The Godfather

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When I was a human resources manager working in a factory in New Jersey we would always have an annual service award banquet for the employees. We were a union shop with four locals and four union presidents. These affairs, as I ran them, were kind of a big deal and the employees looked forward to them every year. We always had a live band and invited lots of guests. One year I thought I would invite the regional union rep for the International Union. His name was Frank, he was Italian, and he looked liked he walked right off the set of the Godfather. When I introduced Frank to speak, as he strode across the floor to take the podium, I glanced at the band leader and nodded my head. The strains from the Theme to the Godfather began to emanate from the bandstand, to uproarious laughter, and no one was laughing more that Frank. The employees loved it! It was a night to remember.

Summer Wine

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This is Colonial Gardens. I used to come her when I was a teenager to drink and listen to the music. One summer I fell in love with  the the lead singer who used to sing the song, Summer Wine. Whenever I hear that song I think back to that summer…

 

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Movie Review

Birds od Prey poster

Birds of Prey (2020)

Directed by: Cathy Yan

Starring: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as The Black Canary, Ella Jay Basco as Cass,  and rounding out the cast, Ewan McGregor as the Black Mask.

Some of you might be surprised that I went to see this movie. To be honest I am a little surprised myself.  First of all, I am not a big fan of Marvel movies. I agree with Martin Scorsese that Marvel movies aren’t really cinema. I know, this is a DC Comics picture. DC Comics, Marvel Comics, the same thing. So, what possessed me on a bright, sunny, Sunday afternoon to enter a dark cavern in a multiplex and witness mayhem at its finest? Margot Robbie, that’s what. Plus, there isn’t a whole lot to choose from right now and I have actually heard good things about this movie. So, I hustled there inside, and friends, I am here to tell you I am glad I did!

Harley Quinn

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

I don’t know much about the source material because I stopped reading comics when I was 12, but this movie has legs and stands on its own.

This is 109 minutes of pure entertainment! A tip of the hat to Quentin Tarantino for some of the action scenes sure looked familiar. If you are going to steal, steal from the best, I always say! Also, there were some memorable dialog, lines, cultural references, and T-Shirts, such as:

“You make me want to be less of a terrible person,” spoken by One Harley Quinn.

She has the word “Rotten” tattooed on her right cheek, and she sports at times a T-shirt that says, “Daddy’s Little Monster.”

At one point she refers to a character as “You Frida Kahlo looking mother fucker!”

Rose Perez sports a T-shirt that says, “I shaved my balls for this.”

And at the end Harley Quinn reveals her new calling cards: “Harley Quinn and Associates – Bad Ass Motherfuckers!”

Black Canary

Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Margot Robbie in Birds of Prey

Written and directed by women, with strong female leads, this movie is a towering monument to female empowerment.  Lot’s a diversity on display here too. Visually stunning, Gotham City never looked better as photographed by lensman Mathew Libatique. Add a killer sound track that perfectly matches the action and you have  movie that is solid entertainment and a lot of fun. Two thumbs way up!

Ajijic Day 9 &10

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“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

-Raymond Chandler,  The Fine Art of Murder

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Lunch at the Lake Chapala Lake Society. Had the empandas and a Corona. The Lake Chapala Society is one of the world’ largest expat societies, helping expats from all over the world to integrate into the Mexican Community Lakeside. It is located in the beautiful gardens in the midst if Ajijic. The Lake Chapala Society  offers a variety of cultural, humanitarian and wellness programs. I returned this beautiful spot over and over again during my stay in Ajijic.

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Lotus Flower

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Koi Pond at Lake Chapala Society

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Lush Gardens at the Lake Chapala Society

Dinner at El Torito. New place that just opened up. Had the Steak Tacos and a glass of red wine.  Had a night cap next door at El Bar Co. Jim Beam and soda. Not every place had whiskey, but El Bar Co. did. The next day (Sunday) had breakfast with the Breakfast club a Dona’s.  Open Mic tonight at Perry’s Pizza.

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The Umbrella Academy at Perry’s Pizza

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Open Mic at Perry’s Pizza

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Buddha signed up to do a couple of songs

Buddha signed up to do a couple of songs. We were there til six. Got a ride home from the keyboard player. I was walking  back to my place from the drop off point in the growing twilight. As I was walking I was approached by a cute little Mexican girl who looked to be about 19. She had just left a little neighborhood grocery and was carrying a small bag.  She had multiple  tattoos, and was wearing a crop top top, ragged cutoffs, and lots of chains and bracelets.  She started speaking to me rapidly in Spanish but I didn’t understand her. “No habla Espanol.” I said.

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We stopped in a darkened doorway and she got very close to me and said very slowly, as she pointed her finger first at me then back at herself, “You give me 20 pesos for the food.” I said, ” I don’t have 20 pesos.” She smiled and said OK and continued to walk down the street, her hips swaying as she navigated the cobblestones. I walked back to my place which was about a block away.  I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities fate had just thrown my way. If she would take 20 pesos for the food, what would she do for 100 pesos? At another time in my life I might have decided to find out. Tonight, however, I let discretion be the better part of valor. But, it was a while before I stopped thinking about her and finally drifted off to sleep.

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Jimmy Can’t Dance

Jimmy Can’t Dance is a Jazz and Blues club located in beautiful downtown Louisville, Kentucky on 7th street.

My young friend Victoria and I Ubered our way down there to drink with the grown-ups  and listened to the jazz. Nate Lopez and his Eight String were playing for our listening enjoyment and I must say they exceeded our expectations.

Jimmy Cant dance

So when I ordered our drinks I asked the girl back of the bar would it be OK to teach Jimmy to Dance? She said no, I didn’t say Jimmy didn’t know how to dance, I said Jimmy can’t dance. There’s a difference. That got me to thinking, why can’t Jimmy dance? Maybe Jimmy got no legs. Maybe Jimmy dead. Maybe Jimmy just don’t exist. That’s what I said. But one thing’s for sure. Jimmy can’t dance. But he sure plays a mean eight sting guitar!

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Nate Lopez and Nioshi Jackson

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Nate Lopez

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Honey Grace

 

 

Isn’t Life Ironic?

Once upon a time, not long ago, I took my young friend Victoria to see Bonnie Rait at the Louisville Palace. While waiting in line to get in we stood outside next to a picture of Tony Bennett who had been a featured performer at the Palace in the past.  I remarked to Victoria that I had seen Tony Bennett at the Palace back before she was even born.

She looked up at me with her smiling eyes and said, “Isn’t life ironic?”

 

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The Palace Theater

Bonnie Rait

Bonnie Rait

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Victoria Meadows

 

 

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Tony Bennett

Suspiria (2018) Movie Review

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Not really a horror fan but every once in a while one will catch my fancy. Suspiria (2018) is just such a film. It is, I would say, a notch above the rest. Maybe two notches. It has everything going for it. Great writing, directing, acting, music, dance, costuming, art direction, and social consciousness. It has been described as an extraordinary work of art, grotesque, and savagely beautiful. Others have called it pretentious drivel. But, hey, it’s horror film. What do you want? At least it’s very artsy drivel!

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, it is a reimagined version of the original Suspiria (1977), a horror film cult classic, directed by Dario Argentento, which I must say I haven’t as yet seen, but I plan too as soon as possible. This version, at 152 minutes, is 54 minutes longer than the original. So, it is not only reimagined it is also greatly expanded as well. Coming in at just under three hours is pretty long for a movie, but I must confess, I didn’t notice it at all, as I was totally engrossed for the entire time.

Suspiria

The setting of the film is in divided Berlin in 1977, when the Baader-Meinhof Group was perpetrating terrorist acts all over the city. Rain drenched Berlin and the memory of the Third Reich hang over the Markos Dance Academy which is ruled by artistic director Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) and the grand dame Helena Markos. Patricia, a young student at the academy is convinced that the place is being run by a coven of witches. She tries to convince her psychoanalyst, Dr. Klemperer, who thinks she is delusional and so writes in his notebook. She disappears. Another dancer, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives on the scene fresh off a farm in Ohio. She auditions for a place in the Academy and greatly impresses Madame Blanc who immediately slates her as lead performer in her masterwork, “Volk.” During her audition, another dancer (Olga) who stormed out over a disagreement is trapped on a floor below in a mirrored rehearsal hall and is banged around and contorted with each dance move Susie makes until she is a pile of broken bones and a puddle of urine and saliva. One of the more horrible set pieces.

Dakota

This film is a feminist manifesto after a fashion about the empowerment of women. Other than the two cops who are sent to investigate the disappearance of Patricia, there are no other male actors in the movie, Lutz Ebersdorf not withstanding. If you are not in on the joke, I won’t spoil it for you here. The women cast a spell on the detectives and humiliate them unsparingly while at the Academy, then wipe their memories once they return to the station.

Thom Yorke from Radiohead provides a hauntingly throbbing soundtrack to the horror which accompanies the dance routines. The film incorporates stylized dance sequences choreographed by Damien Jalet. Volk is a dance created at the Academy that featured Blanc in the original role of the protagonist, the part Susie was auditioning for when she turned Olga into a human pretzel earlier in the film. And it’s actually based on a performance Jalet choreographed in 2013, called Les Meduses, that was staged at the Louvre.

The title of the film Suspiria, means sigh, as in the sighing of pain, or suffering.

Tilda Swinton alone is cause enough to want to see this remarkable film. She plays three characters each of which represents an aspect of the human psyche – the id, the ego, and the superego.

Tilda

This movie is not for everyone. Not for the squeamish nor the faint of heart. But if you like a good horror show, one that makes you think, and is well crafted, and beautiful to look at and listen to, then I recommend Suspiria.

A STAR IS BORN

A Stra is Born

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!

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Movie Review

Joan of Arc poster

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.