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DAS BLOG of SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!!!

Jack Smith in Star Spangled to Death (ca 1958)

 NOT TO MENTION DOGGED SELF-AGGREGATION!!!

Although sporadic updates may be found in “Events” and necessary modifications (plus relevant new material) will accrue to “Biography,” Das Blog mainly serves to link to material published in other venues, with new stuff featured on “The Home Page” [see below]

On Trump the Entertainer Donald J. Trump is not the first professional entertainer or pitchman to be elected president of the United States but, however he may refuse to break character or take an adjustment, he is not Ronald Reagan. Read more…

On Andrzej Wajda

On Election Year Movies

On Double Features

On Demon

On Bruce Conner at MoMA

Peter Hutton

On Kaili Blues [NYRBlog] Kaili Blues, an eccentric, remarkably assured first feature by the young Chinese director Bi Gan, is both the most elusive and the most memorable new movie that I’ve seen in quite some time—“elusive” and “memorable” being central to Bi’s ambitions. Read more…

On the King of Jazz restoration [New York Times] A significant movie restoration not only can return a film’s patina of newness but its place in film history as well. That may be the case when the musical revue “King of Jazz” (1930), brought back to something of its original splendor, emerges from the vaults in the soft, shimmering red and green tones of early Technicolor. Read more…

On Straub Huillet at MoMA [New York Times] Some movies want to be loved. Others prefer to be admired. And then there are the movies, like those by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, that, indifferent to love or admiration, are monuments to their own integrity. Read more…

On Eva Hesse [Tablet] Had she lived, artist Eva Hesse would have turned 80 this year. But lovely-looking, dark-eyed, and dead at 34, she personifies transitory beauty. So does her groundbreaking work… Read more…

Tony Conrad 1940-2016 [New York Times] Tony Conrad, an experimental filmmaker, avant-garde musician and university educator who in the 1960s was a central figure in a flowering Lower Manhattan art movement, died on Saturday at a hospice in Cheektowaga, N.Y., near Buffalo. He was 76. Read more…

 On the rediscovered movie Who’s Crazy? [New York Times] There was a time in the late 1960s when artistic vanguards joined forces: Andy Warhol produced an album with the Velvet Underground, the rock star John Lennon teamed with the conceptual artist Yoko Ono, and Norman Mailer tried his hand at experimental films. More obscurely, Thomas White, a 33-year-old American in Paris, produced a semi-improvised movie featuring members of the avant-garde Living Theater and a soundtrack by the free jazz exponent Ornette Coleman. Read more…

On “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland” [NYRBlog] The only thing about America that interests me is Coney Island,” Sigmund Freud is supposed to have said—and the itinerary of Freud’s 1909 trip to America did include a visit to Dreamland, then the newest of Coney Island’s original three amusement parks. Read more…

On Irving Thalberg [Tablet] Darryl F. Zanuck won the first one in 1937 and two thereafter. Walt Disney won it. So did Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, and, a rare outsider, Ingmar Bergman. Steven Spielberg got it eight years before he won an Oscar. George Lucas got one too, the only Academy Award he’ll ever need. Oscars are a dime a dozen but, in the 79 years since Zanuck took one home, only 39 of these babies have been awarded. Honored in 2010, Francis Ford Coppola was the last to receive it. It is the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award—Hollywood’s ultimate self-tribute given to those “creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” Read more…

On the 1950 movie Native Son [New York Times] Novelists might dream of playing their protagonists in the movies. Few have enjoyed the opportunity. The crime writer Mickey Spillane was one. Richard Wright, the most celebrated African-American novelist of his day, was another. Read more…

On Rabin, the Last Day [Tablet] Rabin, The Last Day, Amos Gitai’s sprawling, scarific two-and-a-half-hour quasi-documentary on the November 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a young religious fanatic, Yigal Amir, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, begins by interviewing Rabin’s comrade Shimon Peres regarding the vilification the two men suffered after Oslo: “Sedition was in the air,” Peres says. Read more…

2015

Andrew Noren 1942-2015 [New York Times] The avant-garde film universe is small, so when a star, even a distant one, vanishes, attention is paid. It was not so in May, when Andrew Noren died of lung cancer at the age of 71. Read more…

On Son of Saul [Tablet] An immersion in Auschwitz during the mass murder frenzy of October 1944, when the gassing of Hungarian Jews had been nearly completed, Son of Saul—a first feature by the French-Hungarian director László Nemes—is not a movie to recommend lightly. Read more…

On Jim Shaw [NYRBlog] The term “outsider art” was coined in 1972 by the British art historian Roger Cardinal as a way to categorize work that might otherwise be described as naïve, fanatical, eccentric, autistic, or insane. The Los Angeles artist Jim Shaw is a connoisseur and collector of such things… Read more…

On Chantal Akerman [New York Times] Chantal Akerman, the Belgian-born filmmaker who died in Paris at age 65, was a prodigy. Almost before her career began, she wrote and directed one of the key artworks of the 20th century. Read more…

Chantal Akerman 1950-2015 [Tablet] One of the major film artists of our day, Chantal Akerman died suddenly in Paris, earlier this week. Read more…

On The Walk [NYRBlog] Two twenty-first century phenomena have changed the way moving pictures are made and perceived. The first is the accelerating use of digital technology and the inexorable rise of a cyborg cinema that, by combining animated and photographic images, compromises the direct relationship to reality that had long been the medium’s claim to truth. The second is the trauma of September 11, 2001, which for many provided the ultimate movie experience that was more than a movie—spectacular destruction, broadcast live, and watched by an audience, more or less simultaneously, of billions. Both events inform The Walk, the new 3-D movie by Robert Zemeckis that recounts and reconstructs the French aerialist Philippe Petit’s high-wire stroll between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Read more…

On Robert Zemeckis [New York Times] This fall is the season of Robert Zemeckis, the 63-year-old Chicago-born writer-director who began making movies in the 1970s and changed American history, at least metaphorically, with his two huge hits “Back to the Future” (1985) and “Forrest Gump” (1994). Read more…

On Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood [Artforum] Walt Whitman heard America singing; Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) heard the nation shouting, snapping its suspenders, slapping itself on the back, and dancing a buck-and-wing. Read more…

On The Kindergarten Teacher [Tablet] The subject of writer-director Nadav Lapid’s latest movie is a precocious 5-year-old poet. Lapid, who is 40, can hardly be considered a child prodigy. Still, his two features, Policeman (2011) and The Kindergarten Teacher (2014) have made him the most internationally acclaimed Israeli filmmaker in recent memory… and perhaps ever. Read more…

On Phoenix [Tablet] A psychological thriller set in the aftermath of World War II, the German director Christian Petzold’s Phoenix is a variant on a myth—the story of Orpheus and Eurydice—that has served many filmmakers. Read more…

On Mexican film noir [New York Times] A fake clairvoyant is outmaneuvered by the fetching widow he hopes to blackmail; a meek manicurist plots to replace her wealthy twin sister; an arrogant athlete is tricked into framing himself.The program “Mexico at Midnight,” at the Museum of Modern Art, overflows with fatalistic tales of passion, jealousy and betrayal. Read more…

On “Folk City” [Tablet] I confess. I was a teenage folkie—or at least I passed for one. I wore blue chambray work shirts and a red-and-black checkered lumber jacket to school. I took the E train to West 4th Street, milled around the fountain in Washington Square, smoked unfiltered cigarettes and drank coffee at Reggio, had my heart broken by long-haired girls who wore Fred Braun sandals. Read more…

On The Wolfpack and The Tribe [NYRBlog] Though they are set at opposite ends of the earth and represent opposed forms of cinema, The Wolfpack and The Tribe have much in common. Both new films share a concern with male-dominated groups vying for power inside what Nietzsche called “the prison house of language” Read more…

On Spencer Williams [New York Times] The history of American cinema is hardly synonymous with Hollywood’s. “A Road Three Hundred Years Long: Cinema and the Great Migration,” the wide-ranging series opening Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, not only maps the perimeters of African-American filmmaking but also showcases movies that defy characterization. Read more…

On Edward Owens [Artforum] The list of teenage filmmakers ssociated with the New American Cinema during its late-1960s glory days includes Barbara Rubin, Warren Sonbert, George Landow, and Robert Beavers.To these we can add Edward Owens (1949–2009), whose precocious 16-mm movies gathered dust on the shelves of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative for decades. Read more…

On Germany’s Forbidden Films [New York Times] The Third Reich was not only a totalitarian state but also a total multimedia regime. Seven decades after its fiery collapse, the embers remain — including some 1,200 feature films produced under Joseph Goebbels’s ministry of propaganda. Are they historical evidence, incitements to murder, fascist pornography, evergreen entertainments, toxic waste or passé kitsch? All of the above? Read more…

On Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage [Los Angeles Times] Once upon a time, as a college senior in autumn 1970, I organized a committee to block a politician from making a campaign appearance on campus and sought support from a not-unsympathetic faculty member. Read more…

On Jack Smith’s Hamlet in the Rented World [Artforum] Given that Jack Smith never actually completed another movie after Flaming Creatures (1963), that most of his theater pieces concern the impossibility of their coming into existence, and that many all-but-identical drafts of the same scripts were found among his papers, it’s hardly surprising that he should have been fascinated by the most famously indecisive character in world literature. Read more…

On Afrofuturist Film [New York Times] “Being black in America is a science-fiction experience,” the culture critic and musician Greg Tate once asserted in an interview, articulating the premise for what has come to be called Afrofuturism. Read more…

On Siegfried Kracauer and Photography [NYRBlog] A photograph is a physical “representation of time,” the cultural journalist and polymath Siegfried Kracauer wrote in an article titled “Photography,” published on the front page of Frankfurter Zeitung in late 1927.  Read more…

On Maps to the Stars and The Congress [Tablet] Some weeks ago, during the course of a televised discussion on Selma and the Oscars, an old colleague of mine explained that the reason the Motion Picture Academy appeared so oblivious to movies by or about women and people of color was that the Academy members “all look like me,” which he clarified as “over 50” and Jewish (adding, “I would quit if I were a member”). How responsible should Jews feel for Hollywood? Read more…

On Batman and Pop Art [Artforum] Loved and loathed beyond measure, the televised Batman (ABC, 1966–68) arrived sufficiently late in the day to recognize itself as a manufactured craze. The show, initially broadcast cliff-hanger style on successive evenings, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM, lasted only two and a half seasons—just a speed bump in Batman’s nearly eight-decade career—but its goofy lèse-majesté besmirched the durable icon forever. Read more…

On Jean-Luc Godard’s Montreal lectures [The Nation] “I’m always surprised to see what I do,” Jean-Luc Godard admits at the beginning of a talk delivered, nearly four decades ago, at Concordia University in Montreal. Could the single most influential filmmaker of his generation, who is still a provocateur at age 84, possibly be as baffled as we? Read more…

On American Sniper [NYRBlog] A country boy, who is a fabulous natural shot, goes to war and neutralizes an unprecedented number of enemy combatants. Books are written. A respected Hollywood director makes the movie that will be the biggest hit of his career: it’s received with near-unanimous praise, an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and no small amount of controversy. Read more…

On “The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-40” [Tablet] Entering “The Left Front,” the exhibition of political art from the 1930s, currently at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery through April 4, is to enter a foreign—but not completely unfamiliar world. Read more…

On Tomi Ungerer [NYRBlog Gallery] It may be that everyone has their own Tomi Ungerer. The eighty-three-year-old graphic artist and illustrator’s work has been part of many people’s childhoods, others’ countercultures, still others’ outrage, and, at one point in his career, every straphanger’s New York. Read more…

On Alexei German [New York Times] Aleksei German, who died last February at the age of 74 while putting the finishing touches on his most ambitious film, the long-awaited “Hard to Be a God,” was regarded by some as Russia’s greatest living director — despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he managed to complete but a handful of features in a nearly half-century career. Read more…

On Two Days, One Night [NYRBlog] A thirty-something factory worker in a Belgian rustbelt town returns from medical leave to discover she’s become redundant. She has a weekend in which to persuade a majority of her sixteen colleagues to sacrifice their thousand-euro bonuses so that she can get back her job. Such is the situation dramatized by the Belgian filmmaker-brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Read more… 

On Inherent Vice [Artforum] It is obvious by now that Paul Thomas Anderson isn’t making individual movies so much as building an oeuvre block by block—the sturdiest, most resilient body of work by a big-time American director since Stanley Kubrick died and Martin Scorsese ran out of steam. Read more…

2014

On David Lynch’s paintings [NYRBlog Gallery] Like Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, David Lynch is a name-brand artist who confounds conventional categories. Read more…

On Peter Forgacs’s installation [Tablet] “Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows,” reported Maxim Gorky after attending a program of “Living Photography” at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair during the summer of 1896. “The extraordinary impression it creates is so unique and complex that I doubt my ability to describe it with all its nuances.” You may feel the same way after an hour spent with the video installation Letters to Afar. Read more…

On “What Nerve!” [NYRBlog] “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present,” the provocatively titled exhibit at the RISD Museum in Providence, presents a bracing counter to one prevailing way of telling the story of postwar American art. Read more…

On the 1968 New York Film Festival (written in 1968) [Film Comment Blog] Yes, I know. I was a teenaged know-it-all, as well as a rabid soixante-huitard, a serious pothead, occasional speed freak, and fanatical cinephile. Read more…

On Georgian cinema [New York Times] Squeezed between the Black and Caspian Seas, as it was among the Roman and Persian, and Ottoman and Russian empires, Georgia is a small realm with a spectacular natural setting and a proud past. Read more…

On Hou Hsiao-hsien [NYRBlog] Although the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien has been making movies since the early 1980s, I first became convinced of his genius when I saw The Puppetmaster(1993) some twenty years ago. Read more…

On Tabu, People on Sunday, and the lost paradise of silent film [Artforum] The doors of Eden banged shut. Even so, during the summer of 1929, facing the clamorous inevitability of the talking picture and only months before the crash that would announce the Great Depression, a handful of filmmakers sought refuge in the “natural world” of the soundless movie. Read more…

On the films of the Hollywood blacklisted [New York Times] The close-up, the big screen, the eternal klieg light of unending media coverage: Motion pictures, especially those made in Hollywood, are a technology of magnification. How else to explain that the tale of the 300 or so movie studio employees whose political associations cost them their jobs has come to dramatize the repressive hysteria of the McCarthy era? Read more…

On Snowpiercer [NYRBlog] Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer is a madcap addition to the comic-book-derived movies that have dominated cinematic summer fare for much of the twenty-first century. At once streamlined and ramshackle, it doesn’t have a plot so much as a premise—or rather, a ruling metaphor. Read more… 

 

NEW YORK TIMES DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEWS

2016: A Brighter Summer Day & Freaks and Geeks . Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street & Cutter’s Way . Robert Drew’s JFK films & Panic in Year Zero . Losing Ground & Chantal Akerman’s documentaries. Taviani Brothers . Death by Hanging & I Want to Live! . L’inhumaine . Out 1 & Paris is Ours . Triumph of the Will & two Hollywood anti-Nazi films. Bound for Glory & The Southerner . The American Friend . The Assassin . Richard Lester . Julien Duvivier . Stations of the Elevated & the Brothers Quay.

2015: Dressed to Kill & The Hunger . Dog Day Afternoon & Welcome to New York . Eskimo & Trader Horn + The Epic of Everest . Moby Dick & The Civil War . Daniel & The Confession . Seventeen & Cooley Hight . Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe & The Man From UNCLE . Hombre & Kid Blue . Agnes Varda in California . The Killers . Absolute Beginners & Downtown 81 . Eddie Cantor . Valerie and her Week of Wonders . Escape from East Berlin . Li’l Quinquin. Charles Laughton . 42nd Street . Le silence de la mer . Imitation of Life (1934 & 1959) . That Man From Rio . The Lady from Shanghai & Ride the Pink Horse . Disorder plus Stray Dogs . The Wild Angels & Psych-out . A Day in the Country . When the Wind Blows & Coonskin . The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant Syncopation plus The Connection . In the Land of the Headhunters plus Panzerkreuzer Potemkin . Liliana Cavani: The Night Porter and SkinBoyhood plus My Winnipeg . Otto Preminger: Bunny Lake is Missing plus Skidoo . Safe plus The Americans (season 2) . Mood Indigo plus A Summer’s Tale .

2014: … Il Sorpasso plus Stranger on the Prowl . Mr Magoo & Father Brown . Riot in Cellblock 11 plus The Big House . Alice plus Black Jack . Friedkin’s Sorcerer & The People vs Paul Crump .  Persona plus The Master of the House . The King of Comedy plus Ms.45 . Men in War plus The Boy From Stalingrad . Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame Samson and Delilah plus The Miracle Woman . Buster & Fatty Talk . Crimes and Misdemeanors plus The Front . Foreign Correspondent . Come Back Africa & Zulu .  The Jungle Book The Miami Story with other Kefauver policiers . It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World plus Khartoum .  I Cannibali plus . Nostalghia .

PRINT ONLY: On Jewish Dada, Tablet (Rosh Hashona 2016), On Charles Musser’s Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s, Bookforum (Sept 2016); On Steve McQueen’s “End Credits” (Artforum, Summer 2016); On The Town Hall Affair by the Wooster Group (Artforum, Summer 2016); On The Crucible and the Canon, Tablet (Shavuot 2016); On Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie, Tablet (Passover 2016); On “Walkers,” Artforum (); On Chantal Akerman’s News from Home, Artforum (January 2016); On Jean Rouch’s Moi un noir, Artforum (November 2015); On Batman and Pop Art, Artforum (March 2015); On Andy Warhol’s Poor Little Rich Girl, Film Comment (Sept-Oct 2014); review of  Decades Never Start on Time: A Richard Roud Anthology, Film Comment (July-Aug 2014); On Ad Reinhardt’s Art Comics, Bookforum (Feb 2014).

NEW PUBLICATIONS!

Invisible Adversaries

“Free to Love: Cinema and the Sexual Revolution,” Love: A BFI Compendium

“Freed to Love? Movies and the Sexual Revolution,” Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution (International House Philadelphia)

“‘Like Canyons and Rivers’: Performance for Its own Sake,” Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance and the New Psychodrama, Jay Sanders with J. Hoberman (Whitney Museum/Yale)

“The Gremlins Franchise: Standing Spielberg on His Head,” Joe Dante, ed. Nil Baskar & Gabe Klinger (Osterreichisches Filmmuseum)

“Drawing His Own Conclusions: The Art of Spiegelman,” Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, Art Spiegelman (Drawn + Quarterly)

PRINT ONLY: On Batman and Pop Art, Artforum (March 2015); On Andy Warhol’s Poor Little Rich Girl, Film Comment (Sept-Oct 2014); review of  Decades Never Start on Time: A Richard Roud Anthology, Film Comment (July-Aug 2014); On Ad Reinhardt’s Art Comics, Bookforum (Feb 2014).

 2016 MOVIE REVIEWS: Kaili Blues, King of Jazz, Eva Hesse, Who’s Crazy?, Rabin, The Last Day

2015 MOVIE REVIEWS: Two Days, One Night [NYRBlog] . American Sniper [NYRBlog] . Maps to the Stars & The Congress  [Tablet] .

2014 MOVIE REVIEWS: The Last of the Unjust [Tablet] . 12 Years a Slave [Harper’s]. Nymphomaniac [NYRBlog] . Noah [Tablet]. Manakamana [NYRBlog] . Ida [Tablet] . The Immigrant & The Grand Budapest Hotel [Tablet] . Snowpiercer [NYRBlog] . Inherent Vice [Artforum]

2013 MOVIE REVIEWS: Inside Llewyn Davis [Tablet]. Nebraska . The Wind Rises . At Berkeley . The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology [Artforum]Blue is the Warmest Color . The Fifth Estate . Gravity [NYRBlog] . Captain Phillips . A Touch of Sin . Enough Said . Newly Weeds .  Le joli mai . Shark . KatzelmacherOur Nixon [Artforum] . The Grandmaster Ain’t Them Bodies Saints  The Act of Killing [Tablet]Computer Chess . Viola . Crystal Fairy Museum Hours . I’m So Excited! . The Bling Ring . Behind the Candelabra Hannah Arendt [Tablet] Old Dog . The Great Gatsby . Something in the Air Post Tenebras Lux . Spring Breakers [NYRBlog] . Room 237  [Tablet] . Portrait of Jason . Un Flic . This Ain’t California.To the Wonder . Blancanieves . Le Pont du Nord . Beyond the Hills . Caesar Must DieThe Gatekeepers . Hors Satan . Gangster Squad . San Diego Sunset [New York Times] .