Eight Years Can Be a Long Time

November 15th, 2008 § 0 comments

W. is a difficult movie to get a hold on as it slides back and forth between fiction and reality, and realities that seem like fictions. Unlike JFK or Nixon, Stone’s latest political biography is strangely more biographical and less political than expected. The film comes across as an “oddly sympathetic” portrait of a sad man caught in a sad life that he is sadly still enacting. While it is clear than Stone, echoing a current 24% approval rating, is disgusted with Bush, he grossly underestimates the cunning, calculation, and sly tactics of our commander-in-chief.

bush sr & jr

The most frightening and problematic aspects of the film deal with time and timing. Though the conversations, motivations, and chain of events in the film are (somewhat) speculative, it is hard to separate actors in excellent “political drag” from the administration currently running our crumpling country. While we may have become resigned to what GW has already done, it is horrible to imagine while watching the film’s portrayal, what he is currently still doing. The questions of historical distance surrounding the film are awkward at best. Speculating on what else might happen between now and January of next year could drastically change how this man is perceived—an impeachment, perhaps? It is also too soon to contemplate the full consequences of what has been done, the administrations policies grasp on the future is too firm. If Stone wanted to call awareness to the man it seems he could have done it before the vast majority of the country was consumed by a buring desire to have him removed from office, and if he wants to offer us an insightful glimpse into GW’s deranged soul, it seems he should have waited. The film still has it merits, it is Stone after all, but it is uncharacteristically unpersuasive.

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A Healthy Dose of Cleverness

November 13th, 2008 § 1 comment

Around Penn Station I hesitated at a stoplight, despite the walk signal, because of a man handing out newspapers. This itself did not strike me as strange, as “free” papers are shoved daily into the outstretched hands of a mass of workers heading toward various offices. The man handing out this particular paper, however, was different: why had I never seen him before? a free New York Times? a young, Columbia-like student handing out papers? breaking news that did not make the press? I almost continued on my way, hesitated, stepped back, and reached out to take a paper. The way he handed it to me, carefully folding it in half, suggested it was an item of significance, and this too struck me as strange. Who still carefully fondles a newspaper most of us read online? It is safe to assume I read too much into the way people handle and view objects, the chances of this being like any other “promotional paper” were much higher than it being different, but in this case I was lucky in being correct.

iraq war

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Hysterical Encounters III

November 6th, 2008 § 2 comments

(after the election)

At the conclusion of a long campaign that gracefully skirted around the issue of race, it was amusing to see what a central tropic it became on election night. News coverage on the 5th took calls from african americans living all over new york city, most of whom talked about previous resentments such as the gentrification of their neighborhoods, and concluded by saying that the election had changed most of their anger into something more hopeful. While it was a “historic” night for our country, it is clear that the president-elect was not made such by minorities alone, and Obama’s election, perhaps because of the pressing issues of the American pocketbook, did appear to transcend race—his “landslide” victory (364 votes) proves that. Getting lunch at the local deli yesterday, pictures of Barack had been cut from various newspapers and taped to the fronts of cash registers, and the conversation of various couples over lunch revolved around the previous night. A group of african american girls were teasing a young man who said he cried, “well it might be the only time I get to see that happen…” The general mood of new york, and elsewhere I am sure, is one of excitement. There is so much energy in the air of this city already that the election outcome seems to have added a new frequency, a higher pitch, to the crowded streets.

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Redrawing Maps

November 5th, 2008 § 2 comments

us map

I am proud of all my states today, all four.

Pallet-Knifed Ambition

October 29th, 2008 § 0 comments

“We love our children, and we long for the children we used to be.”

marla olmstead

Though My Kid Could Paint That (2007) is a documentary that follows the story of a little girl, Marla, who became an art world darling in 2004 when she was four-years-old, I would venture to say this film has little to do with children or art. The main themes deal instead with parents, their children, talent, and society’s encouragement for the former to exploit the latter two. Marla alone, the painter and artist in the film, emerges with her integrity—she is protected from her own grubby story by her innocence, childhood, and her strong refusal to be a pawn in adult games. Do you want to talk about your paintings? NO. Do you like riding in limos? SILENCE. It is not really clear if Marla’s mother Laura knew or not that her husband helped her daughter paint, though it seems she didn’t in the beginning and gathered as much in the end. The director, Mr. Bar-Lev, states that he saw his documentary as a film about “modern art,” though in the end he saw it more as an exploitive disaster he had not intended to make; however lovingly he edited his footage of the Olmstead family, he leaves little doubt that this child did not paint those paintings. As A.O. Scott states of the director, “he has made an excellent documentary, but it would have been better if he had not made it at all.”

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