The pachysandra on the hillside between our house and our neighbors really took a hit in this summer’s heat. It was brown and shriveled up before we got a good look at it. So we dug up some healthy pachysandra that had grown over our sidewalk out front and transplanted it on the hillside. We poked holes in the hill with a stick and stuffed the plants down the hole on by one.
While we were working away we could hear our neighbor, Jared, on the other side of the hill working on his goldfish pond. He had friend in town and the two of them took the plants out and reworked the banks of the pond so the water is a couple of inches deeper. They lined the edges with this linoleum-like product called “Rock-on-a-Roll” and then they returned the big rocks that surround the pond. The final touch was putting the plants back in the water and we overheard Jared telling his friend, “this way they have something to hide under and a place to go to dick around.” I don’t usually think of fish dicking around but I like the imagery.
We hadn’t seen a movie in the theaters a while so we found one tonight. “Indignation,” directed by James Schamus and based on a late Philip Roth novel, is fantastic.
We startled this group of bucks. There were five of them sleeping in a cluster and one ran out of my picture frame. It is, of course, rutting season but these racks are all fairly small. Young bucks do not normally challenge mature large ones. They fear the more mature bucks and avoid the dominant deer’s territory. We’ve seen some epic, knock down, cinematic fights between two mature males. They’re every bit as dramatic as a Quentin Tarantino movie.
My life has felt like a movie in the last few months. Neither all good or bad but as dramatic as one of those buck battles in the woods. We saw “Carol” last night, a slow burn of a love affair but not much of a movie, at least compared to other Patricia Highsmith penned marvels like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley. We plan to tackle “The Hateful Eight” next.
About twenty years ago I started my own version of the Passion Play, the last day of Christ’s life. I planned to do paintings from collected source material but I haven’t got there yet. “Stations of the Cross,” a German film from 2014 had its Rochester premier at the Dryden Theater last night. It is a beautiful film, one that sweeps you up and takes you away into its own world. That is, it felt really strange in the parking lot after the movie.
Told in fourteen fixed-angle, single shot, tableaus that parallel Christ’s journey to his own crucifixion, the film is as close a depiction of the church I grew up in as I have ever seen. Lea van Acken as Maria (Mary, Virgin) perfectly plays the innocent whose entire thought process is corrupted by deranged religious purists – Catholic fundamentalists. The opening scene has her preparing for her Confirmation as the priest lays the classic guilt trip on the class with a capsulized version of hard-core Christian dogma. Nothing short of total devotion to God is ever enough. Maria sacrifices earthly pleasures and her short life so that her autistic brother can speak in a crazy quest for sainthood.
When Maria passes out at her Confirmation service (the Catholic bat mitzvah) I was thinking about the many times one of my brothers dropped in the aisles after fasting for communion. She is taken to a doctor who thinks he see signs of bullying or abuse in the pale and weak Maria. “Stations of the Cross” walks a very fine line. The film is gorgeous like a Gerhard Richter painting, it feels intimate and real. The indictment of religion as an abuser is just below the surface in every scene. I really loved this movie. Maybe someday I’ll finish my Passion Play paintings.
There is nurture and there is nature and then there is the “Wolfpack,” the type of documentary that just sweeps you away into another world. This one a site in plain sight, an tall apartment building in the lower East Side of Manhattan where six Angulo brothers and their sister were locked away by their parents. Home-schooled and deeply immersed in the movies, an oddball combination, they lived a surreal life until one of them escaped and the director became their “first friend” outside the family.
Conversations with Steve Hoy cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time with hardly a discernible path to look back on once you hang up. A science fiction buff, he somehow got around to “Illustrated Man,” the 1969 movie with a clunky Rod Steiger whose tattoos came alive for anyone who looked too close. Peggi added it to our queue. Ray Bradbury’s book must have been better than the movie. With most people running out of space for tattoos today, it is ripe for and updated film version.
It is certainly possible to correct your mistakes but often it takes forever to realize that you made a mistake. The Inner Loop, circling downtown Rochester, alleviated traffic alright. It choked the life out of the city core. Colorblind James used to lead chants at their gigs of “Fill in the Inner Loop.” Chuck (Colorblind) is gone now and soon one half of the loop will be buried as well. Let’s hope the new development in this area, the former moat between the Park Avenue neighborhood and downtown, will not resemble a freakin’ theme park.
The Brian Wilson movie, is really good. Not because it sheds any new light on the band for lifelong fans (I am one) but because the music comes first including long recreations of the making of “Good Vibrations,” “Pet Sounds” and the “Smile” sessions. I never get tired of the many official and unofficial boots of Brian and the studio musicians tracking and orchestrating snippets of these classic songs and, in fact, appreciate Brian’s genius more and more as the years go by. A funny notion for a surf band.
The movie could never be “great” because the music it is based on is “great.” The movie can only pale. Elizabeth Banks, playing Brian’s second wife, was better than both the young and older Brian actors. Can somebody play “Surf’s Up” at my funeral? Sorry Van Dyke Parks, I have no idea what those words are about but I love Brian’s music and voice.
Which brings me to Ornette’s passing. As the headline in the paper read, he “Rewrote the Language of Jazz.” He rewrote it so I could get it under my skin. My first Ornette lp was “Science Fiction.” Maybe the two hauntingly beautiful vocal songs pulled me in, ‘All My Life” and “What Reason Could I Give?.” They may have been the footing I needed for the music. Ed Blackwell’s drums blew me away. Charlie Haden’s bass playing is god-like. And Ornette’s totally unique, joyous sax had me dancing in my head. From there the rest of the catalog took hold of me. Long live Ornette!!!!
“I remember when that song was just bad.” Ben Stiller’s character in “While We’re Young” couldn’t resist telling Adam Driver’s character this when he heard Toto’s “Eye of the Tiger.” And the funny thing is it does sound good now. Noah Boaumbach’s movie is a real mashup of generations and hipness, dying art forms and new technology, a real clash of those with their best years receding and those with them ahead. It has been awhile since we came out of a movie we immediately wanted to see again. You want to be able to recall more lines so you can toss them off in similar situations the way Dave Mahoney, who died nine years years tomorrow, used to do.
This is Boaumbach’s best movie yet, better than the “Squid and The Whale,” way better than “Francis Ha” and giant leap from “Greenberger,” the real precursor to this one. Ben Stiller is fearless. Not afraid to do anything on screen. If it isn’t him speaking, his facial reactions, his expressions, his body language, the way he walks, rides a bike or dances, he is so on he steals every scene.
Louise‘s brother, a frequent Boaumbach extra, is in the movie, this time playing a goofy shaman who oversees a ceremony where mushrooms are ingested, the participants puke and the shaman takes off with a young girl on his moped.
If I joined Spotify and shared my country compilation there would sure to be some missing links. I only version of Tammy Wynette’s amazing “Don’t Touch Me” that I have is the one on the soundtrack to “Five Easy Pieces.” Yes, “Stand By Your Man” and “D I V O R C E” are on there but it is this song that kills me. Billy Sherrill produced it work and like so many George Jones hits it still sounds great.
This is one of the best soundtrack albums we have. And it is not available as a download. I thought, “surly it is a collectable lp” so searched it on Amazon. $3.99, the same price we payed when we bought the lp in 1971. With long bits of dialog and all of Bobby’s monologue when he visits his dying father, the album is as moving as the movie. The dark, dreamy Chopin, Bach and Mozart pieces mixed with Tammmy Wynette, Karen Black and Jack Nicholson is pure genius.
You know how it gets in the depth of winter, you don’t see your neighbors for weeks at a time. Well we headed out for a walk the other day and ran into Jared who told us he was just inspecting the work RGE had done in front of Diane’s house. He said Diane had called him to find out if he knew what was going on out there. If I wanted to know what was going on I couldn’t think of a better call to place either. Jared thinks the power company may be preparing to replace the gas lines that run down our street. Or maybe the artists on staff there were charged with brightening up our dreary, grey landscape.
Our red envelope of the week contained “Finding Vivian Maier” and it is just fantastic. It is fantastic because Vivian’s photos are so incredible, in league with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank but a true original. Working as a nanny and completely unknown as an artist in her lifetime, her treasure trove of negatives could be the greatest garage sale find in history. She was damaged in some way but had finely tuned observation skills. She followed her nose on the street and brought back an extraordinary record of of what it’s like to be human.
Diana Vreeland is a dynamo. I knew next to nothing about her other than her name and that Warhol probably did a portrait of her. Seems like she was always in Interview magazine but I just never caught up with her until this documentary, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.” Vreeland was a first rate creative artist. OK, she wasn’t the best mother. The movie is exhilerating.
While I’m reading “Kansas City Lightning” Peggi finished “Joni Mitchell – In Her Own Words” by Malka Marom and that led to another viewing of “Joni Mitchell – Woman of Heart and Mind: A Life Story” in which the author of the book makes an appearance. I was knocked out by “Ladies of the Canyon” and still love it to this day. “Circle Game” is one of the songs I’d put on a playlist for my funeral. And I enjoyed the way Joni scolded the audience here when she opened for Dylan in 1998. Performances like that stick with you.
It might be time for another screening of Altman’s “Three Women.”
Did the day really just zip by or did I miss something? I read the paper while Peggi was at yoga and we took a long walk around Lake Eastman when she came back. We stained the old door we bought at Rehouse. It is solid wood and maybe a hundred years old. It was labeled an exterior door but we cut it down and hung it in our bathroom. We’re waiting for some foggy glass to come from the glass guy.
We caught the early show of “Wild” on Louise‘s recomendation. It was kinda of hard to watch Reese Witherspoon in shorts and no hat as she walked through the California desert but by the halfway point I had suspended the whole reality thing and took in the beauty of life lived without regrets.
Karen Black is amazing. Her character, part man part woman, makes a dramatic, late entrance. Sandy Dennis is terrific. Kathy Bates is is sensational but Cher is way fantastic. Come Back to the Five and Dime may have gotten better with age, so many factors being relevant.
That led into another viewing of the “The Long Goodbye” with a nice “Extra” from Altman himself. We might just go around with another Altman fest, something we need to do every few years.
We caught a mini Norman McLaren fest a few nights ago at the Dryden. Early, animated shorts of McClaren wrestling with a chair to Ravi Shankar music and hand drawn film frames set to a beautiful Oscar Peterson soundtrack and his 1968 masterpiece, “Pas de deux.”
Margaret Explosion has a New Year’s Eve gig at the Little, a cause for celebration. I’m bringing our projector. Bob’s bringing a hard drive of movies. We will supply the soundtrack.
Even after reading this review in the New Yorker I still wanted to see “Whiplash” and what better opportunity than the $5 Monday Night Movies at the Little. I loved it. A bit aggressive but intense and pretty close to what I imagine music school to be like and more importantly the exploration of the drive aspect in art making was well worth the five bucks. And Sean behind the bar at the Little, an opera major at the Eastman, confirmed the picture.
“Birdman,” tonight’s feature presentation at the Little started off but really grabbed me about five minutes in, about the time Edward Norton took the stage. And it was really a stage. The movie is theatrical production of a play and that is where it worked magic. I loved watching the actors dig deep to make the fake real. Too bad they had to get goofy near the end with Michael Keaton flying in his underwear. The soundtrack was brilliant. Mostly drums played by Antonio Sanchez. He was just in town last week with Pat Methaney’s band.
Tomorrow, for the third night in a row, we make the same trip down Culver to the Little Theater Café for the record release party of the psychedelic jazz combo, Margaret Explosion.
Christ Church, next to RoCo in downtown Rochester, was packed last night a showing of “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc,” a 1927 silent movie that is available on YouTube for free. Marc Hamilton was projecting the Criterion DVD of the movie on the big screen and the faculty of the Eastman School of Music were improvising a soundtrack on the two organs, the Baroque one in the balcony of the rear of the church and the Romantic one off to the left of the alter. They were joined by the Christ Church Schola Cantorum, a sacred music choral ensemble who were also improvising with guidelines provided by the director. This soundtrack was one step beyond pulling out all the stops as is fitting for this masterpiece of a movie.
I’ve seen the movie a few times and am looking forward to seeing it many more. I want to get back to drawing the faces from the movie.
Here is my blog post from April 2012, my first experience with this movie:
They really were better actors in the silent days. If you don’t believe me check out 1928 movie “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, “one of the greatest movies of all time” according to the Netflix envelope. The expressions on the actors faces are so over the top I kept wanting to pause the dvd and take a photo. Cindy Sherman could have shaped her whole career with this movie. No movie has ever effected me this way. I couldn’t wait to watch it again in the morning before the sun light steams into the room and wrecks the mood.
Joan is a heroine in France and a saint but in the fifteenth century her claims of divine guidance were met by the church hierarchy with a drawn out trial and death by burning at the stake. This movie portrays the leering old men of the cloth in devastating fashion as they challenge Joan on her manly dress and push for details on her vision of Saint Michael at one point asking “Was he naked?” They wish. And they couldn’t wait to pile into the torture room to exact a toll on nineteen year old Joan.
The poor church did not like the way they were portrayed and the movie was denounced, cut, and burned just like Joan was. So little has changed this movie could have been made today! Perfect fare for a Good Friday evening. I hesitate to mention that the entire movie is available on YouTube because you really should see the higher res Criterion Collection dvd.
We used to see movies all the time with our friends Kevin and Jeanne. Horror movies, anything, but then they moved to Nashville. When they visited last we loaded up our Netflix queue with their recent favs. Our list is now unrecognizable but “Valley of the Dolls” has been kicking around in there for a while. We watched it a few nights ago and I still have Dione Warwick’s theme song floating around in my head. I mentioned this to Peggi and she said she was unable to get Tony Scotti’s “Come Live With Me” dislodged.
Tony played Sharon Tate’s love interest, Tony Polar, in the 1967 film and delivered this over-the-top, beyond-the-grave version of the song. And then, near the end of the movie as I was somewhere between awake and a dream state, he reprises the the song in a duet with Patty Duke while he is in a wheelchair. I was imagining this bad movie as an updated, overblown opera. If you’re with me, check out Judy Garland’s screen tests for the movie. She got the part but was fired during filming for coming to work drunk and Susan Hayward replaced her.
This morning’s news that North American Box Office sales were way down was no surprise. The Little Theatre is always fun but we hadn’t been to a chain theater in ages. We did “Get On Up” last night for the James Brown movie in hopes that it would at the least be fun. The armed security guards were showing up for work as we walked toward the door, a reminder of the youth unrest that has plagued the sixteen screen Regal Theater at Culver Ridge.
James Brown’s music is so good, so powerful, so dynamic that Hollywood could only fuck it up. A better tribute to his musical contribution would be the re-release of his 1964 T.A.M.I Show. We saw him at Red Creek and the Auditorium Theater and we heard he was still sensational at the Jazz Fest before he died. This Mick Jagger financed biopic is not the bomb.
Let’s hope Martin Scorsese doesn’t blunt the Ramones with his 2016 biopic.
I loved Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” I think it is a masterpiece, an understated, big slice of life, some twelve years worth. Oddly, it didn’t feel like a movie. It was as comfortable as a daydream, the unconscious desire we all have to recapture the time when we weren’t trying to recapture anything. The long movie felt short and crystalized out of the blue with the closing line, “It’s like it’s always right now.”
Near the end of Mickalene Thomas’s short film, “Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman,” her mom, a former fashion model, tells Mickalene, “You have made me the model of the art world.”
The piece, mostly the artist interviewing her mom (her muse), packs a wallop. It is a loving tribute, a moving story with fame, abuse, drugs, forgiveness and then an illness that takes her mom’s life. You have until October 19 to see this show at the George Eastman House. And just look at the funky furniture you get to sit in while you take it all in.
We’ve been gearing up for the World Cup for four years now. Once the US gets knocked out of their really tough preliminary round we’ll be rooting (in America it means cheering, in Australia it means fucking) for Spain again and yesterday’s match, the Champion’s League Final, was the perfect opportunity to wear the national colors. For the first time ever the two finalists were from the same city, Madrid.
Why a big game like this, the culmination of inter league playoffs between all of Europe’s pro teams, the best players in the world, was so hard to find on tv in the US is a mystery to me. Last year 360 million watched the game. We emailed Matthew for help and he invited us over to their place to watch the game. He streamed a subscription feed from his laptop to the big screen. I’m afraid I wasn’t very sociable for 90 minutes and stoppage time, of course, where Real, clearly the better team here, tied the match in the final minutes and then those two grueling overtime periods where Real walked way with it. We were rooting for Ateletico but it is still a victory for Spain.
It took me a bit to get over to Elmwood Avenue on Saturday morning. I rounded up my NEC projector, cords, the instructions that Peggi printed out for me and I had a copy of my father’s presentation on my laptop, all this as a backup in case the people at Briarwood on Elmwood Avenue were unable to get my dad’s iPad to come up on their projector.
My mom was in the lobby with a cup of coffee when I arrived. She told me, “Your father is panicking.” The place was packed, maybe fifty people, some sitting in the doorway of the darkened meeting room. It was minutes before the show was to begin and the only thing on the screen was a few little icons that let you choose the input. The presentation was up on the iPad but not getting to the projector. I tried the “Computer 2” input but no luck.
Because the coordinator and my dad were both fumbling with the projector I had wrongly assumed the problem was there. It turned out my dad was in the “editing” section of Keynote (Apple’s Powerpoint program) and not in the “presentation” mode. I pushed the little arrow and my dad’s first slide appeared on the screen. I tried to to demonstrate what the problem had been but when I pushed the arrow again nothing happened. Now, I was panicking.
This time the problem was not in the iPad. A gentleman in the back row had unplugged the extension cord that led to to the projector. My father, a real pro, did not let this affect his performance and the presentation was a smashing success.
As a side note: My father’s painting (above and currently on display in the “3 ‘D’s in Dodd” show) has a red (Sold!) dot next to it at. Many years ago I would have been in church with my dad on Easter Sunday. I think it is safe to say that today we both will feel closer to god in the woods.
Breaking Bad went through a few rather bleak periods and we hung in there. House of Cards is no substitute but it has us pretty wrapped up. Good thing it’s streamable because we keep having to back up to catch the dialog. It is dense and twisted with everyone playing everyone big time. We’re on episode 22 and all of the main characters are so soiled our sympathies are now with the born again prostitute, Rachel Posner, and the creepy photographer, Adam Galloway.
Although it’s set in the White House with a hapless president, the politics take a backseat to the lobbyists and business interests. The only defense against these forces is the naked quest for power. Good thing it is only a tv show.
We were at the Dyden Theater for “Blue Velvet” when we saw the previews for “The Great Beauty.” We had not seen that since it came out and this ages like a fine wine. We’ve spent a lot of time in movie houses in the last few weeks. I wore my long underwear for last night’s showing of “The Great Beauty and almost nodded off. I was plenty engaged, the movie was so dreamy and Tony Sevillo does such a great job of getting into his character that I found myself as detached and then introspective as Jep Gambardella. This is a beautiful movie to look at and listen to. ESG’s brilliant “Moody” is even in there. Director Paolo Sorrentino reminds us Fellini is not dead.
We watched Hitchcock’s “Rope” over the weekend. By the time we get to the end our Hitchcock binge it will be time to go around again. “Liv and Ingmar: Painfully Connected” was perhaps a perfect winter movie. I finally like Leonardo DiCaprio in a movie. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was an all out romp. And I was happy that “Inside Llewyn Davis” was so dark. I was afraid to see the damn thing not because of the David Van Ronk revival but because of all the nostalgic, reverent singer/songwriter myth making going on.