Harrison Ford in a tuxedo Meryl Streep, Yale grad

Film critic Anthony Lane is writing the diary at Slate. So far, it's been torrid accounts of the perils of writing. It's pretty suspenseful stuff, journaling as a pitch/plea for giving Lane the Charlie Kaufman Treatment. (Kaufman wrote the screenplay adaptation of Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief, which became Adaptation, starring Ms Meryl Streep as Ms Orlean.) Vivid imagery, action movie material, even. Tuesday, rewrite day, for instance:

"If this [my Tuesday as a New Yorker writer] were an Indiana Jones movie, I would merely have proceeded to the next plank in the creaking, swaying rope bridge over a ravine. Below me, the crocodiles gape. One more pace, twice as fraught, will bring me to the fact-checking department, into whose miasmic maw writers far stronger than I have disappeared, their cries fading into the dark. Pray God that I come out alive.

(There's much more of this in the book, Nobody's Perfect: Selected Writings from the New Yorker. We should have breakfast about it. London? Fine. Tea.) I enjoy Lane's writing. A favorite is his 1997 report from Cannes [Yeah, I got the book, hardcover. When you've been throwing out the paperback version every week, what can you do? Just buy it!]:
...at Cannes, unlike anywhere else, the act of waiting justifies what you are waiting for, and deepens your need to get there. I wandered around town for two full days in a tuxedo, feeling like the world's most underused gigolo, for no other reason than to smooth my path into screenings of films from which I would normally run a mile.

Hmmm. Get me Richard Gere on the phone...

Richard Gere on the phone

Three clothing-optionalists and one writer on the set of Starship Troopers
On the set of Starship Troopers: DP Jost Vocano,
director Paul Verhoeven, star Casper Van Dien, writer Ed Neumeier

Yesterday's NY Times Magazine is a veritable toolbox (and I use that word deliberately) for film, all you want to know, and more. First, what you want to know: There's the Cinderella-story of indie director Joe Carnahan's tremendous success on the Bel-Air Circuit, where Narc, his ignored-at-Sundance cop flick became the favorite film of (among others) Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford.

And the more: The "How to..." section provides expert opinion on potentially tricky subjects, all in a neat little package. Here's a quote from Paul Verhoeven's How to Shoot a Nude Scene:

When I did Starship Troopers, the cast was balking about going through with a group shower scene. So I took off all my clothes. And my director of photography did also. It worked, because everybody started laughing, and then they got naked. And we didn't hear anymore complaints.

You can read reviews of Verhoeven's piece at CNdb, the Celebrity Nudity Database.

November 4, 2002

Some Quotes and Links

"Asbury's book is a tribute to the magical power of naming: long stretches of 'Gangs [of New York]' are taken up by lists of gangs and villains and even fire engines, and, like the lists of ships in the Iliad, they are essential to the effect...We read of Daybreak Boys, Buckoos, Hookers, Swamp Angels, Slaughter Housers, Short Tails, Patsy Conroys, and the Border Gang, of Chichesters, Roach Guards, Plug Uglies, and Shirt Tails, and we melt."
-- Adam Gopnik discussing Herbert Asbury's cult-fave 1928 book in the New Yorker

"What you really are afraid of is that you're competing against somebody who is rich and irrational. I mean, it used to be a given, a saying in the industry: Don't ever bid against Rupert Murdoch for anything Rupert wants, because if you win you lose. You will have paid way too much."
-- media mogul John Malone, in an interview with Ken Auletta at NewYorker.com

"Just as Italians don't translate Johnny Cash as 'Giovanni Soldi,' and we don't take Federico Fellini and rename him 'Freddy Cats,' so the term Arte Povera has to stand unchanged and unexplained."
-- Blake Gopnik, brother, writing (entertainingly but incorrectly) about the Hirshhorn Gallery's latest show in the Washington Post

"Then sometimes you're given the chance to make a memory for someone, give them a pleasant moment to remember, which is the greatest thing you can ever do. Keep the Oscar and all that."
-- Rod Steiger, Oscar winner, on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five on IFC

"We're a little tired of the thin-skinned whining, which is much of what we get from north of the border...
-- Pat Buchanan, defending his comment about "Soviet Canuckistan" on the CBC's As It Happens [Pat's about 12:00 into the stream.]


Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet is on. [Dig that vintage website. Can you imagine anyone--besides me--putting so much text on a film site?] It's been a while since I've seen it; remembering how good it is. It was from more innocent days, just before Leonardo DiCaprio became Leo. It has a gang of excellent performances: John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora, Paul Rudd, Dash Mihok, Miriam Margolyes... but it's Luhrmann's ecstatic vision that conquers all. One thing I didn't anticipate, though: the degree to which audience perceptions and expectations can change over time. Romeo + Juliet's like freakin' Ozu compared to Moulin Rouge.

Sometimes I get fed up with the course of human events abroad and I wonder if it isn't better to just forget all that annoying international conflict for a while and just pay attention to what's going on at home. You know, focus on what's nearby. In my town. My community. My neighborhood. After all, it worked 30 years ago when my neighborhood was Sesame Street. There's even a guy who makes short films about the people that he meets when he's walking down the street; it's called Neighborhood Films. New York's not really known as a get-to-know-your-neighbor kind of town, but hey, I'll give it a shot. I walk around the block.

Pakistan House, 8E65 India House, 3E64 The Pakistan U.N. Mission and Indian Consulate, off Fifth Avenue, adjoining lots on the same block

Who are the people in my neighborhood? No one who's gonna take my mind off things. Within a block there's India and Pakistan, for example. In back-to-back Beaux-Arts townhouses. Can't figure out which country bought first, but these two trigger-happy nuclear rivals have essentially replicated their sub-continental situation. Except they're sharing their backyard fence peaceably, while enduring the same Upper East Side hardships we all face: dire shortages of video rental stores and cabs. (Wouldn't you know, the Kashmiris still figure in somehow?)

Temple Emmanuel, 5&65th Palestine UN Observer Mission, Park&65th Temple Emmanuel and The Palestine Observer to the UN, just down the street

Continuing around the corner of Fifth Avenue, it's Temple Emmanuel, the "power synagogue," as one friend put it. A nephew of a rabbi there, he also said, "it's a great congregation if you're looking for an apartment." And just east of this Jewish holy site is the Permanent Observer to the United Nations for Palestine, complete with high-profile security. How's this one working out? Well, you can see the Jersey barriers around the synagogue, and Palestine's whole block was in lock-down for months after September 11th. No cars allowed, and residents only past the sidewalk checkpoints. Nearly drove 212, the eurotrash clubhouse/restaurant out of business. Hmm. Sounds like they've managed to replicate their home setup pretty closely, too. Just without the killing.

Giving up on giving up on the world's problems for a while, I try instead to make some sense of it all. And? It's all about location. Real estate, it all boils down to real estate. While it fuels bloody feuds around the world, the worst we have to deal with is the co-op board interview or getting the Landmarks Commission to approve your fiberglass cornice. What doesn't differ between my neighborhood and the world: it's all about having a good broker.

Whatever else it may be,
Jackass is possibly the purest cinema experience ever. It is undiluted, unadulterated and unambiguous. It will make you run. You certainly don't need me to tell you, though, if you should run toward or away from the theater; whatever your pre-existing inclination, you will do well to follow it. Jackass will not mislead you.

Hustled out to Queens to get press screening tapes of Souvenir (November 2001) to MoMA's Film Department. Falling a little behind on delivering the printed press kits; it's going to be a working weekend.

Brick Kilns, Clay Bluffs 1900 Miles above St. Louis, George Catlin, 1832
Brick Kilns," Clay Bluffs 1900 Miles above St. Louis, George Catlin, 1832

Painter/enthnographer/showman/lawyer George Catlin saw and captured a moment in culture and time--the rapidly changing/disappearing society of over 50 American Indian tribes on the cusp of westward expansion. The largest exhibit of Catlin's work in 100 years is currently at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery. Sanford Schwartz, in the NY Review of Books, describes the paintings wonderfully, but he doesn't quite get a handle on Catlin himself. It's work, though, with an honesty and immediacy, a pretty relevant, contemporary feeling.

The Circus, Verne Dawson, 2001 The Circus, Verne Dawson, 2001

Contemporary artist Verne Dawson's work is very much of this time. While apparently set in an idyllic pre-historic past (23,800 B.C. is the date in some Dawson's titles), they sometimes include anachronistic civilization/technologies that can induce Planet Of The Apes-style post-apocalyptic pangs. Stylistically similar yet separated by over 160 years, both bodies of work feel very much of their own times.

Far From Heaven Still, Todd Haynes, 2002 Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes, 2002

Todd Haynes has accomplished something similar with his latest film, Far From Heaven. He didn't simply approximate the look of Douglas Sirk's 1950's melodramas; he inhabited the entire aesthetic and moral structure of the genre to create a thoroughly original film. In Geoffrey O'Brien's Artforum article, Haynes forefronts the utter intentionality of moviemaking. "Everything about film is always artificial. You can come to something far more surprisingly real by acknowledging how much of a construct it is first. It always feels so much more false to me when you set out to be real."

November 2, 2002

On greg.org on Memorials

After posting my review and response to the Pentagon Memorial Competition, I realized that in addition to writing "about making films, about art," I have written quite a bit about memorials. So I collected those weblog entries in one spot. Click here to read them. The entries include:

  • discussions of efforts to rebuild the WTC and downtown Manhattan
  • WTC memorials, including the Tribute in Light
  • other memorials, such as the Vietnam Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial
  • stories from shooting Souvenir (November 2001), my movie about WWI memorials, and
  • the experiences that inspired the film.

    Please let me know what you think. Thanks to the many people who have already done so. I greatly value your points of view.

  • Ben, Jen, Kevin on the set of Jersey Girls

    On his illustrious entertainment portal Movie Poop Shoot, Kevin Smith is publishing a weekly production diary of Jersey Girls, his latest, which he calls "hands-down, the best movie we've ever made." The dates are a little ambiguous. The Week One entry is dated July 12, and the Week Two entry isn't exactly dated, but the original schedule had the 11-week shoot wrapping on November 1, er, tomorrow. It's got Ben Affleck and Jen Lopez in it, who also star in the unofficial off-the-set production diary, E! Online. Bonus: There's a big show tunes musical number in it.

    Since the eerie gap in this online production diary overlaps perfectly with the lag on Full Frontal (where it was Week 3 for two+ months), my theory is Miramax had some kind of summer web embargo, or fired their sysadmin and couldn't do updates, or something.

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    Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

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