Archive for May, 2010

SFMOMA’s 75th Anniversary Exhibition
May 11, 2010

Okay reader, you have until January 16th, 2011 to view my favorite Robert Gober piece, Prison Window, 1992, at SFMOMA.  Unless, of course, they are changing the exhibits over the time of the exhibit, in which case I can’t even guess how long this piece will be up.  The first time I viewed Prison Window I couldn’t leave the room, it captivated me so.  An open window carved high in the wall, three prison bars.  Behind exists the most perfect shade of blue hope with a hint of cloud in the atmosphere…  For your reference I have included a picture of the piece, but a picture is no substitute for the real thing:

Robert Gober's Prison Window, 1992

Other pieces to note are Bruce Connor’s film Three Screen Ray, 2006, the museum’s fabulous photography collection that includes contemporary and historic pieces, and Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Koonig, 1953.  Connor’s piece is a three-channel, black and white video projection, set to Ray Charles’ 1959 hit song What’d I Say.  Images of naked ladies dancing, animated electricity and much more.

Bruce Connor's Three Screen Ray, 2006

In celebration of the museum’s 75th anniversary, SFMOMA has pulled out all of the stops, or rather all of their pieces, to celebrate the occassion.  The series of exhibitions and events “illustrate the stories of the artists, collectors, cultural visionaries, and community leaders who founded, built, and have animated the museum. A suite of exhibitions highlights the unique strengths of SFMOMA’s collection and moments when the museum broke new ground, expanding the conventional wisdom of what an art museum should present and collect. Related programs and events continue throughout the year.” [SFMOMA]

Join the museum for it’s special 75th Birthday Bash celebration on May 14, 2010.

Robert Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning, 1953

Unfaithful, Tati?
May 10, 2010

After a recent discussion about Richard Gere and snow globes, I was urged to watch the film Unfaithful from 2002.  Honestly, I cannot remember what actually triggered this conversation.  It really isn’t the kind of film I would pursue on my own, a mainstream drama about an unfaithful wife, and I normally wouldn’t write about it either…  however there was a scene that I have been pondering, giving the film more thought than it truly deserves.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Gere and Diane Lane, but this mainstream drama just wasn’t up to par for their acting abilities nor my attention span.  But hey, the studios have to make money and so do the actors.

The scene that is the cause of my writing is when Lane’s character enters a theater with her young French lover,  playing on-screen is Jacques Tati’s Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, also known as Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, 1953.  This is one of my favorite films and directors of all time, and I don’t understand its presence in Unfaithful, as it is the prelude to her young lover’s act of cunnilingus. My only guess to its presence is an attempt to create depth to Lane’s character, or to culturally tie in the character of the young French stud, played by actor Olivier Martinez….  your guess is as good as mine, but if the intentions were as I assume, my opinion is the intentions do not succeed.

The Tati scene that appears in Unfaithful is probably the funniest and most brilliant scene of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, a visual gag that includes Mr. Hulot taking a boat out on the water, the boat breaks in half, essentially swallowing him.  As Mr. Hulot tries to escape, the boat appears to onlookers to be a sea monster.  The full scene can be viewed here:

Apologies for the Spanish subtitles, know that dialogue is not the main focus in Tati’s films.  The background you should know about this brilliant man:  He was a perfectionist and perfected the visual and long gag.  His films have very little dialogue, what little dialogue exists is secondary to the actions taking place and are just shy of mumbling in most cases.  Mr. Hulot is always played by Tati himself, an alter ego of sorts, and is the main character in his films.  My favorite of all of his films is Mon Oncle, 1958, his first color film.  If you have never had a taste of Tati, now is the time.

The String Comes Full Circle…
May 3, 2010

In the last week and a half I have watched a string of films that serendipitously linked to one another.  I so did not plan this but enjoyed the outcome.  Prepare yourself for my lengthy wandering in words:

I am going to start off with Zombieland.

Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland, 2009

It is by far no secret that I heart zombie films, and this one is no exception.  I can see where people may mistake the film for a comedy, but really it’s a character development film that is humorous, as a raging apocalyptic disease destroys mankind.  Zombie connoisseur or not, I think anyone can get into this film as the characters are delightful to get to know.  How can you not fall in love with the four leads?  That’s right, they are all leads as every member of this all-star cast shines brightly:  Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin.  Has there ever been a zombie film with so many known actors and of such high caliber?  No.

So when you are viewing, take special note of the first encounter of Eisenberg’s character with Harrelson’s:  They meet each other on a highway where there is evidence of recent past chaos, each holding their guns at one another in a stand-off before accepting the idea that the other is trustworthy.  The soundtrack that starts the scene is a western theme, with violins and a faint music box chime hidden underneath; a musical chime originating from Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More.  In fact, I believe all of the sounds for this encounter are from this Leone film.  I consider this a moment of filmic brilliance, which happens every so often, as the chimes connecting this moment to Leone’s film are conceptually executed and subtle enough that I didn’t even notice them when I first saw the film in theater.  It’s almost undetected, but truly heightens the tension of a western standoff.  Bravo, first time director Ruben Fleischer.

Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonté in a stand off. When the music stops, firing begins. For A Few Dollars More, 1965

I had just watched Sergio Leone’s film For a Few Dollars More prior to Zombieland.  So now you know my first link in the string of films I watched last week, and when I noticed it, I was taken aback.  Sometimes all it takes is noticing subtle things, and I was in accordance to Zombieland rule #32, Enjoy the Little Things.  I did, I reveled in my little connection.    The music box chime plays a significant role with every stand-off in For a Few Dollars More.  Should I dare assume you have already seen it?  I hadn’t seen it until last year, I know, how could I have lived just over 30 years and never seen one Sergio Leone film?  Easy, I grew up with a John Wayne loving father and grandfather and thought all westerns were the same.  Not so.  Leone’s suite of films are/were groundbreaking films, taking the western genre into a whole new category.  The Good the Bad and the Ugly is probably the most popular, easily understandable as the visual techniques and editing in that film are much more prolific than the others.  Needless to say, if you haven’t already seen these films, it’s about high time you do…

Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass in Kick-Ass, 2010

Next in line is Kick-Ass, which I saw just this Saturday night in theater.  If you aren’t privy to this film yet, you should be.  If you are thinking to yourself ugh, not another superhero movie, or erm, I can’t stand Nicholas Cage, think again.  Kick-Ass is about a teenager, armed with a wetsuit and good intentions, who figures a person doesn’t need to hold super powers or have revenge at heart to be a superhero… you just need the optimism to do good and the ability to kick the other person’s ass.  This is very much a comedy, and very very very funny.  Yes, that’s a triple very on that funny rating, despite Cage’s presence.  I can’t stand the guy, but every once in a while he plays a role that suits his over-acting abilities.  This is one of them.  I could list the others, but that would be off this quite beaten path.  Instead, let me direct you to how Kick-Ass relates to all of this – towards the end there is a scene when Hit-Girl, the 11-year -old superhero sidekick of Big Daddy who kicks some serious ass, enters the drug lord’s building.  You can’t miss a very obvious use of the music from Leone’s The Good the Bad and the Ugly as she takes on four bad guys.  It’s a very obvious reference, but it’s a superhero comedy, obvious works just fine, and in most cases it’s welcomed by the audience.

David Gordon Green's George Washington, 2000

So needless to say my being taken aback jumped to concern that I was going a little insane when I watched yet another film connected to Leone.  And then, as I am playing these connections in my head, I realized that Kick-Ass related to the first film I watched in this entire string, a little gem titled George Washington.  I watched it because I get in these grooves where I like one film by a director and want to see more.   So I do.  Or there is an up and coming actor that is really shining through and I feel the need to watch more of his work.  In this case it was actor Paul Schneider, I wanted to see more of his work as I am in belief that he is the up and comer that is going to give us a real run for our money.  Schneider has great ease to his acting style and really gets into his characters, hard to not like him.

George Washington is a sweet little slow-paced story that follows four kids around their depressed little town somewhere in the south.  The kids share a tragic experience that they cover up and lie about.  The title character, George, deals with the guilt in a way that not many would:  he walks around as a superhero and tries to help however he can.  He even directs traffic…  in this case our everyday superhero is just fine doing everyday things.  His costume?  Wrestling tights, I believe a cape was involved, and he either wore a helmet or a fur hat made out of dog fur.  Can’t remember which.  The compositions and visual quality of this film are absolutely lovely, I liked it so much that I watched two other David Gordon Green films, Snow Angels and and All the Real Girls, and I do recommend both.  In fact, I am befuddled that I can continue this string even further….  but I won’t.  Just note that All the Real Girls also has Paul Schneider in it and Snow Angels has Sam Rockwell, in which I could link to Tom DiCillo’s Box of Moonlight, but like I said, I won’t go there.

Woody Harrelson as and in Defendor, 2009

Instead know this:  My Zombieland DVD has a trailer on it for a 2009 film starring Woody Harrelson, titled Defendor.  Harrelson’s character is another everyday person who has transformed himself into a superhero.  So next on my viewing list is Defendor, tying my string back to the first film in this epic post.  It also quenches my desire to see Harrelson as a superhero (though seems like his Defendor character isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed) as I was thinking how his character in Zombieland is nearly a hero being.  I guess it’s the new craze, everyday superheroes.  Hopefully the fad won’t get out of control as in Monty Python’s Bicycle Repairman, so many superheroes who can no longer save the day, but wait, is that who I think it is?  Yes it’s, it’s…  Bicycle Repairman!

Michael Palin, John Cleese, some guy and Graham Chapman in Monty Python's Flying Circus' Bicycle Repairman, 1969-74