Sunday, February 28, 2010

Star Trek movie guide

THE MOTION PICTURE **
Despite having robert wise (THE SOUND OF MUSIC, WEST SIDE STORY) at the helm, this ponderous film might best be appreciated on methamphetamines. It's not as bad as its reputation - if you adjust your attitude and can get comfortable with character-heavy, deliberate pacing, it can even be enjoyable. Stephen collins shines as will decker, and persis khambatta proves that bald women are the sexiest force in the universe.
THE WRATH OF KHAN ****
Shatner and ricardo montalban enact a revenge tale of shakespearean proportions. Add a mind-killing worm in chekov's ear and maybe the greatest death scene in movie history, and you have the best TREK film ever. See http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/11/wrath-of-khan.html
THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK ***
It suffers a bit from the contrivance of resurrection, and having to tred in giant spacebootprints. But despite occasional lags, a decent effort. They steal the Enterprise! Christopher lloyd's bloodthirsty klingon shines...they kill kirk's son! Robin curtis is underappreciated as one of TREKdom's three best vulcans. De kelley's finest (movie) hour. And the fiery destruction of the Enterprise A!
THE VOYAGE HOME ****
The little movie that could. Character-driven + story + humor = winner. Our heroes bumble around modern day San Francisco, amused and horrified by the barbaric natives. Catherine hicks finds kirk heavenly...well, who wouldn't? Double dumbass on you.
THE FINAL FRONTIER *
Ew. Well, there actually are fine moments...the kirk/spock/mccoy camping scenes are a hoot...but of the million and three things that have to go right to make a great movie, too many just didn't. Laurence luckinbill is a gamer as spock's half-brother, but the script founders, and spock's feelings about emotions do a pointless U-turn from the previous film.
THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY ****
Of all the TREK films, this one comes closest to the impact of the original show. As the real-world Berlin Wall was coming down, kirk must face peace with the klingons, and doesn't know how to stop hating. Christopher plummer is fantastic as the villain all too delighted to sabotage a fragile truce. David warner shines as the ill-fated chancellor gorkon. Sulu gets his own ship!
GENERATIONS ***
A bit awkward, despite fantastic performances. Would a ninety-minute patrick stewart monologue have been too much? Data gets emotions, and it nearly kills him. Malcolm mcdowell's villain doesn't hit a single false note. And shatner picks up the death scene glove nimoy laid down, and acquits himself honorably.
FIRST CONTACT ****
Fantastic pacing, fantastic performances, fantastic visuals, fantastic...everything. Alice krige gives a powerhouse performance as the borg queen who beds data. James cromwell is pitch-perfect as zefram cochrane. Alfre woodard shines as lily, and stewart's "no farther" monologue is towering.
INSURRECTION ****
The NEXT GEN film that most evokes the original series. Every cast member shines. F. murray abraham oozes hatred. Donna murphy creates the most beautiful character in franchise history. Full review: http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2012/03/star-trek-insurrection_24.html
NEMESIS ***
So close to greatness...it was right there for the taking, and the producers balked (and not just because they left wil wheaton's one line on the cutting room floor). Full review:
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2009/01/nemesis.html
STAR TREK *
I've met STAR TREK. You sir, are no STAR TREK. Why, leonard, oh why? Ditto for the re-boot sequel. See: http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2010/01/star-trek.html and http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2015/08/star-trek-into-darkness.html
Bonus: GALAXY QUEST
TREK in all but name, a brilliant parody of the highest order. You don't even need to be a trekkie to appreciate it. Alan rickman, sigourney weaver, and tim allen are priceless. It's not just a spot-on sendup...few films hit the mark so perfectly (and perfectly-balanced) in adventure, comedy, and heart. Never give up - never surrender!

infinite parkeing space?

A salubrious welcome to this blog's eighth follower, Amanda Parke-Davis! "8" is the symbol for infinity, which is apt, as Amanda tells anecdotes that wander in the wilderness for years, vainly searching for an end. Balancing that is her infinite patience with drunkards and fooles, and infinite orgasmic capacity (though that last may be apocryphal). She spends her days on a hill, dispensing nuggets of wisdom and fresh tabouli to the unwashed, and her nights volunteering as the designated driver at Bubba's Boozy Beach Broads, on Rt. 41. She lives in a Chevy van (custom, of course) with her pet half-tree Stilldaughter. The senior snowplow operator for the state of Florida, it's rumored that she was the inspiration for the Jay Reatard classic "Hammer I Miss You".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

merian's monkeys

Okay, they weren't monkeys, they were apes. A twelve-foot gorilla would certainly be an ape. A twenty-foot gorilla and a forty-foot gorilla...probably stretch the definition of "gorilla" beyond the breaking point, but let's give 'em the benefit of the doubt. Monkeys or apes, they were merian's, and the world had never seen their like.
Merian c. cooper was a man with a bag full of dreams as big as the moon.
He dreamed up king kong. The eighth wonder of the world.
Heck, anyone could dream up a wonder of the world, you say. But merian didn't just dream, he delivered. And he lived the kind of life that was so outsized that i'm not the first to be amazed no one's made a movie of it.
He chased pancho villa with the Georgia National Guard. A bomber pilot in WW1, he was shot down and spent the the rest of the war a German prisoner. After the war, he joined a volunteer American squadron fighting the Soviets in the Polish-Soviet War. He was shot down, then escaped from a prison camp. He joined the Air Force again in WW2, reaching the rank of brigadier general.
In the 20s, he set his fearless sights on the new field of documentary filmmaking, going to the farthest corners of the earth to bring back stunning images of nature, and the struggle for human survival. It was during these adventures that he met and teamed up with ernest schoedsack. After KONG, he left directing to become a full-time producer. He produced 66 films, among them some notable john ford westerns. He was a driving force behind Technicolor, trans-atlantic commercial flight, and Cinerama (movies presented in widescreen!). He greeted women friends by picking them up and spinning them (okay, that might have been some sexist bullshit). His anti-communist zeal never wavered, and he was a dedicated backer of eugene mccarthy. Somewhere along the way, he had a nervous breakdown.
But in the long run, those apes are what we remember. So today we celebrate merian's big three:
KING KONG (1933)
The idea came to him in a dream. In addition to the jaw-dropping, ground-breaking stop-motion animatronics of willis o'brien, the movie was also the first hit film with a complete, original musical score. The character carl denham was based on merian himself. Few films (if any) have had such a profound effect on audiences, and no film has ever inspired more people to become filmmakers. Look for the best dvd special features ever, with a fantastic documentary of cooper's life, on the two-disc release. How they created the film, is almost as amazing as the film itself.
THE SON OF KONG (1933)
Set one month after the original, robert armstrong is back as denham. Besieged by creditors and lawsuits, he and captain engelhorn split town aboard the Venture. Lured by the promise of treasure, they return to Skull Island. Cooper and director schoedsack knew they could never make a bigger movie than KONG, so they went for funnier and more character-driven. Many people dismiss this one. Kong's friendly son, an albino half dad's size, flirts with cheese in his too-human gestures. But faced with following up the biggest cinematic footprints ever, this movie is a little delight. It's funny and sweet, and the o'brien creations are stunning as ever.
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)
Cooper, schoedsack, o'brien, armstrong, and writer ruth rose reunite a third time (although most of the hands-on stop motion work went to novice and future legend ray harryhausen). Armstrong plays another cooper-inspired character, promoter max o'hara, a bit of a con man. It's arguably a children's film, as no humans die and it doesn't end with a big dead ape. The story follows the life of a gorilla, and the young woman who raises him. O'hara comes to Africa looking for a "hook" for his new nightclub, and the oversized ape being led by a sweet teen exceeds his dreams. Back in the States, predictable unhappiness ensues, but the way it all resolves is not so predictable. At first glance it might feel a tad flaccid, but absent comparisons to KONG, it's charming. The tug-of-war scene, with primo carnera and other famous strongmen, is especially special.

Monday, February 22, 2010

masturbation montage 2

The women i currently dream of loving, when dreams are all there is.
PERIPHERY #1
My friend D. In most ways, a virgin. One time, she possibly hinted that she was attracted to me. Our romantic compatibility is negligible and my lust for her is minimal, but she creeps into my sexual thoughts because i care for her, and she's never had the chance to explore her sexuality in a relaxed, loving environment. I dream of giving her booty calls.
PERIPHERY #2
My friend Penny. She's carried a torch for me for many, many years. She is a gentle spirit, and i am honored to have her friendship. We've never acknowledged her attraction, except in ways so circumspect that deniability or ignorance are still plausible. Our romantic compatibility is negligible, and my lust for her is minimal. But there is great power in attraction, even one-sided...if it goes on long enough, it becomes impossible to not think about what it would be like. I dream of having one weekend of wild carnal indulgence, to defuse the tension, but i doubt she's built for that kind of thing.
PERIPHERY #3
My penpal in Nova Scotia. We've exchanged e-mails for a month or more, during which time she's revealed her feeling that we are soul mates. We've talked about "us" in a half-serious manner. But there are strong incompatibilities, and because of hard experience, cyber-romance is something i hellaciously shy away from. This week, i felt something akin to shame when i wasn't visually attracted to her picture, so i asked that we put aside the thought that we are a romance-in-waiting, and haven't heard from her since.
CENTRAL #1
Kris. The client i did a moving job for yesterday. I felt no particular physical or spiritual attraction to her, but after the move my partner Mike told me that she was divorced...and something shifted in me. Though she's not especially young, she seemed too young to be divorced, or too young to be so sad. Last night, i dreamt of giving her sexual healing.
CENTRAL #2
Kat. I lived with her in Astoria for nine months. She's been in China for the last year and a half, and will be returning here this summer. I felt a strong sexual response to her when we first met, and there are some compelling spiritual compatibilities...she's an irreligious, hippy peace-chaser. My attraction for her dimmed while we lived together, to the point of being annoyed by some of her personal habits. When she left, she told me that she had never considered romance with me because she didn't want to risk domestic unrest...i didn't pursue the point, but her unspoken message seemed to be that she'd been attracted to me. We've been in occasional contact since she left, and i recently offered her a place to crash for a few days when she gets back. She told me that might be exactly what she needs. I was instantly almost absolutely sure that she and i are going to have sex. I even know how it will happen...without words. I won't have a couch for her to sleep on, so she'll share my big bed. In the middle of the night, our limbs will brush. We'll be on our sides, with me behind her, and she'll make the first overtly sexual move. We'll make love in that position, and over the next few days, every time i come home, she and i will explore a new position, a new energy. We won't talk about what it means for a few days, or perhaps not even then.
CENTRAL #3
Bhauna. She occupies most of my fantasy world these days...i met her a week or two ago, at a local bodega where she works. We usually chat at checkout. Sometimes my heart does funny things when she's near, and my presence lights her up as well. Her co-workers are older Indian men, and i suspect they are her family, for they seem bothered by the fact that she and i spark each other...so bothered, that i've wondered whether she's younger than i thought. I fantasize about her telling me that the only way she can escape their oppression is through marriage, and the only way they'll allow her to marry is if she becomes pregnant. Such beautiful love do we make, in my dreams.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

tia

WOMEN 43
I visited my grandmother in Florida for six months, and met Tia from Indiana, who was visiting her own grandparents. We hung out at the community pool, and spent much time together. She had a minor heart condition, was a touch conservative and prudish, and was just dy-no-mite in a bikini. She was on the outs with her boyfriend back home, and was eager to fall in love and get married, as she was "saving herself". She may be the one underage girl i've ever kissed. Was she eighteen yet? It happened during a moonlit walk, on the bridge over the stream. I kissed her, lifted her up, she wrapped her legs around me…magic. The next night, we kissed again. When i was walking her home, her grandfather found us in his car. He told me to stay away from her, he knew what kind of boy i was, always putting moves on granddaughters (there had been one other, it's true). No one had ever thought me a "bad boy", and i'd be lying if i said i didn't like it a little. Tia and i wrote letters for three years (with one reunion, when she was on the ins with her boyfriend). Our communication finally died when she got engaged. I returned a bunch of her photos, but kept one, of her in that bikini. Years later, i came across a photo on the internet, of a woman standing happy and naked by a Florida-ish dirt road as bikers passed. It could NEVER have been Tia. Yet if i was 100% certain of that, i'd post that picture with this article. Either way, bless you, Tia…

does anything really go?

ANYTHING GOES
THEATER 28
-fall 1990
Back at WCU for my final semester, Bob's ANYTHING GOES was a curious tale. Or rather, my participation in it was. You have to go back one year to Bob's production of AS YOU LIKE IT. I was no fan of Shakespeare, i thought him too linguistically obscure (it wouldn't be until 1990 that i started to love the Bard, from doing an amazing MACBETH scene with Jeff). AS YOU LIKE IT had seemed meritless fluff. Bob had asked whether i would be auditioning. Mind you, he hadn't cast me since my freshman year, when he and Jane Saddoris, the children's director, had fundamentally critiqued my vocal technique. Jane worked with me, and the work strayed from technique to emotional barriers, which triggered much self-discovery (thank you, Jane). But by my senior year i had taken to thinking that i wasn't Bob's kind of actor, so i was non-committal when he asked me about auditioning. I decided that in my growth as an artist, it was important to assert what i wasn't interested in, so i didn't go. It was the first (and only) college show i didn't audition for. Bob chastened me, and i realized he had really wanted me to be there. If he had asked me to be in the show right then, i would have done it. Anyway, i had no misgivings. Fast forward to the following fall. I'm in my final semester. ANYTHING GOES is a Cole Porter musical, typical of those insipid pieces wherein the music has little relation to the plot (if there even is one). I wasn't interested, but Bob told me in no uncertain terms that i was going to audition. I truly felt bad that he had been counting on me the previous year, so i went. And what followed felt vaguely like he was trying to teach me a lesson. Whether he intended that, i don’t know, but he cast me...in the chorus. To humble me, to make me pay for my presumption? Or maybe it all just happened, as things do. I'd like to ask him someday. I decided that if i were going to be in the chorus, i'd be the best damn chorus member i could be. It was a big, sprawling show, a multi-departmental collaboration. Nearly half the cast was from the music department, and it was interesting to watch the actors and singers interact, and the snootiness exhibited by both sides. Barb Lappano was the choreographer. I'd had tap and jazz classes with her, and loved her. I played a sailor, the bartender, and the cameraman. I had one or two lines as the cameraman. A singer had the lead role of Billy; he sang well and was wooden. Stephanie Lord played Reno, and she was dynamite. Lou was the stowaway gangster, and he pretty much overcame the insipidness of his material. His moll (from the music department) was pretty damned good, too. I interacted with the music students much more than the other theater students did (i was the only "actor" sailor). My best sailor buddies were Jason Winkleblech and Dave Tillistrand. We had fun together, in rehearsal and out of it. A number of the singers told me i was the only theater person they could relate to. One of the funniest moments came in rehearsal. During a dance number, i got a nerve stinger in my shoulder. If you've never had one, it's like someone has shot you, and you go spasmodic for a second, like a puppet with its strings cut. I was dancing next to the Captain when it happened. I'll never forget the bewildered look on his face. During one performance i did an unintentional dyslexic butchering of some lyrics, and my buddies joked about it for a week or two. If Bob had intended my casting as a lesson, it didn't work, because i had a fun time. Occasionally i bemusedly bemoaned the insipidness of it all, but it didn't get me down, for even as the show was in production, i was in happy rehearsals for my first post-college play.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

...and the flowers laugh

Okay, i did it my way this time. I posted a craigslist romance ad. When i've posted in the past (aside from that time i let a friend speak for me), i've usually shared one of my poems about a dream lover. This time, prompted by musings over what's more important, shared values or affinities, i took a different tack. My title was an abbreviation of the phrase "Laugh, and the flowers laugh with you" (which is itself a bastardization, yes). Along with a thoughtful-looking photo, i posted this:
The most healing thing in the world is touch. The second-most healing thing? Laughter. Any idiots can feel each other up, but matching senses of humor are rare. So here is a rough skeleton of my funny bone (A skeleton of my funny bone? Hilarious!). Lenny Bruce/George Carlin/Monty Python/Marx Brothers/ZAZ/Christopher Guest/Chapelle's Show. Practical jokes and gallows humor are a hoot, too. If you fancy a nature boy who isn't into makeup, martinis, or makin' the scene, here i be.
My net total responses, aside from the obligatory spam?
Zip.
Zilch.
Dingus.
Donut hole.
Kickin' ass and takin' names, in the cyberworld.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

dear chuck

Chuck,
We've never gone terribly deep, partly because there's never been a need. But there is one now. Mom may not be ready to talk about these things yet, but it's hurts me to see her hurting, particularly when she's perpetuating that hurt.
You're with her everyday, best positioned to help her.
We all sometimes need to go through dark times. I'm going through a bit of one myself. But i'm aware of it, and the reasons for it, and what i might gain from it.
She's sad about Dave and Jeff. But any good therapist (if that's not a contradiction in terms) would ask her why, if she wants them more in her life, is she acting in a way that is contrary to that desire?
She's wrapping herself in her sadness, becoming martyrlike. She's giving off ME ME ME energy, and "YOU don't understand". It's bordering on "you're my child, i own you, you don't get to walk away". In the bigger picture, it's not all about her...she's not even the most shunned person in the family, that honor would go to Jaymie. I went through an anti-family phase myself once, perhaps more benign, but just as real.
Sometimes we act in self-destructive ways, that therapist might say, for reasons we don't understand. Perhaps that applies to them and her both?
If she were to react to the situation with acceptance and love, she would move closer to what she desires, instead of away from it. If we manifest love, we make ourselves more loveable. Instead, she's making herself harder to love...bizarrely, she's becoming more like her ex...hard to love.
If this darkness is what she needs, i give her absolute permission to go through it, and i'll still love her. I just want her to be clear about what she's doing, and why. In my own way, i'm constantly trying to bring the scattered elements of our family closer together. She's not making my task easier. And it seems so unneccessary...she needs to have faith in the mother she was, and that ulitmately her kids will embrace the reality that she loved each and every one of them very much.
If this makes any sense to you, do what you can, giving her patience and permission to go through what she needs to.
thank you,
wrob

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dave & Amy

I visited my dad and step-mom in the Poconos last weekend. My brother Dave, who lives here in NYC, called to tell me he was visiting them. I spend time with him regularly, but it had been years since Dave, Bob, and i had been together. So off i went.
It was a nice trip, and fascinating to experience a long-absent family dynamic. Dave went though an anti-family phase for most of the past decade. He didn't talk to me for years, and he still doesn't talk to my sister, or come to holiday gatherings. Which is fine...we all must walk our own path. I myself went through an anti-family phase (albeit more benign). My youngest brother Jeff has absented himself from most family gatherings for a few years, too.
The weekend made me think about how family shapes us, and how i would be a different person if one of my siblings had never existed, or if there had been five kids, or if one of my parents had died when i was young. Are you a conformist? A mediator? An entertainer? A rebel? Passive aggressive? It can be amazing to deconstruct yourself in terms of family relationships. If you take out one tiny piece of the puzzle, the rest of "you" would have shifted.
Dave and i get along great, partly because we share many worldviews. Bob and i get along, despite a number of worldviews which are in opposition.
My ethics and morality are very strong, but in personal interactions i tend toward being a listener/nurturer, and generally don't need someone else to be wrong in order for me to be right.
It was fascinating watching Dave and Bob together. Dave's energy was light and interactive, but at no time did he shy away from zapping Bob if there was a point of contention. For example, Bob often objectifies women, and Dave was having none of it. Now, i don't think the objectification of women (or men) is unqualifiedly wrong. To appreciate Jessica Biel's physique or Paul Newman's eyes, you have to objectify them to a certain extent. I myself like being objectified from time to time.
Dave, however, wouldn't allow women to be talked about in terms of physical attractiveness.
And religion...oh, heavens (sorry). In contrast to Bob's fundamentalism (and my agnosticism), Dave is a militant athiest. I confess, a part of me enjoyed watching him zing Bob. I avoided "ganging up", and just sat back and took it in. Whether Bob appreciated my comparative gentleness, isn't even the point. I just found the whole dynamic fascinating (and okay, a tiny bit edifying).
Bob, after a couple of Super Bowl bloody marys, made a batch of his world-famous mashed potatoes. Except he didn't have enough milk, so he used half & half. Except, it was kahlua-flavored. My stomach still feels hinky thinking about it.
He also had put together some amazing family albums, with photos neither Dave nor i had ever seen.
The highlight of the weekend was a side trip i took with my uncle, to see my cousin Amy. I hadn't been with her in a couple years. A year younger, she was my favorite cousin growing up. For much of the past two years, she's been in prison for grand larceny. There are psychological issues...bipolar chemical imbalances and such. I love her dearly. I've written letters, but this was the first time i saw her. It was also the first time i've ever visited someone in jail. Plexiglass and phone, just like in the movies. I couldn't help thinking about NAKED GUN 33 1/3. I was told i'd have thirty minutes.
She was in wonderful spirits. The greatest testament i can give to that effect is that she didn't thank me for coming...which would have been a very self-conscious thing to do. I was pretty sure i'd be very relaxed, but a little part of me did wonder...would the time go quickly? Or would we run out of things to say?
Looking back, i'm stunned that we talked about so much in only thirty minutes. Our conversation ranged all over the place...we talked about family and recent experiences, and very often the talk delved into deep areas. She may have been in such good spirits partly because her freedom is looming. She starts a work release program this coming week. She joked that she was possibly in longer than she should have been, just because her jailors didn't want to let her go. She's been a model prisoner...she organized the production of a play, staged by the inmates. She wrote it, and acted. She may write a book about her life.
It saddens me, the thought of what has happened to her. Going back to family dynamics, i think about how losing their mother for two years will affect Amy's children...how it will subtly (or not so subtly) change the very nature of the adults they will one day be. Coincidentally, i was reading this weekend about the Iroquois, who had no jails or police. If someone acted anti-socially, they were shunned for a time. I'm not saying that their way is THE way, but...i do know that there will come a time when the human race will look back and be horrified that we once locked people inside cages. We will be wrenchingly horrified at the barbarians we once were.
Anyway...here's to Amy being at family gatherings next year. And the year after that. I'm not holding my breath for Dave, but that would be lovely too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

onion huzzah!

One of the best things about living in New York City is the satirical free newspaper The Onion. You can find them on street corners everywhere, in green boxes. All aspects of our wonky culture are lampooned. Every issue is worth at least a chuckle or two, and the good ones are worth a lot more than that. Sometimes the headlines are so perfect, that the fake article is superfluous. Here's a recent headline, one that had me chuckling off and on for hours.
"GAY TEEN WORRIED HE MAY BE CHRISTIAN"
I love New York.