Friday, November 30, 2018

The Favourite 2018

Saw another big ticket movie of the year and I pretty much ate this one up with a big spoon and a napkin tucked under my chin to catch all the wonderful drippings. Set in the court of Queen Anne, who is eccentric, difficult and very ill with the gout and who is also quite lesbian. Here she is playing rub my legs with her childhood friend and top advisor Lady Sarah played with great sarcasm and nastiness by Rachel Weisz who also shares her bed. That is until Emma Stone shows up who is Lady Sarah's cousin and a once upon a time lady who is tired of waiting and works her way up the royal ladder taking down anyone who gets in her way. Its rowdy and ribald with a great All About Eve like script that many critics have picked up on, how can one not see the similarities? Its solidly directed by Yorgos Lanthimos with a finger in our eyes. The film is also gorgeous so rich and detailed in everything royal 18th Century from the wigs to the make-up and oh Mary those costumes. This film should also be seen on a big screen and before I go I must mention how great the great Olivia Colman is as Anne. You can't take your eyes off her when she is on screen and for me a big Colman admirer (hell I love her) this was the treat of the year seeing her give this great great performance. One of the best films of the year for sure.

Children Draw

Children Draw a new book on children's art by Marilyn JS Goodman has just been published and I have a full page drawing that I did when I was well a child in it. I "copied" it from the cover one one of my favorite books I had when a kid. A little back story. I've known Marilyn since High School see the posed photo of us taken for the high school yearbook. I'm on the far right and Marilyn is next to me. We were both in art classes and for two years we had scholarships to go to Pratt Institute on saturdays for art classes. We lost touch but Marilyn popped up in my life in the early 80's when I ran into her at the college art assoc during my going on interviews for teaching gigs. In 1984 when she was the director of the Philadelphia Art Alliance she organized a retro. of my art. The photo of us was taken at the opening where I didn't want to pose, and Marilyn is saying to me "Just stand there and look pretty." We are facebook friends and I am delighted to be in her book, which is really a nice looking job with 115 full color repros of kids drawings and well written from what I've read so far.

Roma 2018

ira joel haber. Just a short note on this movie which is for me the movie of the year. It must be seen in a theatre on a big screen because it is incredibly beautiful to look at, also the sound design is great. I went not jumping up and down to the IFC which is not my favorite place to see movies, but I was ok with it because it was in the biggest theatre, compact but not uncomfortable. It was sold out so if you are planning to see it there (where else can you see it) allow yourself an hour, to get tickets and wait on the ticket holders line. I hate those awful reclining seats, they hurt my back, so I always sit in the last row because there's no where for them to recline. Two seats on either side of me were left empty so that was good, and I noticed John Tuturro was in the audience. Only had to scream at one person in front of me who was taking pictures with his phone during the opening, can you imagine, and I was thanked by several people for doing so. I might write more about it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Robert Morris 1931-2018

Elly Weiss

I just found out that one of my favorite facebook  friends and one who I actually spent some real time with has passed. I'm heartbroken to have her gone from this earth and I won't foul this post with the reality of someone who is still with us but shouldn't be. This is for dear Elly, and I was so hoping to have more time with her. She was very supportive of my art, and her intelligence and smarts and life experiences were so impressive to me. We spent an afternoon together a few years ago on a hot day summer day at the Met, where Elly showed me the secret door to allow us to skip all the lines and crowds. This loss hurts. Rest In Peace fine lady.

Stranger On the Third Floor 1940

            A sixty minute slap in the mug. Made by RKO with some great character actors, and 2 unknown leads, this squirt in the eye movie is considered by some to be the first film noir before the term existed. Possible since it is severe, dark, expressionistic and cheaply made on the backlot of RKO.  Known as an A and B studio making those great Astaire Rogers musicals along with those classic Val Lewton flickers featuring leopard men, cat people and zombies. The studio also had Radio City Music Hall as their crown theatre where most of their product played during the 30’s and 40’s.  John McGuire nicely forgotten today plays Michael a hungry for glory newspaper reporter who just happens to walk into a crime at his favorite neighborhood dive and later gives eye witness testimony that helps convict the hapless dude accused of the murder, played with pity by the great Elisha Cook Jr.
                     Michael’s attractive girlfriend is nicely played by Margaret Tallichet who has her doubts about Elisha’s guilt and is torn up when Michael’s testimony helps send Elisha to an appointment with the electric chair.
              Meanwhile Michael is also having doubts about his testimony and Elisha’s guilt and his inner thoughts yell at us as he passes time in his crummy room in his boarding house. He broods and sweats and has terrible rows with his cranky landlady played by Ethel Griffies and his nosey difficult neighbor acted with full speed ahead by the great character actor Charles Halton who we’ve seen in a million movies. Halton who goes by the perfect name of  Meng complains about the noise that Michael makes typing away late at night on his articles and there is a big row between them when Michael brings Jane to his room one late and rainy night.
                Hey they’re on their way to marriage but its 1940 and bringing gals to your room was not the proper thing to do according to his landlady and Meng. Meanwhile Peter Lorre is lurking around in the streets and on the third floor where Michael and Meng live. Later that night Michael and Jane decide to go for a walk to Washington Sq. to clear their minds and commiserate next to a giant photo blowup of the Washington Sq. Arch, which is so charming and outsider art.
             The best art though is coming up in a expressionistic nightmare that Michael has after he discovers the dead body of Meng and is worried that he will be blamed and tried for the crime. This montage is so wonderful and brilliant that I wanted to hang it on my wall or carry it in my pocket to take out on those long subway rides into the city. This sequence is sophisticated and lavish in it’s cheap budget way: lots of cutting diagonals of light, small figures in large spaces, unforgiving jurists who sleep through his trial just like they really did in Elisha’s trial, and huge newspapers blaring out the headlines to mention just a few of the bold images that would make Fritz Lang jealous and Dr. Caligari weep tears of envy, that’s how good it is.
                  The great Nathanael West  is uncredited for the screenplay, and the beautiful cinematography is by the important cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca who started in movies in the late 20’s and did many important Noir films along with the cinematography for “I Remember Mama” which got him his only Oscar nomination. Also noteworthy and of note is the great art direction by Van Nest Polglase who did the restrained realistic interiors and the startling nightmare. There’s not much suspense in guessing who the real murderer is, and the ending might be a little too cute for some. The director Boris Ingster did only 2 more movies and a bunch of TV before disappearing from view. Speaking of disappearing the actress Margaret Tallichet did a few more films before retiring forever from films after marrying William Wyler in 1938 and remained married to him for 43 years until his death in 1981.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Cakemaker 2017

Trying hard not to give too much away. A young handsome German Baker who lives and operates a charming Cafe in Berlin starts an affair with an equally attractive Jewish businessman who comes to Berlin often and loves the baker’s cookies. The businessman lives in Jerusalem with his plain wife and son and one day he returns to Jerusalem but is never heard of again. It gets dicey for me at this point because as I said I’m trying hard not to give much away. I will tell you that sweet Thomas the baker goes to Jerusalem where most of the film takes place and integrates himself in his lover’s family. He even starts working in the wife’s cafe, and bakes up a storm making it the place to have coffee and cake in the city. Everyone with the exception of his lover’s orthodox brother takes to Thomas and its not hard to see why, Thomas is as appealing and sweet as those fabulous cakes and cookies he creates. This film mixes in the batter (sorry couldn’t resist) politics, religion, love, affection and the complicated laws of kosher cooking with just the right amount of sugar that sometimes I might add is a little hard to swallow. Small quibbles on my part as I was completely taken with this first film by Ofir Raul Graizer and the charming performance of  Tim Kalkhof as Thomas the baker. If I’ve made it sound like this is a simple one level movie, it isn’t, the layers like a great cake is full of surprises and keeps on giving with every bite.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Gentleman’s Agreement 1947

                    This was quite the film 71 years ago, hailed by critics, audiences and the folks who give out that little gold man. Set in a cosmopolitan New York City long gone, the film is a compelling look at anti-Semitism right after the Second World War and the annihilation of 6 million Jews. The first thing I noticed was the absence of any mention of this holocaust, Hitler, Nazis or Germany in the screenplay that was written  by the well-respected playwright Moss Hart. Produced by the big Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox who up until the mid 40’s was mostly known for it’s lavish brightly colored musicals that starred Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda they soon stumbled onto a social conscience, limited as it was but with a group of well meaning and sometimes strong neo-realist noir and problem films. These liberal movies dealt with racism, mixed race relations,  anti-Semitism and insanity many of which like Gentleman’s was based on best selling novels.                   
               This one was based on piece that was first serialized in a magazine and then turned into a novel by Laura V. Hobson that remains unread by me. The film came with high end credentials in all areas of the construction and making of the film and as I said it was written by Moss Hart. At times the screenplay is a little too severe and stagy but is still well observed especially in the give and takes and exchanges between the characters.                      
                  The direction was by the young and career hot  Elia Kazan a former actor who had like Hart made his mark on Broadway directing a couple of big dramatic hits by Tennessee Williams. The string along connect the dots plot concerns the good-looking but as usual wooden Gregory Peck who comes East from California to work on a big time magazine and brings along his supportive Ma and young son. The great character actress Anne Revere who already had an Oscar for playing a mother in “National Velvet” 2 years earlier and would shortly find herself blacklisted plays ma beautifully and her scenes with Peck are tender and real, their relationship rings true.
                The young son is also nicely played by the charming and handsome Dean Stockwell who by this time was nearly a screen veteran.  The editor of the Magazine where Peck is contracted to work is liberal and is acted by the no nonsense Albert Dekker who was also blacklisted and died a strange and mysterious death in 1968 that I won’t go into here.  Dekker suggests a piece on anti-Semitism to Peck who is Christian, but there is not much enthusiasm on Greg’s part to do such a article until a light bulb goes off, and after much soul searching and many stay up late evenings with Ma encouraging him, he hatches the idea of becoming a Jew for six months. 
                     At a party given by Dekker, Peck meets the newly divorced Cathy who is very liberal and also lovely as only Dorothy McGuire could be and they soon start an affair and plans for marriage get a hold on them.  Dorothy and Gregory begin having problems that are caused by his intense work and his deep criticism of her casual and light denouncement of Anti-Semitism and some disturbing traits she has that slowly come out. Their relationship is rocky and the sudden happy ending of the film rings hollow and false but hey  its 1947 Hollywood.
                   Also on hand in a small role as an old childhood friend who is actually a Jew (on screen and off) is John Garfield who is on his way to being discharged from the army and needs a job and a home for his family. Garfield who was also a victim of the blacklisting and died an early death some say from the hounding by the McCarthy witch-hunt. There is quite a bit of underlining and bells going off in the plot and characters, a female secretary who is played by June Havoc (sister of Gypsy) tries to hide the fact that she is Jewish, Peck is turned away from a restricted resort for being “Jewish”, a confrontation in a nightclub between Garfield and a taunting drunk anti-Semite, the teasing of Dean Stockwell by classmates (off camera) because they think he is Jewish and on and on. The best performance in the film is given by Celeste Holm who won an Oscar for her role as the fashion editor of the magazine and is tart, sassy and sophisticated and is madly in love with Peck but keeps it hidden until her final great monologue towards the end of the film. The amazing and disturbing thing about the film is how pertinent it still is after nearly 72 years.            

Bernardo Bertolucci 1941-2018

Another great film artist has passed but the orange pile of shit who has contributed NOTHING to the world is still walking the earth. Unfair.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Nicolas Roeg 1928-2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

Collage November 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pablo Ferro 1935-2018

Friday, November 16, 2018

William Goldman 1931-2018

And the orange pile of shit still walks this earth. give me a fucking break.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

November collage 2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Suspiria 2018

spoiler alerts

          A nearly 3 hour somewhat boring mess. Listen if you are a fan of the original 1977 Dario Argento film, you should probably do yourself a favor and skip this dud. The problems with it are as high and long as the Berlin wall that hovers over the film, one of many obvious symbolic touches that the director Luca Guadagnino thought was needed. The story has some similarities to the original and is set in a rain drenched gray and ugly Berlin circa 1977, oh gee that’s the year the original film was released. Another wink wink.
               A young American girl has come to West Berlin to study at a famous dance academy   run by the tall, lanky and scary looking Tilda Swindon who by the way has more than one part which I won’t give away. The student is played by Dakota Johnson and if someone could please explain why this talentless thing is making money and movies I would greatly appreciate it.  Yes I know who her parents are, but still. Dakota with her bright red hair and vacant look appears unannounced and is soon swept up in Swindon’s Madame Blanc’s bony arms as the best thing to come down the dance pike since Martha Graham whose fingerprints are all over the place.
               The all female student body acts strange almost as strange as the frumpy and grumpy all female teaching staff do and I won’t even mention the rampant lesbianism that’s all the rage here. All sorts of weird things start to happen including the dreadful dance routines (the final dance recital is so bad I thought I heard Mark Morris howling down the block from the Bam Rose Theatre where he has his own dance theatre). Guadagnio who made a couple of films that I liked quite a bit, “I Am Love” and “Call Me By Your Name” loads the film up with symbols, hints and color coded mayhem to help us understand what is going on, a good script would have been a better idea.
                There are flashbacks to Dakota’s abusive (so it seems) childhood and mother where she grew up in a unloved Mennonite childhood somewhere in Ohio that make no sense, and all they do is stretch out this unending film. There are also dollops  of political events of the time including the Baeder-Mein Hoff terrorist attacks and hostage killings along with far left protests happening it seems at every moment in these rainy snowy days of winter. He also throws in unwelcomed references to the Holocaust.
            There are a few scares all without much sense and gussied up in the latest digital effects tricks and treats with gore and guts galore and all awash in handsome cinematography. The Argento version was sharper faster and much more fun and really scared me in half the running time.  Argento who when he was good was great had a great feel for making spaces sinister whether they be creepy schools or empty de Chirico  like plazas at night, another talent that Guadagnino is lacking.  Especially important to the peril and threats I felt with the Argento version was because of the much better cast that included the wonderful Jessica Harper who in this version makes a welcomed cameo and as the creepy head of the school and main threats we had Joan Bennett and the great Alida Valli. What they had that these new actors don’t is a sense of mystery, we didn’t really know what they were up to and hey it was Joan Bennett after all who brought years of wonderful performances with her.  In this version we know immediately that these ladies are up to no good. There are some fun moments in this version thanks to some New Wave German vets. Like  Angela Winkler and Ingrid Caven but they are far and few between.  Lets hope that a Broadway musical is not planned. One of the worst films of 2018.       

Monday, November 05, 2018

mixed on paper november 2018

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Wildlife 2018

Treated myself to a movie today at the comfortable but sterile walter reade theatre in Lincoln Center. The movie was Wildlife which is getting a lot of attention and Oscar hype and it does have a trio of terrific performances that anchor the small sad story that is based on a Richard Ford novel. Set in 1960 in Montana, big sky country, it’s a basic story of a mother, father and son trying to get by on very little while holding on to their fami
ly center.
There’s not much to the thing, on the surface at least, father loses job and leaves home for a temporary gig fighting forest fires, while mom and son try to keep the home fires burning. Its not Andy Hardy though and lives change in a moment and a young boy grows up in sorrow and errors.
This is the actor Paul Dano’s first film as director and he brings a sharp eye and delicate touches to this vignette like story. The screenplay was co-written by Dano and his lady love Zoe Kazan and they provide a lean and dramatic armature to hang their movie on.
All three players as I said are terrific and I was especially moved by the young unknown actor (not for long I would imagine) Ed Oxenbould who is a dead ringer for a young Paul Dano and is so moving and real as the 14 year old son on whose shoulders all the disarray falls on, no doubt he has a great future in front of him.
Also top notch in really a supporting role is Jake Gyllenhaal as the conflicted father. Gyllenhaal has consistently chosen small biting roles that push his pretty boy looks to the side, his filmography is impressive, and finally there is the great Carey Mulligan who gives what might be the best performance by an actress this year. She is practically in every scene in this short 104 minute movie and to see her changes as the troubled mother is stunning. Metaphors and symbols cover the film with the most obvious one being the raging forest fire that changes the landscape and the lives of this damaged family. The ending will break your heart. A movie to treasure.
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