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  • Xavier Dolan/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Xavier Dolan/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    The words “prodigy” and “wunderkind” have often been used to describe filmmaker Xavier Dolan, with good reason. Not yet 26, the French-Canadian auteur has recently released his fifth feature, Mommy, to general acclaim, including a Jury Prize win at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. A sort of bookend to his first film, 2009’s J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), Mommy stars Dolan regular Anne Dorval as Diane, the desperate mother of violence-prone, ADHD-addled Steve (a very believable Antoine Olivier Pilon). Their raucous, codependent relationship is tempered by the arrival of a quiet, secretive neighbor, played by Suzanne Clément (in a complete departure from her outgoing persona in Dolan’s 2012 Laurence Anyways). As each of the characters in this unsettling, emotional film struggles with personal demons, they form an unusual bond.

    Contrary to his previous films I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats (2010) and Tom at the Farm (2013), Dolan — an actor since toddlerhood — did not cast himself in Mommy. Like most of his movies, Mommy features complicated mother-son dynamics, arresting visual sequences and a potent soundtrack. In just five years, the filmmaker has created a distinctly unique body of work, all the more remarkable considering his relative youth.

    Recently I sat down with a few other journalists for a conversation with Dolan, who was both introspective and forthright. The following are excerpts.

    Do you feel different now that you’ve received all this acclaim? Maybe you can no longer be insecure…?
    I was never insecure; I am passionate about what I do. I love working with actors and I love acting and writing these stories and nothing has ever made me feel insecure. Some reviews have hurt me, but they’ve always been educational at the very least.

    What inspired you to include the introduction about a fictional healthcare law [allowing parents to bypass the courts and have their difficult children committed]?
    When we started scouting locations for the film we went to a correctional facility and the principal who took us through the place told me that the first scene didn’t make sense, because the movie starts with Steve being expelled because he’s misbehaved, which a correctional center would never do. I realized that I had a choice to make between telling a story that was rigorous in terms of research, or just the story I wanted to tell, which was the story of mother love and friendship. Had I not opted for that, I would have had to incorporate social workers, police officers, court scenes. It’s not a documentary.

    Antoine Olivier Pilon/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Antoine Olivier Pilon/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Also, I thought that this law would create and elicit a natural moral dilemma, because of course a mother would say she’d never never drop her child, but I personally have friends with a child with a behavioral disorder or mentally ill, and they told me that what was most heart-wrenching for them was when Diane drops Steve at the hospital. They said, “It’s awful to say, but I often think about that, and I see myself doing that.” Hearing that from a mother made me think there’s got to be a choice because when you can’t do something because it is illegal, of course you tell everyone, “I would never do that.” But when it’s possible, it’s another conversation.

    Could you talk about the process of casting Antoine as Steve?
    It was a process of one second and a half. We shot this short (College Boy) where his character was a bullied kid, which is pretty much the opposite of what he is in Mommy. It was not in his performance but in his attitude on the set; he was such a professional young man and he was so kind and listening. (Somehow he wasn’t exactly that way on Mommy; he was definitely more rambunctious. We had this complicity so he had more familiarity, which was great.) So the process of casting him was just believing that we could do it together and that he could listen to my directions and that he would bring that character to life, which he did.

    Compared to some of your other films, this was a bit more adrenalized, faster paced. Was that a reflection of the film itself or a process in you yourself?
    I think it’s probably more about the story and the script. A lot of people have said that Laurence was long, but Laurence is a movie that would have felt twice as long if it was 25 minutes shorter. It needed to span that much time because the story itself spanned so many years. There’s nothing worse for me than trying to tell a long story in a really short way, in a skit-like fashion where it becomes anecdotal and you can never have any pace because you’re always jumping and in motion. But Mommy was about the hysterical rhythm of these peoples’ lives, so the film mirrored that.

    Anne Dorval/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Anne Dorval/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

    Anne and Suzanne both acted in your previous films. How has your working relationship evolved?
    There’s two ways of looking at it: I’ve learned more about acting. In Laurence Anyways, I wasn’t acting, so I literally spent a year — 75 days of shooting, a very long shoot — watching actors, watching their strengths, their weaknesses, learning about how they work and think. In Tom on the Farm I tried to apply these things to my own craft. Mommy was  number five; by then I’d learned enough that my experience with Anne was completely different from I Killed My Mother. What also changed was that in these years, I’ve grown closer to both women, and I know them in their intimacy, their private lives, how they laugh and how they cry; who they are. What’s fun about this is not only to write characters as far away and different from what they’ve done in their careers, but also as different as can be from who they are in their lives.

    One thing that’s consistent in your films is that your characters seem to be stepping out of a cocoon of one kind of another.
    They’re about characters breaking free, breaking the rules, but also trying to fit in society and being ostracized by that society because they are different. It’s always the same theme coming back.

    Upcoming projects?
    I think that within the next two years, I’ll be working on my own movies as a director. There might be a project from a script I’ve not produced, but I really need to act. If I want to keep having a healthy relationship with actors, I need to act myself, because I give a lot of my time and energy to writing dialogue for actors and finding costumes for actors, and directing actors, working with actors, filming actors, doing CGI for actors. At a certain point I need to act too.

    Mommy is playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (Lincoln Center).

    Marina Zogbi

  • Over the course of the past few years, vinyl has made something of a comeback. Spurred on by nostalgia and hipster culture, records sales are once again on the rise and the average person has a turntable. This renaissance has changed not only the popularity of vinyl, but has also changed the access to records. You can find them everywhere from Amazon to Urban Outfitters. Younger artists, who may have missed the vinyl boat all together, are releasing new music in this older format. To meet the demand, several services have surfaced to supply music fans with the newest pressings. Here are a few options to help you expand your record collection and/or just explore new music:

    Vnyl is a record subscription service that has gotten a lot of press lately, both good and bad. Using Vnyl, subscribers can determine the contents of their delivery by indicating which “#vibes” they would like to go with. The hashtags to choose from range from #betweenthesheets to #cooking to #work to #danceparty and more. Once the records have been put togethers, they’re mailed to the user, much like in Netflix’s old DVD-in-a-paper-sleeve model. From there Vnyl allows subscribers to hold on to records they love and return the ones they don’t. Subscribers can also track the journey of each record, from one Vnyl user to the next. Each person can comment on their experience and inform whomever gets the album next.

    Vinyl Me, Please funtions in a similar way. Much like a book of the month club or the free iTunes song of the day, VMP delivers new albums right into your hands, but not one of your choosing. After requesting and invite, users can choose from a Monthly ($27), 3-Month ($75) or Annual ($284) subscription plans (International plans are also available.) According to the company’s website, the record will also be accompanied by “a custom cocktail pairing (recipe) and an album-inspired piece of art from one of our favorite artists.” A subscription includes “access to The Standard, a weekly music digest highlighting the best new music and gear from artists and brands you need to know.” One subscriber will also receive a gift via VMP’s Golden Ticket Giveaway. The record each person receives, the Record of the Month is chosen by the VMP staff. In the past this has included Courtney Barnett, The War on Drugs and Diarrhea Planet.

    If you like this element of surprise, but also want to sponsor a smaller bands, unable to independently press their own records, check out Feedbands. For $14.95 a month, users are able to vote on participating bands and ultimately receive the winning release. The service utilizes a sort of crowdsourcing to both pick the music and to fund the operation. They also support independent musicians and give them the chance to have their music on this old, but increasing popular format. Plus, if a subscriber doesn’t like the record they can return it and receive their money back. The records are always first pressings and come with a biodegradable download card, embedded with wildflower seeds.

    Label and/or Artist specific vinyl subscriptions are another way to control the content of the records you’re receiving each month. If you tend to buy records from a specific label, but want to never have to worry about how many records are going to be pressed/released, a subscription might be the answer.  Subscriptions like No Sleep Record’s Vinyl Subscription and Jack White/Third Man Record’s The Vault subscription are both specific enough that users know for the most part what they’re signing up for.

    Time will tell whether or not these newer options will hold up against the greats like Sub Pop’s Singles Club. Also whether or not all these records survive the process of being shipping in the mail. If all else fails there is always the option to browse what records stores are left in the city, like Rough Trade and Academy Records & CDs. Play Rob Gordon for a day and support the scene.

  • “Science, Fiction” is the latest show of video artist Diana Thater on view at David Zwirner’s 533 West 19th street space. Thater who is one of the most influential artists working in film, video and installation today, has transformed the Zwirner gallery into a multimedia experience. Drawing on Thater’s larger body of work which explores the interplay between mediated experiences and the natural world, “Science, Fiction” offers a fresh take on this subject matter.

    Thater who is no stranger to the art world, earned her BFA in Art History from New York University. She would go onto pursue an M.F.A at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. This is her eighth solo exhibition at Zwirner and her work as also been shown internationally. In the fall of 2015, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be hosting a mid career survey of Thater’s work.

    The show consists of two video pieces and an installation which take over the second half of the Zwirner gallery space. As you enter the space, The Starry Messenger and Sidereus Nuncius are shown on two large flat screen video pieces facing one another against opposite walls and give way to Thater’s installation in the larger gallery space. The video work as well as the installation explore tension between the natural and constructed world.
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    Thater’s installation conjures up elements of sculptor Dan Flavin’s work through her use of light boxes in various colors ranging from blue to green in the installation. The installation uses various lights in different colors throughout the four corners of the gallery. This is reflected in the subject matter of this installation which explores the navigation system of the Dung beetle. Within the center of the white space stands a smaller structure that features four walls standing roughly 6’x4′ high. Projected from the center of the box like structure is a video of dung beetles. The video focuses on the dung beetle and it’s “intricate navigation system which it deploys in disposing balls of animal excrement, it’s main source of nutrition.”
    DTDZSHOW2015_INSTALL_VIEW_4_PEOPLE

    As the press release notes, within recent studies done by scientist the dung beetle is the only known insect which uses the Milky Way to orientate itself at night. In one experiment “the beetles were placed on an outdoor table, they were only able to navigate in their usual straight line with an open view of the nocturnal sky—when their overhead vision was blocked, their movements became erratic and slowed drastically.” The next phase of the experiment was to complete the same action with the beetles but this time in a planetarium. Here the beetle’s access to the Milky Way was turned on and off which resulted in the insects’ path being straighter and faster when they were able to navigate using the planetary system. The footage of the beetle’s navigation becomes abstracted over time. As they move through the soil and animal excrement, the video begins to take on different forms. The different paths that the beetles create become memorizing and at times the insects seem to disappear and reappear at random times.
    DTDZSHOW2015_INSTALL_VIEW_1_PEOPLE

    Within The Starry Messenger and Sidereus Nuncius, Thater shot footage of the Milky Way at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles where she “positioned her camera beneath the Zeiss star projector.” Amidst the cobalt blue of the sky, Thater was able to capture the voyage of a space ship traveling through the Milky Way. Over time the video footage becomes increasingly more abstract given the speed that the space ship is traveling at, light pollution and other factors that make it harder to view. The link between “Science, Fiction” lies in Thater’s broader investigation of the Milky Way and the different forms in takes inside and outside of natural settings. The exhibition is thought provoking, interesting and calls attention to natural occurring phenomenons that are sometimes overlooked.

    “Science, Fiction” is on view through February 21, 2015 at David Zwirner’s 519 West 19th Gallery. The Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6 pm. To learn more about the artist’s work check out her website.

    –Anni Irish
    @AnniIrish

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    Hailing from the westside of Los Angeles, painter Buddy Miano, 30, would like to say she is totally fashionable and cutting edge, “but I dont have the ego or money for that.” Ms. Miano tries to wear what she feels comfortable in and what is appropriate for the activities she will be doing that day. “Being from L.A., weather hasn’t really been much of a factor, she says. “I usually get away with black leggings or dark denim with a mix of patterns.”

    For Buddy, the more it doesn’t go together the more likely she is going to wear it. And just like her vibrant paintings, filled with clashing, maddening colors, Buddy’s wardrobe also consists of crazy hues and patterns. “My family often says I look like I got dressed in the dark, she says.

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    I caught up with Buddy to watch the sunset at Dockweiler Beach in west L.A. Our chat centered on her new life in the San Francisco-bay area, and her sudden need for socks on account of the Bay’s cooler climes. “That’s new for me!” Discover more about Buddy’s favorite personal fashion possessions after the jump. Then check out where you can see her works here: buddymiano.blogspot.com

    Jacqueline Colette Prosper, @yummicoco

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