Thursday, July 30, 2015

EATING AND DRINKING (WITHOUT ME) OVER THE YEARS PART SIX

Theresa Harris and Barbara Stanwyck in BABY FACE long before I was even born
Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield in 1950s Hollywood (my teen years)
My oldest brother, Father Campion, talking to my Irish immigrant Grandma Lally (my American-born maternal Grandma Dempsey behind him) with some cousins sitting smoking on the couch c. 1954
My older son Miles eating an ice cream cone beside his big sister Caitlin c. 1971 DC
Tim Dlugos (with beer can), Bill Holland and ? [Marianne La Roche] in DC c. 1974
Berry Berenson probably in the 1980s when I knew her in L.A. (she later died on one of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers)
my youngest son Flynn and my grandson behind him c. 2006? NYC
Nikki Nash and Janet Kirker posing for ? in LA c. 2007?
Ted Greenwald and Charles Bernstein snapped by Star Black NYC c. 2007?
Jeanne Donohue and Susan Brennan c. 2010? NJ

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ANOTHER QUOTE FROM POPE FRANK

[Could this be one reason why his popularity has dropped among conservative Catholics and other conservative Christians?]

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ANOTHER LALLY IN HOLLYWOOD

This is my great nephew Timmy, well he's great but he's also the son of one of my late brothers' sons making him my great-nephew. He moved to Hollywood (well, West Hollywood) several years ago to pursue his dream of doing comedy including writing movies....here's one of his recent Youtube videos...(the accent by the way is Maryland, where my late brother moved to for work and raised his family there)...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

JIMMY'S HALL


Ken Loach is an English director, but his earlier film, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, and now JIMMY'S HALL, are two of the best films ever made about Ireland and the Irish, for my taste. THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY (which I posted about here when it came out) tells the story of Ireland during the early days of it's final fight for independence from England and the troubles that follow most revolutions (in this case the Irish Civil War of the early 1920s).

JIMMY'S HALL is part of the story of what followed in the 1930s, as told through the character of Jimmy Lanford, a man who had broken the hold of the Catholic Church and the English overlords—at least in his little part of Ireland—through education and music and had to flee to New York when forces in the IRA joined with the church to install a new oppressiveness. JIMMY'S HALL tells what happens when he returns several years later and attempts the same thing.

In a way it's the story of many parts of the world in that period when socialism was still supported by a lot of working people and the forces of conservatism in religion and politics and business were colluding to invent new ways to divide working people into feuding factions that they could then control. I loved the acting and directing, the camera work and the accents of people who sound like those I know and in some cases am related to still in Ireland.

Well worth watching.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SMOKEY ROBINSON ON DEF JAM

Thanks to Michael Harris for hipping me to this old piece of film well worth watching:

Monday, July 20, 2015

ANOTHER LIST! (WYATT EARP MOVIES)

I watched the movie WYATT EARP the other night and went to bed thinking about my favorite films on the life and legend of Wyatt Earp. The first one I fell in love with as a boy was John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE.

What makes all these movies work is the relationship between Earp and "Doc" Holliday, his famous pal, and cohort at the crucial incident of Earp's legend, the gunfight at the OK Corral.

Henry Fonda plays Earp and Victor Mature is an unlikely Holliday. The contrast is probably the most extreme of any movie pairing of these two historical figures. Fonda's quiet charisma as usual anchors the film, and along with Ford's black and white photography of iconic Western landscapes, makes the film a classic. But helping make this film unique is Mature's performance.

He's an actor who seems odd looking today but was considered a "hunk" at the time and was usually relegated to playing tough guys, whether the Biblical Samson or film noir thugs trying to go good. So the tuberculosis ridden "Doc"—a role that demands vulnerability—was probably the best acting he did in his career. He matches Fonda's minimalist style with his own brooding hulk of a performance and brings the relationship to unexpected levels of emotional revelation. (Linda Darnell adds her too often underrated star power to the mix making it even tastier.)

GUNFIGHT AT OK CORRAL is saturated with garish 1950s Technicolor melodramatic camera work, let alone scripting, but the sparks between Burt Lancaster as Earp and Kirk Douglas as Holiday make it one of the most fun movie pairings ever, on a level with Redford and Newman in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.

It doesn't have the gravitas of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE or the beauty of Ford's camera work and black and white artistry, but the lead performances make it a totally engaging if highly unlikely version of the legend.

The two more contemporary—well, from the '90s—versions of the Earp story came out within six months of each other. TOMBSTONE won by being first and having Val Kilmer's performance as "Doc" Holliday. He comes very close to stealing the movie, and certainly gives either the hammiest or the most original (or both) portrayals of the character.

But for my taste the underrated Kurt Russell pulls of his version of Earp pretty well and holds the movie together, despite the difficulty of making what was intended to be a more realistic depiction of Earp's actual life engaging.

I still find it totally watchable and am always impressed with how deeply Kilmer committed to his extremely mannered interpretation of Holliday. It definitely works, as most of Kilmer's performances do, unexpectedly and impressively, despite, or because of, his over-the-top style.

WYATT EARP is the version I watched the other night and was certain I'd seen when it came out (since I've been seduced by the Earp story since I was a boy) but could only remember some early scenes and some scenes at the end in what is almost a three hour saga attempting to hit every major incident in Earp's life.

But I was totally engaged, and though Kevin Costner as Earp disappointed some critics with his stoic but to me realistic portrayal, he kept me watching. As did Dennis Quaid with an equally mannered performance as Kilmer's and yet in surprising ways original. When he first appears on screen my initial reaction was disbelief. Is he really trying to pull this overblown performance off.

But as the film progressed Quaid's commitment was so complete I began to buy his performance and eventually accept it as a true portrait of the real Holliday, or at least as interesting and at times enlightening as the other three versions above.

Truth is, I could watch any of these movies when they turn up on cable and feel satisfied, like I enjoyed another fulfilling movie-watching experience, whether escape or not. Or why not?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

AMY

Saw this documentary about Amy Winehouse today in our local theater with a friend and was knocked out. I knew she had an amazing voice but had mixed feelings about some of her work and her image. But the movie exposed my judgments as pretty shallow.

She was a much more talented music creator than I knew or assumed. Not just that big voice, from the git go (first shot of her spontaneously singing at a friend's birthday party she's fourteen and already sounds like a mature woman, both bluesy and jazzy at once), but in writing melodies and lyrics as well as that brilliantly emotive vocal control and depth. The film seduced me into falling in love with her and her voice while breaking my heart with the tragedy of her addictions and vulnerabilities.

It's amazing how much candid footage there is, and for me AMY was much better edited and presented than the recently released documentary with home footage about Kurt Cobain. In both there is plenty to anger a viewer, or at least this viewer, but in AMY there is almost an equal amount of stuff that made me laugh, or at least smile, or saddened me or touched me or impressed me or had my eyes wet or my heart wide open.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

LAST PHOTOS OF ME AND OTHERS DINING AND DRINKING (PART FIVE)

me & Terence Winch with soda cans (Doug Lang in mustache sitting) at Folio Books in DC c. 1976
Gerald Green and me at The Franklin Library offices c. 1978 NYC
Michael Harris, Katy Sagal and me Beverly Hills c. 1990
my grandson Donovan, sons Miles and Flynn and me, Jersey c. 2002
my son Flynn and me at a wedding in Jersey c. 2006
Flynn with a sandwich and me (Miles in the flannel and hat on my left) Jersey c. 2007
me and my sister-in-law Marie (sitting) at funeral repast in Maryland 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ME READING "SPORTS HEROS, COPS AND LACE" FROM CANT BE WRONG

Poet Don Yorty filmed me reading the poem "Sports Heros, Cops and Lace" from CANT BE WRONG at my pad not long ago and here's the result.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

JAMES TATE R.I.P.

This is what poet James Tate looked like when I met him at the University of Iowa in 1967. He was only a year-and-a-half younger than I was at the time, but he seemed like a kid to me. I had just spent four years in the military, was married already and soon with a kid on the way.

He was a graduate student who would soon, or had just, I can't remember any more, win/won The Yale Younger Poets Award for his book LOST PILOT. The title poem about his father who'd died in action toward the end of WWII when Tate was an infant.

I didn't know much more than that about him when we met and assumed by his style he was some kind of prepster but I liked him. We met through the poet Nathan Whiting who was younger than both of us and an undergraduate student at Iowa, which I was too.

I had arrived in the Fall of 1966 a few days before the semester began to try and get into the famous Writers Workshop (the original one—of which at the time there were still only a few scattered around the country) with no undergraduate degree so had to take undergraduate courses first (I quickly talked the administration into letting me work on a BA and MFA at the same time, a first for them) and Nathan talked me into taking an undergraduate poetry workshop that Tate, who was a graduate student in the Writers Workshop, was teaching.

Tate said he liked my work but that it would't "win any prizes" and would be tough to get published because it was too raw (for those times). I liked him and was happy for him that he won that Yale prize (for a book that was much less "surreal" than his work later began being called) but my approach was different and he was right, initially (and even since for the most part) was/is not always appreciated by the mainstream or academic publishers and prize givers.

I only saw him once or twice since those years, and continued to be happy for his success, though truth be told, and that's mainly what I struggle with in my attempts to approach whatever truth is real, at least for me, I wasn't always crazy about his poetry. I just liked him. And I was pretty sure he felt the same way about me.

Here's a poem of Tate's that is more accessible and clear than some, but full of the deep underlying sadness in much of his work despite the often seeming comic absurdity on the surface.

The Blue Booby

The blue booby lives 
on the bare rocks 
of Gal├ípagos 
and fears nothing. 
It is a simple life: 
they live on fish, 
and there are few predators.   
Also, the males do not   
make fools of themselves   
chasing after the young   
ladies. Rather, 
they gather the blue 
objects of the world 
and construct from them 


a nest—an occasional   
Gaulois package, 
a string of beads, 
a piece of cloth from   
a sailor’s suit. This   
replaces the need for   
dazzling plumage;   
in fact, in the past   
fifty million years 
the male has grown 
considerably duller,   
nor can he sing well.   
The female, though, 


asks little of him— 
the blue satisfies her   
completely, has   
a magical effect 
on her. When she returns 
from her day of 
gossip and shopping, 
she sees he has found her   
a new shred of blue foil:   
for this she rewards him   
with her dark body, 
the stars turn slowly 
in the blue foil beside them   
like the eyes of a mild savior. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

DINING AND DRINKING (WITHOUT ME) OVER THE YEARS PART FOUR


my father, Mr & Mrs. Farrell and my mother c. 1940
Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald 1940s
Frank Sintra and Ava Gardner 1950s
Marlon Brando and Katy Jurado 1950s
My late brother James "Buddy" Lally and late sister-in-law Catherine Audia Lally smiling (on the right) 1950s
my sister Irene and brother "Buddy" South Orange NJ c. 1966
my first wife Lee in an apartment my then patron (who expected me to write "the great American novel") put us up in briefly (she didn't like the experimental novel I ended up producing) in Brooklyn Heights 1966
Canadian poet Wayne Clifford and his wife Julie in our apartment in Iowa City c.1967
?, Diane Ward, Terence Winch, Susan Campbell standing, Phyllis Rosenzwieg, Bernard Welt, Doug Lang and ? Washington DC c.1980?
Hubert Selby Jr. Los Angeles 1980s?
my son Miles and daughter Caitlin Great Barrington Mass c. 2002
my late brother Robert Lally, sister-in-law Marie "Sis" Lally and late brother-in-law Joe Gloshinksi at my niece Beth's wedding in NJ c. 2005? (both men ex-cops)
a lot of cousins (including Bob, Marylynn, Tracee, Cathy, Rod, Kathi, Jack, et. al.) at a clan reunion in Belmar NJ c. 2010?
my granddaughter Elizabeth, daughter Caitlin and late sister-in-law Catherine at the same family reunion in Belmar NJ c. 2010?
Declan, Lily and Michi Keefe, Yael, Louie and Ty Claesson in Great Barrington (at my 70th birthday party) 2012
Lupita Nyong'o and Alfre Woodard Hollywood CA c. 2014

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NELL ZINK'S THE WALLCREEPER, AND MISLAID

My friend Bill gave me a gift card to our local bookstore for my birthday at the end of May and since I had just read an article in The New Yorker touting Nell Zink as the new hot novelist which also made her story seem pretty compelling, I used the gift card to buy her two novels.

Her story has one of those underdog-wins or creative-genius-finally-wins-recognition arcs that makes a lot of us feel good and certainly made me very happy for her. Like the fact she didn't get her first novel published until she was in her fifties, if I have the story straight, after working "in masonry" as the bio on MISLAID has it and lives in Germany (though is originally from Virginia) where she became a bird expert.

Jonathan Franzen received a letter from her after he wrote an article about birds in which he failed to mention some facts about Eastern European birds which she pointed out to him in a writing style that so impressed him he tried to get her first novel THE WALLCREEPER published but failed to interest anyone he had connections with. Zink meanwhile found a publisher with the wonderful name The Dorothy Project.

Franzen made it seem like THE WALLCREEPER was just too uniquely quirky for any mainstream publisher to show any interest in, but the novel doesn't seem that unique to me, nor that transgressive or radical or other things it's been called. It's more or less in the general category of the kind of quirkiness a lot of novelists were doing in the 1960s. Some blunt sexual passages, some obscure knowledge, in this case about birds and the wall creeper in particular (creating a mini-epic technical information trip ala a drastically compressed MOBY DICK, i.e. where Melville spent chapters on whaling THE WALLCREEPER spends paragraphs on birding) and clever writing.

I liked it and can see why others would, even if it isn't as original as Franzen and some critics have made it out to be. And her second novel, the more commercially acceptable one (which Franzen had advised her to attempt and it worked when it was published by Ecco ("an imprint of Harper Collins"))  MISLAID seemed to me to be more original and quirky than the supposedly too-uniquely-quirky-for-big-publishers THE WALLCREEPER.

MISLAID in fact is a tour-de-force and a more compelling read story-wise, it's like a slightly fabulist novelistic commentary on race (among other things including academia), very much in tune with recent headlines (PASSING FOR BLACK being one). I'm happy for Zink's newfound recognition and critical acclaim, she deserves it as much as any good writer whose work works, even if she isn't the totally-unique-writer-genius some critics and admirers claim.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

INFINITELY POLAR BEAR

My friend Rachel got me to see this film by pointing out that, even though I personally might find Mark Ruffalo not always appealing on the movie screen, the movies he's in are always good. And INFINITELY POLAR BEAR is another good one.

As you may have heard or read he plays a husband and father suffering from bipolar disorder, or as he says in the film "whatever they're calling it these days" as the movie is set in the late 1970s and early '80s when it was still being called "manic-depressive disease."

A lot of good film actors, and actors in general, love playing roles like this one because they get to create physical ticks and mannerisms unavailable to more "normal" characters. But my experience is that it's easier to play extremes than not. I always used to point out that Robert Redford was underrated as an actor because he played "normal" so well (people who worked for him called him "Ordinary Bob"), which I believe is the most difficult thing to make work on screen.

But Ruffalo manages to not only play the ticks and mannerisms and make them seem integral and necessary for the character, he convinces you, or at least he did me, that they are "normal" for the character. (And brought up my own experiences fighting my own demons while raising two kids on my own during the period the movie is set in and several years before then.)

We saw the film in a theater that has a bulletin board in the lobby and encourages folks to write short reviews on index cards. Rachel's short review was better than this, and I can't remember it to reproduce it here, but  do remember that the final word in it was "triumph."  And it's true, this small film is a triumph in more ways than just humanizing and personalizing mental illness or showing, as Rachel pointed out later in our conversation about the movie, how it isn't just about mental illness but about all the other kinds of challenges life throws at us that someone with mental illness has to deal with too.

They're touting Ruffalo already for awards calling this his greatest performance yet, though it's so early in the year and this is such a small independent film with limited distribution that it might not get the attention it would need for that, but hopefully he will and so will Zoe Saldana who gives perhaps the best performance of her career too (and the two child actors are standouts as well).

Definitely worth seeing.