Kevin Smith Production Diary for Jersey Girls


Ben, Jen, Kevin on the set of Jersey Girls

On his illustrious entertainment portal Movie Poop Shoot, Kevin Smith is publishing a weekly production diary of Jersey Girls, his latest, which he calls “hands-down, the best movie we’ve ever made.” The dates are a little ambiguous. The Week One entry is dated July 12, and the Week Two entry isn’t exactly dated, but the original schedule had the 11-week shoot wrapping on November 1, er, tomorrow. It’s got Ben Affleck and Jen Lopez in it, who also star in the unofficial off-the-set production diary, E! Online. Bonus: There’s a big show tunes musical number in it.
Since the eerie gap in this online production diary overlaps perfectly with the lag on Full Frontal (where it was Week 3 for two+ months), my theory is Miramax had some kind of summer web embargo, or fired their sysadmin and couldn’t do updates, or something.

On The Competition for The Pentagon Memorial

pentagon pre-9/11 aerial view, with memorial site marked by a red star

In the 45 minutes between reading about it in the Washington Post and seeing the competition exhibition itself at the National Building Museum, I had designed a memorial for the Pentagon in my head. In fact, I debated going home to document it before seeing the 70+ designs–6 finalists and 60-something “semi-finalists” from both amateurs and professionals–submitted to the competition sponsor, the US Army Corps of Engineers. (See submissions of the six finalists at the competition website.) After making a movie that uses precisely this subject to explore how people–and places–deal with horrible events, I felt compelled. I still feel compelled, but for different reasons.
In the Post article, Benjamin Forgey laments that while (Vietnam Memorial designer) Maya Lin’s influence is “mightily felt here” in the competitors’ attempts at “direct, highly charged personal encounter that Lin made possible with her dark, reflective wall,” “there were no Maya Lins in the competition. I found just the opposite: there were far too many Lins. The Vietnam Memorial’s combination of heavily programmed “experience” and minimalist form has become the default setting for memorials, at least in the US.
Among these best designs, the vocabulary of contemporary art is widely used without hesitation or fear of high-brow backlash. One semi-finalist Rogers Marvel, rather beautifully and ingeniously uses the form of James Turrell’s Roden Crater, incorporating the Pentagon’s cornice and planes flying overhead en route to National Airport in ways that subvert the artist’s sought-after serene sublimity. Other semi-finalists quote or Tadao Ando’s churches with remarkable literalism. Lin’s memorial itself is mimicked as well, with names or photos carved on highly polished or translucent panels.
The Post article didn’t prepare me for the large number of entries that marked the approximate flight path of AA77 and oriented themselves to the “point of impact.” My own memorial design was to address this overlooked (I thought) but crucial element of the attack. But while no design incorporated it like I would (i.e., “meaningfully”), I soon found out why it featured so obviously in so many entries; the path and the point of impact are marked prominently and clearly on the location plan that was part of the competition materials. While supposedly claiming no specific program, the Pentagon’s own documents actually “told” many people what to include in their design.
A final observation on the competition finalists: The program for remembering every person killed has clearly reached some kind of conceptual endgame, to the overall detriment of the resulting memorial. Terry Riley, MoMA’s curator of architecture and one of eleven jurors in this competition, once said that the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing–a monumental arch with 75,000 names on its surfaces– was the first major example of a memorial to individuals lost in battle. Before that, memorials were to generals or battles, but not lowly soldiers. Inspired by this Memorial, Lin brought this powerfully inclusive idea into her design. But at least since Oklahoma City, memorializing each individual individually has become the norm. An overwhelming percentage of the designs called for 184 somethings: benches, pools, stone markers, glowing human-height columns, wind-chime-like reeds, trees. One finalist includes 184 “life recorders,” individual “black boxes”; another proposes 184 “memorial units.” Indeed, without dismissing the losses of these people and their families, such individually totemic shrines have become the devalued currency of tragedy, drowning out the significance of an event which means much more than the sum of the lives lost, and limiting the memorial’s audience unnecessarily.
I’m going to go ahead and make some sketches anyway.

My Response to the Pentagon Memorial Proposal Competition

I spent a couple of hours this morning thinking about the Pentagon Memorial, and I made a design in response to those selected by the jury for the Army Corps or Engineers Competition. Click here to see it.
To be honest, my original idea embodied the somewhat escapist idea that we could go back to the time before the attacks, that we could undo what had happened. I wondered, “What if, somehow, Flight 77 veered at the last minute and resumed its original course, heading uneventfully toward Los Angeles?” I found that, instead of escapism, my response had to painfully acknowledge that, while briefly entertaining such thoughts is a natural human response, we must inevitably confront what happened and deal with the losses and changes in our world.
To some degree, my design is also a response to Benjamin Forgey’s wistful comment in the Post: “Still, I’d like to recognize the Pentagon memorial at a distance, to reflect on it as an identifiable part of Washintgon’s symbolic landscape.” It’s a comment I can understand well.
The memorial in Thiepval was designed to dominate the surrounding landscape, built as it is on a promontory with key strategic value to both sides in the Battle of the Somme. Also, Forgey understands Washington well; this place is nothing if not a symbolic landscape, and for every tourist who pulls up to a memorial, thousands of people drive right on by. A memorial that doesn’t take them–or the millions of others who experienced the attacks on television–into account drastically limits its own impact.
Click here to read a compilation of my weblog entries about of memorials.

These bus shelter posters



These bus shelter posters in London seem so fake, it’s shocking to read the text: “CCTV and Metropolitan Police on busses are just two ways we’re making your journey more secure/Busses are getting better/Mayor of London. Police and CCTV on a bus? I saw that movie in 1994; didn’t seem very secure to me…
I was looking on Indiewire for the official MoMA Documentary Fortnight screening schedule announcement, so this headline made me flinch: “‘Failed Artist’ Allen Talks Up European Film”. Fortunately, it’s not about me or my “European film,” it’s Woody, who disingenuously (but accurately, especially lately) calls himself “very, very mediocre.”

Lemme Tell Y’a Story ‘Bout a Man Named Jeb (well, Jeb’s Brother, Actually)

It’s a phenomenon I’m well aware of, because I’ve done it myself. Even when I was growing up in North Carolina, my accent was never that strong; it certainly isn’t as strong as it is when I’m asking people in the South for something. Then, my accent deepens a bit, and I turn into Jethro Clampett before my traveling companions’ bemused eyes, a good old boy just trying not to get screwed at the rural gas station.
But I’m not the President of the United States. Bush very self-consciously hicks up his accent sometimes, for some reason(s) known to him. It should be researched, analyzed, and reported, but my theory is he does it only when he’s campaigning among the partisan faithful in certain states where he thinks Curiously Folksy George’ll play better (IA, NM, CO recently).
Want to try it out? Listen to this news conference with Chinese President Jiang Zemin from C-SPAN. Bush is in Crawford, but as soon as the mention of “the ranch…in Texas” is through, Bush goes nearly accent-free.
Now try this campaign speech in Alamogordo, New Mexico from NPR (the Bush story starts at 2:00), which is the strongest accent I’ve heard yet. [Note: NPR changed the stream. Now no audio/video of this stump speech seems to exist on the web. Why is that? It could be quite useful to hear politicians’ “entirely for local consumption” speeches repeated verbatim in multiple locations. “Sher am glad to be here in … Springfield with y’all”)

The Shawshank Effect, Bad Parking, and Esoteric Food

According to obviously not unbiased but nevertheless generally credible sources, Spike Jonze & Charlie Kaufman’s new film Adaptation is getting effusive response from preview audiences.
We saw the trailer for Adaptation; before the opening of Punch-Drunk Love, right after writing about the film’s just-launched weblog at SusanOrlean.com. Brimming with excitement for the film, anticipation building, the trailer made me want to run screaming from the theater. It was the worst trailer for a supposedly good movie since The Shawshank Redemption, which was almost buried by it’s horrible trailer.

the jerk who just took two parking spots

< New Yorker Crankiness >: I hate amateur parallel parking, like the guy out my window this very minute, who just parked half a car-length from the sign and half a car-length from the next car. He even spent a few moments pulling up, backing up, focusing on getting straight and close to the curb, yet remained oblivious to his taking two spots. Even though Trent Lott wouldn’t approve, you could still fit a couple of Smart Cars in there. < /NYC>
Chowhound. I’ve been trying to remember this site, after hearing it on WNYC a few months ago. It’s the culinary findings of unnervingly energetic food fan Jim Leff, and it just turned up again on The Next Big Thing.

‘Well, you have to be a nut, kid.’

isabella_blow_garbage_cunningham.jpg
image of Isabella Blow in Yoshiki Hishinuma, by bill cunningham, via nyt 2002
“To be contemporaine de tout le monde–that is the keenest and most secret satisfaction that fashion can offer a woman.”
The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin
Apparent egalitarianism is the great appeal of the Street Fashion concept, especially in New York, and especially in the street photos of Bill Cunningham in the NYTimes. If you just be yourself –and that self is someone who’s got a bit of the trend radar that puts you in cargo pants about six weeks before it shows up in Cunningham’s Sunday street collages– your embroidered jeans-wearing booty may just surprise you by turning up in the paper. Bill never put your name under your photo, not even if yours is recognizable; credit goes to the man with the camera, and your just appearing is reward enough.
But when someone like Isabella Blow –who’s got “Muse” printed on her carte de visite –walks down the street, it’s the street fashion equivalent of George Bush making a speech in a national park: the setting says “See, I < heart > nature,” but be surprised if the clearcutters wait till FoxNews cuts back to the studio before revving up their chainsaws. Blow’s not on just anyone on any street any time. She’s a Muse. In Paris. During The Shows. Walking (or wafting, in this case) amidst photographers, designers, editors, stylists, and groupies. Fashion industry types. Just like her.
One of the designers Blow muses for is Jean-Paul Gaultier, who I once sat next to on the Concorde [that was totally uncalled for, I know]. Nice guy. And a brilliant miner of both the street-as-walkway and the street-as-runway. The Mixture, a new culture site with an old-school appreciation of editing, is streaming Gaultier’s latest show in its entirety. It’s worth watching.
Benjamin called the flaneur “a spy for the capitalists, on assignment in the realm of consumers.” If so, in the lead of France’s fashion industry (an “occult science of industrial fluctuations” if ever there was one. The Arcades Project is like a can of Pringles: once it’s open, you can’t stop at just one.) is just where Gaultier belongs.
France’s fashion week definitely has an industrial air, with trade associations, official this and that, and weighty government sanction. It’s like the Expositions Universelles that made Paris the center of the 19th century world, where innovations were unveiled: things like “electricity” (“The City of Lights”) and “Photography,” which debuted there in 1855. Benjamin again, on the group that re-defined the term, avant-garde:

The Saint Simonians, who envision the industrialization of the earth, take up the idea of world exhibitions…[They] anticipated the development of the global economy, but not the class struggle…World exhibitions glorify the exchange value of the commodity.

Nice work, if you can get it. Nobody knows better than Benjamin that the image and (the street) reality have a very complicated (business) relationship. When Bill Cunningham takes Isabella Blow’s picture on the street in Paris, we have to know that the image is manufactured, constructed in a myriad of ways, some obvious and some not, by all parties involved. (Isabella, even the panhandling woman in my neighborhood changes into her garbage bag before starting work.)
And I found the same issues face the filmmaker, even/especially the documentary filmmaker. To what extent do you just “let something happen” and you “happen” to film it? To what extent to you “make something happen,” or stage it? Can’t stage it? Wouldn’t be prudent? Wouldn’t have street cred? Well, how about if you just go to the spots where you know what you want to shoot is gonna happen? Then, you can just “happen” to film it. It all involves choices; editing before, during, and after the fact; having an eye (and a camera), and deciding what to do with it. All things being equal, then, some things just look better. And that can make all the difference.
The Age of Street Fashion [nyt]

On The Transformative Power of Architecture, or The Caribbean Light At The End of The Tunnel

Camp Delta, Guantanamo, USA, Cuba
image via globalsecurity.org

Last month I wrote about art and architecture made from connex containers, the standard 40-foot steel boxes used for international shipping. #1 architects MVRDV proposed a complex made from them for Rotterdam, their home town (and a major port). As the discussion on this architecture message board shows, container architecture is an idea with a lot of adherents.
Now you can add the Department of Military Aesthetics to the list. Containers were used to construct Camp Delta, the more permanent neighbor of Camp X-Ray, on the military base under US control (if not jurisdiction) in Guantanamo, Cuba. Here’s a description from Joseph Lelyveld’s very long NY Review of Books article about the quandary of the Guantanamo detainees:

Delta was thrown together for $9.7 million by a private contractor, Brown and Root Services�a division of Vice President Cheney’s old company, Halliburton�which flew in low-wage contract labor from the Philippines and India to get the job done, in much the same way that Asians were once brought to the Caribbean to harvest sugar cane. The cell blocks are assembled from the standard forty-foot steel boxes called connex containers that are used in international shipping: five cells to a container, eight containers to a cell block, with four lined up on each side of a central corridor where the lights and fans are installed. Welders cut away three sides of each container, replacing them with sidings of steel mesh, leaving the roof, floor, and one steel wall into which a window was cut. Floor-level toilets were installed�the kind requiring squatting, traditionally described as � la turque�and now these are sometimes mentioned as an example of American sensitivity to the cultural needs of the detainees.

“Alone, nothing, together, a household word, a legend”

Even though I’m on the record (ad nauseum) as hating musicals, it’s probably more accurate to say I hate most musicals or bad musicals. The shows I’ve seen by Adolph Green, who collaborated for sixty+ years with Betty Comden, don’t fall into either category. Unbenknownst to me, they were sitting right in front of me at The Public Theater’s 1997 revival of On The Town; right before the show started, an announcement was made and they stood to accept a round of applause. It was the first show for Comden, Green, Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein.
In mid-November, Singin’ In The Rain is screening at Film Forum in a new 35mm Dolby Stereo print. Adolph Green died today at his home in Manhattan.

Tilting at Windmills: Script Annotation and PR for Souvenir Premiere

First Sally Logo

Have spent most of yesterday and today writing, researching, annotating the AM script. As discussed before, it’s based partly on a real-life crime story, so it’s critical from a CYA standpoint to document the sources of characters, facts, events, and evidence in the publically available record. It’s a rather laborious process, but fortunately, I’ve kept a fairly comprehensive file of source material for the last 2+ years. Obviously, I didn’t imagine using it for a movie–much less an animated musical–until very recently. And to those with deep misgivings about an animated musical based on a true-crime story, bad Star Treks, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Citizen Kane, I say, welcome to my world.
In addition, I’ve been working on updated press kits, press screening copies of the movie, prouction stills, mailing lists, bios, PR ideas, and other planning for the MoMA Documentary Fortnight premiere. The Museum’s releasing the full list of films to be screened this week. Stay tuned. And if you have any ideas or comments on PR/press, please chime in.

Gallery and Museum Picks So Far



Untitled (Two Windows), 2002, Toba Khedoori

Drawing Now: 8 Propositions at MoMAQNS, for Toba Khedoori, Chris Ofili, Russell Crotty, Paul Noble, Kai Althoff [Roberta Smith’s NYTimes review; Walter Robinson’s artnet review] [There’s a Toba Khedoori show at David Zwirner right now, too.]
Lazlo Moholy Nagy Color Photographs at Andrea Rosen Gallery: They look like they were made yesterday, not in the ’30’s/’40’s. (Actually they were. Moholy Nagy’s estate had them printed for the first time ever. Liz Deschenes did the printing. They’re amazing and exquisite.)
Staged/Unstaged at Riva Gallery: for (Souvenir cinematographer) Jonah Freeman’s entrancing new video work and a funny video piece by Maria Alos. Curated by Lauri Firstenberg. Chris Ofili and his crew climbed 11 flights of stairs for the sweaty opening.
The (S) Files Bienal at El Museo del Barrio: It opens tonight, but I figure if there’s a little portrait of me by Maria Alos in the show, it must me good.
Shmoology at M3 Projects in Dumbo: Curated by Bill Previdi, who’s 3 for 3 on shows he’s done that I’ve seen. Go now. Ends this weekend.
Uta Barth at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: for the photographs of the spaces between–sometimes between the camera and the background, this time between the branches out the artist’s window.
Karen Kitchel at Cornell deWitt Gallery: for crisp, precise, beautiful paintings of grass.
Martin Creed at Maurizio Cattelan’s Wrong Gallery: for something to talk about, since a lot of people are talking about it. [Same Walter Robinson review as above, just scroll down.]

On Rem’s Ideas of Verticality and Shopping

koolhaas-prada-book.jpg
Rem Koolhaas’s Projects for Prada, Part 1, underneath a table-like sculpture by Wade Guyton

From the NY Post:

Firefighters had to rescue shoppers from a stuck elevator in the super-trendy Prada store in SoHo the other day. A mother and her two young daughters were celebrating one of the girls’ birthdays at the Rem Koolhas [sic]-designed boutique at around 4 p.m. when they entered the high-tech, round glass elevator. The thick double doors jammed, trapping them inside for an hour and a half with a mannequin dressed in a see-through plastic raincoat. Since Koolhas neglected to include an escape hatch, the FDNY used a power saw to cut a hole in the steel roof big enough for a ladder. The store was closed for 45 minutes while sparks flew and onlookers gawked from the sidewalk. The apologetic manager presented the liberated shoppers with free cosmetics.

Prada representatives have not responded to requests for confirmation/information, and store employees have been asked not to comment.
For more of Koolhaas’s views on current trends in retail, check his two most recent publications: The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping and Projects for Prada Part 1. stay tuned. [I particularly recommend the Prada book.]