Congratulations to the guys at Cyan Pictures for getting their rough cut fedexed to Sundance just in time. [Technically, they could've eked out a whole other day by flying the tape to the festival office in person, so they had a huge time cushion, but hey, that's enough dramatic tension.]

Their short film, Coming Down the Mountain, is set and was shot in/around Hazard, Kentucky, which is near Troublesome Creek. Last night, on plasticbag.org, I read about the Fugate family, aka The Blue People of Troublesome Creek. John Stacy married into the clan and said of his father-in-law:

[Levy Fugate was] part of the family that showed blue. All them old fellers way back then was blue. One of em - I remember seeing him when I was just a boy - Blue Anze, they called him. Most of them old people we [called] by that name - the blue Fugates. It run in that generation who lived up and down Ball Creek.

But I can't tell anyone yet, until I get the confirmation letter and screening agreement. Stay tuned, though. Hint: It's in December.

On Artforum's discussion boards, I had posted some criticism of Nico Israel's article about visiting (but not finding) Robert Smithson's earthwork sculpture Spiral Jetty. He responded, and I responded back. Other Smithson-related posts: one from after visiting the Jetty, and one about the Jetty's reemergence and Smithson on filmmaking.

[Update: Commemorative T-shirts are now available in the greg.org two-item store.]

Nearly a month after an accidental click into a carry-on luggage article brought my surfing to a teary halt, it's okay to laugh again. In this week's New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten tells of of several successful attempts to carry Emmy Award statuettes (complete with "sharp-tipped wings"...shaped like "serrated steak knives") onto transatlantic flights. [Apparently, none of the comedy writers or filmmakers in the story are yet listed on Ashcroft's dissenter=terrorist no-fly list or are giants of Iranian cinema.]

According to this wire report, the US State Department has refused to process a visa for the director Abbas Kiarostami, the godfather of Iranian cinema and one of the most highly acclaimed filmmakers in the world. His latest work, Ten, has its US premier tonight at the NY Film Festival. In the NY Times review, A.O. Scott called it "a work of inspired simplicity."

Check the movie index for more discussions of Kiarostami, his previous films, and his perspective on DV filmmaking. Check Camworld's discussion of the government's policy's potential blowback for Americans traveling abroad.

mollie_wilmot_obit.jpgApparently, the project went into turnaround when Mollie Wilmot objected to being portrayed by Bette Midler or Melanie Griffith. Disney executives may be smiling through their tears to learn that Wilmot, "the socialite with the oversize white sunglasses who rose to celebrity in 1984 when a tanker ran aground at her Palm Beach, Fla., mansion," has passed away.

In the NYTimes obit, the subject is Mrs Wilmot's life in the media, especially in the paper itself. In addition to covering the unexpected arrival of the Venezuelan tanker and her crew ( "'I thought it was the man who was coming to photograph my home for Town & Country,'") The Times, we learn, dutifully reported on her clothing (1990: "watermelon-pink Yves Saint Laurent silk suit to lunch in the Saratoga racing season.") and her spats with decorators (1985: "Mrs. Wilmot stormed out of the [Winter Antique] show, followed by the commode."). All the life that's fit to print.

Perusing obituaries from her "principal residence," Palm Beach, we find recollections of neighbors and shopkeepers and sense the nuances of local priorities. The proud townie Sun-Sentinel: "In addition to being 'zany,' Wilmot was not 'snotty or snobby' like some Palm Beach residents, ["neighbor" Dale] Merck said. Rather, she was an original Palm Beacher." The striving Post: "And it was common knowledge that Mrs. Wilmot turned down Prince Charles and Princess Diana's invitation to a ball." The appropriate Daily News: "Mrs. Wilmot -- previously Bragno and Bostwick -- was divorced from New York publicist Paul Wilmot, whom she married in December 1970 at her North Ocean home designed by Maurice Fatio. Mary Sanford was her matron of honor."

While they recount life of their subject, obituaries are clearly (is this obvious?) for the living. They may be oblique tools for social control, but their power on the individual is undeniable. By judging Mrs Wilmot as "a real Palm Beacher," a higher plane than that occupied by mere "Palm Beach residents," the obit writer fires a clear shot across the bows of the still-too-new yachts in the marina.

Obituary fixation may be dismissed as absurd minutiae (first line, font size, picture or no, A1 lede? if only...), but preoccupation with one's place in history, one's contribution to the world, is at least as old as the pyramids.

nicholson_shades.jpgWarren Schmidt is a bereft ex-actuary in Alexander Payne's highly acclaimed film, About Schmidt, where he's faced with cold calculations of the worth of his own life. Payne is rightly praised in this Times review from the NY Film Festival for "laying out an expansive, impressively even-handed vision of life in contemporary Middle America." Reviewer Stephen Holden goes on: "The movie's quest to discover how one ordinary person can make more of a difference turns out to be as serious as its title character's. The common-sense answer it comes up with, in a final scene so unassuming that it's almost a throwaway moment, is as simple and modest as it is profoundly moving."

I never met Mrs. Mollie Wilmot, although her acolytes (a few generations removed) are thick as fiddlers around here. In April, I met Payne, whose intelligence and niceness impressed me as much as his films. With all due respect to the doyennes of Palm Beach, I suggest taking your life cues from the story of Warren Schmidt.

September 24, 2002

Reflecting on

elmdrag_moon.jpg

Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Powerless Structures, No. 59 [image via]

A friend's web writing has plummeted in frequency while rising in substance. This paragraph triggered a cascade of images:

and so yesterday you asked yourself, naturally, under an impossibly full moon, in the middle of another state, in the middle of the woods, blue-gray light spilt over the water's gently trembling surface, the hypnotic criss-cross of ripples, the disappeared stars, the misty gray-blue air that spoke of you never being alone, even when alone: "but what is the double-grief?".

Elmgreen & Dragset's piece (above) was in a 1999 show at The Project. (They show at Tanya Bonakdar now.) It was in the basement, a low-tech sublime landscape. An effable reflection, made permanent (as long as you accept its completely manmade nature).

Last week, as I climbed into bed in NYC, an unusual light shone from across the street. It's not the retro streetlamp, but far higher. You can't see the sky from our north-facing parlor floor apartment, either. It's the moon, nearly full, at just the right angle to reflect in the fifth floor window of my neighbor's townhouse. Sit up, lie down. Sure enough, it's only visible from this one spot. In a few minutes it disappears. Could I have captured it on film? with the digital camera? No, the flash'd go off and I'd have a stupid snap of my wall. How do I know?

A morning in a Hawaii, where the door to our hotel room faced due east. Stepping from the shower, an exclamation. A circular rainbow, not six inches across, projected on the far wall. We studied and stared for several minutes, watching the sun shine straight through the peephole. Hurriedly, we dug out the digital camera and snapped away. Flash, flash. Nothing, but over-illuminated bamboo-esque furniture. We had to content ourselves with the knowledge that Olafur Eliasson could probably recreate the phenomenon, if asked. He made this, after all...

Some things, it seems, cannot be captured, only approximated. Recreated. Reflected.

September 22, 2002

Placeholder: Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty, 2002. that's foam in the foreground and salt crystal everywhere else
Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty.avi [1.3Mb], c. 2002

This will be the entry where I write about our trip to the Spiral Jetty and post some amusing pictures thereof. It will be enlightening and insightful, yet not without wry humor. As it reverences the work itself, it will impress you and amaze you (in a quiet way) with our vision, dedication, and lack of condescension, and it will make you want to make the pilgrimage yourself. Ideally, it will ease your decision to keep an eye on me and my own artistic production.

(And by the way, I watched part of Glitter yesterday on HBO7 or whatever. It's not nearly as good bad as I'd been led to believe. It was mostly just bad bad. Although a harshly critical eye could find some painful-to-acknowledge similarities between Mariah Carey's inability to act and my own. I fear this aside will negate any benefit I could have derived from posting further about the Spiral Jetty. Maybe we'd all be better off reading my last entry or the critical comments I made on Artforum's message boards.)

September 19, 2002

My harddrive is dead (or

My harddrive is dead (or at least in a movie-of-the-week coma), and I'm on the road. Posting could be a bit erratic for the next couple of days. Rewriting several scripts from memory could be a bit erratic, too. Fortunately, I backed up my system last summer, so I'd only lose everything I haven't posted to the weblog. (In the mean time, I bought Gravity's Rainbow to read on the plane since my dvd doesn't work, either. Thanks, Alex.)

alex_golub.jpg

From a link from Visible Darkness, an engrossing, intense weblog about a book project to examine documentary photography. (wonderful, but not for the blurb-addicted):

In one week on grad student Alex Golub's weblog, he writes the good fight, assailing the academically-descredited-yet-still-pop-consciousness-gripping "anthro" brand/icon Margaret Mead; laments the lonely life of the actual Pynchon reader (achingly different from a "fan"), and recognizes the painful poignancy of the Oklahoma! revival in these "September 11"-besotted times. All well-written, but again, don't think you can just skim the site while you put that conference call on mute.

Golub's recap of Mead criticism hits home, especially since Mead (and by naive extension, anthro) was one of my first stops on my idealistic foray into filmmaking. Mead's legacy: "Systematically and symptomatically bad fieldwork in which she gave up what she knew about the people she lived with in order to paint a picture that would fit in with the message she attempted to get across to the public." (Fortunately, I was early swayed by the Maysles brothers' "just show what you see" storytelling and their sense of fidelity to the people they lived with. Mead hasn't really turned up here since.)

His analysis of his Gravity's Rainbow Problem speaks for itself:

6) What you really want out of this party is not the free martinis or interesting gallery space or recognition that you are one of the people being published in the glossly lit-mag whose latest issue is the raison d'etre of this fete. What you want is to find someone, just someone (preferably an alto, although a strong colatura soprano or even a decent bass-baritone wouldn't be too bad either) who has also read it and understands what it is you're trying akwardly to express nine minutes into your five-minute monologue...

As for Oklahoma!, he casts an anthro/cult stud (I made that one up based on "anthro"; I'm sure it'll bring in some interesting Google searches) eye on the musical's "condensed symbolic account of the founding impulses of the United States of America." Homogeneity and pacification figure strongly in his analysis, which isn't as optimistic about the London revival others have praised for being darker and more ambivalent than you remember it from high school drama club.

While I hope he hasn't fallen into the pit where he sees Mead (I haven't seen Oklahoma! ever, even though I'm working on a musical now), his message in the end sounds too good not to be true:

It is not surprising that Oklahoma! should be playing on Broadway at a time when the radical uniqueness of the US's project is more than ever obscured by a shallow, partisan patriotism. Nor is it surprising that the recuperation of the founding impulses of the United States seems so unlikely.
'What have you given us?' a man asked Benjamin Franklin as the delegates of the Constitutional Convention ended their secret meetings. 'A republic,' he said simply, 'if you can keep it.' We have been given a unique country and a valuable ideal. And we are turning it into Oklahoma!.

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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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