culture of new york city

The Gates (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on October 8, 2011

73. The Gates (available to stream via Netflix)

Here is a sneak peek of The Gates.

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The Gates is a documentary covering the proposing, development and launch of The Gates, an art project launched in Central Park in New York in 2005.  The artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, had tried to bring The Gates to the park in the 70s, but were shot down by a number of people who thought that the project was silly and was like painting over another painting.  All while watching the footage of 70s New Yorkers who hated the idea, it seemed that they were just arguing to argue.

The Gates: Tree of Orange

The Gates: Tree of Orange by LarimdaME on Flickr.

Part of the completed project in Central Park.

Mayor Bloomberg approved the installation of The Gates and so the project was launched.  Huge teams of volunteers had to get involved to first install the bases and then the arches.  The flag-like fabric hanging from the arches was released with a tab, which allowed all of the gates to be opened within a few hours.

The documentary is a little bit long.  The installation process is sprinkled in with pissy New Yorkers who think it is ridiculous.  Once the project is launched, lots of happy New Yorkers are shown enjoying the park being filled with orange saffron fabric blowing in the breeze, in the middle of February.  I have to say, the timing was important, the impact would have been completely different had all of the trees been covered in leaves.

I don’t know why people were so bent out of shape about The Gates.  It was only there for 16 days.  It did no permanent damage to the park, but changed the vibe in the park for a little while.  I still think the documentary could have had 10 minutes less of footage of just the exhibit, but I still enjoyed it.

The Gates is available on DVD from Amazon for $21.99.

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Paris is Burning (100 Films in 2011)

by Jamie Sanford on September 10, 2011

62. Paris is Burning (Not available for streaming via Netflix or Amazon)

I can’t find a trailer for Paris is Burning, so here’s a taste of the film.

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Paris is Burning is a documentary that showcases the drag ball scene/culture in New York City in the late 1980s. Drag balls were not just limited to the traditional drag queens, but included all sorts of categories in which one could walk.  Much like a runway – one would come to the event to compete in a category and would walk the runway, competing with one another.

Intertwined with footage from the drag balls are interviews with active members of the ball scene, including leaders as well as up-and-coming “children” in the different houses.  Some of the most interesting stories are like that of Venus Xtravaganza, pictured above, who is transgendered, transitioning from male to female.  Many of the people in the ball scene had developed their own families within their houses after many of them were disowned by their family for being gay or transgendered.

Terms still popular today are defined throughout the movie – you will learn about realness, reading and shade.

If you’ve read this blog for more than a minute, you might figure out that I am a big fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and am a proud fag hag.  Many references will be cleared up for you if you watch Paris is Burning.  I got the DVD from Netflix and would recommend watching the movie again with the commentary track, because it’s a lot of fun.

Paris is Burning is available on DVD from Amazon for $26.99.

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