The first thing you’ll notice about After the Storm is the height of its star, Hiroshi Abe; in a country where the average male is 5′7″ this man is a towering 6′2″ and looks like Gregory Peck - both wonderful attributes. Except that this casting interferes with the plot. We’re asked to accept this character as a down and out writer, unable to summon the money he owes his short ex-wife for child support and reduced to borrowing from his short sister and stealing from his shorter mother. But all we can think is - are you kidding me? this guy could get a job in a minute as a model or movie star earning way more money than he did with his novel He’d be plucked right off the sidewalk by ten different modeling or movie agents before he walked three blocks in downtown Tokyo. Imagine casting George Clooney as Willy Loman and you’ll understand the problem.
Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, publishes papers on brain science with titles like “Vesicular acetylcholine transporter defect underlies devastating congenital myasthenia syndrome.”
The title of this adaptation of a Julian Barnes novel seemed prophetic as several people in the rows near me could be heard asking each other for clarification of exactly what did happen at the end of the movie. This was not a purposeful device on the part of the director who wished to leave certain information ambiguous - instead, it was the result of a pile-on of too much information crammed too quickly into a tidy ending. It reminded me of what a hostess does when guests are at the front door too early and miscellaneous stuff needs to be collected and tossed into a closet so the entrance way looks neat.
Ohad Naharin, dancer, choreographer and director of the Batsheva Dance Company is a handsome and charismatic man, one whom the camera loves, but 1 3/4 hrs of him in the current documentary reveal some questionable character traits beyond his obvious talent. He tells us often how unusual it is for a dancer to start training in his 20’s; how Martha Graham and Maurice Bejart were smitten with him and hired him instantly; how he danced along with Nureyev at American Ballet Theater - in fact, there’s no one in this film who didn’t or doesn’t adore him. We see him working with his dancers, often offering sensitive insights about what attracts him to these particular individuals and often repeating the same advice too many times for one film. Eventually, after seeing snippets from so many of his works, we become aware of too much repetition thematically and artistically - this is a good example of how trying to show everything becomes more of a liability than an homage.
If you check out the article on transgender models in the Sunday Times, you will see an eye-popping photograph of a slim biological man with enormous breast implants reaching out of “their” gown for the stratosphere. We have already been inundated by pictures of Caitlin Jenner and Laverne Cox and many other nameless prototypes of trans-remodeled bodies but this one is such a caricature of female sexuality that it brings to mind several questions.
As it stands now, the blame for the debacle at the Academy Awards has fallen on the shoulders of one Brian Cullinan, who has suddenly become one of the most prominent figures in Hollywood. Mr. Cullinan, a senior auditor for PwC, formerly Price Waterhouse, allegedly gave presenter Warren Beatty the wrong envelope for the Best Picture Winner and then failed to correct the mistake promptly. Reports suggest Cullinan might have been distracted because he was doing a little backstage tweeting right before the Best Picture presentation.
Lt. General Hal Moore, one of the greatest American military heroes of the 20th Century, died recently and his passing received scant attention in most media outlets. This is lamentable because he was someone we should teach our children about - a formidable but loyal and compassionate warrior, and a brilliant natural leader whose name is legend at West Point. He will be forever be remembered as a hero of the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, probably the most important American military engagement of the last 60 years.
In an effort to prevent President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski from speaking at the University of Chicago, UC philosophy professor Anton Ford told a Tribune interviewer, “Sometimes there are people or views that are dangerous in and of themselves. The very ceremony of debating that is problematic. What is troubling about the general way this is talked about is that it is as if nothing is out of bounds.”
When we watch a documentary film, we assume that we are seeing a true story and that there will be sufficient information for us to contemplate its veracity. In this film about a former leader of Hungary’s far-right, anti-semitic, holocaust- denying Jobbik party, there are huge blocks of missing information that would have helped to put the main character in better context. Csanad Szegedi is the protagonist whose life is upended by the discovery that his grandmother is a Jewish woman who was deported to Auschwitz and bears the tattoo which she has concealed until now. Not wanting to relive the horrors that she had already experienced, she married a non-Jew and raised her daughter without any reference to Judaism. Similarly the half-Jewish daughter followed in her mother’s footsteps and never mentioned it to her son, Csanad.
We first see Sergeant Rasmussen barking orders at a line of young, dispirited German prisoners of war. The Second World War has ended and the Danes have ordered German soldiers to clear the Danish coastline of millions of land mines planted there by the Nazis. Rasmussen’s reaction to seeing one of the POW’s carrying a Danish flag is to beat him to a merciless pulp, revealing the pent-up frustration and fury at the German occupation of his country. With his mustache and shrill shrieks, we get a subliminal reference to the Fuhrer who started WW II and we quickly understand that this is a movie that will unsettle our certain feelings about winners and losers and heroes and villains.
It should be obvious to even the casual observer that the new American president has something up his sleeve regarding how he engages with the Russian president. Part of that engagement clearly involves curious responses to those who would make observations abut the Russian leader’s various sins.
Chicago has played a role in the arts. Poetry, of course, ever since a teenage Charlie Sandburg took $1.50 earned on a milk truck in Galesburg and came here to check out the city’s big shoulders. Music certainly, from Louis Armstrong coming up from New Orleans to the Rolling Stones cutting an album at Chess Records on South Michigan Avenue in 1964.
People will spin it anyway they like - and they will - but President Trump’s decision to take a pause and review travel to the United States from seven Middle Eastern and North African countries is sound national security policy.
Alexander Graham Bell was not trying to invent the telephone when he did just that. What he was trying to do, at first, was make a better telegraph. It was the 1870s, and the telegraph was 30 years old — about as old as cellphones are now. Like cellphones, the telegraph had become enormously popular, so popular that messages backed up at telegraph offices, waiting to be sent. The problem had to be solved; there was no point in telegraphing a message from Washington to Baltimore if it took three days for operators to get around to tapping out your message. You could walk it there in two.
Four years ago, the city of Los Angeles banned the use of bullhooks, a tool that circuses use to train and control elephants, which meant that Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey circuses no longer felt they could bring elephants to the city. Soon the state of California followed suit, which prompted a spokesman for the circus to note that the circus was not the circus without elephants. His concern was not without merit.
The snarky article profiling Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s association with the Trump transition team appears on the front page of the NYTimes Style section on Jan 19th It skewers Ms Wolkoff’s very expensive clothing, her upbringing in the Catskills when she had a more Jewish name than Winston and forebears who were chicken farmers, her un-classy education at Fordham and Loyola and most obviously, her chutzpah in her choice of friend and political bedfellow. This comes to you from the poisoned-pen of Jacob Bernstein, son of journalistic and movie royalty - Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron - grandson of noted screenwriters Phoebe and Henry Ephron, young man of privilege whose divorced parents respectively lived at a townhouse on East 74th street between Madison and Fifth and the legendary Apthorp on the fashionable west side. Despite this affluent lifestyle and gifted genetic endowment, young Jacob attended Vassar College, a no-more prestigious school for boys than the choices of young Stephanie who traced her endowments to hardworking farmers instead of Hollywood glitterati with serious alcohol afflictions. Though the Times pretends to care about such issues as immigrants and nepotism - those don’t apply to Jewish snobs like Bernstein or the Sulzberger family. Jacob’s outstanding contribution to the Times so far is his launching of the “What I Love” column for the Real Estate section, in which celebrities discuss their most essential possessions and how they like to spend Sundays. Apparently it’s not offensive to advertise exorbitantly priced clothing and accessories (as the Times does), nor to wear an expensive handbag as long as you’re not on the Trump team. (See Anna Wintour of the Hillary team along with all the other super-rich sore losers who are immune from such ad-hominem attacks).
While a lot of white-hot issues will be hammered on in the coming weeks during U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for the incoming administration’s Cabinet secretaries, no topic will generate more sparks than Russia.
Am I the only one who was taken aback at our president’s gaffe? There were Michelle, Malia and Michelle’s mother Marian Robinson seated together wiping their tears as Barack Obama proceeded to laud the women in his life at his farewell speech. First came his wife to whom he offered a beautiful tribute to her performance as First Lady, as mother to their children and as best friend to him. Then came Malia who, along with her absent younger sister Sascha, also was treated to superlative praise for growing up so perfectly in a difficult, hothouse environment. And then the camera briefly panned to Mrs. Robinson, First Grandmother of the United States (FGOTUS), the 79 year old mother-in-law of our president and the woman who relocated to the White House in order to facilitate the first couple’s ability to raise their young children while still performing the myriad duties their jobs entail. Awkward moment as the camera quickly moved away and no presidential gratitude was expressed at that public finale.
Up until this morning, Kellyanne Conway seemed to be the coolest head advising Donald Trump and re-interpreting him for public consumption. No matter which t.v. channel she appeared on, she had that relaxed smile and even-toned voice that seemed to indicate moderation above all. She reminded us of how he modified some of his rashest statements to indicate that once a winner, he was after all, capable of self-reflection. We began to believe that he was sincere in his desire to bring Americans together after a blistering and polarizing campaign.
No courage was needed for Meryl Streep to stand before an audience of like-minded people to point her finger and raise her voice against the known object of their mutual disdain. That was easy. Here’s what would have taken some guts: condemning the role that the entertainment industry plays in glamorizing and disseminating wholesale violence on-screen, in video games, on television, in music and online. Particularly affected are the black youth who suffer infinitely more from the criminality of their brethren than from the purported racism of our men in blue. We’re all aware of the mind-boggling statistic of more than 750 murders in Chicago, Obama’s city of choice, this past year. Though many reasons for this may be offered and analyzed, the fact remains that extreme violence is now an available aphrodisiac 24/7 and if you have ever sat in a multiplex where one of these movies is playing, you don’t need to read here what the audience response is.
Lyrica, Xeljanz, Latuda, Brilinta, Entyvio, Vedolizumab, Toujeo, Prevagen, Xarelto - these are but a sampling of the words I learned while watching television news between 6 and 7:30 a.m. Some, like Lyrica or Brilinta might be new baby names for girls; some might belong to bellicose monsters - Vedolizumab and Xarelto; others have a tentative connotation - prevagen. All carry warnings of severe side effects, some including possible death, for which final effect seems a more fitting adjective. I wondered who names these drugs and whether that is a discrete profession or the product of a staff party with too much alcohol. Are these names with their strange letter combinations the substitute for the unreadable handwriting all doctors previously used to exclude us from their special knowledge? In our digital-happy world where prescriptions must be wired instead of written by the doctor, we may soon no longer need the pharmacists who were trained to decipher those heiroglyphics. One can only wonder at how frequently the wrong medication was previously procured and whether or not that made any difference.
One of the best known holiday songs is the tune “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” first sung by Bing Crosby in 1943. As a child, my grandmother told me the song was for the troops fighting overseas during World War II.
If you find the sight of a sixty-something man in a bad wig with false buck teeth a hilarious sight gag, you will like this movie. If you require some actual wit or clever comedic dialogue to make you laugh, you should watch an old Woody Allen film on Netflix and leave Toni Erdmann to the too-easily pleased. The setup for this movie is simple: A father is concerned that his accomplished adult daughter working in Bucharest at a high-powered consulting job is too uptight and missing out on the important things in life. To cure her of this misguided direction, he pays an unexpected visit to her Rumanian apartment - a visit that doesn’t go well. Rather than taking the hint that he’s unwelcome at this time, he decides to stalk his daughter and with the aid of his wig and tooth disguise, pop up at places and events that will embarrass and humiliate her to the breaking point. Despite looking like a deranged derelict, he is invited to join the events and activities that he has crashed with various false identities, leaving this viewer even more amazed than his daughter.
There are two American women whose obituaries were reported in today’s NYTimes: one for the actress who played a princess in Star Wars and one for a ground-breaking physicist and astronomer. The former, Carrie Fisher, achieved fame through the character of Princess Leia and later through her books about her own bi-polar disorder and drug addiction. The latter, Vera Rubin, “transformed modern physics and astronomy with her observations showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter.” (NYT 12/28) As significant details of her life, the Times reports that Carrie Fisher had one marriage lasting less than a year and one daughter born out of wedlock; Vera Rubin was married to another prominent physicist for 60 years, bearing four children who all earned their own Ph.D.’s