From the Author
I blame both filmmaker Robert Altman and tap dancing for my journey into the mysterious world of poetry. A rather incongruous pair, right? So I've got some explaining to do. For many, many years I functioned fairly well as a practicing movie addict and somewhat conventional film critic. Then one morning way back in 2002, I sat down to write a review of Altman's Gosford Park. As I looked at the blank page, my toes started tapping rhythmically - and to my great surprise, a poem about the movie danced onto the page. Here's the first of five verses:
You're invited for a weekend at a country estate.
Pack your finest duds, wouldn't want to be late.
Arriving in the drawing room, you're surrounded by class.
Who's who and what's what, you are dying to ask.
Doin' the Gosford Park shuffle.
Now, freeze frame that for a minute while we go back farther in time. During my teens, nextto the movies I loved tap dancing best. It got me through some very hard times while growing up. I enjoyed the beat of tap routines and even felt more in tune with the universe when I practiced or performed them. And the lyrics of those popular tunes I danced to fascinated me.
No wonder my poems rely heavily on rhythm and rhyme and give me such pleasure while writing or reading them out loud. In fact, if you read the entire Gosford Park Shuffle poem out loud to me right now, I would be tap dancing along to the sound of your voice, especially if you emphasize the poem's beat and rhyme scheme.
Since then, I've written 70 film poems - all included in Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies --which represents a small portion of over 1,000 reviews contributed to various outlets. However, because my film poem/reviews receive such enthusiastic feedback -- and because I enjoy writing them so much -- I find myself turning to this format more and more lately. Still, it remains a mystery how the poems come to me. I do, however, try to heed the following advice from a real poet.
Tell all the truth but let it slant. Celebrate the ordinary and be choosy. - Emily Dickinson
Here's hoping that both film and poetry fans enjoy reading Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies. I want to mention that I greatly appreciate the enthusiastic feedback about my film poems already provided by so many people. Below are a few examples.
Love the Poem-Review, Betty Jo! It's our very first review for Ovation and it comes in such a lovely and unexpected form...in such a unique and unexpected shape. And yet it catches the spirit of the film, in some magical way! ---Henry Jaglom, Independent Filmmaker
May I have permission to read your poem about The Martian to my writing class? Great rhyming there. Top notch. --- Richard Jack Smith, Film Critic and Author of Incidental Gold
I always enjoy your reviews and now that you are adding poetry, they are enhanced. --- Ronald Hull, Poet and Author of The Kaleidoscope Effect.
Well-done review of Spy. I loved the poem as well. --- Donna Maris, Author of Angel Falls.
I love yourOvation poem. --- Tanna Frederick, Actress
Cute Spy poem and great review! --- Olivia Wilder,Radio Host and Artist
Can we get you booked for your annual critic review and personal Oscar picks? I would also love for you to read your poems for your favorite and least favorite films of the year. --- Priscilla Leona, Producer and Host, QuestionReality Radio Show
Whiplash, an adrenalin-fueled musical thriller, benefits greatly from brilliant performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, who electrify the screen as an ambitious drum student and his abusive instructor/mentor. They definitely deserve a poem, so here goes:
This drummer boy strives to be best.
His goal? To play above the rest.
Will he survive a teacher who
makes students cringe for things they do?
This teacher man shames students all.
He boosts them up then sees them fall.
Both actors here held me enthralled.
Acting, I think their art is called.
Whiplash deserves an Oscar shot.
INTENSITY is what it's got!
But beware, dear reader, for you may be exhausted by the end of this riveting film. It's a fast-paced offering loaded with wild drum routines, loud jazz band numbers and jaw-dropping dialogue. Plus, emotionally draining interactions between the main characters might weigh heavy on your heart and soul. Still, you will be moved. This is a movie you cannot forget.
Simmons earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscarfor his dramatic pyro-techniques as a fearless instructor who stops at nothing to push students toward greatness. He comes across as both disturbing and exciting to watch -- or maybe even a bit funny, especially his "not my tempo" tantrums. Teller puts so much incredible energy into his drum playing that I could almost see his blood, sweat and tears soak through the screen. I had trouble deciding whether to pity his character or to cheer him on - or to do both.
This excellent motion picture deals with the age-old theme of greatness and how far one should go to achieve it. Other movies have explored that issue before - but none with more ferocity than writer/director Damien Chazelle's impressive Whiplash.(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated "R" for strong language including some sexual references.)