Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tonight, Larry and i went to the AICA Award Ceremony, held at El Museo del Barrio. It was amusing, and fascinating to see who shows up, but i feel very removed from it all. I haven't been to an art event of any sort since December, and this is the big week, with previews of the Matta-Clark show at the Whitney, the Jeff Wall show at MoMA, and the various art fairs (the Armory Show, Scope, MASH, etc.). Usually, i go to these, but this year, it was a pass, and i don't care.... so i felt removed from the AICA proceedings, because i haven't seen a single art show (museum, gallery, alternative space) in months....

Do i miss it? I don't know. I caught up with some more French movies, i missed the last one, which was the "gay" one "The Man of My Life" (which Strand is distributing) this morning. But i went Monday and Tuesday. Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One" reminded me of the French thrillers from the last three Rendez-vous round-ups, only those are usually drawn from Ruth Rendel's mysteries. This one is from a mystery from Harlan Coben. But like the ones from past years, it's involving but too long (more than two hours). Benoit Jacquot's "The Untouchable" was intriguing, there are "long" sequences which follow Isild Le Besco through the streets of India very reminiscent of Claire Denis's "The Intruder". (Was Caroline Champetier the cinematographer for "The Intruder" as well?) "One to Another" directed by Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr was one of the better movies in the series, in fact, i felt it was one of the only really inventive movies in the series. (When the credits rolled at the end, i realized that Lars Van Trier's Zentropa was one of the companies producing the movie, and one way of describing the movie is as a development of the Dogme principles, with handheld camerawork, natural lighting, a lot of close-ups.)

Watched Andrew Bujalski's "Mutual Appreciation" on Saturday. The first 45 minutes were irritating (Larry, in fact, fell asleep); by the time the "band" plays at one of those Williamsburg clubs, Larry was ready to give up. I kept watching, and it grew on me, and by the time of the "group hug" at the end, i have to admit i was charmed.

But Wim Wenders's "Don't Come Knocking" infuriated me. I never understood the talents of Sam Shepard. His acclaim seems to come from a misunderstanding: most of the theater critics who have praised him (such as Robert Brustein) know nothing (and i mean: nothing) about rock-and-roll, so Sam Shepard (by default) has been the playwright whose energy and insights come from rock-and-roll. But the inane plotting and the sheer stupidity... i can't take it! I can cite example after example... but here's one: Sam Shepard is supposed to be a cowboy movie star. Well, if you're an American movie star in the United States, that means you should be famous. But Sam Shepard's character walks off the Monument Valley set of his movie, and winds up in Butte, Montana, and nobody knows him. Nobody recognizes him. Even when he tells them his name, nobody knows it. What? Butte, Montana is somehow not in the US? They don't have TV, they don't get People Magazine, they're the only place in the country that is removed from pop culture? And he's not supposed to be a "new" movie star, but someone who's been a star for decades.

I know it's (somehow) supposed to be "symbolic"... but of what? Of the isolation and ignorance of Butte, Montana? And so i got the feeling that i always do with Sam Shepard's writing: i think, what is this shit? And i want to wipe it off my shoe. And the "poetic" cinematography and the languid editing didn't help. Wenders's technique only made the silliness more readily apparent.

Maybe one reason i'm not missing art is that i've been reading again. In the last few days, finally read Susan Minot. (I'd read some stories in The New Yorker, but they slipped out of my mind.) She's a very stylish writer, and i liked "Monkeys" a lot. "Rapture" was also quite enjoyable. Now i'm in the middle of "Evening". I also spent Sunday reading Gavin Lambert's "Mainly About Lindsay Anderson". I loved it.

Sunday was Chinese New Year.

A lot in the news. The whole media coverage of Britney Spears reminds me of Debra Winger's famous statement, e.g., if you don't want people to know, they won't know. (The reason for her statement was that, when Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn were filming "The Falcon and the Snowman", Sean Penn - at the time dating Madonna - was besieged by the press. But Timothy Hutton and Debra Winger were carrying on their affair, and nobody noticed. And Debra Winger was - at that time - the biggest female movie star in America, having come off "Urban Cowboy" and "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Terms of Endearment". She didn't want people knowing her business, and they didn't. And right after "The Falcon and the Snowman" wrapped, Hutton and Winger got married! And everyone was surprised, the press wondered whether they even knew each other, and they'd been having an affair for at least six months. ) The reason i'm reminded of this is that Ryan Gosling (another fellow Mickey Mouse club alum) has become one of the youngest Best Actor nominees for the Oscars, and he's never let anyone mind his business. Not even in the three years when he was living with Sandra Bullock.

A lot on the Academy Awards. One of the craziest things was Alison Bales wondering why there is the category for "Best Foreign Film". Duh. Because these are awards given by an American industry organization. (Until the 1960s, only ONE movie not in English was ever nominated as "Best Picture" and that was "Grand Illusion" in 1938.) If France, Italy, Spain, etc. want awards, let them make their own. (Which they do, that's why there are Cesars and Goyas and so on and so forth.) But since i can't vote (i'm not a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences) , why should i care? It's fascinating as an indication of what people in the industry are like, but so what? Most of the people i know in the industry have zero taste and zero intelligence (if they had any intelligence, they wouldn't be in the movie business). I remember decades ago when i was helping with the Student Academy Awards: there was one film which was based on a Flannery O'Connor story, and it was beautifully crafted and just so well done. But there was a horrible piece of crap about a retarded boy working in a bodega. It looked like crap, it was horribly written, it was sentimental... and the five industry judges gave it the award! I was in shock. But that taught me a lot about the industry. It's a place where Sidney Sheldon is considered a major writer (who's Sartre? who's Nabokov? who's Marguerite Duras? yet all these people were nominated for Oscars, only to lose to the usual Hollywood hacks).

Since i can vote for the Independent Spirit Awards, i'm interested in seeing what people have actually seen. This year, it's more difficult. But i think Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps will win as Best Actor and Best Actress. (They were my top choices in those categories.) Other categories, i can't figure out.


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