Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Best Of 25 Films Selection, (never mind the Oscars)

In the 1970's the Boston area (Boston Cambridge, Brookline) was full of retro & art-house movie theaters featuring retrospectives of Foreign films, early Hollywood, auteur directors, and avant-garde short films. At some point the blockbuster films began to slowly but surely overshadow the indie film houses most of which soon went away. On Sundays and Thursdays I'd plan my day of movie viewing to see as many as 5 film screenings in a single day. Many of the theaters were located near the subway stops, making it convenient to catch a train to the next theatre if the timing worked out. Going to the movies on my own was a treat, a place where I could immerse myself in the flickering films before me. In NYC I would attend film screenings at Anthology Film Archives or at the New York Film Festival. Film took me to other places as I digested what made for a truly great memorable film. Later I worked with a crew of dedicated knowledgeable film devotees at an indie video rental store where David Mamet did his research and Ben Affleck browsed. While a student at SMFA I became assistant to the Film History professor who was also the director of film at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He realized that my knowledge of film in some areas surpassed his own. He gave me the opportunity to create my own lesson plans and teach his course myself. Later he became the director of the British Film Institute where he recommended me to a publisher looking for a historian of animation and avant-garde short films to write a book on the subject. It was a point in my life that I had begun planning a different direction and a move to Taos, NM in order to further my painting career. Yet, film and its influence stays with me. This is a list of 25 of the most influential films for me and a little bit of why I've chosen them.

"North By Northwest" 1959
Alfred Hitchcock
In many ways North by Northwest is a reworking of Hitchcock's own "The 39 Steps" complete with his 'MacGuffin' device to move the plot along and keep the audience in suspense. The crop duster sequence, the chase over Mount Rushmore and the scenes in the United Nations all had me dreaming of seeing these places for myself. Through the years I have seen Rushmore, the UN, and been in a small plane in which I couldn't stop smiling, all because of this one film.

"La Belle et la Bette" 1946
Jean Cocteau
The story from a 1740 novel by Villeneuve has been told many times through film, this version for me is everything that it should be. Magical, romantic, pride, honor and defending others who through circumstances not of their own making need someone to stand up for them all come together here. Cocteau's pure artistry shines through in this 'fairy tale'.

"Night of the Hunter" 1955
Charles Laughton
Best known for his dramatic acting somehow Laughton chose to direct a film. You keep hoping that things will all turn out alright, but the evil that humans are capable of keep pushing forward and you become lost and begin to lose all hope for a happy ending. One of the later films of the 'Film Noir' category, it is the finest example of black and white filmmaking all shadows and mystery.

"A Clockwork Orange" 1971
Stanley Kubrick
A mind bending book through the eyes of one of the finest filmmakers. Kubrick keeps you watching and wanting more. Like the main character who's eyes are held open to keep him seeing the atrocities he has invoked himself, you can not look away. 

"Trainspotting" 1996
Daniel Boyle
Scenes that will stick in your head, music that will pump blood through your veins and characters that will make you shake your head and say to yourself, yes I know someone just like that. Choose Wisely.

"Blow Up" 1966
Michelangelo Antonioni
London in the swinging sixties and so much more. Eventually I visited London and went straight to the park in this film. I walked the perimeter carefully hoping to see something and to not see anything at all. London spreads out below the hillside here, you can take it all in from this point of view. Then too, there are the details, what if you blow up the photograph to see more, to see less. What's around the corner from where you're shooting pictures. I see what I learned from this film still to this day, keep looking, you will too.

"La Dolce Vita" 1961
Frederico Fellini
Alright I admit it, I wanted to be either Cary Grant or Marcello Mastroianni, or maybe both. My love of cafes and bistros and just walking through a city at night is because of this film.

"The Deer Hunter" 1978
Michael Cimino
In the mid-70's the Vietnam war had ended, the draft had ended and I was saved from going to fight in a place I knew that I would never survive. The nitty gritty effects of war are thrown up onto the cinema screen and it is not pretty, not elegant and not something anyone should be a part of. DeNiro and Walken at their finest. Friendships so strong that they only want to help each other and take the pain away from one another. I doubt that I can watch this film again, I believe it would now be too stressful because it immerses the viewer into a world that has many flaws.

"The Tree of Wooden Clogs" 1979
Ermanno Olmi
A small village has many parts to it, each and everyone participates, contributes and helps make the village work. A small village is a family. Here in Taos, it is a small village full of family. A truly beautiful film.

"Wings of Desire" 1988
Wim Wenders
I have been here, walking among you as if an angel or ghost. Pinch me, am I dreaming? How do I know you can see me, can you see me, do you hear me? I don't know, but I do want you to see and hear me. How do I do that? I keep trying. As I've said, I met Bruno Ganz at the New York Film Festival for the premiere of The American Friend. Ganz was this angel waiting for this roll to come along. 

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" 1977
Steven Spielberg
They're here, it rings through you, and you know. I've never been to the Devils Tower, maybe I should go there someday soon. The obsession of a vision seems to drive Dreyfuss mad, but it's his vision. He creates various forms of art, he is inspired to create art through his vision. This is more than a space monkey film for me, it is about being a visionary and finding the right person in your life that understands and supports your vision.

"Battleship Potemkin" 1925
Sergei Eisenstein
Montage, or editing to create dynamic synergy and motion. Eisenstein at his absolute finest, a visionary filmmaker pouring his heart into putting films together that would make an audience gasp. His films stand the test of time, scenes and imagery stay with you because that is what the best of cinema and art should do.

"Lust For Life" 1956
Vincente Minnelli
I enjoy watching films about artists, even the overly dramatic ones such as this. Douglas and Quinn engage and battle one another, but for what means. One sees it his way the other his own way, time has given perspective that they were both right. Madness and genius has never been depicted so brilliantly on film.

"Ballet Mécanique" 1924
Fernand Leger/Dudley Murphy
An artist makes a film and decides to make art. Lager makes it look like he never wanted to stop working on this film, that he was exploring the possibilities. Illusions and delusions mesh together here creating movement and rhythm.

"Un Chien Andalou" 1929
Luis Bunuel/Salvador Dali
Do not watch this film, no wait watch it again. Did you see what I saw, you were tricked the way a magician will trick you every time. Dali puts his surrealism twist on a bit of cinema that you can not ever forget.

"Meshes of the Afternoon" 1943
Maya Deren
If you are to study cinema, then you need to see Deren's masterwork of dreaming and repetition. Maybe it's because I was thinking of this film that I dreamt about a man reading a book. As he read a page front and back he would then rip the page from the book and discard it. His partner asks why he was doing this, he tells her that he has a problem with losing his place and reading pages over again, so he rips the pages out as he finishes them in order to not repeat reading them. 

"Mothlight" 1963
Stan Brakhage
Upon meeting Mr. Brakhage I told him that Mothlight was the most incredible film I'd ever seen. Soon after this he'd sent me a 16mm copy of the film as a gift. I put the film on a pair of rewinds and looked at it frame by frame. Breakage placed moth wings, grass and natural objects onto the film surface, printed this and recreated the flickering motion of a moth to a light. Simple, elegant, mind bending.

"The Owl Who Married a Goose" 1976
Caroline Leaf
Of all the dedicated animators I've met leaf was simple about it all, she used sand on an underlie surface and moved it around while shooting one frame at a time. The tale of an owl and a goose as mismatched as could be, became a beauty to behold. Today the political correct ones would never let a film like this be created, thankfully leaf has left an enduring legacy and honoring of a unique culture and their storytelling.

"Bambi" 1942
David Hand and Disney Staff
How many reasons can I give to say that yes Bambi is one of my all time favorite films. Full of animals of the forest, full of joy and the sadness of death. Color schemes, the complications of animating four legged animals and the pureness of the animators hands shine through. Hand in hand with Smokey Bear I truly wish that people really would prevent forest fires. 

"Pinocchio" 1940
Hamilton Luske and Disney Staff
I've met five of the Disney 'nine old men' before they passed away, at the Telluride Film Festival in 1978 I met Wolfgang Reitherman who spoke about animating Monstro the whale and other grand characters in this film. For years I thought that I would wake up one day and my cat Cactus Pete would become a 'real' boy. Pinocchio makes me believe that all things are possible and to stay away from people who will try to take you down the wrong path, but mostly that dreams can come true. 

"Princess Mononoke" 1999
Hayao Miyazaki
Action adventure in an animated film, character development to the point that you were riding on that wolf with her. The great stag forest spirit, everything in the forest is alive and I know this only too well. A walk in the forest is meditative and spiritually healing. Miyazaki is the real deal when it comes to animation master. I let an opportunity slip away to interview him many years ago when he was visiting the Disney studio in Florida, a regrettable mistake on my part.

"In the Land of the War Canoes" (aka Head Hunters) 1914
Edward S. Curtis
Early documentary film by the american master photographer Curtis. Sure he had them be more dramatic, but isn't it worth his effort that he recorded an indigenous people on film for all time. Curtis has many flaws but love of saving a big piece of culture isn't one of them.

"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" 2011
Werner Herzog
I'd have paid Herzog to be a part of the film crew on this documentary. Enter a cave by flickering light, what do you see, you see the beginnings of storytelling and cinema before your eyes. I'd like more of this please.

"A Damsel in Distress" 1937
George Stevens
Music, dance, romance and comedy. Burns and Allen were such a great comedy team that I smile to this day thinking about Gracie Allen. Burns was her straight man and he egged her on, but she never told him that his viewpoint was wrong, just that hers was a different way of seeing something. Astaire as charming as ever, he knew that typical filming of his dancing would have cropped off his legs, he worked with directors to convince them that a long shot was the best way to film him. He was right and others took notice. There are many reasons we call our shop Two Graces, there are many wonderful and meaningful graces out there, goodnight Gracie.

"It's a Wonderful Life" 1947
Frank Capra
I truly believe that I am blessed to be a sort of George Bailey, that I have a Clarence watching over me and the love of my wife making for a wonderful life. Stewart in the lead roll brings you along for the ride and puts you in his shoes. Along with his other 2 Capra films they show us the humanity we all seek among us. As meaningful and endearing as film can be.

For friends and mentors Shunsuke Yamaguchi, Dan Braun, Deac Rossell and Bob White.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Two Graces

Our Go Fund Me page is this link, thank you for your help:

Friday, February 8, 2019

Two Graces Fundraiser

Just over Fifteen years ago October 3, 2003 we opened our shop Two Graces in Ranchos de Taos. Over these years we’ve moved into four different locations. We've been in our current space (our very favorite place) at 68 St. Francis Plaza for 8 years. Someone asked how in the world we’ve survived all this time in Ranchos de Taos, that locals rarely come ‘all the way to Ranchos’. We’ve adapted and changed, we keep it fresh and different on a regular basis. We strive to do our best.
Recently a few things happened that have brought us to the critical decision that it is time to move from Ranchos de Taos into a location in the town of Taos. A few of you are already aware of what’s been going on.
Too many things have happened to make us rethink staying at our current location. A recent raise in rent, Holly being accosted, the building we rent is being purchased, and then the flood damage to our back gallery space. 
Many of you have come by to see for yourselves the damage to the back gallery space and are encouraging us to move. This has been a loss of 15% of our current floor and wall space, a considerable loss when you think about rent per square foot. We try every day to keep our heads up and make the best of the situation.
There have been 5 generous offers of spaces in Taos that we could move the gallery into. We decided on one in particular that is on Kit Carson Road. The new space will be smaller, we’ll continue to show our artwork, carry the best selection of books in Taos and well curated carefully chosen curios. 
We are looking at an opening date in the new location of May 1, 2019. There are a few reasons to hold off until then. We need to sell off as much of the larger items that we carry as possible, mostly this is furniture, but also vintage frames and signage. We are currently offering 50% off on these items and half off much of our Pueblo pottery collection. Since we’ll no longer be located “In the Shadow of the San Francisco de Asis Church” we won’t be carrying as much of the quality vintage religious items that we’ve specialized in. Look for other sale item announcements on my personal Facebook page. We are also planning a reception for a showing of Holly Sievers and Robert Cafazzo artworks on Saturday, April 6, 2019 in the current Ranchos space. 
You (our friends and network) have suggested we start a Go Fund Me account, which we believe is a great idea. If you’d prefer to not sign up with the Go Fund Me account and provide a donation through sending a check or calling with a credit card number that would be extremely helpful. We have always survived bare bones and began the shop with nothing but our own sweat and blood. If we didn’t need to ask for your help we would not, but it has come to this.
You may ask us why we need your help and what we need help with? First of all this was quite unexpected. After 15 years in Ranchos de Taos, it has become a law of averages with most visitors to Taos walking around in downtown with barely a handful visiting the Church Plaza it no longer makes any sense to remain on the outskirts. Two Graces is unique to any business in Taos, we have contributed by adding the color and flavor of the Southwest and most importantly a terrific experience to our visitors. Kit Carson Road is a great location for us, we’ll be much more central for local shoppers and visitors. We contribute local color and history, we participate and support this community that we love and chose to become a part of. Our return customer base from all over the country is strong, they’ve returned time and again each year to our shop in Ranchos. This is why signage and advertising will become an important part of the expenditure in our first year.
Meanwhile we need to raise upwards of $15,000. in funds for the move to the new space. First of all an immediate deposit is required to hold the space and show our commitment to the landlord of $800. If you are at this time able to help our fundraising efforts, we thank you.
Funding will be used towards: Town of Taos Various Licensing & Inspections, Store Signage, Updated Counter Displays, Updated Point of Sales Apple Pay Services, Moving Van Rental and Help, Rental Deposits of First/Last/Up Front Building Deposit, Advertising, Reliable Vehicle.
In return for your contribution we will maintain a list of who you are and send you an offer sheet to select from. Some of what we will be offering in return for your contribution will include a historic tour of Taos, a small work of art, and/or a generous store discount coupon. 
Checks sent to: Robert Cafazzo, PO Box 1587, Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
A call to the store with credit card info between 10-5 each day at, is another way to help: 575-758-4101

The Go Fund Me account link which can be copied into your browser is: 

Accolades from individuals include, “Know that you have many fans & devoted followers… thank you for all you do, and congratulations to you both for making memories we hold close.” A local celebrity visiting with his family said to us, “I can’t believe I’ve never been here, this is the best shop in Taos”. Another visitor said to the friends she was with “I love this shop, it reminds me of ‘old’ Taos.” A social media friend pointed out, “Robert is an amazing man, he and his wife Holly run a neat gift, collectible shop in Ranchos de Taos, and have made it through a rough year. Robert paints, writes and does guided tours, if you are in the area look him up at Two Graces Plaza.” May we all do our best to keep Taos as wonderful as we know it to be from the first time we saw it. We love it too and appreciate all of you, thank you all for your help and support.