…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “New York City

Seminal Video: with Ryan Gosling


Via Jezebel. So this place has degraded itself to writing about videos while I’m doing my real writing everywhere else and I have six reviews to write (including four here) and I owe Queen Video a DVD and I have to finish a book and read parts of another and a preview for a Kate Winslet film (She and her kids escaped a fire is Richard Branson’s house, by the way. Yesterday just kept giving me strange emotions.). It’s so weird knowing that Gosling lives in the Lower East Side – I got of the wrong stops off the F train then. What entertains me more in this clip are the New Yorker narrators, who are proof that even if Gosling can stop rough New York fights, he can never stop The Notebook. Enjoy!


Marwencol


So this guy Mark Hogencamp of Kingston, NY get ‘queer-bashed,’ leaving him brain-damaged, but comes out of it with the best revenge – better artistic skills and penmanship than me? I’m not saying with schadenfreude that his skills as an artist should be as stalled as mine, but not fair, world.

Hogencamp is as multifaceted as the aesthetic of the fictional town he has created with his two hands, Marwencol, a portmanteau of his name and the two most important women in her life, Mark, Wendy and Colleen. The film, as much as it is dedicated towards his fictional world, also focuses on the man who has created it. He talks normally except for stressing the words ‘angry’ and ‘drink,’ two of his past vices. He’s honest about the porno tape that an old VCR has eaten up or other revelations about his views and practices on sexuality as revealed through the real world and his fictional one. The film lets us watch the man evolve.

Significant portions of the film is devoted to showing storyboard stills of Mark’s stills of the WWII dolls placed in both the town he’s physically constructed, both within 1/6th scale, and seamlessly within natural settings. I’m gonna nitpick and say the the zippers seem larger than scale, but that’s about it. His friends say that he expresses his anger through the dolls, an admirable action because of how he does it. He carefully paints the scars and bullet holes into the body of these dolls instead of attacking them. At first this feels like he’s staining those dolls until we see the effect he successfully conveys, making the violence look like the dolls have inflicted them on each other, as certain plot points of Marwencol’s story go.

Those stills are more colorful than the less glamourous people like Mark and certain townspeople of Kingston, NY from whom some of the characters in Marwencol are based on. No human Barbie dolls and war hunks in Mark’s real world, which make them more special since the film lets us see the beauty that Mark sees in them. These people are interviewed one by one, their reactions to his art as unabashedly honest as the fiction Mark creates. His best friend says that he’s ‘partaken in battles and come out on top,’  Marwencol then becoming a balance between communal fantasy and a symbol for the wars Mark endures to be healed.


Jack Goes Boating


For the most part, the characters of Jack Goes Boating are passive to each other and to the events that happen to them. Our titular limo driver Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who also directs) gets set up with mortuary secretary Connie (Amy Ryan) because his best friend Clyde (John Ortiz) is married to her co-worker Lucy. Jack’s first date with Connie happens in Clyde and Lucy’s shabby apartment, where she talks about being sexually harassed while her father’s in a coma. Her sexual misadventures are exposed to Jack just as she is aware of his inexperience. Jack misses a chance to get an application for a job at the MTA. This baby step towards a better job and life feels unambitious but nonetheless realistic. For some reason, after these short introductions out of the way, the first act of the film doesn’t feel neither like an introduction nor a build-up. It’s one awkward situation piled on top of another.

ph. MoviePictureDP

The final act of the film shows its off-Broadway roots, that everything else before it is just fluff, yet what we see is also an intense payoff. Clyde reveals secrets, which makes the other characters open up. Again, Jack uses Clyde and Lucy’s apartment, show off his newly acquired culinary skills, but instead people and things get smashed because of hashish. We see Jack’s compromises in becoming the perfect person and mate for Connie. Connie, in watching Clyde and Lucy’s relationship crumble, doesn’t have a eureka moment but does something with her life to survive and be sane, as if by common sense. Clyde realises his altruism goes hand in hand with being life support for other people instead of being a man of his own, which doesn’t seem like a consequence but simply a terrible fate for a man. Jack Goes Boating is not the most original tragedy, but its downward spiral is very effective.


If I was Gena Rowlands


ph. Orion

“I guess you don’t read the theatre section of the paper.”

Hit her, Marion (Gena Rowlands), hit her! There’s only the three of you in this block. However, unlike this classical period in his career, Woody Allen films have only been violent in the past six years and only twice within that time. Anyway, I’m criminally new to Gena Rowlands’ word. Someone give me a movie where she literally kicks ass. Gloria?

Also, I’d hesitate to do any physical harm to Claire. I love the actress playing her, Sandy Dennis, specifically because she can steal a scene from Natalie Wood. And Dennis actually looks better in 1988 than she did decades before that. I’m so bad in not knowing that Dennis did major work after Woolf.

I’m also reminding myself while watching bits of Another Woman that this is Woody Allen evoking American Ingmar Bergman. I’ll give Bergman’s right hand man Sven Nyqvist, this film’s cinematographer, in how empty New York looks, and I’ve never viewed that with suspicion until now. This won’t be the last time we’ll see New York so empty. And is that light bulb on top of that post or behind that window? Anyway, Bergman also influences Allen’s work here to the direction of subtlety and, well, passive-aggressive dialogue, secret emotions, distorted memory, women being unfair towards each other.

Let’s fast forward by four or five minutes, where we find out that adulthood is a series of broken friendships. Marion takes Claire and her husband to drinks in a dank pub with etched walls, Claire sulks and then tells her she’s an unconscious home-wrecker. Now we know why Claire utters that quote above. Imagine how hurt Marion feels by learning this. The way Claire gets destroyed makes it a dirty victory for Marion, but classy and newly introspective as she is, she does not take the trophy home. I can’t imagine anyone questioning her actions by this time.


Do the Right Thing


ph. Universal

In the film about a scorching day and racial tensions in the Bedford-Stuvyesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, each character is capable of cruel acts, big or small. But they are nice too in their own volition. Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) places flowers on Mother Sister’s (Ruby Dee) window. Sal (Danny Aiello), an owner of a pizzeria, has a passive-aggressive rapport with his employee Mookie (Spike Lee) and a more flirtatious one with his sister Jade. Mookie, a dysfunctional dad, does his best when he’s visiting the Tina (Rosie Perez), the mother of his child.

So I don’t feel hatred towards Sal when he destroys Radio Raheem’s boom box. I also feel the same when Mookie turns against his boss. I’m not condoning these actions by any means, however. Spike Lee’s characters have these opposites within them, or more particularly, a hidden anger within a communal love. And when they act out and when the simple-minded rioter puts a picture of MLK and Malcolm in a wall previously occupied by pictures of Italian Americans, it  doesn’t seem like a victory. He changed up a wall on a burning building.

This movie’s also about a community that is constantly learning about its inner rules, or at least is in eternal limbo. Who’s allowed to live or to set up a business in the neighborhood? There are no set boundaries in this neighborhood but every character feels trespassed. Yet no one leaves. The conflict also isn’t about race as much as it is also inter-generational. Da Mayor tells the teenagers that knows their parents didn’t raise them to act disrespectfully. It’s the business owners and the two elders communicating with the young, or attempting to do so. Familial connections are made between characters who might be throwing stuff at each other in a few hours.

I only have three small issues with this movie, one bleeding into my issue with Spike Lee. First, the acting isn’t that solid, but then I’m talking about the bit roles who have to speak in a Toni Morrison-esque cadence. And a director who doesn’t care about his bit players is just like every other director before 1967. Besides, he can direct the hell out of Danny Aiello, and the rest of his main cast. Second, the garish look and red lighting of the film that makes it look like it was shot in a studio, but that only shows how he can get better in time. Third and most distracting of all, he can’t make a prologue and epilogue to save his life.


Thirteen Conversations About…


(not skinny enough to be a junkie. ph. SPC)

Why is everyone doing heroin on a Saturday night? Where is everyone’s parents?

“Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” a movie with interwoven multiple story lines, went on after “Requiem for a Dream.” Both take place in New York, both have drugs.

But in “Thirteen Conversations,” the drugs are a minor note. A young guy in a secluded corner of the city shooting up. He’s the bane of his father Gene’s (Alan Arkin) existence, always asking him for parole money.

Minor characters like him are unchangeable. He’ll always be a delinquent like that Gene’s coworker Wade will always look on the bright side and like Bea’s (Clea Duvall) coworker Dorrie, who I swear to God looks like my coworker, will always be lazy and bitchy yet outgoing. In a way Gene’s always gonna be grumpy. Unfortunately enough we have to watch Gene and Alan Arkin be the weight in his workplace’s sinking ship.

However, the main characters like Bea and Troy (Matthew McConaughey) change because of an event that involves them. Troy’s a douchebag lawyer and Bea is spiritual and optimistic girl. That changes when Troy hits Bea with a car.

It was nice to finally see Matthew McConaughey do good work and play something close to a real character. Troy becomes noble yet masochistic after the accident, someone dedicated to justice that he couldn’t give to himself not to Bea. He still didn’t turn himself in and let Bea alone to die, and you can either forgive him for that or not. But there was a purity and innocence in his face that went well with the character’s redemption. He spends some of his time looking in the mirror, thinking about the consequence of his actions, or going back to the place of the accident. He could either have been a George Clooney or a Paul Newman or a Christian Bale, but he chose to become himself. It sucks watching movies and knowing the future.


(emo)

Bea is in the choir and listen to the homilies, but she becomes a Debbie Downer so much that Dorrie stops taking her calls. Pardon the expression again, but it sucks having a taste of someone with rare genuine goodness only but the movie takes that away from us.

It’s an interesting film. I disagree with its worldview – that an event can turn a personality upside down. And Gene isn’t sympathetic enough as a foil against Troy and Bea. But I’m not bitchy enough to totally dismissive.


Requiem for a Dream


(ph. secret)

My first encounter with this movie was in my college years. I thought it unwatchable, seeing all those slouchy junkies dancing and reveling in intoxication, wanting neither pause nor redemption. It’s something, at that time, that touched a dark, personal part of me from which I wanted to distance myself, so I had to change the channel. But this is the kind of movie you get if you wanted realism, and there’s a demand for that.

The time that I finally saw this movie was a televised edited version, and no, I didn’t get to see more of Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) naked with his girlfriend. Nor did I see what Marion (Jennifer Connelly) did with that dildo, and though I have the full version with me I don’t plan on seeing that scene.

And that relentless soundtrack. I’m pretty sure there’s only one or two-minute intervals of dialogue or silence between pieces of powerful music. Ironically enough, I’m sure that a track called ‘Marion Barfs’ (under other names in the soundtrack) is now being used to promote televised sporting events.

I do find the rapid cuts and extreme close-ups and split screens gratuitous in other examples. It almost was here. The shots of eyeballs and syringes bored you until another season/act comes and we find the characters deeper into a more interesting section of the rabbit hole. Also, my pet peeve that there are windows with no views here too, noting that this is still cheaper, independent film making despite of its achievements in other areas. But the characters and tragedy, reaching their inevitable ends, are effective enough to overshadow the flaws.

I cheated on a Sidney Lumet double bill to watch this. Had I seen this in its entirety a few years ago, I would have dismissed it as a jewel of turn of the twenty-first century film making like “American History X.” And “Requiem” is still that – I never thought to call a movie made ten years ago would be slightly dated. Last Saturday I was ready, and in doing so I treat it neither with love nor hate but respect.

(klassy)

I’ve always seen movies where Jennifer Connelly was the damsel in quasi-distress (“Little Children,”). I know that there are movies where she plays the unconventional reincarnation of the femme fatale (“House of Sand and Fog”). In this movie she refreshingly plays both. There’s also Nick’s argument that Jennifer Connelly did subtler and thus better work than the Oscar nominated Ellen Burstyn, which I respect and kinda agree with. Nonetheless, Darren Aronofsky works his players like athletes.

This movie is the middle ground between Aronofsky’s grit and trashy (“The Wrestler”) and the fantasy (“The Fountain”). So far, it’s the movie that best embodies what the rest of his work is like, although his best is yet to come.

This movie can also arguably be the gateway to the boyish Kubrickian surrealism that embodies the movies of the past decade (Mexican New Wave etc.). But then “Memento” apparently came out three weeks before this movie. Apples and oranges. I haven’t seen “Memento” in so long so I can’t choose which one’s my favourite.

Lastly, cannot wait for Black Swan.