Friday, January 19, 2007

Surprising factoid of the day

Americans are the most frequent moviegoers in the world, going to a flick an average of 5.04 times a year. Rounding out the top 5 are: Australia (4.32), Spain (2.95) France (2.91) and the U.K. (2.82 times).
from the Quad Cinema E-news

I would have thought the French would be higher.

More on Buchwald's death

To follow up on my post of yesterday, Art Buchwald's last column has now been released. But it was actually written last February when he went into the hospice. More recently, he did a video interview with the New York Times, for its new "The Last Word" feature, where people get to sort of record their own obituary. In pure Buchwaldian style he opens with, "Hi. I'm Art Buchwald and I just died."

Thanks to David Marc Fischer, for his post, who in turn cites this.

Plat du jour


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The man who wouldn't die finally does

Art Buchwald has finally died. Last March I wrote how he had left the hospice where he had gone to die, after refusing dialysis when his kidneys failed. He lived almost a year in that condition--apparently his kidneys still had a little function.

My original post last March contains Buchwald's place in my life, so there's no need to repeat it. American journalism has lost one of its best, and he will be missed by a great many.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

12,000 visitors

Yesterday this blog recorded its 12,000th visit. Despite my decrease in posting, people still seem to want to read it. It's not just people doing searches for Clayelle Dalferes or "kicking testicles," both of which do get a stream of people here. What's a bit surprising is that the number of people searching for supermodel Caprice Bourret has greatly decreased of late.

Anyhow, thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NYJFF: The Rape of Europa

The second film I saw in the New York Jewish Film Festival was
The Rape of Europa. This is a documentary on what happened to the art treasures in Europe during World War II. Based on Lynn H. Nicholas' book of the same name, the film covers a great many facets of what the Nazis, Soviets, French, Italians and Americans did before, during and after the hostilities. It also covers looted Judaica, and even touches upon the ordinary houshold goods the Nazis confiscated from the Jews of Paris.

Some of this was familiar to me, at least in general. I knew that the Nazis, Hermann Goering in particular, grabbed whatever they could get their hands on. I didn't know that the Nazi officials were just emulating Hitler in amassing their art collections. I knew they suppressed the work of Jewish artists, though I did not realize they were also opposed to all non-representational art. I knew Hitler was a failed artist, though I had never heard the story of how he was rejected by an art school in Vienna, by a board with a number of Jews on it. And I had never seen examples of his work, which are shown in the film. I did not know of the museum he planned to build to hold his art collection in Linz, his birthplace and intended final resting place.

But the main thing new to me was the existence of the American and other nationality "Monuments Men"--a small group of art historians assigned to protect any monuments and artwork that were recaptured. Their stories were the most compelling part of the film, along with an interview of a French Jew who was assigned to a slave-labor camp, whose task was to process the property confiscated from deported Jewish homes. Eventually, he had to work on his own family's goods!

The Rape of Europa also spent a good bit of time on the restitution of stolen artworks to their rightful owners, or at least to their families. This is a continuing process. The film opens with a depiction of the attempts to regain Gustav Klimt's "The Gold Portrait" of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Bloch-Bauer's niece, who is interviewed. The Austrian government claimed it and several other Klimt works had been left to them in Bloch-Bauer's 1923 will, and it was exhibited in the Austrian Galerie Belvedere in Vienna. The film ends with the niece's success--after a seven year legal battle it was ruled that the will was negated by the theft by the Nazis and their Austrian allies. The portrait was then purchased by Ronald Lauder (the son of Estee Lauder) for a reported $135 million. He bought it for his Neue Galerie--which is a block from where I'm sitting now!

The film tried to cover a huge amount of ground--too much, in my opinion. Some things were covered in great detail--others were just touched upon, such as why the Nazis never tried to grab any of the Louvre's holdings, which the French evacuated to the south. There was no mention of the fate of the French spy in the Nazis' Paris art looting operation--she managed to record the rightful owners and destinations of all of the art treasures looted from the Jews of France.

The screening, which I saw at the Jewish Museum, was followed by a Q&A with a couple of the film's directors, and Lynn H. Nicholas. They did tie up a few of the loose ends. But the film itself is over-ambitious, and because of that fails to give the full story of several of its topics.

Plat du jour


Monday, January 15, 2007

NYJFF: Gorgeous! / Comme t'y es belle!

Last night was our first movie at this year's New York Jewish Film Festival, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Gorgeous! / Comme t'y es belle! It was billed as the "Sephardic Sex in (sic) the City," But I saw very little that made this film Jewish, let alone Sephardic. Yes, the four main characters were Sephardic Jewish women, and they were seen celebrating Jewish holidays, but that was just about it. Otherwise they were simply upper-middle class Frenchwomen, looking for love, as far as I could tell.

Basically, it was a fun light comedy, definitely in the vein of Sex and the City--unrealistic people doing unlikely things. The main difference was that three of the four women were mothers. The funniest part of the plot was one of the characters' entering into a same-sex civil union with her Arabic au pair, so the latter wouldn't be deported (it also brought in one of the most serious parts of the whole movie, the reaction of the au pair's brother).

The film has sold over a million tickets in France. It probably shattered a lot of people's stereotypes about Sephardic Jewish women there. But I don't think the film said anything about real Sephardic Jewish women in France at all.

Plat du jour


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Back in New York

In case anyone was wondering why I haven't posted anything in the last few days, I was off in Cleveland, meeting with the lawyer and accountant for my mom's estate, and helping my siblings dispose of her stuff. Aside from getting her clothes together for donation, we divided up her costume jewelry (I got a few nice things I'll be able to use). We also shipped a carton of books back home, mostly things that caught my wife's eye.

We cleaned out a dozen huge drawers that sort of served as the house's attic. There was all kinds of old stuff, such my father's course materials from the training he got when he became an IRS agent when he returned from WWII, bank statements from the 50's, and thousands of photos. These were from both sides of my family, going way back to when my father was a young man in the late 30's, and when my mother was a baby in the 20's. And some, from my mother's family, were certainly older than that. My sister was lamenting at the pictures of our grandmother, whom she resembles greatly. She wasn't really happy at how she might look in a few years.

But outside of the pictures of my grandparents and their descendents, we were only guessing at who we were looking at. There's no one left to identify the people pictured. It's a shame, but we threw almost all of those out. We did keep the souvenir documents and photos my grandfather brought back from WWI.

There were also tons of pictures of me as a baby and a small child--I was my parents' first. There were some of my sister, 2½ years younger, and only a few of my brother. I brought back an assortment.

So now I'm home, getting caught up with e-mail, snail mail, paying bills, etc. The transmitter for my wife's internet connection seems to have died. Later I'll go out and get a wi-fi one, since her new notebook computer is equipped for that.