The year 2008 has been an odd one for film. Sure, the box office overflowed thanks to films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man. But with the demise of several independent (or semi-independent) distributors, the indie film offerings have felt like slim pickings. Art house theaters have been limited almost exclusively to documentaries this year. A look through our local Guild Cinema’s lineup from the year finds a wealth of nonfiction films like Planet B-Boy, Passion & Power, Body of War, Gashole, Girls Rock!, Let’s Get Lost, Rumi Returning, Constantine’s Sword, Dalai Lama Renaissance, Encounters at the End of the World and Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. Even mainstream theaters filled out their summertime schedule with documentaries like Young@Heart,American Teen and The Little Red Truck. It’s hard to complain about the variety, though, when the quality remains so damn high. All in all, 2008 has been a hell of a year for documentaries.
Forming a comedic improv troupe is like starting a band. A few inspired souls bond over their mutual appreciation for the artistic genre. They group, create material, slap on a catchy name and search for gigs. Albuquerque isn't as peppered with improv as, say, Chicago or New York City, but that doesn't stop Burque-born improvisers from making their own stage. Or creating their own festival.
Tired of the elections already? Perhaps all you need is a little fictional refresher. The Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe is bringing its Big Screen Classics series back this September for a look at “Election Year Films.” The new series launches on Saturday, Sept. 13, with the 1939 fave Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, the movie stars Jimmy Stewart as a naive small-town politician who evolves into a cynical Washington insider. Director Frank Capra kept his usual feel-good sense of Americana while exposing hypocrisy and corruption in our government. The screening starts at 7 p.m. and tickets will set you back five lousy bucks. Future “Election Year Films” include the 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (Friday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m.) and the 1972 Robert Redford satire The Candidate (Friday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.). Tickets for each film are available at the Lensic box office (211 W. San Francisco St.) and online at TicketsSantaFe.org. As always, you can check out more Lensic info at lensic.org.
Quietly engrossing indie film makes a run for the border (the northern border)
By Devin D. O’Leary
In a year starved for indie film, it’s practically a treat to rest your eyes on a simple, unassuming drama like Frozen River. No exploding Gotham streets, no death-defying Jeep chases through South American jungles. Just low-budget, minor-key character drama in a decidedly unexotic locale.
BBC America has been doing a cracking job lately of picking up the slack left by Sci-Fi Channel. A slate of original hits like “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood,” “Hex,” “Life on Mars” and “Primeval” make Sci-Fi’s lineup of “Battlestar Galactica” (yes!), “Stargate Atlantis” (meh) and ... um, lemme think ... oh, that chintzy “Flash Gordon” series (yeesh) look almost anemic.
It's the 70th anniversary of the New Mexico State Fair. If there were ever a year to eat deep-fried Twinkies, this is it (though the must-scarf junk food item for 2008 appears to be chocolate-covered bacon). And this week's free music programming makes it a can't-miss.
Experimental electro artist Reba Hasko was lured to Albuquerque from afar.
Hasko's brothers, Josh and Jesse (who form the ambient electronic Burque band North America) eventually enticed Hasko to leave Berlin and join them in New Mexico.
"I was talking to them all the time about the adventures they've had here," Hasko recalls. "It sounds to me like there's something a little spooky about the desert."
An almost ominous sense of suspense and mystery has always been a part of Hasko's shtick. From her early acoustic days with only a piano and her voice, Hasko has branched out to include synthesizer and a bevy of computer-generated bells, horns, strings and hollow overtones. Her classically trained voice slithers and climbs, sometimes panting, often cooing and usually brushed with vibrato. More often than not, Hasko slathers her songs in static. "I'm really into distortion," she admits. "And I got addicted to strings."
When Albuquerque glam band The Foxx went to put out its first release in 2004, it needed a label. So, naturally, bassist Zac Webb started his own enterprise, a vinyl polymer-only affair cleverly known as Vinyl Countdown. More than four years later, he's released six albums that include his band as well as rare sonic items found during record collecting adventures. Next month he will release a double gatefold LP by one of the first L.A. punk bands, Black Randy and the Metrosquad. The album is called Pass the Dust I Think I'm Bowie. He's also soon to release an album by early '80s Kentucky power-pop band Sgt. Arms, and just last weekend signed one of Australia's first DIY punk bands, Last Words. Zac and I had a chat about the record biz over drinks.
How can the state get medical cannabis to patients?
By Marisa Demarco
SANTA FE—Bernie Ellis has an unusual history for a proponent of medical marijuana. In the early '90s, he came to New Mexico to set up a substance-abuse program for the Centers for Disease Control. "I'm still an advocate for reducing the health effects for substance abuse," he says. "Part of the reason I can have a foot in both worlds is that I think it's criminal that we've criminalized marijuana.”
Jim Noel sent a letter to Secretary of State Mary Herrera saying he wouldn't be reporting for duty Monday, Sept. 8, after all. This leaves New Mexico without a director of the Bureau of Elections less than two months before Nov. 4.
Where was a convicted sex offender living? Who just got rearrested? The Rio Grande Zoo will have to do without ... . And what percentage of youths have driven with an impaired adult at the wheel, according to a UNM survey?
For a couple of weeks, I’ve been asking people who aren’t going to vote to contact me and tell me why. Nonvoters aren’t without opinions; they’ve got lots to say on the topic. This week is your last chance to phone me up and use me as an amplifier. Call 346-0660 x. 245 or e-mail email@example.com with a subject line of “nonvoter.”
Lazy writing is a scourge (scourge, a word I too often frequent) on newspapers, newscasts and media objects around the globe. At times certain words absolutely infect journalists. I guess you'd call them memes, although that term has become, well, annoying. But what else do you call this cultural occurrence? Such a pathetic state of affairs. This is a short list of words, irritating and overused, in the media.
Councilors gathered at a special Wednesday, Sept. 3, meeting last week thanks to the Labor Day weekend. Bus shelters were a recurring theme throughout the evening, with Councilors Michael Cadigan, Rey Garduño and Don Harris all requesting the city build more in their districts. Cadigan cited e-mails he'd received from constituents complaining about waiting for buses beside 45- to 60-mph traffic without a safe place to stand, often in places without sidewalks.
Perhaps it required finely tuned feminist radar to detect the media’s sexist treatment of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. I admit, I missed it. But after watching the media’s first week of covering Sarah Palin, I will henceforth pay more attention to claims of media gender bias.
Dateline: Australia—An elementary school in Townsville, Queensland, has banned cartwheels, handstands, somersaults and any form of gymnastics at recess. According to the Townsville Bulletin, a single forward roll is enough to get kids kicked off the playground at Belgian Gardens State School. Parent Kylie Buschgens told the newspapershe was dumbfounded when her daughter Cali, 10, was told she could no longer do cartwheels, even on the grass. Cali and a friend were busted under the school’s new zero-tolerance policy. Ms. Buschgens met with school principal Glenn Dickson and was told gymnastics activities were a “medium risk level 2” that posed a danger to children. “I said [to the principal], ‘What if she keeps doing a handstand?’ and he said she’d get into trouble,” Ms. Buschgens said. “I asked what would happen if she was a repeat handstand offender, and he said that would be defiance and it could lead to her being suspended.”
Theater seasons generally run the same way school years do—opening in the fall and closing in early summer. Once upon a time, I knew the reasoning behind this, but have since replaced the details with trivia like debit card pin numbers and e-mail passwords. No matter. The new theater season is upon us, whatever the reason for the timing, making way for openings at nearly every theater in town. (For a full schedule, see this week’s Arts Calendar.)
Lisa Gill likes to say that the impetus behind the upcoming STIR festival came as a whim. Since she’s a poet, perhaps she is indeed recrafting language, fashioning it so that whim now means "the flowering fruit of a decade’s passion." Everyone should have whims like these.
My tomato plants are going off, and I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I've still got tons frozen from last year. I don't want to ditch the old ones, especially after putting so much into processing them. But I don't feel like messing around with them when I have so many freshies. Can I just leave them in the freezer and eat them this winter instead of freezing more this year?
—Too Many Maters
A: First of all, TMM, the time and effort you put into those tomatoes last year means absolutely nothing. Like a dog, you must clear your mind of what's done and run forward into the future. If your frozen tomatoes remain in good shape, then use them, and use them soon, because they may not last much longer. If they're already freezer-burned or otherwise disgusting, then feed them to the chickens, the compost pile or, if possible, George W. Bush.
Right off the bat, restaurants in Cedar Crest and other small mountain villages have one thing going for them: an intensely chill attitude. I don’t know if it’s due to the small population or altitude, but every one I’ve ever visited has that trademark vibe to it. Greenside Café is no exception.
Mention "fungus" and watch as noses around you being to wrinkle. But the truth is, humans have relied on fungi since the beginning of time. The fuzzier members of the family (molds) have brought us cheese and antibiotics, while fruiting varieties (mushrooms) have made their way to our dinner tables and, in some cases, expanded our consciousness. Rumor has it Adam and Eve took full advantage of a certain mushroom’s ability to aid in the latter and inadvertently spawned a religion or two.
This Friday, Sept. 5, marks the deadline for filmmakers to apply to the New Visions/New Mexico contract awards. For the third year in a row, our state has set aside $160,000 in contract awards. New Mexico filmmakers could be eligible for up to $20,000 for the initialization, production or completion of a film- or video-based project. In addition, Panavison has once again offered to provide two awards of camera rental packages valued at $10,000 each. Narrative films, documentaries, animated and experimental projects are all eligible. Applicants must be 18 years of age and New Mexico residents. Projects will be judged on a variety of criteria, including artistic quality of the project, the applicant’s demonstrated ability, managerial and fiscal ability, and service to the state. Naturally, there’s a lot of paperwork to fill out, so get cracking. You can find all the appropriate information at nmfilm.com.
Winners and losers in the summer 2008 cinematic post-mortem
By Devin D. O’Leary
Labor Day Weekend closed out the summer 2008 movie season on a dark note. It is, traditionally, the only holiday weekend of the year in which box office receipts actually drop. And drop they did, further dampened by the roaring winds of Hurricane Gustav, which all but destroyed (in some cases literally) box office revenue along the Gulf Coast. Last year, Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween set the record, scaring up $30 million over the Labor Day weekend. This year, the highest-grossing new film (Babylon A.D., starring the seemingly moribund Vin Diesel) barely scraped together $10 million over the same four-day weekend.
“We were just outside of the lobby snack bar when the drugs kicked in”
By Devin D. O’Leary
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is, in a great many ways, the ultimate Hunter S. Thompson documentary. It isn’t perfect, it doesn’t answer every single question, but it does leave us wondering who could possibly offer up a more apt examination. Piloted by documentarian du jour Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side), the film is a wild, entertaining, multimedia ride though the as-advertised “life and work” of the infamous, drug-fueled father of gonzo journalism.
With the writers’ strike behind us (and a possible actors’ strike ahead of us), the fall 2008 TV season arrives battered, bruised and only slightly behind schedule. As expected, there are fewer new shows than normal. As expected, a great many of them are remakes of older (The CW’s “90210”) or foreign shows (NBC’s “Kath & Kim”). As expected, there are plenty of cheap game shows (ABC’s “Opportunity Knocks”) and reality shows (NBC’s “America’s Toughest Jobs”). So what else can we expect? Let’s go over the (potentially) good and the (expectedly) bad.
New Grounds Print Workshop and Gallery is not asking for gifts to celebrate its 12-year anniversary. Instead, it’s hosting the works of Ando Shinji, a Japanese master printer who merges Western sensibilities with a Japanese aesthetic. This Friday, Sept. 5, New Grounds hosts an opening reception/anniversary party from 5 to 8 p.m., which includes music, food and a raffle for $250 in artwork. Shinji will be present on Friday, Sept. 19, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. for a discussion about his multi-plate etching process. The show is on display through Sept. 27. Call New Grounds at 268-8952 with questions.
A decades-old cassette provided the script and the spark for The Pearl Fantasy. Local performer Amaya, in her early days, ran off to join the German circus Salome as a belly dancer. As she walked around an empty and luxurious Journal Theatre stage at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the cassette became the impetus of a performance that would take a year to put together.
The City Council plans to construct a cast bronze war memorial honoring soldiers who've died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because the memorial would also include a visual connection to 9/11, the design—and the $300,000 price tag—are kindling controversy [Council Watch, “Easing Back In,” Aug. 14-20].
A day with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader
By Simon McCormack
Bruce Trigg stands in front of a small roomful of reporters, looking nervous.
The Albuquerque coordinator of the Ralph Nader-Matt Gonzalez presidential campaign is explaining that he doesn’t know where Ralph Nader is. He is 20 minutes late to a news conference at the UNM Student Union Building. “We’ve arranged a pickup, and they have my phone number, but they haven’t called,” Trigg says before leaving the room, presumably to find someone with more information.
A moment later, Trigg returns with a smile. “Hold on, I just saw a familiar face.”
Health care practitioners start talking about an antidote for a poisoned health care system
By Marisa Demarco
Dr. Elizabeth Burpee's daughter was trying to scream, but she couldn't because her tongue was swollen. In the pediatric ER two weeks ago at UNM Hospital, the girl was having a life-threatening allergic reaction to an antibiotic. Burpee is a doctor at the hospital, but that night, she was there as a mom. "I went out to get a nurse, and the nurse was too busy to come right away," Burpee says.
We Democrats don’t call ourselves “liberals” anymore. Thirty years of steady right-wing propagandizing against the term has essentially ruined it, turned it into a pejorative—the political equivalent of “sissy” or someone “cultivated.”
Dateline: Cambodia—Thanks to soaring inflation and increasing demand, the price of rat meat has more than quadrupled in the southeastern Asian nation of Cambodia. With consumer inflation at 37 percent according to the latest Central Bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat to around 5,000 riel ($1.27). Spicy field rat dishes made with garlic have become particularly popular since beef prices have soared to more than 20,000 riel a kilogram. “Not only are our poor eating it, but there is also demand from Vietnamese living on the border with us,” Ly Marong, a Cambodian agricultural official, told Reuters. He estimated that Cambodia supplies more than a ton of live rats a day to Vietnam. Rats are also widely eaten in Thailand, while the state government in eastern India last month encouraged its people to eat rats in an effort to battle soaring food prices.
I remember all too well what it's like to be 11 years old. Awkward. Insecure. Mentally and hygienically unstable. Nothing like the self-assured tween the Launchpad has become. You're finally a woman, Launchpad. We're so proud of you—mazel tov!
Venerated New Zealand singer-songwriter Tim Finn plays Albuquerque
By Jessica Cassyle Carr
Since the early '70s, Tim Finn has been both rocking and mellowing English-speaking countries in the Earth's southern hemisphere. He was frontman for the colorfully original new wave-ish band Split Enz, had a stint in his younger brother's group, Crowded House, also saw success with the Finn Brothers and has had a lengthy solo career. With fans that follow him with a cultish fervor, those that love his music are more than elated that the Auckland-based troubadour presses on after more than 30 years.
Poor Man’s Ferrari, Five Minute Sin and Sabertooth Cavity shred for change. A portion of proceeds from their Saturday, Sept. 6 show at El Rey Theater (21+) goes to the Yellow Ribbon Foundation, a nonprofit that gives aid to U.S. veterans. $7 is the least you can do. (LM)
In a drab, cramped room at the back of Lee Hart's basement, there is a faint and somewhat eerie hum. More than a hundred large, mostly rechargeable batteries from around the world rise along the walls and sprawl across the floor. A few are hooked to machines with quivering meter needles measuring the amount and durability of their charges; the data are being fed into a 1987 Zenith XT computer with dual floppy disks stationed on a table in the corner. There are the traditional lead-acid batteries of the sort used in most cars. There's a stack of the nickel-metal-hydride batteries Hart salvaged from an EV1, the crushed vehicle that starred in the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? And there are the lighter, exponentially more expensive lithium-ion batteries.
From the vast basement and back alley of New York City’s Anthology Film Archives comes “Smother This, New Mexico,” a self-described “panoramic journey through the very bowels of one of America’s foremost film dumping grounds.” Founded in 1968 by critic and filmmaker Jonas Mekas, Anthology is an international center for the preservation, promotion and presentation of experimental, independent and avant-garde cinema. Now Anthology is hitting the road with some of the unknown, unfinished and unwanted 16mm productions that have been collected from “trash cans, widowers, bankrupt laboratories and total weirdos.” Basement Films alumnus Emily Davis and Anthology dude Andrew Lampert will host this evening of recently unearthed weirdness. Possible film titles might include: “F’ed up Food,” “Student Film Trilogy,” “Child with Goat,” “Hellish Hippie Wedding,” “33 YoYo Tricks” and “Orgy at Grandma’s House.” Experimental, local audio/visual band Our Years With Light will open the show. “Smother This, New Mexico” will take place on Friday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. at Stove (112 Morningside NE). Tickets are a mere $5.
Few things summon as much shifting affection and disdain as the place where you grew up. As a result, finding a way out of or back to your hometown is a recurring theme in both art and life. Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin has a specialty in traveling through time, unearthing buried secrets and recalling the terrible heartsickness to which they’re attached. All the while, he does his best mock Battleship Potemkin, manipulating the montage until it becomes a beautifully warped spirograph. In his latest work of erratic, Soviet cinema-inspired video art, Maddin finds himself emotionally stuck in his Manitoban hometown, posing the question, What if I filmed my way out of here?
In the decently crafted Traitor, Academy Award-nominated actor Don Cheadle plays Samir Horn, a Somali-born Muslim-American arms dealer trying to foment (or is it prevent?) a major terrorist attack on the United States. Much of Traitor’s runtime is taken up by questions of Samir’s loyalties. Clearly, as indicated by the title, he’s a traitor. But is he a traitor to the United States, where he once served in the U.S. Special Forces as an explosives expert? Or is he a double-agent, waiting to backstab his fellow conspirators?
Writer/producer Steven Bochco knows him some cops (“Hills Street Blues,” “NYPD Blue,” “Cop Rock”). He knows him some lawyers (“L.A. Law,” “Murder One,” “Civil Wars”). Apparently, he also knows him some “Simpsons.” How else to explain his casting of Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcolm in the Middle”) as a flinty, tough-talking female judge in the new courtroom drama “Raising the Bar”? Kaczmarek has voiced Judge Harm, a flinty, tough-talking adjudicator on Fox’s animated sitcom, since 2001.
Clawhammer or Scruggs? Bluegrass banjo players pledge allegiance to one of the genre's two major styles (which boil down to frailing in the former and arpeggiated picking in the latter), but they're not at odds. Folks from either camp would jump at an opportunity to see a pillar of modern bluegrass in action, regardless of style—especially when you're talking about Earl Scruggs himself. Sixty-plus years of refined innovation and the guy still chooses playing live over resting on his laurels, though he doesn't make it to our neck of the woods much.
What does Big Bill think about Sen. Barack Obama's VP choice? APD is trying some new tricks to make Downtown safer. An Albuquerque author links nuclear weapons to ... ? And which TV show will be filmed at a New Mexico university?
Idea Propulsion Lab members invent from the comfort of their living rooms
By Aeriel Emig
Necessity may spur invention, but for Matt Grommes, creativity is the driving factor behind his creations. The members of the Idea Propulsion Lab (IPL) don't need engineering degrees to go mad scientist. And while these garage engineers aren't reeling in millions with their inventions, they probably have the highest-tech stereo systems and the best solar-powered fighting robots in town.
Barack Obama wants to keep as many as 50,000 American troops in Iraq indefinitely. His 16-month timetable does not mean a complete withdrawal, only a reduction in force so combat troops can be rotated from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Dateline: Australia—A bizarre batch of garlic bread that mysteriously turns blue in the oven has sparked a nationwide recall by Australia’s biggest supplier. The recall of 13 brands made by Capalaba-based AGB International has left Australia’s top pizza chain, Domino’s, temporarily out-of-stock on its most popular side dish. A spokesperson for AGB said the company did not believe the breads were a danger to the public but was issuing the recall in the interest of quality control. AGB did not yet know why the bread turned blue when baked but believed the problem was “isolated to a batch of garlic we are no longer using.” Domino’s, meanwhile, said they would be replacing the dish with “cheesy herb pizza bread” for the time being.
Albuquerque artist (and former Alibi graphic designer) Neal Ambrose Smith's print of Batman isn't just a pink-and-orange rendering of the dark knight. It's an intaglio print titled Sam Small Feathers and His Cape at the Fancy Shawl. Top that, Robin. Smith's work hangs alongside 18 other printmakers’ at SCA Contemporary Art's new show, INprint. The exhibit hangs in the large, warehouse-like space at 524 Haines NW through Sept. 13. For details, visit scacontemporary.com or call 228-3749.
Three weeks ago, my fear of flying shot to the surface as I flew out from Vermont in a twin-prop plane to New Jersey. All I could do was wait for the plane to fall from the sky and be drawn across the New York landscape in a broad hunk of industrial charcoal—or a narrow hunk, considering my vantage point.
Outward appearance says a lot about a person. In the two solo comedies performed in Unisex, both characters grapple with their public identity through drastic physical changes. Unisex features the world premiere of The Politics of Hair by Lou Clark, a tale of hair-dos and don'ts, and Out Comes Butch by David Schein, an intimate look at the transition from He-man to She-ra and everything in between, in one night of theater at The Box Performance Space.
I spent three weeks in Missouri eating barbecue and wild mushrooms paired, of course, with cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was great, but I couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing. My years in New Mexico have had an effect on me. I needed chile—and bad.
Over the last week, we've been experimenting with pickling and sprouting, two ways to make awesome components for whatever you like to eat. Techniques are still being formulated, so those recipes are forthcoming.