The VHS Stack - Phenomena

(1985) Dario Argento.
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A banal curiositaliana of the horror movie concept – throw in whatever deviant nutso idea that comes to mind in the writing process (insect mind-reading, a killer mutant dwarf, songs by Iron Maiden, Bill Wyman and Motorhead) and place at the crux of it all a teenage Jennifer Connelly victimized at an all-girls boarding school (plus a genius monkey who avenges evil with a razorblade).

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The Truly Alienated - Movies in 2008

In 2008, The Shine Box saw a total of 36 new films in the theater, 40 revivals on the big screen, and 81 movies on the small screen (including complete TV show seasons, which count for '1').

Top 3:

1. My Winnipeg, Guy Maddin.
The "forks beneath the forks. . ." Guy Maddin explicates the hometown in a language he finds most truly and artfully explainable. If any “documentary” on The History Channel were made as this movie, the consciousness of civilization may yet take a prodigious step forward.

2. Mister Lonely, Harmony Korine.
An evocation of sympathy for the supremely alienated, on a mountain lake commune of voidoid superstar impersonators, a reshuffling of human symbols in the free market of signs and signifiers. Diego Luna is a wannabe Michael Jackson who is in fact the true portrayal of Michael Jackson, visiting the island of the live dead, himself impersonating one who himself impersonates the Human Being neither male/female, white/black, young/old. Replete with close-up bloodshot-eyed Abe Lincoln in strobe-light reciting the Gettysburg Address while spinning on his finger a red white & blue basketball. . . .

3. The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky.
A bravura biopic in the vernacular of industrial city event halls and Jersey Dollar and decrepit winter boardwalks and strip clubs called ‘Cheeks’ and wrestling action figures and 80s heavy metal, where an “old broken down piece of meat” re-ravishes his identity on and off the mat, taking staples in his broad ram’s back for the crowd’s roar (which sounding is not the same made by the customers at the supermarket deli counter demanding potato salad). Mind’s survival instinct to the gruel and rancor of the Body, Marisa Tomei’s Cassidy/Pam engaged with her own deep reckoning, ass to the greasy crowd, a nether rung of show business enjambing selves who are losing the ability to play by it. A French cahier du-boy might point out that twenty years ago Mickey Rourke starred with similar biomatic subtext as the title anti-hero in Johnny Handsome.

[in no order]

4. Four Nights With Anna, Jerzy Skolimowski.
see Guest Screenings

5. The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan.
An extravagant arabesque proof that Justice must cast itself as the enemy in order to deliver the City from its crimes. Where Batman Begins was a revelation of History, The Dark Knight is the excoriator of Morality. The Joker is played as the hero as Batman lopes among Gotham’s shadows meditating the counter-deflection of purple terrorist thunderbolts. And “Zeus” Lister proving the People’s crisis rightward. . .

ps: The wholehearted acceptance of this movie by both the general public and pop culture nerdlingers is a bit inquirable, if not unnerving, in that audiences - whether of the hawk or dove - have approved it seemingly without any question as to its consequential or philosophical merits, as most of the country did back in 2003 with the Iraq War. It is not so certain that the dense schematic of themes in The Dark Knight are resonating with viewers as much as the shock and awe of its spectacular FX histrionics and the macabre, carnivalesque treat of Heath Ledger (most duly garnered of course). This moviegoer awaits a more fleshed-out take on the movie after shelling out $16 for the IMAX re-release later this month.

6. Pineapple Express, David Gordon Green.
Mark gravely the remark that this hysterical para-macho buddy smash-up gemstone will be a culty “have-you-seen” fav within the next year or so!

7. Redbelt, David Mamet.
Redbelt’s is the premise in which we all imagine our ethical lives take place, the dearth of opportunity to prove what is pure. To employ what one does best against forces which ineluctably break one. Mike Terry's world is manipulated against itself, and so he manipulates his opposing world likewise (a world which is of course not without Hollywood), brawling outside the ring, and as the victor is given the redbelt.

8. Wall-E , Andrew Stanton.
Classic knockabout existential sci-fi, the last operable machine on a planet junked to death by technology who falls in love with his would-be assassin. A doomsday movie that stays true to its bleak premise, when a machine must teach tub o’lard humans how to be human, set against a gloriously ravished landscape that takes cue from the apocalyptic panoramas of psych-era paperback bookcovers. And no less frightening is Fred Willard the evil technocrat!

9. Boarding Gate, Olivier Assayas.
If a Vin Diesel-style 00s globetrotting thriller were made devoid of flash and glam starring hyper-abused Asia Argento - execution rooms in the back of Hong Kong warehouses, shoot-outs at prefab port terminal offices at night, drugged drinks at Hong Kong karaoke clubs, the failed revisitation of sex acts before the assassination of Michael Madsen, and a good Eno score.

10. Che, Steven Soderbergh; & 11. Milk, Gus Van Sant.
Che and Milk follow men driven by human ideals surrounded by a band of activist freedom fighters, and in each movie, in each band, there is one woman. Crusader movies based on an actual personage, Milk's guerilla territory is 1970s San Fran, Che's is both 50s Cuba and 60s Bolivia, and both figureheads are persecuted. Milk shaves his beard and ponytail, Che grows his whiskers longer. They each die by assassination from the gun of political agents. They are similarly styled, with rich, subtle soundtracks, a commanding male lead, a picturesque backdrop, and each a period piece of a recent decade past.

Che, ever cornered deeper in the Bolivian mountains, morale and provisions capsizing, calls on the influence of Sartre and Bertand Russell to corral the discourse in his favor. In Part I, we see Che in New York commingling with diplomats among the spacious LeCorbuism of the United Nations. He makes small talk with Eugene McCarthy at a Silk District cocktail party hosted by journalista Lisa Howard. It is an evocative flourish that Part II begins in the mode of a spy movie, Che infiltrating a distressed Third World nation in disguise - he even spends time with his family before the mission in his bald head and thick-rimmed glasses and potbelly. The movie, even at its length, is a fine-trimmed work of art, and succeeds to subvert the biopic. Che's methods work in one environment and fail in the other, and, as Howard Hawks often does, the events are sequenced to maximize the vigorous movement of many men in clashing scenarios, out in the wilds of nature, in space, against time. After the revolution, Fidel is broadcast on TV, the angle askance a nameless screen, while Che heaves for breath under the ensnaring jungle.

Milk is the Me Decade revolutionary, brutally honest, shameless of his faults: an outgoing, magnetized personality. His lovers – whiskerando James Franco and tortured, infectiously loopy Diego Luna - dramatize Milk’s public life played out in his private. Anita Bryant is a most formidable villain, her character shown only in site-specific footage - she is the Joker to Milk's Batman, and so Dan White is Two-Face, the tortured do-gooder whose identity-collapse effects evil doings.

In each movie an antagonist is ghostly manifested and the grand opposition is finally spiritual. Van Sant surely was personally strategic in making his movie, to its benefit - just as Soderbergh is not vested in Che as a textbook profile. Each moviemaker has proved they can tell a straight-up story (Drugstore Cowboy, The Limey, Sex Lies, Private Idaho), and Che and Milk can stand alone as melodramas rooted in the ideology of historical events. In this way, W. might as well have been an Adam Sandler romp.

12. Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Kaufman.
The paranoid artist dream movie where all fears make a narrative that slips again into where it began, a re-mapping of a self's space and time, two things death takes away, turning on its head the trope of Hollywood family/failure who makes good/inspirational genre, with zeppelins flying over the Brooklyn Bridge and grotesque physical afflictions and characters playing other characters until new characters for that character must be introduced. Crypytically measured, hypertexted, significantly acted, precisely designed, almost vividly edited, and mercilessly sucking all romance out of the life of the Artist who is ever compelled to remake the world within which he slugs by.

Not Best But Most Certainly Not Worst:

Step Brothers, Adam McKay.
The McKay/Ferrell/O'Reilly franchise contemporary vaudevillian domestic romporama. The opening George Bush quote propels the sociological framework for the world in which the movie takes place, as if a Twilight Zone episode. A swell hark to the clever episodic ribaldry of National Lampoon magazine.

Body Of Lies, Ridley Scott.
Highly wrought and twisty to the intellect, nailing the twists and the unraveling of the "body of lies," the action scenes are not Bauer/Bourne-ized, and the most visceral consequence is caused by a wild dogs bite, engendering rabies stomach shots. An Iraq war movie told by the ordnance of intelligence, an opening quote from W.H. Auden, capped by a new Guns 'N' Roses tune..

Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Steven Spielberg.
The Indy team did right right by the series and played into the late 50s setting with an opening slam-bang nuclear setpiece that is self-consciously giddy and paranoid, the Indiana Jones homage to postmodernism. At the end, Mutt Jones is about to don the fedora as if the next generation taking over, but Indy is quick to grab that hat and put it back on his own head where it belongs. It cannot be said that the new James Bond movie did likewise.

Best Film Writing 2008
The inimitable avant-hermenaut J. Hoberman, "What We Learned about the Election in This Summer's Movies"

The Furies, by Brynn White.

Movies To See But Not Yet Seen
JCVD, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married, Ballast, The Last Mistress, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Still Life.

2008 Revival House Movies

[in no order]

1. Rubin & Ed
Howard Hesseman & Crispin Glover buddy spirit jaunt through the Cali-jurassic desert caves of sleek desolate downtown districts and Gordon Gekko-trickle down Motivational Groups, the gags funny and strange eons beyond the veneer of a midnight straight-to-cable job. dir. Trent Harris, 1991, Walter Reade Theater.

2. Where's Poppa
The Borscht premise of a middle-age Upper West Sider living with his old crazy mother, the jokes transgressive (last scene sonny Segal mounting Momma) and mawkishly unsettling ("you the guy that raped the cop?"). An archaeologist may study it as evidence of a particular time and place on Central Park West that is continually phasing out of existence. Carl Reiner, 1970, Film Forum.

3. Kiss Me Deadly
A first and last word on pulp noir, a flyblown macho private-eye led to a small box that scorches you and when opened might have blown up the world, we are put in the experience of what sustains us as organic beings, the desperate breath, following a trail the end of which finds an ungodly power which destroys all matter, unleashed by a creepy, mannered, Count-like old man. Ralph Meeker pioneers a style and swagger not barely seen again until the 70s. Robert Aldrich, 1955, Film Forum.

4. Sword of Doom
As if S. Kubrick made a samurai movie at the far, black, cold arches of space – the hero sitting in an empty room with estranged wife, drinking sake, always staring hard in the Nakadai manner at nothing but the void, dispatching his attackers at the climax rampage as if every lunge is one of isopathic Judgment. Kihachi Okamoto, 1966, Film Forum.

5. Day of Wrath
Like Master Henry James produced a late medieval hellbent Scandanavian witch nouvelle. Carl Dreyer, 1943.

6. Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters
see Guest Screenings

7. Cluny Brown
see Guest Screenings

8. The Long Riders
New Wave Walter Hill Western micro-epic where the riders ride long in freakish slo-mo psychedelic bandit shoot-outs tho the potboiled egomaniacs characterized as stolid self-effacing fraternaholics , lets hope raids such as this movie depicts will not be enacted on Bank Of America's new One Bryant Park. Walter Hill, 1980, BAM.

9. Hatari
A spectacle of chasing rhinos and buffalo on the Tanzanian plain, exemplar of the greatest of Hollywood magic, the "Danger" (Hatari in Swahili) is pleasantly and riotously offset by the soap opera twixt the zoo-hunters, and a ripsnort opener customizes the Forty-Deuce marquee night-on-the-town audience for a nearly three-hour pastiche of Howard Hawks' filmmaking career in the guise of an imperialist African action comedy. The team are gathering animals for the San Diego zoo on the other side of the world. Perhaps this is the only job left appropriate for John Wayne's stereotype spotlight frontiersman? Your author wishes to have seen it at the Victory Theater with a cutie bobbysocker and went for coffee and sandwiches at the Automat afterwards... Howard Hawks, 1962, Anthology Film Archives.

10. Chafed Elbows
Somewhere between French 1920s surrealism, sixties NYC para-dadaism and Milton Berle - Catskillsesque gags for Warholesque premises, like the man with a gangster's drawl who approaches our hero, signs with white paint his initials on our hero's lapel ("A.W." of course) and calls this work "Man on Street" and gives our hero a litany of instructions to which he must violately adhere now that he has been rendered a work in the art world. And the "artist" looks like a shoddy tourist and talks like a Gambino. References to "Jesus Mekas." A true absurd picaresque journey, where cop-killing and incest jokes are made as lightly as the jabs at the art world and Hollywood. Soundtrack of drooly ur-jazz by Hair composer. Robert Downey, Sr., 1966, Anthology Film Archives.

2008 Good Movies on Video

[in no order]

zardoz.jpg1. In A Lonely Place, Nicholas Ray, 1950.
The writer victimized by his own pulp tropes and his own pugnacious romantic past, in Hollywood, Bogart's Dixon Steele scours his deepest Author's hyperfaculties, to prove himself to the Law, the Movies and his Lady Laurel Gray to whom he has already proven, and inspires a most ardent faith while seeming to lack any precedent for it. He burns, Nich Ray style.

2. All of Me, Carl Reiner, 1984.
Martin & Tomlin's mime caper. And who isn't a sucker for swami gags? "Back in bowl, back in bowl."

3. The Power of Nightmares, Adam Curtis, 2004.
Video essay ideogram on the multoid-cameral mind of the 20th Century human.

4. State & Main, David Mamet, 2000.
In light of the playwright-director's conversion to right-wingery (the cerebral timing as bad as Mamet's dialogue in the mouths of the wrong actors - not this movie tho!), State & Main is his rendering of U.S. bi-partisans, and masterfully so.

5. The 39 Steps, Alfred Hitchcock, 1935.
Begins in vaudeville, ends in vaudeville.

6. Artists and Models, Frank Tashlin, 1955.
A translateral Martin & Lewis musical romp about painters struggling in a cartoon world. And vintage Shirley MacClaine.

7. Trouble in Paradise, Ernst Lubitsch, 1932.
Magicianess Miriam and magisterial Herbert romance the grand confidence game.

8. The Thing, John Carpenter, 1982.
The shapeshifter that pits the trust of man against the trust of man, that makes a man seem not who he is, nefariously. A paranoid philosophical psychodrama premised at an Arctic outpost as if the first humans who find that they cannot identify each other and it leads to flamethrowers and psychic breakdowns and a monster made visible in the form of the familiar. Murky, sleek, icy atmospherics and lots of gored and gnarled mutating bodies.

9. Mr. Warmth, John Landis, 2007.
The ole showbiz now in its twilight years as personified by Harry Dean Stanton's opening harmonica riff. Don Rickles, a lifetime piety to The Act. . . Scorsese giggle-choked.

10. 25th Hour, Spike Lee, 2002.
The first great New York movie of the new century.

11. All That Jazz, Bob Fosse, 1979.
Does another film exist like it? No. An ecstatically troubling movie experiences ever, along the way Fosse innovates 80s music vid dance stylings in the cinematography of 70s New Hollywood histrionics by way of the beboppitybump of 50s musicals to the tune of 60s pop eschatology. And a revelatory Knnillssonn song to cap Joe Gideon's Perfect Day.

12. Wild Things, John McNaughton, 1998.
Film soleil mind-fuck grifter flick, director John McNaughton one of the shills. Dillon and Bacon in this movie as Pacino and DeNiro in Heat (then making Neve Campbell's Suzie character the comparable stand-in for L.A, Matt Dillon recitation of a "motherfucker" second-best all-time in movies to DeNiro's diner remark to Wangrove). Ripping thumping score, everything an giddy invidious stand-in for something else. . .

13. The Last Detail, Hal Ashby, 1973.
Robert Towne does On The Town.

14. Bug, William Friedkin, 2006.
Bug is what happens when the wrong man meets the right woman. Begins as a minimalist roadside soap opera evolving into a hypnogogic extravaganza of naked self-mutilation. The aphid trope is straight from 50s/60s Atomic Age, MK-Ultra grinders, but the ramifications play out like a James Purdy short story.

15. The Saddest Music in the World, Guy Maddin, 2003.
The world is sadder that movies are not more often made as the music of this spectronifying archivalist's fetish moto-collage.

16. Mad Men seasons 1-2, 2007-08.

17. The Last Days of Disco, Whit Stillman, 1998.
The Studio 54 disco mythos always had something of Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" about it, each a motley crosscurrent of sociological types and American classes (Navajos, Yalies, trannies). And so the USS Maine statue at Merchant's Gate in Central Park becomes a figure of frivolous existentialism for the college-buddy IRS spy - and Chloe is evermore disengaged by the guy's soliloquy. Plus all the subway dancing!

18. The Wire seasons 1-3, Ed Burns & David Simon, 2002-04.
Whipcrack-wound opus of action & reaction, of system & anti-system, the void & the hard fact. Some grand profanity is spewed by these characters, like Sgt. Rawls, who has it in for McNulty the way an old Irish cop hates a young Irish cop. "McNulty, you are a gaping asshole..." Nothing is ever played for its own sake and because the show is slyly patient then evolves the spectacle of drama.

19. Zardoz, John Boorman, 1974.
Visionary, hyper-informed, edited according to a translateral, kaleidoscopic logic and unduly ridiculed by modern film history. A precedent in the evolution of film cast in the myth of the New Man.

20. The Short & Curlies, Mike Leigh, 1987.
The giddy gravity of human interaction when other things are also being said, in that snappy, infatuatable British accent.

21. The Proposition, John Hillcoat, 2005.
Communion with the fourth dimension on cliffs above the bloody desert. As if Cormac McCarthy, Conrad and Kipling together went backpacking in Australia. The Brits and the Irish carry their epic conflict into the frontier nightmare outland, the evolving sinews of civilization; its methods, of folk lore and mystic teachings.

22. California Suite, Herbert Ross, 1978.
Neil Simon does 70s LA, Richard Pryor and Michael Caine and Jane Fonda do Neil Simon.

23. Baron of Arizona, Samuel Fuller, 1950.
The Baron invents a property for himself, and an identity for Sofia, 'The Baroness' de Peralta, they are both orphans on the edge of the southwest US, the nation still recognizing Spanish control of the territory. The Baron, an interloper of old documents and land grants, and John Griff, a dashing bibliographic debunker working for the government. The Baron sports the monk's robe, the tchotchke-laden costume of the gypsy, and the black wide-brimmed hats and capes of an outdated royalty transposed to the hot American frontier. At last, the love of Sofia and The Baron prevails, in that old tradition of older men marrying much younger girls. As crisp as a movie can be.

24. Serial, Bill Persky, 1980.
Martin Mull the straight guy as his life comes homeopathically crumbling down at the cusp of the 80s Me Decade aftermath in Marin County. Lalo Schifrin cheeseball lite FM theme song. Spot-on Catskills zinger scenarios and ultra-of-its-time satire, which may have caused the movie's unfortunate "dated" out-of-print, out-of-discourse status.

25. Impostor,’ Jim Carrey, In Living Color, 1990s.
Evidence of everything that is genius about Jim Carrey.

2008 Guest Screenings

The Shine Box attended several NYC screenings this year with guest appearances by artists and critics hailing from the sometimes rapturous, sometimes intolerably geeked-out world of repertory filmdom. . . .
Film Forum hosted "An Evening w/ Sidney Lumet," where the director conversed with folksy and erudite film historian Foster Hirsch. Several career highlight clips were played, and Sidney, though a bit canned with his answers, is infectiously respectable, a belabored artist of magnanimous NYC street pedigree. Check The Verdict and Serpico and most gladly The Wiz.

At Walter Reade Theater (Lincoln Center these days very much resembling a leftover setpiece from The Wiz) Crispin Glover introduced both the crowdpleasing Americana artifact The Orkly Kid and the Southern California late-80s schtickedelic road parable Rubin and Ed. Crispin did his routine Q&A afterwards, for which The Shine Box had already sat once before, at IFC, after Crispin's mesmerizingly disarming "Big Slide Show." Except for Crispin's tale of what really happened at his infamous Letterman appearance, which he told circuitously but lucidly unskinned (after some dweeb in the audience asked about it), the Q&A was a longwinded exercise.

At Film Forum, The Shine Box was privileged to have screened King Kong on its 75th birthday, with an audience that included 30 members of the picturesque and homely Sons Of Kong Club, riotously applauding Kong's both tropical and metropolitan victory. It was as if seeing this masterwork for the first time - indeed the first time projected on the big screen.

At BAM played The Driver, part of a Walter Hill retrospective, a gritty LA action car-chase flick as if an homage to post-apocalyptic Paris, with some brief commentary by charmingly wizened film exegete Elliot Stein.

Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell introduced Cluny Brown at Walter Reade, part of the Jennifer Jones series, the First Couple of film criticism, prolific veterans of New York's trade in Ideas. The hearts of all men at least once in their lives fall for a girl like Cluny, but rarely does a man ever see it come about as dashing as Charles Boyer.

BAM served up an Elliot Gould series, and The Shine Box made it to the Jules Feiffer 60s socio-caper Little Murders, followed by a Q&A with star Gould casually conducted by ex-Sun scrivener and A-Bones axman Bruce Bennett. The Shine Box accompanied to the screening legendary table tennis champion and ping-pong hustler Marty Reisman, who knew Elliot, and after the movie, at the reception, amidst the small flurry of Gouldists, these two arch-radicalists struck a dialogue in which The Shine Box happened upon participation. Marty had always told the story of a poker game that went on for years in some stogie-nosher's apartment in the Upper West Side in the late 60s, and that among the errant players were Walter Matthau and Elliot Gould. On the steps outside BAM Gould was humbly asked about the adventure. Marty provided the details, but Gould's memory was reluctant. "I was never good at poker," he said. "Because you have to bluff, and as an actor I can't lie. . ." And we all watch Elliot Gould movies because we all want Elliot Gould. In Little Murders we get Elliot, an artsy depressed mook processed into a pre-war high-rise sniper along with the rest of New York City's figurative population; plus Donald Sutherland as an East Village Plastic Inevitable minister, and Judge Lou Jacobi enunciating his Lower East Side immigrant story as if the riot act.

In the classically vast Ziegfeld Theater screened Four Nights With Anna, part of the New York Film Festival, with the movie's director appearing for the Q&A, imposing and rakish artist/lumberjack Jerzy Skolimowski. A love story between two rape victims set in the cold gray 21st century outlands of Poland, a lyric story epic in scope and not a scene or time scheme misplaced or without effect. Afterwards, Jerzy spoke no different from the way he had made his movie move. Before Four Nights played Pal/Secam, a short film introduced by its creator, Dmitry Povolotsky. A sort of 1980s Russian Superbad: horny well-meaning teen invites the dark elements of experience in pursuit of his lady, and suddenly his mom's living room is filled with creepy Moscow bums watching amateur porno. We know our hero is desperate – we first meet him in the bathroom humping the tub drain – and we are fighting for him and his infatuation with his Bollywood glam disco video (not so unlike the same coming-of-age conceit evinced by Slumdog Millionaire).

Also part of the NYFF, at Walter Reade, Guy DeBord's Situationalist metalogue In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, with a post-screening panel discussion: culture-wrangler Greil Marcus, the most acutely and revealingly spoken of the evening; moviemaker Oliver Assayas, impressionistic and exponential but in person not the devious chic greasemonkey who composed Boarding Gate; and Jean-Pierre Gorin, who bombastically excused himself twice during the discourse to leave the stage and go to the men's room, in which room The Shine Box had crossed paths with Jean-Pierre only moments before the discussion began. Jean-Pierre provided the evening's panel with the alienated flair and aggravation of the Artist (a former collaborator with Go-Go-Godard), and the man, ostensibly, had eaten bad Chinese food earlier that evening. In girum imus purports to give narrative life to the personal demons of civilization's zealous dweller. Battle scenes from old movies, docu panning shots of the cityscape, the manner in which one invents and destroys and re-invents their human environment. The age old problem of the middle-class taking over sacred districts when social prosperity renders the bohemian life an arm of Luxury's frankenstein.

Film Forum welcomed silver beard and thin bluejeans boho Les Blank, to introduce his Gap-Toothed Women and Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, and Les told the story of the the films' origins in the way he makes his movies, a peculiar, intangible logic that follows objects and people in the real world and is wry and gainful of the audience's trust. The Gap Toothed Women are as revealing of themselves as is the pontificator in the giant garlic costume.

Later that night, director Charlie Ahearn hosted Wild Styles with a lauded appearance by Fab Five Freddy, and an intro screening of Ahearn's 2005 Bongo Barbershop, where a young Tanzanian dude busting Swahili rhymes faces off with an old school NYC freestyler, both sitting in barber chairs in a "Bronx tonsorial parlor," a cinematic event of itself, and in the New York tradition of lyric modes bygone, since riffed off, where the true rousters of the art these days are working in a microcosmic storefront under an elevated subway in the outer boroughs.

An ice cold Saturday at the New Times Square New Times Tower found the American Museum of the Moving Image hosting Jerry Lewis interviewed by louche Peter Bogdanovich, and a schpiel by Jerry on the old Times Square it was. Jerry lashed out against re-excising the canned tale of he and Dean's etiology, but Jerry annunciated the spirit of just what it was like in show business at the top of 20th Century famedom as no other has ever known it but "Elvis, Sinatra & The Beatles" - except for the fact that the footage feed never ever captured it as did only the bristling crowds in line outside the Capitol Theater . . . the Hacker's Club of taxi drivers faring nightly their own microeconomy carting wowed post-audiences back to Bloomfield, NJ; Jerry Lewis doing impressions of Swedes doing impressions of Jerry Lewis; the cocky self-lambasting! All in all, a perfect short story of the wayward theater industry's surrealistic touchstone.

For one week Film Forum ran Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, with two nights capped by a visit from writer/director Paul Schrader. The biopic to end all biopics in the 20th Century from where the 21st has yet to pick up. The self-destruction of the Artist is lusciously staged by elegantly edited nouvelles in and out of the writer's present, past and fiction. Schrader spoke with alacrity after the movie, nary a superfluous remark, about its making and his approach to its operatic suicidal themes. It would seem that a movie "based on a true story" should never be made otherwise. I'm Not There tried it last year but smothered itself with capriciousness. Mishima is as if carved by the sword which the man thrusts upon himself. . . harking the language of Bergdorf Goodman's best window artisanship.

.... and though it could not properly be defined as a "screening," The Shine Box had twosie balcony box seats for Liza's At The Palace, and Liza cried up from the red velvet abyss ecstatic renditions of the songbook - the frowzy resounding big band blams, the charming slapstick regarding Liza's lost footlight maneuvering, and the lady's voice still bounding back from that night's starblaze. The crowd, fitfully hysterical, included Mayor Bloomberg, whom Liza introduced before launching a one o' a kind "New York, New York."