Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We're Not Alone

It’s all about who does and doesn’t see
   The private heart beneath the public mask
That’s locked away; and when you lose the key
   And you need help, but you’re too scared to ask,
It’s all about who reaches out to you—
   Who makes you see beyond your own despair—
Who looks at you and says “What can I do?”—
   Whose every answer is “Because I care.”
Because it’s all about the help we give
   To those without a hope.  It’s what we do
When doing nothing’s easy—how we live
   Among and with ourselves—that sees us through
      The lonely worst of life, till we can say
      We’re not alone—unless we look away.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Friday, February 20, 2015

A Lot Of Potentially Innacurate Oscar Predictions

In the universe where I get to nominate movies for an Oscar, I would be talking about Scarlett Johansson’s Under The Skin chances against Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive, or David Oyelowo's chances against Ralph Fiennes, or why Selma is a mortal lock to win Best Picture.  But instead, in a universe where the Motion Picture Academy gives Selma a (literally) token Best Picture award, I’m talking about this:
The Beats The Crap Out Of Me’s

Best Original Screenplay 

This could go to Birdman, Boyhood, or Grand Budapest Hotel.  If it goes to one of the first two, it could be an indicator of which movie will get Best Picture.  Me, I think it should go to Grand Budapest, not least because Ralph Fiennes should have been nominated for making the script’s main character come so alive that when you read the words on the page, you hear Fiennes speaking them.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

This could go to Whiplash, Imitation Game, or American Sniper.   The reason Whiplash is here is because it’s based on a short film made a few years ago by the same director.  The reason Imitation Game is here is the reason Imitation Game is everywhere in these awards, because Harvey Weinstein.  Me, I’d give it to American Sniper, because the script sets up both a pro-war and anti-war story at the same time. 

Best Animated Feature Film 

This should be The Lego Movie, but The Lego Movie was not nominated.  The smart money is on How To Train Your Dragon 2 over Big Hero 6. 

Best Foreign Language Film 

Do you give it to the fabulous post-Holocaust film (Ida), the fabulous dark look at local Russian politics (Leviathan) or the fabulous look at military and religious occupation (Timbuktu)?  I’d say Leviathan, but never discount The Holocaust Factor, which could tip it to Ida.

Best Documentary – Feature 

Let’s see—one movie about current politics (CitizenFour), one about ancient history (Last Days Of Vietnam), one about apes (Virunga), one about a forgotten photographer (Finding Vivian Maier) and one about a Brazilian photographer (The Salt of the Earth).  Cocking my ear to hear what Old Hollywood is saying, I pick up a raspy voice whispering “Apes are fun; I’ll go with the apes.”

Best Documentary – Short Subject
Best Live Action Short Film
Best Animated Short Film

Beats me.  And who cares, really, unless you're doing a pool?

Best Original Score 

Alexander Desplat is up for two separate scores.  Want to bet he wins with one of them?

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Any movie with a half-naked wrestler covered in tattoos and a half-naked black woman in greenface should win, so I say Guardians of the Galaxy over Grand Budapest Hotel and Steve Carell’s nose in Foxcatcher. 

The Coin Tosses

Best Sound Editing

I don’t know why Whiplash isn’t up for this and The Hobbit: The Cash Grab With Five Armies is, but there you are.   My gut says American Sniper will win, because the Academy loves to reward shoot-em-ups.  But it also loves to reward movies about Hollywood guys who stick it to New York, so it could go to Birdman.   

Best Visual Effects
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Part of me is betting this will go to Interstellar, part of me is betting that this is the year the Andy Serkis Technique gets rewarded.


Best Costume Design
Mr. Turner has the kind of believable period costumes that get dirty, so that lets them out.  Into the Woods managed to cover up Emily Blunt’s pregnancy, but didn’t ring enough changes on Fairy Tale Couture 101.  Unlike Maleficent, which did.  That’s more of a possibility than Inherent Vice, which is way too current to win this kind of award.  Me, I’d give it to Grand Budapest Hotel, because everybody wore the kind of unbelievable period costumes that never have a speck of dirt on them ever.

Best Film Editing

This could go either way, depending on whether the Academy wants to reward the woman who slogged through twelve years of footage to assemble Richard Linklater’s dream project, or the guy who made jazz drumming look sexier than Rosamund Pike with powdered sugar on her face. 


The Mortal Locks

Best Supporting Actor : J. K. Simmons – Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Best Actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

The other people in these categories will try to look gracious while they sit there waiting to get smashed at an after-party.  Who would I choose if these three performers had not made movies this year?  Edward Norton for playing himself,  Emma Stone for making Edward Norton and Michael Keaton look human, and Rosamund Pike for making the entire movie of Gone Girl work.


Best Original Song:  "Glory" from Selma

This is the only award Selma is going to win.  Considering it's only nominated in two categories, that's a great percentage.  But considering it's only nominated in two categories, it's also a travesty.

Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash 

If you stop and think about the plot of Whiplash, it makes no logical sense at all, but thanks to the frantic editing and sound mixing, you get so caught up in the moment that all the absurdities don’t hit you till the movie is over.  

Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Seriously—was there anything more beautiful to look at last year than this film?

Best Cinematography: Birdman

There’s a chance this could go to Mr. Turner for its painterly compositions, or Ida for its black-and-white excellence, but I smell an early win for Birdman.

The Down To The Wires


Best Actor
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper 

Keaton and Redmayne have been the front runners from the beginning.  Cooper, like his film, has made a strong post-Christmas finish.  Keaton gets points for pretty much playing himself, and Redmayne and Cooper get points for playing real-life people, but Redmayne gets bonus points for playing a real-life person with a disease.  That usually trumps everything.  Except that Keaton gets bonus points for making the movie that he’s in impossible to imagine with anyone else in the lead.  I wish there was a way to see the post-award voting in this category, because I suspect that votes for Cooper are going to be the deciding factor here.  If they take votes away from Redmayne, Keaton wins; and vice versa.  If there were two categories, one for acting and one for performance, Redmayne and Keaton would both win.  Barring a tie, that’s not going to happen.  Me?  I want Redmayne to win it, but I think Keaton is going to pull it off, mostly because I think votes for Cooper will cut into Redmayne’s totals.

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Two architects of separate but stunning tours-de-force, one of whom uses real-time raw material to tell a story spanning years, and one of whom uses real-time single-takes to tell a story combining fantasy and reality.  This is a hard one to call because they each deserve to win, for pretty much the same reason—the manipulation of time.  And since you could say that Linklater’s editor had more to do with Boyhood’s success, and Iñárritu’s cameraman had more to do with Birdman’s success, even the hedges on your bet are identical.   Figure that if the Academy decides to vote for the film which grabbed them harder, it will go to Iñárritu, and if they vote for the film whose logistics are staggering, they’ll vote for Linklater.  Figure momentum and it goes to  Iñárritu.  Figure direction that draws attention to itself and it goes to Iñárritu.  So I guess figure Iñárritu.  (And yet, those twelve years behind Boyhood . . .) 

Best Picture

The Imitation Game is BBC hokum; The Theory of Everything is Hallmark hokum; and Whiplash is a monster movie populated by clashing cymbals.  Of the remaining nominees, Grand Budapest Hotel is my personal favorite, and the movie I would like to see win, but the Academy likes to vote for movies that make it feel good about itself, and a movie that is tinged with melancholy despite the fact that it goes down like a sweet confection is probably going to confuse the hell out of Academy voters who pick up on the sadness, never mind those who think “sweet” means “slight.” The Academy does not want to be known by a movie that makes it feel slight, it wants a movie that makes it feel important—which is why Selma not only doesn’t have a chance, but why it never had a chance, because how can a bunch of old white guys feel good about a movie in which all the old white guys are taken to school by smart, committed black men and women?  (I’ve been working on a post about Selma and Hollywood for the last two weeks, and it keeps getting angrier and angrier.)  Selma should win, but it won’t, and I hate to think it got roundly snubbed because 12 Years A Slave won last year, but there you are.  

That leaves the Big Three.  Boyhood got out to an early lead, Birdman has been closing in the stretch, and American Sniper came out of nowhere to make it a neck-and-neck-and-neck race. 

Birdman.  Is Birdman pretentious or amazing?  A little of both.  But it’s the acting (yes, I’m going there) that gives this movie its wings.  Edward Norton has never been better, playing a thinly-disguised version of the asshole we’ve all heard he is.  Emma Stone has Keane kid eyes (seriously, they’re bigger than most people’s heads) and balances a hefty chip on her shoulder with screw-you aplomb.  Michael Keaton is only a Beetlejuice rant away from being everything you want to see Michael Keaton embody in a lead role.  But as a close friend of mine remarked, the movie dies or lives on its last moment—you either buy into that or you walk away feeling gypped.  I go back and forth, but the more I think about it, the more I think that last moment is when the movie goes Hollywood by becoming just another oh-wait-look-up-there-he-really DOES-exist Santa Claus movie. 

Boyhood.  The first half of this movie is amazing.  There’s nothing familiar about it, and it has everything going for it.  The second half is when the main character gets old enough to become a Richard Linklater character, and we’re suddenly in what feels like a very familiar movie.  I think that, when people talk about how amazing this film is, they’re talking about the logistics behind it—the mechanics, the way it was produced and shot—the way, if you want to make a war analogy, all the soldiers and equipment were coordinated for a battle which, in the end, isn’t as thrilling as the plan of attack—where the actual fight is something of a letdown.  And it’s the fight that gets the Academy’s votes.  Which brings us to the dark horse:

American Sniper.  Depending on how you look at it, this is an anti-war movie masquerading as hero worship, or hero worship masquerading as an anti-war movie.  In other words, how you see it depends entirely on what you’re looking to see, and the movie is clever enough to play to and support those two opposing visions.  It’s also classically constructed, balancing a kid-with-a-weapon scene at the beginning with a kid-with-a-weapon scene at the end, to chart the difference in Bradley Cooper’s sniper.  Its battle scenes are models of clarity—you always know who’s who and where you are, especially in that sandstorm sequence.  And yes, it has the usual wife-who-is-feeling-distanced female lead, but Sienna Miller (Sienna Miller!) nails it.  Plus the Academy loves Clint Eastwood.  So this could totally sneak in as Best Picture, or—just like voting for Bradley Cooper—cut into the votes for one of the two other favorites.  If that happens, look for those votes to come from Boyhood’s totals. 
In the end, I think Birdman is going to win, thanks in no small part to that final Yes-Emma-Stone-there-IS-a-Birdman moment.  Because if it's anything the Academy wants to believe in, it's Santa Claus.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Movies I Saw That Nobody Else Did

Want to see a stylish action movie with great set pieces, solid acting, the biggest laugh ever on the word "Oh," and a cleverly-constructed pocket universe where hit men have their own hotels, nightclubs, and a strict code of honor?  Look no further, and don’t let the fact that Keanu Reeves is starring in this stop you from watching it—it’s to his career what The Grey is to Liam Neeson’s (another movie you should see if you haven’t) and it’s the best thing Reeves has done in ages.   The highest praise I can give this film is that it’s an American Johnnie To film, so if you liked Drug War, Exiled, Vengeance, or the two Elections, this is for you.

Oh, Homesman.  I don’t know when I’ve been angrier at a movie for a plot turn, or when a movie has so deliberately set its audience up for one kind of story only to pull the rug out from under them and then kick them in the head after they hit the floor.  And then punch them hard in the gut one final time just as it ends. The big plot turn is right there in the novel by Glendon Swarthout, too (though it’s a bit more foreshadowed), and I could make a very apt comparison to another film, but it would be a massive spoiler, and moments this strong deserve to be seen unprepared.  I’m still trying to figure out why those kicks and punches hit me so hard; I’ve got the movie on video but I’m damned if I’ve had the guts to sit through it again and relive what I felt the first time.  So that in itself is a kind of recommendation, along with the words: “This is like no other movie, never mind no other western,” “Tommy Lee Jones really likes to go dark when he directs, and this film makes him my pick to do Blood Meridian,” and “Jesus, please keep giving Hilary Swank stuff like this, because she’s fabulous.”
If you ever want to see a Mobius strip in film form, then Predestination was made for you.  Based on a short story by Robert Heinlein that is the ne plus ultra of a by-your-bootstraps time travel paradox, this is a science-fiction film where the intelligence of the concept outweighs the special effects, which makes it the absolute reverse of most SF movies, where the smarts is in the CGI and the dumb is in the script.  No dumb script here.  Just a plot that copulates with your head and an actress who steals the entire movie out from under the above-the-title star, Ethan Hawke.  Hawke could play a saint and still project the hint that there’s something sketchy about his character, so he just has to show up to bring that ambivalence to the screen, but it’s Sarah Snook who is this movie, in a performance that won her this year’s AACTA Award for Best Actress (the Australian equivalent of our Oscar).  She deserves it.  With the right part, she’ll be winning the American version of an AACTA in no time.
Movie biographies usually stick to the same feel-good format:  “This is the story of (name) who (fill in the inspirational blank),” said blank normally filled in with a precise action which winnows a man’s life down to a specific achievement which is designed to elicit a set response.  In Theory of Everything, it’s “Stephen Hawking” and “comprehended the universe while fighting ALS;” in Imitation Game it’s “Alan Turing” and “invented the computer while decoding a Nazi cipher and hiding his homosexuality.”  In Mr. Turner, it’s  “JMW Turner” and “did things you’ll have to watch the movie to see,” making this film that rare biography which throws the viewer into the middle of a life as it’s being lived, and requires not a response to a storyline but a level of patience and attention to detail which can perceive meaning and structure in what’s being viewed.  Like, y’know, looking at a series of great paintings.  You get none of the usual movie biography tropes here, just moments from a life united by a subtle but towering performance by Timothy Spall, and stunning cinematography.  The fact that this movie is not nominated for any major Oscars, while Imitation Game and Theory of Everything are, tells you all you need to know about how the Academy views biographies that try to present a life that's something more than an uphill battle against disease or the embodiment of a thrice-repeated tag line.


Those Pesky Woods


Because of (a) Streep, (b) the cuts made to the theatrical version’s second act, and (c) Streep, this version of Sondheim’s musical comes down as hard as a giant’s foot on the parental tragedy side of the story, making it more about mothers who have to helplessly watch their children move on than about characters who have to face the fact that having is not as sweet as winning, or about a world in which Act Two consequences are the brutal disasters awaiting every bright Act One success.  And yes, those elements remain in the movie, but because of (d) Streep, they all take second place to whatever the Witch is going through, and that includes a significant second-half death.  So it works, but it might not work as well for you if you’re familiar with the original.  (It is a fairy tale all its own to think that Rapunzel’s fate was ever going to get signed off on by Disney suits.)   

For me, the delight of seeing Anne Kendrick kill “On The Steps Of The Palace” was matched only by watching Lilla Crawford’s Red Riding Hood do a powerhouse “I Know Things Now.” But the high point was Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen doing “Agony.”  Mostly because (e) Chris Pine.  His Prince Charming is so good, it’s like he just walked off the set of a musical version of The Princess Bride.  It’s heartfelt and a parody at the same time.  It blew me away. 

And yes, Emily Blunt is the anchor of the show, and makes everyone around her better just by doing her best (hell, she made Tom Cruse likeable in Edge of Tomorrow, which you really need to see if you haven’t); and, to my mind, if anybody deserved an acting nomination from this film, it was her, because she’s that good; but then, (f) Streep.

Inside baseball: like the film version of Les Miz, this is a textbook example of how a plot convention that works just fine on the stage (the same people bumping into each other over and over again) becomes unbelievable when it’s seen on film.  Seriously: in a forest the size of Connecticut, two people meeting up by chance is only slightly more believable than Christian Bale telling a joke.
I suffered the same kind of theatre/film disconnect with the Witch/Rapunzel relationship.  While my theatre brain never once asked the question: "Hey Baker—you've got a sister and the Witch stole her—why don't you try to get her back instead of completely forgetting about her?" my movie brain asked it immediately and couldn’t stop remembering it. 

And if you stick around for the credits, you learn that Johnny Depp had his own sound technician and his own vocal coach.  

And if you see it in Times Square, you will walk in thinking that Depp’s Wolf looks like this, which is the Mount Everest of false advertising:


Monday, February 16, 2015

Waiting For Hickey

So how does it feel to sit through almost five hours of an O’Neill play set in a bar?  Not half as much fun as five hours in a real bar.  But then you don't go to The Iceman Cometh for fun.  You go there to catch up on the regulars, so you can thank God you're not one of them.

You also go to see something timeless and relevant, but with this production, there were moments when I felt like I was watching something which was older and more primitive than King Lear.  Especially whenever the thematically-relevant phrase “pipe dream” was repeated.  (It’s an old theatre joke that if you do a shot of whiskey every time somebody on stage says those two words, you’ll have to be rushed to the hospital by the end of Act One.)  There’s a ton of reported offstage action, like in an old Greek tragedy—I’m pretty sure every character in the play has at least one speech that goes “Hickey did this, Hickey said that, I hate the lousy son of a bitch.”  And since there are like a dozen characters in this thing, it’s that repetitiveness of the identical which makes the play feel as if it's something out of the Nineteenth Century rather than the Twentieth.  Especially when it comes to the words "pipe dream." By Act Three the repetition is annoying; by Act Four you’re dull to it.  Which is not just bad but counter-productive, because the climax of the play depends on an audience hearing that phrase like it’s never been spoken before, hearing it with shock.  So you have to figure out how to make all that obviousness a little more subtle, or this particular play is not going to work. 

Does this production work?  Yes and no.   

“No” would include the staging (speaking of counter-productive).  Maybe it’s the way everybody who’s on-stage, but not speaking, has been directed to stare out at the audience like shells waiting to be animated, but I got a distinct Beckett vibe out of this, realistic one moment and absurdist the next, like Robert Falls deliberately set the main character’s new-found view of engaged reality against a vision of surreal disengagement.  Non-speaking actors aren’t participants or even witnesses on this stage; they’re just bodies which turn on when they have lines and turn off when they don’t, like they’re all extras in an episode of The Drinking Dead. 

As a result of this, you don’t get to see or experience a world being created—you get the sense that Harry Hope’s bar is not a despairing community of alcoholic escape so much as it is an opium den of lost individuals, who drift in and out of drugged awareness.   The lighting plot contributes to this lassitude, directing your eye to the brighter spots in the general gloom which illuminate whoever happens to be speaking now.  But directing non-speaking actors to be unblinking tableau figures totally undercuts those moments when, to quote a play about another salesman, attention must be paid.  Especially during Hickey’s long (long) Act Four monologue, which is hard enough to deliver to a stage full of silent actors without directing all of them to never once acknowledge the speaker’s presence until the end, a stage effect that turns what should be a shared cathartic revelation into a frantic bid for attention. 

This moment is also (not coincidentally) where Nathan Lane reaches for but does not get the brass ring, in my opinion.  Lane is totally the  salesman side of Hickey; he works the room like a pro, he barely stops moving, he’s sharp and smart and just troubled enough under it all to let you know there’s a great big hole in the ice that he’s skating around.  But when he reveals how big that hole is, the fact that everyone else on stage might as well be a statue means that he has to run around a room full of people with whom he cannot engage.  And man, the best actor in the world could do that speech and still fail miserably because he’s been directed to win the attention of characters who have been directed to ignore him.  In this production, it’s where the play becomes almost completely presentational, instead of representational—and the distance of everyone else on stage becomes the audience’s distance as well. 

As for the other actors, when they were allowed to act and not told to just sit there like victims of Stupefyin' Jones, John Douglas Thompson’s black ex-gambling house owner was electric, Kate Arrington’s Cora was heartbreaking, and Stephen Ouimette’s Harry Hope was so good at switching between an alcoholic’s rage and sweetness that it was scary to watch—you never knew which side of him was going to come out next.  And Brian Dennehy was his usual stellar self, which is even more of an achievement when you consider that he plays most of his scenes opposite the one acting annoyance in the play, for me at any rate: Patrick Andrews as Parritt, the young anarchist.  Andrews pitched everything in a loud, high monotone, and came off as whining and annoying instead of desperate.  Whenever he spoke, I wanted someone onstage to tell him to shut up already.  And whenever they did, it was always five minutes too late.  And by then I was thinking wistfully of Stephen McHattie in the ’74 James Earl Jones Iceman.  (Which was beyond fabulous.) 

Is this production worth seeing?  Me, I found it to be engrossing without actually being moving or emotionally engaging, in the spirit of that great joke from the Spice Girls movie: “Okay, girls, that was absolutely perfect without really being any good at all.”  To paraphrase that line, I would say that this production of Iceman was very well done without being as devastating as it should be.  If that works for you, then don't miss it.  If it doesn't, bring a flask and play the Pipe Dream Game, and when the Act Four curtain comes down, you too could be snoring like the couple in front of me.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

There's Something Sad In You That Speaks To Me

Beneath your smile I see an SOS.
   There’s something sad in you that speaks to me
Under your laughter, which is like a dress
   That sleeks over your bare melancholy:
The loneliness no love can ever ease;
   The skin you don’t even let lovers touch,
That always bruises in the slightest breeze—
   That you protect because it hurts so much.
Each time you smile, I see the hidden wince
   Against the pain you know that you will feel.
Angel or devil, commoner or prince:
   None of them get to touch what you conceal.
      But if you let me, I will—tenderly,
      Because whatever wounds you bleeds in me.

Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yes, We Could Meet As Strangers Do


Yes, we could meet as strangers do, and feel
   Our way around each other from outside
Ourselves, where need commands and love must kneel—
   Where passion always tastes of wounded pride—
Where friction rules, and the release is all.
   But none of that can touch my heart like one
Caress from you, which breaks down every wall
   In me—a grace that can’t be shared or done
By any stranger.  Only those who see
   And seek the intimate with eyes of love
Know how to gentle as they rouse, and be
   Strangers to all but the communion of
      Two hearts—each to the other always true,
      Because they never meet as strangers do.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Friday, February 13, 2015

Here’s What I Think Each Time I Look At You

Here’s what I think each time I look at you:
   Your inner beauty brings me to my knees.
How can I not adore a woman who
   Has more to give than twenty charities?
Each time we touch it feels like Christmas Day.
   Your nearness and your distance tantalize me.
No matter what I think you’ll do or say,
   You never fail to challenge and surprise me.
I feel both humbled and exalted when you
   Favor me with your deep and knowing gaze.
Just look at you—you’ve got more on your menu
   Than any twenty diners or cafés.
      And yes, my menu’s emptier, it’s true—
      But every day there’s just one special: you.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Unrequited, or, Not like you ever will

“I like guys that are bad for me,” you say.
   I want to say: “That means I’m good for you!
You fall for jerks and swig their false bouquet
   Instead of mine—which is the brew that’s true!”
“What would I do without you?” you keep saying.
   How about doing something with me?  Jeez!
I check out all these losers you keep laying
   And next to them, I look like Hercules.
What is your deal?  As far as I can see,
   You’re blind to all but those who give you scorn—
And since I’m always yelling “Look at me!”
   You’re also deafer than an ear of corn.
      You have bad taste in men, we all agree—
      That’s why it’s long past time you tasted me.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dream Girl

When midnight comes, I close my eyes and send
   My spirit out to find you in your dreams,
And take your hand and guide you like a friend
   Past all your nightmares, where fear screams
Your name, and claws reach out to drag you down
   Into the worst you can imagine—death—
But not your own—a death that makes you drown
   In helplessness and gasp for mercy’s breath.
But none of that will touch you, not tonight,
   Because my soul will find you in your sleep
And blanket you until you’re lost in light
   Where fears are pale and shallow, hopes are deep,
      And love will fill your slumber, through and through—
      The love I feel each time I dream of you. 


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Touch Of Evil

What does it matter what you say about
   People?  They will be who they are at heart
No matter what you think, no matter how you shout
   Corrections at them.  They will play the part
Their flaws have written for them, and their strength
   Will either rise or fall to the occasion.
A life is never measured by its length
   But by its truth, and by that truth’s evasion.
And if, before he dies, a man sees past
   His lies with honesty and clarity
And finds self-knowledge as he breathes his last,
   Then what he lived survives mortality.
      Knowing all that and loving him, what can
      You say, but that he was some kind of man. 


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Anarchy of Information

There is no single center any more—
   We live bombarded by the anarchy
Of information, where we’re always hit by more
   Than we can process with discrepancy—
Facts that are crucial, hard, and data-based
   And yet totally biased and subjective—
Reported then revised and then replaced
   Before we get to put them in perspective.
What can we glean when knowledge ends up drowned
   By data points from Berlin to Bolivia,
Deafened by information that’s not sound,
   And starved to death because it’s fed with trivia—
      From whose uncentered sway we can discern
      One simple fact: to know is not to learn.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Monday, February 2, 2015

Jottings from the Notebook

SHE:  How many languages do you speak?
HE:  Two.  American and English.
SHE:  What’s the difference?
HE:  American has more superlatives. 

“[Charles MacArthur]  was over at Universal, adapting his last play, a task Scott imagined was like slowly poisoning your own child.”
                        —Stewart O’Nan, West Of Sunrise 

What we call Tragedy is what happens when Reality decides to disrupt our idea of reality.

“Up until 50 I was getting older.  Now I’m aging.”
                        -- Rob O’Neill

Whenever I get sick, I listen to The Cure. 

“Shut up, Arnold, or I’ll direct the play the way you wrote it.”
   -- John Dexter to Arnold Wesker during rehearsals for the 1958 production of Chicken Soup With Barley.

What the world calls originality is just imitation in this year’s suit. 

“We have to get rid of the leftovers.”
     —The current rallying cry of Park Slope
    hipsters, referring to all the people who lived
    in Brooklyn before it was trendy.

All countries begin as David and end as Goliath. 

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
                —John Steinbeck

 “I am often asked the question ‘How can the masses permit themselves to be exploited by the few?’ The answer is ‘By being persuaded to identify with them.’ ”  
                —EL Doctorow, Ragtime 

The longer it takes before disaster strikes, the less you expect it to happen.  And when it does happen, it’s always treated like a random exception, and never the rule. 

"Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together." 
                —Eugene Ionesco

Whenever I have Alzheimer’s, I listen to The Who. 

“If you want to end the war in a week, give the Australians a two-day pass and tell them they can’t go to Berlin.”
                — Unnamed General during World War II 

“You know, I’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Piss holes in the snow.”
                        —Carter, Get Carter  

She pops up out of nowhere, sticks around long enough to remind me of how magical she is, and then vanishes off the face of the earth.  Y’know, like Brigadoon.

What does not change / is the will to change
                —Charles Olson, “The Kingfishers”

 “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” 

Whenever I’m indecisive, I listen to Yes. 

“Success takes you away from what you know, while failure condemns you to it.”
                        —Rachel Cusk, Outline

Some people have one great dream in life which they fail to fulfill.  Others have no dream at all and fail to fulfill even that.
         —Fernando Pessoa, The Book Of Disquiet 

Every solution undermines our understanding. 

i well up at proposals, know there’s
nothing like a vow to signal endings.
                        —Viki Holms, “Muse”

INTERVIEWER: What do you say to critics who claim that you’ve never written anything approaching the brilliance of Catch-22?
JOSEPH HELLER: I say that nobody else has, either.

Whenever I’m out of my element, I listen to Earth, Wind & Fire.

And as far as this year's Super Bowl is concerned: