Friday, November 11, 2011

Washington Times post today...

Washington Times post today for RFDC...

Film festival: ReelFest DC
After four years in Boston, ReelFest is setting up camp in the District with the express mission of creating “a seed-bed for films outside of the mainstream which personify innovation, individuality and daring strokes of bold new cinema.” That’s a tall order, but at least one ReelFest offering appears to fit the bill: “Inventory” is a feature-length look at the inner workings of a New England furniture store. Like the retail-class sagas it echoes, “Inventory” deals principally with the problems of smart people who feel overqualified for jobs they can barely handle.
Through Monday at 1055 Thomas Jefferson St. NW.

See original post here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stockbrokers Are People Too, Maybe, by Mark Donovan

You may want a primer on the behaviors and history that lead to the financial collapse of 2008 before going in to Margin Call, the new financial thriller from writer/director J.C Chandor. There are numerous terms and numbers thrown out at the characters and audience, and it’s hard to make sense of it all. But, then, that’s the point. Margin Call tells the story of a 24 hour period in which a few managers and executives at a Lehman Brothers-like firm try to avert an impending disaster, in which even the very highest executives are not entirely sure what the information means. The one character who seems to have the best grasp on the information is a rocket scientist, and even he doesn’t know exactly what is happening, or how to stop it.

It may seem somewhat masochistic to watch a financial thriller about the 2008 financial collapse while we are still experiencing the effects of it, but Margin Call makes for an effective and entertaining thriller, even while keeping the majority of the action contained to various boardrooms and offices. The boardroom scenes are tense, without devolving into shouting matches between veteran actors. And none of the actors come across as outright villains, they are all just people put into the overwhelming situation of trying to avert impending disaster, though Jeremy Irons does come off slightly vampiric. It is a bold move- especially in these times, where stockbrokers are perceived as enemy #1.

The ensemble cast includes Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker, Irons, and Penn Badgley. Stanley Tucci also shows up in scenes that bookend the film, as the risk management director whose work exposes the impending collapse, and whose role also seems to be the guy that just spouts numbers. It’s a role similar to Liam Neeson’s in Gangs of New York, in that he is mentioned constantly throughout the film while only appearing in it for a few minutes, not in the spouting numbers way. As one of the least recognizable names in the ensemble, Quinto does a fine job as Tucci’s rocket scientist protégé, who takes over his work after he is fired early on.

Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany also deliver fine performances. This is perhaps one of Kevin Spacey’s best performances since Moon (where he played the voice of the robot GERTY), and it’s always good to see Bettany doing more than just glowering while killing CGI monsters. Penn Badgley is passable as a young, cocky stockbroker, though I kept thinking he was Adam Brody. Are we sure they’re not related? It was somewhat sad to hear his character admit that all he ever wanted to do was be a stockbroker. He must have had very little imagination as a kid.

Simon Baker and Demi Moore fare less well, though they aren’t given much to work with. They mostly just stay in the background as Spacey, Bettany, and Irons do the heavy lifting. And the one scene with the two of them sandwiching a cleaning woman in an elevator is a little too on the nose in terms of imagery. Aasif Mandvi can also be glimpsed taking a short break from The Daily Show, though he is given even less to do than Moore.

Margin Call occasionally evokes another one-location thriller, Deterence, though I would say that Margin Call is much more sure-footed and effective. Both deal with people making impossible choices in the face of catastrophe, but Margin Call has the benefit of being a fictional account of real events, and the ensemble is much better. While it may seem strange to find entertainment and excitement in a film about an event from which we are still feeling the fallout, Margin Call is nevertheless a well made, tense thriller, which manages to also be entertaining.

Written by Mark Donovan
Editor: Rod Webber

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hoping Bernie Madoff Finds New Career In Art

Chuck Close
Recently, my friend Edgar Stephen Curo posted an interesting story from the New York Times called "Artist Files Suit, Seeking Royalties." As it turns out, I had a thought or two about it. The following is the rant posted to Edgar's Facebook:

"They [sellers, museums and galleries] contend that the law’s main beneficiaries are artists who need it the least: those, like Mr. Close [Chuck Close] or Mr. Stella, whose work is famous enough to sell again and again."

Wow... "The artists need it the least"? I will admit, that most of my art in recent years has been in the form of films or music, but I remember The Rhode Island School of design costing tens of thousands of dollars... It was a big part of why I dropped out. Sure, there are the lucky few artists who this quote may apply toward, but for the vast majority of artists out there, they're not making a dime on their work.

The "Sellers" make the argument that this is not like copyright in film/music/literary works, because "the realization of a work of art is in exhibition, not in duplication.” What this whore fails to understand is that films are also paid for by their exhibition: It's called a movie screen, or a TV screen. Musicians are paid for their exhibitions. They're called concerts, CDs, mp3s, radio. Literature has Kindle, and paper. The New York Times charges you to read on the web. These are their galleries.

Jerry Garcia
Don't get me wrong, I understand their cut-throat logic: If I were to sell the physical master tape a Jerry Garcia song was recorded on (to use their example), I would expect to get a hefty sum. It is, of course, the original. (See John Lennon's tooth for sale.)

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is, that if a painting does get popular enough that people care about it, it is proliferated through libraries, magazines and now the web, and the artist never sees a dime for it. I suppose that we can't all have the resources to stage a marketing coup like Mr. Brainwash, but I think it's about time visual artists got treated at least with the same degree of respect that the rest of the arts get-- which is of course still pretty abysmal.

Mr. Brainwash
That being said, we starving artists knew what we signed on for, and I don't think a piece of legislation will have significant change on our artistic output... except perhaps to diminish it. After all, the struggle is often as much of the process as it is the art itself. I wouldn't expect the US to join with the European Union on this issue, but it seems to me that Sotheby's and Christie's and other such should at least have the decency to acknowledge that the artist themselves are of value.

But what else is new? Art-dealers, stock-traders, plantation owners, they're "the job creators." Right? Thanks Rockerfeller. Bernie Madoff says he's happier than he's ever been in prison. I wonder if he'll take up painting? I wonder how much his chicken scratches will sell for at Christie's? After all, it's not how well Jerry or Bernie paint... It's about the size of your auction block. Now, paint Bernie, paint!

Written by Rod Webber