Archive for Q & A

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.

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.

Joseph O’Neill and James Wood at the Yale Club by Ella Fitzsimmons

Posted in Book with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Here is a warm welcome to another wonderful Citizen of the World, Ella Fitzsimmons

Held at the comically WASPy Yale Club, Cambridge University in New York’s “A conversation with James Wood and Joseph O’Neill” narrowly escaped being a love-fest between the critic and the PEN/Faulkner award winner.

No stranger to controversy, famed critic Wood spoke appreciatively of O’Neill’s novel, while pleasantly but firmly defending his views on literature, notably under fire from the likes of Zadie Smith and literary magazine (n +1).

Wood’s approach to literary criticism has been described as ‘aesthetic’ and ‘unideological’ , a classification appreciatively re-iterated by O’Neill. (Though surely not having an ideology is an ideology??).  Agreeing, Wood seemed bewildered by the fact that he’s seen as the standard bearer for Realism in contemporary fiction.
Netherland has been caught in the crossfire between Wood and Smith. O’Neill was surprised by the appearance of Smith’s piece about Netherland in The New York Review of Books in November, as the magazine had already reviewed the book. “Then someone told me ‘You know she’s only getting at James Wood, right?” O’Neill smiled.

Nevertheless, O’Neill, a former lawyer, claimed to be pleased by the ‘multiple entrances to the book’. (A small part of my cynical heart suspected that he was pleased by the controversy. But he seems like a nice guy, so I’m trying to be good about it.)

Emphasizing that he did not try to re-write The Great Gatsby, O’Neill admitted that halfway through the seven year slog that went in to Netherland, he recognized parallels between it and Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.  A tacit agreement with Wood’s reading of the book as a work of post-colonial fiction, rather than a “post- 9/11” novel, perhaps?

Toward the end of the evening, O’Neill touched on how the internet-created, direct relationships with readers could become potentially problematic for writers, resulting in crippling self-consciousness.  This would have been an interesting point to discuss with Wood – as one of the underlying issues in the conflict between Wood and Smith et al is where the authority to criticize and appreciate literature stems from . Is the “Academy” still in charge, or literary criticism being democratized by the internet?  Sadly, the assorted guests were more interested in asking O’Neill about his inclusion of graphic sex scenes, and whether or not he liked the Costner film “Field of Dreams” – and when I discovered that I was much nerdier than a bunch of septuagenarians, I grabbed my last free drink and ran off.

Matha Stewart-Living

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Martha Stewart has an amazing ability to ignore any question that she doesn’t want to answer. She is a walking talking-point, anecdote heavy, she will spin almost any question into either a product plug or a self-aggrandizing comment. I can’t really hate on her for doing this though, after all she is a brand. Here is a summary of my favorite Live-Martha Stewart-Living quotes from last night at the 92 Street Y:

When asked what her approach to time-management is, the guru of healthy living said,
“I get up really early and I go to bed really late. Sleep is just not that important to me. It’s not that important, it’s secondary for me, no it’s tertiary.”

When asked if she is tough to work for,

“I have people who have worked for me in my home for 25 years. I have cats who have worked for me for 17 years. That is a job you know, they do work. My dogs have there own blog now, did you know that?”

When asked to respond to comments made about her on Gawker,

“Oh Gawker, do you know how many page views they get? Only about 20, 000 page views a day!” To the interviewer she said, “Only people like you read Gawker. Do you do that on company time? I don’t read Gawker, it’s a waste of my time.”

About TV news,

“I prefer to read newspapers, TV news needs to get better, I get bored when I watch it.”

About the value of being a locavore, she referred to Lamb from New Zealand as, “Soaked in oil,” agreeing with her vegetarian daughter that it is better to buy local.

Concerning  how he market will be a few months from now, she said something to the effect of,  ‘If things turn out the way we think they will, there will be a lot of money to be made.’

After jail, and the plummeting value of stock in her company, she remains optimistic. The more inspiring gems of wisdom that she shared with us were her conviction to reform the prison system, details about the Martha Stewart Living center that she funded/founded in Mount Sinai Hospital  and one final tidbit: not only will Martha, “sweep the floor if there is no one else there to do it,” but she also has a habit of  stopping of at 86th and 3rd for her treat of coconut milk and a hot dog. If you see her there, say hi.

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.

Expressions Dance-Reality TV-by Natascia Boeri

Posted in politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Expressions Dance Company at Brooklyn Center- review by Natascia Boeri

I am proud to welcome Natascia one of our lovely new writers!

“Don’t take this personally but you were very corny,” was a comment to one of the dancers during the Q&A following the performance from a red-haired lady. The dancer didn’t seem offended and in fact agreed with her. Other adjectives that the company might have enjoyed hearing as well could have been superficial, loud, slutty, and so on, but that is to be expected when you choreograph a dance with a reality TV show as its backdrop.

Expressions Dance Company arrived from Australia, fresh and un-rested, due to libation consumption the night before, as I later found out – yet you would have never guessed from the energy the dancers kept throughout the show. And in case you started to tire of seeing sweaty, lean bodies intertwining themselves gracefully through different poses, there were photos, films, and words projected on the set pieces, accompanying the dancer’s story.

For this piece, Maggi Sietsma, the artistic director and choreographer, drew inspiration from the Russian ballet Petrushka, where a puppet-master craftily manipulates his three puppets through the stages of a tragic love triangle. This plot transforms easily into a reality TV show where contestants, despite being real people like you and me, are controlled in order to attain the highest ratings. It was this and actual reality TV shows that Ms. Sietsma wanted to confront in her production, having already tackled climate change in her previous piece,”On Thin Ice”. Turns out that they have their own version of “American Idol” in Australia – “Australian Idol.” Having strong, often-negative feelings surrounding the culture of reality TV, (maybe in part because I find it just so darn hard not to get snared into the shows when they’re on!) I was interested in seeing what issues would be brought up.

As expected, the superficiality, power, dishonesty, and sexism of today’s programs were performed and criticized during the show, with the chance to participate in a dialogue of these matters when the company sat down with the audience members afterwards. I especially enjoyed Ms. Sietsma comment that she wanted to illustrate how today’s media (she actually said “producers” but I’m taking the liberty to expand the guilt further) are manipulating puppeteers not only of the contestants but of the viewers as well. As the contest – and dance – progresses, the viewer sees the ugly truth of reality TV. Most of us are probably aware that these shows are just cheap imitations of life in the name of entertainment. However, the real problem here is how reality TV, with all its glaring sexism and ruthless stereotyping, is not only a replication of our society but also a tool of manipulation for that society – which is especially startling when one considers the young age of some of the viewers.

Other than leaving the theater with a grim outlook on our present and possible future society, I was glad to have trudged out to Brooklyn College on a cold, snowy night to experience a dance show on the reality of reality TV.

Milk, Gus Van Sant Q&A

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

It’s hard to see it, but that, my friends, is a picture of Gus Van Sant. The Q&A was almost as teary as the film itself with testimonials: from a queer youth who thanked Van Sant for his film-making as activism and from the director of the Hetrick Martin Institute on behalf of his students at the Harvey Milk School. Lessin and Deal the directors of Trouble the Water were also in the house as well as a good crew of Bedstuy qpocs. Unpacking the film with them afterwards was one of the highlights of the night. We all agreed that it was a great Hollywood biopic. Although we loved experimental Van Sant in many of his earlier art house films, we thought that this format and budget were appropriate as a showcase for Milk’s life story. Slate Honey’s previous observation on the problematic portrayal of people of color, was indeed confirmed. However, Van Sant mentioned that many of the people depicted in the film were on set consulting during most of the filming, including the Asian man, who is referred to in the film as Lotus Blossom ( Find out where they are now). Still, I was kind of floored by Jack’s portrayal, it did feel somewhat superficial and unsympathetic. Overall though, I remain highly impressed by Van Sant’s cinematic mastery. If you squint you might be able to detect in my iPhone photo that Van Sant is suitably chill in his down to earth jeans, red sneakers and green socks. He was equally approachable and laid back after the Q & A as he happily talked one on one to folks from the audience. Thanks for putting me on the press list after all MOMA! Bloggers are tops!