Wassup Rockers



We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.

Get ready for a longass post. I know that in the blogosphere, timeliness is next to godliness, but y’all gotta understand my modem died in the ass on the 23rd and it took me a while to get back on track. Believe you me, I was überpissed that my modem died only after two months.

But part of me is really glad, because on the 23rd I went to a free panel for the NYILFF on this movie that, until the day of the panel, was titled Humboldt Park. Now it’s called… something really generic and forgettable with the word “holidays” in the title. I really enjoyed myself at the panel, mind you; the cast members present were Freddy Rodríguez, Luis Guzmán (!!), Melonie Diaz and Vanessa Ferlito. They were all really nice, and the cool thing about the footage was that they really did seem like this big, fun family which warmed my crooked little heart. Half the panel focused on the making of the film and the other half was a Q&A that veered a lot more into Latinos & the film industry in general. But I felt funny listening to the filmmakers. I’m not trynna sound like some punkass kid who’s all “FUCK THE SYSTEM,” but I felt like they were pandering too much to what the studios want. The filmmakers seemed really eager to please a wide audience (por ejemplo, the title change was, apparently, because Humboldt Park “wasn’t testing well”) and although that’s a noble pursuit, you can’t be all things to all people, so I wasn’t sure how to receive this information. More than anything, I ended up feeling worried.

The whole conversation was kinda getting me down, PERO. Then they talked about an upcoming project that I pray will not end up in some sort of development hell. The words “Puerto Rican City of God” actually escaped their lips a number of times. Holy shit. It’s gonna be based on that Tego song, “Julito Maraña.” They said the script was a beautiful mess of 160 mofuckin’ pages. That’s a shitload of pages, y’all. It’s actually gonna be filmed in the Puerto Rican ghetto, too. I don’t know where this area is but I inferred that it’s an area headed by a drug lord, and he actually gave his blessing for this movie to be filmed. They haven’t started filming though, they’re probably still working out all the pre-production shit.

I know we should be moving away from the sort of movie that makes it seem like Latin America is nothing but a destitute shithole filled with violence and pain and corruption, but I dunno… if it’s done well (I fucking hope it’s done well) and there’s true artistry involved, I think this sort of story is worth being seen.

On the 24, I went to the Public Theater to see a new play called Tío Pepe, which was part of the Public’s Summer Play Festival. I knew it was going to be a modest affair, but I had no idea that all the tickets for the play’s week-long run were already sold out. They told me I could get on a waitlist for the matinee, and since I didn’t have other plans, I told them I was game. I was the fourth person on the list and some of the people were requesting multiple tickets, but I totally lucked out and got a ticket!

I’m so glad I got in, because the play totally exceeded my expectations. Just goes to show that, even though this work is by an up-and-coming playwright, Matthew Lopez, the Public definitely produces quality shit. It had a cast of five and, although I don’t claim to be an expert, they were all really wonderful except that a couple of them had really really terrible accents. I mean that it was very obvious they’d grown up here or had lived here since infancy and that they mainly spoke English. But that’s okay, generally their delivery was really good and believable and fun.

The script was pretty good, too, lots of laughs and it was really a great way to deal with issues of escapism and self-delusion, among other things. When I found out the reason for the play’s title, I was like, “Ooh, this is really juicy info.” The other thing is that it was totally sincere about its appreciation of old school musicals. The matriarch of the family, played by April Ortiz, got to sing a bit and she had a great, booming voice. I hope this play can move up to longer runs or bigger venues. It would be a pity to just let it die.

Oh my god, and the actor playing Alejandro, the son who wasted all of his potential, was sooo fiiiiine. He’s some dude named Nathaniel Mendez, and his bio was short as hell–he doesn’t even have a Law & Order credit (yet). What is this kid doing with himself? Okay, maybe it’s because he’s not a New Yorker or something? I was shocked by the short bio, to be frank, because he was so good in the play. Hope he gets more work.

That same evening I went to see Estilo Hip Hop. Last year, I went to a screening of Raquel Cepeda‘s Bling: A Planet Rock, and they showed a preview of Estilo Hip Hop. At that point the filmmakers, Vee Bravo and Loira Limbal, were still seeking financing and were working on their footage. They showed us like 15 minutes, and I’m telling you, that after seeing the final product on the 24th, only two or three of those minutes made it into the 1-hour movie. I do remember them last year expressing their ambition to do a far more extensive project with exposure to more countries, but in the final product they focused on rappers from three countries, Brasil, Chile, and Cuba.

The screening was fucking rowdy as hell. The doc was awesome, I wish it hadn’t been just an hour. The doc doesn’t just focus on hip-hop in Latin America, it also focuses on the real activism that hip-hop has inspired, which I thought was fucking rad. The music was great, too. As ex-Prisionero (and current Updater) Jorge González said in an interview about Chilean hip-hop: “Chile es un extraño caso en el que el hip hop no pasa por los Beastie Boys, sino por De La Soul.” Loosely, “Chile’s a strange case in that hip-hop is influenced not by the Beastie Boys, but by De La Soul.” Don’t worry if you missed out on Estilo Hip Hop in Nueva York, though! Vee and Loira said the movie’s gonna air on PBS in Spring 2009.

As I noted in my overly emotional way last Friday the 25, I had wack first time at the Quad, what with the screening of Stellet Licht (Luz silenciosa) fucking up and all. As luck would have it, El Guincho cancelled all his US shows (visa issues?), which meant he couldn’t do his show at the Seaport. So Friday was just filled with disappointment. The bigger slap in the face is that they were replaced by some Brooklyn indie band. C’mon, those are a dime a dozen. I mean, yeah, the band was okay, but what makes them stand out? I was pleasantly surprised, however, to hear Atlas Sound for the first time. The tourists and other passersby didn’t give a shit, but I thought the music was good. Pop-y just the way I like it, and kinda ethereal in certain parts, too. I wonder what Deerhunter sound like.

On Saturday the 26 I went to see Malta con huevo, which isn’t ~*QUALITY*~ shit, but it still made me giggle. There were like ten of us in this hugeass auditorium, which in itself was totally hilarious. I think my favorite thing about it is the tone and how it changes from the first half to the second, but I also dig the structure of the story.

This past week I wasn’t up to much. I’m still getting used to having cable for the first time since, um, 1995. And that was cable in fucking Chile, too. I’m totally fascinated in how useless it is. (We got the service so my parents could watch Korean-language channels.) We don’t get any of the expensive channels but I was still shocked that there’s really no profanity allowed on cable. I think the bestest thing about having cable is that they show Law & Order all the time, and I’m totally addicted to the entire franchise, it’s true.

I found the Criterion Collection DVD of La haine at the library (thank heavens, cos I didn’t want to spend the money on it without seeing what was in it) and I have decided that Mathieu Kassovitz is the most handsome director in France. Also, fashion aside, the themes in the movie are still remarkably relevant. It was weird hearing the director’s commentary, though, because it was done before Sarkozy was elected, and Kassovitz is very vocal about not being a fan of the dude. But I’m still glad I listened to it, because I did get a better sense of how these kids’ lives are turned upside down in a mere 24 hours. It was cool because he also mentioned that he was on Charlie Rose, so I tracked down the interview and it was great!  It was a relief to see that Kassovitz hasn’t always had a great accent in English–when I heard how well he spoke English on the DVD, I was kinda shocked and wondered if this man was perfect.  I’m glad to see that he is human after all, and that he had to learn not to sound like the stereotypical French person speaking English. You can see the interview here. I also loved hearing on the commentary that Jodie Foster sent a copy of the movie to fucking Scorsese, imagine how Vincent Cassel felt about this? He musta pissed his pants…

I also watched American Psycho and it was pretty fucked up but I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s just that when a part was funny, it was really fucking funny. Like that whole sequence with all those interchangeable yuppies comparing their business cards… it was delightful to watch. It was exciting to find out that it was directed by a woman, just because there aren’t enough female movie directors anyway. I’m glad I heard the director’s commentary for this movie, too, just because it helped me understand and interpret Patrick Bateman a little better.

I’ve been reading a bit, too, if you would call it that. I read Agota Kristof‘s The Notebook, which had its share of disturbing moments, but the narration was incredibly and consistently well-done and the story culminated to a satisfyingly fucked up ending. In addition, I finished The Left Bank Gang and The Living And The Dead by the Norwegian comic book wonderboy that is Jason. I was pretty “meh” about The Living And The Dead, but I thought The Left Bank Gang was fucking awesome. I finally read The Rabbi’s Cat, too. Damn, I totally forgot that Joann Sfar is a dude, so you can imagine my surprise when I read the “about the author” bit in the inside cover of the book. I read Sfar’s The Professor’s Daughter which I thought was too brief and not substantial enough, but thankfully The Rabbi’s Cat did not disappoint. The story was lovely, especially because I don’t know much about the Jewish culture in North Africa, and I also loved Sfar’s artwork. Can’t wait to read the second part.

I also read a couple of essays from this book called Beyond Babar, which is about children’s literature in Europe. The only reason I picked it up at the library is because one of the essays was about Christine Nöstlinger‘s Konrad, which was one of my faves as a kid. There was also one on The Neverending Story and how it’s ~*TOTALLY META*~ in a way that the films could never capture. (Would have been cool to read an in-depth discussion on Michael Ende‘s Momo, too.) It was a cool book with a lot of discussion on translation.

I’m excited about this month. I’m gonna go see Janelle Monáe and Jamie Lidell at Central Park mañana (¡¡es gratis!!), and I’m gonna spend a lot of time at MoMA watching Coen Bros movies. They’re having a marathon! Also, next week, the Fordham University Theater peeps are staging a version of The Martian Chronicles with mofucking puppets, and the tickets are pretty cheap, too, so I’m gonna try and check out the production. Good shit all around.

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