The Finalists for the 66th National Book Awards have been determined, with the Longlist of 10 titles being winnowed down to a Shortlist of 5 in each of the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature respectively. It seems every year there is a category wherein any number of the Finalists could possibly get the prize, whereas perhaps in another there is often a book that seems foreordained to get the top honor – due to aspects ranging from a Finalist nominee being a notable author with prior nominations yet no Grand Prizes; a groundswell of popular or critical acclaim distinguishing one of the titles from the rest; or circumstances in the political or social sphere in America that serve to make a certain book timely or “important” in terms of the national dialogue.
Philippe Petit’s daring 1974 tightrope walk between the legendary Twin Towers as portrayed by a mostly French cast led by an American film crew and actor. When news of the construction of the World Trade Center’s signature Twin Towers reaches France, street performer Philippe Petit sees more than just a structural marvel. He sees an opportunity to make the coup of a lifetime by walking a tightrope the 140-foot distance between the towers, over 1,300 feet above the streets of New York City. His elaborate scheme requires meticulous planning, highly involved mechanical physics, and, of course, a team of equally subversive insurgents eager to ensure perfection in its execution just weeks after the buildings are opened to the public.
Artist David Craig Ellis’ current show at Venticinque, 162 Fifth Ave Brooklyn NY, is a fascinating rare view into his working process. The show is entirely a collection of morning drawings taken from his sketchbook and framed and presented on the walls of this Park Slope Cafe.
The annual Academy Awards celebrations are arguably the dullest shows on tv, given the insipid thank-you speeches that name that the audience knows or cares to know. That means there’s only one reason that people watch, and that’s to look at the clothing that the stars are wearing. Since men don only the traditional tux and bow tie, only the women are worth admiring for their taste in threads. And that’s where Christian Dior comes in.
While so many aspects of Scottish heritage have influenced North American culture that it’s easy to take them for granted, it’s always a grand occasion to celebrate them during Tartan Week, which will be unfolding from April 6-11. The expanding slate of events, featuring daily concerts, parties, and of course capped off by the 17th Annual Tartan Day Parade down Sixth Avenue on Saturday, April 11th, was announced at St. Andrews restaurant, at 140 West 46 Street – a site of a number of the events in store.
If you are lucky enough to know Dave Ellis, you might know him as a painter, a musician, a writer, or a specialized contractor designing and building custom recording studios for a veritable who’s who of the music world. I am lucky enough to know him in all of these personas. To put it simply Dave Ellis is a man and a half. Make a trip to Venticinque at 162 Fifth Ave in Park Slope and you will be treated to a show of ten of his paintings all created in 2014.
More and more films are being sent to purgatory (aka VOD) so I’ve probably missed some of the gems I usually discover every year that would be on my annual Top 10 list. Many of the film festivals that are presented in New York City have seemed to have lost their way with respect to programming as they seem to rely more on the manufactured buzz of publicists and sales agents when it comes to their selections. Mumblecore is NOT a reincarnation of La Nouvelle Vague, just what happens when the cost of film production falls through the floor and everyone thinks they’re creative. On a serious note, with everyone shooting on digital, what is going to happen to film preservation down the road? 35mm is still the best archive format around. I started in this industry on the tail end of 2″ Quad, try finding a lab with the equipment to do a transfer from that format today.
Next time you go ballistic when the bartender waters down your drink or feel murderous when the tailor cuts your pants legs too short, think of how much better off you are than Louis Zamperini. Fighting in the Japanese theater in World War II, he has the misfortune to suffer a double engine loss on his aircraft, leaving him and two buddies on a rubber lifeboat in the middle of the ocean for forty-five days. Forget about the sharks that encircle the boat. Falling prey to one of them might be a blessing, considering the lack of food and water or living space, nor do the men have much hope of being rescued. Rescued by the good guys that is. When they are picked up by the Japanese navy, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that they’re on dry land. The bad news is that they are taken to one, and then another, prison camp, subjected to torments by guards who must think the Geneva Convention is a meeting of dental lab technicians in a Swiss hotel.
Most of the civilized world loved America in 1945. The U.S. was a prime force in liberating Europe from the Hun. Our soldiers gave out chewing gum to the kids on the Continent, soft toilet paper to the adults, and dished out money to bail the good guys out via the Marshall Plan. Given the rules of engagement in our current century, it’s unlikely that we can ever be the heroes abroad that we were then, evoking an unconditional surrender of our enemies in a war that lasted just six years (four years for our own guys), and not the murky condition of our battles in the Middle East since Shock and Awe, as the Taliban in Afghanistan retake some of the territory ceded to the moderates in a fragile victory.
There’s a reason that the aphorism “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is called the golden rule, and that is because the statement is the gold standard, representing the most basic rule of civilized conduct among people. If you put yourself into another person’s shoes, and thereby really get to know what makes the other human being tick, this should give you pause before doing something that you would never want done to you. Probably no filmmaker believes that more than Belgians Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. They started their careers by making videos of the rough lives of blue collar people in the Wallonie, a mostly French speaking region of southern Belgium, parlaying into ROSETTA, about a blue collar working with an alcoholic mother who tries to better himself in a small town.