Jun 7, 2020

Pandemic Woes

Yet another iteration of Box Office's abandonment of Film Journal International's content has left dozens of writers with broken links and audiences without the comprehensive coverage of that magazine.
In addition to having less work over the past three months, I recently discovered some of the links on this website from Film Journal International (where I was a contributing writer for over 20 years) are not working because Box Office, the entity that purchased FJI, changed its website configuration. I'm working my way through fixing these.

Like others who do creative work, I also discovered that the pandemic did not really free up time for me to pursue projects that were delayed by the exigencies of earning a living. I never had that two-week pause many received during the depths of the pandemic; my husband and I were both working, he at locations away from home. Sitting 6 feet apart at the dinner table, and having to sleep in separate rooms, our only consolation was that we were still able to pay our bills. Uninterrupted sleep was rare--and still is as the phased "reopening" of the city feels rushed and ill-advised. 

Nothing stifles the ability to write more than anxiety. It is a romantic notion that the vast majority of writers are half-mad or heavy drinkers who continually ask their editors or publishers to extend their deadlines. Actually, just the opposite is the norm. Most of us stick to a strict routine of writing every day, and the slightest interruption of that routine--having to work in the afternoon rather than the early morning, for instance, or having too much work or too little--can cause tremendous disruption, to the point where an 800-word piece that usually takes a few days to write can stretch to weeks of revision.

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that New York City saw "only 35 deaths." That flattens the curve, yes, but what of those 35 families who could not be beside their loved ones as they struggled to survive? And what of the families of the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who died? Have they "recovered"? The misery of loss, so many iterations of loss, hangs over the city. Four hundred thousand New Yorkers are expected return to work on Monday. Does that mean we have recovered?

I've not lost anyone to COVID 19, but the rush to "recovery" feels forced. I have trouble remembering what I wrote just a few weeks ago, and I have not touched the book I began in February. Finding my way back to my routine does not yet seem possible. The undertow is still there.



Mar 20, 2020

Updating Feature Articles

My Winter 2019 interview with Jared Lamenzo

Please note updates to "Recent Features" that includes some of my Toronto Film Festival coverage. In print, the cover story in the current issue of Cineaste is my interview with Kasi Lemmons for Harriet (2019), also part of my TIFF coverage.

See updates to "Favorite Interviews" that includes my interview with master organist Jared Lamenzo who also heads "Friends of the Erben Organ," an organization formed to restore the historic instrument in Old St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York City.

Cinema in Our Historical Moment

Luca waiting for the 11 AM pet and scratch.
Spring is a busy time for film critics, but press screenings are far and few between this year, and major film release dates are being pushed to later in the year. In New York City and Los Angeles, movie theaters are shuttered. The very fabric of an industry, of its deal-making, its celebrity-packed festivals, and the glittering allure of openings and award ceremonies, seem evanescent—the Cannes Film Festival, founded in 1939, and cancelled after its first screening with the invasion of Poland, is rescheduled for mid-summer.

Critics are being offered Vimeo links for review, but magazines and newspapers are warning their freelancers that pages will be cut. This is true not just for those of us who write for print venues, but for online periodicals as well. Budgets, too, will be trimmed. Streaming services may be flourishing—it is hard to know when so many are private companies—but in a few weeks’ time, if not already, many Americans will tire of working at home. Frayed nerves are likely in households where spouses are suddenly working in the same room, and children and perhaps extended family, are also at home. I am accustomed to writing at home—in fact, I am challenged by my part-time educator position where I have to write in a cubicle. Now the latter will move to online modalities. I’m learning new skills.

I posted a list of films on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MariaGarciaNYC) for the age of viruses, but I feel as I did after 9/11. Somewhat adrift. Frontline healthcare workers are at risk, but they have purpose, as does the cleaning crew at my college—last week, Mickey, one cheery soul among that group, admitted that the absence of students made her sad, but that it was nice to be able to clean something and have it stay clean for a few days! So many have lost their jobs in New York City that of us struggling to adjust are lucky. While full-time and part-time educators, especially longstanding ones, are being tested by online course delivery, we, too, have purpose. But what of the purpose of the cinema, of the film book I am researching and writing? Learning is a lifelong pursuit, and I am in the privileged position of conducting research, of contributing to film scholarship . . . and I have a family that includes two cats. Eleven AM, right about now, is neck-scratching time. COVID 19 hasn’t changed that! The wisdom of our beautiful, furry companions: live in the moment.