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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.


Columns

No one's saying "The Irishman" will be Martin Scorsese's final film. It won't even be the last film he makes with his oldest movie friend and other half in front of the camera, Robert De Niro. If you believe the internet, its movie websites list an upcoming murder drama both men are committed to. Not, however, a mob movie. That's why "The Irishman" could well have be…

Columns

The Royal Arms. The Bon-Ton. The Revilot. The Statler Hilton Downtown Room. The Original Tralfamadore Cafe on Main and Fillmore. The Calumet Cafe. The Lounge of the Town Casino. Joe Rico's Milestones. Jan's. And now, at least for a while, we have to add to that list of great and gone Buffalo jazz clubs one of the most underrated of local jazz venues, the auditorium of t…

Columns

Mike Nichols - comedian, actor, director, authentic legend - suffered from alopecia, the medical condition marked by hairlessness. What it meant, in his case, were constant wigs, including tiny patches for his eyebrows. I never knew that until I read - addictively - Ash Carter and Sam Kashman's "Life Isn't Eveything: Mike Nichols as Remembered by 150 of His Closest F…

Columns

No apologies. No regrets. There's no need for them anymore. I've lived long enough to see Edmund Goulding's 1947 "Nightmare Alley" take its unquestioned place as a classic American movie. That's where I've been since I first saw the film in the early 1960s but that, to put it mildly, was a minority opinion at the time. Not anymore. So admired is the film now that a p…

Columns

There's always one. Thank God there is. Lockstep unanimity ought to make us all nervous. There is exactly one critic of note – that's it, just one – at the moment who isn't happy to tell the world Bong Joon-Ho's "Parasite" is one of the great films of 2019. That's the indefatigably contrarian Armond White in the National Review who – as is usually true – is more instruc…

Books

I never read fiction as a preteen. I had to hit puberty before I tried Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books and Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows." I loved books, anyway, even though what I kept coming back to was nonfiction. It was marvelous enough. 1. My favorite book when I was little was "The Golden Encyclopedia." I knew about Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Mike Mul…

Bills

Dear Gronk (Do you mind if I call you that? Everyone else does), I saw your debut with the football gabbers of Fox Sports. You had trouble pronouncing the word "philosophical." Don't sweat it. It's a toughie, that word. Five syllables. They didn't hire you because five-syllable words roll off your tongue. They hired you because everybody says you're a lovable char…

Columns

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Thomas Edison. Michael Shannon plays George Westinghouse. Win, lose or draw, they're two of the most interesting and accomplished actors in current movies. The name of their new movie is "The Current War." It's scheduled to open Friday in at least one of the area's Dipson Theatres. Strictly speaking, though, this is by no means, a "new" …

Books

I love driving down Washington Street in Buffalo's Theatre District. What I love about it is the result of a small and seldom remarked public art project from the Just Buffalo Literary Center that's called "Lit City." It's a series of 15 plaques commemorating 15 writers who either came from Buffalo or who spent a significant period of writing life here. It's just abo…

Books

Ted Gioia's "Music: A Subversive History" is one of the most important and welcome books I've encountered in the last decade. If ever there were a book the world sorely needed, it's Gioia's (Basic Books, 514 pages, $35). No one is going to pretend it's the kind of book that has "bestseller" written all over it (unlike Ronan Farrow's book "Catch and Kill"), but Gioia's t…

Columns

I like Marvel Super Hero movies. Not all of them, certainly, or even most. Let's just say quantifying my affections over the years would result in "quite a few." Though those I "love" would be few and far between. At the least, I tend to like it when smart writers smuggle some wit in through the back door. Wit smuggling is one of Hollywood's oldest skills. It's an oc…

Columns

It was easy to be fooled, but that sure didn't mean I was wrong. Take a look at "Joker" and you'll understand completely. We have never had a movie actor as conspicuously alienated from his own profession as Joaquin Phoenix – one who makes that alienation the content of his movie career. He may be the perfect Hollywood actor for 2019. No, Phoenix didn't literally giv…

Columns

On Aug. 15, 1986, I sat down in a suburban movie theater and watched as the American imagination underwent a radical transformation. I was there to review Michael Mann's "Manhunter," a film starring William Petersen of no special advance repute whatsoever, aside from the identity of its stylish director. I was blown away by it. Not by the performances or direction, t…

The illustration of the great Yiddish word "chutzpah" that most people know is this one: A kid kills his mother and father and pleads to the judge for mercy because he's an orphan. Let's try to offer a new one: A mediocre singing actress makes a biopic where she goes ahead and sings the repertoire of the most intense and idiosyncratic singing powerhouse in Hollywood mov…

"Susan Sontag was America's last great literary star," writes Benjamin Moser, using a most un-Sontagian word -- "star." She was "a flashback to a time when writers could be more than simply respected or well-regarded, famous. ... Her success was literally spectacular: played out in public view. "Tall, olive-skinned, with strongly traced Picasso eyelids and serene lip…