July 2004 Archives

I'm going to be traveling in Japan for a couple of weeks, with no computer (^o^) that's a Japanese shocked emoticon. If they have the "internet" over there, and it doesn't involve a lot of phone-typing, I'll keep in touch.

In the mean time, keep reading and re-reading the Gabriel Orozco thing, I guess.

Last Sunday at the Hirshhorn, I saw a great documentary about one of my favorite artists. Juan Carlos Martin followed Gabriel Orozco around the world for three years, filming and taping the meandering artist's creative process, his installations, and the art world's reactions to his work.

To my eyes, apparent slightness is one of the most powerful aspects of Orozco's work. Martin's film reveals the intensely sustained effort Orozco's effortless-looking art requires. Weeks of tedious fabrication in a small Mexican hamlet translates into an unassuming beachscape in a German museum. The objects exhibited in The Penske Project turns out to be the tip of the iceberg of searching, alteration, and driving in the rental truck that gave the show its name. "When I'm enjoying the process, I know the result will be OK," Gabriel's voiceover explains.

With palimpsest voiceovers and interviews, raw camera movement and editing, and a marked lack of self-importance, Martin's film is a standout in the deathly boring artist documentary genre. (Think talking academic heads, the artist walking on cue, and endless tracking shots through an empty museum.) But this light-n-lively touch has its drawbacks, and they still bug.

July 29, 2004

Hey, So Did I

rosenblatt_used_to_be.jpgI first came across Jay Rosenblatt's short film in March, as I was surfing across the Silverdocs site, getting ready to submit my own tape.

It wasn't just the title, but the combination of title and picture. Rosenblatt was holding his daughter up in the air. The one sentence-synopsis read, "Video cameras come with an owner's manual and babies don't, so documentary filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt uses the first to understand the second." The title: I Used to Be A Filmmaker.

In the first few weeks after our own kid was born, when even dubbing a couple of screeners felt like a major accomplishment, I saw my entire life in Rosenblatt's title alone. I read some reviews (all very good) and thought, the guy spent two years on one short? I am cooked.

Actually, what Rosenblatt did was construct an interface between two worlds: his own as a documentarian and film instructor, and his new daughter's. Or more precisely, he bridged his own two worlds, his passion/profession and his family. All in about 10 minutes. 10 minutes over the course of two years.

In I Used to be a Filmmaker, Rosenblatt uses scenes from the first 18 months of his daughter's life to illustrate various film production terms. The still above was from "pickup shot," for example. A scene where he gets her to stop crying is called MOS. It's sometimes corny, but usually very funny, and it works. Rosenblatt takes some of the most unrepentantly self-indulgent imagery known to mankind--a smitten new dad's home movies--and by giving it structure and context, makes it not just watchable by others, but actually entertaining. No small feat.

Unlike most shorts, which directors use as calling cards for the coming feature, I Used to be a Filmmaker is what it is, complete. Which made it stand out on the festival circuit enough for Shiela Nevins to buy it for Cinemax, the Sabrina to HBO's Samantha. It premiered on Father's Day, and will have its last scheduled broadcast is tonight, Thurs. 7/29, at 6:35PM east coast, 9:35PM west coast.

Steve Martin said it best: it's all in the ti-MING. ti...MINGming.

It's always risky shooting with locally cast talent. But after five tense days, the White House screening room erupted in fits of backslapping and high fives as the rushes showed Pakistan nailing its mark like Meryl Streep with a mustache and the bomb.

The interior ministry just announced--at midnight local time, which is 2pm in, say, Boston--the capture of a major Al Qaeda terrorist, his entourage, and his fearsome arsenal of weapons.

True, the guy's name is "Foopie," his entourage was his wife and children-with whom he had been living for some time in Pakistan, and his arsenal consisted of "two AK-47 rifles, plastic chemicals [huh? like caulking?], two computers, [and] computer diskettes," and the arrest actually happened Sunday. But Scott can fix all that in post.

Besides, all they needed was an "Al Qaeda bigwig netted" hed stepping on the "Kerry slams Bush on terror 'war'" lead this weekend; it could be any one of the terrorists in Pakistan's Rolodex, really. And if the guy's story's really got legs, they can just get the nets to call him the Tanzanian Devil. [Note to self: contact TW/CNN re licensing and permissions.]

Related: White House Production Notes: Summer Blockbuster Edition

At least that's how I read this anecdote on Defective Yeti.

By the way, the Tall Buildings show at MoMA looks great. Excruciatingly sexy models, tons of other information and context. You could spend 10 minutes or half the day.

To be filed under P for Playah Hatah:

Setting: the downtown 6 train, 59th - 50th street.
Dramatis Personae: a shapely 20-something woman of a certain race with a JPMorganChase totebag, two 30-ish gentlemen of a certain race with knee-length T-shirts, sitting three occupied seats down from the woman. A 30-something white guy standing in front of them all.

The young banker studiously ignores numerous gestures and pleas from the playah: [waving across 2 people] "Miss, Yo, miss!" Playah hatah, meanwhile, pulls on his friend's arm, trying to get him to stop.

Finally making eye contact, the playah mouths something about a number. "you a model, right?" "No." "Awww, you should be. Now--"

The train pulls into 50th st and begins to slow. The banker grabs her bag and moves toward the door. She's decided to walk the last 8 blocks to Grand Central, or wait for the next train. She disappears.

Playah [loudly]: "Yo, why you messin' with me while I'm workin'?"
Hatah [louder, exasperated]: "Damn, bitch ain't gonna give any shit up. Why you embarass yourself like that?"
Playah: "You see that ass and don't even try nothin'? What, you a faggot? Damn."

Same train, same car 42nd-33rd st.
Dramatis Personae: two seated whitey white white office casual guys behind a 30-something white guy.
WWWG1: "A thousand bucks?? You can't expense that!"
WWWG2: "But it was client development."
WWWG1: "There is NO code for a lapdance [pause] Dude, a thousand bucks??"

Oy. If I see one more mention of Spike Jonze being the "heir" to "the Spiegel catalogue fortune..." This title is nothing but an artifact of lazy-ass entertainment journalism.[not you, Gawker. I know you're not journalism.]

1. Spike's, aka Adam Spiegel's father is Arthur Spiegel III, a healthcare consultant in New York. [So he's an heir to the APM/CSC fortune?] Trip, we can assume, is descended from Arthur Spiegel, one of the sons of one of the founders of the Spiegel mail order furniture business.

Trouble is, that Arthur way back then left the mailorder business for Hollywood. David Selznick convinced him to invest in World Picture Company, a pre-Gone With The Wind flop. Arthur died early and rather unattractively in a New York hotel room. Drugs? Suicide? Something. But was he an heir to anything? And did he have any descendants to be heirs to anything?

And heir to what? The Spiegel fortune itself, such as it is/was, had more than its share of ups and downs. The company nearly went bust more than once because it had overextended credit to indigent rural shoppers to finance their purchases. It's certainly no Marshall Fields fortune, which actually exists and continues to underpin socialite lifestyles and hippy chic communes to this day.

And anyway, the Spiegel that almost anyone alive now knows was the work of the German conglomerate which bought the catalogue in the mid-70's, and which has been bleeding red ink for years, both on Spiegel and on the "only the Ford Explorer's worth a damn" brand, Eddie Bauer.

The only family member to have been involved with the company in ages is Ted Spiegel--a fourth cousin?? I don't know--who was also a marketing professor at Northwestern.

How the Spiegel cousins four generations ago divvied up their stock is a mystery to me, and frankly I don't care. And why should I? By Spike-profile standards, I'd be scion to the Ethan Allen furniture fortune.

If you're an "All the research I need comes from Entertainment Weekly" journalist looking for a meaningless tidbit for yet another piece on Spike, why not try something more interesting than "heir to the Spiegel catalog fortune"? How about "abandoned by parents and raised in a skateboard shop,"? Or, if you are some genetic determinist, how about "Spike Jonze, son of the guy who replaced rent control with rent stabilization" or "Spike Jonze, whose great grandfather didn't invest in Gone With The Wind?" At least that one's got something to do with films.

As for Sofia Coppola, in addition to being the heir to a Central American shack-n-hammock resort fortune, she IS the scion of a middlebrow wine fortune. But now that it comes in cans, it's not just for tables anymore.

July 27, 2004


"[Altman] then asked a reporter if he wanted to be an extra in the scene with Redford. The reporter thought for a moment about La Dolce Vita, in which an entertainment journalist ends up orchestrating a drunken orgy in the Italian countryside. 'O.K.,' he replied."
-- Michael Agger reporting from several sets at once for The New Yorker

Classically awful Showgirls now available in self-mocking DVD version, complete with drinking game and joke commentary. For which you pony up an extra $15?? Not funny. [AP via NYT]

Included on the Wonderland DVD (Val Kilmer as John Holmes? Gets caught up in a murder? Doesn't sound familiar? Probably because no one saw it.) is the actual LAPD crime scene footage of the actual murders. There's a feisty discussion about it on IMDb's message board. [Viewing hint: Rent, don't buy.] [via Scrubbles]

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2004-08-02
Posted 2004-07-26

COMMENT/ BIG DOINGS/ Roger Angell on whatís happening this summer.
SPORTS DEPT./ THE FLOOR MOVED/ Ben McGrath follows a basketball court across town.
THE BENCH/ U.S. V. STEWART, PART II/ Jeffrey Toobin on an embattled defense lawyer.
THE LITTLE GUY/ CHEAP GAS/ Field Maloney reports on a renegade gas-station owner.
ON THE SET/ CANDIDATE/ Michael Agger on the making of a meta-movie.

/ Bruce McCall/ Do Not Remove from Visor.
A REPORTER AT LARGE/ Lawrence Wright/ The Terror Web/ Were the Madrid bombings part of a new Al Qaeda strategyódriven by the Internet?
FICTION/ Richard Ford/ "The Shore"


BOOKS/Hendrik Hertzberg/ The Politician/ Bill Clintonís "My Life."
THE SKY LINE/ Paul Goldberger/ Shanghai on the Hudson/ Jersey City wants to be like lower Manhattan, only neat and clean.
DANCING/ Joan Acocella/ Life Steps/ The Frederick Ashton centennial.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Baby Shower/ "She Hate Me."

THE TALK OF THE TOWN/ Four essays published during the 1992 Democratic Convention/ Issue of 1992-07-27
Notes and Comment/ Charles McGrath/ "We're a people that likes to orate, and to be orated at."
Activist/ William Finnegan/ "suburbs, protectionism, and Madonna"
Topless/ Elizabeth Wurtzel/ "'Youíve got to give these girls a lot of money,' the young man said. 'They work hard. They deserve it. Itís the democratic thing to do.'"
Choices/ Susan Orlean/ "'I came all the way from New Mexico to sell to these cheap Democrats.'"

PROFILES/ Joe Klein/ THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY/Can a Massachusetts Brahmin become President?/ Issue of 2002-12-02
LETTER FROM WASHINGTON/ Nicholas Lemann/ THE NEWCOMER/ Senator John Edwards is this season's Democratic rising star./ Issue of 2002-05-06

July 23, 2004

Naturalist Bourne Killer

Slate's David Edelstein hitting for the fences on The Bourne Supremacy: "a virtuoso demonstration" of "the effect of cutting-edge video and documentary techniques on ho-hum movie material..."

"...simply a tour-de-force of thriller filmmaking..."

"The film has hand-to-hand battles so close and blurry and tumultuous that they summon up your primitive fight-or-flight instincts. It's as if the filmmaker (and the camera operator) are thinking on their feet alongside the hero, moving instinctively to keep up with their subjects for fear that said subjects will fly out of the frame. And the audience is just as wired-in: I could barely look down at my popcorn."

So I get out of the city for a couple of days, take the kid to Grammy's house (not to be confused with Latin Grammy's, whose calls we don't return), take a break from the hubbub.

Little did I know that Stephen Hawking would pick the day I arrive to alter the laws of physics and dump me into the middle of just about every slow-summer, lame-ass media story in existence. It turns out the new elemental particle in physics is the 'ward,' the Mormon term for a parish or congregation, and I'm getting bombarded by them.

With highly tawdry, slow-summer news approaching morning-of-Sept-11th levels (Remember the headlines that day? Lizzie Grubman.), the end of the world is coming up fast, or as they say here, "It sure is the Latter Days." So start repenting:

  • My sister was in the same ward at BYU with that high priest of Jeopardy, Ken Jennings. Some friend of hers works with him now, and they're making estimates of his ultimate winnings by reconstructing his time off.
  • The daughter of my mom's friend is in the same ward as the Hackings, the couple at the center of a "less and less Elizabeth Smart, more and more Laci Peterson" saga unfolding on basic cable. They all spent the last year trading med school application horror stories.
  • But it says in the Bible to visit the sick... My 9-year old niece and a friend from her ward somehow convinced a supposedly rational parent to drive them to Mary Kate's "anorexia" clinic. "She's not here now. You'll have to leave." was all the thanks these little fans got for their mission of mercy.
  • And I'm sure this plot was hatched at the ward: Someone has been "cleansing" books at the local library, blotting out swear words and replacing them with "gosh," and "darn." What satanic books are these, you ask? "Murder, She Wrote." That's right, Angela Lansbury is the whore of Babylon. Bea Arthur, you're free to go.

  • Three may be a trend, but four makes it a regular feature. I'm going to start collecting protest tips, fashion, and celebrity profiles in the runup to the RNC. Come September, greg.org could become a veritable InStyle magazine of Republican Convention protesting, the must-read bible for the protesting lifestyle.

    Today's installment is a 2-for-1.

    How Russell Simmons would protest: Let photographer Glen E. Friedman post Linkin Park and Bronski Beat lyrics in the windows of a loft he owns overlooking the WTC site.

    how boingboing'er and NPR-jockey Xeni Jardin would protest the Republican Convention: by promoting another event as an alternative, like, say, a phonecam photo exhibit she curated.

    Other How'd They Protests:
    Louis Malle

    Louis Malle's 1987 film about a pair of boarding school students during WWII, Au revoir, les enfants, was based in large part on his own childhood growing up in Occupied France.

    In a scene when his mother comes from Paris to the school town to visit, Julien (the Louis Malle character), his friend Bonnett, and his older brother, FranÁois, are walking back from lunch. FranÁois is visible in the background, being very genial and helpful, explaining directions to a pair of German soldiers, which perplexes and upsets his mother.

    Don't worry, Julien assures her, "He always gives them the wrong directions." With some maternal pride, she had to agree it was a nice idea.

    Whether Malle would repeat this in New York during the Repblican Convention, we will never know. He died of lymphoma in 1995. His former wife, Candice Bergen, has made an appearance of sorts in GOP conventions before. It was Dan Quayle's memtion of "Murphy Brown" in May 1992 that opened the Family Values campaign that overtook the 1992 GOP gig in Houston.

    I remember at college in 1989 a friend proposed to his girlfriend my singing her Depeche Mode's "Somebody". At the time this seemed supremely lame to me, mostly because it was from like 1984, three albums earlier. It was a high school song.

    Now, though, and for several years, I've found "Somebody" to be quite a touching song. Touching, but not unaware that overly romantic notions of love can "make you sick":

    ...But when I'm asleep
    I want somebody
    Who will put their arms around me
    And kiss me tenderly
    Though things like this
    Make me sick
    In a case like this
    I'll get away with it.
    Of course, this is on the same album as "Master and Servant"; I guess what Martin Gore is trying to tell us is that relationships can be complex.
    And when I'm awake
    I want somebody
    Who will put a ball gag on me,
    whip me mightily,

    In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
    Issue of 2004-07-26
    Posted 2004-07-19

    COMMENT/ SOCIAL MOBILITY/ Adam Gopnik on the cityís pedicabs, a sharp symbol of a new American reality.
    DEPT. OF EDUCATION/ THE PET GOAT APPROACH/ Daniel Radosh on a notorious reading workbook.
    CHEST OUT, STOMACH IN/ ALL THAT YOU CAN BE/ Karen Schaler on cosmetic surgery for soldiers.
    SECOND FIDDLE DEPT./NO. 1 AUTHORITY/ Ben McGrath interviews an expert on Vice-Presidents.
    THE OLD BALLGAME/ CAMARADERIE/ Lillian Ross on a baseball Hall of Famer.

    LETTER FROM SOUTH BOSTON/ Susan Orlean/ The Outsiders/ Change comes to an unlikely part of town.

    CAMPAIGN JOURNAL/ Philip Gourevitch/ Damage Control/ John Kerry says he can fix foreign policy.

    THE BACK PAGE/ Paul Simms/ "New Details Surface"

    THE THEATRE/Hilton Als/ Much Ado in Messina/ Star turns in a Shakespeare comedy.
    BOOKS/ John Updike/ Twice Collected/ The well-cared-for poems of Philip Larkin.
    ON TELEVISION/ Nancy Franklin/ Emotional Rescue/ A new drama with its roots in Ground Zero.
    THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ Seeing and Reading/ Ed Ruscha at the Whitney.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Teen Jobs/ "Maria Full of Grace" and "The Door in the Floor."

    A REPORTER AT LARGE/ Joan Colebrook/ The Renewal/ On the redevelopment of South Boston/ Issue of 1966-01-01.

    Ok, they're definitely getting the hang of it. This week, WPS1 broadcast an archival MoMA artist panel that was, in retrospect, formative to me, one of the art events that really resonates with me:

    In 1994, Kirk Varnedoe hosted Richard Serra, Brice Marden, and Francesco Clemente in a discussion of Cy Twombly. I went for the Twombly and Marden, but I stayed for the Serra.

    Through sheer intelligence and what I later came to recognize as great panel stunts--tossing off the exact measurements of a 1959 Twombly canvas as if he'd memorized the catalogue raisonnee, witty tie-em-up-with-a-bow metaphors and descriptors--he OWNED the evening.

    One offhand comment he made haunted me for years, how art history since had been based on a misinterpretation of Cezanne. By about the third time I talked with him, I finally had to ask what he'd meant. He politely pretended to remember what the hell I was talking about, but he didn't, in fact, have some deeply revisionist art historical theory lurking beneath his thick paintsticked hide.

    [In painful contrast, Schnabel was there, too, on the front row, pointedly not on the panel, but nevertheless he put himself on it with a rambling self-congratulatory statement about "Cy" and "Cy and Jasper" that took up a big chunk of the q&a.]

    I asked my question of Marden, though, and his reticence bit me in the ass. Clemente jumped in and mis-answered my paragraph-long question--the last of the evening. Marden asked me to repeat it, to groans from the audience. For his answer, I'll just say, let's go to the tape. But over a year later, I got stopped on the street and asked if I was the guy who'd asked that question at that one MoMA event. And then he laughed at me.

    In any case, Marden taught me that making highly successful work doesn't automatically mean he has to talk very garrulously about it; if Marden could convey everything he wanted to in mere words, he might not need to paint.

    In another future-historical broadcast, WPS1 also has Yvonne Force, Tom Eccles, and Anne Pasternak talking for an hour about laying casino carpet in Grand Central.

    And last but not least, Steven Schaefer interviews Danish director Per Fly about his new film, The Inheritance.

    30fps@140mph = f[(2*2.5GHzG5) + 3.5TbHD + FCP4.0 + 42in.HDTV + PS2 + IS300]

    geek_my_ride_techsuperpowers.jpgGot that? It also equals the most ridiculous incarnation of dependent filmmaking this year.

    In the feat of boys-and-toys bravado that'll surely earn them front row seats when the revolution comes, tech superpowers, pimped geeked out a Lexus IS300 with a full 30fps HD video editing system, including a 42-inch flatscreen you have to put in the backseat (oops, there goes the sound engineer and PA). [See specs and pics.]

    At least the station's on the passenger side, so you're not tempted to cut the dailies while you obliviously cut off that school bus. full of handicapped orphans. that just drove into the lake. (Hey! Exclusive footage!)

    Anyway, Wired reported on the rig at MacWorld, where the company sponsored "a competition to find the best short film about Macworld that was edited in the car."

    I would get American Standard to sponsor a competition for the best short film about a turd that was dreamed up on the toilet. Oh, wait. Michel Gondry already won that one.

    Shill has a giant library of movie title screens. Not necessarily opening credits sequences--which are an artform in themselves--but a screencapture of the title card.

    It's connoisseur-comprehensive, with four versions of Tarkovsky's Stalker, for example, tracking the nuanced differences in format and transfer quality for each film's incarnation on laserdisc, DVD, beta dub, or (horrors) VHS.

    One of my favorites is Safe, Todd Haynes' 1995 film, and the main reason we can forgive Julianne Moore for Assassins [as for Laws of Attraction...]. Turns out Safe's restrained, ominous titles were designed by Bureau, the firm of artists Marlene McCarty and Donald Moffett. [via list.absenter.org]

    united_arch_moma.jpg, image: MoMA via nytimes.com
    A correction: Reading Herbert Muschamp's review of MoMA's "Tall Buildings" show, which includes the United Architects proposal for the WTC site. [The 'Dream Team' proposal is in there, too, but I've said all I'll say about that.]

    Coming after the pissed-to-be-publicly-accountable Meier, United Architecture's proposal was surprisingly moving that morning in Dec.2002. They had made a video (it's still on their site) with cuts of all kinds of happy shiny people looking up from the street, pointing at the new buildings, "like," I said, "they used to do." But it's not really true.

    Unless you were a tourist wanting to get fleeced, or you needed to get your bearings, you didn't come out of the subway and look up at the World Trade Center, and you sure didn't point.

    Except on that morning. It just occurred to me that Farenheit 9/11 opened with shots of people staring, looking up, pointing. Like an uninsidious version of the Dream Team, United Architects unconsciously incorporated the attacks themselves into its presentation.

    Conceived after September 11th, in case the world needed a reminder, "Tall Buildings" makes the complicated psychic and emotional power of skyscrapers as its jumping off point. Which is about as complicated a phrase as I can come up with.

    My wife is leaving for Japan this morning, so our alarm was set for 5:40 AM which, coincidentally, was the precise instant WAMU, the public radio station in DC, started running a promo for Latino USA. So instead of being rustled awake by subdued, overeducated murmuring, we got Tito Puente's brass section as loud as a dorm room prank.

    But this has happened before. The gentle piano intros to NPR's Weekend Edition that practically brought your first Diet Coke of the day to your bedside are too-old school. Public radio is now trending loud.

    WNYC runs the BBC World Service at 9 AM (thank you, I'm up by then), which used to start with no music at all, just the world-synching clock from Greenwhich to cue us and the news reader: "beep beep beeeeeep. 1300 hours, Greenwich Mean Time. BBC World Service. The news, read by Fiona Somebody." Now, there's a rousing brass intro with a rapid crescendo.

    [I'm linking to these shows in the hope that you'll know what the hell I'm talking about. This invisible-to-them music isn't mentioned or credited, and who knows if it's in the archived streams of the show? My head is full of untraceable music whose existence is not even acknowledged. Where did you go, BJ Liederman?]

    But the most consistently startling so far ("We're public radio. We don't shock, we startle.") while mercifully temporary, couldn't have come at a worse time. WNYC ran promos ad nauseum for its May 7 broadcast of Bernstein's Candide, which was being given a rare performance at Lincoln Center. As I commented impulsively on TMFTML's review of the review, "#&^* Candide. The promos on WNYC for that thing blare the oh-so-famous prelude so suddenly, it scares our 2-mo. old and starts her crying every damn time it comes on." What can I say, it made me feel better.

    Like many people, I suspect, I don't Listen To The Radio; I use it as a kind of aural carpet, the ambient track to my day. Encountering these Startling Themes is like stepping on a toy in the dark. Or it's like (NPR People, now I'm talking to you) rearranging the furniture in a blind man's house. A cranky, old, blind man, who lives next door and is always barking, "Turn down that music, you lousy punks!" Damn kids these days.

    koolhaas_library_sidewalk.jpg, image:altered from pps.org[via archinect] On a day when the Times praises his shoplifter-friendly, open-air Prada store on Rodeo (a feature the real customers, who valet park in back, will never see),The Project for Public Spaces pokes a sharp stick in Rem Koolhaas's eye for the deadened, bleak streetscapes he created all around his vaunted Seattle Public Library. Of course, when they hear "lively streetlife," Official Seattle may still think lobster puppet-wielding WTO protestors burning dodwn the Starbucks, so it's understandable.

    And why believe the (nominally NYC-based) PPS? They praise, of all things, the Hugo Boss store on 5th & 56th, as if it created the lumbering t-shirted mobs who clog up our midtown sidewalks (and as if SUV-loads of people who don't know how to walk down an unenclosed street are desirable in the first place).

    So while their advice on influencing your local architecture critic screams undiagnosed Post-Muschamp Stress Disorder, their spot-on "Tips for being a do-it-yourself critic" reveal a touching truth: We're all Muschampers now.

    1. Have a sense of self-entitlement
    2. Be self-conscious
    3. Stare at others
    4. Gossip

    I've been a Sony man myself (VX-1000, PD-150), but plenty of festivals have been entered, reels filled out, and development deals struck with the Canon XL-1. Well, that's all so much Fassbinder the bridge (it's ok, I'll wait...with me?) now. Canon's released the Canon XL2, which, according to Gizmodo's way-too-technical-for-me description, can sync settings between multiple cameras and "...there's just so much to this camera, though, it's sort of hard to explain." It's coming in around $5K. Time to dole out producer credit to "Amex" and "Visa."

    Canon XL2 product page

    Police in the Sicilian town of Trapani clearly don't read Gawker. If they did, they wouldn't brag so blithely about spy-camming the Oceans Twelve "beach scenes [where litigation-happy, bikini-clad-photo-squelching] Catherine Zeta Jones swims in the sea at midnight."

    The cops went to elaborate lengths to justify this surveillance, even "arresting" 23 of their cousins for being in the Mafia and plotting to extort money from the production.

    World Movie Magazine has the "official version," but we know what really happened. I mean, come on, what Mafioso would make a move against Warners, which produced no less than five Steven Seagal movies (and don't even get me started on The Sopranos)?

    From Action Lama to Achtung Lama
    Threads woven together, like the saffron robes of a reincarnated lama

    Due to a work-related trip out of the country, I will miss the Republican Convention when it comes to town. If I were here, I would protest. I would not use signs, or puppets, or chants; I would protest by reenacting the shocked, dusty exodus from lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11th.

    Here's how I would do it:
    - start downtown, maybe even below Canal street
    - wear expendable business attire.
    - set up a step ladder on the street and,
    - using a mesh tray like they use for goldpanning or a handsifter, even, I would have a friend cover me with dust.
    - It would be chalk dust, or line chalk from a football field, rosin, baby powder, or some other fine, whitish, grayish non-toxic dust.
    - I would cover my mouth with a handkerchief while doing this, snd keep it with me to wipe my sweaty, dusty face.
    - I would offer to cover as many thousands of my fellow protestors in the same manner.
    - Then, I would start walking north.
    - Or I would start walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, en masse.
    - I would let verisimilitude and photogenics dictate my route more than proximity to Madison Square Garden.
    - I would be eerily, even unsettlingly, quiet and orderly.

    I would take seriously my responsibility as a New Yorker who lived through that horrible day, and take its symbolism back from the politicians who ignored the warnings, did nothing to prepare, sat or flailed wildly when it happened, sowed fear with it ever since, used it to falsely justify a war of misplaced vengeance, put us all in even greater danger than we were before, and who are now coming to town to usurp the most widely shared monument to their failure.

    But maybe that's just me.

    In the late 1990's the artist Donald Moffett began making extraordinary paintings that seemed like a departure from the politically charged work that first garnered attention--and controversy--in protests against the Reagan/Bush-era AIDS debacle. Seductively minimal paintings where it seemed the material itself was the subject: oil paint extruded--somehow, the technique is hard to grasp--into lush carpets, finely woven nets, menacing razor-like bands. These highly aestheticized paint objects have a powerful physical presence.

    Then last year, in a show at Marianne Boesky, Moffett completely transformed his paintings by projecting video--of The Ramble in Central Park--onto their silvered surface. The intricacies and painterly effects were still there, but deliberately harder to read. Meanwhile, the uneven surface of the canvas lent the slightly distorted video loops a ghostlike, immpermanent air. Questions of furtive, hard-to-pin-down identity filled the bucolic, elegant works.

    Now through Saturday at London's Stephen Friedman Gallery, Moffett is showing D.C., a similar body of paintings-and-projections, and it feels like one of the art world's veteran protestors has come out of retirement, to show a new generation how it's done. D.C.'s projections feature the FBI building, the White House, Watergate and other loaded symbols of power. Definitely check out White House Unmoored, one of the few works where the artist used a handheld, rather than a fixed, camera. And read Moffett's interview with Kultureflash; he's one of the nicest, gentlest people I've ever met, but boy, does he sound pissed. [US pissed, angry. Not UK pissed, drunk. just to clear that up...]

    July 13, 2004

    Turn on Your Art Life

    Fresh from his TV success FashionKingdom (aka Naomi Conquers Africa) Unzipped director Douglas Keeve has a new project. For the last six months, NYMag reports, he's been shooting a pilot for an art world reality show starring the Naomi of the gallery opening, Vogue's favorite art consultant. No, the other one. The white one.

    Yvonne Force Villareal, erstwhile backup singer for Fischerspooner (cue the crickets), who lavishly covered Grand Central in Rudolf Stingel's carpet (and who was lavishly covered in return)

    The subject of YvonneTV? ìItís me as a producer, an art life, a performer.î

    To which I can only add:
    Let it shine whereever you go
    Let it make a happy glow
    For all the world to see

    Matador Records released the ten winners of, well, a $1,000 budget to make an Interpol-related short for the band's upcoming new album launch. The finished films are due August 15.

    Top on the list: Gregory Brunkalla, whose couch-slugs-in-spandex short was one of the funnier installments of Nike's Art of Speed series. Nice work if you can get it.

    The Rise of Dependent Filmmaking
    Interpol film contest
    Art of Speed reviews

    NYT Magazine previews Robert Greenwald's latest documentary, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism, which starts showing this week. It'll be rolled out via selective and massroots screenings organized by MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress. It's the same model that quickly sold 120,000 copies of his last film, Uncovered, the critique of a certain Iraqwar-mongering administration.

    The production details for Outfoxed are kinda cool, if you have access to a lot of volunteers and interns: Greenwald set dozens of DVD recorders to capture Fox News 24/7 for about six months. MoveOn orchestrated volunteer monitors to watch the network and note the exact time of footage that showed any of a dozen or so distortion techniques that Greenwald wanted to document. Then teams of highly paid editors became teams of low-paid editors to sort and structure the narrative.

    All this was done without obtaining clearances from Fox. I guess when Larry Lessig's your permissions guy, you get a little crazy on the 'fair use.'

    Like the road, the airport is a nonplace, something encountered on the way to going somewhere else, better measured in time - always too long - than in square feet. Now that it is unsafe to hitchhike, and affordable to fly, the terminal makes a better canvas for transition or self-discovery. As such, it is the setting du jour for our narratives of romance, longing, adventure and intrigue.

    "It's unlegislated territory," Mr. Iyer said. "It's a psychological limbo that becomes a meeting place of the human and posthuman - people are meeting loved ones, sending them off to war, meeting for funerals, all in the midst of a network of Body Shops, Sharper Images and other stores whose names even speak of displacement."

    -John Leland, "Unchecked Baggage: Our Airports, Ourselves", NYT

    Related: Souvenir (November 2001) Shooting Day 1: Charles de Gaulle

    " Like a soufflÈ or brain surgery, the supernatural requires a delicate touch."
    - Alessandra Stanley's NYT review of "The 4400," a remarkably good-sounding USA Network movie about alien abductees.

    "One is always on the lookout for an excuse to write about mimes, so impassioned are the people who hate them."
    - on the odd power of mimes. Note that on this day, the phrase "traffic mimes" had only 15 Google results.

    Now I will go see Cheim & Reid's summer group show, "I am the walrus,", which looks at contemporary artists' use of clowns.

    My advice: read the print version sometimes, too.

    [Update: A reader suggests the C&R show's so bad, I should send away the clowns. I got sidetracked anyway, so I have no idea of my own. (!!)]

    Art director Scott Smith is a directing finalist on the third season of Project Greenlight. He's keeping a weblog of his experience over at agency Coudal Partners, whose new slogan is either "we put the 'cou' in cool," or "no, our stylesheet's not broken."

    The weblog may go on for weeks, or, if he gets dinged, it may end tomorrow. For Smith's sake, I kind of hope he takes a clean second, earning enough recognition to get a real deal, without having to put up with all the documentary shenanigans. Besides, the two Greenlight movies to date have done about as well as Ben Affleck's latest gigs. [Maybe it's Kevin, not Scott, Smith, that needs Chris Moore's brand of tough producer love.]

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go over here and burns some Triggerstreet bridges...

    From: Scott Sforza, Head of Production, White House Studios
    To: Karl Rove, CEO,
    RE: Summer Schedule

    As requested, sir, an update on this summer's production/release schedule. It's filling out quite nicely, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind it'll go well. That said, it IS a lot of work for one man. I would ask you again to rethink the NO INTERNS policy; we could really use an extra hand down here.

    - The Sidekick/Mentor/Villain is still causing trouble, and not testing well, either. We could finesse recasting, no problem. First, though, I recommend The Gyllenhaal Strategy: float the idea of replacing him with look-alike for the sequel. Looking good in a uniform's nice, but remember: we can always stuff a sock in the jumpsuit. We just need someone with a temper who knows his way around a combover. And who can swear like an oilman. [via boifromtroy]

    - Release date for the 'Foreign Production': It's exciting to hear we're buying the rights to a new war picture, even if sellthrough on the last one is underperforming in both domestic and foreign. Still, I have some serious reservations about the release date--"the 26, 27 or 28 of July"??

    I'm know this has serious tentpole potential, but HAVE WE EVEN SEEN THE ROUGH CUT? With all due respect to the many studio execs who came back from the set saying, "This is great stuff!" and "It'll be done on time, no problem!" I'd feel more comfortable if we had some people in the editing room for this. Never mind, I'm told it's being taken care of. Sorry. I still have that "They'll shower us with flowers" song stuck in my head. [via Talkingpointsmemo]

    - The Broadway Musical: What can I say, it's costing more than we budgeted. I still don't understand why we couldn't shoot this in Toronto instead. The unions are whining, surprise surprise. Can't wait for that scene in the sequel where we ship'em all of to Gitmo. haha. Bloomberg's dealing with the leafblower-extortionists on the set problem, though. Sending them to the park or something. The "extras" are ready, and we'll have a fleet of Prius's ready to shuttle anyone who wants to see Hairspray, undetected. The set will look fabulous.

    David Dunlap has a nice story about the typeface used for the inscription on the Freedom Tower cornerstone. Inspired by the sign on the Port Authority bus terminal, the typeface was designed by Brooklyn native Tobias Frere-Jones, whose name for the font, Gotham, was not just serendipity. [Read an interview with TF-J where he cites the WTC destruction as an inspirational facet of the design.]

    It's part of a larger Frere-Jones family conspiracy--watch out Jake and Jen!!-- to totally own any creative endeavor with a city-related name.

    Meanwhile, Curbed (safe. for now.) reports on the best/only way to actually catch a glimpse of the cornerstone.

    July 7, 2004

    TiVO and DV for 'COPS'


    An AP story about the Tyler, TX police department, which recently replaced its tape-based in-car video systems with searchable, metadata-friendly hard drive-based DV. Using the system's cache, the "pre-event" feature also captures the 60 seconds before the officer hits the 'record' button.

    The system is from IBM and uses Coban Research & Technologies, manufacturer of the TopCamÆ visor-mounted camera.

    July 7, 2004

    Greeneland Travelogue

    The British Film Institute's NFT just started a Graham Greene film program(me) as part of their Crime Scene series. Greene cast a strong shadow over British film and film noir.

    The series includes a preview of a new BBC documentary by Frederick Baker about the making of Graham's greatest cinematic achievement, The Third Man. Shadowing The Third Man tells stories of Orson Welles' on-location "shenanigans" to get more money, and, oddly, projects scenes from the original film "onto the very walls and spaces where it was shot."

    I don't get it, but it's listed as a UK-France-Japan production. If that means NHK, take a pillow: the hook for their soporific Kurosawa documentary was a totally content-free stunt reunion of Kurosawa actors and crew, which was no doubt crucial to greenlighting the film. [via Kultureflash]

    [via MAN] What's shocking about Richard Serra's poster for pleasevote.com--a thick paintstick silhouette of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner--isn't his use of text or figurative representation, both completely absent from the rest of his work (with possibly one 1960's exception).

    And it's not his political activity. He's always been an active liberal, and his art challenges both easy commodification and conservative notions of authority. And who can forget his legal battle with the GSA and anti-NEA zealots like Jesse Helms which culminated in the destruction in 1989 of his sculpture Tilted Arc (besides pretty much everyone, that is)?

    No, what shocked me was his positively statesman-like restraint, which stands in contrast to the horrible image in his drawing and to current levels of Administration discourse. With STOP BUSH, Serra--who's well known for his angry temper--let's George off easy.

    In 1990, he made an etching as a fundraiser for North Carolina Senate candidate Harvey Gantt, who lost after his opponent ran some race-baiting ads that have become recognized dirty tricks classics. The title of that piece (sorry, mom) was Fuck Helms.

    In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
    Issue of 2004-07-12 and 19
    Posted 2004-07-05

    COMMENT/ BLOWING BUBBLES/ John Cassidy on the dubious longevity of Alan Greenspan.
    DEPT. OF RABBLE-ROUSING/ THE CHICAGO PRECEDENT/ Ben McGrath on Pat Buchanan's convention memories-- and plans.
    THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ PAYING TO PLAY/ James Surowiecki on the new payola.
    IN THE BELTWAY/ THE VICE-PRESIDENT'S DOCTOR/ Jane Mayer on what happened to Dr. Gary Malakoff.

    SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Patricia Marx/ Chain Letter

    LETTER FROM CAIRO/ David Remnick/ Going Nowhere/ The problem with democracy in Egypt.
    FICTION/ Judy Budnitz/ "Miracle"

    BOOKS/ David Greenberg/ Fathers and Sons/ George W. Bush and his forebears.
    A CRITIC AT LARGE/ John Lahr/ King Cole/ The not so merry soul of Cole Porter.
    THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ All-American/ Childe Hassam at the Met.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony "Mmm, what I'd do with four mechanical arms" Lane/ Swing Easy/ "Spider-Man 2" and "The Clearing."

    PROFILES/ Margaret Case Harriman/ Words and Music/ Cole Porter, soon after he suffered a debilitating horse-riding accident, talks of, among other things tailoring songs for performers like Bert (son of John) Lahr./ Issue of 1940-11-23
    PROFILES/ Truman Capote/ The Duke in His Domain/ In Rick Lyman's NYT obit for Marlon Brando, this piece is called "a patronizing portrait of a somewhat dim prima donna."/ Issue of 1957 sometime (don't they know?)

    July 5, 2004


    They'd cover it up for now so it doesn't distract from the event, then they'd rip it out once everyone's gone. They'd also make a few arbitrary, unreviewed, undiscussed decisions about other stuff they'd keep.

    Most guests arriving at the ceremony were probably unaware that they were crossing the line of the north facade of the north tower, since the column bases had been covered in gravel. Officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, said the gravel was spread to create a smoother grade and to protect the remnants.

    During the impending dismantling of the parking garage that was under 6 World Trade Center, some architectural elements will be preserved, including a smoke-scarred column, a column on which the paint was blistered by heat into a marbleized pattern and a section of smoke-stained wall with the words, "Yellow Parking B2."

    - "Rebirth Marked by Cornerstone at Ground Zero," by David Dunlap, NYT

    At panoramas.dk, Hans Nyberg has posted a remarkable QTVR by Jook Leung, taken from the center of the media scrum at yesterday's Freedom Tower groundbreaking ceremony.

    Pataki Schmataki, check out the full extent of the Bathtub wall, with its uneven concrete facing and steel cable tiebacks. Once the centerpiece of Libeskind's own sunken memorial plan, the raw wall's going to be refaced, and ultimately, only a small section--if any of it--of it will be visible through a glass curtain wall when all's said and done.

    When the chief art critic for your town's largest paper publishes a front page review of the cafeteria's "gelato collection", do you:

    A) Realize now's a good time to rethink the curatorial program of the museum?
    B) Wish he'd reviewed the best publicly accessible "bathroom installations" while he's at it?
    B) Develop a strong desire to pummel said critic about the head and face?
    C) Remember that next door is a horrible Stella, and next to that was a concert starring Barry Bostwick, Robin "last BeeGee standing" Gibb backed up by the whitey white whitest choir EVER, and Clay Aiken singing the William Tell Overture, so why are you EVEN surprised?
    E) All of the above.

    Related, but not mentioned, an actual piece of art: Art Domantay's 31 Flavors of Hell.
    Related: Hirshhorn Museum men's room features "The Lexus of baby changing tables."

    This is so beyond jumping the shark. At least the shark was jumped on the main show.

    Colin Powell singing YMCA in Jakarta (he was the construction worker.) is the political equivalent of a bitter, aging Erin Moran, who--realizing her series isn't going to be renewed, and without even a glint of hope for a Charles in Charge of her own--just pushes through the script and tries to get through the week so she can cash her check and suck it up her nose. [via waxy]

    Christopher Hawthorne nails this weekend's Pataki Day Celebration, aka the groundbreaking for the Freedom Tower.

    This is what it has come to at Ground Zero: A premature, election-year press conference held on Independence Day to celebrate the start of construction on a building called the Freedom Tower, which is designed to be precisely 1,776 feet tall and to rise next door to a vaguely conceived but lavishly outfitted museum called the Freedom Center. Who says patriotism is dead?
    Even though it's not designed, funding is uncertain, there are no tenants, and market demand is less than zero, Pataki's pushing the tower forward out of some mix of ambition and political narrative desperation. "All this is looking more and more like the process that brought us the original Twin Towers in the late 1960s and early '70s."

    Related: Hawthorne nails the WTC Memorial competition

    The trend continues. Gettyimages teamed with RES and others to have seven directors make 30-60 second shorts on about The Big Idea (whatever that is). The catch: they were to use Getty's own bank of 70,000+ images and clips.

    By default, collage, compositing, and digital manipulation rule. Making a film from pre-existing images refracts so many layers of intentionality, it makes my head spin. Marc Wilkins' explanation of his own short, To Long For, could apply to working from the imagebank itself: "The film starts with pictures waiting for something -- not doing anything, not moving and not acting; just searching, waiting."

    the big idea, tsujikawa koichiro, image:gettyimages.com

    There are no accidents. Or, rather, if any accidents happen, they're buried deep in the production process and within the prescribed boundaries of the corporate source. The closest anyone comes is Koichiro Tsujikawa, whose initial conceptual approach, to make "a collage of images that come up when I search related keywords," turned out to be too broad. Eyes is a seductively manipulated kaleidoscope of his search results for just one word.

    If it's going to be collage, then, how about a John Cageian level of randomness? What if you determined which digital bits and clips to use by throwing the I Ching or some other arbitrary randomizing system at the database? Such a film would be about the imagebank itself. You could call it The Better Idea. [via coudal]

    The Guardian asked a bunch of brainy Brits what the 'most hated movies of all time' are. I say, who knows, especially if you don't see them all? But there are some very funny answers.

    Showgirls (a So Bad It's Good movie, actually) gets multiple mentions, but Battlefield Earth gets none. Neither does Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, of that pirate movie that sunk Renny Harlan. Castaway Island Cutthroat Island [which, Deborah protests, is "a perfect pirate film." And since it was only the biggest moneyloser ever, it was probably only "most hated" by studio accountants. Duly noted.] Citizen Kane's in there, though, which is entertaining, but too "bad-boy" an answer, even if it were true.

    Leave it to Julie Burchill to come up with the right answer, though: of Guy Ritchie's Swept Away, starring his wife, Burchill says, "If I was responsible for something this bad, I'd change my name, too." Mazel Tov.

    still from Danchizake, dir. Ono Satoshi, image: midnighteye.comI met Satoshi Ono in New York, when his excellent DV doc, Danchizake (Homemade Sake), played at MoMA's Documentary Fortnight Dec. 2002. Danchizake is an elliptical, self-effacing, yet powerful story of the filmmaker's own family and the emotional rifts caused by years of economic hardship. Midnight Eye reviewed it in the Spring of 2001.

    In the latest issue, ME does a roundup of jishu eiga, selfmade films, a burgeoning genre in which Ono is cited as a leading practitioner. [His 2003 short, Good Morning Yokohama, just screened in Dallas at the Asian Film Festival.]

    ME also includes a technique-heavy interview with Japan's most successful documentary-style filmmaker, Hirokazu Kore-eda. I've admired Kore-eda's work since seeing the quiet, beautiful small-footprint Maboroshi at New Directors/New Films almost ten years ago. And After Life is one of my favorite films ever.

    Now, with the coming release of his fourth feature Nobody Knows (#3, Always, wasn't distributed in the US), Kore-eda seems ready for a change: he's making a jidai geki (costume drama) for Shochiku. "To be natural doesn't automatically mean to be real," he says. "So far I've tried to use naturalism to search for reality, but now I will try total fiction to search for that reality." [via greencine, of course]

    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.

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

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from July 2004, in reverse chronological order

    Older: June 2004

    Newer August 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
    11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
    show | beginnings

    Chop Shop
    at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
    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
    Prince YES RASTA:
    Selected Court Documents
    from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
    about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99