Monday, May 30, 2011

The Memorial Day weekend was relatively uneventful. I did go to two events: a press screening of Azazel Jacobs's new film "Terri" on Friday, and the program "Dancing Divas" at La Mama on Saturday. Today i spent the afternoon watching "Oprah Behind the Scenes" on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Other events of last week: the annual meeting of AICA, plus a panel discussion on the crisis in art criticism on Monday; the press preview of the Cory Arcangel exhibition "Pro Tools" at the Whitney Museum on Wednesday; Susan Bee's opening at the AIR Gallery and Violeta Fiorino's opening at the de Castellane Gallery on Thursday; then "Terri" and "Dancing Divas".

Last week was a big television week, with the finales of "American Idol", "Dancing With the Stars", "The Biggest Loser", and "The Oprah Winfrey Show". So there's actually been a lot which people have been writing about.

This week there will be press screenings for BAMFest, and then the weekend there will be Artwalk on Atlantic Avenue. So there's a lot i have to write about, but right now, i'm watching "Sapphire" (part of the Basil Dearden's London Underground boxset), which i remember seeing when i was a child.

Two weeks ago, i had an odd experience; on TCM's James Stewart afternoon, i watched "The Spirit of St. Louis", and i was shocked to realize that the movie was in color! I'd seen the movie on television as a child, and i never really had the inclination to see it again, so i just figured it was in black-and-white.

The reason i bring that up is that i had a similar experience with "Sapphire" though i knew the film was in color, but i had seen it on television sometime in the early 1960s, and i never had the chance to see it again, so my one viewing had been in black-and-white, though i knew it had been made in color. ("Peeping Tom" was another film which was similar, though in that case, i saw the movie in a theater and it was in black-and-white; i would read later that the American distributor was afraid that the movie was too lurid in color, and released it in black-and-white, and that's how the film was shown throughout the 1960s in the US.)

So that's my experience of seeing movies in black-and-white (though they were in color).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good heavens it's now May 18, it's been two weeks. A lot has happened; in terms of popylar culture, there's the countdown to the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show. "Spiderman" has been rebooted, without Julie Taymor at the helm. The Cannes Film Festival is nearing another conclusion; reading a lot of the reports from the festival, it's hard to get a sense of what's actually been worthwhile. Malick's "The Tree of Life" has been greeted with the usual cacophony of boos and cheers (this seems to be standard at Cannes); there are new movies by the Dardennes (reactions mostly positive), Lynne Ramsay (reactions mixed), Lars Von Trier (though the comments seem to be about his obnoxious/offensive behavior at the press conference).

Some of the movies that have been around include the Kaneto Shindo retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (with what was the theatrical premiere engagement of "Children of Hiroshima", which surprised me, because that movie was shown at MoMA and at Japan Society over the years, so i just assumed that the movie had actually opened in the US; pardon me, my mistake), a number of movies at Film Forum, including "A Screaming Man" from Chad, "Tuesday, After Christmas" from Roumania, revivals of "Went the Day Well" and "The Makioka Sisters" and "La Dolce Vita".... another film which opened was "Octubre" from Peru. MoMA held a comprehensive retrospective of Dziga Vertov's work, which was exciting news: i remember looking at Vertov's films over the years, first when Anthology Film Archives opened, and over the years when MoMA got archival prints. MoMA used to have a show every couple of years where they'd show films which they acquired for their archives. "Man With a Movie Camera" is a film i've seen many times, but in the 1990s, when the Alloy Orchestra performed their new score accompanying the film, that seemed to create a whole new level of popularity.

The Brooklyn Academy also had a retrospective of Hal Ashby's films; one of the highlights was supposed to be the director's cut of "Looking to Get Out".

This week has been a very wet one, with rain on and off every day. There are people who claim that May 21 will be the day of reckoning, when the world will end according to prophecy; if i were the weather bureau, i wouldn't want a period of seven days and seven nights of rain, because that's just feeding into the doomsday fantasies of some people. In fact, one retired person has used his life savings to take out ads on the subways and buses, warning of the Apocalypse.

But i did go to the program put on by the Filmmakers Coop at Millennium, as part of the Festival of Ideas for the New City put on by The New Museum. It was a great little program, with work by Ken Jacobs, Oona Mekas, Jennifer Reeves and MM Serra, Katy Martin, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Peter Cramer, Lynne Sachs and Mark Street. That was also the night that Lady Gaga's Monster Ball special was on HBO, so i rushed home to see the end of that. But there were ads for weeks about the Festival of New Ideas; when i first saw them, i thought that the festival must have had something to do with Theater for the New City, but i was wrong again. Turns out it was just something thought up by The New Museum; there were a lot of gallery shows and panels and talks, and it actually did spark interest. There was a booklet with little entries on all the participating galleries, and those galleries did see a spike in attendance. But even in an art context, "experimental" film still isn't an easy sell, but the program was totally charming, a reminder of the great skill that so many of these filmmakers have.

I just watched "Nanny McPhee Returns", which played in Berlin, but i didn't see the point of seeing it then. It was enjoyable enough, one moment which really was touching was the farewell between Emma Thompson and Maggie Smith. It just has to do with Maggie Smith's face, which is not touched-up: the emotions coming from her face seem genuine because she seems so real.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

There's been so much happening, but on Sunday, when the announcement of Osama Bin Laden's death was made by the President, i felt a little like a Munchkin: ding, dong, the witch is dead. The celebratory tone that was all over the media by Monday morning was confounding. I understand it, but it's also rather alienating.

I've been seeing a lot of movies lately, all sorts. A sampling: "Anagraph Tom" (Ken Jacobs's 3D reworking of his "Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son"); Ichikawa's "The Makioka Sisters"; the Chinese epic "City of Life and Death"; two movies which never seemed to be released but were on HBO, "Neverwas" and "Method"; the PBS documentary "Stonewall Uprising"; "punk" videos from San Francisco. Two big events on HBO: Todd Haynes's miniseries of "Mildred Pierce" and the Berman-Pulcini "Cinema Verite". Also tried watching some of Neil Jordan's "The Borgias" on Showtime. All of this has provoked a lot of reactions on my part, but i'm still thrown by current events.

I've also been indulging in one of my obsessions: i've been working on my digital still collection for the last two months. Once i start one of these things, i go beserk and it's total tunnelvision. I just spend hours on it. When i started this blog, it was a very simple format, and there was no way to post pictures. Now you can, and friends of mine have done some really impressive visuals on their blogs, but i haven't really learned how to change my blog.

But maybe i'll start.... i have to say that Oprah Winfrey's show this afternoon (May 4) was really impressive: she had the 100-plus surviving Freedom Riders. It was really historic!