Let Down by ‘Low Down’

“Low Down” won the cinematography prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. The debut directorial feature of Jeff Preiss (director of photography on “Let’s Get Lost,” “New York Memories”), it is a crimson and gold reverie that bathes the seedy clubs and SRO hotels of early-1970s Hollywood in instant, bittersweet nostalgia. This is a film whose prism of sunlight and shadows would be worth watching all day long as a video installation. As a biopic, though, it is both too much and too little – a shame, as it is based upon A. J. Albany’s very fine memoir about her fraught relationship with her father, acclaimed bee-bop pianist Joe Albany.

Until her mid-adolescence A. J., or Amy Jo as she was called back then (she was named after two March daughters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women), was a team of two with her daddy. As she writes:

It wasn’t a musically productive period for him, but it’s when I knew him best. If he wasn’t in jail or rehab, we were together …. He heard music everywhere, in the squeaking of rusted bedsprings and the buzzing flies. Dripping faucets were filled with rhythms to him, as was the irregular flashing of the busted neon outside our window. Some shook their heads and thought he was a nut, but I never believed that. (more…)

No Saving ‘White Bird in a Hurricane’

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact appeal of Shailene Woodley. Is it her throaty voice? Her eyes, piercing yet gentle? Those endless limbs, that defiant jaw? That slightly hippy-dippy honesty? Whatever it is, the twenty-two year-old can seemingly do no wrong. She’s terrific in such serious dramas as “The Spectacular Now” and “The Descendants”; she’s terrific in this year’s big-studio smashes “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” But perhaps the true test of her potentially Julia Roberts-level stardom is whether she can carry off mediocre material. In the off-puttingly atonal “White Bird in a Blizzard,” the answer is: sort of.… Read More

Sundinner: No Rest for the Wicked

I am making a meat ragu today for Sunday dinner. In a rather unfortunate coincidence, my downstairs neighbor (the one who accuses my tiny kitten of making as much noise as an elephant) is also making a meat ragu. Chances are good that my meal will suffer by comparison–this woman grew up in Naples, after all–but I’m not ceding the battle until it’s over. Don’t get fooled by the assless chaps and smartphone zombies: turf wars are serious business here in East Williamsburg.… Read More