My lefty oldest child, Caitlin, and me in the DC commune we lived in when she was little. Today is her 54th birthday! (PS: the sweater I'm wearing belonged to my oldest brother in the 1930s and I still have it today!)
Monday, February 28, 2022
Thursday, February 24, 2022
Joel Coen's take on "The Scottish Play" (it's considered unlucky in the theater world to say the real title) is receiving some high praise, but for my taste it drags a story that's a near complete drag down even further into the depths of cynicism. The production has been cited as "film noir" influenced, i.e. shot in black&white, set in spare confined spaces empty and gloomy even when outside, etc. I found all that even more depressing than the already depressing story.
And while I often admire and respect Frances McDormand's acting chops, to me she's miscast here as Lady Macbeth, her usual blunt and often cold characterizations overkill for this story. I kept being distracted by thoughts of other actors in the role. But Denzel Washington's performance as the title character had me accepting him as the tragically brutal, power-tempted, ultimately evil protagonist from his first moment on screen. Well worthy of awards nominations.
There's some other gems in the film, like the revelatory performances by Kathryn Hunter, but for my taste Coen gets a C grade at best.
I liked almost all the performances except Mike Faist as Riff, which veered between seeming miscast and mismotivated. But because the music is so great (to me, and I do have a personal connection to the original Broadway cast album that I heard as a teenager at a rich girl's house in 1957, before the movie version, and realized musicals and theater in general could do so much more than I had imagined possible) and the tragic story is so close to themes in my own past, I still found this new version often exhilarating and moving. B+.
Sunday, February 20, 2022
Here's another list off the top of my head of ten more personal "Black History Month" icons, these not as famous maybe but all have inspired me, and many others, and I'm lucky to call all of them friends (as I do two previously posted about personal "Black icons" Quincey Troupe and Etheridge Knight):
Saturday, February 19, 2022
Here's a list off the top of my head of ten personal "Black History Month" icons I have met and hung out a little with (and liked) (and in one case became lifelong friends with):
Jersey Joe Walcott
Friday, February 18, 2022
The digital version of the March issue of The Artful Mind, a Berkshires arts publication, with a cover photo of me by longtime dear friend photographer/poet Bobby Miller, and inside more photos of me by Bobby and a recent interview he did of me, and two recent poems of mine, is now online and here's the link (the hard copy comes out March 1st).
Thursday, February 17, 2022
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
I'm confused by this film and its reception. People I know and respect are raving about it, including critics that I suspect if it had been made by a lesser known non-"white" LGBTQ+ etc. director they would have picked apart. And there are facets of the film and its production that impress, but there's also a lot that seems inconsistent and just baffling to me.
The two leads are new to film and fresh and compellingly un-star cliched. But their age difference would be obviously a bigger deal if their genders were reversed. Some think that's partly what makes the film unique and important while noting that Alana Haim's character is immature for her age (which she declares most often is 25 but could be older or younger) and Cooper Hoffman's character preternaturally mature for what is definitely supposed to be 15.
The scenes with the husband of two different Japanese wives, which Asian activists have declared racist, have been defended on the grounds that it's their white husband who is being ridiculed for comic effect, but I didn't laugh I cringed. And though this all may seem petty to Paul Thomas Anderson fans, I've long been bothered by bits in movies about the Jewish male standing out and open to ridicule for being circumcised in a group shower scene or locker room etc. I was born in a hospital in Orange New Jersey in 1942 and was automatically circumcised as were most non-Jewish boys at the time, so it never was a thing when I was in the military or in my Catholic high school football team locker room. So that bit always seems not only a lazy dramatic or comic device but just plain wrong (and the movie is set in the mid-1970s, before the anti-circumcision movement began).
There are a slew of star cameos in the film, most of which are fun (e.g. Sean Penn's scenes) and Bradley Cooper's more-than-a-cameo, over-the-top satirical portrayal of Jon Peters assholeness exemplifies mine and I'd guess a lot of others from the movie business of that period's feelings about him. But for me the pieces didn't come together to be much more than a director/writer's highlight reel, with some brilliant scenes and some the-opposite-of-brilliant ones.
Saturday, February 12, 2022
I put tick, tick...BOOM! and The Eyes of Tammy Faye together because the male lead in both is Andrew Garfield, the British actor who has become Hollywood's latest attempt to find a new Tom Hanks, a versatile actor who can play non-glamorous characters and still carry a movie. For me Hanks almost always pulls it off because despite looks that the movie biz usually relegates to "character actor" status, Hanks usually still has as much or more screen charisma as any star.
Despite his obvious commitment and talent, for me Garfield doesn't. What saves him in these two flicks, both flawed but watchable, is the other actors in each cast. Jessica Chaistain as Tammy Faye gives the kind of performance that wins Oscars. Her physical transformation alone will garner academy votes, but her acting goes way beyond the extraordinary embodiment of Tammy's conflicted character to stunningly precise evocations of multiple emotions at once through only her eyes! (I still will vote for Jennifer Hudson for the SAG Awards, but am guessing Chastain will win.)
Both movies contain music without exactly being musicals, but if you're a fan of musicals, which I am and have always been, then you'll probably like tick, tick...BOOM! It's setting is a musical try-out about a failed-to-be-realized on stage other musical leading up to the redemption of another musical that will be the great Broadway success RENT. Garfield gives his all and it's a lot. but again, for me, it lacked the kind of magnetism that makes me stop and watch many movie stars even in bad movies when I'm channel surfing (still).
But there are so many wonderful "supporting actors" in both flicks, even in the smallest almost cameo roles (shout out to the initially unrecognizable playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman, who I knew when he was starting out) (e.g. Bradley Whitford capturing Stephen Sondheim's physical tics), The women in both films in particular, for me, were all terrific and many revelatory, especially those who sang in tick, tick...BOOM! Let me know what you think.
Thursday, February 10, 2022
The recent passing of Eric Priestley, a poet and writer I knew in LA, went mostly unnoticed, but he too was another icon of mine for "Black History Month" (as any person categorized as Black ultimately should be). I didn't know him well, but we read a few times at the same events and were at a few of the same gatherings and he was always open and friendly. Best known for his book ABRACADABRA, he had an impact on many LA poets and writers and their work and will be missed by many. May he Rest In Poetry. And condolences to his family, friends, and fans.
Monday, February 7, 2022
Speaking of icons of "Black History Month"—Quincy Troupe. Best known probably for co-writing Miles: The Autobiography, and Quincy's revelatory memoir Miles And Me, he's been an integral part of my poetry world since the 1960s. Over the years we've at times done poetry readings together and been published by the same presses. Now from Seven Stories Press comes a huge collection of his new and selected poems, DUENDE: Poems 1966-now.
Let me quote the blurb I wrote for the back of the book: "Quincy Troupe’s Duende is a 'must have' collection of this poetry icon’s lifetime’s output of poetic truth-telling, spell-casting, melodic improvising, record keeping, tonal shape-shifting, and spirit reckoning. And much more."
And here's an example:
eye came in the dead of night broke to watts/looking for whatever was there to pick up/since my pockets were empty, had holes in my shoes,/nothing in the refrigerator to eat or drink, though/eye had poems in my imagination, though/eye couldn't make a meal out of those words
Sunday, February 6, 2022
Another favorite icon for "Black History Month" (though to me every month is Black history month): Aretha. And though the writing and directing and casting of this movie about her is uneven and inconsistent (e.g. from mostly amazing performances like Hudson's and Forest Whitaker's to un-amazing ones like Marlon Wayans's), all the more reason I feel Jennifer Hudson deserves not only an Oscar nomination, but the award, and any others, especially SAG because despite the failings I see in the movie, Hudson's acting transcends any and all challenges and shortcomings of the film to leave an indelible impact still resonating on my heart and nervous system.
For me, Hudson proves her talent is equal to Franklin's. Though Aretha's genius is one of a kind and her impact on music worldwide changed it in ways only a few singers have, Hudson's voice is equally powerful and dynamic, and she, like Aretha, has full control of even its at times seemingly beyond control passion. Jennifer Hudson has my vote.
Friday, February 4, 2022
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
"The heart stops briefly when someone dies,
a quick pain as you hear the news, & someone passesfrom your outside life to inside. Slowly the heart adjusts
to its new weight, & slowly everything continues, sanely."
—Ted Berrigan from "Things to do in Providence"
—Ted Berrigan from "Things to do in Providence"