As I said in an early post, I have a tendency to link things in threes, due to Catholic (Trinity) or Irish (shamrock) or other early influences. So here’s three lists of threes:
Three recent movies that linger in my consciousness in ways that make me feel they may be lasting favorites:
1. VENUS (worth it if only for Peter O’Toole and Vanessa Redgrave’s tour de force performances, as always, but the rest of the cast is great too and the story not bad either)
2. NOTES ON A SCANDAL (ditto for Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy, and if aspects of the story have been told before, never like this)
3. BABEL (despite my earlier questioning of the screenplay, the acting is impeccable, the direction transcendent, and the story(s) compelling)
Three recent books I’ve read that should not be overlooked:
1. BITTERSWEET KALEIDOSCOPE, Poems by Bill Mohr, a poet whose work is honest, engaging, well wrought and from a unique perspective: his.
2. THE SNOW ANGEL, A Novel by Michael Graham, a “police procedural” but also an original Christmas fable, that not only offers hope in the form of serious redemption, but from the perspective of an experienced detective and investigative reporter, as Graham was. I laughed and I cried, as they say, but I really did.
3. DAYS BY THEMSELVES, Poems by Brooks Roddan, a poet who uses very few notes to sing his songs of self-and-surroundings awareness, and observes the aging process with restrained precision and depth, as well as the indispensable gratitude.
And three recent documentaries not to be overlooked or forgotten:
1. WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE, Spike Lee’s HBO documentary about Katrina and its aftermath could have been edited down to a feature film and been one of the all time best, but even as is, it’s full of details, both personal and historical, that should never be forgotten.
2. BASTARDS OF THE PARTY, another HBO documentary, about the history of black gangs in L. A.—from their origins in the mid-20th-century response of black youths to racist white gangs, up to the ongoing rivalry between crips and bloods. Some of those interviewed have more screen presence than any movie star, and there is so much intelligent analyses, from gang members themselves, as well as lyrically honest riffs on feelings and experience, it almost seems scripted by some genius poet. But more heartrending than anything a poet might write, because of the overwhelming reality of this seemingly unstoppable “madness.”
3. HUBERT SELBY JR./IT’LL BE BETTER TOMORROW, this documentary on my old friend and mentor is a little off when it comes to a few of the talking heads (of which I am briefly one)—some of them seem hardly to have known him and just included because they’re famous—but there are extended scenes of Selby talking, being interviewed, living his life, reading from his work (as part of an un-credited reading series Eve Brandstein and I ran for almost eight years in L. A., which Selby read at almost every week), and those scenes of the man himself are beyond anything the rest of us could add to the picture. He was a unique and incredible human being. It’s already available on DVD in Europe, where he seems to have been much more appreciated (his death made the front pages in Paris and London and Tokyo, not here) and will be available in the U. S. next month. I already pre-ordered my copy from Amazon.