Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Circus Sitter / Paris Notes (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Circus Sitter / Paris notes

Paris is a blank face. It is precisely half of Rene Magritte's green apple, round with glossy edges like a clock of emotion. You can project anything you want onto the city: your wishes and your fears. Sometimes Paris takes the form of a chocolate as dark as the river Seine. Other times it is in the leg of a woman--a lustful metronome. At still others it is in the bodies of lovers kissing thinking fishy thoughts of anchovy and moonlight...

When I roll into Charles De Gaulle I don't know what to expect. Faces confront me, some shielded like wooden blinds. More often, they are open or opaque. The glances belong to people: ladies, children or men on the march. An endless ensemble of limbs making a curious creature---one suited for commerce, work, play or spending money.

Then the sight of a door: DOUANE. The customs police.

A friendly female agent arrives with a face in a half smile centered with ebony stars. Her friendliness edged with efficency and polish. Back and forth, yet endlessly forward, left, right, droit, gauche, rolling and rolling. A crowd of people, expectant and silver, gleaming. 

Hands and teeth holding signs.

Is my hair flaming orange? Am I Bowie...

Then I see the sign: Brockway Gail.

I made the flight and now a taxi is here. Maintenant. Ici. 

The taxi is black and I wonder about crime. What are the chances? Kidnapping, bullets, flak jackets, ransom, Patricia Highsmith and the films of Michael Haneke.

But we are on the road to the apartment.

Green grass and cement, cement and green grass.

The apartment. Ochre, a friendly mushroom. Which way is front and back? Then up twenty steps.
 A man giving my mom the details. The internet, the tv, the kitchen. He says of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that it is life, it only gets to people when it happens to them. He mentions the surrealism of it, then sleep comes like a sandbag over my face before I realize that I am actually physically in Paris France with my puppeteer-made body and this is not a virtual dream.

A park. Des Invalides. A Goth couple with black lipstick that mocks mischief across the face.

A young boy frolics between the thighs of a statue casually laying a finger on the granite pubis. Here are green thatched hedges, a razed uniform, smooth edges and topiary pointing to a maze in "The Shining."

I am present in the Tuilleries Gardens. A round ensemble of people stare into the pools depth.
Crowds of people sitting on grass. Dogs jumping. One girl with an ACDC shirt. 

The Louvre. A giant stone cake of history and intimidation in the middle of everything. A guy tells a group that the statues were beheaded during the revolution. The statues are people as well.

We are met by a female guide. The essence of calm with a maroon hat. She explains that Napoleon promised Josephine pyramids but didn't come though, so I.M Pei made pyramids at the Louvre.

Through a maze of elevators and doors. The Mona Lisa. A rock star painting in glass. Shut away through time and space. A luxuriant star long dead that is still visible. Crushes of people taking iPhone pics two lines thick. I laugh and cry because I think this is what celebrity seems like for people and then merely that I made it here. The snapping of pictures melt with Petr's smile but Da Vinci made it. A star after suffering like Van Gogh.

I look into the salon and feel exactly where Turner stood and this feeling gets me more than Mona.
Winged victory. A beautiful goddess with an invisible head.

The paintings that depict Jesus strike. For once, here is a Jesus of darkness, his legs and torso draped in shadow, his eyes full of a raven's last kiss, the moment of Judas. I cannot read the artist plaque.
Out of the museum. Mom is struck by the guide. She tells me that the guide mentioned that France is not religious regarding Allah but I do not recall Allah mentioned. She hugged us which I liked.

We stop at a cafe. An ice cream sundae with actual curves of cream. Ripples of cool sugar hit me and I think at that moment this is what it felt like to be on a date with LaTrice and to be kissed, more than any dessert, just this instant sensation is what it feels like to have your body in balance, to be on top of the world.

The coffee and caramel is the sun in a glass.

I look down the narrow streets.

The Eiffel Tower sparkles silver but I think of Prince and the idea of following his ghost, a purple Apollinaire.

Woke up and Paris is silver dappled in gold. Have a chocolate croissant. 

Mom and Petr said to bundle up but it is not cold.

When my feet hit my chair, my eye confronts a row of police cars lined up like profiteroles with a ribbon of blue on the side door creating hostile appetites.

The men's faces are blank.

In the distance, a few youths are waving flags, a red figure and a blue in the style of keith haring, action figures ready to jump.

A protest, but to what cause?

I did not plan it, but find I am on course to the military museum to see Napoleon's tomb.
There is a line of tourists and two machine gun guards with faces as hard and metal as the guns they carry. I am inches close to the gun which is to me like a closed beast ready to scream.

I am nervous.

A voice on a megaphone but the sounds are narcotic and muffled.

A crowd builds. If there were protesters, what did they want?

I went to the back entrance. Two officers are putting on face-shields and armor. A foot away, a cafe lunch proceeds as if it were summer.

Two older folks watch, equally puzzled and curious.

A tank stands in my path under an arch as part of an exhibit resembling an exotic reptile from a primitive planet, covered in bumps.

I love the tank as it reminds me of my dad when he said that he was part of the tank battalion. Here is strength and might! If only for a moment...

As I move away from my beloved tank, and into the open, I think of Passolini's "120 days of Sodom," those Nazis and life's imitation of art. 

Surely a scene was filmed here.

Again my eye is usurped by the line of profiterole police trucks.

Are threats occurring?

Now, the Musée d'Orsay..

A cheerful young girl gives us the run down. There is an ad for the visual work of Guillaume Apollinaire and I ask, but the older woman does not understand. Went through a maze of corridors.  Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Another rock star painting. No glass. Petr takes pictures of me under every painting that I say I like. I have the constant urge to laugh.

We have a good buttery dinner at a place that is titled in script like Picasso's hand: Pasco. The fish slides on the plate.

I immediately go to the aubergine as it reminds me of my Prince poem and tastes terrific as velvet might or salt. Life itself.

The street is dark and for others might contain the shape of legs.

I think of the white police cars stacked in rows earlier, angry milk bottles poised for a fight.

Just as the night is inevitable, so is conflict.

Pere La-chaise cemetery. The stones like a wrinkled face. Bump bump bump bump bumpbump bump bumpbumpbump bump. Huffing, puffing up a cobbled hill. Incredible heights up. My wheels marking distance little more than a child's pin-wheel at the beach.

After twenty minutes, Jim Morrison's home. A grave, medium sized. Small for the big man of rock. Its face heaped casually with beads and its entrance lined with stuck gum and locks. Sugar and iron: the intimacy of fan hearts. The sound of "Light My Fire" comes from within the stone and the cement itself seemingly glowing with a pale green light.

Petr lifts me up over seven others and I kiss him. I am excited but the grave seems sad and I feel a hurrying up sensation in my chest that begins when I cry.

Then it is gone.

The grave of Oscar Wilde. A beautiful rest. Art Deco and ornate, yet simple. After decades of wanting to see it. And Eureka!

I'm shocked to see it under glass like Mona  Lisa.

A chatty woman comes upon us:

"Thank you for saying Hello in French. Thank you for saying Hello. You must go to see the trees and flowers here. Very important."

Then after much bumping and a little fear, a man helps us find Apollinaire, whose spirit I feel.

A man tells us that Guilluame's girlfriend Marie Laurencin wanted to be buried with him.

We find the grave: a terrific stone crowned with what looks like a rough penis.

He made his mark.

I feel closed in by ravens and trees. I think this is where I'll end up, hemmed in by clouds and brick. 
All my thoughts overlap upon others. Ravens. Trees. Napoleon. Apollinaire. Blood. Dominatrices. Torn flesh. The pull of orgasm.

Across town to Montmartre. A while in time. Crowds of people. Cars. Noise. Headless colors and dirt. Mom is scared, says this is like Houston Street. Square buildings. Graffitti. Mouths with grimaces of steam.

Sacré-Cœur. The Taj Mahal, India. More cobblestones. Out into the air. The view: blue sky and little white buildings, squares of ice cream. The city.

I'm wheezing. How am I going to die? I am propelled behind some business men in dark suits.

Multiple scary rockings around the corner and then the choas of tourists and people, the endeavor of making money. 

Who was once here? Lautrec? Dali? Does it matter? 

I can't think clearly. 

We ask several people about Dali. Most don't know. Then we see it: a squat gray hut that looks like a clamshell with a dark space within.


No access.
I submit, accept and give up. Thirty steps. Petr carries me. It is a vault, the catacombs. Darkness, then the white light of what seems 30 of Dali works to go with the 30 steps. Red and purple paint on paper. Don Quixote. A sculpture of gold and ego. The gallery guard gives no sign of greeting. 

Up the stairs. 

At the gift shop, the girl is friendly and doesn't know the English word "buttons." I buy two and a shirt with a Dali quote: "I don’t do drugs, I am drugs." Because I truly don't do drugs. Aside from two pieces of a marijuana cookie, each piece being twenty years apart. 

I stop for a coffee and see men with guns yet again. Four of them. 

After the cemetery and Montmartre, tired and buzzy, my bladder full of rubber bands, tight and hot. Almost uncomfortable. I try to think of sex, but cannot.

An unknown cafe for dinner. A bloody red on red chaimburger, surprising and good and disco house music in the air, which feels fun in its rattle of drums and metal rather than threatening.

The sidewalk has my initials written in red next to the military museum IAB, so I know it’s going to be all right.

I have come to Paris to see machine guns like rotten teeth.

So far, we have made it.

Write Ian at

Friday, May 20, 2016

Week of May 20 - 26 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview
Tropic Cinema Promises to Keep You Occupied.
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You can’t complain about not having plenty of movies to see in Key West. The Tropic by itself can keep you occupied -- seven films filling its screens this week.

The title of “The Meddler” gives you the plot. Susan Sarandon is a widowed mom who moves to LA to be near her screenwriter daughter. But mom proves to be too much of a good thing -- the texts, the unexpected visits, the … well, meddling. But this familiar story has a nice ending. St. Louis Post-Dispatch tells us, “Much like its main character, ‘The Meddler’ exudes an irresistible charm.” Tulsa World opines, “It’s Sarandon's best role, and her most complete performance, in years.” And Charlotte Observer notes, “We know where we’re going, but the Oscar-winning actors take us there with ease and charm.”

“Sing Street” is a happy musical about an Irish boy who starts a band to impress a girl. This is from John Carney, the director who gave us “Once.” Detroit News says, “As a testament to the power of music, the bond of brotherhood and the boundless possibilities of youth, ‘Sing Street’ just plain works.” And Sun Online advises us to “love the film, buy the soundtrack, paint your nails, put some blusher on and fall in love for the first time, again.”

“Papa Hemingway in Cuba” is particularly of interest here in the town where Hemingway made his home for so many years. But this movie is about his home after this one, in Cuba. What’s more, this movie was filmed inside Finca Vigia, Papa’s actual home in San Francisco de Paula. Rolling Stone says, “As the first U.S. film shot in Cuba since Castro came to power in 1959, Papa gives us sights to revel in.” And Chicago Sun-Times adds, “A film that is beautiful to look at but lacks clear vision.”

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” is the true-life story about a young Indian who had a genius for numbers. Dav Patel plays the savant and Jeremy Irons is the British mathematician who discovered him. Spirituality and Practice describes it as “A heartening drama about a slow-blooming friendship between two brilliant mathematicians.” And SSG Syndicate says it “engages the heart as well as the mind....”

“Dough” does Alice B. Toklas’s brownies one better -- a kosher baker’s bread becomes very popular after his assistant drops a stash of marijuana into the dough. San Diego Reader calls it “A culture-clash comedy at once so-bad-it’s-good and so-good-it’s-bad that it kept me laughing throughout.” And Philadelphia Inquirer says the comedy’s “formulaic structure is made up for by the dynamic chemistry between its leads. Jonathan Pryce and Jerome Holder play off each other with all the bluster and awkwardness of a real-life father and son.”

“The Boss” is another Melissa McCarthy comedy, this one about an obnoxious boss who tries to rebuild her image after getting out of jail for stock manipulation. Yes, you’re supposed to think: Martha Stewart. 3AW observes, “Hot on the heels of ‘Spy,’ Melissa McCarthy strikes while her iron’s hot with another pleasing lark, this one featuring one of her more daring performances ... It’s pretty impressive.” And Sensacine calls it “a rowdy comedy … committed to physical humor.”

Gory, yes. However, “Green Room” is a horror film that transcends its genre. Patrick Steward plays a club owner in Oregon who tries to kill off a punk rock band that witnesses a murder. Sunday Independent declares, “The body-count is high, but getting there is devilish fun.” And ABC Radio concludes that it “joins the canon of ‘under siege’ movies ... not with louder bangs, scarier invaders or more bloodshed but with originality, wit and subversion.”

Lots of choices, lots of movies you’ll want to see!

Sing Street (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Sing Street” Is Musical Romance Set on Synge Street
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Have you ever tried to impress a girl? You know, like when you were in your teens. Strange creatures, those young females. Certainly more worldly than us awkward, pimply faced boys. At that age we’re attracted to, but frightened by, members of the opposite sex at the same time.

In “Sing Street,” that’s the situation a young Irish lad faces. As director John Carney describes the plot, “It’s about a boy starting a band in order to impress a girl.” Carney swears it’s semiautobiographical.

“Sing Street” is currently making music at Tropic Cinema.

So how does Carney tell his story? Our boy -- let’s call him Conor Lalor -- lives in Dublin. Because of tight finances, his folks transfer him from a fancy school to a free state-school located on Synge Street. (Okay, now you get the film’s title … with the reminder this is a musical.) Conor doesn’t fit in too well: he gets off to a bad start with the school principal, has a run-in with a bully, and meets the girl of his puerile dreams.

What to do? Try to impress the girl, of course. By bragging about your non-existent band.

Maybe she’d like to appear in your music video? Oh, she does. Then you’d better organize a band fast.

Fortunately, Conor has a couple of guys who are willing to be in a band. And they have some musical instruments. And his brother gives him some good advice about originality. And the girl gives him a nickname: Cosmo. Next thing he knows, he’s cool.

For “Sing Street,” John Carney cast a bunch of unknowns: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo takes on the role of Conor/Cosmo, even launching a real-life musical career on the shirttails of this movie. Mark McKenna and Ben Carolan are his musical mates. And Lucy Boynton is the girl.

Maybe art imitates life. Maybe John Carney’s brother did give him some good advice when he was a teenager trying to impress a girl with a band. At any rate, the film carries an appreciative dedication: “For brothers everywhere.”

The Man Who Knew Infinity (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” Is About Genius -- And Friendship
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

IQ is now thought to be only moderately useful as a gauge of potential. But some people are simply smarter than others. Those who have a genius-level IQ are about one in 400. But true geniuses -- people with amazing mental abilities -- amount to less than 1,000,000 people worldwide.

“The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a biopic about such a genius. It’s currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

The yes-it’s-true story: Although he had almost no training in mathematics, Indian-born Srinivasa Ramanujan proved to be a genius at mathematical analysis, number theory, continued fractions, and infinity series. He discovered many new theorems, compiling a massive 3,900 results. The masters at Cambridge barely knew what to make of him. Fortunately, a professor named G.H. Hardy did.

When the Cambridge dons challenged this young savant’s work  (“There’s no proofs … we’re just supposed to take him at his word?”), Hardy tartly replied, “No, you’re to take him at mine.”

Dav Patel -- today’s favorite go-to Indian guy for a movie -- stars as Srinivasa Ramanujan. You’ll remember Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire,” as well as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel. Also from his turn in Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant TV miniseries, “The Newsroom.”

Jeremy Irons -- moviedom’s on-call guy for stiff-upper-lip roles -- co-stars as Godfrey Harold (“G. H.”) Hardy FRS. You’ll recall Irons’s fine performances in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” “The House of the Spirits,” and “Reversal of Fortune,” which won him an Academy Award. And his TV roles in “Brideshead Revisited,” Elizabeth I,” and “The Borgias.” You may also recognize his voice as that of Scar in Disney’s “The Lion King.”

Although moviegoers may be expecting something along the lines of those warped genius films (like “A Beautiful Mind” or “The Imitation Game”), “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is actually more of a buddy movie: The poor kid from Madras, India, taken under the wing by the uppercrust Brit who belonged to the Cambridge Apostles, an elite, intellectual secret society.

“An Unlikely Friendship,” the movie trailer heralds.

Almost immediately Hardy recognized Ramanujan’s untutored brilliance and championed him. The two became close collaborators. When asked about the greatest achievement of his career, Hardy cited the discovery of Ramanujan. He described their collaboration as “the one romantic incident in my life.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Week of May 13 - 19 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview
Eight Films Fill Four Screens at Tropic Cinema
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The Tropic amazes with the number of films it can squeeze on its four screens -- this week eight. That means lots of movies, three of them new to Key West cinephiles.

One of the new films, “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a biopic about Srinivasa Ramanujan, an autodidactic Indian man who amazed the professors at Cambridge with his mathematical abilities. If you’re going to do a movie about a young Indian, who better to star than Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”)? Ft. Worth Star-Telegram summarizes it as “an incredible true story about an impoverished Indian man whose Jedi math skills helped him triumph over race, class and bad food in early 20th century England.” And Rip It Up elaborates, “This is all about Patel’s characterization, and while this London-born actor has been excellent before, here his measured, restrained playing holds the film together, and we wind up adoring this extraordinary man who really went to infinity -- and beyond.”

In “Louder Than Bombs” a father has conflicting memories with his two sons about their late mother, a noted war photographer. Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid play the sons; Gabriel Bryne, the father. But Isabelle Huppert is the focus of the film, her wartime story told in flashbacks. Minneapolis Star Tribune finds it to be “a note-perfect exploration of death and life and loss.” And New York Observer adds, “There are moments of almost unspeakable beauty in the film, not the least of which are Isabelle’s war zone photographs.”

“Sing Street” is a musical comedy about a boy who starts a band to impress a girl. Isn’t that how most bands come about? RTE Interactive pegs it as “a truly touching tribute to teenhood and that time when you didn’t know what you didn’t know.” And Sacramento News & Review calls it “great fun, with a terrific euro-grunge soundtrack.”

“Papa Hemingway in Cuba” gives us Adrian Sparks as the great writer, Joely Richardson as his wife Mary, and Giovanni Ribisi as the young writer telling the story of Hemingway’s declining years at Finca Vigia. Rolling Stone observes, “The first U.S. film shot in Cuba since Castro came to power in 1959, ‘Papa’ gives us sights to revel in.” And San Diego Reader says, “In the end, it’s a museum piece…”
Another true story, “Elvis & Nixon” chronicles the comic meeting between the King and the President. Michael Shannon has all the moves down pat as Elvis Presley and Kevin Spacey channels Richard M. Nixon like a pro. Chicago Reader notes, “The spectacle of Presley visiting Nixon’s buttoned-down White House in his jeweled sunglasses, silk scarf, open shirt, and giant gold belt is inherently farcical…” And Vanity Fair calls it “a bright snapshot, a toothless but amiable comedy anchored by two chunky bits of acting.”

“A Hologram for a King” proves Tom Hanks can play any role without effort. Here he’s an American businessman trying to do a deal with the Saudis. Christian Science Monitor describes it as “a sweet, deliberately meandering movie …” And sees it as “always pleasant, occasionally funny, surprisingly touching, and yet another reason to worship Tom Hanks.”

In the “The Boss,” funny girl Melissa McCarthy plays a Martha Stewart-like tycoon who goes to prison for stock manipulation, then tries to rebuild her reputation. Easier said than done when you’re obnoxious. Crikey sums it up, “‘The Boss’ is a cynical, obscenity-dipped comedy about how the American Dream can be imagined, won, lost and won again…” And 4:3 calls it, “a smug, tacky and indefensible cavalcade of free-market conservative values dressed up in innocent buffoonery …”

“Green Room” will give you nightmares. This horror flick graphically shows a punk rock band (Anton Yelchin and others) under attack by a club owner (Patrick Stewart) and his skinhead henchmen. The Atlantic says, “Scrape off the scum, and you’ll find ‘Green Room’ full of visual artistry, dark humor, smart writing, and glints of humanity.” And Globe and Mail concludes, “It’s a delightfully cruel work of high tension, perfect in just how quickly and easily it gets under your skin.”

Eight films -- count ‘em. Lots of movies to see this week.

The Boss (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Boss” Is No Boss Lady
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Remember when Martha Stewart got sent to prison? A high-powered female executive behind bars for insider trading. Well, that’s the cribbed concept behind this new Melissa McCarthy comedy.

“The Boss” is doing time at Tropic Cinema.

This is the fanciful-but-familiar story of Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), the power-crazy 47th wealthiest woman in the world. You’ll cheer when this obnoxious character gets her comeuppance, sent to the slammer for playing fast and loose with her stocks.

After six months in prison, Darnell emerges dead-broke -- she, the successful entrepreneur!

Yes, this is a PR disaster.

So Darnell decides to rebrand herself as “America’s Sweetheart.” One small problem: she’s not.  Prison has not humbled her; she’s still the same old pain in the boardroom. Without the boardroom.

As her big comeback, she tries to exploit a former underling’s (Kristen Bell) daughter’s brownie sales business. But she doesn’t get along with the other mom’s … or kids for that matter.

Problems arise as all the people she’s stepped on in the past are not willing to buy into this new image.

Playwright Wilson Mizner once put it this way: “It pays to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, for they are the same people you meet on the way down.”

A lesson our boss lady has to learn the hard way.

McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, wrote, directed and co-stars in the movie.

Under Falcone’s tutelage, Melissa McCarthy is developing into a plump Lucille Ball, a comedienne extraordinaire. From her “Mike and Molly” TV show to movies like “Bridesmaids,” “Identity Thief,” and “The Heat,” she’s building a reputation for bawdy, belly-laughing comedy.

You’ll next see her in Paul Feig’s all-female remake of “Ghost Busters.” Oh my, do we want to turn Melissa McCarthy loose with a proton pack and neutrona wand?

Green Room (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Green Room” Runs Red With Blood
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Herschell Gordon Lewis created a new kind of horror film back in 1963 with “Blood Feast.” Originally called a “gore film,” the subgenre eventually settled on the epithet “splatter film” for obvious reasons. But Lewis continues to be known as the Wizard of Gore.

Jeremy Saulnier seems to have picked up that mantle with his new film, “Green Room.” An intelligent but low-budget horror film, it’s currently making a splash (or should we say splatter?) at Tropic Cinema.

Headlined by Patrick Steward (Professor Xavier in the various Marvel superhero blockbusters) and Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the “Star Trek” movies), the plot follows a punk rock band trapped in a green room by a bunch of neo-Nazi skinheads at a club in the backwoods of Oregon. It gets bloody. Lots of people die.

The band known as “It Ain’t Right” (Yelchin et al.) takes a gig at the out-of-the way club owned by Darcy Banker (Stewart). After a bad set that enrages the skinheads, they stumble across a murder in the green room, a girl with a knife in her head. Since Darcy has other nefarious activities going on at the club, he doesn’t want the police to get involved. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to have his henchmen (identified by red lace in their shoes) kill all the witnesses?

No, it turns out.

The band puts up a fight. Blood flows on both sides. We’ll leave the guess-who’s-left-standing outcome for you to see.

“Green Room” reminded me a bit of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s splatter classic, “Two Thousand Maniacs!,” where a handful of tourists stumble across murderous rednecks in an out-of-the-way Southern town.

If Jeremy Saulnier is becoming the new Lewis, does that mean the Pacific Northwest is becoming the new gothic South?