Friday, September 29, 2017

Mildred Pierce 1945

              “Please don’t tell anyone what Mildred Pierce Did” This great tag line is what probably first attracted movie audiences to this femme noir soap opera. Made at Warner’s right on the cusp of war & peace, it was the comeback role and an Oscar for Joan Crawford who a few years before was ungraciously given the boot and dumped by M.G.M. where she toiled and starred for nearly 20 years. Here’s your shoulder pads and fuck me ankle heels now get out and don’t let the gate smack you in your ass. Cruel.  
          However the god’s of movie land were looking out for her, and she was picked up by the hard edge Brothers Warner who were the opposite of M.G.M.s gloss & glamour. Warner’s was the meat and potatoes of the studios and Joan was their perfect blue plate special.
               Mildred was based on the grim pulp potboiler by James M. Cain that was grimmer than the film , but you can get good and dirty just by watching the movie. The film is still working class and with all that good restaurant stuff included but there is murder and occupations added or changed. 
               The film is in its new Criterion transfer is simply gorgeous and the opening scene should leave you gasping for air. We see from a high distance a woman but only the back of her, she’s wearing a beautiful mink coat with a matching hat and it is of course our Joan who is seen walking down a pier and we soon learn is contemplating suicide. Minutes before we saw the death of one of the main characters who falls to the floor calling out for Mildred, a rosebud moment and soon Mildred is in police headquarters and the flashbacks start.
             We’ve seen this kind of police headquarters scene 100’s of times but this one boasts superb sound design that stands out as Mildred tells her story with the help of Michael Curtiz the great director and the superb craftsmen and women who put this terrific film together. 
               Joan was still stunning, a few years away from the start of her gorgon days, but here she looks gorgeous in her ankle strap fuck me shoes and those high and mighty 40’s clothes and frocks. The sad part of the story is the terrible relationship between Joan and her nasty viperous daughter Veda played well done and piping hot and steaming by the young Ann Blyth before she was in all those vapid M.G.M musicals of the 50’s and who also got an Oscar nomination for all her meanness.
           Their sick relationship colors and covers the whole film in a web of deceit and sickness with no one recovering from all this crap. Bad for them but great for us who get to revel in all this delicious stickiness. We first meet Mildred slaving away baking cakes and pies to sell to her neighbors. Joan is dowdy, but not too convincing as a house frau, working hard to buy nice things for her Veda but pretty much ignoring her younger daughter Kay which will come back to haunt her. Her husband the bland but visually appealing Bruce Bennett (who by the way played Tarzan in several B’s) is out of work and out of favor with Mildred so they separate and Mildred goes looking for a job.
           Soon enough she finds one in a restaurant that is hosted by the great wise cracking Eve Arden (also Oscar nominated) who takes Mildred under her sarcastic wings and a great friendship begins. Mildred works hard and long becoming a top notch waitress and she keeps her job a secret from Veda who of course looks down on her mother for being so common as to actually work for a living.
                 The ambitious Mildred soon gets it into her head to open her own restaurant and with the help of Wally Fay an ex partner of her ex husband’s and a realtor who is slimy and sleazy and is always putting the make on her helps her find a perfect location to plant her dreams. Wally is played by the great Jack Carson (was there ever an actor who showed disgust better than Carson?) and Zachary Scott plays Monte Beragon, the slimy and sleazy financially troubled playboy and pussy hound about town who owns the perfect location that Mildred desires, and she’s the perfect location that Monte desires. 
             Say no more. I can say no more, except to say that Scott was perfect for this part, as he himself was something of a wolf  a bi-costal and bi-sexual man about the world. Handsome in a cheap sort of way, he made his mark in the early 40’s playing the sort of role he did so well here, and was married for a while to Ruth Ford who he nicknamed “Ruthless Ford”. 
                  Ford was the sister of the American surrealist and founder of View Magazine Charles Henri Ford both of whom I would see all over the place in the New York art world of the early 70’s. Sadly I missed seeing Zachary at all those Gotham Book Mart parties as he  passed away in 1965 from a brain tumor.
             The art direction is loaded with rich and wonderful details in the textiles (lots of plaids) and the mid-century modern furniture and interiors especially so in the restaurant sequences with its rich and intricate details both in the dining rooms (I want it all), in the bustling kitchens and in the vivid montage sequences that show the rise of Mildred’s empire. This look was the work of the great Anton Grot and George Jean Hopkins both who started to work at Warner’s in the early 30’s and 40’s. The beautiful cinematography (even the shadows have shadows) so rich and inky was by the great Ernest Haller who began his remarkable career in the 1920’s and worked through the 60’s at Warner Bros. Also of note and not credited is the great Butterfly McQueen as Mildred’s maid who has a nice plump role and brings a marvelous authenticity and expected charm to the role.  Directed by  Michael Curtiz with great style and flair who started making movie in his native Hungry in 1912 before coming to Hollywood in 1926 and working at Warner Bros where he directed in all genres including The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Mildred Pierce. One of the ten best films of 1945.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

work on paper mixed September 2017

The Ornithologist 2017


I’ve been meaning to write about this odd strange surreal and dense little Portuguese film since I saw it a few months ago, but have not gotten around to doing so until now. Probably seeing Mother! Another odd strange surreal dense but big film pushed me to the computer to say yes see this film.
Both films deal with the natural world, religious motifs and deep dish hidden meanings and messages but it’s the smaller film that is the most successful and tantalizing. It is a difficult journey not only for us but for the lead the very attractive Paul Hamy who is the ornithologist and who we first see traveling alone in the quiet and beautiful waters in the lush and isolated north of Portugal looking at rare birds through his binoculars and enjoying the solitude of his journey. I felt tense.
We soon realize that besides being alone in nature he is also gay and not so alone in his life back home, as he keeps getting calls on his cell from his lover to remind him to take his meds. He is soon pushed and pulled in dangerous situations, his boat overturns in rough waters and he looses most of his supplies. I felt tense. He wakes up to find himself tied to a tree by two nasty Chinese lesbians who at first appeared to be helpful and benign but soon they have him tied up like St. Sebastian and are planning in the morn to take him out. He’s alone with his erection and somehow he escapes from this bit of erotic surrealism to journey on to even more dreamlike, metaphysical religious and sexual encounters.
The film is a jagged puzzle full of images and sequences that pull us in all sorts of directions and labyrinths but I think it’s best to just go along with it without trying to figure out what’s it all about. Unlike Mother! Which is cheap surrealism this one is a higher step up. It’s also sexy as can be. Directed by Joao Pedro Rodrigues who is no stranger to homoerotic fantasies and metaphysical pop dreams and nightmares.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mother! 2017

Ok I was warned about this film, to avoid it, hide from it, give it the boot, but did I listen oh no I didn’t. So I only have myself to blame for sitting through this dreadful thing, this pox, this trash. Ok true it was playing at my favorite theatre, The Bam and there was a convenient showing and I do have a fondness for Jennifer Lawrence so I wasted my $11.00 and a few hours of time. Also it was showing in the big stadium seating theatre and it was nearly empty. The sound design of the film was impressive I will give it that and for the first 45 minutes or so I was caught up in it, hey its a haunted house flick but the caught up in it quickly turned to let me out of here as soon as Michelle Pfeiffer (who was wonderful and looking good Michelle) left the scene and the mess started. To be fair there is one haunting fight that turns into murder that was vivid and exciting but after that it quickly went downhill for me and all the allegorical bullshit started to pile up. This is a film without a direction and a director who it seems had no clear idea of what he wanted to do. I’m talking Darren Aronofsky here who spent lots of money and time on this mess, and he wears his influences on his short sleeves. Even one of the poster designs gives his influences away. This is a nasty piece of work, hard and sharp without any direction or style, his roadmap is muddy and bloody and the last half hour or so of the film is easily the most torturous time I’ve spent in a movie theatre in a long time. I like Jennifer Lawrence quite a bit, but in this thing she is totally wasted and put upon, one calamity after another falls on her pretty head and this film becomes quite laughable but also upsetting after a short period of time. I’m warning everyone to avoid this one, this plague on our houses. The worst film of 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Switched On Gutenberg

Nice. Switched on gutenberg just posted their latest issue with 5 of my sculptures which is unusual, usually my 2-D work is what's published. Click on the link then under art you will find me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jake LaMotta 1922-2017

Sing out Louise or Every Little Breeze Seems to Whisper Louise or My God what a great exhibition I just saw.

Today I took in and took advantage of the member’s preview of the superb and extraordinary exhibition "Louise Bourgeois: An unfolding portrait." The beautifully installed show features over 200 works mostly from the Moma’s collection but there are also some loans here and there. It starts in the God awful atrium the space we love to hate and continues on the 3rd floor where it is intimate in its approach and installation.
The exhibition consists mostly of Louise’s prints and books but also includes some drawings, paintings and sculptures my favorites being her early wood totem like pieces that are nicely represented here.
But the bulk of the show is made up of her remarkable prints and etchings very large to small including her prints on fabrics that are so beautiful and luscious, I thought I would pee my pants from the sheer beauty of them, and how much I would have loved to look through and handle her fabric books.
Her career was long and sometimes magical but by and large she was ignored for a very long time, please see my remembrance at the bottom of the post for more on this, but she persisted through thin and thick and her long and creative life should be not only a blessing for us, but also a lesson as well.
All her themes are represented including her long long look at bodies in all their beauty and horror as well as works touching on nature, abstraction and architecture which also touch on autobiography. This is a great show and one of my favorite art experiences of 2017. It also puts to shame much of the crap that is being shown in the galleries of Chelsea and elsewhere and being praised in the pages of The New York Times and other houses of ill repute that make me want to puke. The link I’m including is for the website that has 100’s of her works from the Moma’s archive. Oh and a note to the Moma weary. Construction is moving fast here now, I think they are building another borough or a small city inside their gates and on top of the usual chaos of this deep dish shit hole be prepared for even more than the usual annoyances. I’m just saying.

A remembrance of Louise,originally published a few years back on my blog along with a cameo by another famous woman artist.

“Bourgeois as many people know is 96 and has been making art forever or maybe it just seems that way. In the early 1970’s she could be seen everywhere, at gallery openings, at art world parties in the streets and galleries of Soho, and nobody gave a shit about her or her work, not critics, other artists or dealers. Embraced by the feminists and their critics but ignored by everyone else she plugged away. Her invisibility changed when the Museum of Modern Art gave her a retrospective in 1982, which came as a great surprise to some, and suddenly she was a hot art world commodity. Go figure, but good for her anyway. I’m all for the recognition of neglected artists, especially since I might be one of them myself. In the early 70’s I was at a small dinner party given by two art world friends and Louise was one of the guests. Also at the dinner was Alice Neel who was the complete opposite of Louise. I don’t recall Louise saying much at dinner that night. She was quiet and small, demure and somewhat shy I thought, but next to Neel, anyone would seem quiet and demure. Alice started yakking the minute she wobbled in and didn’t stop talking, mainly about herself the whole night. At one point she turned to me and asked who I was. When I told her that I was an artist, she turned away from me, and went on talking about herself. Louise of course knew my work as I was showing my art and myself quite a lot in the early and mid 70’s. I liked Louise and wish that I had gotten to know her better when I had the chance.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Train To Busan 2016

If you like zombie movies then this Korean thrill fest might do it for you. This one is set on a speeding train (and that train sure does speed) with a mysterious chemical accident happening in the country, that causes people to bite each other turning them into flesh eating zombies.
There is of course no rhyme or reason to all of this, but one would be hard put not to think of the tensions and scary stuff happening on the Korean peninsula right now. The thin plot centers on an attractive hard working fund manager played by Gong Yoo who is separated from his wife and is having relationship issues with his young daughter, (for her birthday he gives her some high tech toy that he already gifted her with) and to make it up to her, agrees to take a day off from his busy schedule to take her to Busan to spend time with her mother taking her aboard the high tech bullet train.
Most of the film takes place on the speeding train with a large cast of stereotypical characters that we have been seeing in these kind of films for ever, the tough working class but kind hearted husband and his pregnant wife, two sweet spinster sisters, a brave homeless man, the nasty CEO, the teenage baseball team and on and on. The director Yeon Sang-ho knows how to direct action and gives us some great crowded scenes of chaos and horror, along with several terrific fast paced scenes that really pull you in and shake you up with all those charging zombies. Also of note is the spiffy cinematography all glossy and smooth by Lee Hyung-deok. The film goes on for a little too long and might wear out its welcome for some, but for die hard zombie apocalyptic lovers this one should do the trick.

Monday, September 18, 2017

large work on paper september 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton 1926-2017

weak and overrated Kara Walker

Weak and overrated still. I'm sorry but I saw this show today and was as I always am with her stuff underwhelmed. And I could care less what Roberta and Jerry think or all those gee whizz ain't she just swell fools who were gawking and swooning over these weak inconsequential pieces of crap. Lady learn to draw and stop coasting on your inflated reputation. These drawings are not important, oh sure they're big, so in the eyes of many that makes them special and worthy. Give her another McArthur and a couple guggenheim grants, I'm sure she can use the money. Compare these pieces of shit to really great drawings and you will see how pathetic they are. I am sick of the hype, sick of mediocrity sick of the New York fucking art world. Empty art fills my soul with grief.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


A new Oddball. View the poem and my art at this link.

Peter Hall 1930-2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

edie windsor 1929-2017

The jewel in the crown 1984

A rare treat for those who love long leisurely mini series. This extraordinary 14 hour film was first shown on pbs in 1984 and has now been lovely restored and it shines and glows all over the place. It was originally filmed on 16mm with lots of grain that has now been botoxed and is lovely to look at.
Also it is in its original ratio of 4:3 which is how all you big screen t.v. owners should watch it, not all stretched out like Kellyanne Conway’s face. I treated myself to a copy of this dvd with the help of a gift card from a friend and a year later finally gave myself the time to watch it, the first time since I first saw it so many years ago. It took me a week to see all the episodes.
This series set the standard for everything that came after and I can say that I was once again bowled over by it. It opens fast introducing us to two of the characters that will generate the story forward, Ronald Merrick played with great force by the recently deceased Tim Pigott Smith and Hari Kumar played by Art Malik who is also superb.
The film is set in India in the early 40’s during World War II and the last years of British rule and concludes in 1947 when India finally gains it’s independence. The events are mainly seen through the eyes and experiences of one family the Layton’s who is headed by the cold, nasty and alcoholic mother played by the great Judy Parfitt whose husband is in a German prisoner of war camp and her two daughters, the flighty Susan and the more down to earth and liberal Sarah played equally well by Wendy Morgan and Geraldine James.
The other great performance is by Dame Peggy Ashcroft who it might be said was having her Indian year winning the Oscar for her supporting role in “A Passage To India” and here she gives a great heartbreaking performance, that is complex and layered. The series is jam packed with great performances and the large cast includes Eric Porter, Rachel Kempson, Rosemary Leach, Charles Dance and many others. The film is based on the Raj Quartet novels by Paul Scott who died before he could see this vast and wonderful film that was made from his books. There are many many scenes of breathtaking richness and beauty, the scene where Geraldine James and Charles Dance walk through an abandoned mansion the furniture covered in white sheets without speaking is one of the most memorable scenes I think I've ever seen, it's that good. There is lots of intensity in love and war and the depictions of violence are there but this being 1984 they’re turned out in careful consideration of what was acceptable back then. Put this one Mary on your must see list.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

novella nelson 1938-2017

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Maude Boltz 1939-2017

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Alonso Guillen 1986-2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

John Ashbury 1927-2017

Sorry to learn of John's passing. I knew him in the early 70's when he was very visible in the new york art world and was involved with my art dealer. He came to my studio, we had several dinners he was charming and funny. His nickname for me was Ira Jewel Haber. He loved my art, and wanted to buy a piece but it never happened.
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