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Jeff Simon

A semi-retired critic and columnist for The Buffalo News. Before that, he spent a couple decades as The News' arts and books editor.


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It can't be easy being Meryl Streep's daughter – not if you're a working actress it can't. Her mother has always known that. When Mamie Gummer, as a child, first appeared onstage with her mother, Streep had her listed under a stage name to avoid the certainty of overweening scrutiny. The grown-up Gummer is a good an…

What we always have to remember about the Oscars is this: The TV show is the world's most expensively dressed industrial promotion. They didn't start out that way, which is why so much tedious unwatchable inside "gratitude" ("I want to thank my driver, Pierre ...") on the show remains a crashing bore to this day. We watch for the glamour and the undeniable fact that dur…

Columns

So help me, it wasn't the movie's fault. There is, to me, nothing the slightest bit sleep-inducing about Adam McKay's movie "Vice." I consider it, in fact, the best and truest and most creative American political film I've seen since Warren Beatty's "Bulworth" (and that includes "Wag the Dog"). It wasn't my old friend's fault, either. We've been going to the movies t…

Columns

I want to tell you about the most delicious martini anyone ever served me. With New Year's Eve on the way, the time seems right. Martinis are my usual drink, you see. On a freezing cold night, I might opt for a Scotch on the rocks, or a rusty nail (scotch and Drambuie). Or maybe for brunch a bloody Mary. Or, for variety, a vodka gimlet or negroni (gin, Campari and red v…

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I don't get it. I really don't. Michael Weatherly and Tucker Carlson -- two men whose virtues I have expounded (very carefully) in another decade -- have come to look, at the end of 2018, like utter fools. I'm not bewitched in seeing this either, but I sure am bothered and bewildered. Neither one of these men is a kid. Carlson is 49, Weatherly is 50. These are experi…

Books

Rudolph and his scarlet nose certainly gave it a run for its money. Other singers tried to match it with their own Christmas records, whether they were Jingle Bell Rocks or Holly Jolly Christmases. But Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is never likely to be challenged as the all-time Christmas record. Look at it this way: As long as there are TV weather people in the Eastern…

Gusto

The subject is Clint Eastwood. Which means, at the moment, the subjects are numbers. The first number is $17.2 million. That's how many dollars constituted the opening weekend box office for "The Mule," the new Eastwood movie. It won't match the number for a family behemoth like this week's "Mary Poppins," but for the kind of film i…

Columns

Two words: Ellen DeGeneres. She's the answer and always has been. She's been in plain sight all along. In my opinion, she'd solve all the Oscar hosting problems. Of all the Oscar hosts of the past quarter century, DeGeneres' hosting gigs from 2007 and 2014 were my favorites by far. The way I look at it, the Motion Picture Academy should have tied her up contractually…

"If  you're looking for trouble, you came to the right place. If you're looking for trouble, look right here in my face." Those were the first words Elvis Presley sang in what was, arguably, the most triumphant professional moment of his life -- his "Comeback Special" on NBC Dec. 3, 1968. It was the moment when Elvis -- after 29 films of ever-increasing mediocrity -- se…

Columns

No, jazz isn't dead. It's not even sick. There are all manner of great and robust players under 50 doing things no one ever thought to do before. But let's be blunt. Jazz has a problem -- the same one it has had for a few decades. To wit: The posthumous recorded life of some of the greatest figures in the history of art has continued to be so spectacular that young, liv…

Columns

Fasten your seat belts, as a famous actress once put it. This ride could get a little bumpy. I've always been a bit of a dissenter on the subject of Bernardo Bertolucci, who died of cancer at the age of 77 this morning. One of the great living filmmakers? Sure, sure, sure. No argument. But also, in my opinion, one of the most greatly overrated ones, too. In fact, …

Columns

In the new Netflix series "The Kominsky Method," Michael Douglas plays an aging Hollywood acting coach whose acting career had a brief flareup and then left him a revered professional pedagogue. He's having prostate problems and his urologist is played by Douglas' old roommate in their young and wild years, Danny DeVito. You can bet your lunch money that's a very rich priv…

Books

Too soon? Well, not really. Hannukah, after all, is less than a month away, after sundown Dec. 2. So forgive, if you will, the genuine excitement of someone who loves books as much as I do for listing some books that really got my juices flowing. Many are literary, admittedly, and all but one are currently available online and in bookstores. "Tailspin: The People and…

"It's about my son," David Sheff says to the drug therapist. That's why "Beautiful Boy" is a rarity for a whole new age of addiction movies. It was about fathers and sons, too, back in 1957 when Lloyd Nolan, the father in "A Hatful of Rain" told his addicted war veteran son Don Murray that he loved him. This is different. This is about a boy coming of age as an addic…