Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reclaiming the Mainstream

THIS is the task of all writers and artists tired of cultural stagnation business-as-usual mentalities recycled postures and ideas tremendous sums of money thrown at the artistic problem but creating no excitement. ART for most people in this country has become a DUTY.

"Read this poem. It's good for you."

"I don't want to read it."

"Read this story then."

"But I don't want to."

The tragedy is that new exciting art and literature IS being created. I've discovered it, my friends-- the New Stuff, the True Gen, and will be announcing it AT THIS VENUE in between pointing out the moldiness and madness of today's cultural fakirs. Help is on its way.

America's culture belongs not to the intellectualized fossilized mandarins the professional academic authorities conglomerate machine flunkies or foundational snob money launderers. Not even to the sons and daughters of Presidents, TV execs, and bankers.

It belongs to the people.

It belongs to you and me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why Is This?

Lawrence Richette, is publishing through Xlibris.

Monday, February 25, 2008


The current issue of Vanity Fair has a feature where current Hollywood actors dress up as characters in Hitchcock movies. Someone had the bright idea of having Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey play Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief." Uh, no.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

#7: "North by Northwest"

When reviewing in my head all of these choices, I continually say, "Wow! What a movie."

Such is it with this Hitchcock flick, which, frankly, in some ways is dated. The rollercoaster aspect of film, of this film, has been superceded by the hyper-manic likes of the latest "Mission Impossible" movie as much as if "North by Northwest" were "The Great Train Robbery." But on the big screen, the ARTISTIC thrill-- the joy of the canvas presented; the romance-- remains.

The hero of the romance, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), is on his own mythic journey, his plunge into the subconscious: the pursuit of his soulmate. The mythic aspects are well-hidden as the hero faces the forces of the modern world; finding adventure in everyday life.

Like Odysseus-- or like the hero in "Guns of Navarone"-- Cary Grant encounters a siren who seeks to destroy him, but this time the wayward adventurer goes beyond a superficial encounter with feminine wiles, attractions and pitfalls, to an adult realization of her true predicament, and maybe, her love for him. As in "Adventures of Robin Hood," he finds his mate in the camp of the enemy.

Beyond this, the hero realizes she (beautiful and deadly Eva Marie Saint) is his equal; is more than his equal. He is, after all, a mere mortal, a Madison Avenue ad man, while she seems to romp with the gods of adventure as a secret agent. She's very human at the same time, and beneath Hitchcock's "MacGuffin" plot the ad man's quest comes down to one thing: Her. Everything in his life prior becomes superficial; meaningless in comparison to his primal want.

In this tale Penelope is along on the adventure.

The closing minutes are breathtaking-- accompanied by the Bernard Hermann score-- as aging but still agile Cary Grant climbs up the wondrous house of the bad guys to save his mate and simultaneously prove himself worthy of her. Then they encounter America's historical icons on Mt. Rushmore and begin to scamper down from them.

This is great art but it's also film as experience. We're with the couple as they move about the monument (to Hermann's bombardment of music); moments that are thrilling and sexy.

What else can I say? It's a masterpiece.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Movie Stylings

in theaters unique is that they're like giant canvas paintings come to life, set to words and music. As with paintings, we can notice different styles in them.

Compare the opening for instance of two visually beautiful westerns, "The Searchers" and "The Big Country." Made two years apart, both very 1950's, set in similar landscapes in a similar time period, yet the look and feel-- the style-- of each is completely different.

"The Searchers" opens lush, romantic, folksy, stodgy. The even more unforgettable opening to "The Big Country, by contrast, titles and music, is sleek, clean, modern-- romantic and lush at the same time but in a much different way. We're looking at, and hearing, two different styles of painting.

Note the incredible opening titles to my next "Best" movie selection, #7, coming up shortly. . . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The John Wayne Factor

When encountering "best" all-time film selections of distinguished critics and writers, one bumps into the curious presence of actor John Wayne in so many choices. This is particularly the case with wimpy-minded liberals like Peter Bogdonovich, Jonathan Lethem, and Joan Didion. Put a John Wayne movie before them and their liberalism vanishes. The moment "The Duke" appears on screen they begin bawling. It's a psychological phenomenon which has little to do with the actual movie. I call it connecting with their Inner John Wayne.
Of all John Wayne movies, "The Searchers" is the most lauded. Notice the gushings about Wayne's "obsessed" performance (Wayne glares to convey obsession); how "racist" it is, as if it were a radical departure, strongly against type.

Yet in the movie-- as opposed to the many essays about it-- John Wayne is clearly meant to be the hero of the story. His actions as strong man are conveyed as necessary to the survival of the community-- akin to the similar role in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," or his earlier part in "Stagecoach," where he freely shoots Indians. Duh! I suspect the film critics are viewing a different movie and different John Wayne from that seen by 1950's audiences.
John Wayne's strength as an actor came from the way he moved. Give him too much dialogue and his performance becomes embarrassing. (See "The Alamo.") He was an icon, but far from the greatest American film actor. All one has to do is compare his performances with what truly great actors like William Holden and Robert Ryan do with a few phrases in "The Wild Bunch." Each has some of the most memorable lines in American cinema. (Ryan: "We're chasing MEN, and I wish to God I were with them.") Their voices convey universes of meaning.

"The Searchers" has its strengths. The shot placements and technicolor photography blaze in the memory. It's also meandering, silly (Natalie Wood made-up like a pop movie queen), unbearably corny and at times boring. It's a nice folk tale-- its value in the way it preserves, or really, recaptures, the pioneer mindset; racism, hokiness, and all. A good movie, yes, but nowhere near the apex of great films. "The Wild Bunch"-- which did not make my list-- for one is many times better.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eight: "The Adventures of Robin Hood"


A storybook adventure come to life; flawless in every detail with spectacular sets and color and a wonderful Korngold score. Gorgeous and romantic, the movie builds to a thrilling climax which includes an unbelievably athletic sword fight between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, and the rescue of ridiculously beautiful Maid Marian played by Olivia DeHavilland. Am I being hyperbolic? The film deserves it.

Flynn in the lead role is dynamic not just in his actions but in his acting: the passion he puts into his speeches; as rousing in commitment to right and truth as any words ever filmed. Which distinguishes this photoplay from mere storybook-- its clash of rich and poor; the struggle against unmediated power, resonates today. This movie is not a dead object, but living art.

The defining scene comes at the outset, when Robin Hood enters the Normans' castle to confront their nobles, who study the stranger with surprise and wonder. Insiders confront the Outsider from their highly-placed table. This sets the confronting motifs of Castle and Forest; Establishment and Underground. For those who exist on the margins, this remains powerful myth. The stark oppositions of society are presented with colorful, emotional power.

Until the relentless heartlessness of pure greed is ever halted, this film will remain a classic.