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Blood of a Dreamer: John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
02.14.2012
08:51 pm

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Art
Movies

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Gazzara
 
The phrase, “gangster film”, immediately brings to mind images of iconic, uber-male actors (James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Brando, Pacino, DeNiro, every actor in The Sopranos, etc) immersed in a near-operatic morality tale. Everything is big. The crimes are big, the characters are big and yes, even the violence is big. But what about the crime film that breaks it down to the utmost human level? Not only that, but focuses on the other end? Life is not always a cops and robbers show and nowhere is that more purely evident than in John Cassavetes’ often unappreciated masterpiece, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

Gone is the romance of crime, only to be replaced by the story of our hero, Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara), a burlesque club owner/dreamer who becomes beaten but not broken. The plot by itself is basic. Cosmo, after paying off one gambling debt to the mob, ends up accruing a more massive one in one fateful evening. It is this particular debt that has the underworld figures, including such thespian heavyweights as Timothy “The Man” Carey and Seymour Cassel, all but forcing Cosmo to carry out a hit on our titular bookie. Everything that I just wrote is part of the danger of solely relying on plot descriptors, because this film is more than just a-b-c-d and crime, it’s about a regular guy, not perfect but good hearted, trying to live his dream out in a world full of sharks, vultures and parasites.

Cosmo is not just a man, however, but a breathing metaphor for any artist who was ever backed into the corner of moral compromise. In a lot of ways, you are seeing a thinly veiled story of what Cassavettes himself had been put through as a filmmaker. He’s lauded now but life was never easy for the man and the fact that Bookie was released to mixed reviews and bad box office back in 1976 is partial proof of that. The real testament of Cassavetes’ genius was not just in making great cinema but the fact that the 1978 version, which he re-edited for a second stab at success was actually superior to the original cut. A tactic like that never works creatively but with a guy like Cassavetes, all bets are off.

The centerpiece, the heart and soul of this film is shared with the rich performance by Ben Gazzara. We recently lost Gazzara on February 3rd, 2012, which is a heartbreak. (In a spooky bit of fate, Cassavetes died on the same day, 23 years earlier, which is fitting for the anima/animus factor.) His Cosmo is a charismatic who has elevated what is essentially a strip club into a spectacle that integrates the spirit of vaudeville with T&A. He loves, lives and treats all of the ladies in his life with respect. This is a good man whose one mistake ends up leading him down one hellish road with an uncertain outcome. Gazzara is so naturalistic and nuanced with his performance that this character stays with you long after you have finished watching the movie. Sure, he is tough and masculine but the vulnerability and weariness shows through in the smallest of gestures. Seeing him alongside another screen titan, Timothy Carey, is one of the best cinematic gifts one could ever ask for. Anything you have seen cannot touch the mastery these two actors provide.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
is ripe for rediscovery. It is one of the smartest crime films ever made and features some insanely stellar acting work from both Gazzara and Carey. If you have an open mind and an understanding heart, then you too will see the perfection that is this film.


Both the 1976 and 1978 version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie are currently available on the Criterion Collection’s lush box set, John Cassavetes: Five Films.

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
Creepy anatomical knitted masks
02.14.2012
01:43 pm

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Art

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Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about these knitted masks by Los Angeles-based artist Ben Cuevas that gives off a super sinister vibe. But in a good way.

Forget those cliched Guy Fawkes masks, these are much better. That last one is very Devo, isn’t it?

Via Street Anatomy

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Bonsai Tree Castle
02.13.2012
01:35 pm

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Art
Environment

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Japanese artist Takanori Aiba built this unbelievably intricate mini-castle in and around a potted Bonsai tree using stone clay, epoxy putty, copper line, plastic, and resin. I can’t get over the amount of time and effort this must have taken.

Via Daily What and My Modern Met

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Cute Darwin Fish Necklace
02.13.2012
09:53 am

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Art
Belief
Pop Culture
Science/Tech

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Jewelry designer, Josephine Ryan, is making these delicate, silver Darwin Fish necklaces. I like it.

If you’re interested in one, hit her up on Facebook. It looks like she’s taking orders there.

Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
This one’s for the hippies: Greenwich Village in the 1960s
02.12.2012
12:10 am

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Art
Drugs
History
Music
Pop Culture

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Cool film footage of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.

The Village has always been a vortex for cultural energy and you can see it in these images. Soulful young longhairs, wide-eyed teenyboppers and angel-headed hipsters cruising the streets looking for something, not sure what it is, but knowing there was something magic in the air and if you walked along MacDougal or Bleecker street long enough you’d connect with it.

Music: “Summer In New York” by The Imaginations.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Space Is The Place’: Sun Ra from a galaxy far far away
02.10.2012
10:45 pm

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Art
Movies
Music
Occult

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A trippy alchemical potion of a movie, Space Is The Place inhabits an alternative reality that could only exist in the Afrodelic cosmology of Saturnian jazz priest Sun Ra.
Directed by John Coney in 1974, the movie is a hybrid of B-grade sci-fi, Blaxploitation flix (on shrooms), the films of Kenneth Anger and surrealist head trips like El Topo and the electric western Zachariah.

In the film, as in life, Sun Ra is the quintessential outsider and space is a metaphorical Eden for this much put upon black man. The plot is threadbare, involving villainous pimps and dealers, Black Panther avenger protagonists, local nightclubs, pool halls, cat houses, and, of course, an Outer Space Employment Agency that Sun Ra sets up after coming to Earth from a faraway planet. To recruit a new colony, he espouses racial freedom through Egyptian epigrams, Stockhausen-like jazz and a spirit filled Rocket Ship. Of course, Ra is challenged by establishment agents and a supreme villain, the Overseer (Ray Johnson), who lures impressionable black men away from Ra’s brand of truth with the vices of sex and money. Ra preaches against decadence and hits a nerve when showing the pimp and his followers that they are no different than the White Man (Nixon, here) they rage against. Ra promises a land of racial harmony and social justice lies within the Milky Way’s stars, and who are we to argue?” - Alfred Eaker

The cinematic equivalent of one of Sun Ra’s free jazz improvs, Space Is The Place is all over the cosmic map so it helps to find that Zen spot where you just lock into the frequency and go with the flow. As Sun Ray instructs, get in tune with the universe.

“The people have no music that is in coordination with their spirits. Because of this, they’re out of tune with the universe. Since they don’t have money, they don’t have anything. If the planet takes hold of an alter destiny, there’s hope for all of us. But otherwise the death sentence upon this planet still stands. Everyone must die.” - Sun Ra

Set your controls for the heart of the Sun Ra.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Photos of dogs underwater
02.10.2012
10:52 am

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Amusing
Animals
Art

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Lifestyle pet photographer, Seth Casteel, captured these amazing images of dogs fetching their toys underwater. I can’t get over how the water transforms, what is probably a sweet pooch’s face, into something so ferocious and shark-like.

Seth should photograph our dog, Tong Tong in a parody of the Nirvana album cover…

Prints are available for purchase at Little Friends Lifestyle Pet Photography website. 
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Occupy Audio’: Neil Young’s mission to rescue music from digital degradation
02.08.2012
01:19 pm

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Art
Current Events
Media
Music
Pop Culture
Science/Tech

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Neil’s gear.
 
Neil Young appearing at last week’s Dive Into Media conference expressed his distaste for MP3’s in no uncertain terms.

Young, the perennial music purist, said that while modern music formats like MP3 are convenient, they sound lousy.

“My goal is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years,” Young said. “We live in the digital age and, unfortunately, it’s degrading our music, not improving it.”

It’s not that digital is bad or inferior, it’s that the way it’s being used isn’t doing justice to the art,” Young said. “The MP3 only has 5 percent of the data present in the original recording. … The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn’t have to make that choice.”

Young proposed that fans stage a grassroots movement to demand higher-quality audio. “Occupy audio!” he urged.

Here’s Young talking about digital recording with The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
The Bugaloos know where Syd Barrett lives: Noel Fielding’s pop-sike ‘Luxury Comedy’
02.07.2012
07:46 pm

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Art
Music
Pop Culture
Television

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Noel Fielding’s new Luxury Comedy sees the Mighty Boosh’s “Vince Noir” going solo for a series of seven color-filled episodes on E4. Luxury Comedy is half-live action and half-animation. How can you not love something that makes overt references to Kennth Anger’s Lucifer Rising as well as Roy Wood within the first few seconds!?!?! (That’s a neat trick, I was duly impressed, Mr. Fielding.)

Fielding (playing “himself”) lives in a treehouse in a jungle, along with his band, a creature called “Smooth,” a German chick named Dolly and Andy Warhol.  Yes, THE Andy Warhol.  The music was co-written by Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno and Fielding.
 

 
Thank you Trey Lane!

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Chris Marker: ‘Bestiaire’ from 1990
02.07.2012
03:42 pm

Topics:
Animals
Art
Thinkers

Tags:

chris_marker_owl
 
Chris Marker‘s Bestiaire, three short video haiku:

Bestiaire 1. Chat écoutant la musique
Bestiaire 2. An owl is An owl is an owl
Bestiaire 3. Zoo Piece

Simple meditations that reveal a more intimate side to the enigmatic director, best known for La jetée (1962) (which later inspired Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys) and Sans Soleil (1983). Marker has said of his work:

‘The process of making films in communion with oneself, the way a painter works or a writer, need not now be solely experimental. Contrary to what people say, using the first-person in films tends to be a sign of humility: All I have to offer is myself.’

Now in his nineties, Marker the “mercurial international man of semiotic mystery” continues to work, details of which can be found here.
 

 
More animal haiku, plus bonus documentary, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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