"April, the angel of the months, the young love of the year." – Vita Sackville-West
APRIL REVIEWS: "The Lobster Chronicles" by Linda Greenlaw, "You Came To Me As a Ghost" by Songs: Ohia, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Robert Glasper, "The Offer" series, & the film "Alita, Battle Angel"
It is a month for new beginnings: time to breathe in the fresh air after a rainstorm.
It was a hard winter for many and March ended with another gun violence tragedy in an elementary school: more innocents were murdered and families shattered. We must work together for common sense gun-ownership reform. A quick internet search reveals that banning weapons of war has already been proven to significantly lower gun violence in this country. A large majority of US citizens support that ban. In addition, responsible ownership must begin at the point of purchase. We have to vote for people with the courage to do what needs to be done and to do that we need to protect voting rights and work for fair legislative districting so that politicians cannot be bought and sold without consequence.
BOOK: THE LOBSTER CHRONICLES: LIFE ON A VERY SMALL ISLAND by Linda Greenlaw
I am in the final stretch of a short novel and audiobook that deals with the aftermath of violence on a small island in Maine. I worked on a few of the islands in the past as a contract educator. In order to write my novella, I had to further research the Maine islands.
Of all the books I read about the Maine islands, it was Linda Greenlaw's nonfiction book The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island that stood out. There is something special about the way Greenlaw writes. She is intimate, funny, truthful, and emotional. It is difficult to understand how exactly she does what she does, but she is, as they say, wicked good at it.
Greenlaw was the captain of a swordfish boat before she turned to writing. In the nonfiction book The Perfect Storm, she is the captain of the boat that warns the captain of the Adrea Gail to turn back because of the worsening weather. She is portrayed in the film of the book by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Greenlaw now lives on the small island in Maine, Isle au Haut, where she captains a lobster boat. The rumor is she has retired from fishing, but I am not sure I believe it.
She is a prolific writer.
- (1999). The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey. Hyperion.
- (2002). The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island. Hyperion.
- (2004). All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar. Hyperion.
- (2010). Seaworthy: A Swordboat Captain Returns to the Sea. Viking Adult.
- (2013). Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother. Viking Adult.
Add four mystery thrillers all named after a type of sailor's knot and a couple of cookbooks that I leave unlisted.
- (2007). Slipknot. Jane Bunker Mystery #1. Hyperion.
- (2008). Fisherman's Bend. Jane Bunker Mystery #2. Hyperion.
- (2017). Shiver Hitch. Jane Bunker Mystery #3. St. Martin's Press.
- (2018). Bimini Twist. Jane Bunker Mystery #4. Minotaur Books.
Her nonfiction books never disappoint.
MUSIC: Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasma by Songs: Ohia
This album was difficult to find until someone uploaded it entirely on YouTube without ads. Thank you. This music is not for everyone and it was initially reviewed harshly, but it honestly captures the ragged and confident live sound of the band Songs: Ohia and the haunting voice of songwriter Jason Molina. Recorded at Barchessone Vecchio in Modena, Italy, on September 27, 2000, the title of the album is You Came To Me As A Ghost in Italian.
If I heard this bold live music as I passed the open door of a tavern, I would have gone inside and sat down immediately. This is alternative Americana music at its best. Imagine Neil Young and Crazy Horse on a different timeline. If you want to know more about this unique US singer-songwriter and his bands read Erin Osmon's 2017 biography: Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost.
MUSIC: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT by Robert Glasper
My obsession with this genius continues. Robert Glasper is energizing jazz like no one has in decades. No words.
SERIES: THE OFFER on Paramount Plus
It is perplexing that this series about the making of The Godfather, the film many consider to be the greatest movie ever made, did not garner the awards and positive reviews it deserved.
The acting performances are consistently amazing. Giovanni Ribisi plays Joe Colombo and steals every scene he is in. Matthew Goode is phenomenal as Robert Evans. Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt brings fire and ambition. Miles Teller as the legendary two-time Best Picture Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy provides a steady and straight presence that makes the entire series work. Burn Gorman tears down scenery portraying Charles Bluhdorn, the CEO of Gulf and Western, the corporation that owned Paramount Pictures and was considering selling the studio lot to expand a graveyard as The Godfather was in production.
The series is enjoyable, addictive, and an education on the so-called glory days of the '70s Hollywood system that brought us Rosemary's Baby (1968), Love Story (1970), The Godfather (1972), and Chinatown (1974), and the early films of Coppola, Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley, and Scorcese.
Ruddy went on to produce 2004 the Oscar-winning Best Picture Million Dollar Baby.
I loved the series. It is available on Paramount Plus.
FILM: Alita: Battle Angel
Alita: Battle Angel showcases state-of-the-art visuals in a sci-fi action romance. The acting is good, the character development is interesting enough, and the dialogue is not embarrassing. This could have been a good B movie with a mythic archetypical journey: a young woman finds out who she is, connects with her lover, and saves her world. But that's not what happened.
It is no accident that the character of the Friar begins Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with the announcement that you are about to experience a story about star-crossed lovers that die tragically. Without that 1597 trigger warning, when Romeo and Juliet finally died the groundlings in the audience would have pelted the stage with rotten vegetables.
You cannot signal to an audience that they are about to experience a romance and then give them a tragedy.
The movie begins as a romance in every mythic way but at sudden change at the end keeps the lovers apart. The male love interest appears to have died, but more importantly, there is no mythic linking of the two lovers as we would expect in a romance.
In the original script, the couple connects at the end and together continues to fight against their enemies. I was able to find concept art from 2005 that I believe is the original art that Cameron's Avatar team put together when he lent them to the development team for Alita, but I cannot find any metadata that confirms this. In any case, this art ends with the original script's ending.
The film grossed over $405 million worldwide on a production budget of $170 million. What it did accomplish creatively should be noted. It advanced the future of action and sci-fi filmmaking by using the artificial look of motion capture acting to its advantage.
The so-called "uncanny valley" of previous motion capture acting that made actors look like cartoons, or the previous CG close-up work that tried to be realistic but ended up being stiff and awkward, are almost entirely absent from this film. This film uses the uncanny look as part of the story. Alita is not entirely human and her appearance confirms that.
Rosa Salazar did a great job in the cyborg role despite wearing a complete motion capture body suit and helmet. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, she showed that without a doubt she can move like a martial artist and provide effective moments acting with the likes of Christoph Waltz and Jennifer Connelly.
The genius director and writer James Cameron produced this movie with his usual producing partner, Jon Landau. He has said his design team behind the look of the Avatar movies spent six months building the world of the Alita film illustrating storyboards that stayed true to the feel of the original graphic manga Alita novel by Yukito Kishiro while cutting out his horrific violence.
Andrew Liptak of The Verge wrote this about the character Alita in the film: "The character looks like an anime doll come to life, or like a Disney character that's just a hair off from normal. It's probably a deliberate choice, meant to remind viewers at every moment that Alita isn't human. But after so many years of CGI animators trying to mimic convincing human faces and not entirely succeeding, it's still unsettling to see a character hovering this close to realistic while staying this far away from it."
The character of Alita is a visually arresting motion capture character, perhaps the best so far. The look of the world-building worked for me. It is no Blade Runner, but there was plenty to admire.
To Be Continued? Probably not. It is a director's job to make sure the bones of a story, its structure, works for its intended audience. The ending of Alita: Battle Angel confused audiences and left them unsatisfied. There is no Alita 2 in production at this time.
INTERVIEW EXCERPT: David Bowie
A short snippet of Bowie sharing his heart. A hero. May he rest in peace.
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