Commentary &Daily post 03 Nov 2012 07:35 am

A Dully Exciting Week

This is going to be boring

It’s been a long week. The events of my week probably aren’t going to be too interesting to many of you, but it’ll be cathartic for me to write, so I will.

Monday brought the threat of a hurricane. I remember thinking that “Sandy” was not the best name for a hurricane; naturally, it would turn out to be one of the nastiest in my lifetime. Once again, as they had done with “Irene” they told us to prepare by buying duct tape, batteries and water. With “Irene” it was a waste of time;with “Sandy” it was a necessity. Actually, the best buy for us was one Heidi had done for “Irene.” All of the stores had sold out of flashlights, until she found one in a local hardware store. This was a huge thing that actually worked as one or broke into three separate flashlights. This item became a lifesaver a year later during the “Sandy” debacle.

Monday night there was a robo-call from Con Edison. They threatened to possibly turn off the electricity as a precaution to preserve the system. It would enable them to start the system up all the more expeditiously when they could. The weather map they were showing on TV had the cone of the hurricane’s left turn, off the Atlantic and onto a land mass, happening south of NY near the Jersey Shore.

I’d been engrossed in my latest enthusiasm, the Presidential election. Things were close. Obama was leading in a couple of the key swing states by one or two – the lights went out. Everything. Silence.

Heidi pulled out our tri-part flashlight and we broke into three parts and moved it around the house as we lit candles. She had really prepared with books of matches and tiny tea candles. We placed enough around to keep a semblance of life alive visually in the apartment.

- Tuesday early morning brought the loudest noises. Not much rain but a lot of wind. We soon came to realize that the no-electricity also meant no heat. It wasn’t freezing outside, but overnight it felt as though it were freezing inside. For the rest of the week we had to bundle under quilts and blankets wearing layers of sweatshirts. The cats were confused and visibly cold. They went into winter mode, sleeping on their paws on beds and blankets and near any heat they could find.

I got up every morning to light the stove. It’s a gas stove but has an electric starter that lights the pilot for you. I had to get in there and light the pilot every time I wanted to get it going. I lit it and figured a way to manipulate the oven door into the open position so that heat would invade the apartment, raising the room temperature by 10°. Since I no longer had a toaster, I could also use the lit oven to toast my english muffin in the morning.

No internet. This is a problem. No Splog. I had prepared a couple, and they were ready to be posted. By calling my sister, who had power, I was able to arrange to post the next two blog posts. Anything beyond that, and I’d have to write additional material. Not easy without access to a computer. Lack of a computer was more serious for Heidi. She lived off her email conversations with the different theatrical groups she works for. They actually hire via email, and things were already sketchy for a number of her assignments in the upcoming week. But she needed to get to the email to find out. If school was cancelled for the kids in any given day, Heidi lost out on a couple of jobs and hundreds of dollars. They meted out the information slowly over the course of the week. She kept preparing for classes in case, and they were ultimately all cancelled all week long.

We went out to see what it was like on the street. Our neighborhood was dead. ALL of the stores were closed (they couldn’t even operate their cash registers without electricity.) We wouldn’t be able to do laundry until the power came back. We walked the ten blocks in a nasty cold windy rain to the first open store, a Duane Reade pharmacy. I went to the rear near the pharmacy (which was closed) and sat in one of the chairs provided for those waiting for prescriptions. Heidi shopped to see if we needed anything. Ultimately, we left watching a couple of elderly women blocking the cashier aisle as they used the electric outlet to recharge their cel phones. The very young cashiers – maybe they were 16 – didn’t care. None of the Starbucks stores we saw were open that day. We’d thought we could always go to Starbucks to recharge Heidi’s cel. (I still don’t have one. Talk about being out of it.)

There was an event on Tuesday evening. A film was to be screened at MoMA. A few phone calls and I wasn’t able to find out whether the event was still on. We’d need to somehow be entertained in the evening. Getting out of the dark house. The neighborhood was also dark. Couldn’t see the hand in front of your face on the sidewalk. One of those flashlights was helpful to carry with you. It took until Wednesday for officials to realize they had to position a cop with flares at all the corners to direct traffic and avoid accidents. It was really dangerous for the pedestrians trying to get across the black streets. When I couldn’t get through via phone to MoMA, I decided to give up on a 20 block walk when I wasn’t sure if the film would be screened. We stayed in.

I called John Canemaker that evening. We had phones, as a matter of fact most people had phones. However, if the phones depended on electricity, they wouldn’t work. Fortunately, we had an old phone with a dial on it – no buttons to press – you turn the dial for each number. That worked. He had phones, heat, electricity and the internet. He invited us up to use his computer to check our emails.

Wednesday we had a game plan. I aimed for John’s apartment about 45 blocks away. Some buses were in operation for the first time. The rides were gratis, thanks to the City. However, there were fifty people waiting at every bus stop, and any bus that arrived was packed. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we got on a bus. It took about 30 minutes to go from 30th St to 42nd St. Heidi got off to go to the office at the New Victory Theater. They told her she could pick up some material she needed and she could use their computers if she needed one. She realized it’d take forever to get to 70th St to see John and Joe, and she had to do a bit of work and still get home in time to meet me to head up to SONY to see a film that evening. 6:00 cocktail/6:30 screening of Amour.

It took another hour for me to get to John’s apartment. Slow going. I could’ve walked there quicker. We had a nice, friendly chat. I posted something for the blog that said I’d have to freeze the thing until power returned, and I went through some of my email. John & Joe were taking in some friends who were lacking all utilities and couldn’t even shower. Nice of them; as John said, “That’s what friends do.”

It took forever to get to SONY on 55th Street. The bus crawled. We ditched it at 42nd street and walked the rest of the way. 1/3 the trip by bus = 45 minutes. 2/3 of the trip on foot = 15 minutes. We sat with Josh Mostel and laughed. He pointed out that there was no difference for him on the Upper West Side. With all his windows closed, he wouldn’t have known that a disaster had struck had he not seen the TV reports. Rain was light despite the fact that waves of water sunk the lower tip of Manhattan under the Hudson. I always knew how lucky we were to be only short of electricity. Here I was at a free movie with a cocktail and no thoughts whatsoever of complaining about my “plight”.

Amour was one of the best films of the year. It was directed by the German film maker, Michael Haneke, who had been nominated last year for The White Ribbon. His style is stark and direct and purposefully staid. Amour is the better of the two films, in my opinion, and the reason is Jean-Louis Trintignant, who gives one of his best performances and certainly the best performance of the year. He is brilliant and he is the reason not only to see the film but for the film’s existence. It is amazing in its stillness. Emmanuelle Riva is also excellent as his wife, heading full into a steady downfall via Alzheimer’s disease. I want to see the movie again, certainly. I’ve thought about it the rest of the week.

Heidi and I walked home in the dark. We had a lot to talk about.

Thursday was more of the same. I began by sketching for an animatic I’m trying to put together to show HBO. I’m trying to sell them on an idea about chemotherapy – not Cancer, but chemotherapy. It’ll be a documentary about some people who were touched by the “cure”. I’m sure HBO won’t buy it, but I’ve got to present it. I’ve recorded some of the voice work and am offering a couple of sections via animatic so they’ll know what I want to do. I’ve decided to sketch it out with pen and pencil and not draw it on computer. Who knows if that’ll mean anything once I’m into it.

I had a few chores to do; Heidi wanted to get back to the New Victory Theater. There were a couple of films scheduled to play at the Academy theater. I’d seen the second but thought I’d go to the documentary screening first. It was something about the decline of Detroit, and sounded as though it might be interesting. I phoned Candy Kugel and talked her into going. It’d be nice to say hi. Heidi couldn’t make it. She’d be working until 7:30. The plan was for us to meet after the film and her job; then we’d go to a diner near the theater and come home from there. It’d keep us out of the black apartment until it we had to.

I left the apartment at 5:00 to walk to the screening. However, I realized that I’d left some candles burning and had to go beck to put them out. I didn’t want to return home to a burned-out apartment after the cats had knocked over a candle. As I entered the apartment the phone was ringing. It was John Fahr of the Academy to tell me that the projectionist couldn’t get in, and the screening was cancelled. Candy had gotten there very early and John had sent out an email, but Candy said I was without the internet, and she knew I was coming. So he called; nice of him. If I hadn’t returned, I’d have made it to the screening in time but would have to sit around for 90 minutes so I could meet Heidi.

Instead, I got to stay home and continue reading a great book, Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories. Then I went uptown in time to meet for dinner and walk back home. It was getting trying. Once you cross 39th Street heading downtown, all the lights are gone. Pitch blackness. I can’t take much more of this.

We got home. The candles, the flashlight, the oven to warm the place before we went to bed, feed the cats and stop them from killing each other. I sketched until 3am. Dark at night or in the day, what was the difference?

Friday was more of the same, but the lights came on at 8pm. I got to catch Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. The polls were distinctly proObama. Here comes the weekend.


For Your Consideration

- On Tuesday I’d posted all of the titles to those films which had passed the requirements to be eligible to compete for the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. A few years back when I had done this, I’d received a number of letters from the Academy telling me that I was violating some rule or other. Actually, I think the violation was that I’d made a comment or three as I’m wont to do. That’s verboten and I was threatened that I might lose ©2012 MPAA
membership if I didn’t behave. The next year
the titles were released on Cartoon Brew, then the Academy officially released the titles.
Maybe I helped change a rule.

This year I released the titles with some apprehension, but I didn’t really make any comments about the films. I just named some films that stood out in my mind. I don’t necessarily like all of those films, but for some reason or other they did stand out in my memory.

A few of the film makers contacted me afterward to get my opinion or advice about their shorts. All I could do was congratulate them all for having gotten to this point. It is exciting. The prospect of a nomination is a thrill that I lived through a couple of times, and one time I was actually nominated.

I wish them all luck. Let’s hope the ones with the big budget advertising campaigns don’t affect the judgements on the that have enormous ad campaigns behind them to tell us all how good these films are. They’ve all entered the twilight zone.


Another Sort of Campaign

- Mark Sonntag has begun another sort of campaign. Bounty Hunter Bunny is an animated film Mark is looking to make, and he’s set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000 for it. He has also set up a blog for the film; Bounty Hunter Bunny, the blog.

Mark is an accomplished animator working out of Australia. He started early, making films on super 8mm at age 14 and has been in the business forever. Everything from Ren and Stimpy to The King and I has passed through his pencil, and he also has one of the finest blogs out there. Tagtoonz is pure animation history and a must-stop for those interested in animation’s past.

It’s a cgi film that I feel confident in supporting. I’d encourage you at least to view the animatic on display; it’s really promising.
Go to: Bounty Hunter Bunny
The models look smart and the storyboard is exceptional. I like how he’s used the style to make the cg art look like rendered 2D. It’s very nice.

Good luck, Mark.

6 Responses to “A Dully Exciting Week”

  1. on 03 Nov 2012 at 9:30 am 1.Mark Mayerson said …

    Being an ex-New Yorker, your travails hit close to home for me. My sister on Long Island was without power and I have cousins who live in New Jersey. I’m sorry for all the headaches that the hurricane caused everyone. Toronto had high winds, some downed trees and a few thousand people without power for a few days, but we got off easy compared to New York and New Jersey.

    I was exposed to Michael Haneke’s films in grad school and positively loathed them. I don’t know if he has softened at all in the intervening years, but my sense at the time was that he had contempt for his audience and that he took pleasure in punishing them. Frankly, I was so put off by his work that it will take more than a recommendation from you to get me to take another chance, but I’m glad that you found his latest film worthwhile.

    I will be happy when the election is over. It is even dominating the news in Canada, where serious issues are being ignored in the media in favor of the American horse race.

  2. on 03 Nov 2012 at 3:49 pm 2.Tom Sito said …

    Hi Mike,

    Glad to hear Heidi and you and your cats made it through OK.
    Pat and I were without power after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. Funny how primal your feelings get about darkness. The first night it was fun, like camping out. But by the second night the darkness feels suffocating. We’d drive across the Valley just to be in areas that had lights on. Shopping in a Hughes Market with all the fixtures from the ceiling dangling down. Shoppers all looked like extras from Mad Max.

    Sending you warm sun and bright lights from LA.

  3. on 03 Nov 2012 at 9:21 pm 3.Thad said …

    Good lord, with that disaster, updating the Splog should be the last thing on your mind. Thankfully you made it through safely (as did all of my NY friends).

  4. on 04 Nov 2012 at 12:19 am 4.the Gee said …

    I agree with what you are getting at, Thad. But, you know the other things in between him being able to do something normal and which is a routine for him.

    If some of the things before the last thing that should be on his mind were normal then it would be more bearable.

    It is a tough realization when you realize what it takes to do Little Things. If missing something–or a lot of things– prevents you from doing those Little Things then, man, a clarity can happen. I would think for most people it is understanding just how many things they take for granted in life, especially what seem to be easy things that are rarely overwhelming things.

    That said, from what I understood having read what he wrote, Michael seems completely aware that for him and Heidi it isn’t as bad as it is for others. So surely there is some perspective at play.

    My best wishes to anyone who is dealing with the aftermath of this, in the NE and in the Caribbean. The consequences of floods and disasters just suck.

  5. on 04 Nov 2012 at 5:23 am 5.Mark Sonntag said …

    Living in a country of extremes I totally understand what you guys have just been through and I remain amazed at not only your but the American spirit to get on with business.

    Thankfully so few lives have been lost and hopefully lessons have been learnt perhaps to lessen the impact should it happen again in the future.

    It’s easy to forget that others have been severely affected, mercifully nobody that I know, and I am humbled by the fact you took the time to give my campaign such a glowing write up,

    Thank you Michael and wishing you, Heidi and the people affected a speedy recovery.

  6. on 04 Nov 2012 at 10:23 am 6.Stephen Macquignon said …

    It took me 4 hrs to reach NYC from my home in Queens not an easy task. But I see myself as one of the very lucky ones

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