Apropos of nothing, really:

Apropos of nothing, really: I just got home and am catching the last few minutes of
Where Angels Fear To Tread, otherwise known as the E. M. Forster adaptation Merchant Ivory didn’t do (Although with the Italian setting, and the overlapping cast members from A Room With A ViewRupert Graves, Helena Bonham Carter–it could understandably be mistaken for their work). Nevertheless, it was Judy Davis‘s performance in Angels that continually blows my mind. The scene where she sets out into the Italian town, nearly paralyzed with fear of the “natives” and not understanding a word or gesture of Italian, is brilliant. A very small scene, all told, but remarkably played. Of course, she was also great in the other non-MI Forster adaptation, the brilliant-but-long A Passage to India.

Apropos of all that, then: Watching A Room With A View was a formative movie-going experience for me. Having been an indifferent movie consumer before going to college, I inadvertently discovered foreign films on campus my freshman year. (The first one is another story, but that would be a meta-digression.) Still, I had been playing catch-up, seeing only those classics that showed on campus. ARWAV was the first “art film” I saw in a theater. A packed theater in Salt Lake, to be precise; it seemed to have opened in Utah well after building word of mouth around the country. Anyway, I went with fellow BYU rebels Robert and Tuki. I had no idea what to expect, but in the engagement party, when Daniel Day Lewis‘s Cecil said, “I have no profession. I daresay it’s a sign of my decadence.” we all busted out laughing. We were completely alone, though; the rest of the theater was dead silent. It was the first real realization that I was much smarter and more sophisticated than everyone else in the world. No. I was in college; I already knew that. I actually realized that movies could play on multiple levels. Here was something we liked that no one else (in the Utah theater, that is) noticed.

In this article in

this article in Prospect Magazine Mark Cousins provides a whirlwind history of film theory as he explores the question-turned-tagline: Should cinema tell the truth? ( Here is a list of Cousins’ other Prospect articles. He seems like a conservative romantic, but not in a necessarily bad way.) He wonders in print whether “cinema” should focus on its own formal characteristics, personal expression, or “reality” and “real issues.” Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes.

Why couldn’t we have it all? A three-ring circus of cinematic development? Have so-called auteurs address real topics, important topics. He suggests getting David Lynch or Baz Luhrman to edit a movie of Shoah survivor interviews. “Or ask Scorsese to make a film about Rwanda. Give Jane Campion free reign [sic] on 11th September. Chantal Akerman on Le Pen. And what about the Coen brothers on Ahmedabad?” I would probably point out that this type of cinema does, in fact, exist. Scorsese’s poetic Kundun was certainly more effective (or “valuable to our future,” to use Cousins’ criteria) than the feeble Seven Years in Tibet. And of course, Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line was a gripping, formalistically innovative film actually helped overturn an innocent man’s conviction for murder. But whatever. Cousins’ argument doesn’t seem to really connect with how movies get made. (“Give Jane Campion free rein on 11th September?” If Abbas Kiarostami can jump in a van with a DV cam and make a compelling documentary about AIDS, and if a newbie can jump into a rental car wtih a DV cam and make a film about dealing with September 11 in a documentary style, what’s stopping her?) Cousins is just engaged in a the cinematic equivalent of Dr Seuss’ If I Ran the Circus. Post-script: After writing this I googled him, and he turns out to have been the director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, which I’m waiting to hear from. So I guess his ringmaster cred isn’t totally lacking. (Did I mention how much I love the circus??)

In Central Park, the

In Central Park, the only part of the
Whitney Biennial I saw includes a very nice sculpture by Keith Edmier. Located on 60th Street, on a site usually programmed by The Public Art Fund (which collaborated in the Biennial’s Central Park presence), the sculpture consists of two 3/4-life size bronze statues of WWII soldiers in dress uniforms, standing on granite bases. They look for all the world like any public war memorial/monument. The names and information on the bases both help and don’t help; you’d guess they could have been worthy of a public monument, but you sure as heck don’t recognize their names. No news there. The figures turn out to be Edmier’s grandfathers, both of whom fought in WWII. One died an old man, and the other committed suicide while on active duty in the war. Personal history–and painful personal history at that–cross paths with public memory and commemoration. [Interestingly, WWII, Korea, and ANZAC/WWI rank 1,2,3 in that Google search.]

The parallels are quite enticing between Edmier’s work and my documentary on my own grandfather’s lives that kicked off this weblog. Not that there are any specific similarities between his grandfathers and mine; just that the subject, or the medium, if you will– grandfathers– is the same. When, in the course of talking about the movie, I’m asked, “Oh, and who are your grandfathers?” it’s basically the same question Edmier forefronts: who are these two men that they should have a bronze statue in Central Park? [I touched on this a little before.]

Thanks to my tablemate last night at MoMA’s annual Party in the Garden [generic link, sorry. MoMA’s a lot of things, but strong on the web isn’t one of them.] for the heads up on Edmier’s piece, which had previously only been shown in Europe (AFAIK). George Hamilton just walked by outside my window. He’s quite tan.

when I put the

when I put the tagline in greg.org’s directory listing on
NYC Bloggers (“following the making of an independent film and the film…maker who… made it.”), I was, of course, making reference to Austin Powers. Naturally, in this grand, navel-gazing web of ours, I am not alone. But while I’m in an Austin state of mind, Shagpad.com v1.0 is a site (with a wry e-commerce culture essay) I did a few years ago. In fact, it was just about this time of year when I registered shagpad.com…(at Cannes, in fact, where the AP premiere party was held in a “shagpad” a nerd would have called a tent.)

Back in New York after

Back in New York after a weekend in DC. First things first: Invites are out for the preview screening of Souvenir November 2001 on June 3rd. Send email if you’re interested in joining us.

Sent off the application for the Montreal International Festival New Cinema New Media (is that the name? Honestly, I can’t tell which combination of “Festival International Nouveaux Cinema Nouveaux Medias Montreal” in Eng/Fra is actually the title.) For the first time, though, I included production stills. To print these out from the DV files, I just pointed Kinko’s to my ftp site. They cranked out a bunch of 8×10 glossies that, frankly, surprised me with their quality. There’s something about a pile of slightly curled black&white production stills that makes me feel legit. (Of course, the motherlode collection of film stills is at The Museum of Modern Art. They have over four million stills, which used to be available in NYC to researchers and the public. Not now. With the closing of the Manhattan museum for construction, the film stills collection has been moved. This caused quite a scandal, which was reported in the NY Observer. I’ll add a deep link when their search function is working.)

The weekend: Since our current pad in Washington is right above the Iwo Jima Memorial, we had frontrow seats to Rolling Thunder, a massive MIA-POW biker rally that culminated in 450,000 bikers rolling on the Pentagon Sunday morning. They filled those massive parking lots (and all the freeways around) with choppers. Pretty impressive. Of course, the Pentagon was between us and church that morning, so we got an extended appreciation of the scale of the rally. If they were selling Jane Fonda paraphernalia, my guess is it wasn’t her aerobics tape. (on C-SPAN Radio we heard a number of VietNam vet/bikers express their still-smouldering hatred for “Hanoi Jane.”)

“Damn you!” campaign results

“Damn you!” campaign results (source:
Google Adwords)


  • The low number of searches/impressions for Varda and Maysles was surprising, as was the high rate (2x) of Wes Anderson searches vs PT Anderson and Soderbergh. And this was a week when PT Anderson had a movie debuting at Cannes. It could be that the high quality of search results for Soderbergh and PT Anderson (both of which lead with eponymous and actively updated fansites, Soderbergh.net and PTAnderson.com, respectively) may lead to faster search “resolution” than for Wes.
  • The ads were generally effective, with clickthrough rates falling within–and in some cases, on the high end of– ranges reported for online ads.
  • It is heartening to see that the two directors who inspired me most have the highest clickthrough rates. The “greg.org factor” is a subjective ranking of “most inspirational,” I guess. To date, both Varda and Soderbergh have three explicit mentions/discussions on the site. Varda was an inspiration to get going, and Soderbergh was critical to getting through production and editing. Maysles is hugely important, too, but frankly, more for the documentary project that launched the site than for Souvenir. The Magnificent Andersons are inspiring more for their ability to pursue and realize their singular visions at such an early stage in their careers. (Some people call that ability “final cut,” like in Guardian interview with Paul Thomas Anderson aboutMagnolia.) (Oh, and we called straight-on, centered, camera angles “Andersons” after Full Frontal, which has it’s own behind-the-cameras website. (Although it’s not in real time; the film’s sliding release date means that “Week 3” lasts for months on the site.) Interesting to you? Interesting to me.
  • The greg.org “Damn you!” ad

    The greg.org “Damn you!” ad campaign on Google is just about half-over, and the results are rather interesting. (The launch is mentioned in this post.)

    The campaign appears on searches for the names of directors who inspired/influenced me, either stylistically or professionally (or both). Since all these directors have turned up here during the making of Souvenir November 2001, I figured ads using their names wouldn’t be gratuituous, but relevant. In addition, I figured someone who searches for a director’s name (especially one of these directors) would be a nice audience for the site and the movie; they’re presumably interested not only in independent film, but in the filmmaking process, too. And if we share interest in these directors specifically, well… Here’s an example of the ads:

    Damn you, Wes Anderson!
    You made me want to make a movie,
    so I did. click to read about it.

    I spent $10 for each name/ad combination, which, bought about 7-800 impressions (at the retail $15CPM). With this spending cap, the duration of each ad was determined by the frequency of Google searches for each director’s name. Next: results data and analysis for the campaign.

    The end of the month

    The end of the month means a rush of festival submission deadlines. Today I shipped off entries for the Mill Valley Film Festival (in northern CA) and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films (down south). Also in the works: Venice (the big one), Montreal (the cool one), Tahoe (the crunchy one), Indianapolis (the sweet one), and Sarajevo (the darkhorse; a movie about the aftermath of violent destruction could either resonate or repulse).

    Director’s Headshot

    One of the reasons I’d delayed submitting to some festivals was (of all things) my lack of a “director’s photo (B/W),” which some festivals require. Last week, Roe Ethridge, a friend and artist whose work I’ve collected for three-plus years, took some photos of me. In the pinch, I scanned in a Polaroid and printed it out for the submission packets, but there are real prints on the way.

    Roe works as a photographer for a huge pile of magazines. While the photos he took with Julian Laverdiere to develop the Towers of Light/Tribute in Light may be more widely seen, his extremely smart style shows through much better in the photo he took of Andrew W.K., which is everywhere, including on the cover of I Get Wet, and on T-shirts.

    As if that weren’t enough, he’s got a show of his work at Andrew Kreps Gallery which got great reviews in Artforum, The New Yorker [note: time sensitive link], and The Village Voice[inexplicably, there’s no link to their picks].

    As if that weren’t enough, the show’s selling like crazy. I even got smoked when I was too slow to commit to a photo; the last one sold to the Mexican billionaire collector (you know the guy). Check it out until June 01.

    Monday we went to

    Monday we went to a screening of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 3, the fifth (and longest) of his five-film series. Richard Serra (co-)stars. Using Barney’s favored medium, Vaseline, he re-enacts his Splash series (from 1968-70)–where he threw molted lead against the juncture of floor and wall (actually, against what looks like a small Prop piece, a series of precariously balanced metal slabs he also started around that time).
    Here is Serra’s bio on the Guggenheim site.Here is an image of a 1992 Splash work, although you may have to go to the DePont main site and work your way down to it. These pieces date from right around Barney’s birth. Or, more precisely, the start of Serra’s career dates from right around Barney’s birth. There’s more where that came from, if you’re interested.

    All in all, I was glad to see at least half of it. It was certainly well produced. Marvell didn’t write “If we had world enough and budget” for a reason. Knowing that you’re going to sell your props for mid-six figure sums no doubt liberates a director from some concerns. But it’s the same dilemma that comes from digital filmmaking: now there’s no reason you can’t see your vision realized on the screen. Or as Abbas Kiarostami said it in the interview I linked to yesterday:

    Now, this digital camera makes it possible for everybody to pick it up, like a pen. If you have the right vision, and you think you’re an instinctive filmmaker, there’s no hindrance anymore. You just pick it up, like a pen, and work with it. I predict that, in the next century, there will be an explosion of interest in filmmaking, and that will be the impact of the digital camera.

    I just now noticed that Kiarostami doesn’t necessarily predict an explosion of interest in seeing these untethered visions, just in making them. I worry that Barney may face a similar situation.

    While surfing for Cannes reports,

    While surfing for Cannes reports, I found this great Indiewire interview with Abbas Kiarostami from the 2001 Double Take Documentary Film Festival, timed to the premiere of ABC Africa, his doc about AIDS in, well, Africa. Some highlights:

  • The film was made during “location scouting,” when he was still deciding whether to accept the UN’s invitation to make a documentary.
  • “But when I actually started using [the digital cameras] — and when I realized its possibilities and what I could do with them — I realized that I have wasted, in a way, 30 years of my career using the 35mm camera, because that camera, for the type of work that I do, is more of a hindrance than a communication tool.”
  • Information architecture question continued from

    Information architecture question continued from the last post: Using the content of the weblog itself as a starting point, I created the directory of films and directors I’ve referenced and turned it into a navigation tool. When I’ve only mentioned a director (e.g., Paul Thomas Anderson) without specifying a film, I’ve left it off for now. We’ll see how it works. I feel comfortable with this method of mining the archives, though. Still working on the best way to highlight non-production, non-film entries. They may eventually sort themselves into “art” and “about me” categories.

    There’s no clean category for rants about some of my domain names expiring unexpectedly, throwing my sites into chaos for 3-5 days (I’m told), so I’ll leave that story for another web log.