My Films of the Week #4: Beer League, Stardust & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

All Cats Are Grey (Savina Dellicour, 2014, Belgium)

Witty comedy drama about a young girl who begins to suspect that a local private investigator is her father. Enjoyable and featuring moments of warmth but ultimately lacking in ambition.

Artie Lange’s Beer League (Frank Sebastiano, 2006, USA)

Childish and even a bit tasteless. You may not find it in any “best of” lists any time soon, yet there is something about it that recalls old slapstick comedies and makes it a wild and fun watch.

The Jump (Giedre Zickyte, 2020, Lithuania/Latvia/France)

An inspiring tale from not too long ago of when the United States protested for the immigration of a Soviet man. Aside from the interesting story it tells, it is cinematically constructed in a gripping and exciting way.

Stardust (Gabriel Range, 2020, UK)

Inspired by the lack of David Bowie, this independent film lacks any noteworthy independent spirit. Typical, standards, coming-of-age drama. Hardly worth the time of any of the iconic music star’s fans.

My Name Is Francesco Totti (Alex Infascelli, 2020, Italy)

First-person insight into the life and career of one of the most acclaimed football players in Italian history and a symbol for the city of Rome at large. At times, it feels almost Macchiavellian.

Tigers (Ronnie Sandahl, 2020, Sweden/Italy/Denmark)

Based on the true story of a promising football star, Tigers provides insight on mental illness among football youth league players. However, its penchant for traditionalist melodrama counters a promise for realist bite.

Cuban Dancer (Roberto Salinas, 2020, Italy/Canada/Chile)

Coming-of-age documentary telling the tale of a promising young Cuban ballet dancer emigrating to the U.S. with his family. Lacks a truly eventful, pivotal moment but is saved by its noteworthy human warmth.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!


Considering Michelangelo’s Antisocial Behavior in the Times of the Coronavirus

Bleak times appear to be ahead for all of us, as number of coronavirus cases are on the rise again all over the world. The looking threat of another imminent lockdown, which has been actuated in some parts of the world, hangs over us like a shadow.

It is important, in these times, to remain positive. It’s easy to give into the negativity brought on by such frustration. Why not embrace, instead, the potential of having to spend time on our own? Such potential includes the possibility of learning a new skill and dedicating our time to passionate self-development, in response to social distancing.

Indeed, this has been the secret of many of the great masters of the past. Including Michelangelo, the great Italian Renaissance sculptor, among the most celebrated of his period. Michelangelo lived a remarkably long life during which he held fort as the most important artist in the world, loyally serving several popes in his lifetime.

A true Renaissance man, Michelangelo was a 360 degree artist — a painter, poet, architect and philosopher. But most of all, especially as the years progressed, he considered himself a sculptor. In reading Martin Gayford’s 2013 biography on his life, Michelangelo: His Epic Life, I have been fascinated to find that he had already reached an incredibly high standard of sculpting in his adolescence.

Part of his secret, Michelangelo would have said, was that he was endowned with a divine gift from God himself. He so wanted to promote this idea that in his lifetime, he almost successfully concealed the contribution of the people who trained him in his craft, including Ghirlandaio, and underplayed the importance of his mentors in his formative years.

Yet, to be sure, part of the reason why he was able to reach such a high standard of sculpting from an early age was that he truly did eat, think and breathe art, and dedicated himself wholly to perfecting his skills. In fact, Gayford even concludes from his research on Michelangelo’s formative years that as a young man, he was downright anti-social.

“Michelangelo, however, stood apart from these musical parties. It sounds as though, even as an adolescent, he was already antisocial, reclusive, and driven: constantly drawing and carving. Only such dedication could explain the rapidity of the progress he made. Within two years, he had become as skilful a sculptor in marble as any alive.”

Martin Gayford, Michelangelo: His Epic Life

In coming across this particular quote, I found it particularly inspiring and worth of being shared. I am not suggesting that the key to maintining a positive frame of mind is withdrawing from the world entirely, though it may suit some just fine. However, I do believe that in these times where withdrawing from others is more or less imposed on us, remembering that Michelangelo’s self-imposed social distancing greatly contributed to his rise as one of the greatest artists in the world.

My books of the week #2: Albert Camus and Sam Tallent

As part of my obsessive explorations in the arts, I try to read an average of two books a week. Here are the two books I read last week.

Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942)

As an exploration of morality, it falls somewhere between Kafka and Dostoevsky. As a portrayal of existentialist disenchantment, it is almost nonpareil.

Sam Tallent, Running the Light (2020)

This novel reeks of booze, cigarettes, piss and vomit. It ain’t pretty, yet it’s fascinating. The lead character of this novel may be a stand-up comedian but if you’re looking for a joke book, you’ll be disappointed. This is something else and whatever it is, will suck you into its world, exploring the depths of human nature, masculinity and the dark side of the self-employed hustle.

5 clips from my podcast interview with painter LACHLAN GOUDIE

I recently interviewed painter Lachlan Goudie for my MATT’S ART CHAT podcast series. Goudie’s new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, will run at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 28-November 25. He also recently published a book called The Story of Scottish Art.

Listen to five clips from the podcast interview via the player below.

How being a dad changed Lachlan Goudie’s perspective on art.

Lachlan Goudie on his new exhibition, Once Upon a Time.

“Art can be a childish exploration.”

How Goudie’s knowledge of art history influences his painting.

“Art has to be a vocation”

MATT’S ART CHAT is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with art creators, curators and lovers from all over the world. Listen to the full podcast with Lachlan Goudie via the player below.

Also available on Podbean and IHeartRadio.

My Albums of the Week #5: Donna Summer, Grover Washington Jr. & More

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Grover Washington Jr., Winelight (Elektra, 1980)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Winelight / 2 – Let It Flow (For “Dr. J”) / 3 – In the Name of Love / 4 – Take Me There / 5 – Just the Two of Us / 6 – Make Me a Memory (Sad Samba)

One of the most influential records of its time and the birth of smooth jazz, which honestly doesn’t deserve the bad rep it gets. After its release, countless other artists tried to get the same laid back grooves that Washington lays down, as well as the tone of his saxophones. Most failed. Bonus points for a standout performance by Marcus Miller on bass. Hear him slap that bass on “Let It Flow.”

Donna Summer, I Remember Yesterday (Casablanca, 1977)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – I Remember Yesterday / 2 – Love’s Unkind / 3 – Back in Love Again / 4 – I Remember Yesterday (Reprise) / 5 – Black Lady / 6 – Take Me / 7 – Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over) / 8 – I Feel Love

A concept album of sorts, which aims to fuses disco with influences of earlier popular musics. Scattered moments of sheen. However, at the end of the day, this Donna Summer album really only has two standout songs — the title track, repeated twice, and “I Feel Love,” respectively strategically placed at the opening and closing of the record.

Dixie Dregs, Dregs of the Earth (Arista, 1980)

TRACKLIST (Favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Road Expense / 2 – Pride o’ the Farm / 3 – Twiggs Approved / 4 – Hereafter / 5 – The Great Spectacular / 6 – Broad Street Strut / 7 – I’m Freaking Out / 8 – Old World

I wasn’t familiar with the Dixie Dregs before listening to this. They’re quite a solid instrumental band. I suppose you’d call them rock fusion. Some songs feel a bit too constricted within their structure. A bit too clean for my taste. But I appreciate the ventures into the folk, country and even jazz territory.

My Films of the Week #3: Kill or Cure, The Devious Path & More

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week.

Where Lights Are Low
(Colin Campbell, 1921, USA)

Starring and produced by Sessue Hayakawa, who was a huge star at the time and whose contribution to Asian-American film history continued to be undervalued. A noteworthy vehicle about Chinese human trafficking, tasteful despite slight stereotyping.

Kill or Cure
(Carlo Campogalliani, 1921, Italy)

Kill of Cure shows there was more than epic movies and Maciste productions to the Italian silent film era. This is a comedy adventure with a surrealist edge and one of six films to star Carlo Campogalliani who, for a while, was called “the Italian Fairbanks.” Clever and highly entertaining, inspired by the burgeoning psychoanalytic scene of the time, which it takes a few shots at.

The Apaches of Athens
(Dimitrios Gaziades, 1930, Greece)

Originally Greece’s first sound film, survives only in a silent version. Inspired by a popular operetta of the period, this romantic comedy is noteworthy for its depiction of social class disparities and for its images of the streets of Athens, where most of the film was shot.

The Devious Path
(G.W. Pabst, 1928, Germany)

A lesser-known masterpiece by G.W. Pabst, somewhat less grand than other works of his, yet continuing to affirm him as one of the masters of Weimar Republic cinema. A glorious exploration of sin and morality, driven by a central cabaret scene that is exciting from start to finish. Wonderful performances all around and an uncanny attention to detail that will have you revisiting it again and again.

Showbiz Kids
(Alex Winter, 2020, USA)

A series of conversations with child actors and the Hollywood studio system. It’s interesting but widely appears to fail to add any new information regarding this specific topic.

Unjustly Accused
(Holger-Madsen, 1913, Denmark)

The story of a theater actress forced to quit her acting career upon marrying. Misses an opportunity to be seen today as a feminist flick ahead of its time. It has its moments of visual delight and uses interesting, early cinema effects. Yet, the most delightful thing about the movie remains the lead performance by Rita Sacchetto.

The Serenade
(Will Louis, 1916, USA)

An early flick starring Oliver Hardy that, like many second-rate slapstick shorts of the time, shows inconsistencies, carelessness and finally ends up feeling like a disjointed series of gags.

The Rent Collector
(Norman Taurog, Larry Semon, 1921, USA)

Larry Semon, mostly forgotten today yet one of the major motion picture stars of the time, at his best. A wild collection of gags it may be but somehow, it all holds up together and never misses a beat. Sure, despite the impoverished setting it lacks any semblance of social awareness and is definitely not Chaplin’s Easy Street (1917). But its pace is remarkable — think Harry Langdon on cocaine — and unlike some of Semon’s lesser works from the time, it is consistently fun and amazingly inventive.

(Joe Rock, Scott Pembroke, 1924, USA)

An early flicks starring Stan Laurel, set in the prison. Has a surrealist edge that makes it noteworthy, including a showstealing hanging scene. Yet, in retrospect, is more valuable as a document of Laurel still in the process of finding a distinctive comedic persona.

Moonlight and Noses
(Stan Laurel, 1925, USA)

Moonlight and Noses is directed by, but does not star, Stan Laurel. A spoof on the mad scientist genre, this is a macabre comedy with good intentions but poorly executed and hardly a standout.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

10 great quotes from “Running the Light” by Sam Tallent (2020)

I recently read Sam Tallent’s novel, Running the Light, originally published earlier this year, in 2020. Here are ten quotes from the book that particularly stood out to me. BUY IT HERE.

“Things had never been his thing. He spent his money on more immediate gratifications.”

“In cities, no matter the night of the week, the party never had to end, but out in the Rest of It, in the remote blank nowheres, the night had a way of dying just when he was feeling the most alive.”

“Disgust boiled in Billy Ray’s chest like a second heartbeat: of all the things a man can be, a coward is the worst.”

“​The girl’s eyes were racooned by dark circles. She looked defeated. She was too tired to be so young.”

“Youth doesn’t perish, it mutes.”

“With stand-up, Billy Ray was only happy on stage. He lived for the hour; the rest of his life was just filler. Abeyance.”

“Do you remember before we forgot how to love each other? When you were my everything? Do you remember me when I was me? Because I remember you and you were beautiful. We were beautiful.”

“​More was the name of the game. More liquor. More blow. More more. His yearning was frantic. It howled like wind through the holes in his brain. He longed to penetrate and excrete, to fuck and be fucked, to violate, to be ruined.”

“He didn’t have much at this time but he owned the present and later tonight he would attest for his past and improve his future.”

“Billy Ray knew scary men and they didn’t wear visors. This man had never been in a fight in his life. Billy Ray could feel it, it was like a smell: the bravery of ignorance. This man had never been dominated by another. He’d never known the crude intimacy of violence, never felt the fear of laying on his back wondering if the boot would come to his temple or his throat. He was weak, of a generation of false vipers.”

Art of the Week #1: Egon Schiele, Giuseppe Arcimboldo & More

Here are some artworks that have been rocking my world lately for you to feast your eyes on. This week’s list includes works by Egon Schiele, Wassily Kandinsky, Giuseppe Arcimboldo and more.

Seated Woman with Legs Drawn Up (Adele Herms)
Egon Schiele, 1917

Der Blaue Reiter
Wassily Kandinsky, 1912

Saint Thomas Aquinias in Prayer
Stevano di Giovanni, ca. 1423-1425

Brilliant Information Overload Pop Head
Douglas Coupland, 2010

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1590-1591

MATT’S ART CHAT #31 – Lachlan Goudie (PODCAST)

In this new episode of Matt’s Art Chat, the first one in a while of my series of podcast conversations about the arts, I speak with painter Lachlan Goudie.

The main topic of the conversation is his new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, which will run at The Scottish Gallery on October 28-November 25, which is inspired by fairytales and finds him expanding on his interest in landscape painting and nature. However, we also talk about the origins of his interest in art and his work as a broadcaster, as well as a major book he has published and that is titled The Story of Scottish Art.

You can listen to the podcast conversation with Lachlan Goudie via one of the players below.

Also available on Podbean and IHeartRadio.

For more information on Goudie’s upcoming exhibition, Once Upon a Time, CLICK HERE. To order his new book, The Story of Scottish Art, CLICK HERE

Matt’s Art Chat is a series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The series is hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci.

10 Great Quotes from “The Stranger” by Albert Camus (1942)

I recently read Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, originally published in 1942. Here are ten quotes from this novel that particularly stood out to me.

It occurred to me that somehow I’d go through another Sunday, that Mother now was buried, and tomorrow I’d be going back to work as usual. Really, nothing in my life had changed.

And, after another silence, she murmured something about my being “a queer fellow.” “And I daresay that’s why I love you,” she added. “But maybe that’s why one day I’ll come to hate you.”

The trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the butt jogged my palm. And so, with that crisp, whipcrack sound, it all began. I shook off my sweat and the clinging veil of light. I knew I’d shattered the balance of the day, the spacious calm of this beach on which I had been happy.

All normal people, I added as an afterthought, had more or less desired the death of those they loved, at some time or another.

And so I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prisons as to innocent, untroubled sleep.

Often and often I blame myself for not having given more attention to accounts of public executions. One should always take an interest in such matters.

Another thing I did to deflect the course of my thoughts was to listen to my heart. I couldn’t imagine that this faint throbbing which had been with me for so long would ever cease.

[…] there’s no idea to which one doesn’t get acclimatized in time.

It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe.

For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.