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The best part of old films is the countdown

The best part of old films is the countdown

As your yearnings for summer are quashed by a brick wall of constant work for the next few weeks, step aside from it all for a few hours by taking advantage of the cultural opportunities of Columbia and the city. Ambrosial Arts Editor Kyra Bloom has put together the following assuredly kick-ass events. Submit an event to events@bwog.com.


  • The Barnard/Columbia Senior Thesis Festival begins this weekend, with three plays directed by Rebecca Clark, Christina McCarver, and Kyle Radler, respectively.  You can pick one or stay through all three–the times are different for each, so check them out on the Facebook page. Tickets are free, so reserve them at the TIC and head over to the Minor Latham Playhouse this weekend.


  • The Barnard-Columbia Chorus performs Verdi’s Requiem this Friday, 8 pm, at Union Theological.  The four soloists are talented and seasoned singers, so go support them for a measly $3 with CUID.
  • The Columbia Review and Postcrypt are hosting a literary open mic at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse.  Original works of fiction and poetry will be shared, so take a study break at 8:30 pm and go enjoy the creations of your talented classmates.
  • The Jester presents their “Varsity Show” at 9 pm in the Lerner Blackbox.  Fruit Paunch, Control Top, and CHOWDAH are all performing, with further guests to be announced later this week.  Reserve a free ticket at the tic for an entertaining night.

The film festival, WBAR, and Wallach below!

A Conversation with the Founders of the Athena Film Festival

Women Astronauts: Leaders and Puppy-Lovers

Screenings at the second annual Athena Film Festival begin tonight at 6 pm in Miller Theatre. Student priced tickets are available for $7. Alexandra Svokos sat down with festival founders Kathryn Kolbert and Melissa Silverstein.

Kathryn Kolbert and Melissa Silverstein (a 30 Rock fan!) come from different professional worlds but have the same goal: to raise the status and image of women. Kolbert is the director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard while Silverstein is the renowned blogger behind Women and Hollywood. The two met at an event at Gloria Steinem’s house organized by Silverstein in honor of filmmaker Jane Campion. After a conversation about the difficulties of getting “stories of courageous women to the big screen,” the two decided to create the Athena Film Festival.

Before the Athena Festival, there was no large-scale festival for women’s film in New York City. Kolbert and Silverstein took a different approach to the idea of a women’s festival than others do – rather than focusing on women directors or producers, they chose to focus on films that show women as leaders. “We think it’s very important that our culture reflect women in leadership roles and that young women in particular be able to see the actions and activities and courage and commitment of women,” Kolbert explained. The award winners are all women.

Last year, the festival’s first, exceeded all expectations, bringing about 2500 people to Barnard, most of whom were not Barnard-affiliated. This year they hope to at least match that number. Student groups have also become more active in the festival.

Check out the rest of the interview after the jump.

LectureHop: Careers in Entertainment
Bond, James Bond

Not THAT type of agent...

On Tuesday night in the Barnard Hall James Room, Barnard Career Development hosted a panel with figures from the entertainment industry hosted by UTA Co-head of the Television Talent Department Nancy Mendelson Gates. Dodge Cafe King and Queen Bijan Samareh and Alexandra Svokos were there.

When it comes to centering your career plan around making it in Hollywood, William Goldman’s famous epigram that “nobody know anything” can be a bit daunting. While the nature of climbing the ranks in entertainment is far more arbitrary than say following the course it takes to become a doctor or an engineer, certain principles do exist that can push one in the right direction. These principles are exactly what Tuesday night’s Careers in Entertainment panel wished to discuss.

Organized in Barnard Hall by Barnard Career Development, the panel consisted of NYC-based talent agents, a PR manager, and an entertainment lawyer. Nancy Mendelson Gates (Barnard ’89), kicked off the discussion relaying how career with the United Talent Agency as Co-head of the Television Talent Department wasn’t always fated. After graduating college, she received at MBA from UT Austin and worked with non-profits in NYC. Deciding that such work didn’t suit her, she moved to LA in 1996 and climbed the ranks at UTA as one of their fasted promoted agents. Her life journey was echoed in her sentiments to the audience, as she repeatedly discussed how it is okay for college students to be uncertain as to what they want to do in the future.

Hailing from a different side of the industry, Ira Schreck (Columbia Law ’80) took Gates’ sentiments a step further. Before working for Columbia Pictures as an entertainment lawyer and going on to start a boutique entertainment Law firm in LA, he worked all over the place. From a job at a casino in Reno to working as a cabbie in New York, he reminisced on his adventures as some of the best years of his life. A period of such personal discovery gave him the life experience to one day represent playwright Tony Kushner (Columbia ’78, Class Day Speaker ’04), the oft-spotted Sarah Jessica Parker, and other big names in entertainment. His desire to defend artists arose from his dissatisfaction representing big businesses, which he found too impersonal. (more…)

LectureHop: Words, Words, Words

Thursday evening, the World Leaders Forum hosted its second-ever artist for a lecture. Issac Julien, famous in the art-world for his unique films and installations, gave a talk about his work and the mediums through which he expresses himself. Art School Dropout Briana Last eagerly sat through Julien’s musings and provides you with this latest LectureHop.

For a few Columbians, the excitement of Thursday night stemmed from their eagerness to make the trek to Miller Theatre to hear Isaac Julien discuss his most recent installations and the messages he hopes to get across through various media.

Installation artist, filmmaker, and Mellon Visiting Artist & Thinker at the School of the Arts, Julien is only the second artist to have been invited to a World Leader’s Forum (the first was invited to speak at last year’s Forum). He described this as significant, as “artists are also interested in looking at these questions of how the world comes to this point.”

Julien is known for his breaking down of artistic and cultural barriers. He uses film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, and sculpture to tell his stories. At the same time, he utilizes unexplored images, language, and myths—fiction and nonfiction—to describe events.

Miller Theatre was far from full when Julien began speaking, and audience members began to file out as the artist waxed poetic about his own work in an often overly verbose and intellectual manner. Despite what sometimes came across as trying and heady attempts to make sense of his artwork, the pieces he displayed were ultimately moving anyway for their aesthetic beauty and the messages they conveyed.

The audience had the opportunity to watch excerpts from his installations “Western Union: Small Boats” and his most recent “TEN THOUSAND WAVES”. Both pieces focused on who “gets lost in globalization” and the untranslatability of languages on a deeper narrative level.

It was clear that Julien thinks carefully about his work, perhaps a bit too carefully for the audience members who took early leave. But his exploration of using entirely different “ethnographic frames” to understand the world and the role of aesthetics, “to move beyond the expediency of news,” as he called it, is innovative and fresh, and was a welcome addition to the typical Thursday night.

Julien via Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Procrastination: Six Weeks Left

It’s the final stretch.  Post-break, you might have time for a few distractions.

 Photo via mycaricatures.co.uk


Society, Toleration, and the Jews: Ira Katznelson, professor of political science and history, will discuss toleration “as an alternative to persecution.”  Sounds good to us.  6:15 PM @ Low Rotunda.


Brinkley, Foner, and Stiglitz: Capitalism is in crisis.  How will it affect our politics?  Probably the same way every other economic crisis has: protectionism.  7:30 PM @ 309 Havemeyer.

Indian Chief Justice P.N. Bhagwati: Interpreting the country’s relatively new constitution in favor of broad human rights.  5:00 PM @ 101 Jerome Greene Hall.


New York City at 400: Representations of the island through time; part of a year-long celebration of a really old city.  7:00 PM @ Deutsches Haus 420 W. 116th St


Free screening of Defiance: Hosted by Ferris Reel.  7:30 @ Roone Cinema.

Unexpectedly Dancing in Boise: A CC senior’s thesis has gone off-broadway.  TRF, 8:00 PM @ The Producer’s Club Theatres, 44th St. between 8th and 9th Ave.


Chowdah: Brand new, sexy material.  9:00 PM @ Wien Lounge.

This Week in Procrastination: Slow Edition

Procrastinate close to home.


Jeffrey Sachs, George Soros, Nouriel Roubini: About saving the world economy.  Moderated by John Roberts of CNN, formerly of CBS.  We’ll LectureHop if you can’t make it.  3:30 PM @ Miller Theater.


Men’s Soccer vs. Lafayette: As Bwog noted on Friday, they’ve had a mixed season.  But the uncertainty makes for a more exciting game, right?  7:00 PM @ waytoofaruptown.


Divided We Fall: A film about the change in American mindset towards Sikhs and Muslims in the post-9/11 world.  7:00 PM @ Lerner Cinema.


World Leaders – Global Sustainability: Various people discussing environmental stewardship and the role of New York City residents.  Hosted by PrezBo, moderated by Steven Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of The Earth Institute.  7:00 PM @ Miller Theater.

Weekend Rentals: Fete de la Federation Edition

This past Monday, francophiles and French citizens celebrated Bastille Day. And since gossiping about President Sarkozy and his wife is no way to celebrate the holiday — and Film Forum is no longer featuring its wonderful series on Godard — here are a few suggestions for some French films worth renting.

The Rules of the Game (1939):

Directed by Jean Renoir, the son of the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste and a man regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time, the film is an incendiary satire of the self-absorption within France’s bourgeoisie on the eve of World War II. The film only slowly reaches the point at which the viewer sees that the nation’s elite are feuding with each other over sex while their country faces imminent war. The movie was so powerful that a man set fire to a newspaper at its premiere in an attempt to burn down the theater, while the French government (and later the occupying Nazi regime) banned the film. The Rules of the Game survived and remains both a cinematic achievement ad well as a relevant social critique.


CU Filmmakers Win Big

Tipster Frances Jeffrey-Coker slyly informed Bwog about a film she directed that took home a Best Picture prize last night:

“The nationwide Campus Moviefest competition took place on campus 2 weeks ago, where groups of Columbia students had a week to make a 5-minute movie. The top 16 from Columbia were shown at the AMC theatre [last night] on 84th street, and awards and ipods were given to the best comedy, best drama, and best picture. The link to the video that won best picture, called The Face of Poverty, is here.

The credits at the end mention all the people involved, and I’m not sure what the names were of the best comedy and best drama but I’m sure that someone who sees the posting on bwog if you put it will know.

It will possibly go up against videos in a nationwide competition/viewing being held in the Hudson theatre downtown in Times Square, where the top 20 movies from around the US will be showcased.”

No need to be coy, Frances! We’re proud of you.

Bwog did manage to track down the winner of the Best Comedy prize: Bwog’s own Tony Gong. His ringing endorsement of his film: “Winners of Best Comedy were my friends Evan Omi and Nathan McAlone and I for our surprisingly unfunny movie “‘Boyfriend Material.’” Anyone know who won best drama?


There [Might] Be Oscars: Part the First

Hey, remember the Oscars? They happened last year? They might get cancelled? Sometimes women win them by pretending to be ugly, even if they aren’t ugly, and sometimes if they are? Well, the nominations came out today (surprise! No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood led the tally) and Bwog awards show correspondent Daniel D’Addario puts on his best Mary Hart to tell you that there will indeed be blood – and Oscars! First up: the acting categories.

ddlBest Actor

George Clooney, Michael Clayton

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd

Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Will Win: While I’m glad that Oscar voters looked past the general hackiness of Paul Haggis’s film to see Jones’s great and dignified performance, this is Daniel Day-Lewis’s to lose. His delivery of the line “I drink your milkshake!” alone would have earned him a SAG Award.

Should Win: I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!

Robbed: This category seems pretty solid – although I haven’t seen, and will not likely see, Sweeney Todd, and think that George Clooney has gone from being an affable, good-looking guy to an awards-season threat that must be contained (fuddy-dud Michael Clayton for seven nominations – really?!). If I had to toss another nominee on the pile, I’d take out Clooney and nominate Emile Hirsch for his nature-obsessed, Thoreau-spouting man-child whose glaring immaturity provides Into the Wild with a welcome dose of moral ambiguity (seemingly against the director’s will, making Hirsch’s performance a masterful act of subversion). Or perhaps Javier Bardem, who was nominated for supporting but played the lead role as a superhuman killer in No Country for Old Men. Especially on the men’s side, 2007 was nothing if not a year of obsessions.


Year in Review: Films

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us at Bwog! Were your presents not intellectually-stimulating enough? No worries! As our gift to you, we give you Bwog film connoisseur Christian Kamongi’s cinematic picks of 2007, just a little something something to casually reference in 2008.

10. The Wayward Cloud

Tsai-Ming Liang’s visceral sing-along porno was not just a moralistic polemic against a sex-ravaged culture, but also a lustrously beautiful collage of post-modern romance.

9. Zodiac

Harris Savides’ camerawork and David Fincher’s showmanship combine to illustrate an era and provide a narrative that perfectly mirrors the film’s incapacitation of traditional filmic indexicality in favor of digital analog. Unarguably the most important and influential film of the year.

8. The Boss of It All

On the outside Lars von Trier produces an office comedy filled with peculiar and off-putting Scandinavian humor. However, a closer analysis reveals a stunning testament to subjectivity even in the unfriendly realms of genre, predatory capitalism, and automatic digital editing. (more…)

From the Issue: Baumbach on Barnard

The December issue will be here soon, hopefully before you all scatter for the holidays. For now, a little teaser while you wait.

margotMargot at the Wedding

Directed by Noah Baumbach

93 minutes

Now playing  

It’s hard to miss the academic snobbery of Noah Baumbach’s characters in Margot at the Wedding. In his follow-up to The Squid and the Whale, a group of forty-something writers, whose clique centers around the talented and loathsome Margot (Nicole Kidman), drop their intellectual credentials shamelessly. To wit: Margot’s husband and lover studied together at Stanford, and her husband teaches at NYU. Her flaky sister spent time at Bennington. And the neighborhood temptress is headed to Harvard, prompting Margot to muse that plenty of “stupid people” get accepted there. And where did Margot study?  She issues an answer in two clipped syllables:  


At the screening on the Upper West Side, this line earned gratified chuckles. For the subset of moviegoers who know Columbia, the revelation that Margot went to Barnard grants a new insight into her character. For a moment, we understand Margot’s blithe meanness because we—the sophisticated Manhattan intellectuals that we are—see her traits in ourselves, or at least in some of the English majors who walk among us. She is simultaneously overeducated and ill-equipped for human interaction – it makes perfect sense that she is a creature of an insular school on a small island.  (more…)

Advice in Retrospect(ives)

Looking for an intellectually rigorous way to procrastinate during reading week? Scrabulous isn’t doing it for you? Bwog film expert Christian Kamongi shares his picks for the Pasolini, Ophuls, and Sembene retrospectives.

Heretical Epiphanies: The Cinematic Pilgrimages of Pier Paolo Pasolini

Marxist, poet, homosexual, pious Catholic, and renowned intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of the landmark figures of postwar European cinema. Whether it’s his adaptations of classical texts (Canterbury Tales, Decameron, Arabian Nights), an extraordinarily orthodox depiction of Jesus, or neo-realist influenced explorations of the Roman underworld his films share spontaneity and intellectual virtuosity. Lincoln Center will be presenting a retrospective which will include Salo, one of the most controversial works in cinematic history as well as one of the most difficult to retain (don’t bother trying for the Criterion version of it, it’s literally out of print).

Must See: The Gospel According to St. Matthew

November 28th-December 4th, Walter Reade Theater, 65th St. and Lincoln Center (Above Alice Tully Hall)


Film Review: “Control”

Sure it’s been out for a while, but Anton Corbijn’s Ian Curtis biopic Control is still screening. Bwog correspondent Jamies Johns reviews the film and philosophizes on the nature of the rockumentary.

Most of us know the story by now: Ian Curtis, lead singer of post-punk outfit Joy Division, hung himself at the age of 23, leaving behind a wife, a young daughter and a handful of impeccable recordings. Curtis’ mystique and tragic death have almost begun to overshadow the music of his band and Control, a film about Curtis made by famed video director Anton Corbijn, will probably only serve to further the cult of Ian Curtis.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, because Corbijn’s portrait of Curtis is the only one I have seen that looks fairly at Curtis’ life with a true appreciation for him and the music he produced without reverting to idol worship. The film is one of the best rock bios I have seen; it is not only beautiful, thanks to Corbijn’s use of black and white photography, but it also feels, for lack of a better word, real. Although Curtis would later become an icon, for most of his life he was an average guy. The characters in Control are not distant figures that lived in the 1970s and with whom we can feel no connection. Instead, the deft performances by Sam Riley as Curtis and Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis, his wife, make Control emotionally devastating. We feel the tender moments between Curtis and his wife and his mistress, Annik Honore, and we also equally feel the suffocation Curtis felt towards the end of his life.


Film Review: “Bella” and its previews

Bwog’s resident film aficionado Learned Foote talks about the new film Bella and also includes mini-reviews of previews! Who says you can’t judge a movie by its trailer?

Bella is about a former soccer player (Eduardo Verástegui) with a tragic past—though I’ll try to avoid too much plot description. After his crazy capitalist brother (Manny Perez) fires a pregnant girl (Tammy Blanchard) from his restaurant, the soccer guy takes the girl to his family’s house for dinner. If I could end my plot description with this unassuming list of events, Bella would be a high-quality film. More on that later. 

In 2006, Bella won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival. Past winners include successes like Amélie, The Princess Bride, and Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon. Intriguingly, Bella also scored big at the Heartland Film Festival, which has previously bestowed honors on films like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Princess Diaries, and Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie. (For those of you who don’t know about VeggieTales, it’s a collection of Bible stories retold with vegetables in all the main roles. The interesting array of Bella’s awards continues. According to Wikipedia, the director—Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, an American citizen born in Mexico—received the “American by Choice” (!) award from the United State’s Department of Citizenship for Bella’s “positive contribution to Latino art and culture in the US.”  

My point is that Bella has quite an interesting array of messages. On the one hand, it’s about grittiness (when we see apples on the screen, they have bruises) and cultural diversity in New York City (by the way, I appreciate every film that has characters learning Spanish—hurrah for slow, measured dialogue). On the other hand, it’s about the power of family, with an unabashedly pro-faith/pro-life message (this stance may throw off many Columbia students, although they seem to handle Six Feet Under pretty well).  (more…)

Bwog Review: “The Man From London” at the NYFF

As the New York Film Festival comes to a close, Bwog contributor Christian Kamongi gives his take on one of the films that may soon hit a theater near you.

londonThe Man From London
(Official Selection for Competition at the 60th Annual Cannes Film Festival and the 45th New York Film Festival)


Release Date: The Man From London is currently without a distributor.


Synopsis: A night watchman Maloin discovers a murder take place and retrieves the suitcase of the victim.


    As far as Bela Tarr is concerned, no other contemporary filmmaker has drenched his work in such chromatic disparities. He has repeatedly adapted chiaroscuro with a haunting mobility, ultimately creating an effect with black and white as expressive in its strikingly multifarious tones as a Technicolor picture. Unfortunately, his latest project underlies his mastery in the earlier referred to areas but fails on a narrative level to match his previous work. Where is the haunting poignancy of Damnation, the sweeping personal historicity of Satantango, or apocalyptic humanism of The Werckmeister Harmonies ? Luckily for Tarr, this is one of the few substantial criticisms that can be leveled against the feature, and it’s more a disappointment than it is a criticism.

    For most viewers, even the most hardened adherents to art-house ethos, Tarr is a no go, his takes last as long as Jancsó and Angelopoulos without the splendidly crafted mobility or weighty storylines, the lack of action in his features would put The Brown Bunny to shame. In fact, if you were wondering why Gus van Sant decided to undertake his recent Death Trilogy (Elephant, etc.) it was done as largely a homage to Tarr. I was displeased to be reminded of the popular view of Tarr during the screening of the feature when about one-tenth of the audience walked out. My comrades’ first warning was the first scene in which Tarr takes thirty-five minutes to display what most films do in thirty five seconds. The camera epically pans up a ship, with a proximity to its haul that creates a surreal effect that almost leads to the viewer discerning that this is not a ship as much as it is a dance between light and darkness perfectly splintered.