Here Today Gone

Friday, 29 December 2006

I’ve been in Cleveland less than 48 hours and I’m head­ing off for a New Year’s in Canada. Eventually I’ll have a cou­ple of reg­u­lar weeks to es­tab­lish some sort of rou­tine, but un­til then it is party time, ex­cel­lent.

Christmas Unwrapped

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Well, I’m back in Cleveland af­ter a few days in Indiana. Three Christmas gifts I’m ex­cited about in­clude my new sweet-ass pots and pans set, my iron­ing board, and my sub­scrip­tion to Paste [it comes with a comp CD every month!]

The top Christmas mo­ment was on Boxing Day when I came into the fam­ily room dur­ing the af­ter­noon to find my mom, my aunt and my un­cle all fast asleep and Matlock on the tele­vi­sion.

Oh yeah, in honor of James Brown’s pass­ing here’s a short film called Beat the Devil star­ring him and di­rected by Tony Scott. About the only place you’re go­ing to find this film is on YouTube un­less you man­age to stum­ble across one of the lim­ited re­lease BMW Films DVDs. The rest of the DVD is good too, all shorts by great di­rec­tors.


Sunday, 24 December 2006

A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #252: John Cassavetes’ Faces.


I think, maybe, that the cor­rect re­ac­tion [at least in terms of the re­ac­tion Cassavetes was aim­ing for] to Faces is sup­posed to be loathing. It is a long, tor­tur­ous jour­ney through the dark­est parts of mar­ried adult life, and there are no re­deem­ing qual­i­ties to any of the char­ac­ters that I can see. Granted, there is per­se­ver­ance and forth­right­ness, but it only serves to feed the de­struc­tive paths all the char­ac­ters tread.


There is a ba­sic ten­dency in chem­istry that liq­uids and gases flow from ar­eas of higher den­sity to lower den­sity; hypo- to hy­per-. This ten­dency holds true in Faces as well, but with the ad­di­tion of hu­man in­stinct and in­tent; a dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion. Dickie, Louise, Chet, Jeannie, every­one feels emp­tied of mean­ing or ful­fill­ment, yearn­ing for the days of their youth, or the golden years the never ex­isted. Florence is prob­a­bly the best ex­am­ple of this in the film; old, dumpy and des­per­ate, she throws her­self at Chet and begs to be kissed, any­thing to feel a bit alive again.


The forced, rau­cous laugh­ter, the end­less drink­ing and smok­ing, the chiaroscuro light­ing and stac­cato im­pro­vi­sa­tional di­a­logue ef­fec­tively force the viewer to face their in­ner dis­af­fec­ta­tion while the char­ac­ters on­screen con­tin­u­ally man­age to avoid this very con­fronta­tion. My mother watched most of this with me, and she talked about how tragic every­one seemed. She didn’t know which would be worse, whether Dickie and Maria split apart or stuck it out to­gether in the end. She ex­pected a sui­cide, but made no men­tion of mur­der, so while she didn’t state it ex­plic­itly, I think she caught on to the fact that every­one is far too self-cen­tered-ob­sessed to con­sider harm­ing any­thing other than them­selves.


So while I still never re­ally want to see Faces again, I guess I have a re­spect for it now. It is a pas­sion play with no pulled punches, frank and un­com­pro­mis­ing. True to Cassavetes’ form there is lit­tle flash and glit­ter, only true to life ex­pe­ri­ences, most of which, in this film, deal with the seamier side of things.


Criterion Essay by Stuart Klawans.
Ron Carney on Faces.
Strictly Film School re­view.
• Senses of Cinema ar­ti­cle.
• A few sce­nes from Faces on YouTube 1, 2, 3.

That Guy

Friday, 22 December 2006

I did a cheap hack of this YouTube WordPress plugin to make it func­tion like a sub­scrip­tion to my vid feed. I’m sure there is a bet­ter way to hack it, but un­til I have a chance to sit down and ex­am­ine it, the re­sult on the side­bar will have to do. I’m cur­rently re­design­ing from scratch, but the in­tended fi­nal de­sign won’t be much dif­fer­ent from what it is cur­rently. I’m ex­per­i­ment­ing with meet­ing 508 stan­dards and mak­ing the site read­able on hand­held de­vices in ad­di­tion to val­i­dat­ing as strict XHTML. I think I’m be­com­ing one of those web de­sign­ers…


Thursday, 21 December 2006

A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #251: John Cassavetes’ Shadows.


I said I was dread­ing the Cassavetes films that I was go­ing to have to watch as a part of my some­what manic de­ter­mi­na­tion to watch all of the films in the Criterion Collection, so, of course, I or­dered the two I’ve al­ready seen from the li­brary. I must ad­mit that I don’t hate Shadows any­more, maybe in the 6 years since last I saw it, I’ve grown to un­der­stand it bet­ter, or I have more ex­pe­ri­ence with which to rub it against; whichever, I now like this movie. I still fully ex­pect to still hate Faces when I watch it later tonight though.


Shadows, like most of Cassavetes films is an im­pro­vi­sa­tion. This is re­mark­able, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the qual­ity of the per­for­mances. What is also re­mark­able was the price tag, a fea­ture length film made for $40,000, shot mainly on lo­ca­tion in Manhattan, and some­thing that, by today’s stan­dards, seems much more real than re­al­ity tele­vi­sion. There isn’t truly a plot, but there is a large event that the lives of the char­ac­ters or­bit. The three main char­ac­ters are Ben, Lelia and Hugh, broth­ers and a sis­ter, black or mixed, lov­ing each other though fight­ing of­ten. Lelia and Ben could and can pass as white in most in­stances and for the viewer this is even more the case, since Cassavetes’ choice of high con­trast cin­e­matog­ra­phy height­ens this ap­pear­ance. Hugh’s back­ground is read­ily ap­par­ent how­ever. Ben is a jazz trum­pet player and Hugh a jazz singer.

Lelia is a doe-eyed beauty and all kinds of men are af­ter her. She is deftly ma­nip­u­lated into los­ing her vir­gin­ity to this guy named Tony who, when he meets her dark-skinned brother and finds out she’s not Whitey, gets a lit­tle nau­se­ated and bails like a bucket. Lelia’s bereft and de­pressed and look­ing to avenge her­self on some dude as a re­sult of the bad sex. Ben and Hugh, in ad­di­tion to do­ing their own thing, try to make her feel bet­ter.


I feel sorry for Hugh, he’s strug­gling as a singer but is the only one to bring in any money for the fam­ily. Bennie stays out all night and in all day, and his en­tire com­port­ment is a mix be­tween mis­an­thropy and self-con­scious­ness. He never plays his trum­pet on-screen, but he prob­a­bly bends that thing around his soul. Lelia spends all day hang­ing out with suit­ors or mop­ing. I’m kind of mak­ing her out to be a rather un­sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, but she’s not. Her ac­tions in film-time cen­ter around a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, but it is ob­vi­ous from her man­ner of re­cov­ery that she is as strong as the bond be­tween the fam­ily un­der­neath.


All of the char­ac­ters are fight­ing for some­thing. Lelia to re­gain her bal­ance af­ter her in­no­cence is de­stroyed, Bennie to come to grips with his place in a world he doesn’t like, and Hugh to re­claim a dream that has slipped from his grasp. Their strug­gles ring true, in dy­namic coun­ter­point to the soul­less dis­cus­sions about Sartre and ex­is­ten­tial­ism that take place at a “lit­er­ary party” in the first third of the film. In the end Cassavetes has cre­ated a pol­y­se­mous snap­shot of speci­fic peo­ple with speci­fic trou­bles and made their lives ap­plic­a­ble, un­der­stand­able and real to those that watch it. I fig­ure that’s a pretty good ac­com­plish­ment with only $40,000 to work with.


Criterion Essay by Gary Giddins
Excerpts from Cassavetes on Cassavetes on the mak­ing of Shadows.
More Ray Carney on Cassavetes and Shadows.
• Dan Schneider re­view of the film.
A min­ute of footage from the be­gin­ning of the film on YouTube.

Work [out]

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

I signed up for a mem­ber­ship at the gym two blocks from my work­place yes­ter­day and got up at 5:30am this morn­ing and rode the 23 in for my first work­out. I feel like I’m in the worst shape of my life, and I likely am, so I made sure to take it easy. There is a room where they have group ex­er­cise, but as none of the classes are sched­uled un­til 8 or so, I have it all to my­self for some ba­sic cal­is­then­ics and happy-joy fenc­ing foot­work. I did that for about twenty min­utes, had a good long stretch and then ran for a half hour on the tread­mill and watched some dude stab an in­flat­able snow­man on tele­vi­sion. A set of crunches later and I hit the show­ers: with­out a towel. [This over­sight will be reme­died to­mor­row.] There is also a room at Fitworks [warn­ing: noise] where they show movies, a sort of tread­mill cine­plex, where peo­ple can run in the dark and zone out. They were show­ing Christmas at the Kranks yes­ter­day. I won­der if I can con­vince them to play Criterion films… 

One block from work is a CVS, where I imag­ine I’ll be get­ting my post-work­out break­fasts. I bought some yo­gurt and gra­nola bars to­day. Riding the gym, in the dark, on the bus, lis­ten­ing to Orion by Metallica, I felt like I was hav­ing a real-life train­ing mon­tage.

The city steams on win­ter morn­ings
like a spent horse
buses squall
in the dark

lock­ers hold ties
and work boots

heart pumps legs
pump heat hunts for

pow­er­ing this
restive beast called Cleveland.

Video Post

Monday, 18 December 2006

I’ve been uti­liz­ing YouTube more of­ten lately. I took some video at Poetry at the Lit the other night and be­low is a vid I took of The Ex at the Grog Shop on Saturday.

You can watch all of my vids here. I just need to find a YouTube ver­sion of the Flickr RSS plugin for WordPress.