Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mikey and Nikey (Directed by Elaine May)

This past month, I saw a drought in my cinema experience. I honestly did not see a movie interesting enough to propel me to write about it.

Mikey and Nicky was the Indian Rain Dance i needed to get me writing again.

The real life friendship of Peter Faulk and John Cassavetes is easily translated into this film. I think half of the reason this film is so great, is because these two are really good friends and the improvisation feels genuine. At times, the film comes off more as a documentary rather than a fictional film.

John Cassavetes plays Nicky, a gangster on the run from the mob after some bad business. Mikey, played by Peter Faulk, comes to his rescue and seemingly tries to help him get out of the city before the mob catches up to him. However, early on it is implied that Mikey might have some Ulterior motives and might be setting him up.

This film serves as a classic study of a friendship on thin ice. The dialogue in this film beautifully paints each characters psyche and paints the characters history together while completely remaining in the moment. No corny flashbacks in this film. The relationship between the two main characters reminds me of a couple of my own personal relationships. In particular, the film reminds me of my friend Ramon and I and also my friend Austin and I.

Ramon and I have been in a similar situation... details will be spared. During our situation, Ramon was in Nicky's shoes and I was in Mikey's. Although, the outcome of the film is far different than what happened in our situation, walking the thin ice in a relationship is very stressful. But I am happy to say that the ice froze over and Ramon remains one of my closest friends to this day. Crew.

Next week I have an old friend, Austin, coming to visit. I am stoked. When we were in high school we would get together with our friend Wahid and freestyle all day and night. We would hit up B boy (break dancing) events and ride around Atlanta admiring local graffiti. Perhaps it is the fact that Austin and I are both Leos, but every now and then we would brawl. I mean seriously brawl. But Wahid was always there to break it up... When we look back we always laugh, but i think that is a major part of why we have so much love for each other. It is a fact, tumultuous relationships are more interesting than calm "average" relationships. This is evident in Mikey and Nicky as you watch the two characters go from being best friends to worst enemies like the weather patterns. It is just so damn interesting...

Monday, May 18, 2009

New York State of Mind

I’m in a New York State of mind.

Naked City. Blast of Silence. Style wars. Street Trash. The Warriors. Heavy Traffic. The God Father. Once Upon a Time in America. Mean Streets. Coon Skin. Good Fellas. He Got Game. Man Push Carts. King of New York. Bad Lieutenant. Downtown 81. Wildstyle. Day Night Day Night. Husbands. Shadows. Annie Hall. Taxi Driver.

Excuse my French, but Hollywood ain’t got shit on New York City Film making. The West and the East coast styles of film making are polar opposites. Hollywood is about large-scale sets and glamor. New York is more raw and about improvising sets using the city as a backdrop.

I have always been attracted to the art that comes out of New York City. Artists like Dondi White and Jean Michele Basquiat are amongst my favorites and I will always be inspired by directors like Spike Lee, Martin Scorcesse, and Jim Jarmsuch.

Ever since I could remember, I wanted to live in New York City and be apart of the artistic community that produces my favorite work. However, I wonder if this is a dream of a bygone era. Is the New York that I dream of only in films? Does it exist? Did it ever really exist?

Whenever I talk about New York to Native New Yorkers, they always talk about how much it has changed and how Times Square is more like Disney land than an emblem of New York City. During my last trip to the Big Apple I talked to a friend about the artistic movements of New York’s yesteryear. In specific, we talked about the factors that attracted artist during those years. One of the factors was cheap rent. He told me how rent was dirt cheap during the late 1970’s and early 80’s. During this time, artists and creative individuals could afford to live and make a living in New York. Nowadays, nothing is affordable in New York. Can artist afford to live in New York? If not, Is New York the cultural hub that it once was?

I recently came across a book called The Warhol Economy. After reading the first chapter, it explained a lot of what has been on my mind. Author Elizabeth Currid explains that Art economies thrive in both recessions and booms. As a matter of fact, this cycle is essential to the art world. She further explains the mechanics of the Art Economy and the reasons why New York is a major center of culture. The first chapter of her book can be downloaded here.

As we continue to head into the “Great Recession”, I can’t but help but draw comparisons to New York in the late 1970s and the revolution it experienced because of the social and urban decay that resulted from this turbulent period. I see New York City spawning another cultural revolution from the remains of this economic storm. Budget cuts will cause directors to rely on the fundamentals of film making rather than special effects. With this in mind, there will be an invasion of underground cinema during this period. I predict a new set of directors and artist will carry on the traditions of New York’s Cultural elite. I love the films that came out of New York in the 1970’s… I hope to see a return to the film making that I love.