Friday, March 30, 2007

My mind is elsewhere. Some mistakes. The actress guesting on "The L Word" is Kristanna Loken. Loken. One "k". The Charles Burnett movie is "To Sleep With Anger". I'm sure there are sundry more mistakes. Blogging can be hard because there's no editing. Though some people do go back and correct their blog (Dave Kehr just did that, because he went back and corrected his mistake in atrributed a blog entry on David Bordwell's blog to Bordwell, when it was posted by Kristin Thompson). The blog entry that Dave Kehr referred to was a fascinating entry by Kristin Thompson about the problems with the idea that films will be available online, bringing up issues of copyright, of intellectual property, of clearances, etc.

Of course, a lot of this was prompted by the pair of articles in the Sunday NY Times Arts and Leisure section by A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis about the "future" of movies, in particular, the different sort of "availability" with different "platforms" and so on.

Talked to Charles, who had a colonostopy a few months ago, and he told me that the reason for the gassy feeling is that you get pumped up with air (like a balloon) so that the camera can go into the intestines without danger of being stuck. So the gassy feeling is all the air inside you.

According to the Wolfe Video blog, on Sunday night, OurChart (the lesbian website tied into "The L Word") crashed, because so many people (women) logged on to discuss the season finale. Jennie Olson (on her blog) noted that the "17 Reasons Why!" sign included on the show was an actual "landmark" in San Francisco.

Been watching The Food Network. And watched "Woman Chases Man" on TCM. Minor, but charming. How could it not be, when it has Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea at their most delightful?

Today is Friday, March 30. I'm still "recovering" from the colonostopy. It's not that anything went wrong, i just feel a little... bloated. It's like the day before, everyone talks about that stuff you have to drink, which causes you to empty out. So Wednesday was a blur of rushing to the bathroom. Then i went to the doctor's office on Thursday, and once i got the anesthetic, i didn't feel a thing until i woke up... and then i felt woozy, bloated and gassy. It was funny, it's as if everything out of me, except gas. But enough of that, i did get a colonostopy, everyone over 50 should get one, but the two days have been a blur of that nauseous drink and a gassy feeling. But it's not bad.

However, it reminds me that my initial feeling when i heard the press report about Tony Snow's cancer returning is: how desperate can the Repubicans be? Two weeks ago, there was the announcement about Elizabeth Edwards... so now the Republicans have to pull out someone with a recurring cancer. That's how cynical i'm getting (?) about this administration. (Ok, so i've always been cynical about this administration.) I wouldn't put anything past George Bush.

As mentioned, there are really good movies playing around. Of course, in some cases, i've seen them at festivals, etc. Certainly, one movie that opened that i love is Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep". Larry and i have seen it several times; in fact, i used to have a VHS tape of the film. Larry and i had a great time, when we hung out with the Burnetts the year we went to the San Sebastian Film Festival. He was there as a juror, and they also showed his features as a sidebar ("Killer of Sheep", "My Brother's Wedding" and "Sleeping With Anger"). But is this the first theatrical run of the film? If it is, then this is another film (like "Army of Shadows") which deserves consideration at the end of the year.

But there are also other movies, such as "U-Carmen", "Offside", "The Page Turner", "The Cats of Mirikitani", which are currently playing, which are all exceptional. One movie i haven't seen, but which i'm interested in, is "The Hawk is Dying", it's based on a Harry Crews novel, but it's also directed by Julian Goldberger, who made the indie feature "Trans". The reviews haven't been very good, but that's to be expected. If it's anything like "Trans", then i suspect it's very amorphous, with a concentration on visual texture rather than narrative development.

But i'm taking it easy....

Monday, March 26, 2007

Last blogged on Wednesday, since then, have seen more screenings for the African Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theater (must mention "Cloud s Over Conarky", an energetic and lively feature from Guinea. directed by Cheick Fantamady Camara; this seems a work which might have possibilities for dsitribution, might actually connect with audiences if given a chance).

On Saturday, went to the IRAs; details can be found on George Robinson's and Michael Giltz's blogs ( and ; winners this year included "L'Enfant" as Best Film and the Dardenne Brothers as Best Director. What's always nice is that my ballot is always weighed towards indie/the more obscure foreign films, but invariably someone will have seen it... example would be my choice as Best Actress was Sandra Huller in the German film "Requiem"... and she appeared on someone else's ballot.

The whole idea of consensus is something i'm a little leery of, in the sense that all of these polls can be weighted in terms of popularity as opposed to quality (an example of this is something like the Independent Spirit Awards, where a popular success such as "Little Miss Sunshine" has it all over "Half Nelson"), but it's still fun to be with other people who are also serious about movies. With the IRAs, someone will have seen (and champion) a film like Peter Watkins's "La Commune". (One year, Bill Morrison's "Decasia" actually won Best Film.) Since it's rare for me to have seen most of the big commercial releases this year (if it weren't for DVDs and Showtime and HBO, i'd never see any American studio releases), it's reassuring to be in a group where if you haven't seen "Casino Royale", you don't have to feel as if you've missed something.

Anyway, the only real drawback to the IRAs is that getting home from George Robinson's place on Washington Heights (West 183rd Street in Manhattan) to Bay Ridge after midnight is one real slog! I mean: it took me almost 2 hours! That's because, on the weekends, subway service in Brooklyn and Queens is always difficult: service on the tracks, repair work, etc. D or N trains running local instead of express, D trains not going all the way on their routes, having to change, etc.

Oh, well. That's one of the problems of living all the way out.

Yesterday, watched "Goodbye Again". This is the first time i've seen the whole movie. I enjoyed it. One interesting note: the (visual) ending of "Goodbye Again" echoes the ending of "Bonjour Tristesse". (Both based on Francoise Sagan novels.) You've got the heroine, sitting alone in front of the mirror, slapping on the cold cream as she faces her (lonely) future. In "Bonjour Tristesse", it's the young Jean Seberg, in "Goodbye Again", it's the "old" Ingrid Bergman (the climax of "Goodbye Again" has Bergman screaming "I'm old! I'm old!" as she chases Anthony Perkins out of her life; it's the campiest scene in Bergman's career, and would be a gay-bar classic if the movie were better known). In fact, the endings are so similar, Otto Preminger would have a case for plagarism! But "Goodbye Again" certainly has its appeal. Anatole Litvak's direction really is like mounting: it's rather ponderous, but it certainly is swank.

Watched the final episode for this season of "The L Word". Of course, it's a fantasy, but that's why people watch television. Once again, Katherine Moennig and Kristenna Lokken have a hot-and-heavy sex scene. The hook-up of Jane Lynch and Cybille Shepard was inspired (and very funny). But "The L Word" has some of the most beautiful women on television: Jennifer Beals, Rose Rollins, Rachel Shelley, Moennig, Lokken, Daniela Sea... and Marlee Matlin and Annabella Sciorra have never looked better.

Watched "The Racket" on TCM. Of course, i've seen the remake with Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan... but it was intriguing to see the 1928 original.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Today went to the first press screenings for the African Film Festival. Two documentaries: "Movement (R)evolution Africa" and "The Death of Two Sons". I didn't think i'd find these docs as interesting as i did. But what was depressing was how sparse the attendance was. The African Film Festival is one of the events that's been done in association with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and it's really sad to think that only four people showed up for the press screening, as opposed to the crowds of people that showed up for the Rendez-vous with French Cinema press screenings. It finally made me angry, because it's such a blatant example of the kind of xenophobia which exists in critical circles.

Larry and i went to the Tabla Rasa Gallery, to attend a special preview of the "Women's Work" exhibition that was curated by Cindy Nemser. It was fun, and there were a number of people there that we knew. Judith Bernstein was in the exhibition, and she was there: hadn't seen her in a while, and it was fun to talk to her. There were copies of the old Feminist Art Journal on display, one that was prominently displayed had Yvonne Rainer on the cover.

It reminded me that Susan Bee and Mira Schor did a recent forum on the new M/E/A/N/I/N/G website, and reading a lot of the women talk about the feminist art scene of the 1970s...

I know i should go to sleep, but i'm sitting up watching "The Gay Falcon" on TCM. What a cast! George Sanders in the lead, Wendy Barrie, Gladys Cooper, Turhan Bey, Allen Jenkins, Lucille Gleason, Willie Fung.... a lot of fun.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Today, i'm exhausted, and so i just stayed in. Did nothing but looked stuff up on the computer. Various blogs (Matt Zoller Seitz's The House Next Door, Glenn Kenny, Dave Kehr, Michael Giltz, George Robinson). But for some reason... it was because Glenn Kenny's blog had a piece about Eva Green and her parents (i.e., Marlene Jobert and Walter Green) and i know that i heard that whole story when bertolucci talked after the AMMI screening of "The Dreamers". So i wanted to see if i had included that info on my blog, but i think i found out before i started the blog. But then i realized that i used to write a lot, and really go on and on. But now, i make quick little statements, and that's it.

Last night, watched Bresson's "Proces de Jeanne d'Arc" on TCM, and so that's what knocked out my schedule. At 11 AM, the networks were filled with two news conferences, one about the verdict from the grand jury in the case of the police shooting of Sean Bell, and the other by Bush about Iraq. The scandal about the firing of federal prosecutors has finally started to take its toll. We'll see what will happen to this administration: there will have to be new laws to prevent this administration from future prosecution for its various illegal and wrongful acts. If Bush really is "the decider", then he has decided time and again to break the laws.

But who are we kidding? Last night, watched "Real Time With Bill Maher" and Maher had a very funny comment. He noted that people have been saying that the war in Iraq has not resulted in true sacrifices from most of the American public. But Maher notes that the American public has already given up most of the Bill of Rights. We have sacrificed our freedom for this war.

In a lot of the recent critiques of the two biographies on Leni Riefenstahl, there is a lot of equivocating. Years ago, Stanley Kauffmann was one who noted that the reason Riefenstahl is "troubling" is not because she was or was not a Nazi, but because she was undoubtedly talented. There were a lot of no-talent Nazis, and that's ok, but that someone with talent might be so politically (and, by extension, morally) noxious is something that people have such a problem with.

A few weeks ago, i was reading "Fable for Another Time", a (late) novel by Louis-Ferdinand Celine. Even though it's a rather "slender" book, the force of Celine's vitriolic sensibility remains potent, and when you're reading, it's hard not to get swept up in his singular (and often hideous) perspective.

One of the problems with film criticism is that the standards for film criticism have remained (mostly) hopelessly retardataire, so that the standards for most film critics emphasize the type of work encased in 19th century narrative conventions. In 1965 (!), Annette Michelson noted this problem: "Certainly it is true that the generally retardataire character of our film criticism reflects an anxiety about the manner in which postwar cinema, in Europe and America alike, has, at its best, transcended the conventions of a sensibility formed by the premodernist canon of a primarily literary nineteenth century." And it seems to be symptomatic that many of the films which have been so highly regarded in the last few years have been resolutely regressive. "The Queen" might be paradigmatic in this regard. (Which isn't to say that i didn't enjoy it, but even viewed politically it's incredibly reactionary.)

David Edelstein was the substitute on Ebert & Roeper. He and Richard Roeper were very enthusiastic about "The Lookout", written and directed by Scott Frank. It sounds like another neo-noir (Frank previously wrote the scripts for "Get Shorty" and "Out of Sight"), but i'm intrigued.

A while ago, i noted how "uncivil" so much of the exchanges online can be. Over the weekend, i got some responses to various posts on my blog. Nothing bad, but why is it that people never seem to understand certain points? When i noted that Jennifer Hudson's career possibilities might be limited, i wasn't suggesting that she didn't have talent. But one problem is that the insistence on "integrating" the current entertainment industry is (almost) hopeless. Every black star (or almost every black star) has spoken of the problem of going into a meeting with the "suits" and realizing that you're the only person of color in the room, and the incomprehension that is encountered. It's not as if there isn't material out there.

But in the music industry, many of the black artists simply went out on their own. They created their own recording labels, they got involved in their own distribution, they didn't need the established music venues.

And that is how people have to operate. You can't wait for most of the membership of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences to take notice. My belief (which derives from my own experiences) is that you just have to do it yourself.

In short: if you want to create a scene, be it underground movies or video art or "new dance", simply do it yourself, the way that Jonas Mekas, Nam June Paik, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and cohorts did.

That's what i grew up with, and i think that's the way to go.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

In response to the question about the possibilities open for Jennifer Hudson, watched "Sparkle" again last night (recently out on DVD, with a CD of Aretha Franklin singing the Curtis Mayfield songs included) and the question is: why didn't Lonete McKee have a great career? Here was a young black actress of astonishing beauty, and she had an amazing singing voice. She did do "Showboat" on Broadway, twice in fact, but still, she never had a real movie career.

On his blog, Michael Giltz has a really delightful "obit" on the demise of Premiere... i still have my subscription, and i'll miss it, especially because Glenn Kenny had been trying to include a number of off-beat choices in his DVD selections (such as Ken's "Star Spangled to Death" or the "Unseen Cinema" boxset). But Michael's comments are really charming (cf.

Today, the San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival had a panel about the Asian-American "New Wave" which was supposed to include Roddy Bogawa, Jon Moritsugu and Gregg Araki; the moderator was Marcus Hu. But Roddy got snowed in, and his plane couldn't leave, so he wasn't able to go.

But the Asian-American International Film Festival here in NYC is going to be celebrating its 30th Anniversary.

Oh, yes. Two weeks ago, the NY Times had a special section on the upcoming theater season, and there was a selection of "artists to watch". One was Audra McDonald. And one was Theodora Skipitares! Christine noticed it first, and called me, and i had to look at the Times, and i was thrilled, i think these recent pieces based on Greek tragedies have been absolutely wonderful, so inventive and thrilling and with a string narrative thrust to go along with her most extravagant visual imaginings.

It was horrible this morning, trying to help Larry shovel the snow outside the house, because it wasn't snow, you shoveled down and hit ice!

What a mess!

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's been almost two weeks since i've blogged; have been attending press screenings at New Directors/New Films. Saw 20 of the 24 screenings (the screening for "Once" was cancelled, rescheduled for Monday). In a way, a jumble of impressions. Once again, a lot of works shot on digital, and the technical qualities are often like television.

There were usually two or three screenings a day, and what became amusing was the discussions in between. Attending press screenings at a festival, you are usually with many of the same people, and so discussions become almost familial: if the films are bad, it's like a shared catastrophe. If the films are good, it's a time for celebration.

But movies aren't the only thing to have occupied my time. The news has been incredibly volatile. I don't usually watch "Democracy Now", though i certainly laud them for trying to maintain a truly alternative perspective on current events, but one night i was watching, as there was a comment on news coverage: how the scandal at the Walter Reed medical facility received only cursory coverage on all Fox news outlets, yet the Anna Nicole Smith case received 14 times the coverage. If this isn't an example of biased news reporting, i don't know what is. Even on "The View", Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar (over Elizabeth Hasselbeck's timrous objections) mentioned that the "confession" of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to practically everything under the sun (a confession made under extreme duress, since torture was admittedly used) seemed a little too suspicious, especially when the Scooter Libby verdict brought about the question (from the jury) as to where the other (obvious) co-defendants were (cf. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney), especially when the Walter Reed hospital fiasco points out that the Bush administration has no intention to providing any sort of help (in any form) to the wounded veterans of this Iraq War, especially when the Bush administration is facing some of its worst publicity in years. Suddenly, Mohammed confesses! If this isn't a publicity stunt, i don't know what is.

In release right now, some more movies of note: "Bamako", "The Go Master", "The Wind That Shakes the Barley". As i've mentioned, 2007 is already a notable year for the movies. Plus there were several works of interest at New Directors. So far, there was nothing that was truly outstanding, in the way that "Into Great Silence" was last year, but there were several that were notable. George Robinson on his blog ( wrote very discerningly on the Iranian film "Gradually" (directed by Maziar Miri) and Craig Zobel's "The Great World of Sound"; "Congorama" was a deadpan Dadaist farce from Belgium. I was charmed by the Norwegian movie "Reprise"; "Shelter" and "Stealth" were intriguing. The Russian film "Euphoria" was a real movie: shot in 35mm, very lush, an elemental story of adultery and revenge, but filmed with extraordinary sensuality.

But today there's... it's not even a snow storm, it's an ice storm! Just when i was getting used to the beginning of spring, now this!

Over the past three weeks, during the ND/NF screenings, ran into Eileen Bowser, Adrienne Mancia (they're starting the Imamura retrospective at BAM, would love to see "The Profound Desire of the Gods" again, which may be my favorite of his film), Wanda Bershen, David Noh, Ira Hozinsky, George Robinson, Manohla Dargis, Ronnie Scheib, Amy Taubin, Kyoko Hirano, William Johnson, Ed Arentz. It's been so long since the beginning of the screenings that i can't remember if there were other people i said hello to.

On Wednesday, Skadi Loist came over to interview me about the New Festival. I couldn't believe it: the interview wound up lasting three hours! She asked a question, then i'd try to answer... and it kept going.

But that, plus talking with some people (in particular, Amy and Wanda), continued my thinking about the past.

In today's indieWire, there was a report from the South By Southwest Film Festival, about the premiere of Joe Swanberg's "Hannah Takes the Stairs", which was described as the "blockbuster" of a new lo-fi indie movement, a "movement" which also includes the Duplass Brothers ("The Puffy Chair"), Andrew Bujalski ("Mutual Appreciation") and Susan Buice and Arin Crumley ("Four Eyed Monsters"), all films which i have seen and found noteworthy.

It's the type of thing where each "movement" has to define itself, and there is that moment when the films reach a critical mass and someone comes along and declares it a movement, or gives it a name. That's what Ruby Rich did with the "New Queer Cinema". I guess Anthony Kaufman is bucking to be the critical exegete for this new movement, and i hope it works, because i think those films really need the help, because those films really are an antidote to "indies" like "Little Miss Sunshine".

Film Forum is showing "The Earrings of Madame De..." in the new print (in preparation for the eventual Criterion Collection DVD, which has been announced).

There are indictments in the shooting of Sean Bell; the last minute testimony which was supposed to exonerate the policemen just sounded too phoney. Even if the cops identified themselves, you don't keep shooting. Not 50 times!

I have to think a little more about the films from New Directors. Last week, i almost missed the new "McBride" which was rather clever. I had no idea it was on, and then i turned the channel during a break and saw it was a new "McBride"... i was glad there was a repeat showing, so i watched it. Charles Robinson (John Larroquette's castmate on "Night Court") played a pesky judge, and was very funny. This week, there's a new "Jane Doe". ("McBride" is one of those shows that are really very old-fashioned, but pleasantly so; it's a lot better than "Raines" the new detective series with Jeff Goldblum, which is rather strained.)

Yes, we did see (some of) "American Idol", and no comment. There's no need.

Monday, March 05, 2007

A rush job. Did go to the two-day event of Rivette's "Out 1"; after the first day, almopst felt like not going back, but did, and was glad i did, as it improved enormously in Episode Six. Or did it? Or was it just fatigue and giving in to the fact that so much time had already been spent? But will think more about "Out 1"....

Emmett Williams died last week. Fluxus really is on route to being historical. Did go to the first three days of New Directors/New Films press screenings. A lot to report. Also went to see the restored print of Harry Smith's "Heaven and Earth Magic". Anyway, onto more screenings.