Monday, 23 September 2019

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Although this poem by Patrick Phillips, from American Poetry Review, is dedicated to a person we don't know, "For Paul" conveys feelings we've all experienced.

We don't need to know who "Paul" is. The poem is about sadness and resignation, and all of us have felt like this.

The poet's most recent collection of poems is Elegy for a Broken Machine, published by Knopf.

For Paul

I can see you through the bonfire, with us.
A fifth of Old Crow circling the dark.

Where did that whole life go? In Texas
the chemo inches toward your heart,

things always dwindling to just the two of us,
a crumpled cigarette, a distant car:

our voices, at dawn, so clearly posthumous.
Woodsmoke rising to the ashy stars.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Patrick Phillips, "For Paul," from the American Poetry Review, (Vol. 47, no. 6, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Patrick Phillips and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke star in “The Miracle Worker.” Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The 1962 drama, “The Miracle Worker,” starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, screens at the Soper Reese Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 1 and 6 p.m.

Entry to the film is by donation.

Arthur Penn directed this tense and riveting film version of William Gibson’s play about Helen Keller, a blind and deaf adolescent whose increasingly wild, angry behavior causes her desperate parents to hire teacher Anne Sullivan whose methods are forceful and unusual.

An eight-minute sequence where Sullivan attempts to teach the pupil some manners stands as one of the most electrifying and honest ever committed to film.

Bancroft and Duke both won Academy Awards for their startling, physical performances.

The movie is sponsored by the California Retired Teachers Assn. CalRTA Div. 35. Not rated. Run time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.

The Soper Reese Theatre is located at 275 S. Main St., Lakeport, 707-263-0577, www.soperreesetheatre.com.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

If at times your world seems flat and uninteresting, I recommend making a cardboard viewfinder with a postage-stamp sized window.

Then look at what's around you through that. I think you'll be pleased and surprised by how much you can see when the rest is pushed outside of the frame.

This poem is from my book “Kindest Regards,” published by Copper Canyon Press.

Passing Through

I had driven into one side of a city,
and through it, and was on the way out
on a four-lane, caught up in the traffic,
when I happened to glance to my right
where a man stood alone smoking,
fixed in the shade of a windowless
warehouse, leaning back into a wall
with one shoe cocked against it,
the other one flat on the pavement.
He was beside me for only an instant,
wearing a short-sleeved yellow shirt
and gray work pants, as the hand
that held the cigarette swept out
and away, and he turned to watch it
as with the tip of a finger he tapped
once at the ash, which began to drift
into that moment already behind us,
as I, with the others, sped on.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Ted Kooser, "Passing Through," from Kindest Regards, (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Ted Kooser and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.



‘THE GOLDFINCH’ (Rated R)

American author Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 for the 784-page coming-of-age novel “The Goldfinch,” which I did not have time to read before seeing the movie. What’s more, the local bookstore didn’t carry the Cliff’s Notes version.

How to adapt this massive tome into a film story of grief and shame, guilt and obsession, survival and self-invention was left to Academy Award nominee Peter Straughan (the 2011 dramatic thriller “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”).

The center of “The Goldfinch” is the achingly poignant journey of 13-year-old Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley), who last saw his mother as she was gliding away from him into another gallery of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The non-lineal recounting of Theo’s anxious passage in life results in the opening scene showing a troubled adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) in a hotel room in Amsterdam facing a personal crisis that suggests his life is on the verge of a possible suicidal ending.

Flashing back to the art museum, young Theo finds his life shattered when a terrorist bomb explodes taking the lives of many visitors, including his mother, while destroying priceless works of art.

For the rest of his life, Theo will be haunted by the traumatic event at the museum, as he and his mom should not have been at the museum that day, resulting in his lifelong feeling of survivor’s guilt.

Theo’s mother had been called to his school because her son had gotten into some trouble, but they were early and it was raining, so they ducked into the famous New York museum to look at Dutch masterpieces.

Dutch painter Carel Fabritius’s “The Goldfinch,” portrait of a small bird tethered to its perch on display at the museum, happened to the mother’s favorite. Ironically, the painter died in a 1654 gunpowder explosion that also destroyed most of his work.

While Theo’s gaze was caught by pretty redheaded Pippa (Aimee Laurence), his life was spared. The horrific blast created a gray moonscape of choking dust, debris and death, and in the rubble was the painting of the chained bird.

With his dying breath, an elderly gentleman named Blackwell urges Theo to take the priceless artwork of the goldfinch and deliver his ring to his partner Hobie (Jeffrey Wright) at an antique store.

In Hobie, Theo finds a lifelong mentor who tutors on the fine art of the restoration and dealing of antiques, leading to the adult Theo’s career path that ends up on shaky ground when a slippery art dealer (Denis O’Hare) lodges accusations of forging antiques for sale.

With deadbeat father Larry (Luke Wilson) nowhere in sight, young Theo is placed with the family of one of his school friends, the Barbours, where he forms a bond with Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman), who shares his appreciation of art.

The upper-class Barbour family lives on ritzy Park Avenue, with a patriarch (Boyd Gaines) who seemingly cares only about sailing during the summer months in Maine. On the other hand, the stylish, reserved Mrs. Barbour gradually offers Theo tender affection.

Just when Theo is comfortable in his new home, the estranged dad shows up with his floozy girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) to take his son to live in a desolate exurb of Las Vegas where surrounding homes are boarded up for foreclosure sales.

Befriended by Russian-born delinquent Boris (Finn Wolfhard), the only boy in the neighborhood, Theo falls into a world of illicit drugs, drinking and smoking, trying to escape a family life marked by his father’s careless disregard and flights of anger.

When tragedy strikes, young Theo decides to flee Sin City, after scraping together enough cash to buy a bus ticket back to New York City, where Hobie is sure to provide shelter.

Reaching adulthood, Theo has held on to the stolen painting, keeping it wrapped in newspaper as a metaphorical reminder of his beloved mother. Yet, the artwork is a secret talisman, which both comforts and torments him.

Meanwhile, Theo achieves financial success as an antiques dealer, dressing fashionably and reconnecting with the Barbour family, and then becoming engaged to Kitsey Barbour (Willa Fitzgerald).

Romantic complications arise when Theo realizes he still has feelings for the now adult Pippa (Ashleigh Cummings), but nothing upends his life more than the chance encounter with adult Boris (Aneurin Barnard) and his ties to the criminal underworld.

Even though lacking familiarity with the source material, I would venture to say that the filmmakers were challenged to distill an expansive story with a lot of characters into a compelling narrative that works for a two and a half hours running time.

And yet, for what seems counterintuitive in regards to the abundance of storylines and potential for prolonged character development, “The Goldfinch” is too often lackluster, plodding and aimless.

Devotees of Donna Tartt’s opus may be curious to see the silver screen adaptation if for no better reason than to contemplate missed opportunities. All things considered, “The Goldfinch” appears to be tethered to its own cinematic limitations.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

The Mendo-Lake Singers Chorus. Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Mendo-Lake Singers Chorus is inviting women who love to sing to attend a sing-along party and experience the fun of singing a cappella, four-part harmony.

The party will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the group’s rehearsal space, 1125 Martin St., Lakeport.

Refreshments to follow. This is a free event.

Guests are encouraged to sing but are also welcome to just listen. You do not need to be able to read music and the chorus can help you find a part that fits your voice range.

If you would like more information about the Mendo-Lake Singers, visit http://mendolakesingers.wixsite.com/mendolake or follow Mendo-Lake Singers Chorus on Facebook.



‘ANGEL HAS FALLEN’ (Rated R)

Gerard Butler, seemingly typecast now as an action figure when not doing voiceover work in animated films, owns the role of Secret Service agent Mike Banning in the same way that Bruce Willis was police officer John McClane in the “Die Hard” franchise.

As part of the Secret Service presidential detail in “Angel Has Fallen,” Banning, though he must often improvise and violate agency protocols, doesn’t have the same wisecracking, free-wheeling swagger of Willis’ McClane. He’d be better served with more humor.

In the third installment of the “Fallen” franchise, Butler’s blunt, no-nonsense Agent Banning is once again in the thick of dealing with an assassination plot against the president of the United States.

In the previous films, “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen,” Banning served Aaron Eckhart’s President Asher, and Morgan Freeman was Speaker of the House and then Vice President Allan Trumbull.

What seems fitting to his authoritative voice and serene manner, Freeman’s Trumbull is now president (still a step-down from once being God in “Evan Almighty”) and targeted for assassination.

A mysterious cabal of mercenaries that thrives financially on ginning up military conflicts just might be part of a conspiracy hatched by renegade forces within the highest levels of the government eager to push Trumbull out of the picture.

Too many missions have taken a toll on Banning. As the father of an infant with his wife Leah (Piper Perabo), the agent might be better off taking Trumbull’s offer of the position of director of the Secret Service.

Even though Banning is dealing with physical injuries and an addiction to painkillers, the thought of a desk-bound job is not appealing to an action hero who relishes the fight no matter the odds.

Despite his condition, Banning ponders his future and realizes he likes the action during a training exercise with an old buddy from his military past, Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), who now runs a Blackwater-style contracting outfit.

Banning’s taste for combat surfaces during a relaxing fishing trip that turns out to be anything but that when the president and his protection detail are assaulted by missile-laden drones that hone in on targets identified by facial recognition.

The dedicated agent manages to rescue Trumbull from the attack but all of his fellow Secret Service agents are killed. Trumbull and Banning end up in the hospital, with the president hanging by a thread in a coma.

Surprised to himself handcuffed to his hospital bed, Banning is interrogated by haughty FBI agent Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith), who believes that he’s behind the plot, notwithstanding his devotion to a president unable to disavow the accusation.

Not helping the situation is that the feds have found $10 million in an offshore account in Banning’s name. Obvious to everyone except the government is that our hero is being framed and a perceptive audience will soon figure out the culprits.

Meanwhile, the wily Banning manages to escape federal custody, and now he’s got every law enforcement officer in the nation, as well as the bad guys behind the attack, coming after him.

Caught in the position of being the “wrong man” just like Dr. Richard Kimble in “The Fugitive” or in a Hitchcock movie, Banning is on the lam so that he can prove his innocence of suspected treason.

The tricky part is to evade his Secret Service colleagues, FBI agents and local and state police without causing harm but having no qualms about gun fights and explosions that would decimate the real villains.

On the run with no safe space to hide, Banning seeks out his estranged father Clay Banning (Nick Nolte), a veteran of the Vietnam War living off the grid in a cabin in a remote area of West Virginia.

The reunion is a bit awkward at first but fortunately for his son the reclusive old man, who bears a passing resemblance to the Unabomber, was paranoid enough to create underground tunnels and to mine the perimeter of his property with plenty of explosives.

Meanwhile, paranoia is rampant in Washington, D.C., where Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) has stepped in as the nation’s leader during Trumbull’s incapacity and is fully engaged in saber-rattling that puts the country on the brink of war with Russia.

Things are going to get very ugly when the bad guys learn that Trumbull is coming out of his coma and Banning is the only person who has a real clue about how to stop an insidious plot from causing irreparable harm.

Trapped in a chaotic world of ceaseless jeopardy, Banning, the expert hunter who had become the hunted, is put to the test of his high-level combat skills and ability to out-think the twisted minds behind the conspiracy.

Geared to an audience that enjoys adrenaline-fueled action, “Angel Has Fallen” does not disappoint on that score, even if the storyline is predictable.

The franchise could punch things up a bit with more humor to ameliorate the tone, but all in all, watching Gerard Butler as the proud warrior is fun.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

24Sep
09.24.2019 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Mendo-Lake Singers Chorus sing-along party
25Sep
09.25.2019 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
‘Coffee & Conversation’
Upper Lake Senior Center
25Sep
09.25.2019 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
First 5 Lake Commission
25Sep
09.25.2019 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Rock of Faith Church Bible study
26Sep
09.26.2019 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Lake County Global Climate Strike
26Sep
09.26.2019 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Clearlake City Council

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