Sunday, December 20, 2009

DVD Review: Kiki Smith- Squatting the Palace

photo by Checkerboard Films

Kiki Smith is a tough person to label in the contemporary art world but the new DVD Squatting the Palace gives a look into her whirlwind process revealing a great deal about her creative identity and ultimately her work itself. The documentary focuses on her preparation for a major exhibition in 2005 at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice giving the audience an inside look into how she creates her work and what it takes to put together such a large exhibition.

With her wild grey hair and tattooed arms, Kiki Smith appears to be a contradiction- part soulful hippie and part New York punk and that sensibility carries over to her work which has defied the common stereotypes incorporating multiple media including sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, and anything else that suits her fancy. The film does a good job in illuminating events in Smith’s childhood such as her sparse living spaces and her relationship with her father, sculptor Tony Smith, giving the viewer a great deal of insight into her work’s ultimate meaning. It also might explain why Smith has avoided working in a formal studio, choosing instead to work in her East Village townhouse which is at times both frenetic and quaint.

The only downside to the documentary is that Smith’s flighty nature gets in the way of what she’s saying at times and the unobtrusive; almost cinéma vérité style doesn’t include input from other artists or scholars that might add some clarity.

For: Short&SweetNYC

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Film Review: Terminator Salvation

In 2018, when people are immersed in the world of the machines after Judgment Day, one thought seems to plague mankind: that Christian Bale can’t play a human and Terminator Salvation is proof. Indeed, the fourth installment of the Terminator franchise is weakened by his performance even though the other major aspects of the production hit their mark. Otherwise, the film is well written catering to fans with smart call-backs like using Guns-N-Roses “You Could Be Mine” and a cameo by Arnold himself it also features some nice performances such as Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese and Ms. Sexypants 2009, Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams.

Unfortunately Bale’s unfeeling, cardboard persona which is perfect for Patrick Bateman in American Psycho falls off the screen as John Conner, leading the audience to root for a machine to survive in his place. The real hero of the film is condemned killer Marcus Wright played remarkably by Sam Worthington who brings the struggle between man and machine to a very literal climax in the film (and ironically still has more heart than Bale’s John Conner). The sound quality of the film is hauntingly effective but the robots sound suspiciously similar to the Transformers (I smell a spin off Transformers vs. - never mind, they’re the same thing). Regardless, despite its flaws, the film is certainly entertaining and it’s no doubt a movie we can all watch repeatedly after it’s bought by a cable channel and is rerun till our eyes bleed so filmmakers “GOOD FOR YOU!”

For: Short&SweetNYC

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Film Review: Gilda Live

Shortly before her departure from Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner put together a one-woman show on Broadway which was part variety show and part showcase for some of her notable characters from SNL, the show was made into a film by director Mike Nichols and the result is the newly released Gilda Live. The play is essentially a series of sketches and also features appearances by fellow SNL actor/writer Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci and Paul Shaffer, Howard Shore, and G.E. Smith (who Gilda married soon afterwards) of the Saturday Night Live Band.

The DVD quality is not great and has no extras, contemporary audiences also might have some trepidation about embarking on a trip back to that special time in America when film was yellowed and the hair was plentiful but Nichols documentary style is very palatable, giving the audience a look backstage at the inner workings of the performance. Gilda’s talents shine early on in the performance with an onslaught of singing, dancing, and her boisterous Judy Miller sketch which is one of the highlights of the show. Father Guido Sarducci is another high point, especially his epic bit about paying for sins and 5-minute College.

Unfortunately the enthusiasm fades a bit as the show progresses and the performance ends a bit weak, but maybe that’s just because Rosanna Rosannadanna’s jokes about Geraldo and Walter Cronkite are a bit too topical. Regardless, the film shows what a great comic actor Gilda was before she lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

For: Short&SweetNYC

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Best Music of 2009 according to Tim Needles

It's coming to the end of another year so here's a little wrap up of some of my favorites. of 2009:

Top 5 Music Videos of 2009

1)Beast- "Mr.Hurricane" (dir. Ben Steiger-Levine)
The only thing I hate about this video is that I didn't make it

2)Oren Lavie- "Her Morning Elegance" (dir. Yuval and Merav Nathan with Oren Lavie)
I teach pixilation, I love pixilation

3)Chairlift- "Evident Utensil" (dir. Ray Tintori)
One of the most innovative music videos in a long time, a long time...

4)Grizzly Bear- "Two Weeks"(dir. Patrick Daughters)
The shots are just so strange, it works

5)Bob Dylan- "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" (dir. Nash Edgerton)
Who who think of such a violent, loving side of Dylan?

Top Songs of 2009
1)“Daylight”- Matt & Kim
2)“Nothing To Worry About”- Peter, Bjorn, & John
3)“My Girls”- Animal Collective
4)“The Rake’s Song”- The Decemberists
5)“Baby Boomer”- Monsters Of Folk
6)“Hanuman”- Rodrigo y Gabriela
7)“Snookered”- Dan Deacon
8)“Shampoo”- Elvis Perkins In Dearland
9)“What Would I Want? Sky”- Animal Collective
10)“Animal”- Miike Snow
11)“Stand By Me”- Playing For Change
12)“Fangala”- Here We Go Magic
13)"Make Her Say"- Kid Cudi (feat. Kanye West & Common)
14)"Relator"- Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
15)“Fitz and the Dizzyspells”- Andrew Bird
16)“1901”- Phoenix
17)“Birds Fly Away”- Theresa Andersson
18)"Two Weeks"- Grizzly Bear
19)"Kandi"- One Eskimo
20)"Party in the USA"- Miley Cyrus
21)“Just Breathe”- Pearl Jam
22)“Run This Town”- Jay Z (feat. Rihanna & Kanye West)
23)“I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight”- U2
24)“My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilli”- Beirut
25)“Home”- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
26)“Cousins”- Vampire Weekend
27)“You’re a Cad”- The Bird & The Bee
28)“The Trapeze Swinger” - Iron & Wine
29)“Ain't No Rest For The Wicked”- Cage The Elephant
30)“Bad Fever” - The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
31)"Pink and Glitter”- Tori Amos
32)“Islands"- The XX
33)“Mean Monsoon” - Dan Auerbach
34)“Dog Days are Over”- Florence & the Machine
35)“Darling”- Zee Avi
36)“Satellite Skin”- Modest Mouse
37)“Empire State of Mind”- Jay Z (feat. Alicia Keys)
38)“One Love”- Playing For Change
39)“Thunder” – Matisyahu
40)“Say Hey (I Love You)”- Michael Franti & Spearhead (feat. Cherine Anderson)

Tim’s Top Albums of 2009
1) Merriweather Post Pavilion- Animal Collective
2) Monsters of Folk- Monsters of Folk
3) Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- Phoenix
4) Songs Around The World- Playing For Change
5) March of the Zapotec/Holland- Beirut
6) Bromst- Dan Deacon
7) Elvis Perkins In Dearland- Elvis Perkins In Dearland
8) Grand- Matt & Kim
9) 11:11- Rodrigo y Gabriela
10) Up from Below- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
11) Veckatimest- Grizzly Bear
12) Together Through Life- Bob Dylan
13) Noble Beast- Andrew Bird
14) I and Love and You- The Avett Brothers
15) Break Up- Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
16) Hummingbird, Go!- Theresa Andersson
17) Hold Time- M.Ward
18) Living Thing- Peter, Bjorn, & John
19) Miike Snow- Miike Snow
20) The Hazards of Love- The Decemberists

Monday, December 7, 2009

Theater Review: Company XIV's Le Serpent Rouge!

Sex and decadence abound in Brooklyn’s Le Serpent Rouge!, a wonderfully theatrical and somewhat sensational retelling of the story of Adam & Eve through dance by Company XIV. Choreographer Austin McCormick assembles five eclectic performers dressed sometimes only in pasties or a thong (and occasionally less) to reenact the story of man’s fall from grace with a comical, if not feminist edge, and a hip amalgam of pop culture reference.

The story, narrated by a dominatrix ring leader from hell (Gioia Marchese), follows a very indecisive Adam (Nick Fesette) as he pushes away Lilith (the new woman of my dreams, Yeva Glover) due to her lack of soul for Eve (Laura Careless) only to later yearn for her as time progresses from the Garden of Eden to the modern day nightmare that some consider a marriage. The piece is broken up with fun lip-synched vignettes and some of the tightest dancing in the show by Davon Rainy who doubles as the servant of heaven and hell.

The performance runs through January 17 and is staged 303 Bond Street, a former truck garage that was cleverly transformed through Zane Philstrom’s simple yet creative set design and props along with some brilliant lighting courtesy of Gina Scherr. McCormick blends Cecilia Bartoli and Baroque with James Brown and a drag queen to produce a piece that is as entertaining as it is impressive and intricate. The performance is smart and visually awe inspiring and should be packaged along with a piece of artisan chocolate and mailed to every hipster on the planet for the holidays.

For: Short & Sweet NYC