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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.


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Sorry. Snobs aren't welcome here. If you're someone who thinks that the only movies that matter are arcane and whose online clicks number in the single digits, you'd best move along smartly. More comfortable destinations await. This list of the year's best movies isn't for you. By the same token, if you're someone who always prefers to show up in a jabbering throng a…

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It was one of the secretly sublime moments in all of 1950s movies. The movie was Jack Arnold's 1954 monster classic "The Creature from The Black Lagoon," a B-movie in which only a fool could have predicted it would have a moment of the sublime. But there it was: in a scene upriver where the ugly Gill-Man has been hiding, the movie's beauteous, long-limbed star Julie Adams …

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Alexander Payne's "Downsizing" is a tour-de-force. Everyone pretty much knows that coming in, i.e. when you sit in a moviehouse where a whole alternative society has been created for humans five inches tall, you jolly well know you're going to see amazing things. And so you do. Especially when you see the two human worlds co-existing side by side: the mini-world and …

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There is a fine, maybe great, movie inside "The Greatest Showman." Unfortunately, it's hemmed in on all sides by the musical that it is (which was written by Pasek and Paul, previously responsible for "La La Land.") This isn't the first Barnum musical. The great movie it could have been was, at long last, the great and completely persuasive Hollywood movie biography of …

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“An Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett, Mentor and Editor and Literary Genius” by Helen Smith, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 440 pages, $35 The first member of the Garnett family to come to most readers’ attentions is almost always Constance Garnett, the famous Russian translator whose Dostoevsky is the first in the English language that many knew, for many decades …

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"This time, it's personal." Yeah, yeah, you've no doubt heard that orotund threat before in movie trailers for the newest sequel to some action revenge movie starring Charles Bronson, Bruce Willis or Liam Neeson. Readjust your appetite for mayhem. I'm using it in a much milder and friendly context, suitable for the holiday season. Here is my wayward personal list of …

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"Waaayy overhyped," grumbled the gentleman behind me as we both exited "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." He was registering disappointment to his devoted family, not a fellow from the working press in front of him. Grumblers and sourpusses are usually the first to exit theaters when the giant tentpole movies open. I'm always among them only because I don't like to dawdle gett…

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WBEN talk show host Tom Bauerle was released from the hospital on Wednesday after quadruple bypass open heart surgery at Gates Vascular Institute the previous Friday. In Facebook posts during his hospital stay, he said he anticipates a "long convalescence" from his surgery. According to an article posted at wben.com, Bauerle said the surgery was a success. He was hospit…

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There is a very good reason for seeing Woody Allen's new film "Wonder Wheel," but I'm afraid that it's going to be almost exclusively evident to Woody Allen professionals, i.e. those of us who have literally spent decades seeing everything he's put out since "What's Up, Tiger Lily" at the beginning (in which he, hilariously, re-dubbed a chopsocky movie with such dialogue a…

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 Jazz John Coltrane, "Chasing Trane: Original Soundtrack" (Impulse) With the release of  John Scheinfeld's precious biographical documentary, people everywhere can see intimate family sides of Coltrane's personality and life  that we never have imagined we'd ever see. It is, for that reason, an amazing bio-doc. Along with it, of course, comes this recorded soundtr…

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Jazz Wes Montgomery, "In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recordings, Resonance, two discs (Available late January) There is no substitute for listening to Wes Montgomery in live performance. So many of his studio recordings were forced to be "easy listening" that they carry no sense at all of what a guitar giant he will always be. These performances have been bootleg favo…

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"Wisdom of the Crowd" is a goner, for those who didn't know. It will fulfill the rest of its 13 episodes on Sundays this month and then vanish. I want to say a few words in defense of the show, even though it's almost impossible -- just for fairness' sake. The reason for that is that at this moment, it's generally presumed to be close to indefensible. Nobody, it seem…

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"Just Getting Started" is just about as bad as movies get that boast a top-level cast. It's like this: Imagine you get an invitation to a party from a renowned host, a guy who, in fact, threw one of the greatest parties you've ever been to. Imagine further that to inveigle you into coming, he has sent you the confirmed guest list, which is packed with the names of peopl…

Books

Books and Love go together. They always have since Gutenberg and always will which is one of the happier things about gift giving season. Whether you're giving your kids a book you've always loved or your grandmother a massive collection of one of her favorite writers, you're passing your love along with ease. I've chosen some wonderful books people should be aware of f…

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Jazz Ella Fitzgerald, Ella at Zardi's (Verve). Marlon Brando loved her. But then who didn't? And doesn't? But Brando showed up for Ella Fitzgerald's three-week gig at Zardi's Jazzland  in Los Angeles. The place was around the corner from Capitol Records' recording studio -- an important fact which explains a lot of what you'll hear on this 1956 live recording finally…