Monday, March 28, 2011

"The All Stars of Non-Violent Communication" @ LACE

I'm performing in a new work by the consistently re-inventive Asher Hartman as part of the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibition (LACE) series "So Funny It Hurts," curated by Brian Getnick.  This bizarre, hilarious, tragic short play considers identity, death, and showmanship.  All one and the same, obviously.  Here's a bit more:

Featuring Franc Baliton, Patrick Kennelly, Michael Morrissey, and Joe Seely
Written and directed by Asher Hartman with costumes by Curt LeMieux
Sound by Jasmine Orpilla

A blue vaudevillian poem in three parts, THE ALL STARS OF NONVIOLENT COMMUNCIATION unleashes the vitriol of three dead, under-appreciated gay entertainers of the 1970s in a seething round of comedy and complaint.

Featuring veteran performers Franc Baliton, Patrick Kennelly, Michael Morrissey, and Joe Seely, with costumes by sculptor Curt LeMieux, sound by composer and performer Jasmine Orpilla, and text and direction by Asher Hartman, THE ALL STARS OF NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION is a compact exploration of the brutality of language, the grief from which comedy emerges, and the ways in which language empties out into the passage from life to death.   Although brief, the work is written in a dense amalgam of poetic speech, one-liners, movement, and sound with plenty of bite and aftertaste.

Loosely inspired by the lives of Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, Barclay Shaw, and Wayland Flowers, THE ALL STARS OF NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION takes its cues from the moment in a stand up routine when the comedian turns against the audience, heaping savagery upon it in an attempt to defend the comic’s role as container and messenger of a society’s unacknowledged debts and burdens. 


Running time: Approximately 30 minutes.

Inappropriate for children, very strong language

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Un-Top Ten Top Ten of 2010

Here's an alterna-top 10 (well 18 actually, though I’m lumping a few together - it’s always impossible to compare and contrast the many myriad manifestations we see year in and year out), and for this, I have eschewed many of the films that found their way into the critical mass, though dodged the Academy bullet.  Carlos, A Prophet, Dogtooth (which somehow sneaked into the Foreign Language category), Trash Humpers, Life During Wartime, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, Into the Void, Wild Grass, The Father of My Children, I Am Love, Shutter Island, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Mother, Everyone Else, Another Year, and Vincere (perhaps the definitive movie of 2010) all represent the best that global filmmaking has to offer, but the films here represent something else.  Many of them are sustained masterpieces, others have glimmers of brilliance, and some have some small pockets of originality, which is, surprisingly, an endangered species.  All give one hope at what film is still capable of :

Vengeance (Johnnie To)
French/Hong Kong gangster western. To is the more cerebral successor to John Woo in the department of slo-mo ultra-violence & the hidden codes that govern masculine duty. The flurries of violence are less musical ballets than mathematical modern dance. Indebted to the old-school Hollywood subversives - Hawks, Boetticher, Siegel, etc. - it’s stoicism and death do us part. Vengeance is To’s masterpiece due to the crags of French Elvis Johnny Hallyday’s face and the most brilliant standoff in recent memory. Imagine Spartacus in a landfill.

Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat)
Based on much of the evidence at hand, it is the folly of many gallery-based artists to believe that what makes a painting, sculpture, photo or even video piece sing in the well-lit confines of a museum/gallery can transfer to the narrative-dark of a movie screen (and vice-versa, as evidenced by the recent Dennis Hopper retrospective at MOCA). More often than not, those who are successful were always filmmakers at heart (see David Lynch or Julian Schnabel). Neshat is the rare case of an artist whose work has always existed in an in-between space. Her installations’ cinematic-texture feels out of place in the transitory nature of a gallery, and her feature-film debut, Women Without Men, doesn't deliver what we expect from a narrative fiction. But this is what distinguishes it - politically incendiary without being dogmatic, literary while being visually evocative. It is a true expression of the magical realist aesthetic, and was one of the most disturbing, inspiring, and under-seen films of the past year.

A Town Called Panic (Vincent Patar and St├ęphane Aubier)
Belgian stop-motion animation that is more adult than kiddie. Weird, angry, sweet, and funny - its vintage originality and hand-crafted charm trumps Toy Story in the department of toy and sympathy.

Runaway (Kanye West / Hype Williams)
West takes self-hype to new levels of audacity, and peaks with this a glam riff that co-opts Kubrick abasement in celestial terms. A parade of fantastical imagery, this extra-long form video (actually an encapsulation of the whole narrative thread of his simultaneously released album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) evokes the tortured conceptual loneliness and misunderstood genius prophecy that West speaks. The word is THE WORD. All in all, West is a troublesome figure in pop culture - fiercely independent and sadly needy in one deep breath.  In other words, hypnotic and detestable.  The best of both worlds.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

POP #1 ("It will go up when I'm ready for the people to receive it.")

The beginning of an occasional series of riffs and exultations on the things which fascinate me most in popular culture - weird, wonderful, brilliant, sad, sick, and emblematic of the absurdity of pleasure, pain, and the impossible.
image by Patrick Kennelly
So, not to beat a braying, impossible to kill horse - but it's unavoidable to escape Charlie Sheen, and no matter how tragic and horrible it may seem, that's maybe not such a bad thing right now. 

His truly indecipherable mass media displayed "meltdown" has rapidly become a sort of performance art masterpiece.  As he says in another one of his videotaped conversations, which is actually a monologue, "this is being recorded because people need to hear my gold as it rolls out, not as its like disappearing, disappearing like so many magicians' frickin' rabbits." 

It's easy to assume this is just the downward, drug-fueled spiral of one of the most raging narcissists in show business, but I, and a many, many others think there's something else at work.  Sheen has realized the key to what it's all about in our Pop! culture - which is this idea of "reality," a word that has become a part of the fictional lexicon, it's momentum trumping the more crafted spin that used to define what we were forced to experience in the culture ("We are in the middle of a movement here, an odyssey of epic, EPIC proportion," "don't they know we are in the cyber-pocket of greatness?" as Sheen says in Sheen's Korner).  Now it's a cycle of either calculated, or not, or both, personal aggression followed by apology, followed by.... and on. 

"It's radical, its radical and people are doing exactly what they should be doing, which is watching ME...because we have all the answers, we have all the gold, we have all the solutions...and keep in mind that any time I roll something out, my plan is the best plan in the world, and people are starting to wake up and Realize that, that their plan is shit and my plan is gold.  Walk into my plan, and you're going to win, win, win."

Every possible media outlet has been attempting to fuel this supposed "bloodsport," but Sheen's way ahead of them ("I have one speed, one gear, and that's go!" ).  We all have an inevitable fixation on "snuff" - and this is directly where it's heading.  A million+ may experience the first public death in tweets.

John Galliano enacted another form of performance with a much circulated video of his obviously drunken, cynical elegy to Hitler.  This got him sacked from his post atop Christian d'Or, but he's kept out of the public eye, which is not a very good idea, as Mel Gibson proved.  What's striking that it's their anti-Semitic tirades that found Sheen and Gibson in deep shit, mainstream career-wise, and not their long acknowledged abuse of women, as the Guardian article above acknowledges.

There are few borders left to cross, but the global abuse of women, played out as both religious ritual and popcorn entertainment (the I Spit on Your Grave remake is coming out soon) is still safe.

And here's the latest from the A.V. club's comprehensive,  up-to-the minute chronicle of Tiger Blood-fueled, all-things Sheen.