Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Black + white = soul

When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!

― Ted Grant

Gary Winogrand photography exhibit at the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art. Wish I was there!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Friend in need

Jeff Nichols, the writer and director of the new film Mud delivers a unique take on a boy coming of age. The boy, or boys in this film, aren't the idealized, adorable, sensitive, misunderstood mini-adults of the Steven Spielberg school, and they aren't the children imagined by Stephen King, that spew only the most wrenching and revealing stuff, destined to become writers one day. Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) have an easy rapport and speak the kind of shorthand that comes from spending lots of time together. They live in the Mississippi Delta, a hardscrabble existence chock full of junkyards, eroded homes, and eking out a living. In the same day they discover an abandoned boat in a tree (the result of a long ago flood) they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a homeless man who claims to be on the run from bounty hunters after killing a man that hurt the woman he loves. Mud needs that boat, the impossibility, irrationality, and absurdity of which is not lost on Ellis and Neckbone. At 14, their hearts and minds are open. The spirit of that untarnished optimism, so realistically portrayed by the young actors, so intelligently written by Nichols, carries the film. The realization? Things happen, people disappoint, plans fall through, and despite waves of change, when you wake up you're still you. And that's okay. In fact, that's terrific.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Close the gap

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

This applies to creative WORK, not just writing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Humble pie

Remember kids, the Internet is forever.

December 13, 1974 REVIEW | '

Godfather, Part II' Is Hard to Define By VINCENT CANBY

The only remarkable thing about Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather, Part II" is the insistent manner in which it recalls how much better his original film was. Among other things, one remembers "The Godfather's" tremendous narrative drive and the dominating presence of Marlon Brando in the title role, which, though not large, unified the film and transformed a super-gangster movie into a unique family chronicle.

"Part II," also written by Mr. Coppola and Mario Puzo, is not a sequel in any engaging way. It's not really much of anything that can be easily defined.

It's a second movie made largely out of the bits and pieces of Mr. Puzo's novel that didn't fit into the first. It's a Frankenstein's monster stitched together from leftover parts. It talks. It moves in fits and starts but it has no mind of its own. Occasionally it repeats a point made in "The Godfather" (organized crime is just another kind of American business, say) but its insights are fairly lame at this point.

"The Godfather, Part II," which opened yesterday at five theaters, is not very far along before one realizes that it hasn't anything more to say. Everything of any interest was thoroughly covered in the original film, but like many people who have nothing to say, "Part II" won't shut up.

Not the least of its problems is its fractured form. "Part II" moves continually back and forth in time between two distinct narratives. It's the story of the young Vito Corleone (who grew up to be played by Marlon Brando in the first movie) seen first around the turn of the century in Sicily and then in 1917 in New York, where he's played by Robert De Niro, and it's the story of Vito's son, Michael, played again by Al Pacino, the new Mafia don who sets out to control Las Vegas in the late nineteen-fifties.

One story doesn't necessarily illuminate the other. It's just additional data, like footnotes. I can't readily imagine what Mr. Coppola and Mr. Puzo were trying to do, except to turn their first film into a long parenthesis that would fit between the halves of the new movie.

Even if "Part II" were a lot more cohesive, revealing and exciting than it is, it probably would have run the risk of appearing to be the self-parody it now seems.

Looking very expensive but spiritually desperate, "Part II" has the air of a very long, very elaborate revue sketch. Nothing is sacred. The photography by Gordon Willis, so effective originally, is now comically fancy--the exteriors are too bright and glowy while the interiors are so dark you wonder if these Mafia chiefs can't afford to buy bigger light bulbs.

Nino Rota's old score keeps thumping away like a heavenly juke box. The performers, especially those repeating their original roles, seem locked into waxily rigid attitudes. Mr. Pacino, so fine the first time out, goes through the film looking glum, sighing wearily as he orders the execution of an old associate or a brother, winding up very lonely and powerful, which is just about the way he wound up before. Mr. De Niro, one of our best young actors, is interesting as the young Vito until, toward the end of his section of the film, he starts giving a nightclub imitation of Mr. Brando's elderly Vito.

There are a couple of notable exceptions; Lee Strasberg, the head of the Actors Studio, makes an extraordinarily effective screen debut as Hyman Roth, the powerful Jewish mobster (reportedly modeled on Meyer Lansky) with whom Michael attempts to take over the Havana rackets under the Battista regime. Mr. Strasberg's Roth is a fascinating mixture of lust, ruthlessness and chicken soup. Michael V. Gazzo, the playwright ("A Hatful of Rain"), is also superb as a Corleone captain who crosses the Family. Another more or less nonpro, G. D. Spradlin (a former politician, according to publicity sources) is absolutely right as a crooked, very WASPish United States Senator from Nevada. 

The plot defies any rational synopsis, but it allows Mr. Coppola, in his role as director, to rework lots of scenes that were done far better the first time: family reunions, shoot-outs, ambushes and occasional dumb exchanges between Don Michael Corleone and his square, long-suffering wife, Kay (Diane Keaton). "Oh, Michael," says the slow-to-take-offense Kay when Michael is about to sew up the Vegas rackets, "seven years ago you told me you'd be legitimate in five years."

THE GODFATHER, PART II With Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, G. D. Spradlin, Richard Bright and Gaston Moschin. Directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola; screenplay by Mr. Coppola and Mario Puzo, based on Mr. Puzo's novel, "The Godfather"; co-produced by Gary Frederickson and Fred Roos; director of photography, Gordon Willis; music, Nino Rota; editors, Peter Zinner, Barry Malkin, Richard Marks; distributed by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 200 minutes. At Loew's State 1 and 2.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Heart of stone

Pygmalion carved a sculpture of a maiden so beautiful and realistic, he grew to love and desire his creation. He solemnly prayed to find a girl as lovely as her and was amazed when he kissed his statue that she grew warm and came to life. They lived happily ever after, according to Greek mythology.

Variations of the myth can be seen in many films (The Red Shoes, All About Eve, Pretty Woman, Mighty Aphrodite among others), most recently in Danny Boyle's Trance


  Pygmalion and Galatea, Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824–1904)

Gérôme created two views of the same iconic moment of discovery. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Behind the scenes with a few faves


The Creature from the Black Lagoon

The Wolfman


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Two wheelin'

Three of the many delightful posters from Public Bikes

Dana Arnett

Maira Kalman

Frank Viva

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I love these antique shirt collar displays.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Who cares about the mileage

Oh yeah, that was me leaning over the engine and drooling like some meathead with a muscle car. Except this hot rod is a vintage Adler typewriter. Wow! Just look at those fine lines, that undulating font and that juicy color! Vroooooom...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wild at heart

In Chicago it's rainy and bleak. Time to be like Czech designer Ditmar Urbach and 
look at the world through fire engine red glasses!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't mope

Maira Kalman

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rethinking Tchotchkes

Royal Copenhagen Polar Bear #502 reinvented.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thrilling cases

It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad
girls never have the time.

—Tallulah Bankhead

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Clean living

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


From 1967,  Boys and Girls First Dictionary by John Travaskis & Robin Hyman,
illustrated by John Seares Riley


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Raw geometry

Appealing lamps from Colonel, love those painted sycamore shades!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Everything glows

 Magical thinking. Magical light.

Still life photos, Paul Outerbridge Jr. (1896-1958)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's a small world

I worked on a kibbutz in Israel during my gap year between high school and college.
There were many volunteers from the USA and a variety of countries in Europe and South America. Most of us were introduced to citizens of places we'd only ever read about or seen in pictures. When I mentioned I was from Chicago, the response was generally, "Oh, Al Capone...gangsters."  

This vintage German educational chart explores a 'typical' Japanese family at dinner. Note the cherry blossom tree in full bloom, the Bonsai tree on the credenza, that everyone is wearing a kimono, Mother wears a full geisha wig at the table and cools herself with a requisite fan. Sheesh!