Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Star is Born (1976)

I saw this movie in a theater 40 years ago when it was new. I didn’t remember much about it. I saw the original March - Gaynor more recently a couple of times. It’s a good story which is why it keeps getting remade. I’ve never watched the Judy Garland movie. And now Lady Gaga has one in the can about to be released. One for every generation I guess.
But this Kris Kristofferson - Barbra Streisand version showed up on Netflix and I decided to give it a go because I had not recalled anything negative about it. I’m glad I watched it again.

First off, all the singing in this movie is live. The audio of the voice is recorded at the same time as the picture. This adds enormous depth to the singer’s performance as opposed to the industry standard of pre-recording and lip sync on screen. I don’t like lip sync at all. It always looks fake to me. How can the performer really express showing physical emotion coming from their body if they are mostly attempting to move their lips in time with a recording they made sometime before? This is the worst thing that the movies have done with singing performers. It just makes them look foolish and pathetic, not powerful and present as they should.
It makes singing performers look ridiculous. It is a cheap insult to the audience to since it never really had to be done that way, it’s just easier.
(An example of how bad music and lip syncing can be in a movie can be seen in a movie of a couple years before this one with songs written by a contributor to this movie. That is The Phantom of the Paradise. It a pretty bad campy movie to begin with directed by a third stringer, but the very sloppy lip syncing is the worst I have ever seen. It’s like they don’t even try. Too busy doing lines of cocaine I guess. I never watched this movie before about a year ago. It is not at all good. It’s not even bad-good.)
But here we have a really well done version of the old Hollywood story and the power of Streisand’s live singing at the peak of her abilities makes it a very good movie. The singing in the movie is not like a conventional musical where the characters can’t help but sing. The story is about professional performers so the songs are on stage or in scenes in which one is playing a new song to another.
The Kris Kristofferson - Barbra Streisand relationship is believable because that both are appealing and sexy. Kris Kristofferson looks the part of a rock star even if his music doesn’t quite fit. The melodramatic aspects of the story are not at all overplayed.
The style of the movie is not far from the New Hollywood cinema of the post Easy Rider period. A Star is Born comes of as a New Hollywood musical complete with one of the period’s major directors, Paul Mazursky, in an acting role. It is not at all overly glamorous and this adds to the believability of the show.
This is a really well done movie.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Last Movie Star (2017) by Adam Rifkin

This is an odd little movie starring Burt Reynolds as an elderly movie star who is invited to a rinky-dink film festival in Nashville Tenn.

Vic, the Reynolds character, is old. He hobbles around with a walking stick. In the first scene he is letting go of his old sick dog at the vet. But he lives in a nice looking apartment and drives a mercedes so he’s not poor and on the street, just an aging movie star but no longer “rich” if he ever was. He gets the invitation for a festival and it’s lifetime achievement award. He lives in LA, were the movie stars are, of course, and talks about the invitation at outdoor lunch with his old buddy played by Chevy Chase. Chase is not in it much, apparently only worked one day as he is always seated at the same table the few times he pops up in the movie. The buddy convinces him to go to this thing.

He arrives in Nashville and finds nothing as expected which creates the conflict for the drama with some comic stuff.

The core of the movie is the relationship between Vic and the festival organizer’s 20 year old sister who has been recruited to be his driver for the duration in her beat up old car. This part is played by Ariel Winter, who apparently is a TV star on a show I’ve never watched. A lot of the movie is just the two of them with Vic advising her on her pathetic love life and her being put upon having to deal with this “Old Asshole” at all. She is kind of a white trash girl frustrated by her life.

There are a couple of scenes where Reynolds plays opposite his younger self. There is a scene like that is in a car and one on a small boat where young Burt is shooting fish in a river with a large bow. I don’t know what movies these were from. I was not at all interested it the movies he made in the 1970s, Smokey and the Bandit, etc. Anyway, these scenes are well done and add some visual spice to the movie as well as highlighting the contrast between young handsome Burt/Vic and the old man. At one point the Vic character is talking about his bad choices for acting roles in his heyday, while other male actors of that era did more quality and lasting films. I wonder if this is based on the real Reynolds. I would guess that the only movie he made that people still want to watch is Deliverance.
As far as I’m, concerned and can recall, The Last Movie Star is the best movie Burt Reynolds has ever done and he presents an interesting character with a believable performance.

Aside from the young woman, old star conflict, the movie has more than its fair share of looking back sentimental stuff. Writer Adam Rifkin, is only 50 so I feel he is projecting this stuff on the old and highlighting regret filled concerns that might not exactly be that of someone 80.

The rinky-dink film festival is presented as just film fans doing it out of love. Meanwhile I suspect that a lot of small film festivals are more cynical than that, ways for the organizers to make a little dough by taking in wannabe entrance fees and that sort of thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ray Meets Helen (2018) By Alan Rudolph

I watched this new movie. Not out at the movie theater. I haven’t been to a movie theater in awhile. I watched it at home as a streaming rental from one of those big companies that sell that kind of stuff.

The movie is about a couple of old people down on their luck. Well, they just don’t have money which is part of the same thing. And Ray, played by Keith Carradine, is worse off than that because he has some kind of looming health crisis.
Anyway, they both come by some money separately and unbelievably. Then they meet up in a fancy/snobbish restaurant

Ray Meets Helen was written and directed by Alan Rudolph. We had watched a couple others of his movies lately including the great Choose Me with Keith Carradine again except it was made 40 years ago when he was a handsome young man and not the old guy he is and plays as Ray.
Movies are funny that way. Now with access to a lot of older movies practically instantly, one can watch someone go from young to old, well, to almost dead with a few clicks within the same hour.
This gives me the impression that life just zips by, that we are all young and old and here and gone at the same time and linier time is totally an illusion.
At any rate in this movie Carradine is old and so is Sandra Locke who plays Helen and so is Alan Rudolph who got all this together.
But one thing remains the same. That is that Alan Rudolph makes very amusing and thought provoking movies about the randomness of love/sex relationship. Because in a way, this movie is not at all remote from Choose Me.
I buy into this actually. These things are random here in the modern timeless USA. They have certainly been random in my life. My viewing companion and me as an example. I just saw her photo of Facebook one day maybe 6 years ago and throught, “Wow! I want THAT one.”
And here we are moments/years/instantly now/later. Just like in the movie when Ray approaches Helen in the restaurant.
Funny how things work that way.

Delightful how Alan Rudolph sees that and shows it to us in his hyper-realistic believable/unbelievable entertainments. He totally gets it. My kind of filmmaker for sure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp

I recently read the new posthumus autobiography of Mr. Crisp called The Last Word.
That was so good that I wanted more and I had not read his first book to be published, the one that made him the international celebrity he became for the last 30 or so years of his life.

So off to the library I went after asking my branch to locate it for me. Yes, The Naked Civil Servant is even available in Nassau County Long Island, New York USA.
As he discusses in The Last Word, Quentin is more trans than gay, but given the fact that the variety of gender orientation had not been much explored by the time of The Naked Civil Servant’s publication in 1968 he was not fully aware of his own place on the spectrum.
I not really aware of the culture of the UK in those post Stonewall years after USA gay liberation had its defining action in 1967, but the feeling I had personally as a bisexual identified teen at the time was that the popular notion was that there are two sides, a person is one or the other; gay or straight. This didn’t fit me but anyway, that was the general impression I got and I think that is what the USA culture at the time thought.

Yet reading The Naked Civil Servant it is clear that even then Crisp knew he was something other than the one slot or the other categorization. He claims to have very early on worn makeup, but he is not really a crossdresser. He is not dressing as he is to act more like a woman to attract men really in any way, but rather to express what he felt within himself and what he ought to do and be.
The Naked Civil Servant is the work of an outsider critical to the workings of the society he found he had to live in. No doubt his gender feelings were part of the impulse that set him in the outsider direction, but what he becomes by the time of this writing is someone who looks at the world around him, does not really want to participate in it if he can avoid it and describes it in endless critical witticisms.  

So readers, this is not primarily a gay book. This is a work of an outsider that I would encourage other outsiders, whatever their sexual proclivities may be, to read. He is most definitely one of us who takes to the pages, his stage here, in a manner most entertaining and fortifying for the rest of us.

Of particular interest to me was the art model stuff as well as his other attitudes toward work. He is only willing to work because he has to. I think this should be the natural human response to the wage slave cycle we are forced into in our modern civilized world. If one looks into anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer people, which is the way human life was for 6 million years until the agriculture thing started just 10,000 years ago, one can find that people simply didn't “work” all that much. Maybe a few hours a day, and not every day, were necessary to get what was needed to sustain. The remainder of the time given over to hanging out, telling stories, resting , sex, whatever.
I like to think that Crisp, like myself was old school in that way.
Art modeling is the closest thing I have found for being paid for doing nothing. The model just sits there, the mind remains one's own, unsold.  

I first saw Quentin on The Dick Cavett Show in my youth and loved his not bullshit stance since.

Anyway, fine book.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)
Written and Directed by Angela Robinson

This is a very human story of the people behind the creation of the comic book character, who, of course, became the TV show, and ultimately the mega budget and super hit movie from the Disney Corporation.

Angela Robinson has made a very engaging movie about the triad love/sex relationship of William Marston, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne.  

I’m not really much into biopics. I don’t understand how they can even remotely approach the reality of the subject. Humans can not be contained in a two hour movie, and that is a good thing. Otherwise we would all be rather boring. We are more complex than that, especially if we are off the morn in any way.  Even the times people are living in are more complex than a historical movie setting. Modes of expression change from era to era, styles of conversation, and societal norms of engagement.

So I approached this movie from the angle of suspending disbelief as to the actuality of it all, the behavior of the characters. Did they really talk like that in the 1920s? This in particular with the frank dialog of the Elisabeth character at the very beginning of the movie.

If the movie and the queer woman writer/director, has an agenda, it is presenting a polyamorous relationship in a clear positive light without the usual melodramatic sensational. Being on Team Polyamorous myself I was on board form the outset to welcome that presentation and dropped the need for total accuracy especially since the characters involved were not actually pubic figures aside form William Marston himself, who used a pen name for his comic book writing and was therefore presumably invisible as a media figure.

What Angela Robinson presents is a realistic depiction of the struggles of people who need and dare to live differently from the intimate relationship norms and rules of their day. Their day that bleeds into ours, as the general community judgments of their behavior are not all that different now than they may have been then.

Meanwhile it is a very engaging love story entertainment. It is a beautifully written and directed movie with several scenes that are very effective emotionally.
Angela Robinson’s characters live and feel real, however remote they night be from the reality of the actual people.
Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth delivers a outstanding performance in her role as a modern woman of high intelligence and power in her relationships who must deal with new emotions in a complex situation.

Comics fans might be disappointed. It is not really so much about Wonder Woman although there is some content that has to do with comic censorship. It’s a love story.

This is a great movie by a supremely skilled filmmaker.
I will be looking for Angela Robinson’s future projects on the chance that she can do it again.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Last Word by Quentin Crisp

I like to read the posts of Quentin Crisp quotes posted on Facebook by The Quentin Crisp Archives. I have a casual interest in Quentin Crisp. I first saw him on The Dick Cavett Show on TV in Ohio when I was just about to be a young man. At least that is when I assume this was but maybe it wasn’t as early as the late 1960s. At any rate he was instantly interesting. I am attracted to elegant talkers and Quentin had that down. In a way he fits into a caragory in my mind he wasn’t the only oddball that slipped through the TV into my Ohio working class kid consciousness. I can broadly lump him with Brother Theodore, Professor Irwin Corey, even Gore Vidal in his insider/outsider way. Crisp clearly was some sort of outsider and since I had not actually found an inside for myself, I too felt like sort of an outsider.
(Out commercial culture profits by making the masses feel they are special outsiders, but that is another bigger topic that I’m not going into right now.) Not a bit troubled by his “gay” thing either. That males had sexual activity with one another was not news to me or outside of my direct experience.
The people who post The Quentin Crisp Archives began posting quotes from this book and I got interested enough to buy a copy, which I had to do because it was not available in my local library system since I no longer live in New York City. I don’t like to buy books. I read them and don’t look at them again. After moving from New York I got rid of the books that I had collected. This did not particularly grieve me. But I do like the books I want to read to be available from the library rather than have to be purchased, from Amazon no less. In the past year there have been three book buys by me. That is plenty. There is another like this, an indie project created with love. I’m happy that they get my money. Another was a graphic book. I was interested in the subject, but graphic novels, or biographies, as in this case are high on pictures and low on information. I’m more interested in information than pictures so they feel like less than.(I have little doubt that there will soon be a Quentin Crisp graphic biography if there is not one already, he is perfect for that.) In the book Quentin talks about money and it is revealed that he behaved toward it like a Great Depression kid. They don’t spend it for fear it will not be replenished, but forever gone. I’m not a depression kid, I just don’t like to collect stuff and kind of stayed working class so I don’t have a lot of extra money.
   The character who inhabits The Last Word is 90 years old and has had about enough of that. She is ready to let it go without looking back. And why should he. The Naked Civil Servant appeared in 1968 and the fame and all that went with that came to Quentin in his late 60s and early 70s. Prior to that life was more of a struggle and she really seemed to bloom in NYC. One of the best things about The Last Word is that it is the work of a 90 year old. We don’t hear that much out of the very elderly. Many celebrities vanish at a certain point, maybe around age 70, for men anyway, and go into a sort of twilight period until we read that they have finally died at 85 or whatever. So it is interesting to see what this odd old man had to say.
   He talks about shutting down some, stopping sex at 30. Did he really say 30? Well, other than masturbation, which went on until around 60. Thanks for the info, Quentin, it is really rather interesting and I’m not a bit squeamish about that stuff.
I’m not one who sees sex or money as these big private things that must remain hidden. The thing is I get the feeling that these sexual things were very unsatisfactorily explored, he writes of quicky encounters in city street doorways. In Quentin it appears that the tunnel to love remained undiscovered and there was a turning in from the hostel outer world to the world of the mind rather than that of human sensuality. I don’t really know what kind of sex he would have appreciated, but the setup, looking for money because that's what the others did doesn’t seem promising from my out of context view. But I really don’t get the male/male action world of some of these writers from that generation. Same with Gore Vidal with his “trade”. I guess Quentin, much less the “boy” Gore was and from a lower class, fell into the category of “trade” or at least wannabe trade. I assume there is more on this in other writings which I haven’t gotten to yet. I can understand the wannabe trade thing. I can understand being adored with a nice bit of dough attached to that, the ones who pay these lower class boys I don’t quite get. I want to be wanted, not temporarily tolerated for a toll. (I just got The Naked Civil Servant from the local library yesterday and will read that shortly.) Her attitude toward nature is also indicative of the sensual withdrawal into the mind. But there could be a bit of English princess in there, not wishing to get dirty or whatever.

What we seem to be left with is an acute observing mind, alert, from decades of danger, now calm and safe in relatively new public acceptance which revealed to the observer the absurdity of the whole game.
Our delight is his lack of fear in telling us what he sees in glorious articulation.

Oh, by the way, it turns out that Crisp was not really “gay”, but something else. I think The Naked Civil Servant came out at basically the same time as The Stonewall Riots, which are a marker of the beginning of the gay liberation movement. Since then there has been much more thought into the endless variations in gender and sexual orientation. This caused elderly Crisp, along with many others to revision the long held views of themselves and their position in the scheme of things. You can read the book for more on this. I welcomed this part because I’m not gay but certainly not straight at all and I’m less boyish than many others. I welcome the death of this sexual dualism.

For many years I lived two blocks away from Quentin Crisp. I would see him almost daily sitting for lunch in his favorite diner on second avenue. Then that place closed and he moved across the street to another lunch place and eventually vanished. I went into the old place one day and bought Crisp his brunch. I didn’t bother to ask him to work for his lunch by giving me audience. He had paid already by being on the Dick Cavett Show decades earlier.

Crisp was socially promiscuous. He was allegedly willing to give anyone a go at lunch or street conversation. He would avoid second encounters.
He was a keen observer of people. This is something I assume one picks up as a protective mechanism being an odd one in a hostile world. There is a fear and distrust of others, and not without good reason. He did excellently with that and the promiscuity seemed to work out well for him. In the end. The community protected and honored the oddball.
He was a big winner.

I was interested in the art model angle because I am an art model. He mentions the peripheral benefits to this work. It can develop patience and alter one's view of time.  I like the think that this work which involves really being an outsider in the scene with the painters and the art teachers, with the silent meditation being part of the bargain, as potentially spiritually uplifting or helping with some type of transcendence. One wants to be in on something special.
Reading The Last Word brings one up close to a very special old man

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mute (2018)

Mute (2018) Directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones and Michael Robert Johnson

This is a sort of mashup of Blade Runner and the movie version of MASH.

Duncan Jones apparently had a lot of money available to make a movie but not a thought of something to say. So he said nothing and just presented the typical edgy product for shut in boys.

There are these two actor guys playing doctors. For some reason they are stranded without papers in Germany, played by Blade Runner CGI settings.
One of them, Paul Rudd, is a horrible character with an ugly, Elliot Gould in MASH, mustache. This little actor twerp acts all tough guy in this. He even has a great big dick hunting knife. Big paycheck covers his shame in this nasty performance no doubt. It took way way too long in this miserable movie for this asshole to get killed off, but that is all gritty and edgy too, with lovely sadism as well.
He has a pal, some other loser actor, who is dressed up as round glasses Donald Sutherland in MASH, actually more like the MASH character if played by John Sebastian. (Those glasses are the best thing about the movie. I want those glasses.)

These nasty characters are at the center of this dumb drama. They are buddies, but the Paul Rudd guy is upset with his buddy because he is a pedifile (edgy!!!) and this guy is ethical even though he has murdered the mother of his daughter. So they are fighting and then right away they are buddies again.

This is the type of movie that testifies to the need of more women involved with production.
(Either that of kill off all men.)
It’s an a all-boy deal. There are a couple women in it briefly. They are there to provide something for the male characters to fight over.

Alexander Skarsgard plays the Mute and looks good in this as usual. He acted in a good movie once. It is called The East.

I hated this movie.  

A Star is Born (1976)

I saw this movie in a theater 40 years ago when it was new. I didn’t remember much about it. I saw the original March - Gaynor more recentl...