If you’re paying attention to anything right now beyond your piña colada, first of all, stop, but second of all we’re guessing you’re also sensing there’s a shakeup coming our way real soon. Election-talk is starting to dominate the airwaves, and legislative sessions are coming to an end with groundbreaking decisions like Albany’s approval of the wood frog as our state amphibian (finally!). But let’s set all that aside for a moment, because soon enough we’re going to be treated to a wildly entertaining mud-slinging contest and lucky for us, we have an unprecedented cast of totally insane characters who are willing to do horrible things to one another to win the crown. Before we’re spoiled by such comedy, take time to reflect on the tumultuous life of a figure whose ideals matter now maybe more than ever, and reserve your right to gawk at the banality of the human condition– it’ll make you feel a little bit better about this disappointing world, maybe.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Man, this film is what existential crises are made of. Filmmaker Roy Andersson captures a perfectly Swedish blandness that permeates not just apartment blocks and office complexes but the demeanor of people living out a hopelessly banal existence. Sounds dark? Well, it’s not. It actually looks pretty funny. Think Happiness with a little more whimsy and a little less depravity, though with the same sort of insensitivity and inadequacy of human emotion in tact.
A Pigeon moves through various vignettes of everyday existence as absurd events unfold in front of bored, crystal clear blue eyes to seemingly little or no response. The color palette of the film reflects this same white bread-ness: gray, pale blue, beige, faded brown, and above all, mauve. Thursday, June 25 through Tuesday, June 30 at Film Forum: $7.50 member, $13 regular
“Tear It Up, Son!”
As far as we can tell, Ross Nugent is not an immediate relative of infamous rock redneck Ted Nugent (after all, the guy’s got eight kids, most of whom are estranged, and one of whom was his girlfriend). Though, you can’t blame us for checking up on this. Ross and Ted share some obvious qualities, including a penchant for the backwoods, though in Ross’s case rural Pennsylvania serves as his beloved boonies rather than the wilderness of militia-governed Michigan. The former serves as the backdrop for Nugent the filmmaker’s 16mm shorts featured at “Tear It Up, Son!” part of Mono No Aware’s “Connectivity Through Cinema” series.
It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around this arty take on steel mills and monster trucks. But the screening is sure to be interesting, not least of all for the inclusion of Spillway Study/ Carpe Diez an experimental short in which Nugent utilizes live performance and found photography. Sunday, June 28, 7 pm at Center for Performance Research: FREE
Bicycle Film Fest
Remember when fixies and messenger bags were something to be scoffed at? For a while, it seemed the more cynical amongst us believed that most people who owned these objects had no legitimate attachment to their original purposes and simply wore them like so many accessories. There was something goofy about what the Bicycle Film Fest refers to as “the urban bike movement,” maybe because it felt weird to see something that’s such a democratic form of transportation turn into something hip and stylish.
It’s just a bike, we couldn’t help thinking, how can it be stylish? It’s not like I’m ever going to abandon my helmet– fear of nerdiness be damned, I’d rather keep my brains inside my skull, thank you very much. But this bike thing was not simply a trend. It has stuck around and for every freshly pressed messenger bag that’s never seen life outside of a subway car, there are people who are dedicated to living life on two wheels.
And why not? It’s a healthy activity, good for the environment, and often a faster way to get where you’re going in a city as dense as this one. And in terms of really seeing the city and understanding how it works as a system of intermittently flowing and clogged arteries and veins, there’s no better way to do it than riding around on your bike.
And like any cultural product with loyal followers, there’s gonna be art made in its honor. Enter the 15th annual Bicycle Film Festival which opens in New York today, June 25 and runs through Sunday, June 28. The fest actually has iterations happening all over the world, but it began right here.
This year the fest will feature shorts (urban and “worldwide”), a special BMX program, and “greatest hits” from the past 15 years of bike films. One film we’re intrigued by (see the trailer above) is Cyclique a documentary about three French bike messengers. Though unfortunately it looks like none of these guys could be pulled straight out of Dealers, or for that matter, the dude we caught up with who could totally be a character on High Maintenance. Thursday, June 25 through Sunday, June 28, screenings at Anthology Film Archives and opening party 9 pm tonight at Max Fish : festival pass, $40
What Happened, Miss Simone?
It’s no surprise there’s Nina Simone mania happening right now. After all, the woman was an indisputable goddess, the high priestess of soul, and an incredibly original voice. But what separates her in history from many of her fellow musicians was her commitment to being outspoken about the political and social ideals embodied in the civil rights and black power movements. As Times movie critic Manohla Dargis writes, the latter qualities are what make Nina Simone’s reemergence in the cultural zeitgeist all the more appropriate in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread disapproval of police officers’ relationship with people of color.
As moviegoers we have the option to check out What Happened, Miss Simone? a documentary about the late musician and cultural icon, or a probably soon to be released biopic, Nina in which the filmmakers were called out for casting a light-skinned actress, Zoe Saldana, as Nina Simone then painting her in black face. Yeesh. Um, will go with the former.
But the documentary has more draws than simply being free of awkward casting choices. The creators of What Happened were able to gain impressive and unprecedented access to Simone’s archives as well as those closest to her, including her daughter, actress Lisa Simone. And while Simone’s genius and her dedication to black empowerment are certainly honored in the film, Lisa Simone reveals the difficulty of being raised by her mercurial mother who was tormented by depression and mood swings. “My mother was Nina Simone 24/7,” Lisa explains. Thursday, June 25 through Tuesday, June 30 at IFC Center: $14