Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From an article about Michel Gondry, which I will link to, I learned he is dating the cartoonist Gabrielle Bell, which makes the fact of his adapting one of her comics more sensible. Still, there's a thing in that profile about Gabrielle, on the set, drawing in her notebook, which is notable for how awful it is:

"She goes back to her sketchbook. She draws everything longer and sadder than it appears in real life, like she’s making the world over in her image."

Later on, it goes on to call dating a shy cartoonist a "concept." What? I know exactly what the writer means but it's clear to me thats an assholish point of view to possess.

Oh, also, Human Nature and The Science of Sleep both ruled. Come on. Come ON.

The article also talks about an installation at Deitch Projects that sounds ill. You know- it's a great article for the Gondry stuff and terrible for any and all insertions of the writers' voice. (The idea of the "film club" is pretty similar to something I've conceptualized myself. The idea of making "exquisite corpse" films with Spike Jonze never occurred to me though.) Obviously, GQ is a magazine for assholes but I don't think I'd ever read an article from them to confirm this. Whoops.

It's offensive for being both sexist and really- I don't know, capitalist? Enamored with the idea of wealth and status? Confused by comics because there's no money in it, and condescending to Gondry for being able to look past that? It's kind of gross. GQ scribes shouldn't feel like they are better than the dude who made the "Let Forever Be" video. Not because they're magazine writers and Gondry makes movies- any respect shown is based on that weird fallacy- but because no one is better than that video. It has nothing to do with consumption and everything to do with creation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I just watched Chameleon Street. It lives up to its hype, in a very specific way that was kind of incalculable and unimaginable. Not because it's off-the-charts amazing, but:

Okay. The story with this is that it was made in 1990, and was the hit at Sundance, championed on the jury that year by Steven Soderbergh and New York Press film critic Armond White. This was before 1995 and The Brothers McMullen and the world of fake-indie prestige pictures that now constitute Sundance, as my understanding would have it. The director, Wendell B. Harris, was hailed by those championing him as a black Orson Welles- he wrote/directed/starred in the film.

He didn't make any movies after this though, because due to the way the film industry/market works, there's not really a market for a black Orson Welles.

Why the movie is interesting is this: What does the idea of a black Orson Welles making movies in 1990 that debut at Sundance- what does that even mean? What does that look like, culturally?

It's like the sort of self-aggrandizement found in Citizen Kane (and F For Fake) and rap lyrics, but played out in this intellectual milieu of correcting the grammar of a racist's profanity, and smoking Thai Stick (I like how in any kind of anything if people are going to get specific about weed without just saying a general euphemism, Thai Stick is inevitably what comes up) but not blowing dudes while in prison. It also means Godard-influenced editing, and 1990s video-effects credit sequences (still preferable to the Final Cut Pro defaults you see today). It has a handful of great scenes, but it still seems more like its mired by its braggodocio in the bad scenes than that the good scens justify it. It's the good scenes that have you cringing and covering your face, though, while the bad scenes just make you go "oh, this is what a black Orson Welles would be like circa 1990."

There's a 33-minute long trailer on the DVD for a movie called "Arbiter Roswell" which he's spent 13 years working on, a fact I found out only after putting it in the mailbox. You should watch it and tell me how it is. (The full movie is supposedly three hours long and not finished being edited yet.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I wrote about Julie Klausner before, when her NYC Tourist Beat video got me into watching every other video she had made. Apparently, she's doing a Superdeluxe series with Michael Kupperman this year, but until then, there's her newest thing, which is hilarious.

She may as well be a lesbian for the way she is one of America's Heroes. She elaborated on the mockery of that video with a blog post.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Last Year At Marienbad is one of the stranger films I've seen lately, even considering the fact that as of late I've been deliberately seeking out such things after realizing that's where my enthusiasms lie. Last week I saw the Czech film Daisies, which has considerable charms. I knew going into it that it was a weird one, that people had no idea what to make of it at the time of its release in 1961, although it was generally highly-regarded. I, watching it at 4:30 AM, kept awake by a drunken roommate, also didn't know what to make of it. It goes on for long enough that you eventually start to make sense of it, but the first couple of reels or so have a pretty steep learning curve.

Even then, there came a point where I was thinking that it was either a) a cinematic appreciation of the art of sculpture or b) a dissection of the bourgeois a la Luis Bunuel but less crass. I don't think either of those are true now that I've finished watching the film. But still, getting into it requires being into Hollywood-cinema style, in terms of both exploded silver halide lighting and expensive production design, really great black and white widescreen compositions, a feeling of impending horror-movie doom, and video art style repetition. At the beginning it feels almost exactly like a lot of video art, only shot on film, and a hell of a lot better.

It's kind of impossible. One of my favorite things in film- animation does this sometimes- is to be really experimental and all over the place, trying out new techniques in keeping with themes that that's a good way to live your life, to be daring. I like when films don't mind being distractingly formal because it works towards its own ends using those distractions. This is really experimental in a "I have no idea how that was done" kind of way, in a way that works towards ends of confusion and disassociation. It's the sort of thing most easily associated with dreams or drugs, specifically the "edge of freaking out" side of those things and experiences. It maybe goes on a bit too long and wears out its welcome, but it's the fact that it does that actually lets you into maybe understanding it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sometimes when something is really popular I'm like "oh gross it's got the internet's cum all over it."

That has nothing to do with anything I'm about to write about, I just thought it was funny enough to write on a blog. You can use it in your own day-to-day conversation, depending on the type of people you talk to.

One thing that was liked by a lot of people I respect was Renee French's The Ticking, which I just got around to reading. Actually, people whose tastes are similar to mine liked this book more than other things I liked a lot when they were making best-of-2006 lists. It's a fine book. Beautiful, moving, I read it while drinking green tea in my bed. Both it and There Will Be Blood used the ellipsis in a vaguely off-putting way, skipping over large periods of time suddenly, even though they were in general slow-paced works. It's fine, it's necessary for the pacing, but reading it after seeing There Will Be Blood made me think of them as pieces in tandem, as fine pieces where my own biases made me like other things more. (Although I genuinely believe that Punch-Drunk Love is better than There Will Be Blood, whereas my preferring that Brendan McCarthy Solo to The Ticking is totally just my own kind of stupid preferences.)

Recent movies taken out from the library, and that have shown up through either me or my roommate's Netflix queue, in the order I think they should be watched for the sake of progression:
1. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
2. Last Year At Marienbad
3. Ultimate Reality (by Jimmy Joe Roche with soundtrack by Dan Deacon)
4. The Elegant Universe disc 2

The last is my roommate's, but I think it's funny he received it the same day as I got something called Ultimate Reality. All in all I am just thinking about the Lil Wayne lyrics about smoking weed by the acre and being "so high I could eat a star."

For my class taught by friends of mine we have both blogs and the ability to comment on what other people have to say. The comments have subject lines, and I think I am going to title all of my comments "Here's what Brian Nicholson has to say about this!" because that's the most obnoxious thing imaginable, besides possible saying "fuck all y'all: here's what Brian Nicholson has to say about this!"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

So, on Friday night, walking to catch the 11:30 bus after The Blow show, a guy in an AC/DC hoodie started to sidle up. He asked me something that sounded like "When's the last time you got bled?" to which I responded "Did you just ask me when was the last time I got bled?" He was kind of mumbling, kind of slurring his speech, and his response to that was something along the lines of "I'm just fucking with you" but he continued to sidle up real close. He asks if I want to fight, I say no. I don't really remember the entirety of the conversation. He was clearly drunk. There were implications that he wanted to get in a fight, or just gaybash. I eventually stopped walking, he walked away to his friend at the bus station. I turned around and walked in the opposite direction.

A guy rides up to me on a bike. "Were you talking shit on my boy?" "No." He yells back "Hey, is this the guy?" to a dude who is not wearing an AC/DC hoodie, but rather, is shirtless. I cross to the other side of the street. The bike rolls up in front of me, kind of perpendicular to the side of Dumpster Values, fencing me in a little. Shirtless dude has now fully sidled, and bike guy says "Look, you're going to fight my friend or I'm going to fuck you up."

I have no problem with fighting an asshole. I feel weird about fighting an asshole when the only other person around is the asshole's equally assholish friend. Also, I am wearing glasses. But anyway, a tussle ensues, I don't think I do any damage when I punch the guy because I am in something of a headlock. Eventually, we're down on the sidewalk to curb area, I am trying to smash his head against a parking meter or else gouge out his eyes with my thumbs, (although I'm concerned about the other friend standing guard) meanwhile I am worried about being curb-stomped. I at some point yell "Hey does anyone want to help me out so I don't have to fight this asshole" and shortly thereafter some big dudes wearing jackets with Dead Kennedys patches pull him off me. My glasses are scratched and I keep on imagining myself dead with my jaw hanging off, blood dripping onto the Andrew Jeffrey Wright silkscreened rainbow beard t-shirt, body found outside a pizza place I don't particularly care for.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Follow-up to the post about Cerberus Shoal- I grabbed a copy of "The Vim And Vigour Of Cerberus Shoal and Alvarius B," which it turns out is a collaboration with Alan Bishop. It's pretty good. I didn't remember this at the time of buying it, but in the WFMU blog entry that told me about Big Blood, this album was cited as one of the writer's favorite recordings of all time. A good find then, for nine dollars, from Philadelphia's AKA Music.

Friday, January 04, 2008

It's odd to think of all this talk praising Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood as a major evolution of style and maturity. While watching it, I thought "This is no Boogie Nights," with Boogie Nights being my previous least-favorite film of his. It makes me wonder what film critics consider maturity. I guess it's making a film that is an actor's showcase, rather than one that demonstrates an ability to recreate shots from I Am Cuba.

It's also more cynical than any of Anderson's other movies, less open-hearted, warm, and forgiving. I talked about a film critic who argued that film critics value cynicism more than humanism, which is why Billy Wilder is so beloved. I think Billy Wilder's great, personally, and I have a large place in my heart for cynicism. I didn't hate There Will Be Blood, I liked it just fine, but I think that it might be being overrated by critics right now, at least in relation to the director's other work. (I have no problem with people saying it's one of the best films of the year, although if I were to make a list, I'd probably put it below Superbad.)

I think it shortchanges a lot of the things that makes Anderson interesting and enjoyable. A reviewer for Philadelphia Weekly, in his top ten list, ranked it number four, with Zodiac as number one. He said that Anderson did the second-most-interesting stylistic shift, after David Fincher. Zodiac also kind of does a disservice to some of Fincher's skills and point of view. I bring this up because the two directors are opposed, with P.T. Anderson actually having made shots at Fight Club. I would take Anderson's side in that argument, and can't really bemoan the switch-up with Zodiac nearly that much- Less glib nihilism is fine by me.

All the Citizen Kane comparisons are bullshit though. That movie has Orson Welles' fingerprints all over it, and he identifies with the character's ambition, and that's what helps make the movie work. There Will Be Blood isn't about an ambitious man, just a misanthropic one. Anyway in which the film adopts the characteristics of its subject is probably to its detriment.