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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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At the top, fine art is big business.

One can argue about the ethical, moral and other ramifications that come with putting a price tag on creative work, but regardless of argument, there’s no disputing that the world of high-end art is one that is driven as much by economics as by aesthetics.

And any time there’s that kind of money involved, you can bet that there will bad actors seeking to cash in.

“Made You Look: A True Story of Fake Art” is a documentary devoted to relating the tale of the largest known art fraud case in United States history. Over the course of decades, dozens of forged works of art were moved through a famed New York City gallery. These paintings – ostensibly by noted Abstract Expressionists – would be sold to unsuspecting patrons for a total of over $80 million.

Written and directed by Barry Avrich, “Made You Look” – currently streaming on Netflix – walks the viewer through the long-running scam, introducing us to many of the principals along the way, as well as an assortment of experts. He paints a picture (sorry) of the vagaries of the art world, illustrating just what can go wrong when something that seems too good to be true is taken at face value – even if that face is an undeniably beautiful one.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021 12:51

Celebrity Slam - Kimye kaput

Look, there was no chance we were going to talk about anything else in this space this week. We’re talking about one of the iconic celebrity marriages (not to mention an all-time great of a portmanteau); our fundamental ethos demands that we talk about the dissolution of this union.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are calling it quits.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021 12:49

Weird National Briefs (02/24/2021)

Mobile home

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After 139 years at 807 Franklin St. in San Francisco, a two-story Victorian house has a new address.

The green home with large windows and a brown front door was loaded onto giant dollies and moved Sunday to a location six blocks away.

Onlookers lined the sidewalks to snap photos as the structure rolled — at a top speed of 1 mph — to 635 Fulton St.

The house’s journey has been in the planning stages for years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Veteran house mover Phil Joy told the newspaper he had to secure permits from more than 15 city agencies.

Joy said this move is tricky in part because the first part of the journey involves going downhill.

“That’s always difficult for a house,” he said.

Along the route, parking meters were ripped up, tree limbs were trimmed and traffic signs were relocated.

The owner of the six-bedroom house, San Francisco broker Tim Brown, will pay about $400,000 in fees and moving costs, the Chronicle said.

TME – Moving is different in San Francisco.

Monday, 22 February 2021 14:17

Hit the road with ‘Nomadland’

It’s always intriguing to watch a movie that blurs the lines between fiction and truth. Now, I’m not talking about “based on” or “inspired by” films – though one could argue that they partake in their own line blurring – but rather films that fold together the real and the fictional. Films that evoke that cinema verité vibe without being true documentaries.

That sort of vague and vaguely-explained categorization – it’s tough to articulate, but you know it when you see it – precisely and perfectly encapsulates Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland.” The film – written, directed, edited and produced by Zhao – is adapted from Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.”

It’s a story about the road-roaming lifestyle adopted by an increasing number of people – older, middle-class folks – who have been forced out of their homes and into a nomadic lifestyle by the unfortunate realities of late-stage capitalism. The companies for whom they spent years working are gone, their homes and savings destroyed by the mortgage and banking crises. To survive, they move into vans and RVs and follow seasonal work – Amazon distribution centers and campgrounds and national parks and the like – gradually becoming part of the ever-growing subculture.

It also – aside from a pair of incredible actors (Frances McDormand and David Strathairn) at its center – is populated almost wholly by people playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, actual livers of the nomadic lifestyle.

That bringing together of the fictional and the factual is what pushes Zhao’s film into the realm of greatness, an intimate epic of the American west as experienced by those who have been left behind by one or more of this country’s 21st century economic collapses and rebirths. It is quiet and expansive all at once, a film enamored of the broad openness of the landscape while gently acknowledging how easy it is for individual lives to get lost in the vastness that is America.

Monday, 22 February 2021 14:14

‘Blithe Spirit’ a spirited adaptation

There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with reimagining a beloved classic. Not only are you expected to do right by the extant fans of the work, but you must also find a way to update and accelerate the work so that it might find purchase with those who have no connection to the source material.

It’s a highwire act that many filmmakers have tried to navigate. Many have tried … and many have failed. Of particular note is the attempt to revisit a work that has already engaged in a shift from stage to screen. At that point, you’re dealing not just with a play that needs to be adapted, but a preexisting film version as well – doubly difficult.

It’s a difficulty that crops up from time to time in “Blithe Spirit,” the latest attempt to bring that classic Noel Coward play to life on the big screen. It’s directed by Edward Hall, with three credited screenwriters on the adaptation in Nick Moorcraft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth, and features a star-studded cast that includes the likes of Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and the immortal Judi Dench.

It’s a perfectly fine film. Better than I expected actually, though ultimately, it doesn’t live up to its pedigree either in terms of source material or of ensemble. Some of the subtler aspects are lost in the transition to film, but it must be said that the story benefits greatly from the ability to more fully utilize the setting (or settings). Not as great as it could have been, but maybe not as bad as some would have you believe, either.

There are few cinematic tightropes that are trickier to walk than dark comedy. While finding humor in the shadows is something that many of us do, representing that humor effectively on screen is extremely hit or miss. When it hits, you get something that is both screamingly funny and weirdly unsettling. When it misses, you just get the latter.

“I Care A Lot” hits.

The film – written and directed by J Blakeson and currently streaming on Netflix – mines a lot of laughs from a decidedly grim foundation. It takes a special kind of commitment to the bit to look at the clearly broken and often unseemly world of professional guardianship and think “Now THAT is hilarious,” but Blakeson and company manage to do it.

It certainly helps that the director has an absolutely peak-of-her-powers Rosamund Pike on which to hang that narrative. The sheer force of her performance brings more than enough fuel to keep this particular fire burning, even as we delve deeper into the unsavory nature of the world in which her character operates.

It’s rare to find a movie in which no one is a good person. It’s even rarer for such a movie to work. And yet, even though there’s no one to root for, the laughs keep coming. Sure, those laughs are born of the more cynical parts of ourselves, but hey – even if you feel bad for laughing, you still laughed.

Superheroes have spent the past decade-plus as the primary cinematic currency of the land. Whether you enjoy those films or not, you can’t deny their primacy in the movie world. And while the main beneficiaries of that primacy are the Marvel and DC cinematic universes, there are other, less obvious projects that are adopting their own super-angles.

Take Disney’s “Flora & Ulysses,” currently available on Disney+. Based on Kate DiCamillo’s 2013 children’s novel, the film – directed by Lena Khan from a screenplay by Brad Copeland – takes a very different, much … smaller leap into the superhero realm. How small?

How about the size of a squirrel?

That’s the deal – a 10-year-old girl teamed up with a superpowered squirrel, all in the context of a story about the struggles of family and fitting in. It sounds ridiculous – because it is – but it’s no less engaging because of it. Frankly, it’s charming and quite sweet. Plus, it has a wildly overqualified cast, resulting in a movie that is significantly better than the tossed-off throwaway project that it easily could have been.

Believe it or not, it looks like we’re actually going to get an awards show! That’s right folks – the Golden Globes are coming!

Now, it won’t be the same kind of ceremony to which we’re accustomed. There likely won’t be much in the way of red carpets or auditoriums full of famous people preparing to accept their little statues. We won’t see many tuxedos or bespoke gowns. There will be tech glitches galore as an attempt is made to remotely run a globally-viewed show.

But hey – at least Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are back to co-host. Not in the same room. Not even on the same coast. But they’re back, co-hosting as well as two people separated by 3,000 miles can.

The show will air at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28 on NBC, with preshow content streaming live via the Golden Globes’ official Twitter account and at GoldenGlobes.com starting at 6:30 p.m.

Like many, I’ve taken my share of shots at the Globes (or more specifically, against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the voting body for the awards) over the years. And there’s no disputing that plenty of weird choices were made yet again this year.

I don’t care! It’s an awards show! I’m here for it!

(Note: As per usual, my focus for this preview will be the movie side of the equation – specifically, the major awards. For the rest of my movie picks and my television predictions, you can check them out – in much less detail – at the end of this feature, but honestly, my TV picks are even more guesswork than my movie selections. You’ve been warned.)

It should also be noted that as always, these predictions are aimed at who WILL win as opposed to who SHOULD win in my opinion. I’m looking to maximize my correct answers, though the truth is that when it comes to the Hollywood Foreign Press, you never really know what the hell is going on.

Let’s go to the Globes.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 12:58

Celebrity Slam - Fresh beef!

We’ve had an interesting run over the last few weeks here at Celebrity Slam. We’ve strayed a bit from the standard fare in this space, opting instead for memorial postings and some next-level weirdness like Lil Uzi Vert jamming a diamond into his head. It wasn’t a conscious choice – we just go where the famous people take us.

Happily, we have a couple of hip-hop dudes getting into it in Miami, allowing us to return to our Celebrity Slam roots and digging into some delicious beef.

This time, we’re looking at a boiling over in a longstanding conflict between Meek Mill and Tekashi 6ix9ine (that name will never not be ridiculous to type). The two have long had it in for each other, so when they crossed paths this weekend, sparks were bound to fly.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 12:56

Weird National Briefs (02/17/2021)

Otherwise engaged

ORANGE CITY, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man stole an engagement ring and wedding bands from a girlfriend and used them to propose to another girlfriend, according to authorities.

Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies said Thursday they have issued an arrest warrant for Joseph Davis, 48, who had not been found as of Friday.

Their investigation started earlier this year when a woman from Orange City, Florida, told detectives she had discovered her boyfriend was actually engaged to someone else. When she looked up the fiancée’s Facebook page, she noticed a photo of her wearing a wedding band and engagement ring that was identical to her own from a prior marriage, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

When the Orange City woman checked her jewelry box, she found her rings were missing, as were several other pieces of jewelry, including a diamond ring that belonged to her grandmother. The total value of the stolen property was about $6,270, according to the sheriff’s office.

Orange City is located halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach.

The Orange City woman reached out to the fiancee, who returned some of the items, and they both called it off with Davis, who also went by the names “Joe Brown” and “Marcus Brown,” the sheriff’s office said.

The fiancee, who lives in Orlando, told detectives she had been duped too.

Davis once took the fiancee to a house that actually belonged to the Orange City woman, while she was at work, and claimed it was his. He then asked the fiancee to move in with him, but he then disappeared. By that time, the fiancee discovered her laptop computer and jewelry were missing, the sheriff’s office said.

Even though they did not have his real name, the jilted women remembered he had a relative in North Carolina and detectives were able to track down the relative who identified Davis, according to the sheriff’s office.

Davis has an active arrest warrant for a hit-and-run crash with injuries in Oregon, and previously has been arrested for possession of fictitious ID, filing a false police report, domestic assault and possession of cocaine with intent to sell, the sheriff’s office said.

According to the sheriff’s office, the jail where Davis previously was booked noted he had a tattoo on his left arm that said, “Only God can judge me.”

TME – Something borrowed indeed.

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