Monday, March 07, 2005

Busy last weekend highlights (delivered late!)

Oscar broadcast: Chris Rock was tame but still better than the fogies who generally clutter up the stage; biggest misfire when he identified Selma Hayek and Penelope Cruz as "four presenters." (An extended interview piece where he asked theatergoers at Magic Johnson's megaplex in South Central what their favorite films from 2004 was better.)

Best civilian gown went to costume design rockstar Sandy Powell (Orlando, Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, et alia); best movie star was the luminous Kirsten Dunst, with nice dresses from Miss Hayek as well as Cate Blanchett (nice summation of the "State of the Red Carpet" from from Julia Turner at Slate).


  • Ray Johnson: Correspondences is a catalogue (Flammarion, 1999) and an exhibition edited/organized by Wexner curator Donna DeSalvo. Good selection of the artist's works and generally smart essays (although there seems to be a blind spot or lack of discussion on his troubled psyche). Available for $10 at Daedelus.

  • Peter Blake (Tate, 2003): A delightful monograph. His most famous work doesn't hint at his industriousness or importance; I didn't even know the designer of SPLHCB was a fine artist! Blake's unusual trajectory provides a great primer on the distinctions between British and American pop. (Also available at Daedalus.)

  • Gabriel Josipovici's On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion (Yale University Press, 1999): this surprisingly accessible book links the onset of suspicion of the arts with the rise of the individual; by pursuing the history of this idea, Josipovici finds both the roots of the affliction and its salve in the great works of the West. "The problem", the author says, "is how to keep suspicion from turning into cynicism and trust from turning into facileness."

Movies: In descending order of ludicrousness,

  • Only After Hours, Martin Scorcese's 1985 dark comedy, redeemed the weekend's video event. Its sheer eighties goodness has aged a little, but leads Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette, plus a terrific supporting cast--especially Teri Garr and John Heard--carry the day.

  • The Day of the Jackal (Zinnemann, 1973): smart but dated, James Bond without the pyrotechnics; watchable if a bit on the dull side.

  • I'm a big fan of Hard Day's Night, so The Knack... and How to Get It (Richard Lester, 1965) was a bit of a disappointment. There are some brilliant moments--the opening scene is particularly good and striking, with dozens of mod, blonde-be-wigged maidens queuing on the stairs for the film's Lothario--but, ultimately, HDN is a more enduring document of swinging London.

  • Twin Falls Idaho (Polish, 1999) wants to be an out-there David Lynch film, but it's tedious and poorly acted. Stay away.

  • I'm happy to report that, in defiance of last week's fears, Underworld (Wiseman, 2003) had no additional voiceovers. But it was even more unwatchable than I'd imagined, not being able to muster the interest in following the impenetrable vampire-werewolf rules of engagement. Terrible, even with Kate Beckinsale.


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