Peyton Manning exemplifies excellence. He is testament to the virtue of hard work, preparation and discipline. He's a role model as a leader and he could be the best, or smartest, quarterback to ever play the game. He might be both. I became a fan of both the football player and the man when we were both in Indianapolis. I didn't like the way Jimmy Irsay, owner of the Colts, handled Peyton's employment when he was injured and fighting to recover and I've told him that. So with all of this as preamble it is no surprise who I will be rooting for this weekend. It would be a sweet thing if Peyton can steer the Broncos to a win, gaining himself another ring and validating the extraordinary effort he's put into rebuilding himself and proving the power of overcoming.
The Pacific Coast is forever fascinating and begging for a camera.
If you are feeling landlocked, suffering cabin fever, tired of winter or maybe just a little tense, this weekend's video may be for you. Three minutes of peace by the pacific.
From the beginning, film has also been about sociology, politics, or explorations of the nuances of the human experience. Many people connect with cinema as the modern novel; entertainment, escape or a medium for drama. Over the years I've explained to friends why a director, writer, cinematographer, actor or perhaps the scope of a project itself will lead me to plunk down the money for a ticket, even if the film is not, in their minds or the minds of many, entertaining or enjoyable. My attraction might be the craft, skill, artistry, approach or even the topic. This, then, is my raison d'être for raving about AUGUST:OSAGE COUNTY.
At lunch today I was asked if I "enjoyed" the film. I told her enjoy was not the correct word, but I was enthralled and maybe even mesmerized by the extraordinary acting. If you are a film fan you've no doubt read the stunning reviews this work has gathered. There is little more that I can add, but to say there was not one character in the film who was not brilliantly portrayed by their actor. The characters were indeed dysfunctional, flawed, pained and painful, deep, conflicted and extraordinarily human and real. They make you laugh and they make you cry and they confound.
Meryl Streep's work will blow your mind, even if you've seen her award winning roles and have marveled before, thinking she can't be any better. Yes, she can and this is it. Julia Roberts, who I've enjoyed as a movie star but never given much credit to as a deep actress changed my mind about all of that. She's got serious chops. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper are worthy of Oscar nominations, despite not being nominated. Misty Upham is compelling in her small, but essential role. Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be everywhere these days, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor and Dermot Mulroney all bring characters to life with brilliance, subtle and otherwise. Sam Shephard in his all too brief role, Abigail Breslin and Julianne Nicholson are haunting in their portrayals. In the case of Breslin and Nicholson some of the most compelling scenes are fueled by their expressions in poignant moments.
So, dark, sad, riveting and even laugh out loud hilarious delivered by acting at it's best may not make for "enjoyable" but certainly is memorable and powerful.
SUN ON WHITE
January sun and sky mixed with Carmel white and shadows.
Several years ago while running a large television news operation I had my first relationship with a drone. A contact/source with whom I had worked previously called to say he was working with a technology guy and they had developed a flight platform and wanted to test it. He brought a very sophisticated and light weight "miniature" airplane to the station. Some of my news managers attended and we were joined by the developer, an investor in the project and two fellows identified as interested parties and potential buyers. Later I was to learn they were from a federal agency that had high hopes for the plane. The plane fit on a conference table but was rigged so it could take a lightweight camera mount. This was long before "drone" had worked it's way into the public lexicon or before being pressed into action as they are now. I was excited by the prospects of flying it over traffic jams, fires, emergency situations and getting images back for broadcast at much less expense than what our helicopter cost to operate. My corporate boss lacked vision on this and despite my best efforts he passed and did so in a derisive way. I told him he was passing up a chance to be the first to use something from the future. Still to no avail. Fast forward to 2014. They've become ubiquitous and in some cases practical. But I think we've entered a new chapter in our relationship with drones, as this piece of video tape from California demonstrates.
SHADOWS AND FOAM
I was fascinated by the interplay of the shadows and
kaleidoscopic flow of waves and sea foam. It provided a sort of black and white shape puzzle.
Published in the UK's Daily Mail, these photos are simply frightening. That the Beijing sky is so fouled is apocalyptic, then to see the seeming acceptance?! The sunrise is posted electronically, because the smog makes it impossible to see.
I'LL TAKE PACIFIC A BREEZE, PLEASE
A recent drive through Big Sur, after seeing the Beijing photos, gave me an extra appreciation for clean air and sky and for the US EPA.
Say what you will about American bureaucracy, but at least we are unwilling to accept what the Chinese must endure.
Cheers to those who are guardians of clean air and water.
A well read, sophisticated, professional woman who is a friend said she wanted to walk out of this film, so I went in with guarded expectations, despite the critical acclaim. I had the opposite reaction and understand why director Spike Jonez won the Golden Globe and why the film has been nominated for film of the year.
HER pushes boundaries and is fresh and original in many ways. It is about a lot more than the curious storyline. Jonez's work is a marvelous study into the nature and life-cycle of relationships. It is a fascinating speculation on a likely outcome of our increasingly technological and communication driven culture. HER is a mirror to how we look and behave since we have become obsessed or addicted to our phones. It is a poignant reminder of how lonely we can become, even amidst a world seemingly bound together by the Internet. We see how we can be alone in our connectedness. It lampoons the intimate chats and sexual experiences of those who so engage via phone or computer. It also raises some marvelous science fiction speculations about intuitive artificial intelligence and the rise of crowd sourcing and ponders a great what if.
Joaquin Phoenix is masterful in playing a heart broken, lonely citizen in an increasingly impersonal world where actual human contact is limited. And it was this prospect where Jonez engages in good sociology.
Amy Adams once again demonstrates her versatility. And it seems no mystery why the Phoenix character fell in love with the voice of Samantha, his operating system. Scarlett Johansson is seductive even without being seen.
The scenic design, cinematography and feel of the film emphasize how the brave new world can be a lonely place. This is a film that will seem foreign, distant and even contrived to some. But for others it seems to hit on several themes that will make you want to upgrade your own personal operating system.
A DOSE OF COEN
The Coen brothers make films that you either enjoy or consider a waste of your time and money. I'm in the enjoy category, though in varying stages. Often I like the way they do the film-the actors, the shooting and editing, music direction, sense of vision-more than I like the story. Not that they don't spin imaginative stories, but I wonder about what if they tried to do cinema with a purpose, other than as a kind of grand gag, yarn, or put on. They entertain, they tell rich stories, but at the end of the day I often question if there was any "nutritional value?" This is not to discredit their obvious talent, skill and mastery of the craft. And perhaps all we should expect is only an entertainment, well done. But these guys are so good what if they did a film with soul, or a philosophic or political point or axe to grind? In this comparison today, I think of how Jonez moved the goal line a bit. As good as Inside Llewyn Davis is, as nuanced, as musically rich, as well acted, it is at most the portrait of a fictional folk singer and a snap shot of the Village music scene on the cusp of Bob Dylan's arrival. Maybe there is an underlying examination of the tortured soul of a poet or a mash up on commercialism vs. artistry, but that is pretty thin. Oscar Issac is an incredible talent and discovery. John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Pappi Corsicato, Garrett Hedlund and for that matter all of the supporting cast are superb. The music, under the supervision of T-Bone Burnett is worth the price of admission alone. The Coens are that way, they do all of the little and big things right and they deliver a film excellence. And they always give it that Coen twist, or a turn into darkness or despair, or depression though admittedly in entertaining ways. I don't know that it will ever happen, but I'd like to see how the brothers could do with something in a different emotional timbre or with a story that means something.
Don't you love neighborhood Italian restaurants with white table clothes and lace curtains?
AN ELEPHANT SEAL'S LIFE
We are deep into birthing season in the Elephant Seal colony at Piedras Blancas, north of Cambria. Another 2-4 weeks of birthing and then mating season begins, just in time for Valentines day.
Wherein this post searches for a center of gravity
WOLF OF WALL STREET
Dear Mr.'s Scorsese and DiCaprio,
I've read a wide array of the reviews and articles and have seen you both interviewed. Since the 1970's I have broadcast and published my admiration and respect for your movie making and story telling genius Mr. Scorsese. Many of your films are among my all time favorites. Mr. DiCaprio I have been impressed by your acting since the days of Gilbert Grape. Still, I have been arguing with myself since seeing WOLF OF WALL STREET.
I'm still not sure if I think it is a brilliant lampoon of money hustlers told as a dark comedy, high slapstick, a political lancing of some of the noveau 1%, an indictment of the morality, or lack there of, of Wall Street, a contact high, a celebration of libido, history, the highest use rate of the F-Bomb in film history, a precise portrayal of a cretin, a religious affirmation of the evil of greed, a remake of ("...greed is good...) WALL STREET on steroids and a lot more cocaine, a disgusting exploitation film, your joke on everybody else (can you believe we are getting rich on making this kind of film?) or all of the above or some combination there of. Clearly you left your mark. I'm still trying to approximate some judgement on this 3 hour romp. For sure you immerse your viewers into the maelstrom of Jordan Belfort's rise and high life style. You seemed to recreate the sales room, lavish parties, drug use, sex, opulence and mindless and pointless lifestyle with your directorial and acting brilliance. You got terrific supporting roles Jonah Hill, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Margo Robbie, and others. Matthew McConaughey's chest pounding chant cameo is one of those scenes you'll never forget. Robbie Robertson's musical supervision was brilliant. I guess I'm inclined to think that what you've made is a multi-million dollar cartoon. You were able to reduce a time, place, ethos and personalities to big screen tragic-comedy cartoons. Leo, your lude induced crawling scenes made buffoons and jack asses of anyone ever so loaded, or anyone who would desire to be so loaded. Gentlemen you have created a cinema work that will, as you know, especially you Martin with your love for film history, live for decades. I guess you have provided 22nd Century sociologists a core sample of western decadence, worship of money and hedonism that no historian could do so graphically. I'm still wondering though about the older woman who wandered into the theatre a little more than half way through. My guess is she was "theater hopping" joining a film in progress after the movie she paid for had ended. She came in slowly, not looking at the screen so as to amble to a seat in the row in front of us. She sat down at the moment that cocaine was being snorted off the buttocks of a young woman while the f-bomb was offered up and carnal athletics ensued. She was up and out of her seat much more rapidly than she wandered in. Would love to have been able to read her thoughts. Her action drew a few snickers from those of us who by now had become somewhat sated and even bored by the outrage and sexuality. And on that reflection I realized that you Mr. Scorsese had accomplished a great deal. Your three hour assault so deadened our senses to such excess that we sort of expected it, even accepted it as normal behavior, of those whom we watched. Touche'! Did we laugh, yes. Was it comedic, yes. Was it wretched excess, yes indeed. Did we get it, yes. Does it say something about the quality of life and even morality, yes. But I bet that while some of us will give this thought, contemplation, look for morality or signs of political statement, see it as brilliant comedy, there are other's, future Jordon Belforts or Gordon Gekkos, for whom you have raised the bar. And finally Mr. Scorsese you have pounded Oliver Stone. His crafting of WALL STREET, good as it is, was not nearly as immersive as WOLF OF WALL STREET, cartoon and morality tale in one. BTW, how many times was the F-bomb used?
AND NOW FROM THE PROFANE TO
After dinner last evening and while cleaning up, Lana said to me she wanted to try something to clean the bottom of a Revere Ware pan. She said she had heard about a combination of salt and lemon juice. Our original Revere ware pans are dated to the beginning of our marriage.
A buddy, a former FBI agent and leader of a television investigative team said his lovely bride had to drag him "kicking and screaming" to SAVING MR. BANKS. He raved about it. I understand why.
We expected something else than the intricate and well woven back story to Walt Disney's making of Mary Poppins. First the 20 year courtship of the author P.L. Travers, and then her history as magnificently played by Emma Thompson, worthy of an Academy nomination at least. Tom Hanks was remarkable, as always, as Walt Disney. Colin Farrell deserves a lot of applause for his Mr. Banks. Bradley Whitford and Jason Schwartzman were terrific in their supporting roles and Paul Giamatti was nomination worthy in his. This is a touching, entertaining, fascinating and memorable film. First class in all ways.
HEY, DA BOYS MIX IT UP
The GRUDGE MATCH is not for everyone, but if you are a De Niro, Stallone, Alan Arkin or Kim Bassinger fan, or if you simply like popcorn and cliche, you might enjoy it. I did, even though it was reminiscent of a Rocky re-tread and the popcorn was outrageously expensive.
I guess I was curious to see how a couple of old boys-my age-could handle the boxing gym and ring scenes. BTW Arkin stole a few scenes, as he does so well. Bassinger need only show up. She remains a stunning beauty as she ages, not so De Niro and Stallone, but then how could they?
This is a guys film probably. Jim Lampley's presence made me think I was watching an HBO boxing match, set up. I enjoyed the almost two hours, but then I like boxing, pop corn, De Niro and seeing how make up artists can help make Stallone becoming increasingly a punched up, punched out punchy old puncher.
REAL LIFE COURAGE
I hope you'll take 7 minutes to watch this exceptionally well done piece on an extraordinary person. This is real life heroism, just in getting by. You'll feel better about almost everything after you've seen it.
WISH YOU COULD HAVE BEEN THERE
Cambrian Tess Wright, prevailed again as Mistress of the Salon as she moderated a fascinating discussion about where a couple of Cambria artists fit into the modern art milieu. Full disclosure here, one of those artist is Lana with whom I have lived and who's art I have enjoyed for longer than you need to know. The other is Bruce Marchese, a displaced Brooklyn lad who was hailed as an exuberant colorist. Tess has presented a series of lectures on art and artists and I hope someday they'll be available for a wider distribution. Her research is superb and her rapport with artists is a treat to behold. Thanks to the Wise Owl for a great venue.
Wherein a recent walk over a bridge spanning a now dry wash offered a chance at a dimensional portrait.
You can see the effect of the now historic drought along the central coast. We need rain.
IS ANYONE REALLY SURPRISED?
In reviewing data from four states, the Associated Press has learned you can't trust what the oil and gas industry says about ground water contamination.
Records from Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia find many more problems with well water contamination than what industry sources say, that such problems are rare.
There are serious problems and they are spreading as gas and oil drilling and fracking spread. Too bad there isn't a law to crack down on lying corporations and public relations officials. Too bad too that Dick Cheney got away with his criminal conspiracy to allow the lying corporations to skirt clean air and water standards. And while we are lamenting, too bad the justice department hasn't gone after crooked Dick for any number of his corrupt practices, many of which are now documented by authors, historians and the Inspector General's office.
Cheney has lived long enough to see the truth made public about how even George W banned him from the oval office and close contact. I hope he lives long enough to see criminal charges brought against him. He can totter off into the sunset assured that historians will rip his heart out-that would be his original heart, mechanical heart and the one he got when others, more critical and more in the target profile, continued to wait. Too bad no one has investigated how the old buzzard got that new heart.
Hemingway and Joy love boxes. A container from a trip to our "big box" store was temporarily put in the garage, pending it's filling with Christmas lights. We didn't move quickly enough.These two rascals decided to encamp there, together! Put a box in the garage and immediately a curious cat is inspecting it from the inside.
DAYS OF MEMORY
Our friend Lew sent along a summer scene of the Arts Building Terrace at Ball State University. It's a place of special significance to Lana and me. Her art classes were in this hall as were my political science courses. I addressed a
throng of students who filled the lawn at an early Earth Day celebration and spoke to another crowd while running as a class officer candidate.
This was also a green that filled with sun and nap takers, lunch breakers, and romance makers. It is also a gorgeous building and sits as a boundary to what was once the center of the campus. Could it really have been that long ago?!
A PARTING MELODY
Charles Dickens was right. Regardless of faith or belief, we should keep Christmas in our heart all year. Here's a unique take on a seasonal classic. Enjoy
Cheers! A TRIP TO SHAMEL BEACH
As many of you suffer through winter's icy blast, we offer
a few moments of light and sea from California's central coast at Cambria's Shamel Park beach.
Hope this warmed you a bit and perhaps evoked memories of land without snow and ice.