Wednesday, April 1, 2020

TERESA WRIGHT

I've had a crush on Teresa Wright since I was a boy. Having graduated from the high school behind the house I grew up in, only four years before I was born, she was our local movie star. She is one of the best and most popular stars of "Hollywood's Golden Era" and thanks to TCM you can still watch her greatest films and see why.

She is also one of the few movie actors to be nominated for two Oscars in the same year (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress) and the only actor to be nominated for their roles in the first three movies they made. If you don't know her work, I highly recommend the four best movies she made: THE LITTLE FOXES, MRS. MINIVER, SHADOW OF A DOUBT (one of Hitchcock's best), and my alltime favorite film THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.

[the photo is from the latter film and shows that even when crying her Irish eyes sparled]

Thursday, March 26, 2020

CANDY DARLING AND JOE BRAINARD

Joe Brainard was an artist and writer and poet and one of the loves of my life. When I scanned his letters and notes to me for a biographer of his (yet to publish the biography) decades ago, I was stunned to discover he pursued me more than the reverse, though I first met him in person the night I pulled a groupie routine to go home with him after a reading he did in Manhattan around 1972.

That was a period of extensive sexual exploration for me and the most open I'd been since childhood to every sensual experience with others, including a relationship with Joe that was periodic but extended from 1972 until I left NYC in 1982. He passed away in 1994 from the last plague, AIDS, on my birthday, May 25th. We were born in the same year (1942) and were the same height and weight, which always seemed part of our connection to me, though it didn't seem to mean much to him.

On March 11th, he would have been 78, as I will be on the anniversary of his death. And on March 21st, it was the forty-sixth anniversary of the actress and "transgender icon" Candy Darling's death in 1974, someone I assume Joe knew better than I did. I met Candy a few times and probably blurted out that I had a crush on her. Which I did, but was intimidated by her quick retorts. She was only twenty-nine when she passed from lymphoma, and Joe was only fifty-two when he died. I've missed them both all these years, and with the events of this time I thought of them today, remembering it was the recent anniversary of Candy's death and the anniversary of Joe's was coming up and thought of Joe's mini-essay "HISTORY":

"What with history piling up so fast,  almost every day is the anniversary of something awful."

Here's my favorite shot of Candy (part of my screensaver rotation—I don't know the photographer):


Monday, March 23, 2020

NEW POEM

he didn't inherit a broken system
he broke the system he inherited

(C) 2020 Michael Lally

Saturday, March 21, 2020

KNIVES OUT, BLOW THE MAN DOWN, DISOBEDIENCE

I've been watching even more movies than usual. Here's three that were worthwhile diversions:

A classic whodunit with a fun twist. And a great cast who all seem to be having fun, which is fun to watch. Deserves a lot of the attention it got.
This 2019 flick deserves a lot more attention than it got. Especially for the women who co-wrote and co-directed it—Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. I suspect the reason it didn't get awards or nominations for them (or even widely distributed) is just because it was created by women and the female cast members dominate the story, including a quartet of older women not usually the plot drivers in movies thsee days. But this little gem  is so original and well made it deserves a wide audience: highly recommend it.

This 2017 flick I missed when it came out but don't know why since it stars two of my all-time favorite actors: Rachel Weiss and Rachel McAdams (ably assisted by Alesandro Nivola) as two women who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community in England and ended up going their separate ways until the time of the film. A mystery story that has some of the elements of that genre, but is so unique it's full of surprises. The ending wasn't what I was hoping for or expected but it definitely was thought provoking (my son Flynn helped me understand and accept it). Highly watchable.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

"WITHOUT A STRUGGLE"


My Irish immigrant grandfather, the man I was named after who was known in his community as "Iron Mike"—allegedly the first cop in my hometown—in an early photo portrait in Keystone Cop helmet, and later photo signed (hopefully) to his Irish immigrant wife, my Grandma Lally whom I adored.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

HAPPY ST. PADDY'S

Fell asleep last night with another list, this time a shorter one of some of my favorite Irish movies, in more or less chronological order of the time the film is set in, as best as I can figure [I'm sure I'm forgetting many more]:

BLACK '47
THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
THE FIELD
JIMMY'S HALL
THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH

MY LEFT FOOT
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER
SOME MOTHER'S SON
HUNGER
THE BOXER

SING STREET
THE COMMITMENTS
WAKING NED DEVINE
CALVARY
ONCE

Saturday, March 14, 2020

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT

I've been thinking about something my best friend in my L.A. years (Hubert Selby Jr.) used to say to me: that you can't have up without down, pleasure without pain, success without failure, or what we call "good" without "bad". In terms of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we know well what"s "bad" so what's "good"?

Well pollution is way down (did you see those satellite photos from space showing China without the smog?). It mainly kills old folks who have lived most of their lives already. And those who die from it are a very tiny percentage of those who get it. It's forcing people to reevaluate their lives and priorities and social interactions and concerns. It's slowed everything, or most everything, down. It's demonstrating how the entire world is interconnected and equally at risk, like a wake-up call before we destroy the planet, let alone ourselves. It's making most folks express their love and concern for those they may have been taking for granted. It's bringing out the best in a lot of people, and making those who cling to the worst obvious in new and more prominent ways. I could go on but that'll do.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

DIFFERENT TIMES

the photo immediately above is of me as a toddler (round-headed kid at the top right) with some of my siblings and cousins and neighborhood kids in 1943, not long after the Great Depression ended and the USA got involved in WWII (which my two oldest brothers would join the military for toward the end)
the other photo is me between my grandmothers, on my right my Grandma Lally, an Irish immigrant, and to her right my cousin Kathi who lived down the street, to my left my Grandma Dempsey and to her left my cousins David and MaryLynn, on the occasion of my First Communion in 1949 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

MY MATERNAL LINE

My mother and her mother and her mother, I would guess from the styles (including my mother's bobbed hair) around the time that women in the USA got the vote (1920 when my mother was fifteen). My mother was the class of our family having graduated from high school (compared to my father's never finishing seventh grade) and having Irish ancestors who came over (to Newark where she grew up) before The Civil War (as opposed to my father's parents who were both from Ireland) and fought in it for the North (she became the youngest president of the New Jersey chapter of the Daughters of The Grand Army of The Republic, as it was called). My mother passed in 1966, on Mother's Day as I remember it. I think of her every day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

HMMMMM...

Despite history (Dems losing presidential elections due to factionalism and purity tests) (and I include myself in 1968, but I learned my lesson), despite the overwhelming damage done under Reagan and W whose administrations weakened or in many cases destroyed unions and progressive government programs in place since FDR and LBJ, despite the losses of 2000 and 2016, many of my friends are posting vitriol aimed at Biden and his supporters today because of their disappointment over Bernie's not doing as well as they expected and desired. And some others are gloating over Biden's unexpected surge, with vitriol toward Bernie and his supporters.

I'm disappointed that it's down to two old white guys, and wanted Warren to be the nominee for many reasons that some of my Bernie supporting friends dismiss due to her not passing all the purity tests and her personal imperfections etc. But Bernie was my second choice (I'm in Jersey so I haven't gotten to vote yet) despite his poor record on achieving a lot of the things he and I are for, as well as his lack of support for gun law reforms and reparations for the descendants of Africans brought here as slaves and other issues and policies I care about.

And despite Biden's flubs and bad decisions over his years in politics, I know people who have dealt with him in different situations who told me he was nothing but kind and thoughtful and humble, as opposed to those I know who have dealt with Bernie in situations where he came across to them as grumpy and impatient and unfriendly. And unfortunately personality is a factor.

But being a human with flaws that I'm not proud of, and decisions and choices and actions I've taken in my life I wish I'd done differently, I try to accept that no one will match my own political purity tests and don't want to let my disappointments in any Democrat or the party's tactics or strategies or lack of them make me attack any candidate or their supporters because that's what got us Nixon and Reagan and W and the current situation. (Though I have been guilty of posting reactions to the debate performances that might have been seen as attacks.)

One of the reasons a lot of young voters give for not coming out in the numbers Bernie and his supporters were predicting and hoping for, is their having been convinced by social media and friends that there's no hope in party politics and voting. All who contribute to that cynicism by equating anyone but their candidate with the current president or who echoe the idea of "they're all corrupt" or "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between Dems and Repubs, or so-called "moderate" or "centrist" Dems and the 2020 Repubs, should then be willing to accept partial responsibility for another four years of hell for too many let alone the earth itself. If that be our fate.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

PS TO SHEROES

When I made the previous list of 100 public figures identified as women who impacted me and my life with their ideas and activism and art and lives, I numbered it so I could know when I reached a hundred. It was not a ranking, just going over my life from boyhood to now. The names just  kept coming even after that first hundred, so here's the rest. (I fell asleep at Helena with several more on my mind but couldn't remember them when I woke, then it started again after Helena (whose last name I had to look up) and ended at 200. I know there are many more that didn't come to mind in the moment.

101. Rita Marley
102. Rain Worthington
103. Elinor Nauen
104. Sylvana Joyce
105. Cheryl Bentyne
106. Lee Miller
107. Kim Novak
108. Dorothea Lange
109. Phoebe MacAdams
110. Bobbie Louise Hawkins
111. Joan Blondell
112. Mother Jones
113. Jane Austen
114. Emma Thompson
115. Jean Tierney
116. Sylvia Schuster
117. Collette
118. Bessie Smith
119. Memphis Minnie
120. Mindy Thompson Fullilove
121. Nadia Owusu
122. Merilene M. Murphy
123. Mello-Re Houston
124. Yvonne de la Vega
125. Susan Hayden
126. Eve Brandstein
127. Jamie Rose
128. Karen Allen
129. Luscious Jackson
130. Christiane Amanpour
131. Anita O'Day
132. Mary Wells
133. Lesley Gore
132. Shirley Chisholm
133. Patricia Spears Jones
134. Katherine Hepburn
135. Audrey Hepburn
136. Gloria Grahame
137. Joe Ann Fogle
138. Helen Shaver
139. Penelope Milford
140. Lee Lally
141. Carrie Fisher
142. Sharon Stone
143. Joan Baribeault
144. Cookie Mueller
145. Annabel Lee
146. Maggie Dubris
147. Jane Fonda
148. Helen Mirren
149. Saoirse Ronan
150. Rosie Perez
151. Tina Darragh
152. Jane DeLynn
153. Sara Rudner
154. Leslie Greene
155. Patricia Louisiana Knop
156. Rita Stern Milch
157. Helena Kallianiotis
158. Ann Waldman
159. Marisol
160. Donna Dennis
161. Paula Novotnak
162. Rosa Parks
163. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
164. Lady Murasaki
165. Peggy Terry
166. Peggy Feury
167. Susan Seidelman
168. Lynn Goldsmith
169. Edie Baskin
170. Emily Dickinson
171. Jane Bowles
172. Susan Rothenberg
173. Imogene Coca
174. Gracie Allen
175. Barbara Stanwyck
176. Eva Marie Saint
177. Myrna Loy
178. Jeramie Rain
179. Ingrid Boulting
180. Edie Vonnegut
181. Lyndall Hobbs
182. Katey Sagal
183. Allison Sie
184. Sarah Jessica Parker
185. Neith Hunter
186. Kristal Rogers
187. Marge Piercy
188. Anais Nin
189. Kathleen Norris
190. Cecilia Vicuna
191. Martha Graham
192. Andrea Lee
193. Irene Nemirovsky
194. Maria Mazziotti Gillan
195. Grace Cavalieri
196. Lucille Clifton
198. Lyn Lifshin
199. Kathy Acker
200. Rachel E. Diken

Monday, March 2, 2020

SHEROES

I just was inspired to write a list of 100 public figures identified as women, who impacted me and my life with their ideas and activism and art and lives, so here it is:

1. Helen Keller
2. Eleanor Roosevelt
3. Josephine Baker
4. Ethel Waters
5. Veronica Lake
6. Jane Greer
7. Linda Darnell
8. Billie Holiday
9. Jo Stafford
10. Ella Fitzgerald
11. Marilyn Monroe
12. Peggy Lee
13. Della Resse
14. Dinah Washington
15. Edith Piaf
16. Lillian Smith
17. Dorothy Dandridge
18. Dorothy Day
19. Ida Lupino
20. Simone Signoret
21. Sarah Vaughan
22. Patsy Kline
23. Nina Simone
24. Annie Ross
25. Abbey Lincoln
26. Etta James
27. Diane di Prima
28. Muriel Rukeyser
29. Jean Rhys
30. Gertrude Stein
31. Barbara Guest
32. Sojourner Truth
33. Harriet Tubman
34. Mary Wollstonecraft
35. Mary Shelley
36. Fannie Lou Hamer
37. Joan Baez
38. Dolores Huerta
39. Angela Davis
40. Aretha Franklin
41. Janis Joplin
42. Bernadette Dohrn
43. Bernadette Devlin
44. Jean Seberg
45. Katherine Johnson
46. Robin Morgan
47. Carla Bley
48. Betty Carter
49. Barbra Streisand
50. Marian McPartland
51. Dolly Parton
52. Buffy Sainte-Marie
53. Winona LaDuke
54. Gloria Steinem
55. Margaret Randall
56. Agnes Varda
57. Martha Gelhorn
58. Audre Lorde
59. Maya Angelou
60. Virginia Wolfe
61. Zora Neale Hurston
62. Frida Kahlo
63. Laura Nyro
64. Adrienne Rich
65. Joanne Kyger
66. Eva Hesse
67. Alice Notley
68. Maureen Owen
69. Patti Smith
70. Bernadette Mayer
71. Carolee Schneeman
72. Carole King
73. Ada Katz
74. Joni Mitchell
75. Sinead O'Connor
76. Temple Grandin
77. Bjork
78. Beyonce
79. Alicia Keys
80. Erykah Badu
81. Lauryn Hill
82. Jennifer Lopez
83. Eileen Myles
84. Michelle Obama
85. Elizabeth Warren
86. Janet Mock
87. Laverne Cox
88. Indya Moore
89. Ruth Bader Ginsberg
90. Sonia Sotomayor
92. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
93. Malala Yousafzai
95. Greta Thunberg
96. Carol Dysinger
97. Toni Morrison
98. Kate Bush
99. Wanda Coleman
100. Elaine Equi

I'm already thinking of more I realize I forgot, especially friends I left off, but I have to stop somewhere.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Saturday, February 29, 2020

DELIGHTFUL

This photograph of Helen Mirren made me smile. But then again, pretty much any photograph of Helen Mirren makes me smile. (Unfortunately I don't know who took it and can't remember where I first saw it posted.)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

BACK WHEN

The little baby in my lap, born fifty-two years ago tomorrow (February 28th), is my first child, Caitlin, in our apartment in Iowa City, where I'm feeling blessed and grateful.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL is my new favorite documentary, and Lewis Erskine my new favorite film editor. Erskine tailors his cuts and montages to Miles' music in a way that is both subtle and in-your-face/ear at once. And this is the soundtrack of my life. Miles was my idol from the first time I heard his horn as a boy, let alone the first time I saw a photograph of this style icon. I played piano and keyboards from age 4 on, and as a young man played jazz piano for part of my income, but from about 9 to 17 I also played trumpet (even performed in the local young musicians orchestra), so I get the technique and artistry of that instrument as well (I also played upright acoustic jazz base in my late teens).

I tried to sound like Miles not only in all my music playing, but in my speech too, but had heard so many intimidating stories about his behavior on and off stage I avoided seeing him live until toward the end of his life when I caught him at the Hollywood bowl and wept. I named my oldest son after him and tried to explain to non-jazz lovers why he and other jazz innovators were so amazing, saying if it wasn't for racism and its impact on opportunities, musicians like Miles and Monk and Bird et al. might have been Einsteins or Oppenheimers, because music is math as sound art, and their genius at inventing new formulas was on that level (and now a commentator in this film makes a similar observation, only more succinctly).

This documentary explores the life and genius of what many of us believe to be the coolest human who ever lived, despite his all too human but disappointing faults and failures. Here's the trailer, though it cannot truly capture the feast for the ears and eyes and soul that is MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL. You have to see it.

Visit https://www.milesdavismovie.com/ for ticket updates. For UK tickets visit: https://www.milesdavismovie.co.uk/ Miles Davis: Horn player, bandleader, in...

[ps: sorry the framing on the trailer here is a little off]



LAST NIGHT'S DEBATE

Aggravating and embarrassing at times (the childish shouting over each other and hand waving and more)...but points were scored by all and everyone had a few comments worthy of the (or their) crowd's cheers...in the end Warren wore me out, Bernie missed or muffed some opportunities but mostly held his ground as usual, Biden maybe gave his best showing so far, and the rest fought over the leftovers...(I'm sure not the way their supporters saw it)...

Thursday, February 20, 2020

NOT SO LONG AGO

I like this photo taken several years ago (I don't remember when or by whom) not for the way I appear (not crazy about that) but for the books. I'm still a book lover (and writer, always have at least four or more prose and poetry books I'm working on and a dozen or more I'm reading) and these are the two bookcases that contain my favorite and/or most valuable books (not written by me) in one corner of my bedroom/office.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

THE DEBATE

Elizabeth and Bernie are still my top choices of those left, and I can't help still liking Joe. Mike is a mirage and Pete presents as amiable as Howdy Doody but the strings are visible. And Amy, a fighter who can land some punches but can't get a knockout.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

FORD V. FERRARI

There's almost no women in the cast of this film except, thankfully, Irish actress Caitriona Balfe (the star of the cable series OUTLANDER), whose presence alone made seeing this buddy flick worth it. Why isn't she in more movies? As for the men, a lot of fine actors, starting with the two leads, Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Two of the best, who make all the buddy-movie tropes much more palatable and even fun. Watching them work is like watching any great artist perform their art: delightful.

One of the many good performances is by Tracy Letts (the playwright/actor who made an impact in LITTLE WOMEN as well) as Henry Ford II. He has a scene with Matt Damon in a race car that is also worth the price of admission. All in all a pretty entertaining experience, despite the sometimes hyper masculinity and jingoism.

Monday, February 17, 2020

RAIN WORTHINGTON

There's lots of poems in my books that mention or are about or dedicated to Rain Worthington. We lived together in downtown Manhattan of the late 1970s where I witnessed her early development as a composer of unique genius (in my opinion then, and still). Yesterday her music was performed at Carnegie Hall, an event I could not make but wanted to. I highly recommend seeking our her music and reading this article about her: https://www.amny.com/news/the-villager/from-the-8bc-to-carnegie-hall-the-improbable-journey-of-composer-rain-worthington/?fbclid=IwAR2nBYzFHfn1SMrkXLphC6nrvvClR-kQ9tMojS0vu89GrvOypW5FaEMUUOw

Friday, February 14, 2020

MY VALENTINE TO YOU

Happy Valentine's Day from me and Frank and "The Kid From Redbank" (Count Basie) (and that's Quincey Jones conducting the band)...gotta watch it all the way through for those last three notes!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

BACK IN THE DAY

Here's a throwback to the 1980s...in back is my old friend the multi-talented Eric Trules (look him up) and my oldest son (then my only one) already a musician, Miles Lally...and in front filmmaker Carol Dysinger (who had won a student Academy Award in 1978 and would go on to win a regular one last Sunday for Best Short Documentary (LEARNING TO SKATEBOARD IN A WAR ZONE (IF YOU'RE A GIRL)) (look her up) and me...

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

1917 & BOMBSHELL & JOJO RABBIT

I binged nominated films before the Oscars but didn't have time to post about them all, so here's three:
Pretty satisfying movie experience, and an impressive technical achievement. It uses the basic movie imperative: to move, and the basic movie plot to achieve that: the quest to reach the goal before the movie ends. The illusion that the entire flick is filmed in one extremely long take is almost overwhelming at times (at other times it can feel like a one-trick pony, though the "trick" works), but mostly creates a tension that kept me anxious at times in that action movie visceral way that can be so exciting. Worth watching.
I didn't think I was interested in this story but watched it to see why it was nominated, and from the first scenes was knocked out by Charlize Theron's transformation into Meagan Kelly! You might think, two attractive ambitious blondes, what's to transform, watch and see. Somehow Theron got every aspect of the character's physicality, including and especially the voice, so accurately I forgot I was watching the actress and felt I was watching Kelly play herself. The other totally impressive performance was Margot Robbie's in a supporting role that easily could have won a mess of awards. Again, worth watching.
Like a lot of folks I couldn't figure out what this was about from the poster and trailer, but watching this political satire full of humor and tragedy was a unique trip. Along with PARASITE, I'd say JOJO RABBIT is the other most original movie of 2019. The fact that it was written and directed by a man of part Maori descent (thus his acceptance speech emphasizing indigenous peoples) who also co-stars as a caricature of Hitler, makes it even more exceptional. Plus Scarlett Johansson gives one of her most engaging performances ever. And the boy who plays the lead deserved his own Oscar! Again, well worth watching for my taste.

RECENTLY

that's my two oldest kids in front, Caitlin Hotaling and Miles Lally , and me in back with my arms around my youngest, Flynn Lally (in blue cap), and grandson Donovan Lally, and behind Cait my other grandchild, Deak Hotaling, who is either looking at their phone or rejecting the camera...

Monday, February 10, 2020

OSCAR SHOW

I mostly enjoyed it. After the wardrobe glitches in her "Mister Rogers" opening, Janelle Monae displayed her glorious talent in her usual knockout ways and entertained the shit out of the audience with the rest of the performance. She and others (the rapper from Hamilton for instance) hammered home the disappointing reality of Oscars-still-so-white (in terms of who was nominated) and made the show seem a little more-up-to-date.

Joaquin Phoenix's acceptance speech was long but engaging as he articulated the argument for social justice in every arena including for all sentient beings (to my mind everything is sentient in some way). There were other acceptances that I loved, including Brad Pitt's who's one of the actors I can't help liking no matter what (he's good too), but especially Carol Dysinger's (an old friend I haven't seen in years but am happy for) acceptance for the Best Short Documentary Award ("Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (if you're a girl)"), check it out (yay Carol!).

Among the other highlights for me was Cynthia Erivo's performance of the song from HARRIETT, which she starred in and should have won the Oscar for Best Actress for. What a singing voice! And PARASITE winning so much. It and JOJO RABBIT were the most original movies of 2019, to me, and I would have liked seeing the latter win more than it did (as well as Scarlett Johansson, who was great in it and MARRIAGE STORY, as usual), same for LITTLE WOMEN (I would have liked Florence Pugh to have won Best Supporting Actress, and Greta Gerwig so deserved a nomination for Best Director!).

All in all it was typical Hollywood, which means there were moments of not-so-typical Hollywood to give the appearance of progress (PARASITE!) amid otherwise predictable outcomes. For me the most poignant thing about it was seeing the now old established Hollywood folk—like Jane Fonda, and Al Pacino, and Marty Scorcese (all of whom I've met and in some cases became friends with for awhile back in my "Hollywood years")—and remembering when they first appeared at Oscar ceremonies and how it seemed like such a generational change from the names that had dominated my youth to my own generation, and now they're (we're) the old ones...

Saturday, February 8, 2020

KEVIN CONWAY R.I.P.

I first knew Kevin in NYC in the 1970s. After I moved to L.A. in '82, I often ran into him at events there. He could be as abrasive and confrontational as I could, which I always attributed in part to our Irish heritage. But he was a terrific actor, and I'm glad I had the chance to work with him on an episode of JAG not too long before I moved back East and as far as I can remember never saw him in person again. Condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

BOOKSMART & OFFICIAL SECRETS

BOOKSMART is a high school comedy in the tradition with a few new twists. The leads are Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. The latter has gotten most of the attention from critics and others, partly because she's Jonah Hill's sister, but mostly because she gives a great performance in what is usually the sidekick role. But Dever's performance as an attractive and smart but insecure introverted lesbian was the most impressive to me. A well done little movie that deserved some nominations, and I wonder if it had been directed by a man rather than Olivia Wilde if it might have gotten some.

 Keira Knghtly can do no wrong as an actress in my opinion. She's always mesmerizing to watch and as committed to her roles as any movie actor. But she is sometimes miscast only because of her hard to disguise model good looks, as in OFFICIAL SECRETS, where the real woman the story is about looked more like Florence Pugh, who would have brought a more obvious authenticity that only Knightly's acting talent allowed her to at times achieve. There's a lot of the usual terrific Brit acting in this flick. The story is meant to be inspiring, and definitely has its moments, but overall it's mostly a quiet display of the kinds of courage those impeachment witnesses modeled in the Congressional hearings for which they are now paying the price for.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

LITTLE WOMEN

I chose to go out to the movies tonight to see LITTLE WOMEN. Before it was even over, I was thinking the reason Greta Gerwig didn't get nominated for Best Director could only be sexism, because it is among the three or four best directed films of 2019. I was worried when I heard Gerwig had deconstructed the narrative timeline of the book, but she did it so brilliantly it truly heightened my engagement with the film and the emotions it kept generating in me.

I laughed, I cried, I felt fear and hope and joy and moved and inspired. The cast was so good everyone in it deserves high praise, but Saoirse Ronan especially, once again proving she is among the greats of our time, of all time. Meryl Streep was a delight to watch work, and Chris Cooper in only a few scenes in the movie did more with only a few lines, or even none, and equally few gestures, than many actors nominated for awards did with multiple scenes and lines and gestures in the buzzed-about movies of 2019.

Seeing it on a big screen highlighted the deep artistry of Yorick Le Saux, the cinematographer, too. Half the scenes in the film were worth framing and hanging on your wall. Greta Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN turns out to be a true work of cinematic art, an instant classic, and for my taste maybe the best movie of 2019.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

LATE NIGHT RUMINATION

Caught up with the Super Bowl halftime show on YouTube, loved the Latinx pride, especially the point that Puerto Rico is part of the USA (highlight: JayLo's daughter's extraordinary vocals) and Shakira's explosive opening (at 43 more energy than a typical kid on a sugar rush) (and JayLo at 50 with more stamina and moves than a teenage tennis player). They (Shakira and JayLo) and their teams should have been in charge of the Iowa Caucus results.

Monday, February 3, 2020

HUH

Had to be somewhere else and don't watch football anymore cause of the brutality and injuries. But I played in my high school years in the 1950s and used to love it, so when I arrived home after the halftime show and a little into the third quarter I put it on in the background while I did some night time chores and with a 10 to 13 score I thought at least it's competitive (unlike the ones I tried watching now and then in the last ten years) and then I noticed it seemed a little less brutal, in fact seemingly safer, and then in the last seven minutes of the game it got totally compelling and crazily entertaining. Huh.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

Photo of me alone taken by poet Burt Kimmelman about 2014? One with me and my youngest, Flynn, taken by photographer Robert Zuckerman around 2004?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

HARRIET

HARRIET is worth seeing for Cynthia Eriva's performance in the title role. She pulls off the transformations of aging and experience so well, she deserves the awards Renee Zellweger has been getting for Best Actress in a movie in 2019. In fact, Eriva's performance holds the movie together singlehandedly, despite some challengingly contrived fictional scenes that the real drama of Harriet Tubman's life and accomplishments didn't need.

Thankfully there's a lot of good acting in this film, besides Eriva's, and some powerfully emotional and dramatically tense scenes that do express the reality of this icon's accomplishments. And I'm grateful it was made even with its flaws. Maybe it will move people to ask what's holding up the transformation of the twenty dollar bill from the present one with the image of Andrew Jackson, the man responsible for The Trail of Tears and other atrocities, to the new one with the image of Harriet Tubman, savior of slaves who outwitted and helped defeat the purveyors of one of humankind's worst evils.

THIS



Saturday, January 25, 2020

LEARNING TO SKATEBOARD IN A WAR ZONE (if you're a girl)

This is one of the best movies of 2019 and justifiably worthy of its Oscar nomination for best short documentary. Full disclosure, it was directed by an old friend from my New York and LA days (though we haven't seen each other in person since the last century) Carol Dysinger, who deserves all the accolades she and the film are getting. Look it up, watch it, and be moved, impressed, enlightened, delighted, scared, and mindful of the realities for girls in Afghanistan.

LATE NIGHT RAMBLE

In 1954, I watched the McCarthy/Army hearings with my father on the new wonder, our TV with a thirteen inch screen that broadcast in black-and-white. I was mesmerized, as was, it seemed, the nation. The outcome changed the direction our country took in the years that followed. I watched the Nixon impeachment hearings on a color TV in the commune I was a part of and was impressed with the evidence and witness testimony that led to Nixon's resignation and changed the course of the nation for some years.

The Clinton impeachment seemed like a farce in comparison, but still fascinating both politically and theatrically even though it changed little. In the current impeachment "trial" in The Senate over the past three days the Democrats have been making their case at times with the gravity and eloquence of the McCarthy hearings and the Nixon Watergate hearings, as well as at times inspiring oratory. The argument has been made methodically with reason, logic, and detailed and thorough evidence.

But, unfortunately, I have little faith anything will change, partly because TV doesn't command the attention or audience it once did, nor do reasoned arguments based on factual evidence. I had a hard time myself staying tuned into the entire three days of laying out the case. The repetitiveness, though perhaps necessary to make the main points of the argument unarguable, was not "sexy" or "dramatic" in the ways the media has conditioned their audience to expect.

Maybe it wouldn't have been as nuanced or reasonable, but if everyone on the Dem side who spoke had played a card from the Repubs and used the words "traitor" and "unpatriotic" about the president repeatedly, maybe that would have resonated for the undecided or tired-of-politicians-and-the-whole-impeachment-process folks. Unless the president's defenders commit a crime of violence in their presentation starting tomorrow, I don't see the Dems winning the vote on witnesses and evidence. Hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

THEN

My oldest friend shared this photo online of Gruning's, a restaurant in our hometown of South Orange NJ, famous for its homemade ice cream and candies. This shot is before I began working there in my teens (the 1950s) as a busboy, and later dishwasher, week nights and Sunday (I worked after school and Saturdays at my father's home repair business for "room and board", i.e. for living at home once I was sixteen). I quit after a while because the manager objected to the ways I interacted with the customers, sometimes too friendly, sometimes too confrontational. The beginning of a pattern perhaps.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

THE FAREWELL

THE FAREWELL is a beautifully made little movie, better than some of the Oscar nominees, and for my taste more satisfying. Though a family story with some of the familiar family story tropes, the plot is not typically generic like a lot of flicks, in fact I feel confident in guaranteeing you've never seen anything quite like it before. The directing, acting, cinematography, and editing, all serve the sense of total authenticity and originality that permeates this film.

Awkwafina received a Golden Globes for her performance in it, but the veteran and famous (in China) actress who plays her mother, Shuzhen Zhao, deserves an award too, as well as the entire cast. I'm happy my fellow SAG actors rewarded the PARASITE ensemble with the best cast prize this past Sunday night (in an otherwise pretty white winners circle). I would like to see all involved in THE FAREWELL—especially director/writer Lulu Wang—rewarded too.

Watch it. I believe you'll be glad you did.