Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Films of John Cassavetes: Too Late Blues (1961)

TOO LATE BLUES (1961)
Too Late Blues is quite the juxtaposition viewing when double-billed with the John Cassavetes previous picture, Shadows. Both films concern the unglamorous side of jazz musicians, but, whereas Shadows still feels spontaneous and edgy, Blues feels weighed down, never fully reaching the scales it’s attempting. The core problem lies with miscast Bobby Darin’s one note, though earnest, delivery. Darin, a truly energetic 20th century legend on the music stage, comes across stiff and uncomfortable on screen, making his scenes with Stella Stevens unconvincing. Still Blues is watchable because the Cassavetes script has major bounce when the plot veers toward an artist that is unwavering in his convictions—you almost wonder what more the finished product could have accomplished with Cassavetes, a damn fine actor, mouthing his own words (co-written with Richard Carr). And the supporting cast of Vince Edwards, Everett Chambers, and Rupert Crosse carry the picture over lulls making it worthwhile. Oh, and for jazz enthusiasts, there’s Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, Jimmy Rowles, Benny Carter, Uan Rasey, and Milt Bernhart on the soundtrack.

 
SHADOWS (1959)
A moody Charles Mingus score accentuates this vivid look at several desperate lives via the debut lens of John Cassavetes. The grit seeps off the screen as Cassavetes positions his camera in seedy New York 1950's nightclubs and on the bouelvards for realistic brawls. The improvised vibe indeed feels very loose, in keeping with the Beat movement of the time, though we now know a lot of it was reshot after an earlier version didn’t pass the director’s high standards. Gena Rowlands said in a Guardian interview that her husband probably “would have kept reshooting and editing for the rest of his life!” The plot revolves around a woman (Leila Goldoni) entering into an interracial relationship and its consequences. She has jazz musician brothers (Hugh Hurd, Ben Carruthers) who look out for her while enduring their own hardships making a living and surviving the mean streets. Though wooden acting sporadically becomes unintentionally funny, this film still holds up and is a snapshot of life not to miss.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Short Stories, Poems, and Feeling Blue

I had the pleasure of publishing a brand new Rusty Barnes short story at the BEAT to a PULP webzine. Rusty is one of my favorite poets but this is the first time I've featured some of his fiction. Top notch, of course. And speaking of poetry, a colloboration of mine with writer Stephen J. Golds called "Waitin' Around To Die"  appears at Punk Noir Magazine. 


Lastly, I first became aware of Joni Mitchell’s Blue when Rolling Stone printed their instantly outmoded "Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years" in 1987. That her masterpiece was ranked at 46, I’d later learn, was one of the many problems with the male-dominated list, but I’m grateful they at least printed the final verse to “The Last Time I Saw Richard.”


I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want nobody comin' over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin' behind bottles in dark cafes


Those lines hit me like a Joe Frazier right. This was dynamic poetry and I wanted to know more, hear more. Pre-internet, instant gratification was a rare commodity. I waited until pay day and then headed to Tape World where I purchased a cassette of Blue. Luckily, my car stereo had a tape player, so I could listen to my new purchase on the ride home.

To read more on Mitchell's classic, please read my full column at LitReactor.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Blue at 50

My piece over at LitReactor on Joni Mitchell's BLUE album is a bit eclectic—thoughts ramble on because I had so much to say about an album that has saved my soul on more than one occasion.

Monday, June 14, 2021

PINS at The Five-Two

PINS is based on a true crime that impacted me not just in the senseless, horror of the murder but the community’s inept social media responses. New York State describes a child under the age of 18 who does not attend school, or behaves in a way that is dangerous or out of control, or often disobeys his or her parents, guardians or other authorities, as a Person In Need of Supervision or ‘PINS’. Thanks as always to Gerald So for featuring my work at The Five-Two. Names of the damned have been altered.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

No Line for a Common Thread

 "No Line for a Common Thread" is my second published poem of '21. And without Stephen J. Golds it would not have seen the light of day. Thanks to his encouragement and legend Paul D. Brazill for making it happen at his mighty indie Punk Noir Magazine. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

All the Violent Memories by J. B. Stevens

“Outgoing Tracers” is the first poem in All the Violent Memories and that harrowing recounting alone—of a soldier bargaining with The Almighty—would be worth the price of the collection. Stevens follows it with 22 more equally traumatic experiences where the human spirit finds a way to not just endure but to overcome. 

In a vein similar to Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon who wrote of World War I’s grimness, J.B. Stevens documents in stark prose the horrors inflicted during war and its aftermath.

This is the latest in the First Cut series from Close to The Bone.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sunday, March 7, 2021

History of Present Complaint by HLR

History of Present Complaint will undoubtedly, and understandably, draw references to other confessional poets—connections to Anne Sexton and Sylvia Path came to mind as I read through this in one sitting. But what makes HLR’s work stand apart is the uniqueness of her voice. She is operating on a plateau reserved for the innovative. 

HLR structures storytelling in a Kafkaesque manner that spins the reader deep into a cavernous parallax of the narrator’s discordant reality. She builds compassion through repetition and precision of her account. When she all caps the word BLACKOUT multiple times during a particularly traumatic episode, it’s followed by SLEEP, and you long for her to find a little peace from the pain, mental illness, and lack of support from an inefficient health bureaucracy.

HLR offers a vibrant voice, an unforgettable experience, a must read.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Jesus In The Ghost Room by Rusty Barnes

 Rusty Barnes pulls the curtain back on JESUS IN THE GHOST ROOM with an ominous tone. “This is the year of terrible things ...” and yet it's not just the narrator's life that's on edge, he notes that nature itself is off kilter: "the moss doesn't even grow on the right side of the tree any more." From “Annus Horribilis,” this clever MEMENTO in poem finds our guide back at a picnic the night before as “my hands swirl in the air on their way to your pockets.” What exactly happened is open to interpretation, possibly just the rush of new love, but there’s enough mystery to read in a couple different scenarios. 

Reminiscence grounds a significant portion of this collection. Mr. Barnes spirits us much farther back in his timeline to the family ties that forever haunt. It is “Summer 1974” and a father looms godlike in a young kid’s life. A sharp, familiar image from the time period is conveyed with the line “cigarette packs rolled into both sleeves,” but it’s the "like epaulets” description that delivers distinctive style. Other highlights include “Listening to Hugo Winterhalter in the Early AM” and “Fire.” 

Mr. Barnes touches on many subjects, including his mom, loss of faith, male bonding, first sexual experience, nature, and imagination. An eclectic collection of verse, yes, and very relatable.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Sandpiper


My latest verse has been published thanks to Rusty Barnes and Heather Sullivan at their tremendous Live Nude Poems. Thanks in advance for reading!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Blogging, Publishing, and Life

I have a post up at the Western Fictioneers blog reviewing Tom Clavin's DODGE CITY. One of my favorite books on Wyatt Earp that strips away a lot of the mythologizing and reveals a even more interesting historical figure. 

Big news for me that, as I said on Twitter, has me floating on cloud nine: Close To The Bone has announced they will publish my poetry chapbook Dead Burying the Dead Under a Quaking Aspen. 

And on the homefront we are still socially distancing and trying to get by the best we can. I'm fortunate to be gainfully employed (outside of writing) and have faith, though shaky, that this country can reach a plateau of stability sooner than later. Hope you are all doing well too.