Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Two Hours I Loved and Two I Want Back

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Perhaps my car accident has affected my ability to think properly – but I want two hours of my life back after sitting through The Black Swan. This is not to say it is a terrible movie – just slow and pointless.  But on the plus side –  if  you can sit through 40 minutes of it there is some nice lesbo action.  Otherwise,  if you are not a woman, a really sissy gay guy, or happen to really like ballet – this movie is about as dull as a film can be.  I don’t want to say any more so as to not crush the feelings of the many who thought it was the best thing since sliced bread – some whom are on my Facebook and pay my salary.   But sitting through two hours just to see the poor girl … well I won’t tell the ending … but let’s just say it was more than a little predictable – and this is coming from a guy who didn’t know how Star Wars Episode III was going to end!  Now I jest – Star Wars was indeed a much worse movie, but at least it had light sabers.

Another note is that I stand at  ” 0 for a whole lot ” as far as movies recommended to me by anyone.  My friend Gustavo said that I had to see this movie for many reasons: none of which are very clear to me.  But it probably involved his passion for high art and our philosophical conversations.  Herein lies the problem.  After a deep conversation people usually tend to think they know my taste: the bizarre, the left field.  Which is sort of right – but not exactly. But in the end they tend to miss the mark – as he did.  As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a flick that someone recommended to me  (and when I say ‘recommend’ I mean it in the passionate sense of the word, not simply a, “yeah you should check it out it was a good movie” … it’s the “urging me to see it – it’s very deep and you as an artist would love it” type of recommendation) that I have liked.

The “you’re an artist and so you would like it” line is the one that gets me the most.  It has been used on me by everyone from acquaintances to my beloved brother, but truly I think there is nothing more boring than to watch an entire movie about making movies, or books or plays or paintings or anything for that matter.  At least my brother seemed to get it an hasn’t recommended another writer movie to me in a while.  As far as that genre of filmmaking goes:  Fellini pulled it off in 8 1/2 and Intervista, Steve Allen did it perfectly in Bowfinger and Woddy Allen was able to do it on more than one occasion.  But all these are humorous takes on making art, much different than say, Dead Poets Society and a handful of other movies whose names I have erased from memory.  But as the famous saying goes “to each his own” so in the spirit of re-gifting – ala Seinfeld (when you don’t like a gift send it to someone else who might appreciate it more) I meekly recommend this movie to you the reader and leave it to you to make your own opinion.

On a lighter note – I have been on a super hero movie binge for the last few months.  I’ve watched everything from all the Supermans, half of Supergirl (hint: it was not great) the Marvel stuff and of course the new ones that came out this year.  I can’t say that any I’ve seen since the two new Batmans have been anything remarkable.  I know most people went gaga for the great Downy Jr. and his Iron Man but I felt it was short and anti-climatic.  Thor came close to offering a real character sketch but it needed to be a bit longer and be a bit more awe-inspiring – we’re talking about Demi Gods here!  And  X-Men First Class was just a drag that almost made me fall asleep half way through.  Did we really need to know about every little fart Prof. Xavier and Magneto took before they became the exciting characters we love.  Surmising the film … two hours to find out how X got in the wheel chair and became a bald-headed Patrick Stewart.  The answer to the latter was stress … the first one I won’t spoil for you.  The bright side of the film was that at least I didn’t have to wear those damn 3D glasses and I got a big discount at the movie theatre. Oh did I forget to mention Green Lantern … that’s because I didn’t even bother to waste my time.

This said – I am giving two thumbs up to Captain America.  It had its flaws for sure.  It appeared the script writers seemed to have forgotten words I learned in Jr High School English class: cliff hangers, nail bitters, character flaws and weaknesses (Capt. was just too impermeable – even Superman was always in danger of getting stuck with some Kryptonite around his neck) and emotional connection to secondary characters : especially ones that the filmmakers go out of their way to bring  back only to have killed off. I heard not one AWW in the theatre when Captain’s best friend died.  If you’re upset that I spilled the beans, don’t worry, watch the movie it’s not much of a spoiler – trust me.  It happens and then it’s on to the next scene and you’re over it.

Oh yea, there was one english class word that was not forgotten ANTI CLIMAX.  This stems from the fact that the villain was not much of a menace. This was truly a “showcase of Captain America” movie.  So with a not so scary villain, the end was not so exciting.  It was more a vehicle to get Captain into the 21st century and into the Avengers movie which is all the buzz.

So after seeming to trash the movie, why pray tell did I begin by saying I give it two thumbs up?  Because the movie plain old knocked a punch and was as fun as a summer movie should be without being completely brain-dead.  There was action and romance, and great cinematography. The acting was measured and the script moved along at a nice brisk pace and the special effects were done with class.  It was a perfect 2 hours of cool times in the dark theatre and I felt pleased at the end.    It also marks the first time I saw a 3D movie without wanting to smash my glasses. I still am not a big fan of the “new way” to see movies and I did get a headache after wards.  But the movie worked in the medium and I even jumped once when Captain threw his shield at an enemy.  I recommend this film to anyone just wanting to have a good time without feeling guilty about it the next day.

Next on my list is the THE SMURFS.  I want to simmer in thoughtlessness for a while.

Categories: Arts

New Woody Allen Film “Midnight In Paris” is a Refreshing Story with Little Filler

July 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Woddy Allen

“Simple but not simpler,” to paraphrase an Einstein thought. That is the feeling I had after walking out of  Woody Allen‘s latest film, “Midnight In Paris.” This is to say, I felt a little bit of relief after having seen 2 consecutive superhero movies on the big screen and fearing that Captain America was going to be next on the list.

This movie is set in Paris. A city that by all accounts is charming for it’s simplicity even amidst all the details. There are no big Broadway lights, 8 lane highways, monolithic billboards. Just street lights and … the street.

And this is where the movie takes us – to the street. To the old notion of, “where does that old sidewalk lead to”. Paris is a city that has been around long enough and windy enough to inspire those thoughts.

Walking around New York one has a sense that no matter where they turn they’ll be somewhere. Or even my beloved Philadelphia is so perfectly graphed out it’s difficult to get lost in the Center City area. Now, Sao Paulo where I live currently is maze-like, but it’s best to stay on the lighted path.

Paris, it seems, asks for you to make wrong turns and end up where you thought you would never go. This was what Allen was able to transmit through his lens – for we know that always in a movie by the director, the city where he films is less a stage than it is a character.

The story is quiet basic and linear – which is strange to say about a movie that deals with time travel.  And though I much prefer the schizophrenic Allen to the love-lust one – the film is charming in it’s way.

In a nutshell: a Hollywood writer is in France with his fiance and feels as if he missed out on life. That he shouldn’t even be living in the same time he is. And by happenstance he is transported back to the roaring twenties – the Golden Age of Paris.

There in the 20s he is met by every famous artist, poet and writer one can imagine. It becomes almost silly. And by the time Salvador Dali makes an appearance one sort of begins laughing along and taking the movie for what it is. Simple but lovely. There isn’t any very deep conversation (as a matter a fact, I felt the famous personalities from the 20s where written rather like caricatures than characters: they are more there to help the film move along than to offer any real insight), or tricky cinematography (the films looks like a moving postcard for the city – a rather gorgeous one at that), or even any usual Allen-isms (the quips, the one-liners are missing – the dialogue is straight and to the point). The movie simply strolls along as the main character Gil discovers what it is that brings him to take these journeys every midnight in the City of Lights.

Walking The Streets of Paris

The most appealing thing about the movie is knowing that Woody Allen – perhaps the most prolific of our directors – is still alive and imagining. He had been making some terrible films after regaining popularity with “Scoop”, but though his new films have been getting good reviews I wasn’t much interested in seeing them. I did try to sit through “Vicky Christina Barcelona” but felt it was too heavy handed.

The last fun and zany movie I remember watching by Allen was “Deconstructing Harry” and that was in 1997!  So though he does keep it low key in this film – it is Paris after all where extravagance is an ugly American notion – and though he has used the motif of time travel before (probably most famously in “The Purple Rose of Cairo”), this movie satisfies in an easy manner that should make one leave the theatre simply breathing lightly and saying to themselves: Perhaps love can truly overcome all … and instead of trying to find a place far from “the now” to be happy we should simply jump into what is directly ahead.  Here’s hoping there is more great Woddy Allen films ahead, because even at his worst he is better than most everyone else working out there in the business today.

Categories: Arts

Gil Scott-Heron Dies

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

A voice dared to speak – to shout! – of injustice and man’s destruction of life, of spirit … of man.  This voice was warm but stern, poetic yet flat – able to communicate without question that which is undeniable … the truth!  Truth that is intangible yet able to touch each one’s heart as a sharp knife upon soft skin.  Truth which vibrated from the minds of men from the beginning of time and will continue till the last human breath is taken.  Truth which is love and compassion.  This voice emitted from a man – Gil Scott-Heron.  And this man has no beginning and therefore no end – for he was his art and his art was his soul.  There was no division, there was no visible line.

On the 27th of March of 2011 the man left us (or what we recognize as the man – for his material legacy) but the voice has not: and the voice is what matters.  Though mortal coil is left to dissipate into dust, the energy that was the mobilizing force within the body of the man, Gil Scott Heron, continues to be with us. Therefore sadness does not fill my heart, because I remember every bit of Mr. Heron as if he had never been apart from me.  As if he knew me before I heard his voice, and as if his voice continued to call long after I had forgotten where to find it.

I remember the first time that I heard Gil, on a late night on Temple Public Radio’s, “The Bridge”, talking about some revolution, and later on WDAS murmuring about some bottle, and later, on my own, about some Winter … and more and more and more.  Each time was new, was revolutionary, was real – hard to define – the way I usually like life to be.  As a poet he was hard yet subtle – being the offspring of a generation of writers and imaginers from Harlem’s renaissance (his great influence being Langston Hughes) and the Beats which followed. But by the time the chaotic 60s and 70s came along the word – or be it, the world – transformed and with it so did the message.  Not that there wasn’t a call for justice, for liberation, that rung through the mouths of many poets before him but Gil came to us in the era of television, of record machines, of radios … where now each phrase could be heard and repeated endlessly in a loop and became what was your life or what you thought may be your life had you been born but a few blocks away on the dark end of your same neighborhood.  He understood the responsibility that came with this great power and never misused it and never misguided.  He was a master of his art for his art was him and their union was perfect.

Mr. Heron is always credited for his influence on modern rap, even being called the Godfather of Rap, but he didn’t rap … he breathed … he swung.  “They need to study music…” he said of the rappers, “… There’s a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music … They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you don’t really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing.”  And it was this that Gil wanted us to do – look inside.  What do you see?  Is it pretty or ugly?  Is it life-affirming or does it make you want to die where you stand?  He was art.  It flourished through him because as a man he was like all of us – flawed.  So the art became one with his heart and his heart chose to become one with our own, and once it joined ours it asked for ours to meld with that of another – and endless stream of vibration, art and love.  “The revolution will not be televised” he famously said.  That is because he understood better than anyone that it was going to begin and end right here inside you and I.  You might just find this out yourself if you just stop and listen.  Just listen to the man.

Categories: Arts

Michael Jackson is Alive! His Story continues in the tragedy of the Media Culture

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment
The Magic Man

A year has passed since Michael Jackson was pronounced dead last June 25th, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Perhaps it’s because of the release of his documentary film, This is It in October and the subsequent DVD release; or the continuing news stories and interviews with family members; or even the new ads for the Cirque Du Soleil show in 2011 which make it appear as if he’s more active in the media now than ever.  Then again it could simply be because the years before his death were lived so privately simply releasing some new Michael Jackson music compilation package that his actual physical absence doesn’t feel like such a sharp contrast.

After a year though, we can reflect on issues that should resonate even for those that weren’t the biggest MJ fans.  The first is the power of the media.

For most of his late career, Michael Jackson was maltreated, scandalized, turned into a joke and viciously attacked by the media.  Mr. Jackson’s name sold newspapers – his name tied with some off the wall story, sold more.  Yet, this same media that defamed and tried with earnest to destroy the legacy of the legendary artist was the same that with one fell swoop was able to turn him into a glowing superstar once more.  So quick was the media’s turnaround that it should make one wonder where they and their celebrity cohorts were when Mr. Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges In June 0f 2005.

The second point, and more frightening than the media’s ability to manipulate, is the public’s willingness to be manipulated.  Gangs of people who were quick to call Mr. Jackson a child molesting freak flocked to their TVs to watch the memorial services , packed their music stores to make him the number one artist of 2009 and ran to the theaters to make This Is It the biggest grossing concert film of all time.

If it’s this easy to sway public opinion on something that was pretty much set in stone, “Michael is Wack Job” – one should begin to question where else these nifty sleight of hand tactics are used.

We See Hear and Say Nothing

In the end I don’t know who has had the last laugh.  On one side there are a fervent group of people who believe Michael Jackson faked his own death and played the media back on itself by redeeming his image , Conversely, if he truly died then it’s the media, with their ability to change positions as effortlessly as Jackson moonwalked who wins out by effectively pressing delete on years of negative reporting and ultimately portraying themselves as Jackson’s number one fans from day one.

Easier is the question of who doesn’t laugh: the public, who are (knowingly or unknowingly) toyed with in and endless cycle of Good News, Bad News, What to Think, What not Think etc.  Michael Jackson is just a small example of the many facets of news which are fed to us in whatever light the media decides to present it.  Some of these stories are more important than others, but this does not make the Michael Jackson media spin any less instructive and perilous than the 9/11 media spin, the Bush media spin, the Obama media spin and so on.  This chain can only be broken when good people begin to choose for themselves, think for themselves, conclude for themselves.  As one of the lyrics of a Jackson classic states, “look at yourself and make a change.”


Categories: Arts