Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Film: "The Wrestler"

(TEASER ALERT: If you haven't seen this film, the ending is mentioned in this piece!)
Just saw Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. I thought it was a very good, gritty movie, but I think Mankiewicz from At the Movies is a bit over the top in his praise about it being the "number one" and "solidly number one" film of the year. As a story, it's actually pretty formulaic, in that almost from the beginning his death in the ring seems inevitable, and the heart attack confirmed the ending halfway into the film. Having had open heart surgery last year, the scene where Randy the Ram went for a run in the woods and had to stop, painfully out of breath, was reminiscent of the first few long walks I had to take by myself after returning home from the hospital. Your mind says one thing but your body says another.

Marisa Tomei's performance was solid and can't be underestimated in helping round out Rourke's character. Aronofsky's camerawork was interesting, at times much like a documentary. For much of the beginning of the film the camera is behind Rourke, following him, making the viewer feel like a hanger on, tagging along with the former wrestling star trying to be close to him. As we see his character "come down to earth", the camera assumes a more traditional position. Speaking of camera shots, there were quite a few in Asbury Park! I figure the shots were done in 07, and it's incredible how much work has been done in the past 12-18 mos! The Casino, boardwalk and carousel building were still in the same dilapidated condition they've been in for years, and if you go there now it's completely different. Amazingly fast changes...

I think the media is being naive when articles create this image as if Rourke's career tailspinned, he didnt get any work for years, and this is his big comeback, something he is subtly presenting as well. People love a comeback, and I think this has been an effective marketing tool as that is the main gist of the buzz. However, the fact is he's been in at least one movie a year, except for 07 when he was filming, since 1989! Granted, many were duds or supporting roles, but it's not as if the guy wasnt working til Aronofsky rang him up.

It is undoubtedly the best fictional wrestling movie ever made. Having sold artwork at a few wrestling conventions (yes indeed, think several rungs down the ladder from a Star Trek convention!) I've seen firsthand former bigtime stars hobbling in to sell merchandise and sign autographs, and I've seen them work small indie shows in pretty bad shape, so I could relate to watching the Ram. So I watched this film with an insider's eye and I'm curious what my non-wrestling fan friends think of the film. Please post your comments!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On being follically challenged

There are no two ways about it - losing one's hair sucks. Royally.

I first noticed it many years ago after a day at the beach, sans hat. That evening, my head felt - hot. I looked in the mirror and realized that my scalp was sunburnt! And then, like a loud CRACK-A-DOOM, a lightning bolt hit me and thundered throughout my mind the unthinkable - "C-Could I - is it possible - maybe the sun was just really intense today?" "No", the reasoning side of my brain calmly stated to the panicked side of my brain - "the sun got through because there is less hair to block it as in the past, Joe." Less and Hair are two words when put together don't sit well with a guy. For me, it was particularly galling. See, my hair is auburn. No one else in my family has it, nor do most people in general. It made me feel unique. My Uncle Paul used to call me "Big Red." People often said, "How can you be Italian with red hair? You look Irish!" One woman, a former hairdresser, accused me of dyeing it saying, "Do you know how much women pay to get that color and you're gonna tell me it's natural?!"

I accepted it a long time ago - I had to. I had to get used to that cringing feeling when I saw photos and I looked even balder than when I looked in the mirror. I had to accept the fact that I really only had one choice left as far as hair style, which is short. Nothing worse than those guys in the 70s that would let their hair grow long on the sides and back and be bald or really thin on top, like my wood shop teacher in junior high. Or those poor delusional bastards that do the "comb over". Yikes! Fortunately, ever since I was a kid I liked hats. Hats are the salvation of guys with thinning hair, a respite from reality, an oasis where you can pretend that you still have a head of flowing locks, still look at chicks and feel young, still imagine that feeling of running your fingers or a brush through a sexy mane and actually having need of a blowdryer!! Ah! High school with my hair parted down the middle and feathered back! Ah! College with a handful of gel and spiking my hair up into pointy daggers of defiance! Ah hell, all that hot blowdrying, over brushing and cement like gel are probably what led to the hairloss!

I've often wondered if a genie gave me three wishes, would I be so vain as to waste one on wishing for a full head of hair again? I honestly don't know. On the bright side, at least I'm not totally bald on top and forced to shave it yet, nor am I fat and out of shape like alot of guys my age. Like Frank Sinatra said on his 51st birthday, "I might be 51 on the outside, but inside I'm still 28!"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't miss this show!!!

It's not often that I call friends and tell them that they MUST SEE a particular show - this is one of those times. Joshua Liner Gallery has a show (til Dec 23rd) of 3D wall hangings and free standing pieces by Kris Kuksi. I have never seen work like this. Kuski began as a painter, and began these assemblages from dozens if not hundreds of model kits and cast figures from 1/2" and up - military, mythological, historical, anatomical, animals, architecture, etc.

Influences seem to be HR Giger, the heaven/hell/day of judgement pieces by Bosch, Brueghel and others, Star Wars, all filtered through what is one heck of an imagination. Photos absolutely don't do this work justice - go see these pieces in person (sensing a theme here?)! The painstaking craftsmanship is clearly evident, for example: a 2" figure of a military figure, but with a stove pipe hat and a head at the top of it, holding a 1/2" nude figure in his hand while on one leg is a skeleton firing a bow and arrow, and there are other small objects on his clothing. This is but one of several hundred figures on this one particular piece! The works are all a gray/dun color. I inquired as to how these are shipped and apparently Kuksi carves out the base of the artwork into a large piece of wood and sets it in there. There is much more to it than that, but he has to be using an incredibly strong epoxy on the figures to keep the work intact during transport.

Go to JoshuaLinerGallery.com and check out the work, and better still go to the gallery at 348 W 28th Street between 10th and 11th Ave.

Monday, December 1, 2008

These kids today...

Being around the young-uns this holiday got me thinking about how different everyday things were when I was their age. Here's a random list, I'm sure it won't be the last:
- When we turned on the TV, we had to wait for it to warm up.
- The channels were 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 - that's it.
- Everybody subscribed to TV Guide, and I remember next to each show was either a C if it was in color or BW if it was black & white.
- Every house had a milk box in front where the milkman left milk and picked up the empty GLASS milk bottles. It made a good seat when waiting for our friends to come out and play.
- Actually, almost everything in the supermarket came in either glass or cans, there was very little plastic. And your groceries were packed in brown paper bags which often embarassingly broke.
- Photos were taken with cameras using film, which had to be dropped off or mailed out to be developed.
- No ATMs, cell phones, Ipods, home computers, email, GPS, CDs, VCRs or DVDs.
- Car doors were actually heavy.
- Most phones hung on a wall or sat on a desk and had a cord (that often got tangled).
- Very few people had answering machines.
- If you called and someone wasnt home, you had to call back in order to reach them.
- We typed reports on a typewriter (electric if lucky) - remember Wite-Out?
- Letters were hand written (or typed) and mailed.
- Most movie theatres consisted of 1 theatre showing 1 movie (and a kiddie matinee). Remember ads in the paper "Held Over 40th Week!"
- No videos, Netflix, pay per view, DVR, Tivo or movies on demand.
- You never heard "damn" or "hell" on TV til Archie Bunker came along.
- Every house had a TV antenna on the roof and many sets had rabbit ears.
- At the beach everyone listened to WABC on their portable radio.
- We were a Walter Cronkite household. News came from him, the local news and the newspaper - 24 hr news like CNN came much later. If something BIG happened, and it had to be really big, shows were interrupted with an ominous "We interrupt out regularly scheduled program with this SPECIAL REPORT!"
- If we got caught writing on the desk in school we had to come after and wash all of them with that nasty scrubbing powder and brown paper towels.
- We never went trick or treating with our parents.

I could go on and probably will again, but feel free to add to the list!