Movie fans – especially those who love to see something a bit out of the ordinary or hear the inside skinny from folks in the filmmaking business – have three intriguing evenings in store over the coming week at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck.
This Sunday, July 7 beginning at 8:15 p.m., Upstate continues its occasional series of “Staff Pick” presentations, as Devin Pickering picks the brain of screenwriter Jacob Brackman following a screening of his best-known cinematic work, Bob Rafelson’s rather grim The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). For his follow-up to his Five Easy Pieces, Rafelson dug even deeper into the crushed dreams of post-‘60s America, casting Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern as estranged siblings David and Jason: the former a depressive late-night-radio talk show host, the latter an extroverted con man who drags his younger brother to Atlantic City to help him with a real estate scam. Ellyn Burstyn and Scatman Crothers co-star, and the great László Kovács did the cinematography.
Brackman also wrote the screenplay for Allan Moyle’s Times Square (1980) and was executive producer on Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978), but he’s perhaps better-known as a lyricist who collaborated with Carly Simon to write many of her hits. He is the widower of the late singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mindy Jostyn.
Then, on Wednesday, July 10 at 8:15, Upstate will host a screening of the documentary Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012), directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre. And the artist will indeed be present, as the film’s subject will participate in a question-and-answer session following the film.
The Serbian-born Abramovic, who is currently working toward opening an institute dedicated to performance art in the City of Hudson, to be called the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI), began her career in the 1970s with a controversial series of Russian Roulettelike performances that involved exposing herself randomly to physical pain and danger. In 1988 she turned the breakup of a long romance with the West German performance artist Ulay into an epic performance piece: The two started walking from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and declared their relationship finished when they finally met in the middle.
But it was her 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City – the subject of the documentary – that really caught the public’s attention. For six weeks Abramovic sat, immobile and completely silent, at a table in the Museum’s atrium, allowing hundreds of visitors (notably including Lady Gaga) to take turns sitting in a chair facing her. The artist’s avowed intent was “to create a luminous state of being and then transmit that to the guest through an energy dialogue.” The Artist Is Present became a social media sensation, with participants blogging about what a profound spiritual experience it had been to sit with the artist; another artist, Pippin Barr, even created a videogame based on the marathon performance.
At the Upstate event, Abramovic is expected to speak primarily about her new initiative in Hudson. Devoted to time-based and immaterial art, the Institute’s mission is to seek productive unions among the arts, science, technology, spirituality and education.
The presentation at Upstate the following night, Thursday, July 11, may intrigue Almanac readers who have had their interest piqued (or their hackles raised) by the occasional Night Sky column in which astronomer Bob Berman argues that nuclear power generation technology has become safe enough to use. At 7 p.m., Academy Award-nominated documentarian Robert Stone (Radio Bikini, Earth Days, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, Oswald’s Ghost) will be on hand to screen and talk about his newest film, Pandora’s Promise, which makes the argument that nuclear energy is humankind’s last, best hope for reversing the process of global warming.
The event, whose $20 entry fee is a benefit for Upstate’s current campaign to upgrade the theatre’s projection capabilities to modern digital technology, will include what promises to be a very lively audience discussion after the screening, followed by a party at Liberty Restaurant. To learn more about the film, visit https://pandoraspromise.com.