Sunday, November 19, 2017

LADY BIRD

LADY BIRD was on my must-see list because I've heard nothing but praise for it, and because it was written and directed by Greta Gerwig, a movie actor I consider to be among the best. The film scores high on her directing. All the actors give great performances, with the main stars—Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf—deserving awards for theirs.

Another reason I went to see the movie was Lois Smith. Since I went to see EAST OF EDEN when it opened in 1955 and I had just become a teenager, I've dug every performance she has ever given. This one, as an aging but ebullient nun, no less. She should have won every award there is by now, and if they don't give her a lifetime achievement award soon (she's gotta be in her eighties or close to it), it's a crime.

Though I recommend seeing LADY BIRD for the acting, and its moments of profundity, poignancy, and humor, and though the benefit of having a female director and writer for a female coming-of-age story was obvious in scenes that a movie junkie like me had never seen in a movie before, the writing was inconsistent becoming surprisingly cliched at times—the wealthy mean high school girl nemesis of the protagonist, the obligatory vomit-on-or-near-the-guy-on-the-first-date, etc.

Also, some scenes offered unique situations the movie fails to explore, or raise questions the film fails to answer. But Gerwig sure gets a lot about growing up not rich, and Catholic school stuff, right. And most of the packed audience I saw it with obviously loved it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

NEW FAVORITE POEM (BY HILTON OBENZINGER)

Men! It's time to take a count:
There's a president
There's another president
There's the current president
Who says "Believe Me" and grabs
Then there's the senator
There's the Hollywood Mogul
(Do we know what a Mogul is?)
Then there's the comic, the doctor
There's another comic
There's the senator who used to be a comic
Then there's the actor
And there's a director
Of course there's the priest and the teacher
There's a professor also
And another professor
And another
There's an even older president
There's the Sunday School teacher
There's a pastor minister rabbi guru
Here comes another president
The famous writer, all the celebrity
Crackpots are here too
There's the student
There's the guy at the copy machine
There's the guy who cleans the office
Then another senator
A candidate for congress
There's a very rich man
There's a not so rich man
Chalk up another senator
We could be here all night
Every man needs to dig deep
That means me too
There are pinches
There's "seduction"
There's the grab
There's the glad hand
There's all of this and more
Each man and more
Now - no more
Stop
One more president and that's it
Done and over and out
Keep your hands to yourself
Stop
Welcome to a new social contract
Sign on the zipper

—Hilton Obenzinger

Thursday, November 16, 2017

CAUGHT READING (PART ONE)

Dorothy Dandridge & Harry Belefonte reading a script 1950s (I had a crush on both of them as a kid, though I only realized it with Belefonte in retrospect)
Marilyn Monroe (had a crush on her too) reading Arthur Miller 1950s
Ken Wessels in my apartment in Iowa City c. 1967
the late poet Ralph Dickey either in Iowa City or San Francisco late 1960s
the late poet Steve Shrader in San Francisco 1969
poets Simon Schuchat standing, the late Ray DiPalma leaning and Paula Novotnak reading at Trinity College in Washingtong DC 1969
shots of the weekly poetry reading series Mass Transit at The Community Book Store in DC with me reading top far left, Terence Winch reading far right middle row and Bernard Welt reading far right at bottom, DC c. 1972
Washington Post article about the Mass Transit readings and Some Of Us Press, which came out of them, with photo of poets Terence Winch, me & the late Ed Cox, DC c. 1972
the late poet, and my first wife, mother of my two oldest children, at an art opening of individually designed envelopes for the poetry mag Salt Lick, published by the late Jim Haining,  Baltimore c. 1972 
Terence Winch reading in DC c. 1972
cover of second edition of ROCKY DIES YELLOW originally published by Blue Wind Press in 1975

Sunday, November 12, 2017

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES came out when I was four. I saw it at our local movie theater with my older sisters, who were forced to drag me along with them on Sunday afternoons after we had "the big dinner" and my father took his weekly nap and us three youngest were sent to the flickers.

I have seen it many many times since, and though I don't make many lists since the brain operation ended that lifelong compulsion, this movie was always one of my top ten and in recent years' viewings I've decided it's my favorite movie of all.

Watching it each year, on its annual screening on TCM around Veterans Day, despite some dated bits in some scenes, this story of three World War Two veterans returning home after the war has only grown more relevant and prescient and fulfilling.

The female leads especially impress. Mryna Loy's performance should be the template for anyone ever wanting to act in a movie. She can play poignancy, romance, wisdom, comedy, and more with only the turn of a shoulder, or pause in a step, or slight upturn of an eye. For me Loy is the quintessence of screen acting skill.

And Theresa Wright, from my home town but graduated and gone before I was born, is always a delight to watch on screen, her emotional range vast as well. Virginia Mayo, playing the bad girl, as she often did, gives maybe her best performance too. And the male leads keep up with them and anchor the story with their postwar inner demons.

I could go on, but suffice it to say THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is a classic Hollywood masterpiece that still lives up to its original worthiness.