Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Life

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Life (Cinedigm)

Life poster

Directed by Anton Corbijn

Written by Luke Davies

Starring Robert PattinsonDane DeHaanBen Kingsley & Joel Edgerton

Life is the story of a Life magazine photo shoot. A famous spread on James Dean at the beginning of his all too short career. It is the story of famous photographer, Dennis Stock directed by famous photographer, Anton Corbijn. Anton is one of my photographic heroes but he is not known as a film director. And there is a good reason. Life the movie plays like a photo spread in the magazine. It doesn’t feel like a movie at all. It is beautiful. Every cell is a work of art. The performances are good and the story and the subject is interesting. But because Anton has no grasp of pacing or timing the movie is slow and boring. I liked it somewhat because of the subject. This sort of thing is right up my alley. But it is not a good movie. It’s slow and boring and badly directed. Even the generic title is bland.

Verdict: SPOILED

Life James Dean photograph recreation

SPOILER ALERT

Robert Pattinson plays Dennis Stock, the photographer, before his long career when he’s just starting out and struggling to make a name for himself. Dane DeHaan plays James Dean, fresh from his first big role in East of Eden, weeks before the premiere, unsure if he’s making the right decisions in his own, just about to blow-up, career. It is a great set-up for a movie about a short-lived friendship and a photo spread in Life magazine that changed both of their lives. About the artist’s process.

Life Robert Pattinson

The main problem with Life is a lack of pacing (ain’t that the truth). Anton Corbijn, one of my favorite photographers, lingers too long on beautiful screen shots and languishes past the point of boredom. Anton sets the stage for the iconic shots from the magazine. The photographs are the real subject of the movie. The origin story of some of the most well-known photos of James Dean. Everybody knows the one where he’s walking in Times Square in the rain (I’ve had a post card and a poster). Or the one where he’s reading to his young cousin at the table. You can feel Anton’s reverence for the photographer and for his work and I enjoyed watching that.

Life 2015

But the movie isn’t good. The main obstacles are James Dean’s rebellious attitude and Dennis Stock’s self-doubt and these aren’t very exciting. A better director could have made them more tangible, made us feel it with the pacing or the music. Tried to make inner turmoils more physical. While trying to capture Dean’s (and Dennis’) angst on film, Anton Corbijn should have tried to show us more of their internal struggles externally.

Life Still 2

My favorite director, Stanley Kubrick, started out as a photographer. You can see it in every frame of every movie he’s ever made, but he incorporated an observant personality, a love of the human experience, and a great way with actors with his masterful visual storytelling style. Corbijn does not have these skills and it’s clear.

Stock and Dean from Life

I enjoyed watching the making of these iconic photos but as a movie, Life fails to entertain. It’s a great story with fine performances and beautifully photographed images but all of those elements do not form an enjoyable cinematic experience. Too bad.

James Dean, New York City, 1955.

James Dean, New York City, 1955.

I really did want to like it…

James Dean

…as much as I love these photos.

– Mel

Photos From Around The Block: Times Square Today

I went to Times Square last weekend. Mostly to see Mockingjay part 2 but also to get some pics of the square. I used to live in the neighborhood when I was in college. It was cool to be able to roll out of bed on New Year’s Eve and step right out into the world’s biggest party. This was back before the Disney take over or the high security after 9/11. This was back when you could still go to sex shows in the neighborhood and to seedy movie theaters that showed martial arts films and bootlegged versions of blockbusters days before release.

When I was in High School I used to work on Times Square in one of the bigger movie theaters, The Embassy. But that was even further back. Way back in the days of drug dealers, hustlers and prostitutes on every side street. I put up an old picture I took from those days a while back. Here it is again.

Embassy Times Square

Yes. I’m old. And Times Square had completely changed by the time I was in college and it’s changed even more today. I hadn’t been back to my old neighborhood in well over a decade. There are fewer cars and more people. More lights. More ads and more vendors. A ton more cops and a lot more theaters. Just a lot more of everything I think.

And oh boy has it changed.

To the pics…

Chrysler

The Chrysler Building in the distance.

The Chrysler is a big ass building. So that’s pretty far away. You can also see the time. It’s 4:25. The sun will be setting soon. I was hoping to get the full Times Square light show.

Reflection and Jets on a screen

Reflection and Jets on a screen

You can see the window cleaners. Another clock in the distance. It’s 5:05. And fighter jets flying by on a big screen. I remember when Times Square had just one screen.

NYPD of Ads

NYPD of Ads

Today there are at least a hundred screens all over the place. All moving ads and TV and News. It’s overwhelmingly active.

Buildings

Old Buildings

The old buildings are still there but surrounded and suffocated by new ones.

Reflected Ads

Reflected Ads

The new ones are slick and sleek and ugly and piled one on top of the other. Hotel after hotel after hotel. And having lived there I get it. But still, you can’t go home again.

Heads Up

Heads Up

In my day, the streets were filled with characters. And they still are. Hustling and bustling. (What the hell is bustling anyway? I know a hustler when I see one. But a bustler?)

Lyric

Lyric Theater

But the old theaters are still there and they’re still as beautiful as ever. Timeless.

Shubert Majestic

Shubert Majestic

I used to go see lots of plays and musicals and concerts. It’s all about how early you get in line and since I lived there I was often first in line.

Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood

Booth Schoenfeld

Booth Schoenfeld

They used to have half-priced tickets to fill the houses. They’d go on sale right before curtain but the line would be miles long well before. I doubt they even need to do that anymore. I think every show sells out every night. (I could be wrong)

The Big Screen Helicopter and Plane

Helicopter and Plane passing overhead

Deep Grey Sky

Deep Grey Sky

Times Square Construction

Times Square Construction

Crosswalk

At the Crosswalk

Crazy Ex-girlfriend

Crazy Ex-girlfriend Billboards

Times Square Today

Times Square Today

Friedman Barrymore

Friedman Barrymore at dusk

I haven’t seen a Broadway show in over 20 years. I barely get out to the movies these days. So the theater is just wishful thinking. Maybe one day.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall

My first movie was at Radio City Music Hall. Lawrence of Arabia on a giant screen. I was too young to know what was going on but it was still magical. Absolutely breathtaking.

Subway Station

Subway Radio City Fridays

The Lights of Times Square

The Lights of Times Square

It took me over an hour to walk the eight blocks through the massive crowd. But of course I kept stopping to take pictures. But since I’m a New Yorker, I knew to step out-of-the-way before I stopped. If only tourist knew to do the same.

I may feel nostalgic for the way it was but Times Square is still gorgeous. And it is truly a feast for each and every one of the senses.

And speaking of feasts…

Happy Thanksgiving,

– Mel

Photos from Around the Block: Ant-Man Friday

I went to see Ant-Man on Friday. Took some pictures before the movie. Took some pics after the movie. I’ve been up to Lincoln Square a lot and have taken more than a few pictures in that area, so this time I concentrated more on people. I took a lot more photos of people on the street and the reflections of buildings off of other buildings. So, once again I picked the twenty best ones and I’ll post them here. I really like these. Especially the late afternoon reflections and the people.

I'm Ant-Man

I’m Ant-Man

Plus Ant-Man was a good movie. So that usually means, when the movie is good, I get better pictures. Good movies make me happy.

To the pics…

This lady here is checking out the pics on my blog.

This lady here is checking out the pics on my blog. She clicked LIKE and so should you.

The many layers of a New York Subway Station

The many layers of a New York Subway Station

Hat Lady was a good pic because I couldn't see her face and her dog was checking me out.

“Are you checking out my owner’s hat?” Hat Lady was a good pic because I couldn’t see her face and her dog was checking me out.

The Fountain at Lincoln Center in Repose

The Fountain at Lincoln Center in Repose

"Stop in the name of love..."

“Stop in the name of love…”

The  Fountain at Lincoln Center Explodes

The Fountain at Lincoln Center Explodes

Fruit Vendor

Fruit Vendor and an Old Asian Couple

I think I'm going to do a whole book of just the reflections of buildings off of other buildings.

I think I’m going to do a whole book of just the reflections of buildings off of other buildings.

A guy on a ladder

A guy on a ladder

A Bird on a head is worth  three in that bush... nevermind.

A bird on the head is worth three in that bush… never mind.

Box Office (I don't know why I like this picture so much)

Box Office (I don’t know why I like this picture so much. There’s really not much going on)

Ladies...

Ladies… They look cold. It’s 27 degrees out… Give them your jacket.

A building reflection with a refracted rainbow.

A building reflection with a refracted rainbow.

On The Chow... New York style.

On The Chow… Outdoors… New York style.

Gum Balls

Gum Balls in Seven Colors (but just one flavor)

Sometimes you can't see the fountain through the trees.

Sometimes you can’t see the fountain through the trees. (that guy knows what I’m talking about)

Columbus Circle Globe from underneath

Columbus Circle Globe from underneath

Focus Pull

Focus Pull

A reflected building

A reflected building distorted and fractured.

The Plane Above The Building

A Plane, High Above The City, Going North… that’s my ride.

And that’s all the pics I got.

Until next time,

– Mel

Photos From Around The Block: The Rest From The Met (Part Three)

In this, the last installment from my first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I give you… art. This one is mostly pictures of art. Also some pictures of people on the street in New York while I was waiting for the bus. But most importantly, in this post, I give you a peek of the wonder that is Visible Storage.

I can hardly contain my excitement.

To the pics…

A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog

A Day in New York is an Art

A Day on the Streets of New York is an Art

Brass

Brass

Ceiling Reflections

Ceiling Reflections

Chinese Costumes

Chinese Costumes

Creepy Face in the Trees

Creepy Face in the Trees

Crossing Against The Light Is An Art

Crossing Against The Light Is An Art

Hailing a Cab is an Art

Hailing a Cab is an Art

Hidden Self Portrait

Hidden Self Portrait

Is He Daydreaming or is He Thinking About Her

Is He Daydreaming or is He Thinking About Her

Madison Avenue

Madison Avenue

Obvious Self Portrait

Obvious Self Portrait

Reflection of the Clouds Through a Glass Ceiling

Reflection of the Clouds Through a Glass Ceiling

She Thinks She's Better Than Us... Hold My Baby

She Thinks She’s Better Than Us… Hold My Baby

The Joy that is Visible Storage... Behold

The Joy that is Visible Storage… Behold

The Musical Instruments Wing

The Musical Instruments Wing

These Two Make Quite The Pair

These Two Make Quite The Pair

Visible Storage Forever

Visible Storage Forever

Window Shopping is Also an Art

Window Shopping is Also an Art

You Should Have Quit While You Were A Head

You Should Have Quit While You Were A Head

That’s it.

I hope you enjoyed my trip to the Met as much as I did.

Until next time,

– Mel

Photos From Around The Block: My Trip to the Met (Part Two)

When last we spoke, there were pictures and people and artwork and stuff and things…

and Visible Storage.

I have more pics.

And my feet still hurt.

To the pics…

At The Met

At The Met

Beautiful Lamps

Beautiful Lamps

Clouds Outside

Clouds Outside

Construction

Construction

Cracking Paint

Cracking Paint

Degas

Degas

Don't Look At My Penis

Don’t Look At My Penis

Don't. You'll Ruin My Alabaster Skin

Don’t… You’ll Ruin My Alabaster Skin

Egyptian Pond

Egyptian Pond

Girls Like Art

Girls Like Art

Green Light

Green Light

Ladder in the Window

Ladder in the Window

Nice Fountain... wait what name is that... Bad Fountain

Nice Fountain… wait what name is that? Bad Fountain. Bad, Bad Fountain.

Paintings and People and Paintings of People

Paintings and People and Paintings of People

Reflections Off The Glass Ceiling

Reflections Off The Glass Ceiling

Someone's Being Naughty and I Think It's Me

Someone’s Being Naughty and I Think It’s Me

Flowers

Sunflowers

The View Through The Windows

The View Through The Windows

The Way Out

The Way Out

This Chick Here

This Chick Here

That’s all for part two.

Until next time,

– Mel