Art Imitates Art

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bather Arranging Her Hair, 1885, oil on canvas. The Clark Art InstituteOne of my favorite paintings at the Clark Institute in Williamstown is Renoir’s Bather Arranging her Hair. The tasteful nude shows Suzanne Valadon, a model Renoir painted several times, sitting with her back to the artist and, well, arranging her hair.

Renoir has numerous paintings of nudes who are arranging their hair, bathing, drying off, standing up, sitting down — and even another painting called Bather Arranging her Hair. It was definitely a thing for him.

I like to imaging that the conversations between artist and model went something like this:

“Pierre — what shall I do, just sit here,” she’d ask. Renoir would scratch his head. “Oh, I don’t know — how about you arrange your hair.”

When I first saw this painting, it reminded me of something from my childhood. No, nude bathers arranging their hair was not part of my childhood, but one did appear in funny scene a movie that I loved: Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines.

Sure, “Frenchman painting a nude woman at he beach” is an old trope (for good reason), but I love the similarity between the painting and the scene in the movie. The inspiration is unmistakable. Nitpickers may point out that the Renoir painted Bather some 25 years before the movie is set in 1910, but c’mon, man.

You can imagine how naughty this part of the movie seemed to me, even as a little boy. It’s certainly 50+ years since I first saw it, but it all came rushing back to me as I stood in that room at The Clark which holds like a billion dollars worth of art. I hope the people nearby didn’t hear me giggle.

Side note: If you’ve never been to The Clark, you should plan a visit. It’s an amazing place, and admission is free until the end of March. Plus, if you go now you avoid the Berkshires summer throng, so there’s that.

You Oughta Be In Pictures

Oh, sure it’s exciting when Hollywood comes to town, isn’t it? Nothing gets the heart pumping like making a movie: a bunch of trucks and crew and lights and cameras — and oh, sometimes a famous actor might even be spotted on the street. Holy shit, this ain’t Smallbany anymore, it’s Hollywood on the Hudson!

There’s no denying that film and TV production can sometimes be an economic driver — especially if you buy the numbers floated by our local film commissions. These groups have gotten adept at greasing the skids when showbiz comes to town, helping expedite the sort of clearances and permits that are necessary to take over your block. Closing down streets, restricting parking, disrupting business, doing crazy stuff like dumping tons of period style dirt everywhere — you can’t just roll up and do all that without loads of cooperation.

So, here’s a question for you: Name one other business where a municipality will bend over backwards so completely to accommodate a commercial endeavor. You can’t because it doesn’t exist — but come to town making a movie? Heaven and earth will shift to accommodate your every need.

A sandwich shop I frequent on State Street recently complained on social media that they weren’t informed that a film shoot would block the entrance to their store and make it hard for customers to get their lunch. What the hell is their problem? How could it be that a small business is more interested in making a few bucks on a random Tuesday in August than basking in the thrill and excitement that a film crew brings to the sidewalk?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Sometimes it feels like the people who tout attracting film and TV production to town are a bit starstruck by it all. It’s understandable, because the glamour of movie making tends to rub off on those who get close. Unfortunately, the stink of it rubs off on everyone else, like the people who just want to bring in their groceries, get their kids to daycare, park their cars, or yes, get a sandwich for lunch.

All the Editor’s Men

It was interesting to read Harry Rosenfeld’s take on “The Post” as reported by Paul Grondahl in the Times Union. Rosenfeld knows a thing or two about the Washington Post. Before coming to Albany to serve as editor of the TU, he was the Post’s metro editor and oversaw a couple of guys named Woodward and Bernstein. Speaking of movies, Rosenfeld is a key character in All the President’s Men, played by Jack Ward.

Anyway, Grondahl went to see the movie with Harry Rosenfeld, and if you look past all the misty-eyed tribe of ink stained wretches bullshit, it’s a pretty cool story. However, I can’t help but imagine Rosenfeld and his wife talking out loud during the movie, because that’s what old people do while watching a movie at the Spectrum.

“Look at the hair. Ben Bradlee didn’t comb his hair that way.”

“The chair?! What’s wrong with his chair?”

“No, his HAIR. It’s all wrong. Too long. And he parted his on the other side.”

And on and on and on. You can turn around and tell them to shut up, but it won’t do any good.

By the way, after the movie, Grondahl writes, they all went for “a nosh.” Oh, really? Did the Rosenfeld’s also kvetch about the schlep to the diner? Oy.

At the Movies

Spectrum TheatreI went to the Spectrum Theatre recently, and it turns out they no longer accept these pre-paid passes.

The theatre changed hands in 2015. The new owners bought the Spectrum’s funky hippy-dippy indie vibe, the art exhibits, the homey slideshow ads, the cake and cookies and popcorn with real butter, but there’s one thing they didn’t buy: a long-term commitment to honor these cards.

At the box office, I explained that it’s not cool to turn down the passes. The box office clerk explained back to me, “I can’t help you. Call customer service if you have a complaint.”

And he handed me this fortune cookie-sized piece of paper.

Landmark Theatres
Landmark wants to hear from you. Or not.

The woman I talked to at Landmark was impatient with my call. I suggested that when they bought the theatre, they also bought the Spectrum’s loyal long-time customers — and their passes. “Too bad,” she said. I was obviously not the first person to bother her on this topic.

No biggy. I can afford to buy movie tickets and I’ll still go to the Spectrum.

But one more thing: the passes you and I bought may not be any good, but it turns out that the former owners — Keith Pickard, Sugi Pickard, Scott Meyer and Annette Nanes — got a nice bonus as part of the purchase deal. Keith Pickard told the Times Union:

“We have passes forever. That was negotiated. That was part of the negotiating deal — that we have movie passes for as long as Landmark is leasing the property. Don’t forget,” he added, “we’re film lovers.”

Well. that’s terrific. Too bad your long-time customers — the film lovers who patronized your business for decades — don’t get to use the passes they purchased “forever”.

Keith Pickard also said:

“We’re very happy to be a part of this, and we think Landmark will serve the community well. … The legacy is very important to all of us, and I can’t stress this enough. We feel we have a good partner for this. It’s stewardship.”

You’ve got your legacy, Mr. Pickard. And your lifetime pass.


One might suggest that having Ron Burgundy co-anchor your newscast ruins your credibility, but really, how much credibility can you possibly have in Bismark, North Dakota?

Will Ferrell showed up on the air Saturday at small-market KXMB and showed that with maybe a tiny adjustment in attitude, he’d fit right in.

Local TV news can certainly be accused of taking itself too seriously, so cheers to the people who run this station for being realistic about their place in the world.

Not to diminish the role of the news anchor, but there is a degree of theatricality involved. A certain studied demeanor, proper inflection, playing to the camera — how much different is that than acting? And when you switch from channel to channel, you see the same role being played by different people.

At the Movies

The Ape
The paper Don Draper was reading in the theatre.

The internet went crazy over Mad Men revealing the iconic ending of Planet of the Apes during its April 28 episode. Pardon me for being slow on the uptake; I’m still a few weeks behind.

But Planet of the Apes is something like 45 years old, so I’m not sure it matters. Should there be a statute of limitations on spoilers? If so, 45 years is long enough. Did I mention that Rosebud was Charles Foster Kane’s sled? Ooops, sorry.

The scene with Don Draper sitting in the movie theatre with his son watching Planet of the Apes was poignant for a lot of reasons, but for me it was a real hit in the gut because I was about that age when my father took me to see the same movie. And the ending completely freaked me out.

I recall other movie-going experiences with my father. My earlirest movie memory was going to see the 1966 Batman movie, which featured a brief on stage appearance by some guy in a Batman suit. In the twisted logic of a five-year-old, I was convinced it was my Uncle Ed dressed as the Caped Crusader. And then there was the James Bond marathon, where we sat through three or four 60s Bond movies at the Park East theatre.

Going to the movies will always be more special than TV. Sure, you may remember seeing things on television, but the intensity of the experience you have in a theatre is so much greater — and it’s not just about the film, but about who you were there with.

Movie Night in Afghanistan

I always enjoy rooting through the $5 DVD bin at Walmart. As it get easier to stream, download, and store films at home we’ll probably see the format disappear — which is too bad because I really like them. Better than VHS tapes, at least…

Anyway, I often see DVDs listed among the things to send to our troops, so I included some cinematic masterpieces in my most recent box of stuff for my son Alex in Afghanistan.

Here’s what’s playing:

28 Days Later / 28 Weeks Later: One disc, two great movies, the first of which was  directed by Olympic opening ceremony mastermind Danny Boyle.  It features the very worst sort of zombies, those who sprint like Usain Bolt.

Jeremiah Johnson: I first saw this at ten-years-old and it had a profound impact on me. At the time it was one of the coolest movies I’d ever seen, except maybe for The Great Escape and Planet of the Apes.

Superbad: Any teenager with nerdy glasses shall forever be called McLovin.

Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood at his badass best. For those of you who thought Chrysler’s Halftime in America commercial came out of left field, Eastwood plays a retired Detroit autoworker in this flick.

Pineapple Express: Dude…

Stripes: I think the Army has changed a lot since Stripes came out in 1981. What goes on in this movie is probably more like what the Afghan army looks like today. And that’s more sad than funny.

Win $800 Worth of Entertainment!

Kevin Marshall charms Katherine Buckley in The Importance of Being Earnest (photo Confetti Stage)

I’ve noticed that people who read blogs love free stuff. Just look at On the Edge. They give things away all the time, most recently $800 in legal services from an area attorney. That’s a pretty nice prize!

Not to be outdone, I am also giving away something worth $800: two tickets to see Times Union blogger Kevin Marshall in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, presented by Confetti Stage at the Albany Masonic Hall, directed by Neilson R. Jones. Performances are May 14, 15, 20, 21, & 22 at 8:00pm and May 16 & 23 at 2:00pm.

Yes, you could buy these tickets for just $30, but we’re talking about value here, not price. These days people know the price of everything but the value of nothing. I’m here to tell you that the price of these tickets may be $30, but the value? That’s $800.

The good news is that the IRS can’t bag you for $800. They deal in cost, not value. How typical!

To enter, just send an email to The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, May 12. Include your name and phone number in the body of the email so I can contact you.

You may choose the performance you’d like to see, but tickets are subject to availability.

And by the way, I’m not doing this for readership, I am doing this because I love you. There, I said it. I love you. I hope that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. How could something that feels so right be wrong?