Tag Archives: george harrison

Lame Adventure 237: New York Film Festival – George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Milton and I attended the sold-out screening of the HBO documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World at the New York Film Festival.  This 208 minute film directed by Martin Scorsese with the cooperation of Harrison’s widow, Olivia, will be shown in two parts on HBO starting tonight.

We had fantastic seats, seventh row, almost dead center.  The filmmaker, Wes Anderson, was sitting behind us.  We saw Fisher Stevens and we also thought we saw the composer Philip Glass.  I pointed out a guy that I thought could have participated in a John Lithgow look-alike contest.

Milton:  He could have entered but he would have lost.  I can’t believe we have VIP seats!

Me:  Someone probably got fired for making that mistake.

As I was leafing through my program, chatting with Milton, I reached our film’s description page.  The woman sitting next to me, a Bjork-wannabe in the appearance department, floats her finger over George’s face in the photograph and mumbles his name into my left ear.

Floating finger re-enactment.

This unsolicited gesture captures my attention. I don’t want to encourage her but I don’t want to appear rude.

Me:  Yes, that’s George Harrison.

Milton mumbles her name into my right ear.

Milton:  Weirdo.

Olivia Harrison and Martin Scorsese introduce the film.  Then, the lights dim, the screen fills with tulips, and George’s middle-aged face appears in the garden.  He looks at the camera and flashes an ethereal smile.  I instantly feel a lump in my throat, but it just as instantly dissolves because Weirdo unfolds the oversized program guide and starts perusing it using her cellphone as a light source.  She is also leaning over my armrest.  She is so close to me that I can sniff her fragrance, Eau de Gag.

There I am sitting next to a stinky deranged space invader that I’d like to beat with a Rickenbacker guitar while watching what might be the definitive documentary about one of the most spiritual rock stars ever.  Instinct tells me that if I address her, this could get very ugly, very fast.  I inch closer to Milton and stay focused on the film, but I do notice that when I react audibly to whatever is happening on the screen, it  distracts her from her program guide reading and I can feel her staring at me.  If I were  to look at her, I know she’d be looking at me square in the face.  I stay focused on the screen.

Every so often her illuminated phone chimes.  It also fully rang once.  She quickly killed the ring, but the guy sitting next to Milton leaned forward and did address her.

Guy Sitting Next to Milton:  Shut that off!

She followed his order.  At that moment, I could have had that stranger’s child.

The first half of the film, told without narration and deftly edited by David Tedeschi, reveals George’s early life through archive footage and home movies, as well as interviews with the man himself.  This footage is intercut with interviews with key talking heads including the surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, record producer George Martin, Harrison’s ex-wife Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Phil Specter (filmed before his world imploded), and many others sharing anecdotes and personal insights about “the quiet Beatle”.  Until Paul McCartney revealed it, I never knew that young George referred to his highly stylized pre-Beatle haircut as “the turban.”

The film conveys George’s frustration as being the lead guitarist to the Beatle’s two domineering writers, John Lennon and McCartney.  In the beginning Harrison’s songwriting talent was undeveloped, but it blossomed over time (being in the company of Lennon and McCartney could not have hurt) but he had a tough time getting his less commercial songs on Beatle albums.  He smashed one hit out of the park with Something.  In the second half of the film, an interviewee suggests that although this classic Harrison composition is about a woman, it could just as easily have been about his close relationship with God.

Part two of the film, the post-Beatle half, devotes much more time to George’s original music as well as to his spirituality.  This was the half where I caught myself nodding out on several occasions.  Yet, whenever he or Ravi Shankar began strumming a sitar, I quickly regained consciousness.

The more controversial areas of George’s life including his philandering and his recreational drug abuse were downplayed.  Olivia skirts the topic of his indiscretions.  It was clearly a painful topic for her, but she answers her own question when she herself asks the secret to a lasting marriage:

Olivia: You don’t get divorced.

A glaring omission was not mentioning that George lost a major copyright infringement suit that lingered for years.  A judge ruled against him when it was deemed that he subconsciously plagiarized the Chiffon’s He’s so Fine when he wrote My Sweet Lord.  Milton and I are both deaf to the similarities.

What we also found baffling was why the filmmakers were so coy about the specific cancer that led to George’s death in 2001.  He was seen smoking cigarettes throughout the film and was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997.  The subject of his cancer from the initial diagnosis through where he traveled for treatment was downplayed. Yet, it is mentioned that his cancer was in remission when an intruder attacked him in his home on New Year’s Eve 1999.  Dhani, George and Olivia’s only child, eludes that the stress of that brutal attack may have expedited his father’s death.  I am sure that that attack did not help George recover, but I am also sure that smoking a few packs for 30 or 40 years may have also contributed significantly to his passing.  Why not be straightforward about that?  I don’t think this film was funded by Philip Morris.

As we left the theater Milton observed:

Milton: I feel like I was lied to but in a very clever way.

Overall, this film is very entertaining, but there are gaps in the narrative.  As for Weirdo, she left her seat at intermission and did not return.  Maybe Krishna or possibly George himself interceded on my behalf.

Forbidden panel discussion iPhone photo that nearly got Milton handed his head on a plate by a watchdog usher. Left to right producer Nigel Sinclair, Olivia Harrison, Martin Scorsese, Margaret Bodde, David Tedeschi, and moderator Scott Foundas. Note woman in foreground wearing Sgt. Pepper-ette collection coat.

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Lame Adventure 235: Christmas in October!

It is that time of year again, Christmas in October for Milton and me.   Here in the Big Apple the New York Film Festival is underway for the 49th time.

Yay, it's here!

Milton is a longtime member of the Film Society of Lincoln Center so we were able to purchase our tickets in advance in August.  This year’s festival is packed with films that already have theatrical release.

For example, opening the festival today is Carnage directed by Roman Polanski (a guaranteed no show).  This film is an adaptation of God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza’s smash hit play that won the Tony award in 2009.  It stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.  We figure that most, if not all of them, will attend.

Milton and I were in complete agreement to pass on this one, not because we have issues with Polanski, the story, or the star-studded cast, but it will open theatrically in December.  If we do not luck into a free screening, we’ll see it in a movie theater for $13, significantly less than the $250 opening night admission price (but it will screen three more times at the festival to the tune of $40 or $20).  Milton and I are fine with waiting to see this one later in the year.

What we strive to see are films that have not scored distribution but we also indulge each other’s guilty pleasure.  This year my GP is a screening of a two-part HBO documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World.  It’s directed by Martin Scorsese and will be broadcast on HBO next Wednesday and Thursday, October 5th and 6th, the day after our screening.  I told Milton that since I can no longer afford to subscribe to HBO I’d like to see all 208 minutes of it in one sitting on Alice Tully Hall’s giant screen.  Milton swallowed hard and said:

Milton (groaning deeply):  Okay.

Milton’s guilty pleasure is The Turin Horse, possibly the last film by the Hungarian filmmaker, Béla Tarr.  It’s shot in black and white, it runs 146 minutes with minimal action, and the little dialogue that is spoken is in Hungarian.  My boss, Elsbeth, who is of Hungarian descent, wanted to get a ticket, too, but when she revealed this to me I discovered that it was already sold out.  As fate would have it, the FSLC has posted the trailer online and voila!  Tickets are suddenly available again.  I cocked my head like Nipper the RCA dog and thought:

Me:  Huh!  How’d that happen?

Painting of Nipper allegedly listening to the sound of his master's voice, but it could have also been a recording of the cat next door.

Then, I watched the 45 second trailer.  I urge all Lame Adventures readers to do so now:

Hm, I wonder if there might have been an onslaught of returns and Milton and I will have the theater all to ourselves?  I’m debating whether or not to tell my superior that tickets are available again.  I could sorely use a raise but I’m unsure if passing on this news will grant me one or get me fired.

Lame Adventure 229: Superman vs. Super Duperman

I was pleased that the US Open Men’s Tennis Final was played on Monday allowing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic a deserved day of rest in preparation for this climactic match in this year’s tournament.  Yet, I was practically spitting blood when I heard that the start time would be 4 pm.

May I join you in your primal scream, guys?

Since I am a working stiff making ends meet in a get-rich-slow job, I still had to put in another 90 minutes at the grind before quitting time, and I had to invest another half hour in the commute home from TriBeCa to the Upper West Side.  I considered begging my boss, Elsbeth, to let me exit early, but she would ask:

Elsbeth:  Why?

Me:  I’m dying to watch the US Open Men’s Final.

Elsbeth:  You’re into golf now? [snarky] That’s a new development.

Elsbeth is not a sports fan, and for the record, I loathe golf.  Masochist that I am, I decide it would be best to avoid conflict with my superior about my urgency to kneel at the altar of bouncing balls and swinging rackets.  Therefore, I stick out the workday, a day I spend adhered to my desk crunching numbers with glazed eyeballs.  I encounter one Elsbethian interruption:

Elsbeth:  How do you spell Agnes?

When I am sprung at 5:30 I am aware that my beloved Rafa has lost the first set to Djokovic 6-2.  I could not have rocket-launched myself faster out the door than if my Jack Purcell badminton shoes were manufactured by NASA.  Emitting a trail of smoke all the way to the Chambers Street subway station, I deftly side-step two waist-high demon seeds pummeling each other with balloon bats but that maneuver makes me bounce off their mother’s heavily cushioned left hip.  Fortunately, she is immune to hyperactivity and the resulting G-force allows me to sail down the station’s staircase at warp-speed — just as an uptown express train arrives.  I emerge from the 72nd Street subway station at 5:51 where I’m greeted with a text from my buddy, Coco:

Coco’s text: Nadal needs to focus on his game not his wedgie.

My text back: Maybe u should b his coach.

Coco’s text:  Or at least take him shopping for briefs that fit.

When I reach my sanctum sanctorum, Nadal is trailing in the second set 4-3.  No sooner do I settle down than Rafa breaks Djokovic and the score is tied 4-4.  Yet, before I can emit a sigh of relief, Djokovic breaks back, the sixth time he’s broken Rafa thus far in the match.

Djokovic returning serve.

As Djokovic serves for the second set Rafa looks discombobulated.  Djokovic wins the set 6-4.  I stare at my TV in disbelief.

In the third set, Rafa seems to have rediscovered his game.  The points are long and the shot-making extraordinary.  Nadal fights back hard and breaks Djokovic’s serve at love.  The score is 4-3 Nadal.  Yet, Djokovic, who’s possibly playing the best tennis of his life, elevates his game, too.  Following a multi-stroke rally where Nadal brilliantly saves at least four Djokovic winners, Djokovic wins the game, looks towards his box with his family and friends and spreads his arms in a gesture of relief or maybe it’s winged victory.

Mr. Momentum.

Nadal might be thinking what I’m thinking (but in Spanish):

Me:  Djokovic looks invincible!  What do I have to do to beat this guy?

Rafa does exactly what he has to do, he gets the game to reach a tie-break, he never falls behind, and he finally wins a set.  Hola!

Psyched Superman.

I want to pray to someone that this match will go the five set distance and Rafa’s game will continue to improve but I’m an atheist.  Who do I pray to?  My long-dead mother, who, even if I had fallen down a well she’d shout at me:

My Dead Mom:  God helps those that help themselves.

Count her out.

What about my favorite Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison, conveniently in this instance, also both dead?  I’d feel like such a jerk asking them for a favor that has nothing to do with world peace or the sitar.

"I can't believe she'd ask us to do this."

Franz Kafka has always been one of my favorite writers.

Franz K.

A voice in my head that sounds exactly like Coco’s shrieks:

Coco:  Franz Kafka, who’s been dead what, 85 years, that wrote that weird story about the giant waterbug I was forced to read in high school?  Really?  Why the hell don’t you pray to someone practical like Arthur Ashe?

American tennis icon Arthur Ashe.

Imaginary Coco is right!  I should pray to Arthur Ashe.  Right now, Djokovic and Rafa are beating each other to a near-pulp in a stadium named in his honor!  Just as suddenly, I come to my senses and wonder why would a legendary sportsman take sides?  Arthur Ashe, who was integrity incarnate, would never do that.  I quit my pursuit of channeling divine intervention in Rafa’s behalf.

After winning his first game in the fourth set and leading Nadal 1-0, Djokovic is granted a medical time out to have his sore lower back massaged.  When they resume play, Djokovic breaks Nadal.  Then he proceeds to win his serve and Nadal sinks into a very deep 3-0 hole that he is incapable of escaping.

Super Duperman in flight.

Barely fifteen minutes later, Djokovic decisively wins the set and the match at 6-2, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1.  It was not the outcome I wanted, but the guy that played better deserved the victory.

Okay, Novak, you earned your trophy.

As dismayed as I was, Rafa, as always, was gracious in defeat.  I text Coco:

My text:  I love Rafa, class act.

Coco’s text:  Ass picking and all.

That’s the real Coco.