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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who this topless interstellar knockout is. Answer later this week.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dead Heads

Thomas Hirschhorn's show, "Superficial Engagement," at Gladstone Gallery is not for the faint of heart. I was so disturbed by the overwhelming amount of photographs of severed or beaten or shot human heads that I had difficulty focusing on the exhibit's artistic merit. The show is quite large; the number of images, sculptures, slogans will test your visual-stimuli limit. Mountains of visually arresting displays are up on platforms with little corridors between each. This show is about healing war and violence through art. I applaud the artist's intent, but I'm a wimp when it comes to looking at mutilated dead heads. If you felt sick when you saw stills of tortured to death Iraqis from Abu Graib or gasped at Uday and Qusay Hussein's bloated post-mortem photos, skip this show. If you can stomach it, I'm sure that this show is rewarding. (Image via Gladstone Gallery)


Friday, January 27, 2006

Hint of Hope

"Veronica" is the best work Mary Gaitskill has done in a long time. Unlike Gaitskill's previous books, "Veronica" ends with a hint of hope, which makes it more satisfying than the constant drumbeat of abjection that prevades Gaitskill's writings. (Here's the plot, if you're interested.) Although the lead character is still doomed, she makes a slight human connection with another character (a major change for Gaitskill). The writing is bloody dense; basic story, backstories, tangential anecdotes are all crammed in there, weaving back and forth. Somehow it works. Recommended for doom-and-gloom aficionados who crave just a glimmer of light.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

In Toto Thursday

Peter O'Tootle is the answer to this week's Topless Tuesday. His autobiography,"Loitering with Intent," is one of my favorite memoirs by an actor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

White Trash

"The White Countess," the new film by Merchant/Ivory, is garbage. It's boring, heavy handed, and eye-rolling inducing. Starring Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson, the flick focuses on a blind American diplomat who opens a dancehall/bordello in prewar Shanghai. Fiennes's American accent sounds like Matthew Modine's impersonation of John Wayne in "Full Metal Jacket." Really bad. Despite the print ad's image of the stars in a passionate embrace, there is zero sex or eroticism. Zero. That kiss lasts about three seconds and is obscured by a curtain. The film is maudlin and pretentious, laden with Lit 101 symbolism. Waste.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who this topless debonair dandy is. Hint: Like Richard Burton and Richard Harris, he's a classically trained and colossally drunk British actor. Answer later this week in the In Toto Thursday feature.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Charges Dropped

A Turkish court has dropped charges against writer Orhan Pamuk that he denigrated "Turkishness." Pamuk could have been sent to prison for up to three years under a law that forbids insulting the republic or parliament. Pamuk was charged after he commented in an interview about the Turkish slaughter/genocide of Armenian Kurds. Here's a BBC link with more details. Pamuk is one of my favorite authors. Check out his novel "Snow" or his memoir "Istanbul: Memories and the City."

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Sold to You by Your Favorite Communist

Somewhere artist Frida Kahlo is weeping. Kahlo--a devout Communist and later Stalinist--is hawking Tequila to sucker hipsters and latinos who have a "Pasion por La Vida." This ad popped up in a recent New York Observer supplement, and, for Frida followers, it borders on blasphemy. According to Art for a Change, Frida's niece is the Dick Cheney at the controls of "The Frida Kahlo Corporation." That blog is urging for a boycott of the liquor.

I thought it might be more appropriate if the marketers used one of the following images in their next ad campaign:

Frida and Trotsky, who lived with her and Diego Rivera after Mexico granted him political asylum.

Frida protesting the ouster of Guatemalan president by the CIA.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Stiletto to Stigmata

"Pretty in Pink"

Those are high-heeled shoes positioned to form a mandala. Willie Cole's show with the groan-inducing title "Sole to Soul" at Alexander and Bonin gallery is more a curiosity exhibit. It features a lot o' soles, but I'm not so sure about the soul part. It's always interesting to look at a ton of one particular thing. The artist could have used spoons, and I think the effect would've been the same. A breezy walk-through that you forget soon afterwards.

"Harlem Rose"
(Images via Alexander and Bonin gallery)


Thursday, January 19, 2006

In Toto Thursday

Anouk Aimee and Marcello Mastroianni are the answer to this week's Topless Tuesday. The answer to the anagram of one of their films -- DIVA AT CELLO -- is "La Dolce Vita." Bonus pix below of the couple from "8 1/2."

(Images via and

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More Blood for Oil

Don't sit near anyone who talks during movies if you see "Syriana." This geo-political thriller, which focuses on the CIA, multinationals, Middle East oil, and D.C. lawyers, is very heavy on exposition. If you are one bit distracted while watching the flick, you will have a hard time following it. "Syriana" feels like the movie "Traffic," but it is much less didactic. Although George Clooney's face is plastered on all the ads, this is very much an ensemble piece. (Clooney--who gained 35 pounds for the role--is surprisingly OK.) Worth seeing simply because it is reminiscent of all those great 1970s political thrillers, like "The Parallax View."


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Guess who these topless international (& beautiful) film star legends are? An anagram of one of their films is "DIVA AT CELLO." Answer later this week in the In Toto Thursday feature.

Monday, January 16, 2006

To the Nth Power

Cat Power is releasing a new album on January 24th. Yesterday, the New York Times published a profile of Chan Marshall who performs as "Cat Power." Fans, like me, have been waiting with baited breath for this new disc, called "The Greatest." I was highly hooked on her last album "You Are Free," which came out a long three years ago. (I have to admit that her album titles are surprisingly unimaginative and dull-sounding, but don't let that deter you from checking her out. Cat Power is raw, ingenuous, and fresh, someone who follows her own private muse, like Kate Bush or Flannery O'Connor, and everyone else be damned if ya don't dig it.) Here's an MP3 of the title track from the new LP.


Beating NYT to the Punch

I'm proud to say that I highlighted painter Dana Schutz way back in August 2005, and the New York Times is just now publishing a profile of this up-and-coming artist. I saw Schutz's work at P.S. 1's Greater New York exhibition and pointed out that her stuff was some of the best. It's true that NYT beat me to the punch on Cat Power's album release, but I still feel I scooped the Times just a teeny tiny bit. (Read Amp Power, spread the wattage!)


Friday, January 13, 2006

Magic Eye

At first glance, James Siena's paintings and gouaches at PaceWildenstein seem like child's play. These small works ( 8" x 11") first appear to look like a cross between a poor man's Jackson Pollock and the 3-D trickery of Magic Eye. However, I soon became hypnotized and entranced by these painted patterns. Perhaps it was because of the sheer number of them (36), which are liberally spread throughout the large gallery; or their painstaking detail, which sometimes looks like an electrical engineer's schematic; or perhaps it was simply their playfulness. In any case, the show's worth checking out. (Images via PaceWildenstein)


Thursday, January 12, 2006

In Toto Thursday

Janet Leigh (right before she grabs the shower curtain in "Psycho") is the answer to this week's Topless Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mary, Mary, Where You Going To?

I had to return my copy of Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica" to the library. It was due yesterday, and I had already renewed it once before. I'm embarrassed that I wasn't able to finish it. And I really liked the book too! However, there is something about the story and its structure that do not propel you to turn the page. First, the story is heavy and depressing. Second, although this is a first person narrative, there are three concurrent storylines going on: 1) the narrator's current life as a housecleaner and Hep C patient 2) the narrator's past life as a model in Paris, and 3) the story of Veronica, a woman who befriends her after her modeling career ends. The story jumps casually between these three storylines, so it's difficult to remember the chronology of the book if you skip a few days of reading. I will definitely finish this book, however. I'll just go back to the library tomorrow and hope no one else has taken it out yet. (Image via New York Magazine, George Pitts)


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Roach's Birthday

Today is the birthday of jazz drummer/percussionist extraordinare Max Roach. Max, who turns 82 today, has played with all the greats. WKRC is airing a special Roach birthday broadcast: all Max, all day long. Check it out. (Image via


Topless Tuesday

Who's the wet babe? (Easy.) Answer later this week in the In Toto Thursday feature.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Woody's Ace

Ten minutes into Woody Allen's new movie, "Match Point," I had to remind myself that this is a Woody Allen movie. The flick takes place in London and focuses on a tennis coach's luck in life and love. This is a well-written, -structured, -paced movie with excellent performances, especially the lead Jonathan Rhys Meyers. However, if you've shunned Woody for the past eight or so years and think the coast is clear to enter the theater again, don't expect to see any signature Woodyisms up there on the screen. There is no humorous neurotic character, zinging out one-liners. Like "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Match Point" is more a study of human frailities. I did miss New York as a location in this film, but this story will pull you along in such a way that you'll hardly notice.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Protest & Luxuries for Sale

Ah, another art exhibit about the interplay between consumerism, Marxism, and political protest. Josephine Meckseper's show, called "%," at Elizabeth Dee gallery didn't change my world view, but it did entertain me. The gallery is dressed up as though it were having a Going-Out-of-Business sale. The windows are soaped, with scratched out sale phrases, while inside, displays of symbols of Leftists and Buyers entice the viewer. I have to admit that the words "Clearance Sale" do make my heart beat a tad bit faster, even when it's part of a tongue-in-cheek critique of our materialism.

(Images via Elizabeth Dee gallery)


Thursday, January 05, 2006

In Toto Thursday

The answer to this week's Topless Tuesday is Alain Delon, pictured here from the excellent "Purple Noon."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ring in the New Year with Cold Blood

Don't you love this ad? Happy New Year from the film that documents research into the butcher and slaughter of a family of four! Sony Pictures decided to crown Phil Seymour Hoffman, who portrays Truman Capote, with a festive little party hat. I'm surprised that they didn't make his glasses into those oversized "2006" specs that drunken Times Square revelers wear. Along the side of the ad were little twirling streamers and confetti to help bring in the cold bloody new year. Cheers! (Capote, by the way, was one of my fav flicks of 2005.)


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Topless Tuesday

Who's the sailor? Hint: It ain't Gilligan. Answer later this week in the In Toto Thursday feature.