Blog Archives

“Brillo Box 3c Off” (premiering August 7, on HBO)

Brillo box

July 30, 2017.  In the new documentary, “Brillo Box 3c Off,” filmmaker Lisanne Skyler has created a fascinating, playful, energetic, funny and highly enjoyable, multi-faceted, personal documentary about pop art in New York City in the 60s, her childhood, her parents and her family’s relationship to art, one piece of art in particular.

Ever since humans applied paint to cave walls some 40,000 years ago, people have debated the question, “What is art?” “Brillo Box 3c Off” addresses this question, as well as the ongoing controversy over who, or what, determines what art is worth. Skyler’s story revolves around pop artist Andy Warhol’s practice of re-creating the design of cardboard Brillo Boxes, in wood, and calling them art. In one of the film’s many archival interview clips, Warhol is asked why he doesn’t simply create art that is original instead of copying other’s works. Warhol, nonchalantly, and with easy candor, replies that it’s just easier to do. Warhol, notorious for his artistic appropriation, is probably best know for his paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans. To this end, one critic, upon attending one of Warhol’s shows quipped, “Is this an art gallery or Gristedes’ warehouse?” Read the rest of this entry

First Cousin Once Removed

Edwin Conig, the subject of "First Cousin Once Removed"

Edwin Honig, the subject of “First Cousin Once Removed”

Documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner

Documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner

“I have no night of what I knew in the morning.” Edwin Honig.

“If I was interested in family, which I was, then I wanted to go towards my own,” is how documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner describes a good portion of his work.  Berliner’s filmography includes the documentaries “Nobody’s Business” (1996) about his father, Oscar, and “Intimate Stranger” (1991) about his grandfather, Joseph Cassuto.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Berliner, a filmmaker I have long admired, to discuss his work, particularly his new documentary, “First Cousin Once Removed,” about his cousin Edwin Honig.  “First Cousin Once Removed” will premiere on HBO, September 23 at 9:00 pm.  It is not to be missed.

Edwin Honig was a well-known poet, critic and translator.  He was knighted by the President of Portugal and the King of Spain for his work as a translator of Spanish and Portugese poems and literature.  Honig also established a writing program at Brown University, where he taught. “First Cousin Once Removed,” is a lyrical, poetic, humorous, sad, uplifting and ultimately life affirming chronicle of Honig, recorded over a period of five years, as he experiences and reacts to Alzheimer’s as only a poet could.   Honig died on May 25, 2011. Read the rest of this entry

“On Cinema: Alexander Payne” at New York Film Festival

Director Alexander Payne

On October 15 the New York Film Festival presented “On Cinema: Alexander Payne,” in which the director (“Election,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways” and the soon to be released “The Descendants”) talked about influential films in his life.  The event was sponsored by HBO, moderated by NYFF Selection Committee Chairman Richard Pena and took place in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.

Payne proved to be an affable, frank and intelligent subject who frequently turned Pena’s questions around, playfully shooting them back at his interviewer.  Interspersed throughout the talk, Payne showed clips from four influential films: Anthony Mann’s “The Naked Spur,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte,” Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” and Akira Kurosawa’s “Red Beard.”  Payne also brought a 16m print of an early film by director Carroll Ballard, “The Perils of Priscilla,” a lively, imaginative short which showed the world from the point of view of an abandoned house cat.  Payne said it was one of the best movies ever made. Read the rest of this entry