Monday, June 29, 2009

Nollywood Babylon

“We don't even want to go to Hollywood anymore," admits a Nigerian actress in the Canadian documentary “Nollywood Babylon,” which examines the world's third largest film industry (after the U.S. and India). "Because, really, Hollywood is white, you know," she adds with an apologetic cringe. She and her colleagues' collective goal is to make the grassroots filmmaking centered in Lagos nothing less than the "best African movie industry in the world." And in many ways, Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal's nonfiction flick, which itself moves with the go-go speed dubbed "Nollywood style," is a big fat, kiss-my-ass to imperialist Hollywood.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Twelfth Night

The current production of "Twelfth Night" playing at The Flea Theater marks Queens Shakespeare’s Manhattan debut. It also marks the first time this critic ever witnessed a Shakespeare play in which colorful eclectic costumes so completely upstaged the actors wearing them. From an emerald toga to a drunk’s blue kimono, from a gold lame dress to a harlequin’s purple velvet attire, from menacing masks to an actress in masculine jacket and pants with white feather wings (yes, these are a few of stage manager/costume designer Tara Mary Schmitt’s inventive things), "Twelfth Night" in Tribeca is practically Shakespeare on the catwalk.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

London Calling

Yet another reason to move to Europe.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Under Our Skin

“Under Our Skin” is a rigorously researched and highly thorough piece of investigative reporting on the silent epidemic that is Lyme disease. Director Andy Abrahams Wilson, whose twin sister was diagnosed with the illness, painstakingly profiles a vast array of sufferers—everyone from a "usual suspect" park ranger whose doctor wouldn't diagnose Lyme even though he'd proffered the tick that bit him as evidence, to a young, pretty, often wheelchair-bound blonde and a hipster chick, an event producer for U2 who offers, "The hardest thing is everybody thinks I'm normal." And through montages of talking heads divulging the many different diseases they were misdiagnosed as having, their outrageous out-of-pocket expenses, and the startling diversity of their symptoms, Abrahams has managed to create a film that flows with the same head-spinning feel that informs these victims' frustration with both their debilitated bodies and the medical establishment at large.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2009: In the Holy Fire of Revolution

On its surface, Masha Novikova's “In the Holy Fire of Revolution,“ which follows the Russian chess champion and activist/politician Garry Kasparov as he and his comrades in The Other Russia movement wage a campaign battle against Vladimir Putin and his supporters, would suggest “The War Room” Russky-style. Unfortunately, the doc doesn't sizzle like its title, but merely fizzles out. Novikova, instead of digging deep into the heart of the former Soviet Union, is merely content to toe the party line, trotting out all the usual dissident suspects to needlessly remind us that Putin's Russia is a thug state. The main problem with “Revolution” is that it tells us nothing new, but merely shows us what anyone who's tuned in to any international media outlet since the turn of the century already knew. That Kasparov's contingent would hold their meetings in a crumbling, commie-drab building by candlelight since the electricity was cut off, and that a young mother working for the Kasparov side could be brutally attacked with a baseball bat, is sad, but not the least bit surprising or illuminating.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Be Like Others

It's rare when a documentary comes along that truly shines a light on a virtually unexplored issue, and Iranian-American director Tanaz Eshaghian's “Be Like Others” is gripping drama because it does exactly that. Sure, taking a camera to Tehran to follow the lives of several young men awaiting sex change operations in a country which punishes homosexuality by death would be intriguing in and of itself. But that the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa two decades ago allowing for these "diagnosed transsexuals" to legally undergo gender reassignment is nothing short of astonishing.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.

Friday, June 12, 2009

…And The Fear Cracked Open.

As part of this year’s Anti-Depressant Festival at The Brick Theater the troupe Ten Directions is presenting “…And The Fear Cracked Open.,” which follows on the heels of their award-winning “Bouffon Glass Menajoree.” While I haven’t seen the company’s parody of that American classic their latest piece about a Minnesota couple’s journey from meeting cute, to moving in together, to tackling the domestic drama of unpaid bills and infidelity, makes me wish I’d seen “Bouffon Glass Menajoree” instead if only for the blueprint Williams’ drama would have provided.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2009: The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court

"Without justice, people have no respect for each another," one victim of the atrocities in the Congo offers in Pamela Yates's “The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court.” "If this is left unpunished, it will happen again," he adds. Opening the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival with a whimper rather than a bang (as did last year's underwhelming cinematic salvo), Yates's film follows ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and his dedicated deputies as they seek to bring to trial the worst of the worst war criminals of our time. Unfortunately, the doc is no fascinatingly addictive character study a la “Sin City Law” writ large, but rather a clinical procedural better suited to classroom use than for theatrical release.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shiny Happy Unclassified People: Why “Hair” Matters

Free love is in the air—and “Hair.” Forty years after the summer of ’69, the greatest tribal love-rock musical ever sung just won Best Revival of a Musical at the Tony Awards, while Pola Rapaport and Wolfgang Held’s documentary “Hair: Let the Sun Shine In” recently made the micro-cinema rounds.

The film’s clips from recent rehearsals notwithstanding, I’ve yet to see the musical in any of its incarnations (as I developed an aversion to peacenik shit during my punk rock youth). But after watching “Hair: Let the Sun Shine In” which mixes archival footage from the era and the production (along with its surrounding hype) with present-day interviews with the original cast and creative team, I feel like at least I’ve gotten the hippie Cliff’s notes version.

To read the rest visit my Sex Beat column at Carnal Nation.

Portrait of an Artist as Rambo: A Conversation with Zack Oberzan about Flooding With Love For The Kid

When Jean-Luc Godard referred to his criticism and filmmaking as one and the same he couldn’t have envisioned the “one-man cinematic war” called “Flooding With Love For The Kid,” Zachary Oberzan’s no-budget ($96 to be exact) version of “First Blood,” shot entirely by himself in his Manhattan studio apartment, in which he plays all the characters.

I spoke with Oberzan on the set of his upcoming film (aka, his apartment) about our mutual appreciation of action heroes, mind versus body control, Stallone versus Van Damme and so much more.

To read the interview visit The House Next Door.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Burning Bush!

Like the very best preachers Tracey Erin Smith in her one-woman dynamo show “The Burning Bush!”, which follows a rabbinical school dropout named Barbara who discovers the true meaning of spirituality at the Tit for Tat strip club – and takes both miraculous message and exotic dancers on tour to spread the holy word – doesn’t actually preach to her congregation. Instead the exuberant and passionate Smith actively listens to her audience, connecting, engaging and adjusting as she segues effortlessly from embodying the uptight Barbara to becoming a variety of diverse characters. There’s Christie, a Marilyn clone who worships Madonna, Sammy the homegirl stripper, a southern Jewish Martha Stewart, a Texas handyman who’s a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey – and even the nebbish Jackie Mason himself who serves as Barbara’s guide and inner compass. Smith has taken Barbara’s revelation that strippers “listen” to their customers while giving lap dances to heart.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.


with “Half price tickets: The Burning Bush!” in the subject line.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Save 6/11 for Rambo

My friend Zack Oberzan whose one-man, off-B’way show Rambo Solo I raved about at Theater Online is unveiling “Flooding With Love For The Kid,” his film version of “First Blood” shot entirely by himself playing all the characters in his Manhattan studio apartment for 96 bucks. It’s pure cinematic genius – and it’s free! See the invite below – and hope to see y’all there…

"An outsider-cinema masterpiece...Oberzan's mania knows no bounds."

"An absolutely amazing concept. Wildly creative and energetic."
-DAVID MORRELL, NY Times bestselling author of First Blood

Hello, Friends:

I'd like to invite you to the NYC premiere screening of my movie, Flooding with Love for The Kid.

I adapted David Morrell's novel, First Blood, word for word, into a feature film and shot it all here in my apartment, by myself. It's a one-man cinematic war.

It's going to play at Monkey Town on Thursday, June 11th, at 7:30 PM. Admission is FREE.

Monkey Town is a wild experimental place in Williamsburg that projects its films on four screens, while you sit in the middle. You can have dinner there, and drinks. (Reservations recommended for dinner.)

For more info about the movie click here.

For directions click here.

And of course...the trailer is here.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Unmistaken Child

“Unmistaken Child” follows Tenzin Zopa, the lifelong disciple of the recently deceased Tibetan Master Lama Konchog, in his quest to discover that to which the title refers: the unmistaken child who is the reincarnation of Zopa's beloved master. The documentary was shot verité style over the course of four years, with its director Nati Baratz receiving unprecedented access to a process not often documented. Unfortunately, the straightforward, fly-on-the-wall approach Baratz takes doesn't do justice to the supernatural aspect of such an incredible tale.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.