Friday, November 27, 2009

Barbara Hershey: two movies

This weekend I saw two movies by underrated actress Barbara Hershey. First I saw her notorious 1981 horror movie "The Entity", a truly mediocre movie "based on a true story" about a woman who is regularlt attacked and raped by a poltergeist. It was widely attacked by feminists and ignored by the public. And one can see why. The movie is boring, repetitive and half an hour too long. Still, one can see for it Hershey's amazing performance. Her acting keeps this movie from becoming truly risible. If one wants to see a fine example of an actor saving a movie, look no further than this movie.

Much more interesting is "Boxcar Bertha", an early Martin Scorcese movie made for the Roger Corman B movie factory. It has the usual Corman touches: violence, nudity. But Scorcese turns it into a Depression era, thoughful movie about capitalism, poverty, racism and class warfare. There are truly beautiful moments here. But again, Barbara Hershey delivers a truly special performance. She is unafraid of nudity (in fact at the time she alleged that her sex scenes in the movie were real) and has an intensity that one doesn't see these days.

Sadly, Hershey never really became a star. She did have her moment in the sun in Woody Allen's "Hannah and her Sisters". But she has sort of vanished since them. A real shame. Maybe someone like Quentin Tarantino will create a movie in which she can show again what a great actress she is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Paul McCartney: Good evening New York

Today I bought the Paul McCartney Live concert DVD. It was filmed at the Citi Stadium concerts he did earlier this year. I don't know why I didn't simply catch a plane and go see them. I have friends in New York that maybe would have accompany me. But I didn't. All the reviewers said it was great concert. And tonight I will watch it at my home. Paul is the last Beatle still active, still making music. He is a link to my youth when in 1976 I went to the old NY Department Store in Santurce and decided to buy my first Beatle record. I had heard a few of their songs, but I hardly knew their music. That afternoon when I heard that record (Beatles 67-70), I was hooked and I consequently bought all their albums and their solo records.

So today I went to Borders and participated in a ritual I hope to continue doing. I pulled from the shelves a Beatles record.
I bought it. Looked at the cover. And Said to myself " I am listening to this tonight. Yes I am".

Last Blog Standing

Two years ago most of my friends had blogs. They would write and share ideas and feelings. Today I looked at some of them and they haven't been updated since 2007. And it's a real shame. It seems people prefer to write short updates on Facebook rather than take the time to express things in more depth. For a while I abandoned this blog, but I came back to it. Because it means something to me. And because I love to look back and see what was I feeling and thinking a few years back. There is something fulfilling and lasting about a blog. And I love that.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sun Also Rises

Great books make bad movies. Bad books make great movies. That seems to be an old movie theme. A terrible novel like "The Godfather" made for an excellent movie. And well, if you want an example of a great novel turned into a bad movie look no further than "The Sun Also Rises" made in the 1957 and shown on Cinemax the other day. A story about the post World War I generation wasting their young lives in 1920's Paris and Spain, Fox decided to cast the movie with 40 year olds and turn it into a movie about people having middle age crisis. And the magic of Hemingway's novel is completely gone.

There are some ok scenes most of them shot during the running of the bulls during the San Fermin festivities. But they don't compensate for a really big, pretentious, boring movie. All in Cinemascope to make the fiasco even bigger. Sometimes I complain about how today's movies are big and empty. Well, producer Daryll Zanuck was making them back in the 1950's during his reign in Fox. No wonder he was fired after churning out disaster after disaster. But that's another story.

Valentino and celebrity culture

"Valentino" was a movie directed by notorious British director Ken Russell. During his heyday in the 1970's he specialized in creating over the top biography movies. Most of them were critically panned, but none as much as his Rudolph Valentino biography. Critics pointed out that most of what appears onscreen never happened. They stressed how awful Rudolph Nureyev was in the title role.

But watching it last night on TCM, I agree on those points. But I guess Russell was making more of a statement on celebrity culture. After all, Valentino was the first cinema idol, he was cinema's first true star. IN a way he was the first mass media rock n' roll type star.

And I love how Russell builds his movie around Valentino's funeral. During the funeral, several people who knew him make grand statements about him and how he influenced his or her life. They are all exaggerating his influence, some of them telling obvious lies. But that is the beauty of the movie. It reminded me so much of the Michael Jackson funeral where hangers on and people who I'm sure couldn't care less about him were making grandiose statements about how Jackson touched their lives.

Russell created a biography based on lies because most celebrities lives and biographies are built on lies. This is not a terrible movie. Actually, it's quite brilliant. And I loved Leslie Caron as a horny lesbian. Only Ken Russell could have done such casting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jaime Bayly

For some strange reason, extreme left wingers dominate debate in Latin America. And they are so smug about it. That's why it is so refreshing to hear someone like Peruvian writer, tv show host Jaime Bayly. He is the extreme left winger's worst nightmare. A brilliant, intelligent person who refuses to deal in anti-American, left wing cliches. And he is not the usual right winger. He is openly bisexual and is open minded in a great variety of topics. But he calls them as he sees them. He doesn't fall for the Castro Chavez mythology. He realizes both are simple dictators.

And when not dealing with politics, he has an amazing, perceptive sense of "no bullshit." The day following Michael Jackson's death, instead of being politically correct and saying wonderful things about the recently dead singer, he decided to cut the crap and give the audience a reality check about the whole circus that was the singer's life and death. Yes, sometimes it was cruel, but it was brilliant. And true.

See his show on the NTN24 website or on You Tube.

Jacques Demy's The Model Shop

I am a sucker for goofy movies from the 1960's. Especially movies from major studios desperately trying to be be cool and appeal to the rebellious generation of that era. I was expecting :The Model Shop", shown recently on Turner Classic Movies, to be such a movie. I was expecting LSD sequences, women in mini skirts dancing to music played by a band goofy looking kids. What I got was a thoughtful, sad, almost depressing movie about two very lonely people. One a French woman who went to LA and ended up a model in a sleazy joint where pervs take photos of her. The other a drifter type who has no goals, no plans. But he is not a likable guy either. He is a total loser in every way. They meet by chance and well, he falls in love. She, well, is not sure about the whole thing.

The movie was directed by Jacques Demy, the director of such movies as "The Umbrellas of Chembourg" and "The Young Girls of Rockefort". But this movie is so different. There is none of the color and music of those movies. This is a bout sad reality. About unrequited love (there are two such stories here). There are scenes that don't work that well, some of them go on for two long. But, like watching real life, one can't take the eyes off the screen. And that's more thats more than one can say about 99% of movies.

Politics and Facebook

I am in Facebook. I admit it. I use it mainly to keep in touch with people I don't see for long periods of time. It is a way of saying "Hi" twice a year, to comment on their photos. Thanks to Facebook I have been able to reconnect with people from my past.

But lately I have been noticing people who use Facebook to throw their political beliefs out there. And they do so in such an arrogant way. Putting down other people's beliefs, insulting people. I think this is such a stupid thing to do. At first I thought that was ok, I'll just move on to other things. But then it started to bother me, to make me angry. Because implicit in their words was the idea that I was a moron because I don't share their beliefs.

So I have been dropping them as friends. So long. It was great to catch up with you after so many years. But the thing is, respect for others is something I cherish. It's something that means so much more than your virtual friendship.

Antony Beevor "D-Day"

These days I haven't been doing much movie watching since I have been absorbed in a truly amazing history book. It's an account of D-Day. I know what you're saying...another book on that topic, but this is such a superior book to all others. The author has a talent for telling a story full oh historical facts without making it boring. But the most interesting thing is how he tells the story from the point of view of so many, soldiers, officers. And from the point of view of the Allies and of the Nazis. This is the kind of book that places you in the middle of it all in such an interesting way. This is a book that one wishes would go on and on. Very few books are able to do that. Something which makes it a true classic.