One paragraph reviews on art, movies, books, and pop culture by a know-nothing who knows it all

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Viva La Boheme

"Rent" is an entertaining little movie to add to the list of interpretations of Puccini's "La Boheme." When it comes to updated versions of the classic opera, I would probably vote for Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" as my favorite remake. The dizzying machine-gun mania of "M.R." is enough to send any viewer into an ecstatic fit. "Rent" is more serious than "M.R.," as two-thirds of its characters are either HIV-positive or junkies. Still, "Rent" has a lot of high-energy routines as it examines young love and young death. The catchy songs got so wedged in my head that I think I'm going to have to buy the soundtrack. (Never saw the play on Broadway, so I can't compare it.) (Image via Rotten Tomatoes via Sony Pictures)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Topless Tuesday

Guess who this topless waif is. If you didn't see her breakout performance in a 1978 film by a master director, you'll never figure it out, unless you're a hard-core Dennis Hopper fan who's seen all his directed films. Answer later this week in the "In Toto Thursday" feature.

Monday, November 28, 2005

White Man's Bugaboo

Light Breath Exercises (Two views), Bernardi Roig

A death mask with a burnt mouth. A peg-legged fat man trying to crush the noise in his head. Sound like fun? Bernardi Roig's show, "Smokebreath (The Monologue)" at Claire Oliver gallery, is a marvel despite its macabre imagery. Roig uses a host of media/techniques -- sculpture, drawings, and video -- to get his vision across, and he uses them all exceptionally well. Isolation, loneliness, and angst. It's all there in the artwork. The above sculpture, "Light Breath Exercises," was my favorite. I also liked a solarized-looking video of two men having a soundless shouting match. (Images via Claire Oliver.)

Listening Exercises I, Bernardi Roig


Friday, November 25, 2005

Oration Fixation

JM Coetzee pulls off an amazing feat with his 2003 book, "Elizabeth Costello." The book is basically a series of lectures given by a fictional aging woman writer. Imagine reading eight "lessons," as Coetzee's names his chapters, that delve into polemical issues, such as reality versus artifice, animal rights, author's responsibility, etc. without falling asleep. Coetzee presents/writes the material in such a way that you yourself end up pondering these issues. Is this a typical narrative novel with storyline, story arc, and all the rest? Definitely not. Is it worth reading? Yeah, sure. The ending is a bit pretentious, with the writer at a fantasy waystation/purgatory before she dies. I chose this book after reading an NYRB article about Coetzee, and this was his only available book at the library. (Image via Village Voice)


Thursday, November 24, 2005

In Toto Thursday--The Thanksgiving Edition

Hey, ladies, don't think you can take another bite of white meat? Well, think again. Feast your eyes on this dish. This week's Topless Tuesday is Montgomery Clift. The hint ("he has a prime place in the sun") refers to Monty's 1951 film "A Place in the Sun." (Image via Brian's Beefcake Drive-in.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Albee Goes Lowbrow

I had to read this twice, and you probably will too: Edward Albee, one of our preeminent drama playwrights, is a fan of "That '70s Show," a super lame, brain-draining sitcom on Fox, starring Ashton Kutcher. This week's New York Magazine asked Mr. Albee questions about influences. Here's the section that gave me pause:

NYM: I’ve read that you used to skip your own premieres.

Edward Albee
: Yes—if I could find a Monty Python movie, I would go there. I do think Fawlty Towers is one of the greatest television series. Right now, I’m deeply enamored of a really bad show called "That ’70s Show." It’s fucking funny.

I guess he has the escape-route phrase "a really bad show" to save himself from this confession, but he does describe it as "fucking funny." He sees something in it that I simply can't. (Image via South Methodist University)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Topless Tuesday

For the Ladies. Guess who this topless beefcake is who has (hint) a prime place in the sun? The answer will appear later this week in "In Toto Thursday."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Capturing Capote

My expectations were low for "Capote" because of all the rave reviews. Plus, I'm a Truman Capote fan and an "In Cold Blood" fan. It took a while for the film, which documents Capote's research for the writing of "In Cold Blood," to slowly and surely suck me into its world. In fact, I experienced a few times that glorious feeling when you are so immersed in a film that you forget you're in a theater. I attribute this feat to the director, the pacing, and, of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman's amazing portrayal of Capote. By the way, if you're interested in the book's backstory with lots o' pictures, here's a site to keep you satisfied.


Friday, November 18, 2005

The Artist at Work

Zara at Long Beach

I strongly urge people to check out Mel Leipzig's show, "Paintings of Modern Life," at Gallery Henoch. On Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the exhibit, Mr. Leipzig will be painting in the gallery. Besides observing the artist at work, you can absorb the entrancing images as well. Mr. Leipzig depicts people in their self-created environments -- sometimes appearing more like cages of their id. The above painting is one of my favorites from this show, but it's already been sold (damn!). Gallery Henoch is located at 555 25th St., NYC. The show ends Dec. 3.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

In Toto Thursday

This week's Topless Tuesday is red-haired siren Rita Hayworth. The answer to the clue ("Just ask the Third Man and her second man") is Orson Welles, who starred in the film "The Third Man" and was her second husband.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Darkness at Midnight

For the past month, I have tried to get through Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon." Can't do it. There's nothing wrong with the book or the writing; it simply puts me to sleep. Each evening I would crack open to the same page and within five minutes, my eyes would start to cross, and I'd sack out. I have wanted to read this book for years. When I read that one of Koestler's books ("The Act of Creation") had a huge influence on Brian Wilson (that's B.W. below in a bookstore), I pulled "Darkness at Noon" off the bookshelf. I first became aware of this book in 1993, when I read a horrific kidnapping story in which a man was buried in a hole and kept his sanity for 13 days by remembering "Darkness at Noon." I thought, "I must read this book in case I ever get kidnapped." Of course, I now realize that no book would save my sanity and that I would be reduced to a blubbering puddle. (By the way, if you are at all interested in the kidnapping story to which I referenced, here's a link. After reading this, I'm sure that you, too, will be reaching for your copy of "Darkness at Noon.") (Images via and The Zen Interpretation)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Topless Tuesday

Who's this topless siren? Hint: Just ask the Third Man and her second man. This one's easy. The answer will appear later this week in the In Toto Thursday feature.

Monday, November 14, 2005

This Is Pop*

XTC's Andy Partridge

I have been listening obsessively to two XTC albums this past week: Skylarking and English Settlement. Occasionally, I slip in Black Sea as well. I have no new pop albums, and I have burned out everything else, so I've been rumaging through boxes of these contraptions called "Cassette Tapes." I don't know why I'm going through this '80s nostaglia; maybe it was seeing Luc Tuymans' show. In any case, I feel that XTC's albums have held up exceptionally well over the past 20 years.
*This is a title of one of XTC's songs from the White Music album, which actually sounds very dated.
(Image via Chalkhills)


Friday, November 11, 2005

Getting Under My Skin

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat's latest film, called "Zarin" (pictured above) at Gladstone Gallery documents a prostitute who psychologically unravels. She sees men's faces as masked by an extra layer of flesh, and takes to the public baths where she literally scrubs her skin off. These gutteral-moan-inducing images reminded me of a French theatrical film called "In My Skin." In this movie, the lead character (pictured right) accidentally cuts herself but then comes to half-worship and savor mutilating herself. (This sounds like a slasher film, but it is definitely a psychological study rather than a gross-out fest.) As an audience member, I find it deeply disturbing when the protagonist harms herself. I cannot emotionally tolerate a film in which the lead character commits suicide. (I'm thinking specifically of David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive.") This is certainly not to say that these films are bad; in fact, they're all amazing works of art. But such images affect me so deeply that they really get under my skin and haunt me long afterwards. (Images via Gladstone Gallery and


Thursday, November 10, 2005

In Toto Thursday

The answer to this week's Topless Tuesday is Clark Gable (sans signature 'stache) and Joan Crawford. The answer to the anagram (HAG LINGERS IN SUN) of one of their movies is "Laughing Sinners" (1931). (Image via Classic Hollywood Bios.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reagan Art

The Perfect Setting, 2005

Walking through Luc Tuymans' show, called "Proper," at David Zwirner, I felt I was back in the '80s looking at artwork that pointed out the Reagan era's excesses and its Bigfoot stomp on the rest of the world. This time around it's Dubya and his dad who are at the controls. The 10-painting show juxtaposes images of ballroom dancing, a massive explosion, an Emily Post-style dinnertable, and Condoleeza Rice. The images are extremely muted and washed out (much more so than these reproductions). Although I felt I had seen this exhibit about 20 years ago, this somewhat unsettling show still works both conceptually and artistically, which is rare these days.

Secretary of State, 2005

(Images via David Zwirner)


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Topless Tuesday

Two for one this week. Guess who these two topless glam stars are. Here's a little puzzle to help. An anagram of one of the films in which these actors appeared together is HAG LINGERS IN SUN. Figure out the anagram and then go to IMDB to find out the stars' names. The answer will appear later this week in the "In Toto Thursday" feature.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Apocalypse Now

Feel like hanging out with a few would-be terrorists for a while? "Paradise Now," a film that follows two Palestinian suicide bombers, is a combination of "Battle of Algiers" and "Reservoir Dogs." Like "Battle...", the movie examines why someone would choose to blow himself up for a cause, and similar to "Reservoir Dogs," their grand plan goes awry. (The bombers even dress in the "Dogs" uniform.) After seeing the film, I feel that I understand a little bit better why someone would become a bomber, but that certainly doesn't mean I condone it. In addition, the movie made me realize that peace in the Middle East is pretty much hopeless. (Image via Rotten Tomatoes via Warner Independent Pictures)


Friday, November 04, 2005

Start, Stop, Do It Again

Chris Doyle, Flight, 2005

Chris Doyle's small show at Jessica Murray Projects is a lot of fun. A gigantic, two-by-four wood beamed eagle sculpture hanging from the ceiling greets you at the door. In the back room, three videos play concurrently, each using crude stop-action photography. My favorite was "Flight," in which a guy jerkingly flies low level around an apartment. Another "Love" used the same stop-action technique along with time-lapse to show a bed's covers being rumbled and made. It was refreshing to see this old-fashion visual special effect, rather than something computer generated. The videos are short, 2 to 3 minutes, and their images are quite addictive. I could have just stood there and watched the loops again and again. (Images via Jessica Murray Projects.)

Chris Doyle, Love, 2005


Thursday, November 03, 2005

In Toto Thursday

Here's the significant other half of this week's Topless Tuesday, the oh-so Wonderfully Icy Greta Garbo.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ain't No Reason

Goya, "Sleep of Reason"

Maybe reason isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe logic limits a person's thinking and his imagination. In reviewing J.M. Coetzee's novels in NYRB, John Lancaster points out a character who believes that "logic is a human invention, not the fabric of our being." And that the binary logic of the computer -- which is pervasive and co-opting a lot of our lives -- is a threat to humankind because it classifies things in a rigid "either-or" fashion. I find this whole concept very intriguing, and it spurred me to get Coetzee's "Elizabeth Costello" out of the library. Nevertheless, even artist/madman Francisco de Goya felt that reason shouldn't be entirely dropkicked: "Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels."

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Topless Tuesdays

Who's that Girl? New feature on Amp Power: every Tuesday I will post a cropped (topless) pic of a movie star. On Thursday, I'll reveal the picture in its entirety for "In Toto Thursdays."