Saturday, January 18, 2020

JUDY

I'm trying to catch up with the movies that have won awards and been nominated for Oscars in various categories. The latest I watched is JUDY. I can see why Renee Zellweger is getting critical acclaim and awards attention. She seems to be in every scene of the film and it's hers to win or lose. She commits to the role and pulls off an approximation of Judy Garland's look and mannerisms toward the end of her life. And Zellwegr does a decent job of singing.

But she misses the charismatic neediness of Garland I think, that red hot gleam of please love me in Judy's eyes (Zellweger instead does a lot of squinting). She comes close in one or two phrases in her singing to Garland's unique combination of rock-solid mature tone with a child's vulnerability. I think I would have preferred Garland's recorded voice with Zellweger lip synching, but that's just me.

The story has some fictional aspects, one of which actually works: a made-up older male gay couple, used to represent Garland's connection to her many fans among gay men at the time. The scenes with them are the most moving and engaging in the film, again, for me.

I can see Zellweger winning the Oscar for taking on such a challenging role in a movie that the actress basically carries from start to finish, at times captivatingly, if that's a word. I found it worth watching despite its flaws.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

NOT THAT FAR A THROW(BACK)

my friend the opera singer Amber Daniel and me
in my apartment with my book:
ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

WHAT MY TWO OLDEST KIDS HAVE BEEN UP TO

my oldest, Caitlin, in the hat and big smile at a demonstration in Massachusetts 
my second oldest, Miles, playing bass behind Greg Farley, with Michael Lesko on drums at an outdoor gig in Massachusetts in warmer weather

Monday, January 13, 2020

JOKER

JOKER got the most Oscar nominations of any film of 2019. I find that depressing. I have friends who loved it, but I found it excruciatingly painful to watch. Some scenes were well shot and acted, but some looked like they were copied from a badly contrived and executed Charles Bronson vigilante movie from the era the JOKER's set in.

The underlying message seemed to be that brutal and deadly violence is justified if it's done in the spirit of revenge for harm's done or imagined, and that uprisings against economic inequality and political corruption and moral bankruptcy are fueled by the thrill of violence (THE DARK KNIGHT also had an underlying message of justified violence very much in the using-fascist-methods-to-defeat-fascism vein).

I can see why Joaquin Phoenix's performance is being feted by critics and award givers, but to me it was self-indulgent to the extreme. And I understand, I think, the arguments for how the film shines a light on the need for society to address the problems and consequences of untreated mental illness, but to me the film seems more directed toward blaming mental illness for a lot of society's problems and violence.

We all have our own taste and you may love JOKER, or at least be impressed by it. Not me.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

JUST A REMINDER

On next Sunday, January 19th, at 11AM I will be reading some poems and riffing on the history of racial prejudice in my part of Jersey and elsewhere in my lifetime (from the 1940s on). There'll be a Q&A after (followed by a reception with refreshments), at The Ethical Culture Society, 516 Prospect Street (Parker Avenue is the cross street), Maplewood NJ. Free to the public.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

FLASHBACK(S)

Yvonne de la Vega's daughter was kind enough to post on Facebook these excerpts from her mother's diary from 1989 and '90 that mention me in a way that brings back the early days of our deep friendship and connection.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

EDD BYRNES R.I.P.

I heard about Edd's passing yesterday but wanted to make sure it was confirmed. I first encountered him in the 1950s, like most people alive then did. I was a teenager watching him play a teenager on TV in the show 77 SUNSET STRIP. I can still remember the theme song and the solo hit Edd had about his character Kookie's famous pompadour pampering with Connie Stevens singing: "Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb."

It's the only reason I ever watched the show the few times I did. He played a young guy who parked cars at the titular address, an incidental almost glorified extra role. But he made such an impact in it, at a time when teenagers were becoming influential consumers, that they built the role up and it made him a star.

I later met him when I moved to Santa Monica in 1982 to work in film and on TV. By then he had crashed and burned, going from a penthouse in NYC and a mansion in the hills above Hollywood with a swimming pool and tennis court, to living off the freeway in a crime ridden neighborhood of LA with bars on his windows and an old worn-out car in the driveway.

I visited him there often, as he did me in my then nicer digs in Santa Monica. It wasn't long before he was on the mend financially and was able to move to a safer place and a buy a better car and he never stopped moving forward. He gave me a lot of good advice about my own roller coaster finances with my up-and-down career(s), and teased me constantly.

I'm happy I got to see him after I moved back East twenty years ago, pretty much every time I visited LA. He was a good person and a good friend, may he rest in the power of his positive example on me and so many others. Condolences to all his friends and family and fans.