the definitive daily cultural column curated by stefan boublil.

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  • theaptPORTFOLIO

    theaptSHOWS

    June 11, 2012

    paths of glory, lolita and dr. strangelove (leaving aside killer’s kiss, the killing and spartacus which he did not consider his or any good) but he had still already acquired an air of mystery. especially as the rumors were starting to fly that he was now collaborating on something with arthur c. clarke. that is when physicist and new yorker reporter (because of course) jeremy bernstein came in and engaged the soon-to-be-legend in a 77-minute interview, an event that would go from rare occurrence to inexistent as the director’s career progressed and the man retreated. a must-listen for fans of both film and human nature… (via open culture)

    May 21, 2012

    right, The Master, title of pt anderson’s new film, right at home describing the man behind the camera as well as the one in front. this is possibly the best trailer i have ever seen. time will tell about the movie, described as about the origins of a cult featuring philip seymour hoffman, amy adams and the man in question in those few minutes of footage: joaquin phoenix. so few actors can achieve in entire films what he does in that snippet, absolute commitment. i don’t know what kind of freedom these actors and filmmakers believe they were handed when they signed the line that is dotted but it looks like they tok advantage of it all. and then, travelled a few more miles. i cannot wait to sit in that audience.

    January 9, 2012


    “oscar-bait” does not even begin to describe the late-term abortion that is steven spielberg’s warhorse… but before i get going, and so that you may not be lead to believe that i am on an anti-spielberg crusade, let me clear something up first:

    I’M THE GUY WHO LIKED LOVED HOOK!

    okay? are we straight now? alright, let’s go then…

    at one point, every director must ask him or herself the seminal question: who cares? and, invariably, the answer must at least be: i do! that is a process seemingly absent from mr. spielberg’s oeuvre as a director of late, not even to mention his work as a producer (terra nova anyone?) the trouble is that, for my money and ever since the lost world: jurassic park, each and every one of the ordinary people he loves so much has been underdeveloped prototypes that count on our now-standardized assumptions to appear challenged by the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. it is incompetent at best and lazy at anticipated. worst, though, goes to careless, the state he now seems to have devolved to, spoiling a career built on thoughtful consideration of his self, now outsourced to our expectations of what a “spielberg movie” is supposed to be.

    i have always thought that steven spielberg was miscast as the peter pan of hollywood just because boys or man-children were always at the center of his various galaxies. from the sugarland express to e.t. by way of close encounters and even raiders, it was always evident to me that he took his supposed fun quite seriously. fully-fleshed characters were all there, painstakingly and brilliantly introduced for lasting flavor; their motivations were human and real so that we may allow ourselves to cheer them on without shame or reservation and their meaningfulness was made obvious by the audiences’ tears which, in the words of pauline kael, were “tokens of gratitude for the spell the picture had put on (them.)”

    warhorse, for me, missed every single one of those details opportunities…

    note: i will dispense with the traditional recounting of the plot points, since there aren’t any, and go straight to the mostly chronological vitriolic spoilers.
    //MORE

    November 14, 2011

    A CONVERSATION ABOUT GENIUS AND PARENTHOOD… WITH CHRIS WELLES FEDER

    i am french, (big surprise!) and came to new york city in 1989 to go to nyu film school. that is where i first laid eyes on the work of orson welles… like many before me and many after, i was struck by the films’ vision but, perhaps even more-so, by the man behind it. later, i grew to understand those kinds of multi-faceted geniuses such as mozart, eames or jobs as part of an exclusive club of those who, indeed, push the human race forward.

    as my career took me in different directions, i studied orson’s storytelling and flair for drama in everything i did. in the past 10 years, as the founder of a creative agency in nyc, i have been in the position to breathe some culture into an industry, that of design, that sorely needs it, and so we started to make short films. specifically lately, i have been interested in having conversations with people, not merely film interviews but actually talk. it has always seemed strange to me that talk shows in general only ever engage guests about what they may be promoting at the time, usually mere “vehicles” for the invited to distribute a piece of information that will usually be to his or her fiduciary advantage and i am rarely interested in hearing yet another talking point about how “it was an honor to work with brett ratner” or “a privilege to have nicki minaj guest on this track. what i have always wanted to hear were the meandering paths that spontaneous, if prepared, conversations between two human beings can take and being a fly on that wall. so imagine my excitement when the opportunity to meet orson welles’ first daughter chris presented itself at the release of her memoir in my father’s shadow: a daughter remembers orson welles (in stock!)

    actually, don’t imagine it, just press play…

    June 22, 2011

    tol06202011

    a salty dog beyond the dunes, divad q. nead returns with his late father’s day card (hand-lettered), a tomato and grilled impressionism cheese [sandwich] re.view of terence malick’s masterwork (another?) ‘the tree of life’.

    the 19th hour closed in on itself. i tapped my chuck on the corner of brighton and harvard, hailing the invisible asian cabs that i still see in my mind when fate waves the haitans past me, stuck dumb in the weekday pre-rain. custom jacket, bag slung with two giant sapporo reserves in tow, i waved and flailed, failing to haul marlin or sailfish, whatever fish the boston cabs seem to be  these days. ‘how ’bout a little leg, or pee wee’s gag thumb?’ i thought. no chance. my quarry was malick’s ‘tree of life’, newly screening at the art deco house just up the street from overpriced korean joints in allston village. barely a whisper beyond wells’s flash takes had been past my eyes since i returned from the missile peninsula. i was to go in quite green.

    //MORE

    September 13, 2010

    oped-new7culture, i once was told, is what remains once you’ve forgotten everything. i could not agree more but i have little choice since i have actually forgotten everything. it is a burden i have carried for as long as i can remember. from the benches of grade school to the last lecture given, a couple of weeks ago, i feel as if i have retained no factual information in my entire life and could not, with any accuracy, relate the dates of even the most famous of historical milestones. napoleon’s century? no idea. balzac’s first book? nothing. lennon’s death? zero. i have always been so envious of those who can count on their own neurons to preserve such particulars so at least to be able to participate in conversations with a wide range of knowledge at hand, ready to go. alas, said neurons are not to be found in the porridge that fills my cranial cavity. what is there, however, is a seemingly endless well of useless information which has helped me lie through forty years of diatribic exchange with my kind as well as write a book in which i damn well sound as if i know what i’m talking about. i assure you, i do not. it just seems that at the drop of a gigantic hat, i seem to be able to meander my way down the vast and disorganized lane of my intellect and retrieve approximations, patterns and flatulent emotions that sound pertinent enough to allow me to appear that which i do not consider myself to be, cultured.

    indeed, that is actually what i found myself in agreement with at the beginning of this column, with the idea that knowledge, once heard, can be forgotten consciously but still lives, somewhere within the folds of the cerebrum allowing us not just to revel in the joy of repetition but assimilation. perhaps that is culture.

    not quite sure how to correctly define it, culture is a moving target of sorts, more than a collection of dates and places that we happen to remember and are able to regurgitate at cocktail parties. of course different cultures, in the ethnocentric sense of the word, practice different customs in assembling their culture, in the intellectual sense of the word, and, as such, make for an almost infinite array of understanding of what constitutes Culture as a whole. still, the principle remains the same, no matter how many books on your shelf, what league the school you attended springs from or even how amazingly inclusive your parents might have been during long, nixon-era discussions, who you are is concocted from a witches’ brew made up of small parts of all that surrounds you, which, if you let it, eventually turns into mysterious culture. when you shine in aforementioned society and are able to make well-timed, skillful and appropriate references to gordon e.’s late-night caltech partying in a conversation about moore’s law, you feel proud and exhilarated by the fact that you were naturally able to place something others could not. is that culture or is that regurgitated wiki-knowledge? i think culture might ultimately be about the understanding and use of the world one inhabits and less about knowledge of the past. our brains, even if lacking in letting us quickly compute cures for all that ails us, are still quite formidable little machines that allow us to not only rewind, fast-forward and auto-reverse our memories but also to draw conclusions from them. if we applied ourselves and dedicated our lives to knowledge, and i believe bernard-henry lévy alone has, we may be able to know everything, or at the least enough about everything to then be free to draw from the bribes of information, potent conclusions. still, the questions persists, how does one use that knowledge, those conclusions? perhaps culture is more a function of use than it is stagnant knowledge because it provides us with an insight into behaviour, perhaps even into the way things are supposed to work, the way people said things should work which provides us with the tools to grasp how it does work in the present and might work in the future. really, culture is a tool, a way for us to seize upon knowledge of ourselves and others in order to make our own minds up.

    culture is, as a matter of fact, the cornerstone of a life considered.

    culture supplies you with the tools for self-knowledge because, ironically, it opens the door to just about everything except you; it luxuriously seats you in the first row, center of your context, past and present, that of your parents, of their parents, of history, of geography, of human behavior, et cetera. it is all there, waiting for you to wake up to and study. when your culture is said, by some people, to be well rounded, what you should hear, after feeling appropriately flattered, is that you have at your disposal everything you need to find out about yourself. and such opportunity is not predicated upon access, you do not have to live in new york, paris or shanghai to participate in culture. as usual, meaning has been carelessly taken away from the words. culture has always, ever since the days of augustine, meant cultivation, not broadway shows, it has always symbolized the digging of soils, whether dirty or mindful, for the exclusive purpose of blooming. and that can be achieved anywhere on earth, in any language, by any peoples without the help the disney or time/life corporations. in fact, the members of an barely disturbed amazon tribe, who will know exactly how to suck the poison out of your big toe after you have been nastily stung by the beautiful but deadly phyllobates terribilis stands in contrast to our need for color-codes and foreign language in order to purchase coffee at starbucks. undoubtedly more mindful of their context than we are of ours simply because they are more attentive, the members of the amazon tribe have achieved a culture not based on entertainment value but functional ethics.

    culture is not a value judgment and certainly not something that should be standardized across nations and heritage as we tend to bland everything around to achieve comfort, rather merely attained through observation and subsequent interpretation. and if what surrounds you is the kalahari desert, at the edge of which you have made it your mission to throw a bottle of coke back to the gods, then that is your cultural sphere, no better or lacking in comparison to any other. wherever and whoever you are, if you are curious about your world, you are fertile and should never waste such a gift. curiosity may have killed a cat but if culture has a place of honor within a life considered then curiosity is its fuel.

    i remembered david byrne and how, among other things, he had set up on a dock in new york a couple of years ago and turned an abandoned building into a musical instrument. how extraordinary is that man? how easy it is for us non-byrnes, whether it be out of bitterness, out of life beating us down or out of boredom, to lose our curiosity for life, for all that swirls around, for all that we could start, if only we knew how… sometimes it’s age, sometimes it’s a spouse, whatever it may be, so easy it seems to lose the will to take risks at adventures untried. and here is a man who, every day i assume, finds himself curious about something else, something new, a man who probably understands my world and era better than i do for he dares experiment with it. is he smarter than i am? certainly not. is it easier for him because he is wealthier? perhaps, but i doubt it. i think, simply, that he was able to retain the youthful curiosity which made him ponder himself, decades later in his journal, as “a peculiar young man” and use his perceived oddness to his advantage, with no shame or needed excuses which led him to take action upon his curiosity. throughout history, there have been a handful of such inquisitors, the crazy ones, as chiat/day once dubbed them on behalf of the apple computer company, the ones who weren’t content to be merely curious or good but dove right int to fulfill their ideals.

    that is an extraordinary trait, the principle behind which may easily get some of us into trouble with substances disapproved by federal governments, but should not, for this is a thirst that should never be quenched. it is the lifeblood of culture. it is the foundation of learning, of education. it is the beginning of the search for a considered life. if you are not curious about yourself, then you will probably never step foot on this path, you will probably never care to because you are comfortable where you are, how you are, with who you are. if there is one incentive you might comprehend, it may be that, perhaps most of all, curiosity is fun. i know the word itself seems misplaced among multi-syllabic peers but here it is. how fun is it to dig around context, world, habits, tastes, all of which is about you? that is where the reward awaits, in a task that at first seems daunting because inaccurately believed to be too time-consuming as the same time that we, strangely enough, do not seem to mind wasting time and trillions of dollars, collectively, on numbing cocktail parties and the best that cameron diaz has to offer. obviously, we as a species, rely on entertainment to minimize the daily pressures that we have built for ourselves, seemingly every part of our lives having been invaded by a form of distraction hatched by marketers who think themselves clever at the behest of clients who think themselves important. these are activities often confused with culture but so be it for considering one’s life is a form of entertainment in its own right, one that needs no other producer than you, no other writer or director, no other actor. and yet we rarely think of such a production as the opportunity for amusement that it is, rather mostly consider it learning. and, apparently, we have come to believe that any form of learning is work, even if it is an investment in yourself and, fundamentally, we don’t want to work. we would preferably think of fun times as mindless, undemanding, easy. such as the best cameron diaz has to offer.

    what we need to do is widen our definition of fun, here, now. the considered life is fun with your eyes wide open and brain fully functioning, available for expansion without any pharmacological stimulation, simply on the basis of its own ability to learn and modify knowledge. the only problem i have with drugs in this context is that they are lazy. i have taken drugs but once in my life and i have absolutely nothing against the selling or using of them but i do object to their functional nature, that of a shortcut. sure, i have a hand, i could grab that cup of coffee by myself, but look, i have a robot, i paid a thousand dollars for that robot and he’s going to grab it and pour the coffee in my mouth. that, to me, is, or has become, the function of drugs in society, that of an assist. how fucked up is that? did anyone else see wall-e?! it is the threat of sloth brought on by technology which is exactly how drugs came into existence. what if i advanced the theory that there is nothing drugs can do to you that you cannot do to yourself, that all a drug does is put a sequence of events in motion that makes a chemical avalanche possible in your brain but that all you need is the switch to start it all. for some it is a chemical but might it also just be internal acquaintance with the trigger? when we’re talking about culture, we are talking about being responsible for that culture, not about somebody else reading a book and telling us about it and it is important that this be self-perpetuated, or else we have culture by proxy, or, if i may coin appropriate a term, a placebo culture.

    placebo culture is one way to talk about the times we live in now, which are very much tied back to the incompetent education that we received as children because of the fact that we live through customs and traditions that are no longer our own. we live in a people’s republic of culture. we have created a magma of ideas that resembles culture, smells like culture but is not quite. we need a new template. and i don’t say this kind of shit lightly for i have an inveterate hatred of new paradigms, models, templates, patterns, blueprints, molds and other archetypes. usually used as meaningless boasts by people with a lot to prove and little to say, these concepts and their oft-prescribed obsolescence are yet another shortcut meant to show off the presumed wisdom of the one speaking them. but much like obama found out after unlocking the president badge at the white house, change is much easier promoted than accomplished. and so i do not mean to add to the trash pile by suggesting that we must rethink all that has already been thought, but simply let one of our most cherished inventions do its usually marvelous job: time. devised who knows when by people more organized than i, time thankfully still passes and allows us to look at the risks and revolutions attempted in the present in a very different way, a way much less chaotic, as seen from the future… once affected by time, the present becomes the past and the templates old and new no longer change. confusion felt during disappears after because you are now are able to reflect. time, and subsequently her twin sister history, have a curious yet altogether welcomed habit of flattening everything. the best parts of history and the worst parts of history are now simply pages in a book that we can refer to and, wishful-thinkingly, learn from. and so in five years, what we are now living will be links on the exabit internet to which we will fondly click back, in between ripping a torrent of michael jackson’s youngest son’s album retrospective, blanket’s best and instant-(re)watching the ewok trilogy, special edition. to know that this process is inevitable makes it a lot easier to tackle changes to the way we build and perceive culture for it lessens some of the risk for us shy folk.

    that is the amazing dichotomous power of culture, to be malleable yet remain a constant. to us, today’s culture is of course very much alive but tomorrow, today’s culture will be uniform, the day after that, it will be boring and another day later, finally forgotten. that is why we must keep it evolving at all cost, why we must fight every day not to waste a brain cell, an ounce of saliva, a word or a keyboard stroke on trifle. culture is there to put us in our place, literally, there to point the way to a more specific grasp of our surroundings, there to advise us when we make decisions and, as we know, decisions are the main tool of the considered life. since we take over five thousand decisions, large and small, every day, each the result of choices, conscious or unconscious of the process at work, we must be able to place these decisions within a cultural context, a sense of where we belong. otherwise, how can we ever hope to make good decisions for ourselves or the people we care about? which begs the question: if it is paramount to decision-making, where do we find it? how is culture dispensed?

    not on the mtv video music awards, that’s for damn sure… have a wonderfully interesting week!

    July 29, 2010

    inceptionposter

    part one

    bucking the draw of delving into sleep post calisthenics,
    divad q. nead hastily surfaces in hogye with the bends
    and depressurizes to christopher nolan’s “inception”,
    a haute couture jaunt into the subconscious of dreams.

    down from a run in the foothills in a humid summer rain, fighting
    sleep, i ventured deep into the love motel district of old bisan to catch
    chris nolan’s first original screenplay since “following”, which I recalled
    struck me as wonderfully paranoid and thickly thieving b&w british.
    packed bag with gun, sandwiches, and three asahi premium cans,
    i rose eight floors into the old kinex 10 gone corporate, stuck sardine
    in the lift with florally tinctured local girls, some holding the wrists of
    their friendos. i was late for the meet, but ju-lee had the spots sorted
    and we hunkered into a couple’s seat [double-wide], reclining opposite
    elbows, digging the corn. it was then that she sighed and said, “why not
    the imax, daw-ling?”, to which i replied, “have you the legs for seoul, doll?”

    neither of us could have waited the 40 ride into the limbo of yongsan-gu,
    and therefore we took the local cine-paltry with its cheap sound & digital
    projection. there’s just no arguing with a perfect friday night film for two.
    ju-lee cracks her first can and jostles for elbow room. fast-forward through a
    bevy of discussions regarding the architecture of dreams, a palaver on
    mazes between page and leo, and i’m left wondering just how good this
    flick is going to get on my first viewing. my billfold jumps up from my back
    pocket and says, “you’re in for two views, nead, better get comfy.” i slap at
    my leather baby and it retreats. ju-lee pulls out her trusty red penlight
    and begins to jot notes, which then turn into birds. i nod off. i’m three rows
    away from her, front and center. on the screen “the seventh seal”, yet the
    role of antonius block is strangely played by my mother. ju-lee reaches three
    rows with her long octopus arms and pulls me back into my seat. i wake.
    my beer is full, my socks are wet, shoes dry. a lapping tide brushes my
    feet and i look to her for a towel. on screen cotillard rages stuck in limbo.

    leo and jgl are telling us something about keeping our minds fit for dreams.
    i’m recalling how the foothills earlier that night reeked of charcoal, broken
    stems. not caring much for this film as foreplay, but its doing a damn
    good job of keeping me thinking. ju-lee, her hair now red like joanie, turns to
    me and says, “well, yes, i am going to have you write a thesis.” my beer is
    always full. the caramel of our popcorn tastes like a circus, everything’s gone
    gray in the theater. we watch the limbo of leo and mal crumble under time,
    or whatever “time” is supposed to be in this film. i think i need a math break,
    a bathroom too, perhaps. fight scenes with jgl in zero g lead me to believe
    that i’m not actually watching anything connected to itself, just thinking a lot.

    standing in the darkness to my left, ju-lee hands me a torch, we walk through
    a green exit sign and into my apartment. she points to the wall where i see
    a vintage poster for fellini’s “8 1/2″. “it’s not the film you thought it was,” she says
    in perfect provençal. “when did you learn french?” i ask, but we’re back in our
    seats, the film is definitely coming to an end. a van hits the water, everyone is
    asleep in the theater and on the screen. i have faint doubts that any of this
    is happening, but ju-lee puts her hand on my leg and squeezes. “that felt
    real enough,” i say under my breath. lights up, the crowd moves to the one
    exit that doesn’t lead to my apartment. ju-lee takes my hand, her hair back
    to black. we step into the central park fountain outside the exit. i wake to the
    rain, pants off, having never left my room. my mobile phone quietly vibrating.

    from bed i see the clock reading 10. i’ve dreamed my way through the show. i sit up.
    “inception” served me itself in a dream of itself. ju-lee on the line, she says, “i waited
    for you through the previews then walked from the theater. did you sleep through my
    calls, divad?” it felt real enough. on my bureau, two tickets for wednesday’s imax,
    she laughs over the phone, and we make plans to meet later for dancing, drinks.

    part two

    reeling from his dreamed-through peyote vision of
    the film, divad q. nead finally digests christopher
    nolan’s “inception”, favoring the waking life angles,
    taking stock of techniques, and most certainly staying
    awake for the film itself. the dream deferred until now.

    off a 40 ride into seoul’s deep reaches, to a cinema bolstered
    by pink [read: red] light windows and whores, i ventured high
    into row m, seat 7 for an imax showing quick on the heels
    of my local teatro fever dream of “inception”. sans ju-lee, her
    dream self detained by sleep in hogye, my eyes accompanied
    me along with an ipad of naysayish prose from a.o. scott & david
    denby. it’s enough to say that the web’s spoil-heavy reviews
    trump the need for taking this long-player into the evening, but
    as a steward of taste, i dropped the extra twelve on the big john
    imax and sat for a second go at nolan’s as of yet opus operandi.

    zimmer begins with enfolding brass, inquisitive minds will discover
    the brilliance of this thematic defilade upon digging for edith piaf’s
    presence throughout the film, including muse cotillard gone alex
    forrest. brought before wanatabe, dicaprio’s opening lines define
    the film without any of the following wizardry. he asks us for, “a leap of
    faith”. the audience & george michael gotta have it. to re.view this
    film without a dvd screener for pause/replay is akin to humping a
    typewriter into saving your novel in triplicate. it can’t be done. yet
    as a dutiful scribe, i want to fondly convey the absolute attention
    this film deserves from levels neither you nor i have yet to ascribe.
    in cocteau’s “orpheus”, for example, the director trusts that his
    audience will think actively, noting themes, a radio’s music, par
    exemple, working it out on their feet. “inception” is a rubix.

    nolan has been challenging the line of storytelling since “memento”,
    a film, if you remember, that required countless viewings, and took
    weeks to digest. thick, richly drawn stories with reflexive arcs
    move audiences to thought, and not just that rot-gut emotion that
    i recall my mother so dearly loved in “bridges of madison county”,
    but that ugly brother part of art appreciation called “participatory
    aesthetics”. “inception” got rough on my pals for all the right
    reasons, and this is by no means a defense. what schlump wants
    to defend art that makes bucks in the first? if you’re the chad-type
    who’s tip-toing along the western lines of film canon, taking your
    “i see dead people” to new levels every time someone flips you
    the bird, or you’re the kind putting down a foster wallace novel
    to check “ask metafilter” for a new pithy thread or clever commentary,
    then this killer blockbuster is going to sweep kick you into a morita
    healing session from which you’ll never slap hands/rub/recover.

    you, swarthy digestif drinker, you’re going to sit through “inception”,
    step from the theater after halting your applause, and think, “did
    i really just love that for the wrong reasons”, as i duplicitously did.
    you, cuing bill evans on the ipod ride home, will consider nolan’s many
    homages in the film, strung together throughout his plot, and executed
    with minimal adherence to an sort of guileless smiling, you’ll applaud.
    detractors, those in the back row checking their sms whilst leo sat with
    cillian trying to disguise his third level dream hostage taking, they will
    hem/haw over their spoons of taboule that the film relied too heavily on
    cgi, or get balls deep with npr pundits who said it lacks a hero or warmth.
    i will sit through your sugar tears. what you’re looking for isn’t a codice,
    nor is it a lexicon of “i love yous”. “inception” hauls us to that oft forgotten
    altar of elbow greased audience work. want a quickie, go catch salt’s jolie.

    trudging through podcast reviews, the very essence of all the net’s metayawns,
    i couldn’t help but genuflect in quiet protest, washing the feet of my beloved
    sense of taste, when i heard how so many letdowns were associated with
    nolan’s apparent lack of interest in making his love interest suffer to their
    liking. now if i recall, depp and cotillard did nothing more in “public
    enemies” and got the high five of green tomatoes for their on screen yowsa.
    as a third generation nead i am no longer looking, post wong kar-wai 90s
    films, for any sort of complicated, intertwined romances beyond my don
    draper heartstring penny opera. i doubled down on “inception” for the pure
    challenge of taking my multiflorus interests in architecture, psychology,
    and chemical abuse to a convergent level. i’m actually enjoying my own
    dreams more now that i know how much wrought-iron awesome can be
    culled, fictionally, of course, from the pure nature of my subconscious
    manifestations. “inception” takes the silver on the pedestal for “best
    attempt to get us thinking”. you’re not going to get a baseline backhand
    like this from any director until malick or lynch come back from their
    coffee bean cherry hunt to kick the dust in our faces. the sad thing about
    watching this twice, friends, is that i can’t go a 3rd time for the costumes.

    see “inception” for your bookstore strolls through the taschen/phaidon
    tomes. see it for the martha nussbaum book you put down in tears. sit
    through the cold, gut punching wow for the reasons you dare not share
    with your kids, your colleagues, or your subway brethren. it’s not enough
    anymore to just say you like/dislike, those words bear no affectation.
    dear critic cabal, you’re going to have to serve me a blue plate of considered
    commentary for me to take back my ticket fee for this film. show me the secret room
    where camus played bridge, and rub my corduroy shoulders for a while. divad wants
    you to dig “inception” so that the books on your shelves don’t burn themselves
    in a bradbury of 451s. this man is tired of your journaleasy underwhelmathons.

    dqn

    March 8, 2010

    oped-new5
    what a night for hollywood it was last night. everybody’s tits came out! one for all and all for one cause, that of agreeing to promote their industry by pretending to care what the other one thinks. while in fabulous attire. i wore american apparel, thank you for asking. now, lest these first few lines erroneously lead you to believe that i disapprove of the hollywood system, let me assure you that your assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

    those movies have value because they still represent a point of view, show us how someone might react to something in a certain circumstance as imagined by a writer, an actor, a director of some kind. believe it or not, as outlandish and exaggerated as these actions and reactions might be, we, as living, breathing, sometimes conscious things, still are informed by them. isn’t it mark twain who said that truth is stranger than fiction? but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t. aren’t we sometimes shocked by what’s on the news, by what people are capable of doing in real life? most of the movies, hollywood movies, that come out today are presumably un-relatable, such as iron man, because, of course, none of this exists, there are no men in suits that fly around. but that’s not quite true, what we can relate to are the people within those movies, they are still ordinary people most of them, being placed in extraordinary circumstances perhaps but the idea is that they have basic human traits, who react in a way we might. even if they may be a vengeful pirate captain bent on the death of an eternal flying child in neverland or a protocol droid. there are ancestral mythological dramatic plot points in even iron man, the dead father, the older friend, who becomes a friend and then a rival. there are ancient storytelling processes at work throughout all of entertainment, even rob schneider comedies, that we relate to. those are the shadows on the wall of the cave.

    now, there is a point at which we say, no more. i have to be nourished, not merely entertained, by this art form. well, i think you can be nourished by just about everything. there was a point in my life, while attending nyu film school, where i was supposed to be critical of a lot of things in film as you are expected by most of the community to think that, well, everything is crap, or so i was told. but i went through it quite wide-eyed, thinking that pretty much everything i saw was amazing. to the derision of my friends who boasted critical viewpoints. even though more aware than before about film language, i found myself loving every movie i saw, during those four years, from jules et jim to hook by way of clockwork orange and the fugitive, every movie i thought was amazing because it just showed me a side of life that i didn’t know. i was almost fresh off the boat from france and was thrown into this context and community of american post-teens, and i loved the idea that at my beck and call was this encyclopedia of behaviors, real and imagined, right there on the screen. it was an amazing process to go through, so much so that i confused the value of an experience with the value of a film. i was not really being critical enough as a craftsman because i was so interested in the human part of it. and ultimately, isn’t that movies really do? they create mass hysteria, in the scientific meaning of word, which is being in a room with a bunch of strangers and all believing the same lies, willfully, understandably, sometimes with joy. if the craft is well accomplished and we revel in such hysteria, we take enormous pleasure from the fact that we are discovering a little bit about somebody else’s experience through which we might learn about ourselves, understanding that however different we might be, at the end of the day, we are basically the same carbon-based lifeform. and you know what? if i were a serial killer with a cold heart and a purpose for vengeance, i might act like javier bardem in no country for old men. who knows? maybe i have that in me, built-in, ready to pounce, perhaps we all do. maybe movies at their best are not really being imaginative at all, but merely peering into the cauldron of human possibilities which only artists are supposedly able to reach into and retrieve testimony. because we, as people who go to our jobs every day, well, we reach into a few facets, maybe a couple, three, four, if we’re lucky. but filmmakers get to not just peer but fashion idols out of what they believe to be there to begin with. as i said before, every character we’ve ever seen at the movies has always been and will always be some version of a human being.

    fiction rarely supersedes reality when it comes to imagination. we seem to be able to out-imagine the movies when it comes to profiting from our own multiple personalities. i mean, in truth, could you invent the civil war? could you invent the gold rush? when you look at history, it’s extraordinary what we’ve done with our bodies, from our thirst for knowledge to our thirst for blood and love. only a small percentage of that opportunity has been taken advantage of in the arts, and especially in the movies, which is why we keep telling true stories, or remaking old movies. look at andy warhol’s process of filmmaking, empire, for example, is an 8-hour film of a stationary camera focused on the empire state building. it doesn’t move. nothing happens. eight hours of the empire state building. the light changes, and it’s eight. hours. long. done. sleep is five hours of a guy sleeping. thinking of the film camera as a witness to the doings of man and beast is perhaps the best way to think about it. it is but a witness to our madness. and sometimes you bear witness in a way that is documentative and sometimes you do it in a way that is fictional, but at the end of the day, the human always remains firmly at the center, whether he is the star or simply the enabler.

    and then there’s craft. there’s skill. and, of course, you can name dozens and dozens of people with craft and skill in every department of the movie production process, from the casting director to the director of photography, to the editor, to the composer. and to a certain extent, the projectionist by way of the aforementioned. at the end of the day, though, it behooves a director and, more often than not unfortunately, his studio, to consider the needs of art in order to deliver a product as it must be called, that is satisfactory on all counts. why is citizen kane perennially number one on the list of best movies ever made? because it is precise. it is thoughtful. it is unique. it is original. it is detailed. it is ambitious. it speaks of the human condition. it speaks of behavior. it does so with incredible bravado and skill. it is inspiring. it was the wrong thing to do at the wrong place at the right time. it was based on an inimitable ego that cared for no dissension. it is basic. at once simple and complicated, like the men and women who made it. it is the result of freshness. it is the result of cockiness. it is the result of pride. it is a prayer that things can be both perfect and imperfect at once. it is the ultimate moving image tribute to the duality of man. it is a game predicated on human frailty, and that is why we can see bits of ourselves in citizen kane, in charles foster kane, in jedediah, in susan alexander, in mr. thatcher and mr. thompson, in the parents, in the child. it plays with our ambitions. it plays with our wishes. and it both disappoints and excels. and it arrived at a time where films were not that. it signals a hinge in time, much in the way in which mozart wrote the mass in c minor and shakespeare wrote romeo and juliet, that defined a moment in which an art form was no longer what it was teh day before, because a man or a woman took it upon him or herself not to listen, but simply to do, with the help of a few helpful believers. today, that would be a remarkable trait. there are a few, very few people who do what they must. in filmmaking, in our lifetime, stanley kubrick, orson welles, p.t. anderson, federico fellini, jacques tati, robert altman to name but a few of the few, are rare artists with cameras for eyes, who showed us another version of the world which, much as when you close your eyes during mozart’s requiem, induce you to proverbially leave your body. you do not know who you are anymore. you discover another way to be because of the influence from an intently selfish point of view, from an artist that you will never meet.

    the power of movies, of course, is that they are almost all-dimensional. sights and sounds give us a lot of the information we need in order to put ourselves in somebody’s shoes. now, 3-d cinema is coming into being, introduced into our lives very aggressively, and so it is reality, for lack of a better term. it is virtual reality. and it is an opportunity, not simply entertainment. an opportunity to immerse ourselves into other people’s lives, other people’s behavior. this means something. this is important. it is not something to be merely cineplexed. it is for the fan boys who will sleep outside a movie theater for days in order to get tickets for the first showing of a surely-to-be cult film, something that changes lives, and it’s extraordinary. and it is not superficial to recognize in a fictitious character the possibilities of yourself. that’s what movies can do. that’s what they’ve done to me.

    have a wonderful week and, for god’s sake, stop it with the gum-chewing!

    March 2, 2010

    endor-posterthere’s no two ways to go about this, either you can’t live without star wars and you’ll find any excuse to justify thinking that anything to do about the interstellar saga is no less than awesome. or you don’t. in which case these minimally-designed star wars planet posters won’t do much for you. which mr. lucas and i feel very sad for you. for.