IMO: The Artist’s Life and Masterclass

You have probably been surfing on Youtube and been interrupted by the commercial to sign up for a Master Class with a legend in the fields of creative passions whether that be films, art, photography, writing, design, sports, culinary–masterclass.com features the legends of their arena and offers lessons in a format that makes you feel like its the two of you in the room vis-a-vis. I get sucked into these commercials– seeing Margaret Atwood, Natalie Portman, Helen Mirren, David Lynch, screenwriters, sports figures, etcetera, Masterclass.com offers 70 sessions. Curious enough, I followed to the site and discovered they are $180 for 2, 12 minutes selections. No, I’m not going to pay for that–but I thought how clever an idea.

I’m not advocating you should spend your money this way, and I have no affiliations with the company that’s doing this, but I have been tempted to sign up to watch my personal heroes.

I watched Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go, Bernadette, the other evening. The message is that the artistic life matters. While one loves family and friends, if you don’t attend to the creative side inside of you, you get snippy and lose your zest for living. That’s sure how I feel. Cate’s character was a famous architect who was derailed by her creativity and becomes a menace to society. Her exasperated hubby threatened to lock her up in the loony bin. She was derailed–not crazy.

I feel unbalanced when my life becomes monotonous with the boring routine of life. I don’t care to think about what’s for supper tonight. I don’t want to clean the bathroom or hang up my clothes or babysit or teach or make small talk with people. I wait, wait, wait for the time to jump into my head and create. Conversely, I am a dutiful woman who believes in order and being productive and the belief that people should behave. My teeter-totter drives me crazy.

So while I can’t say that Where’d You Go, Bernadette was a well-made film (implausible situations and dialogue), the message resonated at a profound level. It made me want to watch all those master class videos. But not enough to spend $180 for 24 minutes. But almost.  As Joyce Carol Oates says in her commercial, “The number one enemy of your writing is the distractions in your day.”  I suppose watching a master class episode would be a distraction, eh?

 

Burt Lancaster: A Pair of Westerns

Burt, Claudia, Lee, Robert Ryan, Woody Stole

As I grazed on a bowl of chocolate-dipped pretzels last night, it occurred to me that the movie I watched had much the same texture and flavor. The Professionals (1966) was directed by Richard Brooks. Filmed in technicolor against the crunchy backdrop of Death Valley, California, Lee Marvin, and Jack Palance were the salty bits while Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale were the sweet chocolate glaze. Who doesn’t like salty-sweet combinations? I think Brooks knew his audience and gave them what they wanted. I know I enjoyed watching Burt Lancaster scale up the side of a cliff with a rope and no stuntman and snappy one-liners like this one:

Rico (Lee Marvin): So what else is on your mind besides hundred-proof women, ‘n’ ninety-proof whiskey, ‘n’ fourteen-carat gold?

Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) Amigo, you just wrote my epitaph!

The film received Academy attention for Best Direction and Screenplay (Richard Brooks), and Best Cinematography (Conrad L. Hall). The story is about a rich Texan who hires three talented mercenary misfits to rescue his beautiful wife from the Mexican bandit Jesus Raz (Jack Palance). The problem arises when the rescuers realize Mrs. Grant (Claudia Cardinale) wasn’t kidnapped by Razu, but running away from her Texan husband (Ralph Bellamy). 4/5
An easy-breezy film that triggered a memory from my youth when male relatives watched and chuckled on late Sunday morning while waiting for the football game to start.

Ulzana’s Raid (1972) is a serious tale starring an older Burt Lancaster, Richard Jaeckel, Bruce Davison and Joaquin Martinez. It is set in the late 1800s and filmed at the Arizona/Mexico border. The terrain is hard and unforgiving but there’s no sweet glaze this time to balance out the harshness of Apache savageries like gang rape, brutal killing, and torture. Burt keeps his feet on the ground and isn’t supplying witty one-liners. Instead, he’s the mentor to a young Lieutenant who grapples with preconceptions of Apache way-of-life, hatred for them, and aspiring to be an effective commander. Ulzana (Joaquín Martínez) and his men escape from the reservation station and Lt. Garnett DeBuin (Bruce Davison) is assigned to bring them in. Director Robert Aldrich takes Alan Sharp‘s script and creates a memorable film. The character Ke-ni-tay (Jorge Luke) is stuck in the middle as the soldier scout who tries to explain to Lt. DeBuin the Apache man needs the power, the essence of a man to be strong. Living on the reservation makes men weak and goes against what Apache stands for. Ke-ni-tay was the most interesting character in the story. I would have preferred to see the plot pan-out through his perspective and know his backstory. However, the film is interesting enough except for the distracting, ill-matched score by Frank De Vol. For instance, after each horrific encounter between white settlers and the Apache, the music resumed with a happy, bouncing Magnificient Seven-ish theme. If you like your westerns with bite, you would enjoy Ulzana’s Raid. 4/5 Sorry, Burt, in this film you seemed tired and uninterested.

Winter Project: Burt Lancaster

It’s time to assign myself a classic actor whose work I am unfamiliar with. As I scanned the filmography of Burt Lancaster, I realized how few films of his I’ve actually seen. This includes the 1962 classic, Birdman of Alcatraz! So, just like previous years, I will read a biography, attempt to watch his top ten performances, and post my observations with the hope you will converse with me. Any biography recommendations? What should I watch other than From Here to Eternity? 

Title: LANCASTER, BURT ¥ Pers: LANCASTER, BURT ¥ Year: 1947 ¥ Ref: XLA027CW ¥ Credit: [ PARAMOUNT / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / SCHAFER, A.L. ‘WHITEY’ ]

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