The Lost City of Z Q&A

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On Tuesday, April 11 The National Board of Review screened James Gray’s new film The Lost City of Z and afterwards I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion with the director and Sienna Miller, who plays Nina Fawcett, the wife of explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnum). It’s a fascinating film, adapted from the best seller written by David Grann and shot by the outstanding cinematographer Darius Khondji, who shot Gray’s The Immigrant, and, just prior to that, Michale Haneke’s Amour. Both Gray and Miller were lively and engaging during our conversation and we covered as much ground as we could in the relatively brief time we were together. The film is in the theaters and also on Netflix, who were co-producers.

Here is a link to an excerpt from the Q&A.

Easter Sunday 2017 in NYC

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I went to the Easter Sunday parade in Manhattan with a friend on April 16 and we took lots of pictures. What a great day filled with cheerful and friendly people. The weather was lively, fluctuating between sunny and overcast, making for an ever changing tapestry of shadow and light. We shot on the RAW format, which photographers have used for years but, as a filmmaker, I began working with about three years ago. It’s true, as a few cinematographers I have spoken with have said, that it is more like working with film than video as there is a great deal of latitude and information that can be digitally controlled and tweaked. As a documentary film maker I always work in RAW because I’m often shooting and directing at the same time and am unable to get the lighting “perfect”.  And so much of what you are shooting in documentaries simply isn’t meant to be controlled – you are a guest in the doc world as a filmmaker, not the other way around.

Here are a few shots from the Easter Gathering.

Europe 1995 – Taiji and East Berlin

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In the summer of 1995 I had the good fortune to travel to Europe to study taiji for a week and then to spend a week in East Berlin.  What more might a young man want than to do than to explore the world in good health and happiness!

In Strasbourg, I practiced taiji with my fellow New Yorkers in an international festival celebrating Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan, taught by fourth generation master Wang Yen-nien. Then I traveled to the heart of old East Berlin. Will post pictures when I find them 🙂

East Berlin notes, Summer 1995

Visit the Berlin Zoo

Cash on hand and 80 dollars in traveler’s checks

Buy – Eurail Pass

         – Film roll

Shop – Cheese

           – water

            -Bread

            -Wine/Bee

Places of Importance to visit:

Am Friedricschain

S. Hackeschen Market (train H,2,3,4)

Griefswalder Strafze

3 Frieden Strausse

Stu Zoologischer Garten

Pergamon Museum

Driwitc

Potsdam

Alexanderplatz

Unter den Linden

Sans Souci (without sorrow)

Peace Park

Tier Garten

Brandenburg Ter.

J. F. Dulles Allee

Mitte

Oranienburge Strafze (Connects Cine?)

–  Seems to lead to … Cafe and Plost Alley

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East Berlin on a Thursday Night (1995)

I drank some wine, made a late lunch in the apartment, and went to S. Hackeschen Market. Should I have had a coffee? Am now in a bar on Oranienburge Strafze. What beautiful waitresses the German girls are – One is very butch. But that’s OK, what counts is attitude.

The bar seems to be called Kino Blowup. Could it be that they also show films here?  Butch just cranked up the music – not going to be easy to communicate here.  I have been told to watch out for the women of the night, who are neither subtle nor without experience. I will keep my attention elsewhere.

Whew – just made eye contact with the blond woman at the bar who is really cute. Careful – night’s early.

I could fall in love very easily in Berlin. People seem to be open, and intent on life. There is not a lot of excess attitude. The girls are very sexy in a natural way. Not that I am really out to be super social. But the women do not put up stiff barriers to talking, either. Former East Berliners (Essies) are regular folk.  They have experienced a lifetime under communism and are still tentative about themselves and their new lifestyles. They are sweet, and almost naive.

I like them. I like being in Berlin.

Krombacher is a good (light) beer. Later I must try Budweiser, the noted Czech beer. Butch girl is the DJ. She is spinning some big beat sounds. Bose speakers pump it out.

The girl behind the bar, with short blond hair, very short, and a small nose ring has grabbed my attention. She bops around well to the music. I think she has a body like (redacted) – small – sweet. I’m going to ask her about Budweiser.

In response he says “It’s Czechoslovakian”, not German. But very good. When I ask her for a glass she nods, professionally and nicely.

Bartenders pour beer in Berlin so that the head comes out really large, then they slowly add more beer to the glass only as the foam settles. I was told this was a European thing – and here it is. There is no rush to get the beer over to the presumed drinker. It’s not like “Serve ‘em up and get ‘em drunk. ASAP”. There is style and care in the process. A very hand-crafted experience. A special touch. I appreciate this.

The dark skin girl (also with a nose ring) says to the bar girl “How late are you open to?” “Until 4:00” She second girl is sweetn too – has on an olive green T shirt with a balloon police car vehicle. It is funny…  Bright Blue, white and red, cartoonish.

Maybe they are lovers. They are friendly and the place is fun. “Kino Blowup”.  With cast metal sculptures and thin tall-back metal chairs.

Also, centered on the wall to the left of the bar, is a large conspicuously vagina-like sculpture. On the other side of the bar a thin long-necked statue of a man that seems to fly off the floor.

Long neck man 1

It is odd that people come into the bar carrying baskets of things to sell, hawking their wares.  A respectable looking man (Peter Framptonish) arrives with a basket of good looking breads and pastries and croissants, walking around and selling them. It is perfectly accepted, more than that it is appreciated. His breads and snacks are good, his way is friendly and his prices, from the reaction, are reasonable. It’s an old world thing. In “the states” he would be infringing on the bar’s territory and be tossed to the street.

People drink beer with red (berry) syrup here. Have seen at least three people order it.  I ask the bartender about it and she says, kidding. “It’s for children. Sweet syrup” she says, softly. Am I understanding her? I smile and nod. I must learn some German or French, so that I can connect better.

And the DJ keeps the place rocking.

Under the City screening on the Bayou

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My short animation Under the City the Blue Bag Dropped was part of the 13th annual Cinema on the Bayou in late January, 2017. I did the first drawings for the video in December of 2008 and just kept coming back to it over the years. Finally, this spring, wanting a followup to my short Rooftop Serenade, that played in festivals last summer, I stayed on it every evening when I got home from work until it was where it needed to be. Everything is hand shot or hand drawn, put together in Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects. The original soundtrack, a song called Jaguar Muse that I composed in 2015, was edited and mixed in Pro Tools.

The festival ran from January 24 to February 1 and took place in Lafayette, Louisiana. The film has previously screened in the Coney Island Film Festival, the East Village Chain Film Festival and was awarded Honorable Mention at The Marblehead Festival of the Arts. The film has also been accepted into the Three Minute Film Festival in Santa Barabra, California and will screen on July, 6 2017.

Lou Reed Day at Lincoln Center!

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Saturday, July 30, 2016 was a day long celebration of the Music and Songs of Lou Reed. Everyone came out to play.
Here is a link to the original web page for lots of info:
http://www.lcoutofdoors.org/events/the-bells-a-daylong-celebration-of-lou-reed

The evening show took place in the rain so it was not conducive to bringing an DSLR camera to the show. But it lingers on in memory – David Johanson was particularly excellent.

One of the daytime highlights was a working display of 6 guitars and 6 amps, all from Lou’s collection, set to a four hour feedback loop in the lobby of Alice Tully hall. Ear protection was handed out. Below is a photo and a link to a 7 minute stereo excerpt I recorded:

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Reed Live Drone Guitars (7 Minute Excerpt)

Here are some photos I took – and a few notes:

@11:30 AM the “House band” played Rockers. Jon Spencer joined the band for “Venus in Furs”. Being a Lou Reed show someone had to unbutton their trousers. The belt came off and he gave his guitar a good thrashing, worthy of De Sade himself, while Sal Maida laid down the bass:

IMGP3073 Jon Spencer whips GTR

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Felice Rosser, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley found their grooves.

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Tammy Faye Starlite did some Nico / Marianne Faithful things and looked good doing it.

IMGP3060 JG Thirlwell

JG Thirlwell and Lee Ranaldo.

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Lee Ranaldo, Sal Maida, Matt Sweeney and (I believe) Jesse Malin get down to business.

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Bush Tetras know what to do.

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Kembra Pfahles and the Disco Mystiques.

Schnabel and Laurie Anderson

Julian Schnabel and Laurie Anderson during the afternoon readings. Sadly, Schnabel’s outdoor screening of his concert film Berlin was rained out later that evening.

Patti Smith Band At Lincoln Center

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Patti Smith and her band, including long-time Smith band members and collaborators Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan, opened the 2016 Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival on Wednesday eve, July 20, 2016. It was a rocking show – tight, soulful, Smith’s voice having lost nothing over the years.

The all-female, Latin Grammy–nominated group Mariachi Flor de Toloache  – a quartet bringing New York style to traditional Mexican music – opened the show with energy and style.

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Story Time.

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Lenny Kaye lays it down.

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Feedback Time.

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Catching up – Q & A’s

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I’ve been a member of the National Board of Review since 2008 and have had the honor of doing over 60 after-film Q&A’s with many of the most interesting and talented directors, actors and producers in the world. Because NBR is a private organization most of these events go undocumented – unlike many of the press promotions and publicity stops, NBR offers a relaxed “off the record” experience. Which makes for really good conversations. Whether I’m moderating a Q&A or watching my fellow board members doing them it is a rewarding experience and a reminder that most filmmakers, actors, producers, and cinematographers are passionate about their art and generous about sharing their experiences. I can’t say enough about the National Board of Review and how it supports the art of film, supports filmmakers and provides valuable knowledge and financial assistance to young filmmakers.

Occasionally an excerpt from a Q&A will make it to the NBR website. Here are links to a few that I have done in the recent past. You can also find a number of my film reviews elsewhere on this blog.  And, if you have the Blu-ray of Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited you can find a nearly complete Q&A that I moderated with him and his cast on the specials disc.

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Q&A with Michael Fassbender

 

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Q&A with Laura Linney and Ian McKellen

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Q&A with Brett Haley, Blythe Danner, and Sam Elliot

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Q&A with Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey, and Dorothy Atkinson

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Q&A with Ira Sachs, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, and Alfred Molina

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Q&A with John Turturro

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Q&A with Pat Healy

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Q&A with Director Kar Wai Wong, Tony Leung, and Ziyi Zhang