Monrovia, Indiana, the location of Frederick Wiseman’s latest institutional case study, is the sort of township that’s hard to remember by name unless you’ve heard it a couple of times. Those who pass through this Midwestern enclave are likely to forge through without much thought, its flatland, sights, and sounds uniformly demonstrating an active disinterest in capturing a tourist’s attention. But as Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest utters “but hey, I’m living here every day.” And so, Wiseman’s Monrovia, Indiana examines this township of a little over a thousand, a community that, like so many like it, serves as a sort of cautionary reminder of what it means to live, actually live and subsequently die, in America.Read More
The dangers of discussing Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary In Jackson Heights, a sociologically robust portrait of a Queens neighborhood known for its diverse population, is that you gravitate toward composing a top five list of your favorite scenes and writing about that; something I hope to avoid. Based on his recent films, beginning with At Berkeley and followed by National Gallery, I don’t think it would be unfair to call Wiseman a maximalist. At 190 minutes, In Jackson Heights is only the second longest of those films (Berkley clocking in at over four hours, National Gallery at a comparatively brief 181 minutes). Not to suggest that length strictly applies to the concept of maximalism, but it’s clear that Wiseman’s exploration of minute details has required an ample runtime to elaborate on the profundity of his subjects. As such, the results have been transportive. Through his keen observational approach, Wiseman’s maximalist tendencies promote a distinct sensitivity to his surroundings. The Berkeley campus exudes warmth, the corridors of the National Gallery feel stepped in and conquered, and with In Jackson Heights, the meticulous details of Wiseman’s craft persuades you into submitting yourself to the milieu – you are a citizen of this community. This goes beyond superficial sightseeing or touristy asides. From the bookended aerial images that ornate the picture, you’re beak-deep in Jackson Heights.Read More
National Gallery screens at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center this Friday and continues its first run through December 4th. For ticket information, please check out the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website here.
Walking through the galleries of paintings and sculptures in the Art Institute of Chicago, one may ask what makes a painting relevant today. With the museum located in the downtown area near the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Millennium Park, and multitudes of other tourist attractions, what makes this all vital? As I inspected the considerable offerings at the Art Institute, marveling at such pieces like Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day and contemporary offerings like David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (a sprayed enamel piece of a drowning swimmer), the answer is difficult to convey through language; a je ne sais quoi so to speak. But like film, the beauty comes from an internal response that one has to a specific work of art. It’s the sort of visceral and cerebral reaction that feels one of a kind, an emotion that feels incapable of being reproduced. Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery understands this inherent importance associated with observing art and fixes his attention on an institution that houses it - an institution that must reconcile competing ideals of artistic integrity and financial security. Like Wiseman’s previous documentary, At Berkeley, National Gallery is an intensive piece that explores the many crevices that compose the English institution. It is a considerable work and one of the finest films made about how we interpret art.Read More
Consider the value of an education. A professor featured in At Berkeley briefly discusses the notion that an education never depreciates in value, at least when compared to the off lot depreciation of an automobile. But in an increasingly globalized society, aren’t certain majors and accreditations more considerable in value than others? Differential tuition costs based on majors have become an all too common feature of elite universities, with business and mathematic programs costing students a great deal more. The logic stems from the notion that the student majoring in these subjects are more likely to have a higher paying job once completing their undergraduate studies, thereby being financially capable of paying off their loans. Conversely, students of lower paying majors still face the usual tuition hikes that are a staple of virtually any institution of higher learning. But what does it matter? The overarching factor, the concept that Frederick Wiseman so expertly explores, is the diluted sense of how to achieve a measure of possessive individualism. If institutions like Berkeley only reinforce societal concerns of accumulating wealth then is the education itself, the quest to amass knowledge, compulsory?Read More