Bill Murray Bill Murray Bill Murray. One of the funniest and emotionally appealing films of the year. Bill Murray turns in an Oscar worthy performance as the curmudgeonly neighbor and Naomi Watts knocks it out of the park as the pregnant Russian hooker.
Who needs another remake? It turns out we do. As a rule, I generally eschew remakes. In this case I made an exception. The trailer looked good so I gave it a chance. And friends, I am glad I did. This film is fresh and original in its interpretation. Bradley Cooper proves himself an adept director and makes a lot of smart choices in the presentation of this material. Lady Gaga is a wonder. The thing about Gaga for me has been she always wears a mask and we never get to see the real person behind the persona. Here we do. A very satisfying portrayal of an insecure character with a lot of personality and a load of talent.
Bradley Cooper is very good as the alcoholic country rock star who is in decline and fighting his own demons. The chemistry between the stars is palpable and their love story believable.
I liked the camera work and the production values are superb. It’s not an unqualified success, but Bradley Cooper hits this one out of the ball park. Two thumbs way up!
I have crossed oceans of time
To be with you
There must be
Time enough for love….
Two hundred years for each breast
A thousand for the rest
And if we find rubies by the Rhine
So much better love can find
The way to stitch our hearts
For we are greater than our parts.
While visiting the city of brotherly love I finished reading a novel about the city with the big shoulders. Of course I’m referring to Philadelphia and Chicago.
The novel was Never Come Morning and the writer was Nelson Algren.
Algren specialized in writing gritty tales of the denizens of Chigago’s underclass. For Algren, these individuals struggling to survive are all too human.
He wrote about the dregs of society, the convicts and the prostitutes as referred to in the Walt Whitman poem, Leaves of Grass: “I feel that I am all of them – I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself, and henceforth, I will not deny them, for how can I deny myself.”
Never Come Morning is the story about a street gang of Polish American immigrant kids always scheming always getting into trouble with the law, fighting, robbing, raping, killing, whoring, pimping, and dealing with crooked cops.
There is a whole section where one of the characters is picked up on suspicion of shooting a drunk in an alley off Chicago Avenue. He ends up doing time in the workhouse or “workie” as it is referred to in the novel.
This would be “Lefty” Bruno Bicek, who has ambitions of becoming heavy weight champion not of Illinois but from Illinois. When he gets out of the workhouse he takes up pimping at a whorehouse accross the street from the Broken Knuckle Bar run by a Polish barber, another small time crook always looking for a fast buck. Leftie did nothing to help his girl friend, Steffi, when she was gangraped by the boys and this weighed heavily on his conscience throughout the rest of the novel. She ended up working for the barber as one of the girls in the whorehouse while he was in the workie.
Lefty’s big ambition is to win a title fight and get enough money to take Steffi away from all this misery. He gets his big chance in the last chapter of the book, “Toward Evening Lands.” Here, Algren describes a fight scene between Lefty and a black fighter called Honeyboy Tucker, the sons of a Polish baker and a mulatto pig sticker. Lefty is referred to as a white hope. This chapter contains one of the best descriptions of a boxing match I have ever read. The fight goes on for eight rounds. Two minutes and 48 seconds into the eighth, Lefty is declared the winner by a knockout.
“The bleachers howled like wind through an empty shack.”
But, the victory was short-lived however, as police captain Tenczara enters the dressing room and whispers into Lefty’s ear, “Got you for the Greek, Left Hander, two witnesses.”
Lefty was led out through the middle aisles in manacles.
“Knew I’d never get to be twenty-one anyhow,” he said.
He had won the fight but lost the battle.
Because when you’re in Philly it’s almost like being in heaven…
- Go to South Street
- The Continental Martini Bar
- Mt. Airy
- Valley Green
- Chestnut Hill
- Silk City Diner
- The Italian Market
Kindred spirts recognize each other
when they meet upon the road and
when they meet it is a joyous occasion
one worth celebrating
let the celebration begin.
My world has shifted
My sorrow lifted
I am once again tilted
Back towards Philadelphia
In the midst of Summer
I have found a glorious Winter
The Best of All Possible Worlds.
This has been a pretty good year for black filmmakers with Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting coming out of Oakland, both very fresh, very original, and entertaining, each packed with a powerful punch. Here comes along a Spike Lee Joint. It is Spike’s best effort in years. The brother is back in full form and he has plenty of mojo to boot!
This brilliant film is based on the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the KKK. It is very timely in its theme of white supremacists who want to take America back and to make America great again.
It is a reminder that White House is currently inhabited by white supremist racists and backed by David Duke and the KKK. Trump and Duke both make cameo appearances in the film as well as stock footage of the riots in Charlottesville where Trump smugly says there were some very fine people on both sides. Ha ha! Ho Ho!
This is a must see for everyone in America. Spike’s practiced hand is at the tiller of this skillfully wrought movie. It jumps immediately to my top 10 list and as of now it sits on top.
A Guest Post By Winter Chatman
She be look’n at me like I ain’t nothin’
Cutt’n me down, My eyes have ears
I’m beautiful, you know? Really somethin’
Sixteen and pregnant , shoot, that ain’t nothin’
My life My block I have no fear
She be lookn’ at me like I ain’t nothin’
I ain’t cried, it ain’t no sin, nothin’
She can stare My eyes have ears
I’m beautiful, you know? Really somethin’
I got straight A’s, that’s really somethin’
I ain’t stupid , you know, I can hear
She be look’n at me like I ain’t nothin
My college degree, that’s really something
For my life From my block That’s rare
I’m beautiful, you know, Really something
My Imani child grows, beautiful, really something
One flower in a bush so rare,
They keep looking at me like I am nothing
I am beautiful, you know, really something.
Penn State Literary Magazine 2003
Home is the sailor home from the sea
Home is the hunter home from the hill
But for the sailor who fell from grace with the sea there is no home
He is destined to roam endlessly
And wherever he lays his head is where his home will be.
La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (original title) is a silent film that was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. I was motivated to watch this film as it was referenced by Paul Schrader as an example of transcendental film style in his book, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, and in recent interviews he has given about his latest film, First Reformed (2017). I wanted to see first-hand what this style of film looked like.
In 1431, Jeanne d’Arc was placed on trial on charges of heresy. The church attempted to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions. They tried various forms of coercion and threatened her with torture. Finally, in a moment of weakness, she confesses, but later in her jail cell she recants her confession and is then burned at the stake as a witch.
There is transcendence here as Jeanne is in touch with God or rather He her. She has been sent on a mission by God to run the British out of France. Jeanne hears the voice of God talking to her but this not believed by the clergy who accuse her heresy.
Jeanne d’Arc was a peasant girl living in medieval France who believed that God had chosen her to lead France to a victory in its long running (100 years) war with England. She convinced Prince Charles, who was later to be crowned King Charles of France, to allow her to lead a French army to the besieged city of Orleans where she won a decisive victory over the British. She was later captured by British forces and tried for witchcraft and heresy and subsequently sentenced to be burned at the stake. She was 19. From that moment on she was known as the Maid of Orleans. Jeanne d’Arc was canonized as a saint in 1920. In all there were 70 charges lodged against Jeanne for witchcraft, heresy, and dressing like a man. She was burned for dressing like a man, the most unpardonable sin of all, which according to the Bible was an abomination to the Lord.
The film is considered to be a masterpiece of the cinema and I readily agree. It is shot largely in close-ups in crisp black and white against stark gray background. It is silent but the version I saw was accompanied by a musical score that was created for the movie in 1994 called Voices of Light composed by Richard Einhorn. It is an astonishing piece of work and is very effective in driving the action and setting the mood. I would, however, like to watch the movie sometime in silence as that is the way Dreyer intended it to be seen.
The story is mainly told through the range of expressions on the faces of the characters as Jeanne suffers the agony of the trial. The camera work consists of low angle shots and high contrast lighting which made the faces priests and other interrogators look all the more grotesque. Jeanne, in contrast, was shot in soft even lighting. The character of Jeanne was played by Renee Jeanne Falconetti. Roger Ebert said in his review, “You cannot know the history of silent films unless you know the face of Renee Jeanne Falconetti.”
Based on the actual record of the trial of Jeanne d’Arc the entire film was shot in continuity. It depicts the suffering of Jeanne as she is tormented, humiliated and finally burned alive at the stake. This is the Passion of Jeanne which mirrors the passion of the Christ. Jeanne screams out in agony at the end of the film, “Jesus!”
Dryer presents this film as the triumph of the human spirit over the trials and tribulations of life experience. He strives for new forms of expressionism as he focuses on the visual expressions of the human face.
My original motivation, as I stated earlier, was to view this film from an academic point of view in order to learn more about transcendental style, but I came away more enriched for having had the experience.