February 21, 2005

American Splendor

I remember seeing Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket shortly after it was released on video and loving it so much that it remains one of my favorite movies to this day. I also remember thinking that Anderson's quirkiness would never fly with the public at large. Silly me. I should have never underestimated the power of Bill Murray and his performance in Rushmore. After a smaller role in The Royal Tenenbaums Murray is back in the lead in Anderson's latest opus The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou which a group of us went to go see Wednesday night at the Parkway. He plays an oceanic explorer and filmmaker who is searching for a mysterious jaguar shark that ate his best friend, while Owen Wilson and Cate Blanchett tag along in supporting roles and very nearly steal the show. But no one does deadpan, fake, showboat, or prick better than Murray. Anderson does rely too much on some of his trademark directorial tricks, but overall the film is funny as hell and the settings and sea critters are terribly imaginative. I even sniffled a little at the end.

The following evening I stayed in and watched Blood Simple, the Coen brothers' first movie. Frances McDormand, in her first film role as well, stars as cheating wife Abby who somewhat inadvertantly sets off a complicated revenge plot involving her husband, her new man, and the private investigator hired to tail her. '80s fashion and soundtrack aside, Blood Simple is a tight and claustrophobic thriller that had me on the edge of the couch. And if I've learned one thing from the Coen brothers it's how hard it is to dispose of a body. Yuck.

Friday night it was raining hard but I drove over to the Haight after work to hear Harvey Pekar at the Booksmith nonetheless. He was there to promote a new collection of his work, Best of American Splendor, and he talked for a bit about how he first started writing the comic and then how the movie American Splendor got made. His natural crankiness shone through on occasion, but he seemed genuinely pleased to be speaking in San Francisco to such a crowded bookstore. One audience member near the front was clearly the biggest Harvey Pekar fan ever and wanted to make sure the rest of us knew it too, asking question after question during the Q&A. Harvey, however, was unfazed. When it came time to sign his books he set up his Coke and chips on the bookstore table and proceeded to hold court.

Yet more rain Saturday afternoon, but rainy weather is perfect art-viewing weather. Brent and I went to CCA to see their latest fantastic exhibit Irreducible: Contemporary Short Form Video, featuring work from 20 different countries. It was the perfect short attention span show; each piece was built around one concept or action, and it either grabbed us or we moved on. Some were laugh-out-loud funny, like Jesper Alvaer's pigeon-eyed view of an avian feeding frenzy or Will Rogan's brilliant exercise with an escalator railing and a chalk line. Others, such as Kimsooja's A Homeless Woman, were of a more serious political bent. I also loved Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla's trumpet-enabled motorcycle journey, and the game of naked tag captured in Artur Zmijewski's video. My hands-down favorite, however, was Dutchman Aernout Mik's mysterious jumping people.


The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Blood Simple
The Booksmith
Harvey Pekar
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

Posted by nightfall at February 21, 2005 09:32 PM