Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saul Bass and Taelim Oh, Animators

As I'm sorting through all these reels of present day animators for projects I need collaborators on, with all their super high tech bells and whistles, was having a Saul Bass appreciation moment. He was such the shit! Even this piece, but especially all the work he did with Hitchcock... and yeah it was the era, the music, the movies themselves... but in this piece, wonderfully efficient, simple and kinda sick and comic. Saul Bass.

Also found this great piece by a recent SVA grad. The end credits are what triggered my thoughts of Saul. But love the messaging. The story is poignantly visualized and conveys the dangers of narratives we repeat through the generations. The thinking of the masses. Fantastic.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Marvin Gaye, The Greatest

Marvin in a track suit, reclined on a sofa, doing a warm up for "I Want You"?!!! Absolutely gorgeous, I don't know what to do with myself. Thank you Marvin for making this life so beautiful. So so gifted. Makes my heart melt and hurt to see him perform.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gina Czarnecki

Videos I saw at Sundance this year as part of the New Frontiers exhibit that still haunt me, from artist Gina Czarnecki... Cell Mass N2, Infected, and Nascent. Wish the videos existed online. These stills, as mesmerizing as they are, are pale in comparison to the moving sculptural experience of the videos projected wall-size, of figures layered, coming into being, disintegrating and moving through space and darkness, the expression of the dancer's bodies, the computer manipulation of them, the flow of bodies from one unknown starting point, disappearing off frame, into another unknown realm. Reminiscent of Bosch's hell, Francis Bacon's figures, but also of something sublime, an energy force, without singular form.

Helen Levitt

Our city's summertime experience is marked by the laughter and playful shrieks of so many kids playing out on the streets often with open hydrants bringing cool concrete-transcending relief, reminiscent of Helen Levitt's photographs of New York City through several decades.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lee Tamahori's "Once Were Warriors" and Mathieu Kassovitz' "La Haine"

Two of my favorite films from the 90's from directors who after these breakout films, had bigger budgets but never created work of such quality.

David Alfaro Siqueiros "Echo of a Scream"

Time and time again, reading about world situations, or thinking about mankind, my mind always conjures this image up.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wangechi Mutu

I can't even begin to discuss what her work does for me. First, there's the classicism of form, composition, that draws you to the work from across a museum floor; the strength of her use and unique quality of color and paint, sometimes reminiscent of surrealism; the redefining and recontextualizing of the female form and symbols, new perspectives and stories; then up close the discovery of the collages, and the layers of meaning they add to the form at large; the violence and gut-wrenching truths, the grotesque, the majesty. There's one of her works hanging at the Museum of Modern Art right now in the "The Modern Myth: Drawing Mythologies in Modern Times" show. One must experience her work in person to appreciate its full capacity. It's a moving experience, one that you can't take your eyes off of. I look forward to when New York City hosts a large retrospective of her work.

Arvo Pärt "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten"

Aurel Schmidt's "Master of the Universe/Flexmaster 3000"; The Whitney Biennial 2010

Aurel Schmidt's "Master of the Universe/Flexmaster 3000" (above) is my favorite, distorting mythology and form, among just a tiny handful from this year's Whitney Biennial, which was otherwise crap. A lifeless display of what happens when MFA-wielding artists are safely selected among those in the insider's institutional name game club. Themes were so out of touch with the times we're living in, and so conceptual, that the works required more background reading than anything else... we could've easily have just read an essay about what the work wanted to achieve, without experiencing the work itself. In fact that would've been preferable instead of the distraction of going through the vast spaces of the museum, and seeing the work merely as wasted real estate, imagining the money that it took to support the work's space in the museum. And although sometimes conceptual and abstract art can be interesting because of meticulous production production value? Art that exists only within its own community has developed a language for insiders only, stripped of the experiential aspect of art. Not that it has to appeal to the masses on the other end of the spectrum, but there needs to be a serious re-evaluation of where the art world is going. Because right now? Boring. Pointless.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Urban Blooz and the Colonization of Public Spaces

Contemporary art has become so institutional, and absolutely boring and irrelevant. The most exciting stuff I've seen lately all come from "street artists." I love this project by the artist that goes by the name Urban Blooz. "It is a reaction to the colonization of public spaces by advertisement. The content of the billboards is getting erased and replaced by a poster showing the frame of the environment, that is covered by the billboard itself." Simple, yet poignant. I hark back to my time in Cuba. Public wall mural paintings state/reflect the social ideals of the society and community. They made you think. Connected back to the country's history. There weren't constructed billboards, thus the landscape was unobstructed. After spending a month there, making my way back to the states felt oppressive. The weight of all the noise in advertisements, of ads appearing in every direction you turn, a glance here, in your peripheral, pounding as video and audio in elevators, of all the junk screaming, "Consume! And thus be happy!" You don't realize how much signage for shit we have in every far-reaching corner of American Capitalism and Imperialism, until you're able to experience a society that doesn't sell and privatize every imaginable piece of space, real or abstract. And how we become numb to its presence. I remember when H&M sales ads showed up on subway turnstiles! It pissed me the fuck off, but was also impressed with the idea of its placement. Some of the most brilliant minds and artists I've ever met, work in advertising. They come up with this stuff, placement and content, sometimes ingenious (although often squashed with the dumbing down and industry shift into client/accounts/marketing-based result is garbage). But what if we were to replace the needs of industry with something that reflected a different value system. Does advertising have to sell the idea that a product fills a void? Can it just provide engaging public art or does it have to literally sell something.

For more, check out "The Art of Rebellion 2: World of Urban Art Activism" published by Publikat, a great anthology of "street art." Also look out for the new Banksy film "Exit Through the Gift Shop." It made it's debut at Sundance this year and should hit the theaters in May. Really phenomenal film. And Banksy's work, just incredible.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jacques Audiard's "Un Prophète" and David Michôd's "Animal Kingdom"

Casting casting casting.
But more to come on these films...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wu-Tang Appreciation Day

Wu-Tang Lego: Da Mystery of Chessboxin' from davo on Vimeo.

In anticipation for the new Rae-Meth-Ghostface album, highlighting some tributes here from over the years... The video on top is shot-for-shot identical to the original, except of course, in all Lego. El Michels Affair does all these Stax-like dusty sounding instrumental Wu-Tang covers. I think they travel with Raekwon for live shows. Check out youtube for an entire selection of tracks. Then there's graphic design/brand artist Logan Walters' Wu-Tang covers (top still image) in the old Blue-Note record cover style (click here to see all). As much as they look like copies of yore, layout is still skillful and the artwork, still very satisfying.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Documentaries "The Shock Doctrine" and "Life and Debt," and Haiti

Two documentaries on my mind in the wake of Haiti's earthquakes are Stephanie Black's 2001 documentary on Jamaica, "Life and Debt," and "The Shock Doctrine" that just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. "Life and Debt" gives a step by step view of how and why Jamaica's post-colonial economy is laden with debt, and how as a resource-rich nation, it is rife with extreme poverty in this era of "free market" multi-national corporate globalism. It'll make you sick to your stomach, how small post-colonial nations are carved up and attacked so insidiously on all sides by these multi-nationals, with international political policies and military might they are able to buy to support their insatiable greed. The film is specific to Jamaica but the trends are seen over and over and over again in post-colonial nations that span the Carribean, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Pretty much most of the globe.

"The Shock Doctrine" takes a step back to look at trends that involve a relationship between "shocks" to a society and a "free market" economy. The idea behind the film and Naomi Klein's theory in the book by the same name for which the film is based on, is that after a "shock," whether as a result of military activity or environmental catastrophe, radical changes of some form of authoritarianism is often implemented, leading to the selling of ones nation to privatization. "Disaster Capitalism" is the term for this relationship. A nation is open and vulnerable to foreign interests and/or the interests of private companies are able to manipulate public support. Nations are also literally held at gun point to force the opening of their doors for economic rape and pillage and authoritarianism under the guise of "free markets" led by the doctrines of University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, who ultimately won a Nobel Prize. Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Pinochet, Thatcher all brought this radical economic philosophy to the fore, and the resulting inequities of societies that were forced to implement it, and extent of environmental destruction, are unprecedented. The role of shock, or disorientation, where a person or society is disconnected from history and sound judgement, is utilized by corporate and imperialist agendas, and is at the heart of Klein's "Disaster Capitalism." An article providing an alternatively nuanced take on disaster and rebuilding via Voltaire's philosophies came out in the Wall Street Journal days after Haiti's earthquake, "Rising from the Ruins" examining a historical view of catastrophe and "progress," and even how trends are vastly different from the past in the wake of Katrina and Haiti.

Within a week of Hurricane Katrina, communities that were dismantled and in a state of flux, were carved up for privatization, from education to real estate. The process of foreign companies coming in to "divvy up the loot" happened within 24 hours of the earthquake in Haiti. A good article that ties in the "Shock Doctrine" and many of the issues addressed in "Life and Debt" specific to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake can be found here, "The Shock Doctrine for Haiti," in the Socialist Worker.

It's all happening with tsunami-like speed and might. When is this all going to become transparent to the public? Will the public even care enough to organize for change? When is the true disaster of capitalism going to end? Global warming?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dope-ass Movie Posters

I love not only the image components, but also the visual quality of text/alphabets from the other languages. Films from top down: More, Last Year at Marienbad, Downhill Racer, The Girl on a Motorcycle, Boom.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

PJ Harvey "This is Love" by Sophie Muller

Sometimes all it takes is a one camera, one take performance, one white fringe-sleeved tuxedo, accessories, a good haircut, and PJ HARVEY!!! Of course, just discovered this video was created by my all-time favorite music video director, Sophie Muller. Still kicking ass.

"I can't believe life's so complex, when i just wanna sit here and watch you undress..."


Monday, January 04, 2010

Scriabin Etude Op.8 No.11 performed by Horowitz

This Scriabin piece performed by Horowitz is what I have to get me through today. Thanks to them both for their genius and sensitivity. I love that this video piece is a page by page read of the music. Absolutely beautiful. There is something about reading the music while hearing it played, by a prodigy no less, that is so moving. I love seeing Scriabin's rhythms, the change ups, in visual form. We can hear, relative to what we are seeing, Horowitz's touch--there is no one who has his touch and sensitivity and interpretation and ability to communicate his interpretations with transcending nuance. Makes him my all time favorite pianist, especially when he plays Chopin. And we can also see in the sheet music, as in any piece I love by Chopin or Scriabin, a full load of flats and black keys. That one bar rest one line from the end of the piece, so bad ass.

Doing "Dark" in Music Videos; Jay-Z feat. Swizz Beatz "On To The Next One" Directed by Sam Brown

Above, Jay-Z feat. Swizz Beatz "On To The Next One" Directed by Sam Brown; The Cardigan's "Losing My Favorite Game" Directed by Jonas Akerlund; Director Chris Cunningham Montage...

American pop videos can make "dark" look cartoony or pretty pop commercial clean as in Jay-Z's new video. That trancy chant in the song though is dope (for the vid). And I looove for some weird reason, the image of the speaker chords. I mean love it. Also like the "Rorschach test" images. Some interesting imagery speckled throughout, but meaningless because of the lack of visual story and build, just random intercutting. A few changes during the breaks, but otherwise no climax. Drones on. The attempts at darkness makes me reminiscent of Jonas Akerlund's gothic or "sick" sensibility in pop form in his videos (see recent entry/post of Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up"), and Chris Cunningham's twisted vision. Those Swedes and Brits do dark well. Though Sam Brown may be British, it's definitely not his sensibility, in addition to the collaborating artist being Jay. There were several versions of this Akerlund/Cardigan piece. One where she's decapitated. One where she brushes herself off and walk away unscathed (guess which market that one was for). Chris' work sometimes is unbearable to watch, too gross. But images always compelling, so I posted a trailer, the "best of's".

What I do love about the Jay-Z video is the immediacy of sound quality relative to image movement/action... of each shot, object, setup. Things drip, things fall, camera moves towards, pulls back, tracks sideways, wind blows, cloudshapes gush, etc. And the simplicity of shapes relative to stark black and white. There is a sense of drama within each setup. Too bad they don't build to anything. But the visuals definitely enhance the song. The edit is fantastic. Solely listening to the song, with the persistent chant, is a little crazy making.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ravens, Personal Mythologies and the New Year

The other night, I learned of a friend's unexpected death, and I found myself baffled more than anything else. If 2009 had taught me anything, is the weariness of death. I was weary. Sadness developed a callus and I was becoming desensitized. I couldn't commit to the sadness anymore. But it had transformed into an anxiety, of the unexpectedness, the out-of-your-control surprise of death. Any second could be the last. And I had a mind-boggling image of every living being on this earth, on that long line to shed this mortal coil, to decay into the earth... I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The year started with a beloved aunt committing suicide leaving behind 2 beautiful teenage sons. And then more death. And more. Old friends, teachers, acquaintances, even public figures that loomed large in my imagination. I couldn't catch my breath.

"I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet."

I couldn't believe they were all gone. In the earth. Eaten by maggots. While I could still see their faces. Hear their voices. I mean, I can't believe T.S. Eliot, who wrote and spoke such profound poetry, no longer walks the earth. I mean, I can't believe Donny Hathaway, with that voice that is so embedded in my breathing life, no longer breathes. I can't believe Marlon Brando, so alive onscreen, no longer has a heart that beats. I can't believe all those bodies mangled in war, from images of the Vietnam War to those who die daily and senselessly in the Middle East, were someone's children, someone's mother, a life that inspired another, that struggled to eat and be loved, came to being to be tossed like butcher's trash. I can't believe war had assassinated my grandparents so long ago and that my mom had experienced such loss at so young an age, loss that I had feared as a child (and still do). I know my grandparents are dead - I've never met them. But still I rack my brains, how is that possible? They walked the earth. They taught my mom things in her short 6 years of knowing them. How are they gone? And why am I baffled when I've never met them? Death baffles me. What is the mechanism of this disbelief?

Today is the birthday of my auntie, our matriarch, who passed away last September. New Year's Day is and will always be associated with her. I think of her whenever I see or hear crows. When she was alive and crows were in our midst, she would chase them away and yell at them with urgency. If we heard them "caww" in the distance, she'd raise her hand to god and speak in tongue with a fury. She taught me their association with death. When she passed away, I thought, she was wrong. There was no crow omen to foretell her passing, that was until we were at the cemetery and lowered her coffin into the ground... high above, the voice of one crow squawked, once, loud and clear, a single voice which filled the skies and echoed melodiously. The sound swept the air, washed the skies. I looked up, didn't see the bird, but its voice rang loud. I looked around - no one else noticed. Everyone's eyes were fixated on the hole in the ground. I looked up again at the clear blue sunny sky, looked at the tall trees, and took flight.

Unlike my aunt, who chased crows away, I embraced them. Birds and their feathers, have always come to me in incredible ways, in my time of need, and given me signs. They are my messengers. They tell me to trust. To have faith. That I am taken care of. That all is ok. They remind me that I am more than my body's identification. And when I heard that beautiful voice on the day of my aunt's burial, I laughed at the cosmic significance of it all. She was right. They are messengers of death, but not in the way she thought, and one must have the courage to fly with them.

So back to a few days ago, a few days shy of the new year, the morning after I heard about the death of a friend I hadn't seen in about a year, my last death in a string of many for 2009... it was a brilliantly sunny winter morning, my father excitedly rushed into my room. Look at the front lawn! What is it, I ask perturbed at the intrusion to my melancholic state. Pull open your shades! I pulled the string, the blinds went up, and I couldn't believe my eyes! My dad gaped with boyish wonder and uncontrollable gleeful laughter. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was miraculous, biblical. The entire ground before my eyes, our deep front lawn all the way across the street to our neighbor's front lawn, was covered with small black birds. On closer examination, they were pear-shaped ravens. Black feathers shimmering blue. Then a dark frenzied cloud would sweep through, depositing more of these jet black birds on the ground, pushing forward the ones before them into the air. Frenetic waves kept sweeping through. The air and ground, filled with black wings reflecting brilliant sunshine. The ravens energetically pecked away at the ground (what were they pecking at?), beat their determined wings in the air (where were they rushing to?). My dad and I couldn't make sense of what we had never seen before and watched in awe. The birds kept sweeping through, dumping more birds, sweeping through. They moved with great speeds and great numbers filling the space before my eyes. I thought of Hitchcock's "The Birds". I thought of the locusts in the bible. And within a minute, they were all gone. The cloud lifted and dissipated. Not a single bird before me. What could this mean?

It freaked me out. My first thought was, is this the omen for the new year? 2009 had taken so many... how would I stomach 2010 if this was the case? I took a few days. I meditated last night as time shifted to the new year, soon after, running into a good friend where I spent New Year's eve. And I heard the words come out of my mouth as I told her about the birds to her amazement, as I discovered for myself their significance, as I heard myself define them... it was a great cloud that lifted. As that one great bird that took flight from my aunt's graveside funeral did, an army swept through. The ravens washed away all the souls of the last year in one collective sweep, carrying them off, the way a violent summer storm will clear away the hot and sticky, the muddled heavy air, and provide comfort, new air, clean and light, to breathe. A purification. A Kali yuga. She was witness to my realization and waves of chills ran through me. The magnitude of the realization is not something I can put into words, but it was a moment of connection, of complete faith. How had I forgotten the compassionate messengers of my life? My winged friends. My fear of death had blinded me to what I had always known. I had forgotten to trust. Even the miracle of this raven's event in the moment couldn't shake that fear that freezes. It took the stillness and introspection of the last few days to pry open that space of remembering.

In my brief read about these black birds at the wee hours of this morning, I discovered that what I had seen were all young ravens, and that ravens hold a prominent place in the mythologies of different traditions. Of course. They are highly intelligent, having the highest aviary IQ, and capable of manipulating and communicating with other animals for their purpose. All in addition to what we already know about these birds, as consumers of carrion, vehicles for transformation. In mythology, they are often equated to the trickster god, holding a prominent position in the hierarchy of deities, as god of the crossroads, among them, Ganesha (Hindu), Elegua (Santeria).

Bridging life and art, I think about the importance of props to an actor, per Uta Hagen. And the satisfaction of having symbolic images, or objects, patterns that we rely on as anchors in dramatic storytelling on stage and on film. It's something we can follow, a baton, something grounding, so that we can see changes relative to that anchor. It can be a phrase, spoken, or in music, "themes." Then "variations on theme" are track-able, and thus, clear and moving. It's so clear in art, and I am thinking a lot about the unconscious palate of symbols we can create in our lives, that myths have done consciously for collectives/societies over time (a diminishing and disconnected practice in modern society). I think it is important to think about what the symbolic components are, and the function of our own personal mythologies, make it a conscious function, to create conscious rituals around them to celebrate and acknowledge them. Images, memories, objects that we find, create, connections to. Religious icons. Mantras. Elements in nature. Anchors. A system-ology we link up to, that we create, a language, a filter through which we interpret the vastness of the universe. It is a conscious practice of something small, local, with the understanding that it is a key or microcosm, for the greater cosmic model. Through these "symbols," we can tell the story of a life. Today provides the opportunity to acknowledge one of my personal symbols, my winged messengers, and a conscious acknowledgment to the function of symbols in storytelling. Personal symbols are something I know so well through my parent's stories of their lives, but this past year, it has lived in the forefront of my imagination, connecting its importance in my life and as dramatic device in storytelling.

Last night, after I broke meditation, I was able to hear the teachings of my most cherished beloved guru, David Life, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga. He said, make death a small thing, of no importance, no big deal. Have the courage to make yourself die, and fold that into life, so it's one and the same. I think about the cartoon-like images from Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration, colorful dancing skeletons. The dressing up and party that is Halloween. Martin McDonagh's uproarious graveyard comedies. Kali's skull-beaded necklace. I hope through the practice of my art and storytelling, that through my personal mythologies, I can practice this... making death small, a celebration of life.... so that they are little birds that fly in and sit on my front lawn for a moment, then fly away, that eat and shit and soar through wind. Small, banal and miraculous.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bruno Aveillan

Love the wispy-ness of light and texture, the impressionistic washes, shallow/varied/distorted fields of focus, and sensitivity of Aveillan's stills and moving images. Nice collection of them in this Louis Vuitton advert.

Al Green Altar

Does it get any better than Al Green's live performances in the early 70's?

"The French Connection" by William Friedkin; "The Hurt Locker" by Kathryn Bigelow

In terms of a script, I can't imagine it was exciting on first read, but as a film that emerged from it, a director that knew how to "use" New York City, and as a result of its on-the-ground research with participation from those the film was about, "The French Connection" is a film that has what most films after the 70's lacked, character. Perhaps filmmaking has mirrored the changes in New York City's landscape, textured to corporate plastic, a wild west to gentrification.

Learning from Friedkin's commentary on the film's DVD, the film was mostly "stolen," meaning, no setups, no extras, available light, no permissions, using the city itself and the folks on the streets - to create the scenes. It was an "induced" documentary, so to say, and borrowed from Friedkin's experience as a documentary director prior to this film. He kept the shooting pace brisk, one or two takes. He had friends with cars block the roads to cause a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge for 15 minutes!!!! He shot handheld using wheelchair dollies on subway platforms without permits. In our post 9/11 New York, these things would be impossible. He also "orchestrated" high-speed driving scenes on New York City streets, in the famous car-subway chase scene, with pedestrians and civilian cars on the road! I wouldn't recommend this last one at all. He's lucky no one was killed. But I celebrate this film in the tradition of rogue filmmaking, that is, after all the research and prep work had been done. An ode to rogue filmmaking.

I also miss what now feels like an era of onscreen giants of textured small characters, the anti-heroes, Hackman, Schneider, Hoffman, Pacino, Deniro. The films oozed with character. The city, oozed with character. Perhaps the city and the films' production process required that touch of danger, instability, unpredictability, for that "character," the "edge," so to say.

The color scheme is beautiful and perfectly captures winter in New York, how the quality of light moves through the cold air and reflects off brick and steel, all the angled shapes of the city, the cold blue environmental hues, the sunset colored yellow of the sun at all hours of the day, the hard angled light. And any film with elevated subways in it, is an instant for me, as I grew up on it, next to it, under everything about them for life. They make me feel warm and fuzzy.

For me, an interesting dramatic question that the film raises: what happens if the main character remains unchanged? In strict dramatic principle, there has to be a change. But it seems like in this film, from beginning to end, Gene Hackman's character remains unchanged. It is just increasingly revealed to the audience, the extreme extent of the character's blind obsession. Perhaps though, the point of the film is that nothing changes. It didn't bother me in this film. The ride and the cat-n-mouse plot is riveting enough. But it's a question that seems to comes up a lot. When character doesn't change, but they are put through a plot wringer for the duration of the film, is that, for lack of a better word, ok? Is it satisfying?

Another example, this year's "The Hurt Locker" by Kathryn Bigelow, was that. The bomb defuser played by Jeremy Renner, is a bit crazy, obsessive, one-note. Each bomb he defuses is more and more dangerous, but he remains unscathed, unshaken, a bad-ass to a point of cool, except when he cracks for a dangerous moment and leaves the protected military compound. I was on the edge of my seat because of the increasingly nerve-wracking complications of each bomb scenario; but also the fact I believe, that this world was wildly out of my realm. Is that what made it interesting? Because it was a new world, a new language of warfare that I previously wasn't fluent in? It kept me busy while distracting me from the fact that there was no character-driven dramatic arc? Because I found that in speaking with others, one friend wasn't so taken by all the bomb stuff because the character never changed, and another who's in the military spoke of all his buddies who hated the film because they were distracted by how unrealistic the military stuff was. In this film, I enjoyed the ride but didn't feel completely fulfilled at the end. It was a thrill ride in the way some really good fluff action films go (except this was supposed to be based on our current situation in Iraq). So as a story device, with each increasingly "insane" and dangerous bomb situation, where there are increasingly more lives at stake, more obstacles and less probability that the defuser would survive, we explore the extent of the character's singular pursuit and obsession. That's the point of the story - character doesn't change. He's that extreme.

Then for this film and for the former, can we draw the conclusion that this challenge to classical dramatic character-equals-plot arc, points the film's theme in another direction?... is the unchanging character then symbolic of the conditions in which that character thrives in? The police vs. criminal pursuit absurdities. War begetting more war insanity? Nothing changes. Is that the message of these films? And are they satisfying timeless expressions of that theme?

"Up In The Air" by Jason Reitman

"Up In The Air" was up in the air. There were a lot of interesting "we're born alone die alone" variety themes in the film, including how technology furthers that reality, and funny moments. There's the commitment as a fear of living and dying theme, and love can save us if we can find it theme. But I think the tone of the film was way off. It felt too cutesy like it was trying to be a household comedy in that "Juno" or Hollywood holiday-season-film kind of way with its happity boppity soundtrack, without that dire-dilemma-as-absurd-comedy irony that "Juno" or Jacques Demy's "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" had, the bright colors and happy tone contrasting with darker issues of social-convention-challenging pregnancy. This film needed more grotesque realism like that of the Coen Brother's "Fargo"'s picture of the midwest and David Fincher's "The Fight Club"'s unrooted corporate/modern world alienation. There were a lot of heavy issues addressed, but ultimately were so watered down by the try-to-please-everyone genre, having too many themes of equal weight, and George Clooney's coolness, that the film felt wishy washy. A weak directorial effort, because I think the material could've been there but one theme needed to be more of a singular driving force, with a decidedly darker ironic aesthetic vision. Clooney also, his whole body language was too movie-star confident. I think his character had a confidence, but not that cool. As unbound as his character was to geographical space, his world still existed in the confined seating of an airplane seat and all the public spaces his body moved through throughout his traveling business life. Clooney, the at-ease actor, became a distraction. The one detail that I thought was so appropriate was Vera Famiglia's satin blouses. Yuck. I hate them with a passion. And I found they so perfectly expressed the world she portrayed. All we needed to also see was a shoe with a bad clunky heel on it. Ick.

[Aha! After writing this entry, I discover, Reitman also directed "Juno"!]

"The Road" (Cormac McCarthy) film by John Hillcoat

This film can best be described as Vittorio De Sica's classic, "The Bicycle Thief" gone horror movie. It is a dark, in a "the horror the horror" sense, exploration into the heart of man in a post-apocalyptic setting. A father struggles life and death for his and his son's survival – and it triggers a whole series of moral dilemmas which tug at the question of 'what is the meaning of man?' 'What is the meaning of life?' The film, (I've not read the novel) offers no solutions but suggests that for the most part, we live in darkness and hell.

The story's plot hinges on the father's desire to take his son south, to coastal Florida, as if there's a promise of something different, of some hope for survival. Perhaps sunshine, warmth, safety, some food, perhaps other "good guys". But as the film unravels, we begin to get a feeling that it is also a senseless pursuit. That either they'll never reach this destination, or they'll get there, and it will be as bleak as where they've come from, and possibly another destination will have to be conjured. That's what we do to survive. Have a goal. A destination. Out there...and thus requires a journey. We seek and create roads. There doesn't seem like much purpose to their lives, just survival and a sense of a destination, and one day is as bleak and dangerous as the next. The struggles don't change. There's never a feeling of safety. And despite this, there's something internal, a will, a desire to survive, a hope for a future. Hope. Future. Two words that seem so absurd as we journey this "road" where everyday is wrought with the question of whether it will be their day to die, and the anxiety of 'what will be the quality of that death?' murder, cannibalism, images of Francis Bacon's carcasses and Hieronymus Bosch's hell on earth - are conjured.

A precise and weighted device in the story is the gun with the 2 bullets. It's as much a character in the film as the father and son. It's the gun that the father has meticulously taught his son to use, that if they were bullet for father, and one for son. In every second of the film, they have the choice to exist or not. And yet they remain, and struggle, and experience horrors, and suffer. And still they remain. Many had given up, as embodied by the mother character, or gone mad. Stubborn emotional and psychological hardiness and luck is required for survival. And this father has all the determination in the world. His purpose is his son. It is the symbol of his humanity: to do whatever it takes to protect his son. He is a "father." It defines him. Gives purpose for his own survival. The contrast though between he and his son is that he'll do whatever it takes, even at the expense of losing other aspects of his humanity. His son is the reminder of that which is innocent, compassionate, which transcends the brutal material realities. This dialogue between father and son about morality and goodness and what is required to maintain one's humanity, is the investigation of this film, even though it could've been addressed with more depth. I don't think one side of the argument wins over the other. It is in the active dialogue in the context of each dilemma, where this "humanity" is defined.

The film did not let up in its intensity, even in it's dark and dirty color scheme. Scene after gut-wrenching scene, shot after dusty desaturated shot. And as much as I'm a fan of narrative arc, I didn't mind that this film stayed on one note. The exploration kept me riveted.

After viewing the movie, I discovered that John Hillcoat also directed "The Proposition" which I hated with a PASSION, for this one-note reason. The film was a flatliner, superviolent, and for no reason, saying nothing. Dusty and bleak. Buncha white men playing cowboys and barbarians in the deserts of Australia. And with nothing changing, EVER, Nick Cave's soundtrack was a kind of hell on earth experience. Whatta jerkoff, I thought of everyone involved. I had just watched a buncha white men masturbate onscreen and call it art. I left the theater early and angry. But even as I watched "The Road" and thought the entire time, nothing's changed, the same dangers and violence, a moment of respite when the father-son find food and take a bath, but otherwise stakes remain the same hi value, the kind of dangers, the same quality throughout, I was riveted by the journey. I wonder whether I would've judged the work differently if I knew that this was "The Proposition's" director. Actually, had I known, I wouldn't have even seen "The Road."

There is a paranoia throughout the film where everyone fears they are being followed to destructive ends. But the ending offers a glimmer of hope in that one can be followed and pursued by those who want to help, by that which is good. But that glimmer is but a whisper in the world that surrounds, of darkness. But it is enough.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Richard Foreman's "Idiot Savant"

EXPERIENCED this at the Public Theater yesterday matinee... Spectacular piece of theater. So inspiring. Conjures French Theater of the Absurd, and Beckett, but very very different. Very stream of consciousness. Very in the stream. Wading. Wading. Wading. Quack quack (If you know the play, you'd know why I'm quacking). Form=function. And a delight for the senses, meticulous execution of audio, visual, prop components, and razor sharp timing. What a gift to be able to experience Foreman's work directed by the man himself. The play is definitely a practice, an experience. I can't imagine another director taking this play off the page as a blueprint. The logic of the idiot savant, is so thorough, and not a color or detail extra. Willem Dafoe was amazing, breathed LIFE. Every single action, so clear, so motivated. Even though he was playing a character inside his own head. Again, the logic, clear all the way through, so so connected. It's a piece of theater that in one sitting, inspired so much for me as an actor, but moreso, as a director and writer. The possibilities! QUACK QUACK!

Mati Klarwein

Haven't been in a verbal space, so no written entries in a while. Love what painter Mati Klarwein's conjures. I'm in the expansive state of his images, and the corpuscles. Except, his takes form. Mine is all still a messy milky way in my head. If only I can have the perspective of seeing Two Olive Trees, above, as I do, a whole form, a painting, with leaves tickled by the wind, as opposed to being stuck in the shade and tangle that clutch and struggles at the base of the trees. Klarwein obviously also did the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew cover, one of my favorite of all time, if not my most fave. Obviously he also did Santana's Abraxas cover, piece titled Annunciation, above. Love his take on Hendrix. Also above, Astral Body Awake. It's been awhile, but I think it's time to take a journey, at this transitioning time in my life. Hmm, then again, as a Sagittarian, when is my life not in transit?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Maison Martin Margiela Wedge Ankle Wooden (but not wood) Boots

Saw this gorgeous shoe in person today. Phenomenal architecture. I would like to create a film in homage (and a bank savings fund) to this shoe.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bjork "Oceania"

Bjork my heroine. A song instrumentally constructed entirely of human voice. Timeless, epic, haunting. Video, not her best, but the song is unforgettable. Funny, I always thought it was a love song. Maybe I was projecting. But it's about the creation/evolution of the ocean. A love song of a different sort. But as big and sweeping as I had imagined, or as I was projecting I guess. I see no difference actually between these two kinds of loves.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Noisettes "Never Forget You" and "When You Were Young"

Beautiful voice. Great style. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Roy DeCarava R.I.P.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Bourgeois in a Carriage" by Pavel Filonov

I didn't see this piece in person, but even here on a computer screen, is exquisite (click image above to enlarge). A continuation of yesterday's entry... another painting by Pavel Filonov. Speaking of Pavel, loved being in Russia and hearing all these names as common as John, but for me, funny-sounding names I'd only known from Chekov. It used to be so hard for me to follow all those long-lettered character names with endless consonants, but now, am happy to have a context for them. Actually being in Russia was overall enlightening. While there, it just washed on me all the great Russian art, literature, philosophy, and drama that has influenced my life, just by seeing names, being in places of historical import, seeing the remnants of that history, and of course immersing myself in Tretyakov. Sadly, didn't have time for the Pushkin, State, Moscow and Revolutionary Museums. It took me a rushed day to even get through one floor of the Tret, which in no way is a large museum. Just so much information and beauty on those walls. What a journey of the mind and the senses. Another thing that was amazing to understand about Russia, is that it truly is Europe AND Asia. And by Asia, from the Siberian side all the way to the Caucus Mountains and Turkey. And by Europe, influence from France, Greece, Germany, and its own Jewish population. Just an amazingly rich country. I am amazed that the country has existed so large for so long with such traditionally diverse cultures that spans across so much earth, and then organized such a large-scaled revolutionary movement.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Ships"by Pavel Filonov, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Saw a series of works recently by Pavel Filonov at the amazing Tretyakov Gallery (could spend weeks there) in Moscow. This is the only one of three that I could find from this series online. It not only resonates so much history that spans across time and geography, but has an amazing psychedelic quality to it. This reproduction of course does no justice to the real thing and the experience of it. You don't see scale, how small, varied and colorful each composite shape is, the details!!!, the eyes, the repetition of forms (eyes, pre-historic heads, feet, etc.) This comes from a series that is brown, with blue hues, as you can see above. Really gorgeous work. An artist I need to learn more about. And discover whether he experimented with some Siberian mushrooms of the magic shamanic variety.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

One year ago today, Gomo's Transformation Day, 9/1/08

In remembrance of the one year anniversary of our family matriarch's transformation day, gomo, my auntie, our family elder, who raised me. Thank you for teaching us so much because of your strength of character. Sometimes good, sometimes terrible. But always directed and strong and opinionated and absolute... a definitive starting point. I hope she is now the liberation she sought her whole life, tho, through the church. As I sit here remembering her and wondering how to celebrate her today, I recall and find my diary entry from a year ago today...

An achingly beautiful morning woke me up from my sleep in the late 8 o’clock hour. It was such a beautiful morning that it hurt. I took a conscious breath.

The drums were beating outside of my window in festivities for West Indian Day Carnaval. It made me excited to get up. I took another moment and breathed in the morning before I got up. Noticed my breath.

The sun beamed into my apartment and beckoned me to go outside. I got on my bike and tooled around, from Nostrand, to Empire to Eastern Parkway. The last was empty, but with such a feeling of anticipation, charged energy. All the vendors and police setting up, organizing. I biked uphill, it felt incredible, movement, up to the Parkway, then made my way into Prospect Park around the loop then back home, just feeling wind and sun. I felt free.

That light. That sky. A morning so beautiful it hurt. A strange thought entered my mind: if there was ever a day to commit suicide, this would be it. What could one hope in life for that was more than this? Then I began to really think about death, until I got to a place of fear, and made myself think of something else. I thought about 9/11 and how that morning also was so beautiful. Another morning where you take note at how incredible the morning was, the clear sky, something about the light. I thought maybe the angle of the sun in September is tilted differently, is changing from its summer position. The light is so specific. That clear sky is so specific. There is such a crispness in the molecules of air, and light. I celebrated the morning. Made breakfast and actually sat down, in silence, in the sunlight streaming in my living room, breathed and ate. It was delicious. I crawled back into bed watching the trees move, feeling the green, outside my window. I felt beautiful. I rolled around in bed just feeling.

Few hours later, I received a call that Gomo had passed away at 9/1/08

Gomo gomo gomo. I don’t believe it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kim Dae-Jung, Rest in Peace

This year certainly feels like the the work of Kali's sword, from the current economic recession, a sense of house-cleaning, but also a sense of latent growth, burgeoning seeds under the surface, hybernation/preparation... all resonating a greater universal cleanup, with the passing of so many this year, for me, since September 1st. The weather in New York this summer has been dramatic. Rain, blinding visibility, comes with roof-shaking rumble and clatter. Winds that remind you of biblical stories. Today, so busy with work, I'm on the edge of mourning, but don't even have the time to mourn the death of this freedom fighter, Kim Dae Jung, who looms so large in my memory. He came to Laguardia Airport in my childhood, after being freed from so many years of house arrest and assassination attempts on his life. We went to the airport just to see him pass by. It was the first time I saw my father cry in my life, as he chanted with the crowd, fists pumping the air... KIM! DAE! JUNG! KIM! DAE! JUNG! Heroes come and go, and sometimes we are graced by merely witnessing them passing by. They leave their marks, inspire, plant seeds you carry and nurture for the rest of your life.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


HAPPY VS. SAD from Karen B. Song on Vimeo.

You thought the ULTIMATE battle was between GOOD versus EVIL. Well NOW, you can witness the EPIC battle between HAPPY versus SAD. Sometimes disguised as HI versus LO. Or LOVE versus HATE. Or FUN versus YUCK. Be forewarned though, it can get pretty ugly (or ugly pretty, depending on your point of view). Can our girl find freedom from its destructive path?

Film I wrote, shot, edited, did music for in 72 hours for the 2009 AAFL 72-hour film shootout. Entry from Team Singasong. Starring Karina Michaels, Roi King and Catherine Song.