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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Drive-in Saturday

In this weekly feature, I review in one sentence or less videos/DVDs of movies that you either have seen already or wouldn't bother to see.

"Tarnation" (2003), directed by Jonathan Caouette: Depressing druggy documentary by a son about his schizophrenic mom.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Jackie Undone

Wanna see Jackie O. lose her marbles? At Cheim and Read gallery, Jack Pierson has created 12 silkscreens of the same Jackie O. three-quarters' profile. However, with each proceeding silkscreen, the lines become a little shakier, the features a little more askewed, and J.K.O. looks more and more clinically cuckoo. "Melancholia Passing into Madness," the show's title, refers to "a 19th century medical photograph of a deranged woman, which claims to capture the very moment her melancholy passes to madness." A fun show with an interesting jumping-off point. (Image via Cheim and Read)


Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Film Uber Alles

The New Yorker recently published a riveting profile on director Werner Herzog. Reporter Daniel Zalewski documents a few weeks in the making of the film "Rescue Dawn" in Thailand. The article covers familiar ground (see the documentary "Burden of Dreams") when it comes to a Herzog film set: harsh filming environment and crew revolts. Herzog comes from the school of anything for the shot, even if it puts your life in jeopardy. Although Herzog seems slightly insane and sadistic, there's something lovable about him. And no one can deny his talent. Plus, he's endlessly quotable. Here's a well-known quote while filming "Fitzcarraldo" in Peru on his view of nature:
The trees are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they sing. They just screech in pain.... Taking a close look at what's around us, there is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder.

Postscript: I have not been able to find a link to this article. If any readers find one, please leave it in comments. Thanks.


The Rothko Reality Show

Mark Rothko's essays on art, "The Artist's Reality," has been published in paperback and received a rave review from the NY Sun. Here's some of that review:
Though I find myself seduced by the gorgeous, vibrating edges, I often feel that the larger color forms are staring out at me like wide-open mouths with not much to say. I have the complete opposite experience while reading the artist's writings - in which there may be some contradictory fuzziness around the edges but the center is always sound.
The reporter adds that "this is one of the most important documents written by an Abstract Expressionist--or by an American painter." With that statement, I'll have to add it to my evergrowing reading list.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When the Parent Is "L'Enfant"

I'm a huge fan of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the filmmakers behind "L'Enfant." The films of this Beligan bro duo is a continuum in the exploration of human frality and moral dilemmas, similar to Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Decalogue." So, yes, I recommend their current movie "L'Enfant." The flick is like a Lars Von Trier flick minus the sadism toward its characters. The Dardenne brothers demonstrate supreme film craftsmanship and human compassion. Check it out.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Food Fetish

The object of these women's affection? A reverse sushi roll. Japan's version of Martha Stewart, Harumi Kurihara, gave a food prep demonstration in NYC recently, and this was one of her creations. While I'm just beginning to develop a foot fetish, I've always had a food foto fetish. Here's another one.

"Snacks before beauty: two women enjoy peanut butter sandwiches while waiting under the dryers." The photo was taken in 1965, South Carolina.
(Images via New York Times, Saveur magazine)


Monday, April 24, 2006

Seek My Sentence Structure

I just started reading John Updike's "Seek My Face," whose lead character bears a passing resemblance to Lee Krasner. So far, however, I wonder if this book will be more of a chore than a pleasure. Check out this ouch-full first paragraph on the first page:
"Let me begin by reading to you," says the young woman, her slender, black-clad figure tensely jackknifed on the edge of the easy chair, with its faded coarse plaid and broad arms of orangish varnished oak, which Hope first knew in the Germantown sunroom, her grandfather posed in it reading the newspaper, his head tilted back to gain the benefit of his thick bifocals, more than, yes, seventy years ago, "a statement of yours from a catalogue of your last show, back in 1996."
It still hurts to reread this opening paragraph. Donde esta su editor? But this is John Updike. Imagine an editor saying, "Hey, this opening paragraph could use some work" to this novelist. Don't think so. We'll see if Updike can pull himself out of this initial hole.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Drive-in Saturday

In this weekly feature, I review in one sentence or less videos/DVDs of movies that you either have seen already or wouldn't bother to see.

"Time of the Wolf" (2003), directed by Michael Haneke: Cold and impersonal take on a post-apocalyptic France.

"Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Making of Smile" (2004), directed by David Leaf: Only gets interesting when B.W. goes into panic mode during the preparation for the tour.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Comes "Clean"

"Clean," a film by Olivier Assayas, is finally coming to NYC on April 28. I have been waiting to see "Clean" since it debuted at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. What took so long? The selling points: This French flick stars the internationally well-known Maggie Cheung who won best actress at Cannes for this role. In addition, Assayas is an arthouse and film fest darling. However, when I look at his box office numbers, I see that with each proceeding film released, the U.S. grosses have dropped dramatically. Assayas's last film "Demonlover"(2002), which I liked a lot, made a little over $200,000. Let's hope "Clean" does better, or the next Assayas film may be straight-to-video.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Understating the Obvious

Perhaps it's so obvious that the reporter felt it didn't merit a mention. In an article on Andrew Wyeth's show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Ken Johnson describes the above painting "Otherworld" (2002) as "unlike any other in the show." It is, however, very much like another Wyeth painting but one not in this exhibit: "Christina's World," painted 54 years earlier. Not only are the titles similar, but in both paintings we see a dark-haired woman from behind gazing at a barn. In the 1948 painting, she is looking up at the structure, and in the 2002 one, she's looking down. A dissertation could be written on the relationship between these two works.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Saints & Sisters

I'm still shuddering from attending photographer Nan Goldin's show "Chasing a Ghost" at the Matthew Marks Gallery. The centerpiece is a film/slide projection show called "Sisters, Saints, & Sibyls." If you attend, do not miss this film. Without viewing the film, her photographs, which are exhibited in the main gallery, are not nearly as powerful. The "film" consists of a three-screen projection that includes photographs, video, and voiceover. The subject: the ties between female saints, her sister's suicide, and Goldin's drug abuse and self-mutilation. You will see Goldin burning her arm with a cigarette. Very tough images. But they make sense. There is a context. After hearing about her family history and her reaction to it, you feel that her emotional descent was inevitable.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Foot Fetish Afoot

Oooo, this shoe could make me develop a fetish. Accompanying a NY Times article on the new season of heels' wuthering heights, this image caught my eye. That heel looks like a table leg from the 1960s, and I love the chopped off front platform. Could I even teeter in these shoes? Maybe. Walk? Impossible. But I don't think that's the point. It seems that there's an undercurrent of fetishism arising in the culture (this past week anyways). A few days after this image appeared, the film "The Notorious Bettie Page" opened, which the Times featured on the front page of the Arts section with a rave review. Leafing through the movie ads, I saw an ad for a British flick called "Kinky Boots." Is there a cultural fetish afoot? If there is one, count me in.

Monday, April 17, 2006

In Their Rooms

There is a subculture of musicians who worship the Studio Brian Wilson, the guy who pushed, bent, and manipulated studio recording. These musicians pray to the iconic image of the "In My Room" Brian--the lonely genius creating music to an audience of patch bays and sequencers. One of these musicians has recently gotten under my skin, or into my ears: Keigo Oyamada, who records under the name "Cornelius." His 1998 album "Fantasma" has been cemented into my CD player for the past week. Although the album sounds more along the lines of The Jam meets My Bloody Valentine, the specter of B.W. is strong. He pays homage to B.W. by composing modular music chunks within songs, recreating a few well-known B.W. images and naming a song "God Only Knows." In addition, this tech wiz is perfectly happy to be alone with his ProTools software.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Drive-in Saturday

In this weekly feature, I review in one sentence or less videos/DVDs of movies that you either have seen already or wouldn't bother to see.

"The Station Agent" (2003), directed by Thomas McCarthy: Tender sleeper.

"The Bicycle Thief" (1948), directed by Vittorio De Sica: Italian classic, masterful tearjerker.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Garden of Earthly Delights

Mythology, fables, and a fantastical world. Those are the images that artist Judith Linhares' paintings conjure. On view at Edward Thorp Gallery, Linhares's 12 or so paintings employ bold, wide brushstrokes with vibrant and lush colors. Based on this show, which is called "Rowing to Eden," it seems that Linhares should be hot, hot, hot. Her work reminds me of the paintings of Dana Schutz, who is an up-and-comer. Linhares, who was born in 1940, may not be classified as a hipster, but her work can definitely compete with those of the young'uns. (Images via Edward Thorp gallery)


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Day(s)

Today is Samuel Beckett's 100th birthday. Let's drink a little Hennessey to S.B. And if you feel like reading, check out this New York Sun article on Beckett's centennial. As the article points out, the actual day of Beckett's birth "was, fittingly enough, both Friday the 13th and Good Friday." My dream is to see a first-rate performance of a Samuel Beckett play, not some cheap-o, well-meaning, Off-off-off Broadway show that can't reach the master's meaning. My favorite S.B. line: "I can't go on, I must go on, I'll go on."


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Suburbanite Sprawled

"Lonesome Jim," directed by Steve Buscemi, captures the day-to-day boredom of suburbia superbly. Maybe too well. No, it's not boring, but that feeling of living in a nowhere town with nuttin' to do almost makes this film a depressive. The main character, played by Casey Affleck, isn't especially likable, but he seems so real that you don't begrudge him. Fortunately, a gentle humor to the hopelessness underlies the film and tempers the characters' down-and-out narcissism, so that you end up rooting for them.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bittersweet Revenge

The NY Times magazine recently published a profile on Korean director Park Chanwook. Park directed a trilogy of revenge flicks that have a lot of cineastes salivating. His films are jam-packed with violence but have an overwhelming feeling of regret and melancholy. The violent scenes are haunting not because of the imagery (although this is stomach-churning) but because of the emotional component. I saw his film "Old Boy," which left me a wreck, but in a good way, because I knew I had witness excellent filmmaking. I'm waiting with both anticipation and anxiety to see his flick "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance." (A lot of exciting films are coming out of South Korea, as the article points out, so keep an eye peeled.) (Images via New York Times)


Monday, April 10, 2006

Bang the Cymbal Slowly

The bandleader is the drummer. And one of the most influential modern drummers on top of that. The Paul Motian Quartet just wrapped up six nights at the Village Vanguard, and I caught one of their shows. At age 75, Motian really knows how to tap and bang that cymbal just right, after all he's played with some of the best, such as Bill Evans and Bill Frisell. What was interesting was that each band member's instrument (sax, piano, and bass) sounded like the drum-playing: staccato bursts, free-form abstraction, and zen-like repetition. However, this wasn't just a noisy commotion of notes. The music was layered, rich and deep.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Drive-in Saturday

In this weekly feature, I review in one sentence or less videos/DVDs of movies that you either have seen already or wouldn't bother to see.

"Wedding Crashers" (2005), starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn: Funny but 45 minutes too long.

"Ali: Fear Eats the Soul" (1974), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder: My first Fassbinder, and I'm hooked: mature and truthful with cinematic economy and subtlety.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Cartoon Nation

Yes, I know there are legions of geeks out there who love cartoons, comics, and graphic novels. (I admit I like comics: Nancy, Zippy, Art Spiegelman, Peanuts pre-1972.) But please leave literature the bloody hell alone. In honor of its 60th anniversary, Penguin Classics decided to deface some of its books, a Dorothy Parker collection and Sinclair Lewis's "Jungle" among them. This mutilation is all a symptom of the cartooning of America. Adults read "Harry Potter" and wait in line to see "Ice Age." This move by Penguin really got my goat, though. I love the line: "Masterpieces. Inside and out." Out? Bull. Somewhere Dorothy Parker is saying something wildly clever about how inane you are.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Leaves a Trace

Janis Avotins, Old School

Wow. This is a really good show. "The Trace of a Trace of a Trace" at Perry Rubenstein gallery is described as "an exploration in painting." This group exhibition, featuring 10 painters, is a fresh and invigorating show that shakes the viewer out of his/her conceptional art ennui. The reproductions here don't do justice for these bold and confident paintings that work supremely solo and together.

Angelina Gualdoni, Memory Glides Forward

Gerhard Richter, Saugling auf einem Tisch/Infant on a Table

(Images via Perry Rubenstein. Thanks MJP!)


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Andrew Sarris, Are You Serious?

I'm still in shock. Andrew Sarris, a top film theorist, suggested in his review of "Find Me Guilty" that its star, Vin Diesel, be nominated for an Oscar:
Sidney Lumet plays his richest directorial notes of feeling and humor ever with Vin Diesel, a supposedly stereotyped action figure from the lower depths of contemporary moviemaking.... Now I’d be very upset if he weren’t nominated as one of the five best actors of 2006. He is that good.
So now Vin Diesel has replaced Al Pacino as Lumet's cinematic partner in crime? I have not seen this film, which Sarris describes as a "masterpiece," so maybe he's right (highly unlikely). I'm baffled at this review. It reminds me of the time that critic Gene Siskel suggested that James Woods be nominated for an Oscar for "Vampires" (1999). Siskel had a brain tumor and died a few weeks after that pronouncement. Could Sarris be ill? He's recently written a few questionnable reviews. But I guess I'll withhold judgment about Sarris's faculties until I've seen "Find Me Guilty," which will be never. (Image via


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

GE Monogram ads, which feature the super-rich in their super kitchens, have always given me the creeps. I recently received a GE Monogram supplement in my newspaper. Here are some of the scarier ads. (To get the full effect, click on the image and read the "aren't you jealous" captions.) The kitchens look like a cross between an operating theater and a hotel lobby, and you know damn well that none of these people knows how to boil water (that's what the servants are for), let alone "prepare paella and trifle," as the above ad says.

The phrase "Feng Shui spirit" is a huge red flag for beware at all costs this embalmed couple in their "house of glass."

This couple actually looks normal. What's not normal is the size of that refrigerator. The ad says the couple "owns not one but two of the largest capacity refrigerators available. The freezer is on the other side of the wall."


Monday, April 03, 2006

Four for the Price of Two

Michael Steinberg Fine Art gallery is showcasing two artists who both have more than one technique to convey their vision. Susan Jennings' show, "Strange Liberty," includes video and photography. The image on the left is from a series on hair, in which women age 10 to 72 had their hair photographed. Below is a video image from a different series called "Sparkler." The hair project seems much more interesting in terms of process than in the end product, while the video work seemed a bit mundane.

Tatiana Trouve is the other artist featured at the Steinberg gallery. Her show, "Intranquillity," includes sculpture and drawings. The image below of huge balls of yarn next to super-small crutches for some reason intrigued me. As well, I liked her drawings of spartan rooms with copper cords.

(Images via Michael Steinberg gallery and Artnet)


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Drive-in Saturday

In this weekly feature, I review in one sentence or less videos/DVDs of movies that you either have seen already or wouldn't bother to see.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?(1969), directed by Sydney Pollack: Gut-wrenching drama about hard-up desperados as they participate in a sadistic dance marathon.

"Mysterious Skin," (2005), directed by Gregg Araki: Another gut-wrenching drama, this one about two teenagers who come to terms with their childhood sexual abuse.

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