Thursday, January 26, 2017

Film Pairing — Orson Welles And The World Of Noir

The 1940s seemed to be the best years of film noir. Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Sterling Hayden, and Richard Widmark were the regular tough guys of the genre. Another actor stands out, not only for being the center of attention on screen, but one of the major forces off screen.  Not always my personal favorite, Orson Welles, has nonetheless created four of the best in the genre just short of single-handedly.  Here are two of them.

The Stranger — In black & white, in high contrast and with a huge cast of shadows, Welles teams with an innocent beauty, Loretta Young in small-town post WWII America. Released in 1946 to an America recovering from the war and the horrors of Nazism, we are introduced to a fleeing war criminal (Welles), his pursuer, Edward G. Robinson and the criminal’s love interest  (Young). The film, directed by Welles, is melodramatic, stilted and yet suspenseful. Notes from various critics suggest Welles had wanted a more Nazi-oriented slant to the film rather than a small town murder story. It nonetheless works in its released form. In addition to the excellent cinematography by Russell Metty, I was also pleased to see a very young and talented Richard Long, who played Loretta Young’s younger brother.
The Lady From Shanghai — If The Stranger was muted by too much convention, The Lady From Shanghai might have suffered at the time of its release in 1947 by being too unconventional. We have Rita Hayworth, at her most devastatingly beautiful, playing the girlfriend of an extremely wealthy, older man, Everett Sloane, who doesn’t mind sharing her with the Irish tough guy, Orson Welles. Aside from the constant “sophisticated’ chatter, there is true noir here in my opinion, with twist on twist, dark and ingenious cinematography, and the lovely backdrops of Acapulco, Sausalito and San Francisco. Not Shanghai, however. The last scene was extraordinarily innovative, well worth the price of admission alone. The film was directed by Welles, based on the novel, If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King.

What would you drink on an autumn evening in New England? Maybe a sherry or port? That would do while you watch The Stranger. However traipsing about aboard a yacht in Acapulco might suggest some sort of icy tequila drink to accompany the second half of the double feature.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Opinion — Gibberish, Twaddle, Prattle, Jibber-Jabble, Gobbledygook, Mumbo Jumbo

To delineate the perambulation that necessitates a universal prerogative, taking into account the obfuscation essential to the diabolical essence of any kind of mechanical extrapolation, requires the blistering finesse of a manipulative rescission on behalf of the behooved party, or should I say the partly behaved parody?

Therefore, congruity should balance an effortless push toward a mendacious solution given the hyperbole of intrinsic confabulation. Consequentially, the foreboding criteria ingested ceremoniously cannot abide the diffidence shown in any prerequisite body of information that, in the end, cannot sustain any embodiment that castigates a monotonous malefactor.

One cannot fail to agree that any impediment to the forlorn utility brings forth an equal facade of categorically mammoth opposition creating a vortex of intermingled ozone simultaneously creating a perplexed vision of anonymity and incongruity.

The abysmal decorum that permeates a non-ideological per diem cannot support epidemical practices sustained by millennial proposals. Verification of custodial benchmarks attribute fallacies designed to upend hierarchical positions usually embodied in fallacious curmudgeal edifices surrounding mendacious collusion. However, it should be noted that residual quantum indices play havoc with congenital exigencies, exasperating a perspicacious convolution of collegial  limitations. Make no mistake, veritable inhabitation of molecular structures can and often do contribute to the sustenance of impervious malediction. The diaspora of misdirections remains to be curated by those who mistake value in mere presence or no value in absence ergo netti netti. No validation is exhumed from a Eureka moment when it is discovered that some parts, though not all of them, have the hue of truth.

For those who have a predilection for primordial goo, let’s transubstantiate the arduous netherworlds of the barbarous and heathen fractals of symbiosis. Whether we inhabit the puerile haunts of the perennial conglomerate is of little value if that stance liquidates the folly of human endeavor. Be alert to the ashen past while we anticipate the perpetual explosion of the future.

In light of all this, let’s reconsider the dubious assumptions that permeate the epic coarseness of our conceptual analysis. The hyperbolic and often gratuitous hiatus can be abnormally ephemeral if not traversed in pedantic artifice. Though magnanimous in gesture, retrospective equine symbolism, for example, can conflate entrances and exits in a manner that makes a perimeter an excess of access, not to mention egress without progress therefore and henceforth polluting our existence with false equivalence.

I’m Ronald Tierney, a monkey at a typewriter, and I approve this message.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Commentary — Reading, Writing And Reality

When I was a kid, sometime after first grade, my best friend and I used to go down to his basement where he had a box of presidents. Thirty-four of them at the time.  Each, from Washington to Eisenhower, was rendered realistically in white plastic and stood no more than six inches high.  He also had a bunch of model cars — maybe more than a dozen conveniently in proportion to our presidents. We’d each choose our gang as you might choose a softball team among friends and neighbors. We’d choose automobiles the same way. And then we’d engage in some sort of adventure, careening under chairs and behind boxes as if we were writing and directing a film. Of the presidents, I chose Franklin Pierce first. He was my main character for no other reason than I thought he was the best looking of the lot. My friend chose Jefferson. My friend may have had more profound reasoning. Pierce was not one of the best, historically. I also chose a Lincoln for my main car (my father always drove a Ford) and for my friend, whose father drove a Plymouth) a Chrysler Imperial. Hours would pass as some sort of drama would unfold. What possible scenarios were created escapes me now.

Poster by Mark Stevenson
My friend was also involved in sports and though he would pick me first to be on his team in neighborhood basketball games even though we all knew I’d still be there for the last pick. (I was that bad.) I eventually disengaged when it came to athletic competitions.  Even so, our fictional adventures continued.  We would go down to the crick (a very small creek) with crawdads and frogs and, with a few additional friends, recreate the adventures of Robin Hood.  My friend was Robin and I was either Friar Tuck or Little John because this happened during my prolonged chubby phase — a phase that has come back to haunt me in my golden years. I preferred Little John.  I wasn’t all that religious, even then.  We would use stripped branches from fallen trees as staffs and dowel rods (for a nickel from the local hardware) as swords. There were also woody, willowy weeds that with some kitchen yarn could be used as a bow and, broken in the right place, as arrows. Our dramas were improvisational but could last from noon to nightfall. I’m sure there were kids our age all over the country doing some version of this.

My chubby phase also contributed to the next step in creating alternate worlds. In the mid-grades of elementary school, my friend and I participated in the annual talent show by writing our own Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton skits.  Even without Alice and Trixie, the performances were a huge success. Our classmates preferred our often slapstick comedy to the accordion players and tap dancers.  We wrote the skits, rehearsed them. and improvised during performances. I was Ralph because of my previously referenced girth and my friend did a spectacularly goofy Norton, especially considering he was also excellent as Robin Hood.

My good friend and I eventually went in separate directions. Initially sports won out for him.  There was nothing he wasn’t good at. Football in his younger years, and later as a successful photographer and father.  I kicked about — the Army and jobs in communications mostly – but never really gave up imaginary worlds and the desire to share them. I acted a bit in community and small theater while holding down sometimes fascinating day jobs.  I wrote plays.  One, “Death In Bloom,” saw the stage. I helped start an alternative newspaper, which is still going 25 years later and, at forty, began writing mysteries. It took awhile, but I found something that enabled me to invest serious energy in made-up stories.

The best part about being a novelist is I can engage in my adventure while at a desk, in the shower, or putting together the evening meal. At any time, or any place I can enter my world, and when I grow tired of it I can leave it — most of the time. The worst thing is that my nature has grown a bit anti-social. With the exception of my brothers and a few close friends, meeting with other people is anxiety producing.  I absolutely hate the telephone.  I have a thousand reasons, but mostly because of its untimely, unknowing, persistent rudeness, interrupting my fictional world or my adult make-believe.

What has happened, of course, is that I’ve become even more selfish in perhaps the true meaning of the word. What many around me do not understand is that now, at this stage of my obsession, I’m always writing. If I’m up walking around, if I’m shaving, if I’m watching TV…. I might be in the midst of committing a murder or finally solving it. It’s not just happening when I sit in front of my computer. In fact, if I’m typing, I’m probably just emptying my head of what I’ve already created.

Anyway, next month, Ed Norton, AKA Robin Hood, AKA Thomas Jefferson is coming to visit. I have seen him since sixth grade, but not often at all and certainly not recently. We’ve both entered our seventh decade of life, he probably with grandchildren, perhaps great grand children and me with a few now dusty books as offspring. I’m not complaining.  Actually I’m in the middle of three novellas. I go to sleep lately, looking for a way to save the life of my protagonist’s best friend in one of my books. I suspect I did the same thing down at the crick a few dozen years ago.  Or, more likely, visa versa.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Film Pairing – Let’s Rob A Bank, Maybe Two

I’m a fan of heist films. The theft of fine art and jewels from the very rich or money and gold from the banks has always struck me as romantic rather than criminal, especially when no lives are lost in the process. On this double bill, one film is a classic drama, the other a clever puzzle. What makes them special is that they are not just about the heist, but that they offer an original, thought-provoking twist in the story telling.

Dog Day Afternoon — If you are of a certain age and have always loved movies, you’ve seen this one.  If not, see it.  If so, see it again. It is based on a true and unusual story, especially for its time. Sidney Lumet directed this multiple award winning film released in 1975 and based on the news article, “The Boys In The Park” by P.F. Kluge. Though most of the film takes place inside a branch bank in Brooklyn, one gets a great overview of the 70s, culturally and politically. Al Pacino is extraordinary as the central figure. The entire cast, which also includes Charles Durning, John Cazalle, Chris Sarandon, and James Broderick turn in fine performances. Credit also goes to Penelope Allen as the head teller. Pacino, who plays an unemployed perhaps unemployable young man, has a wife and a lover, the latter needing expensive gender-changing surgery.  Pacino decides to rob a bank to get the money and creates a situation that shows his character’s humanity and almost comic incompetence. This is a must see for film lovers and historians.
Inside Man — Justice isn’t always served the way you think it might. Inside Man, a 2006 release is a solid entry in the heist genre. Directed by Spike Lee, the intricate robbery plot is exercised by Clive Owen who faces Denzel Washington, representing the law.   Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer add fascinating dimensions to the already clever screenplay by Russell Gewirtz. Actors Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor are also featured in this quick-paced drama that challenges the imagination.  How are the robbers going to get out with what they want and a couple of dozen dozen hostages kept safe? It seems impossible. Will there be a bloodbath? Perhaps we viewers make too many assumptions.

My suggestions for sustenance on these cool nights involve the drug caffeine.  Why not an Irish coffee?  Or some other coffee mix with or without alcohol that will keep you buzzed and able to keep up with Pacino’s typical high-energy performance.