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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who these topless film noir lovers are. You may have to think twice to figure it out.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Out Like a Lamb, In Like a Silverblatt

For those of you who donned black armbands when Brian Lamb discontinued "Booknotes" on CSPAN, I may have a reason for you to shake off the mourning garb and to smile again. On Jonathan Schwartz's radio program (his show of American popular standards airs weekly on WNYC), he recommended that people tune into "Bookworm," a west coast radio show hosted by Michael Silverblatt. Like Brian Lamb's show, Silverblatt interviews authors in-depth. Really in-depth. Not only does Silverblatt read the author's current book, but he consumes the writer's entire oeuvre. (Charlie Rose, are you listening?) Here's a partial list of half-hour interviews you'll find in the website's archives: Joan Didion, Mary Gaitskill, Kazuo Ishiguro, Tom Wolfe, Marilynne Robinson, Mark Helprin, John Banville, Norman Mailer.... You get the picture. Here's Michael Silverblatt's "Bookworm" website. (I note that Silverblatt sounds like he's coming out of a coma, and figuring out the site's archives is a pain.)


Friday, February 24, 2006

The Dog's Bollocks*

"Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story," directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Steve Coogan, is droll, clever, and bloody British. This film within a film attempts to tell the story of "Tristram Shandy," a messy, large book that defies adaptation. We learn more about the book from the actors breaking out of character and telling us point blank than from the recreations. The filming goes wonderfully awry with the impossibility of transferring the book to film. However, this is precisely the book's message: life is so full and unpredictable that it is impossible to rein it in and confine it to a nice tidy package. So very clever.
*For you non-Anglophiles, "the dog's bollocks" is a Britishism to mean "excellent" or "first-rate," similar to the meaning of "the bee's knees."


Thursday, February 23, 2006

In Toto Thursday

The original "It" girl, Clara Bow, is the answer to this week's Topless Tuesday. Writer Elinor Glynn coined the "It Girl" phrase and bestowed it on Clara B. Bonus pic below cuz I dig the 'do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blondie, Rimbaud, & Patti Smith

It's dirty, it's grimy, and it's wonderful. It's the late '70s all over again at the Grey Art Gallery with its exhibition "The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974-1984." The show recalls the era when NYC was bankrupt and artists were dirt poor and never thought that they would make it. They gleefully made art for art's sake while they and the city were going down in flames. This exhibit captures the time and mania, featuring some of my favorite artists, such as Karen Finley and Cindy Sherman. The show is definitely worth checking out.

David Wojnarowicz's images of a Rimbaud stand-in

A raw video of a magnetic Patti Smith performing


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who this topless silent film star with the bow lips is. Answer later this week.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Suck-a Alert

Don't bother reading "The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler. It's about -- yes, a fictional Jane Austen book club. Each chapter focuses on an Austen book and a character whose own life somewhat reflects that book. You're thinking, "Sounds interesting! Sounds like "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham!" (who did something like that with Virginia Woolf). Suck-a! I had zip-o interest in these characters, the kind of people who mill about at Star Trek conventions or in the bowels of the Library of Congress. This book fancies itself like "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett, which I loved: a mainstream book that confidently crosses the line to good literature. Instead, "...Book Club" is more like "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, which I despised to no end: a book that is (as Ava Gardner once described herself) deep down very superficial.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Split the Difference

"Transamerica," a low-budget indie flick about a pre-op transsexual played by Felicity Huffman, is worth seeing only for the Desperate Housewife's performance. Yes, she plays a man who is seeking to become a woman. The storyline is somewhat enticing (on the verge of The Operation, Stanley/Sabrina finds out she has a teenaged son from a brief affair); however, the chain of events in the flick is questionable, and the actor who plays her son is very weak (think Ashton Kutcher). The problem is that this film is really a two actor flick, with one actor being extraordinary and the other being a future UPN sitcom player. Recommeded for those who like to see all Oscar-nominated performances.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

In Toto Thursday

Cary Grant is the answer to this week's Topless Tuesday. I just started reading a biography of Cary. Written by Marc Eliot, the book sometimes tends to the purple prose. For instance, here's how the author describes Grant's dimpled chin:
... and that remarkable cleft in his chin, whose two smooth and curved bulges resemble nothing so much as a beautiful woman's naked behind while she was on her knees in sexual supplication before the godlike monument of his face.

OK, maybe it's more like blue prose than purple. Despite a few short detours like the above, the bio is a complusive read with a lot of revelations about C.G.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

(Not an) Imitation of Life

If director Douglas Sirk, the king of film mise-en-scene, were alive and did an updated version of "Tobacco Road," the movie stills might look like these images. Steven Giue's 10 or so large photographs at Galeria Ramis Barquet are worth a look. I love all the little details in these images. I especially like the forgotten beer bottle in the bathroom above, and the clash of the two tablecloths and the wallpaper below. Although the images reminded me of film stills, the "scenes" were not set up. The photographer lived with the family for a period of time and snapped away.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who this cleft-chinned topless leading man is. Answer later this week.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Yea for Yeahs

It's a sad day when I get my music news from the New Yorker. Last week, the mag published a preview of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' upcoming album to be released in March. Like everyone else on this side of the Hudson River, I was wildly addicted to the Yeahs's last album, "Fever to Tell." (I recently listened to it, and I hate to say that it hasn't held up as well as I would have thought.) The new disc, called "Show Your Bones," receives a pretty ecstatic review from the NYer. Dear God, please don't let them end up like the White Stripes. The nerdy brainiacs jumped on them, and Jack White bought into it and started bloody intellectualizing three-chord riffs.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Cool Customer

The rave reviews have rolled in, the awards are stacking up, and all for good reason. Joan Didion's book, "The Year of Magical Thinking," is about the year after her husband, John Gregory Dunne, died. No matter how grounded she appeared (a medic described her as a "cool customer"), she still spent the year waiting for her dead husband to come walking through the door. (That's why she didn't throw out his shoes, of course.) In this study of grief by a preeminent journalist, Didion researches and studies her "cognitive deficits" (when you go goofy after a loved one dies) and "the vortex" (long-lost memories that suck you into the past). This is not a self-help book or a kaddish; it's a well-researched document on what happens psychologically to the ones left behind.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

In Toto Thursday

Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando are the answer to this week's Topless Tuesday. They starred in "A Countess from Hong Kong," a romantic comedy directed and written by Charlie Chaplin. Shockingly, the flick is unbelievably dull. In his autobiography, Brando described Chaplin as "probably the most sadistic man I've ever met." If interested, here's M.B.'s take on C.C.
[The film] was a disaster. Chaplin was an egotistical tyrant and penny-pincher. He harassed people when they were late, and scolded them unmercifully to work faster. Worst of all he treated his son Sydney, who played my sidekick, cruelly. In front of everybody, he humiliated him constantly: "Sydney, you're so stupid! Don't you have enough brains to know how to place your hand on a doorknob? You know what a doorknob is, don't you? All you do is turn the knob, open the door and enter. Isn't that easy, Sydney?" It was painful to watch.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Cache" Register

Just had to register that "Cache" is really good, so I saw it again. The Michael Haneke-directed flick is as good, if not better, on the second go-around. I was able to focus on the images and foreshadowing since I knew the plot and did not have to read the subtitles as closely (in a number of scenes the white subtitles are on a white background). Haneke also directed "The Piano Teacher" -- one of my fav movies of 2001; that movie will leave you seared and slack-jawed (but in a good way).


Two Scoops, Please

Ooo, I scooped the NY Times again. Last week, I wrote about Thomas Hirschhorn's exhibit, "Superficial Engagement," at Gladstone Gallery. I noted/warned that the overwhelming number of photographs of butchered Arabs is shocking and upsetting. I went to this show after reading positive notices, but nothing hinting at the kicked-in-the-gut disturbing factor. Well, yesterday the Times published an article basically saying what I said. Here's a link to the story. The Times' coverage of galleries isn't exactly Art Forum or; still, it's fun to toot my horn just a bit. (Read Amp Power, Spread the Wattage!) (Image via Gladstone Gallery)


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who these topless dripping-from-their-elbows-with-sex-appeal stars are. They starred together in one royal dud, directed by the great film tramp.

Monday, February 06, 2006

When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch

Exene Cervenka's show, "America the Beautiful," at DKCT Contemporary feels a bit tired. At one point in my life, I was a big fan of X, the seminal L.A. punk band that Exene fronted, so I was eager to see this show. It consists of a number of small collages that juxtapose ironic and iconic imagery. Twenty + years ago, this stuff would seem humorously biting, but now it's just little puppy dog nips. In addition to the collages, the gallery displays some of Exene's scrawled journals and books of poems, such as "Adulterers Anonymous," under sealed glass, as though she is Walt Whitman and this is the New York Public Library. Seemed a little silly to me, and I'm a fan. (Image via DKCT Contemporary)


Friday, February 03, 2006

The Nutty Memoirist

I read Jerry Lewis's memoir "Dean and Me: A Love Story" in about three days, and I loved every minute of it. The book's title isn't tongue-in-cheek but is really cheek-to-cheek; Jerry Lewis adored and admired the hell out of Dean Martin. The book, which recounts the Martin and Lewis comedy act's meteoric rise to superstar fame, credits Dean as a huge reason for their success, something the press never acknowledged. As a writer (yes, a co-author is listed), Jerry captures the giddy zaniness of their act and success, and Jerry comes across as -- do I dare say -- humble and wise.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

In Toto Thursday

The answer to this week's Topless Tuesday.... Love her or hate her, Jane Fonda looks quite meow here as Barbarella. Believe it or not, some stills from her exercise video are racier than this.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Cache" Has Cachet

Just saw my new favorite movie of the year. "Cache," directed by Michael Haneke, first poses itself as a psychological thriller, but, hold on, Cap'n, it's much deeper than that. Like the first half of David Lynch's "Lost Highway," a family starts receiving mysterious videotapes of surveillance footage of their comings and goings. But this film is more concerned about the why rather than the who. Delving into issues of French colonialism, truth, trust, and guilt, superconfident Haneke takes you on a ride that will linger with you. On top of that, Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche expertly play out the unnerving scenario for you.