Sunday, September 25, 2016

ANOTHER FAVORITE QUOTE

And from a man I liked enormously and knew personally back in the 20th century...it doesn't say where it's from and I didn't verify it but it sounds like him and is a great quote either way:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

The original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was a remake of Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI, which itself was based on earlier Hollywood Western tropes, so I suppose you can't fault someone doing a remake of the remake etc. Both earlier movies, the Japanese one and the Western, were dominated by great actors having fun with archetypal gunslinger (and sword wielding and knife throwing) characters.

Especially memorable were Yul Brynner as the lead, Steve McQueen as his second and Eli Wallach as the bad guy, leader of a troop of Mexican bandits. James Coburn and Charles Bronson were also standouts as was Horst Buchholz playing a young Mexican (which required no more suspension of belief, a young German playing a Mexican, than a New York Jewish method actor, Wallach, playing a Mexican bandido!).

In this latest remake, Denzel Washington plays Yul's part and Chris Pratt plays the McQueen role. Ethan Hawke, aging beautifully, and Vincent D'Onofrio are standouts as two of the seven. But the plot is altered to create some sort of metaphor for rapacious capitalism and the lead bad guy becomes a symbolic figure with, unlike Wallach's portrayal, no humor or variety to the role at all.

And while the addition of a more prominent role for a woman, and the inclusion of an Asian-American, a Comanche, and a Mexican creates a more rainbow ensemble, they're mostly written and directed like comic book stereotype heroes rather than actual individuals like in the origin flicks. And that's not the only contemporary touch that reduces the film to almost a Marvel stand in. The over-the-top violence seems like a contemporary tic as well.

Nonetheless, though not a necessary remake and not as great as either SEVEN SAMARAI or the original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, this latest entry in folkloric myth making does somewhat satisfy the need for some cathartic boyish gunslinger (knife thrower, bow and arrow marksman) coolness that had me cheering for the not so bad guys (and woman) to the end.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A PAST LIFE AND LIVES PASSED

Not a great photo, but this is the woman I was living with in Santa Monica in the late 1980s, Joan Baribeault, with me, my second oldest brother Buddy, and his wife Catherine, the one time they visited me in California (there to attend a function of some old friend of theirs)...Buddy was suffering from a weak heart and passed not too long after this was taken, as did Joan, way too young (we had separated by then and she'd just had a child with a great guy, they discovered a fatal cancer during her pregnancy), Catherine gone in more recent years, so I'm the only one left from this snapshot...one of the marks of old(er) age, if you make it that far, having more x's in address books and ghosts in photographs, than not...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

Like a lot of people I rarely watch network TV these days. But I decided to tune in to ABC's premiere of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR because I misread the creator's name and thought it was someone I knew. In fact it's mostly produced by people in the action and super hero movie lane. And the show has a lot of that lack-of-nuance feel those genres are known for.

As you probably know it's about a low level cabinet member being the only survivor after the Capitol building is blown up during a State of the Union address, and so he ends up president. Kiefer Sutherland plays the main character and doesn't exactly fit the guy's back story (more or less wonky professor) but as usual works best when taking charge, which as viewers and citizens is what we want to see.

I'll probably watch it again just to see what the writers do with the plot and to watch Sutherland grow into presidential authority and take rogue generals in hand etc. But maybe not.

[PS: it would have been so much more interesting, and challenging, if the fictional cabinet member chosen to be designated survivor were a woman, or an Asian-American, or Latina-American, or disabled etc....though a lot of those categories are present in the subplot involving the FBI, which is eye opening since the FBI was the last government agency to not be exclusively white male etc.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LATE NIGHT APPRECIATION RANTLE

My old friend, the late Hubert Selby Jr., used to say: "You can't have right without left or up without down, Michael"...meaning, implying, sometimes pointing out, that if I held the judgement or concept of "success" it had to include the judgement or concept of "failure" or it would be meaningless, and the same goes for "good" and "bad" etc.....

I've been thinking about that lately because a lot of the news has been "bad" and life's challenges have been "hard" and etc. but in the midst of it all there have been all kinds of "good" happenings and "easy" challenges...like two poetry readings I attended in downtown Manhattan, one in the West Village at the Cornelia Street Cafe, an old and venerated, at least by some of us, venue for music and spoken word etc. that I've had the good fortune to have read (and played) at...

That event featured three poets who all proved their poetry cred, but the main reason I went was to see my friend Burt Kimmelman read from his latest collection, ABANDONED ANGEL, and was glad I did. The other was further downtown on the Lower East Side on Delancey Street in a bar called Delancey, if I remember correctly, and featured several poets, all of whom were younger than the poets at the other reading but equally capable...

Again, I was there to hear a friend I've known since childhood, his that is, John Reed, read from his newest book FREEBOAT, and prove his reputation for a unique brilliance. More later on both books. On another evening I attended an opening of an exhibit of my friend Robert Zuckerman's photographs, in an office complex high above the city, where a short documentary on Robert was screened. And then on Friday evening I had the honor of taking part in a memorial for the late great poet and my beloved friend Ted Greenwald at Saint Mark's, the Poetry Project venue.

Each event was special in its own way, and each was a celebration of individual creativity, and served to confirm my belief that individual and group creativity can not only counter the negative forces in the world (well, some creativity can contribute to the negativity) but it can also transcend it in a way that makes me grateful and proud to have known all those who made those events more than worth the time and effort it took to attend them.

Monday, September 19, 2016