September 2004 Archives

cribbed but shrunken and credited, from the new york times article, image: robert dennisonAt last, the Hebrews have hearkened unto that voice in the wilderness, that great prophet who came down off the mountain.

Translation for the godless: The Times has a review of Ten Commandments: The Musical ("Val Kilmer IS Moses."), which Defamer has been preaching about for days.

Figuring that Christian audiences are well known for embracing wild-ass reinterpretations of biblical texts [??], the producers of TC:TM VKIM went ahead and rewrote The Commandments: "'Thou shalt not steal' becomes the considerably less pithy 'Don't take things that belong to someone else.' There's also the interestingly ambiguous 'Never lie about others.'"

Here, for your salvation in the Promised Land, are all ten of Val Kilmer Is Moses's Ten Commandments, as revealed to me this morning while I was burning through a bushel of Crunchberries:

God saysVal Kilmer IS Moses says
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.What part of "Do you know who I Am?" don't you understand?
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image."the taking of photographs and use of recording equipment is strictly prohibited [in the Kodak Theatre]."
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.Step 1: Instead of ass say buns, like "kiss my buns" or "you're a buns hole"
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.No, I will not use a Crackberry.
Honour thy father and thy mother.Dick Grayson : You can't understand. Your family wasn't killed by a maniac.
Bruce Wayne : Yes, they were.
Thou shalt not kill.ibid.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.Inexplicably dropped from the original French production.
US production: Sorry, no kissing.
Thou shalt not steal.Don't take things that belong to someone else.
Thou shalt not bear false witness.Never lie about others.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, &c."rules for the press line: DO NOT ASK 'Who are you wearing?'

He Sings, He Dances, He Parts the Red Sea [Charles Isherwood, NYT]
The Ten Commandments: Val Kilmer up to his old tricks [Defamer]

It is about this time that we realized we were in a room of fundamentalist film students, for they were laughing appreciatively with the person in the position to one day give them work, and sneering at the representative of a free press. In short, they are fully prepared for Hollywood.
- bwahahaha, Fox Searchlight gets all Rathered up, planting (aka "inviting") a NYT's gossip reporter [sic] in a Columbia U. screening and Q&A where my boy, David O. Russell, worked the crowd into a frenzy against her by criticizing Sharon Waxman's leg-humping I Heart Huckabees article.

Hey Pal, Where's the Lousy Compassion? [Boldface Names, NYT]
The Nudist Buddhist &c., &c. []

In the last two days, I've heard two curators from MoMA talk extensively about what the new building and the reinstallation of the art in it will be like. To use the phrase of the evening, I've gotten mixed signals.

Terry Riley discussed Yoshio Taniguchi's building as the next major datapoint in the generations-long experiment of how architecture should address modern and contemporary art. In contrast to the Guggenheims, which engage art with their own influential, expressive intent, MoMA's buildings--almost since its founding--has served as a "machine in the service of art," emphasizing flexibility and utility.

After the powerful statement of Bilbao, Taniguchi's MoMA, Riley said, "restabilizes" and reinvigorates this debate. And it does it with "logic" and "tradition," some of the same principles contemporary artists worked against when making their art.
Nevertheless, Riley predicted people "will be shocked" by the vitality and dynamism these allegedly "conservative" principles bring.

On the art front, Ann Temkin, a curator from Painting & Sculpture, revealed that "Art History 101," MoMA's longstanding, authoritative chronological approach to displaying its renowned collection would return in November, albeit in expanded form. The thematic experiments of the MoMA2000 shows and the Tate Modern's idea-driven installations seem to have reinforced the curators' belief that MoMA's uniquely deep and broad collection come with the unique responsibility to attempt to show this history. They're doing it because they're almost literally the only ones who can.

The "core historical collection" as taken in another generation, and art from the last 30+ years--which is still in process and historical flux--will be shown in consecutive 9-month views. Beyond these accretions and intentional change, the space, the vistas, the juxtapositions and potential paths generated by the new building are probably the greatest difference.

I've been in the almost completed building, and it is literally jaw-dropping. The atrium and the contemporary galleries are massive, and even the upper, historical galleries feel huge. MoMA's got an unparalleled collection, sure, but I have to think that the building's--the institution's--new monumentality may end up overwhelming and subsuming many of the works we remember quite intimately. Some may even find it shocking.

Barely related: Not that anyone cares, but there's some satisfaction in knowing that Charlie Finch got it almost 100% wrong.

iraq_vlsg.jpgKwikpoint specializes in visual language guides, laminated pictograph cards to help bridge language barriers in hospitals, foreign countries, in daily deaf life--and for law enforcement and the military.

An Army captain with his boots on the ground calls their fold-out Iraq Visual Language Survival Guide "a hot commodity." It includes point-and-don't-shoot instructions for locating snipers, identifying the nationality of foreign terrorists, and, as pictured here, conducting a hairpiece-to-shoelaces strip search.

BoingBoing links to a couple of partial scans, but you can buy the whole thing for $11 directly from Kwikpoint. This is cooler than any deck of cards.

[via BoingBoing, Xeni, all is forgiven.]

In the magazine header, image:
Issue of 2004-10-04
Posted 2004-09-27

COMMENT/ INDEFENSIBLE/ Frances FitzGerald on the Presidentís missile-defense fixation.
THE WEEK IN DIGNITARIES/ HOT TICKET/ Ben McGrath at an appearance by the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.
ROME POSTCARD/ BOFFO BEATITUDE/ John Seabrook on how Mel Gibson might have helped make a saint.
OVERHAULS/ POINT OF VIEW/ Dana Goodyear on the Marriott Marquisís revolving restaurantís new look.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ GOOD GROOMING/ James Surowiecki on Michael Eisner and the importance of succession planning.

SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Christopher Buckley/ Rules of Engagement
A REPORTER AT LARGE/ George Packer/ The Next Iraqi War?/ Where ethnic tensions in Kirkuk may lead.
FICTION/ William Trevor/ "The Dressmaker's Child"

BOOKS/ Ruth Franklin/ God in the Details/ Graham Greene's religious realism.
POP MUSIC/ Sasha Frere-Jones/ Four Singles/ Faith, war, and commerce.
ON TELEVISION/ Nancy Franklin/ Rather Knot/ This time, CBS really broke the news.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Battle States/ "I ♥ Huckabees," "Silver City."

LIFE AND LETTERS/ Michael Korda/ The Third Man/ An editor's memories of Graham Greene./ Issue of 1996-03-25

Wong Kar Wai Week continues. Remember that "interview" with Wong Kar Wai I just linked to? Turns out it's the Access Hollywood Movie Minute version. The HBO Original Series version--long, convoluted, emotional tumult spread out over the whole thing, lots of special guest cameos, no easy plot wrapups--is in the New York Times Magazine. Titled "The Director's Director," Jaime Wolf doesn't actually work many other directors into the story. Go figure.

I only mention this because Wong's--and his last/family name is Wong, just so you don't embarass yourself in print or conversation--films and career have a such deep, meaningful resonance with my own.

The Director's Director [NYT Magazine]

September 26, 2004

The Making Of

That's what I'm thinking of changing the subtitle of this weblog to, although I'm still unconvinced.

It works in Europe, where I am not, at least most of the time. Top ten lists on the radio are called "le best of," as are McDo value meals ("menus best of"). Also, "the making of" has become a programming genre all its own.

But it still looks a little funny. And this ain't Europe. And so I remain undecided.

It's hard to remember now, but things looked so different back then. In August. When Sharon Waxman put David O. Russell on the deck of an aircraft carrier the front page of the Times Arts section for "Conquer[ing] the Hollywood Studio System." On Aug 16, Russell had turned Warner Bros. into his own personal Ahmed Chalabi, ready to do his bidding:

  • The studio funded a "Where are they now? Actually, they're dead, or in Walter Reed or Abu Ghraib or wherever" documentary about his Iraqi extras from Three Kings,
  • were including said doc on a special Gulf War II-edition DVD, and
  • were promoting the DVD by re-releasing Three Kings and the doc--now titled Soldiers' Pay--in theaters before November, thus
  • succeeding where the most powerful woman in show business, Janeane Garofalo, failed, by defeating George W. Bush in the upcoming election.

    soldiers_pay_still.jpgWell, that was the plan, anyway. To find out the truth, don't bother reading the Times, who hasn't covered the story since; slog instead through the foreign papers and crazy alternative journals like the Los Angeles Times.

    Here's a timeline of how, thanks to the foreign insurgents on the ground at Warners, David O. Russell's grand Iraq strategy went terribly, horribly astray.

  • September 23, 2004

    As Rumsfeld Is My Co-Producer

    David Robb slogged through decades of data--a veritable quagmire of documentation, including production notes, official memos, filmmaker and producer interviews, and screenplay drafts--to write his new book, Operation Hollywood. From the interview he gave to Mother Jones, it sounds like a fascinating story.

    That said, the interview gives me an odd feeling that the author--and maybe even Mother Jones herself--might be letting a strong political point of view slip through here and there. Nothing specific, though, maybe it's just me.

    I'm sure Operation Hollywood will become the must-read bible for anyone who decided to get into the motion picture business after seeing Top Gun [one hilarious anecdote from the book: enrollment actually shot up after Top Gun not in film schools, but in the Navy. Who'da thought?].

    One wee bit of constructive criticism which I hope arrives in time for the paperback edition: In these perilous times, the book's subtitle, How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, seems needlessly divisive, by which I mean SATANICALLY UNAMERICAN. I suggest it be changed to How Hollywood Does Its Part To Help Keep The Pentagon's Recruiting and Funding Pipelines Flowing, While Spending Some of That $500 Billion You're About To Vote For In YOUR District, Congressman.

    [via GreenCine]
    Mother Jones Intern Intern-views David Robb
    Support David Robb, the anti-Military Entertainment Complex, and buy Operation Hollywood: &c., &c. at Amazon.
    Watch the Pentagon's greatest cinematic success, Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line on DVD. [What? You say they didn't do that one??]

    September 22, 2004

    Wong Kar Wai talks about 2046

    2046 barely screened at Cannes, after the director hand-carried the not-quite-finished print to the rebooked theatre. Now it's being released in the UK, and it turns out Wong has actually re-edited it since May.

    Read Howard Feinstein's interview with WKW and his recounting of the tortured making of in the Guardian

    "It was like being in jail" [Guardian UK]

    Related: I, too, delivered an unfinished film to Cannes, a fact I mention because of the deep, meaningful resonance between Wong Kar Wai's films and career and my own.

    September 22, 2004

    Faster, Pussycat! Shill! Shill!

    Do whatever it takes. Kill the whole friggin' space program. Put NASA out of business; my wife can find another job. Bankrupt the entire airline industry, and ground every plane. I don't care.

    Just please, Xeni, please stop it with the PR pablum from some zero-G plane that last made the news during the shooting of Apollo 11. It wasn't interesting when Howard, Hanks & Bacon blabbed on about it, either, but at least they stopped after the movie came out. Unless you're going to ride a on-loan-from-Marketing Segway in a parabolic arc, get off the plane; the flight landed a long time ago.

    "Previous BB posts: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1." [BoingBoing: Xeni Flies Zero-G #10]

    Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! director Russ Meyer went tits up over the weekend; students of his rather buxom body of work will recognize his fondness for this position.

    My greatest Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon triumph was connecting FPKK's Tura Satana to Kevin Bacon, via Herve Villechaise, which was possible only with the help of the then-little-known

    Russ Meyer's Obituary, with nice quotes from fan John Waters & screenwriter Roger Ebert [LA Times]
    Try it yourself: Faster, Pussycat! [IMDb]
    Don't mess with her copyrights. Seriously. []

    September 22, 2004

    More Thanatos, Please

    eros_wkw.jpgSpeaking of Wong Kar Wai... Eros is a compilation of three great directors' short films on the subject of, well, eros, love, and sex.

    Early reports from Toronto say that Wong's is the only segment that's right. The others, by Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni, sound like a $5 handjob at the Port Authority and that 15 minutes window before the Spectravision hits your hotel room bill, respectively.

    Apparently, the only reason to not leave after WKW's short is the haunting Caetano Veloso song, "Michelangelo Antonioni," which bridges the last two films. It's a wonderful song, to be sure; I'd contemplated using it in the opening scene of my first short, but it was too heavy. I first replaced it with the Pink Floyd bongos from the opening of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point.

    I mention this because of the deep, meaningful connections between Soderbergh's, Antonioni's and my own work.

    Wong Kar-Wai dominates uneven Eros [Peter Brunette, Indiewire]
    According to the Italian producer's site, the whole thing was producer Stephane Tchal Gadjieff and Antonioni's trophy wife Enrica's idea. [Fandango, no, not that Fandango]

    Whatever it takes to get the story, I guess. A serious shoutout to the Times' Sharon Waxman, who had my boy David O. Russell [boxers, not that anyone asked] rub up against her on the set of I Heart Huckabee's.

    That's the tip of the antics iceberg, though. Check out Waxman's report covering the last 18 months of the production.

    Interestingly, she's very cagey about the finished product itself. She was very circumspect on the reactions at a cast/family/friends screening. Meanwhile, the film seems to be rocking 'em in Toronto.

    The Nudist Buddhist Borderline-Abusive Love-In [Sharon Waxman, NYT]
    Tom Hall ♥'s I ♥ H [Indiewire, via Greencine]

    [9/22 Update: Defamer reports [sic] that D.O. is P.O.'ed about Waxman's NYT article; seems he thought she was writing a book. Which, technically, is true. It's called Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System.]

    In the magazine header, image:
    Issue of 2004-09-27
    Posted 2004-09-20

    COMMENT/ THE POLITICAL WAR/ George Packer on why Iraq isnít hurting the President.
    THE BENCH/ DELETED/ Jeffrey Toobin on the history of wartime freedom of speech.
    PUBLICATION DAY/ SWING VOTER/ Adam Green drives around New York with Kitty Kelley.
    PARTISANS/ BIG CHEESE/ Blake Eskin on political dairy products.
    THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ PENNY WISE/ James Surowiecki on selling to the poor.

    SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Ian Frazier/ Hooked
    PROFILES/ Judith Thurman/ The Candidate's Wife/ Will Teresa Heinz Kerry make a difference?
    FICTION/ Zadie Smith/ "Hanwell in Hell"
    LETTER FROM IBIZA/ Nick Paumgarten/ The Shoot/ Mert and Marcus on the island of sirens.

    A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Ruth Franklin/ A Life in Good Taste/ The fashions and follies of Elsie de Wolfe.
    BOOKS/ John Updike/ Two's a Crowd/ A new novel from a Portuguese veteran.
    THE THEATRE/ John Lahr/ Collateral Damage/ David Hare on the march to war in Iraq.
    MUSCIAL EVENTS/ Alex Ross/ Warhorses/ Vital new recordings of Mozart, Bach, and bel canto.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Ghosts/ "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Shaun of the Dead."

    PROFILES/ Janet Flanner/ Handsprings Across the Sea/ A profile of Elsie de Wolfe, by the writer of the magazine's Letters From Paris from 1925 to 1974 (Nice work if you can get it)/ Issue of 1938-01-15

    My apologies for mistakenly calling the explorateurs urbains of La Mexicaine de Perforation cataphiles. In an interview on NPR, filmmaker Lazar Kunsman, the group's spokesMexicain, explained that cataphiles are "more like nerds," who just wander around underground without doing anything. Explorateurs, meanwhile, are seeking to produce new forms of creative expression, to create a viable, engaging alternative to the sterile, mainstream culture found aboveground.

    So next time you run into a guy in the catacombs, just ask, "Why the hell did Harvey sit on Hero for so long?"

    NPR interview with La Mexicaine de Perforation [audio posted after 1pm EST]
    Previous subterranean cinema posts, including a partial film programme

    September 18, 2004

    Bad Architecture (in Beijing)

    China's building boom may throw up a Rem Koolhaas now and then, but most of the time, it just looks like it's throwing up.

    Now, bad Chinese architecture has a home, BadJianZhu. Paul Wingfield, co-founder of the site, promises buildings with "a grandiose quality, a fantastical or monumental kind of aspiration that makes them worth recording." Plus plenty of "Copies derived from copies, kitsch derived from kitsch."

    To be honest, a lot of it looks like the highway from DC to Dulles.

    Visit BadJianZhu at
    via Christopher Hawthorne's NYT article, "Beijing's Truly Bad Buildings"

    Richard Kelly was on Fresh Air last week to discuss the director's cut of Donnie Darko, which is platforming out into theaters now.

    Who noted that theatrical re-release is fast becoming a standard marketing element for a remastered or new-version DVD?

    Listen to Richard Kelly's interview [9/7/04, 12 min., NPR]
    Buy the old DVD version on Amazon, while supplies last ["Customers also bought Requiem for a Dream, Lost in Translation, Kill Bill and Pi"? Yeah, no kidding.]

    September 17, 2004

    Libeskind Documentary on VPRO

    [via archinect] Two extensive interviews with Daniel Libeskind--one contemporary, one from 1997, when he was working on the Berlin Jewish Museum--form the core of Rob Schr–der's documentary for VPRO, the cool Dutch TV network.

    1997 Libeskind's almost unrecognizable, the earnest academic geek you suspected was lurking behind those trying-a-bit-too-hard black frames. Except for a segment on the V&A extension (which was just cancelled, it turns out), the rest of the film tries directly or indirectly to understand Libeskind's relationship to the World Trade Center redevelopment.

    It does this in an extremely roundabout, understated way; there's no narration, no interviewer, only the words of DL and a couple of critics. But when interwoven with the well-known conflicts over the WTC and Freedom Tower, discussions of the sentimentalist kitsch Jewish Museum and the concurrent, massive redevelopment of Potzdammerplatz, which was studding Berlin with failed skyscrapers by trophy architects, have a disappointing resonance. We should've known.

    As it turns out, of course, Libeskind's own footprints downtown are so faint, all New York will be left with is its own crappy version of Potzdammerplatz.

    Daniel Libeskind: A True Believer directed by Rob Schroder [Stream the whole thing at VPRO, in English]

    f-newyork.jpgMission Accomplished (aka f***newyork, the name of the .mov file) was the hi-larious (so true, though, we're only laughing on the outside) video of a gang of private school wiggaz telling it like it was about the RNC takeover of the city.

    While the rest of the world just sat back and laughed at it, the folks at hip hop music tracked down the film's creators, writer Sam Marks and director Max Rockatansky (aka Matt Lenski) for an interview. It's great stuff, even if they do use the N-word. And the F-word. And a bunch of other words. A lot.

    The Guys Behind the F***NewYork Video []
    Google "f***", but not with asterisks to find the file.
    [via Anil]

    September 16, 2004

    Now THAT'S a Health Care Crisis

    "As for her walking barefoot, The Doctor's orders are for her to wear Uggs or tennis shoes and it's just too hot for that."

    Uggs? Uggs??? You might as well bleed her to rebalance her humeurs. Mrs. Spears.

    [via Defamer, who keeps track of Britney's toilet footwear so you don't have to. Unless you work for InStyle, in which case, it's your job, and what your parents shelled out $140,000 so you could go to Brown for. They must be so proud.]

    "At one point, when we saw him, he was modestly introducing himself to ELEANOR COPPOLA.

    "'Hi, I'm Jim Caviezel,' he said. 'I played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.'

    "Then they talked, appropriately enough, we thought, about wine."
    - Boldface Names report from the THX 1138 party at the Guggenheim, NYT 09/16/04

    September 14, 2004

    A Handy Vanuatu Phrasebook

    Slate's Kevin Arnovitz reveals some of the jargon he learned on the "set" during his brief stint as a "writer" on a reality TV series. One example:

    OTF (n) ["On the Fly"]: A quick, impromptu interview of a reality show contestant intended to convey the contestant's emotions and actions in the moment, as opposed to the more reflective sit-down interview. An OTF is always shot with a handheld camera, sometimes even in motionówhile walking and talkingóand often in a moving vehicle.
    Virtual Dictionary - a guide to the language of reality TV [Kevin Arnovitz, Slate]

    September 14, 2004

    A Hen in the Foxhouse

    Arist Monica Bonvicini will participate in a panel discussion at Art Forum Berlin, the giant art fair, next week. Her co-panelists: gallerist Joe Amrhein, and collectors Harald Falckenberg and Mera & Don Rubell. The moderator is Marc Spiegler, an srt writer who made this sort of trouble at Basel, too.

    The Topic: "Bigger! Faster! Out of control! Does today's Art Market devour Artists?"

    From the description: "Since the early 1990s, the art market has been rocked by change. There are many more collectors today, buying more aggressively. The role of the gallery is being radically transformed (and even threatened) by the surging number of fairs, biennials and contemporary auctions. Artists are treated like popstars and their audience often suffers from Neophilia, a constant craving for the new...Is this a permanent transformation or just a 'Live Fast, Die Young' phenomenon, dooming us for a crash and destined to yield only ephemeral art?"

    Be sure to bring a pen (to jot down the names of hot new artists) and your checkook. Art Forum Berlin, 9/21 @ 1730 (that's 5:30 to you, pal)

    In the magazine header, image:
    Issue of 2004-09-20
    Posted 2004-09-13

    COMMENT/ PRISONERS OF THE CAUCASUS/ David Remnick on the familiarity of Russiaís Chechnya problem.
    DOWN THE STRETCH/ CONVENTIONAL WISDOM/ Ben McGrath compares the Red Sox and the Yankees to Democrats and Republicans.
    THE HOME FRONT/ NAMES/ William Finnegan at a vigil for the first thousand troops who died in Iraq.
    DEPT. OF FOREIGN RELATIONS/ THE BORAT DOCTRINE/ Daniel Radosh reviews some televised misconceptions about Kazakhstan.
    BEQUESTS/ A HANDYMANíS GIFT/ Tad Friend tracks a troublesome inheritance.

    SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Patricia Marx/ The Undecided
    ANNALS OF LAW/ Jeffrey Toobin/ Poll Position/ John Ashcroft redefines voting rights.
    FICTION/Joyce Carol Oates/ "Spider Boy"

    BOOKS/ Counterlives/ Joan Acocella/ Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America."
    A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Leo Carey/ The Genuine Article/ The strange case of Kyril Bonfiglioli.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Identity Crisis/ "Wicker Park" and "Infernal Affairs."

    ANNALS OF DEMOCRACY/ Ronnie Dugger/ Counting Votes/ An early, and thorough, look at the pitfalls of computerized voting./ Issue of 1988-11-07

    The Bible's Greatest Miracles. Yes, before he donned a wig in Erin Brockovich, but after his breakout performances in Neil Labute's In The Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors (and a supporting role in Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday), Aaron Eckhart, sporting a wig that must have required a lot of faith, played an almost Stoppardian Samson in this 1999 made-for-PaxTV documentary.

    I remember stopping dead in my channel surfing tracks when I saw my former BYU classmate, New York neighbor and fellow parishioner, and ex-boyfriend of my good friend, doing an Old Testament John Wayne on what looked like the Egyptian set of Dr. Who. My kingdom for a video capture.

    But don't just take my word for the power of this film. Grizzly Adams witnesses best:

    History's most spectacular miracles and claims. . .but are they true? Bible scholars and skeptics examine four of the Bible's greatest mysteries--David and Goliath; Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; and the story of strongman Samson and Delilah--to determine if they are myth or reality. Watch dramatic re-creations of Bible events, expert testimony, and conclusive scientific experiments that put these Bible stories to the test. See compelling new evidence that the Bible is indeed factual and trustworthy!
    Bonus: the script was written by David Balsiger, who just wow'ed em in Dallas.

    Buy The Bible's Greatest Miracles on DVD, direct from Grizzly Adams Productions, for $19.95.

    What's with all the film festivals this time of year (Venice, Telluride, Toronto, NY, American Film Renaissance)? If you haven't heard of that last one, [Their slogan: "Doing films the right way"] for heaven's sake don't tell anyone; they'll know you're not one of them.

    AFR is a conservative film festival full of true believers; Bryan Curtis, who must've drawn the short festival coverage straw over at Slate, does a bangup job of unpacking the messages of this obscure, oppressed, voiceless underclass.

    After laughing endlessly at cruel Michael Moore fat jokes, Curtis reports how the crowd grew uneasy and confused at David Balsiger's screening. The head of Grizzly Adams productions, Balsiger greenlighted his company's latest film, on George Bush's faith, after commissioning Gallup polls on what's hot with big swaths of Middle America. Yay, Capitalism? Wha? You'd think these people hadn't seen Austin Powers.

    Sundance for Republicans [Bryan Curtis, Slate]
    American Film Renaissance [what, no invocation?]
    Grizzly Adams film and television

    That's the Louvre and a city bus in a still from Lelouch's Rendezvous, image:

    And I thought Ronin had the most jaw-dropping Parisian car chase scene.

    In August 1976, French director Claude Lelouch (who, it turns out, did the French segment of 11"09'01, the one where the deaf chick decides to break up with her boyfriend at 9:59 or something) had 9 minutes of film, a Ferrari 275 GTB, a gyro-stabilized camera and mount, and an idea.

    He set a route through the center of Paris, from Porte Dauphine, through the Louvre and up to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, strapped the camera on the bumper, and drove flat out through the (somewhat empty) early morning streets.

    Rendezvous is the one-take artifact of that insane and illegal trip. Not technically a chase scene, maybe it should be called a race scene. It's the verite equivalent of the Hollywood-staged Sunset Blvd race in Against All Odds, and it ranks with the likes of Peter Yates' Bullitt and Friedkin's The French Connection for best car chase scenes ever.

    With one difference: the obvious danger to bystanders during Rendezvous throws peoples' moral compasses out of whack. Some, like neonrebel, get all hot for the film, then suddenly turn all critical and judgmental, like a self-hating preacher after scoring a hooker. Others, like a writer for The Daily Express, show amazing lack of judgment when he calls the film "an automotive equivalent of September 11th footage."

    Now you, too, can hate yourself in the morning; after decades underground, C'Etait Un Rendezvous is now available on DVD.

    Buy Spirit Level Film's release of Rendezvous for $28.95 from Chasecam. Read neonrebel's review. [via the Sachs Report? Why didn't you tell me about him before?]

    [9/17 update: Lelouch has performed another stunt this week, offering free nationwide screenings for his latest film, Les Parisiens, which got panned by critics.]

    September 13, 2004

    Tony Scott's first report from Toronto really gives you a feel for the festival's sprawl and cinematic frenzy, where you feel like you're missing movies more than watching them. Meanwhile, he only mentions one film, and he mentions the hell out of it: Gunner Palace, Mike Tucker and Petra Epperlein's documentary about US soldiers' lives in Baghad. Here's a taste:

    Gunner Palace is so startling because it suggests - it shows - just how complicated the reality of this war has been. It may not change your mind, but it will certainly deepen your perception and challenge your assumptions, whatever they may be. I hope "Gunner Palace" makes its way quickly from this festival to American theaters, because it is not a movie anyone should miss.
    Sure, but did you like it?

    Sex, War, and Hype at Toronto Festival of Films [A.O. Scott, NYT]
    See a trailer and clips at

    So Tony Scott and Manohla Dargis, his new partner in film reviewing, handicap the fall movie season in today's NYT. Now about the new kid: she praises David O. Russell and Alexander Payne in the same sentence, so she can't be entirely, irredeemably, Joyce Wadler-style crazy, but the only possible explanation I can come up with is it's a cry for help:

    Even if Before Sunset doesn't make huge sacks of money, it will probably be one of the best if not the best film [Warner Brothers] puts out this year. It's too small to get Oscar recognition, because those dolts in the academy rarely look at a movie that tiny, but big Warners has to understand that this movie has great worth.
    Before Sunset just about drove me INSANE. Those two jabbery narcissists deserved each other; the Ethan Hawke character's invisible wife must plop into a Calgon bath as soon as he walks out the door for his book tour.

    Did someone mention walking? I haven't seen such a pointless randonnee since Gerry. But with its incessant, empty banter, Before Sunset is almost the exact opposite of Van Sant's nearly dialogue-free buddy pic. Before Sunset is the anti-Gerry. And you've gotta pick your poison; you're either a Gerry person or a Before Sunset person. Unless you're Manohla Dargis, who apparently loved both. Move over, Joyce.

    The Best Movies We've Never Seen [NYT A&L]

    Related: on Gerry

    September 12, 2004


    The Village Voice's Dennis Lim discusses the Alan Clarke Collection, a box set DVD from Blue Underground which includes four of the British director's roughest, late-career films. The one you'll get it for is Elephant, Clarke's 1989 story of senseless killings in Northern Ireland, which gave Gus Van Sant the title, "not to mention the formal and emotional strategy" for his own Cannes-winning Columbine-inspired film.


    Set in a grim, emptied-out Belfast of cavernous warehouses and expansive parking lots, Elephant stages, minus context and clarification, one killing after another. Almost wordless and purposefully numbing, the film alternates between queasy motion (someone walks, walks, walks, and the Steadicam follows) and sickening stillness (someone is shot, and the camera likewise stops dead in its tracks). Clarke's masterpiece, Elephant is detached and diagrammatic to the point of abstractionóit pares a cycle of senseless violence down to cruel, anonymous geometry.
    Get some Clarke-ian context from Lim's article [Village Voice]
    Buy The Alan Clarke Collection at
    Buy Gus Van Sant's 2003 Elephant at

    September 12, 2004

    Time Lapsing at the WTC Site

    Jim Whitaker is the director of a documentary in the making of the changes taking place at the World Trade Center site. Project Rebirth, as it's called, has been taking time lapse imagery from various cameras perched on buildings surrounding the site since the Spring of 2002, after most debris was cleared away from The Bathtub.

    Now, in time for the third anniversary of the attacks, they've released a trailer, some time lapse segments, and a webcam. Begun with an imperative to capture History and only a bare conception of what it might actually look like, the filmmakers added street-level and firehouse cameras later on.

    Which is interesting, because by definition, human presence, the individual, is rendered invisible in a multi-year time lapse. Like Hiroshi Sugimoto's movie screen photographs, which are exposed for the duration of a film. Technically, the resulting image "contains" all the information in the film, but the screen itself is pure white. Meanwhile, the minutest details of the theaters--architecture, seats, stages, curtains--emerge from the darkness only because of the projected film.

    Ground Zero, The Long View [Sarah Boxer, NYT]

    The Guardian's Jon Henley talks with members of La Mexicaine de Perforation, the urban explorers group who built and operated a cinema in a 4,000-sf uncharted quarry 60 feet under the Place de Chaillot in Paris. They called the cinema Les Arenes de Chaillot.

    During the seven-week season, the Mexicans screened films by "Chinese and Korean directors but also Alex Proyas' Dark City, Coppola's Rumble Fish, David Lynch's Eraserhead, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

    Clandestine group reveals how it built its cinema beneath the city [Guardian UK]

    Holy Moley, damn, wow, whoa, this is possibly the coolest thing I've ever heard: a full-scale modern movie theater was discovered in an uncharted underground amphitheater carved out of the catacombs of Paris. It's near Trocadero, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Cinematheque.

    After French police stumbled across it during a training exercise, they returned with officials from the electric company, only to find the power and phone lines had been cut. A note on the floor read, "Do not try to find us."

    Police found tapes (helas, not prints) of "a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir classics and more recent thrillers." Check back for a detailed program; I'm on the story.
    According to radio interviews, a "cataphile" group called the Perforating Mexicans is claiming responsibility for the cinema. Don't worry, the PM said, there are "a dozen more where that one came from." [via BoingBoing]

    In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema [Guardian UK]

    [update: RTL Radio didn't speak with a Perforating Mexicans member, but with Patrick Alt [sic, his name's Saletta], an author/photographer and expert on the catacombs. His 1990 book, "A la dÈcouverte des souterrains de Paris," ("Discovering the Paris Underground") is apparently a bible of explorateurs urbains.

    They also spoke to director Lazar Kunsman, whose short films were screened in the cinema. He's a friend of the group, known in French as "La Mexicaine de Perforation." The cinema, he claimed, was part of a "multiplexe," known as "Les ArËnes de Chaillot," {The Chaillot Arenas). Still no specifics on the programming choices, and Kunsman doesn't show up anywhere in the Monde Googlique.

    Un cinÈma souterrain a ÈtÈ dÈcouvert [RTL Radio, in French, audio, too]
    Another article mentioning "Alt"/Saletta [Agence France Presse, in English]
    Sexy underground photos of Paris's Sewer Museum []]

    [10/3 update: Read more on the meaning behind "La Mexicaine de Perforation"]

    September 7, 2004

    Like Watching Wallpaper Dry

    Wallpaper* founding editor Tyler Brule will host and produce The Desk, BBC4's "long awaited media show," a media-gazing TV gig even more prestigious than, say, Topic A with Tina Brown.

    Brule's strategy for getting the slot may give a hint of what to come; according to the Guardian, Brule first had to beat off some stiff challengers, and "he also beat off other more experienced media experts including Loaded founder James Wheeler, author Paul Morley and Newsnight's Kirsty Wark."

    Apparently, so many people wanted to try their hand at the low-paying job because it's been a stepping stone for careers in television. I was going to try to squeeze a couple more jokes out of this, but I think I'll stop here.

    Wallpaper man wraps up BBC media role [Media Guardian, via mediabistro]
    It takes a village planner, Brule's imaginary neighborhood shop-a-thon for NYT's T

    In the magazine header, image:
    Issue of 2004-09-13
    Posted 2004-09-06
    COMMENT/ IN MODERATION/ Hendrik Hertzberg compares the face of the Republican Party to its platform.
    DEPT. OF DISCOURSE/ CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE/ Ben McGrath roams the Republican Convention.
    GIVERS/ MONEY HONEYS/ Lillian Ross rubs elbows with the rhinestone Republicans.
    ON THE AIR/ YOUNG AMERICANS/ Dana Goodyear on a group of preteen pundits.

    CAMPAIGN JOURNAL/ Philip Gourevitch/ Bushspeak/ How the President works the crowds.
    SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Paul Rudnick/ Running Mates
    PROFILES/ David Remnick/ The Wilderness Campaign/ Al Gore, four years later.
    FICTION/ Marilynne Robinson/ "Kansas"

    BOOKS/ Thomas Mallon/ Golden Boy/ The life and letters of Truman Capote.
    A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Adam Gopnik/ Will Power/ Why Shakespeare remains the necessary poet.
    THE SKY LINE/ Paul Goldberger/ Homes of the Stars/ A high-profile suburb for the Hamptons.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Journeys
    Vincent Gallo's new movie, and an F. W. Murnau retrospective.

    OUR FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS/ Truman Capote/ A Ride Through Spain/ Capote's first piece for the magazine/ Issue of 1950-09-02

    ONLINE ONLY/ An interview with Paul Goldberger.
    ONLINE ONLY: Q & A/ A Writer's Time/ Marilynne Robinson discusses her first piece of fiction in two decades.

    not_my_type_iv_lycette.gifAlso worth checking out from Strange Attractors is Mark & John Lycette's Not My Type IV. Although it dates from 2002, it's just started getting attention and awards from festivals this year.

    The Lycettes' Not My Type series uses typographic elements to create pared down characters and landscapes. A comma becomes a teardrop falling from o-within-O eyes, for example. Very smart, not cheesy stuff; it's the best animated typography since Donald visited Mathmagicland.

    That said, the pacing drags a little; when the protagonist gets annoyed at the whining leafblower, you feel something stronger than just empathy. Very nice stuff that makes me want to see I-III.

    Not My Type IV by the Lycette Brothers [Strange Attractors, ABC]
    Lycette Bros. studio site
    Developing a Storyboard [Note: that untraceable typewriter sound is coming from an embedded Flash image waayy down the page that looks just like the jpgs around it. Flash is the new midi, apparently.]

    qing_the_way.jpgStrange Attractors is a showcase of short films by 12 Victoria (Australia) animation artists sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. It looks very promising, in that "utter absence of commercial pressure=trippier than normal animation" kind of way.

    Surfing through the offerings, bios and highly particular technical/instructional articles, the first film I decided to watch was Qing Huang's The Way.

    The Way is a beautiful 3-d cgi transformation of traditional Chinese painting that explores the Taoist's view of art and nature. Although it's all done in Maya, not actual stop action animation, it reminds me of the best aspects of William Kentridge's work (i.e., the unification of technique and aesthetic, drawing/erasing and brushstroke, not the heavy-handed political melodrama.)

    Watch it before reading Qing's meticulously conceived philosophical approach to the project, if only to realize how, unlike so many of Kentrige's works, the Big Message doesn't overwhelm the film's expert, enjoyable lyricism.

    Strange Attractor [lo-band entry, easier than flash, via MeFi]
    Painterly Effects in Maya, by Qing Huang [Strange Attractor, ABC]

    I just assume that everyone knows about, Kevin A. Kelly's up-to-the-minute online programming guide for public radio stations.

    The more I listen to radio online, the more frequently I find myself crafting my own programming schedule; I'll listen to All Things Considered on Pacific Time, and This American Life and other weekend programs whenever I want by finding a fresh stream from some station, somewhere. The only problem is when you get in the car, and the local station is playing a show you've already heard.

    September 5, 2004

    Scott Sforza's The Passion

    sforzian_cross.jpg, via NYT
    Cross? Check. Jew? Check. Gavel? Check. via NYT

    "President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, told CNN he did not think the podium's decorative woodwork looked like a cross.

    "'My God, where do they come up with this stuff?' he said. 'Does it look to you like it's a cross? I don't think so.'"
    - Jewish Groups Irked by Cross on Republican Podium [Reuters, 9/1/04]

    And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
    - Luke 8:10, KJV
    "Beside the podium is the gavel stand [which holds a gavel, the symbol of judgment, oh, and by the way, Jesus is the Judge. -g] constructed of wood panels, with lighter shades in the center in the shape of a cross -- the Christian symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus." [Reuters]

    Not to be all nit-picky, but since Jesus Himself makes the distinction: if that gavel stand symbolizes Christ The Judge, then the speaker is on His Left Hand.

    [via The Revealer]

    September 5, 2004

    Zen Lawn

    Driving up the foothills to my mother's house in Salt Lake City, you pass a nearly unbroken carpet of lawn, with the thickened, careful edges at the sidewalks that only result from successive generations of earnest teenage entrepreneurs. A couple of segments may be slightly paler than others, whether from mild chintziness, drought guilt, or extended vacation, but the pride everyone takes in their expensive land and expansive valley views is apparent.

    Right before the turn, though, is an anomaly. A stunning--but not harsh, not at all--break in the manicured monotony. Technically, it's in front of a house, so it's a yard, but in place of the grass, there's a riot of wildflowers and waist-high plants. A couple of old fir trees tower over the field, and yes, there's a house, a driveway, a garage, all well-kept. There's a feeling of wildness, randomness--and beauty, sure, amazing beauty, but dubiously uncontrollable--it looks, well, natural, which is unsettling.

    And understandably so. Lawns--especially front lawns--are the verdant metric for judging your suburban neighbor's wealth, values, community spirit, their character, their worth. And how are you supposed do to that if they don't even have one?

    Clearly, I had to ask my mom. Turns out the elderly couple had lived in that house for years. They were still listed as members of the Church (i.e., the one on the corner, to which well over half the neighborhood belongs), but they hadn't been in years.

    "Someone said she'd become a Zen Buddhist, or was studying Zen or something. They're both in their eighties. She would be out there, working in that yard all the time," my mom said. "Pulling out trees, digging out roots, rocks, I mean she worked to clear that soil.

    "She was out there almost every day for more than two years. This is the first year it's finally looked like that."

    "Wow," I said.

    "Then in April, she died."

    Laying up treasures on earth vs. treasures in heaven, etc. The Mormon in me recognized the sad lesson to be learned. But to a Buddhist, I thought, it'd be just fine.

    hurricane_garbagebag_dechillo.jpg"We are starting to go buggy, just getting on one another's nerves," Mrs Mildred Mauney, 81, told The New York Times, after spending the night with some strangers in a classroom-turned-shelter in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

    Whatever, Millie. Join the club. Mrs. Mauney's must-have accessory for evacuating their mobile home, an inflated trash bag, reminded me of a Bill Cunningham snap of hard-core fashion muse Isabella Blow that was used to illustrate a NYT street photography story in 2002.

    I can't believe that just two years ago, I would've mused so hard on Walter Benjamin, Jean Paul Gaultier, "accidental" street photography, and documentary film staging.

    "Well, you have to be a nut, kid." [, oct. 2002]

    I dunno, but from readin' his notes, I have to guess it'd be a helluva lot smarter 'n funnier than what anyone else's doin':

    "...Sony has apparently sponsored the protests. Everyone has a video camera, and every secondís worth recording. I feel for the protest film editors, back in the yurts drinking Red Bull."

    (Apologies for the vernacular. Like George Bush, I pump up my accent when I'm trying to score political points with the masses.)

    Notes From Protests Around New York [TMN]

    September 2, 2004

    Triumph of the W.

    So you're saying, if you suspend habeas corpus and pre-emptively arrest hundreds of pedestrians, I'll be able to drive my Mercedes [sic] to the Upper East Side from the Holland Tunnel in 10 minutes every day? I have to confess, it's a seductive proposition.

    [First they came for the carless, yet I did nothing...]

    triumph_pataki.jpg used from reuters via yahoo

    And while I'm watching the giant flag behind George Patton Pataki--It's rippling!-- I'm thinking, "gots to get me one of those 3-story high monitors."

    [Then, they came for the flatscreenless, yet I did nothing...]

    Then, when the guy who plays the Giuliani-style right-wing DA on L&O starts narrating a Bush video--I'm all, ah, a slide show; the resolution on that monitor probably can't handle full motion--the photographs seem strangely alive, with an intensified depth of field. And movement? Naw...


    Oh my hell, talk about seductive. This full-blown cult of personality film is using a more sophisticated version of the entrancing photo-animation technique developed for The Kid Stays in The Picture, the ultimate self-deluded, "so seductive who care's how much of it's true" Hollywood insider documentary. They've turned Robert Evans and Graydon Carter against themselves--and the whole celebrity-worshipping country--and made them bow to George W. and His Will.

    [Then they came for the DVD-less, yet I did nothing...]

    Scott Sforza, you are truly worthy to be called the Leni Riefenstahl of your generation.

    [And then they came for me, and there was no one left.]

    Dude, I really wish you'd skip right to making movies about fish.

    Irene Lacher writes in the NYT about the influx of film directors to the operatic stage. Lacher likes her movie directos old and in hollywood; she mentions Garry Marshall, William Friedkin, Robert Altman. Sure, Julie Taymor, who was directing operas long before Disney got her to direct Lion King...on Broadway, which was before she directed an actual film. And Scorsese, who's repeatedly told the Met the opera can wait as he heeds the camera's call.

    And she likes her opera small and local. Baz Luhrman gets a parenthetical, but then, he only directed La Boheme, TWICE. Zhang Yimou's mentioned in passing, but, oddly, not for either of his spectacular Turandot stagings.

    And film's biggest opera divas, meanwhile, are left talking to the hand: Lars von Trier's high profile abandonment of Bayreuth (doesn't Wagner still count as opera? I mean, come on, Viking chicks? Hello?) gets nothing. And a movie/opera article without even a hint of Peter Greenaway, whose movie-opera-website-installation art synesthesia made him the tiresome eminence grise of the genre? As W. says, we've turned a corner.

    The Camera Can Wait: Directors Hear Opera's Call [NYT]

    [update: Barry/Bloggy also points out another director who's operatic dabblings don't register in Hollywood never heard of in Hollywood: Luchino Visconti. So he revived Donizetti at La Scala with Maria Callas. What's he done lately?]

    So how did there come to be street signs for the Spiral Jetty?

    For years, the only way to see Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty was from the air, or in a photograph, or in the artist's own making-of film, which was plenty for 99.9% of art worlders and normals alike.

    When the Jetty first re-emerged from the Great Salt Lake in 1994, only a few people knew about it, and even fewer actually took the trouble to drive out and see it. But appetites were whetted, and conceptual art was intersecting with an Easy Rider-meets-Wild, Wild West road trip in just the right slightly adventurous, hip enough way that when it resurfaced again in 2002, visiting the Jetty quickly went from curator-esoteric to art-world-must-see to mainstream.

    September 1, 2004

    Artforum's Number One Top Ten

    Whoa. Choire Sicha has gone all Kit Carruthers on Artforum's monthly Top Ten list; it's truly a site to behold. Usually, even the brainiest people have a hard time coming up with ten relevant things to say, and they pack it with esoteric crap or their friend's website or something.

    Choire doesn't--um, actually, he does. There's esoteric crap ("Remember that awesome Amy Globus video shown last winter at Gorney Bravin + Lee, with two octopuses sucking their way through some weird see-through aquarium tubing while Emmylou Harris and Neil Young sang 'Wrecking Ball'?") and his friend's website (Paul Ford's Ftrain). Just this time, it's good.

    Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

    comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
    greg [at] greg [dot ] org

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from September 2004, in reverse chronological order

    Older: August 2004

    Newer October 2004

    recent projects, &c.

    Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
    about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

    Social Medium:
    artists writing, 2000-2015
    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
    ed. by Jennifer Liese
    buy, $28

    Madoff Provenance Project in
    'Tell Me What I Mean' at
    To__Bridges__, The Bronx
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    Chop Shop
    at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
    curated by Magda Sawon
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    eBay Test Listings
    Armory – ABMB 2015
    about | proposte monocrome, rose

    It Narratives, incl.
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    Franklin Street Works, Stamford
    Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
    about | link

    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

    Standard Operating Procedure
    about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

    CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
    Canal Zone Richard Prince
    YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
    Decision, plus the Court's
    Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
    about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

    "Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
    Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
    about, brochure | installation shots

    HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
    Printed Matter, NYC
    Summer 2012
    panel &c.

    Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
    background | making of
    "Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

    Canal Zone Richard
    Prince YES RASTA:
    Selected Court Documents
    from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
    about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99