Archive for film

The Girlfriend Experience, Fixer, Print vs Blog

Posted in film, Food, Party, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

It’s been another busy week friends. Since last I wrote I saw The Girlfriend Experience and  Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi at the Tribeca Film Festival, went to a Print vs Blog talk at the Tribeca Y, had a poetry reading and danced the blues off at two Brooklyn house parties. Plus, I had another successful meal at Buttermilk Channel, this time brunch. Their biscuits are pretty good, but not as good as mine! I also had a chance to live it up a little bit on Saturday while actually reading peacefully in the sun in Choice Greene’s backyard patio. On the way there I passed an awesome kids clown show on Grand, in front of the Still Hip clothing store. Apparently they are having them every Saturday, if you love costumes and clowns, and environmentally themed, musical children’s performances as much as I do, then definitely check it out!

First a note about Brooklyn house parties and then onto my film reviews. Note: They rule! Ha, ha, no really they do. OMG Michelle played at the one on Friday night, which was at this house called Mansion (not to be confused with the snooty Manhattan club, Mansion.) DJ Designer Impostor played and on Sat, DJ Shomi Noise was awesome. Aside from being my friend, she is also a generally great DJ!

Ok film. So, the two films were extremely different than each other, the first Steven Soderberg’s new opus on high class prostitutes, who give their customers the illusion that they are somehow in a loving relationship with each other, was less than spectacular. Although the directer himself, with huge successes like Erin Brochevich, Sex Lies and Videotape, and Traffic under his belt, was wildly confident during the Q & A after, several elements of the film caused me to take pause.

He typecast, if you will, non-actors to play the roles of the prostitute and her personal trainer boyfriend. He didn’t give them a script and instead set them up with a situation and encouraged them to ad lib. Although this technique was quite successful in Ballast it fell very short in The Girlfriend Experience. Soderberg claimed, during his talk back, that if people didn’t know that was his method, we never would have noticed. I beg to differ.

The holes in the dialogue were obvious. The language was incidental and often seemed forced. Many of the relationships were unconvincing and the main character, played by porn actress, Sasha Grey, was stiff and boring to watch. If you made a film about me walking around NY having somewhat random conversations with strangers, I’m sure I would also be stiff and boring to watch. Why? Because I’m not an actor and films which follow non-actors are usually called documentaries. Why not just call the whole thing off, and make a documentary about a real prostitute who offers the girlfriend experience? Just asking.

Speaking of documentaries, let’s talk a bit about the really good film that I saw at Tribeca. But first, a note about opinions. Yes everyone has one, and some people start blogs and share them, people like me. But Tony Ortega, editor, and Michael Cohen,  publisher, of the Village Voice have a bit of a bone to pick with people like us. However, the founder of Gothamist and a writer from Mashable, who sat on a panel with them on Thursday, they kinda think us bloggers are great. If you’re interested in finding out more about this secret society who is bringing down the media oligarchy, come to the Brooklyn Blogfest on Thursday, that’s where most of our upcoming schemes for world domination will be hatched.

No, to be fair, Ortega claimed to support bloggers, to want to maintain the integrity of the Voice, and most shockingly, he insisted that the Voice is still making good money.  Strange, those claims seem to run counter to the Voice‘s recent massive layoffs and to their stubborn attempt to remain the source of NYC event advice. Unless they become a little more cutting edge with their suggestions, I don’t see people continuing to look to them to find out what’s happening.

But that’s just my opinion, and it’s here in my blog, not pretending to be impartial in some newspaper. Anyway enough angst right? Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi without necessarily seeking to do so, makes a very different and much more compelling argument in favor of the old media establishment. There is absolutely a place for researched, well-sourced journalism, especially in terms of foreign correspondence.

Fixer is a documentary that follows Christian Parenti, a Nation journalist, on a fact gathering trip through Afghanistan. As he travels around the country, meeting with Taliban leaders, villagers and any other potential sources of information, Ian Olds, the filmmaker is in the back seat of the car, a fly on the wall, observing Parenti’s transactions.  In order to navigate this active war zone, Parenti requires help from what is known in the journo trade as a fixer.

A fixer is a local person who makes contact with potential sources, estimates the level of risk in traveling to various areas and then facilitates the actual journey by driving the foreign journalist to the rendezvous points and serving as translator while there. More than a middle man, Parenti’s fixer, Ajmal Naqshbandi was a journalist in his own right and as portrayed in the film, was a very savvy and intelligent individual. He died not long after the journey that Parenti and Olds took with him.

On another fixer job, working for an Italian journalist, Naqshbandi and the Italian were both kidnapped by a notorious Taliban leader. This man is known to have kidnapped and brutally executed several people. We are told at the start of the film that Naqshbandi died in this cruel way, but that his Italian employer was released relatively unharmed. The rest of the film navigates how the fixer got to that point and questions why he was not saved.

I was glad to see that Fixer won best documentary at Tribeca. It is truly an interrogative film. It forces us to question A. what is really going on in Afghanistan, B. how much that self-government and democracy actually protects Afghan citizens and C. How we would  even begin to answer these questions without the field researched findings of foreign corespondents funded by media institutions.

1 point scored for blogs and 1 for old media. Looks like a tie Tony.

The Way We Get By Review, Mashable, Central Park

Posted in film, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow guys! I just discovered that there is wireless in central park. I have been sitting here for the better part of the afternoon, offline, when all along I could have been blogging…well wonders never cease! Any way,  here is the run down from last night:

I was a very dedicated Brooklyn Socialite, after editing all day I tore off into the glorious heat and made my way over to the 92 Street Y Tribeca, Mashable was doing one of their networking/educating/mashing events. It reminded me of Mediameshing, except I didn’t run into the gawkerteam, maybe they were all tweeting away at Tribeca. Anyway I did dutifully mingle, with a lot of friendly PR people(!) and then the event finally started about 20 minutes before I had to leave for Stranger than Fiction. I did catch a few presentations done by start-ups, including Sluth.com, which is a wine aggregator (if you know what that is) and Savvy Auntie, which actually seemed pretty interesting, a social networking site for aunts, which are apparently about 40% of women.

I was sorry that I had to miss their advice about how to become wildly succesful, because I’m sure that would have come in handy, but it was time to catch the screening of The Way We Get By. I have plans to interview the directors, so hold off for that, but in the meantime, my initial review:

The Way We Get By is a film that cleverly navigates the subject of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, without clearly choosing sides. It avoids the left right dichotomy and instead focuses on the human experience of loss, bravery and kinship. It is about the Troop Greeters of Maine, who gather day and night at Bangor Airport to welcome and see off all of the soldiers who fight in Iraq. Although it is such a remote airport, 90% of the flights in and out of the war zone, pass through there. The greeters have already seen almost 1 million members of the military return through Bangor.

The majority of the greeters are senior citizens and the film follows 3 of the most committed and older members of the group, including the mother of one of the directors. What is so interesting about the subjects is how they seem to live just for the opportunity to brighten someone else’s day. This reveals the isolated state that many older folks live in, believing that their utility has passed. People who have worked their whole lives, raised families and some who have personally served in the military reach their 60s and 70s and begin to feel that society no longer values them. If they are not providers, what is their purpose? Although, they may be of great value to their families and respected by their communities; living alone, and sitting idle, the subjects in The Way We Get By seem to be at a loss when they are not giving their time and support to the troops.

The dignity and integrity of these people will stir even the coldest heart. I cried repeatedly! see it

CIFF Dance Party at Santos Tonight-Come!

Posted in film, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Hello Friends, just a quick heads up. The Camden International Film Festival, has an exciting film, The Way We Get By screening tonight at Stranger than Fiction, it is sold out, but the after party at Santos is definitely not. And, its Free! So come and meet the documentary film intelligentsia…

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For more about the film and the screening My Flavorpill preview:

“Stranger Than Fiction, Thom Powers’ quality weekly documentary series, teams up tonight with the Camden International Film Festival and POV to present the New York premier of The Way We Get By. The film centers around a dedicated trio of senior citizens who keep permanent vigil at a rural Maine airport, determined to welcome home every soldier returning from Iraq. They hug the men and women in uniform, offering them cell phones to make their first calls with, shoulders to cry on, and, most strikingly, a moment to exhale before they re-enter civilian life.”

See you tonight!

Tribeca Film Festival-Indiewire Party at the Apple Store

Posted in film, Party, People of Color with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last nights Indiewire Filmmakers party was a bit of a whirlwind. I had to explain my moniker to a few people when they asked, “So are you a socialite?” “No,” I clarified, “I’m the Brooklyn Socialite.” Big difference, indeed!

I ran into filmmaker Joe Brewster who I know from many Stranger than Fiction’s ago, and from seeing his film, Slaying Goliath at the African Diaspora Film Festival. He was excited to see me and took me on a fast-paced, arm pulling tour of the entire party. Determined to introduce me to all the filmmakers of color who are involved in the Tribeca all Access program and everyone else he knew along the way, including his wife, Michelle Stephenson.

Some of the highlights of these rapid fire meetings, included a guy named James? who is opening a 3-plex art cinema in Williamsburg in December (more info on this when I figure out his last name and actually get a contact for him!), Molly Charnoff of the Lava Dance company, who’s performance, We Become I saw at the Lyceum back in December, Lisa Lucas, who I haven’t seen since we went to High School together and who turns out to now work for the Tribeca Institute, small world! She looked great. I also met numerous filmmakers who seem to have great projects in the works like The Kivalina Project , Wam!Bam!Islam! and Binawee by Australian Aboriginal filmmaker, Sam Saunders.

Plus I ran into filmmaker, Ian Olds, who I had met at Full Frame and who’s feature documentary, Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi,  I am excited to see next week. The film is about a  Afghan fixer hired by a Italian journalist to help navigate Afghanistan, who is then kidnapped by the Taliban and ultimately executed. More on this after I see it.

All in all the party was fun for meeting and self-watering, there was a lively dj but not much dancing, they did have great sugar covered chicken triangle things going around in trays and in true Freegan style I ate as many as possible!

Busy–Al Franken: God Spoke

Posted in art, film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

The past couple of weeks have been really busy. As soon as I got back from Full Frame I was back into the thick of New York. I went to hear the COO of facebook, Sheryl Sanberg talk about selective sharing and the way that social networking is monetized. Then the Gen Art closing with Ella, Chin Chih Yang’s opening at the Chelsea museum and then it was already time for Passover and Bedstuy wildflower planting. Chin Chih’s show was great. Awesome to see my writing in action as the wall text and in the catalog. Then Passover offered the traditional family version and our liberation in times of war version. I enjoyed revamping the Haggadah and leading my first Seder.

This week, the festivities continued as we brought our second installment of Sal P’s punkfunk supper club to Brooklyn. Our curated version in the Chocolate Factory apartments, featured Sal’s incredible dosas and mango chutney + beet and eggplant salads and pure vegan soup. + Wine + in depth late night conversations covering all manner of topic from radical pedagogy to Queens bath castles.

Last night also ended in fascinating chats as Ella and I found ourselves perched on stools next to filmmakers, authors and legends! D.A. Pennebaker (the legend in question) was in the house. He produced Al Franken: God Spoke, which his wife, Chris Hegedus, co-directed with Nick Doob. The screening was, of course, another STF great and the film focused on Al Franken’s journey from actor to Senatorial hopeful. It ends before he is elected as the Minnesota Senator, but details his comedy speaking tours, turned political rallies for his friend, then Senator, Paul Wellstone. Franken ultimately decides to pick up the campaign mantle after Wellstone’s mysterious death in a plane crash.

Franken, who you may remember from his Saturday Night Live alteregos, Jack Handy, Stuart Smalley and Pat, comes off as a pretty nice guy. What you may not know about him is that he is a Harvard grad, a published writer and rumored to by quite prickly in person…so I hear. After the film I met another non-fiction writer, Russ Baker, who’s book Family of Secrets, sheds a lot of doubt on the already highly adored Bush family. After talking to him for quite sometime, Ella and I taxi-ed it back to Brooklyn considerably more paranoid then we were when we started the evening.

On a brighter note, I spent a great day upstate at the Dia-Beacon today. If you haven’t gone there, just go. $27 on metro-north gets you a return ticket, entrance to the museum and a chance to walk around the lovely town of Beacon, where you will meet friendly glass-blowers, eat local ice cream, and if you’re anything like me, get shockingly hit on by a 12 year-old boy, who thinks your 16!

Brooklyn Socialite on Huffington Post-Bedstuy Meadow

Posted in film, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I hope you all have had the chance to check out my Huffpo post on the Bedstuy Meadow project. Here’s a little excerpt below and a link to rest of the post. Tonight I’m going to check out a doco on Al Franken at Stranger than Fiction. Report back to come, and I hope to see you all there!
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Last week I interviewed a Brit, Andy Lang, about his new film based in Cuba. I was thinking Global then, but this week’s interview is all about acting local. Saturday morning I woke up early and suited up in full-body rain-gear, then trudged through the downpour to my rendezvous point in Zone 4, which happened to be about 3 blocks from my apartment. I was feeling quite stealth and shrouded in mystery as I arrived at lab 24/7, a basement apartment, which doubles as an event space. There I met, for the first time, about 30 of my neighbors and was given a seed bag, a map and a small team to work with. Me and my new planting crew then spread out over Bedstuy to begin scattering wildflower seeds. There were 5 meet-up zones and 100 volunteers in total. We all found each other and signed on to the project after a new website sprung up, promoting the Bedstuy Meadow Project, created by one woman who envisioned it all, Deborah Fisher.

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Ella Dreams of Finding Bliss-Gen Art Closing

Posted in ella, film, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Ella Fitsimmons

The final evening of the Gen Art Film festival confirmed something I’d always suspected, but never been certain of: despite my unashamed affection for celebrity gossip, I fail to spot these rare creatures when they are straight in front of me. During the awards ceremony, I realized that the short, bald dude with black-rimmed glasses I’d been chatting to before the screening of breast-fetischizing short Boob was none other than electro-pop phenom Moby, who was presenting the award for best film music. Had I known, I would have asked all sorts of clever questions about his views on the use of music in film. Instead, I hit him up for some free beer (they’d run out at the reception – a tragedy worthy of Aeschylus), and then suggested that if his need to take a wee become desperate during the pseudo-porn feature Finding Bliss, he could relieve himself in the seat empty seat in front of us. He said he’d have to hide from photographers. Not getting the “I’m famous, young lady” hint, I replied that it’d be dark, as we were in a cinema.

Sigh. Sometimes, I’m clearly less perceptive than I give myself credit for.

Luckily, the films put on a stronger showing than I did, so the evening wasn’t a complete write off. Pretty much laughing off questions about the classic film references contained in Boob, director team “Honest” showed a charmingly geeky appreciation for trashy splatter films. Call me juvenile, but I hardly even had to see the film to giggle – just the premise of a murderous breast implant running amok, killing people and pseudo-lesbianly (is a silicone-breast male or female? If there are any gender studies types out there, please feel free to let me know) slithering up to a hot young nurse before ending up being chopped to bits, is my idea of funny. Even though bits of it made me gag. And no, Moby left to respond to the call of nature, so he wasn’t to blame.

The feature, Finding Bliss, also pretty much had my vote from the get go. A romantic comedy set in the porn industries (which the characters insist should be called “adult entertainment”), where a young uptight film school graduate, played by LeeLee Sobieski discovers her sexuality and falls for a porn director (Matt Davis, who it turns out looked familiar because he played the self-obsessed rich boy in Legally Blonde. Yes, I recognized him. And not Moby. I will never be cool), writer-director Julie Davis based the film on her early experiences as an editor at the Playboy Channel. Eaves-dropping shamelessly on people heading to the after party, I heard a Frenchman saying “yes, it vas good, but zey vill nevah show zis film in America – zere iz too much zex”. I hope he’s wrong. FOR ONCE, there’s an Anglophone film about sex being fun, and which mocks the cultural trope that “true love waits”, while allowing for well-formed female characters. I salute Julie Davis for the ironic casting of Sobieski, who became famous when her parents, in my mother’s phraseology, “took leave of their senses” and allowed her to be fondled by an old man in Kubrick’s Lolita, as a frigid, judgmental good girl. Matt Davis, as the love interest, is attractive in the “you know he’s probably not good news, but you’d probably go there anyway”- way, and wins the evening’s “non-asshole award” for failing to cut the line at the after party, despite his friend egging him on to do so. Jamie Kennedy does a good job of seeming like a well-meaning moron porn star and Denise Richards is her ridiculous self – but with better lines than she spouts in her reality TV show.

The after-party and award’s show at BLVD was a landslide victory for My Suicide and star Gabriel Sunday. We are choosing to be charitable and are therefore attributing his behavior to elation in the face of victory, rather than the less legal nasal powder inhalations first suspected. At least he was having fun.

Walking home from the subway, I was happily pondering how Finding Bliss made me hope for a new dawn of sexual equality in the Anglo-Saxon world. A world in which men and women can enjoy sex in a non-guilt-ridden way. A world where Julie Davis’ could movie could go public, if only her film could find a distributor who wasn’t put off by there being “too much sex” in her film. At which point a large man on the street grabbed his crotch and yelled “Suck my D*ck, B*tch” after me. Welcome to the real world, Ella!

Some Southerners are Awesome- my Top 5 Meets

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Woah guys, let’s not take me too literally, I actually had a great time in the South and met a lot of really cool people. These are my top 5 in order of most to least Southern.

1.Laura Edwards, the founder of Lillian’s List and her partner Elaine Andrews. They are both from NC and were super hospitable, they invited me to sit at there presenters table while I was nervously reliving a cafeteria scene in some 90s coming of age film. They called over to me, ” There’s a free seat here!” Finally, I was the popular kid.

Ok, beyond my tendency to see life as theater, what is so awesome about these ladies is 1. Their personalities and 2. What they do. Lillian’s list, inspired by Emily’s list was founded in 1998 with the mission of getting Democratic pro-Choice women elected to the North Carolina legislature. So far they have succeeded at getting 18 such women elected.

2. One of these NC legislators, Laura’s sister, is number 2 on my list. Pricey Harrison of the NC House of Representatives, told me about the excessively offensive emails she gets from people. Apparently some idiots out there in Internet land think that it’s acceptable to issue death threats against those who support gay and women’s rights, food safety and the environment. Well I say keep up the good work Pricey, and those lurkers out there reading this, please speak up to support her work!

3. Alright, confession: the remaining 3 people on my list are not actually from the South, but I did meet them there, so it counts. Number 3 is slightly further South, in my old school digs, yes that’s right, New Jersey. Hailing from Jersey City, Justin Strawhand came to Full Frame to promote his film War Against the Weak. I haven’t seen it yet, so I won’t say much, but I can report that I had a very engaging conversation with him about the film’s topic: Eugenics. What I learned is that the US had a active program up until World War II, the legacy of which remains with us today in the form of the SAT’s, people who experience forced sterilizations, and in several other surprising manifestations. More to come on this subject.

4. The next person on the list is from Manhattan, but I’m still counting that as South of Brooklyn. Cameron Yates  writes for Indiewire and is working on a new documentary called The Canal Street Madam, watch the trailer here. It is about a New Orleans madam, who ran a brothel with her mother as bookkeeper, and her daughter as one of the call girls. He was given the Garret Scott Award by Full Frame, in honor of a young documentary filmmaker who died a few years ago. The grant helps, emerging filmmakers, who are in the process of making their first feature film, to gain fiscal support and mentorship. This year the award was co-presented by our friend Thom Powers from Stranger than Fiction.

5. Number 5, who does a poor job of being from the South (unless you count South Brooklyn) is Rachael Rakes, from the Feminist Press. She is the former partner of Garrett Scott and also a co-presenter of that award, and she told me that she is actively seeking trans writers and transrights advocates for publication in the Feminist press. This def. gets her on the awesome south list, not to even mention the fact that she is also a writer at Brooklyn Based and has starting a doc film series in Brooklyn at the Bell House! What what, is all I can say.

Did you meet someone interesting this week? Who?! Comment comment, wherever you are.

Brooklyn locavore at Full Frame

Posted in film, Food, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

We’ve discussed my vegan-envy in the past, but this sentiment has now reached new heights. After seeing Food Inc. I’ve been pretty much unable to eat meat, and quite uncomfortable with eating corn products.

True, it’s only been 2 days, but I feel pretty serious about this new conviction. The film details the social impact of the meat industry, as well as its environmental impact and effect on animal welfare. Meatpacking and processing is now one of the most dangerous jobs in the country and the very small number of employers actively recruit illegal Mexican immigrants to work in the plants. Under constant threat of deportation, the workers will then submit to the most dangerous conditions and minimal salaries.

Farmers who raise soybeans, corn and chickens fare no better within the American food industry. Monsanto, famous for having created Agent Orange and for championing genetically engineered food has  patented the soybean. That corporation now owns a piece of natural life. This means that all over the country farmers are being sued and harassed for growing non- Monsanto seeds. Since the dawn of agriculture farmers have saved their own seeds, but now the law says that only corporate owned and sold seeds are permissible, seeds that require toxic Monsanto fertilizers in order to grow.

It gets worse, remember Mad Cow disease, aka  E. coli. This is not a mutant strand that appeared out of nowhere, it is a disease created by the meat industry’s practice of feeding cows corn, in place of their natural grass diet and confining them in inhumane conditions, where they are left standing in their own feces. When one cow contracts this virus, it easily spread to the others, and it then finds itself mixed into meat at processing plants.

These are just a few examples, the list of abuses is long. Yet, because of the powerful legislative bargaining power of corporate food interests, there is no law in place to require labelling of GE or cloned foods and Kevins Law,  the legislation that would  hold the meat industry accountable for e coli deaths, and protect against further infections has still not passed 7 years after its proposal.

I have long been an organic food eater, have tended to favor local over corporate and am even a member of my local csa( community supported agriculture), but I wasn’t exactly a purist before. I’d eat microwave popcorn and dubious diner hamburgers, but I’m just about ready to make a locavore pledge… To Know Where my Food has Come From and to understand its true social, environmental, and animal welfare costs.

The Food Inc trailer- Directed by Robert Keener

Gen Art Film Fest- Lymelife Review

Posted in ella, film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

While I’ve been in North Carolina running from doc to doc at Full Frame, Ella has been keeping track of the premiers at Gen Art. Here’s her review of Lymelife:

Looming  freakishly tall people lifted their  cameras as I walked the “red carpet” (which was NOT RED. Or carpeted. Much to my disappointment) of  the 14th Gen Art Film Festival, only to drop them in disappointment when they realized that this particular short, anemic-looking girl wasn’t an aspiring indie-actress, but just a confused blogger looking for the press entrance.

The first discovery at the official premiere of  coming-of-age in the 70’s indie–flick Lymelife was that being a paparazzi-photographer is a bit like being a basketball player – if you’re short, you better be fast as heck so you can get in there first. At 5’3 (on a good day), I really didn’t stand a chance of seeing any of the celebrities starring in the evening’s feature. So I headed for the free beer, cunningly avoided the chirpy Neutrogena girls (somehow giving away lipstick reminds me of my mother’s admonition to not accept candy from strangers. I have no idea why), noted a couple of those faces that “I’m sure I’ve seen them somewhere, so they must be famous”, smirked at the inevitable surfacing of fugly men wearing their best “I’m tortured because I’m talented”-faces accessorized by at least one, preferably two, willowy young things and headed in to get my seat.

The volunteer ushers in the cinema did an amazing job of avoiding chaos as people were pretty much fighting to get seats. While probably not fun for the volunteers, watching uptight artsy folk barely managing to not completely lose their shit when their (clearly exaggerated) sense of entitlement wasn’t catered for,  was a misanthrope’s dream come true.

The introductory short film, Trece Anos, directed by Topaz Adisez, addressed the issues confronting a young man returning to his native Havana after 13 years in the US. In the Q&A which followed, Adisez explained that the short had originally been part of his feature project (www.theamericanaproject.com), but that he had decided to show it separately.  The pressures of filming illegally in Cuba may be to blame for some of the weaker parts of the short (especially during the massive family argument, where some of the acting was a little forced). Mostly though, the documentary-style storytelling worked well, with the reunion between the son and his mother a genuine highlight.

Lymelife was a pleasant surprise. From the website’s description as a coming-of-age tale set in Long Island during a 1970’s Lyme disease scare, I feared the worst: 90 minutes of awkward teenagers in bad clothes discovering their sexuality and complaining about their parents. Luckily, it’s genuinely funny. Derrick Martini, the director, mentioned that he thought the love story between Rory Culkin (the Home Alone kid’s little brother) and Emma Roberts (niece-of-Pretty-Woman) was the most important and interesting part of the film — I don’t agree, but maybe that’s because I failed to find teenagers interesting when I was one. Admittedly, Roberts adds the long-legged, brown-eyed Bambi-on-ice charm that was her aunt’s trademark before she decided to accost us with the truly dreadful Ocean’s Twelve, but her character strikes me as a more a fantasy of a hot but intelligent high school girl, rather than a convincing character. Still, it’s a minor gripe, because the rest of the characters are really sensitively drawn. Sure, Kieran Culkin has a natural advantage in playing the younger Culkin’s brother, but his interactions with the other characters are equally nuanced. Alec Baldwin is suitably self-centered but charming as the nouveau riche philandering father of the Culkins, who is sleeping with his Roberts’s mother (suburbia gets messy). Cynthia Nixon, playing Roberts’s mother, comes across as appropriately neurotic and trapped in a life she hadn’t bargained for.

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Timothy Hutton, playing her husband, has been driven mad by Lyme disease and is unemployed, but is shown to be more perceptive than the other characters think. The scene in the local bar where Hutton’s character lets Baldwin believe he has been driven insane by syphilis, meaning Baldwin may have caught it from Hutton’s wife, is an awesome exercise in darkly funny revenge. Headed out, I ran in to a woman in a tiger-print dress who actually had Lyme disease, who was excited that the film would raise awareness about the illness. She insisted it had driven her crazy at one stage, and that Hutton’s portrayal “really showed what it’s like”. Assuming Hutton doesn’t actually have Lyme, that’s high praise.

The acting award, though, goes to Jill Hennessy, whom I’ve only seen in police series like Law and Order and Crossing Jordan. She’s truly impressive as the Culkin’s mother and Baldwin’s wife. Transplanted from her native Queens, Hennessy’s character struggles to repress her frustration at the family’s new found wealth, her husband’s infidelities and juggling the emotions of the children she’s desperately trying to protect; from the army, from Lyme disease and, ultimately, from her relationship with their father.  Alternatively weak, strong, submissive and angry, Hennessy isn’t afraid to let things get ugly – while managing to remain the most compelling character in a very strong cast.

The main test, of course, is whether you would pay to see the film – and for Lymelife, the answer’s a “yes”.

The South…..Brooklyn Socialite takes Full Frame-Wounded Knee

Posted in film, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow guys,
Its been a busy couple of weeks. Aside from working like crazy(as always), I’ve been traveling and socialiting, rest assured. Now I’ve finally gotten the chance to breathe and blog, of equal priority right? Yes. So gosh, where to begin. I’ll start by talking like a southerner, saying this like, “oh gosh” and ma’am. Except, no way am I saying that to anyone and I wish that I could stop them from saying it to me. I’m not your mama, your mom, your missus or any combination of those terms. I am from New York, and no that’s not why I’m being rude. I’m being rude because you are looking at me like I’m an Alien. I’m not an Alien, am from Brooklyn and don’t like your fashion sense either thank you very much. Whew, now that I got that out of the way, lets talk film.

This afternoon, I saw Wounded Knee , which is a great new film, directed by Stanley Nelson about the second Battle of Wounded Knee. The first took place in 1890 and is considered to be the end of the Great Indian Wars. Over 300 Native Americans were massacred. This event would usher in the period of forcibly removing children from their homes to send them to de-Indianization boarding schools. The second battle at Wounded Knee began when the Oglala Lakota who lived on Pine Ridge reservation teamed up with the American Indian Movement(AIM) to occupy the village of Wounded Knee as a bargaining tool. The demands that they placed on the table, were that Dick Wilson, the so called Tribal council leader (this was an appointment made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not by way of local election) and his goon squad be removed from power. They also requested that the government money and food supplies that were being funneled into the reservation, actually be distributed among the people (rather then kept by Wilson and his cronies).

After trying all legal means to redress their grievances, the Oglala Lakota called in the, at time militant, AIM leadership and membership to take up arms and escalate the fight for their people. The seizure lasted for 72 days and was met with an occupation by federal marshals and other agencies under the aegis of the U.S. government. The media extensively covered the event, reporting favorably on the movement, and Indians from all over the U.S. came to join the struggle at Wounded Knee. The film deftly captures the conflict and provides useful background into the childhood experiences and historical understandings of many of the people who were involved in the standoff. Take note: These events, which took place in 1973, set the stage for a continued reign of terror by the goon squad, and the eventual arrest of AIM leader Leonard Peltier, who was  accused of killing 2 FBI agents and remains in jail to this day.

Ok, lets stop there, got to go see another film…but I promise I will be keeping a daily Full Frame diary. Back soon! Robyn

Girls Like Us-STF-Examined Life-Twitter-Zoe Leonard

Posted in art, film, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

The pace of my life is accelerating all too quickly and its hard for me to keep up with myself, aghhh, that sentence doesn’t make sense, edit, delete comma, insert quote marks, no parenthesis stop, no, just talk! So yes, rather than get the editor’s blues I’m going to speak freely, in an at times sloppy state of mild dishevelment. Let’s go:

So I was in the sauna at the gym on Sunday when I overheard some girls talking about kicking winter’s ass, and facing the last snow storm and just hitting march right out of the ballpark, whoa! I was inspired, I realized I must apply this go-get-em attitude to all things in life. I’ll let you know how that goes, so far not perfectly.

Next topic: Today I joined Twitter and people are starting to follow me, you can too, my user name is BSrobyn. That stands for Brooklyn Socialite Robyn, not that card game Robyn, or ok, out with it, Bull Shit Robyn. Def. not that.

Topic 3: Girls Like Us. This is a great film from the late 90’s that I saw at Stranger than Fiction last night. Oh, how I love STF, I finally found a club that would have me as its member (this is a Marx Brothers reference, if you don’t get it, you can’t join the club!). The documentary made by a lovely lady couple, tracks 4 teenagers from the time they are 13-14 until they are 17-18. The girls, who all live in South Philly, speak candidly about sex, childbirth, their relationships with their family and friends and their goals in life. This film won Sundance back in the day and it’s easy to understand why. Like Trouble the Water it sort of magically captures those tragedies and joys of life, which are often rendered mundane, as people avert their eyes to experiences of “othered” social groups.  The 4 girls, 2 white, 1 black and one South Asian all seemed to struggle to define themselves independently of their relationships with men. While, their parents and guardians strove to keep them on a track towards college and career. 3 of the women, now pushing 30, joined us at the IFC center after for a Q & A. They all seem to have turned out quite well and consider their experience being in the film to have been enriching and not exploitative.

On the way out of the theatre I saw Astra Taylor the director of Examined Life, which is an excellent film that I saw last week in preview. I feel somewhat ill-equipped to review it properly as I missed the first 20 minutes, but I will just say that Cornel West, who was one of the philosophers that Taylor interviewed, was completely amazing. He spoke fully and freely about every subject from Jazz to Nihilism. See it now at the IFC center! West and Taylor will be there in person for a Q&A after tomorrow’s show.

Finally, Zoe Leonard. I somehow faced the dreaded subway for a really long haul as I hot tailed it up to 155th to check out Zoe Leonard’s show at the Hispanic Society. Yesterday I met a cartographer. Cartographer, if you’re reading this, hello. I met a cartographer and I saw this collection of old maps, which Leonard curated at the Dia at the Hispanic Society. There is something Mystical about maps, quietly stunning, reminds me of The Phantom Tollbooth, which by the way is one of my favorite books (if you have read this and love it, you can be in the club). Leonard also had an exhibition of her photographs, which captured the East Village as it was changing, through the mapping of storefronts and charting of the journey that the products in those stores might take on as they enter a third world market. Reverse globalization, recycling consumerism. Interesting ideas. Yesterday I met a cartographer. The filmmaker Gregg Bordowitz spoke about Leonard’s exhibition on Saturday, his films sound like something that I would be fascinated by, but I haven’t seen them yet, so hold on. Hold on.

STF-William Greaves Tribute

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

If you don’t already know who William Greaves is, here is the background, plagiarized from myself via Flavorpill:

“Tonight, Thom Power’s weekly documentary series, Stranger than Fiction, pays tribute to the “Dean of Black Documentary,” William Greaves. Famous for producing the PBS series Black Journal and for his feature film, Ali the Prize Fighter, Greaves has consistently expanded the perimeters of African-American filmmaking. Longtime Spike Lee editor Sam Pollard joins a panel with Eyes on the Prize director Orlando Bagwell and Elvis Mitchel, co-creator of The Black List to discuss Greaves’ contributions. This night of tribute is presented in collaboration with the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.”

Now for a round up of the evening:

Let me start in the middle, or er um, the end. When the screenings finished and the panel was winding down, Thom introduced William Greaves, who had all the while been sitting quietly in the back of the cinema. Greaves said, “Thank you all for coming, I had no idea there were so many people interested in and still following my work.” He also said that he is and has always been concerned about the state of our country.

This concern is evident in his work. We had the privilege of watching black and white clips from his early films, including Emergency Ward from 1959, Still a Brother and The First International Festival of African Arts. The Dean of Black cinema has definitely covered many subjects of great social importance.  In these early films alone,  he tackles mis-treatment of the ill, the mentality of the Black middle class, police brutality and a history of the arts, which focuses on African, and African American roots.

Next, Thom screened a segment from Ali the fighter, in which Muhammad Ali gears up for a fight with Joe Fraser. Ali comments that people have never seen anything like him before, He is a witty, fast-talking, fighter. He also notes that people hate him because he’s black, because of his religion and for the fact that he avoided the draft.

The clip, which I would say sparked the most curiosity from the audience was a scene from Symbiopschotaxiplasm: Take One. According to a comment made by one of Greaves collaborators, which appears in the film itself, ” The film has no determinable plot whatsoever.” This may sound like a bad thing but the little slice of it that I saw looked brilliant. He collaborated with Steve Buscemi on part 2 1/2, who was also in the audience tonight.

The panel of Black male filmmakers, editors, and producers was extremely appreciative of Greaves, as they showered their thanks on him for the role he played in mentoring  and inspiring them. I exchanged a friendly nod with Buscemi (in my mind a terrific actor) in the hallway and a brief hello with Sam Pollard (ditto on editor)  and the women from Full Frame, who traveled to New York to be at this special tribute. Another great night at Stranger than Fiction.

Culture Clash: Our City Dreams, Beirut, the Third Mind

Posted in art, film, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I have been overwhelmingly silent lately on the blog front. It’s not that I haven’t been going out, I have. It is just that I have been overwhelmed by stimuli, potential topics, definite un-topics and when I’ve tried to sit down and review I found that the reasons were wrong.

So how about a fresh start in this fresh weather. Digest style: I want to give some shout outs to the culture I’ve been sampling lately.  I saw a great film, truly beautiful, at the Film Forum, called Our City Dreams. It tracks 5 female artists, through a year or so in their lives , recording each artists relationship with the city. The director, Chiara Clemente, profiles Kiki Smith, Swoon, Ghada Amer, Nancy Spero and Marina Abramovic. A jazz soundtrack supports the film and the cinematography is infectious, it reminded me of super 8, rainy, home video.  Although each artist is in a different stage of their life and career, all seem to be at a stage where they are receiving lots of props.  Swoon goes from street art to a show at Deitch to having work at MOMA, while Marina Abramovic has a major retrospective at the Guggenheim. Ghada Amer is probably the most interesting character to watch. As she hand stitches and weaves large canvases, she tells us that she was very depressed before she became an artist. It saved her life. Kiki Smith, the daughter of a successful artist also recalls that she started to work only in her late 20s after her father died. She couldn’t take herself seriously as an artist until then. Abramovic  details her fascinating performance art-making practices. They involve starvation, cold and self-injury.

A few days after the film,  I found myself at the Guggenheim myself for the opening of The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia. Go see it and tell me what you think! I am not so sure myself. I enjoyed seeing an annotated manuscript page from The Waste Land and some of Ginsberg’s old photos, not to mention a few beautiful Asia inspired paintings by American Artists. My friend however, thought that discussion around cultural appropriation was dangerously absent from the exhibition.

Well, speaking of un-apologetic cultural appropriation, it’s on to Beirut. I have to say that the concert at BAM on Friday night was not only beautiful, but it was also lovely, harmonic, poetic, inspiring. If I could have removed most of the shouting hipster audience from the scene it would have been even better, but hey the band themselves are hipster-esqe so not all Williamsburg-dwellers are bad. The crew of young guys, headed by a 22 year old Angel in plaid, are a band that sounds consistently like gypsy music to me, yet def. delves into brit-pop, french chanteuse  and Indigenous sounds that span multiple continents. I’m not a hater, and I won’t bag them for sounding like pretty Americans, who’ve spent some time camping in Bulgaria.  I love their music and have to take the culture clashing for what it is.

-Robyn. Brooklyn Socialite in residence again.

Serbis review-Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Review by the venerable Slate Honey

Brillante Mendoza takes a porno theater ironically named the Family in the Filipino city of Angeles as the bleak setting for a drama about family dysfunction and sexual dystopia in his film “Serbis.” The Pinedas have a pile of problems to deal with: Mama (grandmother Pineda) has taken her husband to court for abandoning the Pinedas for a new wife and family, a boy taken in by the Pinedas has impregnated his distraught girlfriend, the theatre is physically falling apart and no longer is making a good living, the father is generally despondent and useless, another boy taken in by the family to work as the projectionist is adolescent bait for the mom, and a teenage sister (the first to appear in the film, naked and flirting with her own image in a mirror) seems a nuisance to her mother just for being around.

The frenetic camera work and terribly recorded, barely audible soundtrack are major distractions from the overload of dramatic set-ups in this gritty film. Following the characters who run around frantically from fairly mundane situation to situation, the camera movement often feels nauseating and the suspenseful pace feels forced. Add to that cuts that seem to linger without good reason and a hodgepodge structure. The film’s possible saving grace lies in the performances which are rendered with seriousness and the believability of the dreary setting. The choice of using the truly dilapidated porno theatre offers the possibility of interesting socio-cultural commentary.

Unfortunately, “Serbis” does not take the bait in my opinion, instead relying on thickly-lain shock value, forced suspense and aesthetic realism to carry the film. After the film abruptly ended with a post-production trick (the film disintegrates on screen as if burning before our eyes), I was left with huge questions about Mendoza’s intentions an skepticism about his strong messages about sexuality, queerness and dysfunction.

Mendoza juxtaposes and relates the Pineda family and the queer theatre attendees in different webs of desire. Grandmother Mama and her daughter play-flirt with regulars to keep them coming back. The teenage daughter happily trails a sex worker on the grand staircase, learning hip-swinging moves and ultimately getting slapped on the face by her mother for it. The projectionist unemotionally accepts blowjobs from a sex worker. Mendoza makes a collage of the characters sidling queers and sex workers (the supposed degenerates of society) with the family members seemingly trapped in their poverty and unhappiness. The intimacy between these parallel worlds and the intermingling of the worlds becomes a place of tension.

I wonder what Mendoza’s intentions are in his portrait of the queers, queens and trannies of the Phillipines. Who are they beyond symbolism for hetero dysfunction? Sexuality and queer expression is distinctly different in many parts of Southeast Asia where the transgender sex worker community is in some ways more visible (though undoubtedly equally as oppressed and unsupported in society as in the West). To portray this community, to follow the girls (and also the queens) in their comfort zone, demands, in my opinion, a complex rendering of characters. “Serbis” is so focused on the hetero family losing its mind and means in this broken down theatre, it only offers glimpses of a free-spirited world of queers who come to the theatre to hang out and make their own living. Part of me wonders if I am too skeptical and if Mendoza intends a portrait of hetero dysfunction so caught up in itself and resigned to a dark fate that it dismisses and loses sight of the light-heartedness and contentment of the queer world around it.

The last scene of the film gave me reason to land on a more skeptical view. In it, a boy and a john sit on the verandah of the Family theatre chatting. Suddenly, a hole appears at the center of the image and the film burns and melts away as the soundtrack becomes warped. Mendoza’s last trick seems to imply that queerness is the root of the Pinedas’ sinful disintegration. “Serbis” is playing at the Angelika until February 12th.