2020 was the year of COVID-19 and the corresponding implosion of the film business where many films that I eagerly awaited to see on a big screen, the way films should be, were dumped to various streaming platforms. If the year proceeded the way it should have, I would have watched more films on big screens, discovered new talent and my Top 10 choices may have been completely different. That being said, the films I’ve chosen are all worth checking out as I was watching films up until the day all the movie theaters were shuttered. It’s rather fitting that the last film I saw was the Filipino zombie film BLOCK Z.
Doctoral thesis filmmaking.
An exciting premise for a documentary, the discovery of long forgotten women filmmakers starting with Alice Guy-Blache up through Nell Shipman onward to Wendy Toye and dozens of other international directors unknown inside and outside of their own countries today. The downside is the filmmaker approaches the subject matter as if he has to pad out a doctoral thesis by hammering multiple square pegs into round holes to make a point. The inclusion of a number of over-rated current women filmmakers lessens the strength of this film.
2019 was the year of diarrhea of the hard drive. Like Fredrick Wiseman who seems to have forgotten everything he learned about editing as he has aged, the franchises (Marvel, Star Wars) and elder statesmen of Hollywood (Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick) are following suit with their lofty “epics.” All of them need he who shall not be named to rev us his chainsaw and start snipping away. If they were including Bollywood song & dance numbers I may give them a little slack. Speaking of Indian cinema, when is Hollywood going to start teaming up the likes of Salman Khan with the Dwayne Johnsons? (I have a great script idea for that pairing.) Speaking of international talent not yet on Tinsel Town’s radar, I offer up Aislinn Derbez (who they gave a thankless role in the middling MISS BALA remake) who I’ve been paying attention to since discovering her in A LA MALA. That film should get an American remake as I doubt most people who didn’t speak Spanish saw it.
One of the trends I have noticed in attending BookExpo over the last several years is that it seems to have gotten smaller with regards to the size and floor space it covers at the Javits Center at the same time it has expanded in a way to welcome more and more people who are not publishing industry professionals into the space. The former phenomenon certainly has to do with a consolidation in the industry, with any number of smaller publishing houses having been acquired by larger corporate entities (one of my favorite publishers, Black Dog & Leventhal, being a case in point); undoubtedly, too, the progressive growth in online sales of not only books but also related intellectual properties has contributed to the apparent contraction of the size and scope of the annual event – it’s easy to forget if you’re an attendee who creates, reads or reviews content that BookExpo primarily functions for the sake of book sellers and others in the business of delivering that content to consumers. With regards to the latter aspect, it’s mostly felt in the transitioning of the three days of BookExpo into the two final days of BookCon within the same Javits footprint – wherein the floor space taken up by exhibitors shrinks even more, but the public attendee crowd swells, not only to browse areas where they can purchase books but also to sit in on public presentations by authors and other publishing notables.
If I didn’t have a life to live with diverse interests, I’d rush out to see every “buzzed about” film coming out of film festivals. Years of disappointment and 35 years of industry expertise has taught me to ignore the chatter. My favorite film of 2018, THE DEATH OF STALIN, happened to be one of those buzzers (Armando Iannucci and Steve Buscemi were why I saw it). By year end awards hoopla, the film wasn’t mentioned once (neither was Charlize Theron’s acting in TULLY which had the same “buzz”). The “tastemakers” are like babies with their new shiny toys, PR flacks know how to distract them with their lollipops.
The most comprehensive annual celebration of the performing arts around the globe, encompassing a convergence of 14major performing arts industry forums and public festivals, is about to take place once again in New York City with the 2019 edition of JanArtsNYC. With the broad menu of cultural events including American Realness (Jan. 4-13; americanrelaness.com), Chamber Music of America Conference (Jan. 17-20l chamber-music.org), Drama League DirectorFest (Jan. 28; directorfest.org), National Sawdust’s FERUS Festival (Jan. 4-8; nationalsawdust.org/festivals-and-series/ferus), globalFEST (Jan. 6; globalfest.org), ISPA Congress (Jan. 8-10; ispa.org), Jazz Congress (Jan. 7-8; jazzcongress.org), NYC Winter Jazzfest (Jan. 4-12; winterjazzfest.com), The Joyce Theater’s American Dance Platform (Jan. 3-7; joyce.org), Performance Space New York (Jan. 5-31; performancespacenewyork.org), PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now (Jan. 5-13; prototypefestival.org), and The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival (Jan. 3-13; undertheradarfestival.com), perhaps the most important of these will be the 62ndannual Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) Conference. Taking place at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel from January 4-8, the APAP Conference in 2019 will host more than 3,600 performing arts professionals (including persons who represent leading performing arts centers, municipal and university performing arts facilities, culturally specific organizations, foreign governments, artist agencies, managers, touring companies, consultants and self-represented artists) as they experience some 1,000 performance showcases, network at a 370-booth EXPO Hall, and attend professional development and plenary sessions addressing issues impacting their industry.
In the late 1980’s I served for a couple of tours as a concessionaire with American Indian Dance Theatre. While on a Western tour, we found ourselves in Helena, Montana. Taking a much-needed cigarette break in front of our venue I was approached by a slumped shouldered man. “You’re not from around here?” he quipped. “No, I’m from NYC.” “I’m from Chicago” he replied. “I’ve been out here for 5 years, let me tell you how things work here. The legislature meets every two years for three months, and they spend half of that time repealing laws. If they have any time left, they might pass a law or two.”
While the growth in the marketing and selling of books has undeniably and irreversibly been changed by digital media – chiefly by the presence and influence of a company I need not name – the resiliency of the publishing industry is nonetheless demonstrated by manifold developments. As BookExpo America, North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals, prepares to descend upon Manhattan once again, it has been re-branded The Reimagined BookExpo (though the url to access detailed information about it remains www.bookexpoamerica.com) to reflect the evolving nature of the business, and while there will indeed be elements and presentations familiar to the global audience of publishers, writers, agents, booksellers and readers who attend the festivities unfolding at the Javits Center from May 30thto June 1st, there will thus, as always, be new wrinkles reflecting the ever-changing climate.
January is quite possibly the busiest of months for the performing arts in New York City – a place already busier than just about anywhere with options for audiences of music, dance, theater and related disciplines – and so it is fitting that the annual conclave where arts presenters from around the US gather to meet, to see live acts, and discuss the issues surrounding their industry is at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals [APAP] Conference, which took place from January 12-16. Timed to take place in a partnership that includes 11 performing arts industry events throughout the month, under the mantle JanArtsNYC, APAP has as part of its history of programming incubated such events as the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and globalFEST, and thus has occupied a leadership role in the field. As usual, the NY Hilton Hotel was the hub of activity for 2018, with various showcases and other events timed to coincide with the conference going on all over the city.
I have given up on trying to catch all the films getting rave reviews coming off the festival circuit. The waste of time and money this year was ridiculous. I spent the week between Christmas and New Years Eve catching up on films that have been littering End of Year Awards lists and have not liked most of them. I can be vicious about certain films but I’ll save that for when I get around to opening a Twitter account which will get me in trouble as my sarcastic wit is appreciated by select well-rounded individuals who don’t live or die on box office tallies.