Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SCOUTING

Herewith a photograph dug up from some mysterious archive that shows myself at about age 12. I think it probably shows me standing in camp at Flaming Arrow in Central Florida (I am guessing because of the old army tents and the sandy path behind me). I sported the last vestiges of towheadedness and the huge ears that often got me called "Dumbo." Looks like I had ten merit badges, so I was likely second or possible first class, and you see me in the green and orange neckerchief of Troop 68 (the Keystone Kampers). Also just about the thinnest I ever was.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

BOAR WHISTLE

In his art class this year, Chimo made for me a ceramic boar's head whistle, that actually works too. I think he is slated for art next year, as he starts high school. He has some talent, both in drawing and other genres. I have posted some of his work before, and have art from both the boys adorning my office.


DOCUMENTARIES

I do love documentaries, and will watch just about anything that grabs my attention, from history to biography to any of the arts. Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch two new examples, and they were instructive and jarring, beautiful and troubling.

Critic Roger Ebert, lover of movies and irascible celebrity film reviewer alongside Gene Siskel for so many years, is the focus of Life Itself (2014), a remarkably well done documentary that covered both his life and the fight against cancer, that left his face disfigured but didn't halt his drive or even production until the very last day of his life. I will admit that it was hard viewing the flapping maw that was once his chin (as well as the episodes of suction, but is is good that the reality of the battle be seen. I was amazed by the power and love of his wife Chaz, who he married at age 50. The documentary seemed very honest, and didn't seem to sugar coat his life, pointing out that he could be a curmudgeon and, well, prick, sometimes. But it showed that he was much more than what we often saw on the small screen, diverse in his talents, caring in his relations with his adopted family, and perhaps even affectionate for his sparring partner (who died in 1999). Sometimes the adjectives of "brave" and such applied to a person battling for their life can be overdone, but he seemed to keep good humor and willpower even as he struggled with pain and physical deterioration. The film certainly changed the way I thought of the man, and much for the better.

Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014) was a beautifully presented and informative exploration of historical and contemporary African American photographers, from the early days of the media, through the struggles of Reconstruction and Civil Rights, and up to modern support and expansion of black photographic art. The film is full of absolutely stunning pieces, many of which I had seen before, although there was quite a bit new to me. I have for a long time been somewhat familiar with a few black photographers, especially Richard Samuel Roberts, whose beautiful work is covered in A True Likeness (both the book and an ETV documentary). The documentary mixes a little of the producer's family's amateur work with the photography by and of important black leaders and individuals. Simply amazing work that I hope spurs viewers to look up and view and even visit exhibitions of the work of former and current photographers. It will empower, enlighten, and engage; I think it would be a good film to show high school and college students.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TV SERIES

For me, one of the hardest things is watching the final season of a cherished or much-enjoyed television series. There have been quite a few for me, some of which inflicted that weird melancholy I experience when things are coming to an end, in real life or fantasy. There have been many really good series that I loved and completed: BAND OF BROTHERS, BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA, CARNIVALE, DEADWOOD, DEXTER, LOST, M*A*S*H, MIAMI VICE, OZ, ROME, SOPRANOS, SPARTACUS, STAR TREK (all of them), and X-FILES. All of them I watched on dvd. There are several others that I am still engaged in. I like these types of shows, especially if well written and interesting, with good acting and characters. I am about to wrap up a few more, such as JUSTIFIED. One day I will have to rank all of them for my readers, few that they are.

But today, I celebrate the conclusions of two of my long-time favorites, and it is sad to see them go. The first is BOARDWALK EMPIRE, featuring the excellent Steve Buscemi. based largely on the historical development of organized crime in New Jersey, New York, and Chicago during the Great Depression, and featuring appearances by many real life individuals, I loved the costumes and sets and the complicated stories. You never knew when there would be a weird twist or the sudden demise of a favored character. And the bad guys were complex and often funny. Michael Shannon was good, although too grim and stiff at times. I liked when slips of humor wiggled past the facade. I never totally warmed to Shea Whigham's Eli nor Kelly Macdonald's Margaret, although they did fine jobs and are good actors. Stephen Graham was amazing and disturbing as Al Capone. Jack Huston's Harrow must have been harrowing (ba dum dum) to play, and I thought he was very good. There were many other good actors, and even the smaller and bit parts were well cast. I enjoyed how in the final season they did some backtracking and explained some of the development of the characters and how they fit together. It was a really fine series.

Last night I finished SONS OF ANARCHY, a really good series about life in a California biker gang with dark secrets, but that was hard on the emotions. I was surprised that quite a few characters survived in the end, many of whom I thought surely would get the early axe. Charlie Hunnam was pretty consistent and excellent in the lead role as Jax, and you have to give a lot of credit to Katie Sagal (Gemma) and Ron Perlman (Clay) for doing a wonderful job in their roles. There were so many good actors: Kim Coates (the crazed and unpredictable Tig), Dayton Callie (Unser), Ryan Hurst (Opie), Jimmy Smits (Nero, who I thought was consistently excellent), Niko Nicotero (Rat), Drea de Matteo (Wendy, who managed to shed her role in SOPRANOS), Emilio Rivera (Marcus, who was also consistently good), and Theo Rossi (as Juice, whose work seemed to get better and better as the show progressed). My favorite character, however, was Tommy Flanagan, as Chibs, the ultra-loyal and rock-solid right-hand Irish vice president of the club. I also liked Mark Boone as Bobby. Again, there were many really good smaller roles, and casting was wonderful, but for their looks and the professionalism of their acting, I thought. You never felt they were just going through the motions. The producers also got in enough salacious stuff, but didn't turn it into SPARTACUS. Here were bad guys that you still rooted for. I will miss them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Thirty or so years ago I caught ROAD WARRIOR, and then backtracked to MAD MAX, both movies I really enjoyed, especially their gritty and nonstop-action chase scenes. Mel Gibson was perfect as Max. Surprisingly, possibly because of the less than worthy THUNDERDOME, which I still kind of liked, there were no more sequels. . .until now. I was quite excited when I heard about the new film, and despite knowing what I would likely get, the recent installment FURY ROAD was a bit less than I would have desired. Yes, there was some impressive stunt work, but it is basically one long chase scene, spectacular at times, but not as viscerally intense or humorous or even thrilling as the ROAD WARRIOR version. Charlize Theron was very good though; she seemed to overshadow Tom Hardy. I loved the tough band of older motorcycle warrior women. Still, so many questions popped in my head. Why were there so many people at the cult camp and how were they surviving (you'd think extraneous individuals would have been eliminated)? Was the mammary pumping stuff necessary? The chasing warriors never seemed as menacing as they should have been, perhaps because they seemed comical ghosts. How would Furiosa ever have been able to maintain contact with the mountain biker guys? How did Furiosa's old crew survive? I would have liked a little more introduction to the individual worlds, even a quick visit to the old pumping station (which I am assuming was based on the RW one). How did the filmmakers avoid killing a bunch of stuntpeople? Anyway, see it on big screen. Just enjoy the ride and don't expect too much.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

ABANDONED

Through ghost town I walk alone,
Few buildings stand, most just gone,
Not even sand is swept in piles,
No other presence seen for miles;
I’m not talking some desert slog,
No, it’s about an abandoned blog,
A new poem hasn’t been added,
Message roll has not been padded,
No new photos, or even comment,
The silence deafens, like wet cement;
Where once was lively, visited often,
Sadness reigns, as memories soften.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015