Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Tina Turner 1939-2023 This hurts.


h Tina. I saw her 3 times in the early 70's when she was still with Ike. The last time was at the Fillmore east I had front row seats, and her sweat was hitting me in the face.

Kenneth Anger 1927-2023


early summer 2023 mixed on board


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Helmut Berger 1944-2023




Robert Aldrich followed up his big semi horror gothic grand guignol hit “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” with this rich southern gumbo stew of gothic grand guignol horror that featured many of the same folks from Jane including Lukas Heller who wrote both screenplays that were based on novels by Henry Farrell. Hey if it worked once let's do it again.

The lead again is played by Bette Davis this time as a southern debutante who when the film opens is hosting a big party at her fathers plantation in Louisiana and getting ready to run away with her married lover played by a very young Bruce Dern. Set in 1927 but with 1964 hairdos the young Charlotte is of course only seen in shadows but with Bette's distinct voice as her big daddy played by Victor Buono also seen in Baby Jane is brow beating Dern and giving him hell to pay if he even so much as thinks of running off with his sweet daughter Charlotte.

The next thing we see is Dern being butched with a meat cleaver which was pretty shocking back in 1964, and Charlotte still standing in the shadows her white gown covered with a huge blood stain. That's it for the past, and we are soon in present day 1964 where poor Bette is suffering because she thinks she is responsible for her lover's brutal death. She is taunted and teased by the press and the public and is still hiding in the shadows.

Care for her comes mainly from her loyal disheveled housekeeper played with tobacco road campy flair by Agnes Moorehead who chews up everything in sight and got an Oscar nomination for it. Davis who was no stranger to southern hospitality won an Oscar herself for playing another Southern belle in “Jezebel” in 1938 and a nod to this role is seen here in a painting of her as Julie Marsden that hangs on a wall in the mansion.

The atmosphere is gloomy and dusty as poor Bette struggles with her sanity and the impending loss of her falling down mansion due to impending bridge and road improvements forced on her by the state highway commission. What to do sweet Charlotte? Why get in touch with your cousin Miriam played by a still attractive Olivia de Havilland who took over the part from an ailing Joan Crawford, who brings subtly to the role that Crawford would have been incapable of. Miriam who lives in New York City comes running to the old homestead to take care of Charlotte/Bette and watch over things as Charlotte falls apart at her worn out seams.

Also on hand is the family friend and long time doctor played by the creepy Joseph Cotten. The plot thins and strange doings happen and Bette really starts to lose it. There is a nice cameo by Mary Astor as Dern's widow with secrets of her own who knows what really happened that night to her husband. Its all silly fun, dated even by 1964 standards, and if you've never seen it you might have an ok fun time of it if you don't think too much about the how's and why's of the plot. Shot in black and white the film did well at the box office and got a surprising 7 Oscar nominations mainly in the secondary categories like costume , black and white cinematography, art direction and song.

Monday, May 15, 2023

New Piece. April-May 2023. Mixed


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Diplomat 2023 Netflix

I pretty much had a big smile on my puss during all 8 episodes of this smart and sassy political show that has thriller lines throughout. The story is about a new U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and her ups and downs in her professional and personal life both of which are leaking all over the place. The series has some top notch people behind the screen including some folks who know how to write a series like Debora Cahn who also pushed her pen for “The West Wing” and several directors including Andrew Bernstein who hit the mark with “Ozark.” Not bad.

The cast is terrific lea by Keri Russell as the ambassador who is superb. I've never seen her before and to be frank I wasn't expecting much from her, but she soars as the harried and harassed ambassador who has to deal with realistic political headaches including the attack on a British aircraft carrier in the Persian gulf that might be the work of Iran or some other dark force.
On top of that she has to deal with her falling apart marriage to Rufus Sewell who was also in the foreign services. The show is as I said smart and fast, the dialogue comes at us with the speed of a torpedo and it usually hits its target which is us the audience. Some have been complaining about all the cussing going on. Well that's how people talk and no doubt if "The West Wing" was on cable or streaming the language would have been fucking vulgar as it is here.
Also some are upset because Russell's appearance is a little on the sloppy side, her hair is a big issue with some who think she needs to comb it. This is her character and her look for me is part of her charm if I can use that word, and her sleep in look is perfect. This is a smart person who doesn't care about how she looks, maybe its because she knows how good looking she is, and is confident. She is intense for sure and there are a few fierce donnybrooks with her husband that bruises them both. The supporting cast is terrific especially David Gyasi, Ali Ahn, Rory Kinnear, Ato Essandoh, Celia Imrie and the marvelous T'Nia Miller. See this one. A 2nd season is coming.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

spring 2023 mixed on board


Saturday, May 06, 2023

Bruce McCall 1935-2023


Thursday, May 04, 2023

Spring mixed on board 2023


Sunday, April 30, 2023

Odds Against Tomorrow 1959


A last stand noir heist film of the late 50's, shot in great black and white with location shooting in New York City and Upstate New York. A simple tale really. Based on a book by hard core mystery crime writer William P. McGiven who also wrote “The Big Heat”. Ed Begley who is great here, plays an ex copper who has a scheme to rob a bank in a small run down town on the Hudson. He needs two more guys to help with the robbery so he gives a yell out to old pals Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte. Both guys are worn around the edges vets with lots of baggage.

Ryan lives somewhere on the upper west side in a shitty apartment with his blowzy wife played by Shelley Winters who is her usual great self and works at some kind of short shift shit job and supports Ryan who is nasty and run down and is an all out racist which is a stream running through the movie. Their upstairs neighbor is played by the superb Gloria Grahame who gives what she gives good in two way too brief scenes with Ryan getting it on with him while his wife is away. Hell the entire cast is plain and simple great.

Ryan's reactions to Belafonte are predictable and nasty and threatens to ruin the job before it even gets moving and his uncontrollable temper which simmers just below the surface erupts in a bar scene with a soldier played by Wayne Rogers. Both Ryan and Belafonte at first say no to Begley's offer, Ryan because he hates blacks and won't work with Belafonte and Belafonte no's it because he is trying to go clean from his gambling problems and get back with his wife and little girl who he is separated from.

Handsome Harry is an on again off again musician, (we get to hear him sing a bit) but he is in big trouble with some loan sharks, a trio of cliches including a fey gay nasty homo played in great 50's homo flair by the always terrific Richard Bright who is known here as Coco and made me winch.

So Because of the money problems and pressures they both finally say yes setting in motion the doom and gloom that will come. There is a nice sequence in Central Park with Belafonte and his kid riding the carousel a happy moment that is shattered by a busted balloon. There are also images of pearls usually around a woman's neck and an expensive strand torn apart by one of the threatening loan sharks. Visual metaphors all around.

Directed by Robert Wise who the year before made the equally grim “I Want To Live”. His career was varied beginning with film editor on “The Magnificent Ambersons” which he was forced to edit when Welles skipped town. For years he took the blame for the butchering of the film, when the blame should have been placed squarely on Orson's plate. He went on to directed some dandy B's including “Curse of the Cat People”, “Born To Kill”, “The Set Up” and the very popular “The Day The Earth Stood Still” before becoming a director of big budget technicolor fat cats including “West Side Story” and “The Sound Of Music”, both of which won him directing Oscars. Odds is a tight 90 minute scab of a film, hard, fast and grim with a tight script co written by black listed Abraham Polonsky still writing under pseudonyms and Nelson Gidding. Editing by the great Dede Allen whose first major film this was and with a hot to trot jazz score by John Lewis who was an original member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Also look for the marvelous jazz singer Mae Barnes in a small singing bit ruined by a drunk Handsome Harry and in uncredited bits Zohra Lampert, Robert Earl Jones & Cicely Tyson.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Michael Denneny 1943-2023


Early Summer. Mixed on Board 2023


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Harry Belafonte 1927-2023


Monday, April 24, 2023

Yvonne Jacquette 1934-2023


Robert Patrick 1937-2023


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Early Summer 2023. Mixed on board.


Valda Setterfield 1934-2009

 I reprint my post on Valda from 2009 to honor her life and her passing.

Coming back to Brooklyn on the R train the other day, the lovely dancer and actress Valda Setterfield sat down next to me. It was a three seater, so there was an empty seat between us. I saw her dance sometime in the early 70’s at some event that was held at the Whitney Museum. Her partner was an apple, and a more thrilling dance I had never seen. To this day I still remember her beautiful dance with that apple. I had over the years seen her and her dancer-choreographer husband David Gordon here and there and was always taken by how attractive and elegant they were. I didn’t know them personally. I would just sometimes see them at an art opening or a performance but I never spoke to either of them. Too shy I guess. Once in the early 80’s Tom and me went to see her and David dance at the Joyce Theatre, both of us loving their performance. Now in her mid 70’s Valda is still striking and elegant. I stopped reading my novel and leaned over and told her that I had once seen her dance with an apple and I have never forgotten it. “That was so long ago, thank you how nice of you. Its on film you know.” “Maybe its on Youtube I said.” But unfortunately it isn’t. “Is this train going to Atlantic Ave” she asked? Yes it is. She was no doubt going to some dance function at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I went back to my reading, not wanting to intrude on her privacy, but kept sneaking peeks at her in profile. What a great looking woman she is, I thought to myself. At 75 with her short silver hair, and her lovely lived in face, this was an artist aging beautifully and gracefully. Occasionally she pops up in some movie in small bits and walk ons. Woody Allen uses her quite alot, and she turns up as a guest at a dinner party in Six Degrees of Separation, and recently as a parishioner in Doubt. I didn’t tell her who I was; that I was an artist, that I did this and that, and when we reached her stop she got up and said thank you to me. I like to think that we made each other’s day. You know that’s one of the things I love about my city. Just think on the stinking R train going to Brooklyn, a dance legend got on and sat down next to me.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Rosemary Ceravolo 1940-2023

 Rosemary Ceravolo 1940-2023

I am so heartbroken to learn of my dear old friend Rosemary Passing. I always called her Rose. She was married to the poet Joe Ceravolo and both were important presences in my life when I was a young man. I haven't seen Rose in a long time but we kept in touch on facebook. I had a feeling that something was not good because I hadn't heard from her in a long time. Two photos. one of her and Joe when they were young and one of me, rose and Joe in their kitchen. This hurts.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Tar 2022


Tar 2022

First of all I must note Cate Blanchett's towering performance as a famous but flawed orchestra conductor. This is a complex great role for her and she covers it like a silken piece of cloth floating down from above. She is so complete and sure in her role as Lydia Tar that at times I thought this person really existed, the opening interview with her and the real Adam Gopnik on stage at a concert hall helped this illusion. She is famous, talented and tangy, sometimes rude and at this point in time she is the conductor of The Berlin Philharmonic the first female to get this high honor.

There she lives in Berlin with her wife and their young adopted daughter who has problems of her own. The problems come out as lydia once did in her sexual orientation and these troubling incidents both with her daughter and Tar get more pronounced as this long movie goes on. A former student and probably lover commits suicide which causes great upheaval in her life and career and starts the ball of twine to unravel and start rolling. She tries to eradicate all traces of her relationship with the student and involves her much put upon and neglected assistant Francesca in the misdeed. Indeed.

We see her in all sorts of activities both domestic and in her career, teaching a seminar that gets nasty and in her stressful conducting duties that also sometimes get nasty. What to think of her? She does bad things including treating the people close to her with distance, aloofness and disdain, and works on taking down a few of them. Later in the film she has a physical public confrontation with a fellow conductor played by Mark Strong that is startling and shocking, and yet I was still drawn to her. We don't know much about her background, but towards the end of the film, we get a glimpse of her early life when she returns home to her family's house in Staten Island of all places and has a sharp bitter short encounter with her brother.

She hears noises late at night, and on a run through a park she hears but cannot see a female screaming. This scene brought to mind the scene in the park in “Blow Up” where David Hemmings also an artist thinks he may have seen a murder being committed. She is also having low level problems with her wife acted by the great Nina Hoss who plays in the orchestra and is also the concertmaster. Their child, is being bulled at school and Lydia confronts and threatens the child doing the bullying, another girl by the way one day after school. A dangerous moment. Oh her downfall is coming and is huge, demeaning and damaging. She is we see a careful sexual predator, and this is about to catch up with her Her carefulness is not as careful as she thought as she is being stalked and sent threatening emails and is physically attacked and badly beaten. We don't witness the attack only the results on her bruised face.
What is striking (and disturbing) about the film is that the character is an abusive woman, not the usual abusive man of which we have become used to dealing with and seeing both in real life and fiction. Difficult and mean women in high power jobs and positions is nothing new and I have dealt and known some in my life and career as we probably all have. Still it was not easy for me to digest her behavior or accept it.

The director and writer of the film Todd Field was an actor and appeared in quite a few movies and tv shows and is best known for his small but pivotal role in Stanley Kubrick's last film “Eyes Wide Shut” before he directed his first “commercial film” the very good “In The Bedroom” followed by the equally good “Little Children” He waited 16 years before making Tar and let's hope he doesn't wait another 16 years before making another film. One of the ten best films of 2022

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