Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Not the best James Bond movie ever, but still a fun ride, even if just for the delight of watching Lea Seydoux and Monica Bellucci, especially Seydoux who is like the French Scarlett Johansson, in terms of natural screen charisma and acting chops.

The opening scene—which seems to be a seamless tracking shot but done from all different heights and perspectives so probably just an editing trick—is worth the price of admission for my movie-lover taste. As is the scene in the train (homage to classic 1940s Hollywood) with Seydoux in the gown above and Craig in a white dinner jacket if I remember correctly.

A spectacle, as Bond films always are, and worth watching on the big screen for that alone, as well as the above. The weakest element is the screenplay, which is—my Hollywood friends tell me—the result of the franchise's producers' cheapness, they know they can get away with it.

But it is interesting that the sometimes inexplicable plot of SPECTRE revolves around an evil conspiracy to spy on all of us in ways that I assume is already being done. Somewhat relevant and timely given the recent terrorist attacks and the political arguments about how far to go in invading citizens' privacy in order to supposedly protect them.

Sunday, November 22, 2015



On a perfectly clear Fall day, heading back to
Fort Monmouth, I watched as other cars on
The Garden State Parkway veered onto the
shoulder and stopped, the drivers not getting
out, just sitting there. At the toll booth the man
said The president's been shot. As I drove on,
more cars pulled off the road. I could see their
drivers weeping. Back in the barracks we stayed
in the rec room watching the black and white
TV, tension in the room like static. When they
named Lee Harvey Oswald, I watched the
black guys hold their breath, hoping that meant
redneck, not spade, and every muscle in their
faces relax when he turned out to be white.

(C) 2013 Michael Lally

Friday, November 20, 2015


Donna Dennis is an artist friend who for over half a century has been pursuing her own vision in works that cannot be compared to any other artist's (though since she began showing her art there has certainly been art by others that seems inspired or influenced by hers, in my opinion).

I have always loved her creations since the first show of hers I saw back in the downtown Manhattan of the 1970s. She and I at one time lived only blocks from each other on Duane Street in what hadn't yet been designated "Tribeca" except by real estate people trying to create a new "Soho" style neighborhood in what was still a wasteland of warehouses and small manufacturing lofts where living was still outlawed and only a handful of artists and other creative pioneers dared make their homes there.

She's still there. I got priced out after Di Niro and others bought into the neighborhood and spent too much and made it too hip, and then Battery Park City was built, and the neighborhood went to those who could afford it, no longer the artists and writers and dancers and musicians et. al. who had first settled the area.

But Donna is still there, at 73, creating structures that fill gallery spaces (the gouache piece above is a "study" for the structure that is the centerpiece of her latest exhibit called "Studies For a Little Tube House and Night Sky") with work that is captivatingly personal and cosmic at the same time. It is the mark of her human scale models of bigger structures that they seem both ordinary and unexpected. And she's still fighting investors trying to get her out of the building near Broadway where she's rented and worked and lived in a loft once nobody wanted and now everybody does.

As my friend and fellow poet Rachel Diken said about Donna and her ongoing dedication to the kind of artist's life few dare to attempt these days, especially when she heard that Donna is 73 and still constructing sculptures that sometimes fill vast gallery spaces (though this show she scaled down to fit into the Mixed Green Gallery (531 West 26th Street, first floor)), she said Donna is a "bad ass artist" and she is.

Donna is also a legend among my generation of downtown Manhattan creators. She was associated with The Saint Mark's Poetry Project since the 1960s and has been doing covers for poetry books from that scene since then, in my memory, and is still doing them.

I highly recommend you check out this show and support a living legend whose work deserves to be more widely known and respected, as she herself should be counted among the under recognized artists of our generation and given more awards, and more support for her struggle to maintain her place of work and living, while real estate sharks and the 1 per centers continue to engulf the few remaining outposts of downtown pioneers who created a reason to even consider investing in or moving to "Tribeca"—or as it was originally known: Washington Market.

Donna Dennis: legendary bad ass artist.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


As I've written before, my response to a movie often depends on my expectations going into it. Usually if I have high expectations, I'm at least a little disappointed, and vice versa. I'd read the Colm Toibin novel before seeing the new movie adapted from it and liked the writing but felt vaguely disappointed when I finished it. So I expected the same from the movie.

But Saoirse Ronan is a revelation, giving an award-winning performance delicately calibrated from scene to scene to display her character's blossoming from a timid girl to a confident woman in just two hours. And that elevates BROOKLYN the movie to a work of art, in my opinion.

Because it's set in the 1950s, a time that stands out in my memory and on which I've written a lot, and it's about "my people" the Irish (of course all people are my people, but I feel I'm more of an expert on the Irish), I was also expecting to be disappointed in the way the Irish in the movie were portrayed, as is too often the case.

But having been written by a native Irish writer and having the lead character played by an Irish actress, her character and much of the story resonates with a rare authenticity not always seen in "American" movies and TV shows about the Irish and Irish-Americans (like THE DEPARTED and RAY DONOVAN for instance). Though I will say there's a classic kind of Irish caustic humor that except for moments from Ronan's character late in the film is mostly missing in BROOKLYN, making the Irish seem terribly dour, unlike most I've known for my more than seven decades.

The costumes and period touches (it's set in the early 1950s) are pretty authentic too, according to my memories except, as always happens with 20th century period pieces, the cars are way too clean and perfect, especially the ones that would have been several years old at the time, and there aren't any beat-up, older cars, as of course there always has been and still are.

The theater I saw BROOKLYN in has a big bulletin board where audience members can voice their opinion and grade each film. BROOKLYN had raves and A's and A+'s, except for one commenter who gave it a C, objecting to the way the leading Italian-American was portrayed in the movie. I felt their pain. But I think the others were correct. Well worth seeing.