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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Movie review: 'Snowden' takes early lead for Best Picture

Dear Carla,

Rafi will like this one, too!

I have admired this Whistleblower (capital "W") ever since his name became a household word in 2013. 

Thank you, Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone,
Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Kieran Fitzgerald, all the writers, cast and crew of Snowden.


Snowden is a nerve-wracking thriller and although the outcome is known, still, you get chills watching what happens and wondering why the heck he didn't get out of  Dodge sooner in Hong Kong (?).   

It compares to the stress and anxiety experienced in Argo.  Or a Tom Clancy novel (which I've never read but hear they are pretty good). 

And it's brought to the screen by the same company, Open Road, which distributed Spotlight, the 2016 Oscar winner for 'Best Picture.'

Snowden is Oliver Stone at his best and lo, I am not going to make this a review of Oliver Stone a la so many others, since most moviegoers don't go to a movie because of the director, but we go because of what our friends say, to see a good film based on entertainment, acting, script, music, and all the other components which go into a great film. Who said anything about a director, except the reviewers who write for other reviewers?  They make the film?

 All we want to know:

1. Is the movie worth our time and bucks?  Snowden, yes!  And yes, again!

Due to filming in Munich ("a beautiful experience") where Stone took his menagerie to escape the confines and U.S. peeping, and due to the movie's importance to him, Stone skipped his mother's funeral in the U.S. (where the NSA probably would have wired him at the airport), and to ensure staff technological security, independence, and protection, he hired a cyber expert for the filming. (All these important facts, courtesy, Wikipedia.)

The star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Snowden,"), (quoting again, Wikipedia) has pledged his salary from the movie "to 'help facilitate the conversation' about the relationship between technology and democracy." (Huh?  There's an organization for that?  Would that be the Clinton Foundation or a "Trump charity"? I say, give it all to The Nation.)

Craig Armstrong and Adam Peters's excellent music increases Snowden's drama and depth with the right amount of volume and composition.

The metallic, sterile industrial complexes of the CIA and NSA are exquisitely done, and the world of make-believe comes alive with Big Daddy Boss Man (Rhys Ifans).  He literally covers the Big Screen in magnificent, scary effect when he morphs into Tyrannosaurus Rhys ready to eat Snowden up. Roar and yeekers, yikers, he is one creepy dude nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Sex?  Sex?  You want sex?  It's here and more than you'd think, not totally gratuitous and with sprinkles of the "F" bomb dropping every now and then, natch.  

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) who have major roles and led the publication of the information Snowden possessed (possesses).

Ms. Poitras directed Citizenfour, the 2015 Oscar winner for Best Documentary, the predecessor to Snowden about the same subject, however, a little too wonky and technical for me, not nearly the "keep you on the edge of your seat" like Snowden. (The difference between a refrigerator manual and Lolita (I have read).)

Near Snowden's end are heard the shrill cries of Hillary in the background: Hang him!  Hang him high!  To the gallows!  Meanwhile, there is Donald J.Trump who would only execute the man. Sigh, our "leaders," one and the same. Some things never change. It's no wonder so many voters will stay home.

Speaking of, Snowden's hopes for President Obama were dashed early on when Snowden realized Obama was more of the "same ole, same ole," a difficult world to escape once he or she enters the lair.

Snowden said the government uses terrorism as an excuse to spy and pry on the people, and he shared the proof with us. Thank you, Edward Snowden, for the revelations, unlike national intelligence director James Clapper who, three months' prior to Snowden's release of data, lied to U.S. senators in a hearing when he denied that the U.S. collected information on citizens. Excuse me, isn't this what Nazi Germany did? 

Why hasn't Clapper been charged with perjury?  Oh, I forgot:  He's one of "the good old boys," a member of the Washington hierarchy which grants immunity from prosecution, depending upon position.

Please, don't come back, Edward Snowden. Move to St. Petersburg, if Moscow is too droll. Stay away. We don't want THEM to hang you high.

Academy Award nominations:

Best Picture, Snowden

Best Director, Oliver Stone

Best Actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Best Actress in a Supporting Role, (the girlfriend)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Rhys Ifans

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mellon show ends today at the National Gallery of Art

Paul Klee, Swiss, 1879 – 1940, Dampfer und Segelböte (Steamboat and Sailboats), 1931, watercolor. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983

Only a few hours remain to see the special exhibition devoted to a small portion of the hundreds of works of art formerly owned by Paul Mellon (1907-1999) before he gave them to the National Gallery of Art.
Edouard Manet, French, 1832–1883, The Raven Perched Upon a Bust of Pallas, 1875, gillotage. In Edgar Allan Poe, Le Corbeau, translated by Stephane Mallarme (Paris: Richard Lesclide,1875). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon,

Paul Mellon was the son of the founder of the National Gallery, Andrew Mellon (1855-1937), so it is fitting that the Gallery recognize the largesse of the family on its 75th birthday with a presentation of Paul and Bunny Mellon's collection found in their home, pieces which Paul Mellon hung himself. 
Jacques Villon, French, 1875–1963, A Woman in Blue at the Beach, 1902/1904, watercolor over graphite. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1995 

The National Gallery is filled with the Mellons' gifts, including the 88 pastels, drawings, watercolors, illustrated books, and prints which make up this show and are not displayed often or for long periods of time due to light's damaging effects. 
The donor gave no thought really to the juxtaposition of the pieces in his home, said his friend and curator Andrew Robison when the exhibition opened.  Mellon only bought and hung what he liked, which matches the arrangement here.
Winslow Homer, American, 1836 – 1910, On the Stile, 1878, watercolor and gouache over graphite. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1994
Represented artists in the show include
Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Édouard Manet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edgar Degas, George Bellows, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Rene Magritte, Belgian, 1898 –1967, The Murderous Sky, 1927, brush and ink with collage of sheet music cutouts, lithograph. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1995
Henri Matisse, French, 1869–1954, Self-Portrait, 1937, charcoal. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1985

On the walls are Mellon quotes which Robison pulled from books, news articles, and magazines. Robison described Paul Mellon as a man who had a "gentleness [and] shyness" about him, "reserved [with a] mischievous smile."

George Bellows, American, 1882 – 1925, Dempsey and Firpo, 1923/1924, lithograph. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983

"He only bought what he said he wanted to live with," said Robison. Collecting was rather like "occupational therapy" for him.

His favorite artists were "probably" Degas and Homer whose watercolors he liked better than Degas'.

At the Paul Mellon exhibition/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Some of his favorite subjects were boxing, horse racing, the water, New York and Parisian night life, and woman's curves, all depicted in pictures and now on the walls of what used to be called "the Mellon Gallery," said Earl A. Powell, III, the National Gallery's director.

At the press preview of the show, Director Powell told a funny story about the time he was invited to the Mellons' shortly after Powell was hired in 1992 as the National Galley director.

At the Mellons' home, "Murray the Butler" greeted Powell. In one hand Murray held a sheet of paper and in the other, a martini, which later came to be known as the "Mellon Martini," created by Mellon himself, a concoction of vodka and gin because Mellon didn't like the smell of vermouth or maybe it was the other way around. 

Whatever, there was some smell he didn't like.

Murray said to Powell: "Sir, Mr. Mellon has made a list of art works on the wall he thought you might like to have, and if you want others, please add them to the list." (!!!!!)

What: In Celebration of Paul Mellon

When: Today is the last day, Sunday, September 18, 2016, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

West Building, Galleries 72 and 73, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission: Never on Sunday or any time

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bryce Harper blows a big one Saturday night v. Phillies

At Saturday's night game of the Nationals v. the Phillies, outfielder and baseball star Bryce Harper blew a big one to get things rolling in Washington, D.C.

Who makes that gum?  The manufacturer might think about selling it ("Bryce's Gum"?) since it may be the secret sauce behind the home run he hit in the eighth to bring in two more runs and win the game, 3-0.  Nice job, Bryce!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Bryce Harper in the outfield, Nationals v. Phillies, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Whatsis?  Bryce got a yo-yo in his mouth?Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Another fun night at the game! Sure was glad I was on the lower level where you can buy $6.50 beer v. that high priced stuff on the upper levels ($9)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Hold on, looks like another one's comin'!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 And another!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
One more! Durn it all, I missed some big blows.  Whatever, we appreciate the fine finish you made on the game, Bryce!  Thank you very much/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Confederate cemetery in Castlewood, VA

A private Confederate cemetery in Castlewood, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A private Confederate cemetery in Castlewood, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie  

The six soldiers whose graves are pictured above fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865), and five were members of the Kentucky Calvary.  (It's possible that the sixth, Samuel W. Goode, fought with the Kentucky Calvary, but identification on his marker on the far left is difficult to make out in the photograph.)  

Beginning on the left with Mr. Goode's grave are the graves of William H. Garnett (died May 20, 1863), Leroy White (died June 9, 1863), C. J. Edrington (died June 16, 1863),  Henry B. Green (died June 22, 1863), and James W. Johnson (died March 1, 1864).  Garnett, White, Edrington, and Green were members of the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, and Johnson was a member of the Tenth.

At the time, Castlewood was spelled "Cassel Woods" where Mr. Edrington died. Mr. Garnett and Mr. White died in Virginia, and that's as far as I have gotten.

Castlewood is a small town in southwestern Virginia, about 45 miles from the Kentucky border.  During the war, Kentucky was a border state, a slave state, which did not secede to join the Confederate States of America.

Although Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie: Reminiscences of a Confederate Cavalryman (1895) by George Dallas Mosgrove, a member of the Fourth Kentucky Calvary Regiment, is available for purchase online, you can also read it in its entirety online for free, thanks to the Emory University Digital Library Publications Program.  It has a handy search tool.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Come 'Hell or High Water,' it'll win an Oscar (or two...)

Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Chris Pine in Film 44's   Hell or High Water

Dear Carla, Rafi will like this one!

It's rough and tumbly stuff, made for men and women who enjoy good drama, rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, action, choice acting, and musical effects to build suspense and add to  cinematographic effects (by Giles Nuttgens.  In quieter moments with the sky as backdrop, you may think you're in a Santa Fe gallery, but not for long). 
Ben Foster (left) and Chris Pine in Film 44's Hell or High Water

Hands down, no question, Hell or High Water will win Oscar nominations, maybe (my call) seven or eight to include "Best Picture" and is it possible for one film to zap 60 percent of the "Best Actor" nominees?  Good, for in this case "Best Actor" nominations go to:

1. Jeff Bridges, the curmudgeonly Texas Ranger;

2.  Chris Pine, the fall-down-dead-breathless lady killer and bank robber, assisted by his son-of-a-gun criminal brother, 

3. Ben Foster.

And not to overlook "Best Supporting Actor" in his biggest role yet, Gil Birmingham who plays Chief Ranger's sidekick.
(If there were an Oscar for casting, I'd nominate the film's Jo Edna Boldin and Richard Hicks.)

Nominations are also in order for David Mackenzie, Best Director, and for Taylor Sheridan, Best Original Screenplay.

Until friends who saw the film on opening weekend told me it had earned 98% and 90% at Rotten Tomatoes (the first score is the critics', and the second and more important rating is by the audience which is generally not swayed by producers, friends, directors, reputations, etc.), it's likely I would have skipped Hell or High Water altogether. 

You like guns?  Take a gander at the display.

Hell has a bit of Bonnie and Clyde (for the two percent who remember it) and a hint of Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? (mostly without the humor. Hell tries a trifle too much to make funny with the Native American jokes, which, after a while, become old and repetitious.  This is not Andrew Jackson taking out the Indians on the "Trail of Tears," folks.)

The language is harsh, natch, and the sex is minimal, but the two women who come along (Katy Mixon and Marin Ireland) are excellent, despite criticism I have read about the script's stereotypical female roles. Feminists (I am): Don't let it keep you from seeing this movie!

Mr. Sheridan skilfully weaves the painful, underlying issue of lifelong poverty throughout the tale, and you gotta hate the banks even more. 

Especially "reverse mortgages" which the banks still promote as the best thing for the elderly since oatmeal.  A reverse mortgage made hell for the brothers' mother at the end of her life, but her sons took their guns to town and got revenge.  

Why do we root for the bad guys to get away?  How much of ourselves are in the characters we see?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Impressionist teacher and artist extraordinaire, William Merritt Chase, now at the Phillips

William Merritt Chase, Portrait of Dora Wheeler, 1882-1883, Cleveland Museum of Art.  A painting of one of his students, this was one Chase's early masterpieces which won an Honorable Mention at the 1883 Paris Salon and a Gold Medal at Munich's Crystal Palace exhibition.
 William Merritt Chase, The Young Orphan, c. 1884, National Academy Museum, New York.  His subject for this painting likely came from the orphan asylum located next door to Chase's Tenth Street Studio in New York.  It's reminiscent of The Artist's Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, an artist Chase admired.
 William Merritt Chase, Washing Day - A Backyard Reminiscence of Brooklyn, c. 1887, from the collection of Lilly Endowment, Inc.
 William Merritt Chase, The End of the Season, c. 1884-1885, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
 William Merritt Chase, I Think I Am Ready Now, c. 1883, private collection
 William Merritt Chase, The Tenth Street Studio, 1880, Saint Louis Art Museum. Chase's well-known studio, filled with what he loved: art, bric-a-brac, people, his Russian hound, and, on one side, there he is.
 William Merritt Chase, Sunlight and Shadow, 1884, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha. Chase painted this in Holland where he resided during the summer at the coastal cottage of his friend and artist, Robert Blum, the man above.  Chase referred to this work as The Tift.  A partially hidden woman lies in the hammock while another one scurries away.  The Triangle?
William Merritt Chase, Self-Portrait in 4th Avenue Studio, 1915-1916, Richmond Art Museum, Indiana, completed the year he died.
William Merritt Chase, Lydia Field Emmet, 1892, Brooklyn Museum, one of his students who became "one of the foremost American woman portrait painters of the late 19th century," according to the wall copy.

All it takes to win a chance for a trip for two to Boston in celebration of the William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) exhibition now at the Phillips Collection, is a brief explanation on social media of your favorite Chase work by September 11, 2016. (See linbelow for details.)

Artist and teacher of Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Joseph Stella, John Marin, and George Bellows, among many others, William Merritt Chase is honored by the Phillips in the centenary year of his death in this first Chase retrospective in 30 years.

A must for any fan of Impressionism.

The 70 works span 40 years in an enthralling presentation which seems much larger, perhaps because it is easy to lose yourself in the paintings and get carried away.

His obituary in the Washington Times on October 26, 1916 noted his career path followed that of many artists: His father wanted him to be something else. To be like him! A retail merchant, but the son used his father's business supplies, wrapping papers, to draw sketches, and, at age 20 took off from middle America for New York.

About a year later, the ailing family business, now in St. Louis, beckoned Chase to come and help out, and he did.

There, art aficionados recognized his talents and, in exchange for original works, arranged training for him in Europe where he studied for several years in Munich and Italy.

Returning to the U.S. and "representing the new wave of European-educated American talent" (Wikipedia), his "first fame" came with "Keying Up"-The Court Jester (1875) which won a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and which viewers may see at the Phillips.

Chase etched and painted portraits, landscapes, still lifes, urban and domestic scenes using watercolor, oils, pastels, and ink. His subjects included notable persons of the era including his wife, Alice, and their eight children during his "most energetic" period. At Shinnecoke Hills, Long Island, N.Y. he was persuaded to take over an art school where he taught from 1891 to 1902, among many places. (Now his Shinnecoke home and studio are on the National Register of Historic Places.)

His Tenth Street Studio in New York was considered "the most famous artist's studio in America and a virtual manifesto of his and his generation's artistic practices and beliefs, and of the dignity of the artistic calling," according to a biographical sketch at the National Gallery of Art. Several of his works at the Phillips are titled Tenth Street Studio.

Chase established the Chase School, which later became Parsons The New School for Design, and for a decade (1885-1895) he was president of the Society of American Artists.

At the turn of the century he and his rival instructor, Robert Henri, were considered the nation's most important teachers of American artists.

On his death the New York Tribune on Oct. 27, 1916 called him "one of the most useful painters we ever had."  

The Terra Foundation for American Art whose mission is dedicated that of its founder, Daniel J. Terra (1911-1996) who believed "engagement with original works of art could be a transformative experience," has enabled the presentation of the Chase show at the Phillips where the Terra team succeeds!

This is the first Chase exhibition to travel abroad where it will stop in Venice in February at the International Gallery of Modern Art after a tour at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (October, 2016 - January, 2017).

At the show's opening, curator Elsa Smithgall called Chase "a painter's painter."

Catalogues are available in the gift shop.

: William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master

When: Now through September 11, 2016 (except Mondays), 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, 12-7 p.m. Extended hours until 8:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month for separate ticketed event September 1, "Art and Play," inspired by Chase's art and Karel Appel's (another exhibition currently at the Phillips) with music by Color Palette, food and drink presented in partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands. The Thursday events often sell out.

Contest! Enter the Chase Contest at the Phillips by September 11, 2016 for a chance to win a trip for two to Boston. Just mention a favorite Chase work on social media (with certain hash tags) and submit! Easy! See complete details here.

Where: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St., N.W. at Q St., Washington, D.C. 20009

Tickets: $12, $10 for students and those over 62, free for members and for children 18 and under.

Metro Station: Dupont Circle (Q Street exit. Turn left and walk one block.)

For more information: 202-387-2151