Category Archives: Film

Welcome to Pine Hill by Keith Miller

Welcome to Pine Hill

After a year of touring and winning countless prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, I saw Welcome to Pine Hill, written, directed and edited by my former professor, Keith Miller.

If there was one thing I learned from Miller, it was to go with what challenges arose and work through them, to explore new territory. This film, in its creation and its narrative, does exactly that. Miller first met the star of the film, Shanon Harper, through a chance encounter, a scene that opens the film. We then follow Harper through his reformed life as an insurance claims adjuster and his diagnosis of cancer.

Throughout the film there is a beauty in the silence, in what is unsaid, much akin to a Kelly Reichardt film. Miller’s outlook, however, is that of empathy and understanding. He sees Harper as someone dealing with the circumstances, navigating heightened realities, and confronting his death. Harper eventually finds peace and the viewer is left to stew in his mortality.

All in all, from a chance encounter to a full-length film, Miller explores the many paths in life and how we should set aside our differences.

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Pina 3D by Wim Wenders

Pina Bauschdance, dance, otherwise we are lost – Pina Bausch

Filmmaker, Wim Wenders, creates an extraordinary experience in dance, film, and storytelling in his 3D film about legendary dancer and choreographer, Pina Bausch.

Pina 3D captures Pina’s unique choreography, her demanding works, her incredible dancers, and her amazing legacy featuring excerpts from Le Sacre du printemps, 1975, Café Müller, 1978, Kontakthof, 2000 and Vollmond, 2006. In addition, Wenders invited the dancers of the ensemble to perform solos using Pina’s method of “questioning,” which served as an answer as to how to create the film without Pina (who died unexpectedly just two days before filming began).

Pina 3D PointeThe solos were shot on location throughout Wuppertal, Germany and the surrounding landscapes, making for a stunning backdrop to the intense and dramatic performances by these dedicated dancers. My two favorite excerpts from the solos included a woman stuffing raw veal into her pointe shoes and dancing in front of a refinery and another woman dancing on a median in Wuppertal as the elevated rail goes around a bend.

Pina 3DNot only was the subject intriguing and beautiful, but the film-making captured dance in a way that no other film has been able to. With the use of 3D technology, the audience was invited to engage in the works by feeling the depth of the staging and the depth of meaning. Pina 3D is the first European 3D film and the first 3D art house film (produced by Neue Road Movies).

But what is most interesting is the way that Pina’s presence is felt throughout the film. She lives in the choreography and in the souls of the dancers (even when they are not dancing). Thus proving her legacy as a choreography.

All in all, Pina 3D is a visual and visceral experience in dance unlike any other film.

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Gravity Sleeps at the Factory

I don’t really have much to say about the party hosted by Gravity Sleeps at the Factory on Saturday night except that it was awesome. There was so much energy surrounding the artworks on display and the performances happening throughout the building. I just really let myself enjoy it all.

I came across this party through friends – turns out I know the cool guys who founded Gravity Sleeps Samuel Baumel and Wesley Wingo through NYU. They are currently in residence at the Factory, using it to create films, record music, host photoshoots and do other awesome stuff. More details about their work here.

The best part of the night was running into so many cool people. I saw lots of old friends and some recent friends that I hadn’t seen in a while who happened to have work in the show, I made some new friends, and I saw a star of a reality show who held his head in shame when I recognized him (when I think I should be the embarrassed one for admitting to watching reality tv).

All in all, it seems like there is a great vibe of young and talented artists, producers, and entrepreneurs in NYC that are making things happen.

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Meek’s Cutoff at Film Forum

Meek's Cutoff screening at Film ForumDuring the hurricane-like weather yesterday, I saw Meek’s Cutoff at Film Forum.

The film by Kelly Reichardt stars Michelle Williams as a woman who travels with a group through Oregon guided by Stephen Meek. The group eventually gets lost and run into a Native American. Not trusting anyone and on the brink of death with no source of water in sight, the film explores the harsh reality of the Oregon Trail.

Costumes from Meek's Cutoff

Costumes from Meek's Cutoff on view at Film Forum

The film is absolutely beautiful. The washed out colors illuminate the vast bleakness of their travels. Wide shots show how alone they are in the wilderness – they are reduced to what they can carry. Their survival is based on how far they can walk because there is no going back.

Michelle Williams came for a Q&A session following the film. She discussed how she prepared for the role, how difficult it was to film due to the harsh weather in Oregon (supposedly the vans kept breaking down because of dust in the engine), and how she had to share Kelly Reichardt on this film (as opposed to when she had her to herself on Wendy and Lucy).

All in all, it was a stunning film about survival.

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Blank City at IFC

Blank City

Patti Astor

Blank City, playing at IFC, gives yet another perspective on the gritty New York art scene specifically art films of the late 1970s, early 1980s.

The film tells the story of filmmakers from the “No Wave Cinema” and “Cinema of Transgression” and how they used New York City as their backdrop to create movies on Super 8mm film. Blank City weaves together films by Jim Jarmusch, Amos Poe, James Nares, Eric Mitchell, Susan Seidelman, Beth B, Scott B, Charlie Ahearn and Nick Zedd with interviews by these filmmakers and stars/producers of the films including Lydia Lunch, Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi, Maripol, John Lurie and Patti Astor.

It was so interesting to see the works of these filmmakers and to get their perspective on the importance of what they were doing at the time. Based on what they are doing now, it was clear that there was a natural end to the scene when people started to gain notoriety for their work and New York began to become prosperous again economically.

All in all, it was a very interesting and educational film.

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DADARHEA at Canada Gallery

DADARHEAAt the packed New York debut of DADARHEA at the Canada Gallery, I saw some of the collaborators including Devin Flynn, Jim Drain, Ross Goldstein, Trish Riefert, Melissa Brown, Bec Stupak, Joe Grillo, and Laura Grant. Unfortunately, the video cut out during the premiere – right at the baby alligator sketch – and I was too ill to stay while they patched things up.

Since then, I’ve been trying to describe just exactly what DADARHEA is and can’t quite put my finger on it. DADARHEA describes itself as “an unruly feature length hydrabeast.” In my opinion it’s sort of like a crazy hodgepodge of performance and video art mixed together with multicolored animated shorts and lots of disgusting material. Every part of the film has been executed extremely well and I think other than looking at the technical merit, this kind of work has to be looked at with a sense of humor. If you take it too seriously, you’ve lost the meaning behind it (which I’m sure there’s no real meaning which has meaning in and of itself).

My favorite parts were of course the not-so-disgusting parts like the subtle brilliance in the “The Price is Right” montage.

All in all, if you want to see some work by some pretty cool artists all at once, check out DADARHEA.

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Physical vs. Analog: The Experimental Television Center

Experimental Television CenterAlthough I had heard about the Experimental Television Center for a couple years and seen some of the work that was created there, I really had no idea what it was, and so when I got the invitation to spend a couple days there, I jumped at the chance to see what it was really all about.

The Experimental Television Center (ETC) was founded in 1971 with the intention of supporting the creation of work using new electronic media technologies and providing space and time to artists for personal, self-directed creative investigations. Chris Kucinski (my brother) and Owen Osborn of Critter and Guitari had been in residence at ETC three times when they found out that it was closing. When given one last chance to use the tools and freedom to create, they decided to invite some close friends to share the experience with. Those friends included George Langford and Tom van Buskirk of the band Javelin, Bennett Williamson aka Bennett 4 Senate, and Owen’s brother, Ali Osborn.

ETC Entrance

Ali Osborn and the unassuming entrance to the Experimental Television Center

To my surprise, the Experimental Television Center was not a modern building in the forest of upstate New York – no, it was located in a brick building above an antique store downtown in the village of Owego, NY. It was also just one big room overlooking the Susquehanna River that happened to have image processing equipment. The equipment is a “hybrid tool set, permitting the artist to create interactive relationships between older historically important analog instruments and new digital technologies.” Chris and Owen additionally supplied a color video camera, a projector, and instruments including drums, guitars, Pocket Pianos, and Kaleidoloops.

It didn’t take long for the other guys to get settled in, setting up their drum machines, synthesizers, electronic kazoo, and Xaphoon. Bennett also brought a Title Maker and an old school drawing pad that he hooked up to the video equipment. With all the pieces in place, everyone was psyched to create.

Chris Kucinski on the image processing machines

Chris Kucinski on the image processing machines

The guys started making music and twiddling around the video equipment. There was no right or wrong way, there was no “stop” or “hold on” – it all just happened organically and without any rules. What happened happened and it was all recorded. For most of my stay there, I oversaw the visual aspect of the performance (as the self-appointed “creative director”), making sure that we were capturing optimal visuals and a sharp aesthetic however strange the outcome.

George Langford on the Pocket Piano

Geoge Langford on the Pocket Piano

Having no prior video training, the most important thing I learned is that there is a difference from “physical” vs. analog. What they had at the Experimental Television Center was a physical machine made of hundreds of patches that you physically had to plug and unplug. The equipment was created and maintained by an engineer who lives in Owego, so recreating the equipment would be possible, but very difficult to do.

My directorial debut

I designed and directed this set with Owen and Chris

All in all, my stay at the Experimental Television Center was filled with endless sonic and visual possibilities created by very intelligent and talented people.

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