Thursday, July 28, 2005

the blind man's meal (pablo picasso, 1903)

Saw this at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.

A Google search suggests that there is a second painting by Picasso of a blind man, sold privately at Sotheby's New York in 1999. In which a blind man touches a young girl. Anybody seen this?

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short trips to new york city and detroit, michigan

I'll post more on this later, but . . . . Four Brothers is an excellent movie. The plot is amazing - as complex as a Piranesi prison and surprising. There's a lot to keep track of mentally. You often have to believe two or three different plots are possible at once. The editing, particularly in the most violent scenes, tends to obscure rather than anything else, which was frustrating at the theater, but now seems brilliant. The showdown on the frozen lake? Pittsburgh, you've got to see this, particularly you, AntiRust, if you're reading this . . .

However, anyone who goes to see this will have to set aside their notions of "Black American Cinema" as a "New Realism" and embrace a kind of baroque macabre sentimental melodrama . . . More like a mid-century film noir (as they say) or, that classic of family and violence, The Godfather.

Wait, now that I go to the website, I see its due out Aug 12. I DID see a preview version, I thought so - hopefully they won't over simplify things in the final version. Like I said, there is a lot going on, both emotionally, and in the plot but it all, finally, works together. There ARE a few really weak lines of dialog that the amazing actors have to carry. And sometimes its a bit much for them because they aren't all that amazing . . .


Monday, July 18, 2005

july 11-18 issue, denby and i share a 'war of the worlds' moment

Denby's review of War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005) isn't bad. He's wrong about the visual effects of the film, the ferry overturning did NOT "make the special effects in Titanic look insubstantial and obvious" (p.102). Rather, they caused much laughter, at least at the theater I was in. But he's right about the fact that it is more of a horror film, with an individual psychological drama at the center, than sci-fi. And he's right that there are "no experts" and that this sets the desparate, hysterical, aimless tone of the film. Actually, this was my favorite thing about the movie - no team, no uniforms, no plan.

But I'm not a big sci-fi fan, despite this summer's theatergoing. However, I do like the genre when it addresses social and political issues by projecting them on a specific and unique technological, biological or otherwise "scientific" threat. That is, when the sci-fi creature means something to a collective, not just Tom Cruise. My favorite sci-fi films are as follows:

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)
K-PAX (Ian Softley, 2001)
Alien 3 (David Fincher, 1992)

Yes, I only like 3 sci-fi films. If you have any further recommendations, let me know . . . note that all three of these films create a strong identification between the audiance and the rather heroic alien creature. I guess I like that.

In other news, I replaced the flat tube on my bicycle, and spent some time at the Yough Trail this weekend, a local rails to trails bike trail south of Pittsburgh. The flowers aren't great this year, because of the dryness, I think.

And I watched another Robert Wise film, I Want to Live! (1958) Yes, the exclamation point is in the film title . . . that's just one of the things that makes this a great film. Based on the true story of convicted murderer Barbara Graham.

Final words on War of the Worlds - Painful, punishing . . . It's like going on a long, disasterous trip from NY to Boston, in a minivan, with your family. Which may, after all, be a political issue.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

two local pittsburgh questions . . .

1. Is there a good online forum for LOCAL home repair, contractor, do-it-yourself advice, etc? I can't find one, but I can't beleive there isn't one out there . . .

2. Why is WDUQ news referring to the public universities and colleges in Pennsylvania as "state owned" in the reports on tuition?? Does this mean something other than public? I may be paranoid, but I think "state owned" sounds a little threatening, (not to me, but the popular connotation, maybe) whereas public higher education is understood by most people to be a good and necessary thing . . . Or is there a perfectly valid reason for WDUQ news to be using a phrase that connotes dark, scary, soviet era breadlines?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

bird flight

I'm sure this is old hat for Pittsburgh locals, but the National Aviary on the Northside IS really amazing. That is, if you are not freaked out by birds buzzing your head. This happened more times than I could count, in the big indoor rooms, at the outdoor show . . . (thanks espd for getting me off my technically lazy ass to insert a link!!!)

The environments are great, the staff is fun, the birds are loud, lively, beautiful, numerous, odd. Only drawback, I went with a friend and her two year old. He didn't have the attention span for staring at birds. And we moved to quickly for me to read all the informative plaques. Which I love to do because I am a big nerd.

As for this outdoor show, they have birds flying in the rose garden and demonstrating their natural movements . . . pretty cool. But when they had the red tailed hawk out, a bunny (who, if you live in Pittsburgh, you would recognize as a non-Aviary related city resident) came hopping along and the woman running the show and everyone else waited with bated breath for a bloody encounter. But none. ANd THeN a local hawk started circling and the woman running the show explained that he probably felt threatened by the flying red tailed hawk.

So, that woman who wrote that best seller about wildlife in the DC suburbs (see, I told you the DC suburbs would rear their ugly head here) should check us out. The Hope of Snakes, Lisa Couturier. That's her.

there are more photos if you click on the post title "bird flight" the best are pawlesh's.

update Dec 6, 2005: I've removed the photo of the bird. you can still find it by clicking on the post title and searching the aviary site. but searches for this photo were clogging up my counter. this must be the world's most sought after bird photo, so i apologize.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

july 11 & 18 New Yorker issue and some notes on past issues

For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, you'll be pleased to note that I (only recently) read the nyer's Gertrude Stein article from this spring on the shores of Lake Erie, at that park everyone is so fond of. I liked it too, it was my first trip. Stupid me, I had the bikes locked to the car's bike rack (i'd been driving around town in between trips to the yough trail) and I forgot to bring the bike lock keys on the erie trip. So a leisurely trip around the island on my trusty bicycle is for another time. Oh wait, trusty bicycle has popped inner-tube from trip to local public pool. Any thoughts or advice on Lake Erie or public swimming in the area? Or the Gertrude Stein article?

As for this issue of the nyer, I liked the letters to the ed. I have liked them since the nyer started running letters to the ed - why shouldn't a news magazine be responsible to its readers? tho' I remember when I was little the magazine's disregard was part of its snob mystique. In any case, Kolbert's article on alaskan languages seemed too obviously motivated by personal and sentimental guilt, her relationship to her subject was uncomfortable, to say the least, and I think her perspective did limit her from addressing the kind of nuanced political and historical circumstances that Wilson (the letter-writer) calls to our attention. (p.10)

I also like Joan Acocella's writing, generally. On dance and other less mainstream arts, and she once wrote a smart piece on young adults. This is difficult in the nyer, where they like to publish sentimental (this word again, an nyer theme?) crap about the writers' kids - see Denby and Gopnik. even her little sidebar on Merce Cunningham is nice, "Climaxes, he once said, are for those who get excited over New Year's Eve." Smart quote, but smart use of quote, too. (p.14)

Margaret Talbot's piece on Roald Dahl is pretty good . . . For some reaon though I find the end a little weak. Just sort of wanders off. And I think it needs this correction - my correction is in brackets (p.98),

"We believe that we understand and communicate with our children far better than our parents or grandparents did with theirs, and we therefore can't imagine that our kids could secretly feel oppressed by our reasonable and enlightened approach to child-rearing. [Our children's enjoyment of] Dahl's books mercilessly upend[s] this illusion of harmony."

For me, this addresses the dark heart of censorship, when it is not even individual works, but access to works that is the goal of censorship and not works, but our interpretations and uses of them that are troublesome. Which is where she starts the article.

Guantanamo piece was an odd but interesting form of journalism in this day and age - an exploration of the limits of what we can know about the government's uses of torture.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

the hitchhikers guide the galaxy

i liked this, more than the nyer - it was reviewed by Anthony Lane - and more than i thought i would. of course, the first 5 min are the best - a kind of dolphin musical. the whole thing feels very Jim Henson, in the best, most classic sense - especially the Vogons. i love how british they were. also i love Martin Freeman, from the BBC com The Office, though its just the same character, but actually less funny here in Arthur Dent. plus, i like a sci-fi movie with fairly well-used low tech effects. i think it shows a lot of creativity. and finally, i liked the interpretation of the guide itself - again, low tech but expressive.

the new yorker at its best? when anthony lane trashed the latest Star Wars. it was a kind of intimate and prententious spleen let loose on an obvious, but worthy target. and he was thorough - plot, dialog, action, set, ethics, everything a movie's got . . . that was in the May 23 issue. the greatest thing about this review - a Mormon girlfriend of mine found it so funny she was on the verge on quoting Lane mocking Yoda, "Break me a fucking give." she didn't, but she wanted to, which was cute. she never swears.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

i'm not particularly hot, but i can beat this

this is denby being interviewed by CNN, about his book American Sucker. honestly, i think that's a good title. fyi, i am NOT denby's ex-wife.


when owen wilson wrote david denby

there seems to be a small, but significant blogger population that dislikes denby. but i promise to be more thorough, as well as more pointed in my critique. anyway, owen wilson's letter to the nyer is at this site, down under the feb 8 2005 entry.

update 7/18/2007:

Since searchers seem to land here, and defamer seems a little overwhelmed, I thought I'd help. Here is the full text of the letter from the Feb 14, 2005 New Yorker:

"I read David Denby's piece on Ben Stiller with great interest (The Current Cinema, Jan 24th &31st). Not because it was good or fair toward my friend but exactly because it wasn't. I've acted in two hundred and thirty-seven buddy movies and,w ith that experience, I've developed an almost preternatural feelf or the beats that any good budy movie must have. And many the most crucial audience-rewarding beat is where one buddy comes to the aid of the other guy to help defeat a villain. Or bully. Or jerk. Someone the audience can really root against. And in Denby I realized excitedly that I had hit on the trifecta. How could an audience not be dying for a real "Billy Jack" moment of reckoning for Denby after he dismisses or diminishes or just plain insults practically everything Still has ever worked on? And not letting it rest there, in true bully fashion Denby moves on to take some shots at the way Ben looks and even his Jewishness, describing him as the 'latest, and crudest, version of the urban Jewish male on the make.' The audience is practically howling for blood! I really wish I could deliver for them - but that's Jackie Chan's role.

Owen Wilson
Dallas, Texas"

Sorry for the typos. They are likely mine and not the NYers. When I have a moment, I'll be posting excerpts from Denby's review in the current posts.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

my favorite thing in this week's issue (july 4)

my favorite thing: that really unflattering caricature of renee zellweger on page 56

my least favorite thing: adam gopnik's comparison of the goldfish to the vietcong. he's too flip sometimes about human life outside his little world. that's degrading and rude and not funny in any case.