Monday, March 31, 2008

Since Wednesday, a lot has been happening.

One thing: this year, i was unable to go to the IRAs, but when i tried to come up with a ballot, i realized that my "schedule" (in terms of the screenings i'm invited to, etc.) is so skewed at this point that there was no way i could come up with anything cohesive. This realization came on Friday night, while i was watching "Michael Clayton". I enjoyed it, i thought it was an excellent tricky legal thriller, i thought the acting was excellent (though Tom Wilkinson was unusually over-the-top: normally one of those reticient, self-effacing actors, given the chance to play crazy, the inner ham becomes the outer ham), but then i realized that there were movies like "There Will Be Blood" or "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (which turned out the be the big winner at the IRAs) or "Gone Baby Gone" which i haven't seen (i'll wait for them on Netflix, which is how i saw "Zodiac" and "Michael Clayton"; up next, "La Vie en rose" which i purposefully missed at last year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema, and then i missed every press screening, because the very idea of another damned show biz biopic was just too appalling for me, since i hadn't liked "Ray" and i detested "Walk the Line".... and this one was two and a half hours long). What could i offer? Movies like the Russian "The Italian" or the Iranian "The Willow Tree" or the Kurdish "Half Moon"... or Pedro Costa's trilogy ("Bones", "In Vanda's Room" and "Colossal Youth"), the three films by Manoel de Oliviera ("Belle Toujours", "The Magic Mirror" and "The Fifth Empire"), or the pair by Tsai Ming-liang ("The Wayward Cloud" and "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone")... or even things like the three James Benning films ("13 Lakes", "10 Skies" and "One Way Boogie Woogie 27 Years Later") or Ken Jacobs's "Two Wrenching Departures". If ever the sense of my status in terms of niche marketing was clear to me, it was when i was trying (this year) to come up with an IRA ballot. (To read about this year's IRA Awards, check out Michael Giltz's blog,

But on Friday, the NY Times carried an obit for Eleanor Winthrop, Nina's mother. My memories of her will always remain as someone very vital and strong in her beliefs. (It seems that one of the last things Mrs. Winthrop did was to contribute to Barack Obama's campaign; Larry found this information out from the Huffington Post.)

On Sunday, Manohla Dargis wrote an obit for Paul S. Arthur. That really had me in shock! Paul was one of those people i always saw at the press screenings for the New York Film Festival, and for New Directors/New Films. But this year, because i was rather preoccupied (talking to Debby, especially), i didn't really notice that Paul wasn't around. Though i did wonder where he was when Aza Jacobs's "Momma's Man" screened. Manohla's obit mentioned that he was recently diagnosed with melanoma. So sad. Two of my favorite memories: talking with Paul and Tony Pipolo after one of the programs at the Views from the Avant-Garde program in 2006, it was the program which ended with the Godard-Mieville short "Liberte et Patrie", and we were surprised (almost shocked) to realize that this was the first time that Godard and Mieville had ever acknowledged the avantgarde cinema, by including clips from Deren and Hammid's "Meshes of the Afternoon" and Kirsanoff's "Menilmontant"! Another favorite memory: sitting with Paul and Tony during the press screening of David Lynch's "Inland Empire"... as the movie went on, people started to get agitated and by the first hour, people started to leave, but we were continually engrossed and fascinated, and the minute it was over, Paul was so excited, and applauded, and he immediately launched into an analysis of the oneric vision of David Lynch. But his seriousness and his attention to detail, especially in terms of experimental cinema, were always singular.

Two weeks ago, we got a phone call, from the publicists at the Tribeca Film Festival, asking us to apply for accreditation. We did. (It's all online now.) Last week, we were informed that we were rejected for accreditation.

Yet in the last few weeks, the ranks of film critics have diminished considerably. Today brought the announcement of the retirement of David Ansen from Newsweek (it's reported by Anne Thompson in Variety: ; as she points out, this is added to the retirement or the firing of Jonathan Rosenbaum at The Chicago Reader, John Anderson, Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour at Newsday, Jami Bernard and Jack Mathews at The New York Daily News, Michael Wilmington at the Chicago Tribune, Eleanor Ringel at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the already mentioned firing of Nathan Lee from the Village Voice.

Not only that, but the Voice also fired Deborah Jowitt: there will no longer be any staff critics to cover dance. In the case of Deborah Jowitt: this is a real loss, because Deborah's 35 year tenure at The Village Voice made her not just a critic but the historian of all the trends and styles and developments of dance since the mid-1960s.

On Sunday night, Larry and i went to the New Directors/New Films party. As soon as we got there, we started talking with Irene Meltzer Richard from the Film Society of Lincoln Center. And both Larry and Irene said the same thing: they wondered where the omlettes were! (Omlettes are always served at the Directors Party at O'Neal's for the New York Film Festival; but this was Josephina's for New Directors/New Films.) I kind of miss the makeshift parties we used to have for New Directors... one time the party was held at a loft downtown, another time, the food turned out to be several of those five-foot heroes. It was at one of those parties that i remember talking to Whit Stillman and his wife (that was the year that "Metropolitan" was included in New Directors). This brings me to the fact that we ran into Whit again, and (of course) Whit and i talked about his aunt, Eleanor Winthrop. That's how i met Whit and his wife, initially: Whit and his wife would come to see my performance pieces, because his cousin Nina was in them.

But i told Whit i was astounded that his aunt was already 30 when she got married to Nathaniel Winthrop. (That was in the obit.) And Whit told me, that's true, after she graduated from Wellesley in 1940, the family was mortified when, a decade later, she still wasn't married. It looked like she was going to be a "career woman", which was another way of saying an old maid. But then she married Nathaniel Winthrop, after taking a job as governess to his four children. And then she had four children of her own, including two girls, Kate and Nina. And i told Whit that when i saw "The Last Days of Disco", i really broke up when Chloe Sevigny says the line about living dangerously, "I'm a kindergarten teacher," because we had all been at a party at Nina's when someone asked Kate what she did, and that was her response.

But i've known Whit since 1981 (when i met Nina). The NewFest is going to celebrate its 20th Anniversary: if that's true, then i've been friends with Jeff Lunger for 19 years. A little while ago, i was reading an article about Ilene Chaiken and "The L Word", and the article mentioned Annie Philbin of the Hammer Museum as the model for the character of Bette (Jennifer Beals). And that kind of floored me, because i don't think of Annie as some high-powered art honcho... i still think of Annie as the person who was going to the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1980, when one of her best friends was Elizabeth Streb, and Elizabeth was one of my best friends, too. I ran into Annie at a party a few months ago, and i told her that i was thinking about writing something about the summer of 1981, when Elizabeth and Annie got summer jobs at a restaurant on Fire Island, and they rented a houseboat, and i spent a few weekends when i went out there to visit them on that houseboat docked at Cherry Grove. And one weekend, i split my time, because i started out visiting Elizabeth and Annie at Cherry Grove, but then i went to another section of Fire Island to visit Arlene Zeichner (who was working at Anthology Film Archives) and Anne Thompson (who was working at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, as the editor of Film Comment). Annie and Elizabeth were friends, but at the time, Annie was living with a musician, Gretchen. But Annie and Elizabeth needed to make money during the summer, Elizabeth had a dance concert coming up at Dance Theater Workshop in the fall, so they got these jobs at Cherry Grove.

And i've known Ken and Flo Jacobs since i was 15... so when i see "Momma's Man", the experience is one where the idea of any sort of critical objectivity is just impossible.

And this is more and more the case. What can i say about "I'm Not There"? At one time (and i don't think he would dispute this) Todd and i were very close friends. I know his work since his shorts made in college: "Assassins" (his movie about RImbaud and Verlaine) and the notorious "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story". That doesn't mean that i give his movies a pass. If anything, i'm often harder on them than i would be if i didn't know Todd and hadn't a clear idea of his conceptions, because often, his movies have fallen short of what he's wanted to do. A big example: "Velvet Goldmine". Perhaps if he had been able to use the David Bowie music, that would have brought a real center to the film. As it is, i felt "Velvet Goldmine" was a failure. But i felt, for all its unevenness and its flaws, "I'm Not There" really succeeded in achieving Todd's vision.

But it seems as if film criticism is no longer a career option. And i was saddened by the deaths of Eleanor Winthrop and Paul S. Arthur.

In show business: Jules Dassin died today at age 96, a week after the death of Richard Widmark. Richard Widmark gave one of his finest performances (rivalled by his work in "Kiss of Death", "No Way Out", "Panic in the Streets" and "Pickup on South Street") in Dassin's "Night and the City". Dassin seemed to be very active: he was involved in commentaries and interviews for the Criterion Collection DVDs for "Night and the City", "Thieves Highway", "Brute Force" and "The Naked City". And "Rififi" is one of the classic noirs of all time. But Dassin remained active, and was still involved in those Criterion editions of his films. Yes, he was 96, but he was still active.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Richard Widmark died on Monday, but his family only released the information today.

It's been a busy week. Monday, went to a screening of the rough cut of "Ear of the Heart", the documentary that Jeff Lunger's been working on about Galt McDermot. Really fascinating material, because McDermot is someone who has an amazingly variegated career. Of course, he's most famous for composing the music for "Hair", but he's done so much else, and Jeff has been able to get some amazing interviews as well as all sorts of concert and performance footage. But it needs to be made tighter: after the first hour, the film starts to break into sections, it doesn't flow as smoothly, and so some of the parts seem long. But it's always fascinating, because McDermot has gone through so many different musical forms.

On Tuesday, went to the inaugural screening at Light Industry. The program consisted on four shorts and one medium-length film. The shorts were: Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson's "Swamp", Michael Robinson's "Victory Over the Sun", Jenny Perlin's "Possible Models" and Keewatin Dewdney's "Wildwood Flower"; the 51 minute film was from 1996, Michael Gitlin's "Berenice". I'd seen the shorts before, "Swamp" (in which you hear Smithson directing Holt where to move with the camera) remains a very funny little movie, but when "Berenice" started, i was surprised to see that the stars of the film were Edith Meeks and Beatrice Roth.

This brings me to a point which was brought up at New Directors/New Films with "Momma's Man" and "Moving Midway": are there objective standards that can be used as aesthetic criteria, and how do you judge work?

In other words: you know the people, you already have a feeling (for better or worse), and that translates (positively or negatively) into how you regard that work.

Some news: the ranks of New York film critics have been decimated. Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour were fired from Newsday on Monday, and yesterday Nathan Lee was given his notice at The Village Voice. A terrible period for critics.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

On The View, Barbara Walters was talking about how Easter has changed, just as an annual holiday. It used to be the time of the year when everyone would get new clothes, and Easter Sunday was the day when everyone dressed up. But now, the consumerist economy has made shopping so ubiquitous, and the novelty of new clothes is no longer a sign of the new season.

Some notes. Thomas Beard and Ed Halter have started a new screening space. It's called Light Industry, and it's located in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, at 55 33rd Street. Right now, they're having screenings on Tuesday nights, and they're having different people curate the programs. It's a good idea, and i hope i'll get to some of the screenings. Information on Light Industry can be found at

The New York Underground Film Festival is in its 15th year. Evidently, this will be the final edition.

Ed Halter was one of the founders of the New York Underground Film Festival; he's moving on, so i guess it's time for the festival to move on as well.

Sectarian violence in Iraq and Afghanistan has erupted with a vengeance: over 80 people dead in different bombing incidents.

Politically, the week was dominated by Barack Obama's speech about race. It was fascinating to see the reactions. Tavis Smiley, for example, was deeply offended by Obama's speech, because Smiley felt that Obama did not give credence to the four century history of oppression that black people have suffered in this country. (Obviously, Smiley has not been reading The New Republic, where every week someone dissects Obama's background and upbringing, to discuss the fact that Obama was not raised with black people: he was raised by his white mother, who was separated from his African - not African-American, but African - father by the time he was born, and his mother then left him with her family, a white family. Obama does not have the experience of being in an African-American family, and the history of oppression since slavery is not a history that Obama shares. So Smiley's outrage is a smack in the face to Obama's actual upbringing.) Jim Lehrer, for example, was offended that, in referring to his grandmother, Obama used to term "typical white woman", because (Lehrer said) "there are no typical white women". What: for Jim Lehrer there are only typical black people? Typical Asian people? But whites are still so special? And so Jim Lehrer is offended on behalf of Obama's grandmother (a more patronizing bit of sophistry i've yet to encounter).

What's funny is that the reaction to Obama's speech reveals a lot about what people think about race. And about what they think the "place" of black people in America is at this time.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an obituary: William L. Hayward died on March 9, 2008 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Times went on to mention the fact that Hayward's mother, Margaret Sullavan, and his sister, Bridget, also died in circumstances which were ruled suicide (in both their cases, from an overdose of medications). The Times obituary mentioned that he had been married and divorced three times, he was survived by his sister Brooke, and his two children, Leland and Bridget, and a grandchild. Brooke Hayward (of course) remains very much alive, and has been married to Peter Duchin for many years.

Have been thinking about New Directors, and last night watched Amy Heckerling's "I Could Never Be Your Woman" with Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd, and "Imaginary Heroes" which was on WNET-Channel 13. "I Could Never Be Your Woman" wasn't bad, it certainly was better than a lot of what passes for romantic comedies nowadays, and it has a performance by Michelle Pfeiffer that is really exceptional: unrestrained and uninhibited. She really lets loose here, and she's delightful (as opposed to movies like "White Oleander" where she's trying so hard to be serious). "Imaginary Heroes" was the kind of movie which i might have missed altogether, it's another one of those dysfunctional-suburban-family sagas ("The Ice Storm" and "Ordinary People" are paradigms) and it's all a little angsty and drab. But i was glad it was on TV, and i finally saw it: the acting was good, there were some good bits. Actually, there are moments when the actors are more than good, when Sigourney Weaver or Jeff Daniels break through and provide a moment of genuine emotion. But "I Could Never Be Your Woman" is an example of a movie caught in the tentacles of distribution now, and so it's gone straight to DVD. It's a pity, because it's a little fanciful (what with Tracey Ullman playing - literally - Mother Nature) but it's still fairly bright. And Michelle Pfeiffer really is terrific.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Paul Scofield died.

Yesterday saw "Flotsam Jetsam", "We Went to Wonderland" and "Valse Sentimentale": for me, the final screenings of ND/NF. This morning, had to wait for the Con Ed man to read the meters: he came at 9:15, which meant it was too late to try to rush to see "XXY", so will have to catch it at a press screening near its theatrical opening in April. But after a concentrated viewing of this year's ND/NF, have come to some conclusions.

This year, one of the defining aesthetics seemed to be that of the home movie, either literally ("We Went to Wonderland") or figuratively ("Momma's Man" and "Moving Midway"). This year also saw a revival of the regional film... twenty years ago, this was a very active part of the independent film movement, Victor Nunez is certainly one example, and "Frozen River" and "Ballast" were this year's exemplars.

But this year really brought to the fore a problem that many people don't really have (or pretend not to have): what critical standards can be brought to bear on work when you know the people involved?

I just realized i haven't gotten the daily e.mail from IndieWire; checked and found that somehow my subscription was disabled. So i reactivated it... but realized i hadn't missed it in two weeks because i've been so busy going to the New Directors/New Films screenings.

The political scene is getting so bizarre... surely there must be a way to have another primary in Florida. But what do i know?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

News on the march. Or news in March.

Show business deaths in threes: Anthony Minghella, Arthur C. Clarke, Ivan Dixon.

Seen at New Directors/New Films: "A Lost Man", "Epitaph", "Megame", "Momma's Man", "Sleep Dealer", "Frozen River", "The Toe Tactic", "Ballast" and "Moving Midway". A solid grouping of work.

The International Art Critics Association (or Association International des Critiques d'Arte) had its annual award ceremony on Monday, March 17 (St. Patrick's Day). Getting to the Guggenheim Museum was a nightmare: i thought i left in plenty of time, but it took 90 minutes! The crowds were impossible on the subway: almost scary. There's such a need for another subway route on the east side of Manhattan.

But also in the news: David Paterson's second day in office as governor of New York included a press conference where he and his wife admitted they had marital problems, and both of them had affairs. In the art world: Leonard Lauder gives the single biggest donation ever to the Whitney Museum: $131 million (according to the NY Times).

Heather Mills and Paul McCartney are divorced and she gets a settlement worth almost $50 million.

Bear Stearns collapsed. All these economic commentators saying that the economy may be headed towards a recession. In polls, 75% of the people think this country is headed for a recession. Recession? Banks start failing, unemployment is going up, prices are out of control. Hello: this used to be called a Depression! That's the great legacy of George W. Bush.

What fresh hell is this? The Republicans have created a scorched earth policy, only the earth they're destroying is our own. Why is there no justice?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

According to the Associated Press, ICF International of Virginia (the company hired to dole out relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina) has done nothing for almost 50% of the people: people call their offices, and get no answer, etc. Yet this company has posted record profits for the year, it has gone public, and has now gotten more government contracts. For what? For NOT helping people?

The Bush administration has so much to answer for, but this is ridiculous: it's such a disgrace that Bush and his cronies are making fortunes on the misery of the American people.

Right now, "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song" is on Channel 13, the same doc i saw last year at Tribeca.

Today, saw the Korean horror movie "Epitaph" and the Japanese movie "Megane" at the ND/NF press screenings.

Facebook is becoming very amusing. Yesterday, was sent a notice that claimed that Facebook may be overpopulated, and that it may be forced to close accounts of people who haven't been using it regularly. But that might not happen. But there are all sorts of "games" on Facebook, all these weird little movie quizzes. Of course, most of the quizzes are "current" in terms of the popular American commercial movies of the moment, most of which i haven't seen. What's scary is that i'll take one of those quizzes, and i'll be able to figure it out. I don't even have to see the movies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Political news: well, Spitzer did it, he resigned, and Obama won the Mississippi primary. So much happening politically.

Seeing more movies at ND/NF: "Wonderful Town", "Trouble the Water", "Soul Carriage", and today "A Lost Man" but missed "La Zona". Still thinking about them, and also about some trends that seem to be developing from watching these movies.

Talked to Eileen Bowser yesterday, she told me about a very exciting find: a short from Edison from 1913, called "Jackson's Joke", which would appear to be the first sound film made in the US. The wax cylinder has not been found (yet) but according to Eileen, the way the movie is made (with the performers yelling in the direction of the camera), it could only be a sound experiment.

Talked to Adrienne Mancia today, and congratulated her on the weekend programs at BAM Cinematek: Manoel De Oliviera was here, at the age of 100! And we talked about meeting him and his wife (glad to hear that Mme. De Oliviera is still active as well, she's such a lovely, smart woman) when "Doomed Love" played at ND/NF (in the late 1980s). Adrienne had a great line about Manoel De Oliviera: "He doesn't look a day over 70!"

On TCM, Sam Fuller's "Underworld USA" will be coming up; haven't seen it in decades, so that's also pretty exciting. But can't wait for the news and the reports about Spitzer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Much has been happening, but the news has been so sensational: when i got home (three press screenings for New Directors/New Films), the only thing on the news was the scandal about Elliot Spitzer! The governor of New York has been caught in the middle of an investigation of a prostitution ring.

Anyway: since Friday, have been seeing movies for ND/NF. "Munyurangabo", "Water Lilies", "Foster Child", "Slingshot Hip Hop" and "Correction" (previously seen, the Israeli film "Jellyfish").

On Sunday, went to the memorial for Tom Tam.

The political scene is incredibly volatile right now. There has been a brouhaha about the Clinton-Obama race among the Democrats. The idea that one of them should concede right now (when they're really neck-and-neck) is really preposterous. It's true that now that there is a (presumptive) candidate for the Republican Party, John McCain, there should be the beginning of a campaign against him, but the excitement that the Democratic race is generating is remarkable.

Wonder what will happen tomorrow with Spitzer. Will he resign? What are his options?

Friday, March 07, 2008

China just announced that there will be stricter guidelines for performers to adhere to because of Bjork's shouting of "Tibet" at the end of her concert. Not quite sure what that's supposed to mean, since the People's Republic of China has been so restrictive anyway, how much more repressive can it get?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Turns out that what was blown up this morning was the little Army Recruiting Station on 46th Street (on the island in the middle of Broadway); there was no one inside when the bomb went off, so no one was injured, though all the glass (and it's a mostly glass enclosure) was blown out. Of course, any explosion is unnerving, especially in NYC at this time.

For some reason, have not been able to get into "American Idol" this season. Of course, this would be the season when there would be more potential "scandals" (David Hernandez's stripper past), however, i have been following Michael Giltz's write-ups about "Idol" (it's actually on Huffington Post, but i usually go to Michael's blog and then click on the links:, but the times i've watched, the comments of the judges (Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell) have seemed amorphous, especially the act of Paula's effusiveness and Simon's acidity.

In Jewish Week, George Robinson has some very interesting items, a profile on Jim Hoberman on the occasion of 30 years at The Village Voice, an interview with Ira Sachs because of the upcoming release of Ira's "Married Life" (which i saw at The New York Film Festival) and a review of the Ealing thriller "It Always Rains on Sunday". For Jewish Week, George must find some angle which connects what films he reviews with... well, there must be some Jewish "content", but the three pieces this week shows how this doesn't have to be limiting, but on his blog, there are links to his articles (

Dave Kehr reviewed Godard last week (the Criterion Collection edition of "Pierrot le Fou" and the Lionsgate boxset which includes "Passion", "Helas Pour Moi", "First Name: Carmen" and "Detective"); this week, he reviews the new Kino boxset of German Expressionist classics ("Secrets of a Soul" and "The Hands of Orlac" along with "Warning Shadows" and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", the latter two having been available for a while from Kino; Kino has a tendency to do this, to package previously released titles with some "new" titles for a boxset - they did that with the recent Paradjanov boxset, and with their film noir boxsets). It's interesting that there haven't been many comments on his blog about things like German Expressionist classics or Godard, but when Dave made a short comment on (say) the Coen Brothers, his blog was bombarded. (I noted this in a comment on Dave's blog, only to be reprimanded for being snotty.) But Dave was able to put some very lovely stills from "Passion" on his blog (

Right now, there was a press conference, because a bomb just went off in the Times Square area. Details are sketchy, and then the regular programming on the Today Show just went on as usual. So more details should follow, but it doesn't seem as if there were any real casualties.

Yesterday was Rex Harrison night on TCM, at the same time that MoMA started its Rex Harrison Centennial program (which Charles Silver curated). On TCM's program website, "The Rake's Progress" is listed as 110 minutes, but the print (which was rather muddy) turned out to have the British running time of 121 minutes! But "The Reluctant Debutante" remains a special movie, because of the wonderful presence of Kay Kendall, irrepressible and irresistible.

Politically, times are exciting, but also troubling. Tuesday's primary results have made McCain the nominee for the Republican Party, having once and for all beaten Huckabee. But Hillary Clinton's victories in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island means that it remains a race between Clinton and Obama among the Democrats. The reason this is troubling is that the Democratic Party needs to start mounting effective campaigns against the Republicans, to try to get more undecided and swing voters and to shore up some sort of lead.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On Monday, i went to the dentist, the usual, a cleaning, but this time, a little while after it was over, my lips started swelling. By the evening, my lips looked like i'd had them pumped with collagen. I've never had any reaction to the stuff that they put on your gums to numb them before. But swelling is going away, but it's still there. And today another disaster: my glasses broke. The little screw just would not close any longer: it seems to have lost its threads. I've got to go to the eye doctor.

So much for that. Yesterday (Tuesday, March 4) it was a full day of the Whitney Biennial. It was in two parts: the morning was at the Whitney Museum proper, the afternoon was at the Park Avenue Armory, where there were more installations, and performances will be held over the course of the Biennial. I had the strangest sensation walking through the Biennial: many of the installations (such as Lisa Sigal's) looked... i don't want to say looked familiar, it was the strong sensation of deja vu, where i knew i must have seen the piece before. But where? Lisa Sigal, for example, is an artist with Fredericke Taylor, and i haven't been to Fredericke Taylor's gallery in years. (This really drove me crazy, until i remembered that i had seen Lisa Sigal's work when we went to Hartford, Connecticut to go to Art Space there. I think it's Art Space. Or was it Art Place? At any rate, it was in Hartford. But that was about four years ago, and i remember walking around Hartford while Larry and i were waiting for the bus to make its return trip to NYC, and discussing where to look for a house. So that was before we moved.)

Larry and i went to the Biennial opening night party, because Bill Jones (who is staying with us) has his work "Tearoom" in the Biennial (it can be found in the film and video gallery on the fourth floor). As for the party: what a madhouse!

There are any number of interesting works in the Biennial, as there always are, but there's too much of what has been called "scatter art". These installations which use debris to create a space of abjection. You know: one or two, maybe... but it's like the old saying, if all the cards are wild, you can't play poker! And it was hard to concentrate on the individual works, because there was just so much around everything. One nice touch, in the first floor gallery there is an installation by Jason Rhoades, since he seems to have been the inspiration for a lot of these young people, and since he died last year. That reminds me that Karen Kilimnick's work is in the Biennial. Surprised that something by Jeremy Blake wasn't included as well, but maybe that would be too morbid.

There's going to be a memorial for Tom Tam this weekend at the Asian-American/Asian Research Institute. I really should try to make it.

Well, such are the wonders of Facebook: Norman Wang send me a new Wong Kar Wai short (about 10 minutes), very elegant and stylish. So i sent Norman... the YouTube clip "Jimmy Kimmel is f*cking Ben Affleck".

Tony Silver died; he directed the documentary "Style Wars" which was one of the first accounts of graffiti artists and hip-hop; at one time, he was married to Joan Shigekawa, who ran the Rockefeller Film/Video program for a while. Oh, that's right: in Monday's paper, there was an item in the arts section, that Renew Media (which was the renamed Rockefeller Film/Video program) would now be a part of the Tribeca Film Institute.

A lot of changes happening. But now that i've been to the dentist, i should go to the eye doctor and i should get my annual check-up.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sad news this weekend: an announcement from the Asian-American/Asian Research Institute of CUNY that Tom Tam died. He'd been fighting cancer for the last two years (a brain tumor) and at the last Asian-American Film Festival, Corky Lee told me that Tom was in a bad way.

AAARI was only one of the many organizations which Tom started: it was his idea to start the Asian-American Film Festival. Though Asian Cinevision is now going through more permutations, trying to keep up with the rapidly changing media landscape, the Asian-American International Film Festival is still around.

On other fronts: Bill Jones and Mark Flores arrived late last night, and while we were waiting for them, i fooled around with Facebook. Norman Wang was the person who signed me up for it, and now i'm seeing what i can do with it. One thing: this morning, Norman sent me a clip of a short film by Wong Kar-Wai... but once i viewed it, i don't know how to access it anymore. And i would have liked to send it on to a few more people....

Jonathan Rosenbaum retired from the Chicago Reader last week. Can't believe he's been there for 20 years!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tonight, waiting for the arrival of Bill Jones and Mark Flores from L.A.; in town for the Whitney Biennial (Bill's "Tearoom" is one of the installations this year) and finally there were several articles on the Biennial in the New York Times, in Friday's art section and in Sunday's Arts & Leisure section. The article on Friday concentrated on the events that will take place "off-site" (outside the Whitney Museum building proper), this year at the Park Avenue Arsenal. The article on Sunday was a full-page (and for the NY Times, that's huge) article on Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn. So i'm glad that the p.r. is kicking in; for something like the Biennial, this is crucial, because without the buildup, there's no excitement, and that can often stem the tide in terms of how people react to the Biennial.

This weekend, didn't really see much... but on Thursday and Friday, went to Anthology for press screenings of the upcoming Franju series. The prints were really old 16mm prints; the print of "Judex" was in terrible shape, in that the soundtrack was shot, so there was a persistent buzz all throughout the screening. So i was nervous about the print of "Therese Desqueyroux", but the print was fine. But what happened was that 16mm projectors had problems: one projector almost started smoking, and so the projectionist was forced to use just one projector, so the reel changeover took a few minutes. So "Therese" (which was only supposed to be 105 minutes) stretched out to more than 2 and a half hours. Plus the program of shorts was screened: i couldn't stay for all of them (i'd seen all of them before) but i did stay for "Le Grand Melies", and it's the same print (16mm, with the narration done in English) that must have been floating around for decades.

That said: even with all the problems, there was something magical about those films, Franju's style is just so mesmerizing.

Tomorrow, have to go to Councilman Gentile's office, to pick up an application for this year's STAR rebate. It's six blocks from here. Then have to go to the dentist, and then meet up with Dennis Poplin, who's coming in for business from Washington, DC.

On George Robinson's blog, he posted the review he wrote on "Vivere" when he saw it at the Tribeca Film Festival. He found the film very problematic: the predictable quality which i noted proved insurmountable for him, and the triteness of the plotting was enough to mitigate his interest. I understand his points, but i still found it quite charming in its visuals and in terms of the acting. (George's blog can be found at; he's also written a review of some of the films in the Rendez-vous With French Cinema series as part of his job at Jewish Week, and there's a link to his review on his blog.) And i realized (when i read George's review of "Vivere") that i hadn't really paid that much attention to the story... it was the kind of narcotic effect of just looking at a succession of finely calibrated images, similar to watching the Franju films (talk about finely calibrated images!).

On Joe Baltake's blog (, he has some very amusing comments on the Academy Awards, plus he has an item about the Courtney Cox series "Dirt": he's a fan of the show, but he fears that, in its second season, in an attempt to garner ratings, the show will lose its edge. So far, it's inconclusive, but tonight's episode was fun.

And this week's "L Word" amped up the sex. In fact, it also included a sex scene between Daniela Sea's character Max and the character of Jodi's sign-language interpreter (played by Jon Wolfe Nelson). That was probably one of the most far-out things so far on the show (and there have been many such). As an aside, this week's episode was directed by Rose Troche. Good for her!