September 2003 Archives

September 29, 2003

Fixing K Street

It's the dialogue, stupid. (Or is that, "It's the dialogue. Stupid."?) After only three episodes, I'm getting fed up with the uncertain, equivocating, sometimes borderline incoherent dialogue that constitutes the majority of HBO's K Street. I know it's improvised, and that non-actors are supposed to be non-acting, but unless the unacknowledged agenda of the producers is to show that no one in Washington knows what the hell they're talking about--ever--something needs to be done. Politicians are expected to deliver content-free platitudes or sermons on camera; everyone else (except for the vaguely metrosexual Californian) needs to have something--anything--to say.

Seriously, if these people are expecting to get paid to consult, they need to cough up some value-added, and I haven't seen any since Carville delivered his one-liner to Howard Dean in Episode One. You don't need full-blown scripts, but Sunday should be Googleday for the K Street crew, yielding some talking points for each character.

Why, even the most cursory surf of anti- and pro-RIAA sites and articles would've yielded a meatier discussion and plausible pitch for the RIAA's business than the K Streeters put out. Ditto the Saudi thing this week. I hope "Nobody reads beyond the cover of Time magazine" is just a line, not a scriptwriting strategy. Even so, waving it around and calling it story is like putting your textbook under your pillow and hoping it'll soak in while you sleep.

Some other suggestions:

1) If you want to play an inside game, play inside, fellas. For example, in the music sharing episode, why did Francisco make the appointment for the pitch? Wouldn't it more intriguing if the stalker-y lesbian lobbyist knew someone at the RIAA? Or if she was expected to know someone, but she had to beg off because of undisclosed restraining orders?

2) Speaking of inside games, why not turn up the heat with some actual headlines? Check out Talking Points Memo, where Josh Marshall's been posting up a storm about actual Republican lobbyists, who, like K Street star Mary Matalin, just left the administration, but who are setting up shops to help companies get sweet rebuilding contracts in Iraq. Nice work if you can get it, and you don't have to worry about ratings.

3) Of course, you could combine #2 and 3: The Register reported in April that Hilary Rosen is rewriting Iraq's copyright laws.

There. That's five value-adds right there. Just call my people if you'd like some more.

September 28, 2003

World Enough, and Time

For a couple of years before I left the corporate world, I had a film in my head: I'd interview my grandfathers--two men who lived within a couple of miles of each other yet who led rather different lives-- seeking advice on whether I should get married and, if I did, whether I'd get divorced someday. I'd explore the extent to which our families affects us, the ways in which we are likely/prone/destined to become like our parents.

But there was an IPO, a huge gig in Europe, etc, etc, I kept putting it off. Make a little more money, I thought, and making films'll be that much easier. I got engaged, so one question of the movie was already answered, but some big ones remained. Then in 2000, one grandfather passed away; followed, within a couple of months, by the other. I'd waited too long.

After my grandfathers' deaths, completing their film became an imperative, a way of dealing with (our/my) their loss. I started shooting, not quite sure how it'd turn out. I figured it'd become clear, eventually. That was August 2001.

All through the Fall of 2001, I could barely bring myself to screen the tapes I'd shot. Indirect explorations of personal loss seemed a little, well, it seemed like there were bigger issues to deal with at the time. Souvenir November 2001 was, in part, a way to make sense of things; SJ03 is a first attempt at returning my attention to my earlier questions: how do our family and our past influence us? How do we deal day-to-day with someone's absence?

With a little more mental bandwidth this summer, I started re-viewing the earliest footage we shot for my grandfathers documentary. A little time has helped, and I think I can see a way to cut some of it into a Souvenir-length short. In the mean time, however, I've had to revisit the whole idea of timing.

It seems the Andrew Marvell phrase, "world enough, and time" is popular among those who find themselves on the short end of the time stick. This week, I and my family have suddenly joined that crowd. And all the "understanding" I thought I'd gained gets wiped clean, and again, I feel the raw imperative that I have to do something. For a time, I feel like I have to focus, not on memory, but on living, before it is, again, too late.

September 28, 2003

On regime change I CAN support

Pigeon, 2001, Roe Ethridge, image:

Last week, I stopped by a party to celebrate the first issue of Artforum under its new editor, Tim Griffin, who I've known and admired for years, ever since he was edited the late Artbyte with ICA Philadelphia's Bennett Simpson. (For some of their collaboration that stayed online, check out the great show they curated at Apex Art in 1999, too).

Combined with Eric Banks' impending relaunch of Bookforum, I think there's some good art readin' to be had. [Subscribe here or here.]

How can I be sure? Well, Tim started by putting a photo by my boy, Roe Ethridge, on the cover. Roe's work rocks; I'm a huge fan, even though, in the headshot he did for my Souvenir press kit, I don't look anything like Beck, Andrew W.K., or Fischerspooner.

Anne Thompson has a very informative artlicle in this month's Filmmaker Magazine about the hustle to get Lost in Translation made.

Sofia Coppola's first finished draft of her script--the one they used to raise money--was only 70 pages long, which freaked a lot of funders out. Still, such a short script (1 page = 1 minute is the filmmaking-as-usual rule of thumb) suited Coppola's (and Bill Murray's) improvisational, intuitive shooting approach. [For a writer-director, the link between script and location--and editing--almost inevitably breaks with convention. I find that I overwrite, pare down while shooting, and then hack away while editing, all in order to end up with something close to the feel of my original concept. -g]

"Once Coppola finished her script, she and her ICM agent, Bart Walker, decided to seek financing for the film 'Jim Jarmuschñ style.' In this model, the filmmaker licenses distribution rights in various overseas territories individually, cobbling together enough foreign presales to make the film without the controlling influence of a single territory or U.S. domestic distributor," Thompson writes. [It's worth noting that Walker is also Jarmusch's agent, so he knows from hustling for independent film money. -g]

They pre-sold Japan (where The Virgin Suicides was a hit, and where Coppola's own brand is pretty strong because of her fashion line, Milk Fed), France, and Italy, then got the rest of the budget (which Thompson puts at $4mm, but I've also heard $3mm) from Focus International. Then, they backed into the US distribution deal with Focus Features.

Another interesting aspect, one that stands a director's (and producer's) hair on end: Even after Bill Murray agreed to do the film, the production didn't get a signed contract with him. Wes Anderson told Sofia and Ross Katz not to worry (and obviously, Bill showed up and rocked, just as planned), but it's pretty amazing that they got a completion bond--much less all the dough--without having their lead signed.

Akira Kurosawa in a Suntory Reserve whiskey commercial, circa late 1970's

Nothing wrong with bigname film folks making commercials. Errol Morris (whose The Fog of War I just saw and will write about soon) directed the Apple Switch ads. Swedish master Ingmar Bergman made some cake by selling cakes of soap. Hell, Spike Lee's got a whole agency, SpikeDDB, to sell out through. And as Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation shows, Japanese commercials are a great way for stars to pay their jumbo mortgages.

Coppola mentioned she got the idea for Bill Murray's character from a photo of her father and Akira Kurosawa on the set of a Suntory whiskey commercial. I tracked them down and watched them; here's my brief review.

Nine of the commercials for Suntory Reserve can be seen on Kurosawa, a generally excellent, if conventional, documentary DVD on his career [original PBS site]. (They're kind of hidden, but has the path.)

First, it's worth noting: Kurosawa doesn't direct, he both directs and stars in the ads, like fellow whiskey shill Sean Connery. Decked out like the Asian neighbor at an Ice Storm key party, the sunglassed Kurosawa alternately wanders, broods, or holds court from a wingback chair with a gang of white men. Every piece of typically intense classical music you can think of plays over the largely dialogue-free spots.

There's a whole batch of them shot in Russia: on the bank of the ice-choked Neva River in Leningrad; an escalator in the Moscow subway; a whiskey klatsch in some guy's dacha. These commercials have a caught-on-the-fly feeling, as if Kurosawa just let a 16mm film crew tag along with him for a couple of days, but wouldn't actually do anything, except drain a lowball now and then. They're little whiskey documentaries, tracking the bottle into its natural habitat.

A couple of others, shot in Japan, are more staged, and cast Suntory as the muse and great lubricant of directorial creativity. Kurosawa shuffles contemplates some papers, or looks out over the sea, envisioning. In the phoniest spot, a narrator reads inanely inspirational copy while Kurosawa sits "on the set" of Kagemusha. He pretends to give direction to a flock of samurai extras, who cluster around him like a JV football squad in a lockerroom pep talk. My favorite, though, is the most pared down: a single tight shot of the director contemplating his glass. It's also the only one I could get a screen capture of, which works out, too.

The DVD has no information about the ads (I figure they're hidden because someone, somewhere, wisely figured "filmography/interviews/awards/liquor ads" would look funny on DVD menu.), and no one but Sofia connects Coppola pËre to them in any way. But there are still clues, at least to the ads' dates. Kurosawa made Dersu Uzala in Russia in 1973-4, which was followed in 1980 by Kagemusha. [His masterpiece, Ran, came later, in 1985. ]

The decade before Dersu Uzala was rough for Kurosawa, who got fed up with studio pressure to keep cranking out samurai flicks after the 1965 Akahige (Red Beard). His production company was involved in making Tora! Tora! Tora!, but pulled out after complications. And Kurosawa attempted suicide in 1971. But then Dersu Uzala won the Academy Award for best foreign film. Still, with a film every five years or so, Coppola's suggestion that the director needed money sounds plausible. The campaign spans at least six years and two productions. While in the ads, Kurosawa--who was nicknamed Ten-no (The Emperor) because of his demeanor on the set--seems like he can't be bothered, it's possible these commercials helped keep Kurosawa afloat until he could get to Ran--and a whole subsequent body of work. I'll drink to that.

[Related: David at GreenCine just posted some Kurosawa links and info, including screenings at BAMcinematek.]

[Update: I just watched the actual NHK/BBC/WNET documentary on Kurosawa, and I was missing half the fun and most of the point. Not only does it mention Kurosawa directing and starring in the commercials in order to make money in the lengthening interval between films, it liberally uses clips from the commercials themselves throughout the film.

Francis Coppola and Akira Kurosawa on the set of Kagemusha, still from a Suntory whiskey ad in the WNET/NHK/BBC

Francis Coppola and Akira Kurosawa on the set of Kagemusha, still from a Suntory whiskey ad in the WNET/NHK/BBC

As for Francis Coppola, well, there he is. He appears in silent color footage that's almost certainly from the Suntory ads (it matches a couple of others in look and location) on the set of Kagemusha, which, it turns out, he and George Lucas helped raise the money for. In 1980, their stars were rising and they felt a debt to Kurosawa (Lucas cited his work as an inspiration for Star Wars [Don't try to pin the sequels on him, though, George. - ed.]). Sofia's more right than wrong, it turns out. Good stuff.]

September 23, 2003

WTC Plan Revisions revisited

Felix Salmon posted an admirable, in-depth, and probably a bit too optimistic review of the revised WTC site master plan. LMDC's offering Libeskind's whole 35Mb Powerpoint deck for download, so knock yourself out.

Then today, Felix tried to envision what the rebuilt site would look like from the ground rather than from the god-like aerial views we're accustomed to seeing (Libeskind's as susceptible to the god complex as any architect). Again, Felix seems a little optimistic. He rightly points out the difference between a master plan and an actual site plan.

But I still think Rafael Vinoly's criticism of Libeskind's proposal as "graphic design posing as architecture," holds sway. I frankly fear the quality of the WTC site visitor's experience is about as well planned as the peace in Iraq.

Meanwhile, over at TMN, Clay Risen elucidates some of the fundamental flaws and threats of the LMDC/PATH/Silverstein process. The primacy of maximum rentable square footage over city planning and architecture is not unique to New York. (As the mind-numbing sameness of Risen's--and my, I should say--Washington DC's built environment demonstrates.) But maybe it's just understood that Real Estate rules in New York; Real Estate and Pataki. It'd take more than a terrorist attack to unseat that regime.

Absolutely hi-larious then rousing reportage from this weekend's New Yorker Festival by Choire G. Sicha on The Morning News (the G is for Gawker). He too-generously covers the frenetic irrelevancy of Dave Eggers, ("Eggers sold out in 30 minutes (his reading, not his career).") and the frenzied apologia of Paul Wolfowitz at the New School (who lorded on a stage occupied very recently, it should be noted, by ex-Razorfish founder and ersatz New School instructor Jeff "Big Idea" Dachis):

1:26 p.m. Outside the New School Auditorium there is a giant yellow New Yorker balloon with the words ëSponsored by Kate Spade.í The wind picks up and the balloon assaults some people. Interns spend the next 30 minutes hilariously attempting to deflate it. A passer-by asks ëWhatís going on here?í The cute Young Republican in front of me in line says ëWolfowitz.í ëOh,í says the passer-by, ëWhatís he doing?í ëSpreading evil,í I butt in.
James Wagner helped upgrade the media's take on the event, but Choire hits the nail on the head, wondering about the point of art in the face of pure Wolfowitz.

September 20, 2003

On Wacky Mormons

The Observer's Tim Cooper apparently gets to fly out to LA, hang with a gang of lapsed Mormon Utah filmmakers who've crossed the line from sketchy to audacious by sneaking their no-budget film's press kit into studio executives' offices, and call it work.

Entertaining read, at once inspiring and distasteful. And yes, I know what BRT means; it's why Nu-Skin is based in Provo, Utah.

Directors: If you are concerned when your writer proposes to populate your circa 2003 New York City streetscape with the following characters, please rest assured that these are not fantastical or implausible, but just the opposite. They are as real as real gets.

1) An older man in a yellowing undershirt and trousers carrying a large zither many blocks from the nearest zither repair shop or flea market.

2) A younger woman in an ever-so-slightly too-small Chanel tanktop and slacks, with large (Chanel, obviously) sunglasses on her needs-a-touchup blonde hair, Jimmy Choo shopping bags in the crook of her tanned arm, screaming into a tiny cell phone nestled gingerly between her french manicured nails and her made up face, "Well then I AM a bad dog mommy, because I still have to go to Barney's!"

September 20, 2003

On Two Things in Texas

But not the two things I've heard are in Texas: Austin Chronicle Editor Louis Black talks with Tim McCanlies, the man behind the smartly written, wonderfully animated and woefully underrated The Iron Giant and the just-opened-in-Austin Secondhand Lions.

And Marc Savlov talks with Elizabeth Avellan, the quiet sane-sounding producer behind Robert Rodriguez' films, including the recent Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Note: she's also his wife. [via GreenCine]

September 19, 2003

Looking at The Sun

You know how, on a cloudless afternoon, when you're working in your orange grove, or driving your airboat in search of alligators, or maybe settling into lounge chair with a just-before-five cocktail on your unusually prominent, screened-in veranda--which the gal over in the developer's office calls an "outdoor room," but which, to the unindoctrinated northern eye, really looks like the marmoset habitat at the zoo, just minus the trees--and, for a fleeting instant, the glint of the sun reflecting off the belly of a jet flying north at 41,000 feet catches your eye and causes you to look up?

To a man on that plane, for a few minutes, anyway--at least three, but not more than five, it's really hard to say when it began, since staring out the window is a somewhat novice, absentminded activity to which the man, a very frequent flier, rarely resorts, unless it's a flight going into LaGuardia around magic hour, in which case he hopes the approach is across Brooklyn if he's in A/C and up the Hudson if he's in D/F (and yes, in addition to the Delta Shuttle, which offers but one class of service, there are planes where the first class seats are lettered A/C and D/F, so you can't jump to the conclusion that the guy's always flying coach, poor bastard, even if this particular plane is operated by an airline called Song, which is Deltan for "Southwest," and which eschews a first class section for all leather seats in colors--plums, pumpkins, chartreuses and AOL blues--that signal "edgy" and "hip" and "out of the box" in the suburban Atlanta corridors of brand management power, corridors where the same self-defeating imperative to prove one's corporate coolness explains locals' fervor for "Hotlanta, which is a lot like New York. Really." and the commissioning of flight crew uniforms from their daughters' must-have bag designer Kate Spade, which are, with an enthusiastic lack of awareness, bespangled with Office Space-style "flair"), not that either side will offer a view this trip, what with his plane flying either over, around, through, or into a hurricane, a phenomenon which looks stunning from the international space station but which is turns the plane's rows of windows into more than enough lightboxes to preview simultaneously every slide of every grandchild of every tanned, facelifted, tennis-braceleted busybody on this plane--that glint is revealed to be a perfectly round, white reflection of the sun itself, which pans across the dark green Evergladian landscape 41,000 feet below, like a helicopter searchlight on Cops, only much faster and wider and in daylight (by definition, duh), or like the moon, hanging low enough on the horizon when you drive along the unlit freeway at night that it ducks behind trees, warehouses, and billboards.

September 18, 2003

Supply Side Jesus

Supply Side Jesus, from Al Franken's book, image: cribbed from BoingBoing

[via BoingBoing] Al Franken's book includes a comic strip of Supply Side Jesus, which is now online at Buzzflash. It's pretty hilarious, but, in the grand SNL tradition, it peters out toward the end (and I don't mean St Peter, either).

I've heard Franken shilling for the book on the radio; sometimes, he's hilarious, sometimes, he's only nominally funny. He's certainly funnier than James Woods, but the left still needs some better humor to break out of its little pity party. Less O'Reilly idiot-bashing, more of the geniuses who gave John Ashcroft his own soundtrack.

September 17, 2003

When you really want to write

Last weekend, at the Newport wedding of some art world friends, almost everyone at our table turned out to be a writer of something: novels, non-fiction books, plays, screenplays articles (PowerPoint doesn't count). Other writers:

Clare Morrall, whose fifth novel was the first one published (by a tiny press, in a first run of 2,000), has just been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Louisa Young tells how she gave up her journalism career to become a novelist after an inspiring encounter with Johnny Cash. ""You have to be what you are," Cash told her. "Whatever you are, you gotta be it."

The New Yorker Festival is this weekend, about which Roger Angell states, "Writers should not sit alone and tremble in the dark." The Festival, of course, features writers sitting together, on stages, trembling in the dark, and guiltily enjoying their sojourn in fandom.

Schizopolis by Soderbergh, image:

Get the e-commerce fire hose ready*. I'm wrapping up Soderbergh's book, Getting Away With It, and I've rather liked it. Makes me want to see Schizopolis, one of the movies he angsts over in his journal entries. Trouble is, it's only been available on VHS, until now. According to Amazon, Criterion will release Schizopolis on Region 1 DVD October 14.

* Just an update on the pressure the e-commerce fire hose exerts: Amazon showed three copies of Soderbergh's book when I called "dogpile!" Now they show four. My endorsement appears to have caused someone to return the book. Now let's see if we can strangle this DVD in its crib.

A friend showed me a website for a DC spa that was so hilariously and transparently metrosexual, I almost posted it here last week (at the risk of either reigniting the whole tired metrosexual discussion, or, far more likely, being woefully behind the curve). But I resisted.

Until I saw the Grooming Lounge make a huge, sponsor-like appearance on tonight's premiere episode of K Street. [F'rinstance, the Lounge pitches a manicure with this butched up rationale: "After all, your mitts are the first thing you offer a prospective boss or wife."] Then within minutes, the character appears in Thomas Pink, the source of dandy's shirts now that Britches is no more.

Forget all my speculation about Trent Lott's cynical opposition to K Street: he's just shoring up his rough-handed, unibrow-sporting anti-metrosexual base.

September 14, 2003

K Street: A Man with a Camera

HBO's K Street is shot in DV and makes the most of the saturated blues (outdoor) or yellows (indoor) that come from shooting with available light. Even though the processes are very different, the photography is reminiscent of Traffic. That's because director Steven Soderbergh used the same cinematographer--one Peter Andrews--on both projects.

On the Traffic DVD, Soderbergh criticizes Andrews' work, wondering aloud why someone didn't fire him. Still, Andrews is credited with the camera work on every Soderbergh film since then. Surprising? Hardly. Peter Andrews is Soderbergh. [FYI, Mary Ann Bernard, who edited of Solaris, is Soderbergh, too.]

This nameplaying is amusing but pales in comparison to Robert Rodriguez, who does (and credits himself with) seemingly every above- and below-the-line job on his films. But it takes on added significance for K Street. When Trent Lott warns ominously of "chaos if we have film crews setting up all over the place [aka Capitol Hill]," he's essentially banning a man with a camera.

[The Times' Allessandra Stanley is unimpressed with the show. She tries to pre-spin it into irrelevance with a too-studied, too-jaded disdain for spin and fictionalizing that sounds about as believable as some of the show's one-take, improvised dialogue.]

some guy, making my parking life easier

NEWS FLASH: At least it's news to me. Just a few minutes ago, this guy changed the alternate side parking sign outside my window. Turns out the no parking period has been cut from three hours to 1.5, which, frankly, rocks.

According to 311, the Dept. of Sanitation is in charge of Street Cleaning Regulations, and last month, they started rolling out 90 minute streetcleaning. So now, they're in place in Canarsie and the upper east side. Go figure.

Apparently, only real lobbyists have unfettered access to the halls of power.

TMN points to a Roll Call story that the Trent Lott, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee has deemed shooting of Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's new HBO series K Street a "commercial or profit-making purpose" and banned them from using any Capitol locations.

One solution: get the crew--and the talent-- some press passes and slap some CNN logos on those cameras. The show's on-the-run, "shoot and air it" schedule is designed to make it an influential voice in the real world's political debates. If things go according to HBO's plan, DC's power elite would start spending their Sundays parked with George Clooney instead of George Stephanopoulos.

good enough to praise J-Lo for, image:soderbergh.netOr maybe the solution's so obvious, it takes the subtlety-free Lott to point it out. After all, K Street is about lobbying, that dark hotel bar of an industry* where "politics as usual" chats up "commercial and profit-making" before they head off to bed together.

K Street features cameos from real politicians, including--according to the report--John McCain, Hilary Clinton, and Orrin Hatch--senators who were, coincidentally, the #1, 2, and 5 recipients of cable TV industry campaign contributions in the 2000 election year. McCain and Clinton each got well over $100k, and continue to get mad money from cable. Lott was #9, with $20,500, and he hasn't gotten a dime since. You do the math.

Rather than a challenge unique to shooting in Washington, Lott's disruption tactics are business as usual. If anything, they're similar to problems the LA film industry's already familiar with: extortion artists who follow film crews around with leaf blowers, angling for a few hundred bucks to go away. How'd they address that problem? By getting the Calif. state senator from Warners and Disney Burbank to introduce a bill that bans the disruption of location filming. I have a feeling this'll work out just fine.

* The seduction scene between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Soderbergh's Out of Sight is one of the greatest sex scenes ever. Read my posts about it here and here.

September 11, 2003

Ellsworth Kelly on Ground Zero

ellsworth_kelly_ground_zero_nyt.jpg Ground Zero, Ellsworth Kelly, 2003, collage.

The reconstructed text of a letter from Ellsworth Kelly to the Times' architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp:

"On October 19, 2001, I wrote a letter to you (that I never sent) in response to an article in The New York Times which discussed the controversy of what was to be planned for the `Ground Zero' space, asking artists and others for their opinions. (Two artists, Joel Shapiro and John Baldessari urged that no building be erected at the site,and the architect Tadao Ando made a similar proposition.)

"At that time, my idea for the World Trade Center site was a large green mound of grass. (When I saw the aerial photograph of the site on the cover of the Aug. 31 Arts & Leisure section of the Times, [which accompanied art critic Michael Kimmelman's article, not Muschamp's. Go figure.]) I was excited to see the site from this vantage point. I was inspired to make a collage of my idea for the space, which I am sending you.

"I feel strongly that what is needed is a 'visual experience,' not additional buildings, a museum, a list of names or proposals for a freedom monument. (These are) distractions from a spiritual vision for the site: a vision for the future."

The collage will go on view at the Whitney, which has a show through November titled "Ellsworth Kelly: Red, Green, Blue," of work from 1959-65.


Tadao Ando's proposal, meanwhile, was inspired by a Japanese burial mound.

John Baldessari (via NYTimes, 9/30/01):
"I don't think anything should be built. The site should be a park. It's an insane idea because the site is going to be an office, because the business of America is business."

I can't find Joel Shapiro's idea online, but this year, Joel Shapiro collaborated with Vinci Hamp Architects on a WTC Memorial proposal.

September 10, 2003

Gabriel Orozco on PBS

Pi +3, 2002, Gabriel Orozco, image:
[via Modern Art Notes] Nice, too brief info about Gabriel Orozco on the site for PBS' Art:21 series. Tyler said the program segment was "a little too languid," which sounds just about perfect for Orozco's work.

The New Yorker entranceth and the New Yorker pisseth one off. The latter came last July, via critic Peter Schjeldahl's flaccid reading of Orozco's clay pieces at Documenta. Art:21 has images of a beautiful follow-up show at Chantal Crousel's gallery in Paris, and I'm still happily entranced, staring at an earlier terra cotta piece sitting on the shelf next to me.

I'm a Paul Goldberger fan, and mad praise for his dogged reporting, following Daniel Libeskind around the country, but I'm not getting anything new from the profile in this week's New Yorker. When I schmoozed him last spring, Goldberger talked with great relish about digging in and laying out the powerful forces shaping the WTC rebuilding process. But this article comes too late to illuminate Libeskind's POV on the Silverstein-Childs hubbub, and too early to capture his reaction to the alterations and "fixes" that the Memorial finalists will inevitably introduce.

Contrast that with Louis Menand's excellent profile on Maya Lin from last July, which the New Yorker just put online. Menand interprets some of Lin's sensibilities a bit broadly, but re-reading this article shows him to be very prescient about (and possibly influential on) her quietly authoritative role in the WTC memorial process.

[Related: Get Maya Lin's book, Boundaries, where she revisits her own work and inspirations.]

September 9, 2003

More on HBO Directors

I'm reading and enjoying Steven Soderbergh's book, Getting Away With It, where he intermixes his self-hating journal entries and deeply interested conversations with Richard Lester, the director credited with "launching" the British New Wave. (He did The Beatles movies, The Three Musketeers, and other stuff. Fascinating, funny guy, though.)

Soderbergh tries on an authorial style, with David Foster Wallace-style, self-conscious footnotes [DFW-lite], but basically, he plays a very well-informed fan. But now that he's in production on the first episode of K Street (which airs Sunday on HBO, no pressure), these discussions with Lester about how they used to make TV shows and movies in the "old" days seem to be bearing fruit.

[The K Street site has an "online journal" totally spinning the party line, written, I think, by the Ari Fleischer character. It'd be interesting to see if they start leaking things as the show progresses.]

There are only three copies of the book on Amazon right now, and it's ranked 58,458th. Why not buy it? Turn the high-pressure hose of e-commerce that is readership on it, and see if we can break 5,000?

The National Post has a nice highlights reel, with reports from the field (and locker rooms, apparently) at the Toronto Film Festival. Some of it's like listening to cricket scores on the BBC, though; you can recognize the language as English, but you can't understand WTF it means.

One thing I do understand, though is the mention of met-on-the-set couple, Christina Ricci and Adam Goldberg, who are premiering their film I Love Your Work, which was co-produced by Josh & Co at Cyan Pictures. Josh and ILYW are getting some good buzz and press; and they're posting festival updates on their production company weblog,

Also, from BoingBoing, comes a Festival groupblog from the FilmNerds. Public screenings (and an enthusiastic, thoughtful audience base) are one of Toronto's greatest strengths, and these four guys apparently have over six years of festival experience...between them. Hmm. If you're looking for reviews with a sweeping historical context, I suggest not running those numbers. These are fresh, unjaded--and Canadian--perspectives. You've been warned.

September 7, 2003

Ozu in New York

Wim Wenders' Tokyo-ga, image:
I know Venice is barely over and Toronto's just getting started, but I'm already getting pumped for the New York Film Festival in October. Is "pumped" the right reaction for an Ozu centennial retrospective? All 36 films by the greatest Japanese filmmaker ever will screen at Lincoln Center.

Also on the schedule: A 2-day symposium on Ozu's work and influence (Oct. 11 and 12) and, batting cleanup, Wim Wenders' 1985 Tokyo Picture, his filmed diary exploring Ozu's world.

September 6, 2003

On the Directors of HBO Series

I should have mentioned it earlier--maybe when I asked for DVD rental suggestions--but HBO's Band of Brothers is one of the best series I can think of. (Except that I can also think of Kieslowski's Decalogue and Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz, which are probably the #1 and #2 greatest "mini-series" of all time; that's not the category we're dealing with here. Decalogue has been re-released on DVD, by the way. Run, don't walk.)

Last week, I watched Part 5, the one installment I missed on TV. It was pretty remarkable, easily bearing the strongest directorial stamp. "Crossroads" was what it sounds like, a transitional story, notable for lacking (until the end) any of the "gotta take that ridge" straightforwardness typical of a war film. Instead, the story focused on the challenges Winters faced off the front; incoming mortars replaced by barrages of mundane paperwork and meetings. Even so, a complex mix of recollections and revealing subplots were woven together in a fairly complex structure. It could have been confusing, but it wasn't.

From the opening scene, the director let you know something was different. The handheld camerawork was unexpected, with an intensity that clearly referenced the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan. And in a later battle scene, the handheld camera follows a soldier on a dead run (no pun) across a battlefield. The SPR allusion was no coincidence. Of course, Steven Spielberg was an executive producer of BoB, but Part 5 was the only episode directed by the other exec producer--and veteran of the D-Day scene--Tom Hanks.

The giddy pablum on HBO's site, actors gushing about how great it was that Tom Hanks was directing them is exactly what "Crossroads" overcomes. Maybe it's too directed, too edited to blend in with the more conventionally directed installments, but it feels like Hanks had something to prove, and for the most part, he did.

September 6, 2003

Movie Passions Betrayed

[via GreenCine] Wim Wenders' official 4h45m version of Until the End of the World will be released on DVD next spring. David's excellent, slightly ecstatic discussion of the release annoucement betrays a diehard fan's passion about this almost-mythical cut of the film. (For the rest of the world: Wenders' epic-to-be was subjected to drastic and problematic guts/cuts that rendered it a disappointing and confusing, both in terms of story and box office. Wenders and his editor spent a year of their own time, after the film was released, "finishing" his version, which has been seen only rarely. Until next spring, anyway.)

[via my site logs]'s first TypePad referrer links come from Persistence of Vision, a smart new weblog about independent film, evidently created by a fellow New Yorker who doesn't explain much about him/herself onsite, but betrays an obvious passion and familiarity with the film world. Welcome (and thanks for the link).

September 5, 2003

Lost in Transition

bigfoot, lochness, and the spiral jetty.  Only two of these are fables.

[via Travelers Diagram] At the Guardian, Jonathan Jones stages a virtual exhibition (we used to call them "articles") of great lost, stolen, or missing art. Included in the list: the Gardner Museum's Vermeer, the recently stolen Scottish Leonardo, and Ryoei Saito's van Gogh Portrait of Dr. Gachet. The latter is probably lost like the Ark of The Covenant is lost: it's in some crate in some bankrupt Japanese company's warehouse somewhere.

But Jones ends, inexplicably, with Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty: "Since its construction it has vanished underwater as the level of the lake has risen. Films have been made, stories told about attempts to rediscover it (the British artist Tacita Dean is one of those who have gone looking). Recently, it is fabled, the spiral has started to resurface."

A FABLE?? Don't get me started, Jonathan. I don't know why, but September is the month for Spiral Jetty deniers. Last year, I took Artforum's Nico Israel to task for pretending the Jetty was unfindable, even though we'd just visited it.

This year, the lake level is so low, I was told (and I saw the pictures, JJ), you're able to walk the entire length of the Jetty. WMD's are a fable, Jonathan. Spiral Jetty is real.

September 4, 2003

IndieWIRE, who loves ya, baby

[via GreenCine] IndieWIRE surveys 20 acquisition executives from indie and mini-major studios to see what gets them out of bed in the morning (and to see what gets you into bed with them). Great stuff.

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 2003, in reverse chronological order

Older: August 2003

Newer October 2003

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