George and Catherine invited me to the annual Martian Mardi Gras party at URBAN-15. This is when they get together with the members of the drum and dance ensembles and friends and family and watch the big Carnival parades in Sao Paulo. I assume “Martian” is because the television signal is delivered by satellite. Catherine’s shorthand for anything from space is that it’s Martian.
Last year was the first time I’d seen the parades from Brazil. They’re massively elaborate competitions. Sadly, it’s a far cry from Black Orpheus. Although I do hope that that sort of decadent and orgiastic fandango is spilling out into the streets of humble neighborhoods as I write this.
Before watching the parades from Brazil, George put in a DVD of the presidential inauguration parade. Someone had packaged the footage of the parade passing in front of the Obamas into a highlights reel. Maybe three minutes of each act. We watched about half an hour, but once the basement space had begun to fill up and once sufficient pizza, sangria, and assorted b.y.o.booze had loosened up the crowd, they began shouting to fast forward to the section where URBAN-15 dances and drums for the president. I think we watched it about three times. Much colorful commentary. About sixty people were lounging in adirondack chairs watching the action on a large rear projection screen.
After an hour of watching one of the lavish Brazilian samba competitions (or whatever it was I was watching — Brazilians are fucking nuts in their breathless rush to be more over-the-top than one would think humanly possible), I quietly slipped out the door and drove home. A little of that sort of thing goes a long way. Well, for me.
I’m sitting here uninspired. It’s one a.m. and I could just go to bed but I’m simply not feeling the calling.
I pulled some recent iPhone photos onto my computer. Phone as a camera. It’s an incredibly convenient idea. But the iPhone camera sucks. My cheapy Nikon digital is miles ahead of the iPhone. But I don’t carry it around as much as I used to. I mean, when I post on Twitter, it’s seamless using the camera on my phone and the Twitter app on my phone.
Anyway, as I was grumbling about the shortcomings of what’s become my current default camera, I noticed a couple of shit shots I apparently never got around to deleting off my phone. Some of these mistakes (or failed experiments) have a nice abstract expressionistic feel to them.
Below are three. I’ve done little more to tart them up more than amp them up in iPhoto with it’s very limited parameters.
While I’m posting images, here’s an old house on the HemisFair Park grounds which will be used as a surface to project the work of one of the video artists. We’ll be using another side, which is more uniform.
We’ll have two video installations which will be visible in HemisFair from S. Alamo Street. And once you walk in a bit, you’ll be able to see a screen hanging from the side of the Instituto Cultural de Mexico. And as you walk deeper into HemisFair toward the Instituto, you soon find that another outdoor screen is hanging off the wall of the convention center in the Plaza de Mexico. A thirty foot wide screen. It’ll be very impressive. And if you turn around and walk into the back door of the Instituto, and head to the Frida Kahlo gallery, you’ll be able to watch even more films, in our indoor setting. The auditorium of the Instituto with be showcasing music and dance events. I know that SOLI (San Antonio’s answer to the Kronos Quartet) will be doing a set. Hell yeah I’ll be stepping over for that.
The countdown is upon us. 21 days.
It’s a hell of a thing. A massive one day event which will shut down much of downtown. More than 1,100 artists will be represented. Half a dozen stages scattered along Alamo Street. Lighting schemes. Fireworks. Allocated parking lots. Shuttle buses. Food and drink vendors. Stage managers. Lighting grids. Generator trucks. Marketing. Branding. T-shirt sales. It goes on and on and on.
The humbling realization is when someone like, say, Malena Gonzalez-Cid brings us all back down to earth. “It’s just a one-day arts event,” she’ll say in her playful dismissive way, because, you know, she’s done events like this before. But it’s more than that. Luminaria is one of at least a dozen of similar events in San Antonio that happen each year … hell, even several times a year. In the King William neighborhood, First Friday has become a massive event, and it happens 12 times a year. Fiesta is our yearly city-wide week-long booze-up with several parades, festivals, and massive parties. We have the nation’s largest MLK Day march. A major César Chávez march. About ten significant annual film festivals. A big-ass annual jazz event at Travis Park. We have some sort of rodeo bullshit happening right now. Yeah, it’s a big deal. We also have parades on boats and barges on the San Antonio river. And we have shitloads of music and sports events. Event planning is something imprinted into each and every San Antonian. If you’re not born with this skill, it quickly gets under your skin once you move here. Even I, a small fish in this city, have found myself in the event promotional realm on about ten occasions.
Luminaria might be smaller fish than some sports play-offs, but it’s still a big deal.
I keep forgetting tonight’s the Academy Awards. Maybe that’s why it was a ghost town at the supermarket earlier.
I don’t believe I’ve seen the Oscars in ten years. And, now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever willingly watched the televised ceremony. Awards shows are inherently vapid exercises of self-congratulation elevated into a ghastly carnival of bad taste and high irrelevancy. An aesthetic eyesore. I cannot fathom how anyone can sit through such excessive mutual wankery without needing a shower by the time the credits are rolling.
It’s feasible that if I had seen more than two films nominated (a documentary, and a short film), I might feel more interested in the outcome. But I haven’t. And I don’t. However, there have been years where I’ve seen every film up for the major awards.
Strange. There are some years when I’m always heading out to take in this or that weekday matinee (the best way to watch a movie on a big screen). But while living here in San Antonio, I just don’t see many major Hollywood offerings. I blame the local cinemas. They’re horrible. The Alamo Draft House and the Bijou both bring in some interesting movies, but I don’t care for these pub movie houses that serve buffalo wings and shrimp quesadillas. All I want is a gigantic screen, a comfortable seat, and to be left the hell alone so I can become swallowed up by the movie experience. Also, I’d like a theater that’s nearby.
Probably the best multiplex showing art-house films is up at I-10 and Huebner. Well, if I balk at dragging my carcass up to the Bijou or the multiplex at the Quarry, I’m not likely to motor all the way north to Huebner.
If only the multiplex at downtown’s River Center Mall showed anything more cerebral than the usual fare of fratboy comedies and bad Hollywood remakes and bad Japanese and Korean horror films, I might be there all the time. It’s just a twenty minute walk. Or, better. If we could return our great surviving downtown palace theaters into the incredible cinemas they once were. Once the renovation of the Alameda is completed, we will have four classic downtown movie houses (the Alameda, the Majestic, the Empire, and the Aztec), and not a one of them (that I know of) has a 35mm projector on premise. The Aztec sold their screen and projector last year. That was sad. How many cities in this country can claim to have renovated so many grand movies palaces? And we can’t even have one repurposed for film screening? I should point out that the Guadalupe Theater still has a 35mm projector. But the seating sucks. Movable chairs. And with the low-slung screen, the head of the person in front of you obscures the lower third of the picture.
Let’s try and get one movie house downtown with great picture, sound, seating … and stellar programing. How can this happen? Drew? Janet? Phil? Mary Alice? How hard can it be. (I’m thinking it’s pretty hard.)
I probably made one or two visits to a first-run movie theater to see a film in the last year, but damned if I can recall what I might have seen.
That’s not to say I’m not out watching movies. In the last year I’ve been to several local film festivals which show non-local feature films. The European Film Festival, the San Antonio Film Festival, Cine Festival, and Cine Mujer. I probably watched an average of five feature films at each event. Add to that about five local produced feature films at special screenings, and I’d have to say that in the last year I saw about 25 feature films on the big screen. Add to that the half dozen other local festivals I attended which screen short pieces, local work, and the work of young filmmakers.
So don’t get up in my business all high and mighty, you hear? You know, about how I’ve not seen Benjamin Buttons, that comic book film, Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface, and Sean Penn in gayface.
Whoops. I have seen Tropic Thunder. On DVD. Also, now that I Google the info about nominees, I see that I’ve seen another film with a nomination. From NetFlix. In Bruges. Original screenplay. Ah, but now I’m conflicted. Though I did love In Bruges (killer script), it’s up against Mike Leigh, who I adore. However, I’ve not seen this particular film of his. But wait. I think I made mention of my staunch ambivalence. Whatever. Fuck the Oscars!
Yeah. Fuck ’em.
The biggest problem I have with the Oscars is that almost everyone who I’m following on Twitter is posting chingos of Oscar comments in real time. A tsunami of chatter from the peanut gallery. And so tomorrow, as I try to catch up, I’ll have to sift through all this crap about what Angelina was wearing. Or that Hugh Jackman was picking his nose when he thought the camera was on Don fucking Rickles. Or, wait wait wait, did Anne Hathaway just put her hand on Olympia Dukakis’ ass?!?! People, I don’t care. Were that hand on my ass, well, then we could talk. But it wasn’t. So let’s not.
Sure, I could just ignore those older postings and plunge ahead. But, dammit, I need to see what’s going on with those folks who I follow on Twitter who are not so caught up in the Oscars. What’s happening with Tim Gerber? Is he still being dragged around by Anne to all the clothing stores in San Antonio with maternity sections — as he posts photos of his wife (one of the best actresses in town), who looks like she’s ready to pop? And then there’s Sam Lerma, and his current vacation down to his hometown in the Rio Grande Valley (which I had never before heard referred to as “RGV”), where he’s sharing with the world his squirmy culture shock trying to maintain a smile in this simple world, this small hometown from which he escaped. Sam, you never escape from la familia and their stomping grounds. Oh, yeah, there’s also Brit writer and actor Stephen Fry, down on the Baja peninsula kayaking with whales and sampling tequila, and I can’t imagine this combo will end well. And dammit, I want to be there when it doesn’t. If only I could find some sort of Twitter application called an “Oscar Filter.”