Category:making movies

November 14, 2009

The Player

I can't say how I feel about Francesco Vezzoli's work; that's not how my mama raised me. I will grant though, that he's extremely smart and astute and has successfully identified an elemental dynamic of the art world and makes highly successful art that taps into that dynamic. OK, fine. his work embodies almost every superficial, vapid, self-unaware, pseudo-celebrity, luxury consumerist aspect I hate about the VIP Preview art world.

So bully for him that he's turning the MoCA gala benefit tonight into the set for a performance/piece? This faux-ambivalent account of Vezzoli, his date/star Lady Gaga, and the preparations for the event in the LA Times makes for hilarious reading. I'm sure the event will be the biggest, starchasing cluster$%#& at MoCA since Tom Ford and Naomi Campbell turned the Takashi Murakami dinner into a commemorative plate-stealing riot.


Alas, Vezzoli's use of art to hustle celebrities into working for free unfortunately reminds me of someone I actually like: Robert Altman. To shoot the benefit scene in The Player, where Tim Robbins' murderous studio honcho Griffin Mills is honored by several hundred of his best celebrity friends, Altman threw a real fundraiser for LACMA, complete with black & white dress code, then hustled all his celebrity friends to attend--then he filmed them for scale for his movie.

At least now I can finally make sense of Lady Gaga: she is post-op Cher.


Francesco Vezzoli escorts Lady Gaga to MOCA's gala [lat]

November 1, 2009

'The Sound of Footsteps'

Tacita Dean on the making of Craneway Event, the rehearsals of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in a former auto factory on the San Francisco Bay, which she filmed exactly a year ago:

I edited it alone on my film-cutting table using magnetic tape for the sound, which means you have to continually mark everything to keep the film in sync. The sound and image are separate, and the moment you lose sync it's a nightmare: It's just the sound of footsteps, which could be from anywhere in the film so it's nearly impossible to find sync again.
17 hours of film edited down to 1h48, which fits nicely with the "longueur of some of [her] other films." Looks and sounds fantastic.

Tacita Dean | 500 Words []
Craneway Event premieres Nov. 5-7 at St. Marks Church as part of Performa 09. []

Hilary Harris's 1975 Organism feels like a missing link in the chain of film portraits of New York City as a pulsing, living thing. Like Whitman, whose "Leaves of Grass" provided the text for their1921 film Manhatta Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler showed "million-footed Manhattan...descend[ing] to her pavements" and forests of buildings growing up to the sky. Then, by the time Godfrey Reggion made Koyaanisqatsi in 1982, the metaphor was solid enough to use the time-lapse photography Harris pioneered to diagnose the city's terminal illness.

Maybe what modern city life needs to return it to full health is more post offices shaped like mailboxes. I combined frames from the various cuts of Harris's slow, time-lapse pan in order to get a picture of the whole thing. Anyone know where this was?


Watch Manhatta and Organism at Ubu [, via brian sholis]

September 24, 2009


Gruber calls this Windows 7 Launch Party video "cringe-inducing," and it certainly is. Though I'm pretty sure the technical term for erratic, pointless, exaggerated simulation of handheld camera movement using a fixed camera and a pan handle is seizure-inducing.

That said, the dialogue is so bafflingly abstract, it's almost sublime. I'm sure it's because they didn't have party "activities" website finished before the shoot, but this video could have a future as an insider's critique of the corporate existential void. "Windows for Godot."

August 28, 2009

Adolfo! Adolfo!

So I sneaked out last night to see Inglourious Basterds, which I found to be generally fantastic; Brad Pitt's craft has come a long way since Meet Joe Black.

Because, I confess, I'm still working through a stack of badly panned & scanned DVDs of lost grindhouse epics, I have fallen behind in my study of spaghetti westerns and the lesser-known works of Lee Marvin. And so I was worried that Tarantino's many subtle, referenzia cinematografistica which so many esteemed critics alluded to might slip by me unnoticed--and if that happens, what's the point, right?

I needn't have worried. From the twangy, scratchy get-go, where the opening track sounded like it was being played back on Hi-Fi to mimic the apparently primitive audio post-production facilities of Italy [1], Tarantino is not shy--hah, as if--about his stylistic references.

Oh, and contrary to some opinions, I thought Mike Myers was spot-on. I'd always joke-assumed Pitt won the Travolta/Forster/Carradine/Russell casting lottery this time as the actor whose forgotten talents and fizzling career would be nobly rescued by the director fanboi who Never Forgot. But I was wrong; it's Myers. You now have at least two years where we won't hold The Cat In The Hat against you, Mike. Use them well.

Anyway, the point, and the thing I either overlooked or never heard, was what a big, fat, sloppy kiss to the cinema this thing was. And not just the blatant, "Make me a Cannes juror for life!" applause line ["I'm French. We respect directors in this country."] either. I'm talking about how the whole plot is basically the basterd child of The Dirty Dozen and Cinema Paradiso.

Also, *SPOILER ALERT?* was there NOT a shoutout to the end of Raiders of The Lost Ark? Does this mean Tarantino's officially moved onto hommaging 80s pop film now? I see Michael Schoeffling as Robert Forster.

[1] Whenever he gets around to making it, I'm sure QT's Punjabi murder musical will sound like it was recorded in the bathtub.

It's now known as "Theater Piece No. 1," and it is considered to be the first multimedia happening. It included simultaneous solos of dance, poetry readings and a lecture, along with slides, film, painting, and phonographic recordings.

But if John Cage called it anything at all, or if anyone referred to it as anything at all--and it's not clear that anyone did at the time--it was just 1952 Untitled Event at Black Mountain College. And no one can quite agree how long it lasted, or even when it actually took place, but the best guess is probably early August, maybe on the 16th, in 1952.

The most complete synthesis of documentation and recollections of the event is probably William Fetterman's 1996 book, John Cage's Theatre Pieces, which says that only around 35-50 people--including faculty, students, and locals--attended.

There was reportedly? probably? no score at the time, but that wasn't a big shock to longtime Cage collaborators like David Tudor: "He distributes a plan that you can use or not, but it's just a piece of papers with some numbers on it. This kind of thing doesn't get documented, and it gets lost." Cage created the first of two complex scores for "Theater Piece No. 1" in 1960.

Here's how Cage himself remembered it in 19:

At one end of the rectangular hall, the long end, was a movie, and at the other were slides. I was on a ladder delivering a lecture which included silences, and there was another ladder which M.C. Richards and Charles Olson went up at different times... Robert Rauschenberg was playing an old-fashioned phonograph that had a horn, and David Tudor was playing piano, and Merce Cunningham and other dancers were moving through the audience. Rauschenberg's pictures [the White Paintings] were suspended above the audience...They were suspended at various angles, a canopy of paintings above the audience. I don't recall anything else except the ritual of the coffee cup. (Kirby and Scheckner 1965, pp. 52-3)
The movie, black and white silent footage of a work in progress by Nicholas Cernovitch, was apparently projected on the ceiling, and then it moved down the wall. Scenes included the setting sun, and the cooks at BMC, a couple named Cornelia and George. Who, I would assume, lived in the house Lawrence Kocher designed for the kitchen staff.

There is at least one recollection that the event also included a black & white painting by Franz Kline. I'm on the road, so I don't have my copy of Hopps's Rauschenberg in the 1950s catalogue handy, but I remember a dispute over whether Rauschenberg's all-white paintings were considered or used as projection screens for the event's multimedia components. Cage credited the White Paintings with prodding him to compose 4'33".


Cernovitch summed up the various audience reactions rather succinctly: "Nobody knew we were creating history."

And they weren't, at least until Cage began teaching the event at his legendary New School classes several years later to students who would be among the first performance artists, including Allan Kaprow, George Brecht, and Al Hansen.

Buy Fetterman's John Cage's Theatre Pieces [amazon]
Or preview most of the account of 1952 Untitled Event, beginning on page 97 [google books]
[image: Bob at Stable Gallery in 1953, by Allan White for LIFE]

Wow, Jennie Livingston's incredible documentary Paris is Burning, about vogueing gangs and balls, is on YouTube. This was a formative New York City film for me. I've given talks about it in church, even. I found it one of the purest most universal expressions of the common motivations that drive all our lives, whether we're gay, black, homeless, cross-dressing street hustlers or not--love, family, belonging, comfort, security, survival, normalcy, respect--all things I take my entitlement to utterly for granted.

It's one of the biggest film world mystery/disappointments that Livingston hasn't made more movies. Guess I need to circle back and watch Who's on Top?, her Busby Berkeley-style musical lesbian sex comedy. Don't know how I'll work that one into the sunday school lesson.

Paris is Burning 1/11 [youtube via and kottke]

August 1, 2009

Tim Burton X Donald Judd


Tim Burton was at MoMA yesterday, talking to media folk about a film dept. retrospective of his work, which includes an exhibition this fall of sketches, storyboards, props, puppets, etc. from his wacked out output.

I wasn't in town for the q&a [here's a movieline writeup via MoMA's Twitter] , but the confluence of Burton and MoMA reminded me of one of my favorite art geek moments: spotting Donald Judd chairs in the background of a 2-second shot in the director's 1993 stop action animated film, Nightmare Before Christmas.

That's them in the corner there, in a montage where Jack ruins Christmas all over town. Here's a close-up. They're pink!


I had really just begun getting interested in Judd's furniture a year or so before this, so I was pretty attuned. In fact, several months after seeing the movie, I met Rainer Judd to talk about buying some pieces, about differences or changes with the handling of furniture that might follow her father's untimely death.

As we chatted, I mentioned the chairs Tim Burton had put in the movie, and she was pretty surprised. She knew Burton, it turned out, and knew he was a fan of the work. And yet, she'd never heard about the chairs--or chairs inspired by the chairs--making a cameo.

Never did hear anything else about it. Hope I didn't get him into trouble.

Was watching this ancient panel discussion, "Time and Space Concepts in Music and Visual Art," from Pleiades Gallery in 1978 with Merce Cunningham, but then I totally fell for Nam June Paik all over again instead. A couple of pull quotes:

In any other profession like lawyers, dentists, sanitation workers, or teachers, if you do fairly well, slightly above average, you can make a living. But only in art and heavyweight boxing, you have to be top five to pay your rent.


It's strange, especially because in heavyweight boxing, you know more or less who wins. The fight can be fixed, but not as easily as in the art world.

And this one, where Paik talks about peoples' complaints that video art is boring, and that it would be hard to write a PhD on the history of video art, because all the material you'd have to sit through would take a hundred years. It's not the random access of an encyclopedia vs the sequential access of video, though, that's strikes a particular chord, but the realization that the panel's participants--Cage, Paik, Cunningham--are now gone [stay healthy, Richard Kostelanetz and Dore Ashton!]:
Life, we cannot repeat. Life is sequential access. However, videotape is changing that: life as a sequential access.

If you freeze a time and retrieve them. So you keep certain access--1967, 1955--frozen. Like an icebox. You can go access cheese, butter, eggs. And you can go back to your twentyhood, thirtyhood, childhood, in random access. That, videotape is doing. So the beauty of videotape produced now will be appreciated in 2000. It's like antique hunting.

On another note, it's kind of comforting/ennervating to see that the medium of panel discussion is still sequential, often boring, and characterized by audience essays in the form of a question.

Time and Space Concepts in Music and Visual Art (Part I) (1978) [ubu]

Wow. This is a commercial for Cellcom, an Israeli cell phone provider. Check out the [so far unacknowledged] original, "Yeah, yeah, We speak perfect English. Just Serve," a documentary short made by Wholphin editor Brent Hoff and Josh Bearman at the oceanfront border of the US and Mexico. It was included on Wholphin vol. 3:

Now check out the Palestinian remake/response:

Unbelievable. [via andrew sullivan]

Previous 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 ... 58 Next

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

Category: making movies

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
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
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
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99