My Year of Bad Taste

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Christmas Dinner Poll comes out tomorrow, and there's still time to participate. In the meantime, I offer you my best and worst of 2005.

1. The Most Amazing Performance I Never Saw

Araki at Palais de Tokyo.
Sometime in the early in October, Araki passed by the Palais de Tokyo for the inauguration of his expo. He had conceived a sublimely simple performance for the opening. One of his favourite models, a nubile Japanese girl-woman, danced before an Araki, armed with Polaroid camera in his usual costume of iconic circular glasses, bowtie and suspenders. Araki weaved and dodged up and down with her movements, taking Polaroid after Polaroid. She danced, delicately, like something that could never be placed and captured, slowly stripping off her clothes, to the music of Barbara. Finally naked, she swept in and out with long arm reaches and twirls, playing both shy girl and tease, as Barbara sang her eternally mystic song, L’Aigle Noir. The whole thing was performed in front of the hordes of branchés (cool kids) in the art scene, hidden in the dark.

I only saw the documentation video installed in a space next to the framed Polaroids. The video was enough. It’s in the act of recording the thing that we see how bitter-close we can come to touching what can never be touched. And the recording is a testament to the beauty of distance that is romanticism at its best.

2. The Most Amazing Art I Never Saw

Rirkrit Tiravanija at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (ARC)
The Musée is currently under renovation so ARC has been using various satellite spaces. For Tiravanija’s exhibition, we find ourselves in the Couvent des Cordeliers.

At first glance, the space was cavernous. Almost empty except for a glassed-in room at the front, some white on white writing on the wall, and a freestanding wall built on the back. I poked my head into the glassed-in room where one actress, dressed all in white, was standing, her back to the corner, reciting some very elliptical text. People looked simultaneously serious and bored at the same time. You know, seriously bored.

Almost ready to give up, I suddenly noticed there were little groups of people receiving lectures around the gallery. Eavesdropping, I realized that this was a tour. A group tour. So I hitched myself along for the ride, and lo and behold, it was a tour, moving from space to empty space in the gallery, describing past works of the artist: “In 1990, Rirkrit Tiravanija made a performance called Untitled (Pad Thai) where he made Pad Thai for his audience.”

In fact, the exhibition was composed of three things. Guides describing his past works as if they occupied the space itself, the actors reciting their elliptical texts which referenced past work, and speakers hidden in the walls where Bruce Sterling, a science fiction writer, had been invited to collaborate on a scenario. The whole thing was so beautifully open. And that's the thing with conceptual art: we don't really need to see it. It's the idea and the way it is described that is gorgeous...

3. A movie that slapped me hard and kept me begging for more

Rois et Reine
I won’t fuss with the words. I like vicious films. The more ruthless, the better. If I could pick one cinema film I wished I’d written in the last five years it would be Dogville. Not lagging far behind would be Rois et Reine.

Many people mistake Desplechin’s films as lunatic fringe portrayals: extreme=intensity=good. I think Desplechin has a finer bone to pick. Desplechin’s chief concern has always been what is the correct life (in the Platonic sense).

In Rois et Reine, he sets his subject down beautifully. We see Nora, a woman, her life fairytale-like: the perfect wife, co-worker lover, mother and sister. It’s almost banal. Then we see her ex-husband, Ismael, a musician, a madman, incapable at money, incapable at life. A man seemingly derailed and hell-bent on seducing the pretty nurse into his bed.

But, halfway through the film, something drops so cleanly on the film that sends the whole story spinning around backwards. One has to reread everything set forth before.

What I like about this film is both Desplechin’s keen sense of a search for jouissance and liberty that we see in Ismael, coupled with his unfailing ability to question how we read conformity. That surfaces are questioned is already hinted with the naming of Ismael: the spurned and expulsed in the Bible vs. the blessed in the Qur’an. What punches the film home is Desplechin’s ability to blur the line between socially acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in his two main characters. It doesn’t make them more human, but it deals with a complex issue with a fine and delicate hand.

4. And now for something subtle

King Kong, Potter, Narnia… STOP IT ALREADY
Really, that Potter film and Narnia could have been the same film. From witless heroes to mindless and bad CGI fighting, I could care less. Poor Tilda even looked liked she needed to be in a separate movie.

As for the Kong… I LOVED the first two hours, but the last hour drags. It reminded me of Cyrano de Bergerac where the guy takes like half the film to die. Plus, those natives are just whities painted black. We haven’t see Hollywood do that since John Wayne in the 60s.

And then everybody else going on about A History of Violence, Sin City (which featured a rather wicked Mickey Rourke), Brokeback Mountain, The Life Aquatic… WHATEVER…I rather preferred Palindromes and Land of the Dead myself.

Most annoying film: Me, You and Everyone Else
Saccharine coated toxic glop posing as art film. Besides the pooping scene, and a really cute John Hawkes, the film bugged me. As film critic Kristin M. Jones so aptly put it, “July has made her career by seeming to be part of the art and film worlds while suggesting she's too good for both (note the clichéd curator-bashing) and making work that doesn't hold up in either realm.” Plus, how can she afford $400 jeans when she barely works as a cab driver in a small town?

5. The End of an Era

Lance retires, Alonso and Nadal win, oh Larry…
Lance Armstrong won his seventh Tour de France, with no real surprise. Then it was revealed several months later that he was apparently doped. No further samples exist to confirm this finding so it remains circumspect, much like the lab testing itself. The whole thing matters not. Lance will always hate France and France will always hate its greatest cycling champion.

Alonso won the F1 Championships, making Renault, along the way, Manufacturer’s champion as well. Then he said, Adios Amigos, I got me a better ride.

Nadal and Federer cleaned house in the ATP this year. Nadal just turned 19 when he won his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. I liked many of the new players on the block, Berdych, Blake and Nadal. I’m really looking forward to the new ATP season.

I managed to catch the finals of the NBA Championship this year. It broke my heart. I had just started to love the Pistons, a team I’ve never liked, with the monster play of Big Ben Wallace, Rick Hamilton’s fireworks (and Jason mask!), and Chauncey Billups’s swaggering. Even good’ole Larry O’Brien had my vote. But noooo, stone-faced Duncan and froggie Parker won it in the last quarter of game 7, which is, well, really, chapeau guys. And, wow, Ginobili is awesome.

Finally, there wasn’t any hockey to report about, and don’t ask me about baseball. That’s a sport for guys who like to sit down.

6. Mystical and Old

I like all those Giallo soundtracks from the 70s. In fact, all those strange synth orchestrations done by Italians in the 70s rock. Stelvio Cipriani and Goblin, I love all that kind of stuff. Of course, your average music geek will start spouting off about Goblin. But how many of them actually listen to the shit 24/7. I ain’t got the time for modern pop because I’m so stuck on my Goblin. Between poncy guys in Fred Perry shirts playing prog rock/electro and whatever goes for cool these days, and some hairy Italian men churning out Baroque badness on synths, I stick by my taste.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch yourself a Dario Argento film.

7. New Music that came out this year that didn’t suck

8. I’m still stuck on the island, but, well, not really for eternity, right?

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Lost and The O.C.
I’m not part of the “24,” “Six Feet Under,” “Desperate Housewives,” or “Sex and the City” crew. Homey don’t play that way. I like my soap operas puerile and, as everybody keeps reminding me, I’m not an adult yet. Hence, my continuing viewership of the O.C.

Yo, you’ve got it all. An anorexic ex-millionaire’s daughter with a really bad habit of playing dumb, a tough kid from Chino who’s now the only smart guy among the richies, a Jewish wisecrack and his cute almost JAP also wise-cracking girlfriend. All the drama and dysfunction of the WASPS mixed with all the wise-cracking chutzpah of the Jew. Of course, I was more down with it in the first season. Now, it’s totally derailed. Hell, a Chrismukkah Bar-Mitzvakkuh and Taylor fucking Townshend? And I thought we couldn't get worse than Trey and his drug-dealing whore Jess.

Lost was great. Lost is great. There are more stray story-lines to tie up then hairs on King Kong. I have no idea how they’re going to do it but I’m still stuck on the island. Yes, they killed off Shannon, and almost killed off Sawyer, Walt’s creepy and wet and Mr. Eko is delicious. I’m still stuck. But, seriously, somebody better get it on with Sawyer. They guy is such a serious hottie I can't imagine anyone being stuck on a desert island with him for over a week and not jumping his bones. Let's gets some credibility back into the story.

And Curb Your Enthusiasm, I think loyal readers of my blog will have come across my obvious devotion to Mr. Larry David. I haven’t seen this year’s season yet, but I can’t stop laughing to some of the old ones… especially the Turette’s Opening and the Survivor.

Now, I must curb my enthusiasm and stop. Bye bye 2005.