Category Archives: film

Lucas Bolsters Buñuel

Absurdity marks Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, a cornerstone title by the surrealist master from ’62, so there’s usually a chuckle of three as the film unpacks its mysterious tale. But I don’t ever remember the viewing process being as engaging – or maybe as flat-out charming – as it was with Gary Lucas’ real-time score bolstering Buñuel’s send-up of a passive bourgeoisie on Friday at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. The guitarist improvised on a series of sketches that gave a buoyancy to the on-screen confinement of guests at an upper-crust dinner party trapped in a sitting room post-feast. They’re able to physically move – and certainly bemoan their fate with a bevy of existential quips – but psychologically unable to make the leap back to their daily lives. Despite Buñuel’s wit, it can get a tad claustrophobic.

That’s where Lucas’ music assists. With his finger-picking on acoustic and electric instruments setting up an external rhythm, and the echo effects of his strings enhancing the narrative’s eerier aspects, the guitarist ups the ante on the director’s art. Lucas has been refining his approach to film accompaniment for decades – don’t miss his pas de deux with The Golem it the opportunity arises – and the nuanced way he wiggles his strings into the on-screen emotions is pretty damn impressive. He stands outside the piece as an observer, formally commenting on the action, but the real trick is how well the music is embedded into the scenes. By the time the group’s desperation reaches its provocative peak, it feels like Lucas’ insights have helped them turn the key. This was the US premiere (Cuban fans heard it in 2011); fingers crossed that there are many more performances.

PLUS: Don’t miss GL’s new CD of music from Max Fleischer toons

So Long, Providence Phoenix

A thriving arts culture not only deserves but demands the kind of press coverage that the NewPaper/Providence Phoenix provided during its 36-year run. From the Chorus of Westerly (yay, George Kent!) to the blues and jazz in Woonsocket (take a bow, Chan’s), I kept my eye on the state’s musical events for the most part. But music is politics and politics is theater and theater is storytelling and storytelling is at the heart of visual art — and yep, they’re all connected if viewed correctly.







Rhode Island, a compact and confounding place, has always provided audiences with plenty of the above, and our little weekly was heroic when it came to expanding the coverage of plays, exhibits, films, concerts, and festivals and legislation that La Prov’s statewide daily shrugged off as being too insignificant. I’d sometimes look at an issue and be amazed that all the key events of a very packed week were represented, from a Wisconsin skronk outfit’s Club Babyhead blast to an avant-garde film fest at the Cable Car. That’s important stuff, and it made me feel proud to be part of a squad that had their eye on the ball.

Whether questioning the nogoodniks in office (y’all ain’t really thinking of putting Buddy back in power now are ya? C’mon, guys. . .) or beating the drums for an adventurous show at Perishable Theater, the editors and their writers made sure Rhode Island felt a bit more alive. Enthusiastic previews, post-gig critiques — all that coverage helped animate the action across the state. Lou Papineau is an under-heralded linchpin in this impressive achievement — he had his hand on the wheel since 1980, and refined each issue with his insight, clarity, and stamina (in some quarters it’s known as The LouPaper). Applause goes  his way from me in particular — Lou gave my byline a major boost early on.

Nope, given the state of global print media, it’s not shocking that the end has arrived.  But it is infuriating. Culture-wise, there are plenty of vital new characters in action these days and the Phoenix won’t be around to shine a light on their work. Here’s to all those they celebrated, and here’s to the power of teamwork that made doing so such a blast.

25 Memorable Providence Concerts 

Read more:

RIP: Ken Russell

Hats Off To All NYC Marathon Runners

Where are you going to carry your money? You gonna run broke?

Fire Wire In the Bee Girl’s LOL Factory, or Screen City Here I Come


10 Years Ago In New York City (And The World)

A friend recently finalized work on a short film that harks back to the mayhem that swamped the city and its surrounding environs on Sept 11, 2001. Brandon Emerick was downtown that morning and the blend of emotions that overflow from the footage he shot and the piece he created speaks for itself.

I think it’s a strong visual parallel to the piece I wrote for the Boston Phoenix as the attacks were taking place and New Yorkers were fleeing the area. A few people have asked me to reprint it here.  Crossed fingers that we’re all safe this weekend. Love and thanks to all those responders who helped right this wrong and still wear the scars of their work.

Tuesday morning in Brooklyn was gorgeous. As I walked my son to his third day of first grade, our usually distant neighbor gave up a smile and some back-to-school chitchat. Although I normally take the F train to work after leaving PS 58, on Tuesday I headed back home to see my two-year-old off on his first day at nursery school. No way was I missing that. But back in the apartment my wife had the TV on, and I found her dumbstruck by the live shots of a disaster that was literally seconds old — there’d been an explosion in one of the World Trade Center skyscrapers.

We live in Carroll Gardens, directly across the New York harbor from the Statue of Liberty, and we have a decent visual shot of the twin towers. We turned away from the tube and went to the window to see the jet-black smoke that was already staining the cloudless sky. On television, orange flames were lining the office spire; outside, we caught the glint of sun-drenched debris riding the air currents. We looked at the sky and then speechlessly looked at each other.

The local news anchor said it wasn’t an explosion but a plane crash that was causing the mayhem. Wow, a commuter plane crashed into the towers, I thought.That’s messed up. But as we watched the live image of the building ablaze, we saw a second plane swoop into the other tower. Simultaneously, the sound of the crash from lower Manhattan faintly wafted across the water.

In a chilling flash the meaning behind the actions became obvious: this was an attack, not an accident. It was 9:05 a.m. What should we do?

With two fires raging, smoke snaked into our neighborhood, covering the sky. Updates described the planes as full-size commercial passenger jets, not buzz-around prop jobs. What the fuck? People on the street were yelling up to the windows: ” It’s the Trade Center. Terrorists are blowing up the World Trade Center right now! ” Flecks of paper swirled around the Statue of Liberty and started raining on the streets like snow. A guy grabbed a handful. ” It’s the stuff from the offices, ” he bellowed. Bodega owners and laundromat managers came out of their shops. Sirens wailed, policemen gunned the engines of their cars. And the TV news amped up the paranoia with yet another item: a plane had deliberately crashed into the Pentagon. Our country’s military brain trust was in a burning building.

New Yorkers have a way of cauterizing themselves against such mania, and my wife and I are no exception. Amid the chaos, with a dazed but deliberate attitude, we began the two-block stroll to nursery school. 

Along the way we saw grandmothers sobbing and yuppies flaunting stoicism; for the first time ever, the wise-ass neighborhood kid was without his smirk.

Inside the pre-school, no one spoke of the disaster. A girl punched my toddler three times in 11 minutes, and after a half-hour I left my wife to the care-giving and headed home. It was now dark outside: soot and smoke and debris were everywhere. And the air smelled of jet fuel. There were massive traffic jams in both directions on the expressway that cuts through our neighborhood. Sirens and more sirens. I wondered if this might be the start of the end days.

Back in the apartment, I turned on the television and glanced out the window. Many people had masks over their mouths. Out of the sky floated a page from an office book. It literally drifted into my hands. The scorched sheet was addressed to a Robert Crabb; it was a legal form about a traffic-court hearing in Dade County, Florida. I tried to get a grip on the fact that 45 minutes earlier it had probably been in Robert Crabb’s Wall Street desk. Then I tried to comprehend that Robert Crabb might have just met his maker. That thought was interrupted by a shriek from the street below. A rumble filled the air. I stuck my head out the window and saw my neighbor pointing toward town. ” It’s gone, it’s down, ” she cried.

TV news reran the tape. Peter Jennings sounded as if he were speaking to himself. There was disbelief in his voice as he asked a staffer something like, ” Did you say it’s just not there anymore? ” My wife ran into the house in tears: ” It fell, it collapsed. ” Mission accomplished: terror, the perpetrators’ ultimate goal, could be felt in our living room. Instant Messages from friends flooded our computer: Los Alamos, Boulder, Nashville. ” Are you all right? Tell us what we can do. We love you. ” The phone had no dial tone. A plane crash outside Pittsburgh was reported. People are leaping from the Trade Center’s ruined structures, exclaimed a Fox correspondent. ” Go get Misha from school, ” said my wife.

A wrapped kerchief over my face, I ran up the street to find crying parents huddled outside the building. My son met me with a wet paper towel over his mouth and nose. We headed home in time to see the second tower crumble on TV. There were so many sirens outside that we didn’t hear the actual rumble from Manhattan this time. The cars and streets were coated with soot. Men in business suits were covered with debris. African-Americans were ” whited ” by ash. Lower Manhattan was swamped by twisted steel girders, concrete, and body parts. The TV showed an image of an oversize rubber tire sitting solitary on a side street. It was from one of the planes.

A certain angle in a news shot of one tower’s remaining façade reminded me that our entire family had danced to NRBQ in that exact quadrangle back in July. The two-year-old had chased a ball. The six-year-old had played air guitar. My wife had chuckled. The band had karaoked through ” Eleanor Rigby. ” ” Ahh, look at all the lonely people … “

Now that quad’s a graveyard, with those who aren’t dead merely trapped, gasping for air, dialing loved ones from their cell phones, murmuring their location. Their current location is limbo. There’ll be no more NRBQ concerts there. As I finish typing that last sentence, the spire at 7 World Trade Center collapses from its wounds — another 40 stories’ worth of humanity on the ground. The mayhem multiplies.

Anything can happen. Anything can happen. Anything can happen. Practice feeling vulnerable. After today, it’s all up for grabs.

 Here’s the Phoenix’s current reflection on the attacks. 

Joyce In Action: The He and She of It

Bloomsday Action 

Alex Ross

8 Ways To Celebrate Bloomsday

More Options for Bloomsday