Lai massacre. Is this to point out and educate us that our childhoods came to an end with the 60’s? How many small kids are going to have nightmares after viewing that shocking poster, one woman standing next to me looked visibly upset and ironically it’s the one image from this exhibition on childhood that stays with me, its the image that I took home with me. Sure there are other political images and objects throughout the show. There are some charming Nazi and Italian Fascist board games (in mint condition I might add), that made me a little queasy and uncomfortable, but the Moma’s nod to the holocaust and its children is faint and is pretty much inconsequential consisting of a propaganda film that the Nazi’s produced to show the world how marvelous the concentration camp at Terezin was. There are no coloring books nor paper dolls and no Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head, now that omission really upset me. There are also toys of the space age, and stuff from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse but the newest toys and games look so uninviting to me, that I thought to myself what kid would want to play with them, I certainly wouldn’t and do we really need a wall featuring a boring photograph by Andreas Gurksy of an ugly suburban Toy’s “R” Us, oh wait of course its in their collection. Also when you exit through the gift shop you will be able to pick up nice reproductions of some of the toys and books featured in the exhibition   which makes me wonder what came first the chicken or the exhibition.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anatomy of a Murder 1959

Its 53 years ago his July that Anatomy Of A Murder opened in New York City at The Criterion Theatre, and even though I was only 12 years old, the film caught my attention. The main reason for this attention grabbing was the bold logo for the film of a cut up body that was designed by the great Saul Bass. I had no idea who he was, even though I had been seeing his designs for titles and ads for a few years. But this one was different, it inspired me. It made me want to be creative, to spend my life making things. I didn’t understand really what graphic design was or for that matter what art really was, but I knew that I wanted to do something with my imagination. I wanted to be an artist. The film of course was taboo and out of bounds for me to see. There was trouble with the censors over some words that Preminger refused to change or take out, but in the end he did make one change using the word violation instead of penetration.  And then there was the big brouhaha over the use of the words panties and bitch, hard to imagine so much controversy over these words today.  This was not going to be a Saturday afternoon movie outing for me at my neighborhood Loew’s eating my popcorn and drinking my coke. Just the year before at 11 years of age I was turned away from an afternoon showing of “Some Came Running”, and I finally had to wait to until my Mom took me to see it on a Friday night. I wanted to see “Anatomy” as I referred to it when talking it up with my mother at the Criterion, but this didn’t happen and I had to wait until it was on the 3rd run Neighborhood circuit at the lousy run down Beverly Theatre on Church Avenue. I sat in the darken balcony watching the movie in shock and awe with smoke from my mother’s Raleigh cigarettes swirling all around me. This was an adult movie, a sleazy murder and trial based on a real incident that took place in some backwoods small time town in Michigan. We never see the actual murder nor the alleged rape, there would be no movie if we did, but I was still engrossed by what was happening on that screen.  I finally repaid a visit to this childhood film of mine via the beautiful Criterion transfer. Directed with assurance by Otto Preminger (this is to my mind his last good film) and superbly acted by an impeccable cast including James Stewart, Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Arthur O’Connell, Ben Gazzar, George C. Scott and in an imaginative touch of casting  Joseph N. Welch as the presiding  judge. Welch was the head counsel for the army during the Army-McCarthy-Army hearings and scolded McCarthy with his statement “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” which was the beginning of the end for the evil senator from Wisconsin. The film starts with the superb title sequence by Bass with the great Duke Ellington score laid over it and pounding away. We are soon introduced to James Stewart in a smooth tracking shot driving home after one of his many fishing trips. Steward plays an ambiguous lawyer and bachelor Paul Biegler, (Polly to his friends) who lives in a rundown smudged house (this was the real life home of the author of the book John D. Voelker who was a sitting judge and wrote novels under the pen name of Robert Traver). Soon we also meet his much put upon and rarely paid secretary-assistant played by the great Eve Arden, and his rummy ex-lawyer friend played perfectly by Arthur O’Connell who rises to the occasion when asked by Stewart for his help. There is a message waiting for Stewart asking him to call Laura Manion whose husband  a lieutenant in the army played by an intense Ben Gazzara is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of a bar owner who allegedly raped his wife played by the luminous and sexy Lee Remick. The film is lavish and leisurely with its exposition and not very mobile with most of the second half of the film taking place in the courtroom. The fun of the film, (and it is fun) comes from watching the actors strut their stuff especially when Stewart goes up against the big hot shot city prosecutor Claude Dancer played with oily presence by the terrific George C. Scott in this his 2nd film, and watching Lee Remick throw her sexual attractiveness around with loose abandonment as if she is saying to us I know what I got, and I’m going to spend it while I can. Filmed on location where the actual story took place with terrific black and white cinematography by Sam Leavitt.  The film is ambiguous and the ending is swift, cynical and hard. One of the years 10 Best Films, Best Supporting Actor Arthur O’Connell and Best Supporting Actress Lee Remick.   

Monday, July 23, 2012

Notebook drawing. July 2012. Collage, wax and paint on notebook paper

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Painting on Paper. 1977

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Midsummer's Night Collage. July 2012. Paint, ink and collage on paper

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Yayoi Kusama


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Liberal Limericks of 2012

 Liberal Limericks of 2012
The poet Paul Dickey has just published his liberal limericks of 2012 for Kindle. The cover design is by me which I did in 1968, when I was I guess around 20 years old. "Ira Joel Haber is so annoyingly talented"-Angela Bartolone.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Glass Coin

 The Glass Coin has just posted 6 of my notebook drawings. You can view them at this link.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Celeste Holm. 1917-2012

The wonderful actress Celeste Holm has passed at age 95. Winner of a best supporting actress Oscar for Gentleman's Agreement she was memorable in everything she did.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Stranger. 1946


Supposedly Orson Welles wanted Agnes Moorehead to play the part of Wilson the Nazi hunter, but the studio balked at this idea and the role went to Edward G. Robinson. Last night as I watched this very good thriller visions of Agnes doing this part danced in my head. And as good as Robinson is in it, I find the idea of Moorehead doing it is so tantalizing. The film  which I’ve seen many times (usually in bad public domain transfers) is generally  put down by critics and by Welles himself, as being lesser Welles but I find it visually exciting  (Its Orson Welles after all) and a damn good thriller with some serious implications. Made right after the war, the plot concerns Robinson’s search to bring to justice a Nazi war criminal known as Franz Kindler who he traces (with the help of another Nazi who is purposefully allowed to escape from prison so he can lead Robinson to him) to a small bucolic town in Connecticut. It’s a sweet town with a church and a broken clock that is really another a character in the film, and will in the end bring Kindler literally to his fall from grace. Kindler is played by Welles who has assimilated himself into the town’s fabric and life by getting a teaching job in a preppy boy’s school and marrying the good looking daughter of a Supreme Court justice who also lives in the town. Welles uses Christianity to counter the dark forces of Nazism by the use of the church that looms over the town and by having Kindler who is an expert on clocks work on repairing the broken medieval clock in his spare time. Welles and his screenwriter even give Biblical names to three of the main characters, and has the escaped Nazi Konrad Meinike who meets a bad end at the hands of Kindler find spiritual rejuvenation by embracing Jesus Christ. There are some memorable scenes including one in which Welles who has killed Meinike in the woods frantically (watch how Welles moves in this scene) tries to cover up his murder of him while some of his students are running a paper chase and Welles desperately tries to pick up the tossed papers and change the path that the runners are taking so they do not stumble on the freshly murdered body. The cast is good.  Besides Welles and Robinson the duped daughter is played by a terrific Loretta Young, and her brother is played by the young and handsome Richard Long who Robinson enlists in his plans to bring Kindler to justice. Also terrific is the little known character actor Billy House who plays the proprietor of the town’s drug store and soda fountain who prefers to sit in his comfy chair hustling  people to play chess with him then wait on customers who are told to get what they need themselves including food and drink at the lunch counter. The film is also notable for being the first commercial film to use actual footage of the concentration camps, and Russell Metty’s rich black and white nourish cinematography that has been beautifully restored for this dvd release. One of the ten best films of 1946.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sudden Fear 1952

If you can accept the premise of Joan Crawford as a very successful and rich playwright and Jack Palance as a romantic lead, then you should be able to enjoy this twisty but somewhat ludicrous femme jep movie from the early 50’s. Joan who was 47 at the time and approaching her gorgon period plays as I said a hot playwright who is also an heiress with a large home in San Francisco where most of the movie takes place. The film opens with a rehearsal of her new play in New York, with Jack Palance playing the lead. Joan has qualms about him not being romantic enough (read handsome) to play the part and has him fired.  So of course on the cross country train ride that Joan is taking back home to San Francisco after the play opens to smash reviews, who should also be on the train but none other than Jack. Joan is all so sorry for firing him, and before you know it they’re playing poker and having breakfast as the train speeds on to the city by the bay. Well Joan of course falls madly in love with Jack and soon they’re in montages taking in the sights, and dining and dancing in all the hot spots.  And then they get married and its darling this and darling that until Joan discovers by accident a devious plot Jack is hatching with his old girlfriend played with hellish relish by Gloria Grahame, all blonde and bad. Joan who has had many moments of over the top acting in her career really soars in this one   and I swear at one point I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head.  Palance who excelled at playing villains throughout his long career simply gives away the show by being well Jack Palance. What with his unattractive face that looks like a cubist portrait with mud thrown on it, or a bruised boxer’s mug, and in fact one of his famous roles was as the battered fighter in “Requiem For A Heavyweight” that he did on Playhouse 90 in 1956 andh e does have a down and dirty animal magnetism that works well in his scenes with Grahame (kiss me, kiss me hard she moans to Palance).  The film is a bit slow and tedious in parts, because there’s so much plot but the last hour is good and goosy with a beautifully done if improbable ending. Smoothly directed by David Miller who began his career directing sports shorts like “Table Tennis”, “Hurling,” “Racing Canines”, and “Aquatic Artistry” and went on to direct feature films most notably “Lonely Are The Brave” in 1962. With a good thumping score by Elmer Bernstein, and cinematography by the great Charles Lang who received an Oscar nomination for his work.  Also Oscar nominations for costume, Actress and supporting actor.   Surprisingly considering that this is a Kino release both the sound and the transfer leave much to be desired.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some Recent Photos by me of manhattan and brooklyn

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hot July 2012 new notebook drawing. Collage and paint on notebook paper

Art Of Another Kind

Just back from seeing this perfect show for a hot summer. Filled to the brim with beautiful paintings by a wide range of international artists some of whom I never heard of ("lesser known" as the Guggenheim refers to them), and beautifully installed (large paintings always look great in this place.) All the works were dusted off and taken out of their permanent collection storage bins, and works that I liked a lot were by Dubuffet, Rauschenberg, (an early all red abstract collaged heavily painted painting), Marca-Relli, Burri, Fontana, Klein, Pollock, Hoffman and many others. The pieces of sculpture scattered about here and there don't do so well, but thats to be expected, but the early Louise Bourgeois and a few Noguchi's stood out for me. The large photography exhibit by Rineke Dijkstra did absolutely nothing for me, dead, dull and slick, personally I'm a little tired of this kind of "in" photography, very large color photos trying to act as paintings, and if watching a video of some young man dancing about is your cup of tea, then knock yourself out. The painting show is on until Sept. 12.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hot July Notebook Drawing.Collage, wax, crayon and paint on notebook paper

I can't believe that this is the 200th notebook drawing that I've done since 2010. I've used up all my notebook paper, and bought a new notebook yesterday so that I can continue with my notebook drawings.


Went to see the "Lunch Hour" exhibit now on at the Main branch of the New York Public Library, you know its the building with those big lions out front. Its on until Feb. so there is no hurry to see it. I enjoyed it, but would have liked more photos and such. They cover every thing from lunch at home, the quick lunch, power lunches, charitable meals and of course the Automat which gets a nifty recreation of those beloved compartments that held our many favorite dishes, this time when you lift the doors there are recipe postcards for the taking of some of their most favorite dishes ie the baked beans, macaroni and cheese. There are also many menus from a wide range of restaurants and man those low low prices, but was surprised to see that even in the 60's the four seasons prices were very expensive. This is the kind of exhibit in which strangers strike up conversations with each other reminiscing about this and that. Also its always a pleasure just to take in this magnificent building, one of the truly great spaces in the city, and while you're there check out wonderful Bryant Park which over the recent years has turned into one of the outdoor gems of my city. This is a beautiful park full of places to sit and eat, lots of greenery, attractive people, jugglers and even a small carousel. I do hate though what they have done to 42nd st from 7th ave down to 5th, its now total wall to wall bland skyscrapers, gone forever are the funky small buildings that gave the area a little down and dirty flavor. Sometimes this city of mine that I love with a passion (a close friend when talking about Manhattan and me sometimes refers to it as "my beloved") gets me upset with all the tearing down of the unique, the odd and the special and replacing it with the bland.

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