I haven’t updated this site in a year. Covid has upended life in New York City. The Black Lives Matter demonstrations were a big deal. I moved from Manhattan to Queens. I got a new job. A lot has happened and I have had no time to write or to do art. So, I’m going to upload my video diary to keep everything up to date.More.
I just discovered a fantastic new film on Prime, I wanted to see what Tilda Swinton had been up to lately, and starring her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne – The Souvenir is really something special. A very English picture, it deals with all of the themes: love, loss, terrorism, opiates, and film school. British classism paired with a neat retro vibe really makes this film unique. Tom Burke plays the unfortunate love interest who works in the Foreign Office, and with a really deep way of portraying his character, makes us believe what he makes her believe.
“Try and find a connection between your experience and the experience that you’re trying to film.”
Supreme has brought skateboarding culture into high fashion here in New York City. Sometimes I wonder if any of the people waiting in line around the block on Lafayette and Prince St ready to drop $40 on a t-shirt actually skate. Some of them do!
These kids can skate!
Blessed like the skate videos that you can see on Thrasher except edited into a feature length film. Beautifully. With a great soundtrack.
Skating is hard work, and it takes balls. If you’re attempting new tricks, you fall a lot. It can take hundreds of tries to land something new. And Blessed takes the time to show some of that effort that can go into landing skateboard tricks.
There isn’t really a storyline, or much talking, barely any interviews in Blessed, but you do get a sense of the humble glory of street skateboarding. Like the dedication to perfection, and the high that comes from doing the impossible.
These kids own their streets. They take over parks, courthouse steps, driveways, alleyways, bomb down hills, fly down stairs, I don’t know if it looks hard, but it is.
These guys are athletes of the highest order.
I saw this at Cinema Village and was ready to pay to get in, but admission to this film was free that day. I was blessed.
In the news yesterday, I noticed that Lady Gaga is engaged to be married. My only hope is that it works out better than it does for Ally in her 2018 film A Star Is Born. I liked this film, a romantic drama that was not quite a musical but featured some pretty good musical numbers; particularly her first song that she sings in French at the drag club. This film had character, and feeling, and glitz, and romance as imperfect as it can be. I think that Gaga had direct creative control over every element of the production, while some of the scriptwriting might have seemed forced it was actually the pop star’s own true voice.
The film is about Ally, who is a normal girl who lives with her dad in the suburbs. She works some service job in a high-end hotel and sings when she can at a drag bar in the city. It is in this drag bar where she’s discovered by the rock star Jack. Jack is kind. Jack is sensitive. Jack knows how to ice a broken hand. His brother is the cowboy from Big Lebowski. Don’t be Jack.
Walking by Cinema Village yesterday, I checked the showtimes and was intrigued by a doc about space travel but there was this other film that only had two showtimes that day 11 am and 11 pm. So, passing over Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, which has better press and many showings, I determined to come back at 11pm to see Viking Destiny. I was the only person in the theater, which was alright, but disconcerting. Probably better than seeing Venom with one hundred twittering teenagers. This film is probably the best viking movie in recent memory. Like Valhalla Rising (2009) it features panoramic shots and odd long silences, but that may be a part of Scandinavian culture and filmmaking. Oh, but you believe in it. It has a weird philosophy, and doesn’t shy away from moralizing, but let me tell you the story. It presents as a saga, with Odin and Loki visiting mortals and swaying events to their greater goals.
This week I went to the Film Forum on West Houston Street to see Kusuma – Infinity, which is showing through the end of this month. It’s about abstract impressionist painter from Japan. According to the press release: Yayoi Kusama “is the top-selling female artist in the world” although the film focused more on the difficulties she faced. Growing up in Japan during world war II, was a tumultuous time. All she wanted to do was paint, which was difficult choice at the time, she was expected to participate in manufacturing for the war, and go to secretary school, get a husband, all of that. She painted, and she wrote to Georgia Okieffe after seeing her Black Iris painting at an international exhibition. Good film, if you’re into 60’s abstract art.
I went to the movies today, and I didn’t know what I was seeing. I’d already seen Deadpool 2, and the new Star Wars film Solo, and really I needed to get off the street for a bit. I was biking through Williamsburg and stopped off at Nitehawk Cinema to just go see whatever.
Disobedience was playing. It’s a film about the death of a Rabbi, and the return of his daughter to the Jewish community in London. She had spent ten years in New York as a photographer, totally out of contact, doing art portraits, bar hopping, a secular life if you will.
Without giving so much away, or maybe I should, it’s about trying times and the social obligations that hold communities and families together. The main character returns for shivas, to find out that her childhood friend had married her father’s closest student. It’s a deep and personal look into the workings of an orthodox congregation.
The film opens to the Rabbi giving a sermon asking what is man? On the sixth day, either as an afterthought or crowning achievement, we are somewhere between the angels and beasts, in that we have free will. We are supposed to know what it is that g_d wants. Angels just do, they carry out the will of their creator. Animals simply exist and follow instinct. Man is created from clay and imbued with the breath of life and we are able to navigate complex decisions unlike any other kind of being, why do we make the choices that we do?
The film is also about a love affair and sexuality and loss, but the essence is an issue of what makes us who we are.
I just got home from watching Hondros at Village East Cinemas in New York. It is a documentary about Chris Hondros, a photojournalist who covered conflict zones on the global stage. His work brought him from New York to far flung parts of the world, including Liberia, Iraq, and ultimately Libya where he died while reporting on the revolution that ultimately deposed Muammar Gaddafi.
It was a well made piece, with war correspondents honoring one of their own. He died in 2011, and it was immediately noted by members of his community, some of whom I had been acquainted with on the Black Flag Cafe of comebackalive.com where adventurers rub shoulders with international journalists.
What moved me the most, was not the story of Chris Hondos, but rather as a good journalist it was the stories of the people he met while on assignment that were the most meaningful. One child soldier who he had photographed who had grown up and gotten an education and ultimately become a police chief. Another was the story of a US Army unit and a girl who had been the only member of her family to survive a shootout in Iraq. It is difficult for me to describe, but while we watch the news about wars, now Syria, we forget that there are people there. Not just the belligerents in a given conflict, AK-47s in the dessert, but there are regular people, families, kids who have to live through horrifying circumstances.
Sometimes, once in a while, our worlds meet. It can be through photojournalism, a televised interview, word of mouth. We citizens of the world need to learn to respect each other and work together to find peaceful resolutions to our problems, and we need to know each other’s stories preferably without the eulogies of journalists killed in mortar fire.
I just went to the Angelika Film Center to see the film Nostalgia. It’s about what we leave when we pass away. Some of it is things, the material stuff, your belongings, heirlooms, whatever is of monetary value, sentimental value. Then there is your family that remains; who cleans out your house? What do they take? What is trash?
It begs some difficult questions.