Sunday, March 30, 2008

So, I've been filling in some gaps in my cultural education, watching Vincent Price horror movies. Some, like House of Wax, are on DVD, but for some films, I've had to go back to the old standby of VHS cassettes from the local library. And tonight, I tried to watch one, The Comedy of Terrors. But the cassette wouldn't go into the VCR. It would go half-way in, and then the VCR would spit it out. My VCR is, of course, old, so I wasn't sure if it was the tape or the unit, so I went into the back bedroom to give that one a try. The cassette went in fine, but then nothing happened, and it wouldn't eject the tape. I tried to force it out, but I could feel the film wrapped around the tape head or whatever inside the VCR. I tried disassembling the VCR, and got the case off of it, but couldn't get the cassette-holding portion open to remove the tape. So tomorrow, I'm taking my VCR to the library to see what they suggest. I figure this must happen from time to time, maybe they have some tips. I think the tape was defective, but if I have to pay for it, I'll live. As long as they aren't dicks about it (I got the tape from the city library, not the county library where I volunteer, so I don't have any special connections to rely on here).

Anyway, in light of this setback, I decided to watch The Tomb of Ligeia instead. But it appeared that whoever last checked it out was far from kind, so I would have to rewind. But every time I tried to rewind it, I heard the VCR's motor revving for a moment, but then the unit shut down. If I pressed play, I could rewind while the feature played, but then it rewound at an extremely slow pace. I had a feeling this cassette was defective, too (which would explain why the previous viewer didn't rewind), and didn't want to risk another incident like Comedy of Terrors, so I removed the cassette from my VCR unwatched.

Cursing the antiquated technology, I decided the safe bet was to watch a film in the ultra-high-tech HD DVD format. I've had Talk to Me at home from Netflix for like two months, and decided I should finally watch it. I even chuckled to myself, thinking that, given my luck this evening, I'd probably end up getting the Red Ring of Death watching it on my XBox 360 HD DVD add-on (I actually had Talk to Me out from Netflix when my XBox red-ringed, and returned it unwatched while my unit was repaired). But I never got to that point. When I removed the disc from its Netflix envelope, it came out in two pieces. Talk to Me was released in a hybrid format, with an HD DVD on one side and a standard DVD on the other. Apparently they're just glued together or something, because they came right apart on me. I thought maybe I could still play just half a disc, but given my track record for the evening, I decided not to experiment.

So three films, three strikes. The good news is, eventually, I was able to watch My Kid Could Paint That without incident. Okay documentary, and if you're interested in my opinion, the kid didn't paint the paintings, certainly not in the manner the parents claim. To say that a four-year-old painted every painting, from the first one on, with no assistance, implies that the parents are awful people. "No, sweetheart, you have to do that alone. You're four years old, we can't coddle you forever!" Of course they helped. As one curator, who rejected a Marla work submitted to her art show before Marla's rise to fame, noted in an outtake included on the DVD, who picked the canvases? Are we to believe a four year old decided on her own she wanted to paint a triptych? Also included with the special features, which I watched with judicious use of the fast-forward button, was a Q&A session, in which one supporter of Marla basically explained to a questioner that, since he never himself was a painter, his opinion didn't matter. Of course, since he was once four years old, and no doubt dabbled in finger-painting, his claim as an artist is as absolute as Marla's. For some reason, that lady's comment really pissed me off, and angried up the blood. So, fuck you, old lady. But I digress. Interesting film, but I don't know what the take-away from it is. The filmmaker intended, before the question of authenticity was raised by "60 Minutes," to make a statement about modern art, but the unanticipated shift in the narrative muddies things a bit too much. And ultimately, I was surprised just how little I cared. It's hard to get worked up about parents exploiting their child, when she's having a fine time and now has a six-figure college fund. Perhaps there's a message to be derived from the owner of the gallery promoting Marla's work. When she has her fall, and her work stops selling for awhile, he seems glad that, at last, he can openly gloat in his big "fuck you" to the modern art community (his own work is in the photorealism genre). But when her work starts selling again, it's like that conversation never happened. So what does that mean? The business of art is driven by both spite and pragmatism? Some people are tools? Photorealism ain't where the money's at? Food for thought, I suppose.

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