Department of Herzog: The Minnesota Declaration

Werner Herzog (photo by Erinc Salor)

Werner Herzog (photo by Erinc Salor)

Back in 1999, the always forward-looking Walker Art Center in Minneapolis hosted a career retrospective for the Quixote-like filmmaker Werner Herzog. He was years past his early narrative successes like Aquirre, the Wrath of God and yet to hit the later bumper crop of documentaries that started with 2005’s Grizzly Man.

Still, Herzog came bristling with ideas, like the intellectual guerrilla he is. As part of the event, he issued his “Minnesota Declaration: Truth and Fact in Documentary Cinema.” It’s a unique 12-point manifesto, particularly coming from the man who regularly admits to fictionalizing parts of his nonfiction films. In between the snark, however, you can see his fiercely individualistic stance on life, art, and purpose threaded through.

A few worthy callouts:

  • “Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.”
  • “Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.”
  • “Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: ‘You can’t legislate stupidity.'”

This may be the only time in history Werner Herzog and Jesse Ventura occupied the same theoretical space.

Department of Weekend Reading: January 16, 2015

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Screening Room: Tom Hardy in ‘Locke’

Tom Hardy in 'Locke' (A24)

Tom Hardy in ‘Locke’ (A24)

In the summer of 2014, a little film named Locke came and went from a few cinemas in an eyeblink. It’s not hard on the surface to see why: The secretive trailer promises only a one-man show: Tom Hardy in a car for about an hour-and-a-half, grousing and pleading on the phone. Just as audiences failed to find it, the Golden Globes also ignored the film, as most likely the Oscars will too.

Do yourself a favor and check out Locke, which is available on DVD and VOD now. My review is at Short Ends and Leader:

The prospect of spending an hour and a half with an actor in a car while they sweet-talk and argue with people on the phone would normally be straight tedium … But when the actor is Tom Hardy, it’s a different story. In Steven Knight’s spellbinding Locke, Hardy darts through the tense screenplay with such graceful ease that his work feels more like something lived than performed. By the time this downbeat nail-biter is done, it feels justified to finally go ahead and say that Hardy is easily one of the greatest actors of his generation…

Here’s the trailer:

Quote of the Day: Golden Globes edition

Recreating the march in 'Selma' (Paramount Pictures)

Recreating the march in ‘Selma’ (Paramount Pictures)

In Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s monologue at the start of last night’s more anti-climactic than usual Golden Globe Awards, they referenced the film Selma (which, again, tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leading the dramatic civil rights march through what was essentially enemy territory in Alabama in 1965).

It starts with a mediocre gag and follows up with one of the most pointed lines of any recent awards show:

… in the 1960s, thousands of black people from all over America came together with one common goal: To form Sly and the Family Stone [some laughter] … But the movie Selma is about the American civil rights movement that totally worked and now everything’s fine.

Writer’s Corner: Finding Out What You Don’t Want to Know

jamesbaldwin1By the time James Baldwin gave this interview to The Paris Review in 1984, his time was past as one of the writers whose voice was loudest in the great postwar arguments over what America would and should be. He was living in semi-exile in France at the time of the interview, heading into his 60s, but still full of burnt truths and hard-fought advice. Such as:

  • “The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.”
  • “Painters have often taught writers how to see. And once you’ve had that experience, you see differently.”
  • [On starting out reviewing books for small change] “I had to read everything and had to write all the time, and that’s a great apprenticeship.”
  • “I doubt whether anyone—myself at least—knows how to talk about writing.”
  • “I do a lot of rewriting. It’s very painful. You know it’s finished when you can’t do anything more to it, though it’s never exactly the way you want it.”

In Books: The Best Nonfiction of 2014

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(image by pepo)

After PopMatters published their best fiction of 2014 feature earlier in the week, they ran the (perhaps more serious in tone, but still somehow more fun) compilation of the awesomest (yes, that’s a word) nonfiction titles that came out last year.

greilmarcus1Doing my part, I wrote about:

  • Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, Steve Almond
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Pikkety
  • The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs, Greil Marcus
  • The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, Rick Perlstein
  • The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, Olivia Laing

You can find the feature here.

Department of Weekend Reading: January 2, 2015

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