Monday, February 29, 2016


First of all Chris Rock had his great Chris Rock moments and scored some solid [and brave] points, but either he was being disingenuous about the problem and solution to the lack of "racial" diversity in the acting nomination categories, or he has a whole lot less experience than me.  Because my experience in my almost two decades in Hollywood, and three in the movie business, is that most producers, studio upper echelon folks and movie finance people I encountered were conservative Republicans when it comes to economics.

Also many movie directors, comic actors, stars and even extras I worked with and knew were fiscally conservative Republicans. Maybe more moderate or liberal on some social issues, but basically fiscally conservative Republicans, so Rock's calling out Hollywood "liberals" as the problem was a way too easy shot. I also found the girl scout cookie business a weak comic bit and otherwise waste of time taken from what the show could have and should have been about (like calling out the people at the top of the movie business decision making process who seem convinced there isn't a large worldwide audience for movies with no big white stars and subjects that involve real social, political and economic issues etc.).

I also found it interesting that it wasn't Rock who broadened the idea of diversity from being about more "blacks" getting recognition (and more opportunities) to all minorities (Latino, Asian, Native American, etc.). I think it was a random guy in Rock's person-on-the-street-in-front-of-a-movie-theater-in-Compton interviews bit [a highlight of the show] who made that point.

Other things that didn't work were the incredible small print on the screen saying who the winners were and even smaller print in the "crawl" at the bottom of the screen with names of people the winners wanted to thank. And I would relegate short films to another time and place with brief clips of winners on the screen during the live show and add the tributes to veteran movie people—like the ones to Debbie Reynolds, Gena Rowlands, and Spike Lee (that were done elsewhere and we only saw bits of their acceptances on screen)—to the live ceremony so they can get their standing ovations and the live audience and the TV audience can feel and express the nostalgia and gratitude those moments create.

As for the winners. My picks would have been different in many cases, though most of the winners were deserving. My pick for best actor is Abraham Attah in BEASTS OF NO NATION, and best supporting actor Idris Elba for the same flick (though winners DiCaprio and Rylance were completely deserving choices for those categories as well).

My choice for best actress is Saoirse Ronan for BROOKLYN. Even though winner Brie Larson is deserving for ROOM, my experience as a film actor convinces me that given the incredible arc of Ronan's character, and the depth of the changes she goes through, and the fact that scenes in movies are shot out of sequence so that Ronan had to calibrate every shot to exactly fit where the character would be in that moment in terms of the development of that arc, wow...much more difficult task to me than the  more obvious emotional content of Larson's scenes, brilliant as she was in expressing them. But I totally agree with Alicia Vikander from THE DUTCH GIRL winning the best supporting actress Oscar.

As for best director, Inarritu deserves his win for THE REVENANT, but the more surprising directing success to me was Adam McKay for THE BIG SHORT, a film that I would pick for best editing as well. As for best picture, my choice is BROOKLYN or BEASTS OF NO NATION, but the winner, SPOTLIGHT is also a close to perfect movie, so I'm happy for the people who made it.

[PS: Lady Gaga's song deserved the Oscar more than the Bond film one, to me, and her performance showed how an artist can overcome the challenge of moving a live audience in a theater and at the same time moving a worldwide TV audience. Though some might have found it over the top, I had tears in my eyes by the end of it.]

Saturday, February 27, 2016


I’m reading some poems
from my latest book

at Luna Stage, 555 Valley Road, West Orange NJ
(though I always think of that address as in Orange,

and the event is being put on
by the free “University of Orange”

so admission is free)

at 7PM,

February 29th,

Leap Day.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Composer Rain Worthington and me around 1979, photo I think by Bobby Miller

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


HAIL, CAESAR! is the latest film from the Coen brothers, whose movies are either among my favorites (O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and BURN AFTER READING) or among my least favorites (BARTON FINK, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). HAIL, CAESAR! falls somewhere in between.

It's commendable just for taking on such a giant subject, Hollywood in the 1950s and the many layers of hypocrisy and duplicity that sustained it, a time when "the scandal sheets" were just beginning to expose all of it. There are a lot of amusing star turns (Channing Tatum as a gay amalgamation of movie dancing stars of the period, George Clooney as an aging established epic star opportunist, Scarlett Johansson as a take off on Esther Williams, the glamorous movie water-ballet star, etc.)...

If you're a movie history buff, I think you'll enjoy it. And if not, you might enjoy it as well. Just don't go into it expecting a Coen brothers masterpiece, but instead a small escape from our overflowing screen-stimuli-filled time.

Monday, February 22, 2016


The other night I went to a party for the release of Rain Worthington's new CD of her orchestral compositions: DREAM VAPORS. Rain and I lived together in the 1970s in downtown Manhattan, first in a loft on Church Street across from the artists'  bar Magoo's, and later on the corner of Duane and Greenwich Streets, back before there was a Battery City and "Tribeca" was not a realtor term and living in most lofts was illegal so only artists and other creative artists lived there.

Back then Rain composed solo piano pieces, with no formal musical training, just self-taught playing of compositions she composed directly on the piano, memorizing each new musical phrase as she added it to a piece. Laurie Anderson was just beginning to be recognized as a musical performance artist, but Rain was the only serious "new classical" female composer on the scene (to my knowledge). Though some of her male contemporaries dismissed her contributions because she didn't share their academic backgrounds.

Nonetheless her concerts in various loft spaces or at the Kitchen, the New Music venue at the time, mesmerized listeners not interested in credentials but in results. At the beginning of the 1980s she fronted a "rock" band called Zone that one critic described as the most noncommercial band ever. But then she got into composing for large and small orchestras and solo classical instruments like violins.

DREAM VAPORS was recorded with different orchestras at different times in the new century and for me is the answer to what I was hoping the future of "classical" music would be as a kid in mid-20th-Century "America." The music on this CD satisfies the yearning I had for orchestral music to move and enlighten me in ways only jazz was able to do when I was young. I highly recommend buying the CD or downloading it from iTunes etc.

For a taste of Rain's music see her website here.

[PS: It was a great gathering at The Fitzgerald Gallery celebrating Rain for decades of serious commitment to composing orchestral music, with old and new friends not just applauding her efforts and the results, but enjoying several solo performances by violinists who have performed her music around the world. And I got to reconnect with mutual old friends and members of her family, who I hadn't seen in over thirty years. Ah, life's rewards if we stick around for them.]

Saturday, February 20, 2016


So one of my best friends, a lovely, intelligent, caring mother of three, was in Manhattan the other day and was stopped by a policeman for some minor traffic question and his system showed him that she had an outstanding ticket or two (which it turned out was a mistake, she had the canceled checks to prove she paid them) and as a result she was handcuffed, that's right cuffed, and taken to jail, that's right a pissy, dank, grungy, New York City jail, for a possible traffic violation because of supposedly (but turns out not) unpaid other traffic violations.

This explains everything wrong with most police departments today. The cops eventually recognized their mistake and admitted it and let her go, but she still had to go before a judge and the judge decided that despite the canceled checks he had his own suspicions about the timing, and so she has to go to court and fight it.

According to an NPR show I was listening to this morning with the guy who created THE WIRE, in Baltimore solving a murder through diligent detective work gets a cop nothing extra, but randomly arresting people for minor drug or traffic offenses can get the same cop extra points on their record and in most cases extra money in their paycheck.

The system used by almost all police departments in the USA now rewards cops for petty arrests and fines rather than actual violent and serious crime solving. And doesn't reward just the cops, but the judges and entire system as the fine money is used for municipal budgets. Argh.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Karen Allen and me after last Thursday's screening of BAD HURT. I look a lot different then when we met over forty years ago, but she doesn't.

[PS: photo taken by poet Rachel Diken]

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


So I started watching this new PBS series set in historic Alexandria, Virginia, at the beginning of The Civil War, because a friend of mine is in it. But, after several episodes, it's become almost painful to watch, despite some great acting and great set and costume production.

In 2016, MERCY STREET projects the same bend-over-backward-to-placate-the-losers-who-deserved-to-lose, spare-the-South's-feelings anti-history that has overwhelmed movies and TV shows set during The Civil War or its aftermath (see almost every classic Hollywood Western) in which the Southerners are mostly noble, kind to their slaves/servants, honorable and just, while many of the Northerners are often brutish, violent and seemingly more racist than the Southerners.

Can you believe that in 2016 in a Civil War drama series (on PBS no less) the only attempted lynching so far is of a free black man by Union soldiers, the only rape of a black woman by a brutal oaf is by an employee of the Union Army, the most clueless, hypocritical and ignoble, dishonorable, nasty, violent, and even psychopathic characters are Union soldiers and/or Northerners.

MERCY STREET is heartbreakingly as ahistorical, misleading, misinformed and deceitful as any rightwing propaganda propagated by apologists for the Confederacy, including the KKK. Why no one is objecting to this and to the producers and to PBS I don't know, but I am.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


"kendrick is what kanye imagines himself to be:  —Patti McGuire (an old friend, as posted on her Facebook timeline)


Tried to post the invitation The University of Orange (a free educational group run by citizens of Orange, New Jersey, and their supporters) put on Facebook for my reading later this month, but couldn't get it to work, so click here to see.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


"Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."

—Walt Whitman (from the preface to the 1855 edition of LEAVES OF GRASS)  

Saturday, February 13, 2016


If all those who don't like the results of the Republican dominated Congress's hostility to clean energy, choosing diplomacy over war, reducing the percentage of the budget spent on over priced and unneeded military hardware, raising the minimum wage, etc. etc. etc. had voted, we wouldn't have a Republican dominated Congress and Obama could get a reasonable person nominated and confirmed to replace Scalia (who if you didn't see it, died earlier today). But the Republican leaders and presidential candidates have all vowed to block any attempt to fill Scalia's seat until a new president is sworn in eleven months from now. Totally against everything they claim to stand for, the Constitution, the separation of powers, etc. Hypocrites, as always.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Saw a screening of this film last night at The Actor's Studio in New York and was knocked out by the story and the acting. Adapted from a play by writer/director Mark Kemble, the plot involves a crucial week in the lives of a Staten Island family with a drug addicted Iraq war veteran oldest son, a younger son who can't live up to his older brother's athletic and war legends, or his father's, and a younger daughter severely autistic.

It stars one of my oldest and best friends, Karen Allen, who gives an Oscar worthy performance as the mother of an initially depressingly dysfunctional family, which through sheer will and perseverance she keeps functional. She has several scenes that are indelible, unique in every way (I have never seen anything like them before in any film, which makes BAD HURT worth watching just to experience that) and even some poetic lines to soften and illuminate an otherwise tough, working-class, Irish-American woman.

Several of the actors give Oscar worthy performances, especially Michael Harney as the father, Iris Gilad as the autistic daughter, Theo Rossi as the younger son, a nice guy who does his best to help his mother keep the family together, and Calvin Dutton as the daughter's love interest, also severely autistic.

It just started a run on 12th Street in Manhattan and in a few other cities. I wish it had come out before the end of the year to be eligible for the awards season, because it is a small masterpiece of filmmaking. The subject matter and realistic handling of the family's individual and group struggles makes for a challenging experience, but if you sit through the entire film you will be greatly rewarded, at least I was, with tears of joy, replacing the ones of sadness and sympathy.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


I can see why Charlotte Rampling got nominated for an Oscar for 45 YEARS, and can also see why some of the audience responses in the theater I saw it at, where there's a bulletin board for people to grade flicks, found it too slow and boring (one comment said they didn't realize it was filmed in real time).

But for me, this was a very artful movie, worth the time and money just to see the skillful interplay between Rampling and Tom Courtenay as an old married couple in their daily routines that get disrupted by the past intruding on their present.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016


One of my favorite book covers, thanks to photographer Lynn Goldsmith, and to Dennis Cooper's Little Caesar Press. It came out in 1982 (the year I turned forty) so the photo was probably taken the year before at Lynn's studio. And, if it's possible to grade your affection for your own books, this was definitely, and remains, one of my favorite books.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Went to see this expecting to be disappointed, but was pleasantly surprised (as often happens when I go into a movie with low expectations). It was a total kick to see Han Solo back on the big screen and looking realistically like an older version of the character. Harrison Ford brought every comic nuance of that role to life again.

Carrie Fisher had a more difficult task in some ways, since female roles in science fiction usually depend on periods of undress for their cache, but she played the part of an older Princess Leia with the dignity and seriousness the role required. [Full disclosure, I met Ford a few times but found him to be a very private guy, and was close friends with Fisher for many of my Hollywood years and knew her, as many now do, as one of the wittiest humans alive.]

But the big delight for me was the discovery of Daisy Ridley who has the lead role in the film and who I wasn't aware of ever having seen on the big screen before. She brought the kind of star charisma a franchise like this needs and lacked in many of the sequels to the original. Finally a female sic fi action figure who commands your attention and respect and is engaging and entertaining seemingly with ease.

The other delight was John Boyega. I've been waiting to see him in an action starring role ever since I discovered him in one of my favorite movies ATTACK THE BLOCK. Watching him perform the role of Finn with perfect comic timing as well as the emotional depth necessary for the serious moments, I could not figure out what the fuss about his being dark skinned had to do with playing an action hero, let alone a reluctant one.

Yeah, some of the other casting missed, and the story line could have been better, though I liked the echoes from the original STAR WARS, but a lot of the humor worked for me, as well as the drama and action. For my taste, well worth seeing on the big screen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I have to admit I was into the Iowa caucuses last night, not only because I've been a political junkie all my life (which kickstarted when as a six-year-old I predicted Truman's win, despite the polling and pundits forecasting a victory for Dewey) but because I lived in Iowa City from 1966 to 1969 and ran for sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa, in 1968 (as a Peace & Freedom party candidate).

When national newscasters and political pundits mentioned "Johnson County" as they always do, and were doing quite a bit last night in the wee hours with all the caucus votes not in for that county til then, I felt like cheering for what was once, no matte how briefly, my home. (I got text messages from a friend who was a part of the Iowa City caucusing as it was happening.)

But it also evokes the sad fact that by supporting an alternative to the Democratic candidate in 1968, I contributed to Nixon's winning the presidency and all the death and destruction that occurred as a result (including of people I knew who died in the Viet Nam war, which went on for another six years but Humphrey's papers later revealed he was prepared to end).

The visceral hatred for Hilary among many Bernie supporters online (and displayed at the Sanders rally last night in response to her "victory" speech) is disheartening as many Bernie supporters continue to declare their intention to not vote for Hilary if she wins the Democratic nomination. And I know there are Hilary supporters, especially among feminists I know, who feel the same in reverse.

This would be an invitation for another rightwing Republican to take over the presidency and build on the destruction to our politics and to our society that began under Nixon, continued through Reagan and the Bushes. I hope the animosity I'm seeing between the two camps in the Democratic primary ends when a winner is chosen, otherwise, we all lose.