Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Last Picture Show, Encore. 
Photo from:  The Washington Post--

Small Texas town, 1951. The film opens in black and white with Hank Williams singing, "Why don't you love me like you used to do... Why do you treat me like a worn out shoe?" The loneliness, emptiness, and desolation of this town, as revealed to us in scene after scene, is as American as high school football. There are endless reviews that praise the cast and the director. There are so many early dazzling performances of the greatest of actors that I could do nothing other than repeat the words of rapture. 
In 1971, I was fresh out of college, just back from summer in Europe, and about to move from a desolate teaching job in Savannah to New Orleans. The real, powerful, heart-rending relationship of Ruth and Sonny, in contrast to all the false, foolish, failed and broken embraces of all the other characters moved me and influenced my thinking as much as any film I had seen, which is saying a lot since that includes Women in Love, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, and Midnight Cowboy, among so many great films from 1969-1971. 
If you want to understand what love is, was, and will always be, as well as all the delusions to avoid, this is the film for you. See it before the movie house closes.

Jack Miller 

Watch the clip:

Here is the original, marvelous NY Times Movie Review  from 1971:

By Vincent Canby

Published: October 4, 1971
Peter Bogdanovich's fine second film, The Last Picture Show, adapted from Larry McMurtry's novel by McMurtry and Bogdanovich, has the effect of a lovely, leisurely, horizontal pan-shot across the life of Anarene, Texas, a small, shabby town on a plain so flat that to raise the eye even ten degrees would be to see only an endless sky.
In an unbroken arc of narrative, beautifully photographed (by Robert Surtees) in the blunt, black-and-white tones I associate with pictures in a high school yearbook, the film tells a series of interlocking stories of love and loss that are on the sentimental edge of Winesburg, Ohio, but that illuminate a good deal more of one segment of the American experience than any other American film in recent memory.
It is 1951, the time of Truman, of Korea, of Jo Stafford, of I, the Jury as a best-selling paperback, when tank-town movie houses like the Royal Theater had to close because the citizens of Anarene, like most other Americans, were discovering, in television, a more convenient dream machine that brought with it further isolation from community—a phenomenon analyzed by Philip Slater, the sociologist, as America's pursuit of loneliness.
The Last Picture Show is not sociology, even though it is sociologically true, nor is it another exercise in romantic nostalgia on the order of Robert Mulligan's Summer of '42. It is filled with carefully researched details of time and place, but although these details are the essential decor of the film, they are not the essence. It is a movie that doesn't look back; rather, it starts off and ends in its own time, as much as does such a completely dissimilar, contemporary story as that of Sunday, Bloody Sunday.
The Last Picture Show is about both Anarene and Sonny Crawford, the high school senior and football cocaptain (with his best friend, Duane Jackson, of the always defeated Anarene team), through whose sensibilities the film is felt. As Bogdanovich seldom takes his story very far from Anarene, he sees The Last Picture Show entirely in terms of the maturation of Sonny, in the course of the emotional crises and confrontations that have become the staples of all sorts of American coming-of-age literature, from Penrod to Peyton Place and Portnoy's Complaint.
They are familiar staples, but they are treated with such humor, such sympathy, and, with the exception of a few overwrought scenes, reticence that The Last Picture Show becomes an adventure in rediscovery—of a very decent, straightforward kind of movie, as well as of—and I rather hesitate to use such a square phrase—human values.
Timothy Bottoms, who gave most of his performance in Johnny Got His Gun as a voice on the soundtrack for the mummy-wrapped, quadruple-amputee hero, is fine as Sonny Crawford, but then I liked just about everyone in the huge cast.
This includes Jeff Bridges (son to Lloyd, younger brother to Beau), as Duane; Cybill Shepherd, as the prettiest, richest girl in town, who is almost too bad to be true; Cloris Leachman, as the coach's wife, who gives Sonny some idea of what love might be; Ellen Burstyn (who was so good in Alex in Wonderland), as a tough, Dorothy Malone type of middle-aged beauty (middle-aged? she's all of forty!) who is one of the few people in Anarene to have recognized what life is and come to terms with it; and Ben Johnson, as the old man who most influences Sonny's life.
I do have some small quibbles about the film. Bogdanovich and McMurtry have done everything possible to get the entire novel on screen, yet they have mysteriously omitted certain elements, such as Sonny's family life—if any—and the reasons why the coach's wife is such a pushover for a teenage lover. The movie is, perhaps, too horizontal, too objective.
I didn't see Bogdanovich's first film, Targets, but The Last Picture Show indicates that Bogdanovich, the movie critic, had already taken Jack Valenti's advice when, last winter, the film industry spokesman described critics as physicians who should heal themselves—by making movies—if they wanted to be taken seriously as critics. Bogdanovich has.
The Last Picture Show was screened at the New York Film Festival Saturday and opened yesterday at the new Columbia I Theater. My only fear is that some unfortunates are going to confuse it with Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, to which The Last Picture Show is kin only by title.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich; written by Mr. Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry, based on the novel by Mr. McMurtry; director of photography, Robert Surtees; edited by Donn Cambern; production designer, Polly Platt; produced by Stephen J. Friedman; released by Columbia Pictures. Black and white. Running time: 118 minutes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Leadership Lunacy

Lunacy, The Moon. Photo by Darryl

This is the winter of progressive discontent. The Senate race in Massachusetts ought to be a warning to progressives that compromise with Republicans, with the corporate world of insurance companies and pharmaceuticals, not only doesn't work, but actually undermines the confidence of the electorate. Like the mules they are, however, the leaders of the Democratic party have dug their heals in and refused to move. The republicans with a mere minority of 41 senators are running the country-- into the ground. Maybe it is time for a third party after all, the Green party, to put up congressional candidates (rather than an egomaniac for the presidency).

The Supreme Court ruling that corporations may now have unlimited support for particular candidates, that they may run endless ads for their puppet candidates, is especially distressing. Ralph Nader must be turning over in his grave. Oh, wait. The Bush appointees have handed down what may be the most devastating ruling on who runs for office in the future, pets of the most powerful CEOs, their yapping dogs. Remember the film Network, "Im mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."  (click).  Tea baggers carry the same words on their signs as their Republican reps, with Shakespearean irony, give more power than ever to the corporate giants in the name of "free speech."  Network, indeed; be sure to watch the  corporate owned T V Channel of your choice for further updates.

Meanwhile read Plato's Republic, Book VIII ,  for an accounting of how democracy sooner or later degenerates into tyranny.

Jack Miller

And from Network (1976)
Arthur Jensen: [calmly] Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those *are* the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that . . . perfect world . . . in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.
Howard Beale: Why me?
Arthur Jensen: Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.
Howard Beale: I have seen the face of God.
Arthur Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Picture Worth Thousands of Votes

Why did voters in Mass. put a centerfold Republican in the U.S.Senate?


However pretty the new senator, the answer is ugly. Selfishness motivated the voters. Charisma and a strong message, however stupid, won over the crucial 5% that determines most elections. Asked what he thinks made his win, Scott Brown replied, "Terror and Taxes." The Cheney message is alive and well. And our democracy is sick.

Obama credited anger and frustration, the same feelings that put him in office, as the cause. What does that mean? Simple; it means that people vote for change without even understanding what the change proposed is. Did not Obama promise us universal health care? Then why do those who voted for him no longer want it?

Remember, Mass. has universal health care already. Scott Brown, a state senator in 2006, voted FOR it. This is part of the selfishness of this vote. Many seniors over 65 have medicare and are opposed to universal health care for the same reason. It is the miserly elitism of the populace, holding on to slight advantages over others, that motivates the electorate, not any supposed elitism of Congress.

To a degree, these sorts of mass swings of political position are a type of insanity, the mass insanity of tea baggers, for instance,  that will elect Republicans who are nothing more than the pets, the barking dogs, of special interests-- the insurance industry, the oil companies, big pharmaceuticals, the rich and powerful who would not lift a finger to feed or give aid to the impoverished right wingers who support them. Plato said it long ago, in a democracy any ass can walk the streets proclaiming his position as the best. Popularity and charisma win people over, while selfishness, often misguided,  trumps knowledge, goodness, and wisdom.

Jack Miller

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Darryl's Day

Nothing like a day at Kalani. Here's a glimpse of life on the Big Island of Hawaii while the rest of us are avoiding slipping on the ice:

Photo By Karen Miriam
I've been missing you all day today too -- was even worrying that you might be slipping on the ice, believe it or not!

I worked 2nd shift in the kitchen today -- 1:30-8:00, so, effectively, all day long. I got up early for no reason today -- was sitting on the lanai drinking a cup of coffee by 7am, dined on apple fritter french toast at 7:30,  worked in the marketing office til 10:30, showered/shaved/made my bed/checked my email then had a ham and swiss wrap and a bowl of split pea soup for lunch. At work, I made gazpacho for 100 people, checked my mailbox on my break but it was empty, read a little bit more of "Wraethu" then headed back to set up the salad bar. Ended the night by joining in to sing Happy Birthday to Jason (his 33rd), then ate a slice of his chocolate ganache cake and drank a tall cold glass of skim milk. Took the back path to my A-frame -- it's a little longer and a lot darker, pitch black already, a gazillion stars overhead. Was really hot all day today but getting rapidly cooler now that the sun has set. I hope it rains tonight.

I'm off work tomorrow. The guy who set up the hike to Halape has another one set for tomorrow -- a lot shorter, just 1 mile - but the group meets in Hilo at 9am and I don't have an easy way to get there so I guess I'll just hang out here. Too bad, cause I like him and there are supposed to be a lot of local guys showing up for this one (as opposed to the Halape hike, which was mostly Kalani people.)

also, there's a music festival going on this weekend -- called HEMFest (Hawaii Electronic Music Festival). They have a big show in Hilo tomorrow night at the Palace Theater and a bunch of people from here ARE going to that, so I might tag along. I'd like to see the inside of the Palace Theater, it was built in 1925. HEMFest is coming to Kalani on Sunday, though -- they're  going to have a dance party at the pool -- so that might be enough hippieglitter stuff to do me for awhile. I work in the kitchen Sunday night but plan to take the camera to the pool on my break and get some shots.

Well, that about catches you up on my big exciting life! Off to bed soon -- don't want to miss the chocolate muffins at breakfast!


Friday, January 08, 2010

Tonight's Neruda

Gentleman Alone

The young maricones and the horny muchachas,
The big fat widows delirious from insomnia,
The young wives thirty hours' pregnant,
And the hoarse tomcats that cross my garden at night,
Like a collar of palpitating sexual oysters
Surround my solitary home,
Enemies of my soul,
Conspirators in pajamas
Who exchange deep kisses for passwords.
Radiant summer brings out the lovers
In melancholy regiments,
Fat and thin and happy and sad couples;
Under the elegant coconut palms, near the ocean and moon,
There is a continual life of pants and panties,
A hum from the fondling of silk stockings,
And women's breasts that glisten like eyes.
The salary man, after a while,
After the week's tedium, and the novels read in bed at night,
Has decisively fucked his neighbor,
And now takes her to the miserable movies,
Where the heroes are horses or passionate princes,
And he caresses her legs covered with sweet down
With his ardent and sweaty palms that smell like cigarettes.
The night of the hunter and the night of the husband
Come together like bed sheets and bury me,
And the hours after lunch, when the students and priests are masturbating,
And the animals mount each other openly,
And the bees smell of blood, and the flies buzz cholerically,
And cousins play strange games with cousins,
And doctors glower at the husband of the young patient,
And the early morning in which the professor, without a thought,
Pays his conjugal debt and eats breakfast,
And to top it all off, the adulterers, who love each other truly
On beds big and tall as ships:
So, eternally,
This twisted and breathing forest crushes me
With gigantic flowers like mouth and teeth
And black roots like fingernails and shoes.

Translated by Mike Topp
Pablo Neruda

Monday, January 04, 2010


Exactly what I'm feeling these days:


The Things

by Donald Hall January 4, 2010 


When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I’ve cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother’s rocker,
a dead dog’s toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother’s souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.