Friday, February 23, 2018

POEM BY HILTON OBENZINGER WRITTEN LAST YEAR, BUT, UNFORTUNATELY, RELEVANT STILL

Let’s Shoot
Nov. 6, 2017
Let’s go to church and shoot
Let’s go to the movies and shoot
Let’s go to the music festival
Let’s go to the supermarket
Let’s go to the school
Let’s go to the aquarium and shoot out the glass
And have people drown while we shoot them
And don't forget to shoot the fish
Let’s go to the museum and shoot Art
And then shoot the people looking at Picasso
Let’s shoot Picasso
He’s dead so let’s go to the cemetery and shoot the dead
Let’s go to the Halls of Justice and shoot all the judges
Let’s go to the NRA HQ and shoot everyone
Let’s go to the moon and shoot earth
Let’s get drunk and shoot
Let’s pray and shoot
Let’s go to the hospital and shoot the sick
Let’s get naked and shoot
Let’s shoot naked people
Let’s get an AR-15 and shoot people we hate
Let’s shoot people we love
Let’s never run out of bullets
Let’s never run out of long guns automatics
Let's get a truckload of grenade launchers
If only we had tanks and missiles
Let’s shoot while the shooting lasts
So much to shoot and so little time
Let’s shoot the small quiet wind
That blows through our hearts
And kill it good
Hilton Obenzinger

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

DARKEST HOUR

The main reason for me to see DARKEST HOUR was Lily James. I've never been disappointed by a performance of hers. And I can see why they cast her as Churchill's secretary, to add some ordinary human-scale emotional engagement to an essentially intellectual drama (and, surprisingly, Ben Mendelsohn's performance as the king does the same).

And friends I respect liked it a lot. And I wanted to see if all the fuss about Gary Oldman's performance was warranted. And I like the director, Joe Wright, and the writer, Anthony McCarten. And Kristin Scott Thomas is always good. But Gary Oldman's performance, despite the striking physical transformation, was not the one I would be giving all the awards to for best of 2017, and for me the directing is not Wright's best—too much, for my taste, dawdling with set pieces and tracking shots establishing time and place almost in-your-face obvious.

Oldman is always something to watch, even though he is also often over-the-top. His early work in films was extraordinary, and his later work was often mesmerizing, but for me, for the wrong reasons, like a spectacle of its own rather than a part of a story the movie is meant to tell. Full disclosure, I hung out with him once during the after party of a Hollywood gathering when a few folks, all more successful and known than me, were winding down in the wee hours and talking about all kinds of topics.

He was smart and did not take the bait when I criticized his performance in STATE OF GRACE which had just come out and was about people I thought I understood better (the Irish gangsters of Hell's Kitchen when it still deserved that name). He actually agreed with me, and his humility completely disarmed me. I would like to see more of that guy, in the characters he plays, and less of the over-the-top showmanship.

Though to his credit, as Churchill he does reign it in at times, and has some scenes where he is even poignantly vulnerable. If you see it, let me know what you think.

Monday, February 19, 2018

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN

I first saw this ten minute movie when it first was shown in theaters. I was four when it came to our town in 1946 right after "the war" as we called World War Two, and my big sisters had to take me to the movies with them every Sunday afternoon while our father napped on his only day off. (I saw  a much crisper, like-new version of it on TCM the other day and was brought back to that early memory.)

Sinatra was our own Jersey boy, from nearby Hoboken, and was already influencing my sense of myself and my style (check out his jacket and his youthful good looks and confidence) and I suspect influenced my way of seeing the world with this little film, though I remember already being baffled by the obvious hypocrisies of the world I knew.

It has some flaws (the "Japs" were still seen as enemies though the main target is "Nazis"), but the underlying message still applies, even more so in these days. Check it out (to skip the set-up scene and song and get to the point of the flick start at 2:46):



Saturday, February 17, 2018

SATURDAY NIGHT MINI-MINI-RANT

What it will take:

every teacher and every student
walk out of school on Monday
and refuse to return until sane
national gun laws are passed...

(we weren't able to achieve
that kind of complete nation
wide school strike in the Civil
Rights and anti-Vietnam War
Movements, but we aimed for
it and a few schools did it for
different lengths of time and
had an impact on the thinking
and actions of other students
around the country who depended
on the alternative and "underground"
newspapers I wrote for and didn't
have access to the kinds of instant
communication students do now,
but we moved the political action
and thought on both those causes...)


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ONE OF MANY OLD VALENTINE'S DAY POEMS

VALENTINE
for Karen A.

It was a gorgeous day to wander around Georgetown.
I didn’t. I got up early, “wrote” a “book,”
listened to some “classical” music like Liszt and Couperin,

Buchanan and Dylan, read about a marriage that
by not being a real marriage at all turned out to be
a beautiful true marriage—what has “true”
got to do with “real” anyway—like today,
what has today got to do with me and you

besides the way it makes me feel full
the way you can do, brings the good things
people say the country offers right here to the city
for a countryphobe like me, so I leave my music and words

and catch the street. Everyone’s out today!
Claudia! Ed! Terry! Henry! Ralph! I wish I was
as bright as the day, so after a while of being dazzled
I go home and take a shower with all the windows open

and I shave and jump around to the good sounds—
I remember to take the huge heart shaped box of candy,
I bought it for the kids, out of the bag and put it

somewhere where it won’t melt. I drink some milk
and eat some cheese, think about all the people
I should write a poem to for “Valentine’s Day,”
for “Washington’s Birthday,” for this wonderful weather
the world gives us despite our arrogance and
belligerence toward it, but I notice the time and
there is no time! Got to run, so I do,

in some new shoes that hurt my toes, but the rest of
my clothes feel fine, and I know I am, on the street again

paying homage to the sun with my grin. I feel like
Ted Berrigan walking with my head held high, jaunty
like Hollywood English types, and a little mischievous too,

thinking about how I can do something fun and funny for you
like the sun is doing for me as I strut. There’s
my car! I haven’t seen it in almost
24 hours
so I throw it a kiss because I’m not a good owner
but I love it and that seems to keep something going.
I get in ready to cruise these canals to your veranda
or something Eddie Arnold and ’
30s Hollywood like that,
only the corner of my eye catches the bank clock and
surprise! (Spencer Tracy in
A Man’s Castle with
Loretta Young I think, swimming nude!) It’s
4:15 PM!
I can’t believe it! I go into Discount Books to look
for Terry to check. He’s not there but someone
I don’t know says “Hi Mike!” so I say “Hi. Do you know
what time it is?” and he looks at his watch and says
“Well, the government says it’s four twenty but
it’s really three twenty . . .” and some more words.
I don’t hear them thinking about you and ”true” and
“real” and wondering what he meant the “real” time
and what was “mine” . . . You should be there because
it’s almost
5:30 in my life, but in the bank’s and
the guy who knows my name it’s only 4:30 and somewhere

out in abstract city it’s “really” only 3:30. Maybe
that’s why it’s so warm. I back up, back home, back
to back Dylan charms me to the typewriter where
I write to you to kill the time and to say
“Wontchu be my valentine?” 


(C) 1974 Michael Lally

[written to Karen Allen on Valentine's Day 1974
in Washington DC where you could then park
overnight in our Dupont Circle neighborhood
without fear of getting a ticket...

SOME MORE QUOTES




Sunday, February 11, 2018

I, TONYA

The two best things about I, TONYA, to my mind, are that it got made and that it mostly works as a movie, despite the fact it's an unreliable story based on events leading up to a tawdry "incident" that ended in disappointment if not delusion. And is somewhat miscast. Margot Robbie deserves the praise she is getting for the title role, because she does an amazing job (along with the director and writer) of making the audience empathize with an unsympathetic character.

But to really get the essence of what Tonya Harding was overcoming, besides class and economic and cultural challenges, someone like Amy Schumer would have been better suited to playing the role. Robbie can't hide the charisma of her beauty and screen presence no matter how hard she tries. And yes Allison Janney also does a great job playing Harding's abusive mother, but Sebastian Stan is also miscast as Harding's boyfriend and husband.

The scenes where he and Robbie are supposed to be high school age, Robbie pulls off with sheer commitment to a physicality that captures the teenage paradox of cocky self-consciousness, whereas Stan just comes off, or did to me, as an older man not even pretending very hard to be a kid or young man. The real scene stealer is Paul Walter Hauser as the lamest of the conspirators.

Despite all my objections (which include to the many incongruities in the story and even some of the shots), the movie still engaged and entertained and even surprised me. A tribute, I think, to director Craig Gillespie and his team.    

Saturday, February 10, 2018

ANTHONY DI NOVI R.I.P.

Anthony Di Novi was my friend. He grew up in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, in an Italian immigrant neighborhood, his father a working artist from the old school (he painted murals for hire, like on restaurant interior walls etc.), Anthony learned that skill (he's got a short listing on the IMDb site, which includes working on Abel Ferrara's BODYSNATCHERS as a "scenic artist"), but he also was a great musician, writer, and actor. A true renaissance man.

But like happens to many of us, he was sometimes discouraged by a lack of recognition for his talents, and the subsequent lack of much financial rewards for them. But a life is a life, no matter how unfair the world can be, and Anthony's was unique in so many ways and he touched so many people with his soulfulness and his talents, it is only to be celebrated.

Here's just a few of my memories of Anthony. Early on in our relationship, after we had met in L.A., I invited him to take part in Poetry In Motion, the weekly poetry reading series I ran with my co-founder Eve Brandstein. It was then in the new Cafe Largo and I was busy creating the order the ten or so poets would be reading in when Anthony interrupted me with some question and I waved him away so I could concentrate.

He took offense to that and later confronted me. Bigger than me and younger, as he got in my face part of my brain was thinking of ways I could take him down before he did me. We were nose to nose and ready to throw down when a quiet voice whispered somewhere in my mind "his feelings are hurt"...and I said out loud without thinking "Hey man, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings but it's f*ckin hard to satisfy all these f*ckin egos and I'm just tryin' to do my best by everybody"...

Our eyes were boring into each other's but suddenly he grabbed me and gave me a hug that took my breath away, and when he pulled back his eyes were wet and so were mine, and we both knew why. We talked later about how no one in that club had any idea at that moment what had just been avoided. Cause he may have wanted to go outside with me but I had learned early on, in the many bar fights I unfortunately got into when I was young, that my best bet was to start the fight inside the bar so it would be stopped quickly and hopefully any real pshyical damage to me would be minimal.

We laughed about it later often, but never minimized it, because we understood each other, from our immigrant culture childhoods to our years in the military to our coming to L.A. to hopefully finally make some money on our various talents. That may be why after I moved back to Jersey it was me and my then young son Flynn he invited to join him and his wonderful wife Lucy when he finally got the small motorboat he'd always wanted and brought it by trailer from L.A. to Liberty Island to ride around the river as he'd aways dreamt of doing when he looked out at it from Red Hook as a boy.

He was so happy that day. With the jazz we both loved and played coming from the boat's CD speakers, we motored past The Statue of Liberty up to some boat club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to eat lunch and be ourselves among all the yachters.
[photo of Flynn and me on that boat ride taken by Lucy Chamberlin]

Another cherished memory: I was in L.A. for something and asked Anthony to drive me to an interview I had for a documentary being made about our mutual friend Hubert Selby Jr. I had a cold or something that made my voice unusually deep, but I gave my rap and the cameraman packed up, and the filmmaker asked if we wanted to see some of the footage. So he showed us some of the interviews and when he was done Anthony said "Set the camera back up, I got something to say." He was so forceful, the director acquiesced, and you can see what he had to say (better than my contribution, which was cut to very little) in that film: IT/LL BE BETTER TOMORROW.

A later memory is of a call he made to me after my brain operation. I had said something in a phone call a year or more before and Anthony stopped calling me or taking my calls. But about six months after the operation he called to make up. I told him I never stopped thinking about him and loving him every day and would no matter what. And he said the same and told me of the Vietnamese boy he and Lucy had adopted finally after several failed attempts over many years (Anthony served in Nam and wrote what I felt was one of the best novels about that war, but no one would publish it, even after he changed it drastically to fit publishers' and literary agents' ideas of what might sell).

He was sorry he'd been out of touch, and sorry about my brain operation. I shared some of the ways it had changed me, and some challenges I was still dealing with. Not long after he called and confessed that recently he had gone to write a check and couldn't remember how and hadn't told anyone. I told him to see a neurologist right away. He did, and though it took a while for them to figure out, he was finally diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. He eventually had his license taken way and other limitations put on his life.

He dedicated himself pretty much to his little boy after that and was able to help care for him for a few years, during which he visited me in Jersey with Lucy and their son. He was his handsome, happy self during the visit, but it was clear his vocabulary and understanding were diminished. During his last call to me all he could say was "Yeah" when I asked him questions, including "You're having trouble talking now?" Lucy had to get him into a VA hospital toward the end and that's where he passed.

Nothing but love to her and to their son, now ten and thriving, and aware that his father saved his life.   And in various and mysterious ways, Anthony saved a lot of lives, within which he still lives.

Friday, February 9, 2018

ONLY YESTERDAY

one of my favorite photos of my first wife, long passed and long after we separated, but this was back in 1964 shortly after we married having only met once before we did, but corresponding for years, we were on the boat of a college friend somewhere on the Pacific side of Washington state where I was in the military stationed in Spokane, I loved how stylish she was, I was 22 and she was 21, we wouldn't have the first of our two children until 1968

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

VICTORIA

As with THE CROWN, VICTORIA purports to give an inside view of what goes on in the private lives of royals. The creators of these series humanize these historic figures by having them deal with domestic and relationship dilemmas and challenges similar to those most of us face. And by turning these monarchs into mindful, sympathetic characters who only mean well and are helplessly trapped by the limitations of the roles forced on them by royal heritage.

My guess is their private lives are a lot more vapid with much less high-minded drama and much more petty drama, the kind spoiled children create. The reason I watch them and enjoy them is the history that slips in, including the costumes and rituals that go with that, but more significantly, the acting.

These Brits know how to act, and Jenna Coleman as Victoria is so engagingly, and often poignantly, empathetic (really, that Queen Victoria?) and, well, doll-like, you can't help but become enthralled with her version of the queen. But the latest episode, covering the beginnings of the so-called Irish "famine" (which wasn't a famine, the Irish Protestants and Anglo-Irish and English rulers and landlords in Ireland all had plenty to eat) hit home for me.

My grandparents' grandparents were severely impacted by that ethnic cleansing event, so the depiction, even though whitewashed, still moved me, as it does Victoria supposedly, but all I could think was, Sell one of your palaces or all your jewels and treasures and you could've kept a million people from dying unnecessarily.

The one thing it does get right though is Trevalyon's anti-Irish-Catholic prejudice and evil intentions (he was the Brit in charge of dealing with "the famine") that were behind the genocide. Though the focus is mostly on the "good English" who were supposedly well-intentioned, even if they didn't follow up on any of those intentions in any way that stopped the devastation and starvation and death.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

OLD FAVORITE QUOTE

"Swami said that enlightenment is not loss of individuality but enlargement of individuality, because you realize that you're everything."   —Christopher Isherwood (from My Guru And His Disciple)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

THEN THERE'S THIS

Introduced in Irish, one Mchelle Lally (here at 16:40) sings a Song for Ireland, must be a distant relative, I'm in love...
[thanks to Terence Winch for turning me on to this]