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CRITICS PICKS GALLERIES Weather Report: “Weather,” paintings and sculpture inspired by weather at Ricco Maresca Gallery, offers funny and sometimes terrifying riffs on the forces of Mother Nature. Bring your galoshes. Through Aug. 17. Ricco Maresca Gallery, 529 W. 20th St., 3rd Fl., 212627-4819, [Melissa Stern]

Edited by Armond White

New York’s Review of Culture •

Mid-Year Reckoning

JAZZ Jumpin’ July: The 27th annual fest at the 92nd Street Y is flush with pianists and singers: artistic director Bill Charlap, his wife Renee Rosnes, Ted Rosenthal and Dick Hyman among the former; Ernie Andrews, Freddie Cole and Sachal Vasandani the latter and Barbara Carroll in both roles. Looks back at the legacies of Art Blakey and Count Basie, too. July 16-26; $25+. 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., 212-415-5500, [Howard Mandel]

2012’s best so far and Sarris remembered By Armond White


his year, I want to do the Mid-Year Reckoning differently, as a tribute to film critic Andrew Sarris’ recent passing. It was Sarris, during my grad school years at Columbia, who wisely advised that the percentage of good movies has not changed from the old days; now that the output is larger, the significance of sifting out the trash is more important than ever. Sarris’ indispensable work The American Cinema, first published in 1968, used the Nouvelle Vague’s notion of auteurism (cinema authorship) to categorize all Hollywood film history up to that point. Sarris’ commentary on over 200 directors was an awesome feat, combining scholarship with sharp perception. His extraordinary assessments should still structure anyone’s thinking about movies, American or global. Because The American Cinema emerged from cinema’s first half-century, it preserves aesthetics and values (pillars from Griffith to Sternberg) that have been lost in the recent years of criticism’s decline, in which media and box-office presence is given importance over the individual visions that Sarris knew were what made cinema an art form. He articulated that belief with idiosyncratic precision that to this day—when both Hollywood and the critical “community” have lost self-respect—is still awesome to read. Each summer, my mid-year assessment has been a way to keep track of the movie year’s deluge, which, given the dozen or more films that open every week, is more than can be reviewed. Perhaps the reckoning might this time benefit from following Sarris’ model, as a reminder of the standards a film-lover has every right to uphold. I take great exception to the TV pundit whose memorial to Sarris cited that he “loved movies.” Sarris’ work was greater than any fanboy obsession—everybody “loves” movies, but Sarris turned his interest

MUSEUMS Midway Modernism: The second of a threepart exhibition titled “Modernist Art from India” features ravishing colors and raging perspectives from the post-independence and post-Partition eras. Abstraction dominates. It’s a display of creative freedom and artistic emancipation. Take a Darjeeling Express to this amazing show. Through Oct. 16. Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St., 212-620-5000, [Phyllis Workman]

Carole Bouquet and André Dussollier in Unforgivable.

into teaching, study and personal expression, the things that make criticism valuable, an art in its own right. With continued respect for Sarris, one of the two critics who have meant the most to me, professionally and personally, I repeat The American Cinema’s first nine top-tobottom categories, citing the work of individual directors. It could help to understand how 2012’s best films so far might ultimately rank in film history or, as Sarris crucially demonstrated, in a personal pantheon rigorous enough to share with the world. Pantheon Directors Unforgivable (André Téchiné)—a tumultuous view of private lives as society and society as family. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)—examines the linkage of desire and despair to find the value of personal resurrection. The Far Side of Paradise Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman)—the rare campus comedy genre visits private worlds that reflect the eccentricities we recognize deep down. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)— compares the innocence of youth and maturity. Dark Horse (Todd Solondz)—tragedy found in the comedy of hopes squandered

by misguided fashions. The Skinny (Patrik-Ian Polk)—clarifies the blur of sex and friendship that gay life faces straight-on. A Thousand Words (Brian Robbins)—a Hollywood satire so casually profound it scared off the industry and its fans. Expressive Esoterica Americano (Mathieu Demy)—an Oedipal odyssey that finds cultural heritage in family legacy. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor)—addresses action movie tropes to satirize the deficiencies of contemporary genre excess. The Lady (Luc Besson)—eloquently acted political biopic, refined non-comic-book heroism. The Flowers of War (Zhang Yimou)—common tragedy and possibility, rapturously envisioned. Fringe Benefits Detention (Joseph Kahn)—traces moral chaos throughout recent pop history. Chronicle (Jonathan Trank)—youth’s visionary search for meaning. Wanderlust (David Wain)—audacious mockery of Occupy sentimentality and its

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Good Vibes: A vibraphone cannot sound ugly. Bobby Hutcherson, its best living practitioner, is ill with emphysema, so four of his accomplished acolytes—Jay Hoggard, Steve Nelson, Mark Sherman and Warren Wolf—plus a fine rhythm trio pay tribute in a one-night stand. July 8; 9 p.m., $30. Birdland, 15 W. 44th St., 212-581-3080, birdlandjazz. com. [HM] Bassist’s Big Band: Christian McBride, the much-in-demand bassist, found time to assemble an all-star big band and record an acclaimed album, The Good Feeling. His orchestra occupies the elegant Jazz at Lincoln Center nightclub for an unusual four nights. July 12-15; 7:30 & 9:30 p.m., plus an 11:30 p.m. show on Friday and Saturday, $35+. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in the Time-Warner Center, Broadway and 60th St., 212-258-9800, jalc. org. [HM] Odd Couple: Gerri Allen, the elegant Detroitraised jazz pianist-composer, and Laurie Anderson, the performance artist and electronics innovator, appear in their first-ever team-up, inevitably creating some new sort of hybrid. July 17; 8 & 10 p.m., $20. The Stone, corner of Ave. C & 2nd St., 212-473-0043, [HM] FILM Remember “Cholly”?: Rock doc Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone recalls that heady moment when hip-hop and punk mixed, a memory of one of pop’s freest and most joyful bands—and a history of their madness into middle age. Maybe it’ll drive viewers to buy the great Fishbone album Truth and Soul. Part of the CBGB Festival. July 6; 5:45 p.m., $10. Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave., [Armond White]

museums CITYARTS

In Transit Art of the Poster By Caroline Birenbaum


terrific selection of original artwork for posters commissioned by the London Underground and its successor, London Transport, is on exhibit at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex in Grand Central Station through July 8. Never before shown in the United States, the works are on loan from the venerable London Transport Museum, whose collection includes over 700 maquettes and 5,000 vintage posters. Charged with expanding use of public transit beyond weekday commuting, Frank Pick, publicity officer for the Underground Group in the first decade of the 20th century, applied the new concept of travel posters to promoting local attractions and handpicked artists to submit designs. In the course of his lengthy career, he enriched the urban environment by setting high artistic standards while being receptive to diverse styles of expression. The unifying factor was a distinctive typeface designed in

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1917 by Edward Johnston. The 51 works on view in New York range from the very first pictorial poster commissioned by Pick, John Hassall’s comical 1908 gouache, “No Need to Ask a P’liceman,” to Paul Catherall’s 2007 color linocut, “Primrose Hill,” and include examples by famous artists and unfamiliar names alike. All but four works in the show were approved for production. Thumbnail photos of the printed posters enable comparison between the model and the final version— often colors were heightened or simplified and lettering added. Anyone in a hurry can enjoy the exhibit purely for the visual pleasure it affords. With a bit of time, the simple, clear wall labels and unobtrusive thematic installation will make you aware of the variety of media, artistic styles, production requirements and processes and criteria for acceptance involved in the long-running endeavor. The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex is located adjacent to the station master’s office on the main level of Grand Central Station. Admission is free and the museum is open daily, except major holidays. If you like the Annex, why not pay a visit

outdated hippie heritage. That’s My Boy (Sean Anders)—empathy, heredity and its discontents. Joyful Noise (Todd Graff)—the anodyne effects of music and the movie musical. Less Than Meets the Eye Roadie (Michael Cuesta)—great performance by Ron Eldard. The Kid with a Bike (Dardennes brothers)— modern neuroses given fairytale attention. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov)—trash made uncommonly spectacular. Lightly Likable: Being Flynn, Darling Companion, Man on a Ledge, Where Do We Go Now? Vintage ad from London Transit.

Strained Seriousness: The Turin Horse, Safe, Neil Young Journeys, Magic Mike

to the Transit Museum itself? Located on Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights, it is one of the major institutions of its kind in the world, offering numerous exhibitions and special programs. For more information, visit www.

Make Way for the Clowns: Ted, The Dictator, Casa de mi Padre Oddities, One-Shots and Newcomers: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Gerhard Richter Painting, Locked Out, John Carter


Where Music Lives Craig Harris Salutes the Dwyer Cultural Center By Howard Mandel


bout 45 people heard the rambunctious nonet led by highenergy trombonist Craig Harris in a cozy basement studio at the Dwyer Cultural Center on June 25. It was the last “Musical Monday” of the band’s seven-month, once-a-week gig, because the Dwyer, on 123rd Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, is cutting hours and reducing public programs while seeking funding. Good luck with that. The audience included black and white folks, singles, elders, couples and one family with young, semi-attentive kids. The music ranged from a wicked vamp—people danced in their seats—to spacey sound effects triggered by an electric keyboardist

doing,” Harris, a 59-year-old committed Harlem homeowner, explained at the show’s start. “It’s that we don’t want to know. This is how we roll. We do a lot of making up.” The crowd was delighted to go where his band took them; they had come for sonic adventure. The musicians were pleased with their efforts. The room pulsed with trust. As a venue, it was neither expensive or boozy but homey. Plastic champagne glasses of bubbly cider were free with the $10 admission. Light bulbs shaped like votive candles glowed on little round tables draped in black. Strangers made pleasant conversation with each other. The loss of a community arts center can seem a small thing in culturally abundant New York City, but it matters. The Dwyer opened in 2009 as the nonprofit institution the city required for a real estate developer to turn what was an abandoned warehouse into residential condos and street-level stores. For three years it has hosted visual

Craig Harris.

on a computer set at his feet. A version of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” was arranged over a rhythm as cushy as that of Grover Washington’s smooth jazz classic, “Mr. Magic.” Soprano saxophonist Jay Rodriguez blew a knotty yet flowing solo atop a samba beat, like something Wayne Shorter might have done in Weather Report; two other saxes and two trumpets joined with brisk riffs which Harris waved in, spontaneously. The performance climaxed with an episode of tradition-steeped collective improvisation. Adept listeners followed the tangle of melodic threads that emerged from and resolved back into a full statement of Harris’ sweeping, lyrical melody, “Lovejoy.” It ended in a slow fade. The music was first-rate, and immediacy ruled. “It’s not that we don’t know what we’re

arts exhibits, film screenings and dance performances as well as music. Its main income stream has been rentals for private events, but it can’t meet its relatively modest overhead. Common story: A nice place with a localized mission needs money. There goes a seven-month, once-a-week gig. Oh, the musicians will find another room; they’ve got to play. The customers will look for a new hangout. But the city is poorer for the loss. “We’ll be back in September,” promised Harris, a veteran of ensembles fronted by his pal David Murray and the great Sun Ra and a determined optimist. “Right now we just don’t know where.” Reach Howard Mandel at jazzmandel@


Art Adverts Start a New Wave Advertising strategies take art out the wilderness. CityArts surveys the new media tacticians who bring Broadway shows, museums and other art venues to popular attention. Art and its patrons all benefit from millennial art advertising’s new tactical strategies. Second of a two-part series. By Gregory Solman


hen Clint White, president of New York’s WiT Media and lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, looked at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s brief, he saw the premarketing issue involved educating younger audiences to the differences between chamber and orchestral music. WiT’s “Get Closer to the Music” campaign, subsequently, emphasized the music’s intimacy rather than grandiosity. “The commonality of all clients is that they need to make sure that the audiences of the future are full of awareness of what they are doing and what role arts and culture can fill in their lives,” said White. To accomplish that lofty goal, arts clients need to “tell a story and relay a narrative that says this is for them,” White advises. Here, the new marketing platforms offer an invaluable advantage, in that campaigns can do that “with video and music online, so there’s decreasing ambiguity about what the art form is.” Fortunately, White says, the web bridges age, race and geographic gaps, allowing WiT to develop campaigns without creative that pander to younger prospects. An effective tactic could be as simple and compelling as sending a segmented email (by no means spray-and-pray spam) with a branded MP3, “so when it comes up,” says White, “you remember that it’s from the Chamber Music Society and it keeps them top of mind.” Marketers can electronically deliver coded promos and coupons that allow the agency to track the offer’s performance, experimenting and changing on the fly as they never could with a print ad. Reviews still matter some, White says, but Facebook recommendations by trusted friends increasingly matter more. And in the end, the show matters most: “We can disseminate the right message at the right time, but the reason someone comes back is because of the trans-

formative, meaningful, enjoyable experience.” New marketing technology might bridge the age gap between arts consumers, contends Doug Mobray, president of MoGo Arts Marketing. “Surely there’s been a massive shift in media consumption habits,” he says, “but even older patrons are using Facebook. Just the other day, my mother ‘friended’ me”—an act one imagines as equally comforting and disconcerting. Arts organizations were slow to embrace digital marketing but latched on to MoGo Arts’ “media agnostic approach,” where a digital media buy could cost-efficiently target people across the web, often in lieu of print and broadcast, where Mobray sees “an erosion.” MoGo Arts sells the arts via online display ads, video, search and social marketing that spans all demos, from “the older, most affluent on Forbes and the New York Times’ websites to the youngest on Facebook.” Back-end technology tracks revenue and ticket value to define a client’s return on investment. “Digital is the one-to-one conversation vs. the one-to-many model,” Mobray says. A Google-certified partner, MoGo helps clients take advantage of Google’s gift to nonprofits: $10,000 a month worth of Google AdWords, gratis. You can build a whole campaign around that, Mobray says. The use of video beyond conventional broadcast has driven innovation to avoid that old Evita-era marketing monotony. Mark Ciglar, founder and creative director at Cinevative in Los Angeles, produces commercials, promos and lobby videos for performing arts organizations that address the preproduction issues hampering creativity. “When you move from paper to screen, the way you communicate has to be different. Newspaper ads miss the power of the on-screen medium,” Ciglar says. “For comedy, it has to be hilariously funny. On screen, you have to make them laugh.” Ciglar, a former theater director, recalls the days when there was no option but print. “Finding that cross-platform nature of media has been good for arts orgs from an effectiveness and budget standpoint,” he concludes. “A TV spot will play on local cable, you reformat for the web then reformat it again for [online] banner ads, then for use in the lobby and projections and for video as imbedded e-mail with link to ticket sales. That doesn’t exclude the eyes of the blue-haired lady, but adds all those touch points.” Aging patrons of the arts “may not tweet, they may not interact, but they will do a Google search, write email, send photos,” says Ciglar. “They’re still out there.” Gregory Solman was for years the West Coast editor of Adweek in Los Angeles.


Beefcake with Arty Frosting Channing Tatum hides behind Magic Mike By Armond White


o what if Channing Tatum started as a stripper? The problem with Magic Mike, the semi-autobiographical melodrama he co-produced, is that he couldn’t find a filmmaker to properly translate that beefcake experience to the screen. Whatever Tatum knows about workingclass ambition and exploitation (personal or Hollywood style) gets lost in director Steven Soderbergh’s affectless look at Mike Lane (Tatum), a multitasking, self-described entrepreneur (“It’s French,” he says) who spends most of his time humping and grinding at Tampa’s Xquisite Club, which specializes in male strip shows for female customers. Soderbergh emphasizes the strip show, introed by club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a lizardy, leathery all-American huckster. But he isn’t interested in eroticism. The sex-as-labor theme is itself exploited and trivialized in the Xquisite performances. Soderbergh shoots the routines (“It’s Raining Men” features the troupe in raincoats, suggestively stroking umbrellas) with the same slicked-up stylization that made Flashdance so phony, yet made it a hit that set the sentimental template for the next several generations’ fuzzy ideas about egoism and success. Magic Mike extends that sex/success fantasy with overseriousness, misrepresenting Mike’s peculiar route to his goal of making custom-designed furniture—if anything can be said with certainty in this life, it’s that people who want to make furniture don’t become sex workers. That term fits Soderbergh’s low-level shots of dollar bills in thongs, a laughable Bresson affectation. But Magic Mike isn’t an analysis of leisure-as-work like Godard cinched in his capitalism/prostitution allegories A Married Woman or 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, which were also insightful essays on contemporary Paris. Soderbergh slogs through backstage clichés: Mike struggling against a status-rigged banking system and his doomed mentoring of Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a naïve, unmotivated, emotionally unstable 19-year-old spoiling to be despoiled. While avoiding the overblown existentialism of P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights, Soderbergh is still arty. His oblique close-up of a dancer using a vacuum penis pump pretends to be austere but is really just

Tatum and troupe.

another example of Soderbergh’s strange detachment: he’s always distant from his subject yet gives no perspective. Mike’s attraction to Adam’s motherly sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), is as clichéd as the bits from Flashdance, 42nd Street, Showgirls and Saturday Night Fever, although Soderbergh avoids their emotional payoffs. His drabness prevents dramatic satisfaction which ultimately prevents comprehension. In Magic Mike, Tatum trades in his experience as stripper, dancer and actor for Hollywood glibness. Soderbergh seems uninterested in contemplating male sexuality (Tatum’s body) or the work of performance and public interaction, the things Ice Cube got superlatively right in his 1998 female stripper movie, The Player’s Club. This film is even more aggressively hetero. Among the gallery of specimen, from pretty-boy Pettyfer to studly Joe Manganiello and the briefly exoticized Adam Rodriguez, Tatum’s charismatic athleticism is the most inviting. He’s open and energetic, unlike his gloomy, introspective muse characterizations for the urban poet Dito Montiel, yet Soderbergh disingenuousness encourages the self-defeating (so far) Hollywood stardom Tatum escaped his roots to accept. Tatum’s Southern white boy essence and dancer’s eagerness could provide insight about the discipline of breakdancing culture, the working-class ambition and sexual currency of his pre-Hollywood years. But Mike’s glib soliloquies (“I’m not my goddamned job!”) offer only recession-ready delusions. So does McConaughey’s impresario, a decadent business figure whose Dennis Hopper craziness (“Fuck that mirror like you mean it!”) contrasts Mike’s magical innocence. Like the working-class slugs in Soderbergh’s 2005 abomination, Bubble, all of these characters are shallow. They strip to reveal nothing—despite Tatum’s promise of new physical truths. Follow Armond White on Twitter @3xchair.

cityArts July 5, 2012  

The July 5, 2012 issue of cityArts. CityArts is an essential voice on the best to see, hear and experience in New York’s cultural landscape.

cityArts July 5, 2012  

The July 5, 2012 issue of cityArts. CityArts is an essential voice on the best to see, hear and experience in New York’s cultural landscape.