Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mothers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Adventures in DC Part 2

This weekend with friends visiting for the holidays we hit a lot of museums (and margaritas. shhhh). My friends are almost to a one culture lovers so museums are often good options. One of the best things we saw was something called The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image (closing this coming weekend, here's a NYT review]. All of the video installations were about the way the motion picture portrays or pretend realism. My favorite piece in the roundup was by Candice Breitz and simply titled Mother (pictured below)

In the supremely well edited six screen extravaganza Faye Dunaway as Mommie Dearest, Susan Sarandon & Julia Roberts from Stepmom, Meryl Streep the ex Mrs. Kramer, Diane Keaton The Good Mother and Shirley Maclaine ...from the Edge have what amounts to a schizophrenic tearful and angry conversation filled with interrupted monologues and asides about being mothers and women. Fused together and separated from the context of their films, Keaton actually rivals Dunaway's camp icon for overacting and Maclaine comes across as the most sane. "I am...[slams piano]... STILL. HERE." This, as you may have guessed, is unsettling. Clearly none of them have been taking their meds. It's very very funny.

Thought provoking too, sure, in its voyeuristic way but I mention the funny because too few people in museums ever laugh. Another piece in the exhibit lampoons the E! True Hollywood Story pretending great typical rise-and-fall fame for Francesco Vezzoli following that nifty Trailer for the Remake of Caligula in which he convinced Gerard Butler, Helen Mirren, Milla Jovovich, Courtney Love and more to star. His E! prank follows all of the beats of those shallow infotainment documentaries so well that anyone who sat next to me in the room didn't get that it was a spoof. (I saw the ending three times -- trying to let friends catch up) and both times when it ended conversations were along the lines of "I have never heard of this guy. He's famous?" or "Did he really die?" Before you think this is a Nathaniel feeling superior moment I assure you it was more along the lines of confusion. The exhibit is called "Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image" and every piece is about how the presented real is never real. I really think misunderstandings arise because people don't expect humor when they go to see "Art". Certainly not humor that pairs Dame Helen Mirren, gay porn, Dietrich, biopic cliché and infotainment specials.

P.S. There was also a companion piece to Mother called Father which featured Dustin Hoffman, Steve Martin, Jon Voight, Tony Danza (!?) and Harvey Keitel but it wasn't as interesting. Men never are. But give me six Hollywood moms on the verge of nervous breakdowns? Bliss.
Because you've been good museum attendees today, here's a retro treat. It's Shirley Maclaine's house rattling "I'm Still Here" from Postcards from the Edge.

How Maclaine wasn't Oscar nominated for this turn as the Debbie Reynolds-esque mom in this movie is one of the great mysteries of the 1990s.


ryansumera said...

i love shirley in this but just for fun i wonder who else could have done debbie?

Anonymous said...

debbie probably was dying to do debbie. shirley got the last laugh...debbie stole "Molly Brown" from under her back in the 60's.

suzanne pleshette probably would have been a hoot.

Greg said...

Nathaniel! Unbelievable! I'm putting something up on this tomorrow. Just this weekend we went down and caught it before it went away. I like the "Mother" and "Father" pieces enough but it was "Fantome Creole" that really stirred my senses. I watched all 23 minutes entranced. Anyway, I'll write that up tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I love POSTCARDS and am also a bit perplexed as to why she was not nominated that year...or the year before for playing Weezer.

Anonymous said...

I too think it's baffling. I thought she should have won, let alone been nominated. One of the most impressive supporting turns of the decade. It's all show, but there's acres going on beneath the surface, and she absolutely nails every single line.


Anonymous said...

oh yes 2 fine turns and ouiser yes better than roberts and a total hoot yes it is broad but so is pfte but she is wow in both.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I meant Ouiser, not Weezer. How embarrassing for me ;-)