Saturday, January 15, 2011

Betty Nguyen's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from independent curator/art director Betty Nguyen, editor-in-chief of First Person Magazine:

1. If I wasn't a total zombie after our Holiday fundraiser at Living ARTS Fund, (I don't get out of bed for anything the next day after I throw a party) I woulda tried my darndest to get to the Roxie Theatre's benefit w. John Waters. That would definitely be top on my list. He's wonderful and so is that theatre.

2. I watched a great screening of a film by artist Lawrence Jordan, animator, with a new soundtrack by a local Bay Area drone band at this new little hole in the wall, called Musical Chairs Gallery. The venue located on Geary and Hyde street downtown was being curated by someone local who programmed a month of performances and screenings and I caught this one. It was small and everyone sat on the floor, but the film was so inspiring and charming.

3. Hauntology at the Berkeley Museum was an event program curated by local SF artist Scott Hewicker. It was on Oct. 29th and began with a procession of ghosts and an eerie single violin that echoed throughout the cavernous concrete space but what really kept me engaged were the several screens he set up with different short films. He cleverly also hung pillow cases up like ghosts on a clothes line and made a slide projection of what resembled the swirls of Edward Munch's "Scream" painting for the backdrop to define the area of play for one of the bands. A lot of the L@TE programs this year at BAM were entertaining bits of music mainly, but Scott's was a great integration of sights that one could immerse into a filmic experience of black and white visuals.

4. Jonathan Grothman is a new Bay Area artist whose films are abstract and simple in form, restrained but poetic. I might categorize them as repertory as they repeated all night long during the Living ARTS Fund's Holiday party in the Excelsior for which he made them. But it his projections washed the space in colorful shapes and patterns that never tired and transformed the 1,700 ft venue into something tactile, alien and larger than life as performers became a part of his designs. It reminded me of the iconic visuals of the Velvet Underground shot for their album cover in dots. Or even the psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore with their oil visuals done live. As Director for the space we didn't want any incandescents in the space, so projection loops proved a powerful medium of setting the tone for mystery, event, and secrecy when you walked in from the lit storefront back into this warp of technicolored sand and kaleidoscopic figures.

5. I've decided to live my life, starting with this New Year beginning right this very night, like the film Pina in honor of my favorite artist of all time Pina Baushch who filled me with laughter, tears, desire and thrills. The film shot in 3D by Wim Wenders is "for Pina Bausch", one of the most extraordinary choreographers of our time who passed away in 2009. Last year, the only film program I saw that paid homage to her was by Joel Shepard, of course, at YBCA. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make the screenings but I was elated that he put this together. The new film has just released a trailer and looks spectacular. Wim and Pina worked on the film together, but she was diagnosed with cancer a few days into the shooting, but is now completed. I look forward to its release in 2011. I think it may debut at the Berlinale.

6. Ryan Trecartin kinda slayed it this year. Adored, embraced by art establishment but repping a generation of texters, ravers, and tweakers who talk a mile a minute about life, about getting somewhere and about their consciousness. His art videos are everywhere not just museums but splashed throughout the tabloids of life. The psycho babble of wisdom his characters ramble on is filled with gen NOW savvy. Their makeup, closeups, digital editing quick cuts and filters are what not to do's in the cutting room and made it exactly right for ART that made its own system of rules and broke every one along the way. I love his films and the way they look totally wrong everywhere I've seen them - at the Whitney Biennial to the SFMoMA right now on the 5th floor. Amongst a quiet stark room of minimal colors and formality, lives in this small screen with exposed wire, his mayhem and life with friends shot in nightvision or low res. Its relevancy to our culture is breathing.

7. I almost puked watching Enter the Void for the first hour in the daytime. I couldn't finish it. I couldn't stand it. But it's in my memory.

8. I found out about this Parking Garage show in the Mission and literally bands were playing while cars were pulling in and out. My youthful days of going to guerilla shows was sparked again, and I felt really special to be there. Most of the bands had visuals and the two I remember was one duo, who just had their laptop projecting a video of the moon. It was jarring and effective. Nothing fantastic or out of the ordinary, but like their music, it was simple but a little bit off in a good way. The moonlight kinda danced ever slightly as their music seemed cut off in square waves. And another artist played blaring keyboards while showing a flicker of portraits he made. It was intense like the flicker films genre can be, reminding me of the Vasulkas and artists that Nate Boyce had turned me onto while curating films for the SFAI. Hypnotizing...

9. My friend works at Opera Plaza and it's always great to have a friend who works at a theatre. He invites me from time to time to come watch a film and I saw the Tom Ford film A Single Man. I liked its uncomplicatedness. I liked the story of the neighbors played by Colin Firth and Julianne Moore when she said something like, "You're fucking this up by being gay. We coulda been so right for each other." There was a lot of build up to nowhere in particular. It was a bit rigid, but probably the best part of this filmic experience was when my friend snuck in and handed me a huge box of buttered corn. He's so sweet.

10. Well, the last one, I kinda wanted to really thank the invention of the internet for allowing me to see all kinds of things whenever I let my fingers do the walking. From Gossip Girl episodes to Madmen, most recently Louie on Netflix streaming, Agnes Varda's The Gleaners & I, and my friend suggesting John and Mary and Seraphine. Sometimes not being able to know when something's coming out, etc. even torrenting stuff. I hope I'm not being a bah humbug, but gosh, the movie going experience in bed is a great one! In my Tumblr blog, I've enjoyed countless shared music videos by bands, fashion fans, and sharing is caring when you come to think that millions of people out there are taking the time to upload any of this stuff. It's not ego it's like hey youtube let's put up this rare video, or my cat chasing itself, or gosh, endless hours of that shiba inu puppy cam got me through some shitty days. So, thank you to everyone who posts something. Cuz you never know how it's going to affect someone else - inspiration, wisdom, entertainment, career opportunity. The internet is a good tv and film screen.