Monday, February 29, 2016

Misnamed Michael Moore Movie

Michael Moore always has something to say that needs saying.  In this case I think he has chosen a title and overall point of view that will be off-putting to those who don't really like being told the unpleasant facts about our country. He is not talking about American invasion anywhere. (I expected something about Syria, actually.) Not at all.

He visits a number of countries and looks at things that work extremely well there, much better than it works in the US. He interviews people from the President of of Slovenia and former first woman President of Iceland, to people who run schools, prisons, school cafeterias (in France), and so on. He points out how well things are working in that sphere of these various countries, including Germany where "we must remember" is a part of all curricula in school and another school were sex education actually teaches something, to Tunesia where an uprising toppled a dictatorship without a war. 

What he is saying is that they're doing a good job. We're doing a shitty job in these areas -- I was most impressed with his thesis briefly stated that by having the stiff drug laws the USA has managed to reinstitute slavery  -- that is a high percentage of the young black men are in prison and while there they are kept busy making things -- men's clothing, various industrial goods that are made for almost no pay to the prisoners (probably -- he doesn't say this -- a profit to the corporations that run the prisons, because prisons are a thriving big business).  It will be a shame if people stay away from this movie because so much can be learned and Moore is not preaching as much as sometimes, he's not harassing anyone, he's mostly acting astonished by the short work week, the paid vacaeion time  for workers, the gourmet school lunches, the attitude of a Norwegian man whose son was one of the victims of the terrible massacre of campers on an island a couple of summers ago. 

We don't need Moore's silly business of leaving a flag behind saying 'we have conquored' this idea.  What he finally says is that most of these good ideas had originally been American but they have somehow been discarded in favor of what we think are more profitable ways of running things.

Friday, February 26, 2016

YOUTH, a movie about aging

Youth is a movie about aging, an under-the-radar type movie, set in that anachronism, an expensive spa-resort in the Swiss Alps, with a huge cast, including cows, with a good many touches of fantasy.
The two main characters are a octogenarian Michael Caine, a famous composer/conductor who is retired and refuses even to do a command performance for the Queen of England. and his long time friend, a screen writer, Harvey Keitel and Caine's daughter, Rachel Weitz. We care about these two, and about Lena the daughter who is jilted by her lover, who is Keitel's son. All the rest of the huge cast are sprinkles on the cupcake icing.

There are many luxurious scenes including Caine on a stump in an Alpine pasture conducting the ringing of the cowbells and the mooing chorus. There's a wonderful masseuse who is a dancer in private, an amazingly beautiful nude "Miss Universe", a meditating lama who floats away, Jane Fonda as a stereotypical hardened screen diva who tells Keitel exactly what she thinks of him, and much, much more.  I do not usually wish to read books twice or see movies twice but I would watch this again just for the sense of stepping back into another time of movie making and enjoying the vignettes. Plus I have enjoyed Caine's performances for about 45 years and don't see enough of Keitel -- a wonderful Actors' Studio regular. I won't see it again as I don't watch movies online and this was the last showing at my beloved local Cape Cinema. They have a fewinte resting ones lined up for the next three weeks so I'll be going back although I was'nt enticed by their February offerings.

To have such a theatre -- in a building that is a heirloom (it has a Rockwell Kent painting of the Greek god and godesses in a stary sky arching across the rounded ceiling -- is a treasure I cherish, and only 25 minutes drive, and, with  my senior discount card, I can't complain that my fee just went from 6.50 to $7.00.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Seymour, Extraordinary Wisdom

Seymour Bernstein is an extraordinary pianist, an extraordinarily teacher, and an extraordinarily wise human being. The new-ish documentary film simply titled Seymour was produced and directed by Ethan Hawke who also appears it in at times as  interviewer. Seymour Bernstein lives in New York City in a studio apartment although he was once given a ten room house to which his patroness regularly sent gifts, and supported him in a manner most people think would make them very happy.

But Seymour, even early in his career, when he has just begun to concertize and receive glowing reviews by the major critics, realized this was not where he was comfortable living; he stayed less than two years. His concert career was about to take off in a very major way when he realized that before any concert he was a total nervous wreck. He hated performing for a large audience. He stopped concertizing and became a brilliant teacher and has done so for about thirty years now.

The movie shows us a man who has found the key to his own happiness. He is shown teaching the subtlties of the great piano repertoire to very talented students. He has a sense of humor, he is kind, and his enormous love of music is evident at every moment. He is contrasted with Glen Gould who was, Bernstein says (and most people would agree) a confounding genius pianist -- he was also a confounding neurotic who once was so difficult at rehearsals that Leonard Bernstein, (no relation between the Bernsteins), spoke to the audience before conducting Beethoven's Emperor (#5) piano concert with Gould to tell the audience that he and the pianist did not agree about aspects of the concerto but  they would play it together, mostly Mr. Gould's way.

I saw Glen Gould once and was struck, as audiences usually were, by, first off all, the ratty, old wooden chair he chose to use instead of a normal piano bench, and then by his physical mannerisms while playing. Genius, says Hawke and Seymour, can be accompanied by many kinds of neuroses. What this movie shows is that it can also lead to wisdom when the musician loves the music more than he loves the conventions of the world around him. And, it seems clear in this documentary, that the music loves him back. He is a beautiful human being. Plus the film uses many of my personal favorite pieces of piano music, especially Schubert and Schumann. I loved every minute of it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Another this Morning

Maybe because I'm looking out at more snow blowing across the lawn and beginning to accumulate, but this photo taken Saturday morning after overnight snow is the coldest looking photo I've ever taken. That weak sun that was just rising   did become stronger during the day. We're told that the sun might not appear until tomorrow and we could have 12 to 18 inches!  I have a few four-lettered words to say about that. 

I think it's going to ruin my plans for the week with a "party" to celebrate the publication of an anthology I and a committee of six have worked hard on for 7 or 8  months.  There's nothing to do but wait and see, of course. 

Seems like a good day -- unless there's a power outage -- to get a quilt finished. In fact even if that happens I have a UFO (unfinished object) quilt that needs hand finishing so no idle hands here. Of course there is plenty of reading  material, sufficient tea bags and food in the house.  I cannot feel sorry for myself when I remember millions of refugees in camps in Europe with  no comforts.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Too good not to share

January brought us one baby blizzard and several days of unexpectedly warm weather.  The warm weather brought a lot of melted snow ... and made puddles, lots of puddles.  Her Mommy just sent me this picture of Stella -- less than week into her third year -- enjoying the weather and especially the PUDDLE!

I find myself in the midst of a great many grandmothers (actually Stella is my great-granddaughter) -- it seems every few days I get a note from one friend or another about spending time with her new or new-ish grandchildren.  It's one of those life-phases.  They flip through photos on their smart phone to show me their darlings.  I have a cell but not a smart one. I could take photos but I don't so I'm especially delighted when I receive an emailed a photo like this.

By the way -- we're in for another mini (I hope) blizzard in six hours or so. Tis the season. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Week of Un-winter Weather

For some reason I can't make a photo load and I have some lovely sunrise photos -- the weather has been in the 40s going up almost to 60 on Sunday. Unseasonable for Janaury but no one seems to be complaining although I don't know any skiers. 

I heard a forecast a month or so ago saying that El Nino would make the southern and central part of the US colder and snowier than usual while New England would be warmer than usual. So far that seems to be true. We had our sort of mini-blizzard ten days ago and there are still dirty piles of snow along the edges of parking lots. But this is very fine as far as I'm concerned. 

I'll try once more for a photo --

I especially like winter mornings because it's dark when I get up but as I eat breakfast I see the sky turn light and sometimes very orange.  This photo is later in the morning with those interesting cloud looking like cultivated rows in the garden waiting for something to be planted -- at least that's my impression.