Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It has been two weeks since i've even tried to blog, and, yes, there have been a lot of movies seen. But also, a lot of events (though all film-related).

Most of the events were part of NewFest, and it was the 20th Anniversary. Saw a few movies this year, including Jacques Nolot's "Before I Forget", Ferzan Ospetak's "Saturn in Opposition" and the closing night film, Tom Gustafson's "Were the World Mine". There was a rather low-keyed atmosphere to most of the recptions, but going to the screenings provided more of a kick. Didn't attend the panels.

On TCM, there have been two series, one called "Race and Hollywood: Asian Images in Film", the other the Star-of-the-Month Sophia Loren. The selection of films (the programmer is Peter Feng) for the Asian series has been good, but i've seen all the films. Supplementing the series were two silent Chinese films starring Ryu Lingyu ("The Peach Girl" and "The Goddess") and Ozu's 1942 masterpiece, "There Was a Father". It's fascinating. I love the fact that the Loren series has included some of her Italian films, such as "Too Bad She's Bad" (utterly charming, and she's sensational) and "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow". It's the fact that TCM is allowing the definition of "classic" to include foreign films; in fact, this weekend, the movie selected for "The Essentials" is Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai". To me, this is one of the most interesting developments which has happened because of Time Warner's corporate decision to separate TCM from the Time Warner film archives. TCM no longer has free access to the archival holdings from MGM, RKO and Warner Brothers, so there are now opportunities to make leasing agreements with other studios. And this has brought about a far more wide-ranging attitude towards programming. There are now deals with MCA (which has the holdings for Universal and for Paramount) and Sony (which has the Columbia archives). That's why some of the films in the Asian series ("Walk Like a Dragon" and "Daughter of Shanghai" and "Shanghai Express", which were Paramount films; "The Crimson Kimono", which was a Columbia Pictures release) were able to be included.

Last night, did a talk with Coleen Fitzgibbon at Light Industry. It was fun, but what was amazing was that there was a full house. Of course, there were a lot of old friends: the Ahearns (Charlie and John), Becky Howland, Liza Bear... Tom Otterness was there with their daughter Kelly. When i saw Kelly, i was in shock: i haven't seen her since she was eight or nine. But what was fun was trying to explain the context: Coleen was part of the generation of experimental filmmakers who were extending the principles of what P. Adams Sitney called "structural filmmaking" (also called materialist film, sometimes conceptual filmmaking). So it was explaing to the younger audience that time (the mid-1970s) and what young filmmakers were thinking. (I'd seen all of Coleen's films before, but interestingly enough, the first film she showed, which was a 12 minute film involving the task of cleaning a sink, did have conceptual similarities to Chantal's "Jeanne Dielman", and, of course, Chantal herself had been in New York City in the late 1960s, where she tried to start making structural films; her insight was to join structural filmmaking to the overt teleology of narrative. Coleen immediately mentioned the similarities to "Jeanne Dielman" when her movie started.)

Just watched "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" on HBO. Very engrossing.

Anyway, have to get going; tonight, am seeing the documentary "Trumbo", which i really want to see; read Norma Barzman's "The Red and the Blacklist" two weeks ago, which i found utterly beguiling and amusing. The situation of the blacklist wasn't amusing, but Norma and Ben Barzman's adventures while "in exile" in Europe certainly were colorful.

One article which proved thought-provoking was Nicholas Carr's article on the effects of the internet on writing, scholarship, etc. The title on the cover of the Atlantic Monthly, "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?" was very funny.

Anyway, Anne Thompson's blog has included a lot of discussion about how film criticism is evolving (or devolving). Is blogging different from print forms of criticism? But while i try to think about that, i do think that George Robinson's recent writing (discussing some of the films in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, etc.) has been very energetic and insightful. So here's the link:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tuesday, June 3rd, and it's after midnight, and every news outlet has been proclaiming a historic day: today, by official delegate count, Barack Obama has the numbers needed to secure the nomination as the Democratic candidate for US president.

All sorts of things went into this moment. John McCain took the opportunity to attack Obama in a speech tonight, so there is the presumption on the Republican side that it's a done deal.

Watching CNN, Anderson Cooper was talking to the usual suspects (Carl Bernstein, Jeffrey Toobin, Susanne Malveaux, etc.) and that was also interesting. How is the news media spinning this?

The day started off so strangely, because on "The View", Whoopi Goldberg was handed an announcement from Associated Press, which she read on air, which claimed that Hillary Clinton was going to concede tonight after the South Dakota and Montana primary results were in. (Clinton won South Dakota, Obama won Montana.) Then there was a break for commercial, and then Goldberg read another announcement, this one from Clinton's campaign, which stated that Clinton had not conceded, and would await the results.

Clinton actually (prior to the polls closing) gave the first speech, in which she rallied her supporters. Then McCain gave his speech. Then Obama spoke.

The whole day has been in some sort of turmoil. And it's not over: Clinton actually didn't concede, she is simply delaying...

Got an e.mail from Sonjia Hyon asking if i'd write about Tom Tam for Cinevue. Somehow, the events of today and Tom's death are intertwined for me, because the mantra today seemed to be about "change" and how the country wanted change, and so many people (on CNN and other news outlets) spoke about how unlikely this moment was... how even in December of last year, it was inconceivable to many that an African-American could create such a successful campaign. Of course, it is pointed out that there are many obstacles to come.

The thing that is important about Obama is that he is not a "black" man: he has no "inner city" experience in his childhood. He was raised by whites, i.e., his mother's family. And they were not poor whites. And so Obama does not go around (the way Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton did) talking about the grievances of black folks, and how the African-American community is hampered by generations of oppression. Because that has not been his experience. (And that wouldn't have been his experience if he had been raised by his father, who was an African who went back to Africa.)

A lot to think about, can't wait to see what all the newspapers (Times, Sun, etc.) say about the presidential race tomorrow.

On the movie front: TCM started its series on Asians in American films. Tonight, some silents ("The Cheat", "Broken Blossoms", "The Dragon Painter", "Mr. Wu"), all of which i've seen (many times). Peter Feng was with Robert Osborne, doing the introductions. TCM also showed "The Slanted Screen".

Saw "Monsieur Verdoux", "The President's Analyst" and Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World", press screenings at Film Forum. "Verdoux" has its longeurs, but there's something quite amazing about it... "The President's Analyst" wasn't really funny (was it ever?) but it was interesting to see in conjunction with "Duffy" (which was on TCM), because this kind of hip late 1960s humor... actually, "Duffy" was more interesting... read some of the reviews of the time, and everyone treated "Duffy" as if it were a disease. But (of course) it was: Donald Cammell, who wrote the script of "Duffy", would go on to write and codirect "Performance" and write and direct "Demon Seed". There are scummy, crummy undercurrents (especially between James Fox, James Coburn and Susannah York)... but Fox, Coburn and York are photographed so (literally) glowingly, that it's obscene.

On Friday, there was the final press screening for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival... but there was also a screening of the Werner Herzog... decided i wasn't virtuous enough to see another good-for-me documentary at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, so i went to the Herzog instead. Glad i did. It's one of his best films (i think)... sure, it's full of his blather, but it's also astonishing, with moments of incredible, eerie beauty (after all, what would you expect in Antarctica?) mixed with amazing eccentricities (the people who want to live there... well, it takes a certain kind, and Herzog is both sympathetic and skeptical, the way he was in "Grizzly Man"). Besides, i had a nice time at the screening: ran into Ronnie Scheib, and had a conversation about Cannes with Jim Hoberman.

Also watched the French-Canadian movie "C.R.A.Z.Y." That was a Netflix choice.

I also spent the weekend making up photo albums for my Facebook page. Except they're not personal pictures (i don't have any; i don't own a camera, and i never take pictures of anything), but movie stills. Over the last week, i've made photo albums of stills from the movies of Jean-Luc Godard (this in honor of the series of Godard films at Film Forum), Antonioni (i used my own stills, which Larry helped me to scan), Jacques Demy, Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Wong Kar-Wai, and Frank Borzage. In a few days, i think i'd like to make an Otto Preminger album, and a Josef von Sternberg album (i still have those stills).

But also: the last few days, the deaths of several notable people. Anne d'Harnoncourt (director fo the Philadelphia Museum). Bo Diddley. Paul Sills (of Story Theater fame). And Yves Saint-Laurent. (Wasn't Paul Sills married to Barbara Harris at one time?)