Mankind Is No Island

November 29, 2008

tropfestOne of the coolest events I’ve attended during my time in NYC was Tropfest, “the world’s largest short film festival,” held every spring in Sydney and fall in New York. One of my roommates scored passes through work, so a few of us went to the NYC event this past September, conveniently held in the marina near Battery Park City, right near our crib.

Upon entry, we all had to pick our tongues off the floor so as to look like we actually belonged amidst the presence of copious amounts of free food (collectively we must’ve scarfed like 20 sliders), booze and scores of purty ladies. Regrettably (or perhaps not so) our attention focused heavily on the aforementioned trifecta of awesome, and not so heavily on the films being shown. At one point I forced myself to break free of conversation with two bourgeois chicks from France (or was it Russia?) to check out a couple shorts, which wound up being overwhemingly mediocre. One of them revolved around a gay tryst on a yacht—seven minutes of my life, gone. Of course, I turned my back just in time to miss the film included below, Jason van Genderen’s “Mankind Is No Island,” which wound up winning the damn festival. My roommate was lucky enough to view it first hand and predicted the victory, straight up.

Shot entirely on a cellphone camera, it’s a very poignant and compelling short and explores the dynamic between society and its homeless through a series of words and images. Check it out, and if you’re lucky to cop corporate passes, maybe we’ll see you next year. That sounds so dick.

Bond Girls

November 23, 2008

I don’t fashion myself a Bond expert by any means. I’m a casual fan at best. But for me the best facet of the films, other than the cars, gadgets and exotic locales, is the gorgeous women and their preposterous names. Pussy Galore? Holly Goodhead? Are you serious? The latest object of Bond’s obsession, Camille Montes, played by Olga Kurylenko in Quantum of Solace, might be the hottest Bond girl yet. I’m usually not one for gratuitous photos of total babes, but what the hell, this post is an homage to a few of the finest Bond girls. Film is art after all right?

Olga Kurylenko aka “Camille Montes” in Quantum of Solace:

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Famke Janssen aka Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye:

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Honor Blackman aka Pussy Galore in Goldfinger:

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Diana Rigg aka Tracy di Vincenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:

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Halle Berry aka Jinx in Die Another Day:

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Infamy

October 21, 2008

Just finished watching Infamy, the 2005 graffiti doc by acclaimed filmmaker Doug Pray. I was a big fan of his 2001 film Scratch, which documented the evolution of turntablism, and decided to check this one out as well.

Infamy focuses on the lives of six preeminent graf writers in various cities across the country. The doc was fairly well-balanced, emphasizing in equal measure the subjects’ birth into the medium, their utter devotion to the artform (often to the detriment of their relationships with family and friends), the dangers they face and of course, their run-ins with the law. Pray did make the point to call attention to the fact that these particular writers were products of turbulent upbringings, an implied explanation as to why they turned to what is by and large perceived as a destructive and illegal form of expression.

I’d recommend checking out the film if you have any interest in graffiti as an artform or subculture. The figures involved are all pretty captivating (especially Earsnot of NYC’s IRAK crew) and the doc highlights some pretty amazing work.

Here’s the first 10 minutes or so if you wanna check it out:

Lars and the Real Girl

September 29, 2008

When I first read about the premise of Nancy Oliver’s Lars and the Real Girl, I immediately wrote it off as a gimmick. Yet upon the recommendation of my mother, I loaded it up in the Netflix queue and watched it last week. I have to say it was one of the most original and touching films I’ve seen in a while.

The story centers around a young man named Lars, played by Ryan Gosling (one of the most talented young actors out there), who has difficulty interacting with his family and others in his close-knit community. Lars lives in the garage behind the home he and his brother Gus inherited from their father and repeatedly turns down offers to socialize with Gus and Gus’s wife Karin. One day, Lars shows up at their doorstep eager to bring over a girl named Bianca that he claims to have met on the internet. Gus and Karin are ecstatic that Lars seems to have finally come out of his shell, until they come to find that the girl Lars is speaking of is in fact a doll that he ordered off an adult website, built to his own specifications.

At this point, the film could have gone completely over the top, sought cheap jokes or turned offensive. Yet somehow, it managed to pull back and remain completely human at all times, no small feat considering the storyline. When the town doctor advises Gus and Karin, and the community at large for that matter, to act as if Bianca were a real woman, they do so begrudgingly at first. Gradually, their efforts bring them closer together, all out of their love for Lars. It sounds cheesy, and at points I couldn’t believe that I fell so hard for such a seemingly ridiculous film, but it really works. It’s one of those movies that, had I watched it with a group of friends, I would have pretended that I wasn’t about to well up at certain points. You know how it is.

If you’re looking for a genuine film and one that believes people are capable of doing good in a time when the world is going down the shitter, check out Lars and the Real Girl.

Beautiful Losers

August 20, 2008

I’ve been unable to post for the last few days due a breakdown in our internet thanks to the yellow bellied scoundrels at Time Warner. That is until I realized that my work laptop detects connections from lands far, far away. So here I am stealing internet, transmitting via guerrilla blogfare.

I’m not quite sure where exactly I first stumbled upon Beautiful Losers, but as soon as I chanced on it, I was intrigued. The film—directed by Aaron Rose, founder of NYC’s now defunct Alleged Gallery—documents the rise of a D.I.Y. art movement in the early ’90s that revolved around the urban aesthetic of street art, graffiti, skateboarding and underground music. Anyone that reads this blog regularly (all four of you) know that this is right up my alley. And when I learned that the film focuses on artists that I respect and admire: Harmony Korine, Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee and others, I knew I had to see it. Lucky for me, the film began its general theatrical release right here at the IFC Center at W4 St.

I must say that leaving the theater I was not at all disappointed. First, it was interesting to hear first-person accounts from each artist explaining their initial engagement in the D.I.Y. scene. Most began with an early self-derived perception of outsider status, or being different from the other kids in the cafeteria. Of course these claims are validated through quirky, often hilarious anecdotes from each artist. In one particularly memorable scene, Harmony Korine tells a little girl that a friend of his was once decapitated in the very park in which she was playing, to which she responds, “Cool!” It’s actually hard to tell if he’s serious.

Beautiful Losers was also worthwhile as it exposed me to several artists with whom I wasn’t very familiar. I learned about the work of Mike Mills who has designed dope album covers for Sonic Youth, Beck and the Beastie Boys, Margaret Kilgallen, whose San Francisco-based folk art I recognized and Chris Johanson, who sports a massive beard and is just plain nuts.

I also appreciated the fact that the film didn’t raise any negative sentiment for artists applying their work for commercial purposes. So often today artists are accused of selling out and alienating their core audience, the audience that was there during the come up. If an artist has the opportunity to project his or her vision on a larger scale without compromising their creative integrity, he or she should be encouraged, not chastised. Specifically, the film touched on graphic designer Geoff McFetridge who has spearheaded cool ass campaigns for Pepsi and done collaborations with sneaker companies.

There were only a couple aspects that detracted from the film for me: In my opinion, the cutaway shots of the artwork were often too quick and sporadic. I understand that a film has to move, but there were times that I wanted a few more seconds to take it all in. I also thought the unfortunate death of Margaret Kilgallen was touched upon very abruptly and disrupted the flow of the film somewhat towards the end.

All in all however, Beautiful Losers is the type of film that lights a creative fire under your ass and makes you wonder why you ever stopped taking art lessons in seventh grade. It reminds you why you enjoyed drawing and making things…because it was stimulating and fucking fun. Excuse me while I go tag my bedroom wall.

It’s been two weeks since I spent $11.75 US to see the latest installment of Indiana Jones, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. The fourth film in the series arrived nearly twenty years after “Last Crusade” and with it came a predictable load of hype. Going into the film I had few expectations, if any. All I asked was that the film deliver 90 minutes of mindless entertainment, a modest request.

As my friends and I shuffled into the theater for an evening show, it immediately became clear that we were in for a long night. The theater was crammed with eager Indy fans and our party of four was forced to splinter off separately. Fortunately, I scored one of those lone captain’s chairs in the middle section. My mood was temporarily lifted during the requisite twenty minutes of previews, which included great trailers for The Dark Knight (can’t wait) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which Bradd Pitt ages in reverse. Finally, the lights dimmed and it was time for our feature presentation.

I, like many of my fellow moviegoers I’m sure, was anxious to see what Indy would look like after all these years. Leave it up to Lucas and Spielberg to effectively deflate this anticipation by waiting 15 minutes before showing Harrison Ford’s face. In retrospect, this was probably a good idea. As the camera finally panned to reveal a 66 year-old Indiana, my worst fears were instantly recognized: dude is old. I’m not hating on Ford in anyway, he’s one of the great American movie stars, but it’s difficult to suspend disbelief when a supposed action hero is eligible for the elderly movie ticket discount. At one point, when Indy was leaping across wooden boxes, I feared that he wouldn’t make it. It was then that I realized I should have gone to see Ironman.

As for the film itself, I found myself constantly shifting in my seat and checking my watch. For one thing, Shia LeBeouf, added little character to his role as “Mutt Williams,” and Cate Blanchett’s accent as Soviet “Dr. Spalko” shifted amorphously between Russian and Scottish. I even found myself distracted by wondering how much Sean Connery was paid to have a photo of his character as Indiana’s father shown on screen. As the plot, or lack thereof, continued to evolve, the more discouraged I became. My frustration culminated at about minute 120 when a UFO emerged from beneath a temple in Peru. In all my years watching Indiana Jones I was under the assumption that he was a professor of history and archeology who daringly retrieved priceless artifacts of historical significance from the grips of evil. I never would have imagined aliens would play a role.

As I left the theater contemplating what I had just seen, I began to doubt my own imagination. Had I grown too jaded and cynical to enjoy a fun summer movie? I quickly suppressed these doubts…I love mindless entertainment and outlandish stories as much as the next guy. But when filmmakers insult the intelligence of the theater-going public as I felt Lucas and Spielberg did, I get a bit upset. If you have $11.75 to spare, go sign up for Netlifx and see this movie when it comes out on DVD if you really want to.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I now know about this ridiculous website. Someone’s taken an audio clip from Super Troopers and turned it into one of the most obnoxious things I’ve seen in a while. If you keep the page open for too long, you might be compelled to put your computer through a wood chipper.

Reminds me a bit of this migraine-inducing gem. Time for some Tylenol liqui-gels.

Deathbowl to Downtown

May 14, 2008

One of my favorite films of all time is Stacey Peralta’s landmark documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, which chronicles the beginnings of skateboarding in 1970s Southern California. The film presents a candid look at each member of the Zephyr team, notably Jay Adams and Tony Alva, and their ability to adapt a surf style and aesthetic to the pavement. Original footage and photography provided by Craig Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman, combined with a killer classic rock soundtrack make the film infinitely re-watchable.

Needless to say, I was pumped to see that at last it appears the East Coast has an answer. Rick Charnoski and Buddy Nichols’ Deathbowl to Downtown details the evolution of skating, particularly street skating, in NYC. According to the films’ website, “Deathbowl to Downtown goes deeper than ‘just’ skating to combine documentary with an incisive and artful exploration of skateboarding and its culture.” Sounds sick. Chloe Sevigny narrates the film and artists such as the Beastie Boys and Bad Brains provide the soundtrack. Living in the city and skating a bit myself, albeit pretty poorly, I’m excited to see how the innovators tore up New York’s unique and frenetic landscape. Not sure when the film has its theater run, but I do know there was a preview last week at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center. (Right by my crib and I missed it. Shit.)

Regardless, check out the trailer and other dope clips at deathbowltodowntown.com.

There was also a photography installation tied to the film at the Etnies showroom on Greene St. last weekend. It included a bunch of old school photos, decks and gear from back in the day. I’ve included a couple pics I snapped here.

A Broke Down Melody

April 25, 2008

To this day, one of my ultimate goals in life is to be a pro surfer. A life with no deadlines, exotic locations and gorgeous women…I could probably handle that. Considering the fact that I’ve only attempted surfing once and failed miserably, that dream might not come to fruition any time soon. So until it does, I’ll continue to live vicariously through A Broke Down Melody, a surf film produced by Jack Johnson’s brahs Emmett Malloy and Tim Lynch for Woodshed Films.

Shot in beautiful 16mm, the film documents swells throughout South America, Polynesia and Jamaica. Featuring legends such as Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado and Jack Johnson himself, A Broke Down Melody makes riding waves look as easy as riding the A train. The perfect cure for those Sunday afternoon blues, the film glides along to tunes by Beta Band, Matt Costa, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, and others. (Quick note: my buddies and I have even created our own soundtrack, convinced that ours “fits” too…I recommend you try the same). Whether you’re totally gnarly and can rip it up, or you’re like me and just dig surfing, I highly recommend you pick up A Broke Down Melody; it’s guaranteed to turn that frown up-side-down. Here’s a clip:

Lakai Fully Flared

April 23, 2008

A buddy of mine recently informed me that I’ve been using a lot of big words in this blog, so I’ve decided to start this post with an easy one: RAD.

That’s how I would describe Fully Flared, the first skate video released by Lakai Limited Footwear. Directed by Ty Evans, Spike Jonze and Cory Weincheque, the film features some of the biggest names in the game including Eric Koston, Mike Carroll, Marc Johnson and Guy Mariano.

I do skate a bit and love cruising around the city, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good and can’t even name half the tricks in this vid. Yet I do know that this video kicks ass and the jaw-dropping intro alone is worth the price tag. The diverse soundtrack is also killer, highlighted by great tracks by Bad Brains, Flaming Lips, Fischerspooner, Band of Horses and others. I recommend watching this video at high volume and in the right state of mind (smell me?).

I wish I could afford to skate everyday. Check out this clip from Guy Mariano’s part, it’ll skin your knees.