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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Smeared Memories

I liked Susanne Simonson's paintings so much that I almost bought one. However, my favorite one (pictured above) had already been swiped up, along with almost all the other works in her show at Feigen Contemporary gallery. The paintings explore children's memories, illustrated through a picture-in-picture technique or a smeared turn of the head (a la Frances Bacon). The Swedish artist uses wide horizontal brushstrokes with deep reds and greens (except for two paintings that use muted sepia tones). Most of the works focus on a naked young girl, but there is nothing puerile or provocative in this show to upset the Thought Police. Overall, the mood is dreamy and elusive. (Images via Feigen Contemporary)


Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Kingdom for his House

Charlie Chaplin's hat and cane recently sold for nearly $140,000 at auction. With that type of dough, the anonymous bidder could have bought a house (OK, an apartment). Perhaps he/she could have even afforded to buy a house once owned by Charlie himself. While Chaplin worked at Mutual Film Corporation in New York, he lived in Kew Gardens between 1916-17. I've passed his house (pictured below) many times, and I've even seen a "For Sale" sign stuck in the ground. The price? Maybe $400,000-$500,000. Still, imagine living in a house once inhabited by the Little Tramp. What good vibes this unusual-looking home must generate. Maybe one day I will.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

That '70s Show

Photo sight gags and time-capsule images. That's the essence of Stephen Shore's show at 303 Gallery, which displays more than 50 color photographs from the early '70s. These small images (most are 5"x7") capture really bad wallpaper, ironic highway sights, and a lot of flat-looking food. Most of these photos--except for the portraits--have held up over the past 30 years, and those that don't are interesting for their flashback quality. Humorous and nostalgic. (Images via 303 Gallery.)


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Woody and Scarlett

This image tops my favorite magazine covers list. Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson catching some rays on the beach. Featured on New York Magazine's latest issue, the pair also snared a short article on their second film collaboration, "Scoop." I saw the trailer for the flick, and it looks pretty good, but we'll see when it opens July 28. (Added photo from inside the mag as extra bonus.) (Images via New York Magazine)

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Wong and Jones

This almost seems absurd. Wong Kar-Wai's first English-language film will star Norah Jones. The Hong Kong director describes Norah Jones as having an "actor's aura." I've heard that Jones isn't all so alluring in concert, but maybe Wong can extract something from the singer. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "My Blueberry Nights" will also star Jude Law, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey. I don't want the rest of the world to discover W.K.W.! I want his films to remain in little artsy film houses, not at the cineplex. I also just read that he's beginning preproduction for "Lady from Shanghai," starring Nicole Kidman. Ugh. (Image via

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Monday, June 26, 2006

March of the Inconvenient Truth

I don't understand why movie distributors are continually changing ad campaigns. Is this the latest rage in advertising strategy? A new ad every week to attract viewers who disregarded the initial blitz? Or does the rotating door of ads indicate a misstep in how to sell the flick? "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary on global warming that features Al Gore as guide, is the latest movie with a new print ad. The original ad featured an ominous swirl of smoke issuing out of a stack. The tag line: "A Global Warning." Well, that ad was pulled and was replaced with one of cute little penguins parading across a desert. This time the tag line is: "We're all on thin ice." Are the producers trying to cash in on the imagery from the blockbuster "The March of the Penguins"? Perhaps the smokestack was too scary and penguins are much more audience-friendly. Who knows. One thing I know is that Al Gore's mug is certainly not going to be featured in the next ad campaign.

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Saturday, June 24, 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.

"Love Is Colder Than Death" (1969), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder: early Fassbinder, very Godardian.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Cozy Steel

What I liked most about Richard Serra's show, "Rolled and Forged," at Gagosian Gallery: the cozy feeling I experienced while walking between slabs of steel. In one gallery, steel walls create a maze of pathways for the viewer to enter. The different-sized rusted slabs felt safe, a nice little hiding space within this gymnasium gallery. The other steel sculptures weren't as intriguing, just big, heavy blocks or sheets. Still, these works force the viewer to focus on texture, weight and mass, which, I believe, is the artist's intent. (Images via Gagosian Gallery)


Lulu in NYC

Can't resist a picture of Louise Brooks. This one appeared this week in Time Out, promoting "Pandora's Box," which is at Film Forum until June 29. If you dig things all L.B., check out this dream fansite, Louise Brooks Society. (Image via Time Out New York)


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Geek's Beak or Chick's Cheeks

So which movie would you want to see: One whose ad features a geek smirking at you or one that displays a woman's tattooed backside mooning you? Well, unfortunately, the ads are for the same movie, "Wordplay," a documentary about people who do the New York Times crossword puzzle. The film's trailer focuses on a bunch of nerds who descend on a crossword puzzle convention. There is not a tattooed ass to be seen, only pencil necks holding pencils poised. Apparently, the doc's producers realized a little late that (Newsflash!) sex sells and pulled the Geek ad and replaced it with the Cheeks one.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Poor Man's Robert Altman

Wildly disappointed with Robert Altman's latest, "A Prairie Home Companion." Set during the (fictional) last broadcast of Garrison Keillor's radio show, this movie didn't have any momentum; it never really started nor ended. Yes, I know that's the way Altman's films are, but this was like a poor man's Robert Altman flick. Worst parts: Kevin Kline as a fumbling detective and the cliched figure of death (a beautiful woman wearing white). Best part: all scenes with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. (Too bad the whole film couldn't have been about just these two characters.)


Saturday, June 17, 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 Night Porter" (1974), directed by Liliana Cavani: Kinky and depressing.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Black Out

I don't like political art. Its shelf-life is extremely short and rarely has it ever affected me emotionally or intellectually. So, needless to say, Jenny Holzer's show, "Archive," at Cheim & Read didn't stand out for me. Holzer's current paintings are blown-up government documents on Guantanamo and Iraq interrogations with large portions blacked out. Aesthetically, I did dig the patterns of the hidden phrases, and I found the work in which most of document is obscured somewhat amusing. I doubt, however, that my reaction was the artist's goal. (Images via Cheim & Read gallery)


Thursday, June 15, 2006

When Frida Met Diego

The centerpiece of Nicole Eisenman's show at Leo Koenig gallery mixes the best of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The show, called "Progress: Real and Imagined," combines Frida's surrealist symbolism with Diego's epic murals. The work, however, seems solely Eisenman's rather than a ripoff of those two greats. Twisted birth scenes and women warriors populate one panel, while the other panel centers on the artist at work as the outside world swirls around her. Combined, the two panels span eight by 30 feet. Deep and dreamy. (Click on the image below to enlarge.) (Images via Leo Koenig gallery.)


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Batting a Thousand...

...eyelashes. I saw this image in the NY Sun's calendar section. The photograph, which is by Jessica Lagunas, is part of the "AIM 26" exhibition at the Bronx Museum. Looks like it could be an interesting show, but the Bronx is too far away for me.


Solid Foundation

Sydney Pollack's documentary "Sketches of Frank Gehry" is a fascinating little flick (83 minutes) about the artistic process. Pollack is almost as much of a presence as Gehry in the movie. Pollack and Gehry have leisurely and enlightening conversations about finding the muse and staying on course. You don't need to be an expert on architecture to enjoy the film. (Early on, Pollack admits knowing very little about the subject.) Best part: Gehry sitting before a small building model and deciding its next construction based on a feeling. Worst part: Barry Diller and Michael Eisner waxing poetic about Gehry's work.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rose's Return

Charlie Rose returned to his show Monday night after recuperating from heart surgery. Rose, who had been absent since last March, looked strong and healthy. I had expected a whithered shell with a scratchy voice. Rose dedicated the first half hour to talking to his former mentor Bill Moyers. Like David Letterman after his heart surgery, Rose was most grateful to his doctors and staff. As I mentioned earlier, I was looking forward to Rose's return in hopes that he'd come back a changed man. No more fluff interviews, no more interviewing powerful friends. So I was greatly disappointed when he announced his first guest in three months: Thomas Friedman. Friedman is one of the top five most irritating people on the planet. Rose mentioned that this was Friedman's 40th (40th!!) time on the show! Same old, same old. Oh, Charlie.


This Was an Artist

Remember that old TV public service announcement: "This is your brain. (Egg in pan.) This is your brain on drugs. (Egg fries in pan.)"? Well, the Willem de Kooning show at Matthew Marks gallery, called "Sketchbook," reminds me of that PSA. "This was an artist. (Willem de Kooning.) This is the artist afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease and alcoholism. (Above drawing.)" This show is an embarressment. What is the point? Culled from a late 1970s sketchbook, the exhibit features 18 scrawled pencil doodles, similar to what you and I would draw while talking on the phone. The press release states: "Upon the artist’s death, no sketchbooks were to be found among the hundreds of drawings in his estate" except for this one. Oh, I wonder why. (Images via Matthew Marks gallery)


Monday, June 12, 2006

Woody's Woods

Woody Allen's jazz band opened the Rochester International Jazz Festival last Friday, and I was lucky enough to secure a ticket and flew up to my hometown to check him out. The local paper described Woody the Clarinetist as an amateur and just plain bad. True, he's no Benny Goodman, but what he lacks in technique, he makes up with his sheer love for jazz and his innate talent as an entertainer. Woody let his band members shine, and he kept his comments to a bare minimum, although his remarks were quintessential Woodyisms. The crowd loved him, and I think he and his band had a good time too. (Image via Rochester Jazz Festival, Don Ver Ploeg)


Camp Travolta

Picture this: John Travolta in drag and singing. And being very campy. (Advice: Hide.) Travolta will star in the movie version of the hit Broadway play "Hairspray." He'll play Edna Turnblad, the role Harvey Fierstein originated on stage. Travolta has been driving me nuts for a while. As his comeback and salary (and ego) escalated, directors stopped directing him. Nevertheless, I think he is a good actor, so he just might be able to pull this off. J.T. has always had a propensity toward blimphood, so he'll be delighted to balloon during filming. If he could capture Bill Clinton ("Primary Colors"), perhaps he'll be able to incarnate Edna Turnblad. Filming begins in September.


Friday, June 09, 2006

On Vacation

I've been on vacation this past week, and blogger has been down at critical times. I'll return Monday with more riveting reviews and catty comments.


Saturday, June 03, 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.

"Dolls"(2002), directed by Takeshi Kitano: When ideal love goes wrong by the always interesting Beat Takeshi.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Disjointed Survey

"The Sun"

One exhibit. Six galleries. Does it work? The artwork is top quality, but trudging from gallery to gallery to discover it is a chore. This comprehensive survey of the sculpture of James Lee Byars, called "The Rest Is Silence," is chopped up among locations in Chelsea, Midtown and the Upper East Side. (The participating galleries are Mary Boone, Perry Rubenstein, and Michael Werner.) By the time, I reached the next site, which was interrupted by visits to other exhibits, I could barely remember the last Byar work I had just seen. Yes, the show is "comprehensive," but my brain registered it in a disjointed fashion, which was a disservice to the artwork. (Images via Perry Rubenstein Gallery)



Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fella Flick

If the male supporting characters in a chick flick are more interesting than the female leads, we've got a problem. "Friends with Money," Nicole Holofcener's latest film, focuses on four women friends, three with money and one without, and all either neurotic or depressed. The lead female characters are interchangable. I had a problem telling them apart. (Jennifer Aniston, however, stood out, but only because I never forgot for a moment that she was Jennifer Aniston.) The male characters, on the other hand, are very individualized, and I found myself more interested in learning their backstory or what their fate would be.