Sunday, December 17, 2017

ANOTHER LIST! (XMAS FLICS)

With the help of the Internet and my post-brain-operation skull machine, I have once again made a list as I used to compulsively do pre-brain-op constantly...this time of my ten favorite Christmas movies:

1. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, an adaptation of the Charles Dickens story that pretty much created the Christmas holiday I grew up with, this black-and-white 1951 version starring Alister Sim as Scrooge has stuck in my mind and heart since I first saw it when it first came out when I was a boy, and I continue to appreciate even more every time I've seen it since.

2. A CHRISTMAS STORY, a 1983 original from the legendary radio storyteller Jean Shepherd's quasi-autobiographical story collection (I used to listen to him spin his tales on a rebuilt radio I salvaged from the trash and fixed when I was a boy in my attic room) and the best heir to Dickens' classic take on the holiday.

3. LOVE ACTUALLY, a 2003 tale of several intertwining love stories that has grown in my esteem for its writing, acting, directing, and general filmmaking qualities, and as a deeply satisfying confection with moments of surprisingly profound depth, no matter how contrived some aspects of it might be.

4. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, the 1947 flop that I saw with my big sisters when it first came out that has since become a classic with help from the praise of movie masters like Scorcese, still hits home for me.

5. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS isn't exactly a Christmas movie, more like a four seasons of the year movie, but it has one of the most moving Christmas holiday scenes of the classic Hollywood era (it was made in 1944), when Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" as a lament, and Margaret O'Brien has her crying scene in the snow (I had a crush on O'Brien for most of my boyhood, along with older actresses like Veronica Lake and Jane Greer).

6. THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S isn't exactly a Christmas movie either but has a great Christmas scene and message, even if saturated in Hollywood sentimentality, but if you can't dig sentiment in movies you're missing one of the joys of life, and besides Ingrid Bergman co-stars with Bing Crosby and I had a big boyhood crush on her, and Bing was a prince of my people (Irish and Irish-Americans) back then (1945) as he was the dominant star of records, radio, and movies, and made it all look easy.

7. ELF took a while for me to appreciate after it debuted in 2003, but it has grown on me since, and Will Farrell has never been as appealing as he is in this film, for my taste.

8 & 9. REMEMBER THE NIGHT and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT are two 1940s films starring Barbara Stanwyck, maybe my favorite movie actress, in two entirely different roles (though the typical Hollywood treatment doesn't allow for too much distinction in whatever roles for movie stars then) but she shines in both and makes them worth watching.

10. 3 GODFATHERS is another 1940s movie (yeah, I'm a sucker for the Hollywood of my boyhood) but this time a John Ford Western starring his favorite leading man for Westerns, John Wayne, but no matter what you think of Wayne's politics this retelling of the story of the Three Wise Men is surprisingly compelling and almost modern in its focus.

BONUS: REINDEER GAMES from 2000 is another addition to my previous lists, a movie that has grown on me each time I watch it, because of the great direction by John Frankenheimer who gets the best out of the cast, especially Ben Affleck who gives maybe his best performance, and the always terrific Charlize Theron.

[PS: I'm sure I'm missing some other great ones, any suggestions?]

Saturday, December 16, 2017

UPDATE ON THE LALLY CLAN

My cousin Pat Lally's punk anthem DAMN THE MAN (gotta watch the whole thing)


And my nephew Jimmy Lally (with wife Karen, also a rockin musician, they now have a band in Florida) after he was inducted into The Maryland Entertainment Hall Of Fame with his old band from that state: The Great Train Robbery.

Friday, December 15, 2017

JUST A REMINDER

The documentary Rachel E. Diken is making about me and my poetry needs help of all kinds including funding, here's the link to her funding page which also lists the positions open to help her make it:
https://www.gofundme.com/lallydocumentary

Thursday, December 14, 2017

CAUGHT READING (PART FIVE)


poet and friend John Godfrey NYC c. 2016
(photo taken by Bob Rosenthal)
poet and friend Rachel E. Diken reading at Beyond Baroque in Venice CA  2017
me caught reading in Terence Winch's hotel room NYC c. 2014
my oldest son Miles and his partner Hannah reading a Christmas gift at my place in Jersey 2016

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

HAPPY B'DAY FRANKIE

This was a favorite record of mine when I was a kid and Sinatra was having his first flush of success, due in part to his capacity to use his voice to convey the kind of vulnerability unusual in guys back then...not the slickster we think of when we think of the later Sinatra as in the first photo (the later ones are from that earlier era...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

GODLESS

This GODLESS is a sometimes too dark Netflix 6-episode TV series with a lot of implausible and inconsistent plot points and scenes. But it is also beautifully acted and mostly beautifully shot and directed, so I found myself watching all of it but only feeling partially satisfied.

As is too often the case today, a lot of the actors in it were Brits, as if there aren't enough American actors. But two aging "American" once-leading-man actors—Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston—carry the ball for our side and do a great job.

I never cared much for Waterston, and I acted with him on an episode of LAW & ORDER once. But in GODLESS, he actually does a great job, unexpectedly to me, playing an old Western lawman. I always love Jeff Daniels, but this is the darkest character he's ever portrayed and I was worried his genial looks and seemingly affable nature would get in the way, and it almost does at times, but he uses it and makes it work.

Michelle Dockery, of DOWNTON ABBEY fame, actually kicks ass as a widow with a native mother-in-law and half native son struggling on the prairie. But the great Tatoo Cardinal as the mother-in-law steals every scene she has anything to do with.

The revelation of the show, for me, was Meritt Wever playing a widow who transforms herself in the face of a husbandless future and almost manless town. The best thing about this series is their use of the usual old Western-film-genre tropes but with contemporary historic revisions based on what we now know were the much more common realities.

Especially that pioneer women were tough, out of necessity and circumstance, and pioneer communities included all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds from native American to African-American to gender-bending fluid Americans, and that corporate America was just as capable of evil then as it is now.

FYI

Poet, playwright, scriptwriter, and now director, Rachel E. Diken jut started a go fund me campaign to finance a documentary about me, for which I am humbly grateful. FYI here's the link.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

CAUGHT READING (PART FOUR)


me reading the NY Times with our then dog Bridey and my youngest son Flynn, Father's Day in New Jersey 2005 [photo by Jamie Rose] 
my grandson Donovan and my youngest child Flynn in Great Barrington MA c. 2006
me reading a poem at a Hollywood themed reading at Bob Holman's Bowery Poetry Club (that's Claire Danes to my right) NYC c. 2008?
my oldest son Miles reading a poem? at my 70th birthday celebration in Great Barrington MA 2012
my oldest child Caitlin reading a poem? to me on my 70th in Great Barrington MA 2012
my friend Bill Lannigan reading a poem he wrote for my 70th in Great Barrington MA
poet and friend Susan Hayden caught reading in LA c.?
me reading a poem at The Cutting Room, I think, in NYC c. 2014
my friend John Restivo sent me this photo of him reading my then latest book on a train in 2015

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ANOTHER LIST

As I've written of before, I ws a compulsive list maker all my life until a brain operation in 2009. I made lists in my head from the minute I woke up to the minute I fell asleep, usually using lists to fall asleep or fall back asleep.

I made lists of favorite movies and books and poems and people and so on, sometimes creating rules for them that made them extra challenging, like listing movies with five-syllable titles, or one, with each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, from A to Z.

Or I'd make little trinities, or triplets, that had some connection or submitted to some basic criterion... or I'd make list poems, or poems of lists.... And then after the brain operation I had no desire to make lists, and when I tried to force myself to, I'd get two things down and then lose interest.

But last night when I was falling asleep, I started to make a list of couplets made up of the poets and their poetry books that influenced me as a young poet and got to ten items relatively easily and thought, maybe it's coming back. So in the morning I wrote them down and added a few more for good measure.

Not earth shattering, but pretty sweet to have this comforting habit perhaps returning.


Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
Emily Dickinson’s The Complete Poems

William Carlos Williams’s Paterson
Jean Toomer’s Cane

Charles Reznikoff’s By The Waters Of Manhattan
Louis Zukofsky’s A

Blaise Cendrars’ Selected Writings (New Directions 1962)
Muriel Rukeyser’s Selected Poems (the first New Directions version)

Diane diPrima’s Dinners & Nightmares
Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems

Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues
Gary Snyder’s Rip Rap

John Ashbery’s Three Poems
James Schuyler’s The Crystal Lithium

Etheridge Knight’s Poems From Prison
Joanne Kyger’s Places To Go

Monday, December 4, 2017

REMEMBERING FRED HAMPTON'S 1969 ASSASINATION

This is a sonnet I wrote that's part of an unpublished manuscript and I thought I'd post on this, the anniversary of Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton's assassination on December 4th 1969. 


In early December Fred Hampton, a young
Chicago Black Panther leader I knew and
dug, was brutally slaughtered along with
Panther Mark Clark, when police raided
Hampton’s crib, after firing hundreds of
bullets into it, and into him, asleep in his
bed. It was the last straw. I’d objected to
Panthers calling police pigs, thinking of
cops in my clan who were decent, but this
time it seemed insulting to the actual pigs.
I wrote a poem called DON’T LOOK NOW
with the end couplet: like this short ugly
knife you are mine/Black Panther Fred
Hampton murdered in bed by pigs 1969.  


—(C) Michael Lally 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017

TANGERINE

Finally saw TANGERINE, the first movie made by the team that made one of the best films of this year: THE FLORIDA PROJECT. Sean Baker directed and co-wrote, with Chris Bergach, both films. And the extraordinary, and by now well known, fact about TANGERINE is that it was shot on iPhone 5s. And with what looked like at least some first-time actors.

But the writing, directing, editing and camera work (some of the shots are framed and lit better than multi-million dollar movies) make up for any initial doubts about the acting from the two transgender leads—Kitana Kiki Rodriquez and Mya Taylor. A superb little film. I can see why everyone was touting it when it came out in 2015.

If you haven't seen it, do.

Friday, December 1, 2017

AIDS DAY

Here's a poem I wrote to my friend and sometime lover in 1972, Greg Millard, who was one of the early casualties of AIDS...thinking today of him and Tim Dlugos and Joe Brainard and Cookie Mueller and so many more I loved who were casualties in that epidemic:


WATCHING YOU WALK AWAY
For Greg Millard

Today
your back, cocked hat, thick clothes for cold
the way you turned around to look again for
what? It wasn’t there last night
We were there, ‘it’ wasnt, why,     why not

The world is all around us, even at night, in bed
in each others arms
distilled & injected into the odor we leave on each others
backs & thighs, between the knots & shields of all we lay
down in the dark to pick up in the morning
I like your brown eyes when you talk
you know who you are, I like your knowing this
maybe that’s not enough

Let’s talk, go to plays, see each other sometimes just to
see each other
If we lie down in each others bodies again
let it be for the music we hold
not the music we might make


(C) Michael Lally 1972

Thursday, November 30, 2017

CUGHT READING (PART THREE)

writer Dale Herd caught reading the racing form somewhere in California, I'm guessing, around the time we met c. 1982?
me at "my booth" at Cafe Largo going over my selection of poems to read at a Poetry In Motion night with my lady Kim helping me by reading some of my choices, L.A. c. 1990? 
me reading at a poet Annabel Lee's wedding in NYC c. 1990?
the late great poet Scott Wannberg at a reading in the valley, was it one of Luloo's Beehive cafes? c. 1995?
poet Frank T. Rios as the same reading in the Valley c. 1995
and the late great Hubert Selby Jr. at the same reading in the Valley c. 1995
me reading poems from my lates book CANT BE WRONG in a bar in San Francisco 1997
me reading something in a 1999 episode of NYPD BLUE
not sure who the woman is reading from my book IT'S NOT NOSTALGIA with actor Kale Browne in the background reading something else in the Beyond Baroque bookstore in Venice Beach CA early 2000s
me reading from my book MARCH 18, 2003 I believe at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach in 2004?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"There has been chatter for years about Lauer. It only took 20 years of sexual misconduct to fire Matt Lauer. For Ann Curry and Katie Couric it just took turning 50." - Heidi J.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

LATE AFTERNOON MINI-RANT

Spent most of the day (and I mean from 10AM to just now at almost 4:30PM) on the phone with folks from Apple and Microsoft trying to make data from my old computer (MacBook Pro) work on new one (MacBook Air). Is there anything more frustrating than having to deal with corporate America's ineptitude and systemic customer thwarting that the poor folks (in my case today from India, Ireland, and the USA) working in "customer service" and "tech support" etc. are forced to try and explain or defend or just be the unhappy instruments of...? Well, probably, but it didn't feel like it to me today.

Friday, November 24, 2017

CAUGHT READING (PART TWO)

me reading a manuscript shortly after I moved back to Manhattan 1975
me reading what my daughter Caitlin is writing DC 1975
me reading my poetry, upstairs at the reborn Cedar Tavern in NYC I think c. 1975
Terence Winch reading at Folio Books in DC with, left to right, Doug Lang, me, and my then lady Gloria, watching c. 1977
me looking up from reading what looks like a newspaper, before or after a reading at Books and Company in NYC, with Gary Lenhart to my right, Greg Masters behind me, and Steve Levine back toward the stairs c. 1980?
actress Mary Beth Hurt reading my latest book, HOLLYWOOD MAGIC, in 1982
(this was from a slide someone took but I have no memory who)
my friend director Susan Seidelman looking up from reading a shooting script 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

JON HENDRICKS R.I.P.

Jon Hendricks was one of the first and foremost influences on my poetry. The lyrics he wrote to jazz instrumentalist's tunes and improvisations, echoed in my ears and heart throughout my life, so much so that I can give you my favorite quote from them off the top of my head right now and probably get it right:

"If you be still, and never move, you're gonna dig yourself a well-intentioned rut and think you've found a groove."

Not only did that kind of writing impact my own writing, but Hendricks' philosophy conveyed through his lyrics impacted my way of seeing life, myself, and the world.

I heard him sing with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross as the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross vocal jazz trio several times back in the day, and interviewed Annie Ross when I was an eighteen-year-old disc jockey in 1960 and the trio was playing nearby. And I heard him later when he sang with his kid(s).

I'm just sorry I never got to hang out with him. But I'm grateful for his artistry and its impact on mine, and that he lived a long, fulfilling life. His spirit lives on in every song he sang and/or wrote lyrics to.

[Here he is doing Gimme That Wine, a song I drunkenly sang, accompanying myself on piano, in an Air Force talent contest in 1964 and won the trophy for best comedy act!]

Sunday, November 19, 2017

LADY BIRD

LADY BIRD was on my must-see list because I've heard nothing but praise for it, and because it was written and directed by Greta Gerwig, a movie actor I consider to be among the best. The film scores high on her directing. All the actors give great performances, with the main stars—Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf—deserving awards for theirs.

Another reason I went to see the movie was Lois Smith. Since I went to see EAST OF EDEN when it opened in 1955 and I had just become a teenager, I've dug every performance she has ever given. This one, as an aging but ebullient nun, no less. She should have won every award there is by now, and if they don't give her a lifetime achievement award soon (she's gotta be in her eighties or close to it), it's a crime.

Though I recommend seeing LADY BIRD for the acting, and its moments of profundity, poignancy, and humor, and though the benefit of having a female director and writer for a female coming-of-age story was obvious in scenes that a movie junkie like me had never seen in a movie before, the writing was inconsistent becoming surprisingly cliched at times—the wealthy mean high school girl nemesis of the protagonist, the obligatory vomit-on-or-near-the-guy-on-the-first-date, etc.

Also, some scenes offered unique situations the movie fails to explore, or raise questions the film fails to answer. But Gerwig sure gets a lot about growing up not rich, and Catholic school stuff, right. And most of the packed audience I saw it with obviously loved it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

NEW FAVORITE POEM (BY HILTON OBENZINGER)

Men! It's time to take a count:
There's a president
There's another president
There's the current president
Who says "Believe Me" and grabs
Then there's the senator
There's the Hollywood Mogul
(Do we know what a Mogul is?)
Then there's the comic, the doctor
There's another comic
There's the senator who used to be a comic
Then there's the actor
And there's a director
Of course there's the priest and the teacher
There's a professor also
And another professor
And another
There's an even older president
There's the Sunday School teacher
There's a pastor minister rabbi guru
Here comes another president
The famous writer, all the celebrity
Crackpots are here too
There's the student
There's the guy at the copy machine
There's the guy who cleans the office
Then another senator
A candidate for congress
There's a very rich man
There's a not so rich man
Chalk up another senator
We could be here all night
Every man needs to dig deep
That means me too
There are pinches
There's "seduction"
There's the grab
There's the glad hand
There's all of this and more
Each man and more
Now - no more
Stop
One more president and that's it
Done and over and out
Keep your hands to yourself
Stop
Welcome to a new social contract
Sign on the zipper

—Hilton Obenzinger

Thursday, November 16, 2017

CAUGHT READING (PART ONE)

Dorothy Dandridge & Harry Belefonte reading a script 1950s (I had a crush on both of them as a kid, though I only realized it with Belefonte in retrospect)
Marilyn Monroe (had a crush on her too) reading Arthur Miller 1950s
Ken Wessels in my apartment in Iowa City c. 1967
the late poet Ralph Dickey either in Iowa City or San Francisco late 1960s
the late poet Steve Shrader in San Francisco 1969
poets Simon Schuchat standing, the late Ray DiPalma leaning and Paula Novotnak reading at Trinity College in Washingtong DC 1969
shots of the weekly poetry reading series Mass Transit at The Community Book Store in DC with me reading top far left, Terence Winch reading far right middle row and Bernard Welt reading far right at bottom, DC c. 1972
Washington Post article about the Mass Transit readings and Some Of Us Press, which came out of them, with photo of poets Terence Winch, me & the late Ed Cox, DC c. 1972
the late poet, and my first wife, mother of my two oldest children, at an art opening of individually designed envelopes for the poetry mag Salt Lick, published by the late Jim Haining,  Baltimore c. 1972 
Terence Winch reading in DC c. 1972
cover of second edition of ROCKY DIES YELLOW originally published by Blue Wind Press in 1975