Wednesday, November 26, 2014

californication [2007 - 2014]

i fucking love this show!  i should start and stop my mini-review there because i've seen just the pilot and the 2nd episode of season one.  david duchovny -- so brilliantly laid-back an actor -- plays a sex-addicted, alcoholic novelist with a serious case of self-hatred, hank moody.  he is a devoted father to his daughter becca and does everything he can to fuck up winning back the love of his life and mother of his daughter, karen, assayed so winningly by natascha mcehlone.  the writing is whip-smart.  the sex is abundant.  and duchovny's moody is extremely charismatic.  quite simply i've not seen a show of the same caliber.  in short, this is a brillint TV series.  i know.  i knew of this show for years but never got around to it because i have little patience for a series focused on the misadventures of an asshole.  then i watched the first five minutes of the pilot.  it had me at boo.  moody is a bubble-headed nincapoop but he's no asshole.  he's a large character of biblical proportions.  kudos to writer and creater tom kapinos for creating a TV series of such large wit.  this might be the most human, as in showing our fatal flaws and our capacities for love, show i've seen in a long time.

summer of sam [1999]

b. knows my shangri-la is late '70s NYC when the big apple was going rotten.  so when he suggested we watch this spike lee joint about the serial killer dubbed 'son of sam' terrorizing the city during the sweltering summer of 1977 when NYC suffered black-outs, a horrendous garbage strike, near bankruptcy and a soaring crime rate i said yes!

this pic is a period piece located in an italian-american south-bronx neighborhood.  punk and disco are both in ascendance.  adrian brody plays the punk rocker richie.  john leguizamo portrays local disco king vinny.  mira sorvino is dionna, vinny's wife.  they, and many more characters, live, work, love and fuck in the same neighborhood where nutjob killer david berkowitz slaughters young couples at night with a .44.

the characters are neatly drawn.  richie is a bit of a whiner and vinny's shit is wrapped too tight.  vinny has a serious madonna/whore complex and can't stop screwing other women.  richie speaks sometimes with a very bad cockney accent, because he's punk, you see.  we get scenes at CBGB and Studio 54 and also, if you remember this place, Plato's Retreat.  lots of drugs, lots of sex, lots of guilt had by vinny.

and yet, lee does a good job of limning a city near its wits end.  the movie is overlong and some of the scenes with berkowitz are simultaneously punched up for psychological drag and tests the patience of the audience.  i've got to admit i liked this movie but i wasn't able to see it to the end.  we still had 40 minutes to go when our wives and kids returned.  this is not a film for wee lads so we turned it off.  i don't know how it ends.  don't tell me.  i'll come back to this flick hoping that richie gets all drunk and punk rock and spits on everyone and vinny get over his perverted ideas about women and treats dionna like the human being she is.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

everybody wants to be an individual and recognized as unique.  as long as they fit into their tribe.  nothing wrong with both needs.  i got this frisson when i looked around the three long lines at safeway last night.  i usually stop at the grocery store after work to pick up varied groceries and sundries.  friday night was the usual madness inside the store.  people were queued up with their goods, and because it was friday night those goods were mostly beer and liquor.  as i looked at individuals doing their best to maintain their patience while waiting their turns i saw that many wore my kind of shoes.  many men wore their hair much like mine.  many people were buying the same kind of stuff.  didn't matter if we were close in age or not.  we all wore some kind of uniform, consciously or not.  and then i thought, fuck it.  why worry about being an individual.  if your own self is similar to others, big freaking deal.  that is why i've always thought of myself as a derivative poet.  i am an accretion of all the writers i've read and loved.  and if people don't get it, like why you write and read poetry, who cares.  i was watching no reservations with anthony bourdain.  bourdain was in hawaii and met with an ancient surfer.  the surfer possessed a beautiful face, weather-beaten and gnarled, grooved by sun and seasalt, with framed by long, thing grey hair.  the dude retreated from the rat race so he could simplify his life, so he could live to surf.  when bourdain asked the surfer if he cared what other people may think about him and his life choices the old dude said, if you worry about what others may think of you then you are hemmed in by your own life.  i will add to that.  other than your responsibilities of being a good person and citizen you shouldn't care too much what others may think of you.  your obsessions and passions must be the driving force in your life.  a life in poetry, a poetic life, is i think behaving well, not being an asshole, being a good person, and making and reading poetry even if few can understand your choices.  even if you dress and look like other people.  for you may be one of your tribe but your are thoroughly you and thru and by your own self you are given the greatest gifts: life and choices.  your life depends upon it.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

under the skin [2013]

scarlett johansson is everywhere.  look at the credits for many blockbusters and you'll see her name.  for this feature she stretched out and added a sci-fi art flick to her resume.  the director of under the skin, jonathan glazer, is unknown to me.  but when i read the reviews for this movie and how strange it is, how visually stunning it is, i had to see for myself.

johansson plays an alien woman sent to earth to drive around scotland in a large van, pick up unattached men, and strip them of their skin?  i don't know why she does that.  she has a helper too.  a dude in motorcycle leathers who helps with the clean up. 

i get the gist that johansson is learning human emotions as she hunts for men.  she is a highly charged sexual being but she cannot have sex. there is a reason for that.  i won't spoil it for you but it is a very sad scene  but not in the way you might expect a sad scene to play out.

but there is a coldness to this film that feels a bit odd.  scotland is portrayed as a fairly wet, cold and dingy place.  the men johansson hunts are a miserable group of sad sacks.  the ending of this pic is rather brutal.  i've read critics call this movie an interrogation of the male gaze.  perhaps.

as for the movie's visual strangeness, well, i don't think so.  i kept thinking as i watched this film that the late great exploitation filmmaker jess franco explored similar themes with a finer, trashier, wit and with a dime-store surrealism of astonishing variety.  i wondered if franco got a star for his movies with similar wattage would his films have been reviewed in publication like rolling stone

perhaps.  doesn't matter anyway.  as for me, i prefer the movies of jess franco over this overwrought and too serious movie. 

quote unquote

If there is any “acknowledging” going on in today’s literary art world, it is the general acknowledgment that “genius” in its Romantic and 19th-century sentimental sense is a dead duck, and that it is far more useful to see oneself as a collaborator, a grateful borrower and lender, in a living, non-linear continuum of the art. Instead of clinging to artificial ego (or “identity”) constructs, we can both construct and deconstruct a multitude of “egos” and “identities”: “Not voice but voices,” as the late lamented poet Darrell Gray once remarked in response to some nineteen-sixties Iowa Writers’ Workshop jargon about “finding one’s voice.”

--anselm hollo [anne's school]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

you're next [2011]

is the DVD dead?  i ask because weekend before last anna, nick and i went to a couple of big-box electronics stores, stores that had huge inventories of DVDs, and i found such a scarcity of the plastic discs.  DVDs are still produced but the dominant mode of distribution for films and TV shows is online streaming.  we have a roku device and i've been watching scads of movies and TV shows.  i'll let you in on a not-so-secret: i love online streaming!

that's how i saw this indie horror feature.  i remembered a few positive reviews when it was released but little else about it.  i gave it a shot.  there is a mini movement in indie filmmaking called mumblecore.  mumblecore's practitioners relish an amateur's talents in acting and writing.  sometimes the scripts are threadbare, the production is very low-budget, and the actors kind of non-act.  the finished films can sometimes be sublime; sometimes they screech.  often the subjects of the films engage in relationship talk. 

then there is the off-shoot of horror film that embodies the same techniques and ethos of mumblecore.  these horror movies are called mumblegore.  you're next is a mumblegore flick.  the script is rather weak for dialogue.  the premise is a family reunion complete with attendant boyfriends and girlfriends at the family compound in the woods.  the prologue is a murder set piece of the neighboring couple committed by an assassin clad in black and wearing an over sized animal mask.  after the couple is dispatched the film begins its narrative.

grown children arrive at the house.  mom and dad have a bit of issues between them but they are happy to have their children back at home.  like many families the siblings bicker.  a fight breaks out between two brothers.  everyone screeches at an ungodly level.  this is the first third of the movie.  i nearly turned it off.  with thousands of hours of stuff to watch and only one life to live i can watch the beginning of a film then if that movie proves unpromising shut it off and look for something else.  sometimes i fall prey to a phenomena of over-supply where i can scroll thru movie lists for half an hour and get exhausted by abundance.  i don't know what to choose.  when that happens i shut the TV off and do something else.

luckily i stuck with it.  for when the assassins strike the pace of the movie quickens and the plot is shaped by violent action.  not all is as it seems.  there is a twist in the movie that you can spot 93 millions miles away.  but one character, i won't say who, you should see for yourself, has mad skills and fights the assassins.

i am impressed with this mumblegore iteration.  the director, adam wingard, directed the wraparound segments in another mumblegore feature, v/h/s [2012].  here he does a better job.  in fact, nearly everyone in you're next had a hand directing, starring and writing v/h/s.  i want to see what this group of talented filmmakers do nexti love online streaming, but for my collection of DVDs, yep, i gonna hang on to them.  hell, i still like those little round plastic things called CDs that need laserbeams to decode and play music and i lament the hard fact that the shops that were once abundant selling music are now few and far between.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

note toward an alt-lyric poetry

identities of
self are
in your
the border
is always

Thursday, November 13, 2014

interstellar [2014]

the world is fucked.  again!  the reason is hinted at around 30 minutes into this nearly three hour feature.  a global blight caused by an increase of nitrogen in the atmosphere which is caused again by climate change [which is barely hinted at by coop, played by matthew mcconaughey] have decimated agriculture worldwide.  the only crop that still grows in abundance is corn.  coop was an astronaut cum test pilot who gave it up to become a farmer of corn.  it is again suggested that the world's governments have given up all techno industries in order to concentrate on the production of food.  nasa, coop's prior employer, folded up shop.  technology is advanced by present-day standards but flattened out.  even the schools have changed their history books in order to call the 1969 moon landing a hoax.  coop finds a secret nasa facility headed by michael caine.  a wormhole was detected near saturn.  it is now possible to travel to another galaxy to search for possible habitable worlds.  coop is soon tapped by caine to lead a crack team of astronauts across the vast interstellar space to find us a new home.

shall i tell you more about the plot?  bear in mind this is a long and confusing movie.  the science is fantastic [theoretical physicist kip thorne is listed as a producer and science advisor].  the fx is mindblowing.  the narrative is mixed up.  director christopher nolan's movie is a mash of cold abstraction and the warm fuzzies.  pick your own set of influences on this film.  go ahead.  it's pretty easy to do.

there is a wrinkle in the plot.  coop is a single father.  his daughter, murph, played by mackenzie foy and jessica chastain, is tugging coop's heart and when coop leaves murph becomes embittered by the abandonment.  there is a very moving scene when coop and fellow astronaut brand, winningly portrayed y anne hathaway, lose twenty-three years of time.  don't worry there is a pretty good explanation for the loss of years.  coop catches up with his messages and we watch his face as he sees his children age.  beautiful, and a wonderful example of the magic of movies on the big screen.

i'm at a loss.  this is a very watchable movie.  nolan hits upon a subject very dear to my own thinking and feeling, the power of love.  this movie has the heart of a hippie.  and yet this is a very meandering film.  it moves thru ideas like a pro tennis player defending the net.  the movements make sense to the player but to us watching we might be left alone to scratch our heads.  that doesn't mean i think this is not a good movie.  it is possibly even a great movie.  i want to see it one more time on the big screen in order to digest nolan's, and thorne's, theories and ideas.  however i am dissatisfied.  nolan went big with this movie.  as big as space, almost.  yet the ideas presented in this feature are only poked at.  they do not come to full fruition. 

you have noticed that i have not made any comparisons of this movie with other films.  i've done that on purpose because i think this movie should be considered on its own merits.  this film is not sui generis.  it is a fascinating movie, and frustrating too.  for if only for those reasons nolan has created a memorable picture.

oh, one complaint.  the score by hans zimmer is too loud in the mix and drowns out the dialogue of the characters.  i thought that the problem was with the theater then i read another review that commented on the score drowning out the language.  film scores are critical to the success of a film.  but when you have a movie that embodies very abstract theories you need the characters sometimes to explain why x = y.  you need to hear them.  you need to turn down that damn score.

Monday, November 10, 2014

a night out in the city

last week was a hectic one.  i went to work.  i came home.  i hardly wrote a word.  i read from the many books i have going right now.  watched a little TV.  spent time with my beloveds.  then on friday b. and i headed to s.f. to see slowdive in concert at the warfield.

b. picked me up around 5:00 pm at work.  we chose a slightly longer route.  past vallejo to hwy 37 toward mill valley where the plan was to have dinner at a small mexican restaurant that b. and his wife c. have been eating at for nearly 20 years. 

the traffic wasn't too bad.  a bit backed up on hwy 37.  i was concerned that we were running out of time.  the doors to the show opened at 8:00 pm.  slowdive takes the stage at 9:00 pm.  i don't know if there is an opening band. 

we got in to mill valley a little before 7:00 pm.  the restaurant was crowded but we got seated immediately.  we were fed, full and out to the city in no time. 

s.f. is a small city.  it is compact, but it is small.  you can walk thru it in just a couple of hours.  driving i think takes longer to get thru the city than it does to walk thru it.  maybe not but i love walking and san francisco is a great walking city. 

nevertheless, we were pressed for time.  we got to our hotel [a pretty skeezy kind of place, really, but it was clean] near cliff house and asked the front desk dude to call us a cab.  we just threw our bags in the room when the taxi pulled up.  we got to the warfield exactly at 8:00 pm. 

we took our place in the huge line.  the show sold out pretty early.  i was surprised there were so many fans as slowdive never developed into a recognizable brand.  the average age of the concertgoers was about late twenties.  so goddamned young!  the band broke up in 1994 and reformed this past summer.  still, it made my heart leap to see so many fans of my second favorite band.

we got in right after low, the opening band, took the stage.  i don't know them very well.  i do know they recorded the theme song, 'half-light', for the richard gere horror movie the mothman prophecies [2002] but that's really about all.  they were good, a little too lo-fi, i think, with great vocal harmonies.  the two singers of low have beautiful voices.

slowdive took the stage at 9:15 pm.  they started their set with the eponymous song 'slowdive'.  they were great.  i mean that in every sense of the word.  the band was tight.  the vocals of neil halstead and rachel goswell sounded fantastic.  they had a great strobe light show that accentuates the syncopation and soaring guitars.  and they were loud!  real loud.  louder than loud.  when they played 'catch the breeze' i didn't want that song to end.  same goes for '40 days' and 'allison'.  i didn't want the show to end. 

but end it must.  when slowdive left the stage and the houselights went up i looked at my watch.  it was five minutes to midnight.  slowdive played for nearly three hours!  this was one of the best shows i attended in a long time.

our ears were ringing.  it took a few minutes to get outside on account of the size of the crow.  the lobby of the warfield was decorated in orange and black with the s.f. giants logo in repeating patterns  a witch, also dressed in orange and black, in homage to both the newly passed high holiday of halloween, and the recent world series championship won by the giants, stood watch.

b. and i walked into the cool, refreshing air of market st.  we didn't hang with the crowd milling outside.  we hailed a cab and got back to the hotel in no time at all.  then b. and i decided that a few hours in the city was enough.  we wanted to return to our wives and children.  we decided to leave the skeezy hotel [it was cheap by s.f. standards] head back across the golden gate to hwy 37 back to sac.  i was in bed by 2:30 am with my ears ringing happy and exhausted.

short attention span haibun

sprinkled a little sugar on it.  still tasted bitter.  sit down.  shut up.  after the first moment there is no other.  presently.  pleasantly drunk and almost happy.

                                 get up go to bed
                   stare out the window
                                 what is the name of that star?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

nick and j. had a very successful run of trick 'r treats last night.  the rain let up for a few hours to allow the little goblins to run the streets and ransack the houses in search of the greater pieces of candy.  i stayed home.  b. kept me company.  and handed out candy.  a pure delight.

* * *

poet/editor/genius [yes, i think this dude is a genius] mark young put out another brilliant edition of his lit journal otoliths #35.  go there now!

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poet/editor/fantastic human being jean vengua just released her new lit journal local nomad.  the theme of the inaugural issue is MIGRATION.  do some reading!

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horror movies lately have been rather toothless affairs of late.  this new century started out with a bang with horror reaching back to its 1970s exploitation and gore roots [think the remake of dawn of the dead (2004), and saw (2004)] that was both gross and refreshing.  but there are indie horror flicks that keep the genre light shining.

during some downtime yesterday when nick was still at school i pointed my browser to youtube to search for short horror fiilms.  i spent a couple of hours watching a lot of dreck.  but the crap was leavened by several short films that were quite good and scary.

below are two of my favorite movies.  i know it is now post-halloween time.  we will soon be awash in christmas advertising and stories in the media about black friday and cyber monday.  buy buy buy!!!  sell sell sell!!!  before we get caught up in the holiday season take a few minutes of your life and get scared silly.

2AM: the smiling man

this short is based on, i believe, an urban myth [or truth, depending on who is telling the tale] of an incomniac's late night encounters with an entity dubbed 'the smiling man'.  the movie ends with a standard jump scare however the choreography of the smiling man, the editing of the film and music produce more than a little bit of the creeps.


a young photographer finds an abandoned house fit for her project.  she gets a bit more for her pain than just a series of pictures.  again, wonderfully edited, well photographed, decently acted and with a smidgen of excellent FX, this is not your standard woman-as-victim exploitation pic as the film ends with just a bit of bite.