Month: April 2007

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2004), Byambasuren Davaa & Luigi Falorni, B

Fascinating, but a little slow moving. The first twenty minutes go by without anything resembling a story. An ethnographic film in the true Robert Flaherty mold. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to live in a yurt in the Gobi desert and raise camels? There’s a lot of looking uncomfortable in strong winds, I can tell you that much. And drinking steaming hot white liquid. Anyhow, one of the camels is being a bad mother — they can’t exactly take her on Maury so the boys go to “The City” (what looks like an outerboro branch of the New York Public Library) to fetch a musician. The musician makes the camel cry (special effects or truth?!? We’ll never know) and then all is well again. Camels...

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March & April (And Even Some February) Photos

Lots of photos have been taken, few have been shared. From Jake’s birthday party: Amanda says, “Hey, what’s with you?” Amanda thinks Ann is loopy. My Aunt Joan’s favorite words begin with an “F” and end with an “UCK.” Jake in a parachute. UPDATE: This actually isn’t Jake, but one of his little friends. Who can see with such a blurry lens? I’m thinking of doing something stupid. I’ve done something stupid. I’m paying the price. An offscreen hand to help me out. I cook breakfast once in a while. The funniest named public housing development. A pigeon. Matt Levy and Goober. Me and Ely (nee Chairman Meow.) Jurgen makes a face. Mr. & Mrs. Johnson-Rozger (on her birthday.) Taken the same night (and notice how Emma’s head [Emma is the one on the right] strangely echoes Mrs. J-R’s!) Dumplings and Sandwiches in the Flushing Underworld: The Levy’s and I have made a few trips to this hidden mall in Flushing (Main St. & 41st) and each time it is a major event. Here is Mark ordering up. Note how the decor really looks like some dude’s apartment in Queens. Matt and I wait in anticipation. The ingredients for the mystery sandwiches. Yum. Dude’s making some kinda spicy sweet noodles that kinda taste like Waffle Crisp cereal. Lamb sandwiches. Sooooo good. Outta control dumplings. Stinky Fried Tofu. It doesn’t...

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Philip Roth’s Patrimony: A True Story

Philip Roth describes the nightmare scenario. His father is 86 and healthy as a horse. And then, out of the blue, a brain tumor. Well, turns out it was growing for ten years, but who knew? They could operate, but it’d be a year of pure hell to recuperate. And that’s if he even survives the surgery. The question no one wants to ask: Is 86 long enough? A very upsetting book to read, surely. The elder Roth’s mind can recall the smallest detail of who owned what hardware store in Newark in 1930, but his body is shitting all over himself. Roth is a smart enough writer to know that a book like this can’t be all horror. There is humor (some of the best retirement community observations this side of Jasper Beardly) and tangential storytelling. . .just to keep your mind focused elsewhere for a minute while the gears of the inevitable work offstage. One is left, in a weird way, feeling just a tiny bit upbeat. The main characters (Roth, his father and brother, essentially) are simply lucky they have one another, and help one another to cope as best they can. They recognize that, even though they may feel like this is a completely unique thing that is happening to the three of them, death may be the only universal constant out there. This book...

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Alice Neel (2007), Andrew Neel, A

It is an axiom: to be a great artist, you are going to hurt the ones you love. The best you can hope for is that the ones you love will be understanding. Alice Neel didn’t make life easy for herself or anyone around her. Eschewing any normal sense of a family life, abandoning one child, raising two others from different transient fathers, she devoted herself, firstly, to her painting. That, too, wasn’t easy — as a portrait painter at a time when portraits were the least viable form for a serious artist careerwise, she also abandoned the “art scene” as it were — plus, she had the luck (good or bad depending on your point of view) to be born a woman. Added up: it took a long, long time for Alice Neel to gain the recognition she got. . .and the film makes it clear that even this was a fluke. “Alice Neel,” directed by her grandson Andrew, is everything the miserable film My Architect is not. For starters, it is just flat-out entertaining. Alice herself is a marvelous subject. Seen in ample found footage she is warm and wonderful but also, at times, exasperating. And, of course, there is her artwork. I’ll admit: I never heard of her before (Ann has, so we’re not a completely ignorant household.) Her paintings are absolutely mesmerizing. Her portraits are...

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Decalogue 1 (I Am The Lord Thy God) (1989), Krzysztof Kieslowski, A-

Holy smokes! If I’ve got 9 hours more of this waiting for me, I don’t know if I can make it. So depressing! I assumed that these films (based on the 10 Commandments) would be morality tales, but all I get from this is “Shit Happens.” Anyway, wonderfully shot film set at a fabulous commie block housing complex, snowy, grey, but unlike, say, Mike Leigh’s All or Nothing there seems a better sense of community. Good performances, worth watching, but I dunno what the point of this was other than to make us sad. (Unless the thesis is some anti-Science message/vengeance against the nonbelievers. . .but somehow I don’t buy...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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