Friday, October 26, 2007

What's in your hea-ea-ead? Zombie. Zombie.

Last weekend, I took the Center for Contemporary Arts up on their free noon-time press screening offer. I'm not the film critic here, but hey, a free zombie movie is a free zombie movie. And blogging counts as "press," right?

The film was Fido, a kitschy Leave-It-To-Beaver zombie comedy. Emiliano says he didn't dig it, but he can get his ass a-bloggin' if he wants to dispute my assessment. I thought it was fantastic.

Apparently New Mexico is at the end of the movie rotation line. Fido (2006) was released on DVD on October 23 - it opens here at the Cinematheque today. But, the small screen is still far inferior to the big one, and Fido's the perfect horror film for the whole family.

Well, it's not exactly horror. Somewhere along the line, the zombie comedy became it's own sub-genre. It's no Shaun of the Dead, but I don't think it was intended to be.



The opening scene lays out the premise in a fairly authentic looking news reel: In lieu of World War II, some sort of radioactive astronomical phenomenon swung right past the earth, reanimating the dead. Thus began the Zombie Wars, which ended with a mad scientist design a collar capable of suppressing the zombie's appetite for flesh.

The film is set in a small Main Street town, where a slave class of zombies has emerged. Zombies deliver milk, deliver papers, mow lawns, walk dogs, serve mint juleps ... and no one wants to be the last family on the block to have their very own house zombie. Breadwinners will put themselves deep in the red to ensure no-return funerals for their families. It's a world where old people are considered dangerous--"When the heart stops, ZomCom start," goes the jingle for the local anti-zombie corporation--and families who keep unregistered zombies risk being exiled to the zombie wasteland outside the city's gates.

Fido is Lassie, with a zombie in place of a collie. Young Timmy's the local friendless loner, who comes to find a friend and father figure in his family's new zombie, played by the disturbingly short-haired and beardless Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Dylan Baker (the pedophile psychologist from Happiness) plays Timmy's milquetoast and largely absent Dad, while Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix's Trinity) is Timmy's sexually unfulfilled, emerging feminist mother. Tim Blake Nelson (Delmar from O Brother) also cameos as the friendly neighborhood playboy--think Quagmire from Family Guy--who keeps a buxom blond zombie instead of a blow-up doll.

The plot follows that of any boy-meets-monster flick (Iron Giant, Harry & the Hendersons), where fear is gradually replaced by trust, then love, while the monster conquers its inherently destructive nature and learns to be a member of the family. Like all great zombie films, Fido is not without it's political edge: racism, sexism, political paranoia. The positions, though, are unobtrusive; you think about it for a second, and move on.

There's more homages to 50s-era television than there is Romero-class gore. So, all in all, Fido's a lightly dark comedy, and fairly family friendly film, that is, if you're grown up, and you need a Halloween film for your faint-of-heart parents.

Monday, October 22, 2007

music and movie madness

Friday night I left the office about 4:45, ran home (literally), jumped in my car, raced to the community college and filled in, last minute, on KSFR's Cinema Talk. I've filled in on the Friday evening (from 5:25-6 pm) show a few times, but normally with a little more notice and time to prepare. I'd only happened to catch For the Bible Tells Me So, which meant I mostly listened and asked questions about the other two movies Chris Quinn (one of the show's hosts) had seen. Both Gone Baby Gone and Michael Clayton sounded interesting after the show, though neither were films I'd wanted to see before hand.

After the radio I headed down to the Mine Shaft to check out my big brother's band. In order to avoid any kind of conflict of interest we only put the show in the listings and the rest was a grassroots effort to get people out to dance. I was happy that the Pasatiempo writer Rob DeWalt gave the band some ink and hopefully it helped the turnout. The crowd for US Pipe and the Balls Johnson Dance Machine didn't seem to know what to expect at first. An 11 person funk band isn't exactly a normal New Mexico night. But eventually people started to groove. At one point two women and one man had the best dance-off I've seen in years. One of the bandmembers told me later that she was trying to watch from the stage because it was so good it was distracting. Because it was the big bro I was there for the entire show, leaving me filled up on music for the weekend.

Instead of going to the Hat Show at High Mayhem, which I really wanted to attend and throw my name in, I went to the movies on Saturday and spent the rest of the night at home. SFR's Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff and Cinena Talk's other host, John Dupuy, hit the movies at about 10 am for a preview of Fido and I joined up with them later for Gone Baby Gone and Rendition. Neither movie really got me excited, the way I'd hoped they would, but both were good in their own way. Gone was well acted, with a moral dilemma not easily solved, which left the three of us in very different places. Two of us agreed with the characters choice, the other was disgusted with first him and then us. Somehow the guys decided they hadn't had enough cinema for the day and we went to Rendition next. When I left I'd enjoyed the movie, the more it sits with me though the more I don't feel anything. Again, it was well acted, but the pregnant wife bothers me because it seemed so melodramatic and unnecessary (and maybe a little too Marianne Pearl). But if actors are going to push politics I'd rather they do it in the form of a movie, even a mediocre one, than by politicking and destroying the barrier of fantasy that I like to surround a movie star. In fact, David Denby, whose reviews I tend not to like, discusses the difference between modern and classic movie stars in a great New Yorker article, "Fallen Idols." He discusses the lack of drawing power stars now have and the line studios used to have the ability to draw between the stars and their personal lives, lives which we now are all to familiar with.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

the naked truth

I know this blog is probably more intended for Santa Fe-related arts and culture events but, let's face, it, TV is an important part of contemporary cultural life. True, we pretty much never cover TV in SFR (because we're not big or important enough to get TV screeners), but I gotta believe we've got readers who, like myself, occasionally watch the old idiot box.
As a general rule, I don't have any shows that I make a point of watching when they air, but I do have cable and Comcast recently rolled out On Demand, which means I can catch up on things that are out there in the zeitgist and see what the hoopla is all about.
So I did: I checked out HBO's latest, Tell Me You Love Me and I am now scarred for life. The show follows three screwed up couples as they live their screwed-up lives, talk about their screwed-up lives in therapy and screw. All the couples are white and some variation of middle class and are, in my opinion, mind-bogglingly awful. They are not particularly smart, or interesting, or funny. The youngest couple are, at least, attractive. The sex is graphic, but not in a porn way, more like if you happened to walk in on real people who are not fat having sex. The show also includes a storyline involving the therapist, Jane Alexander, who has her own personal issues. And who also has lots of sex with her husband. Which they show. Now, I realize it reflects poorly on me that I don't really want to see senior citizens having sex, but you know what? I don't think anyone else does either. And yes, when I am a senior citizen, I hope I am still having sex, but I will not be insulted if no one wants to see it.
The way in which they show is directed, cinematically and otherwise, is with a sense of reality TV thrown in. These are not well-known actors, they look a bit like regular people, nothing very dramatic ever happens. Often the couples just sit around not liking one another very much, eating meals, not saying what they are thinking. It's excruciating and mind-bogglingly boring. It's crazy that this is a TV show and even weirder that I'm watching it ("What will happen next? Will she go to the bathroom?). I doubt the show will survive past a season because all it really proves is that, no, fact is not stranger than fiction. Watching uninteresting people have uninteresting problems and hump one another is neither enjoyable nor interesting. But I guess it is new.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Terr-ibly

Jim Terr, writer, actor, filmmaker, cybersquatter and a Winner this week, stopped by the office today to say hi and remind me to watch the Bush-visits-Iran spoof up on YouTube. I can't recommend it--it's kinda awful--but I can post it for you to form your own conclusions.

Double Feat

Cross-posted from Maassive.com

It’s not uncommon for me to see two movies over the weekend. It is however unusual for either of the films to be any good. This weekend was especially unusual in that on both occasions I left the theater struck numb with satisfaction.

On Saturday afternoon, it was Michael Clayton, a legal thriller that scored a whopping 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m a big fan of Clooney, but I’m not always a big fan of “directorial debuts” by screenwriters, even if they’re somewhat notable. In this case, it’s Tony Gilroy, writer of the Bourne Trilogy. However, when you’ve got Steven Soderbergh, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella producing the film, you know the shit’s been vetted. Plus, Robert Elswit directed the photography, and looking at his IMDB page I realize he may indeed be my favorite cinematographer ever: Syriana, Magnolia, Goodnight & Goodluck. I think it’s safe to say the film was probably designed to net the three stars, Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson each an Oscar nomination. That usually bugs me, but in this case, they’re all three overdue. Anyway, the film was brilliant, and I wish reviewers would take note that the term “gripping” should only be applied to films of this caliber.

Tonight, I hauled ass to the Cinematheque at the Center for the Contemporary Arts to catch the single Sunday screening of Chronicle of an Escape, or, in its native Spanish, Cronica de una fuga. One of my favorite films of all time is Four Days in September, which I frequently use (along with Battle of Algiers) to illustrate the thin grey line between terrorists and freedom fighters. Set in Argentina during the junta, Four Days follows a group of students who kidnap the American ambassador, because, by their rationale, only by holding an important foreigner hostage will they succeed in getting their message aired on television and securing the release of several political prisoners. Chronicle of an Escape is the perfect companion film. I hope they package the two as a box set.

The films follow a minding-his-own-business Argentinian soccer player who is erroneously fingered as a member of a revolutionary guerrilla group. Secret police kidnap him and throw him into a boarded up mansion, where he and more than a dozen other young men are tortured, starved, and prepared for execution. The film was obviously working with a smaller budget than Four Days , and perhaps the characters weren’t as well developed. That was to be expected. When your set is a bare room with rotten beds, production values don’t tend to soar. And when your characters spend the bulk of the movie cowering in corners and wearing blindfolds, well, that’s part of the dehumanization of torture, isn’t it? But really, the interesting thing is that both films revolve around kidnappings and blindfolds, on opposite sides of Argentina’s political war. Which is justified, which is not? That’s the thin grey line.

Monday, October 15, 2007

something for everyone

Saturday night's "Level" party, part of Design Week, did that thing that too many Santa Fe institutions try to do: please everyone, and end up pleasing no one.

Sure the party was fun, but that fun came from spending time with friends, not the bands or activities. Outside was a mini-skateboard park that provided the "family friendly" atmosphere, and probably a lot of bruises later when drunk 20-somethings who hadn't been on a board in some 10 years decided to try out the half-pipe.

Inside was a smattering of bands whose most obvious connection was that they knew the event planners. When I first showed up a man in rainbow tie dyed pants and light up fairy wings played the guitar while a woman sat on the floor with a wooden xylophone. He later played in a band with the DJ from Terra-ist Sound System, who was the second act I caught (I left for awhile to grab some dinner). Lady Processor sang with the System, then with Miss Ginger. The rotating musicians gave off the impression that whoever had the booking decision found their friends and their friends and had them play. Despite these connections the music didn't have much consistency or flow and wasn't really what anyone group of people wanted to see.

Advertisements for the party said 8-?, but failed to mention that alcohol sales would be shut down promptly at 11 pm. I'm not even sure that the people who showed up after than knew alcohol had ever been served, but it all worked out, because many people brought their own. Around midnight the evenings host got on stage and began telling everyone to pour out their drinks or they'd be shut down, calling the police "pigs" and creating an odd and out of place spectacle. Why a party that was (supposedly) permitted to last until sunrise would be in danger of being shut down was unclear. There was no sign of police, but everyone complied and tried to continue. Chispa, a local electronic DJ and artist, set up and rumors began to fly that he was it, that the party was over, through three more DJs (Walker, Carlisle McQueen and Feathericci) had hauled equipment to the space. A few ideas about where to continue were thrown around and eventually the DJs and a few of their friends ended up in a garage near Owl's Liquor. Ironically, just as Design Week's Luna space was covered with art, so was the last minute after party. The garage was offered up by a local artist and the intimate and decorated room was organically the feel that Design Week organizers tried to replicate, without much luck, in the warehouse. In the garage someone ended up wearing a piece of the art--a giant swirl that resembled a 9--and others danced with a dragon-like figure that hung from the ceiling. At the warehouse someone made out on one of the beds and a few people watched the videos, but mostly the art was ignored, as well as poorly labeled, giving the artists almost no recognition for their hard work.

The after party offered a good example of how a reproduction of the organic can just ooze contrivance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Trainspotted



Props to Aran Donovan in our classified-ad department for inviting me out to the unTRAINed opening on Friday night at the ... err ... how do I describe where it was held? OK, I think I've got it. You know SITE Santa Fe, that art space lauded last month in the NY Times? Well, let's imagine that one of the installations caught on fire a la Charles Saatchi and you, the patron-peruser, had to make a mad dash for the back exit (I say back, because, really, if you ran out the front, you'd run face first into that awesome white-pole installation). So, keep imagining with me ... You run out the back door ... and smack into a box car and a luxury train car. That, friends, was the place to be Friday night. Or at least it was the place I was, and I wouldn't have been anywhere else. Same goes for Emiliano and Co., though it looks like I beat him to the blog.

According to Aran, who is on the inside track, so to speak, on all things Railyard-related, a few artistically inclined kids, some, I understand, being graduates of College of Santa Fe, cleaned out and refurbished an old box car, and turned it into an art space. And for openings, they roll over the luxury liner for drinks 'n' musical performance.

I didn't catch the names of the artists on exhibition on Friday. And for that there's no excuse, only an explanation: I didn't have my notepad with me and when I came through, their generator wasn't working and so it was pretty dark. I suppose I could've taken a camera-phone snap of the name card, but I didn't. (If you know their names, email me at davem @ sfreporter.com and I'll update this post).



There were two artists on display (Aran was a bit disappointed that her wood-cutting friend wasn't one of them), with two very different styles. On the top-top, you see an example of the book-based conceptual sculptures -- very Fluxus if you ask me, but what do I know, I'm a news writer. I really get a kick out of art that plays with words; the image top-top isn't really clear, but that's a book called "Passages in Modern Sculpture." The artist has cut holes right through the middle, and looped through long paper ribbons of test. Very clever, especially the very appropriate Post-It note amending the title to read "Passage in Post-Modern Sculpture." On the other side of the gallery space there was a huge hollowed out dictionary, where the artist had meticulous left hanging single words, like "one" and "light" in a sort of tiered poetry. That was the most impressive, in my opinion, but it was too dark on that side to photograph.

The image on the top-bottom is a close-up of one of the paintings on the other side of the train car. I have mixed feelings about that display. I do like paintings that are so heavily painted that there's a topography of texture, and in this case it did kind of fit with their tribal themes. At first I thought there were too many damn paintings on the wall, as if the artist thought this would be his/her only show this year and had to show everything. Reflecting back, though, this too was fitting, because combined with the unintentional darkness, it created the impression of walking through a dark rainforest shaded by a jungle canopy. It was a nice effect, but I can't say I was as as impressed as I was with the book art.



After about 15 minutes in the dark box car, Aran and I migrated over to the luxury car for beer. Emiliano and his crew turned up and shared the top level of the double-decker, a greenhouse like observation room with comfy, swively chairs. It was one of the best post-opening cocktail hours I've ever experienced.

I'm not sure how often unTRAINed will put on these events, but I wouldn't mind if it was a twice-monthly even. Hell, if they installed an espresso machine and a Wifi router, I can imagine hanging out with a book and laptop a few afternoons a week.

So, in conclusion: Kudos, Props, Thumbs up, High fives and knuckle knocks. This is why I'm falling in love with Santa Fe.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tie Dye Sigh

First, a warning: This post may not be as "safe" as the subheader promises, at least for artist Julia Gil.

Today, I indulged a post-deadline Frappuccino craving. Java Chip, Grande, if you must know. While I waited, I glanced across the wall art, in particular this oil painting:



It's maybe a bit shorter than my arm-span, and perhaps a foot tall. I subscribe to the Susan Sontag school of against-interpretation (at least when it's convenient), but to me it looked like either: a) psychedelic camouflage, b) the topography of Jupiter, if it had vegetation, or, c) peacock roadkill. So I stepped closer to see the title:




Spring under water? OK, that makes sense, I guess. But what about the $1,200 price tag? It's not as if it's hanging in an actual gallery ... this is Starbucks, and begs the question: Is 468 square-inches of oil-painted tie-dye really worth 290 grande Java-Chip frappuccinos?

So, who is this painter, Julia Gil?

According to the Convergence Gallery:

A native of Spain, Julia Gil has made her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico for many years. She studied Fine Arts in Spain and England; in the United States, she has studied numerous healing arts, including polarity therapy, massage therapy, and Native American spiritual traditions. A true "Renaissance woman," she has taught workshops and courses in Art and creativity, Healing, Meditation, Polarity Yoga, and Energetic Integration. Julia's paintings have been exhibited widely in her native Spain, including shows in Las Palmas, El Corte Ingles, and Maspalomas.

Nothing there I can identify to make the painting worth as much as Ascaso Dream Versatile espresso machine and 23 pounds of Kona Blend. Does it come with a massage? Sorry to rant about overpriced art. It's a tired, tired blog topic, especially in Santa Fe, where a friggin' frito pie can run you $8.50. Still, it's gotta be said: offer me $400, and I'll stretch a hippy shirt over a frame for you and sign it Marcel Du-chump.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rebus, It's a Rebus!

Last night, after a talk at CSF by former Army interrogator (and Johnnie) Tony Lagouranis I extended my already long Thursday to include a quick show by The Gowns at High Mayhem.

I wasn't going to go to the show, but I ran into Carlos Santistevan at The Candyman and he convinced me and my boyfriend that it would be good.

Lagouranis' lecture was interesting, though for such a controversial figure it was odd that no one opposed him. There were a few people who seemed more interested in their own politics than in paying attention to someone else's experience, but that's to be expected, I suppose. The more I thought about it the more I wondered what the fall back from the military has been on Lagouranis, who discusses the torture techniques that have been used in the past. I'd imagine that someone who was authorized to gather intelligence had to have some kind of secret clearance, and it would seem that clearance would continue after discharge, and cover the intelligence itself. Though it may and because they assumed that the techniques being used were legal there was no reason to classify them.

After the talk it was over to High Mayhem. The Gowns are an Oakland band who did what seems to be so hard for bands to do: They incorporated two lead singers, both of whom were good. So often I hear music and love one singer and wish the other would just stop. But the male and female vocalists for the band were both great and contributing pieces that the other wouldn't have been able to touch. Plus, they both kicked ass in very different ways. She with a slit in her skirt all the way up the back, which takes guts, and a stance (and hairdo) like Thurston Moore while she played the guitar. The other singer looked like a mad scientist at his switches and knobs, looking even cooler when he was done playing, hobbling along on crutches! The band was tight and had a very noise/pop sound that few do as well. While the drummer and bassist weren't compelling to watch they added sounds that gave the music depth.

During the after show cigarette, while Rio en Medio set up, I ended up in a discussion with Damon and Sabrina of Bull Seal and Mike Rowland of The Late Severa Wires about pictogram puzzles and what they're called. I must say, even though we didn't know, we have a pretty damn good vocabulary. Rhombus? Nope, that's got to do with geometry. Ouroboros. Not that either; that's the snake that eats it's own tale. Several people walked up, we asked them, they didn't know, and probably thought, "Geeks!" We never came up with it. But the conversation melded to psychedelic drug use, mental illness and, of course, sexual innuendo in Shakespearian theater. So yeah, I kinda missed the second act. But sometimes great conversation is as good as great music!

And for all you puzzlers, a fun rebus resource.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Undercover



Impressed by the illustration for this week's cover story, "Hosed!" by David Alire Garcia? Then check out the story behind it at illustrator Dale Stephanos' blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

it's a man's world

Sunday afternoon at the Cowgirl DJ Melanie Moore set up the final DJ/Women's World Cup battle. DJs represented different countries in the tournament and took turns on the decks. In theory the game would play inside while music filled the patio. But at 5 pm, when the broadcast was to begin, Moore frantically flipped through ESPN stations, trying to figure out what happened. ESPN2, which was supposed to broadcast the game showed cars flying around an oval track. After a few minutes the ticker at the bottom of the screen announced that the rebroadcast of the game would follow NASCAR.

Totally lame.

Sure, the game had already happened and the people who wanted to watch it already knew who won, but it sucks. With all the ESPN channels out there it's too bad that they couldn't hold up their programming and play the game somewhere.

The music was great though and went along with the great weather. There were girl and boy DJs in the showdown but it seemed fitting that Miss Ginger and McQueen were left for the final game, even if no one got to see it.

So, nice work ladies, and here's to hoping that someday, in addition to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN U, ESPN Deportes, ESPN 360, ESPN News and the two HD channels, a new channel called FEM-SPN will exist, featuring sports (not just cheerleading competions--something ESPN has acknowledged for years) gives Title IX some much deserved respect.