Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dispatches from the Desert (Book Review)

July 2013 
The Small Hearts of Ants - Mather Schneider B

I believe it was the English novelist George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) who said, "Don't judge a book by its cover." However, a book's cover can sometimes be a portal or introduction to the writing. A great cover can enhance the reading experience by igniting one's imagination and motivating them to explore further. The Small Hearts of Ants has one of the most sublime cover photos I've seen in a long time. After stumbling upon Schneider's book and poetry online, I also learned of his blue collar background and subsequent adventures in the desert climate of Arizona. A combination of everything I was seeing and reading about TSHA convinced me that I MUST buy the book. At 200+ pages this book could have been a masterpiece had it been a little leaner and a little tighter. Nevertheless, it's still pretty good and one of the most entertaining books of poetry I've read in a while. Reading this book reminded me of listening to a Bruce Springsteen album - it's about hard luck and hard living. It's unpretentious, humanistic and honest. Like a good Springsteen album, it isn't trying to be something its not. Some of my favorites poems here include:
One Minute You're Free
After Reading a Copy of the American Literary Review
On Hitting Forty Three
Be Mine
Dream Girl
The Failure of Natural Selection
Sweet Saturdays
Time to Order More  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gloria - Movie Review

Gloria (R) 110 minutes B
Gloria tries to get her groove back

Starring Paulina García, Sergio Hernández, Marcial Tagle, Liliana Garc, Fabiola Zamora and Diego Fontecilla

Gloria (Paulina García) is a fifty-something divorcees seeking love.  I would not describe her as desperate, but she is definitely lonely.  At a night club for middle-aged singles she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), a retired marine who is recently divorced.  Rodolfo seems enamored with Gloria; however, his baggage makes him more and more unavailable (mentally and physically).  This film works because it is completely unpretentious, genuine, sensitive, perfectly restrained and wonderfully acted.  Written and directed by Chilean director Sebastian Lelio, the film has been nominated and has won numerous awards.

In Spanish with Subtitles

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Gray Morning's Best in Film 2013

1. Her 
2. American Hustle
3. Frances Ha
4. Fruitvale Station
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. The Way Way Back
7. Enough Said
8. Philomena
9. In a World
10. Before Midnight
11. The Spectacular Now
12. The Punk Singer
13. Salinger
14. The Butler
15. Dallas Buyers Club
16. Nebraska
17. Blue Jasmine
18. Cutie and the Boxer
19. The Wolf of Wall Street
20. 12 Years A Slave

My Gray Morning Awards 2013

Favorite Female in a Lead Role - Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha)
Cate Blanchett will win the Oscar, Greta Gerwig won my heart

Favorite Female in a Supporting Role - Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave)
Chiwetel Ejiofor was great, but Lupita Nyong'o might have been better...

Favorite Male in a Lead Role -  Joaquin Phoenix (Her)
His character felt real to me

Favorite Male in a Supporting Role - Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Transformative performance

Best Director - Her (Spike Jonez)
What can I say, it's his year!

Best Original Screenplay - Her (Spike Jonez)
The film was completely original and unique

Best Adapted Screenplay - Philomena (Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope)
I can't imagine that the book was better

Best Film No One Saw - In a World (Directed & Written by Lake Bell)
It's a little cutesty, but it was also one of the best experiences I had at the movies last year.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Gray Morning's Best in Music 2013

1. Trouble Will Find Me - The National
2. Light Up Gold - Parquet Courts  
3. The Worse Things Get... - Neko Case
4. Yeezus - Kanye West
5. (tie) Drifters/Love is the Devil - Dirty Beaches
5. (tie) The Next Day - David Bowie     
Best Concert
Dar Williams @ L2 Arts & Culture Center - 1/8/2013

The Wolf of Wall Street - Movie Review

The Wolf of Wall Street (R) 179 mins B
F**k You! 

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Christine Ebersole, Shea Whigham, Katarina Cas, P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Kyle Chandler and Ethan Suplee

When I saw the film Casino in the late 90s it felt like the fastest three hours of my life. That film was directed by Martin Scorsese and based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi (Pileggi also wrote Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family which was later adapted into Goodfellas). I could only hope that The Wolf of Wall Street would be as entertaining as Casino, and it was... sorta.  The Wolf of Wall Street is directed by Martin Scorsese and based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Jordan Belfort.  The film is not for general audiences, and by that I mean it's not for people who are put off by cursing (specifically, the F-word), drug use, and topless whores. Me, I'm perfectly okay with all of it as along as it adds to the authenticity of the story. The Wolf of Wall Street is brash, entertaining, and yes, long. There were moments during the film when I thought it might be ending, but instead things only got more outrageous. Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) was extremely self-destructive and didn't know when enough was enough. In the spirit of his protagonist, Scorsese overindulges with the film's running time (three hours). But, this bold tale of greed, big business, happiness and everything in between was worth the price of admission even though it doesn't deliver the same emotional impact that Casino did eighteen years prior.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

August: Osage County - Movie Review

August: Osage County (R) 121 minutes C+
Everyone leaves

Starring Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney and Sam Shepard

This film is entertaining and chock-full of top notch talent.  But, it's also a hot mess.  Film critic Dana Stevens nailed it when she wrote, "August: Osage County is a mess, an overcooked movie-star stew that never quite coheres into a movie." Meryl Streep is arguably the greatest actress of all-time, but even she can't overcome a script that feels like it's trying too hard to be an epic dysfunctional family drama. 
Bonus Home Release Review
Thanks For Sharing (R) 112 minutes B
I didn't mean to turn you on

Home release date: January 2014
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Alecia Moore (aka "Pink"), Josh Gad, Patrick Fugit, Joely Richardson and Emily Meade.

Thanks for Sharing is a film about four sex addicts in various stages of recovery.  I really liked this film, but I couldn't get past its "made for television" feel.  I felt like I was watching an HBO series rather than a feature film.  Nevertheless, Thanks for Sharing is comprised of a good cast and interesting material... it's worth a look.