Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's been months since i've last posted anything; though i've seen quite a lot since my last post, i've felt so dispirited that writing was all but impossible.

First off: tonight there's the Academy Awards. We have not watched an Oscar telecast in maybe two decades (if that). There's no interest in it. And over the years, people i've known have gotten nominated (imagine my surprise), but i have no interest in watching.

Thinking back, i have to say the moment that killed my interest in the Oscars was the year that "Platoon" was in the running. Willem Dafoe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. And that was when he was still with Elizabeth LeCompte. Now, regardless of what i think of her as an artist (and i concede she is one of the premiere American experimental theater artists since the 1970s), as a person, she is the most insufferably snide, intolerably superior, hoity-toity bitches i've ever met in my life. So there she is at the Oscars, and the camera catches her at various moments (because she's next to Willem, and they're surrounded by other nominees), and she's putting on a brave, glazed face, with this sickening smile, trying to laugh at the lame jokes. Now: the Elizabeth LeCompte that i knew should have sat out the ceremony with a sneer on her face, making snide remarks about the stupidity of the whole thing. Instead, there she was, trying to turn herself into a supplicating Hollywood spouse (or spousal equivalent), and the spectacle was so grotesque that i swore i'd never watch the Oscars again. The term "grincing" comes to mind: watching Elizabeth LeCompte turn into a grincingly robotic Hollywood minion was just too much for me.

So i've given it a pass ever since. There was a period when the Oscar telecast was always opposite "The L Word", and every year, the episode of "The L Word" that was on Showtime was always one with a lot of hot lesbian sex! Watching Jennifer Beals or Katherine Moenning in the nude, or watching the Oscars: i'm sorry, is there even a contest?

That doesn't mean i don't understand the significance of the Oscars in terms of the motion picture industry. It's a signifier of respectability (at least, for the moment). And i always find out who won (now, it's instantaneous with the internet), but that's it.

So it's the Academy Awards, and people are getting bent out of shape over whether "Birdman" or "Boyhood" should win. All i can say is: good for the New York Film Festival (where "Birdman" had its North American premiere - it has previously played at the Venice Film Festival, where it won a prize - and was the Closing Night selection) and Sundance (where "Boyhood" premiered) and BAM Cinemafest (where "Boyhood" was the Opening Night film).

I've seen a lot of movies recently, but i've also been battling a cold. Yes, i know, it's going around, but this one was a humdinger! Wiped me out for at least two weeks, and i've got the remnants of sniffles. What that means is that there were several screenings which i missed, including the Dance on Camera screenings (one of my very favorite festivals, and this year, there were several films i wanted to see, such as a biography on Mia Slavenska - this film i actually saw in-progress about five years ago, so i wanted to see how they finished it - and Meredith Monk's "Girlhood Diary" and a film about the residency that Sally Gross did at the University of Wisconsin-Madison three years ago) and the press screenings for the Film Comment Selects series. While the Film Comment Selects screenings were being held, i could barely move! I've never before had such body aches accompanying my cold: it made me feel so old!

But already this year, there have been phenomenal movies in release. "Timbuktu". "Costa da Morte". "Hard to Be a God". "Queen and Country".  There was a series of Black Independent Films from the 1960s and 1970s at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which included a run of Kathleen Collins' "Losing Ground", and that was a major find.

The Rendez-vous With French Cinema series is now having its press screenings. I went to two days. The first day i saw "Mon Amie Victoria" (directed by Jean-Paul Civeyrac), "La Vie Sauvage" (directed by Cedric Kahn) and "La French" (directed by Cedric Jiminez). Actually, these films were quite good. The second day i saw "Metamorphoses" (directed by Christophe Honore) and "Le Dos Rouge" (directed by Antoine Barraud), and those films were so bad that it made me think i never wanted to see a French movie again. (I should qualify this: "Metamorphoses" is a modern-dress and undress of Ovid; it's terminally whimsical but it's easy to sit through. "Le Dos Rouge", on the other hand, begins very charmingly: a man is living with a woman who is cast in a play. Since she can't spend as much time with him, she has him call a friend of hers to go with him on his art jaunts. So the man and the woman, played by Bertrand Bonello and Jeanne Balibar, go to museums and galleries, looking at art, and they invent a game, where they have to find the monster in each picture. This part of the film lasts about half an hour, and it's charming, beautifully done with lovely camerawork and wonderful music, mostly classical. And the actors have a conspiratorial ease which is delightful. But then the movie takes a turn, and becomes intolerably pretentious, and it's more than two hours.  That first half hour made me think of Joanna Hogg's art narratives - "Unrelated", "Archipelago", "Exhibition" - which had been featured at the 2013 New York Film Festival, and were given at run this past summer at the Film Society of Lincoln Center - as well as some of the films of Eugene Green, such as his recent "La Sapienza". But Hogg and Green were able to sustain their narratives, and those films are just wonderful, but "Le Dos Rouge" shows how difficult it is to sustain this kind of artiness with any real conviction.)

Well, watched "Girls" (this has not been such a good season) and now watching "Grantchester". (I wish people who claim to have no interest in the Oscars would actually just stop watching: i hate reading people's stupid updates about the Oscars. Really: if you aren't in the Academy and don't vote, your opinion is useless, so shut up!)


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