Friday, December 19, 2014


In response to critics of my last post (suggesting Sony should have released the film for free on the Internet) who think the comedy film that was pulled should never be seen because it might incite someone to actually attempt to assassinate the North Korean dictator...I said in a comment that by that logic there should be no cartoons of Muhammed and we all should fight back against those who have declared war on Xmas and et.endlessly cetera...I don't like most violent flicks and I think there's way too much violence in way too many of them...and I don't think violence is the answer to almost any question...but I support the attempts to assassinate Hitler and wish they had succeeded and if someone got the idea from a movie to assassinate him I wouldn't have objected....but if we're talking media that moves people to violence there have been assassinations committed by people influenced by Fox News and other rightwing propaganda outlets, and attempts on our president's life. I don't hear any liberals calling for Fox News and Rush and others to be censored or taken off the air forever etc. [well, maybe calls for the latter]...but in the case of a dictator responsible for the torture and death of hundreds of thousands etc. we don't want to show a movie that might incite someone to assassinate him? I said, a dumb idea to have green lighted but I still say release it online for free so everyone can see and other evil characters won't think that all they have to do now is threaten to hack networks or bomb theaters or etc. and people will back down...not a good precedent at all...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


If I were running Sony, when I learned AMC and other theater chains were refusing to carry the movie, instead of saying we'd never release it, I'd let the world know we were releasing it free for streaming on the Internet. (I know I know people would be afraid if they downloaded it they'd be hacked by the same flunkies that hacked Sony, but a lot of people would do it anyway and eventually enough would that they'd have to shut down the worldwide web to prevent people from seeing it...but as it is Sony, for now, and the theater chains, just surrendered to a third rate dictator's chump demands....)

Monday, December 15, 2014


I didn't feel up to making it to this on Saturday, but sure would have like to have been there, and happy that many friends were.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I wasn't sure I wanted to watch this HBO documentary about Susan Sontag. I did a reading back in the 1990s in New York with her, David Mamet and Ian Frazier, and I didn't find her very nice to be around. But I decided to watch the beginning of REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG and see if it was a snow job or if it was an honest appraisal.

And pretty much in the opening moments, people she was close to—ex-lovers, her sister, close friends—were voicing on camera some of the criticisms I had, so I knew it wasn't going to be a whitewash and watched the whole documentary.

Sontag, in my experience, was one of those people who are always looking over their shoulders to see if someone more important or more interesting (at least to them) is around while they pretend to be talking to you. And in fact, while in conversation with me before the reading, she spied Mamet over my shoulder and just walked away with no explanation or apology to grab him and whisper conspirationally. 

Like many in the 1960s, I had a crush on her and read everything she wrote back then, and through the two decades that followed. But I often ended up disappointed. My take was that she didn't seem able to recognize intelligence unless it was packaged in fame or reputation, or she had been first to recognize it. 

Though I did appreciate her attempts in her nonfiction to clarify ideas not many were expressing at that moment in a way a general audience could comprehend, her novels were a slog. She did seem to challenge herself, and her diaries and some other writing, and much of this documentary, show that, as well as reveal her disappointment in her not achieving the kind of artistic immortality she grew up yearning for.

I actually can identify with a lot of her insecurities and self-obsession and ambitions, so I'm not being critical in a holier-than-thou attitude, just disappointed that she often buried personal honesty in language meant to be profound and impress rather than just humbly express. I know there are those who disagree (I felt and still feel the same way about Norman Mailer's writing, and several others held up as somehow intellectually or creatively superior to most even though I find them nowhere near as good as so many who have been overlooked or judged not as good as them).

In the end, except for a few attempts to find correlations to her words in film imagery that ended up being overly precious or obvious, REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG is worth watching for the cultural history so central to it and for the revelations of the struggles of a determined woman to surpass the world's expectations.

The last line of hers they quote in the movie is, for my taste, a great example of the best of Sontag's writing and capacity for profound intellectual expression, that I wish she had done more of:

"Death is the opposite of everything."   

Friday, December 12, 2014


If you're anywhere near Manhattan between now and January 10th, drop by Tibor de Nagy Gallery (724 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor) and see the show Rudy Burckhardt Subterranean Moments: A Centenary Celebration.  It includes some of Rudy's photographs and short films, the art he was most famous for, but also paintings and more.

"Subterranean Moments" is a perfect title for this show, as it doesn't so much emphasize his most iconic photographs or short films, but rather captures what I always felt and still feel is the most impactful aspect of Rudy's art: its unpretentiousness.

Yes, it was "underground" in the sense of "indie" or "Alternative" culture etc. but more importantly it was grounded in exposing the layers of social and cultural interactions from top to bottom, or vice versa: photos and paintings of manhole covers, film of Manhattan's streets and walking feet or building tops against the sky making abstract patterns.

His art seems to me to always be about the contrast of shapes and light and surfaces and movement: i.e. juxtapositions often seemingly banal, yet take your time to visit with an image or a few minutes of film or a painting and something more subtle and poignant begins to emerge, as in how incredibly present the images, in whatever form, become, despite their obvious datedness. Rudy always had the capacity to transmit the viewer back into the time the image was made, or discovered or commented on, through a photo or film or painting.

It's also fun to spend time with a photograph of an urban landscape or one small piece of it and then spend time with a painting Rudy did based on that image. His technique often seems almost amateurish, in the sense of snapshots vs. art photographs or raw figurative depictions vs. artistic statements etc. but that's his grace, to always be the beholder rather than the explainer or glorifier.

All Rudy's work seems to say: I was here and this is what I saw, or how I saw it. Sit and watch the few short films in a small room off the main show and you will see what seems like raw footage of Manhattan scenes from earlier eras that look like deteriorating home movies shown through a bad projector, but if you stay and watch for a while, what begins to emerge is the beauty of the shapes and silhouettes and neon at night et. al.  It's a rough beauty, a mostly urban beauty, and it is in the eye of the beholder: Rudy's. I am grateful he took the pains to find the means of sharing it.