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August 9, 2009

Do it For the Children

Among God's Children (L-R): Rich, David, Dianne and John Darr (Photo: Good Hard Working People)

I'll offer no excuses for my prolonged absence here (oh, OK: I'm a little busy elsewhere), but rather a heads-up about a few nifty events you might be interested in over the next couple nights. First up on Monday, I'm grilling Bobcat Goldthwait at the Apple Store SoHo; we'll be discussing his very good, very funny, very disturbing new film World's Greatest Dad. That's at 7:30 p.m.; please do stop by, ask a few questions and say hello.

Meanwhile on Tuesday at Tribeca Cinemas, Luci Westphal and Scott Solary -- a/k/a the esteemed producing braintrust that once upon a time brought you ReelerTV -- will host the New York premiere of their documentary All God's Children. The film addresses the mental, physical and sexual abuse of kids at a missionary school in Africa in the '60s; the Post has a write-up today, and check out the film's site for the trailer and more information. The screening starts at 7:30 p.m.; advance tickets are available here. Congrats to Scott and Luci -- and hope to see you there!

--STV

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April 3, 2009

To Fuck and to Fear

By S.T. VanAirsdale

As accidental companion pieces go, you'd have a hard time surpassing this weekend's documentary combo of American Swing -- the beneficiary of a one-week extension at the Quad -- and We Live in Public, director Ondi Timoner's Sundance-winner that will close New Directors/New Films on Sunday night.


Peas in a pod (L-R): Larry Levenson and partner Mary at Plato's Retreat; Josh Harris at Quiet, c. 1999 (Photos: Donna Ferrato; Interloper Films)

The overlaps between Swing and Public extend far past their fascinations with self-made New York mavericks -- the former with Larry Levenson, the proprietor of the legendary swingers club Plato's Retreat; the latter with Josh Harris, the Internet mogul and putative tech-art pioneer whose own subterranean social experiment, Quiet, refracted Levenson's '70s-era liberation standards through a battery of Web cams and televisions for global dissemination. They go further still beyond the coincidences of, say, shared subject Donna Ferrato, the photographer and countercultural adventurer who vouches for both enterprises at their respective peaks, or the closures of each facility exactly 14 years apart, by the cops, on New Year's Eve (Plato's was padlocked in 1985 after months of prostitution hassles; Quiet was busted, ostensibly as a milennial cult, in the last minutes of 1999).

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March 31, 2009

Tribeca Gets Half-Shelled

The Tribeca Film Festival is preparing to launch its 2009 edition next month, aided by a leaner program and some much-needed turnover. But as any TFF veteran can attest, it will take more than a little press-friendly (re?)invigoration to stir New Yorkers' interest after years of ambivalence. It will even require more than Jessica Biel appearing in a Noel Coward adaptation. Indeed, this calls for a free outdoor screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will make a special guest appearance along with reporter April O’Neil to show off their crime-fighting skills and take part in the Drive-In’s giant Pizza Party. New Yorkers will unite to attempt to smash the Guinness World Record of the largest gathering of people dressed as ninja turtles.

Get yours here, I guess. And, after the jump, learn what else the bet-losers in your cohort have to look forward to April 23 at the Tribeca Drive-In. -- STV

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March 27, 2009

Now Downloadable: Clayton Patterson's Lower East Side

Clayton Patterson and mayor Rudy Giuliani in Captured (Photo: CP)

This is interesting: A Reeler pal sends word that Captured, last year's documentary chronicling the infamous Lower East Side filmmaker and raconteur Clayton Patterson, is now available for download at Amazon. This is good news for several reasons, not the least of which is that the assholes at UPS can't lose your purchase if you order it straight to your desktop. Moreover, Patterson's singular LES history -- comprising decades worth of video, photographs and general cultural hell-raising -- is more accessible than ever. This is your moment, Omaha.

There's a preview here, and more background about Patterson's indispensable exploits in the Reeler archives. Read, watch and learn, and maybe go squat this weekend in Tompkins Square Park just for old times' sake. -- STV

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March 10, 2009

Abel Ferrara Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Rocks indeed: Abel Ferrara directs Bijou Phillips in a reenactment from Chelsea on the Rocks (Photo: Marzia Schirripa)
So I've been fired, hired and gotten back to work -- all in the last couple weeks, a turnaround for which I feel fortunate and grateful. Thanks to everyone who wrote with notes of encouragement and support after Nick Denton's hatchet cleaved my skull, and for those thoughtful words of congratulations when Movieline grabbed me and my colleagues to relaunch the late, great magazine online. Should be a hoot!

Not a hoot: What's happening with Abel Ferrara, none of whose films have experienced a decent (if any) theatrical release in the United States for almost a decade. I'd heard last week that his documentary Chelsea on the Rocks -- about the storied history and cloudy future of the Chelsea Hotel (we covered it back in 2007) -- may not get the March 20-26 premiere run that Anthology Film Archives planned for it. Which would be about par for Ferrara's course: Cannes premiere to Stateside obscurity in 10 months flat.

And which would be confirmed a few hours ago by Anthology itself: "Anthology has been informed that the distributor with whom it booked the film, Empire Film Group / Hannover House, has decided not to, or is unable to, follow through on its plans to represent the film," a press release announced this afternoon, breaking a succession of hearts around the East Village and prompting my own disappointment that Empire could so ruthlessly toy with Abel fans' slowing, smoke-shrouded hearts. Was Hounddog just not the black-ink geyser that Empire needed to push Chelsea through? Tragic.

Alas, Abel -- there's always the NY International Inde... Fine, never mind. Full release, your crying jags after the jump. -- STV

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January 30, 2009

Memed!

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Wow, this is a first: Someone actually tagged me in a meme. About Sundance, no less, where I felt so exhaustingly at home last week after skipping 2008. I guess it goes like this:

Rules:
1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with listing their Sundance favorites, separated into eight categories.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight favorites and include these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and that they should read your blog. (Of course everyone's been tagged by now, I think, but I'll do my best. -- Ed.)

It's all after the jump...

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January 11, 2009

Better Late Than Never: Celebrate the Listys!

In case you missed it, The Reeler's annual Top 10 of Top 10 List tradition has been exported to Defamer, with parts one and two published last week and a glimmering new trophy distributed among this year's esteemed winners. Have a look, and as always, join me in celebrating their accomplishment! -- STV

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December 22, 2008

'War' Heroes

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Years ago, John Walter has been heard to say, he decided to make a movie about Bertolt Brecht, the most famous German Marxist playwright of the 20th century who somehow had yet to be memorialized on film. An established documentary editor, Walter had made his directorial debut with 2002's acclaimed Sundance alum How to Draw a Bunny, also a story about an artist, Ray Johnson, whose enigmatic Pop Art perspective on '60s culture and society remained largely undiscovered by contemporary audiences.


Meryl Streep as the title character in Mother Courage, the Brecht masterpiece at the center of John Walter's documentary Theater of War (Photo: Michael Daniel/The Public Theater)

Not unlike Bunny, Walter's survey of Brecht would require more than a few interviews, biographical notes and third-party theorizing. Thus emerged Theater of War, a chronicle following the Public Theater's 2006 production of Brecht's 1949 classic military-industrial allegory Mother Courage and Her Children. The documentary parallels the evolution of Courage onstage -- a new translation by Tony Kushner, Meryl Streep rehearsing the lead role -- to that of its development over years in Brecht's decade-plus of wartime exile, evoking the perennial question of how complicit individuals are (or maybe even must be) in their governments' enduring military endeavors. Theater of War ambitiously tracks the influence of Brecht's life and art across three generations of dissent, ending in 2006 at the Delacorte Theater, where Mother Courage revealed the steep cost of that complicity among one family.

The film opens this Wednesday, Dec. 24, at Film Forum; The Reeler cornered Walter last week with a few questions.

Continue reading "'War' Heroes" »

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December 19, 2008

Slow Clap For A.O. Scott

Tony Scott is a guy upon whom I've dumped untold barrels of shit here over the years, but after his review today of Seven Pounds -- the most gleeful, funny, withering and essential pan The Times has run in quite a while -- you know what? All is forgiven. Tony, I'm sorry I ever doubted you; you're OK in my book. How could you not be?

Near the end of Seven Pounds a carefully laminated piece of paper appears, on which someone has written, “DO NOT TOUCH THE JELLYFISH.” I wouldn’t dream of it, and I’ll take the message as a warning not to divulge the astonishing things that happen, not all of them involving aquatic creatures.

Continue reading "Slow Clap For A.O. Scott" »

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December 10, 2008

Feel the 'Pressure'

Wilma Stephenson with one of her Frankford High students in Pressure Cooker

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Pressure Cooker was perhaps my favorite film at this year's Woodstock Film Festival, and thus the one about which I have the most regrets for not getting a chance to cover here before now. I still don't really have that chance this morning, but it feels like my duty to bring its first New York City screening to your attention: The documentary will be presented at IFC Center as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series' ongoing Winter Specials. And "special" is about right: Directors Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker spent a school year observing no-nonsense culinary arts instructor Wilma Stephenson and her class at Philadelphia's Frankford High, following the funny, sublime interweaving of their kitchen educations with the challenges of growing up in South Philly.

It's a competition film, it's a coming-of-age story, it's a profile in courage, all yielding an authentic drama that a film like American Teen only wishes it could exhibit. Still, even with Participant Productions and a successful festival run behind it, a theatrical release has thus far eluded Cooker; you'd do well to support this gem tonight with Becker, Grausman and Stephenson in person for a Q&A. I'm just saying. No pressure! [*Honk*]

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