Saturday, February 21, 2009

The L Magazine Extends Its Heartfelt Condolences to Mickey Rourke

Posted By on Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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The wire services and other outlets report this week on the death of Loki, one of Mickey Rourke's beloved chihuahuas, who passed away aged 18. The L has long been touched by Mickey Rourke's emotional bond with his dogs, and hopes very much that tomorrow night, as Mickey Rourke wins the Academy Award for Best Actor, his chihuahua is looking down at him from doggy heaven.

"Sometimes, when a man is alone, that's all you got is your dog."

Friday, February 20, 2009

(Wicked) Artsy Weekend Happenings

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 4:30 PM

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Gallery receptions and other events, compiled by Benjamin Sutton for your edification and pleasure.

Friday, 2/20

Bushwick:
7-11pm: Grace Minotaur performance by Rob Andrews (pictured at right) at Grace Exhibition Space, 840 Broadway 2nd Fl (between Ellery St and Park Ave)

Park Slope:
6-8:30pm: Alice Revisited exhibition by Ellen Kahn opening at 440 Gallery, 440 Sixth Ave (between 9th and 10th Sts)

Greenpoint:
7-9pm: Coded Live Current Shades exhibition by Sara Klar opening at Janet Kurnatowski Galeria, 205 Norman Ave (at Humboldt St)

Williamsburg:
7-9pm: Patterns of Growth group show at NURTUREArt, 910 Grand St (at Waterbury St)
7-9pm: (Perfect) Invisible for Ever Changing exhibition by Thomas Ovlisen at Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery (klausgallery.com), 438 Union Ave (between Metropolitan Ave and Devoe St)

Chelsea:
6-8pm: Artificial Realities group show at Black & White Gallery, 636 W 28th St (between Eleventh and Twelfth Aves)
6-8pm: Island Time exhibition by Simon Evans at James Cohan Gallery, 533 W 26th St (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves)

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Saturday, 2/21


Dumbo:
5:30-8pm: I Heart Art silent auction, benefit and talk with Amy Goldrich at Dumbo Arts Center, 30 Washington St (between Water and Plymouth Sts)

Chelsea:
4-6pm: Out West and Outback exhibition by Leaon Yost at Noho Gallery, 530 W 25th St 4th Fl (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves)
6-8pm: Painting, What it Became exhibition by Carolee Schneemann (pictured at left) at P.P.O.W., 511 W 25th St room 301 (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves)

Downtown New York Survival Guide: John Sexton vs. John Sex

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 2:00 PM

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Our Survival Guide is an occasional feature in which we helpfully delineate the differences between two people with different-sounding names. Today, in honor of the amusing earnest bougie NYU sit-in, we talk about NYU President John "J-Sex" Sexton, and late Pyramid Club superstar John Sex. Let's go to the tale of the tape!



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Up the Academy

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM

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Jesse Hassenger's Hott Oscar Pixx! (Amused anticipation of all-time most hirsute host Hugh Jackman not included, for some reason.)

The Oscars are on Sunday, and all indications — mostly vaguely unpopular or vaguely disliked nominees; the deterioration of the network television audience; and, oh yeah, economic collapse — point toward no one caring. Indifference to the Oscars: it's not just for snobs anymore! I'm making my predictions anyway, in case you want to come in fourth or fifth in your poorly attended office pool.


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Theater Review: White People

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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By Liam Pierce

As we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of an historical moment, it's easy to trace our fingers along the civil rights timeline and say "Ah yes, here we are." But statements like "Yes we did" can underwrite the notion that racial justice is a series of irreversible victories rather than a continual process of trial and error, heartbreak and happiness.

It is important, then, that art jostle us from this deceptively secure location and beg us to reconsider, to relocate. And the theater world is certainly taking an earnest, if misguided stab at it. White People, playing at the Atlantic Stage II through February 22, is a play by J.T. Rogers that questions the adjustments of the privileged consciousness to this moment of symbolic upheaval.

From the get-go, there is much to question about the play's premise. "Really? Is it about time white people get a stage to express their opinion on race?" Also: "To whom?" Knowing the typical patrons of the theater, I half expected a show entitled White People to consist of 90 minutes in front of a mirror.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The New Yorker Reader: "The Daughters of the Moon," by Italo Calvino

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 5:17 PM

See the Moon?

Ah, the "previously untranslated story." This one is part of the series of metaphysics experiments collected between the covers of Cosmicomics, though it's easy to see why it was not published along with the rest of them. (Categorize "Daughters of the Moon" in the "scrap heap" species of the "previously untranslated story" phylum.) It's a shrill, uncharacteristically obvious allegory about consumerism — but, wow, what a marvelous shrill, obvious allegory this is. It is kind of depressing, to realize how much offhand invention, lyricism and transcendental ideas about time Calvino was able to consign to the desk drawer. If I ever came up with an image as good as a new, verdant moon rising up from the East River, I would spend my entire life trying to fit it into a story worthy of it.

Wicked Artsy: Fashionably Artsy

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 3:04 PM

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Wicked Artsy is Benjamin Sutton's art column. He thrives on positive reinforcement and constructive criticism, which coincidentally is what the comments section is for.

Though Fall Fashion Week will relinquish its hold on Bryant Park Saturday (for the next-to-last time before moving to Lincoln Center in 2010, incidentally), several art exhibitions devoted to fashion will still be around long after the runways are dismantled.

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Among the shows bringing the catwalks and fall catalogues onto gallery walls, the two biggest are just across the street from Fashion Week central at the International Center of Photography. Taken separately, Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937 (featuring the image at right) and Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now (at left) are adequate surveys. Both, however, benefit enormously from being seen in tandem. The vast series of studied lines, stripped décors and warm hues in Steichen's fashion photography during his years as photo editor for Vogue and Vanity Fair might have seemed staid and repetitive alone. Taken along with the artists in Fashion Photography Now's radical subversions of the photographic and artistic conventions Steichen helped establish, both bodies of work acquire additional depth.




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Out Now: The L Magazine's Spring Fashion Issue

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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We got it 4 cheap! "It" being fashion by up-and-coming New York designers, that is. NYC Upstarts is L Fashion Editrix Laurel Pinson's guide to clothing and jewelry designers you can still get in on the ground floor with.

Elsewhere in our fashion coverage, Jeff Harris reviews Alphabet City's Dirt Candy, maybe the best new vegetarian restaurant in the city. Wait. Not fashion. Whatever.

In the arts, Mike Conklin and I go a little crazy in Popscene, and Nicolas Rapold, Michael Joshua Rowin and I all have now-or-never repertory film picks for you. And Paddy Johnson runs down her favorite galleries in Art Fag City.

All that, plus this lovely cover, and listings for more events than you could possibly attend in four lifetimes. Pick one up, it'll look tres chic in your pocket.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Movie Critic Blind Item!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 2:30 PM

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For some reason this week's New York runs a four-web-pages profile of The New York Press Still Exists film critic Armond White, because he's good copy, for the same reason that everything infuriating is good copy. But rather than take for fucking ever to repeat the same rant already done better by the sadly dormant Armond Dangerous, I'll just ask: who is the "well-known film critic who would just as soon keep his name out of this", who tells the piece's author, Mark Jacobson:

"Shit, you're writing a piece about Armond? Armond's smart and all, I get a kick out of him, but do I really have to see him looking out of the magazine like he's the last angry, honest man in the film culture?"

So, um, who? A "well-known movie critic"? (That's giving us way too much credit, incidentally.) David Edelstein is New York's lead critic — but even during that Movie Club debacle at Slate a few years back, he seemed to take Armond more seriously than this. I repeat: who? My guess is Nathan Lee — something about the slangy cadence and highbrow cred, plus he's given New York good fire-stoking inside baseball before. (Update: He says it wasn't him, in the comments, after Glenn Kenny and the L's Benjamin Strong almost come to blows.) Your guesses?

No Cars Go: The Failing American Auto Industry and You!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 PM

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From today's Times:

The disclosures by G.M., contained in a viability plan submitted to the government, means that G.M. plans to cut its brands in half, to four: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.

It said last fall that it would try to find buyers for Hummer and Saab. On Tuesday, it said it would decide on Hummer's fate by March 31.

This cannot stand. It's precisely because Americans are no longer accruing long-term debt with their local banks so as to spend exorbitant amounts of money on conspicuously consumed status symbols that we're in this recession. The stimulus bill should be amended to include a $15,000 tax credit for buyers of new Hummers. $18,000 if you get it in yellow.

More on this situation as it develops. (Maybe not more from us, but, you know, in the news or whatever.)

Dear Internet

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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If you are so fucking great all the time, with the Twits and the Tubes and the future and whatnot, how come you don't have Tom Rubnitz's Made for TV anywhere on you?

Back when the then-nomadic New Museum did their East Village USA exhibit, one of my favorite things that I saw was Made for TV, a low-budge Jordan Almonds-colored Cindy-Sherman-on-a-whole-case-of-Jolt-Cola video starring the great Ann Magnuson (best known, to me at least, as the pipe-cleaner in Chris Elliott's Cabin Boy) as the entirety of the broadcast spectrum. (You can watch, like, a minute of it here.) So I guess instead of getting my entire life for free on the internet, I'm going to have to go to Light Industry tonight, to see a program of Rubnitz's work — lots of absurdly kitschy, often queer performance-scene stuff from the downtown 80s. Including the cult-followed Pickle Surprise, embedded below (ok internet you win this round at least):


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Screening Log: Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008)

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 12:15 PM

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You could almost say that, like the protagonist of his new Two Lovers, James Gray still lives with his parents. Partly because the outer-boro worlds of Little Odessa, The Yards, We Own the Night and now Two Lovers find archaic-seeming pockets of a receding residential, working-class, neighborhood-organized New York — and partly because of his reverent, almost innocent commitment to traditional genre structures and storytelling styles.

Which is not to say that he's a naif — in fact he's actually one of the sharpest, most articulate guys making movies in America today. And much more cynical than his classical, openhearted film grammar might imply. We Own the Night was brotherly-love cops-and-robbers drama that actually seemed to at least in part condemn patriarchal social institutions and familial/social obligations: when Joaquin Phoenix quits his job as a nightclub manager to join the NYPD, it's kind of a tragedy.

Two Lovers is, we're told, loosely adapted from Dostoevsky's "White Nights," but it actually comes off as the kind of life experience that would later provide the emotional underpinnings of a genre movie like We Own the Night.

For the two opposing gravitational pulls tugging at Joaquin Phoenix — star there as well as here — replace his WOtN girlfriend Eva Mendes with Two Lovers' shiksa goddess neighbor Gwyneth Paltrow, and brother Mark Wahlberg with Vinessa Shaw, daughter of his father's business partner.

Still, despite his thematic sophistication, you do group Gray with other visually fluent primitivists — say, though this is hyperbolic, Sergio Leone — whose articulacy seems roughly proportionate to the scale of a given scene: operatic is fine, while the more intimate registers leave you perpetually on the verge of cringing. (The French love Gray even more than they love Michael Cimino.) There are some hiccoughs in this resolutely human-sized melodrama: Gray at times tries to convey emotion in obvious gestures (Paltrow loves opera; Phoenix goes out and buys an opera CD), leads his characters into avert-your-eyes awkwardness (yes, Phoenix raps), or exposes his subtext by having them talk an awful lot about their feelings. But it works, here, because maybe these kinds of people really are this naked, really are this awkwardly earnest and unguarded. Phoenix's performance here recalls the Marlon Brando school of scratch-and-sniff naturalism; he's a raw nerve. And speaking of which: Two Lovers uses a New York winter as well as, and to similar purposes as, On the Waterfront — Joaquin Baca-Asay's subtly lit gray palette and Gray's compositions create a full, biting-cold world for Phoenix's emotional isolation.

So this is exactly the thing, Gray's ear for dialogue may come off corny, but his eye for detail is marvelous. I'm not entirely convinced by Paltrow in Brighton Beach: through no part of her own she comes off as a bit of a fairy tale construction, even in her clubbing clothes she still seems more Gramercy or Yorkville to me. But the local color is so gradiated — check the stationary bike stashed behind a worn, homey overstuffed brown couch in the film's final shot, an almost hilarious bit of offhand sociological genius, and, in context, absolutely heartbreaking.



Screening Log: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2009)

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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"There's got to be some way to bring down this bank!" is the second funniest superserious line ever oversold by a scowling-yet-probably-somehow-in-on-the-joke Clive Owen. (First is "Since women stopped bein' able to have babies...", from the preview for Children of Men.) Psst, Clive: try highly leveraged mortgage-backed securities.

As you've probably heard by now — perhaps because you read Daoud Tyler-Ameen's L Mag review, which makes this point very concisely — Eric Warren Singer's script for The International grabs nakedly at the zeitgeist, by making its villain an international banking concern; and misses completely, on account of it is silly, silly, silly; and, more to the point (given the political prescience of even-more-inept thrillers like 2007's first-person-shooter fantasy Shooter, which reflected with reasonable prescience libertarian disillusionment with corporate-cozying war-making Patriot Actors), because it is generic, generic, generic.

The International is, yes, mostly just a globe-trotting randomly topical action thriller (during establishing shots the bottom of the screen says Berlin, Lyon, Milan, New York, Istanbul, etc). Like Quantum of Solace, it could more accurately be titled The Bourne Again. Unlike Quantum of Solace, however, you can actually tell where people are in relation to one another during the action sequences.


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Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Presidents' Day Everyone

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday's Video of the Day, Because One Prince Video Is Never Enough

Posted By on Sun, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy St. Valentine's Day Everyone

Posted By on Sat, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:00 AM

But please, remember:


Friday, February 13, 2009

Weekends Are for Lovers, and Movies.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 5:03 PM

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BAM's repertory film program, just back from hiatus, continues its welcome tradition of a Valentine's Day dinner-and-a-movie screwball comedy special, this year featuring the inspired comedy of remarriage The Awful Truth, with a very in-form Cary Grant and Irene Dunne . (Dinner's sold out, but, you know, there are several restaurants in Fort Greene, and this movie has wings.) Something about 30s romantic comedies this year, it seems: Film Forum features the clippy/dippy William Powell and Carole Lombard (affectionate ex-spouses at the time!) in the zing-y love-hate class-relations primer My Man Godfrey, double featured with Easy Living, a Preston Sturges script directed by sensitive screwball Mitchell Leisen. (Tomorrow, meanwhile, they show their favorite pre-Production Code movie, the anti-romantic Baby Face, in which Barbara Stanwyck sleeps her way up the corporate ladder.)

And though it's in danger of being overshadowed by its star's apparent Andy Kaufman/Grizzly Adams tribute, James Gray's Two Lovers, which opens today, is indeed an achingly felt love story — and, indeed, piece of cinema. The L's Michael Joshua Rowin is right to respond to with such sincerity: it's a deeply, earnestly romantic movie, less for its conclusions than its commitment. Including, yes, Joaquin Phoenix's.

Tonight! An Evening of Songs and Trapeze (No, That's the Right There in the Official Name of the Event. It Says So on the Flyer. Look!)

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 4:07 PM

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That'd be at Union Pool tonight, featuring piano-and-cello duets and other plinky sea chanty-type songs, from friend-of-the-L Hannah Marcus (check the haunting, intricate "A Virgin Graveyard", and listen through all the way to the ragged minimalist singalong) and others. Appropriately, as the event is a benefit for the Swimming Cities of Serenissima, the artist Swoon's see-it-to-believe-it fleet of delicately handmade ships (or sculptures?) that will sail from Slovenia to Venice this spring.

So, in conclusion: poetic, pure folk tunes and improbable ships. Also, trapeze?

Friday the 13th

Posted By and on Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 1:07 PM

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Today, Friday the 13th of February, 2009, marks the release of a reimagining of beloved American film Friday the 13th (this version directed by Marcus Nispel). This is a cultural event so monumentous that we, here at the L, couldn't send just one critic. Henry Stewart and Benjamin Sutton talk it out.

Henry Stewart:
As the popularity of slasher movies waned, "torture porn" filled the hole they left in multiplexes; as horror goes, that new subgenre often boasts a relatively complex, almost progressive moral underpinning: Hostel's victims are largely misogynistic or boorish Americans-abroad, in desperate need of comeuppance; the Saw series punishes those who don't fully appreciate the Gift of Life. The Friday the 13th "reimagining," or whatever we're supposed to call it, marks a return, if only temporarily, to the simplicity of late-Carter/early-Reagan Puritanism: its victims are punished because they enjoy life, albeit bacchanalianly, through good ol' fashioned youthful debauchery — beer-swilling, sex and, above all, marijuana use.

Well, for the most part, that is, because even some of the ostensibly chaste characters (the non-pot smokers) eventually fall victim to Mr. Voorhees' sharp instruments. Ultimately, this Friday the 13th transcends its own virtuousness, positing Jason as some sort of masked Mega-Terrorist. He might hate our sexual and substance-abuse freedoms, but he hates our trespassing even more. And so he defends his homestead, with disproportionate response, against fun-loving Americans who mean him no harm and are dumbstruck by his aggression. What drives him? Blind, violent loyalty to his Mother(land).

Benjamin Sutton:
Funny that you should close with the doubly-loaded "Mother(land)", as Nispel baits us with a clear psycho-sexual story (lifted from Psycho), concealing a more timely undercurrent. All the plot pieces are available for reading Whitney (Amanda Righetti) as the object of Jason's displaced love/fear of his long-dead mother, now internalized as maternal superego.


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The National Review Online Presents the 25 Best Conservative Movies of the Past 25 Years

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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Jim Newell's doing such good work on this over at Wonkette that I hesitate to pile on, but the Gattaca one probably should not pass without comment:

In this science-fiction drama, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) can't become an astronaut because he's genetically unenhanced. So he purchases the identity of a disabled athlete (Jude Law), with calamitous results. The movie is a cautionary tale about the progressive fantasy of a eugenically correct world—the road to which is paved by the abortion of Down babies, research into human cloning, and "transhumanist" dreams of fabricating a "post-human species." Biotechnology is a force for good, but without adherence to the ideal of universal human equality, it opens the door to the soft tyranny of Gattaca and, ultimately, the dystopian nightmare of Brave New World.
Ok.


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