movie reviews

Lithographer Ann Chernow, working on her anti-war print in the movie

Movie review – Art is…The Permanent Revolution

I have never known a movie title with an ellipsis in it…and I don’t imagine that will become a trend. But that’s a small nit to pick in Art is…The Permanent Revolution, a documentary by Manfred Kirchheimer that focuses on three contemporary printmakers who make anti-war art. Along the way, the movie tells the stories (and shows the images) of some of the greatest protest art through the ages. It’s hard to say what’s better in the 82 minute documentary, the behind-the-scenes look at the studio practice of Sigmund Abeles, etcher, Ann Chernow, lithographer and Paul Marcus, woodcutter, or the parade of ... More » »

Photo of Ross McElwee at the lecture.

Photographic Memory, the latest film by Ross McElwee

“It is highly ironic that I complain about my son’s use of technology when I stick a camera in his face.” –Ross McElwee Lecture room 401 was packed Thursday, Nov. 8, for Ross McElwee’s screening and discussion of his latest film, Photographic Memory. Professors and film students filled most of the seats in Fisher-Bennet Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.  They were clearly admirers and scholars of his work. Respected for his voice in the cinéma vérité movement, McElwee is known for opening his personal world in his films, incorporating home videos and reflective voice-overs and reflecting these familial narratives ... More » »


Photo post sandwich – Two books and a movie reviewed

Photo Book – Reframing Photography Reframing Photography, the 560-page encyclopedic book on the subject includes everything about photography and then some. The book is for students, teachers and those in the self-taught orbit who want to do it themselves with a little help. Like those instruction manuals that come with your new camera, the book is a little overwhelming — although unlike those barely-English manuals, this book is written! There are fabulous essays written by the two authors, Rebekah Modrak and Bill Anthes, in each of the four subject parts, and they live up to the encyclopedia: dense, with history, ... More » »

Christian Marclay, Detail of The Clock, 2010, Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours,  © Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

On time with Christian Marclay’s The Clock

Shared memories of Star Wars and Buster Keaton serve as a lingua franca that crosses international and personal borders. Unlike art, which in so many ways aims at an elite audience and serves to differentiate the into-art group from other people, the love of movies unites us all. When Christian Marclay created The Clock, his 24-hour video cycle that mashes up movies by the minute, who did he have in mind as his audience? Only visual art lovers? Or everyone? Was he hoping his bouquet to the movies and to time would earn him a new audience, a crowd of ... More » »

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, left) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in THE HUNGER GAMES. Photo credit: Murray Close.  Note the entitled costume on the left and the real world dress on the heroine, Katniss

Youth Daze – Tiny Furniture, The Dangerous Book Four Boys and Hunger Games

I’m going to put three disparate items together  — bear with me. It’s not that the two movies and book are comparable, they’re not. But each in its own way deals with some of core characteristics of youth — experimentation, loneliness, identity, and obsession with love, sex and death — and they all came across my radar very recently, so I’m packaging them as they came to me.  James Franco’s Dangerous Book Four Boys and Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture are made by young artists. The Hunger Games is about youth, and of course, some other things as well. Tiny Furniture ... More » »

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Pina – Quirky, beautiful, poignant dance in a great movie

The 103 minutes of Pina rush by quickly, even for a non-dance aficionado. It's not just the 3D effects in Wim Wenders' tribute to the late dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch, although there are a couple 3D wows. What is captivating is the love. Love of the dancers for their late artistic director (who died in 2009, 5 days after being diagnosed with cancer); love of Wenders for his subject; and love of human beings by Pina, whose exquisitely choreographed dances telescope the joy, sorrow and need of one human for another ... More » »

Werner Herzog in Cauvet Cave filming Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Art movies for holiday pleasures – Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Waste Land

If you missed them on the big screen like I did, you can still see these two recent art movies on DVD — from Netflix or from your library. Cave of Forgotten Dreams I heard the interview with Werner Herzog, director of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, on Fresh Air and it sounded like a fantastic documentary. The filmmaker and his crew get special access to the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, with wall drawings made some 32,000 years ago, that were just discovered in 1994. Herzog’s movie, shot in 3D, has lots of fantastic footage of the cave paintings and ... More » »


Business genius and hippie, Steve Jobs – The Lost Interview

In 1995 Robert Cringeley, a tech expert and writer who once worked for Steve Jobs interviewed the Apple-co-founder and other Silicon Valley pioneers for a PBS miniseries, Triumph of the Nerds. He spent more than 60 minutes with Jobs, who at that time was ten years out from his wrenching ouster from Apple. But less than ten minutes of the wide-ranging and provocative interview made it into the PBS show. That ten minute clip is considered one of the best TV interviews Jobs ever gave. The master tapes for the other 59 minutes went missing until recently and now, dusted ... More » »


Quay Brothers’ Mutter movie misses

by Dennis D’Alesandro Upstairs in a large, fancy chamber of the storied Mutter Museum, the sold out crowd eagerly buzzed in anticipation of the world premier of the Quay Brothers‘ latest film, titled Through the Weeping Glass: On the Consolations of Life Everlasting (Limbos and Afterbreezes in the Mutter Museum). Billed as the greatest coupling of subject matter and filmmaker that has ever been proposed in the history of art, surely the Quay’s dark-macabre style would present the strange and gruesome collections of the museum in a perfect mysterious pitch!

photo by Justin Duerr

Resurrect Dead – a surprising, beautiful road movie

We’ve all seen the message embedded in the roadways of Center City, usually in crosswalks. I actually saw one embedded in the left lane of the westbound 676 ramp to the Schuylkill expressway!  I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic and there it was just a half a car length ahead of me. How on earth did it get there? How do they all get there? What does it mean? Who’s doing it?