Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

beautiful prospect park with smart, beautiful ladies and no worries. so perfect. 

Saying goodbye to the city, or being reclaimed by Texas.

Ugh. Sorry, guys. After the thesis hell and then entertaining multiple sets of visitors in the city for a couple weeks, I came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection. Now that I'm getting better, all I have time for is packing. You see, I'm moving back to Texas on Wednesday. My feelings on the matter vary wildly from one day to the next, but I'm trying to be optimistic. The sweetest way I could ever imagine saying goodbye to New York would be to have my best friends come visit from Texas, show them all the city has to offer, and send them off with the promise that I'll be there soon. The fact that I got to do that was proof that life is good and I should never complain again. It was wonderful. Just wonderful. I felt like my life in Texas came to reclaim me, to invite me back and remind me that there is so much waiting for me there, and so much I have to give back to the place and people who cared for me for 24 years. Here's a taste of how their visit went:
So much shopping, so much walking, so much food. Museums, Broadway shows, rooftop drinking, the parts of New York I never go to because they're full of people and I'm too busy/kind of snobby. It was nice to see the sights and remember why people love this city so much. It was nice to see my roommates laughing with Justin and Gregg, and feel complete and relaxed for the first time in months with my favorite people around me. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Graduated

It's been hard to blog lately. I'm going through a weird time. I've finished grad school, I'm a Master of Arts (though I still have work to do on my thesis - it never ends) and now I get to go back to my little boy. This is what I've been working toward and dreaming of since he left New York, and I'm thrilled. However, things are not like they used to be at home. My grandma is sick, B is going through a hard time, my bedroom is occupied by a new tenant, I don't have a car, I have crazy student loan debt... and I don't have a job. The moving truck is coming June 1st and I don't know what's next. I don't know where I'm going to live or work or when this is going to pay off. I'm going to miss my home in the city so much. I've always hated uncertainty, and right now nothing in my life is certain. It's scary times. 

As I write this I'm sick, I am having the worst cramps of my life and I am having a really hard time cleaning up the last section of my thesis. Maybe when this has all passed I'll be more optimistic. Right now I'm just waiting for a door to open. (Seriously, if you know of any open doors, any at all, I will gladly run through them. Spare bedroom? Job in Alaska? I'll take it. I will literally do anything anywhere at this point.)

I should tell you about my graduation. There is no walking across the stage or calling out of individual names at NYU, so I just went to the Tisch Salute, a chance for Tisch School of the Arts students to be recognized by department, and a much smaller and more fun affair than the school-wide commencement. Everyone in my class was there except Erik, and everyone brought their families. I brought Gregg, Macario, Justin and his boyfriend William because, if I have nothing else, I have the very best friends in the entire world. They were beside me when I graduated from SMU and didn't let my little move across the country deter them from being there for this one. They flew up from Austin and Dallas for the week to watch me get my M.A. and help me say goodbye to NYC. It was perfect and I'll post all about it but for now, some graduation photos (with captions below).

1. Moving Image Archiving and Preservation class of '11 minus Erik: Ashley, June, Sam L., Candace, Moi, Sam O. We did it!
2. Apparently there are NYU bagpipers. Not a bad way to be ushered into the ceremony.
3. Brian Grazer addressing the graduates.
4. James Franco was in my graduating class.
5. My roommates brought flasks to make it through the part where the Dean talks about all of the incredibly successful people who have come from our school that we will never live up to.
6. Ashley and I pretended we were matriculating into dragonhood.
7. My cheering section.
8. My MIAP family.
9. Justin and Gregg, my very best friends and biggest supporters.
10. My Taso.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Mothers Day

My wonderful roommates made me blueberry pancakes and coconut green tea. Swinny gave me a carnation. Taso brought me Biggie. These are the people who know and love me so well.
All this and a long, upbeat conversation with B about how soon we'll be back together.

To all the moms out there, keep on keepin' on. You're the most important people in the world and your job is holy. I salute you, fellow queens of the world.

Monday, May 9, 2011

TCM Classic Film Fest Final Day

Sunday started off with a series of disappointments that ended up curating the perfect day for me -- a DANCE DAY! I was talked out of the 9am screening of Network, one of my very favorite movies, in favor of Night Flight, a 1933 film that's been out of circulation since 1942 due to copyright problems. It stars John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy and Robert Montgomery, so it's a big deal that it hasn't really been seen since its original release. What I didn't take into consideration is that Drew Barrymore was going to be there to talk about her grandfather and great uncle (and her love for TCM), so the place was PACKED. Swinny got there early and got a seat but I did not. At 2 for 0 by 10am, I was a bit bummed, so I wandered over to Graumans and slipped into a screening of That's Entertainment, a 1974 "behind the scenes" documentary about MGM musicals, that's really just one great musical number after another. It also features some of my favorites, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds and Liza Minnelli. It turned out to be tons of fun seeing so many great dance numbers on the big screen, including two from Singing in the Rain and this classic Judy Garland number from Summer Stock (another Gene Kelly movie)!

I went from there to The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) at the Egyptian. Debbie Reynolds is adorable and tap dances her little heart out in it, but I didn't stay for her chat afterwards because I had to book it to the "Dancing in the Movies" panel at Club TCM.

As a former dancer who grew up on musicals and still dreams of being a professional ballerina, this was one of my most anticipated events of the whole festival. Marge Champion, one of the heroes of my musical-loving childhood, and Debbie Allen, my inspiration as a "non-traditional" ballet dancer in high school, were both on the panel, as was Vincent Paterson who choreographed my favorite music video of all time, "Smooth Criminal." 
The panel covered everything from how technology and innovation changed the way dancing is filmed to how choreographers have had to fight to direct their sequences, or just become directors themselves (what up Debbie Allen!) to be sure that their numbers are filmed correctly. Marge Champion talked about her father who directed ballet on silent film and her experience being the motion capture model for early animation. She was Snow White, Tinkerbelle and the hippos from Fantasia! I almost fell out of my chair when I realized that that women -- who lifted herself up in her chair to demonstrate hitchkicks halfway through the panel -- is 91 years old! I felt like I should be bowing to her Wayne's World-style. Debbie Allen talked about growing up in Texas and being told she would never be a ballerina because her body was all wrong. I wanted to rush the stage and kiss her face. As the girl with the big butt and no patience for technique, I always looked up to her and appreciated her for breaking out of the mold of what a classically trained dancer should be. Vincent Paterson talked about choreographing for Lars van Trier's Dancer in the Dark. They used 100 cameras to film all different angles of each dance number, which were only done 3 times each. They did this so the dancers could stay warmed up without having to do a bunch of takes. I could go on and on about all of these things that are probably only interesting to me, but I'll just sum it up by saying this was everything a panel should be. Afterward I talked to Debbie Allen a little bit about how great it is that So You Think You Can Dance is giving dancers and choreographers jobs (this came up on the panel when Marge Champion complained that they're giving too many dance jobs to actors rather than dancers), and tried not to gush too much.

I followed nearly everyone from the panel over to "A Tribute to the Nicholas Brothers." Robert Townsend and Bruce Goldstein talked about the lives of two of the greatest dancers in classic Hollywood, and showed clips from their films, home movies and interviews to a sold out crowd including their family. The tribute was very upbeat and focused on their dancing and accomplishments, rather than the racism and trials that held them back in Hollywood. It was such a treat, and reminded me that I need to watch more of their movies.

The final screening of the festival was Ashley's favorite movie, West Side Story, on my favorite format, 70mm. It's extra-wide film that makes everything look bigger and deeper and more alive. I was shocked by how many new things I noticed in this film that I've seen dozens of times, and by how moved I was. I can't remember ever crying through it before but I totally lost it during "Somewhere" and had a hard time composing myself for the rest of it. During the intermission (yes, they kept the intermission from the film's original run in theaters -- awesome) I checked my phone and found out that Osama bin Laden had been killed. As I scrolled through my twitter feed and a few news stories, I was deeply unsettled both by the reminder of what's going on in the world outside the movie theater and by the wild celebrating in the streets over his death. It made the second half of the movie, the classic Romeo & Juliet story of innocent lives being lost in the middle of a senseless war, even more heartbreaking. But there was dancing and singing and hope and that is why we watch movies, is it not? Swinny bawled through the whole thing, natch.

After the screening we went to the closing night party and hung out with our TCM friends. Then my friend Nick met up with us at the Roosevelt. We've been friends since third grade and used to be bffs in middle school, when he was just dreaming of being an actor and I of living in New York. It's always nice to catch up and high five each other for living our dreams.

We flew back to New York the next day, so sad to say goodbye. A week later I am still missing it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

TCM Classic Film Fest Day 3

Ashley and I went separate ways again Saturday morning, and I caught a 9am screening of The Third Man (1949) starring Orson Welles. TCM personality Ben Mankiewicz awkwardly introduced the screening, telling a long story about how we were seeing the version with the US voiceover at the intro, which was changed from the British version to appeal to American audiences. Then the film started and oops, it was the British print! Nevertheless, it looked beautiful on film. A script superviser from the film (and also the only woman on the crew) attended to talk about the experience of working with Orson Welles on one of the greatest noir films of all time.

Ashley and I then met up for a screening of Hoop-la (1933), Clara Bow's last film and one of her few talkies. This was the first time I'd ever heard her talk, so it was really exciting for me! We were the first audience to see this brand new pristine print of the film that was rediscovered in MoMA's archives, and it did not disappoint. I love her already (she's the current obsession in our apartment), but this could be my favorite performance of hers. Such a wonderful, happy movie and her performance was funny, strong and heartbreaking.
Katie Trainor and David Stenn (who wrote the book on Ms. Bow) gave an informative intro to the film, which is really one of the benefits of going to the festival. It's awesome to hear archivists and scholars contextualize the films and tell stories about their directors and stars. If you get a chance, you should really read Stenn's book about Clara Bow. She was the bossest lady ever.

I went to Citizen Kane next on sheer principle. It was playing at Graumans, I have a huge crush on 1941 Orson Welles and, anyway, how do you pass up seeing one of the biggest, greatest films of all time at this theater?!
Answer: You don't. It was awesome as ever, despite the digital projection. 
(I'm really obnoxious in my film purism, I know.)

The last screening of the day was also the #1 moment of the entire festival for me. It began with a screening of a 1929 Vitaphone short starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. It's on YouTube and you should watch it:
Then Buster Keaton's silent comedy The Cameraman (1928) was shown on film at the Egyptian Theatre with Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks playing a live prearranged score of 20s and 30s music! This wasn't some pianist playing along to a silent film. The score was incredibly thoughtfully composed and the band was bursting with life and energy. Seeing this film on the big screen, I could really make out all of Buster's facial expressions and the subtlties of his hilarious performance. The band's energy and timing enhanced the funny moments and the tender moments, and breathed new life into a film I've seen countless times. That's the incredible thing about seeing old movies in the theater, especially when they're presented by people who care about them -- not only do they often hold up over time, but they remind you of the universal human feelings and experiences that transcend time and medium. 
The band paid tribute to Buster at the end by wearing the style of hat he made famous. Vince had the honor of wearing Buster's actual hat from the movie. How cool is that?! The crowd went crazy with cheers and a long, rousing standing ovation. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

After The Cameraman we went to Club TCM briefly. We were hoping to dance and listen to some great jazz, but the singer was terrible and mixed 40s hair with a 50s dress and we just couldn't take it. I got a picture of Ashley sitting under a picture of Barbara Stanwyck, who she loves, and then we took off.

Before heading back to our little room we made a stop for my roommate to finally pay homage to Joan Crawford's imprints in front of Graumans. Ms. Crawford is the subject of Swinny's thesis and her unofficial spirit animal. It's a love that knows no bounds, fire of a thousand suns, pure and true like newfallen snow... all of those things. I went hoping to take some cute pictures and make some jokes about spirit animals, but it was actually a really tender, lovely moment for my old souled friend, and a perfect end to Saturday.