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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Kill The Bill

Brave people, fine people. Take back our country in 2018. Impeach the traitor in the white house.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Laura Owens the Whitney Museum

This large incomprehensible retrospective of the California artist Laura Owens, now spewing out all over the 5th floor of the Whitney might very well be the worst exhibition I have ever seen in a museum or for that matter anywhere on this planet. Harsh words I know, but let me continue before I’m condemned for refusing to follow the leader and jump up and down for nothingness.
                        Comprised of campy ugly badly painted canvases many using kitschy imagery culled and pulled from our popular culture along with nods to paint by number works , untaught and naive art, children’s art and drawings that you might find scribbled in toilets along with art that can be found in the $2.00 bin at your local thrift shop or in the street. Actually anything you would find and see in the above places is much better than anything to be found in this pompous and pretentious ragged ugly show. 
                       I like camp and bad painting as much as the next one, but these are so jaw dropping bad that their meager gifts for amusing is very minor to say the least. At first I thought this show was a joke something made up by a New York Times Critic and the curators to get back at us, but unfortunately not. This show is real folks and what I can’t understand is how and why this minor in a big way artist got this ticket to ride. Owens covers the spectrum of painting: there’s abstraction, tearful representation, lousy landscape painting, weak political statements and on and on. There is even a grotesque stupid installation of Ikea like bedroom furniture in passive pastel colors of brown, orange and green topped off by large stupid paintings of bee hives done in matching colors with the little insects buzzing around which would make a perfect gift for the hipster in your life.
                      Probably the most offensive works, (and believe me there was plenty to pick from) were the many small square paintings that hovered over our heads and were hung close to the ceilings that were dreadfully painted dreary and included some with movable parts. All of the works offered none or very little interest in paint handling, color, texture or imagery, they simply laid there like a badly cooked dinner sitting in your stomach that keeps repeating itself throughout the night as you try to sleep, and nothing in the medicine cabinet is going to help it go away.
                          Most of the works looked rushed and hap-hazard lazily painted without any feelings not only for the subjects but also for the materials used. She is another privileged artist (check out the protests that were held here on her opening by working class members of the neighborhood of Boyle Heights in L.A. who are largely Hispanic and who are upset with the gentrification of their hood that is being pushed by Owens and her other privileged friends and artists) with nowhere to go but down which hopefully will be sooner than later. 
Reasons (excuses) can be made for these works and many have been called up and heard using her education, her background, her sense of place and her readiness to call up previous and better artists for her inspiration along with her superficial use of what is fashionable and trendy, just check out the 500pd catalog that will bring back memories of a high school yearbook or as one critic called it “like a thick issue of Vogue.” Should we take this as a compliment, I think not.

The whole exhibition is like a thick issue of Vogue, but without the pretty models. Why is this kind of painting being celebrated and held up as important work? This is thin and unimportant painting and an insult to serious painters everywhere. If you need a blast of fresh air after this disaster of a show you can head outside to one of the terraces with views that easily rival this show for intensity and beauty and after you clean out your eyes and mind head on down to the 7 th floor to check out a lavish spread of many splendid works from their permanent collection that will make your spending $25.00 admission fee feel worthwhile and help take the bad taste out of your mouth for what the Whitney has made us swallow.  The worst exhibition of 2017.

me and dina

One of the better snaps of me. I'm with my dear friend Dina Venezia who I know yikes 35 years. We met when she was a student of mine at USCD. We went to the Whitney where we selfied ourselves to death. Please note that I have been blocked and suspended from facebook for 30 days because of a post they did not like, no doubt one of my trump rants. So I'm posting everything here on my blog and will later transfer everything to facebook. BASTARDS.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri 2017

                      Go ahead try saying this title three times fast, I dare you. Here we have a rather grim movie about vengeance and redemption with some black humor thrown in the dark mix about a mother Mildred Hayes played with magnificence and aplomb by Frances McDormand,  one of our great actresses.                    
              As the film opens Mildred is still waiting after many months for the killer to be found and brought to justice for the rape and brutal killing of her daughter. Mildred is a tough cookie, strong with a big stick that she carries, without walking softly. One day she comes up with the offbeat and original idea to rent three billboards that line a road that is less traveled outside of  Ebbing and post some serious taunts and questions thrown at the sheriff on why the case of her daughter’s murder is still not solved.
                          The questions asked in bold lettering against bright red backgrounds are “Still No Arrests?” “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” And finally, “Raped While Dying” these billboards give pause and cause a lot of Sturm und Drang in the town and anger is everywhere with most of it directed towards Mildred.  Mildred herself is harsh and unforgiving with most of the people she deals with including her bright and sensitive son played by Lucas Hedges who seems as if he’s in every other film released this year  which is fine with me.
                       She has special anger for Sheriff Willoughby beautifully played by Woody Harrelson who is a decent and caring man and is well liked by the people of the town, and is facing his own uphill battles. There is also serious hostility between Mildred and the racist homophobic hick deputy Jason Dixon played by Sam Rockwell who is a sure shot to win a best supporting actor Oscar this spring.
                      Rockwell who is a mama’s boy and might be a closeted gay lives with his Mama who is the butchest mother to be seen in a movie this season and would be right at home in some lesbian bar in the village. This mama is a real doozy and brings plenty of chuckles when she is on screen. The film is written and directed by the esteemed Irish playwright Martin McDonagh who knows how to write a good line, and knows how to twist and turn a plot even though he throws in clichés and stereotypes, but even with those minuses we are still constantly surprised by the events as they occur. There is plenty of violence shown but happily the murder of Mildred’s daughter is left unseen, the evidence of it is quickly shown in some ghastly police photos.
                     This is an uneasy film, it made me uncomfortable at times, but it also gave me pleasure  which was mostly due to the writing and the terrific performances.  Unfortunately this is not a great or even a near great film, still it should be seen if for nothing else than Frances McDormand’s commanding performance that will probably win her a second Oscar.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

Della Reese 1931-2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

large collage November 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ann Wedgeworth 1934-2017

A favorite of mine has passed

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Maudie 2017

Well lord lord lordy Miss Maudie. Small gentle little movie about the real life self taught artist Maude Lewis who suffered with rheumatoid arthritis all her life as she lived in a small town in Nova Scotia in the 1930’s with her nasty aunt. She always loved to paint and her strong determination is at the heart of this moving film. Acted to the hilt by the wonderful Sally Hawkins Maudie answers an ad for a housekeeper from the isolated fisherman and local eccentric played by a surprising Ethan Hawke.
It’s a tempest in a tiny house from the word go as the two try to get used to each other, bickering and taunting each other but sticking it out. The house is so small that they have to sleep in the attic in a shared bed and soon they are more than just housekeeper and boss. Before we know it Maudie is painting away on every surface she can get her hands on including the walls, doors, windows and pieces of thrown away wood, and Hawke in his own way encourages her, because the paintings are selling for 5 bucks a piece, nice money back then. A summer resident played by a new to me young actress kari Matchett befriends Maudie and starts buying her work and encouraging her to go higher and higher in her goals as an artist and soon as the years flash and past before our eyes even Richard Nixon is buying her art.
This film should please all artists and non artists alike especially in the rich and amazing performance from Sally Hawkins. Granted this is old fashioned acting, but what a joy this Sally Hawkins is, and for those who have never seen her in anything you are in for a treat and this is a terrific place to introduce yourself to this great actress. I’m also happy to report that the film was directed by a woman Aisling Walsh who has done mostly movies for t.v. and hopefully will be doing more films down the road. There are various melodramatic touches here and there, a miserable brother, a lost child, poverty and despair but the pieces all work and I dare anyone to tell me that they weren’t moved by this soulful little movie. Hawkins has another big performance coming down the road in the “The Shape Of Water” and no doubt she will be among the 5 actresses up for an Oscar this year or at least I hope so.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Liz Smith 1923-2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lady Bird 2017

No this is not a biopic about Lady Bird Johnson but a smart funny sometimes sentimental little movie about a young teenager pushing against boundaries and borders that surround her young life. That young life lives in Sacramento circa 2002 and is the Lady Bird of the title. Her given name is Christine but she insists on being called Lady Bird and this 17 year old has a mind of her own. Played by the sublime and great 23 year old actress Saoirse Ronan this is one of the great performances of the year and she is matched to perfection by the equally great Laurie Metcalf who plays her much put upon mother. This is one of the best coming of age teen movies you are likely to see, its fast, funny, insightful and as I said sometimes a little too sentimental, but its a fast 93 minutes so the sentimental parts don't hurt too much. The film is directed and sharply written by the eccentric likeable actress Greta Gerwig who based it somewhat on her own teen years, although she insists that it is not autobiographical. Whatever Greta but you sure know how to direct and write good. Lady Bird goes to a Catholic high school and she pretty much wrecks hysterical havoc there and also at home where she has deep riffs with her mother and a loving positive relationship with her supportive out of work father played by Tracy Letts who I prefer much more as an actor than a playwright. The rest of the cast is also marvelous and I especially liked the darling dumpling of an actress Beanie Feldstein as Lady's loyal best friend, but the film belongs to Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as daughter and mother doing the best they can do with mixed results and some visible battle scars. The film is a hit, and look for many Oscar nominations coming its way. I laughed, I cried I had a wonderful time with this Lady Bird.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Wonderstruck 2017

In spite of the problems I had watching this movie the other day, (see my previous post on movie going) I can definitely give this one a pinch on its cheek and a big hug. I related to this dual story of childhood because I was raised in New York City and loved movies, and the city and Coney Island (this place is not in this movie but in another "Wonder" movie opening soon, and I went to museums at an early age and had my own makeshift table top museum of odds and collected ends. You can enjoy this movie for many reasons, number one being the simple beauty of the thing, and the great stuff that Todd Haynes and his crew pull off. I'm also aware of how gay this movie is, the director is gay, and the writer of the source material is also a gay man and the film is after all about differences and how it sets many of us apart and makes many of us special but can cause problems big and small especially for children. Maybe this makes the movie a little too awkward and difficult for many and I don't think it is going to be a big hit, but so what. Its rooted in history, history of film, of this city and by placing it in a museum of natural history by time. The film looks great, its enchanting and lovely in its time warps between 1927 and 1977 between black and white and garish color and I was amazed by the art direction and the special digital effects. This is the kind of film that would have played at Radio City Music Hall with long lines waiting to get in to the Christmas or Easter Show, but now it shows up in small dinky uncomfortable spaces. The young cast of unknown kids were also touching in their quests for a place of their own,and we root for them to find those places. A small gem worth checking out.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Karin Dor 1938-2017

Sorry Karin you only live once

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