An interview with underground filmmaker Jon Moritsugu
By Devin D. O’Leary
Do-it-all, DIY filmmaker Jon Moritsugu has a body of work that floats somewhere in the artistic ether between the pop art obsessions of Andy Warhol and the trashy aesthetics of John Waters. Shooting often on grungy 16mm film stock to a punk rock soundtrack, Moritsugu has built a résumé that runs the gamut from early experimental shorts (“Der Elvis,” “Sleazy Rider”) to feature-length cult curiosities like 1990’s My Degeneration, 1993’s Terminal USA, 1994’s Mod Fuck Explosion, 1997’s Fame Whore and 2002’s Scumrock. As he bounced between Hawaii (where he was born), San Francisco (where he had his most productive years) and the Seattle area (where he most recently resided), Moritsugu became a key figure in something some journalist dubbed the “West Coast Independent” movement.
Dateline: Bangladesh—Police in the northern part of the country say they have arrested dozens of swindlers who conned people out of money by calling them on mobile phones and claiming to be genies with supernatural powers. “It has become an epidemic,” Farhad bin Imrul Kayes, police chief of Gobindaganj province told Agence France-Presse. “In the last three months alone we have arrested 24 of these so-called ‘Kings of Genies,’ some of whom have even become rich in just a year.” According to Kayes, the scammers would gather personal information about their victims beforehand, then call them and speak “in a tone similar to Arabic.” Claiming to be genies who had descended from the sky, the scammers would demand money, threatening a family tragedy if the victims did not pay up. In addition to rattling off detailed family information, the callers would recite passages from the Quran. Police in Gobindaganj used phone taps to catch the scammers after receiving numerous complaints.
The public is invited to attend a public screening for the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Summer Television and Film Workshop. The six-week workshop was held in collaboration with Disney/ABC Television and featured work by 12 Native American students from across the country. Six short films were produced, including “Love’s Story,” “The Confession,” “Doc O’Mine,” “Kokopelli,” “First Impressions” and “Torn Emotions.” The free screening of these films will take place Friday, July 24, at the Library and Technology Center at IAIA’s College of Contemporary Native Arts (83 Avan Nu Po in Santa Fe).
I’ve been a fan of man-vs.-nature flicks ever since I saw Henry Silva get his ass eaten by a giant gator in John Sayles’ magnificent and appropriately named exploitation flick Alligator. As a kid, I ate a steady diet of these films—movies featuring fearsome creatures just itching to take a bite out of our hides. My interest would be especially piqued if these creatures dwelled underwater. The idea that something ferocious is living just beyond our view is a fear that resonates with all of us. My fave, of course, is Jaws. But a multitude of Jaws knockoffs such as Orca: The Killer Whale, Piranha (another John Sayles classic!) and Tentacles still hold a warm place in my darkened heart. And then there is the gloriously goofy, blatantly racist piece of cinematic trash known as The Big Alligator River. Now, don’t get me wrong; I mean “trash” in the best way possible.
There was a time when the legendary San Diego Comic-Con was all about comic books. That was, of course, before films like X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman Begins took comic books mainstream. In the last eight years, Hollywood has co-opted the annual event, turning the four-day geek fest into a movie industry publicity machine par excellence. This year, though, television seems to be taking over the convention (scheduled Thursday, July 23, through Sunday, July 26). If you aren’t already planning on going (all 140,000 tickets sold out months ago), here’s a peek at what you’re missing.
What do you get when you mix banjo, 8-bit Nintendo and karaoke? (Aside from a Missourian out on the town in Japan.) You get programmer/picker Bud Melvin’s LP release for Popular Music.
Bud Melvin creates a solo novelty using the banjo and chiptunes—music produced by older video game and computer systems that generate sound in real time. It’s both retro digital and pastoral, an unlikely combination that interacts with the dynamism of yin and yang. On Sunday, a live collision of Luigi and Jed awaits release party revelers at Ed's Pub, Leisure Bowl's wood-paneled, karaoke-fraught watering hole. The show is free and followed by a night of open karaoke. In the meantime, the Alibi shipped off a few electronic questions to Melvin about the record.
Siblings Pascal and Lauren Balthrop are living the small-town life.
They walk nearly everywhere they go, stopping to say hello to people they recognize on the street. They chat with store owners who know them by name and socialize at the neighborhood coffee shop where all their friends hang out.
The sonically and visually talented Bud Melvin agreed to share photos taken on his Game Boy Camera. Here’s a selection hand-picked by us. To see more, click here, and link to more photos at the bottom of each page.
An interview with Charles MacKay, General Director of the Santa Fe Opera
By Steven Robert Allen
John Crosby, the founder of the Santa Fe Opera (SFO), was a bona fide visionary. The SFO was—and, in many ways, still is—his wailing baby. His brilliant idea to construct an open-air opera house in the middle of the desert Southwest has had a profound and lasting impact on New Mexico’s image of itself. Yes, we live in the sticks, but we can always point to that funky spaceship opera house on the hill as proof of the existence of hoity culture in New Mexico.
Because it was Bastille Day, a guest wandered into the kitchen and serenaded the cooks with "La Marseillaise," the national anthem of France. Outside the insulated walls of Café Jean Pierre, the sun beat down on a maze of interconnected parking lots and the Century Rio megaplex. But inside, it was Paris.
It is gazpacho season. Don't know if you've ever noticed, but very few recipes as simple as "buy vegetables, blend and chill" inspire such strong preferences as this iconic cold soup. (We give props to the oil-laden, paprika-orange smoothie variety over the chunky salsa in a bowl style, but hey, that's just us.)
It was sometime after midnight, and a steady, cold rain was falling. Thunder broke above the mountain ridge, seemingly only feet above my tent. Neither the stormy symphony nor the pillow wrapped around my head came close to muffling the combined thumps of more than 100 drums that climbed to a rhythmic cacophony and filled every space in the dark pine forest. Pounding endlessly day and night, hundreds of calloused hands struck the stretched skins, hammering out a sort of heartbeat. It rose and fell, slowed and quickened collectively. At times it was almost gentle and timid; then, without warning, it built to a frantic pace. Regardless of the tempo, the primitive palpitation always sounded as though it was seeking something out. It never ceased.
Scanning the room Sunday night at the 48 Hour Film Project party, I flashed back to a conversation I had about the contest with someone close to the now dormant Duke City Shootout (DCS), the original Big Dog of run-and-gun filmmaking contests, which started in 1999.
Dateline: Poland—According to England’s The Sun newspaper, a Polish woman has filed a lawsuit against an Egyptian hotel claiming that her teenage daughter got mysteriously pregnant after using the facility’s swimming pool. Magdalena Kwiatkowska claims her 13-year-old daughter became inseminated thanks to a stray sperm swimming around the hotel’s mixed-sex pool. The teen allegedly returned from a vacation in Egypt pregnant, and Kwiatkowska says her daughter certainly did not meet or fraternize with any boys while in Egypt. Tourist authorities in Warsaw confirmed the complaint. The knocked-up teen’s mother is seeking unspecified compensation from the hotel.
Matthew McDuffie, an instructor in the Dramatic Writing Program at UNM and a professional screenwriter, is hosting another series of one-day workshops for filmmakers and storytellers looking to sharpen their writing chops. Classes are scheduled for July 18 and 25 and will cover the foundations of screenwriting: mechanics of plot and development of storyline. Participants are encouraged to bring ideas, as the goal will be to create a complete outline of a film by day’s end. The workshops will be held at KNME studios in Albuquerque from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $125. Call 385-1323 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for information and reservations.
Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick must like lifting trash can lids, looking under rocks and opening doors that most of us would rather leave closed. How else to explain a résumé that includes investigations of psychotherapeutical prostitution (Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate), genital torture as performance art (Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist), pedophilia in the Catholic church (Twist of Fate) and—perhaps worst of all—the Motion Picture Association of America’s super-secret ratings board (This Film is Not Yet Rated). With his latest cinematic muckraking effort, Dick leaps headfirst into what could be his most controversial subject to date.
The magic doesn’t run dry in Potter’s sixth outing
By Devin D. O’Leary
Given the almost incalculable success of the Harry Potter books and the guaranteed gravy train of subsequent movies, you could easily forgive Warner Brothers for slacking off a bit on the later entries in the film series. You could. But thankfully, you don’t have to.
“Parenthood” Down One Parent—NBC announced last week that its big fall sitcom “Parenthood” would be pushed back to midseason because of an unspecified illness suffered by star Maura Tierney. The show’s sudden move to midseason was done to accommodate an eight-week “medical evaluation” of the actress—which sounds like one hell of an evaluation. Shortly after “rehab” rumors began to fly, Tierney annouced that she is having a tumor removed from her breast. ” Tierney’s past credits include “NewsRadio” and “ER.”
Bassist Matt Brewer comes home to open the fourth annual festival
By Mel Minter
A prophet may have no honor in his own country, but a bassist is a different story. Matt Brewer, who spent his formative years here but now resides in New York City, has the honor of opening the Albuquerque end of the 2009 New Mexico Jazz Festival at the Outpost Performance Space, and he’s bringing players who are helping to shape a new generation of jazz.
Sputniq releases an album and embarks on a tour. The Oktober People, Zagadka and Reighnbeau do their part to flood Winning Coffee Co. with reverb on Friday, July 17. $3 donation. Creatures of all ages welcome. (Laura Marrich)
CiRQ Gallery took over the former Sol Arts building at 712 Central SE and opened its doors in February 2009. "We're trying to show contemporary artists, often with edgy themes and ways of presentation," says gallery co-founder David Hampton. "We're looking for new blood, to introduce newer artists to the scene and bring Albuquerque alternatives to the typically Southwestern style, landscape art." The result is a gallery representing Albuquerque art with a distinctly urban streak.
July is hot; unbearably, blisteringly hot. Though I'm a New Mexico native, I'm not made to endure this kind of heat. Composed entirely of recessive genes, my body and mind are breaking under this thermal assault. And don't even get me started about sunshine. Some people get depressed by rainy weather; I get depressed by heat and sun. In order to counter the effects of this potentially debilitating season, this week's Culture Shock is focused on me and things I like. Once someone out there can arrange for it to be overcast and 72 degrees, I'll think about you. For now, it's too hot to be considerate.
Albuquerque's homegrown comedy superduo The Pajama Men, along with musician Luminous Craft, recently returned from a six (or so) month tour of the U.S., Europe and Australia, where they slew audiences with their particular blend of physical and surrealist humor. They won a ton of awards and shamed the comedy world with their clear superiority and impeccable hygiene. Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez left their jammies at home to meet the Alibi for a vegetarian brunch and interview.
It’s rare that Mexican food reminds me of my Jewish mother’s cooking, but that’s what happened with a bowl of albóndigas at Dahlia’s. A mildly aromatic broth crowded with chunks of carrot, celery, zucchini and a single large meatball comprised this bowl of Central Mexican comfort food. The meatball’s almost ethereal texture and mellow, satisfying flavor reminded me of mom’s matzo balls.
Will chain stores kill or stimulate the buy-local movement?
By Stacy Mitchell
HSBC, one of the biggest banks on the planet, has taken to calling itself "The world's local bank." Winn-Dixie, a 500-outlet supermarket chain, recently launched an ad campaign under the tagline "Local flavor since 1956." The International Council of Shopping Centers, a global consortium of mall owners and developers, is pouring millions of dollars into television ads urging people to "Shop Local"—at their nearest mall. Even Wal-Mart is getting in on the act, hanging bright green banners over its produce aisles that simply say, "Local."
How did some Albuquerque residents mark this Fourth of July? Where are farmers turning for help with their nut trees? What was the fate of a burglar in Belen? How areBoys & Girls Clubs looking out for students?
Geologist points to holes in the thinking—and the landscape—around waste burial in Southern New Mexico
By Marisa Demarco
For years, Richard Hayes Phillips has carried in his mind awful visions of what it would be like to see the Pecos River contaminated with radioactive material. "People fish there, and it flows into the Rio Grande at Amistad Reservoir, which is actually the Spanish word for 'friendship,' ” he says.
Congress is fumbling its chances at real health care reform
By Jerry Ortiz y Pino
The country is desperate for major reforms to our non-system of health care. Our people can no longer afford to spend twice as much per capita on health care as any other country—while receiving health outcomes that don’t even make the top 25 list from around the globe.
Dateline: Mexico—On June 29, two professional midget wrestlers were found dead in a seedy motel room in Mexico City. Local police believe that La Parkita and Espectrito Jr.—identified in police records as brothers Alberto and Alejandro Jiménez—were drugged and robbed by prostitutes. Reports say the wrestlers, both aged 35, picked up two prostitutes and took them to the hotel room, not far from the famous Arena México wrestling venue. Several hours later, the women allegedly left alone. When a hotel worker came to clean the room, the bodies of the wresters were discovered. Autopsies are being carried out, but investigators close to the case believe the pint-sized grapplers overdosed after being given eyedrops combined with alcohol. It is believed the brothers’ size make them more susceptible to alcohol poisoning. In Mexico, it is a common crime for gangs of prostitutes to rob their clients after they pass out from ingesting tainted drinks.
Vocalist and pianist dive headfirst into new projects
By Mel Minter
Arriving for the sound check before her first appearance at the Women’s Voices Concerts a few weeks back, vocalist Susan Abod wasn’t sure what to expect. She’d never played with the band for her set, led by pianist John Rangel.
Rosemary, olive oil and sea salt make pecans a big hit. Vanilla-honey and fresh nutmeg turn cashews into crack cocaine. But the real powerhouse of our most recent beer bust was an improvised recipe—stumbled upon while ransacking Alex's spice shelves—for spicy smoked peanuts. A touch of brown sugar, coarse salt, a kiss of cayenne, wallops of bright red Aleppo pepper and, crucially, smoked black pepper helped plenty of people brave the line for another bomber.
Monica’s El Portal may be the answer to the quest common among Old Town visitors for some real New Mexican food without tourist trappings. Lurking on the edge of Old Town and partially hidden by trees (which also shade the patio), this is a place where the state question—red or green?—applies to nearly every menu option.
Don’t be startled if you see an inordinate number of film crews racing around town this weekend. The 48 Hour Film Project returns to Albuquerque this Friday, July 10. Ours is one of more than 80 cities around the world hosting an initial leg of the two-day filmmaking competition. Handpicked crews of writers, directors, cinematographers, editors, actors and more will gather at Imbibe (3101 Central NE) at 6 p.m. on Friday. There, organizers will inform the crews of the line, prop, character and genre each must incorporate into their films. They’ll have just 48 hours—start to finish—to complete their efforts. There will be a wrap-up party on Sunday, July 12, back at Imbibe with drink specials and snacks. A grand total of 43 local film crews are signed up to participate, making this the busiest year since Albuquerque signed on to host the 48 Hour Film Project. The Premiere Screening for all the Albuquerque films takes place Wednesday, July 15, from 6:45 to 9:15 p.m. at the KiMo Theatre in Downtown Albuquerque. Tickets for this event are $9 at the door. The top film at Wednesday’s screening will go on to compete against all the winning films from around the globe. Log on to 48hourfilm.com/albuquerque for more info.
Satisfying sci-fi miniature gets Spacey ... and Rockwell, too
By Devin D. O’Leary
In a year that’s featured the likes of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (ugh), Terminator Salvation (meh) and Star Trek (eh ... ), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a science-fiction film you can proudly call science fiction. Happily, Moon—the intriguing directing debut by Duncan Jones—fits the bill. Filled with profound sadness, deep humanism and aching beauty, Moon would fit comfortably on the DVD shelf alongside such tonally similar sci-fi hallmarks as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris and Silent Running.
Michael Mann and Johnny Depp get all dressed up to play cops and robbers
By Devin D. O’Leary
Not to cast aspersions against either Michael Mann’s obvious manliness or his well-established filmmaking skills, but I bet he spent his childhood playing with dolls. From the new-wave Nazi chic of The Keep to the infamous peppermint-striped suits of “Miami Vice” to Daniel Day-Lewis’ slo-mo buckskin fringe in The Last of the Mohicans, Mann has made decisions that often seem more sartorial than directorial. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Mann’s obsessive attention to visual accoutrement—James Caan’s badass welding goggles in Thief, Dennis Farina’s perfect fedora in “Crime Story,” Tom Cruise’s disconcertingly frosted tips in Collateral—has given the director a distinctive and successful style.
For a couple of decades now, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter have been comedic collaborators in a variety of sketch comedy troupes (starting at NYU in 1988), TV shows (“The State,” “Stella”) and movies (Wet Hot American Summer, The Baxter). Obviously inseparable for extended periods, the Michaels have joined forces once again for Comedy Central’s self-referential new skitcom “Michael & Michael Have Issues.”
Ousmane Macina has been making jewelry since he was 7 years old.
Unlike American students who decide what careers they'd like to pursue, Macina says he was destined to be a goldsmith. "I didn't have a choice," Macina explains. "I had to do it because it's tradition, and I'm glad I'm doing it."
Macina was born in Nioro, Mali. The men in Macina's family have been designing gold jewelry for more than 10 generations. People wear his creations at traditional ceremonies and during the holy month of Ramadan. Macina keeps his familial legacy alive by selling his work at functions like the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. The event draws crowds of 20,000 people and, in its sixth year, the market will feature 136 artists from 46 countries.
An interview with newly crowned Slam Poet Laureate Danny Solis
By Erin Adair-Hodges
On Saturday, June 13, some of Albuquerque's top slam poets met at the KiMo to battle it out for the title of Albuquerque Slam Poet Laureate. Danny Solis, longtime slammer and dreadlock connoisseur, emerged as the winner. Solis talked with me over expensive coffees at Flying Star about what the future holds for this newly made-up position.