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Bylines Essays:    Title/Subject/Author

NEW ESSAYS!.

1501) The Harvey Girls/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  The age of Hollywood musicals at their height was dead smack in the middle of the 20th Century- the 1940s and 1950s. And no American actor, director, nor composer was more readily associated with that subgenre of film than Judy Garland. Often dubbed ĎThe Greatest Entertainer In The World,í there were few who could argue the claim. She was a great actress, a great dancer, and, most of all, a great singer. In fact, she was likely the greatest female recording artist of the 20th Century....

 

Solid.

 

1502) Transfiguration At The Stalls/Essay/Alex Sheremet  A few weeks ago, North Carolina passed House Bill 2 seemingly out of nowhere. For those who donít know, the law -- soon to be overturned -- now mandates that people use the bathroom of their assigned sex. Yet just a few months prior, Governor Pat McCrory wished to emphasize gender identity as ďcomplexĒ and ďbest handled with reason and compassion at the local levelĒ -- a call, one might assume, to let things be hashed out on the micro-scale, as most things inevitably are. And given how much of a non-issue itís generally been, it is odd, indeed, that a muffled sort of tolerance had to be re-codified into something else entirely. Odd, of course, unless you know the lawís true aim, which has nothing to do with the social issues that it purports to address, but offers lists, menus, deductions that few could ever support....

 

Peek-a-boo!

 

1503) 5 Illusion Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were predicated on some form of illusion that either the subjects or the filmmakers held. They were Requiem For The Big East; Ainít In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm; Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me; Beltracchi: The Art Of Forgery; and Dinosaur 13....

 

Eh....

 

1504) 5 Jesus and Sex Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were about extremes of American stupidity and narcissism, in the forms of religion and sex. They were American Jesus; Orgasm, Inc.; Hot Girls Wanted; The Final Member; and Do I Sound Gay?....

 

Eh.

 

1505) 5 Odd Folks Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were on people who were odd or who led odd lives, of one sort or another. They were A League of Ordinary Gentlemen, When Jews Were Funny, 180 Degrees South, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, and Chariots Of The Gods....

 

Yuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1251) Expelled From Eden/William T. Vollman/Dan Schneider  Fans of David Foster Wallace, relax! Your fair haired (and still dead) boy is still the most terrible, overpraised, overhyped, PoMo, omnibustial critic’s darling of a hack writer out there. Having read Expelled From Eden: A William T. Vollmann Reader, edited by Larry McCaffery and Michael Hemmingson, I can safely say that Vollmann is merely a bad- nay, a very bad writer, but not a terrible one, for, unlike Wallace, Vollmann is at least capable of writing solid, passable prose in journalistic articles, even as his fictive prose is dull, and laden with stereotypes and stale tropes. Unlike Wallace (or James Frey or Dave Eggers- one of Vollmann’s publishers, for that matter), Vollmann’s paragraphs are not usually drenched in multiple naked clichés....

 

Shit.

 

1252) Look Outside/Essay/Len Holman  It’s a bright, sunny, warm day here in the upper desert.  The jackrabbits are nosing around trying to find something to eat; the ravens are making a racket, zooming through the air, and it’s so quiet up here, an observer can hear their wings beating the air.  There is little traffic and looking out across the desert from my porch, I see nothing out of place in this small corner of the universe....

 

Lo!

 

1253) The Publishers' Fetish/Essay/Ben Smith  How many times need you read The Complete Poetry of E.E. Cummings before you understand what e.e. is all about?  Of course, this is a trick question, and the answer is, as it were, half-a-time.  Yes, one need only read half the book to not only “get the gist,” but be dizzy with the punctuation’s play and the parting and parenthesizing of words; you may have even gathered the reasoning behind why he capitalizes and why he doesn’t here and there.  You may even know his best from his worst.  Well now, imagine you encountered a poetry journal requesting that you submit e.e. cummings-inspired poetry.  After reading half of his Complete Works you’ve got the idea, you know e.e. in and out; now time to get to work.  But get this, the journal asks not for a solitary e.e.-inspired piece but three-to-five of them....

 

Yucky!

 

1254) A Theory Of Poetic Aesthetics/Essay/Ben Smith  We know that verse is made up of many elements, music, metaphor, lyricism, wit, enjambment (how often this element is overlooked) and the entirety of rhetoric.  We can often say when evaluating a poem that it has a promising beginning or an excellent ending, two very important pieces of a quality poem.  We can look into a poem’s tropes and their development.  We can see its symmetries in both word and meaning, and we can examine its contradictions, whether they are ironic, paradoxical, or just contradictions in and by themselves.  Yes, we have these many elements....

 

Workin' it out.

 

1255) Labels/Essay/Len Holman  As Orwell, Sapir, Whorf, Boroditsky, Confucius, and every politician and corporation have noted before this election, labels are important; language is key.  What you call a thing impacts how you act toward it, and how you act toward it impacts what you call it.  For example, a “new and improved” product is supposed to catch the customer’s eye and make him say, “Wow!  I was gonna buy some other brand, but THIS one says it’s new AND improved…I’LL GET IT!”  It may be that the “New and Improved” part of the product is just the label itself....

 

Rev it up.

 

1256) The Problem Of The Pantheistic Poet/Essay/Ben Smith  First questions first: are all poets drawn to nature as a subject pantheists?  I would say no but!  But most such poets are pantheistic in their inclinations.  Indeed why dedicate oneself to nature with such devotion? One could argue, and this will actually explain a lot about the lesser writers of the pantheistic strain, that there may be some sort of social limitations in such a person.  I say this because without a doubt the most interesting and complex creatures on our planet are humans, not plants, not nature, nor Nature....

 

Always problems....

 

1257) Good Faith, Stupidity, And The Internet: Part 6/Cults Of Personality (Part 2)/Dan Schneider  As has been the case with all the rest of these prior essays in the GFSI series, this one will deal with much of the accumulated stupidity since the last essay, almost two years ago. In that essay I promised that this next installment would deal with mainly the cult of personality known as the cult of the self, and, indeed, the vast majority of the folks exposed in this essay will be shown to be guilty of the narcissism at the center of a cult of the self that dominates online culture in 2012, and since the rise of the internet in the mid-1990s. Of course, not much has changed over the two years, save that there are even more and more idiots online and their delusions and stupidity get more and more blatant....

 

Tearing the asses new ones!

 

1258) Free Speech Is A Lap Dance/Essay/Len Holman  Amid the instant analysis of the Supreme Court’s last decisions of its term, the breathless wonder at Chief Justice Roberts’ support of Obamacare and the get-your-knickers-in-a-bunch speculation about the Arizona immigration law, one issue has largely escaped much attention.  It is the Montana case which the Court refused to hear, the one in which the Montana Supreme Court upheld a state law limiting independent political spending by corporations, the one which continues the idea that the Citizens United decision, which has transformed American politics into a commodities exchange, is the firm, unequivocal law of the land....

 

Bring on the speech!

 

1259) Indy Novels/Peter Damian Bellis-Ara 13/Dan Schneider  I recently read two novels, unpublished by major houses, from two writers who share commonalities, in that neither one’s skills nor work are as good as they effusively claim, and that neither writer is actually primarily practicing the very sort of fiction they claim. I was thrust into the twenty odd year quest of Peter Damian Bellis to get his so-called Magical Realism novel, The Conjure Man, published when, as detailed here, I got a series of increasingly bizarre, self-laudatory, and philosophically impoverished, emails from the man declaiming that the book, written in the early 1990s, which he has spent the better part of two decades trying to get published at a big house, and which did get published, in 2010, by a de facto subsidy/self publishing press called River Boat Books....

 

Wave that dick, why don't ya?

 

1260) Good Government By Accident/Essay/Len Holman  It would be nice to imagine that government is in the business of helping a country’s citizens, and that it sees a problem, and works fiendishly hard to solve it; at least it would be pretty to think so, as Hemingway once wrote.  In fact, government just seems to bumble along, doing what “leaders” think is right—even  when they think that because it benefits them—with no thought to the consequences....

 

Or Intelligent Design?

 

1261) Mad Men/TV Review/Dan Schneider  Recently, the AMC cable network finished airing the fifth season of their highly acclaimed advertising agency soap opera, set in the 1960s, called Mad Men (industry slang for the men who work on Madison Avenue, in Manhattan). I’ve yet to watch that season, as I lack cable tv, but, over the last few weeks watched the first four seasons (covering about 5½ years chronologically- 1960-65) on Netflix, due to the laudatory comments I’ve heard from others (the fifth season should be due soon for streaming). The good news is that it is, indeed, a well written and well acted show, for the most part. The bad news is, contra to most claims, it is not a great nor culturally significant television show- despite its Emmy stash....

 

Good.

 

1262) Slaughterhouse-Five/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Sometimes luck is better than skill, as the apothegm bemoans. Film director George Roy Hill likely would have agreed with this sentiment, given the arc of his career. Hill was basically a journeyman director of television who got a lucky break into the film industry, then mined a decent career in that field, despite, at best, yeoman’s level work, in terms of visuals, narrative, and overall directorial skill with actors and scripts. Now, years after his death, his name is best recalled for films like 1982’s The World According To Garp, 1973’s The Sting, or 1969’s Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. But, while those films garnered acclaim and popular appeal, none of them were innovatory....

 

Excellent.

 

1263) Giant/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Director George Stevens’ 1956 film Giant is one of those grandiose soap operas that were popular back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, but one which has not aged particularly well. Yes, it did, and still does, offer more than the similar epic, Gone With The Wind, but Giant still lacks heft, despite its immense length (200 minutes) and large subject matter (the rise of Texas as an economic powerhouse in the early 20th Century). Having said that, the film has no glaring bad points, just as it has no particular high points one might call great....

 

Solid.

 

1264) Morality/Lisbeth Salander/T. Patrick Hill  What is to be said of the morality of Lisbeth Salander?[i] In an already unjust world, she certainly endured more injustice than most of us could ever imagine:  a sadistic father, a sadistic public guardian, and illegal institutional confinement by the state....

 

Woe.

 

1265) Camille Paglia/Fraud/Ben Smith  This choppy piece of writing began as a challenge I posed to a friend.  One was offered the opportunity of counting the number of cases of lying, dishonesty, misrepresentation, false claims, stupidity, and general disingenuousness committed by Camille Paglia in several hours of footage of her recorded public appearances.  Since this is foremost a mere listing of such incidences, one should not expect an exegesis of the good lady’s works.  Although I may pursue such an examination of her works in a manner not too unlike my current study, such will certainly be of a higher caliber, and will avoid the constant repetition of noted offenses the current writing provides.  I, in fact, look forward to it.  From what I have seen of her works so far, her writings are even more egregious in their lack of integrity than her speeches. ...

 

Taking on the Bitch Goddess!

 

1266) Pre-emptive Strike/Essay/Len Holman  Not to be outdone by Iran, Israel, or the U.S., the queen of England, Elizabeth II, has launched a pre-emptive strike.  This strike was, however, on one of her own, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.  In the Royal Household’s Order of Precedence, just updated by the queen, Kate is required to curtsy to “all blood princesses” in the royal family, including Camilla Parker Bowles, and a couple of other princesses (I really can’t keep them straight).  Remember, Kate was a commoner....

 

Yowza!

 

1267) 6 Food Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched six documentaries on Netflix detailing the nature and causes of the poor eating habits of the American public: Fed Up!; Food Matters; Food, Inc.; The Future Of Food; Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead; and Killer At Large: Why Obesity Is America’s Greatest Threat....

 

Mixed bag.

 

1269) A Narrow World/Essay/Len Holman  There is something to be said for living in the moment:  peace, tranquility, appreciation of the world around you, and the contentment of just being alive.  This means not only stopping to smell the roses, but realizing there ARE roses to smell.  It doesn’t mean—as certain very conservative politicians seem to believe—that the world should be narrowed down to the misogynist, intolerant, ignorant and foolish parameters of a very restricted world view.  It doesn’t mean that one should be stuck in amber and petrified for all time.  Actually, “world view” isn’t even close to an adequate phrase....

 

A large earth?

 

1270) Dancing With Horses/Essay/SuZi  Art is both a way of seeing the world as well as communication of that perception—it is a language of envisioning. If it is understood that dance is art—is a dialect of that language of envisioning—then works of art are not always static, are not always fixed in space or in time, can exist in the ether....

 

The tango in 4 hooves.

 

1271) Georg Trakl/Essay/Ben Smith  What is the best way to approach the strange poems of Georg Trakl?  Well, first of all, since I speak not a word of German, I must read him in translation, but looking at Alexander Stillmark’s translation, I  compare the German, making out a good portion of the words with the help of the internet, and I see that the English is very close, almost unaltered.  Perhaps Trakl’s style lent itself well to translation; in general, it lacks rhyme although it has some music, it relies heavily on lyricism, and he does not adhere to any regular meter that I can make out.  So, now that we have his dark images in English, I need to figure out how to figure him out. ...

 

Mad?

 

1272) Tech Addiction/Essay/Len Holman  I do not have a smart phone. I do not have a phone which talks to me like a friendly neighbor, which directs me to the nearest chocolate croissant, or which has a brilliantly-colored application for finding the North Star.  I do not have a phone which plays games and keeps me posted on the latest from the Kardashians.  My computer is not very new and I use it sparingly. I have no tablet. I have minimal contact with the digiworld...

 

What?

 

1273) Allen Ginsberg/Poet To Pedophile/Ben Smith  I really wanted to write a piece on Ginsberg, dealing primarily with his poetry, with the angle that he experienced a decline as an artist as he grew older.  Although I still believe this to be true, the artistic decline that is (although it’s swifter than I first thought), I am having difficulty deciding how to depict this, for, as you most likely know, Ginsberg’s works of note tend to be exceedingly long, and I am writing an essay, not an entire book.  To show the decline in his poetry, I have chosen two of his less celebrated works, both of medium length (in terms of Ginsberg’s works).  These works, although they are not the lauded poems one expects to read....

 

Why?

 

1274) In Search Of A Problem/Essay/Len Holman  Last week, a state judge refused to block a Pennsylvania law which requires voters to display a current government-issued photo ID at the polls.  This happened even though the state’s lawyers admitted they “were not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania” and conceded that it was not “likely to occur in November of 2012.”    Democrats say that this Republican-sponsored law is designed to disenfranchise likely Obama voters, while the other side says it makes sense to keep elections fair and free of corruption—even though there hasn’t been any.  Voter fraud is so minimal, that some states don’t even have statistics on it....

 

Where's Godot?

 

1275) Underworld/Don DeLillo/Dan Schneider  Having heard the hype, for years, about Don DeLillo’s long 1997 novel, Underworld, and its being a Postmodern ‘masterpiece,’ I was thinking the work would be something in the unreadably puerile vein of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, perhaps involving parodies of the sort of goombahs from a bad Martin Scorsese gangster film. Were that the case I would have started this essay with something along the lines of: Support the arts- do NOT buy this book! Thankfully, it was not. In fact, the book is not even, in any remote sense, a Postmodern novel....

 

Potential wasted.

 

1276) The Corrections/Jonathan Franzen/Dan Schneider  Having read Jonathan Franzen’s melodramatic 2001 novel, The Corrections, after having recently read Postmodern tripe by William Vollmann, Thomas Pynchon, and so-called Postmodern-cum-classic prose by Don DeLillo, I wondered how in the hell anyone could think that this book was good, much less great. Yes, Franzen can hold a narrative, unlike Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, or that ilk, but it is wholly shorn of depth, gets worse as it goes- being a merely competently written melodrama, larded with stereotypes of WASPs and their WASPy pseudo-problems that morphs into a cliché-ridden sub-soap opera that is almost as bad, in its subgenre, as anything put forth by the writers named above. Franzen is wholly in the T.C Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates camp of being able to craft a narrative structure, but not one of any depth, novelty, nor interest....

 

Rivaling Richard Russo?

 

1277) Gravity's Rainbow/Thomas Pynchon/Dan Schneider  Thomas Pynchon’s 1973 quasi-sci fi novel, Gravity’s Rainbow (named after the trajectory of German V-2 rockets), is not remotely a good novel, and, in places, the 300,000+ word book is a horrible novel, on a par with David Foster Wallace’s ridiculously bad sci fi novel Infinite Jest (in fact, that hack and his horrors, actually were spawned by this earlier monstrosity) and James Joyce’s pointless and ridiculously bad Finnegans Wake. It crests a little bit higher than those works because it ascends to intellectual coherence, if nothing else, on a few occasions, and this is not what most Postmodern novels even seem to strive for- base level coherence or imparting anything of lasting cultural, intellectual, and artistic value....

 

Ker-plunk!

 

1278) Charles Bukowski/Fraud/Ben Smith  Yes, Bukowski has what could be called a huge cult following.  He is famous.  But for what?  For his prose and his poetry, or for the legend that was his life?  Charles Bukowski, a “laureate of American lowlife,” as Time Magazine said of him, wrote his own legend and legacy.  He is known to have written thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories, and six novels. Yet, one who knows about this man knows of a little film called Barfly, in which Mickey Rourke acted the role of Bukowski, the movie based on semi-autobiographical material from Bukowski’s own work.  Yet some may or may not know the talent of Mickey Rourke, who, although he had major lulls in his career, played some well-acted parts, and this is one.  It could be claimed that Rourke himself, along with the directors and producers and fellow-actors involved in the film (Faye Dunaway), made the legend of Bukowski something much more than his works alone had done.  Debatable, but not to anyone really in the know.  Okay, for me, at least, the movie is the only thing Bukowski I find worthwhile....

 

Truth?

 

1279) Mitt & Co./The Election/Dan Schneider  Did you ever get lost?  Did you ever set out to get to your destination, get wrong directions or read the map incorrectly or take a wrong turn somewhere?  If you did, then you drove in supreme and ignorant bliss for a while before you realized you had passed that same tree twice before.  You pulled over, got out, looked around, scratched your head, and muttered, “How the hell do I get back on the right road?”  Right now, that’s the Republican problem.  Romney and Ryan want to talk about how it would have been better to let the car companies go under and save a few bucks, but they’re stuck talking about abortion rights. In fact, they are passing the same tree the primary candidates passed: social issues which make the electorate queasy....

 

Shut yo' mouth, fool!

 

1280) Parable For The Death Culture/Essay/SuZi  Human beings are brutal, cruel: it is this which distinguishes us humans from the other beings of our home, our beleaguered planet. Many assert that it is the use of tools that distinguishes humans, but is not the careful weaving of materials into a nest a cradle, has not enough documentation of twigs used as forks by other primates sufficient to show that humans are not the only tool users—let it be so. Humans are brutal: they kill for pleasure. Even the virus that kills its host, does so because of rapacity –which humans also possess in the form of colonization, over-population, resource exhaustion and environmental toxication. Since the cultural shift generally called the Industrial Revolution, human violence has escalated to the point of planetary toxicosis....

 

Butler did it.

 

1281) Once Upon A Time In Anatolia/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  A few years ago, while reviewing Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2006 great film, Climates, I wrote: Climates is a masterpiece, but it is more than that. It is also possibly an augur to even better things cinematically. It is not an overstatement to declare that Ceylan may be the best living filmmaker today. And, if one argues with that claim, then one might only add that he’s the best still at the height of his powers. Yes, Angelopolous’s Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow was great, but he’s been at a high level for decades now....

 

Great.

 

1282) The Turin Horse/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  I often wonder what occurs to an artist when their work is willfully misinterpreted by stolid critics, or anyone, for that matter? I write this being in a position to know the answer, at least for myself, because, aside from being a critic of art, film, literature, and other things, I am also an artist, writer, and poet. But, the stereotype that dogs most artists- that of the immature, self-centered , irrational, mentally ill (or nearly so) person does not apply in my case, and from everything I’ve ever read or seen of Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr, he likely does not fall into that trap either...

 

Great.

 

1283) The Frantic Force/Book Review/Dan Schneider  If I had the money and time to be self-employed, or live off of my own writing, I might have the time to indulge in all the partaking of art I am proffered. From countless small time publishers offering me free copies- print and cyber- of their latest releases, to almost as many small time film sites and companies that somehow my name and email addresses somehow, and inevitably, make their way onto. Add to that the endless submissions of essays and poems- especially from the Indian Subcontinent which, in almost mind-boggling fashion, seems to mint a quarter million or more English language and literature MFAs and PhDs per year, and to whom my name, and my website, Cosmoetica, invariably end up as one of the top targets....

 

Good.

 

1284) Lyn Lifshin/Essay/Ben Smith  Lyn Lishin, yes her.  Shall we?  I think we should.  Why?  Because shit should not live forever. Before we jump in to the poetry that is the work of Lyn Lifshin, let us get to know a bit about her and what others think about her.  To start, Lyn Diane Lifshin is around seventy years old.  She was born and raised in Vermont.  She attended university at Syracuse University and the University of Vermont....

 

Horrors.

 

1285) Kim, Confucius, And A President/Essay/Len Holman  A few weeks ago, Kim Kardashian settled a lawsuit with the Old Navy clothing chain over an infringement of her “publicity rights.”  This is Mom Kardashian, Kim’s manager and all-around Keeper of Kim’s Millions, at her finest—settling for a reported 15 to 20 million dollars.  It seems that Old Navy ran an ad featuring a woman named Melissa Molinaro.  Kim is worried that shoppers will confuse Melissa with Kim, since they “look alike” and since Kim has her OWN clothing line, she worries that consumers will be confused and think (horrors!) that Kim is endorsing Old Navy.  If they do, then they’ll be tempted to go buy stuff at Old Navy (because consumers are, after all, just sheep) and take away the much-needed income Kim and her klan desperately desire to maintain their public lifestyle....

 

Bitches....

 

1286) They're Called 'Debates'/Essay/Len Holman  Soon, on October 3 (significantly close to Halloween), the activity we call the “Presidential Debates” will begin.  There will be three for Romney and Obama and one for Ryan and Biden.  More than enough.  In fact, if it were up to me, I’d do away with them altogether because they are to voter information as the Mars expedition is to a fifty-seat shuttle flight to Baltimore.  What will happen is what always happens:  each candidate will give his set-speech talking points, despite the questions which are asked, and viewers with a very low tolerance for political theater will only tune in—if they do, if they’ve fed the cat, taken out the garbage, cleaned the toilet, and waxed the car—to see if any of the two makes a major mistake.  Other than that, there is no reason to watch them....

 

Yes they are.

 

1287) It's A Dog's Life/Essay/SuZi  From an academic standpoint, judging by the contents of composition-oriented textbooks, literature has been subsumed by nonfiction writing; especially noticeable is a species of hybridized memoir, where the author creates a structure that is a chain-dance between scientific data and first-person observation to support whatever didactic thesis is intended....

 

Woof!

 

1288) Almost-Free Speech/Essay/Len Holman  There is plenty of free speech around these days.  I mean, there is a lot of mentioning of free speech.  President Obama, at the U. N. made it “perfectly clear” that the values and norms of the U.S. require America to cherish, protect, and advance the cause of, free speech.  But President Morsi of Egypt also mentioned free speech, except for the part where such speech mocks, degrades and insults Islam.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey also thought free speech was a nice concept in theory, but should be restricted if it would lead to violence—read:  disrupting the social order....

 

Yes.

 

1289) The Big Bagel Theory/Essay/Howard Bloom  It took me fifty three years to realize it, but a new theory of the beginning, middle, and end of the universe I hatched in 1959 predicts that the end of the universe may come sooner than you and I may think.  Standard cosmologies predict that the end of the cosmos will not arrive for hundreds of trillions of years.  But the Big Bagel—The Bloom Toroidal Model of the Universe—predicts that the end may be as little as 1.68 billion years away....

 

Where's the cream cheese?

 

1290) Theater Of The Absurd/Essay/Len Holman  I did not see the first Presidential debate because I was exfoliating my elbows (I think global warming is ruining my skin—or is it my age?), nor did I watch the V.P. debate between Uncle Joe and the Kid From Minnesota, but I want to thank all the pollsters, pundits, patriots, partisans, and panderers out in Mediaville who have told me who “won.”  Now I know who is the better candidate because 1) I have been told by experts in the biz who is more likeable....

 

Really?

 

1291) She Gods Of Shark Reef/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Some films are so bad they are good. Think Plan 9 From Outer Space. Other films are so bad they are really bad. Think any film directed by Steven Spielberg. Others are bad, but weird, in a way that makes them difficult to classify, and virtually critic-proof. Case in point is B film legend Roger Corman’s 1958 color classic, She Gods Of Shark Reef. Ok, classic may be too strong a word for the 62 minute film. For the title? Yes. But the film? Eh. What’s bizarre is that this film, to be found in the 50 DVD pack from Treeline Films, is listed as a Sci Fi Classic. Ok? Except it’s not science fiction....

 

Land ho!

 

1292) Tucker: The Man And His Dream/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 film, Tucker: The Man And His Dream, was like watching a bit better version of the more recent Greg Kinnear film, Flash Of Genius. The main difference is that the later film was about how corporate America crushed a man who had an invention to improve a small part of the standard automobile, in the 1960s, whereas Tucker: The Man And His Dream is about how corporate America crushed a man whose invention was a better whole automobile....

 

Ok.

 

1293) American Apartheid/Essay/SuZi  America’s bloody and racist legacy, it’s condition of continued apartheid, is one of the more shameful aspects of her culture--all the more shameful because of the society’s hypocrisy of covert practices while trumming self-congratulation for pluralism that barely exists....

 

Again?

 

1294) God Must Love Football/Essay/Len Holman  Some Texas cheerleaders took to the football field last month with banners displaying Bible verses and, predictably, all hell broke loose. The battleground was Kountze, Texas (why does this stuff always seem to happen in Texas?), where the school district prohibited the cheerleaders from displaying the banners.  This edict was based on the Supreme Court case, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, which established that that prayers led by students at football games were unconstitutional.  Inevitably, 15 middle and high school cheerleaders and their parents sued the district on the grounds that the district violated their free speech rights....

 

Hut, hut....

 

1295) Pleasures Of The Flesh/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  The two most obvious influences on Nagisa Oshima’s 1965 color film, Pleasures Of The Flesh (Etsuraku), are not those first posited upon its release: soft core Japanese porno films, called pink films, nor action thrillers (usually yakuza/gangster films. No, in retrospect the clear influences seem to have been Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime And Punishment and Rod Serling’s sci fi anthology television series The Twilight Zone. The former because of its theme, and the latter because of the film’s structure an execution....

 

Interesting.

 

1296) Romney's Secret Language/Essay/Howard Bloom  If Mitt Romney wins next week’s Presidential election, it may be not be because of his brain and his policies.  It may be because of his body. And because of body language....

 

Et tu?

 

1297) 5 Documentary Wackos/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched a run of five biographical documentaries on Netflix streaming video that were about, well, assorted wacky folks in the arts and sciences. The five films were Scott Walker: 30 Century Man; Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey; Transcendent Man; Limelight; and Lenny Bruce: Without Tears....

 

Weird.

 

1298) Taxing By Fortune/Essay/Neil Hester  In most general addresses to the American people, Romney and the Republican party justify the preservation of current tax rates for the rich by stating that “overtaxing” the rich actually hurts the poor and the middle class, since rich people create jobs and opportunities for everyone else. This justification is a direct appeal to non-rich voters, but also an indirect appeal to rich voters whose enthusiasm for lower taxes does not stem from their increased power to expand the economy, but rather their indignation at the fact that their hard-earned money might be siphoned away by a government....

 

Get'em!

 

1299) If Not Nelson, Then Joan/Essay/Len Holman  The election of the next President of the United States swept down upon us like locusts on the Pharaoh’s kingdom.  Someone lost, someone won, and we are pleased that our system “works” (though some of the more thoughtful among the electorate wonder who it works FOR). But if there is one thing we have learned, if we’ve learned anything (which is problematic) is that America’s sense of humor—if it still exists—is puerile, scripted and very unthreatening....

 

God wot!

 

1300) Repulsion/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Narrative is immanent in art. One simply cannot extricate it from any art form. One cannot dispose of narrative, only retard it. Often when one reads an essay about or review of a work of art, and the reviewer cannot get the art work, he will claim it has no narrative. If the work of art is bad it will have a narrative, merely a poor one. But a poor narrative is not a lack of narrative. If the work of art is great, and the reviewer does not get it, he will claim it has disposed of narrative. But it will have a narrative, and a great one; but one that pushes the boundaries of what narrative is. Good examples of this can be found in a film like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Chris Marker’s La Jetee....

 

Great.

 

1301) The Whites Of Our Eyes/Essay/Norman Ball  These crappy politicians insist everything must bow at the feet of their campaign schedules. Why? What larger issue could there possibly be than the preservation of power? As for the People's business, well, it sort of gets squeezed in from time to time. However we plebes must be patient because we’re in political season which as everyone knows has officially become all seasons....

 

Look.

 

1302) No Predicate/Essay/Len Holman  General Petraeus, former head of the CIA, is in trouble.  He has resigned because he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.  OK, not too bright for a career military man and a politically wise guy, which a general who wants to stay in business and thrive must be in today’s climate (just ask Gen. MacArthur about that).  The story is salacious, messy, embarrassing for almost everyone concerned, and potentially dangerous to—I hate to say it—National Security....

 

No way.

 

1303) Rocco And His Brothers/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  There are great films that revel in poesy and their artiness- think the canons of Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick, and there are films, and then there are films that achieve greatness via their being great ‘prose.’ Such a film is Luchino Visconti’s 1960, 176 minute long, black and white film Rocco And His Brothers (Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli), easily the best of the handful of Visconti films I’ve seen, and in the first rank of prose masterpieces on film. Its greatness is not only in its great parts, but in its lesser facets, too. There is not only a realism that flows from the roots of the Italian Neo-Realism born in the 1940s....

 

Great.

 

1304) White Heat/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Raoul Walsh’s 1949 black and white gangster film, White Heat, is often mislabeled a film noir, but it’s clearly nothing of the kind. Films noir have ambiguous anti-heroes and the things that they engage in is ethically shady, not out and out evil. This certainly does not describe Walsh’s film, featuring Jimmy Cagney as Arthur ‘Cody’ Jarrett, a thinly disguised Arthur ‘Doc’ Barker, the notorious gangster from the 1930s. Jarrett has little shading; he’s pure evil, with a sadistic streak, and all the things he is involve din are likewise pure evil. He’s a murderer and psychopath, but he’s not psychotic, as many bad critics claim. The two terms are not synonyms....

 

Classic.

 

1305) Black Everyday/Essay/Len Holman  One guy threatened to stab someone for pushing his kids.  People got into fistfights and shoved each other around like commuters being loaded onto a Japanese bullet train.  People who have no acquaintance with nature except to go outside to put their trash in the cans by the curb camped out for days in tents a Sherpa might admire.  People stood in various kinds of inclement weather, suffering the awful depredations of snow and rain and cold, armed with nothing more than their smart phones, MREs and insatiable greed for flat-screen TVs and Furbies....

 

Amen.

 

1306) Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol/Review/Dan Schneider  The best ever. Let those words penetrate. I state them in reference to the titular work under review and, mind you, I have seen every film and telefilm ‘straight’ version of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, plus almost every humorous take on it- be it spoof or satire, from lame musical adaptations to modernized updates to the brilliant reworking of the tale in the first season of the great American television sitcom, The Odd Couple. But, the animated Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol is the best version ever of the tale....

 

Great.

 

1307) A Distant Drummer/Essay/Len Holman  A lot has been going on—and continues to do so.  There have been our Presidential elections, more done strikes, hurricanes and flooding, an Egyptian president who wants to be Pharaoh, the imminent financial disaster which awaits the middle class (another disaster, that is), the tempest in a teapot concerning the veracity and culpability of our U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, in the matter of the burning of our consulate in Benghazi, with the loss of life of our ambassador there and three others, along with the nation of Syria coming apart like a rotten burlap sack...

 

Go get'em!

 

1308) 3 Werner Herzog Films/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently streamed and watched three recent films by the great German filmmaker Werner Herzog. The first was a fictive film- My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?- which, despite my expectations and others’ reviews, turned out to be the best fictive film Herzog’s done since the end of his collaborations with actor Klaus Kinski, and the other two were highly lauded documentaries (a form Herzog has excelled in over his half century long career)- Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and Into The Abyss- which were, oddly, not nearly as good as the criticism received....

 

Good.

 

1309) Rape And Revisionism In Soap Operas/Essay/Dan Schneider  As an artist, writer, and critic of both, I have had a long involvement with, what for lack of a better term, can be called serial fiction, in all its forms across varied media. As a young child, I read comic books, which, as the successor to comic strips, were the most popular serial fiction of the first third of the 20th Century. Before comic strips, the serialized novel, most popularized by 19th Century titans like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, made them into the closest thing to today’s film and music celebrities. By the middle of the 20th Century, serial fiction surged in popularity with the movie serials of the 1930s through early 1950s....

 

On General Hospital.

 

1310) When Life Begins/Essay/Len Holman   “Life begins at conception.” It is an article of faith among conservatives, a mantra which is repeated over and over to explain and justify their lack of interest in women’s health care and their constant attempts to shred protection of a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body.  It seems that what is meant by this expression is that once sperm and egg unite, presto! there is a human being and any attempts to purge this being from a mother’s womb is murder, the same as if someone walked up to Warren Buffet....

 

?

 

1311) A Letter/Adam Lanza/Norman Ball  As the years go in, I realize to my horror I am becoming an elder within this travesty we still flatter—by dull habit, world-weariness or lack of follow-on description—with the ennobling term, SOCIETY. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t die....

 

Outrage!

 

1312) Arm The Deer/Essay/Len Holman  It’s happened again: another mass shooting to rival the one at Virginia Tech, one to horrify more than the one at Columbine or the Aurora movie house.  A man went into an elementary school in Connecticut and murdered 20 children and six adults, after killing his mother.  He then shot himself, and the shock and anger and recriminations began....

 

And rabbits!

 

1313) Negativity/The MFA Mafia/Dan Schneider  Not long ago a reader of my website let me know of a 2008 essay from The Kenyon Review, simply titled No. Its writer is a career Academic named Brian Doyle, whose CV is gratuitously displayed below the article: Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author, he thinks (some of them are small and quick and hard to see in the underbrush), of thirteen books of essays, poems, nonfiction, and fiction, notably the sprawling Oregon novel Mink River....

 

Suck it, bitches!

 

1314) Man On A Wire/The Wildest Dream/Dan Schneider  I recently watched two documentary films on adventurers, a 2010 film called The Wildest Dream: Conquest Of Everest, directed by Anthony Geffen, and 2008’s Academy Award Winning Best Documentary, James Marsh’s Man On Wire. It was one of those synchronicities that just happened while trolling about Netflix. Only in retrospect did I make a connection between the themes of the two films. Not only were they about adventurers, but in the former film, the film’s subject failed in his quest to be the first man to scale Mount Everest, yet is lauded in death, while, in the latter film, the film’s subject succeeded in his quest to tightrope walk between the North and South Towers of the now fallen World Trade Center, got fleeting fame, then fell into obscurity until this film resurrected his achievement....

 

Good.

 

1315) Responsible Procreation/Essay/Len Holman  Next spring, the Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, which is a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  One argument sure to be used by the lawyers defending DOMA is one with the whimsical title of “responsible procreation.”  This is a code phrase for indicating the utter contempt for LGBT couples who want to (gulp!) get married.  It is code for anyone who dares to love outside society’s norms, outside God’s mandate, as mandated mostly by a church whose history is replete with irresponsible fornication.  It is syllogistically interpreted as meaning that—since gay people have sex but not babies, and the state has a vested interest in protecting and encouraging the birth of babies, and discouraging the lack of said babies, then the state has a vested interest in keeping non-procreative people from marrying....

 

Good God!

 

1316) Chaplin/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Every so often, when I look up the historical critical context of a film, I am surprised by what I find. Most often I see films that are schlock get undue praise, but since most of anything in life is bad (lest we’d not notice the good). This is not unusual. Then there are good or great films that are severely dissed. Almost every Stanley Kubrick film, post-1970, falls into this category. But, then there are films which are nice little films, not particularly bad, but also nowhere near great, that just elicit an off reaction from critics. Such a film is Richard Attenborough’s 1992 film, Chaplin, on the life of filmdom’s first true superstar....

 

Solid.

 

1317) Automatic Writing/Essay/Len Holman  The headlines were everywhere. In one form or another, they said this particular thing:  “Obama Signs Fiscal Cliff Bill.”  Except he didn’t sign it—an auto-pen did.  The President was in Hawaii and was not available to fulfill the requirement in Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that a bill must be presented to the President and if “he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it.”  And you thought that signing something meant being there in person and putting a hand to a writing implement and, using your cursive (do they still teach cursive in school?), writing out your name....

 

Gotcha!

 

1318) The Kids Are Alright/Essay/Len Holman  On Wednesday, President Obama, flanked by schoolchildren from Sandy Hook elementary School and Vice President Biden, made an appeal to Congress and the American public, to end gun violence—which of course is patently ridiculous in this country, since we kill each other with astonishing rapidity and regularity.  And we don’t do it by throwing cream pies.  The modest executive orders Obama signed mostly concern background checks and research into gun violence, but he wants the congress to pass legislation to curb assault rifles and large-capacity magazines....

 

Lack and load?

 

1319) Manifest Destiny, Redux/Essay/Len Holman  I tuned into the massive prayer meeting on Monday, and to my surprise, an inauguration ceremony broke out.  There, in colors vivid and sounds bravely ringing in the cold air, was a massive spectacle of patriotism and Christianity intermingled into a potent, poisonous revisiting of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.  I’d never heard God (the Christian one) invoked so many times since I was nose to nose with an ogre-clone and nearly-speechless-with- apoplectic-choler drill instructor at a callow eighteen years of age.  Aside from the embarrassing spectacle presented to a nation with so many unemployed, underemployed, homeless, doctorless, and with so many children being fed in shelters and living in temporary accommodations, there was the equally dispiriting panoply of flags, promises of American world dominance....

 

Oy!

 

1320) The MFA Mafia/Essay/Dan Schneider  Recently, film critic Roger Ebert, who has a distressing habit of 3-4 times per year, swallowing his own foot on his Chicago Sun-Times blog, posted a piece titled Books Do Furnish A Mind, wherein he bemoaned the state of reading in our republic, and pinned the blame on everything other than the biggest cause of the problem- the fact that MFA writing programs have, since their inception after World War Two, tried to commmoditize writing to the point of becoming assembly lines churning out bad, soulless writers and books that, duh?, no one actively chooses to read, not even the ever diminishing clique of bad MFA writers....

 

Apologias aplenty.

 

1321) Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? is one of those films that almost everybody has a wrong opinion of, from critic to fan to hater. First, it’s simply not a Grand Guignol film. Why? It simply does not play out on a large enough scale. Second, it’s not really a camp film. Some of the later films its two stars and rivals, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, were in were definitely camp, but not this film. It does, however, have a low budget film feel, in a very good way, because it deglamorizes its two stars, and thus humanizes them, removing them from their earlier career modes as screen sirens. Third, there are a few other misconceptions about the film....

 

Solid fun.

 

1322) Sisters In Arms/Essay/Len Holman  America’s Secretary of Defense has lifted the official military ban on women in combat, which means that gender equality has taken another staggering step sideways.  Eventually, women will be encouraged to kill the enemy with the same brio which now emboldens men to do the same—and we will call that “progress for women’s rights.”  It’s not as if women have not served in dangerous war zones before—many American nurses died in Vietnam, for instance....

 

Bitches, harch!

 

1323) The Never Ending War/Essay/Len Holman  We are at war.  We seek the enemy wherever he or she is and we kill that enemy before something bad happens to us.  We use all sorts of weapons and personnel to do this and we are very good at it.  So good, in fact, that we know beforehand what will happen; we know beforehand who is going to conspire to terrorize us and we know beforehand, when and where he or she will do these things, so we kill them before they do anything, even if the “enemy” is one of us.  It’s “Minority Report,” the Drone Edition, currently available in the Oval Office....

 

On and on....

 

1324) Now It's Zombies/Essay/Len Holman  In the annals of American Fear Archetypes, there have been quite a few Jungian Shadows to indicate what the American public is afraid of, what dark and secret fears it has, and what it will do to assuage those fears, to eradicate them, and to produce policies to deal with them. Our pop culture is a good mirror of this world, a reflection of our most horrifying and ineradicable nightmares.  In this PopLand we’ve had, first, the Red Man, who was in the way of our Manifest Destiny, and whose ideas were so un-European as to be more Martian than Native American.  Newspapers and dime novels chronicled the savagery and complete foreign-ness of the Indian, while extolling the virtues....

 

Meat!

 

1325) The Story Of Film: An Odyssey/Film Review/Dan Schneider  I recently got through watching a 15 part, 900 minute long 2011 documentary on cinema titled The Story Of Film: An Odyssey, directed and narrated by Irish film critic and historian Mark Cousins, on Netflix, based upon his book of the same name. As might be expected of such a large undertaking, the film has highs and lows. The highs are quite good, but the lows are equally glaring, making the overall project a worthwhile, albeit often draining and droning film series....

 

Good.

 

1326) Making It Easier/Essay/Len Holman  It’s not enough that the social networking sites and the search engines (Google, this especially means you!), and all those must-have-the-latest smart phones all either track—or have the capability to track, or deny tracking—most of America.  The gun lobby constantly frets that the so-called “universal background check” is just a ruse for registering every gun owner in the country so all 300 million-plus weapons can be confiscated personally by President Obama going door-to-door....

 

Indeed.

 

1327) 3 Political Docs/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  It’s odd how often one finds oneself watching a string of documentary films on related subjects. Such was the case, recently, when politics dominated my watching. The first of the documentaries I watched was by Alex Gibney, who previously wrought the superb Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, in 2005. In 2010 he released another great documentary on American capitalism, called Casino Jack And The United States Of Money....

 

Good films.

 

1328) The Next Step/Essay/Len Holman  Did anyone but the most diehard liberal really believe that it wouldn’t or couldn’t happen here, that the government wouldn’t take the authority upon itself, that—sooner or later—the hubris and wrong-headed thinking of the movers and shakers in the U.S. government wouldn’t influence those with the joysticks in their hands to get around to flying drones with lethal payloads in the skies over America in search of terrorists....

 

Strike One?

 

1329) Butterflies And Republicans/Essay/Len Holman  It seems that there is trouble in Mexico.  The Monarch butterfly population is down and this should worry us all, since butterflies are pretty damn good pollinators.  The trouble is, of course, humans:  farmers in the states where these creatures feed before they migrate are using genetically-modified crops which are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which allows farmers to use the poison to kill milkweed—which is the Monarchs’ essential food....

 

Again?

 

1330) Smash His Camera/Film Review/Dan Schneider  One of the most unintendedly hilarious arcs of Leon Gast’s 2010 bio-documentary of New York paparazzo Ron Galella, Smash His Camera, regards opinions about his actual ‘art,’ since the 87 minute film reveals that many of the more than 3 million images he’s collected in a fifty year career are now residing inside the walls of some of the more prestigious art galleries of the world. The debate is seen in roundtable amongst fellow photographers- some whom are photojournalists like Galella and others who fall more into the Diane Arbus art photographer side. While both sides make points, to the average viewer one has to come down emphatically on the side of Galella when Chuck Close sneers at Galella’s work....

 

Fun.

 

1331) Selling The Cola/Essay/Len Holman  The boardroom was packed.  On one side of the huge polished table sat the cola executives just making their bones in the company, studying the latest sales figures.  On the other side of the table were the veterans and true believers of the company, and they, too, had those same figures.  Standing before them was the chairman of the Super Cola Company’s parent company, the Great Old Patent Corporation....

 

What if?

 

1332) State Of Nuttiness/Essay/Len Holman  OK, it’s official:  the planet has lost its mind.  The North Koreans have officially declared a state of war with South Korea, which is about as meaningful as the local middle school football team challenging the Baltimore Ravens to a game. Kim Jong Un is issuing threats almost daily, and WE, the United States of America, the world’s most intrusive superpower, are responding with almost-daily preparations for a war that can never happen, barring a major, stupid, unconscious blunder.....

 

Ok?

 

1333) Hillary's Horror/Essay/Len Holman  President Obama has made it much harder for the (at this early stage, at least) presumptive 2016 Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton.  He has worn out his welcome on the left, and the right smells blood—especially after the President’s millionth effort at being nice to Republicans, as represented in his latest budget.  His “hope and change” mantra now sounds like a cruel hoax on the expectant American voter and his legacy will come down to “being the first black President,” a noteworthy fact, but that’s about it.  The “hope” part is still resonant, but the “change” part has become a grisly joke—candy snatched away from the baby’s outstretched hand....

 

What could be?

 

1334) 4 Crime Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched four documentaries involving criminal scandals of assorted varieties, and each film had pros and cons. The four documentaries under examination are Trudell; The Eyes Of Tammy Faye; Mario’s Story, and Inside Deep Throat....

 

Ok.

 

1335) Walter, We Miss You/Essay/Len Holman  The media is in a constant state of frenzied misreporting, interrupted only with celebrity non-news, sinkholes in Florida, videos of the seemingly endless winter storms, and other non-breathless trivia.  The latest round of trouble, which seems to delight the American media as much as Mickey Mouse delights young visitors to Disneyland, has given our media diarrhea of the mouth.  An op-ed piece in the L.A. times last week posits that all of the frenzied activity—real, imagined, speculative, and misinformed—is a product of our collective desire to be a “player not a spectator;” a desire “not to be left out....

 

Yes we do.

 

1336) Mad Men/Season 5/Dan Schneider  Just a week or two before AMC’s hit 1960s era soap opera, Mad Men, started its 6th season, its 5th season was finally released to stream on Netflix. While still a good show, in comparison to most of the dreck that fills the several hundred channels of relentless ‘content’ driven cable television, the 5th season was a definite drop in quality from the first four seasons. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the season’s first four anomic episodes. Literally, in these episodes, the characters just stand around and act like the caricatures they verge on becoming. The series drives on through the 1960s, but nothing really changes....

 

Ok.

 

1337) Bang The Drum Slowly/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  I had been a fan of the old baseball film, Bang The Drum Slowly, which came out in 1973, for many years. It was not a great film, but it entertained, and was one of the early pre-The Godfather films that showcased the talents of a young Robert De Niro. But, it certainly wasn’t great cinema, more or less a baseball version of the football melodrama Brian’s Song, or a non-musical, more dour version of Damn Yankees! It followed a year or so in the life of a dying backup catcher for a pro baseball team, the New York Mammoths, obviously modeled after the New York Yankees....

 

Solid.

 

1338) Pinpricks And The Elephant/Essay/Len Holman  The recriminations, outrage, second-guessing, speculation, diaphanous fantasizing, and just plain wrong “facts,” continue in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, and the American viewing public is once again being subjected to the noise machine which is called “media news coverage.”  This putative coverage is never-ending, with a Russian connection being explored, and the horrified commentary of the Fox News pundits that this is the tip of a big conspiracy to blow up New York....

 

Prick.

 

1339) The Death Of Roger Ebert/Essay/Dan Schneider  I went to sleep one afternoon (I usually work overnights), being informed that film critic Roger Ebert’s cancer had returned, and woke up that evening to learn that the man had just died. That day, April 4th of 2013, is now almost a month gone, and in the interim, some of my fans and readers have suggested (some more strongly than others) that I needed to chime in my own two cents on the man, his life, his criticism, etc., and the reason for this is that they feel that since the man wrote a lengthy 2009 article on me, on his highly trafficked blog....

 

Rest in Peace, Roger!

 

1340) Landmarks/Essay/Len Holman  I live in a rural area of the California high desert.  Sometimes, when I am coming home at night, even after living in the same house for seventeen years, I lose track of where I am and miss the dirt road I have to take to get to my house.  It’s dark out here at night out in my part of the world; streetlights are few and far between, and they are not very bright.  If I’m not really paying attention, I lose track of the few landmarks there are out there which indicate where my turn-off is:  that small brick wall painted yellow; that flagpole with a ragged American flag; those mailboxes on the side of the road.  After missing all my marks, and realizing I am driving to Nowhere, I pull off and curse and slowly turn around, trying not to get stuck in the soft sand which lines the narrow pavement on both sides....

 

Lo!

 

1341) Dad's In Heaven With Nixon/Film Review/Dan Schneider  I’ve seen enough documentaries, especially those that regularly stream on Netflix, to recognize the hallmarks of what I can only label ‘vanity documentaries,’ in the manner that the term vanity has been applied to subsidy presses. By this I mean that the filmmaker is an amateur- often wealthy, with too much time on their hands, who decides to make a film on some member of their family, or on some so called ‘tragedy’ that has befallen the clan. Yet, none of the people in these films has any achievements of note, nor are their tragedies anything that most of the viewers of the film will not have experienced, and many will have experienced far worse. Most of these films never see the inside of a movie theater, and usually end up on a cable tv channel. Such is the case with the Showtime documentary Dad’s In Heaven With Nixon....

 

Yawn.

 

1342) Almanac Of Fall/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Having already seen Bela Tarr’s later film canon, it was an interesting excursion back in time, to see his 1984 color (yes, a color film from Tarr!) film, Almanac Of Fall (Öszi Almanach). It’s not a great film, and is claimed to be the link between his earliest ‘realist’ films and his later black and white psycho-films, but it is an interesting film, and well worth a watch; even if one will not be pounded by the depths of films like Satantango or  Werckmeister Harmonies. The film is, in many ways, rather simple....

 

Good.

 

1343) The Grateful Dead/Essay/Len Holman  The disposition of the dead is fraught with emotional, political, social, psychological, legal, and mythological (including the realms of the sacred) issues. Because we presently don’t have the technology or money or will to fire a rocket filled with corpses into the sun, we find ourselves dealing with the problem of dealing with the dead in some more appropriate or convenient way. Usually, this is a matter for familial consideration—a time of remembering, grieving....

 

Sleep.

 

1344) The Blackboard Jungle/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Any film that stars Sidney Poitier is going to rise and fall on the basis of his presence. He is one of those classic actors, like a Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracy, or John Wayne, that simply captures the attention of an audience, for good or ill. Oftentimes its for the good, but in this film it’s not for the ill, simply for the pointless. Yes, there is context, and in the mid-1950s, when The Blackboard Jungle came out, Poitier was the only black film star of any heft and seriousness. Yet, he still seems wasted in his role as Miller, a juvenile delinquent in North Manual Trades High School, a good kid gone wrong, and one whom teacher Glenn Ford, as Mr. Dadier, seems intent on rescuing. And to top it off, he simply looks (and acts and talks) way to old to be convincing as a high school student....

 

Solid.

 

1345) A Big Shock/Essay/Len Holman  The Obama administration is involved in several “scandals,” though this word is loosely, and inaccurately, being used—especially by conservatives, who would seem to want to have Cotton Mather as President and Sitting Bull behind bars.  It seems that the Internal Revenue Service is accused of targeting conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, that the Justice Department is accused of “chilling” free speech by collecting phone call records of AP reporters without notification, as is required by law (under a “national security” exception), and that Obama is suspected of somehow allowing the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, to be killed....

 

Not really.

 

1346) 3 Docs on Female Athletes/Review/Dan Schneider  I recently streamed three Netflix documentary films that dealt with females in dubious sporting events. These three films were Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies Of Wrestling; Blood On The Flat Track: The Rise Of The Rat City Roller Girls; and Brutal Beauty: Tales Of The Rose City Rollers....

 

Ugh.

 

1347) Fewer Boots/ Less Robots/Essay/Len Holman  Have you heard of the X-47B?  No?  Well, you will, or will hear of its progeny.  It’s the Navy’s entry into the Robot Wars Against Terror, a drone the size of a jet fighter which can take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier.  The prototype cost $1.4 billion and can carry weapons and provide round-the-clock intelligence and targeting—who it targets and where it gathers intelligence is not public knowledge.  The keen thing is that—because it can leave and arrive via aircraft carrier....

 

Ok?

 

1348) Hatebook/Essay/Len Holman  It now seems the height of naiveté to have believed we could embrace all the platforms which are called, collectively, “social media” and not run afoul of a cherished American ideal:  free speech.  We all believe in free speech the way a child believes in Santa Claus, or the way a conspiracy buff believes Castro or the Mob had something to do with John Kennedy’s death, or the way desperate, lonely people believe that a computer algorithm can match you with your soul mate. This is not just happening here in the U.S.  Governments across the globe regularly close off internet access, public spaces, and news organs—all to keep that beast—free speech—from getting too rambunctious....

 

Yea!

 

1349) David Foster WallaceNothing/Jackson Hawley  In the contemporary literary paradigm, it would be difficult to find a figure more sacrosanct than that of the late David Foster Wallace. Since his 2008 self-hanging, his reputation seems only to have waxed, his work and person lauded in Academia and book store alike, culminating in a 2012 biography by author D.T. Max. (One can only guess how soon we’ll see a big-budget biopic.) While the man never moved units like Stephen King nor Dan Brown, his work still sold quite well for somebody so self-consciously “artsy” in approach, particularly among college-age individuals and Academics (though research suggests that his posthumous, unfinished collection of novel fragments, The Pale King, sold rather more poorly than his earlier works had, despite the hype). He seemed to be the literati’s dream come true – a well-educated man with a background in literature and philosophy -references to the works of Wittgenstein and Derrida, as well as authors like Dostoevsky, abound in his corpus.....

 

Nothing plus nothing equals?

 

1350) Joni Mitchell/Glenn Tilbrook/Dan Schneider  One might think that if one did a documentary on a subject that was good, that the resulting documentary would, likewise, be good, or better. But, this is not usually the case. And watching these two documentaries on musicians- Joni Mitchell: Woman Of Heart and Mind and Glenn Tilbrook: One For The Road- is a good instruction on why this is so....

 

So-so.

 

1351) Uncle Mortie's Picnic/Essay/Len Holman  By now, everyone knows that the U.S. government is—with the very kind assistance of the nation’s data carriers and the ubiquitous social media, The Patriot Act, and secret FISA courts—watching us as we go merrily on our electronic way through cyberspace.  Some of us are outraged, but not too many.  It is for the good of the country we are told.  We have foiled at least one terrorist plot, we are told—but since everything is secret, we don’t know the details, and we never will, so we’ll just have to take our government’s word for it.  The thing is, to me, not the total and arrogant and slimy pretense of protecting America....

 

Good riddance.

 

1352) We Still Produce Them/Essay/Len Holman  A young man, 29 years old, has thrown the intelligence community, the political establishment, and the social punditocracy, into frenzy.  He was a contractor for the CIA (some estimates are that about half of the CIA’s hired help is contracted out).  Edward Snowden is apparently holed up somewhere in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, a keeper of many secrets, purveyor of newspaper bombshells....

 

Yes, we do.

 

1353) Being There/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Hal Ashby made a series of quirky films in the 1970s that were highly regarded, then succumbed to a drug addiction and died before the 1980s were through. The most famous of these were Harold And Maude, Shampoo, Coming Home, and Being There. Almost all of his films, however, are products of their times, thus do not hold up well to more modern viewers. Harold And Maude was a farce about a ‘romance between a young man and an old woman, Shampoo was a vehicle for Warren Beatty in between more serious films....

 

Ok.

 

1354) The Ends Of The Earth/Film Review/Dan Schneider  American filmmaker John Grabowska has, in the last decade, become both the foremost nature documentarian of his country, and American public television’s natural yin to Ken and Ric Burn’s historical yang, in the field of documentary films. His list of excellence has been detailed in reviews of his prior works by my wife Jessica, and they include....

 

Great.

 

1355) No One Ever Looks Up/Essay/Len Holman   Jimmy Hoffa remains missing.  He has been gone for almost 40 years and his body has been dug for in almost as many places as the stories of his whereabouts contend he lies:  under the end zone in Giants Stadium, in a crushed and compacted car, in the sea, in the cornerstone of some building—many buildings—in some city somewhere, and the latest—a field in rural Detroit where, the FBI imagined it had “credible information” that good old Jimmy was taking a dirt nap.  The so-called tip came from a reputed Mafia captain....

 

Pizza?

 

1356) Identification Of A Woman/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s much maligned 1982 color film, Identification Of A Woman (Identificazione Di Una Donna), for the first time was an odd experience. Although I normally dismiss poor reviews and approach films with an open mind, the fact is that I was fully expecting the film to be yet another old man film, like Ingmar Bergman’s disastrous Saraband, or Federico Fellini’s stale Intervista....

 

Good.

 

1357) Every Six Feet/Essay/Len Holman  The U.S. Senate passed what is called “sweeping legislation” on what is pretentiously called “immigration reform.”  CNN’s website called it potentially the crowning legislative achievement of the President’s second term.  If this to be Obama’s crowning legislative achievement, then the next Democratic contender for the White House will have some big explaining to do....

 

Or more?

 

1358) Everything For Sale/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Most artworks that are made to honor someone tend to be mediocre, at best, and embarrassingly bad, at worst. The 1969 film, Everything For Sale (Wszystko Na Sprzedaz), by Andrzej Wajda, falls somewhere in the middle. It tries to do similar things as such self-conscious and self-reflexive films as Federico Fellini’s , Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, but does not succeed. Rather, it falls between lesser efforts like Francois Truffaut’s Day For Night and Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York. In short, it’s a film that tries to honor the memory of a dead actor....

 

Eh.

 

1359) Behind The Curtain/Essay/Len Holman  The first democratically elected president of Egypt is under arrest.  His supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood are being arrested by the Egyptian army in self-righteous droves.  Crowds filled Tahrir Square in jubilation that Mohamed Morsi is gone and the U.S. is tippy-toeing around that awful, significant, word “coup.”  There are bloody clashes in the streets of Cairo, with Brotherhood supporters vowing to “take it to the streets” with a vengeance, and everyone is worried that the possibility of a civil war is real and imminent, while the Army has taken charge of the nation, supplied an interim president....

 

Oz speaks.

 

1360) Red Beard/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  One of the fascinating things about Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is that, more than any other director one can think of, he made great or near-great films in ways that were as different from each other as many of the films of other directors are from each other. From the incisive existentialism of High And Low to the innovations and stylistic influence of Rashomon to the historical action epopee of Seven Samurai to the novelistic depths of Kagemusha and Ran to the searing noirish political critique of The Bad Sleep Well to the comic extravaganza....

 

Great.

 

1361) When A Civilization Crumbles/Essay/Len Holman  When Athens came apart, there were some who saw it, knew what was going on, said something about it, but failed to prevent it.  When the Roman Empire stopped carrying and demonstrating the values of the Republic, there were some who noticed and wrote about it, but failed to prevent Roman decline into barbarism.  Much the same could be said for Paoli’s Corsican republic or the Republic of Dubrovnik.  In fact, one wonders if the people on the inside of a great civilization ever really notice the subtle hints of the End of an Age....

 

Chunks and holes?

 

1362) 2 Shatner Docs/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched 2 documentaries featuring actor William Shatner, and his long and varied career in acting and other arts. They were The Captains And William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet. The Captains is a 2011 film directed by Shatner himself, wherein he serves as the interviewer of the five actors who succeeded him in roles as captains of the Star Trek universe positions. Aside from Shatner, who kicked off the craze as Captain James T. Kirk, in the original Star Trek....

 

Gonzo!

 

1363) Cancer, Prostates, And Heroes/Essay, Dan Schneider  ‘I woke up this morning and found myself dead.’ Just one of the more clever ways I thought to start off this essay about my recent brush with prostate cancer. A close pun to a well known blues and rock song from some decades ago, but, then I thought, no, perhaps go the Woody Allen route: ‘A man sticks a finger up your ass and says, ‘I feel something.’ The temptation is great to respond with the exact same declaration.’ This is an allusion to Allen’s great 1986 film, Hannah And Her Sisters, wherein Woody’s character is a hypochondriac who has possibly been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, and preludes into his typical schtick with an ‘Ok, stay calm,’ sort of exhortation....

 

Yes!

 

1364) Three Years/Essay/Len Holman  In three years, you could paint an elephant like a robin and train it to flutter around the bird feeder.  In three years, humans could go to Mars, set up a McDonald’s and still have time to get back to earth and go on CNN.  In three years, you could circumnavigate the globe over the world’s oceans in a bathtub.  And in three years, there will be a Presidential election.  Three Years!....

 

Oy!

 

1365) 56 Up/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Michael Apted’s latest installment in the great The Up Series- whose films he’s all directed, save the first, helmed by Paul Almond, 56 Up!, sees a film that, at 144 minutes, is the longest yet in the documentary series, and is an exercise in expectation and disappointment. One expects the familiar, because the bunch of British people profiled for nearly half a century are everymen, despite their protests and pronouncements to the contrary, and disappointment for their supposed promise gone south is inevitable. They are average- at times....

 

Great.

 

1366) The Penultimate Truth/Philip K. Dick/Dan Schneider  Watching Philip K. Dick: The Penultimate Truth, a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, is an exercise in watching a solid work about a mediocre subject. Philip K. Dick is one of those mechanistic sci fi writers who lacked any insight into the human condition because he spent his own life in solipsistic fantasies, detached from the real world, and in a state of borderline neurosis and psychosis. What he actually lacked was vision. Yes, he had ‘visions,’ in the sense that he would sometimes have inner fictions play out in his mind, but ALL artists have this, at some point....

 

Ugh.

 

1367) Ranking Obama/Essay/Len Holman  When the wind blows, there isn’t much a person can do about it but to get hunkered down and wait for it to stop.  No amount of prestige or adulation, no title or position of power or influence can make the air stop moving.  Even a President of the United States must accede to this natural phenomenon and admit he or she is powerless to do anything, no matter what his or her approval rating is. It is said that the measure of a great President is largely a matter of circumstance.  A President, it is said by the sages of the chattering class, either grows into his job during a calamity or is cruelly crushed by it.  He or she is either up to the task of stopping the wind or is blown over by it....

 

Solid as a rock.

 

1368) Osaka Elegy/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Osaka Elegy (Naniwa Erejii) is an early black and white film from the canon of Kenji Mizoguchi, one of the Big Three Film Masters from Japan, along with Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa. Released in 1936, this 71 minute long early sound film has some good moments but is filled with unsure technique. Compared to later Mizoguchi masterpieces like Sansho The Bailiff and Ugetsu, this is like watching a sketch of greater things to come, a Protoceratops vs. a Triceratops. It was also the director’s first critical and commercial success....

 

Good.

 

1369) Thank God I Don't Know French/Essay/Neil Hester  Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to a collection of French art songs by Fauré, Debussy, and Poulenc, performed by Véronique Gens. Oh, Véronique... I love your voice. And to the aforementioned composers: thanks for writing some exceptionally lovely music. However—I don’t necessarily love the lyrics to some of these melodiés: when I read lyric translations (which hopefully are fairly accurate), oftentimes the words are a bit too sugary and trite. I certainly don’t hold song lyrics to the same standard as poetry, for a few reasons: some written ideas are too complex to comfortably fit with music; lyrics are performed, and should be more immediately comprehensible....

 

Indeed!

 

1370) 4 Low Biz Docs/Film Review/Dan Schneider  I recently reviewed four documentary films dealing with the lower end of the entertainment business. They were Buskers: For Love Or Money; The Antics Roadshow; Strictly Background, and Card Subject To Change. The first of the four films under review was released in 2008, and follows the street art of busking. Busking is a catch all term for street performance, which can include mime, acrobatics, sleight of hand, and daredeviltry, among many other talents....

 

Ok.

 

1371) Exorcismo/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Pretension kills. In the arts, it kills most of all. This is why, a few months back, I saw a boxed set of DVDs from the 1970s Spanish horror film icon, Paul ‘Unpretentious’ Naschy, and decided to get it. Back as a youth, when most theaters in New York City stayed open 24 hours to try and squeeze profits, many of the older and smaller theaters would run kids films in the mornings, along with old cartoons, then, around 11 am to midnight they’d run the main features, and overnight would see European exploitation and/or porno films....

 

Solid.

 

1372) American Radical/DVD Review/Alex Sheremet  This joke introduces American Radical, a documentary by David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier, and in many ways defines both the film and the man within. It is pitch-black, and one only hears Finkelstein, who eventually fades in, inflecting and de-emphasizing select words, offering the right pauses, then ending it all on a smirk. It is not an arrogant smirk, nor is it a happy one. Rather, it is melancholy. Bitter. For a man whose work –  despite claims – is so rational and un-emotive, this is one of the few places where emotion has an outlet. Bergman once said: “I could always live in my art, but never in my life.” By contrast, Finkelstein lives in his work....

 

Solid.

 

1373) 2 Docs On Sex & marriage/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Watching documentaries on Netflix can be engaging yet frustrating. On a single afternoon I watched a 2009 Discovery Channel documentary, called The Science Of Sex Appeal, which offered insights into the whys and wherefores of its titular subject matter, then watched a 2008 theatrical documentary film, Phyllis And Harold, which was the epitome of the noxious brand of film I call the vanity documentary, wherein a filmmaker makes a film about themselves or someone they know, of little import to anyone outside of whom they know, and try to propound it is artistically or culturally significant....

 

Ugh.

 

1374) A Solitary Ascent/Film Review/Jackson Hawley  Objectivity alienates. I’ve learned that fact well over the past four years of dedicating myself to critically understanding and appreciating the arts. You don’t realize just how integral a social function the arts serve, good or bad, until you find yourself on the periphery of such experiences, more enthralled with the thing itself than the banal (and likely plain wrong) comments that will float about you merge with the masses filing out of the theater. Most of the time, instead of really investing in an artwork, people seem to invest the artwork in themselves – the chinks, the flaws, the deficits being places for people to tendril their emotions, their needs, their own lack. Yet, to me, the quality of an artwork – irrespective of my feeling toward it - is often as tangible as the side of the head of the person I’m arguing with, seemingly demanding to be smacked back to reality....

 

Lonely voyager.

 

1375) Oasis/The Un-Doing Of A Narrative/Alex Sheremet  I’m often amazed by how little respect the world shows reality, and, by extension, how little respect the people who inhabit this reality end up getting. This is especially true in how kids, the mentally retarded, transgender folks, minorities, the handicapped, and victims (both real and imagined) are treated in the world’s meta-narrative, which is the sum of every bias, policy, opinion, perception, artwork, and the like, available to us. They are at turns fetishized, sobbed over, exaggerated in importance, distorted, and otherwise demeaned by the very same people who claim to be giving them agency and respect. I mean, who wins, here? And how could “winning,” in such an arena, ever be construed as such, anyway, when the gain is so temporary and small?....

 

She's come undone.

 

1376) Teorema/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  How best to describe one of the worst films I’ve ever watched? And, by worst, I mean worse than Steven Spielberg’s big budget, low story crap, for, say what you will about that schlockmeister, but even his garbage is at least technically very competent. And, by worst, I don’t mean Ed Woodian levels of ‘so bad it’s actually good, in a funny sort of way’ bad. No, I mean bad in such a dismal way, wherein every aspect of the film is terrible- from the writing to the acting to the symbolism to the technical schlock work to the scoring to the very raison d’etre of the film. I mean in a why- WHY was such a film ever made?- kind of bad. Ok, I’ve got it. I will describe the film by simply describing it....

 

Awful.

 

1377) David Gilmour/Problems/Anthony Zanetti  Lit World nonsense has caught my eye for the past few days as I’ve scanned social media and the news. A few ill-considered remarks in a fluff piece on novelist David Gilmour for Hazlitt Magazine went viral on social media and resulted in attention in several major publications both inside of Canada and beyond. Gilmour, an instructor at the University of Toronto, was taken to task by users on social media services like Twitter, while the Acting Chair of the English Department (with whom Gilmour is not actually affiliated, as a non-tenure track instructor hired by one of the U of T’s colleges) subsequently circulated a letter to the faculty stating that Gilmour’s comments “constitute a travesty of all we stand for.”....

 

Hack attack!

 

1378) Happiness In A Convex Self/Essay/Jackson Hawley  Lunch. All-you-can-eat cafeteria food. I’d gone there alone, but a girl I’d met a bit earlier in the semester while working on a show spied me and asked to join me. Tomorrow, I’d graduate college, my degree as empty, in its own way, as my experiences in obtaining it. I was glad for the company....

 

Maybe not?

 

1379) The Death Of James Emanuel/Essay/Dan Schneider  This past Saturday, September 28th, 2013, American poet James A. Emanuel died. He was 92. Born on June 15th, 1921, in Alliance, Nebraska, Emanuel was a poet first, and a great one, at that. He came from a state that produced its own share of excellent to great writers, such as essayist and poet Loren Eiseley, poet and cultural historian John G. Neihardt, poet Weldon Kees, and novelist Willa Cather....

 

Damn!

 

1380) To The Wonder/DVD Review/Alex Sheremet  After watching Malick’s To The Wonder, I must come to the melancholy view that -- with nearly four decades of film-making behind him -- this is Malick’s first film without some argument for greatness. Yes, Badlands was not especially deep, and Tree Of Life had a number of abysmal and overwrought moments, but these films were wonderfully constructed, even if the latter could have used some pruning....

 

Good.

 

1381) A Wind From The South/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  While delving in to one of the most interesting DVD sets released in recent years, The Criterion Collection’s The Golden Age Of Television, a viewer not only gets chance to experience the black and white kinescopes of a lost art form, but one also gets to see not only great and rare works of art, but lost works that have greatness in them, if not in their totality. Such is the case with the fourth entry in the Criterion package, the presentation of A Wind From The South, which first ran on The U.S. Steel Hour, on September 14th, 1955. The 51 minute long play was directed by Daniel Petrie and showcased the talents of Julie Harris, then the nation’s brightest rising Broadway star....

 

Thar she blows!

 

1382) The Other Side Of The Dream/Essay/Jackson Hawley  I recall, a few years ago, catching a glimpse of my twin sister at a particular angle as we sat chatting with the group of friends we had precipitated into at college. The topic of conversation eludes me, though I seem to recall some allusions to Kubrick, whom I’d only recently gotten into. What pops out of my memory, rather, is my realization that she looked just like our mother did in pictures taken decades prior. She had shorter hair, and was thinner, yet the curve of her smile’s whiteness, the angles her gesticulations cut through the air, the timbre of her words… Her physical being projected her provenance into others’ sight, though perhaps only I was the only critic who could fully appreciate such artistry. I’d always felt connected to her in a way transcending what I could achieve with others. Plenty of twins diverge....

 

The Lathe Of Heaven churns.

 

1383) Olympus On Earth/Essay/Len Holman  I’ll bet that the National Security Administration (NSA) really envies the old gods of mythology, who could change shapes and appearances, become invisible, and affect the course of men’s minds with enchantments both supreme and sublime.  The Olympians knew the minds of humans—what they thought and felt, and could invade their very psyches, without resorting to anything more complicated than their god-like immortality and power....

 

Strike!

 

1384) Phantom/Film Review/Dan Schneider  One of the downsides of having a popular website is that one is inundated with offers to review this or that book or film. While this may seem a boon to your typical arts site, more interested in lowest common denominator fluff, for one devoted to higher pursuits, this can often mean being flooded with numerous and repeated requests to review things to the point where one need merely report such requests, however personalized, as spam. The most unfortunate thing is that most of the review offers are for palpable garbage- stuff that simply could NOT be remotely good. However, once on a spam list, other possibly better fare never even gets a looksy....

 

Excellent debut film.

 

1385) No More Ghettos/Essay/Alex Sheremet  In Confucian philosophy, there is a passage called Ta Tung, or “The Great Harmony,” which describes the ideal relation between things: that the best leaders are elected, wealth is shared and not left idle, and every man, woman, and child belongs to each other -- and to itself. On my way to work, I often stop by a large statue of Confucius off the Bowery, in which this passage is emblazoned. There, one finds a multitude of trees growing up from stone, and flowers in the spring and green all summer. Yet not once did I ever see a Chinese person stand beside me and gaze at the man, much less read the inscription, for to the Chinese, he has become a kind of furniture....

 

Yes.

 

1386) The Elephant And The Ants/Essay/Len Holman   The parable has two levels:  one is realistic, actual, on-going.  The other is tragic, disastrous, and frustrating.  This is the second level.  The first level is self-evident, as you will see. Once there was a mighty elephant....

 

Parable time.

 

1387) 12 Years A Slave/Essay/Jackson Hawley  With this quote, Steve McQueen – a great artist whose work continues to go unappreciated for what it really is, by most - aptly captures the basic underlying foundation of art: that it is, beyond all else, an object. It has a specific reality that exists independently of any individual percipient. Getting at that aesthetic and qualitative actuality ought to be the job of any good critic, for it is in such spheres that art transcends the enjoyable-yet-base facts that structure a human experience of life – food, sleep, sex, and the like, things whose only real potential....

 

Skewering the asses.

 

1388) 12 Years A Slave/Film Review/Dan Schneider  If the 1977 ABC television miniseries, Roots, based upon Alex Haley’s book of the same title, was a sort of prosaic James Michener like take on the subject of the bondage of African descendants in America, then British director Steve McQueen’s 2013 film, 12 Years A Slave, based upon an 1853 as told to narrative of freeman turned slave turned freedman, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is American slavery’s poetic take on the subject, what would have been wrought had Herman Melville taken on slavery with his crew of the Pequod....

 

Great.

 

1389) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  John Ford is one of those film directors with a far greater reputation than his actual filmic output deserves. That’s not to say that he did not direct good films (see Stagecoach and The Grapes Of Wrath) but he directed many mediocre films, too; and most of those mediocrities came in the early and later parts of his career (see The Searchers). A rare exception to this was Ford’s 1962 film, The Man Who Shot liberty Valance. No, it’s not a masterpiece, as some of its champions claim, and it’s nowhere near a great film. But it is a good one, and one that is so for the same reasons Stagecoach is: a good script....

 

Good.

 

1390) Falstaff/Chimes At Midnight/Dan Schneider  As William Shakespeare was to lesser writers and works, so was Orson Welles to The Bard’s lesser works. In his 1965 film, Falstaff (Chimes At Midnight), made in Spain, via a Spanish and Swiss co-production, Welles showed that he was still a great filmmaker, despite severe budget restriction, subpar equipment, and assorted other problems with technical issues, and it was these issues, alone, which possibly and arguably take the film down from an unquestionably great work to a merely nearly great one. Welles shows how adept he was at adaptation in his screenplay by sewing together the historical accounts of Raphael Holinshed with five of Shakespeare’s lesser works, the four histories that feature the titular character, John Falstaff- Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, and Richard II, as well as one of his generally abysmal comedies....

 

Great.

 

1391) The Name Game/Essay/Len Holman  When God created Adam, He decided that it would be much better to have the guy do something rather than nothing, so He gave Adam a job: naming.  Adam would spend his days naming the animals and spend his nights wishing he could do something else.  When Eve came along, Adam was a happy man, having no more naming to do, and having other, less brow-knotting things to take up his time.  So names were God’s first assignment....

 

It goes on.

 

1392) Idiot Documentaries/2 Reviews/Dan Schneider  Being able to flip through genres and subjects on Netflix is an interesting experience because it allows one to slake the mood one is in at a given moment. So it was when, one recent afternoon, I happened upon two documentaries with a similar theme: the dysfunctions of the documentarian’s immediate family. The two films were Brother Born Again and Bigger, Stronger, Faster: The Side Effects Of Being American, and the latter film was significantly better than the former....

 

Yawn.

 

1393) The Big Man/Essay/Len Holman  The Governor of New Jersey is a big man.  Chris Christie is the Big Man on the talk-show campus.  He is, in every poll of Republican voters, far ahead of Rand Paul, who appeals to the hard right of Tea Party folk and others who ride motorcycles and have skulls embroidered on their black jackets.  He is head of the Governor’s Conference, and he is spoken of by the GOP as the Second Coming of fiscal and moral sanity.  He is also very corpulent.  Not as corpulent as our largest President....

 

Big.

 

1394) Yojimbo/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Yojimbo (用心棒,  or The Bodyguard) may be the most well known Akira Kurosawa film in the West, and it is easily the funniest film of the master filmmaker’s that I’ve seen (even more so than The Hidden Fortress). But it’s not a great film, albeit very entertaining, and Kurosawa’s biggest money making film, to that point. That’s because it simply has no depth. It’s a fairly one note comic opera that plays variations on a theme: perverse samurai fucks with the minds of even more perverse villagers until he ends up destroying....

 

Good.

 

1395) Sanjuro/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  In my review of Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 comedy, Yojimbo, I said the film was an example of Kurosawa Lite, but that Kurosawa Lite was still better than most ‘heavier’ films of other directors. Well, those sentiments can be echoed in spades for that film’s sequel (or prequel?) Sanjuro (椿三十郎,), made in 1962. It could be classified as Kurosawa Liter, but it’s still an enjoyable experience. Unlike Yojimbo, though, it’s not even a dark comedy, it’s virtually pure comedy, and, despite being better than most, the truth is that Chaplin, Keaton, and Groucho Marx have nothing to lose sleep over....

 

Good.

 

1396) Quick With Flies/Book Review/Alex Sheremet  Last week, I was able to catch Steve McQueen’s latest film, 12 Years A Slave, but left the movie theater a bit “down.” It wasn’t because of the film, itself -- at least, not really. It wasn’t a mood, or some vagary of weather. The fact is, I’ve always felt a little sad walking through a movie theater, and sadder, still, walking out. Inside, I’d hear all sorts of comments about the film, which missed the point or outright damned it to stereotype in that half-empty room. Outside, parents walked around with their kids, who yelled for the latest blockbuster as the parents smiled, perhaps remembering....

 

Great stuff.

 

1397) 2 Writer Docs/Film Review/Dan Schneider  I recently watched a couple of documentaries-cum-hagiographies on two vastly overrated writers: American prosist J.D. Salinger and German avant gardist W.G. Sebald. The two films I watched were titled Salinger and Patience (After Sebald). I watch both films on Netflix one afternoon....

 

Yawn.

 

1398) Holiday Wars/Essay/Len Holman  It’s that time of the year:  jingle bells, fir trees, presents, mad crowds scrambling to get a few cheap TVs, including fistfights and the occasional shooting or stabbing, food kitchens where celebs go once a year to feed the needy while showing their bleached teeth for the cameras, movies about Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Santa’s elves, reindeer and, oh yes, whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”  From the accounts of conservative Christians and their fellow worriers, Christmas is under attack by the Godless, uncaring, self-righteous Left....

 

Yee-haw!

 

1399) Intentions Of Murder/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Of the three Shohei Imamura films included in the DVD set, Pigs, Pimps, And Prostitutes: Pigs And Battleships, The Insect Woman, and Intentions Of Murder, the last film, a black and white effort made in 1964, is clearly the least of the three, although it is still quite a goof film. Intentions Of Murder (赤い殺意  or Akai Satsui or Unholy Desire) lacks the satiric edge and humor of Pigs And Battleships and is missing the realistic drama of The Insect Woman....

 

Good.

 

1400) Prometheus/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Fuck you, Ridley Scott! Fuck you and the mudflaps you rode in on! I just watched your 2012 disasterpiece, Prometheus, on a DVD rip site, after being advised not to waste a cent on it by any number of other watchers- and I feel no guilt for seeing it for free, even if- at 118 minutes, it’s 6 minutes shorter.....

 

Shit.

 

1401) Chicken Parts/Essay/Len Holman  A very clever fox, hired by a committee of farmers and his fellow foxes, has snuck into the most prominent farmer’s chicken coop (a LARGE coop) and stolen a particularly fat chicken. This fox then absconds with the poultry and his colleagues are outraged. The farmer wants, not only that particular chicken back, not only the knowledge of how this clever fox managed to unlock the coop, but the fox itself.  What does he do to accomplish all this?  He hires the foxes to capture the miscreant with the idea of punishment severe and long-lasting.  These foxes are especially good....

 

Cack!

 

1402) The Death Of LeRoi Jones/Essay/Dan Schneider  A few days ago, poet Everett LeRoi Jones (aka LeRoi Jones and  Amiri Baraka) died, at the age of 79, of as yet undisclosed causes. His death has made major newspapers and publications worldwide, even though the man’s literary legacy is, at best, sub-mediocre. This stands in stark contrast to the death of an actual great poet named James Emanuel, a few months ago, whose own death and vital information can be accessed here....

 

Thank God!

 

1403) Big Man, Big Trouble/Essay/Len Holman  The large, truculent, controlling governor of New Jersey is in a bit of trouble.  His aides (if these people are “aiding” him, what will his enemies do?) had the George Washington Bridge shut down for four days.  This bridge connects New Jersey and New York, is billed as “the world’s busiest bridge,” and totally pissed off commuters, firefighters, EMT drivers and Homeland Security, which worries about these putative terrorist targets....

 

Yowzah!

 

1404) To The Wonder/Film Review/Dan Schneider  In engaging any given work of art it still amazes me how so many people, even critics, can miss the most neon-glowingly, blaring, absolutely worst aspects of a film, or even the best aspects. But, in dealing with writer and director Terrence Malick’s 2012 drama, To The Wonder, unfortunately, and shockingly, almost all the things missed are bad. Yes, the film is the most consistently poorly reviewed film of his career, a 42 year career that has seen only six films released- or one every 7 years, but most of the criticisms of the film are bad critics merely preening their own ignorance regarding Malick’s methods, for they have written the same negative views regarding films of his that were masterpieces....

 

Ok.

 

1405) Driving Your Algorithm To Work/Essay/Len Holman  Recall the movie, “I, Robot.” Recall the sleek, automated cars and freeways, no-hands driving, parking which tucks away vehicles safely, and robots which assist humans to supposedly be better…well, humans.  Now recall Google’s Honda, the self-driving car which the giant company is busy driving all over hell’s half acre with no human behind the wheel.  Not gonna happen in MY lifetime, you say?  It’s way too science-fiction-y to every become a serious way to get to your work (assuming you have a job to go to).  But wait: now comes Ford, that iconic carmaker....

 

I second that emotion!

 

1406) Oasis/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Chang-Dong Lee’s third film, 2002’s Oasis (Oasisŭ or 오아시스), was an interesting experience because a good portion of the film, notably its last third, is propelled by what is known as the Dumbest Possible Action trope that plagues most Hollywood fare. But, the first two thirds of the 132 minute film is, narratively, an interesting exercise in how to make a repulsive human being seem passably decent. That is because, while the main character certainly has psycho-emotional problems, he is not, as many critics have labeled him, a retard....

 

Good.

 

1407) Sunset Boulevard/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Billy Wilder, as a film director, was never a deep artistic director, in the vein of some of the world's great filmmakers, like Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, nor Werner Herzog. His best films, like The Apartment or The Fortune Cookie, were well written and well acted comedies. In a sense, his most well known film, Sunset Boulevard, is an extension of that ‘brand,’ if you will. There is no great insight into the human condition, nor is there any humanity-altering benefit from watching it. And, there is an unnecessary and distracting obligatory ‘love story’ in it; or, at least, an attempt at one....

 

Good.

 

1408) Not Enough Fingers/Essay/Len Holman  A “Ring of Steel” surrounds the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the public is being assured that the Russians are not only co-operating with U.S. intelligence, but that with more than forty thousand police and military personnel on site, not even a mouse with a grenade (or a couple of toothpaste tubes) could get through.  The athletes in the Olympic village in Sochi are presumably concentrating on their task....

 

Too much?

 

1409) In The Mood For Love/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 film, In The Mood For Love (花樣年華 or Huāyàng Niánhuá, or The Time Of Blossoms), was an interesting experience: the 99 minute long film is clearly a superior work of art and cinema, but just as clearly not a great film, and this is apart from its rather muddled and poor ending. Let me get the ending out of the way first, since that is the film’s biggest sticking point. No, it’s not as bad, relatively, an ending as, say, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon....

 

Solid.

 

1410) The Iceman/Film Review/Dan Schneider  There are many films that have a single saving grace, and the 2012 film, The Iceman, is one of them. If one were to remove the excellent acting performance of Michael Shannon, in the 105 minute long film’s lead and titular character of Mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski, this film would be little different than the early 00s exploitation crime flicks that populated Blockbuster DVD markdown bins in the last decade. It’s a film that fails mainly because of a bad screenplay, but a screenplay that fails in an odd way- many of its individual scenes are well acted and wrought, but none of the scenes works well in a narrative flow....

 

Ok.

 

1411) Religion Warriors Know Who You Are/Essay/Len Holman  Thank God for those who would protect us from having fire and brimstone rained down upon us!  These people know—they are absolutely convinced—that the Godless, humanistic, liberals out there are warring against believers, and they also know that something must be done.  And so Arizona has done it....

 

They do.

 

1412) How I Accidentally Started The Sixties/Book Review/Howard Bloom  If one has ever read the poetry of Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams, or the prose of Rainer Maria Rilke or Walt Whitman, then one is familiar with writers who are good in one form of writing, but mediocre, bad, or abysmal in another. Such was the manifest state of the prose in Howard Bloom’s self published e-book memoir, How I Accidentally Started The Sixties. The book is not terrible, but it’s, at its best, mediocre, and that mediocrity is actually garnered and sustained by the content of his raconteuring, and not its quality. At it’s worst it’s simply bad....

 

Bad to mediocre, at best.

 

1413) The Comedian/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  The penultimate teleplay in The Criterion Collection’s DVD set called The Golden Age of Television is the 1957 Playhouse 90 broadcast of Rod Serling’s The Comedian, originally aired on February 14th, 1957. And it’s one of the best of the eight teleplays. It is also the third and final teleplay penned by Rod Serling (of later The Twilight Zone fame), adapted from a short story by Ernest Lehman. And it’s the equal of his original teleplays included in the set: Patterns and Requiem For A Heavyweight, which, likewise, won Emmy Awards....

 

Good.

 

1414) The Heart Fears Darkness/Essay/Len Holman   The true knock against President Obama has always been hidden, hedged around with phrases which were—and still are—meant to appeal to the “reasonable” minds among us:  He was too young, too inexperienced (remember Hillary’s campaign ad about that ominous 3 AM call?), too indecisive....

 

Yes.

 

1415) 5 Music Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently streamed and watched five films dealing with music, the art and industry. They were Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?); Anvil! The Story Of Anvil; I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) Of The Independent Record Store; When I Rise; and You’re Gonna Miss Me....

 

Mixed.

 

1416) The French Connection/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Director William Friedkin’s 1971 classic police thriller, The French Connection, which won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Picture (and four others) over A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler On The Roof, The Last Picture Show, and Nicholas And Alexandra, is not a great film, but it is a very good and taut prosaic thriller, and a significantly better film than his later, overrated non-scary horror film The Exorcist. The reason it is not a great film is rather simple- there is nothing of depth that the film imparts to its viewer. Yes, the direction, the acting, the screenplay....

 

Good.

 

1417) In The Thrall Of Sanctions/Essay/Len Holman  For the mightiest, least prudent, military in the world, it is an irony which no politician or military commander even senses, let alone understands:  we have to “impose” sanctions instead of nukes; we impose sanctions instead of worldwide policing: sanctions instead of the planet’s mightiest muscle.  The latest sanction regime is being used to make Russia play nice, after its takeover of Crimea, and the worry that it won’t stop there, but will annex eastern Ukraine....

 

Chained?

 

1418) 4 Political Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently spent an afternoon engaged in streaming political documentaries that ranged from pure agitptop to anti-agitprop. The four films in question were Brothers In Arms; The Atomic Cafe; The Last Mountain, and Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train....

 

Good.

 

1419) Requiem For A Heavyweight/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  I likely saw the film version of Requiem For A Heavyweight when I was quite young. My dad was a big Jackie Gleason fan, and, along with The Hustler, that film was among the man’s best film roles. But, in 1981, I watched the television rebroadcast of the television version of the film, which lacked Gleason in the role of a seedy boxing manager, and knew the shorter television version was superior. The tv version was part of PBS’s series called The Golden Age Of Television, wherein eight of the best broadcasts from the many live television anthologies....

 

Good.

 

1420) It's All In The Numbers/Essay/Len Holman  Numbers, it is said by those who disparage the fine arts, the liberal sciences, and the “soft” sciences, make up the cosmos.  Without numbers, where would we be? They ask.  Science, NSA and its algorithmic peaking and poking, baseball fanatics, and guys who tally their conquests (the number of THESE idiots is legion) would disappear. For instance, the number of missing passenger planes CNN is aware of....

 

It is.

 

1421) 3 Biographical Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched three biographical documentaries on interesting figures. These films were Ladies And Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen; J. Pierpont Morgan: Emperor Of Wall Street; and A Film Biography Of Thomas Merton....

 

Solid.

 

1422) Yeats Was Right/Essay/Len Holman  In the aftermath of WWI (yes, we keep track of world wars, like we do of all the Super Bowls, except—thankfully—we don’t have to go to Roman numeral III or IV—yet ), William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called the “Second Coming” in which the confusion, anger, hopelessness, and sadness of the result of this “war to end all wars,” which failed to fulfill its promised results, was evident....

 

Or was he?

 

1423) Warning: Racism Ahead/Essay/Len Holman  The woeful owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a basketball team which, until very recently, has been woeful also, has been recorded (by whom? We don’t know for sure) going on a rant to his girlfriend (a pneumatic brunette, of course) about black people—black men, to be more precise.  There is outrage and anger and a general explosion of disgust and a more-than-slight undertone of revenge, and now the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver, has banned, for life....

 

Yes, there is.

 

1424) Listening To Music/Essay/Thomas Evans  Music criticism doesn’t need to exist. Music critics are entirely superfluous. Even objective music criticism would be a pointless diversion from better activities. There is perhaps nothing more silly than TALKING about music, when you could be listening to (and or playing/writing) it. Good listeners are MUCH more important- listeners that care for the art form, understand a little bit of its history, and love it, are paramount, because without them, what’s the point of great music, if no one is willing or capable of objectively listening to it?....

 

Really listen.

 

1425) 5 Show Biz Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched, over Netflix streaming, over a two day period, five documentary films dealing with film and show biz life. The films were These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America; Great Directors; Two In The Wave, The Hollywood Complex; and Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project....

 

Ok.

 

1426) 3 Artist Bio Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched a trio of Netflix documentaries on artists, which varied in quality. They were Paul Goodman Changed My Life; Hey, Boo: Harper Lee And To Kill A Mockingbird; and Carmen & Geoffrey....

 

Solid.

 

1427) A Thousand Tears/Book Review/SuZi  Reading about a culture that is other than one’s own is usually informative: in many cases, it will increase compassion, a sense of understanding, a lessening of xenophobia; however, in the case of  Khaled Hosseini’s  A Thousand Splendid Suns,  some readers might be left—despite the optimistic ending—with a sense of revulsion toward the culture in the novel’s setting, that of Afghanistan. ...

 

Or more?

 

1428) Health Concerns/Essay/Len Holman  That old, tricky devil, Karl Rove, is VERY concerned about the health of Hillary Clinton.  He worries for the fate of our benighted republic.  He worries about the fate of the American people who might be led by an enfeebled executive who cannot respond to the pressures and dangers of the world in which we live, and he worries A LOT about another Republican “fire and fall back” failed run to capture the White House in 2016.  He was quoted as saying that Clinton had suffered some serious brain damage....

 

Sly?

 

1429) 4 Filmmaker Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently got a chance to stream and watch four films dealing with well known people involved in the motion picture industry. They were The Last Mogul: The Life And Times Of Lew Wasserman; Light Keeps Me Company; Cameraman: The Life And Work Of Jack Cardiff; and John Waters: This Filthy World....

 

Ok.

 

1430) 4 Bad Race Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched four films regarding racial and ethnic issues, while streaming from Netflix, and those four films were Reel Injun, Dreams Of A Life, Steal A Pencil For Me, And Imaginary Witness: Hollywood And The Holocaust....

 

Ugh!

 

1431) Judgment First, Then Facts/Essay/Len Holman  U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been released from Taliban captivity and returned to U.S. custody after more than five years as a POW.  A cause for celebration?  A time of happiness and relief?  Yes, for his parents.  No, for just about everyone else.  There seems to be two opposing themes for America here:  1) We never leave one of our fighting men or women behind, and 2) we don’t bargain with terrorists....

 

Or not.

 

1432) The Damned/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Luchino Visconti’s 1969 film, The Damned (La Caduta Degli Dei, literally The Fall Of The Gods), not long after I watched James Dean’s last film, Giant, was an interesting synchronicity, because both films center around the lives of the obscenely wealthy who are ethically corrupt. Both films are also examples of well made soap operas, with Visconti’s film being a sort of Nazi version of the old 1980s prime time soap opera Dynasty....

 

Good.

 

1433) 3 Political Failure Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently saw three streaming documentaries on Netflix that recorded failed political histories. They were New York In The Fifties; Ayn Rand & The Prophecy Of Atlas Shrugged; and Homo Sapiens 1900....

 

Ugh!

 

1434) 2 'Cool' Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  There are right ways to do arts documentaries and wrong ways to do them. The right way can best be illustrated by the documentary Composing The Beatles Songbook: Lennon And McCartney: 1966-1970, which I recently streamed on Netflix, and which was released in 2008, apparently with no credited director, while the wrong way to make an arts documentary is exemplified by Morgan Neville’s 2007 documentary, The Cool School. The former is a precise and educational glimpse on what made the Beatles click in their latter stages, while the latter is a banal hagiography about bad artists from Los Angeles in the 1950s: all white, all male, and all figuratively fellating each other’s nihility....

 

Ok.

 

1435) A Glimmer In The Dark/Essay/Len Holman  When someone wants to be President of the United States, this person falls prey to a condition which tends to strike human with astonishing, and sometimes costly, regularity: this is the assumption that things will remain the same as that magical victory moment with the music and cheering crowds and all those balloons, that the world will be stuck in the same amber that the new President’s shiny nascent term is caught in....

 

Shine on!

 

1436) The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Director John Huston’s 1948 classic black and white adventure film, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, has many positive qualities. Greatness is not one of them. It’s a very good film, and has good acting performances from Walter Huston, Tim Holt, and Bruce Bennett, a good screenplay, adapted by the younger Huston, from the same titled novel by B. Traven (a pen name for Berwick Traven Torsvan), but it has a number if flaws that make it nearly impossible to lift it beyond being a good, solid, enjoyable film. Chief among these flaws is the acting of star Humphrey Bogart, as the unscrupulous and cowardly Fred C. Dobbs....

 

Solid.

 

1437) When The First One Falls/Essay/Len Holman  The President has sent two relatively small contingents of special force troops to Iraq to assist the Maliki government in staunching the bleeding caused by the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  It’s just a few hundred troops, nothing overwhelming, nothing to worry about.  The President has repeatedly and forcefully said that there will be “no boots on the ground” in Iraq....

 

And the second?

 

1438) Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  In rewatching the 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, after many years (I originally saw it in a double feature with Coma), I was presented with one of the best examples of why a critic needs to be able to separate his emotions from his intellect when writing of the quality of a work of art. In watching the film I really could not find much to quibble with the film. It is a great piece of science fiction (expanding and going beyond the 1956 film of the same name), it is a great period piece (perfectly capturing the 1970s Me Generation zeitgeist- especially in the corny self-help shrink played by Leonard Nimoy, in his best non-Star Trek role), it has great writing, realistic dialogue and character development....

 

Great one.

 

1439) 3 Resurrected Drunkards/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  The final film in The Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series 21: Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties is 1968’s Three Resurrected Drunkards (Kaette Kita Yopparai or Sinner In Paradise), and it’s easily the least of the five DVD set. That’s not to say that it’s a bad film; compared to the tripe Hollywood foists it’s actually a sometimes fun and amusing comedy-Absurdist drama, however slight....

 

Eh.

 

1440) Pesky Language/Essay/Len Holman  Language can be a servant, a clarifier, a burden, a straitjacket, and/or a vehicle moving all of us toward solutions. The language surrounding the current influx of immigrants to the U.S. certainly moves us, but where?  Tens of thousands of Central Americans are fleeing the terror, crime, rape and general violence in their countries, crossing through Mexico and coming into the U.S., where they walk up to a border patrol agent and say, “You got us.” ....

 

Pesky, too!

 

1441) Like Father, Like Son/Film Review/Alex Sheremet  Having now watched most of Hirokazu Koreeda’s feature films, it seems fair to divide his work into two categories: that of timeless observations on relationships (Still Walking, Nobody Knows),penetrating, and all-relevant, and his far more numerous, yet minor tales that flesh out those greater films’ peripheries (I Wish, Air Doll, Maborosi). The first, while absolutely awash in contemporary Japanese life, transcend such limits by adapting characters to situations that can appear anywhere, while the latter are observations of a far smaller nature, even if quite uniform, and well done. 2013’s Like Father, Like Son is, no doubt, one of these small works....

 

Good.

 

1442) Memories Of Maggie/Maggie Estep Obituary/Dan Schneider  Before I married my wife, Jessica, there was Betta, Clarissa, Kristin, Tricia, Anna, Rosy, Lily, Danielle, Lisa, and others. These were all the ‘artsy babes’ of my past, and each and every one of them had ‘issues.’ But, before any of them came into and left my existence, there was Maggie- Maggie, a wannabe writer. Her name was Maggie Estep (her Wikipedia page), and, if you’re reading this essay decades from the date it was written you will likely have no idea who this woman was, even if her writing remains archived in some forgotten corner of the collective human history, for her printed works will likely have long since moldered and come to dust....

 

Bye-bye, Maggie.

 

1443) Goodfellas/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Gangster films are a curious form. The first or second The Godfather films are usually considered the best ever made, but, in reality, they are a bit over the top, melodramatic (in a Shakespearean sort of way), as well as hagiographic in their depiction of lowlifes. For those who don’t buy the Coppla films as the apex of the genre, there is the fallback position of Martin Scorsese’s films on organized crime: Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Casino, The Departed, and his crown jewel: 1990’s Goodfellas, which clocks in at a much longer than experienced 146 minutes....

 

Great.

 

1444) The Roaring Twenties/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Raoul Walsh’s black and white gangster film, The Roaring Twenties, from 1939, is watching the tail end of an era of genre films that had run its course, and was pretty hollowed out. Many film historians try to pump this film up as a great film, but it’s utterly absurd, and the claim founders upon the film’s story. It was adapted from a fact-based story by crime reporter Mark Hellinger, The World Moves On, but Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay and Robert Rossen’s screenplay is larded with clichés, poor dialogue, and almost every predictable plot device of the genre....

 

Solid.

 

1445) Midnight Express/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  British director Alan Parker’s 1978 film, Midnight Express, based upon a non-fiction book, by William Hayes and William Hoffer, was considered somewhat controversial upon its release, but looking back on it, over three decades later, one has to wonder what all the controversy was about? Oh my, it portrayed the fact that life in a Third World prison was brutal, disgusting, and degrading? It showed that the government of Turkey (then, as now) is not really a democracy, with a fair judicial system? Hell, OUR nation lacks a truly fair judicial system....

 

Ok.

 

1446) 3 Political Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently streamed three Netflix documentary films that dealt with political themes. These three films were Crips And Bloods: Made In America; 5 Broken Cameras; and The Camden 28. Crips And Bloods: Made In America is a 2008 documentary film, directed by Stacy Peralta (apparently a former world class skateboard champion) that attracts big names- such as narrator Forest Whitaker and talking head Jim Brown, ex-pro football superstar and actor, has some promise displayed....

 

Eh.

 

1447) James Emanuel/The Public Domain/Dan Schneider  It has been almost a year since the great American poet James Emanuel died. He had fallen to obscurity, after leaving the country for France decades earlier, with many of his works having gone out of print. In 2001, there were, other than my inclusion of some of his poems on Cosmoetica, literally just three links about him: a mention in a paragraph of a Poetry Society Of America essay, the text of his brief poem The Negro at a poetry website, and a long defunct Russian based website registered in his name and domain. ...

 

Set him free!

 

1448) Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Of the six films of Japanese director Nagisa Oshima that I have seen, his 1983 color film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Senjō No Merī Kurisumasu or 戦場のメリークリスマス) is easily his least impressive. It’s not a terrible film, but it’s not particularly good either. The acting is hit and miss, the screenplay is anomic (part M*A*S*H, without the humor, and part The Bridge On The River Kwai, without the drama, but loads of melodrama)- and includes utterly pointless flashback sequences, the cinematography is dull and listless, and the film’s musical score is simply one of the worst....

 

Ok.

 

1449) Ten Tiny Love Stories/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Colombian filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia, son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, made an odd, but provocative little film (97 minutes in length) in 2001, called Ten Tiny Love Stories; which was his second film, made between his debut 2000 film, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, and his great 2005 film, Nine Lives. Unsurprisingly, it is a better film than the first one, but not as good as the third one. Like those two films, this one focuses on female characters....

 

Solid.

 

1450) Danger Man/Essay/Dan Schneider  There is a subtly pernicious myth that goes around these days that today’s television- especially cable television- shows are part of what is considered tv’s real Golden Age, as opposed to the claims of the 1950s, with its live teleplays and often seminal and emergent forms of television- many of which, like westerns and anthologies, have bitten the dust. We are supposed to overlook the utterly unoriginal sitcoms and faux reality shows and contest shows, the mind-numbing cop and medical serials that abandoned the stand alone episode format for bad serial storytelling that makes the usual dull daytime soap operas and telenovelas seem inventive, as well as ignore said dying soap operas, and other daytime fare, such as horrid talk shows and judge shows, the corporatization of PBS, the dilution and Lowest Common Denominator....

 

Great.

 

1451) The Homecoming/Walton's Christmas/Dan Schneider  A question hovers in me and over modern 21st Century American television: where has real drama gone? By that I mean films, television, stage plays all made for the small screen and which deal with what it means to be human. Not just doctor shows, cop dramas, spy thrillers, action nor superhero crap but real stories on real people doing real things and having real problems that sometimes bear no resolution....

 

Great.

 

1452) The Apartment/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  It’s amazing, for a film that won the Oscar for Best Picture the year it was released, and was made by one of Hollywood’s Golden Age directors, how underrated Billy Wilder’s 1960 black and white drama-comedy The Apartment is. This is especially true in comparison to the wildly overrated comedy he made, a year earlier, Some Like It Hot, which, by comparison, is a silly ball of fluff. By contrast, The Apartment may be, along with The Fortune Cookie, Wilder’s best and most underrated films. And both (along with Some Like It Hot) starred Jack Lemmon in the lead role....

 

Near-great?

 

1453) Ferguson Bullshit/Essay/Neil Hester  “You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you,” he said. “I help people. That’s my job.” In the wake of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision to acquit Officer Darren Wilson, who faced a charge of police brutality for the killing of Michael Brown, reporters have debated the particulars of the trial....

 

Why?

 

1454) 24 Eyes/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  One of the more frustrating film experiences a person can have is watching a film that comes highly recommended (especially by someone whose opinion you generally trust), only to see that it is not nearly as good as claimed. Such is the experience I had while watching my first Keisuke Kinoshita film, the 1954 anti-war film Twenty-Four Eyes (二十四の瞳 Nijū-Shi No Hitomi?), based on a novel by Sakae Tsuboi, and adapted by Kinoshita. It is almost the sine qua non of a film with good intentions but bad results. It is a very dated film, in terms of style, visuals, and narrative, and, even at a lengthy 156 minutes, offers little of real substance....

 

Overrated.

 

1455) Ida/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Emotion is a bitch- especially when it clouds one’s otherwise sound judgment. This is especially important when acting as a critic, because no one does- and no one should- give a rat’s ass what I, or any other critic, merely likes or dislikes. The critic, in that stated capacity, MUST be able to distance himself from his petty emotions, because human beings have not evolved a sense in which to convey emotion to one another with the facility and felicity that words can construct and reconstruct one’s ideas in another’s mind satisfactorily....

 

Eh.

 

1456) Yankee Doodle Dandy/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  No film in the James Cagney filmography best illustrates what can only be called The Cagney Conundrum than does the 1942 Michael Curtiz film, Yankee Doodle Dandy. What is The Cagney Conundrum, you ask? It is the fact that James Cagney, as a pure actor had such limited dramatic range yet became, arguably, the most versatile actor in Hollywood, if not world, film history Despite his obvious limitations in size, speech patterns, facial expression, vocal range, etc., Cagney succeeded....

 

Good.

 

1457) Watchmen/Book Review/Dan Schneider  Two decades ago, I worked in the warehouse of a magazine distributorship. I worked ten hour days, with quite a bit of overtime, and still did not make all that much. In the course of the few years I worked there, I became much physically stronger, had a few brief flings with some of the women who worked in the front office (I was single in those years), and got reacquainted with comic books. As I was in my late 20s and early 30s, in those years, it had been well over a decade since I’d last read any comic book....

 

Overrated juvenilia.

 

1458) Pulp/Film Review/Dan Schneider  In 1971, director Mike Hodges and actor Michael Caine had a hit in the action thriller Get Carter. The following year they tried to do a comedic follow up to that film called Pulp, in which Caine played a mediocre pulp fiction crime novelist, Mickey King (who writes novels like My Gun Is Long, under the pseudonym Guy Strange), who, on holiday in Malta, gets involved with as former film star, Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), who lures him into a web of murder and intrigue that lacks only one thing: intrigue. The problem is that the film is not well written, not well acted (Rooney is his usually atrocious self), and not really funny....

 

Eh.

 

1459) The Days Of Wine And Roses/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  The final entry in The Criterion Collection’s DVD set called The Golden Age Of Television, based upon a 1981 PBS series of rebroadcasts of kinescopes of live television dramas, is an October 2nd, 1958 Playhouse 90 episode called The Days Of Wine And Roses, scripted by J.P. Miller, and directed by John Frankenheimer. It was later remade into a lesser 1962 film starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, and directed by Blake Edwards. Unlike the film, the tv version is shorter, tauter, and better acted. It also leaves out many extraneous scenes the film delves into, and, in a revealing moment on the DVD Introduction to the teleplay, director John Frankenheimer speaks of why he was not chosen to direct the film version, and that was because Lemmon felt the script was better as a comedy, and that Frankenheimer could not direct comedy....

 

Solid.

 

1460) The Coldest Kiss/Film Review/Dan Schneider  One of the drawbacks to being a one man operation of the arts, myself, is that I simply lack the time and energy to not only do all that I would want to do artistically- in terms of my own writing, and also running my own website, is that I don’t get nearly enough time to help younger, smaller, independent artists and writers get material that has some quality a greater purview. The main reasons for this are my own need to work a 40+ hour a week day job to pay bills and skim by, as well as the fact that my own website’s popularity inevitably leads me to getting an insane overwhelm of requests- to review films or books or troll through bad poetry submissions by the bushel....

 

Solid film.

 

1461) Pundits On Drugs/Essay/Alex Sheremet  Politics is an idiot’s game. In fact, it’s been an idiot’s game ever since the first 2 ‘geniuses’ got together in an attempt to solve a very simple issue: how, at a time when things were a bit more, well, visceral, a couple of poltroons might scheme to overthrow their supposed betters. This is, of course, a good thing, for when aristocrats conk, people will be forced to cooperate. They’ll get smarter and better organized, until a new dilemma emerges. People, after all, still need to be led. People, who’ve improved, as a whole, are still and always will be a mob, ruled by intangibles....

 

Pity the fools.

 

1462) 5 Silly Films/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five of the silliest documentaries I have ever see, streaming them on Netflix. They were The Sweetest Sound, The Workshop, London In The Raw, Journey To Planet X, and Evacuate Earth....

 

Ugh.

 

1463) Perils In Palacio/Essay/Alex Sheremet  Near the end of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, an interesting -- nay, emblematic -- thing starts to happen. Just when Auggie, the book’s friendless, deformed, 5th-grade hero gets all the abuse that he could possibly stand, a mildness comes over the other children. Perhaps this is because Auggie finally stands up for himself. Perhaps it is because the popular girl befriends him, then ‘risks all’ to stand by him. Or perhaps it is something altogether stranger, less definable, in the way that a mob might rise and go despite still suckling at their accumulated aims. Yet none of this matters, really, for Auggie gets friends, a possible romantic interest, and even receives the school’s most prestigious award for -- well, for survival, I guess, despite not doing much to earn it....

 

Where's Pauline?

 

1464) The Time It Never Rained/Book Review/Dan Schneider  In looking over literature related to Texas, one naturally has to deal with the genre of western novels. With roots in the nickel and dime cowboy novels of the late 19th Century, the form only crystallized into something resembling literature with the early 20th Century release of Owen Wister’s classic and great novel, The Virginian. This book held such a power over the medium that many of its tale’s characters and tropes became staples of the genre it birth, with many lesser writers and tales running much of it into clichés, even as the original book stood tall against the works of a Zane Grey, Max Brand, Louis L’Amour and on through more modern Western writers whose works broke the genre ghetto and came to be considered literature first- think Larry McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy (for good or ill)....

 

Near Great.

 

1465) The Lie They'll Come To Love/Essay/Alex Sheremet  Now that the Lance Armstrong ‘controversy’ is dying down, cycling -- they say -- is ripe for a renewal. This means new races, new competitors, and, yes, new rules; a fresh way of looking at things. The last two decades (perhaps more) -- they say -- have been quite shameful. There was no wont towards fairness, no sportsmanship, no real inclinations but that of ego, name. That’ll pass -- they’re sure -- because our basic human instinct is good, and overpowers the more selfish drives that got us into this mess in the first place. Maybe, but there’s just one nagging problem. Lance does not believe he cheated -- at least not really -- and they say that he says that he’s still the winner of 7 Tour de France titles....

 

Lance sucks.

 

1466) 5 Odd Films/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five of the oddest documentaries I have ever see, streaming them on Netflix. They were The Next Space Race, Marilyn In Manhattan, Gore Vidal: The United States Of Amnesia, Mortified Nation, and Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie.

 

Eh.

 

1467) 5 Demotic Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries that strove to be demotic, streaming them on Netflix. They were The People Vs. George Lucas, That Guy... Who Was In That Thing, Craigslist Joe, Kumaré, And American Mystic....

 

Ugh.

 

1468) Race And The Oscars/Essay/Alex Sheremet  Over the last decade or so, the Academy Awards have received a long-deserved thrashing for their sameness. The people all look the same, the names all roll off the tongue with the same ol’ thump, and -- at least for the more discriminating among us -- the films, themselves, are pretty much identical, year after year. Nor does it help things that the winners are overwhelmingly white, and part of a medium that, more than books, television, or music, utterly forges people’s conceptions of art, relationships, and our day-to-day human drama....

 

Let the Negroes in, damn it!

 

1469) The Agony And The Ecstasy/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  You know a film is not that good when the best contemporaneous review one can find of it was from the notoriously bad New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther. Who was Bosley Crowther, you ask? Well, he was the Roger Ebert of his day. That is, he was the most famous and influential film critic of the mid-Twentieth Century. He differed from Ebert, though, in that a) he could not write well, and b) he had a complete lack of understanding about the art of cinema....

 

Yawn.

 

1471) Blue Jasmine/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Since the end of his 1977-1992 Golden Age of filmmaking, Woody Allen’s corpus has been filled with some excellent films (Sweet And Lowdown, Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream) and bad films (Hollywood Ending, Anything Else) but no film in that run is as utterly schizophrenic as Blue Jasmine- his 2013 film which surprisingly won a Best Actress Academy award for its star, Cate Blanchett, as Jeanette ‘Jasmine’ French, for a role and performance that hardly seem to merit such praise. The film simply does not know whether or not it is, nor wants to be, a comedy nor drama. And this tension is not used in a profitable way, but a destructive one, as the opposing bits of the film seem to be just glazed over, not nurtured in an organic narrative....

 

Ok.

 

1472) ISIS As The Old You/Essay/Alex Sheremet  A few weeks ago, a silly, overlong article made the rounds, angering quite a few people before the predictable quiet. No, it’s not the terrible, bigoted, poorly-researched piece it was said to be, but amidst all its details, the political suggestions (many of them quite solid), the REAL issue was still obscured, and Islam -- a 1500 year-old phenomenon -- was still left blurred by mystique. The problem is that Graeme Wood’s essay has everything you’ve come to expect of political backtalk: trite observations, vague yet over-the-hill fear-mongering (apparently, ISIS controls a region ‘larger than the United Kingdom’; much as, using similar logic, a band of sea-lions might control half of Antarctica)....

 

Can you see the real me?

 

1473) The Life Of Oharu/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  While watching the DVD of The Life Of Oharu, a 1952 film by Kenji Mizoguchi, I was put into mind of the Theo Angelopoulos film, The Weeping Meadow, the first part of a trilogy the film director did not complete before his death. Normally, one might think that the two other great Mizoguchi films I had seen- Ugetsu and Sansho The Bailiff- would have resonated more, but, no, it was the Greek filmmaker’s epic that stared at me from the weave of this black and white film. Yet, whereas The Weeping Meadow is as masterful a film on sorrow and loss as I have ever seen, there is virtually no humor in it....

 

Near-great?

 

1474) Italian Fascism In Color/Film Review/Dan Schneider  When I first came upon the option to stream the 2007 documentary film titled Italian Fascism In Color, I was thinking that it might have been made by the same people who made the fantastic wartime documentary Japan's War In Colour. That documentary detailed the rise of Japanese militarism through the use of legitimately filmed moments in Japanese history by both war filmmakers and Japanese who made home movies. What was interesting was that few people even thought that color film stock existed in pre-War Japan....

 

Ok.

 

1475) American Beauty/Film Essay/Alex Sheremet  Think back to middle school, for a moment, and the sort of things you thought defined you. Now, if you were a typical kid, you probably filled the time with friends, homework, sports, and the like, and didn’t muse too hard about your options. And, in a way, you really couldn’t, because the limits of your life -- a car (but not yours), a suburban home (not your parents’, but the bank’s), a dog, fence, and yard....

 

Uh-huh....

 

1476) 5 Dummy Docs/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were about characters that, in one fashion or the other, were dumb, or that featured aspects of stupidity at their essence. They were Brother’s Keeper, Somm, Aliens On The Moon: The Truth Exposed, I Am Divine, And Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look At An X-Rated Industry. ...

 

Yawn.

 

1477) Metafora/Film Review/Dan Schneider  In the past when I have received invitations to review books or films of up and coming artists, I have had to make choices to ignore or reply, and usually the choice is easy, as almost all solicitations are for palpably bad books and films. The very emails, attached submissions, or film trailers, are so laughably bad I should not feel remorse, although I sometimes do, even though, because of these submissions, I have likely read more poetry and original poetry (however horrid) than any other five humans in history combined. On the film side, especially, I don’t even usually have to watch the trailer, as the very written film summary is that of a child’s fart....

 

Near-great.

 

1478) BlueInk Press/Scumbags/Alex Sheremet  A couple of months ago, I submitted my book, Woody Allen: Reel To Real, to a popular pay-for-review site called BlueInk Review. Now, I knew the risks, for I’d seen the complaints against Kirkus and other ignoble book-review services; I smirked at BlueInk’s poor website design which accosts you with its ‘legitimacy’ as opposed to a sampling of good writing that can speak for itself; I saw the 300 word-limit rule for reviews, an obvious labor-saving measure dishonestly presented as some sort of charity to “busy readers” and “industry professionals”; the Google searches which turned up nothing....

 

Bullshitters and Rip-off artists?

 

1479) 5 Expose Documentaries/Film review/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were putative exposes on things that people ignore or afraid to talk of. They were The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, Chasing Ice, They Call It Myanmar: Lifting The Curtain, Happy, and Mansome. ...

 

Ok.

 

1480) Winter Sleep/Film Review/Dan Schneider  With each film added to his canon, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan proves again and again why he is at the apex of world cinema, possibly joined at the point only by the United Kingdom’s Steve McQueen. Every film that Ceylan has done since embarking in the medium has built off the prior one. Even his 2008 film, Three Monkeys, while not a great film (a mere well wrought melodrama), saw the director expand his visual command of the screen. His last film, 2011’s Once Upon A Time In Anatolia was majestic, and the greatest film of his career, as well one of the best films of the 21st Century....

 

Great.

 

1481) The Biology Of Luck/Book Review/SuZi  New York City is an odd place--its denizens seem to marry the city without any sense of connection to the larger scale of the planet, as if the largeness of the city and its largess of humanity is a kind of psychic dome out of which none of the residents can view the larger world. Of course, New York City has been the setting for many an artistic work, and Jacob Appel's novel The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock. 2013), joins this army....

 

Hit and miss.

 

1482) Stealing Sunrise/Film Review/Dan Schneider  As this year opened, I was contacted by, watched, and reviewed the second film of independent filmmaker Michael Jason Allen, The Coldest Kiss, and while it had flaws (most of which are common amongst low and ultra-low budget productions), there were some exceptional bright spots in cinematography and scoring, plus enough solid to good portions of the screenplay and the cast’s performances that I could recommend the film overall. Especially parallaxed against the film’s microscopic budget, Allen’s talents and skills behind the camera were magnified even more....

 

Good film.

 

1483) Mr. Robot/Golden Age/Alex Sheremet  The word ‘re-action’ implies that something has already come. Let’s ignore, for a moment, what that something is, and just focus on the final knot of the rope: Appraisal. Or rather, what the act of valuation does and does not entail — at least in the long run — for an object. Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot (2015), for instance, has been praised virtually without exception, with much of it revolving around the show’s technological accuracy. In fact, while the harshest critics nit-pick this very thing, few mention ‘frills’ like narrative, visual depth, and writing, as if the world begins and ends with their desires, first....

 

Really?

 

1484) Tale Us Of Your Triggers/Essay/Alex Sheremet  It seems that while human violence is on the ebb, the world’s arsenal is maturing for a very different kind of war: In a way, this is to be expected. Material concerns have no future. Poverty, in time, shall no longer be in business. And if ideology is less and less in vogue, there must be other things -- other means of self-expression -- to club each other over the head with. But while the weapons have always been around, their location tends to shift according to the needs of civilization. Today one prods the world for signs of power....

 

Too real BS.

 

1485) 5 Loser Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them featured people that could, collectively, be termed ‘losers.’ They were Stories We tell, Who The F**k Is Arthur Fogel?, Legends Of the Knight, The Good Son, and Human Lampshade: A Holocaust Mystery....

 

Yawn.

 

1486) Beyond The Time Barrier/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Every so often one finds a film that is so perfectly trite, poorly acted, and predictable, in every imaginable way, that its very boldness into badness is forgivable. Such was my thought whilst recently watching Edgar Ulmer’s 1960 schlocksterpiece film Beyond The Time Barrier, on Netflix. Clocking in at a robust 74 minutes in length, this odd little black and white film....

 

Ugh.

 

1486) Beyond The Time Barrier/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Every so often one finds a film that is so perfectly trite, poorly acted, and predictable, in every imaginable way, that its very boldness into badness is forgivable. Such was my thought whilst recently watching Edgar Ulmer’s 1960 schlocksterpiece film Beyond The Time Barrier, on Netflix. Clocking in at a robust 74 minutes in length, this odd little black and white film....

 

Ugh.

 

1487) The House On Mango Street/Book Review/Andrew Geary  The House on Mango Street isn’t a very good story. It’s a novel, of sorts, (though it’s somewhat autobiographical) that’s broken-up into “vignettes” all of which are told from the perspective of Esperanza, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. There is a single narrative thread that runs through the entirety of the work, that of Esperanza’s desire to escape the poverty-laden Mango Street, but the focus is mainly on certain moments or memories that reflect Esperanza’s increasing awareness of the world and of herself. This premise in and of itself isn’t bad, but what is being critiqued here is the execution. Sandra Cisneros could have written a good novel; unfortunately....

 

Ugh!

 

1488) Soylent Is A Dismal Art/Essay/Alex Sheremet  A few years ago, a new foodstuff called Soylent hit the market. It purports to be a meal replacer for people who, like me, hate the inconvenience of cooking (I do it every day anyway, the import of which will be apparent by essay’s end), or even eating, but wish to get what the human body needs without the typical sugar overload and poor, refined oils such things usually entail. To be sure....

 

It is.

 

1489) Nostalghia/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Every so often I will encounter an artist, a book, a poem, or a film that is attacked by idiotic opinions, even when those opinions are mostly in defense of said artist or art work, and the reason for this is the noxious notion of critical cribbing, wherein a critic does not fully engage an art work, and decides to simply repeat what other critics have claimed without really checking out the claim (and often without really, or totally, engaging the art)....

 

Good.

 

1490) Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir/Film Review/Dan Schneider  I recently was invited to watch a film on a private website, called Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir. The odd thing is the 90 minute long film’s been in release for two years. Nonetheless, watch it I did, and was mildly surprised that it was an enjoyable, if not penetrating, look into the career of one of the better filmmakers of the last half century: Roman Polanski....

 

Eh.

 

1491) Insignificance/Blu-Ray review/Dan Schneider  Sometimes it is a tough thing to decide, how to lead off a review of a work of art that simply is not good. In the case of the latest Blu-Ray release from The Criterion Collection, British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 adaptation of Terry Johnson’s play, Insignificance, this becomes something acute. I could start off with the obvious pun that the title recapitulates the arts merit....

 

Eh.

 

1492) Bruno/Film Review/Dan Schneider  Watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2009 comedy, Bruno, released after his breakthrough 2006 hit, Borat, is a little bit anticlimactic. Bruno is funny, but, in almost every way, and despite featuring a different character, it is an inferior film. It’s good, it has some outrageously funny moments, but never does the viewer NOT know how a 5-6 minute long vignette will end after seeing 5-10 seconds of the opening setup....

 

Ok.

 

1493) 5 Oddball Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were odd in some fashion- be it their point of view, their subject, or elsewise. They were Tiny: A Story About Living Small, Jack Kerouac: King Of The Beats, Genius On Hold, Our Nixon, and The Revisionaries....

 

Eh.

 

1494) 5 Musician Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were about the lives of musicians who were popular in the 1960 and 1970s, as well the aftermath of fame and pop music on their lives and art. They were Paul Williams Still Alive; John Denver: Country Boy; Glen Campbell: Iíll Be Me; Blondieís New York; And Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Cominí....

 

Ugh.

 

1495) 5 Documentaries on Selfishness/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were about people who were incredibly shallow, selfish, and narcissistic. They were Broke, No Mas, Pumping Iron, To Be Takei, and The Pervertís Guide To Ideology....

 

Ugh.

 

1496) Vinny 'The Hack"/Essay/Len Holman  The FBI is struggling mightily to get Apple to unlock a cell phone.  It is making public appeals, it is going to court, it is wringing its hands before congress, and so far, no joy.  Specifically, it is the phone used by the San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook.  The feds are sure there is something on that phone they need to know.  They just want to look.  Just a peek.  Now, I was shocked to discover that the vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation, especially in this age of domestic terror-fears, cannot even open a cell phone.  Have they no hackers employed?....

 

Len Holman is back!

 

1497) 5 Sports and Gore Documentaries/Film Reviews/Dan Schneider  I recently watched five documentaries online, and all of them were on athletics and or violence in American life. They were The Battered Bastards Of Baseball, Muhammad And Larry, When The Garden Was Eden, Whitey: United States Of America vs. James J. Bulger, and Carl Panzram: The Spirit Of Hatred And Vengeance. The first of the documentaries was one of those feel good sort of docs on a forgotten aspect of sports Americana, and one with a tie-in to a celebrity: actor Kurt Russell, whose journeyman actor father, Bing Russell, after a long run as a background character on the television western Bonanza, and many other film roles, decided to start an independent A league baseball team (unaffiliated with any major league farm system) in Portland, Oregon, in the Northwest League, after the AAA Pacific Coast Leagueís Portland Beavers decamped , due to little support....

 

Eh, deux.

 

1498) Bernie's Magic Mirror/Essay/Len Holman  Mirrors are passive.  They reflect the Already There.  They do not interpret nor do they editorialize; thatís all left for our minds to do.  If it is at least partly true that the mind is a relevance-making machine, then after the mirror has done its job, the mind gets to work on what the reflection IS, what the reflection MEANS....

 

Mirror, mirror....

 

1499) Concho/Book Review/Dan Schneider  A few weeks ago, my wife, Jessica, and I were attending a local weekend arts and crafts fair at one of the smaller towns in Western Texas. On any given weekend there are likely to be 5 or 6 such events going on, wherein vendors large and small hawk their clothes, arts, crafts, music, and other things. At one such booth I came upon an old man hawking a series of western novels he wrote and self-published. Having been taken with the words and works of San Angelo writing legend Elmer Kelton, some years back, I was hoping that perhaps I might discover a diamond in the rough, so to speak. After almost ten minutes of gabbing, I felt almost obliged to buy one of his books, which all sold for $15 each. This was especially so when I mentioned Keltonís name....

 

Ugh.

 

1500) Starting Out In The Evening/DVD Review/Dan Schneider  Starting Out In The Evening is a 2007 film that is a perfect evocation of the reality that not even good acting can save a terrible screenplay from becoming a bad film. There is such a dichotomy between the actual written material, how the technical staff mishandles the rest of the film (banal, pretentious scoring by Adam Gorgoni, that far too often tries to heavyhandedly lead the emotions in a scene, and far too laconic cinematography by Harlan Bosmajian that does the opposite- gives no insight into the characters nor scenes), and what is done so well by the filmís acting ensemble to rescue this godawful mess to mere badness as a film that itís worth going into a bit of why the screenplay is so bad....

 

Eh.

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