Monday, October 24, 2016

What Does Donald Trump Really Want?

Mike Whitney with the answer.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mister Clutch

Kershaw comes through again:

Career Regular Season:       ERA 2.37  WHIP: 1.007
Career Post Season:            ERA 4.55  WHIP: 1.157
Career Elimination Games:  ERA 6.28  WHIP: 1.447

Truly, Clayton Kershaw is the anti-Bumgarner.

And congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers -- with all that hedge-fund money and all those insipid fans -- concluding their 28th consecutive season in the Major League Baseball wilderness!

With #29 coming up!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Who's Next, Michael Jackson?

Bob Dylan is getting the Nobel Prize for LITERATURE?

David Walsh has a few laughs.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Are You an Acceptable?

The young Robert Vaughn sure hopes not, in a classic FKB from December of '56.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Acceptance, Forgiveness, and Love

Louis Prima. Joe Franklin. Cigarettes. The old. The accented. The poorly dressed. People with scars, moles, jowls, wigs. Bad noses. Bad hair. Delis. Plastic-covered furniture. Howard Johnson's. Colony Records. Lumpy bodies. Cigarettes. S&S cream-cheese cheesecakes and pecan pies. Cherry cheesecake. Heaps of corned beef and pastrami. Blood-soaked, untrimmed steaks. Cigarettes. OTB. Optimo. Cocktail waitresses. Smarm. Ventriloquists. Escape artists. Smiler's. Accordion music. Chain smokers. The dirty grease on groovy hamburgers. Cigarettes. Terrible (but funny) jokes: "I just saw a horrible accident. Two taxi cabs collided. Thirty Scotchmen were killed." The working class. Sweetness. Zest. Enjoyment. Life. Ways of caring. Earnestness. Devotion. Joy. The naive and the silly. The human range of New York City. The lost. The lonely and alone. The broken and crippled. Cigarettes.

Vanished. No, not vanished. Banned. From the public, cultural face of the Apple. Gone.

Woody Allen's 1984 valentine to the New York City disappeared is his best and most moving work. And the funniest. His embrace of all we never see anymore -- the shunned -- is keyed to the tune of the true hearts: those who may be talentless and unsophisticated, mediocre and boorish, ugly and uncool. Doesn't matter. Because all they do is heartfelt and self-forgetful. Toward them here is shown not a moment's camp, condescension, or cruelty. Here, they are celebrated. As are the great stand-ups from the time before Allen hit it big: Corbett Monica, Sandy Baron, Jackie Gayle, Will Jordan -- from places like the Latin Quarter, the Copa, the China Doll. Only caveat: Gordon Willis's inappropriately gloomy photography.

Why not shoot it like this?

Of course, before and after Broadway Danny Rose, Allen's cinema gave / will give a strong push off-stage to the dear hearts. But this is his penance. This is his un-Manhattan.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October Jazz

Courtesy of Ken Laster.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Japanese Girls at the Harbor

Silent and wonderful and very strange. Director Hiroshi Shimizu -- one of the forgotten masters of classical Japanese cinema -- invented his own film language and here it is used to create a series of free-floating emotional tableaus, either in support of, or not, a story. (I can't tell.) It seems to be about two Yokohama high school girls who go their very separate ways, one called Sunako, the other Dora. (Dora? In 1933 Japan?) Yes, for the movie cuts with an anti-Western edge, as it opens with foreboding scenes of foreign ships filled with non-Japanese passengers: we see foreign cars, a Christian church, gangsters right out of Scarface (1932), and the names Dora, Henry, and the troubled Yoko Sheridan. (Henry and Dora later get married and live in a thoroughly Western house.) The main character (and the movie's troublemaker) is Sunako (played by the rather limited Michiko Oikawa, who looks forlornly at the ground quite a bit). Sunako yearns for Western-style bourgeois respectability, while mistreating (and eventually tossing out) her devoted Bohemian boyfriend; and while yearning for the cheating ex-gangster husband Henry, who breaks his own devoted wife's heart. (Dora is played by Yukiko Inouye, who for some reason reminds me much of Renèe Faure in Les Anges du Peche.) As we move along, many questions arise. Why is there no emotional weight given to the artist boyfriend? How did Sunako escape after shooting Yoko Sheridan? How did Yoko come to such dire straights? What crime did Masumi commit? What exactly is Yoko guilty of, besides getting shot by Sunako?

We don't know. Shimizu never tells us. But his language is so his own that you won't care and all you'll remember are the sequences: the disappearance dissolves; the shooting in the church; the slow track to the left revealing who Sunako's new neighbor is; the unraveling ball of string; the montage of "where we used to walk together"; Masumi's arrest; Sunako's bar search for Henry; Sunako's recognition of her neighbor; the ending's visual exhiliration.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Way We Live Now

From the Playboy Club, San Francisco, May 1970, the great Mort Sahl on Nixon/Agnew, JFK, CIA, Jim Garrison, Kent State, and that most cowardly brand of collaborators -- Hollywood Liberals.

Mort from EJK on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

To Keep Her Love Alive

I once thought of Dragnet Girl (Hijosen no onna), Yasujiro Ozu's 1933 silent gangster melodrama, as the Chrysler Building of movies. However one feels about Deco, has it ever been presented on screen with such comprehensiveness, concentration and beauty? And with, at least for the first half, such a sense of loss, as if Ozu felt a need to contain and preserve it before something else took its place -- like a man in a burning house who has 10 minutes to collect the valuables.

Something more than a celebration, however, is taking place. The objects are astonishingly beautiful -- typewriters, dice, ceiling lamps, clocks, hats, mirrors, iron gym rings, blinds, Victrolas: soft light, from no apparent source, spreads across them, leaving an irregular darkness. And the objects cast no shadows, and indeed seem edge-lighted as if the light is coming from within. Yet there is something sinister, as well as holy, in the objects. The era defined by the design of Deco was also an era of Capitalist Restoration, the first of the media age -- Deco is a Fordist atmosphere: the pure, clean, smart, of-the-moment, mechanistic new order of production made stunning and opulent. Yearning and mystery, perhaps for the past when the blood had a different throb -- excluded.

Until Tanaka takes over. It is hard to connect this sassy pool-playing moll (with a backside so cute everyone seems to want to watch it) with the suffering mothers and wives and sisters from her 1940s and 50s greatness. She is so pretty here, and one doesn't think of her that way post-war. She turns the movie on its head, when she fears the loss of Joji, her lover, an ex-prizefighter now living off of Tokiko (Tanaka). His character, despite Tokiko's burning, remains to the end as abstract as the objects surrounding him (in Joji's case, a rather Frankensteinian abstraction). All the characters remain pure types, as fixed and frozen in their perfection as are the Deco objects themselves: soon-to-be Naruse's own Sumiko Mizukubo, playing the devoted sister; Hiroshi the confused and somewhat wacky brother; Yumeko Aizome, her own embodiment of astonishing slender Deco beauty. And the story is little but myths and notions of its time. Tokiko is the only force in the work who strives to bust the abstractions and settlements around her, who strives to change, who at the end shoots her lover in order to force him to not merely live in the perpetual now of externals and structures. She becomes a figure of disruption and freedom, the only force in the work that longs to become different. And she forces a work that started out in the land of Hawks and Von Sternberg, to become Bressonian. (Ten years before Bresson.)

Saturday, October 1, 2016


If one would ask how the monumental can be tender, October in New York is the answer. The city then recalls us to the brutal and to the awesome. Her wood and asphalt and brick skin becomes luminous in any pale light ~ it also reflects the shadow of the rock: New York in such shadow on a sunny day, the glass of her eyes have the blue of the sea. Days and nights slow down, and people seem much readier to recognize others, before the Transfiguration of Christmas. New York October: when the magnificent blue sky glows like sapphire, after the sun sets. Streams and ponds and lakes of water flash blue. Great lines of silver-grey poplars rise and make avenues ~ or airy grey quadrangles ~ across the Park. Their top boughs are spangled with gold and green leaf. Sometimes gold and red, a patterning. A bigness ~ and nothing to repress the romantic spirit.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Scab Nation

Professor Richard Wolff on the Land of Disunion and a possible world beyond.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Trane at 90

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Beyond Grace

In many ways, his speech at the United Nations, September 20, 1963, is a more radical moment than was the astonishment of American University, three months before. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty had been signed and was days away from Senate ratification. The Civil Rights Bill had been entered into the constipated corrupt halls of Congress; and the March on Washington had just been celebrated. Medgar Evers was dead. And children had died: four little girls in Birmingham, five days before; and the President's own prematurely born son, Patrick, in early August.

Here, Kennedy recognizes the State of Grace the world had entered in 1963, thanks to himself, to Nikita Khrushchev, to Pope John XXIII and other leaders. And how fragile that State was. He calls not for an end to the arms race, but for total worldwide disarmament. He calls for a newly established worldwide food distribution program, one particularly embracing poor children. Calls for the creation of organizations across borders providing health care, farm subsidies and equipment, science education and laboratories, for all in need. New laws and enforcement power preserving the beauties and health of our natural environment. And a new United Nations charter strengthening human and civil rights treaties and courts, proposing new laws and courts should conflicts arise not covered by existing measures.

Most stunning -- and self-destructive -- of all is his call for an end to the space race, for a unified effort to explore the stars, the planets, the moon -- and a ban on all outer space weapons and military-oriented satellites. This, combined with Kennedy's refusal to Americanize the war in Southeast Asia, would have cost the corporate/military/intelligence vampires trillions of dollars.

They wouldn't lose a dime, thanks to the greatest American mass murderer of the 20th Century -- and one of Kennedy's assassins -- Lyndon Johnson.

It is a celebration of hope, community, cooperation, and all we hold dear on our short journey from birth to death. "My fellow inhabitants of this planet. . . ."

My God, how far we've fallen. . .

Friday, September 16, 2016

Good and Blonde

The flip side of Holiday (1938). Here the rich are wacky, good-natured types, who only need to be taught how to act, by a butler who's secretly a fallen member of the ruling class. And who saves the day by a stock-deal too similar to Johnny Case's Seaboard coup. There, it blows everything up. Here, it makes everyone whole.

Ahh, so what? Lombard sweeps all before her.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Johnny Case ~ one of the key characters from classical Hollywood, mostly forgotten. His eyes: far-seeing, haunted, engaged, melancholy. Case (and the man who played him) holds the secret of life, embodies the democratic nature of movies itself: joy, magic, movement, thought, energy, intelligence, luck, charm, grace, quality, hopes, dreams, and freedom.

In Holiday (1938), Case and his spirit are permanent polar opposites to all that is seen in the movie as anti-life and anti-spirit: money; and those who have it. Holiday reminds us what all Americans knew in their bones, until about 30 years ago: the American very rich are very stupid, humorless, in-bred pigs, capable of holding onto money and power only because of their single-minded opportunity and obsession to do so -- a brood that knows itself to be above others by right and beneath them in fact. (My Man Godfrey [1936] -- another great Depression comedy -- must've been more comforting to its slumming wealthy audience members.)

The story begins with Case -- proletarian and very temporary investment banker -- returning to New York City from a Lake Placid ski trip, where he has met the girl of his dreams. Visiting her home for the first time, he discovers she's the daughter of enormous wealth, living in a preposterously huge Fifth Avenue mansion.

(The hole in the movie is the wholly unbelievable notion that Case could fall in love with either Doris Nolan the actress or Julia Seton the character. Another hole is Katharine Hepburn. In a work of beautiful, understated performances, hers is often as artificial as it is righteous.)

Holiday revolves around Grant's magic, coming closer and closer, then drifting away. It begins on Christmas morning. (And we wonder: where are the decorations in this enormous house? 'Though we do see the family, sans Hepburn, attend Christmas morning mass.) Johnny's friends Nick and Susan (two classical 30s leftists, played by Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon) return him to himself -- when he is apart from them he is fretful and distracted. The negative attitudes shown toward Case on occasion by members of the Seton family or Seton family friends strike us as insane. Ned -- quietly played by the special Lew Ayres -- is someone we long to see brought in by Case, as comrade and brother-in-law: we know this will give him heart. Julia -- the intended -- will never take that heart, and so has no real use for Case. For the rich are naturally stunted, says the movie. Hepburn is already where she needs to be -- archly -- and how long could Johnny take her close-up, day-after-day? She already seems complete. The warmth and ardency of a young Lupino might've been a lovelier match. Or Ann Sheridan. . .

Seton Cram, played by Henry Daniell, seems to be playwright Philip Barry pouring it on. Yet aren't we now in a place of Seton Crams-on-steroids, runaway Crams draped in baggy Versace suits with washboard stomachs, carefully unkempt hair, tattoos and bee-stung lips? At one point Cram offers to help Johnny make his first million within a year: "It wouldn't take that long if we had the right sort of government." Ted Cruz couldn't have said it better.

And Grant to Hepburn: "There's a conspiracy against you and me, child. Vested interests. . ." Interests and conspirators who have completely won out.

Still, what a grand movie.