Thursday, December 30, 2010

Quiz Show

Via Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

1) Best Movie of 2010

I see so few movies in the theaters I almost shouldn't answer this but True Grit. Or better put "hands down favorite of 2010".

2) Second-favorite Roman Polanski Movie

3) Jason Statham or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Both in a buddy cop flick scripted by Shane Black.

4) Favorite movie that could be classified as a genre hybrid

5) How important is foreknowledge of a film’s production history? Should it factor into one’s reaction to a film?

I love reading production histories but a film has to stand on its own. Histories can help clarify or reveal though.

6) William Powell & Myrna Loy or Cary Grant & Irene Dunne

Nick and Nora forever.

7) Best Actor of 2010

I will not pick between Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in True Grit so you'll have to shoot for it boys.

8) Most important lesson learned from the past decade of watching movies

Good movies sometimes seem to have be made and released by accident than by any conscious design.

9) Last movie seen (DVD/Blu-ray/theater)

True Grit at the local multiplex with my pops, which added to the experience.

10) Most appropriate punishment for director Tom Six

I had to google his name so I'm going to continue to ignore him.

11) Best under-the-radar movie almost no one else has had the chance to see

It's from 1990 but more people need to know about John Boorman's Where The Heart Is, they really do.

12) Sheree North or Angie Dickinson

13) Favorite nakedly autobiographical movie

14) Movie which best evokes a specific real-life place

The French Connection

15) Best Director of 2010

The Cohen Brothers.

16) Second-favorite Farrelly Brothers Movie


17) Favorite holiday movie

18) Best Actress of 2010

19) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson

20) Of those notable figures in the world of the movies who died in 2010, name the one you’ll miss the most

21) Think of a movie with a notable musical score and describe what it might feel like without that accompaniment.

Goblin's score for Suspiria is its own character, so that picture would lose a lot of it's juice and become almost a pretty flip book of memorable sets. Here's just one cue:

22) Best Screenplay of 2010

True Grit, will most definitely be reading the book now.

23) Movie You Feel Most Evangelistic About Right Now

Sticking to amazing classics of trash cinema I'm always pushing The Apple or Exorcist II: The Heretic.

24) Worst/funniest movie accent ever

There are too many in the "Orish" division to pick from, so a fond laurel goes to Christan Bale's "Nu Yawk" squawk in Newsies.

25) Best Cinematography of 2010

26) Olivia Wilde or Gemma Arterton

Wilde, seeing her in Tron getup revealed a fetish I didn't know I had.

27) Name the three best movies you saw for the first time in 2010 (Thanks, Larry!)

The Apartment

The Letter

How to Steal a Million

28) Best romantic movie couple of 2010

29) Favorite shock/surprise ending

Don't Look Now

30) Best cinematic reason to have stayed home and read a book in 2010

Nothing really pissed me off by it's existence, just made me tired at its lack of originality.

31) Movies in 2011 could make me much happier if they’d only _______________

...understand that 3-D is not an acceptable substitute for a good script.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Present

In a punch bowl mix...
The better part of a bottle of Bourbon
1 bottle cranberry juice
1 bottle Sprite
float several cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange slices on top

For those feeling fancy some high proof rum slid on top and lit is festive. Not that I am suggesting you do that and for God's sake if you do make sure the bowl is heatproof. Not that I learned that the hard way either.

Merry Christmas!

"Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

(photo by Sheila O'Malley)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sol Invictus

Fill glass with orange juice and ice, add:
1 oz. Gin
1/2 oz. pomegranate liquor

garnish with twist of orange peel

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Verse, "Sunday Morning" by Wallace Stevens

(Thanks to Amaryllis for sharing this with me.)

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Invictus" by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Art of Catholicism

It would pain Bill Donohue to know but some of these works were funded by the public, through taxes and monies collected by The Church. And most of these artists were working class and some even lived, and died, in poverty. But all of them left behind something worth remembering, even if we don't know some of their names. (Click on all to englarge.)

Delphic Sibyl, detail, Michelangelo, 1509.

Rose Window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

Filipino carving of St. Paul, artist unknown.

St. Cecilia, John William Waterhouse, 1895

La Virgen de Guadalupe, artist unknown.

The Taking of Christ, Caravaggio, 1602.

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral.

To Create is To Love

Sometimes you are witness to a perfect storm of Fail...

In a large survey of museum-going households released in April, it was found that they are significantly better educated and affluent than the U.S. population; they are also overwhelmingly white. The time has come, then, to stop funding the leisure of rich white people: all public monies for the arts should cease. Quite frankly, to make the working class pay for the leisure of the rich amounts to class discrimination. In the spirit of social justice, a better case could be made to fund professional wrestling—it's what the working class enjoy.

This was said by President of Cranky Old Man With a Mailing List (a.k.a the Catholic League), Bill Donohue. Where to start?

First off I'd be very curious to see that study as Google turns up nothing. Secondly I'd like to speak up on behalf of The Smithsonian. This started when Mr. Donohue called for, and shamefully got, the removal of a work of art from the National Portrait Gallery. It was a video installation piece by late, gay artist David Wojnarowicz. Called "A Fire in My Belly" it's a haunting piece of work that can be viewed here. Mr. Donohue's manufactured outrage stems from the fact that for eleven seconds you see a shot of ants crawling over a Crucifix.

Ignoring context, Mr. Donohue calls this "hate filled." One wonders how he can stand to read the Gospels with Jesus' use of the art of storytelling, filled with frightful, impossible to taxidermy metaphors, similes, and requiring the listener to think critically instead of safely falling back on "Thou Shall Nots".

As to the classism, racism, and anti-intellectualism in his argument here is were I have to be careful not to fall into a string of profanities. Art is precious to me, as it is to every human being. And the Smithsonian is part of that. Growing up my family took yearly trips to D.C. to visit my Grandfather and Great Aunt. And part of the thrill was knowing we'd visit one, or more, of the Smithsonian Institutes.

We are not a wealthy family, I don't get a new Lexus every year and we don't have arguments over what color to paint the shutters at the summer cottage on the Cape. And yet I loved looking at Gauguin in the National Portrait Gallery, and wild orchids at the Natural History Museum, and best of all the rockets and meteorites at Air and Space.

To be human and aware is to love Art. It's as simple as stopping for a moment to admire the leaves changing color in autumn. Or singing a song, or dancing, or reading a book. That's what infuriates me about the demagogue's love of sneering at Art as a trivial waste separate from Humanity instead of coded into our innate desire to create.

Consider the caves at Lascaux, the paintings there are breathtaking and still send shivers up my spine looking at them. I love that we still don't know why exactly they were made and probably never will. But it was no "leisure class" who painted them, it was humans. Humans who knew that to be alive is to observe, to observe is to be inspired, and to be inspired is to create, and to create is to love.

The last strikes at the lack of heart in Donohue's and every like (small) minded argument. There is no love, only fear, and a desire for control in them. And Art is impossible to control, or to corral. It can hang in a gilded frame as easily as it can be painted on the side of a school gymnasium. It can be perfomed at Carniage hall or played on a Subway platform, busking for money. Art is free and makes us free, and for people who have a vested interest in keeping us afraid and erronisly thinking we're seperate that just won't do. It's up to us to prove them wrong. You can contact the National Portrait Gallery here and encourage them to put back up Mr. Wojnarowicz's piece and not give into bullies.

(And a final note with regards to that condescending remark on professional wrestling. Mr. Donohue would be most surprised to read this essay by Mick Foley about an artist whose work means a great deal to him.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Missing Summer

Actress Zoe Saldana

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Gelt

Fill glass with chilled club soda, add:
- One oz. rum
- One oz. chocolate liqueur
- Float one half oz. Galliano on top


Eighth Candle

"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." -Leonard Cohen

Monday, December 06, 2010

Sixth Candle

"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world." -William Shakespeare from The Merchant of Venice

Music in the Air, "Santa Baby" Eartha Kitt

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fifth Candle

"There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle" -Robert Alden

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Winter Wonderland

(click to enlarge)

Still from the unjustly forgotten gem Where the Heart Is (1990) directed by John Boorman.

Fourth Candle

"Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished." -Michael Strassfeld

Today's Arthur Rackham

Friday, December 03, 2010

Third Candle

"Fall in the Light", Lori Carson & Graeme Revell

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Second Candle

"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." -Vaclav Havel

Music in the Air, "Riu Riu Chiu" The Monkees

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner

(click to enlarge)

First Candle

"It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness." -Unknown

Comfort and Joy

I don't believe in God but I love Christmas.

I grew up a Jehovah's Witness and if they're known for anything besides waking you up from a nice Saturday afternoon nap it's the No Holidays thing. They justified it by pointing out, accurately I may add, each major Christian and civil Holiday's Pagan roots. It's why the War on Saturnalia and the outrage that you can't call the Solstice Tree by it's proper Christian name tickle me to no end. That said I love Christmas trees and lights and eggnog and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's important to have traditions, and to mark the passage of time, even if only to remind yourself that all winters end.

It's also the first night of Hanukkah, getting closer to the Jewish part of my heritage is also something I want to do more of in the coming year. And I see no conflict in celebrating both. By next year I hope to have got enough in touch with my Jewish roots to feel guilty about this.

If nothing else, it'll keep the updates regular around here until New Year's. And I hope how ever you celebrate the season it's one that leaves you with a sense of peace and possibility for 2011.