When I interviewed then Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham in 2002 he was running for his mentor, Strom Thurmond’s South Carolina Senate seat. He described himself as “butter pecan,” perhaps a rebel fave, certainly not vanilla, but not meant to be a popular “nut” as some would characterize him. Others describe him as an opportunist.
It was March 2013 and I sat in on cabaret legend Marilyn Maye’s packed weekend master class at Don’t Tell Mama in NYC’s theatre district when a woman, who was an old friend of Maye walked in and sat down at my table. She looked familiar but I didn’t realize who she was until Maye stopped the class to greet and introduce her.
The Grand Jury in Louisville Kentucky issued its judgement regarding the Breanna Taylor killing yesterday. It found evidence that the police had properly identified themselves before entering her apartment and that her boyfriend had shot a policeman first, after which they returned fire, killing Ms. Taylor instead of the shooter. Only one of the policemen was indicted and that was for shooting recklessly into a neighbor’s apartment. That policeman’s name was announced to the public and within minutes that information, along with his smiling photograph were on every TV screen in America.
An indictment is not a guilty verdict; it is merely the prelude to a trial and theoretically, Americans are innocent until proven guilty. While this news was released, there were two policemen shot during the Black Lives Matter riot in Louisville - their condition was unreported as of this morning. The rioters were setting fires, screaming, fighting, destroying property in a total state of chaos similar to too many other riots that we have allowed to proceed and then seen televised over the past several months.
During the course of the pandemic, many rules have necessarily changed to accommodate the need for public safety. The riots - stimulated, financed and organized by Black Lives Matter, have been going on across our country for several months. People have been shot, beaten, killed, seen all their worldly goods destroyed along with their small businesses. In some states, the prosecutor has license to seal the name of the indicted person along with the proceedings of the Grand Jury. In light of the stated intention of BLM, we should not allow any state to release any information regarding proceedings involving police misconduct. We already protect the identities of the jurors - we should do no less for our men in blue.
We have seen the mobs descend on people’s homes and neighborhoods for lesser reason than a cop shooting a gun into the wrong apartment. How long will it be before those brave BLM cop-killers go after the man whose identity was splashed across our tv screens as the only indicted person associated with Ms Taylor’s death. This man should have been protected from the wrath of those who are outspokenly dedicated to killing cops. His name and photo should never have been released to the media which may be characterized most accurately as bloodsuckers.
Although a registered Republican, I’ve been angry with the GOP since they took back the Senate in the 2014 election under false pretenses. They ran pledging to oppose President Barack Obama’s leftist agenda, including socialized medicine, and then spent the next two years giving him everything he asked for in an historic double cross.
The singular act of a policeman pressing his knee down on the neck of an arrestee resulting in that person’s death, something all reasonable people condemn, may turn out to be one of the most pivotal events in U.S history. The death of George Floyd has been the catalyst for a full-blown opportunistic insurrection by anarchists who want to destroy the president, the government, democracy and the nation itself.
I have finally surrendered to the very real possibility that mandated mask-wearing will be permanent, particularly in California where I live and in other blue states, and ordered a mask of better quality than the hard-to-breathe-in little blue one I’ve been wearing. Some doctors have said that the coronavirus could hang around for years, never being cured but eventually being treatable, like HIV. If the virus stays so do masks.
This is a film based on a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell based on Shirley Jackson and Stanley Edgar Hyman, two famous American writers who were married to each other. The key word here is ‘novel’ but the viewer doesn’t know that this is not biographical and this presents serious ethical questions with the liberties taken as various behaviors are ascribed to these individuals without our ability to distinguish between authorial fantasy from reality.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said President Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a single shot. In another war, America’s socialists have achieved the country they want without a single vote being cast.
Concerned about us seniors venturing into a supermarket filled with virus-laced carts, shelves and containers, our daughter and her husband sent us a thoughtful gift of several Blue Apron dinners a week For those still unfamiliar with this company, it furnishes you with a recipe and all the pre-measured ingredients you will need to make, for example, Seared chicken and Spicy potatoes. The recipe is printed on an 8 x 10 piece of cardboard with a photogenic shot of the finished product along with smaller pictures of a hand flipping a hunk of chicken or a shot of roasted potatoes sunbathing on an aluminum pan.
Hope Gap begins with great promise: a movie about two aging characters whose marriage is fraying after almost 30 years They are both intellectual - he a teacher and she a writer currently creating an anthology of poetry written by the masters of English literature and dealing with emotional situations They live in a modest, comfortable home in England and are welcome prototypes of people who seem normal, upper middle-class and stable. We imagine that they will work out their problems with equanimity and restore the missing vitality to their relationship
I can’t call this a review because I will admit that I cannot give a coherent plot line to this Rumanian film about crooks and cops and an ancient whistling language developed for sending messages across hills and valleys in the Canary Islands. I got that info from Joe Morgenstern’s review in the WSJ. He must have learned that from a helpful press release along with some other information that allowed him to sketch a thin line of action sufficient to find a “witty riff on Hitchcock” and a “surreal flow between reality and movie tropes.”
I haven’t read Jane Austen’s original version of Emma since college, but judging from its latest incarnation, a title that better suits it is Much Ado About Nothing. By now, after so many treatments of the source, everyone must know that Emma is a privileged young woman who fancies herself a do-gooder, particularly vis a vis her friendship with Harriet Smith, a young woman missing everything Emma has - wealth, lineage, social standing and personality. Unfortunately, that last quality is not in evidence in either the screenplay or bland performance by Anya Taylor Joy. But, even if it were, it’s hard to see what the two women would ever have in common except the endless flattery of Emma herself.
The quote was originally a response to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s request to Emerson to critique the paper he was writing about Plato for the course he was taking as a Harvard undergraduate Emerson, obviously concerned about the loose ends Holmes had left in the paper, gave the young student some strong metaphoric advice: Plato was the king and though Holmes had struck him, he had not successfully completed his arguments against him.
If you’re sick of being accused of racism, white privilege, toxic masculinity, insufficient attention to Climate Change, MeToo’ism and the LGB alphabet; if you’re exhausted by the long-winded House Managers’ vitriolic performances and if you’re depressed by the diminution of old-fashioned flag-waving, anthem-singing patriotism - run to see The Last Full Measure.
In order to succeed, satire and parody require a common understanding of what is being satirized. If the audience doesn’t have this, satire quickly degenerates into flat-tire. Sadly, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, most Americans have little idea of the history of World War II and the extent of brutality that tortured and murdered six million Jews, one million of whom were children.
One of the main handicaps in watching the latest incarnation of this classic novel is the difficulty in recognizing that any of these “girls” is meant to be truly young. Amy, the youngest sister, looks as developed and fully grown as Beth, Jo and Meg. Because of this, the audience has no way of contextualizing her behavior as that of the little girl who is frequently excluded from some activities because of her tender age. It’s impossible to understand her unforgivable and un-fixable act without recognizing that it’s driven by the uncontrollable impulse of a child, not yet a teenager. Serendipitously, the viewer has a chance to see what I mean by watching the 1994 version of Little Women which will be on Showtime Showcase at 7 pm tonite - Friday, Jan 3rd. Record it.
Memo to writer, director and producer: Kadish the Hebrew prayer for the dead, is not pronounced like radish; it is pronounced like Kahdish or Coddish. Though this may seem picayune, it’s a word that comes up often in a movie about the Holocaust, and particularly one that deals with showing respect for murdered Jews, it’s inexcusable to hear it constantly mispronounced by the Jewish protagonist as well as others. Imagine a movie about French people who call their capital Parees - could we take it seriously?
Blessed by serendipitous synchronicity, Clint Eastwood’s movie, eponymously titled “Richard Jewell,” concerns the FBI mishandling of the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing and opened two days after the release of the Horowitz Report found 17 omissions or incorrect commissions in the Carter/Page application submitted by the FBI to the FISA Court. It is startling to see the same malfeasance brought to public attention in 1996, including a sexual relationship with an officer of the FBI, as well as other unlawful behavior in the bureau’s interrogations and investigations. Beyond that unusual coincidence, the movie is noteworthy for its restraint, particularly considering that its producer and director was Dirty Harry at the beginning of his career.
Words of wisdom imparted by many parents to their kids: “Never get in a car with a stranger.” Yet, when we hail a LYFT or UBER from the app, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Laws vary from one jurisdiction to another; a valid drivers license and car inspection is all that’s required in some.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 and moved to its present location on Fifth Avenue ten years later. It has benefited from the work of many illustrious architects from the 19th century on - all adding to the elegance and majesty of America’s premiere neo-classical palace of Art. Its collections are priceless, ranging from ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Assyrian, Chinese and many other cultures to contemporary painting and sculpture with an emphasis on international presentation of art in all its myriad forms.
The NYT rails against white privilege and purports to be the defender of public schools, champion of the homeless, illegals, petty criminals, ex-cons and other disadvantaged members of our society, especially on its editorial page. But if you check its advertising, you won’t find Chick -Fil-A or Target and if you go to its restaurant reviews you’ll find the truth that can’t be masked and certainly deserves mocking.
The real measure of a clever script in a suspense film is the aha moment at the end when the viewer realizes that there were clues scattered throughout the film which were either missed or more likely misinterpreted. In other words, the writer or director’s talent was in pulling you in the direction he orchestrated and doing that so well that you failed to connect the dots that were there all along. Hitchcock spoke about providing the audience with a suggestion and sufficient information to figure out the rest. This is a challenge in film since the audience only sees what the director allows us to see but frequently, on second view, you will realize that a line of dialogue, or something in the background, on the night table or hanging on the coat rack might have helped to solve the puzzle.
If, like me, you are an educated senior who watches the news on t.v. more than once a day, you may be as bewildered as I am at some big pharma commercials and their casual use of esoteric language. I used to pride myself on spelling and vocabulary but here are some examples that baffled me before I turned to google.
Barely a trace of hurricane damage, but there is an abundance of island sounds and smells and plenty of sunshine at the southern most tip of the US. Only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is as close as you’ll get to the Margaritaville state of mind. This town has a personality of its own.
This Israeli movie won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlinale Film Festival this year, also getting rave reviews from Manhola Dargis (NYT) and Joe Morgenstern (WSJ). Written and directed by the Lapids, pere et fils, it purports to be a movie about an Israeli soldier who has completed his service with a profound hate for the militaristic nature of his country and the determination to abandon it for France. Along with becoming an expat comes the decision to forego his mother tongue and speak only French, carrying a pocket thesaurus for assistance, hence the title.
Parasite bears an immediate resemblance to Jason Peele’s US, a horror film in which underground tunnels are the habitat of dopplegangers cloned by our government in a failed experiment and condemned to live below eating rabbit meat. In the Korean film, things are a bit better - there is a window to the street above the basement dwelling but the view is of a repeat urinator who chooses that corner for his daily excretions. To summarize the plot, we have a family living in close quarters who manage to insinuate themselves into excellent jobs working for a wealthy family living in the most architecturally dazzling house in recent film history. That and the score are two sufficiently good reasons to see the movie but there are more.
If you like your biopics of legendary celebrities reducing them to formulaic caricatures, here’s one not to miss. Think of Alec Baldwin’s skillful skewer of our president which gets a laugh in a five minute skit on SNL and then imagine it stretched out to a feature length film with familiar side characters who are mostly evil in ways that are now shopworn tropes. Louis B Mayer, head of MGM, here a huge man towering over a petite Judy Garland, lives up to his reputation as a tyrant who forces the teen-aged girl to diet and keep working till all hours of the night His assistant, a nameless version of Annie’s Miss Hannigan, is brutal in snatching away hamburgers from our hungry heroine and adding to the cruel atmosphere of “the studio.” If reality were added to the film, we would meet Judy’s most formidable enemy - her mother - who began feeding her pills at the age of 10 and who saw all three of her daughters as viable meal tickets for her own unsuccessful marriage and life. Louis B offered the multi-talented young Frances Gumm a new name and an opportunity to find a big life her own - something that Shirley Temple most famously achieved despite a childhood spent in similar circumstances.
One of the more interesting aspects of the long-running television series was how skillfully Julian Fellowes managed the transition from 19th century British mores to the 20th. From the introduction of the automobile to the radical concept of a chauffeur marrying into an aristocratic familly, almost every episode had some element of gradual change in the lives of upper class gentry and glimpses of how the downstairs servants could begin to see their aspirations materialize, frequently with the support of their benevolent upper class employers. While all this was happening, we had the best-written character of Lady Grantham, played to perfection by Dame Maggie Smith to represent the other side of these “advances” with her clever and witty pronouncements of the old-fashioned way of thinking and doing.
Here are some things you should know before skipping Ad Astra: It is very long and boring. As a substitute for characters and plot, it has space jargon, space gibberish, space clutter and Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones as attempted compensation for all that. Neither one can save this movie from its emptiness and glaring inadequacies. Best to try to find 2001 and replay Part 1 of that to see what Stanley Kubrick was able to do with infinite space and limited time - even if you’ve seen it before, it will seem fresh compared to watching Ad Astra for the first time.
Since it isn’t possible to spoil something as dull as this, I can tell you that Ad Astra ends with the same heart-warming message as Wizard of Oz - without the music, talent and joyfull ebullience of course. Now if Brad Pitt had worn those spangled red shoes, this might have been a movie deserving of a real review. As it stands, I’ve sent you a warning instead - proceed at your own risk of feeling very stupid as you empty the theater and don’t dare say I didn’t tell you so!