Friday, January 30, 2009

Brooklyn By The Sea

I was going to include this in the weekly linkage but decided it was so awesome that it deserved its own space. Brooklyn by the Sea is a short film from 1979 by Arnold Baskin based on the song of the same title from Mort Shuman. It's essentially a documentary music video featuring footage shot by Baskin along Brighton Beach and Coney Island in the late seventies. I particularly love the photography and editing in this piece and the variety of people that he manages to capture at that time and place. What a beautiful little time capsule! Definitely worth the five minutes of your time it takes to watch it. Thank you, Mr. Baskin!

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

furnace linkage 1.29.09

While I have a little free time on my hands these days, I'll be sharing some of the better stuff I find while surfing upon the interwebs.

For starters, here's Errol Morris's piece for the New York Times on the significant photos of Bush's presidency. It's an interesting read and a good side by side with photos.

SPASMO is celluloid goodness. The trailer, is especially SPASMO-tastic. I'm thinking... REMAKE!

This article from Gawker, about the faux-earnestness of award-recipient speeches, gives some insight into the academy's voting tendencies and is hilariously spot on.

Here is a beautiful short doc made in 1973 about Coney Island and shot on 16mm. This features some great footage of a bygone era - plus shots taken from the front seat on the Thunderbolt rollercoaster. Speaking of which, ever wonder what the parachute tower looked like when it was operating? Well, now you know!

And I need to include a special shout-out to Jeremiah Moss at Vanishing New York and Ray Pride at for sharing my article on the tragic closing of Mondo Kim's.

More to come!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Preparing for the great media holocast AKA Why am I stockpiling all of this media?

In preparing for a recent "capsule review" entry regarding my recent round of media consumption, I realized that the list of films I had been viewing was so great and vast that to begin writing capsule reviews for each of them was going to require a major commitment of time. In so reflecting, I began to think of all the "catching up" I had to do in terms of the various DVD's I have ripped and sitting on my media server in addition to the 2-at-a-time unlimited plan I have with Netflix for watching the latest blu-rays releases. For my birthday, my girlfriend's mom, Fran, purchased two-months worth of Netflix membership (a gift no doubt suggested by my current, Sherry) and in redeeming it, I decided to up the membership to 3-at-a-time unlimited, at least for the two months that I'm getting a decent discount, courtesy Fran Wasserman. In addition there has been a steady stream of DVD's coming home from the library both from myself and from Sherry - she has her own "queue" going at the library that is keeping the flow at a maximum capacity. We often have to rip the DVD's that we didn't have time to watch before returning them which is creating a backlog of movies for us to watch. To top it off, I'm currently getting Skinemax in HD for free (thank you Time Warner for fucking up in the best way possible). This means having a movie on even if a movie isn't on the menu for the evening... it's too hard to say no to free movies!

It doesn't take a blind man to see that I'm living in a self-created world of media over-saturation! I noticed this pattern before, sometime around 2005, when I was at a crossroads in my life and was trying to "refill the pitcher" as it were. This may or may not be one of those crossroads, but I think it's more to do with the ease in which we watch media these days has infiltrated our lives. And even more to the point, how I've embraced this mass media consumption and tried to make it even easier to watch (or even passively observe) film and TV media.

In an effort to hold myself accountable for all of this consumption, I'll be periodically posting up short reviews of some of the material that's passing through my head... below is the beginning.

EQUINOX - Family Tie star Phil Anzelmo has a good track record with recommending fun B-movie entertainment from yesteryear, but this one was a little tough for me to sit through. Cheezy enough to be bad but not bad enough to be funny and not fun enough to really be good. Definitely better as a background movie rather than as a dedicated experience. One has to wonder "what was Criterion thinking?" when they released EQUINOX as a two-disc special edition, but then again they are fans of Michael Bay, so I rest my case.

TWO MINUTE WARNING - At its most reductive, it's a '70s disaster movie about a sniper at a football game, but as it quietly recedes into commercial film obscurity, it stands as a creepy how-to guide for psychotic killers in a society that is unaware of the threat and unable to protect itself against it. Timely indeed, but prescient? Probably not... The all-star cast includes Charlton Heston, John Cassavettes, Gena Rowlands, Jack Klugman, Beau Bridges and a ton of others.

BENJAMIN BUTTON - Exceeding expectations which were admittedly skewed after hearing critical response both for and against the curious case of Benajamin Buñ, but they were quickly waylayed in the darkened theater as I found myself fighting back tears that weren't even earned in the first 15 minutes. It's a film that is steeped in emotion and heart. It's also a film written by Eric Roth, the guy who wrote the screenplay for Forest Gump, and there are undeniably similarities between the two in their narrative devices. But as I was consistently impressed with the outstanding yet subtle CGI FX, I was taken into the story, sometimes kicking and screaming, but going along the whole way.

28 WEEKS LATER - OK, not bad considering it had some big shoes to fill from the first 28 days of infected zombie mayhem. The cast definitely carries the material and Robert Carlyle clearly earned his paycheck on this one, but in the end no one can escape that this is a familiarly hokey horror yarn.

CANDY - Lovable like a child you wish you didn't have, CANDY has a lot of camp appeal and '60s zaniness overindulgence but is worth the trip for the insanely over the top performers of the all-star cast of Richard Burton, Walter Mathau, Ringo Starr, Marlon Brando, James Coburn, Charles Aznovaur, John Huston and John Astin (and no I didn't need to imdb that shit - it's all stored upstairs).

SHARKWATER - Without getting preachy about conservation efforts, I recommend this film unequivocally. While I felt the film was a tad manipulative and cheesy in its voice-over narration, the message and story of the journey these guys take in skark-conservation-efforts is powerful and truly moving. Statistics alone are horrifying - see the movie and witness firsthand how bad things are getting for marine life out there.

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS - Some movies are hailed classics for a reason, and this is definitely one of them. Featuring the outstanding black and white photography from James Wong Howe of NYC and Times Square in the '50s, SSOS is a smartly written and well acted character study on the underbelly of tabloid journalism. It really says something when a film still resonate fifty years later - check it out!

PARASITE - OK I knew this was going to be bad going in, but I was hoping it wasn't going to be THAT bad. The creature FX are fun, but there were too few to go around. This movie definitely gets some additional laughs from a few gratuitous 3-D shots, and the lead actor was so weird looking and wooden in his acting I kept waiting for him to die. I guess since a very young Demi Moore found him attractive and helps him kill the parasite, he was the hero. For '80s horror completists only...

EVENT HORIZON - Newly released on bluray, I decided to take in this sci-fi horror film from the late '90s to see if it was any good. There are definitely some creepy moments in the film and when things start going really wrong, it's fun watching shit go haywire. The CGI work is pretty crude for today's standards, but the good cast helps elevate the b-movie material, which makes this movie feel an awful lot like Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE from last year.


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Monday, January 26, 2009

Summertime Edition: East River State Park

As we're in the throes of wintertime blues and subzero weather, I thought I'd post some of these picts I snapped off from early September during an afternoon jaunt with Sherry over to East River State Park in Williambsurg (or North Side if you want to get specific). These were mostly shot with my zoom lens but I used my wide angle for a few street shots as well. It won't be long before we are able to return to wearing short shorts and sitting in the midday sun, but in the meantime, some summertime picts will have to suffice. Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Goodbye Kims: a store, along with an era, closes its doors...

Mondo Kims Close-out

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this week, I headed over to the East Village to run some basic errands: Auggies Blend coffee, rain scented glycerin soap, and I wanted to get one last look at Mondo Kim's on St. Marks Place before they shuttered their doors. To the uninitiated, Mondo Kim's represented a vast selection of esoteric movies and music, and at its peak, operated four floors of the building on St. Marks Place for its retail and rental operations. The top floor was a film fanatic's wet dream of hard-to-find films on VHS and DVD for rent. If there was a film that you couldn't get on Netflix or at your local video shop, Kims was likely to have it in their collection... if not on DVD then surely on VHS. As an example, my most recent rental there was a hitman noir film called "The Outside Man" from 1972 starring Roy Scheider and Ann Margaret. Apparently the film is not available on DVD and is out of print on VHS, but sure enough, Kims came through for me and thus was able to watch a movie I would otherwise have been unable to find. I remember about a year ago having a sudden "burning" curiosity to see the cheesy kids-getting-hacked-in-the-woods movie "The Burning" (starring Jason Alexander!) and it was only available, at that time, on a bootleg VHS at Kims. Of course, now you can see "The Burning" in all its tacky badness on DVD, but in that moment, speaking as someone who was hungry for some early '80s horror schlock, it was a godsend having Kims as a last resort for digging up some obscure or out-of-print films.

Mondo Kims - ghost store

And so it is a sign of the times that Kims has had to close its flagship store on St. Marks. I think it's due both to increasing rental costs and decreasing demand for traditional video rentals - everyone uses Netflix these days, including me! The whole business model for media delivery is in a state of flux, something of which I've had my own hand in professionally, and hopefully media will get easier and easier to access in the months and years going forward. For Kims, however, this meant giving up that huge rental collection, so they ended up donating it to some film institution in Sicily. Now instead of rentals, they opened up a small retail outfit on First Avenue to continue selling obscure cult classic DVD's and foreign films. But losing that amazing movie rental collection is a hard blow to the dedicated cinéaste in NYC.

Mondo Kims - post closure

Anyway, back to my Monday adventure, in which I dropped by Kims only to find that the place was in the process of being emptied out. I tentatively entered, to which a distinguished Asian gentlemen said, "Sorry, we are closed." I asked him if I could take some pictures of the store and he gave me permission to do so. It then occurred to me as I was going about my photo-snapping that maybe this Asian gent was none other than Kim himself, who, back in the day, founded the minor rental store that ended up growing into a film-buff's treasure trove. I approached him and asked, "Excuse me, are you, um, THE Kim?" And he lets out a shy laugh and says yes he is Kim. I gushingly profess my fanship to his store, saying how sorry I am to see it closing and what a pleasure it was to meet the man behind this important and significant collection of films to which he replies, "You like drama, eh?" I quickly explain, "Yeah that's why I was such a good customer for all those years. I love drama and movies!" He didn't mind me taking pictures of the store as it was getting cleared out, but he didn't want me to take any pictures of him. On the whole, he was extremely nonchalant and un-sentimental about the whole thing which, I suppose, isn't too surprising... for him it was just a business venture. Still, to have been given a chance to document some of the last moments of Mondo Kim's was a privilege for sure - it's no time soon that I will be forgetting the myriad of film delights I've unearthed in that building during my tenure as a denizen of this city.

Mondo Kim's Kim

Thank you Kim! Your Mondo shop will sorely be missed!

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Because I Can! aka... Network Streaming Feats on Guernsey Streets

Here is a short one-shot video of me streaming movies and media to 5 of the computers in my Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment... all using Apple's Airport Extreme! The first film we see streaming is the 1969 film CANDY running from my media server wirelessly to my Macbook, then on the main display is THE GRADUATE, which is running over the wired gigabit network (tho to be technical, the network port on the mini is only 10/100 and doesn't support gigabit datarates). After that we take a walk through my studio where the British TV series SPACED is running on my Mac Pro tower and Fox Soccer Sports channel is streaming over the internet on an Acer PC laptop for work. Lastly, we end up in the bedroom, where the classic horror film ALICE SWEET ALICE is playing off my old Powerbook (now converted into a media playback hub) on the LCD facing my bed. You can see just a hair of buffering at the end, but considering the amount of traffic that the network is supporting, it's pretty damned impressive!

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

New Years Eve in Times Square

Another year and I've now twice had the pleasure of being able to spend new years in the Vivi-office overlooking Times Square. This years celebration was a little quieter than last year's ball dropping and the temperatures outside were undoubtedly a bit more freezing. Still, when the ball did finally drop and the confetti got dumped from the rooftops above the street, there's no denying the excitement was palpable. I ran another camera to capture some time lapse footage as I did last year, so I will be posting that video once I've had a chance to put something together with it.

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