Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Heavenly Creatures

This morning I watched Heavenly Creatures, a movie from the 90s which I LOVED when it came out. I'm pleased to say it holds up.

Heavenly Creatures is about two teenage girls who develop an extremely intense friendship built on a shared, symbiotic fantasy life. The friendship is all-consuming and sexual, and each girls' family is concerned.
When the family of one of the pair decides to relocate out of the country, the girls, immersed in fantasy, decide to kill the other's mother (this isn't a spoiler -- the murder is plain at the beginning). As Pauline writes in her diary, she understands why she and Juliette are not understood by those around them: "it's because we are both stark, raving mad!"

The director did a brilliant job rendering the fantasies, and the acting by the entire cast was terrific. The film features a very young Kate Winslet (one of my favorite actresses), who is the charismatic one, and the actress playing the sullen and odd Pauline was wonderfully creepy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B

I just finished My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B.

This warm, wry, upsetting memoir focuses on Cheryl Burke's late teens in New Jersey and her twenties in downtown NYC. Corny to say, but it's a coming of age story, about a young woman from a brutal home finding her awesome place in the downtown arts scene. Most moving is the way she rebels against the limitations of her family milieu (her guidance counselor suggested she be a toll booth collector) and insists on being an independent artist.

Her memoir ends at the moment when she chooses sobriety, when she takes a step away from the exciting social chaos of her life, and turns toward the future. Unfortunately, Cheryl Burke's future was tragically short. She died at 38 of "medical malpractice" as it states in the forward, or, complications for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The afterward by her girlfriend was beautiful and I feel lucky to have had a glimpse into this remarkable woman's life and art.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Every Mother's Son POV

Today I watched Every Mother's Son (POV), a documentary telling the story of three different men who were murdered by NYC police officers, the most famous being Amadou Diallo. The film focuses on the perspective of the victims' mothers, while drawing attention to the issue of police brutality, and the lack of accountability for officers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Awesome Place: Book Release

I went to a terrific reading tonight at Bluestockings celebrating the publication of My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B.

Several writers read selections of the book, which chronicles Cheryl Burke's difficult teen years, struggling with obesity and suicidality, abusive parents, and terrible alienation. The autobiography tells the story of her finding a home in the downtown arts scene of the 1990s, and her finding her own voice and becoming the spoken word artist Cheryl B.

The writing was very touching and funny and I can't wait to read the book (I got the very last copy they had!).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Last night I saw the Pina Bausch company (Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch) perform at BAM.

The program was "... como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si..." (Like moss on a stone).

The dance was a series of bleak, disturbing, and beautiful vignettes. The dancers often let themselves be manipulated by other dancers in an uncomfortable and wooden passivity, and then would often erupt in bursts of anger and injustice. Particularly salient was the relationship between men and women, fraught with longing, inability to connect, obstacles, and, at times, violence and intrusion.

A number of the segments were portrayed in the astounding Wim Wenders documentary, Pina.

A very dramatic, strange, and narrative form of dance, it was haunting, thoroughly engaging, and mesmerizing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sister My Sister

I don't know what I think about Sister My Sister, an other movie about the Papin sisters. A few years ago I watched Murderous Maids, so I was very familiar with the story. Like that film, Sister My Sister is claustrophobic and slow.

Although the incestuous relationship is kind of fascinating, I felt that the intense, murderous, insane rage was somehow not quite developed. They gauged the eyes out of their employer and violently murdered her and her daughter. Yet I didn't feel a build up to this. Yes, they were intense and crazy and weird. But the violence didn't seem to fit with the rest of the mood, and I felt more perplexed at the end than anything else.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is a fabulous documentary focusing on an amazing woman.

Joan Rivers' humor is showcased, and I don't think I ever appreciated how funny she is. She is brilliant.

But what made this documentary so riveting is the force of her personality: she is powerfully driven to perform, and puts absolutely all of herself into her career. And its an incredible self. She is wise, angry, truthful, self-aware, and unafraid. These qualities, combined with a genuine vulnerability, made this feel like an important and touching film about a fiercely unique artist.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The House I Live In

Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In is a sprawling indictment of the war on drugs.

I saw it the other night in the movie theater, and was riveted the entire time. I was familiar with many of the arguments and issues presented, but still thought this is a very important documentary for Americans to see. It exposes the alarming crisis of mass incarceration and places blame on draconian drug policies which have destroyed many communities, particularly lower income African American communities.

The talking heads included David Simon, Michele Alexander, David Kennedy, and a fascinating (though wooden) historian who made an interesting argument comparing the war on drugs to Nazi policies.

The House I Live In explores damaging and problematic drug usage, however it focused on the use of poor minorities, rather than looking at the widespread use of drugs, including legal pharmaceuticals, throughout society, which would have altered the story he was telling a bit.

Monday, October 8, 2012


I was very disappointed in Hysteria, a movie starring Maggie Gyllenhaal about the invention of the vibrator in 19th Century London.

I'm fascinated by this era, and the history of the medico-psychiatric treatment neurotic and repressed women, in particular, the practice of bringing women to orgasm in a clinical setting...

This movie was comical and took too light a touch. In spite of the subject matter, it seemed like a PG-13 made-for-TV-movie. I didn't enjoy it at all.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Real CSI

The other day I watched a Frontline documentary, The Real CSI, which examines all the quackery involved in forensic evidence (other than DNA). Particularly shocking was the critical look at fingerprint analysis, which is flawed and has lead to misidentifications. In spite of this, the public is still more easily persuaded by spurious physical evidence than they are by other forms of evidence.