Sunday, April 23, 2017

Again, A Year Or Two With Ernest-“Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” (2015)-A Film Review  


DVD Review

By Film Critic Emeritus Sam Lowell

[I will not bore the reader with yet again a detailed rationale for my recent taking myself “out to pasture,” retiring with the caveat that if I found something that interested me in the film world I reserved the right to comment via a timely review. Not as my erstwhile fellow film critic, Sandy Salmon, whom I cajoled into taking over the day to day chores at this site while he too waited to fade into the sunset of retirement, stated in his review of this same film when “the spirit moved me” which he falsely accused me of stealing from the Quakers who hardly had a copyright on the expression if Sandy would have known if he had been out in the real world over the past fifty years. Shockingly in taking over the job Sandy has needed the support of an associate, Alden Riley, to do the heavy legwork (like actually watching the films to be reviewed, grabbing summaries from Wikipedia maybe stealing some lines from reviews on Amazon, writing the first draft so I am not sure exactly what Sandy’s role is in all this). Up until the end I has done all that myself.

But I will let that pass as well since today I feel I need to say a few words about why I am doing a review of a film Sandy with a big assist from Alden who had to read from scratch some of Hemingway’s short stories which apparently neither he nor Sandy had read or more probably in Sandy’s case had not read in fifty years, already put in the can, Papa: Hemingway In Cuba, a semi-biopic of the old man who had so much influence on our generation of guys who liked to write, who liked that smooth clean sparse language while pushing on the story line without a lot of embellishment. For one of the few times in recent memory Sandy, once he found out the film was slated for review, and I watched the presentation together (Alden watched it later when he was assigned the heavy legwork). That is where the current tempest in a teapot got its start.       

As Sandy stated in his review he and I had gravitated toward Hemingway in our respective high school days and never left that admiration behind. Although we both agreed that the story presented on film while gripping in parts had been overwrought about the emotional traumas Hemingway was going through as he aged, aged not gracefully ending upon the other end of a self-imposed shotgun blast we argued over who would do the review. Frankly I invoked my “seniority,” my emeritus status since the mere subject matter of the film, what did Sandy call it, what do the poor besieged Quakers call it, oh yeah, got me in a “the spirit moves me” mood.

The long and short of it was that Sandy went to the site administrator, Pete Markin, to complain that that “old geezer” was stepping on his toes. Pete brought us into his “office” which did not help much since the scene got a little ugly. I reminded Sandy, Sandy, bigtime film critic for the American Film Gazette back in the day that I had to tell him who Orson Welles was, who had produced Citizen Kane, what it was about and where it stood in the pantheon of world classic films when he had first started out in the business. Had to remind Sandy too that he was the one who wrote that glowing review about Planet of the Apes and how it was a sure bet to win, get this, the Oscar for Best Picture that year (and I think for Best Actor too and it was not Charlton Heston who he was touting). The film critic fraternity laughed about that one for years at our annual gatherings.  From there only got worse until I let sleeping dogs lie and told Pete too let Sandy have his damn review.          

Then the review came out and I could not believe that we had watched the same film. Couldn’t understand why Sandy did not take on Hemingway’s alcoholism, his taunting of his fourth, count them fourth wife, Mary and the severity of his writer’s block in the  decisive period just a couple of years before he took his own life. Worse, worse of all Sandy only paid perfunctory mention to one of the great stories of the time, the Fidel Castro led guerilla war fight against the hated Batista regime in Cuba the results which still reverberates to this day. He totally failed to mention the scene where Papa and his young writer friend and acolyte (Ed in the movie) had doggedly come to grips as witnesses to a battle in the city between those two forces just like Papa had in the old days in Spain. I complained to Pete and he, pulling his hair out yet again, agreed that I could give “my take” on the film. See Pete knew, or I will assume that he knew, who was the guy to have done this review in the first place. Sam Lowell]      


Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, starring Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson, Adrian Sparks, filmed in Cuba, 2015     

I have to agree with the esteemed regular film critic in this space that there was no question young men, and I have to agree with him on this as well maybe women too but Ernest Hemingway by subject matter and by reputation seemed to be the quintessential man’s man writer for good or evil, of the generation before mine and of my own generation who had a taste for the literary life saw him (along with Scott Fitzgerald on his good days, his The Great Gatsby good days) as the paragon of solid sparse writing that drew us in. Writing up a storm about the futility of World War I, the post-war alienation of the Jazz Age which his friend and fellow exile Scotty Fitzgerald practically invented, bullfighting in the hot afternoon in some drunken corrida, the glorious struggle in Spain where there appeared to be time enough to make the earth shake not just with mortars but with love and a million other short stories some of which made their way into film (and reviews by me, and, okay, okay Sandy).     

Funny as a kid I first gravitated toward Hemingway via the movies although I didn’t actually know that until later when I happened to read one of his short stories The Killers which had been made into a movie (actually two one in 1946 but the one I am thinking of is the version done in 1962 with Lee Marvin and, ah, Ronald Reagan who later parlayed that role in the film as a connected gangster into the presidency of the United States or something like that. When I viewed that film one Saturday afternoon at the old Strand Theater in my growing up hometown I felt I knew the story line and lo and behold in the credits they noted that the thing was based on Papa’s short story of the same name. Talk about cinematic license though (and in that 1946 version as well since the story is only a few pages long and is only a “teaser” about a guy who took a couple of slugs without grumbling when a couple of hit men came a calling and the story unfolds from that slight hint of a start).    

Like Sandy as a kid anything to do with Hemingway was like catnip and while I usually did my reading during the daytime on many a late night I devoured whatever I could get my hands on at the local branch of the town library. So when Sandy and I saw this film under review together, Papa: Hemingway In Cuba, we almost came to blows about who would review the thing. [See the introduction above for the gory details. Pete Markin] That emotional response on our parts despite the fact that both of us agreed that the film itself seemed kind of maudlin and less than informative as a slice of life semi-biopic.      

Naturally since the film is not an actual full biopic about either Hemingway or the young writer, Denn Bart Petticlerc, whose memoir the film is based on the producers used plenty of cinematic license in translating that story to the screen (just as any self-respecting writer would use a great deal of literary license to the same effect). What was interesting and might have been of interest to me knowing what happened in the film Ed, the name for Denn in the film, was that he and Papa met after Ed had sent Papa a “love letter” and he responded by inviting him to Cuba for a little off-hand fishing (one of about twenty “manly” pursuits like boxing which writers like Norman Mailer in the generation after his felt compelled to follow as a mantra for their own writing prowess, bullfighting, safari hunting, deep sea fishing, amateur gun-fighting and seemingly every other on the edge activity except bocce which he never did master for some reason.  Hemingway was into “action” in an age when men had to such pursuits to internally prove their manhood rather than like in my generation the more rationale reason to impress the girls. We always on a no dough, no girl Friday or Saturday night hanging around with nothing better to do used to speculate that all that manly-proving frenzy meant he might have been as we used to say “light on his feet.” I never heard anything that way and I am sure I would have in some be misbegotten doctoral thesis if there was any substance to the charge.) Damn I wish I had had the moxie, the balls to send the old man a “love letter” and maybe I would have had the opportunity to learn how to fish (and skinny dip).       

In any case the mentor-surrogate son relationship that developed was something very different once a young writer (Ed Myers in the film played by Giovanni Ribisi) caught the attention of Ernest Hemingway (played by Adrian Spark who looked the very image of Papa when I looked at some old photographs). Hell Ed would fly back and forth to Miami at the drop of a hat on Papa’s summons if for no other reason than to go skinny-dipping in Papa’s pool or to sit drinking pina colas while Hemingway sucked up the real booze and got nasty at his fourth wife Mary. (That four marriage should have been the tip-off, take it from a guy with three unsuccessful marriages under his belt and has finally given up that chase, that Papa was not an easy guy to live with any more than I was).            

Of course Hemingway seemingly spent half of his life in some kind of exile Paris, Africa, Idaho,  or out of America anyway and Cuba was his home along with his fourth wife, the well-known foreign correspondent Mary Welsh, played by Joely Richardson, for a good portion of the last twenty or so years of his life. Funny 1958, 1959 in Cuba was like some kind of fateful muse in the period when Papa and Ed were friendly which also happened to be a time when the Cuban Revolution, Castro’s guerilla fighters, were coming down from the hills to confront Batista and his forces in the cities. It might be worth checking out what Batista’s agents thought of Hemingway rolling around the gin mills of the island having made it clear that he had been in Spain when the deal went down there in the 1930s. In a compelling scene Papa and Ed are “doing the do,” doing what any journalist worth his or her salt would do and go out get the story especially as the Castro forces were coming out of the hills so you knew at that point the regime’s days were short, extremely short so you had best get the story of history in the making or forget it.

As already noted this film suffered from some overwrought emotional scenes of Hemingway in decline, in a love-hate relationship with Mary which seemed cruelty itself on both their parts at time. The real shocker for any writer, even Sandy took note of the fact in passing and then blew it off, though was Hemingway’s frustration that he could no longer write, had “writer’s block” the dreaded words that every writer, pro or amateur, wakes up in the midnight hour sweating about. Where the whole ball of wax comes down is when Ed was sending in copious copy to his newspaper and Papa was standing around his typewriter, the word processor of the day, almost paralyzed with a drink of rye whisky to buck him up. Damn. Papa had the shakes that way too. Sandy did have it right maybe Papa had lost it at the end but go read A Farewell To ArmsThe Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bells Toll, and The Old Man and The Sea if you want to know what it was like when Papa had the words, when he wrote those sparse clean words for keeps. For the young you heard it here first.


Train Smoke And Dreams-The Film Adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl On The Train”-(2016)   





DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

The Girl On The Train, starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, directed by Tate Taylor, from the thriller novel by Paula Hawkins, 2016

A tale of three women, three smart up and coming but troubled women, suburban women, suburban New York City women and that makes a difference, is an interesting way to introduce this cinematic thriller, Girl On The Train, adapted for the screen from the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins. Especially since their lives, the lives of Rachael, Anna and Megan to give them names right at the start, are intertwined one way or another by the same man, Tom, a man who as one of the minor characters in the film stated rather succinctly if crudely could not “keep his dick in his pants.” That statement, made on the suburban commuter train from New York City, the train a symbolic metaphor for lots of what goes down along the way, toward the end of the film goes a long way to explaining why this well-done and suspenseful thriller ends the way it does.       

Here’s the scoop. Woman number one, Rachel, played by Emily Blunt, smart, artistic but emotionally fragile and unsure of herself, had as a result of her spiraling alcoholism brought on by her failure to bear a child (and by the nefarious manipulations of philandering Tom) been unceremoniously dumped by her philandering husband for another woman, woman number two, Anna, who had borne him a child.  Rachel was a dreamer, a romantic, had some almost child-like idea of what a leafy suburban perfect marriage might look like despite her alcoholic haze which during her binges had left her with big blank spaces in her memory, left her with blackouts. It is in trying to retrace the steps of her life that will finally aid her-and get her and others into a hell of a lot of trouble.

The romantic dreamer about some ideal marriage part for Rachel came when she passed her old neighborhood on the train she took every day supposedly going to and from work (she had been fired for her over-the-top alcoholic behavior so the trips back and forth to New York City were trips to nowhere). A few houses from where she had lived she spied a couple who look like they were the consummate expression of everything she still longed for-including reuniting with her husband.

Enter woman number three, Megan, played by Haley Bennett, young, neurotic and sexually promiscuous, who was the woman Rachel had seen from the train. Megan rather than the ideal suburban wife was seeing a psychiatrist about her problems (while trying to seduce him). And about the secret guilt she had felt ever since she had neglected her out-of-wedlock baby when she was a teenager. Megan had worked for Tom and Anna, who had her own set of emotional problems around having the child and having a philandering husband, as a nanny to complete the scene (a job that it turned out Tom had insisted she take).

Here is where things got dicey. Megan one night went missing, and would be found after some time dead in the woods along the nearby Hudson River, an obvious homicide. Rachel, in one of her less lucid and less sober moments witnessed a scene from one end of a tunnel where Megan, who had disillusioned Rachel from the train by apparently taking another lover, and somebody had been seen together the night she disappeared. The rest of the film unwinds around Rachel’s increased clarity and confidence in herself about what had happened that night, who had killed Megan and why. Naturally there is plenty of misdirection as in any good thriller. Rachel herself had come under suspicion due to her erratic and at times near hysterical behavior. As had, naturally given the statistics on such matters, Megan’s overbearing and overwrought husband (with a little help from trying to be helpful Rachel). Hell, even the shrink, Megan’s shrink, based on Rachel’s faulty foggy memory, was under a cloud for a time. But as the film winds down and the possible candidates with the motive to do the foul deed dwindle Rachel’s sense of what happened that night and who might have committed the foul deed improved.

Although this film (and the book it is based on) is predicated on solving the murder mystery which sets up the plot I was struck by how much these three very different women had been thrown together by an odd fate and reacted to things in very similar ways. The acting by the trio, particularly Emily Blunt whose very complicated role drove the action but also drove the psychological aspects of the film, was excellent as the three women went through their respective paces. As for whodunit check it out for yourself if you have not already read the book. A way better than average thriller.             


James Connolly-Commandant- Irish Citizens Army- A Critical Appreciation Of Easter, 1916








"James Connolly"

The man was all shot through that came to day into the Barrack Square

And a soldier I, I am not proud to say that we killed him there

They brought him from the prison hospital and to see him in that chair

I swear his smile would, would far more quickly call a man to prayer

Maybe, maybe I don't understand this thing that makes these rebels die

Yet all men love freedom and the spring clear in the sky

I wouldn't do this deed again for all that I hold by

As I gazed down my rifle at his breast but then, then a soldier I.

They say he was different, kindly too apart from all the rest.

A lover of the poor-his wounds ill dressed.

He faced us like a man who knew a greater pain

Than blows or bullets ere the world began: died he in vain

Ready, Present, and him just smiling, Christ I felt my rifle shake

His wounds all open and around his chair a pool of blood

And I swear his lips said, "fire" before my rifle shot that cursed lead

And I, I was picked to kill a man like that, James Connolly



A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham

Their heads all uncovered, they knelt to the ground.

For inside that grim prison

Lay a great Irish soldier

His life for his country about to lay down.

He went to his death like a true son of Ireland

The firing party he bravely did face

Then the order rang out: Present arms and fire

James Connolly fell into a ready-made grave

The black flag was hoisted, the cruel deed was over

Gone was the man who loved Ireland so well

There was many a sad heart in Dublin that morning

When they murdered James Connolly-. the Irish rebel



"James Connolly"

Marchin' down O'Connell Street with the Starry Plough on high
There goes the Citizen Army with their fists raised in the sky
Leading them is a mighty man with a mad rage in his eye
"My name is James Connolly - I didn't come here to die

But to fight for the rights of the working man
And the small farmer too
Protect the proletariat from the bosses and their screws
So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don't give up your dream
Of a Republic for the workin' class, economic liberty"

Then Jem yelled out "Oh Citizens, this system is a curse
An English boss is a monster, an Irish one even worse
They'll never lock us out again and here's the reason why
My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die....."

And now we're in the GPO with the bullets whizzin' by
With Pearse and Sean McDermott biddin' each other goodbye
Up steps our citizen leader and roars out to the sky
"My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die...

Oh Lily, I don't want to die, we've got so much to live for
And I know we're all goin' out to get slaughtered, but I just can't take any more
Just the sight of one more child screamin' from hunger in a Dublin slum
Or his mother slavin' 14 hours a day for the scum
Who exploit her and take her youth and throw it on a factory floor
Oh Lily, I just can't take any more

They've locked us out, they've banned our unions, they even treat their animals better than us
No! It's far better to die like a man on your feet than to live forever like some slave on your knees, Lilly

But don't let them wrap any green flag around me
And for God's sake, don't let them bury me in some field full of harps and shamrocks
And whatever you do, don't let them make a martyr out of me
No! Rather raise the Starry Plough on high, sing a song of freedom
Here's to you, Lily, the rights of man and international revolution"

We fought them to a standstill while the flames lit up the sky
'Til a bullet pierced our leader and we gave up the fight
They shot him in Kilmainham jail but they'll never stop his cry
My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die...."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Suddenly Is Right-Frank Sinatra’s “Suddenly” (1954)-A Film Review




DVD Review

By Film Critic Sandy Salmon

Suddenly, starring Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, 1954, based on a 1943 story Active Duty by Richard Sales who wrote the screenplay, 1954       

For my generation, the generation of ‘68 as one political pundit who I read occasionally called those of us who were involved in the great counter-cultural wave of the mid to late 1960s, November 22, 1963 the day President Kennedy was assassinated by an ex-military man, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a touchstone in our lives, as December 7, 1941 was for an earlier generation and 9/11 for a later one. Thus the subject matter of the 1954 film under review, Suddenly, an assassination attempt on the President of the United States as he passed through by train the Podunk fictional town of Suddenly out in California was a little shocking. If I had seen the film in 1954 at a time when I knee-deep, as were many of my fellow film critics, in attending Saturday afternoon matinee double features I probably would have passed it off as another great B-film noir effort. And at some level that was my reaction recently as well but the film brought to the surface more questions than I would have expected for such an old time film.              

The plot-line was like this if it helps the reader understand my perplexity. In advance of the unnamed President (although if you go by the original 1943 story the film is based on Active Duty by the screenwriter here Richard Sales hard it would have been Franklin Delano Roosevelt but by the film’s release Dwight Eisenhower) heading to some Western mountain retreat the town of Suddenly was suddenly (I couldn’t resist that, sorry) infested with all kinds of cops, feds, Secret Service, naturally, state and local cops. The important one of the latter here is Sherriff Shaw played by gruff he-man type Sterling Hayden. With all this police action it was fairly easy for a bunch of guys led by John Baron, played by Frank Sinatra, to pose as FBI agents and gain access to a primo location at a house across from the railroad station where the President was expected to stop. That house also just happened to be the home of Sherriff Shaw’s hoped for paramour, a war widow, her son, and her ex-Secret Service father.    

After a series of ruses Baron and his boys set up for the ambush in a position in the house and with a rifle that reminded me of what the situation was like at that 1963 Texas School Depository. But remember this is 1954 and fiction so that you know that this plot like many others before and since would be foiled before the dastardly deed was consummated. Foiled one way or another although not before a senior Secret Service agent was killed and Sherriff Shaw was wounded and taken hostage along with his sweetie and her family. The long and short of it was that the plot was foiled by the heroic action of that son, that paramour, her father and even the Sheriff. So you can see the film to get the skinny on the how of that. 

What is of interest, beyond the excellent job that Frank Sinatra did of playing an ex-soldier who learned to love to kill, who gained self-respect and dignity during World War II when he could freely shoot on sight anything that moved and nobody thought anything of it and the good job Sterling Hayden did as the Sheriff also an ex-soldier trying to figure out Baron’s motivation for shooting the President. Baron was nothing but a flat-out psychopath who had no more feeling about what he doing and who he was doing it to than the Germans he wasted in the war. I have seen guys like that, saw them during my own military service, saw them at the VA hospitals too when they completely broke down. With this caveat in Baron’s case he was a hired killer, was being paid big money, half a million, no mean sum back then, by unnamed sources to perform his task and blow the country. Who was behind it and their motivation didn’t interest him. 

In light of all the controversy surrounding the Kennedy murder by an ex-Marine of unknown psychological stability and a million theories about whether he acted alone or as part of greater conspiracy that got me thinking about who might have hired Baron to do the dastardly deed. That was a matter of some speculation among the hostages in that ambush house and since it was the post-World War II 1950s and the heart of the red scare Cold War night  the obvious possibility was the “commies” (although not the Cuban variety since their revolution was several years away). But that did not end the possibilities. It could have been some nefarious criminals, the mob, unhappy about their exposure to public scrutiny. It might have been the military-industrial complex unhappy about their contracts, or lack of them. It could not have been Lyndon Johnson since he was not Vice President then but it could have been the sitting Vice President. You know who I mean in 1954 if you are old enough. Yeah, Richard Milhous Nixon, later to be a President and a known felon. Don’t tell me he wasn’t mean and craven enough to order that hit. Don’t be naïve. Watch this film and develop your own conspiracy theory.         


Friday, April 21, 2017

Yeah, Put Out That Fire In Your Head-With Patti Griffin’s Words From “You Are Not Alone” In Mind   




By Fritz Taylor 

Sam Lowell was a queer duck, an odd-ball kind of guy who couldn’t stop keeping his head from exploding with about seventeen ideas at once and the determination to do all seventeen come hell or high water. And not seventeen things like mowing the lawn or taking out the rubbish but what he called “projects” which in Sam’s case meant political projects and writings and other things along that line. Yeah, couldn’t put out “the fire in his head” the way he told it to his long-time companion, Laura Perkins, one night at supper after she had confronted him with the fact, and not for the first time, that he was getting more irritable, was more often short with her of late, had seemed distant, had seemed to be drifting into some bad place, a place where he was not at peace with himself. That not “at peace” with himself an expression that Laura had coined that night to express the way that she saw his current demeanor. That would be the expression he would use in his group therapy group to describe his condition when it met later that week. 

He would almost shout out the words in despair when the moderator-psychologist asked him pointedly whether he felt at peace with himself at that moment and he pointed responded immediately that he was not. Maybe it was at that point, more probably though that night when Laura confronted him with his own mirror-self that told Sam his was one troubled man.  
Yea, it was that seventeen things in order and full steam ahead that got him in trouble on more than on occasion. The need to do so the real villain of the piece. See Sam had just turned seventy and so he should have been trying to slow down, slow down enough to not try to keep doing those seventeen things like he had when he was twenty or thirty but no he was not organically capable of doing so , at least until the other shoe dropped. Dropped hard.      

It was that “other shoe” dropping that made him take stock of his situation, although it had been too little too late. One afternoon a few days after that stormy group therapy session he laid down on his bed to just think through what was driving him to distraction, driving that fury inside him that would not let him be, as he tried to put out the fire in his head. That laying down itself might have been its own breakthrough since he had expected, had fiercely desired to finish up an article that he was writing on behalf a peace walk that was to take place shortly up in Maine, a walk that was dedicated to stopping the wars, mostly of the military-type but also of the environmental degradation against Mother Nature. 

Sam, not normally introspective about his past, about the events growing up that had formed him, events that had as he had told Laura on more than one occasion almost destroyed him. So that was where he started, started to try to find out why he could not relax, had to be “doing and making” as Laura called it under happier circumstances, had to be fueling that fire in his head. Realized that afternoon that as kid in order to survive he had learned at a very young age that in order to placate (and avoid) his overweening mother he had to keep his own counsel, had to go deep inside his head to find solace from the storms around his house. For years he had thought the driving force was because he was a middle child and thus had to fend for himself while his parents (and grandparents) doted respectively his younger and older brothers. But no it had been deeper than that, had been driven by feelings of inadequacy before his mother’s onslaught against his fragile head.        

As Sam traced how at three score and ten he could point to various incidents that had driven him on, had almost made him organically incapable of having a not ever active brain, of going off to some dark places where the devils would not let him relax, that kept him going around and around he realized that he was not able to relax on his own, would need something greater than himself if he was to unwind. Laura had emphatically told him that he would have to take that journey on his own, would have to settle himself down if he was to gain any peace in his whole damn world. Sam suddenly noticed after Laura had expressed her opinion that she had always been the picture of calm, had been his rock when he was in his furies. Funny he had always underestimated, always undervalued that calmness, that solid rock. He, in frustration, at his own situation asked Laura how she had maintained the calm that seemed to follow her around her world.         

Laura, after stating that she too had her inner demons, had to struggle with the same kind of demons that Sam had faced as a child and that she still had difficulties maintaining an inner calm, told Sam that her daily Buddha-like meditations had carried her to a better place. Sam was shocked at her answer. He had always known that Laura was drawn to the spiritual trends around their milieu, the “New Age stuff” he called her interest since it seemed that she had taken tidbits from every new way to salvation outside of formal religion (although she had had bouts with that as well discarding her Methodist high heavens Jehovah you are on your own in this wicked old world upbringing for the communal comfort of the Universalist-Unitarian brethren). He had respected her various attempts to survive in the world the best way she could but those roads were not for him, smacked too much of some new religion, some new road that he could not travel on. But he was also desperate to be at peace, a mantra that he was increasing using to describe his plight.    

Then Laura suggested that they attend a de-stress program that was being held at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as part of what was billed as HUB-week, a week of medical, therapeutic, technological and social events and programs started by a number of well-known institutions in the Boston area like MGH, Harvard, MIT and others. Sam admitted to being clueless about what a de-stress program would be about and had never heard of a Doctor Benson who a million years before had written a best-selling book about the knot the West had put itself in trying to get ahead and offered mediation as a way out of the impasse. Sam was skeptical but agreed to go.

At the event which lasted about two hours various forms of meditative practice were offered including music and laughter yoga. Sam in his mind passed on those efforts. The one segment that drew his attention, the first segment headed by this Doctor Benson had been centered on a simple technique to reduce stress, to relax in fact was called the relax response. Best of all the Doctor had invited each member of the audience to sample his wares. Pick a word or short phrase to focus on, close your eyes, put your hands on your lap and consecrate, really try to concentrate, on that picked term for five minutes (the optimum is closer to ten plus minutes in an actual situation).          

Sam admitted candidly to Laura that while attempting fitfully focusing on one thing, in his case the phrase “at peace,” he had suffered many distractions but that he was very interested in pursuing the practice since he had actually felt that he was getting somewhere before time was called. Laura laughed at Sam’s response, so Sam-like expecting to master in five minutes a technique that she had spent years trying to pursue and had not been anywhere near totally focused yet. He asked her to help him to get started and they did until Sam felt he could do the procedure on his own.

We now have to get back to that “other shoe” dropping though. Although Sam had expressed his good intentions, had felt better after a while Laura had felt that he needed to go on his journey without her. She too now felt that she had to seek what she was looking for alone in this wicked world despite how long they had been together. So Laura called it quits, moved out of the house that she and Sam had lived in for years. Sam is alone on his journey now, committed to trying to find some peace inside despite his heartbreak over the loss of Laura. Every once in a while though in a non-meditative moment he curses that fire in his head. Yeah, he wished he could have put out that fire in his head long ago.        

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Year Or Two With Ernest-“Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” (2015)-A Film Review  




DVD Review

By Film Critic Sandy Salmon

[As long-time readers know I have recently taken over the day to day chores of film review for this site from my old friend and competitor from the American Film Gazette days Sam Lowell (that old friend and competitor by the way Sam’s designation not mine). He has on occasion like recently in reviewing a couple of rock and roll tribute-type films which I did not feel were worthy of coverage taken advantage of his privilege to write something here if the “spirit moves him” (his expression “stolen” from the Quakers I believe).    

That was well and good when it came to those rock and roll films where madmen DJs run a pirate radio station off the coast of England when they are thwarted by the appropriate authorities concerned about the corrupting of the morals of the youth who were gravitating toward the seductive lure of rock music or when a slumming grunge band type mad monk put together a rock band composed of fourth-graders but when Sam tried to horn in a review of a movie connected to a serious literary figure like Ernest Hemingway I had to put my foot down. We had both viewed the film together and he had tried to invoke some seniority baloney to grab this one. I had to take the exceptional step and go to the site administrator Pete Markin and have him explain the “what for” to the recalcitrant Mister Lowell. You see whose name is on the byline so you know how Pete decided “what for.” Sandy Salmon]

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, starring Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson, Adrian Sparks, filmed in Cuba, 2015     

No question young men, maybe women too but Ernest Hemingway by subject matter and by reputation seemed to be the quintessential man’s man writer for good or evil, of the generation before mine and of my own generation who had a taste for the literary life saw him (along with Scott Fitzgerald on his good days, his The Great Gatsby good days) as the paragon of solid sparse writing that drew us in. As a kid anything to do with Hemingway was grabbed up by me and devoured on many a late night lights out read (and re-devoured many times if such a thing can happen with the written word). So when a colleague and I, a man of my generation, saw this film under review together, Papa: Hemingway In Cuba, we almost came to blows about who would review the thing. That emotional response despite the fact that both of us agreed that the film itself seemed kind of maudlin and less than informative as a slice of life semi-biopic.      

Naturally since the film is not an actual biopic about either Hemingway or the young writer, Denn Bart Petticlerc, whose memoir the film is based on the producers used plenty of cinematic license in translating that story to the screen (just as any self-respecting writer would use a great deal of literary license to the same effect). But they got the main thrust of the memoir right-the story of how a young writer (Ed Myers in the film played by Giovanni Ribisi) caught the attention of Ernest Hemingway (played by Adrian Spark who looked the very image of Papa when I looked at some old photographs) and developed a mentor-kind of surrogate son relationship late in Papa’s life a couple of years before he put an end to his saga with a shotgun blast to his head.         

Of course Hemingway seemingly spent half of his life in some kind of exile or out of America anyway and Cuba was his home along with his fourth wife, the well-known foreign correspondent Mary Welsh, played by Joely Richardson, for a good portion of the last twenty or so years of his life. Of course like some kind of fateful muse the period when Papa and Ed were friendly also happened to be a time when the Cuban Revolution, Castro’s guerilla fighters, were coming down from the hills to confront Batista and his forces in the cities. At that point you know that regime’s days were short, extremely short. So between adventure and writing tips they developed a short term bond.  And an odd sort of ménage with Mary (although Ed had a real love interest back at his newspaper in Miami in the days before it became Little Havana).    


As already noted this film suffered from some overwrought emotional scenes of Hemingway in decline, in a love-hate relationship with Mary which seemed cruelty itself on both their parts at time. The real shocker for any writer watching though was Hemingway’s frustration that he could no longer write, had “writer’s block” the dreaded words that every writer, pro or amateur, wakes up in the midnight hour sweating about. Papa had the shakes that way too. Maybe he had lost it at the end but go read The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bells Toll, and The Old Man and The Sea if you want to know what it was like when Papa had the words, when he wrote those sparse clean words for keeps.
The Veil Of Tears, Again- On The Osage Nation-David Grann’s Book:  "Killers Of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders And The Birth Of The FBI."

Click on link below for a detailed interview with author David Grann on NPR’s “Fresh Air” hosted by Terry Gross   

http://www.npr.org/2017/04/17/524348264/largely-forgotten-osage-murders-reveal-a-conspiracy-against-wealthy-native-ameri


Frank Jackman comment:

The veil of tears, again is just about right for a headline dealing with a book  "Killers Of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders And The Birth Of The FBI." by New Yorker staff writer  David Grann  where we yet again hear of another atrocity by  whites against Native Americans. This time a grand conspiracy not to grab land but dough from the wealth provided by the discovery of oil on Osage Nation land. You know someday if there ever is some kind of socialist government one of the big plans will entail making some kind of reparations to the descendants of all those who were here when the first whites arrived. That is for damn sure.