Last Picture Shows: Film and Obsolescence

A proposition, based on sampling three months of contemporary American cinema at the 2012 Whitney Biennial: from now until the final reel of celluloid is shot and projected, every film’s primary subject will be film itself. This year’s biennial, which ran from March 1 through May 27, was explicitly devoted to varieties of time-based art—memorable touchstones of the ephemeral—but only the films dwelt intimately on their own obsolescence. The program’s opening presentation featured recent work by Luther Price, and it could have been titled “How to Die.” A Boston-based found-footage expressionist, Price treats celluloid as dynamic material. Inkblot #1 (2007), the first in an ongoing and seemingly infinite series, is a blistering string of Rorschach-like color codes that Price created by scraping the emulsion from previously used eight- and sixteen-millimeter film, which he also disfigured with a Sharpie. While many, if not most, of the filmmakers holding fast to sixteen-millimeter in the face of overwhelming pressure to make the switch to digital have taken a mournful stance toward material decay, Price engages in acts of righteous vengeance. His reconfigurations of discarded prints are accompanied by soundtracks of brutal, rhythmic feedback—amplifications of the mechanical noise of celluloid projection. Sprocket holes pop like machine guns. Sometimes the aural onslaught is given a direct visual corollary: in Turbulent Blue (2006), which segments the surfaces of a rotting, now unidentifiable Hollywood action movie, the medium seems locked in a battle to maintain its materiality in the heat of explosions and gunfire. For Price, images that persist through decay aren’t necessarily plaintive or melancholy, and at the biennial his work made for an auspicious beginning to an ambitious, ambivalent goodbye. The Whitney has a long and storied history of film exhibition. In the 1970s and ’80s, its New American Continue Reading

New Yorkers play a starring role at the Tribeca Film Festival

Nearly 40 countries are represented at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. But as co-founder Robert De Niro noted when he opened the festivities Wednesday, this will always be “a local event.” The festival began as a celebration of a single neighborhood, and the concept of community within New York continues to influence the fest. The free “drive-in” movies, for example, draw thousands of New Yorkers each year. Friday’s outdoor screening is “Beetlejuice,” while Saturday brings kittens and cuteness with the meme-inspired “Lil Bub & Friendz.” And mark your calendars for next Saturday, April 27, when Tribeca Film Festival takes over Greenwich St. with its annual Street Fair. New York is in the films, too. Wednesday’s opening night film, “Mistaken for Strangers,” profiled indie rockers The National, who call Brooklyn home. That borough’s other contributions include the talented subjects of “Flex is Kings,” a documentary which follows East New York dancers as they battle at underground showcases. And Coney Island is the inspiration for the aspiring strongman in “Bending Steel.” Among narrative films, Queens is the starting point for the subway-centered drama “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors.” And Hurricane Sandy inspired one of many shorts set in the city, “The Rider and the Storm,” about Freedom Tower worker Timmy Brennan. He’s a passionate surfer who lost his home in the Breezy Point fires. This being New York, there’s socioeconomic commentary, too. “In God We Trust” introduces us to Bernie Madoff’s personal secretary, who provides insight into her boss’s motivations. And “Big Shot,” directed by “Entourage” star Kevin Connolly, exposes the misdeeds of former Islanders owner John Spano. Mira Nair’s political drama “The Continue Reading

New Jersey Film Festival returns to Rutgers University

Local film fans will be transported to environs both near and far, from Trenton to Alaska and beyond, as the New Jersey Film Festival returns to the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University for its spring 2015 season.Running Saturday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, March 1, the festival will bring films of all stripes to Voorhees Hall on Hamilton Street and the Ruth Adams Building on George Street.The event is presented by the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center and the Rutgers University Program in Cinema Studies, under the executive direction and curatorial expertise of Al Nigrin. MORE: Jersey City's Rye Coalition profiled in new filmFor Old Bridge native Steve Tozzi, the festival is a perfect home for his hotly anticipated new documentary, "Riot on the Dance Floor: The Story of Randy Now and City Gardens." Featuring appearances by underground rock luminaries such as Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and Jello Biafra, the film chronicles the tumultuous life and times of the storied Trenton rock club in the '80s and into the '90s.The film will screen as part of a block of films beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Voorhees Hall."A lot of us went to see shows in New Brunswick, at the Court Tavern and at Scott Hall on the Rutgers campus, so going back there is a big deal," said Tozzi, who began attending City Gardens shows as a teenager. "It's a New Jersey story, and we want it to play well in the state, so this is definitely a great place for us to be."Tozzi's film tells the story of both the club and Randy Ellis, a.k.a. Randy Now, the local music scene fixture responsible for booking the diverse, trail-blazing bands that made City Gardens' reputation, from Dead Kennedys to Bad Brains to Red Hot Chili Peppers.Tozzi, Ellis and producer Peter Tabbot will be on hand to introduce the film and take part in a question-and-answer session when the film screens in Hub City. MORE: The Spierig Brothers discuss "Predestination"In interviewing punk luminaries and Continue Reading

Free & Cheap New York: Where to go and what to do around the city for the week of March 31, 2013

COLOR AND CULTURE. Celebrate the Indian holiday of Holi — the festival of colors. NYC Bhangra Dance Company and School will teach traditional folk dances as you enjoy music and food in Dag Hammarskjold Park. Free. Noon. 47th St. between First and Second Aves. (212) 372-8001. GIRLS JUST WANT TO ... have fun (of course!). Grab a mimosa and some pancakes or eggs and enjoy Nitehawk Cinema’s brunch screening of the 1985 comedy “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Not enough motivation for you to rise and shine? Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt dance a lot! Rated PG. $11. Noon. 136 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn. (718) 384-3980. IN YOUR EASTER BONNET. Get your best hat ready for the Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The parade goes down Fifth Ave, showcasing the best and brightest of head adornments. Free. 10 a.m. Fifth Ave. at 50th St. (212) 753-2261. COMPETE ON THE STREET. Empire Lock invites artists and onlookers to its Graffiti Art Contest. The event will feature art on canvas or flat board as well as drinks and snacks for all who attend. Free. 4 p.m. 304 Meserole St., Brooklyn. (718) 599-0464. WONDER OF WONDERS. Flux Factory presents “The Wonder Cabinet,” an exhibit that brings together sculptors, costumers, video artists, holographers and more in one cohesive narrative. The show is created to be a walk-through “cabinet” of curiosities intended to intrigue one and all. Free. Noon. 39-31 29th St., Long Island City. (718) 707-3362. FABULOUS FLORA. Take a guided tour of the Macy’s Flower Show and learn all about the blooms. The tour will also discuss how the show gets installed. Aisles and areas include the Antebellum Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Tropical Garden and more. Free. 11 a.m. 151 W. 34th St. (212) 695-4400. REVERSE MEMORY. Today is the last day to check out “Ciudad Saudade, Architectures of Memory” at Reverse. The exhibit explores Continue Reading

New film reveals underground world of bicycle messenger racing

A documentary offering a gripping look at the underground world of bicycle messenger racing headlines the New York Bicycle Film Festival, which opens this week. Producer Lucas Brunelle shot the film “Line of Sight” while riding in illegal “alleycat” races throughout New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Mexico City, London and other congested cities around the world over the past decade. Outfitted with a custom-made helmet cam, Brunelle offers a first-person look into the world of urban cycling, capturing riders as they weave through traffic, pedal the wrong way down streets and zip by unsuspecting pedestrians. The chaotic races, organized by hardcore bands of bike messengers, usually have no set route. Riders instead are given a series of “checkpoints” to reach as fast as they can, while trying to avoid becoming roadkill. “A live game of ‘Frogger’ on a bike,” is how BMX legend Mat Hoffman described it in a blurb posted on the film’s YouTube trailer. The film premiers on July 1, at the Anthology Film Archives on 2nd Avenue. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New York Film Festival kicks off with Roman Polanski’s ‘Carnage,’ also ‘Ben-Hur’ retroactive

The New York Film Festival begins Friday night  with the premiere of Roman Polanski's "Carnage," starring Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet as warring Brooklyn mothers.The festival runs through Oct. 16, but you'll find lots of highlights this weekend alone. Among the attractions in the next few days: a retrospective screening of William Wyler's Oscar-sweeping "Ben-Hur,"a 10th-anniversary celebration of Hayao Miyazaki's acclaimed animated adventure "Spirited Away" and buzzworthy indies including the Iranian drama "A Separation"and the Mexican thriller "Miss Bala"( don't overlook the week's lower-profile events, which ought to prove equally worthy to movie fans. For example, NYU's Cantor Film Center is hosting "Irish Film New York," with the best of contemporary Irish cinema ( evening's opening entry is "Knuckle," a documentary about the underground fight culture of the Irish Traveler community. The film has already inspired an upcoming HBO series, so check out the original while you can.'Aidan Quinn and his sister, director Marian Quinn, will offer a Q&A after their coming-of-age dramedy "32A" Saturday, while director Darragh Byrne will attend the Sunday screening of his film "Parked,"starring Colm Meaney as a loner whose life changes unexpectedly.The Russian Documentary Film Festival, at Tribeca Cinemas, offers another option. Tonight's biography, "The Weather Outside Is Beautiful," about author Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, has already earned more than 20 international awards. Tomorrow brings "Nekrasov: Life in the Trenches," a portrait of exiled writer Victor Nekrasov, while Sunday's choices include the self-explanatory "Artists of Odessa"and the World War II chronicle "The Arithmetic of Freedom" ( Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Tribeca Film Festival’s ‘Cropsey’ recounts horrifying Staten Island murders

When a group of friends and neighbors from Staten Island ventured into Manhattan last weekend to watch a hard-hitting crime documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, most had no idea just how gutwrenching the experience would be. It's been 22 years since a creepy drifter who lived in the woods behind the abandoned ruins of a mental institution was arrested for the kidnaping and murder of a 12-year-old girl with Down's syndrome — a horrific crime that soon took on a more ominous tone when the man, 43-year-old Andre Rand, became a suspect in the disappearances of several other Staten Island children over the years. The strange case of Andre Rand and the still-missing kids remains one of the biggest mysteries in the annals of New York criminal history, and is now the subject of "Cropsey," a gripping documentary that debuted at this year's Tribeca fest. But for the friends and neighbors of the victims who attended Saturday's screening, sitting through a rehashing of Rand's crimes — both real and imagined — was almost unbearably painful despite the passage of time. "It was very emotional, and very sad," says Donna Cutugno, a neighbor of Jennifer Schweiger, the disabled girl who was abducted and killed in the summer of 1987 and whose body is still the only one that was ever found. "You tend to put things in the back of your mind over the years, but seeing the film brought a lot of bad things back," adds Cutugno, who spearheaded the neighborhood search for Jennifer's body when the little girl went missing. "It's still very painful because there has been no closure for my family," says Rita DiMartino, the aunt of Alice Periera, a 5-year-old girl whose disappearance in 1972 has been linked to Rand, though never proven. "Alice's mother passed away without ever knowing what happened to her. But even though they focused more on (Jennifer), on the whole (the film makers) did a great job, because this is something that should be shown everywhere Continue Reading

Three festivals fete the old & the new

It's a good week for movie lovers, whether you prefer to honor the classics or hunt for new discoveries. If you're looking for old favorites, you won't do better than Film Forum's United Artists 90th Anniversary series ( They're offering double features all weekend, and you may want to clear your schedule. Today's pairing sees Sean Connery's James Bond face off against Soviet villainy in "From Russia With Love," while James Cagney tries to stop his boss' daughter from marrying a Marxist in Billy Wilder's delightful "One, Two, Three." Connery returns tomorrow in "Goldfinger" and "Dr. No" (yes, that's the one with Ursula Andress in the white bikini). And be prepared to pitch in: All the "Goldfinger" screenings are sing-alongs. Despite the title, the late Jules Dassin's romantic comedy "Never on Sunday" is playing at Film Forum on Sunday. But the bigger draw is likely to be Wilder's Oscar-winning satire "The Apartment." We happen to know that Daily News readers adore lead Jack Lemmon, so expect crowds. And if you're planning ahead, get tickets now for another reader favorite, "Midnight Cowboy," which screens on Wednesday. Looking for something slightly less familiar? The Gen Art Film Festival ( is celebrating indie cinema through Tuesday, with several movies already scheduled for upcoming release. Due out in May, "Surfwise" documents a doctor-turned-surfer who uprooted his wife and nine kids to follow his bohemian dreams. And "The Take" hits theaters next week, so if you want an early glimpse at Brad Furman's heist flick - starring John Leguizamo and Rosie Perez - now's the time. There's even a bonus: Every Gen Art ticket also gets you entry into a movie's after-party. As its name suggests, the New York Underground Film Festival ( has little connection to the mainstream. But that means you get to sift around for gems yourself. Though half the fun is in the looking, we'll get you started by suggesting "We Are Continue Reading

Film festivals this weekend

If you can't find a film festival that suits your interests this weekend, you may just have to start one of your own. We've got big movies and small, long and short, local and far-flung. You'll actually find all of the above at Lincoln Center's Human Rights Watch Film Festival ( Edet Belzberg made the Oscar-nominated "Children Underground" several years ago, and I've never been able to forget the subjects of that wrenching documentary. You may find the same to be true with her latest, "The Recruiter," about Sergeant Clay Usie, one of our country's most successful military recruitment officers. "The Betrayal," which was filmed over two decades, tells the story of a family that escaped from Laos only to confront new challenges in New York. Individuals face down authority to right grave injustices in "A Promise to the Dead," "American Outrage," and "The Dictator Hunter." And John Hurt stars in Britain's award-winning "Prisoners in Time," a drama about a former P.O.W. haunted by revenge fantasies. The other major cinematic event this week is NewFest (, which takes place at the AMC Loews 34th Street and is celebrating twenty years as New York's annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender film festival. Ally Sheedy and Ruby Dee star in "Steam," about diverse women experiencing dramatic changes in their lives. "The Universe of Keith Haring," a popular entry at the Tribeca Film Festival, explores the artist's life and work. And the fest ends on Sunday with the high school musical "Were the World Mine," a takeoff on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that has already earned awards at other festivals. Symphony Space ( is holding the 4th Reel Rhythms World Music Film Festival this month, and Sunday brings several films about North Africa. The afternoon shorts program includes "Songs for a Shabbat" and "Embroidered Canticles," both about Moroccan-Jewish music, while the evening lineup begins with "Wijdan: The Mystery of Gnawa Continue Reading

Naples International Film Festival starts with Hollywood-style premiere

Artis—Naples transformed into Hollywood's Dolby Theater for the ninth annual Naples International Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday. The red carpet was rolled out and wine was poured as hundreds of festivalgoers posed for "paparazzi" in their sparkly dresses or fitted suits before entering the facility to watch the opening night screening of "Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story." The 86-minute documentary chronicles the journey of chef and outdoorsman Eduardo Garcia who lost his hand, ribs and muscle mass after being shocked by 2,400 volts of electricity in a freak accident while hunting in Montana. The festivities began with a red carpet arrival of VIP ticket holders who enjoyed drinks and food before the movie. Ruth and Don Epstein walked down the red carpet like pros, clearly enjoying their date night at the movies. "We're excited for the evening," said Don, who was part of the film selection process."And we plan to watch four or five other movies this weekend," Ruth added. As soon as the warning bell chimed, everyone gradually moved into Hayes Hall with drinks and popcorn in hand.Kathleen van Bergen, CEO and president of Artis—Naples, welcomed guests onstage before the movie started. "For many years we partnered with NIFF for the opening night festivities and merged partnerships at the beginning of the year. I'd like to thank everyone in the joining of these two artistic forces," van Bergen said. Thursday's film was followed with a question-and-answer session hosted by Eduardo Garcia, his friend, Jennifer Jane, and the film's producer, Dennis Aig. After the credits rolled, VIP ticket holders stuck around Hayes Hall for the after-party filled with dancing, live music, drinks, desserts and hors d'oeuvres. Movie lovers can enjoy the rest of the festival's nearly 50 films until Sunday. All movies will be playing at Continue Reading