Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

It’s not at all unusual for a poet who’s been impressed by someone else’s poem to think, “I wish I’d written THAT!”

I’ve never read a poem by the late Lisel Mueller—and I’ve read nearly all of them—when I didn’t feel just that way.

Mueller died at age 96 this past February. Here’s the poem that stands as an epigraph to her Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Alive Together: New and Selected Poems,” published by Louisiana State University Press.

In Passing

How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious


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 ©1996 by Lisel Mueller, "In Passing," from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems, (Louisiana State University Press, 1996). Poem reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press. Introduction copyright @2020 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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

We’re entering a new kind of autumn. This one arrives after months and months when everything was new and strange, and offered very little but bad news for the future.

All spring and summer parents wondered, can a country have autumn without buses full of students laughing together?

Although the fortunes of people can’t be predicted, nature can be. Or some of it can.

Here’s a poem by Barbara Crooker of Pennsylvania to introduce September. It was first published in a recent issue of Spillway.

And Now It’s September,

and the garden diminishes: cucumber leaves rumpled
and rusty, zucchini felled by borers, tomatoes sparse
on the vines. But out in the perennial beds, there’s one last
blast of color: ignitions of goldenrod, flamboyant
asters, spiraling mums, all those flashy spikes waving
in the wind, conducting summer’s final notes.
The ornamental grasses have gone to seed, haloed
in the last light. Nights grow chilly, but the days
are still warm; I wear the sun like a shawl on my neck
and arms. Hundreds of blackbirds ribbon in, settle
in the trees, so many black leaves, then, just as suddenly,
they’re gone. This is autumn’s great Departure Gate,
and everyone, boarding passes in hand, waits
patiently in a long, long line.


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 ©2020 by Barbara Crooker, "And Now It’s September," (Spillway, No. 23, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Barbara Crooker and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I like poems that rhyme so smoothly and inconspicuously that when you get to the end and look back you’re surprised to discover that you’ve just read a sonnet, this one by Eleanor Channell, who lives in California.

This poem appeared in the journal Rattle.

Rivermouth

If you weren’t here, I’d fear the surge
of surf. I’d watch the moon wax and wane,
feel the constant pulling of tides, the urge
to drown myself in pity and booze, to explain
my life as “Cape Disappointment” with hard luck
spinning and winning souls like mine, a jetty
of riprap pointing to my faults, the muck
of my past too deep to dredge. But you say
you see in me a strength that strengthens you,
a heart that yearns for your heart and finds it,
upsetting even the odds we thought we knew,
renewing old hopes, confounding old conflicts.
All I know is we’re here, my love, our bed warm,
your body a bulwark to ride out the storm.

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 ©Eleanor Channell, "Rivermouth," from Rattle, (No. 67, Spring 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Eleanor Channell and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 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.



‘RATCHED’ ON NETFLIX

Television show creator, producer and writer Ryan Murphy seems to have a penchant for sex, violence and the macabre, if one were to judge his work by the series “American Horror Story.”

That particular FX series might as well have included a whole new season of “Ratched,” now streaming on Netflix, a series based on the character in the Ken Kesey novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the movie of the same title.

The setting of “Ratched” is 1947 and Sarah Paulson’s Nurse Ratched may be intended to be an origin story for the character that Louise Fletcher delivered so brilliantly in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in a cold and heartless manner.

Fans of Ryan Murphy’s work may care little about any comparisons to the 1975 movie. In “Ratched,” there’s no Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy to rally scared patients in a mental institution to rebel against Fletcher’s oppressive Nurse Ratched.

The eight-episode series may be binge-worthy to anyone curious enough to learn how Nurse Ratched evolves from a conflicted character who shows signs of being alternately empathetic to calculating to downright malicious.

The series opens with a disturbingly gruesome slaying of four Catholic priests in their parsonage by Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock), who is then committed to Lucia State Hospital to determine whether he is sane enough to stand trial.

Six months later, Nurse Ratched arrives at the asylum located in a gorgeous coastal California area that looks close to Big Sur. She brashly talks her way into an interview with hospital director Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones).

After scheming her way into a nurse position, Ratched discovers head nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) suspicious of her intentions and not thrilled to have her joining the staff, leading to obvious tension between the two.

Ratched takes a keen interest in Tolleson, who has become a political pawn for blustery Governor Wilburn (Vincent D’Onofrio) during his re-election campaign that possibly hinges on the death penalty for the killer.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s aide Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon) forms a pressing attention to Nurse Ratched. Then there’s Sharon Stone’s eccentric wealthy matron with a visceral hatred of Dr. Hanover, such that she plots against him.

Whether the characters are intriguing or not, “Ratched” has plenty of beautiful Art Deco style and gorgeous scenery, which does not alleviate the menace oozing with every torturous therapy of the inmates.

CABLE FALL PREVIEW – PART THREE

As far as the biannual television press tours were concerned, subscription cable giant HBO always operated independently even though it is part of WarnerMedia Entertainment.

The WarnerMedia umbrella includes TNT, TBS, and TruTV, but HBO remains the big elephant under the tent, and so it commands the most attention even though TNT’s “The Alienist: Angel of Darkness” also earned a spot on this summer’s virtual press tour.

Paul Rudnick’s comic satire “Coastal Elites” on HBO features Bette Midler, Issa Rae, Sarah Paulson, Kaitlyn Dever and Dan Levy as characters from New York to Los Angeles coping with politics and the pandemic.

“Coastal Elites” is produced entirely under quarantine guidelines, presenting contemporary stories of breaking down and breaking through that are intended to be funny, searing, and poignant, as far as we are told.

HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” got an early jump on the fall season when it was released last month. This ten-episode series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) across 1950s Jim Crow America.

Joining these two is Atticus’ Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on the road trip from Chicago in search of Atticus’ missing father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams).

Their search-and-rescue turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of segregated America and monstrous creatures that could be ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.

The six-part limited series “The Undoing” arrives on HBO in late October, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as Grace and Jonathan Fraser, who are living the only lives they ever wanted for themselves.

Overnight, a chasm opens their lives: a violent death and a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a very public disaster and horrified by the ways in which she failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another.

No specific premiere date on HBO Max has been set for the comedic thriller “The Flight Attendant,” but we know that Kelly Cuoco in the starring role finds her entire life can change in one night.

As the titular character, Cuoco wakes up in the wrong hotel hungover from the night before, in the wrong bed, with a dead man – and no idea what happened. The miniseries is based on the novel of the same name by best-selling author Chris Bohjalian.

Ridley Scott’s “Raised by Wolves” on HBO Max centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. With more humans on the planet, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.

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




‘TENET’ RATED PG-13

With films like “Inception” and “Interstellar” in his portfolio, writer and director Christopher Nolan has established himself as an auteur of cerebral and existential thrillers that seemingly defy the typical time and space continuum.

Now along comes “Tenet,” an audacious journey through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real-time. Nolan resorts to inversion, reversing the natural order of things to move his story in a new dimension.

Time is an unalterable dynamic in our existence, but in the hands of Christopher Nolan, time becomes a compellingly controllable strand that is able to be bent, twisted, juxtaposed, or most tellingly, inverted.

In his own words as reported in the press notes, the writer-director of “Tenet” claims, “The story takes on ideas of time and how we experience it – interacting a science fiction component with the classic elements of the spy genre.”

As a reputed aficionado of the James Bond films, Nolan’s ambitious scope is to produce a global action thriller with one man in a secret organization trying to save the world from the deadly plans of an egomaniacal villain.

That singular agent is only known as The Protagonist (John David Washington), apparently a CIA operative recruited by a mysterious intelligence group that puts him through a test for a promotion to a top-secret assignment that would be challenging even for Agent 007.

The action begins with a rather startling terrorist assault on an opera house in Kiev. The Protagonist has embedded himself as a double agent within the terror group with the objective of retrieving an unknown valuable property.

The details of the mission are elusive but the execution of the heist is a pulse-pounding introduction to thrilling action that is heightened by the thunderous musical score of Ludwig Goransson that is every bit as bombastic as what you might expect from Hans Zimmer.

Following this heist escapade, The Protagonist is teamed up with new British partner Neil (Robert Pattinson), an enigmatic figure about whom we learn so little that his background and previous affiliations remain undisclosed.

The audience may wonder about Neil’s relationship to The Protagonist. Is he a comrade or a foe? How do we decide if this is someone to trust or should we be skeptical? What is before the audience for consideration are complicated matters on many levels.

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that the malevolent antagonist in this espionage thriller is Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), a vicious Russian oligarch dealing arms that expose the world to the threat of annihilation.

The quest to uncover sinister underground networks of international arms dealers and terrorists takes Neil and The Protagonist on journeys that may or may not be fruitful to the endgame.

One such venture has the duo traveling to Mumbai where they scale the exterior of a high-rise building to the penthouse lair of arms dealer Priya (Indian actress Dimple Kapadia) who holds vital information about the Russian villain Sator.

The Protagonist’s pathway to reaching Sator is through the oligarch’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) who is residing in London and taking care of their young son who is attending a private school.

Now that we have arrived this deep into the plot, we must reflect that what has transpired seems confusing. Indeed, the story is convoluted on many levels, and it helps little that much of the dialogue is hard to hear due to poor sound.

The excitement is more visual than any conversation that takes place, with the possible exception of the chilling malice that oozes from the amoral, predatory Russian oligarch defined by his sadistic character.

When the action kicks in, it’s really great, even during the instances where the science-fiction is layered in. A jet airliner barreling along the runaway for a direct hit on a building is one of the more linear set-pieces.

However, when a scientist (Clemence Poesy) introduces The Protagonist to bullets that go back in time, she says, “Don’t try to understand it.” Well, we may not fully grasp the meaning of this inversion either.

Yet, the best part of non-linear action comes with an exciting car chase sequence on a highway with vehicles careening backwards and forwards, some of them flipping in the air and crashing spectacularly.

During these uncertain times when movie theaters remain closed in parts of the nation, the salient question is whether “Tenet” should be considered a fitting candidate for home viewing. Apparently not for Christopher Nolan, and there are valid reasons why.

In keeping with his asymmetrical technique of storytelling and to amplify the immersive moviegoing experience, Nolan once again relies on IMAX cameras and large-format film to pull the audience deep into the story.

“Tenet” is a sensory experience in visual and auditory terms that can only be gratified to the fullest extent on the big screen. Above all else, “Tenet” is a grand yet baffling spectacle that is incapable of being downsized to a living room flat screen.

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



‘THE SLEEPOVER’ ON NETFLIX

An action caper with heart, “The Sleepover” is a family adventure-comedy that takes an interesting turn when teenager Clancy (Sadie Stanley) and her younger middle-school brother Kevin (Maxwell Simkins) discover the secret life of their stay-at-home mom.

The parents seem like normal suburban folks. The father, Ron (Ken Marino), is a pastry shop owner always willing to test his latest concoctions with the family. The mother, Margot (Malin Ackerman), volunteers as a lunch monitor at the local school.

Kevin’s goofball antics get him into trouble at school. A class presentation of his father’s biography is such farfetched fiction that his teacher requires a do-over. His outlandish dance moves in the school bathroom get caught on camera and go viral.

Clancy, a talented cellist with daunting stage fright, is more subdued, and yet highly irritated that she’s the only one in her grade without a cellphone that her overprotective mother won’t let her have.

Kevin has a sleepover with his nerdy friend Lewis (Lucas Jaye), a bedwetter who happens to be uptight about anything outside of his dull routine. Meanwhile, Clancy wants to sneak out to a party with her friend Mim (Cree Cicchino), a social media maven.

The kids’ plans for the night are upended when Margot and Ron get kidnapped at gunpoint. It turns out that Margot has a secret past unknown to the rest of the family. She’s been in witness protection for years after turning state’s evidence against her old crew.

Unlikely as it seems, Margot was a master jewel thief in league with a bunch of fellow crooks, including her ex-flame Leo (Joe Manganiello), a hunky stud who’s bound to elicit pangs of jealousy from Margot’s somewhat awkward husband.

Following a trail of clues left behind by Margot, the kids locate a storage locker filled with gadgets that would be the envy of James Bond and other action heroes. Now it’s up to the spunky quartet to get from Cape Cod to Boston where a major heist is to occur at a gala affair.

Put to the test of one last job, Margot is tasked with stealing a jeweled crown from a royal couple, and Ron is forced to tag along disguised as an assistant with an amusing lack of control over various bodily functions and inability to maintain a French accent.

When the time is right, Margot reveals that she’s got the chops of a skilled fighter that match those of someone like Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” and the recent Netflix film, “The Old Guard.”

Nothing about “The Sleepover” suggests that a groundbreaking twist on the family-centered adventure genre is at hand. That hardly matters when the hyperactive rescue mission results in a pleasant and enjoyable caper that is watchable fun for the family.

Netflix is certainly the right platform for “The Sleepover,” a perfectly serviceable made-for-TV movie that is more appropriate for home entertainment than viewing at the multiplex that might not be open for business anyway.

THE CW NETWORK FALL SEASON PREVIEW

An asterisk continues to haunt the legend of Roger Maris breaking the home run record of Babe Ruth that occurred when regular season games had expanded from 154 to 162. Something similar hangs over sports this year, but also on programming for the fall television season.

The CW network is not alone for what has been described as a heavily asterisked schedule looming for the upcoming 2020-21 TV season. The pandemic has scrambled not only production of shows but the timetable for new programs to be premiered.

Nevertheless, CW has one new series coming this fall in “Devils,” an international thriller that follows Massimo Ruggero (Alessandro Borghi), the head of trading at an investment bank, and his mentor, Dominic Morgan (Patrick Dempsey), the CEO of the bank.

After Dominic appoints another colleague above Massimo following a nasty promotion battle, Massino ends up the prime suspect in a murder investigation. To clear his name, Massimo becomes involved in a financial war and is forced choose whether to support or oppose Dominic.

The greatly anticipated “Superman & Lois” is now set to debut in January 2021. The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) and journalist Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) are now dealing with the stress and pressures of being working parents in today’s society.

Complicating the daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin) could inherit their superhero father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a local loan officer and Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez).

Dull moments are not found in the life of a superhero, as Lois’ father (Dylan Walsh) expects Superman to vanquish a villain at a moment’s notice. Idyllic life in Smallville for Clark and Lois is also upended when a mysterious stranger (Wole Parks) enters their lives.

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

Upcoming Calendar

29Sep
29Sep
09.29.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market
29Sep
09.29.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
30Sep
1Oct
10.01.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
1Oct
10.01.2020 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Thompson virtual town hall
3Oct
10.03.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
6Oct
10.06.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
8Oct
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Lakeport Police medication collection
10Oct
10.10.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market

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