Sunday, November 18, 2007

The latest reports from Bangladesh is that the death toll from the cyclone exceeds 2,000.

Inconceivable that so much destruction can take place in a few hours.

Reading posts in The New Republic online about the (literal) costs of the war in Iraq. The economy may never recover from Bush and his minions. Again: why is there no outrage?

The reason i bring this up is that the "help" that the Bush administration will offer Bangladesh will be miniscule, since there is no incentive for humanitarian aid. After all: Louisiana is still waiting for aid, and this is years after Hurricane Katrina.

Did not make it to the screening of Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew", wonder how the print was, did see the four Skolimowski films at Anthology. The prints for "Identification Marks: None" and "Walk-over" were not good, more like dupes of dupes, with a very sooty look, however the prints of "Hands Up!" and "Barrier" were decent. Not great but at least mostly clear and not too damaged.

But this week (since Wednesday) went to the Lawrence Weiner press preview at the Whitney. It's a handsomely produced show, but it's rather like an old Artists Space "conceptual" show from the 1970s, only writ large. But it makes me realize that i do have to get to the Richard Prince show at the Guggenheim. Then i went to a press conference for the Iberoamerican film series which is at The Museum of Modern Art. There was a luncheon afterwards, which was fun. The press conference was written about on George Robinson's blog (; one thing i'd like to add is that it was amusing to see how people remain the same. It was wonderful to see Fernando Solanas (whose great "Dignity of the Nobodies" is included; it had been a highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival a while ago), who continues to be an irascible leftist. At the end of the press conference, George wound up asking the last question, which was about the fact that, in US show business terms, the Spanish-speaking market in the US is the most rapidly growing market, becoming increasingly upscale. The success of movies like "Pan's Labyrinth" or "El Cantante" shows the strength of that market; what kinds of initiatives have been made to try to tap that audience? Solanas wound up being the last person to answer, and he gave a very impassioned dissection of the capitalist structured motion picture industry, and the monopolistic practices which do not allow for alternatives.

Then there was a luncheon, wound up sitting with David Noh and someone from the Mexican Film Institute. We had a lively discussion about the current state of the Mexican film industry (which is very healthy, but that can be precarious) and other national cinemas, the fact that the Mexican film industry has always been an autonomous entity, with its own stars such as Maria Felix and Cantinflas, the distribution for documentaries, and so on. Continuing with the question that George Robinson had asked, we touched on the fact that the Mexican cinema used to have its own distribution network (a number of theaters in a few cities) in the United States, which catered to the Spanish-speaking population (mostly Puerto Rican and Mexican) in certain big cities and certain areas. But the elusive "market" is very difficult for "foreign" films to tap into, because the advertising budget for an arthouse film (which is what most of the Iberoamerican films are) can never compete with a major studio release.

But it gave me a lot to think about. And i have to say that i still think "Barrier" is a marvellous film, very quirky and inventive and almost breathlessly energetic.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Milestone (one of the best of the small DVD imprints) has just released three major films in impeccable DVD editions: "Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?", the Charles Burnett collection "Killer of Sheep" (because it's not simply "Killer of Sheep" but a multidisc collection that includes "My Brother's Wedding") and "I Am Cuba". Certainly an eclectic selection, but also worthwhile.

On Doug Cummings's blog, there were entries about the AFI Fest; "The Terrorizers" was one of the films shown.

Went to see the press screening of "Xala"; Film Forum is having a Sembene retrospective.

Got the DVDs i ordered from France: watched Duras's "Nathalie Granger". Still find it a mesmerizing achievement, and it's hard to remember when Gerard Depardieu was so young! Also watched Akerman's "Les Rendez-vous d'Anna".

Norman Mailer has died, and with him goes the idea of the great American novel. Though other writers have gotten acclaim since World War II (among them: Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison), Mailer just seemed like a colossus.

One thing: he was prolific, and he continued to write. Perhaps that meant there was too much out there, so many of his recent works just seemed superfluous. But he wrote some books which were essential documents. Certainly that was true of "Armies of the Night" and "Miami and the Siege of Chicago".

"The Executioner's Song" was Kenny's favorite book. He read it again and again. He read it at least 20 times! He liked "The Naked and the Dead", but he hated "Why Are We in Vietnam?" Since "The Executioner's Song" was his favorite book, i once asked him if Norman Mailer was his favorite writer, and Kenny said, no, because he didn't like all of Mailer's books.

But Norman Mailer just seemed to be larger than life, an outsized personality, and at his best, he did have the talent to back up his most extravagant claims.

And now he is dead. Maybe the idea of the Great American Novel has died as well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Before this turns into a political rant, it's the day after Election Day, this year, there were a few notable races, here in Brooklyn it was about judges. But Larry and i went to vote, as we always do.

My mother had her second cataract operation; went to see her, see if she needed anything. She has to go back tomorrow morning, so will check if she needs help.

The telephone seems to be off: it rings, i pick up, the other side can't hear us. Digital phone service isn;t what it's cracked up to be. But then, nothing is.

Which reminds me that i haven't been seeing as much lately. I went with Jeff Lunger to the screening of Jonathan Demme's "Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains", which was certainly partisan (why not? why would anyone make a movie about someone they didn't like?) but nevertheless very engrossing. But the film has gotten very mixed (not to say negative) reviews. And (actually) "Jimmy Carter" is of a piece with Demme's work: his vision of Jimmy Carter is no less affectionate a view of slightly balmy Americana as his vision of Melvin Dummar. (And Jimmy Carter emerges as just as much an American dreamer as the all the shortwave fantasists of "Citizens Band".) But that kind of affectionate Americana is now not only highly suspect, it's actively discredited, and discredited from the left as much as from the right.

I'm trying to write, and that's why it's hard to blog: my concentration is elsewhere. On Sunday, the New York City Marathon went through our neighborhood.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Well, it's now November 5. Monday morning. The Writers Guild is on strike; how is this going to impact the motion picture/television industry?

The last few weeks have brought about a number of "natural" disasters; i guess i'm including the wildfires in southern California in that designation. Just this weekend, there was the hurricane Noel, the remnants of which passed through the coast of New England and caused some flooding. But the previous course through the Caribbean caused over 60 deaths.

But the response of the Bush administration to the wildfires was very instructive: the minute Malibu was affected, whoosh, suddenly all sorts of help became available. In New Orleans: people are still waiting for any sign of assistance. But Malibu?

The whole state of the country is just too depressing to think about. All across the country, property values haven't just declined, they're dead. Of course, New York City (especially Manhattan) is exempt, for the simple reason that Manhattan is no longer owned by Americans. In the real estate section of the New York Times, the lead article is about how a majority of people now buying in Manhattan are foreign.

That is something that i've known for a while: here i am, not just a native New Yorker, but a native Lower Manhattanite, and not just that, but three generations in Lower Manhattan (my grandmother was born on Mott Street). And i've been driven out, outpriced.

And that's what the Bush administration has done. They've destroyed this country, and there's no way to build it back up. And i don't understand people in this country, why they're not angry about how the Bush administration has sold them out for bigger profits.

The one thing that was sacrosant in terms of the economics of this country was that real estate was always a good investment. In Hollywood, all the people who became really rich (such as Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Paulette Goddard) did so by buying up property. (In the case of Paulette Goddard: she was married while she was still a teenager appearing in the Ziegfield Follies; upon her divorce, her mother took the settlement money and started buying up property. They moved from NYC to LA, and there her mother really started to invest.) For the first time in the history of the US (if there was another time, let me know), land in the US is worthless. The buck has stopped here, and the buck is not worth anything.

The only land worth anything in the US now is that property which is owned by foreign investors, such as Manhattan.

I don't see why Bush and his administration haven't been pilloried for making Amerian land worthless. All throughout the US, people can't sell their homes.

Of course the stock market is going to react well to this: market values are not human values. And the more that foreign currency is worth, the more that multinational corporations are able to make in profits. And the United States is sliding into total bankruptcy and economic disaster.