Friday, July 31, 2020

Robert Ellis: Gifts from the Sea

My mother lost her third child a few days after she was born. Unfortunately, the sister I never had the chance to meet passed away due to a glitch at the hospital. There was no logical reason to explain her death other than the fact that every member of the medical staff dropped the ball. At the time I was old enough to know something horrible had happened, and that our family would never be the same. The reason I mention this most personal of all experiences is that a close family friend, someone who turned out to be one of my closest advisors through life, gave my mother a book in order to help her cope with her loss. That book was Anne Morrow Lindbergh's GIFT FROM THE SEA.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Years later I was going through the bookshelves in our den looking for something to read and found it. A GIFT FROM THE SEA is extremely thought provoking, and with the modern world stuck in a digital abyss and beginning to leave its humanity behind, probably more relevant now than the year it was written. It's filled with Lindbergh's thoughts and feelings and search for inner peace. After I read the last page and thought it over, I realized that she had given me an extra special gift. She had introduced me to Rainer Maria Rilke's LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET, which is quoted throughout the book.

If reading or writing or any combination of the two makes your day, then LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET is a must read. The book is comprised of ten letters Rilke wrote to a young man who wanted to make a life in the arts. I don't have to be a fortuneteller to say that this is one of the best books you will ever read in your life. And if you're a writer, your work is about to take a giant step forward.

All best,

Friday, July 24, 2020

Robert Ellis: Buchan & Hitchcock Revisited

Robert Ellis

The innocent man ... my compassion for characters on the run and falsely accused of unspeakable crimes ... my distrust for all those in authority ... the fear of being chased and grabbed from behind ... the terror in trying to outrun the monster that's gaining ground right behind me ... that moment in a bad dream that has gone so overwhelmingly bad I wake up with my heart pounding ... I check the time and realize that even though it's only 3:00 a.m., I'm not going to get back to sleep tonight!

John Buchan a.k.a. Lord Tweedsmuir
I love it! It's time to read John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps again, or maybe even The Powerhouse, a stand-alone he wrote that I must have read more than fifteen times. When I'm meeting with a book club and mention my reading habits, everyone usually laughs. I have this thing about reading my top ten list every year. I read them over and over again, and love every minute of it. The practice started in college. I had a special place on my bookshelf dedicated to my ten favorite books. The titles changed over time, but not by much. They are part of who I am now. Several titles from the original list remain on my special shelf to this day!

Hitchcock's Masterpiece from Buchan's Thriller
As I think it over right now, the idea of revisiting a book once a year may have come from my film studies. It's more than common for film students to watch a movie many, many times in order to understand how the screenwriter and director put the story together. I can remember being so fascinated with the films of Bernardo Bertolucci and Akira Kurosawa. I finally stopped watching Last Tango in Paris after I walked out of a midnight show and realized that this was the twenty-first time I'd seen the film. With Kurosawa's Rashomon I stopped counting after fifteen screenings, but would go again in a heartbeat.

That's just how I like it! And so now it's time to read John Buchan again ...
Sleep loose,

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Robert Ellis: Tribute to Gary Oldman

Oldman as Stansfield in LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL
Last week I was clicking through cable channels when I spotted one of my favorite movies, LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, directed by Luc Besson, with lights out performances by Natalie Portman, Jean Reno, Danny Aiello, and the remarkably talented, Gary Oldman. 

A few months back we spoke about what a wonderful ride Gene Hackman has had. But after watching Oldman's performance in LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, I can't imagine how much fun this actor's having as well.

Gary Oldman as Drexl in TRUE ROMANCE
His filmography reads like a list of some of the best films ever made on the international stage. We all know about his roles in the Batman series, and even Harry Potter. But what about the beginning? What about his brilliant performances in SID AND NANCY, BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA, the frightening pimp drug dealer in TRUE ROMANCE, and his portrayal of Ludwig van Beethoven in IMMORTAL BELOVED. Talk about range.

Gary Oldman as Ludwig van Beethoven
I can remember watching Oldman play the role of Drexl Spivey when TRUE ROMANCE first came out. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I couldn't take my eyes off Oldman, with his dreadlocks, his scarred face, that blank eye, and that smoking jacket. Fear and terror oozed out of the actor's every pore and it was thrilling to watch. Cut that against his portrayal of Ludwig van, and the unforgettable scene when you realize one of the greatest musicians who ever lived, maybe the greatest of them all, was deaf.

What would the history of film look like if Gary Oldman hadn't wanted to perform? What if he hadn't had the guts to walk into his first audition? Sometimes it's important to raise a hand and say thanks to such a remarkable talent like Gary Oldman.

Sleep Loose,