Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Ghost Town...

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Ray Soemarsono knows Bodie and he likes to shoot it in beautiful light.

Friday, November 26, 2004


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Latvian exhibition posters 1899-1945.
[This site features a motherlode of Latvian posters - more examples certainly to follow].

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


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David Bowers combines a masterful classical style of painting with a subtle surreal edge. [Via Neurastenia]

Monday, November 22, 2004

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Chinatown 30 years...

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I attended the 30th anniversary screening of Chinatown at the Academy in Beverly Hills the other night. Before the movie there was a panel hosted by Richard Schickel that included Producer Robert Evans, Screenwriter Robert Towne, Assistant Director Hawk Koch and star Jack Nicholson.

Below is a little of what I can remember they had to say about the making of the film.

Robert Towne talked about the script being based in part on a police inspector he met who worked in Chinatown. The inspector told Towne that he was never sure if he was doing right by the people in 'Chinatown' or doing wrong because he didn't understand the language. Thus there was a futility to his job. Towne expanded on this idea and it became the theme of the film.

Robert Evans recalled that everyone involved in the making of the movie were considered "lepers" and "diseased" by the Paramount studio heads because no one could understand the script.

Jack Nicholson shrugged this off by saying, "I was a hot actor so what did I care if I was a pariah?"

Towne said that the original ending was much more complex and that he and Polanski had a difference of opinion over the ending. Polanski won out but he [Towne] said, "Okay, I'll write your ending but it will be shit." But after seeing the final product he agreed Polanski was right.

Jack recalled that he, Towne and Polanski wanted to make a trilogy. Chinatown was the first film and it represented 'water'. Jack then mentioned that they were trying to return to an older Hollywood sensibility and that they wanted to get away from the precarious endings that had become standard in the films of the early 70's.

Evans mentioned again that the studio bosses were confused by the film. Jack answered by saying, "We were trying to return to the old days and they were confused." [This got a good laugh].

All agreed that Roman Polanski was sometimes difficult to work with because he knew what he wanted, he was a control freak and he would not compromise. Evans noted that there was a lot of "bloodletting" but Towne said it wasn't that bad.

Jack remembered that John Huston would refer to Roman [and in the process break everybody up] by answering, "Yes, Romaaaaan?"

Hawk Koch fondly remembered the film's final scene and the camera work that Director of Photography John Alonzo devised for the last shot. He also mentioned that the film was shot on the Paramount lot at the same time that John Schlesinger was shooting 'Day of the Locusts' and Francis Coppola was shooting 'The Godfather Part II'. He said that when all three movies broke for lunch all the stars and crew members were together on the lot and he realized that he was really in a new golden age in Hollywood.

Jack said that directors always told him to speak his lines quicker and he would get angry. So at one point Roman pulled him off to the side and said, 'Jack you must speak your lines faster." Jack said he began to get angry and Roman said, "I know your upset but this script is over 120 pages long and if you speak slowly the film will be over 3 and-a-half hours long." Jack nodded and said, 'Okay, now THIS makes sense. I understand. Thank you."

Towne and Hawk mentioned that the original score [by Phillip Lambro] was dissonant and not liked by anybody. Polanski would not budge on the score until an old Polish composer friend of his watched the film and said [in a thick Polish accent], "Roman this score is a cancer on the film." Roman scrapped the score and then Evans hired Jerry Goldsmith who wrote the now famous score in eight days.

The weirdest tale came from Jack. At the end of the editing process they were timing the film and trying to get the color right. Roman had to leave and he left Jack in charge. Jack felt obligated to get it right and when he saw the final print he was aghast. He knew it was wrong. So did Towne but they could not convince the studio heads to make any changes. Then Jack remembered that he knew a retired technician who used to work at Techincolor. Here's how Jack recalled it; "I decided to contact this guy because I knew he would back me up. I had known him because years before I saved his daughter by catching her when she jumped out of a two story building - so I felt he owed me something. Sure enough he came over and confirmed that the color timing was all wrong. It pays to know people in Hollywood."

This drew a big laugh.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Board games...

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Old Board Games from England. [Via The Cartoonist]
Subversive painting...

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Ron English knows how to get across a message and still have fun.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Film Festival...

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AFI Film Festival round-up.

Another fine festival at AFI has come and gone. This year I caught 21 films and enjoyed 90% of them, which is much more than in past years.

AWARDS [Feature length films included only].

Jury Awards:
- International Feature Competition Grand Jury Prize:
DUCK SEASON /TEMPORADA DE PATOS (Mexico) Directed by Fernando Eimbcke
- International Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize
THE TAKE (Canada) Directed by Avi Lewis
- Special Mention
THE OTHER SIDE OF AIDS (USA) Directed By Robin Scovill

Audience Awards:
Best Documentary Film:
GAY REPUBLICANS Directed by Wash Westmoreland
Best Feature Film:
HOTEL RWANDA Directed by Terry George

The ten best films I saw [with notes on those films I have not already written about in the previous posts below].
1) The Take
2) Campfire
3) Calling Hedy Lamarr
4) A Panther in Africa
5) Revolution of Pigs - This very energetic and entertaining film from Estonia is about kids at a summer camp circa 1986 who take over and refuse to do what the communist leaders want. Think Meatballs meets Strike!.
6) Frozen
7) Ferpect Crime - Spanish film about department store manager who kills another manager and then is forced to cover it up with the help of a particularly odd and highly unnattractive [read ugly] co-worker woman who blackmails him into marriage. Politically incorrect, darkly comic and very well directed.
8) League of Ordinary Gentlemen - This documentry follows six bowlers from city to to city on the Pro Bowlers Tour in 2002. Very engaging with a cast of characters that deal with everything from perfect games to gutter balls.
9) Head On
10) Notre Musique

Four Good films:
1) Seoul Train - A harrowing documentary about the human rights abuses in North Korea and the various families who have tried to escape.
2) The Big Question
3) Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst - Very well made and in some ways disturbing documentary about the SLA and Petty Hearst.
4) A Very Long Engagement - Amelie team returns with a World War I epic about death and love. Ambitious, beautifully shot and completely different than the ad campaign promises [the love story element takes a back seat] but well staged scenes with lots of explosions and grit.

Four films that could have been better:
1) Duck Season - Winner of the festival's best film this Mexican entry is pretty mediocre even though it has good moments. Four characters (Two teenage boys, a cute neighbor girl and a pizza delivery guy] in an apartment building [sort of] bare their souls to one another after the electricity goes out. Good editing and fine black and white photography but just too flat for long periods.
2) Hank Williams First Nation - Good first film from Canada about various people in the Cree Nation community and their interactions as one of their elders heads down to find Hank Williams' grave. Film is very sincere, pokes along at 5 miles per hour and sets a laid back mood. While the story and the performances are good it plays out in a rather lackluster way. Scenes that should be powerful feel uncomfortable and somewhat amateurish.
3) Far Side of the Moon - Canadian film about a down-on-his-luck loner who has dreams of bigger and better things. Namely gaining respect for his doctoral thesis about why man embarked on a space program [reason? Narcissism]. Odd and very well directed but the casting is almost too good:The main character's mopey attitude wears thin after a while.
4) Czech Dream - Documentary by two film school guys who set up an ad campaign for a super-super market that doesn't exist. The idea? To lure people into a phony store with the power of advertising. Really clever - and sort of cruel - idea that shows how you can fool people. But it ultimately feels thin and underdeveloped.

Two Bad films:
1) R/x - Two buddies with cute girl in tow head down to Mexico where a 'routine' drug deal goes bad. You've seen it before. Give it points for taking one step past TV drama by having the two guys die. Other than that leaps in logic make this a weak film. Nice cinematography though.
2) Astronauts - Forty something ex-junkie gets second lease on life when 15 year-old girl shows up at his door in this stylish but dull Spanish film. How long until he gets her clothes off? How long until he falls off the wagon? I give up. Show me the exit.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Film Festival...

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More from the AFI Film Festival.

The Art and Crimes of Ron English
Provocateur, artists and all around cool guy Ron English goes after corporate America with fake (but smart) billboards that he posts in NY LA and various cities across America. This engaging and enjoyable documentary by Pedro Carvajal followed English on an off for over a dozen years on his various exploits. The film also gives insight into English’s paintings which have become highly collectible.

A woman and her two daughters in Israel circa 1981 try to deal with their lives without a man in the house. The mother wants to move into a new settlement but she has resistance from her daughters and from the snooty Zionists who are unsure about the abilities of a single woman to be a representive neighbor. The women all - in their own way - encounter a male-dominated world. Excellent script and direction by Joseph Cedar and all around fine performances make this an accomplished film. [Hello distributors - pick this one up!]

This film by Juliet McKoen is about a young woman named Kath (played brilliantly by Shirley Henderson) who believes that her missing sister - who everyone accepts is dead - may still be alive in some alternative world out by the sea. Mysterious and chilling the film reminded me of Blow Up a bit in that it deals with images (in this case video images) and what we see and what we think we see based on our state of mind. [Word is the film is considered 'hot' by Slamdance who may put it in competition in January].

A few more documentaries of note.

Calling Hedy Lamarr
Certainly one of the most orginal documentaries I've seen Calling Hedy Lamarr is structured around phone conversations and conference calls [some staged] to present for us who Hedy Lamarr was, what she represented to friends and family and the various aspects of her life on and off the screen. The film by Georg Misch also centers on Hedy's son who is trying to make a Hollywood film about her life. Of interest is the "Who Knew?" factor: Hedy Lamarr received a patent for an invention she developed that deals with frequency communication that led to the development of such things as Smart bombs and cell phones. [Hello distributors - pick this one up!]

The Big Question:
So what does God mean to you? Is there an afterlife? If you were born on the other side of the planet would you have a different faith? These are just a few questions that filmmakers Francesco Cabras and Alberto Molinari ask the cast and crew from the set of The Passion. The answers are suprising, thoughtful, enigmatic and often entertaining. The subject could turn off some viewers but the fact that the people on the set of a movie about Christ were made up of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and atheists makes it all the more fascinating. It's also a very beautifully shot, scored and artfully edited film. And, yes, Mel Gibson is one of the talking heads who tells us what he believes. Look for this film when it gets released.

A Panther on Africa
Pete O'Neil former Black Panther left the United States for Africa when he was wrongfully accused of a crime. Unable to come back he and his wife developed a community center and bed and breakfast in Tanzania where they have remained for over 30 years. This documentary by Aaron Matthews follows Pete around cinema verite style on his daily routines. What makes the documentary so great is Pete himself; a smart and articulate man who is caught between a world he still doesn't completely understand and another world that he can never return to.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Film Festival...

I've been at the AFI Film Festival over the past few days. I may not do as many posts until the festival ends next Sunday.

Here are blurbs from three films at AFI. More to come later.

Notre Musique - Jean Luc Godard does Dante. Hell = war and old war movies. Purgatory = Two Jewish women in Sarajevo along with poets, Native Americans and Godard himself describing the text of images. Heaven = Jewish woman after death in a bucolic setting in Israel surrounded by gaity and soldiers. As always Godard's editing and use of sound is stellar. However he is still a filmmaker of the 60's - in the sense that his sensibilities are somewhat atavistic. But at least he attempts to make us think, which is all too rare in movies these days.
Best line of the movie: "Humanitarians don't make revolutions. They make libraries...and cemeteries."

Head On - Forty-something bum meets twenty-something Turkish cutie in this German award winning film by Fatih Akin. They marry out of necessity but in time - of course - fall in love. Shrill, earthy, gritty and over-the-top the film succeeds in mixing the conventional and the realistic. But one never seems to forget they are watching-a-movie.

The Take - A great documentary about worker run factories in Argentina that have sprung up all over since the economy collapsed in 2001. The documentary by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein shows that true revolutions come not from ideology (like communism) but from necessity (workers need to feed families). Truly an inspiring and harrowing documentary.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Dada Magazines

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Digital Dada Library has an amazing collection of magazines from the teens and 20's with the full text of numerous Dada pamphlets and magazines.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


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Soviet Anti-Alcohol posters. Some of these actually look like pro-drinking party posters.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Comic Strip...

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Fleep "is about a boy who wakes up in a telephone booth which has been mysteriously sealed in an envelope of concrete. Using only the contents of his pockets (two pens, a paperback novel, three coins and 20 ft of unwaxed dental floss) our hero must fashion and execute an escape plan before he runs out of oxygen."

Monday, November 01, 2004


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Sergiy Hai's paintings are beautiful works with the paint put on thick.
[Via gmtPlus9]