Monday, November 27, 2006

Been sick for two days. Can't stand it. Right now, my stomach seems to be settling down, but i'm now covered with hives. This morning it was all over my back, but now it's moved to my chest and neck. Ugh. Just disgusting. There were two press screenings today, but didn't want to risk being on the subway and then having some sort of emergency.

Watched Monte Hellman's "Back Door to Hell" on Fox Movie Channel. Also "Circle of Deception". What's interesting about "Circle of Deception" is that it's based on a TV show. In 1955, Fox started an hour-long anthology series, and most of the shows were stripped down versions of their movie "classics". But in 1956, there was an "original" called "Deception" which starred Linda Darnell and Trevor Howard. The plot is the same (a woman, working in intelligence, must choose a man who is "breakable" so that he will be provided with wrong information so that he will divulge that information after being captured and tortured by the Nazis; after the war is over, she looks for him to make amends), though the movie is fitted out with torture sequences which were quite graphic for 1961. The whole Fox Television Hour series was an interesting example of shifting fortunes. For example: "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" starred Gene Tierney, but the TV version starred Joan Fontaine. Of course, Joan Fontaine was always a bigger star than Gene Tierney, but by the mid-1950s, Fontaine's star was on the decline (one reason: the dissolution of her contract with Selznick; another reason: her attempts to produce her own movies, including "Letter from an Unknown Woman", which was expensive and - unfortunately - unsuccessful at the box office). "Circle of Deception" starred Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman (they would marry soon after)... she was always so beautiful, but her voice was a real handicap. In some cases, it seemed appropriate (in "Ten North Frederick" and "The Interns"), but usually it seemed a little too inexpressive and shallow.

The recent police shootout is just sickening. How can this be justified? Men coming out of a strip club after a "bachelor's party"... one presumes that these men might be intoxicated, but does that justify the truly excessive force? And we all know this will be covered up, that the police will not be charged with anything.

The stock market went down because of the dip in Wal-Mart's sales. How disgusting! That Wal-Mart should have such an impact? What is this?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Black Friday" sales were up 6%, a major exception being Wal-Mart, which is in decline.

Well, good, since Wal-Mart is the worst of the union-busting, Republican-loving, below-minimum-wage-paying corporations. Perhaps if this keeps up, we'll finally get rid of these monsters.

(On the other hand, Starbucks is very progressive. Of course, i never drink coffee, so that's useless for me.)

On Charlie Rose, Nora Ephron says that if you have to think about what you're blogging, it's nto a blog. Blogging should be just like automatic writing. With that in mind, i'm home because the damned subway was so late, i knew i wouldn't make it in time to catch "Wristcutters" the movie that's part of the IFP's Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You series at MoMA. I really made the effort, but got stymied by the subways. That's why i hate trying to make plans for the weekend: you never know what's going to happen with the subways.

Oh, well, Thanksgiving came and went. Show business deaths come in threes, and that was the case on Thanksgiving. Philippe Noiret died. Anita O'Day died. Betty Comden died. This week, i saw "My Dad is 100 Years Old" and "Bergman Island"... Ingmar Bergman is really... i don't know what to say. The way he has behaved... in our "political" times, we would say that he manifested his directorial authority in terms of sexual harrassment. And the fact that he was such an absentee father to his children, he shrugs off. He continues to rage against his authoritarian father, but his own faults as a father (which are self-admitted) he just disregards. A more self-involved person i've never seen... yet he made at least some movies of the very highest artistry ("Persona", "Shame", "A Passion", "The Magic Flute"). Fellini was (at least) funny, but Bergman....!

Also saw Brigitte Cornand's "Joan Jonas: Study of the Artist With Dog" and i have to say i've seen several of her video "portraits of artists" and they're mostly terrible. No real structure to speak of, and rambling on, and if you don't know the people (i know Joan, i happen to like her, i happen to like her work) the damned thing is just about incomprehensible. Oh, well, it'll be playing at Anthology, and i hope that some people's interest will be sparked, so that they'll take the time to look at Joan's work (such as her video work).

Altman's death has brought out a lot of the usual tributes. I remember when he was "in the wilderness", that period around 1980, when he had a string of flops ("A Wedding", "Quintet", "Health", "A Perfect Couple", etc.) and was doing theater, and then decided to try to make "films" (in some cases, on TV) of some of those plays. One (terribly ironic) thing was that one of the best of the bunch was "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean", which was based on a godawful play, but some of the "better" plays ("Fool for Love", "Streamers", "Beyond Therapy") turned into not-so-good (if not downright awful) movies. That was something i couldn't understand: how "good" theatrical material seemed to flummox him, but bad material really freed his imagination. That was also the period when Marlene Arvan was working for him. (I think the best of the "plays-into-movies" was "Secret Honor", which i still think is very strong.) But when Marlene started working for Altman, i remember Joans Mekas getting all bent out of shape about it, declaring that Marlene was a "traitor" for working for that "imposter"! But so many people talk about "Popeye" as if it were such a failure... well, i liked it. And it actually made a profit. (The other curious thing: in so many of the tributes, they get the chronology of his career wrong: he did "M*A*S*H" in 1970, then he did "Brewster McCloud" in 1971, and then he did "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" later in 1971. Why are people getting confused and claiming that he did "Brewster McCloud" before "M*A*S*H"?)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ohmigod, Robert Altman died! It was just announced on TV (CBS News) and online. No matter what i thought of him personally, he was a major American director, and some of his movies ("McCabe & Mrs. Miller", "The Long Goodbye", "Three Women") are truly great.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A lot over the past few days. Bill Jones came to town for his two screenings at MIX, which was at the new 3-Legged-Dog space on Rector Street. On Saturday, we went to Chelsea to do a gallery crawl, it's like a parade, there are so many people (ran into Evan and Dara Meyers-Kingsley and kids, Fred Wilson and Whitfield Lovell). On Sunday, went to AMMI to see "Celine and Julie Go Boating" and when i got there i went to the desk and asked if i could pick up tickets for the special two-day screening of "Out One" and the guy at the deak laughed at me and told me not to worry, there's no way it's going to b a sell-out.

Larry reminded me that there is an invitation from Ludwig about his wedding. Reminds me of an episode from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, when Edie invites Lou Grant (her ex-husband) to her wedding. What did Christopher Durang say? The Mary Tyler Moore Show always has a comment perfect for every occasion. In this case, Lou says, i can handle it. And Mary says, Ooooh, Mr. Grant, that's for someone who's a hip, happening, with-it kind of guy. And Lou sayd, yeah, that's me, and Mary says, No, that's... Sonny Bono, that's not you!

My horoscope in the Daily News tells me that i shouldn't just accept any job, because i can't do everything. I really can't do the AAARI movie series this winter, because i had nothing to do with the selection of the movies, and i won't speak about films i have no interest in. That's it. I won't be used to pretend that i had something to do with something i didn't.

But because i'm depressed about that, i feel like sleeping. I always sleep when i'm depressed!

Went to the Kiki Smith press preview this morning. My god: she's like the artworld equivalent of Joyce Carol Oates! She just won't stop. There was the ICP show a few years ago, and the MoMA show of prints, multiples and drawings.... now this. It's like visual diarrhea.

Saw Ursula Van Rydingsvard at the preview but she was kibbutzing so i didn't get a chane to talk to her. After all, we were in the same welding class at Columbia University. I saw Amei Wallach checking in when i was in the elevator on the way up, but then i never saw her in the exhibit. I wanted to tell her that i saw the piece Ray Johnson did of her in the show at Feigen. Talked with Carey Lovelace. But getting to the Whitney was a nightmare: something was wrong with uptown service on the Lexington Avenue local line. It put me in a foul mood....

Larry pointed out that a piece comes from the collection of Tom and Coleen. Reminds me that Coleen once called me (decades ago) about Colab, which she was starting, but i didn't like the people. In particular, i didn't like Jenny Holzer and Kiki Smith, whom i found to be particularly obnoxious. And every time since then that i've run into Kiki Smith, she pulls this crap act where she tries to pretend to have an accent. I mean: please! The girl grew up in New Jersey. This airy-fairy German/French/Italian accent bit is tiresome! And she always acts like she never met me before. Well, maybe i never met her.

(Besides, the problem with Colab was that all of them were my age, but i was WAY ahead of them in terms of my career at that point, so i didn't feel like going back to kindergarten and hanging with les enfants.)

But even though i thought Colab was a crock, that never stopped me from staying friends with Coleen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The election is over; as of today, theDemocrats seemed to have won. Slim margins, but they are now the majority party in the House and the Senate. Bush's reponse: fire Donald Rumsfeld. I wish that Bush could be fired. Larry and i voted, but i couldn't stand to watch the election returns. Too nervewracking. Can't believe that Alan Hevesi won, after all the "scandal" over his use of state funds for his wife.

Finally finished my (short) article on (some) avantgarde films available on DVD. Will try to finish my short piece on Gillo Pontecorvo today. The reason for the article is that the last time i ever saw Susan Sontag was at the press screening for the rerelease of BATTLE OF ALGIERS, and i wanted to include her comment on the film.

It was my brother's birthday yesterday, i had wanted to go over there but it was raining all day. This is the soggiest year in a long time. But we'll see if the last of the figs finally get ripe, since the next few days are supposed to be warm.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Just got back from seeing Meredith Monk's "Impermanence" at BAM. Ran into Ruby Lerner, Barbara Hammer, Jane Comfort. Couldn't believe it: Ching Gonzalez was in the cast! Glad to see that there's continuity.

Clifford Geertz died; remember attending a lecture he gave at Columbia University while i was there studying anthropology. William Styron died... wish i could say that i really liked his writing, but i did find that memoir "Darkness Visible" quite moving.

At the press opening for the Albers and Moholy-Nagy show at the Whitney, Jill Krementz was talking to Larry. Turns out she had never heard of Moholy-Nagy. Where has she been? Under a rock? My answer: no, under Kurt Vonnegut. Maybe it's the same thing.

Books i ordered came in the maile, and loved "My Life as a Fake" by Peter Carey. I'm glad i decided to read his work. Finally got more of Gavin Lambert's novels, "The Slide Area" and "The Goodbye People"; i've read his books "On Cukor" and the biography of Nazimova, and i read "Inside Daisy Clover" long ago, but i'm looking forward to these.

On Monday, watched a bunch of pre-code movies on TCM: "The Lady Refuses" with Betty Compson, "Lady With a Past" with Constance Bennett, and "Their Big Moment" with Zasu Pitts and Slim Summerville. A lot of fun. Tuesday, the press preview for Albers and Moholy-Nagy, the very first art event i've been to since the summer! Today, the press screening of the Quay Brothers' "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes". I'd heard it was bad, but it was the only screening, and it's a Cinemascope movie, so i decided, why not? It just shows that what might be magical in a 10 minute short can become unbearable in a 99 minute feature. But it did have a great look.

Then went to BAM to see Meredith Monk... my first performance event in... i can't even tell how long. But i did feel an obligation. There was a moment, near the end, when Meredith did a movement... she tossed her head back and spread her arms... and it was so characteristic, and i remembered that the first time i saw her do that particular movement must have been sometime in the mid-1960s. And it was rather like that line from Preston Sturges' "The Lady Eve", where Henry Fonda tries to explain how he sees Barbara Stanwyck in the mist of time. (Something like, "I see you back, and further back....") And i felt like that, as if Meredith were that post-college girl that i saw in the 1960s. The music was pretty sensational, and i must admit it was very moving.

And it reminded me of something that Trisha Brown said, in that booklet that i found when i was looking for Yvonne Rainer's books, how when she first performed (in NYC), the audiences were small, but how we grew up together. The audience was in on the developments, was part of the intellectual inquiry. I think Yvonne called it "a shared present-time" and it was, and Trisha and Yvonne and Meredith and Kenneth King and William Dunas (just as examples) were all part of my growing up.

But what is there to share now?