Saturday, April 21, 2018

from the notebooks

suppose it is not the place for the poet to be the smartest person in the room. rather, if there be a social function for the poet, it is to live in & express the fear, terror, pleasure & joy that is the life of our times.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

the ritual [2017]

five college chums have an evening getting pissed in the local pub.  they are in their mid to late 30s.  they all have successful careers, happy marriages, and children.  they plan for a lads' summer holiday.  why the fuck not.  they have the money.  they have the time.  their partners are supportive, their children are cool with daddy being away for a few weeks.   these are long time friends.  so where to go?  ibiza?  fuck that.  las vegas.  been there, done that.  hiking the trails of northern sweden?  now you're talking!

so off go our chaps to bond, drink and hike in the swedish woods located just a bit outside the arctic circle.  you might be thinking that his is a raunchy comedy where these five dudes stumble into comic adventures as they moan about their predictable lives, only to return to a greater appreciation of what they already have.   you would think that, would you.  and you would be wrong.  for this is a horror film.  the title should have given that part away.

before these blokes head off to their swedish adventure they experience a great tragedy that will haunt them on their trek.  i don't want to give it away.  but even the tragedy is predictable.  this ain't a flick we haven't seen before.  and yet, the filmmaker, david bruckner, manages to take hackneyed material and make a movie that is filled with creeepy atmosphere.

you see as our lads drink, cuss, and swing their dumb asses thru sweden they must contend with their guilt that stems from the aforementioned tragedy.  and as is usually the case, one of our men carries more than his share of guilt.  director bruckner does a pretty nifty job building that guilt in physical expression.  so when one member of our group twists the fuck out of his knee they decide to take a shortcut.  a shortcut thru a patch of very dark woods.

now remember the title of this movie.  'the ritual'.  what the fuck does that mean?  do you know old norse myths.  me neither!  and i'm three quarters norwegian.  my grandma is from bergen, norway [i shit you not.  that lady had a house filled with trolls.  i thought they were the decorations of an eccentric lady.  i was wrong.  for when i finally visited norway i found trolls, in doll form, and more, everywhere.  trolls are a norwegian obsession].

but then anyway, our lads find themselves the subjects of an ancient swedish norse ritual.  there is a creature -- a creature!  -- that lives in the woods.  and that creature, or god, or whatever, is not a troll, but is worshiped by a family who might be as old as the vikings of another millenia.  our blokes find ancient runes, runic writing, and other symbols, in the vacant cabin they find on their first night, and in the woods as they try to find their way back to civilization.

i've seen this movie before but filmmaker david bruckner keeps things tense so a long shot of the woods produces enough dread to keep my blood pressure high.  even with bruckner's skill in keeping my heart racing i kept wondering how can an ancient norse cult, with its attendant god that demands human sacrifice, survive that last century without detection?  the 20th century taught us that the world is large, but not such a big place.  disappear in the woods?  you, or your body, will be found.  monster in the woods?  yep, that asshole will be found too.

at any rate, i couldn't help but enjoy this flick.  the principals are all game and good actors.  the photography is lovely.  the editing is sharp.  and the script has a good sound.  if you want a movie for date night this flick should be on the top of your list for you and your honey will be holding on to each other for dear life as we watch these dumb ass, and yet likable, lads sort thru their paces as the newest victims of the ritual. 

the philosopher worm speaks

i am Shiva, destroyer & maker of worlds
all things pass thru my gut

but if you see me on the sidewalk
please gently move me onto the grass

--john bloomberg-rissman

Thursday, April 05, 2018

it follows [2014]

a 19 year old college student living in detroit, michigan, falls for a boy.  they go on a couple of dates.  she decides to have sex with the boy, in a car, after a special night out with the young man.  she passes out and wakes tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned building.  the boy explains that he gave her something.  that something is walking toward her now.  that something can take the form of a stranger or a loved one.  but what she needs to know is that something will not stop walking to her until she is dead, or she can pass the curse to someone else via sex.

pretty heady stuff.  and already i am suspect that this flick will be an allegory on the dangers of teen sex.  but no.  rather, the writer/director, david robert mitchell, crafted an oneiric mood piece that harkens back to classic 1980s horror films, replete with a killer analog synth score.  mitchell knows how to stretch out dread.  even the most hardened horror movie buff can find much to admire in this pic.

the dream-like nature of the movie is made acute by the technology used by the characters.  the score, and the photography of the movie, again, recalls the 1980s but there are touches of tech that wrench this movie out of time.  indeed, there is a prologue of a victim of the curse running out of her house.  the victim, annie, is a young woman clad in her knickers and t-shirt.  it is dusk.  she bursts from her house and runs into the street.  she is not invisible.  a neighbor who is taking groceries from the trunk of her car asks annie if she is okay.  annie answers yes.  do you need help?  the neighbor inquires.  no, said annie.  so those that are afflicted by that 'it' that follows slowly and steadily walks toward its victims suffer in the worse way: not in the shadows, but in broad view of everyone and no one can help.

but i was speaking about technology.  annie uses 21st century smart phone and drives a 21st century car.  the other characters drive well-used 1960s - '80s vehicles.  their dress looks as if the clothes are of '80s vintage.  but the TVs they watch old horror movies on look like they are from the 1970s.  there is another detail that makes it impossible to know the year of the action of the movie.  one character is reading dostoevsky's 'the idiot' on an e-reader in the form of a pink clam shell.  so i have no fucking idea what year it is supposed to be.

i read that was the purpose of the filmmaker who wanted to make a a movie that is a waking dream, or nightmare.  indeed, it is hard to tell the season for the landscape looks like it might be fall, say around halloween, the characters sometimes where jackets, or t-shirt and shorts, or a dressed in their knickers, or hanging at the beach in their swimwear.  it is everytime, or all-time.  the effect is to heighten the feeling of unease.

haven't we all had that nightmare where we tried to get away from something or someone who is slowly, but inexorably, walking toward us?  we can't get away.  we can't evade it.  we can only suffer under it.  i know i've had that nightmare.  and so david robert mitchell made a movie that reaches into our dreams and spreads our helplessness and unease before a faceless force that marches toward us, forever and ever.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the stacks

i love looking at the bookshelves
& stacks of books of fellow poets
musicians filmmakers etc etc

i'm not the only one
with the obsession
even in this digital age

eyeballing the physical object
with the titles printed on the spines
with faded, torn dust jackets

bring a thrill to this old
man's head & heart
so let me apologize

in advance when you
invite me to your house
& you step away for a moment

to get the beers or go
to the bathroom
when you return to find me

scouring over your stacks
perhaps pulling a volume open
holding its weight in my hand

forgive the invasion
upon your property
the imposition my

love of your books
might cause you pain
i was born like this

is all my fault

Sunday, March 18, 2018

the fantastic four [1994]

roger corman's studio, new horizons, spent about a million smoliens to make this flick based on the marvel comic.  it was promptly shelved, never to see a release either in theaters, or dvd, or vhs.  but the internet is proof that nothing is ever lost.  even this non-release is easily found on the interwebs.

is it worth seeing?  depends upon your tastes.  i grew up on marvel comics.  i was not a habitual reader of the fantastic four but i read a shitload of them when i was a wee lad.  and what about this adaptation that was thought to be so awful as to never see a proper release?  let me tell you.

it ain't bad.  in fact, the script is quite faithful to the comic.  even the goofy one liners are scooped from the pages.  that is how this flick plays, goofy, fun and never taking itself serious.  the arch-villain dr. doom looks and sounds exactly like dr. doom from the comic.  if you can't  accept that then you are not the audience for super hero movies.

and remember this movie was made in the mid-1990s when superheroes were a novelty.  the 21st century has been pumped full of superhero pics where the action heroes are anguished super beings that take upon the flaws of human injustice.  that is quite a heady task.  and too much to bear even for a super creature.

naw, give me roger corman's version anytime.  ben grimm, aka the thing, says, once he accepts his misfit status, it's clobbering time!  exactly as grimm says it in the comic.  do you need more than that form your superheroes?  maybe.  our epoch is begging for help in the form of super beings.  our world is so fucked up.

and yet, roger corman knew that superheroes are a thing of the imagination.  so he allowed his studio to make a film that was truer to its source material than any superhero movie made in this century.  because this shit is goofy.  that fantastic four are a group of misfits, in life and our imagination.

this is not a good movie, but i loved watching it.  the actors were either hyperbolic or lethargic.  dr. doom was a delight to watch and listen to because he was straight form central casting.  you might ask who were the director, script writers, photographers, editors, and actors in this movie.  i second that; who?

doesn't matter.  i recognize neither name nor face.  and yet, each person who worked on this film earned my applause.  this is a really bad movie.  a superhero movie of another era.  should you watch this flick you will see how the contemporary world was built from the last century.  that sounds rather dramatic until  you stop and think about how superhero movies are made and played today.  superheroes are drawn in big tragic lines in our century.  and our digital culture utterly changed everything.  everything has changed.  i mean everything.  except for our need of heroes. 

and yet, why should we let changes stop us form enjoying a movie where the good triumphs over evil, even if for a little while.  embrace this version of the fantastic four.  for when this pic was released we had no idea how badly the world would change.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

the punisher [2017 --]

every once in a while i give myself a project and come hell or high water i will finish it.  my latest project was to finish watching this netflix series based on the marvel comic.  jon bernthal plays frank castle, a marine who got into some serious black ops, witnessed some fucked up war crimes, and for his pain his family was murdered by government assassins.  frank is an elite soldier.  revenge is his game.  shit is going down.

now frank has an antagonist in the form of former nsa analyst, david, who goes by the alias micro, played by ebon moss-bachrach, who blew the whistle on the aforesaid war crimes frank also witnessed.  and for his pains the government attempted to kill david.  the assassination attempt was unsuccessful but it looked realistic enough to allow david to go deep underground.  while david's family think he is dead, the former nsa analyst is a brilliant hacker who sets up camp and goes to work to bring the truth to light.

meanwhile homeland security agent dinah madani, played by amber rose revah, is bent on uncovering the truth about these war crimes too.  and so it goes for this series takes its time setting character and motivation.  it was a hard slog to get thru.  all three actors are quite talented and game.  the writing and direction needs some attention.  each set piece is so choreographed the viewer can accurately predict where the next punch will fall.

still, i like jon bernthal.  he does intense the way the great character actor james russo does intensity.  every eye twitch or balled fist is an encyclopedia of violent, brooding intent.  bernthal has a tough guy face, but he has the soul of a poet.  he is the thinking person's action man.  he is both arthur miller and joe dimaggio rolled into one actor.  bernthal is the reason i watched the whole predictable season.

does the punisher live up to his name?  does a bear shit in the woods?  don't mean to be so obvious to rehash a cliche but we've heard this song before, read this book, seen this movie.  revenge is not only a dish best served cold, but revenge is also a series of hyper violent set pieces.  when these set pieces work the effect is breathtaking.  frank castle is a superman with a few broken ribs, a fat lip and a will to kill.  if you don't like violent action steer clear of this series.  but if you like your violence delivered to you by a poetic soul than perhaps you might make your own slog thru this series and find that jon bernthal might be one of our best physical actors working today. 

quote unquote

Observe, connect, and do

--lew welch 'philosophy'

Sunday, March 11, 2018


sunday nite at 10:39 pm
after we
switched our clocks forward an hr
& what do you know
fuck my boots
i am wide awake
my circadian rhythm
is an hr earlier
i'm up but the clock tells me it is later
than i feel it now
i'm up watching 120 minutes on MTVClassic
what year did that echo & the bunnymen song get released?
boy am i feeling old
i really hate daylight saving time