Archive for February, 2010




the epitome of a lost masterpiece…


The surest answer is in the mysterious nature and singular dedication of its Australian born writer-director Don Levy (1932 – 1987). Originally a scientist (he held a rare Doctorate in Physical Chemistry) Levy supported himself prior to Herostratus by directing commercials and industrial films. Although he completed the principal photography between late 1962 and early ’64, the film was not released until 1967 because of the lengthy ordeals of post-production. Cutting the film, technically, on begged and borrowed equipment was one giant hurdle – and even that was dwarfed by the task of locating the soul of the finished work, of honoring its most truthful rhythm with a jeweler’s attention to each frame. It was too avant-garde to attract a ready backer, so Levy used his own money. He was briefly hospitalized for starvation while finishing it. By the time it emerged, matters of style and content that had been well ahead of the curve when he started were lost in the wave that was then carrying Blow-Up and Weekend to their garden-spots in Valhalla.

Levy taught at The California Institute of the Arts from 1970 until his death. He was a wonderful teacher – I was one of his students – and he cleverly drove us all mad by posing discussion questions like “What is Sanity?” (That led to three years of endless bickering in class, by my count.) Most of us had never seen Herostratus for the first years we knew him – there was no 16 mm print – but when we did (a gang of students contriving to borrow a pair of 35 mm projectors, one memorable weekend) our astonishment was indelible. We already cherished Don as a great mind, but his personal aura of privacy now became heroic – especially as he was so soft-spoken in relation to what he’d done, and so generous with each of us.

After a single showing at the Los Angeles Filmex in 1972, Universal Studios approached Levy about distributing Herostratus – but there was a catch. The film runs two hours and 23 minutes; they wanted him to cut about 25 minutes out. He refused. The pace of the film is its vertical challenge – especially in its climactic third – but this is so inseparable from the vision being embodied, so entirely in the character of what Levy is dramatizing, that it was a moral test of his character that he refused to tailor it.

And so it is now that his family, former students and CalArts colleagues are bringing this masterwork to light after decades of effort. They’ve made a DVD deal, and with the aid of the British Film Institute, used HD-CAM technology to restore the film’s original pristine color for a fresh premiere at REDCAT.

(LA WEEKLY  2.25.10)

the entire review here

“HEROSTRATUS” 1967 directed by Don Levy

don’t miss “Herostratus” at Calart’s REDCAT theatre monday 3.1…

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when whales attack…


Richard Ellis, Marine Conservationist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, discussed online today the attack of a Sea World trainer recently by a whale named Tilikym…


Greensburg, Pa.: Was there anything they should have done to prevent this tragedy with Tilikum?

Richard Ellis: Probably the whale that had killed somebody already should not have been part of a show.

Omaha, Neb.: Are there any specific theories as to what would make captive killer whales aggressive towards humans? (Aside from “they’re out of their natural environment and therefore act unnaturally.”)

RE: There are many animals that don’t do well in captivity, but killer whales have a long history of adapting. We just don’t know why Tilikum behaved the way he did.

Alexandria, Va.: Was there anything about the act of rubbing the whale that was different in some way than what he was used to? I understand that this whale has killed people before, many years ago. So he must be getting up there in years. Do some whales perhaps suffer dementia when they get old, as people (and dogs, for that matter) do?

RE: Tillicum drowned a person several years ago. Not easy to compare whales (killer whales are actually large dolphins) with people or dogs.

Sterling, Va.: I had heard on the radio that the whales were acting stressed during the show and that it caused the show to be stopped. Could that have been a factor to what led the whale to grab the trainer and pull her under?

RE: Could be, but until we can ask the whale, we’ll never know.

Corydon, Ind.: I notice that the media is using the term “killer whale” almost exclusively, but it had seemed to me that the term had been mostly replaced by “orca” in the popular press over the past 20 years. If this had been a story about a creature that had saved a boatload of people in a sinking life raft, would we be reading “orca” in the news stories instead. What is the accepted term for these creatures?

RE: They’re called “killers” in oceanarium shows because it makes them more appealing to the public. People want to see a dangerous animal subdued. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work out to well.

Bowie, Md.: Doesn’t the adjective “killer” say it all?

RE: They are called “killers” because they kill their normal prey: whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, penguins. The number of attacks on swimmers and diverts in the wild is zero.

Baltimore, Md.: It seems obvious that it is time to accept that orcas should not be kept in captivity but returned to the sea. The argument that people do not appreciate what they can’t interact with does not hold sway here, there are plenty of places in the world to see wild orca — you don’t have to train them to chase balls in order for people to appreciate what majestic animals — and efficient predators they are!

RE: I agree completely. But human beings have a long, ignoble tradition of keeping wild animals in captivity.

Washington, D.C.: What is the plan for the whale? Will he be released, killed, moved to another facility?

RE: I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the whale. They obviously can’t use it an a show any more…

Washington, D.C.: Would the whale have a good chance of surviving if released in the wild?

RE: If Tillicum was released into his original family group, he would probably survive.

Baltimore, Md.: You say killer whales do not attack humans, but do you think they could some how be trained to? If so, how long until the Navy starts awarding research contracts…

RE: I’ve never heard of any marine mammals being trained to kill people. I think the Navy has better (or worse) things to do than train killer whales to kill divers.

(like studying the Frisbee…)

Woodbridge, Va.: I read once that they think killer whales and most of the dolphin family are actually aliens that crash landed into the ocean 10,000 years ago. Their spacecraft was destroyed so they had no choice but to live out their lives in our seas. Since there was an abundance of food, they thrived and expanded across most oceans. You think that’s true?

RE: No…  Gotta go. Thanks for the interesting questions. Orcas in the wild live in family groups, so probably isolating one or two is not good for their mental health.


check out an online video interview with Richard Ellis




congratulations Kathryn Bigelow and “THE HURT LOCKER” for taking home 6 gold masks from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts – BEST FILM, DIRECTOR, ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, CINEMATOGRAPHY, EDITING, and SOUND…

“The Hurt Locker” won both the Producers and Directors Guild awards and looks to win the best picture Oscar which would make Bigelow the first woman director to do that — she’s only the fourth to be nominated…

here’s the full lists of BAFTA 2009 winners, and nominees for the Oscar and Independent Spirit Awards


planet invisible…


they’re already here…


Aliens may be “staring us in the face” according to Lord Martin Rees president of the Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England, “the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.” He made the remarks shortly after hosting the national science academy’s first conference on the possibility of alien life.   “They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology,” he said. “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.” Lord Rees used the conference in January, entitled The Detection of Extraterrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society, to ask whether the discovery of aliens would cause terror or delight on earth. He told Prospect magazine that improved telescopes made the chance of finding extra-terrestrial life “better than ever”. But Dr. Frank Drake, the world’s leading “ET hunter”, told the conference that satellite TV and the “digital revolution” was making humanity invisible to aliens by cutting the transmission of TV and radio signals into space. At present, the Earth is surrounded by a 50 light year-wide “shell” of radiation from analogue TV, radio and radar transmissions. But although the signals have spread far enough to reach many nearby star systems, they are rapidly vanishing in the wake of digital technology, according to Dr. Drake. The scientist, who founded the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence organization in the United States, said digital TV signals would look like noise to a race of observing aliens.

(TELEGRAPH  2.22.10)

the entire article here




44 styles-in-chief…



left to right: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama

(NY TIMES  2.15.10)

and in related news — First Lady coifing




the Plastic Ono Band has come together again — for a concert “We are Plastic Ono Band” tomorrow at Brooklyn Academy of Music pumping their new album “Between My Head And The Sky”

the lineup includes Yoko and Sean, Yuka Honda, Cornelius and Haruomi Hosono, appearances by original Plastic people and guests like Kim and Thurston, Bette Midler, Scissor Sisters, and Clapton..!

tuesday’s show sold out, but there’s a dress rehearsal tonight — and they’re selling tickets… BAM!




great news: book shop FAMILY permanently converted their back room to a little gallery and  jam packed it with goods — the opening kicked off by Kerr and Watt bringing it on with No Age…

now go start your own band…




Fred Morrison, inventor of the Frisbee died tuesday — it all began by tossing pie tins…

Walter Frederick Morrison 

a brief history…

1937 — Morrison sells “Flyin’ Cake Pans” at Santa Monica beach for a quarter…

1946 — he returns from the war after serving in the air force and creates the “Whirlo-Way”…

1948 — fellow pilot Warren Franscioni pays for the Whirlo-Way to be made in plastic and they rename it the “Flyin’ Saucer”…

1955 — Morrison designs the “Pluto Platter” with a deeper, thicker rim…

1957 — he sells it to Wham-O and Wham-O gives it the name “Frisbee”, taken from the Frisbie Pie Company (kids were tossing around inverted pie tins and calling them “Frisbies”)

1958 — Morrison is awarded the patent and receives a million plus in royalties…

1964 — Wham-O adds flight ridges, radically improving stability and speed…

1967 — “Ultimate” is invented by New Jersey high schoolers…

1968 — the US Navy spends $400,000 studying Frisbees in wind tunnels…

1976 — the first game of “Frisbee Golf”…




MCA’s indie film–distribution company, Oscilloscope Labs…

saboteur Nate Hornblower…


“A lot of people said, ‘What the hell are you guys doing?’ ” remembers Yauch.

Two years later, the gamble is starting to pay off: just two weeks after Miramax Films closed its doors for good, Oscilloscope landed a fairly prominent role in the upcoming Oscar race. “The Messenger”, director Oren Moverman’s slow-build account of soldiers assigned to notify next of kin about relatives killed in action, which Oscilloscope purchased after the film’s Sundance premiere in 2009, garnered nominations for supporting actor Woody Harrelson, as well as screenwriters Moverman and Alessandro Camon. The company also landed a documentary nomination for “Burma VJ”, a stark portrait of political unrest in Myanmar, incorporating a variety of clandestine footage shot throughout 2007.

Whether or not any of these nominees win, the inclusion of Oscilloscope’s films by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reflects the label’s rapid progression to the upper tier of the specialty-film world. Last year, the company was thought to have a shot at Oscar glory with Kelly Reichardt’s art-house favorite “Wendy and Lucy”, but Michelle Williams’ nuanced performance ultimately failed to yield a nomination. If Yauch and his team learned from that experience and amended their campaign strategy accordingly, he won’t reveal their secret. “The really great thing about the Oscars is that a bunch of people know about these films,” he says. “For filmmakers, this is evidence that the staff at Oscilloscope knows what they’re doing.”

While the company’s first release was Yauch’s own directorial effort, the Harlem basketball documentary “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot”, his motives went far beyond personal gratification. “My interest in starting this company was not to distribute my own films,” he says. “I was interested in the idea of working with filmmakers.”

Oscilloscope’s assiduously curated library of festival hits ranges from domestically produced dramas like The Messenger to social-issue documentaries (Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father; No Impact Man) and foreign fare (The Paranoids, from Argentina; Irish flick Kisses), all of which it distributes on DVD as well as theatrically.

The company puts out 10 to 15 films a year, most of them acquired on the festival circuit. Upcoming releases include Michel Gondry’s family documentary, “The Thorn in the Heart”, and “The Exploding Girl”, the expressionistic story of a seizure-prone college student (Zoe Kazan), directed by Oscope regular Bradley Rust Grey, whose wife and producing partner So Yong Kim’s children-in-distress narrative, “Treeless Mountain”, was released by the company last year.

With its star-filled cast and budget, The Messenger is the biggest project to come out under Oscope’s auspices. Moverman says the company’s newbie status was part of the appeal. “Adam said he hoped one day to be able to release a movie like The Messenger,” the director recalls. “I said, ‘Why not now?'”

To date, the only Oscope release to cross the $1 million mark at the box office was Wendy and Lucy, and it just barely stumbled over that hurdle. But the niche qualities of Oscope’s films play a key role in the cultivation of its brand. “A lot of times, the movies with greater marketing challenges are the ones that fall to us,” says Yauch.

Like a hip, youth-oriented version of the Criterion Collection, Oscope combats those challenges with keen grassroots strategies. Shoppers at Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters may discover Oscope DVDs at the checkout counter, and journalists are often treated to press releases containing Yauch’s eccentric plugs for the company’s latest acquisitions. A statement pimping the surreal Danish cop drama “Terribly Happy”, opening this week, bears this blurb from Yauch: “It is just further proof that Danish people are clearly out of their minds.”

Yauch positions Oscope’s handcrafted approach in opposition to the neglect associated with larger companies. “When I pick up a DVD in a piece-of-shit case, with a piece of paper stuck in it, I feel like the distributor is just throwing it away,” he says. “We want to respect our films more than that.”

While he would like Oscilloscope to explore “larger projects,” he remains wary of the commercial realm, where the boundary between substance and sell can be slippery. “Sometimes, it’s just somebody’s idea of how they can market something, like Matthew McConaughey with his shirt off,” he scoffs.

(LA WEEKLY  2.11.10)

the entire article here




in celebration of 75 years — SFMOMA’s rehung the collection and dusted off a selection of gems from the deep freeze…  including a California based photography show that brings new meaning to the word “excellent” —  including Lewis Baltz, Dorothea Lange, Ed Ruscha, Larry Sultan, Carleton Watkins, Carrie Mae Weems, y mucho mas…

“Nevada 33, Looking West” by Lewis Baltz 1977


Just as photography has been instrumental in shaping California’s popular image, the state — and San Francisco, in particular — has played a key role in the history of photography as an art form. Reflecting this unusually symbiotic relationship, SFMOMA was one of the first museums in the country to treat photography as an equal to painting and sculpture. In celebration of the museum’s 75 years of engagement with the medium, this exhibition explores the variety and vitality of California’s photographic tradition from the 1840s to the present. Drawn from the SFMOMA collection, it includes Gold Rush-era daguerreotypes and early panoramas of San Francisco, pictures by members of the influential Group f.64, street and documentary photographs, conceptual work from the 1970s, and contemporary photographs.

“THE VIEW FROM HERE” curated by Erin O’Toole at SFMOMA 1.16 – 6.27.10…




wave makers at Sundance…

art is what you fake it…


The Runaways is the kind of movie that Hollywood should be making but isn’t; the kind of film that studio-supported indie labels like Miramax and New Line used to make, before most of those art-house divisions were shuttered. These days, a certain type of midrange star vehicle — low budget by Hollywood standards but exponentially glossier and more expensive to make than the average film-festival indie — is being made almost chiefly by independent production companies, and premiered at film festivals in the hopes that well-funded buyers will be attracted by critical acclaim and audience “buzz.” (When studios do deign to make these kinds of movies, such as Up in the Air, they still take them to festivals in search of indie cred and awards prestige.) As the whole of the country stumbles through economic tribulation, the film industry has lost its middle class, and the film festival that this year marketed itself as the locus of a “cinematic rebellion” has become a crucial platform for the kind of film that used to be commercial. Call it a market-based irony.

(LA WEEKLY  2.5.10)

the entire article here

“THE RUNAWAYS” 2010 directed by Floria Sigismondi





blue movie…


putting the “Avatar” phenom in perspective…

doesn’t give a damn…


James Cameron broke his own record Tuesday. With a $1.86 billion haul, Avatar passed Titanic to become the highest grossing movie of all time at the box office worldwide. It’s a remarkable achievement. But before every Hollywood studio exec decides that all future movies must be in 3-D and feature blue aliens, it’s worth getting a little perspective on the film. Avatar has the advantage of showing in 3-D (which usually commands an average $3 extra per ticket) and coming out at a time when even 2-D movie tickets are more expensive than ever. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the average ticket price in 2008 was $7.18, up 56% from prices in 1997 when Titanic was in theaters. A look at domestic grosses adjusted for inflation shows a more realistic view of Avatar’s performance. In the U.S., Avatar has grossed $555 million, making it the second highest grossing domestic (as opposed to worldwide) film of all time. Titanic is temporarily still in the lead here with $600.8 million. But a chart adjusting for ticket price inflation on the Web site Box Office Mojo ranks Avatar as the 26th highest grossing film in the U.S. of all time. Gone With The Wind tops this list with a $1.5 billion adjusted gross in the U.S., while Star Wars ranks second with $1.3 billion. Cameron’s Titanic ranks sixth (just behind The Ten Commandments) with an adjusted $943 million take in the U.S. With no film on the near horizon poised to challenge Avatar’s dominance, the film is sure to continue to mint money. But it’s got a way to go to catch up with a classic like Gone With The Wind.

(FORBES  1.26.10)




part Survival Research Labs, part Pokémon — it sings, dances, it breathes f-in’ fire!!! 

“Giant Torayan” by Kenji Yanobe 2005

pushing the envelope of robot tech, Torayan operates on voice recognition software developed by the Nagoya Institute of Technology and can differentiate between adults and children — but only follows orders given by kids…



and speaking of SRL — as of 9.09 they’re back in the robot making business, so look forward to more constructed destruction…

“Inchworm” by SRL 2006

check out the Survival Research Laboratories site for more…


the 2010 OSCAR NOMS…


keeping everybody happy…



So along with the predictable passel of nominations (nine apiece) for James Cameron’s “Avatar” and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” — and I’m calling the divorce settlement here and now: Jim gets best picture; Kath gets best director — the Academy spread the love in all directions. Disney/Pixar’s “Up” was nominated for both best picture and animated feature. The family-football-Sandra Bullock vehicle “The Blind Side,” which has made a ton of money while leaving bicoastal critics in glycemic shock, also got multiple nominations. Lee Daniels’ “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” got a best-picture nod along with two major acting nominations. The exquisite British female-coming-of-age film “An Education” was nominated for best picture, in a mild surprise, alongside a fully expected best-actress nomination for its irresistible ingénue star, Carey Mulligan.

In garnering best-picture and best-director nominations for his unspellable and borderline-unwatchable World War II pastiche, Quentin Tarantino becomes this year’s winner of the Martin Scorsese Way Too Late award, handed out annually to a director whose actually worthwhile work has been largely ignored by the Academy. (Q.T. shared a screenwriting Oscar for “Pulp Fiction” in ’95.) In other news, it’s mighty peculiar that hardcore New Yorkers like Joel and Ethan Coen have become beloved figures in Hollywood, but there can no longer be any doubt. Their brilliant black-comic fable “A Serious Man” — a movie that gleefully and maliciously embraces the old cliché about being “too Jewish” for mainstream America — got a well-deserved nomination. But that surely wasn’t the big surprise among the gang of 10.

In a dinner conversation with critics last week at Sundance, we all agreed that one film among the best-picture nominees would be something nobody had expected. I remember a few possibilities mentioned: Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Pedro Almodóvar’s “Broken Embraces,” Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” But of course once we’d mentioned them, they weren’t unexpected anymore, were they? Nobody brought up “District 9,” the sci-fi action-allegory made by South African expat Neill Blomkamp under Peter Jackson’s production aegis, which became a surprise late-summer hit. (Dept. of complicated Hollywood dis: The movie made by Jackson’s little-known protégé gets an Academy nod, while Jackson’s own prestige production, “The Lovely Bones,” pointedly does not.)

This year’s acting nominations ran remarkably true to form, leaving all the favorites in place: George Clooney and Meryl Streep in the leading roles; Stanley Tucci and Christoph Waltz fighting it out for the evil-guy supporting actor prize, and Mo’Nique all by herself, vacuuming some shelf space in the den for that statuette. Yes, I can hear the grumbling from the cinephile margins: Clooney was better in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” than he was in “Up in the Air”; Penélope Cruz was way, way better in “Broken Embraces” than she was in the megaflop “Nine”; the year’s best female performance, Tilda Swinton in French director Érick Zonca’s “Julia,” was never even on the Academy’s radar. Sure, yes, I agree on all counts. But when Zonca’s movies start showing up on the Oscar telecast, winning Oscars, it won’t be on NBC or ABC or A&E or any other TV network; it’ll be Web-streamed live from the back room of a Hollywood Boulevard liquor store in the middle of the night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! That’ll be cool in kind of a different way.

(SALON.COM  2.2.10)

the full article here


Lakers 90, Celtics 89…



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