Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Will this never end? My toe is bloated, though i've been able to take some of the medication left from my last attack of gout, and the throbbing, stabbing pain has lessened. But i'm going crazy! I watched all the DVDs and tapes for the IFP: now i've got to write up the reports. I started looking at the scripts for ACV: should have that done by the end of today. So i guess i'm getting work done, but this homebound crap is driving me nuts.

Watched Dame Elizabeth Taylor on Larry King Live. I still think it's freaky, but that's how he introduced her, as Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Next month on TCM, the guest programmer will be Mia Farrow, and she'll be introducing "Rashomon" and "The Exterminating Angel" and "Fanny and Alexander". Mia Farrow's taking the high road, though it might have been cute if she introduced something like "David Copperfield" (the movie that her godfather, George Cukor, directed with her mother) or "A Streetcar Named Desire" (which starred Vivien Leigh, her mother's friend from boarding school) or "The Big Clock" (the movie directed by her father which costarred her mother). Now if TCM could unearth the original cut of "Secret Ceremony"....

Since i missed the screenings of "Blow Up" and "Cronaca di un Amore", i might watch the DVDs of those movies today. Actually, i might watch "La Notte", though i wish that film would get the full Criterion treatment.

It's Katie Couric's last day on the Today Show, and they're milking it!

Michael Giltz was one of the only people i know who reviewed "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" from Cannes (he thought it was "superb"), so chalk one up for Michael, because it won the Palme d'Or!

Monday, May 29, 2006

"Now it can be told." Anyway, the time limit is up and the results are official and now i can tell people that i was a panelist this year for the New York Foundation for the Arts. I've been staring at the sheet of paper they gave me at the end of the meetings, the one where you make suggestions. It's the type of situation where either there are so many suggestions that what i'd be suggesting is a basic overhaul, or....

I'm sick! Seriously. First i had this wicked cold which seemed endless (how long has it been? an aeon?) and then yesterday i woke up and my right toe was swollen. Yes. Gout! Ugh! If it's not one thing, it's another. I haven't been out of here in days, and am going crazy. I wanted to catch some of the Klimov and Sheptiko films (i've seen "Come and See" and "The Ascent", so i've seen at least one a piece) and i hope i can see some of the new Italian movies... but i missed all the press screenings for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theater. And i didn't get to the new animation program at Film Forum. And i didn't get to any of the restored films at MoMA...

Larry and i have been watching some of the recent DVDs from TLA which were sent by Andrew Preis, their p.r. person. "Dorian Blues" and "FAQs" and "Summer Thunder". A few weeks ago, i watched "eXposed: The Making of a Legend" and "Sex/Life in L.A. 2: Cycles of Porn". It's so depressing. The reason is that even when some of these are fairly decent ("Dorian Blues" wasn't so bad), the plethora of gay movies now make a lot of these movies superfluous. And worse than that, when they're bad (and "Summer Thunder" certainly qualifies), it's almost an affront. It's the type of situation where, what audience where they aiming for, because this limply bedraggled mixture of failed camp and tired outrageousness and plain ugliness is insulting?

But "eXposed" and "Sex/Life in L.A. 2" beg the question: how is gay sex to be shown in a context of "seriousness"? By claiming to be documentaries, both works are able to show sex in a very "straightforward" way... the context seems to be one in which being gay is simply a given, and any ambivalence is unheard of... it's the situation where a few years ago, the gay porn industry was making its money by proclaiming that the biggest "stars" in the business were gay-for-pay (Ken Ryker, Jeff Stryker, Ryan Idol), and now the self-same industry is extolling men who are "proudly" gay (Dean Phoenix, Marcus Irons, Zak Spears). Is there a hypocrisy at work? I don't know.

David Noh sent another list of questions, to finish up his article on the changes in gay cinema. On the pqprofessionals listserve, they've been compiling lists of important gay films. It's depressing, and yesterday, Jenni Olson wrote in to ask if people would please remember how important some documentaries were (such as "Word is Out" or "Common Threads", et al) and also to remember some of the important lesbian films over the years. Because what's happening is that a lot of the gay men are listing all those goddamn "gay love stories" which climax in "Brokeback Mountain". And (of course) it's depressing, because it's as if the entire history of the movies never existed...

The other night, watched "Cheaper By the Dozen" and "Belles on Their Toes"... amazing to think that, at one time, one of the biggest movie stars in the US was Clifton Webb! First he became a star as the acerbic, razor-tongued know-it-all ("Laura", "The Razor's Edge", "Sitting Pretty"), and then he was cast in family films and romances ("Cheaper By the Dozen", "Three Coins in the Fountain", "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker") . He wasn't just popular (and he was), he was also highly thought of in the industry (three Academy Award nominations). There's a moment in "Cheaper By the Dozen" when his character dances with his daughter (played by Jeanne Crain) and Clifton Webb gets to show his prowess.

Even in the traditional history of the movies, there were always notable movies. "Maedchen in Uniform" was always cited as an important work, one of the most important European films of the 1930s. But now, people don't know that history, and those movies aren't seen by many people, and so it's only the recent past that seems to be remembered.

And how can you ignore someone like Clifton Webb? His career as a movie star was an anomaly. In the 1920s, he was noted as the finest dancer on Broadway (his renown far exceeded that of Fred Astaire; on Broadway, Astaire was considered merely an appendage to his sister, Adele; she was the one considered the great dancer, and he was merely her partner). But Webb never made any movies in the 1930s. By the time he did "Laura", he was a middle-aged man. He was a lifelong "bachelor" who lived with his mother! (And once "Laura" became a hit, and it was obvious that Clifton Webb was a star, there was no getting around the fact.)

But i'm feeling terrible! And tomorrow there are press screenings for the upcoming Antonioni retrospective! Agh! If i miss that....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The seeping cold. At least, it's going away (i hope), but today i didn't go to the Guggenheim for the Jackson Pollock press preview... i'll have to catch the show another time, as i did with the David Smith. However, i finished the first batch of IFP shorts, and e.mailed my votes.

On Tuesday, wound up watching "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" on TCM (part of their "Race" programming done with Donald Bogle). Larry had never seen that movie, and wound up fascinated with it. I remember seeing it as a child, and the eeriness of the empty New York City locations (actually shot on location, and very difficult; the crew had to figure out when certain places would be deserted, and then had to rush to film in a short amount of time) was startling. Times Square, the Wall Street area, places i knew growing up, and utterly recognizable.... here seen empty and deserted. The movies on Tuesday were: "Bright Road" (Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge), "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" (Belafonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer) and "A Patch of Blue" (Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Hartman, Shelley Winters). I told Larry: quick, what's the connection? Movies in which the female lead (Dandridge, Stevens, Hartman) killed themselves in real life.

But though that's a sick joke, it points to one of my problems. The other day, i got a call from Lillian Cho. Two weeks ago, i got a letter from the Asian American Arts Alliance: they're doing their annual fundraising benefit. Now, i don't have the kind of money that's required. But the phone call was to ask for suggestions, etc. Maybe i'm not explaining this too clearly. Look: i can say that, right now, it's Asian Art Week, and a number of high-end galleries (like a number in the Fuller Building on 57th Street), and suggest that the Asian American Arts Alliance try to find a way to connect to the moneyed interests now at work in Asian art. But i don't know those interests. I've observed them, but if i knew them, that would be different.

It's like watching "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis" and people in that doc remarking on the "rivalry" of Jack Smith and Warhol. Of coures, the person i knew was Jack Smith. Where does that get me? You wind up in the same place, with the same people (cf. the Bill Rice memorial evening at the Millennium). I don't mind that, but i can't be a different person. And i can't help any of these organizations anymore.

That's (finally) my realization. I was always doing things like using my (meager) contacts for these organizations, and what do i ever get in return? Not that i ever expected anything (i didn't), but the idea that i'm a person that's supposed to keep on giving and giving and giving... Or that i can actually do anything.

It's like the AIVF crisis. They had a massive fundraising drive. They failed. The organization may have to fold. And that's it. Quite frankly: there are actually people in Hollywood who could sneeze and $60,000 would appear. And some of those people used to work at AIVF 15 years ago. But if they are going to ignore the pleas from AIVF, that's it.

And yet no one dares to say, isn't that terrible? But if i don't help something like the Asian American Arts Alliance... what? I'm suddenly a villain? What is this f*cking double standard?

I can't keep diverting my attention.

A few weeks ago, when i ran into Carey Lovelace, she asked me about blogging. Where do i get an audience? And i finally told her, i don't know if i have an audience, and i don't care. It's an outlet, it gives me a place to write. I used to write letters. I don't keep a journal. The letters were my form of a journal. And those letters were always addressed to one person. And now i have a blog instead of letters. (One freak thing: i never checked the archive on my blog until this weekend, and i found out that some people have mad comments! People i don't know. Dave Kehr is right: there are nuts who troll the net, looking for items about their favorites. So, because i dared to suggest that, no matter what his talent, Robert Altman might not be the nicest person in the world, i got a bunch of angry comments. Plus one spam from someone advertising something. It's making me think that blogging is stupid: there's no intelligent conversation, just these crazies trolling for information/opinions about their favorites. Dave Kehr noted that, when he wrote about his opinion on Malick's "The New World", he had to step in and moderate the comments, because people wrote in to be abusive, just because he didn't share their love for the movie.)

One thing is that i never really pursue jobs as a critic. If something comes my way, fine, if not, not. The reason is that... unfortunately, i don't want to get stuck in a rut. I still harbor the (moronic) fantasy that something else will happen, that the opportunity to do something (make a movie, in particular) will materialize. Or that i will figure how to make that materialize.

And i guess i feel really imposed upon by all these people who think that i should "help". Why? Who's going to help me? Does it matter to me if AIVF has to fold? Or the Asian American Arts Alliance?

It's like years ago, when Cindy Carr wrote about the "crisis" at the NEA, and she ended her article in The Village Voiec with the question, can we imagine the avant-garde without funding? And so many people i knew (like Carolee Schneemann, Jonas Mekas, Name June Paik) just laughed at that article, because they had imagined their art in an era where there was no funding!

If we have to imagine it, we will!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tonight there's the New Fest launch party: will i be feeling fit enough to go? Read Michael Giltz blog from Cannes, very amusing. Missed the first day of press screening for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Hope i'll get to some of the other screenings. Always find it fascinating, but depending on the year, it can be very depressing.

One of the comments made at the panel on blogging as an alternative to the traditional (print) venues for criticism is that everyone who blogs can become a critic. This leads to a perceived anarchy. But one problem is that so many people who post comments are so ignorant. This is proven by IMDB. Someone commented on the Astaire-Hayworth musical "You Were Never Lovelier" that the movie was ridiculous because it was set in Argentina, and there was not a single Latino in any of the starring roles... forgetting that Miss Rita Hayworth was born Marguerita Cansino, and her father was Mexican, and she was probably the biggest Latina star ever in Hollywood. (I think it was Ian Cameron who once made the delightful mistake of describing Ava Gardner as a "Latin beauty" because she played one in "The Barefoot Contessa" and "Tha Naked Maja", but just because she played one doesn't make her one.)

David Noh asked me a question about "Brokeback Mountain"; it's for some article he's writing. It's the usual question: do you think "Brokeback Mountain" is really a breakthrough? And so on. It's a problem, because often the movies that seem to be breakthroughs are often not that good. It's the situationof the "problem" film from the 1940s and 1950s: movies like "Gentlemen's Agreement" or "The Defiant Ones" don't seem all that important now, but in their time, they were able to be both "meaningful" and popular, and that's also a part of what makes popular culture so interesting. (Last week, TCM played all four of the "problem" films from 1949: "Home of the Brave", "Pinky", "Intruder in the Dust" and "Lost Boundaries".)

The last few days have been terrible, because of this cold i have. At least one a year, i come down with a cold which knocks me out for a few days, and it's happened. On Sunday, i decided enough's enough and dragged myself to the annual meeting of AICA. I went for the full four hours. The first half was a panel discussion on the whole issue of the Web, the internet, blogging, and how these are changing the parameters for criticism. How print journalism is changing and (in many cases) shrinking, and how people are turning to the Web, etc.

Then there was the annual meeting, and then the reception. It was pleasant, actually, the panel was quite informative and lively, but it was really underattended. A pity. Anyway, by the time i got home, i was really feeling feverish.

Yesterday, i di hack around. I did watch all of the shorts for the IFP; amazing to think how many are so derivative. This becomes a question: if the filmmaker is "talented" and skillful, if the filmmaker shows exceptional craft, but the work is utterly unoriginal and empty, is this to be commended? In short: is craft enough? Or do you still look for signs, not just of talent, but originality?

Checked the MIX site on eBay, and now a lot of people are bidding on the cameras. Jim's camera is now past $50. I'll check back and see if i can still afford it in a few days.

On Michael Solano's website, there's a whole portfolio of pictures of Brett. In some shots, he looks so amazingly beautiful. There's one shot of him on the beach, a close-up of his face, and he's smiling. It's a really nice shot of him.

Anyway, yesterday the Keyspan guy came about the new boiler. Of course, there were problems! Larry wasn't here, so i had to be the one. Larry went ballistic. He's always getting worried about things. I don't know. I think things will work out....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On Matt Zoller Seitz's blog, the incredibly sad news of the (sudden) death of his wife, Jennifer Dawson; it happened two weeks ago, but i hadn't been reading Matt's blog (i was amazed at his blog-a-thon a while back on Altman) in about three weeks, and this news was wrenching (; he's got people guest blogging for a while, and i just hope he is ok. Dave Kehr's blog ( has the very unfortunate news that Jami Bernard's contract is not being renewed at the Daily News; Dave has comments on how film criticism is consistently being lowered to worse-than-lowest common denominator. But that's why so many of us blog: we're trying to maintain some semblance of a critical community, and retain some actual perspective, rather than the rubber-stamp publicity which so many people seem to feel is the function of criticism.

Reading about Matt's tragedy reminded me of the death of Margie Keller. That sudden, inexplicable death, which left P. Adams Sitney with their twin daughters. Haven't seen P. Adams in a long while (maybe two years?) and the last time we talked, i didn't ask him about his daughters. I see Sky (his older daughter from his first marriage) occasionally: she's now part of the team running SilverDocs for the AFI. Amazing to think that i first met Sky when she was... what? 4? 5?

I've been at this (writing about film, etc.) for almost 40 years! It's not getting any better, that's for sure!

Quick notes. Went to the MIX Benefit at the new Leslie-Lohman Gallery at 26 Wooster Street; took Douglas with me. It was a strange evening. Douglas had a great time, i had a nice time, but it wasn't really a silent auction (which is what i expected); the "items" (that is: the disposable cameras with the undeveloped photos inside by various celebrities) weren't anywhere to be seen, rather, you were supposed to bid online, except it wasn't really working. (As i write, you still can't; i just went to the MIX website and there's no instructions and no links to get to the MIX Benefit on eBay.) But the auction goes on for at least a week, and i bet a lot of people actually do bid on the cameras... because if it's not public, a lot of people will feel better about bidding for the cameras of Gus Mattox, Will Clark, Luke Garrett, Gage Weston, Michael Lucas, if no one knows that they're doing it. (When The New Festival had its silent auctions, people always waited until the very last minute to start bidding on any of the porn items. It was embarrassing: for example, Michael Brandon would be there, with his basket of stuff from Raging Stallion, and it was mortifying not to have anyone bidding! But men would be circling the table, like vultures, waiting for the death knell to announce that bidding would close, then the men would jump to bid!) This is unfortunate, because i was hoping to bid on Toms' camera and Jim's camera...

I left just as the "entertainment" started to arrive (Murray Hill, Marga Gomez, Carmelita Tropicana, et al); wanted to make sure i got home in time to see the episode of "Huff" i missed on Sunday. I did: quite a good episode. Anjelica Huston is fantastic and the scene where she and Huff (Hank Azaria) do an extended therapy session, using Ecstacy, was extraordinary. Then caught a real curiosity on TCM as part of their "Race" film series: "Way Down South" a 1939 musical set in 1854 Louisiana... i can't even explain the plot, it's just too embarrassing (it has to do with the orphaned boy's attempt to stop the sale of his slaves, so that the plantation can stay in its idyllic slave state), yet the damned thing was actually written by Clarence Muse and Langston Hughes! I don't even want to go into analyzing the layers of self-abjection which must have gone into that screenplay....

But then i turned to one of the Showtime stations and watched "The Vampire Lovers", the Hammer version of Sheridan Le Fanu's story "In a Glass Darkly" (which Dreyer used as the basis for "Vampyr"). Well, this was no "Vampyr" (only my favorite movie of all time) but it's one of the better Hammer horror films.

Actually, May 16 was Henry Fonda's birthday (TCM celebrated by showing his films all morning and afternoon) but it was also Margaret Sullavan's birthday. Odd how they were born on the same day; their marriage lasted less than a year. Sullavan remains absolutely my favorite American actress. Interestingly, Katharine Hepburn was born on May 12. (TCM showed a bunch of her movies last Friday; why don't they ever show people's good movies? "Without Love" and "Undercurrent" are two of her worst for MGM, and "Dragon Seed" is hopeless!)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jeff Yang has an unusually sensitive analysis of the issue of the Yale student who was caught plagarizing her novel... he astutely tied it into the whole issue of expectations that are placed on many young Asian-Ameriacn students. (His blog is: Got an e.mail from Stephen Kent Jusick, about the benefit auction for MIX that will be held at the new Leslie-Lohman Gallery. Information can be found at and it's pretty funny: Kodak donated a passel of disposable cameras, and these were distributed to some 150 "celebrities" who then returned the cameras without developing the film. So it's a surprise what they shot. There are so many people! Eileen Myles. Gus Van Sant. Ira Sachs. Rose Troche. Jill Clayburgh. Plus a bunch of Colt exclusives. Tom Judson (as Gus Mattox) is included. So is Jake Andrews. I might have to go just so that i can make a bid on their cameras.

The next few weeks will be busy: have things to do for the IFP and for the Asian-American Film Festival. It'll be interesting to see if the recent developments re: nonprofit media organizations (those crises that have been chronicled in IndieWire) will bear out in terms of the results of this year's festivals.

Had dinner with my mother, a belated mother's day celebration. My brother stopped by to pick up one of my mother's old party dresses: my niece Jessica is going to alter it, and wear it at one of the three "Sweet 16" parties she's going to in the next month. She's decided that, even though she is going to wear a different dress for each party (this seems to be mandatory), she's not going to spend that much to get three totally new dresses. Jessica is really quite sensible, in addition to everything else. I'm really very proud of her. But i'm sorry that the art world that's around now isn't the same as when i was her age: for all the insanity, it was pretty wonderful, and even then, i knew i was lucky to be part of it, and now it's mostly vanished, an object of nostalgia.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Items in the news. This week, the Bush famuily announced that Jeb Bush would make a great president after his brother's term ends. What? Are they crazy? Who the hell do these people think they are, f*cking royalty? The similarities with the French royals avant le deluge is unmistakable, even down to Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" (ergo, Barbara Bush's comment that hurricane victims will now be forced to move to better neighbrohoods.... as if they could afford it in the first place). But i can't stand watching any of the news commentary shows, because those shows are overrun with rightwing ideologues now, who prattle on about how Bush's low approval ratings mean nothing, how the nation must stay the course, etc. Of course, i think that eventually the Bushes will simply dissolve the government and declare themselves kings. They've already done that with the courts.

Now there are hurricane forecasts, and the trajectory should be changing, and the hurricanes this coming season may hit the northeast. As if we don't have enough problems!

Sometimes, it seems as if the world is falling down around me, and i understand why so many people i know have tried to narrow their focus so that they don't have to deal with the seeming insurmountable apocalypse.

It's very depressing. Anyway, it was Larry's birthday, and we went and tried Nouvelle! That's the Asian-fusion restaurant that was opened by the chef from Nobu here in Bay Ridge. It was really wonderful! (Barry had wanted to go to the little French restaurant but it was packed because of Mother's day, and so we had to check out another place. We're glad we did!)

Blogging isn't as easy as i thought, simply because it takes time and effort, but also because when a lot of things happen, it's hard to put into words. Today is Mother's Day, and i just called my mother. Sure, it's easy for me to get angry at some of her antics, but i do understand my mother, and i should explain that my mother was one of the middle children in this hideously large family (what were there? 16? 17? 18 children?). Her father seems to be like Kevin Federline: as one reporter said (upon the announcement of Britney Spears' seciond pregnancy), the guy seems to be able to just roll over and there's another pregnancy. It explains my uncle's hideous behavior as well: that desperate need for attention, for validation, that total self-interest. I understand my mother, but when she's involved in one of her "family" ventures, and it's happening right in front of me, it's hard to be "objective" and i revert to being a child and the various emotional wounds open up again.

The other day, Film Comment came in the mail, and i read Amy Taubin's article on Melville's "Army of Shadows". It's one of her best articles, i really mean that. I think the film is brilliant, i was astounded by it when i saw it during the Meville retrospective at MoMA.... when was that? But i was so astounded i saw it twice. But i also had some questions about it, in terms of the methodology. I agree with Amy that the film is related (in terms of style) directly to his gangster films, especially "Le Samourai" and "Le Cercle Rouge". In fact, the deliberate "distance" that the film maintains makes the film seem "shallow" in the sense that the film rarely assumes the appearance of interiority. Character motivation is at a minimum: that's part of what "star casting" is all about. When we see Lino Ventura, when we see Jean-Pierre Cassel, when we see Simone Signoret, the immediate iconography of their presence serves as the entire motivation. And so this was my question: is the deliberate surface (which relates this movie to genre filmmaking) enough? And (of course) my immediate thought was to reread Robbe-Grillet's "For a New Novel" as a rationale for the methodology of Melville in "Army of Shadows".

Going to the "Directing Bill Rice" memorial screening at Millennium on Friday was sad. A lot of people showed up, it was very well-attended, and i ran into a lot of people i know. Obviously, i went because i got an e.mail about the event from Yoshiko Chuma, and she was there, as well as Jacob Burkhardt (her husband), and there were two pieces by Jacob being screened. And Charlie Ahearn was there, and Beth B, and Charles Allcroft, and Carol Mullins, and Lola Pashalinski... Jim Neu was the emcee for the evening.... it made me miss the times when i would just run into these people, and when that period of the 1970s and 1980s when we'd always see each other....

In short: where is my community now? And who would it be?

That's why it's been hard to write. Because it is hard to express (in words) the sense of alienation that is now so much a part of the art world.

I forget what morning it was, but i called Brett on his cell-phone, and he was rushing to go to the airport. A last minute trip. And his plans to spend his birthday in Italy have changed.... but i was glad to see him the last time he was in NYC, and it was nice going to the Whitney Biennial with him. Which reminds me that i haven't been going to MoMA a lot lately. I went to almost all the press screenings for New Directors/New Films, but i just haven't gone otherwise... one reason may be because i didn't get a pass this year from the Film Department. Actually, that is the reason i haven't gone. Just before we moved, i donated my entire run of Image Forum, the Japanese film journal that Katsue Tomiyama published, to the Film Study Center. But i never got back one of those acknowledgement letters so i could use it for my taxes. And then i didn't get a complimentary pass this year. So i'm kind of avoiding MoMA, though i do want to see some of the films in the preservation series coming up. And i broke down and went to see the Barney Rossett program: Samuel Beckett's "Film", and then the outtakes (and no, it hasn't gotten better with age, what a misconceived project all around!), Genet's "Chant d'Amour" (still one of the most amazing films ever, even in a faded print), and James Fotopoulous's "The Hard-Boiled Egg" based on a scenario by Ionesco (amusing if overextended, but that's like a lot of Ionesco). But it made me feel very much as if i had been abandoned, having to go to a place where i feel unwanted.

Somehow this relates back to my mother.... so that's Mother's Day. Actually, Barry is coming in and we are all going to lunch, because it's Larry's and Barry's birthday. Or it was yesterday! But Barry had some things to do at Rutgers, so he couldn't make it yesterday, so we're doing the birthday today....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

So much has happened in the last few days: the Tribeca Film Festival finally ended (because of the pre-festival press screenings, it seemed to go on forever... but i saw the very first press screening, and i saw the very last press screening, which turned out to be a Bill Plympton-curated program of animated shorts, of which several i had seen in other contexts), went to the press preview of the Eva Hesse exhibition at the Jewish Museum (phenomenal show) and (finally) caught the David Smith exhibition at the Guggenheim (another terrific show). Went to the press screening for "Refuge" the doc about Buddhism written and narrated by Les Levine; ran into Coleen Fitzgibbon and Tom Otterness at the screening. Rushed home so that i could finish looking at the DVDs from the Asian-American/Asian Research Institute, and e.mailed my ballot. Some good work this year. On Saturday, spent an hour talking on the phone with Annette Michelson, telling her about the woes of Wooster Street; we both expressed a nostalgia for the way the city had been. Larry and i went to a special screening of "Poseidon" and then to the party afterwards at Barney's; the party was enjoyable enough, we tried to stand someplace where it wasn't so crowded, and we succeeded in being in one of the spots where the waitstaff came out; at one point, Emmy Rossum came through, wearing the red gown she wears in the movie. A lot of thoughts....

Got an e.mail from Jeff Yang, who has a blog (; he's writing one of those think pieces, this one about what the term "Asian" means in the context of "Asian-America". After watching more than 2 hours of student films expressing their "Asian-ness", i was a little more than irritated. I think it's because these questions (what does Asian mean to you? Do you regard yourself as Asian? etc.) have been around since the 1970s. Enough already! So i'm afraid my answers were a little rude.

Got a call from Wendy Sax, so, yes, once again, i'm on board to help with the IFFM. Which is interesting, since the whole prognosis for the "independent" film scene continues to be bleak.

When checking out Michael Lucas's blog, i wound up going to the blog of Spencer Quest. I think it's an amazing site ( because this is someone who really is trying to deal with the way that gay men regard sexuality, and he's quite articulate.

Gary Tooze suggests that i do a little roundup, the way Jonathan Rosenbaum has done (his 10 favorite off-beat musicals, his 10 favorite underrated film noirs). One problem is that so many films just aren't on DVD. For example, if you take something like Pre-Code films (a favorite among DVD Beaver's readers), there are just so many of those films which are not on DVD. And the same remains true of film noir: when is Nicholas Ray's "They Live By Night" ever going to come to DVD? Or Fritz Lang's "The Woman in the Window"? But i'm thinking about this.

Anyway, would like to try to sum up something about the Tribeca Film Festival... it's such a megalith, it's so huge, it sprawls and takes over everything... yet there are always interesting and worthwhile films, even something as surprisingly entertaining as the ESPN-doc "Once in a Lifetime" which details the attempt by Steve Ross to make soccer a mainstream American sport, and the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos.

Isotta Ingrid Rossellini went on record in a press release, denouncing her twin sister's film "My Dad is 100 Years Old" because she thinks that Isabella is being disrepectful to the memory of their father. I also saw Gil Rossellini's documentary about his recent illness, "Kill Gil, Volume 1". Both Ingrid and Isabella appear....

Friday, May 05, 2006

Haven't blogged in a while; finally finished with the press screenings for the Tribeca Film Festival. Wound up seeing more than 60 "films". A number of art events, such as the Bucksbaum Award reception at the Whitney Museum. Ran into a lot of people, very interesting discussions. A book party for Callie Angell's "Screen Tests" book at this new place 230 Madison Avenue. Larry had a great time at that party, i was less amused, primarily because that morning i had gone to see the press screening for "Notes on Marie Menken" and at one point Gerard Malanga looks at a piece of film which has been in storage, which is now disintegrating. The film shows Marie Menken and Andy Warhol filming each other (Malanga describes it as "jousting" with cameras). The Menken and Maas families have put everything in storage, but Marie Menken and Willard Maas are no longer "known", and there is no "estate" with the money to adequately preserve this material. (One fascinating bit of information: Marie Menken had been an abstract painter in the late 1940s-early 1950s, before she concentrated on filmmaking; she was one of the first artists to show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.)

After the screening of the documentary "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis", Jim Fouratt walked out of the screening exclaiming how wonderful it was, Amy Taubin was far less amused (to put it mildly), i was interested in the material about Jack's childhood... his mother had abandoned him as a child, and the letters she wrote to him as an adult (where she's sending him checks, and trying to apologize) were very sad. Jack refused to forgive his mother (an indication of his relentless hostility, and perhaps an indication of his constant need to demonize people, to set people up as "relatives" and then to claim that they exploited/abandoned/destroyed him, as in the case of Jonas Mekas, who became "Uncle Fishhook"). At one point in "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis", there's a section about Jack's interactions with Andy Warhol.

During Callie's remarks, she said that researching the Warhol films had been a real portrait of he 1960s, and that she enjoyed getting to know many of the people who had been in the films. Yet one of the things about Warhol was that he (initially) wanted to prove himself a "serious" artist, and so he wanted to know artists with "reputations". Of course, Warhol was also snobbish: of the Judson Dance Theater choreographers, the one Warhol chose to film was Lucinda Childs, and not Yvonne Rainer or Deborah Hay or Simone Forti. My own views on Warhol are colored by the fact that, of all the experimental/avantgarde/"underground" filmmakers that i met in 1969-70 through Jonas Mekas, Warhol was one of the two who was unpleasant/nasty/rude. So that colors my view of Warhol: i met him and didn't like him.

I wonder if Callie ever talked with Kenneth King. Gerard Malanga wasn't at this party: certainly, he was crucial to Warhol during the 1960s.

I'm watching a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where a young man is talking about how his mother has betrayed him. Then there's a psychologist who comes on, to tell him that, for all intents and purposes, he doesn't have a mother, and he has to grieve, and he has to get counselling to deal with the loss. Because his mother's refusal to acknowledge that he had been abused by his stepfather, and his mother's decision to side with his stepfather over him, is like a death. Is this supposed to be meant for me? My mother's done it again. I always said that, if one of her idiot family told her to kill me, she'd kill me. She doesn't care. My mother can't even face the truth about her family: how her father was one of the vicelords in Chinatown during the 1920s and 1930s. On Celebrity Fit Club, Gunnar Nelson says that his mother was born without the "mother" gene. You certainly can say that about my mother. My sister goes crazy because she thinks my mother is going to change and suddenly become all warm and caring about us. As if! An indication of the way my mother thinks: when my cousin Elinor died, my mother was furious that her sister Anne (Elinor's mother) hasn't called her first. Uh... maybe Auntie Anne was feeling terrible because her daughter had died, and if she was thinking of people to call, maybe she would be thinking of her son (Elinor's brother) and her grandchildren (Elinor's children) before she thought of her sisters. But when we tried to explain this to my mother, it was a concept totally foreign to her. Every Saturday for... i don't even know how long, my mother goes over to her sister Mary's, and Auntie Anne and her husband Suey come in from Flushing to play mah jong. Well, that week, we told her, maybe you shouldn't count on playing mah jong this Saturday. My mother's response: why not? We tried to explain that maybe Auntie Anne would be feeling so terrible, she wouldn't want to come in to play mah jong. We're trying to explain to our mother that, for normal people, if their children die before them, it's usually a very shattering experience. But my mother looked at us like we're crazy.

Turns out, of course, my mother's lack of emotion was matched by her brother-in-law: Uncle Suey was not going to let something like his daughter's death deter him from his routine. During Elinor's funeral, Uncle Suey kept telling Auntie Anne to stop crying, to get a grip on herself, to stop carrying on. There was a moment when i wanted to slug him: let the woman cry, her daughter died, this is probably the worst thing that she could ever experience. Anyway, my mother was right: the mah jong game went on as scheduled.

I often wondered why my father married my mother. I know why my mother married my father. My paternal grandfather was rumored to be rich. Actually, my grandfather kept saving up money, and the minute he had enough, he would send for another relative in China. My grandfather kept doing this: sending for them, and setting them up in various businesses. My father estimated that, in all, there were about 50 relatives from China that came over here because of my grandfather. Of course, when he died, some of the relatives felt cheated, because they expected some money... but he had already spent it on them! My father estimated that my grandfather spent about 20 to 30 thousand dollars per relative! I don't know if my mother ever said she loved my father. I know my father loved my mother, and thought she was beautiful. I remember my father once saying, i must be crazy because i love her so much. The one thing that shook my father's faith in his love was the realization that my mother was a terrible mother. I remember my father once trying to justify some particularly stupid thing my mother had done to me, and finally he gave up, and said, look, your mother doesn't understand how lucky she is, you're good kids, really good, and she doesn't understand that, and she's not really the motherly type. My mother built up this whole fantasy about her damned family: how did i know that, when my sister and i were born, her father was still alive! I have no idea when my maternal grandfather died, but i always assumed that he must have died before my mother was married, because there's no picture of him from the time of my parents' wedding on.

Our birth was a big deal in Chinatown: we were twins. And there was a big baby party for us. And there are a lot of photos of us, with our paternal grandparents. But i have no recollection (at all) of ever meeting my mother's father.

And my mother has totally distorted the family history. She goes on and on about how my (paternal) grandmother never helped her at all. Excuse me? My grandmother started to babysit me from the time i was... well, my grandmother would love to take me to the park (until i was ten, we lived on Baxter Street, opposite Columbus Park). But my father explained that my sister was a more colicky baby, and so my mother had to take care of her. Which (evidently) made my mother furious. But my sister grew out of this by the time she was about two, and then my grandmother would take both of us.

And then my brother was born, when we were four. It is hard to remember exactly (and my mother has just chosen to forget everything), but i know that within the first three months, my brother had to be rushed to the hospital. And when he came out... he clung to my mother. It was the strangest thing, because my brother learned to walk and talk very early on, and he was a very independent child, and he would argue with my mother all the time. But the minute he got sleepy, my mother had to be there. If he woke up, and my mother wasn't around... he would scream and cry and get into hysterics.

But once my brother was born... my mother told us that she had her tubes tied, so she wouldn't have another baby! Three was enough for her! (In fact, three was too much for her.) We didn't even know what it meant, but my mother told us, "I had my tubes tied, so I wouldn't have another baby!" (Is this appropriate to tell a four-year-old? But then, when did appropriateness deter my mother?) And from that point on, my sister and i spent most weekends with my grandparents. And my grandmother's idea of fun was to take us to the movies! So every Saturday, we went to the movies with my grandmother!

Yet in my mother's mind, my grandmother never did anything to help her. (I think taking your two kids every weekend for almost three years is not nothing.) Yet she mythologizes her father, who threw her out of the house and then had nothing to do with her.

But that's my mother. Her family is perfect, everyone else is so much garbage.

And she's pathological. When my (paternal) grandmother was sick, i would (of course) visit her in the hospital every day. I mean: every single day. I didn't miss one! Even if it was only for a few minutes, i made sure that i made an appearance. But one day, my mother got into hysterics, and demanded that i stop going to see my grandmother, because "she never helped me, and she always favored your uncle Edmund and not your father". In fact, she had thrown this fit with my father, and made his life hell, because he was trying to help his mother. (That's my mother for you: it's always a choice, and if you don't do what she wants, then you don't love her, you don't care... i mean: this was the man's mother, for chrissake, and if his mother's in the hospital and he wants to visit her... but my mother made my father's life hell.... and so he told me, i can't go as often as i want, because your mother gets too upset, but you keep going.) My mother threw this fit, and i comforted her, and i made a promise that i would do as she wanted... and then i went right ahead and kept on visiting my grandmother. But she nagged and screamed and whined at my father, to get him to stop visiting his own mother! What is she? But my mother has no conception of normal human feelings. And she's just getting worse!