FLAWED HEROES

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Kris

Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
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Here at The Thread, we prefer our heroes flawed – and the darker the better.

As it happens, most of our heroes are artists.

This week – right brain artists (no writers) whose art and suffering are inextricably linked.

 

Kurt Cobain
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (2015)

 This intimate portrait of Cobain, told through his own art, is currently running in theaters for a few days starting this weekend, before it airs May 4 on HBO.

The doc was directed by Brett Morgan, who co-directed the impressive and entertaining The Kid Stays in the Picture.  Montage gotten a load of positive reviews, some verging on raves.

Morgan had complete cooperation from Cobain’s entire family, including Courtney and daughter Frances.   Cobain was a prolific artist from childhood – drawings, writing, photos, montages, music.  Morgan uses a minimum of talking heads and tells the story using Kurt’s work, stitched together with creative editing and visual effects.

Side note – what a year for HBO documentaries, with The Jinx, Going Clear, and now this.

Here’s the trailer, imbedded in an interesting BILLBOARD article.

 

 Jimi by Andre
JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE (2014)

It’s a credit to writer/director John Ridley (Oscar for 12 Years A Slave screenplay) that his Hendrix biopic manages to avoid the familiar arc of the melt-down genius.  He does it by focusing on the years just before Hendrix explodes.

It gives Ridley the chance to paint a more nuanced picture of Hendrix, showing who he might have been if destiny had not swept him away.

It’s a smart choice — especially since the notoriously possessive Hendrix estate refused to license any Hendrix hits.  Instead we see Andre Benjamin (of Outkast) credibly mimic Hendrix performing other people’s music – “Wild Thing”; “Sgt. Pepper’s…” over guitarist Waddy Wachtel.

It works – at least for us.  But Hendrix is an emotional subject, and this fictionalized account has been loudly criticized: notably by Kathy Etchingham, one of  the women portrayed in the film.  You can read her viewpoint in an unusual place – under the comments section  on Amazon:

Amazon iTunes Google Play Vudu

There’s also a riveting pair of Dick Cavett interviews with Hendrix – the very beginning and end of his career.

Amazon Google Play

And if you want the complete documentary approach, there’s also an excellent and typically comprehensive Jimi Hendrix American Masters:

Amazon iTunes Google Play

 

Basquiat 2
BASQUIAT (1996)

Some people say Julian Schnabel’s debut film could be leaner — but to us it’s just right. We’ve bought it multiple times for multiple networks – Trio, Ovation.

It’s notable for the casting alone: Benicio Del Toro, Gary Oldman, Willem Defoe, Christopher Walken, Parker Posey, Dennis Hopper, Tatum O’Neill, Sam Rockwell, Courtney Love (same year as Larry Flynt).  And then, David Bowie as Warhol and Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat.

And like the two movies above, Schnabel does a great job here of showing us the man under the rock star artist – but at the same time reinforcing the myth.  Basquiat is something apart – a little crazy, very right-brained, and addicted down to his soul.

Google Play Vudu

For an authentic-feeling documentary take on Basquiat, go to   Radiant Child.

iTunes Amazon Google Play

And to buy a wearable Basquiat at a bargain, go to UNIQLO

 

 

 Frida
FRIDA (2002)

 So here are the debate questions, good for at least one dinner party per year:

Could the art exist without the suffering?  Does the suffering justify the art?  And why are we so compelled to watch?

Frida consciously played into that questionable but powerful myth — even if pain doesn’t create the genii, it polishes the lamp.  And for alchemically transforming suffering directly into art, she takes the cake.

Our expectations were sky-high for Frida when it came out.  Selma Hayek cleared the bar – winning an Oscar in the bargain.  And Molina ain’t too shabby either as her drug of choice – Diego.

And thanks, Julie Taymor.  She reminds us of James Franco — wildly uneven but always worth watching.  Her new play opened on Broadway this week.

Amazon iTunes Vudu Google Play

 

Lust-for-Life
LUST FOR LIFE (1956)

Van Gogh is the original poster child for incandescently self-destructive artists.

We tend to think of the suffering artist as a post-modern myth.  After all, even Frida wasn’t broadly appreciated until the 80’s.

So it’s a refreshing historical corrective to see how well Vincent Minelli and Kirk Douglas nailed van Gogh.   It’s the equal of any of the more recent movies here, and captures the artist’s esthetic as effectively as Mr. Turner or Girl With The Pearl Earring.

Amazon iTunes Vudu Google Play

 

Dark Knight Joker
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

This could be the ultimate litmus test, and it certainly throws gas on that dinner conversation fire: very good sources have claimed that The Joker had nothing to do with Heath Ledger’s death.

We like to think we’re above the sort of slipshod logic we always attribute to statisticians – coincidence does not prove causality – but after watching this performance, how can you believe that the performance wasn’t part of his undoing?

And the picture is the best superhero movie ever, thus well worth rewatching even for those of us who aren’t hard core.

Google Play Vudu Amazon iTunes

 

ENDLESS STYLE

Elma Cremin

Co-Founder at Followthethread
A long-time fixture of New York’s glittering social scene, Miami’s jai lai courts, and the interstate highway system’s “big rigs,” Elma Cremin has spent her life absorbing all things pop culture.Movies, cult tv shows, documentaries, art, fashion—you cut her and she’ll bleed out in the colors of an Andy Warhol Brillo Pad box. Finally, after years of working inside the system with such networks as Sundance, Trio, Fuse TV and Ovation, she went “ghost protocol” and co-founded FollowTheThread in order to work outside the petty restraints of the industry and share her remarkable knowledge.

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There’s a handful of New Yorkers who never followed style –they set it.

They’re the kinds of women Shakespeare had in mind when he described Cleopatra:
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/Her infinite variety.”

This week’s list is in memory of that impish grand master of documentary filmmaking, Albert Maysles. Iris, one of his last works, hits theaters this weekend.

 irisIRIS (2015)

The pairing of Maysles with this doyenne of design seems like a match made in filmmaking heaven.

93-year-old Iris Apfel has long been the queen of NYC fashion with her unique style, endless accessories and a wicked wit. Her work ethic is firmly grounded in the Great Depression and her passion for fashion, art and life are boundless. This portrait revels in the lust for life and experience that she still shares with her husband and business partner, Carl, who turned 100 last year.

“I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.” 

iTunes

 

grey-gardensGREY GARDENS (1976)

At this point in their collaboration, Albert and his younger brother, David, already had a filmography rich enough to last a lifetime, including What’s Happening! The Beatles in the USA, Gimme Shelter, and Salesman.

Grey Gardens was filmed over a 6 week period in the shockingly decrepit East Hampton mansion of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale.

These reclusive cousins of Jackie O spend their time reminiscing about their past life of riches and lost loves, seemingly oblivious to their ramshackle living situation.

Little Edie became somewhat iconic for her idiosyncratic sense of fashion — Wes Anderson may have channeled her for Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in The Royal Tenenbaums. 

iTunes      Netflix     Amazon

In 2006 Grey Gardens was turned into a Broadway Musical, and in 2009 HBO turned it into a film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.

http://www.hbo.com/movies/grey-gardens#/movies/grey-gardens/index.html

 

dianavreeland_eyehastotravel 

DIANA VREELAND – THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (2012)

Directed by Diana Vreeland’s granddaughter-in-law, Lisa Immordino Vreeland. This is an admiring portrait of the self-made woman who became the 20th century’s most influential tastemaker in the worlds of fashion, beauty and art. She was coined “The Empress of Fashion”, holding the position of fashion editor of Harper’s Bazar before becoming editor-in-chief of Vogue and later founding the Costume Institute at the Met.

This year Marc Jacobs reimagined Vreeland’s famous living room (image above) for the stage of his F/W 2015 show.

The director is very kind to her famous in-law (they never met). But the doc is worth watching for the irrepressible and quotable Vreeland herself. Verbally, she was a sort of an Oscar Wilde of fashion.

Immordino Vreeland’s second doc – Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict – premiered this week at Tribeca.

iTunes      Netflix      Amazon

 

 

elaine stritch
ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME (2013)

If we had legs like that, we’d still be wearing tights at age 88!

While we see the brash and irrepressible side of Stritch in this film, Chiemi Karasawa’s directorial debut,  what makes it exceptional is that that we also see a Stritch we’ve never seen before – an increasingly frail woman preparing for her final run before she goes back to Michigan to die.

The result is funny and revealing, a must-see even if you’ve watched previous portraits of the Tony winning actress (like the Pennebaker/Hegedus At Liberty). Interviews with friends and colleagues from Alec Baldwin to James Gandolfini offer insight to her ever-feisty character. Her costume of choice, white shirt and black tights will forever be synonymous with Elaine Stritch’s sense of fashion.

iTunes     Netflix

 

 

 advanced style

ADVANCED STYLE (2014)

Also directed by a neophyte director – Lina Plioplyte – this documentary based on Ari Seth Cohen’s acclaimed photo blog examines the lives of seven New Yorkers whose passion for style elevates them from the ordinary.

The lesson is you don’t have to be Diana Vreeland to be a fashion icon – especially if you live in New York. These women (62 – 95 yrs) refuse to cower to convention and live their lives with unabashed panache, challenging ideas about youth, beauty and what it means to age with grace. 

iTunes      Vudu

 

 

billcunninghamny BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK (2011) 

Directed by Richard Press. Now in his 8th decade Bill Cunningham spends his days on his Schwinn bicycle chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirées for the Times Style section in his columns “On the Street” and “Evening Hours.” He has most definitely captured our NYC Grande Dames over the decades for his columns.

“I let the street speak to me,” he says. “There are no short cuts.”  His particular uniform of choice is a blue jacket worn by Parisian street cleaners.

“We all get dressed for Bill,” says Vogue editrix Anna Wintour. 

iTunes     Netflix