Archives / 82 post/s found

Sunset Time for newcritics – 2006-09

by Tom Watson
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Over at newcritics.com, it’s time to close the front door, turn off the lights ’round the bar, hang up the closed sign, and walk out the back way for the last time. This little group culture blog, which began as an experiment in the winter of 2006-07, is putting its xml to rest and moving on. No heavy heart accompanies the closure; newcritics.com was never more than a nifty digital hang-out for a squadron of bloggers who wanted a convivial crowd to shoot the breeze with over conversations about film, television, books, music and the like. In that way, it […]

Together Through Life: Darkness in the Groove

by Tom Watson
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At this stage, the Bob Dylan test is simple: listen to a new record a few times and before you make your judgment, pretend it’s the work of a largely unknown old circuit rider named Robby Zimmerman playing bars and beer halls with his traveling blues band in the upper midwest. Then decide. By the high cultural standards generally ascribed to America’s generational poet, Dylan’s unexpected new album Together Through Life is light and occasionally pleasing, an interesting fourth record in a blues-based “comeback” that begin with his Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind in 1997. To Dylanologists and obsessive critics, […]

Catechism Culture

by Tom Watson
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A couple of weeks back, I met a friend for lunch downtown and wondered at the choice – an East Village UK-style pub, replete with an iconic red phone box out front. Fair enough, but an interesting choice of venue. I was early and perusing the menu when I realized at an instant why we were there. The famous fish and chips, halfway down the menu. Of course. It was Friday. In Lent. And we’re both Catholics. Not the daily Mass sort, yet the culture is so strong, so nearly biological, that it still persuades secularists to traipse at least […]

After this our exile

by Tom Watson
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This is a 1955 recording of T.S. Eliot reading ‘Ash Wednesday’ – strangely, it sounds much older, like an old phonograph cylinder recording, some bit of ancient audio cultural pre-history. That’s probably what the words and their delivery convey. I almost always read this poem on this day, so I thought I’d share:Ash Wednesday

A Rich Semi-Reality: Eleanor Grace Miller’s Still Life Paintings

by Tom Watson
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If Eleanor Grace Miller’s oil-on-board still life paintings of fabric and solid objects were photographs, the camera would have to be suspended in perpendicular alignment from the ceiling – and the lens would have to stay open for a long, long time. So dark and rich are Miller’s colors, that an almost surreal sense of depth infuses each carefully-arranged scene. Miller’s work was lately on view at the wonderful Garrison Art Center, which backs up to the icy Hudson River in Putnam County just across from West Point; the show, with Hudson Valley painter Donald Alter, closed today. Although realistic […]

Blago! (The Musical)

by Tom Watson
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With the sensational success of Milk, an Oscar contender if ever one rolled on a projector, we have new project for Mssrs. Penn and Van Sant – another ode to a governmental folk hero in the making. For nothing captures these early Depression Era II days of strange municipal doings than a little side project I like to call Blago! (The Musical). Now, I’m not generally a fan of musicals – in my experience, people don’t generally break into elaborate song and dance routines during the grind of everyday life. But I’m thinking of something more along the lines of […]

The Newcritics Year in Review

by Tom Watson
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In this quirky, personality-driven, iconoclastic corner of the media universe, any kind of year-end list-building runs up hard against two competing factors that tear at any kind of universality: as middle-brow armchair critics, our tastes are rather catholic, but our production is – in the kindest sense – distinctly idiosyncratic. We write about what we want to write about in these precincts, with neither fame nor money at stake (I’ll resist the obvious jibe about the market-driven and Internet-enabled trajectory of all critical journalism these days). Nonetheless, newcritics.com faces its second anniversary much as it did the first: committed (very […]

The Twisted Head: Chaos and Comedy in the North Bronx

by Tom Watson
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The action films of the 1970s shot in and around New York embrace a curb-level realism – an obsession with gritty locations – that no studio or backlot can possibly reproduce. The storefronts, dented cars, barren parks and filigreed subway els dress movies like The Seven-Ups, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, and the French Connection, racing along with the action in glimpses and high contrast light and murky shadow. But there was life in those shops and apartments and row houses, life in a city that no longer exists, a life that was both tougher and less material than the […]

Trapped in a Rat Pack Suit on a Soundstage, Looking for Grit

by Tom Watson
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Among true fans of Mad Men, Jon Hamm’s loss at the Emmys was something of a body blow. Hamm’s portrayal of the surly two-faced creative director Don Draper on the early 60s period drama was the favorite going in, a buttoned-up Madison Avenue heir to Tony Soprano – the new leading leading man. But as good as Hamm is physically – and he does seem literally cut from the paper doll outline of Matthew Weiner’s storyboards – his character slips and slides, particularly in this second season as the rest of the Sterling Cooper ensemble cast rises so surely. At […]

Race, Drugs and Murder: A Brooklyn Tale

by Tom Watson
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The best book ever written about the scourge of drugs and the racial chasm in the deep interior of Brooklyn was Greg Donaldson’s gritty 1994 true life new journalism book, The Ville. It covered the lives of two men – one a Housing cop and the other a gang member – along with a vast cast of extras in a two-square mile area encompassing parts of the Brownsville and East New York. In The Ville, justice was elusive and escape from “the life” almost impossible. But it was the portrayal of race and an endless cycle of urban failure that […]