Jeff Simon - The Buffalo News

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Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon is the News' Arts and Books Editor. He has been writing for the paper since Spiro Agnew was the vice president.


Books

“Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live By From the WTF Podcast” by Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald, Flatiron Books, 401 pages, $27.99. His devoted listeners were waiting. Early in the week, Comedian Marc Maron accommodated them on his popular and amazingly influential “WTF Podcast.” About his friend Louis C.K.’s admitting the uglier facts about the New York Tim…

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Aquaman was always my favorite as a kid. I've never really been able to explain that, but there you have it. It certainly isn't because I loved swimming and was good at it. Quite the contrary. Maybe it's because none of us were ever going to be able to see through walls or "leap tall buildings in a single bound" the way Superman did. A pool or a beach, though, was a defini…

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My favorite moment in the universally-loved "Lady Bird" comes during the auditions for the high school musical. UB's Stephen McKinley Henderson plays the priest/teacher holding the auditions for the Sondheim musical. Eventually, it's time for "Lady Bird's" turn to perform. Lady Bird's real name is Christine but she is experiencing a late-adolescent moment where anything…

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Leave it to the New York Post. The tabloid that once gave us the immortal newspaper headline "Headless Man In Topless Bar" gave us last week the jolliest joke yet about the harassment earthquake that is toppling male reputations right and left. "Pervnado" the Post called it, in tribute to "Sharknado," the hilariously high-rated garbageous cable TV movie series about sha…

“American Witness: The Art and Life of Robert Frank” by RJ Smith, Da Capo Press, 327 pages, $35. In the history of the Arts Department of the Buffalo Courier Express, no one of its writers was ever more idiosyncratic or interesting than RJ Smith, who functioned as the late newspaper’s pop music critic when the Courier finally decided to follow its competition into…

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Rule of thumb: Never be too quick to scoff at "the same old same old." It's true that it will surprise no one that Kenneth Branagh's new "Murder on the Orient Express" is an entertaining, star-packed version of one of Agatha Christie's most famous suspect-filled mysteries. What they may not know is that Branagh has sneakingly played a little trick on Christie's best-sel…

Books

EDITOR'S CHOICE (MOVIES) A personal pantheon: No actor I've ever met has ever approached the personal charm of Ton Hanks. The only other celebrity in the mega-star business that matched -- indeed exceeded -- him was Paul McCartney in the '80s. In neither case could it possibly be a surprise. Their stratospheric charms are often manifest on television and elsewhere. T…

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The Greek gods didn't mess around. That's why "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" has just about the worst title of the movie year. It refers to Agamemnon's slaying of a deer in a grove protected  by the Goddess Artemis. Whereupon, Agamemnon is told by her to kill his daughter Iphigenia if he ever expects his entire army to be able to sail to Troy to make war, as planned. …

Books

NONFICTION The Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant 50 Years of New York by the editors of New York Magazine Simon and Schuster 418 pages, $65 Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016 Phaidon Unpaginated, $89.95 On July 15, 1980, the current president of the United States was a brash, visibly self-satisfied young man pictured with four older men as one of "the men…

Books

The Letters of Sylvia Plath: Volume One--1940-1956 edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen K. Kukil, Harper, 1388 pages, $45. Here’s Sylvia Plath, in 1956, writing about her love for her husband poet Ted Hughes. “I fell in love with Ted’s poems before I met him, at a very bohemian party given for a new literary review. He is big, athletic (a discus thrower, archer,…

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The following column is offered with one giant-sized spoiler alert. If you were ever a watcher of Showtime's "Ray Donovan" and missed Sunday's season finale, you might want to go elsewhere and drop in after you have. I remain a "Ray Donovan" loyalist. If you think that's been easy this year, you're crazy. "Polarizing" is one commonly used word for this "Donovan" season …

Columns

In the universe of rock 'n' roll, some people say it was the Big Bang. Here's the way Chris Morris tells the story in one of 2017's greatest reissues, "Here's Little Richard" (Specialty/Craft/Concord, two discs). It's early September, 1955. Little Richard and some of New Orleans' finest R&B virtuosos have been united at J&M studios in the Big Easy, a "small b…

Books

“100 Amazing Facts About the Negro” by Henry Louis Gates, Pantheon, 476 pages, $40. There is what Hollywood would call a “backstory” here. In 1957, a journalist with the Pittsburgh Courier named Joel A. Rogers published a book called “100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof.” Distinguished intellectual and historian Henry Louis Gates now says …

Music

Classical Sibelius, Piano Music Performed by Leif Ove Andsnes (Sony Classical). Andsnes is right. He is prominently quoted on the album cover saying this: "Everyone was astonished that there could be a major composer out there with such beautiful, accessible music that people don't know. These are intriguing works with the wonderful Sibelius qualities we know. I real…

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George Clooney's "Suburbicon" is a deeply unfortunate film that tries to do something very difficult by pretending--foolishly--that it's easy. There was a way to get it to work, which I'll get to eventually, but Clooney has become almost literally tone deaf in the movies he directs. What the movie tries to do is combine two stories: 1) a black comic tale of murder and i…