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Art Basel 2015 Champagne Cigars Cars and Cray Crays

As the sun sets on Art Basel 2015, we reflect on yet anotherart/party saturated week in the magic city. The opening press conference featured  Miami Beach mayor/cheerleader Phil Levine touting a gargantuan Convention Center renovation, an 800 room hotel project as well as retail and park space costing a whopping $615 million. The best part according to the mayor is that no tax money will be used as the whole shebang will be privately funded. No wonder they compare Mayor Levine to NYCs  Mike Bloomberg.

20151202 113807Per usual members of the press got sloshed at 10 AM on champagne and martinis while we prepared to witness the running of the VIPs as they swooped into the hall  for first dibs on Warhols, Basquiats, Picassos  et al.  The usual sponsors including UBS, BMW, Davidoff Cigars, Audemars Piguet watches, and Ruinart champagne made their less than subtle pitches to the assembled hungry collectors. We walked the floor and noticed the cleverly disguised Leo DiCaprio (in pulled down baseball cap and shades, snotty publicist in tow) avoiding the gaze ofartfocused VIPs who really didn't give a shit about the camera shy star.

The evening began at the new 1 Hotel on Collins where Architectural Digest commissioned five artists  to create outdoor installations on the property's sprawling beachfront. Hosted by AD editor Margaret Russell, the installation titled "Refuge" was co-hosted by Richard LeFrak and Barry Sternlicht who were behind the hotel's fantastic makeover. Tommy Hilfiger and his much younger hottie wife Dee were in attendance.

20151206 16013120151202 114320After flaming out at the door of Mr. Chows for the Larry Gagosian's dinner party, we hobbled over to the Delano Hotel for the Dejour Magazine fete. Greeted warmly by our favorite bar mitzvah boy Jason Binn, we spied cover girl Hilary Swank as well as Adrien Brody, Nan Bush and Bruce Weber. The amenities were less lavish than in previous years with chicken salad replacing lobster and persecco where once champagne flowed.It's tough times in the aspirational magazine biz. Time to head home.

The following evening we were hosted by BMW at the Miami Botanical Gardens. The German car giant was hosting a celebration of theArtJourney to honor emerging artists and demonstrate their commitment and support of Art Basel. Ironically not many working artists drive Bmers. Nonetheless we enjoyed their hospitality.

20151202 115236Next it was off to billionaire moving man Moishe Mana's birthday bash at his Wynwood district warehouse gallery. We arrived with the fire marshals who were hassling this over subscribed klusterfuk. After gaining difficult entry to what was a promotion for a club kid app called Inlist, we quickly realized that we wanted no part of the ugly  club scene. In previous years, there had been interesting large formatart. This year just nightclub stupidity. Home, James.

The next day dawned with tropical downpours. Our friend Shari in Palm Beach shared an invitation to a lovely event at a villa on Venetian Island hosted by Murano Glass and the United Wines of Veneto. The jewel box house was filled with whimsicalart  glass creations and wonderful Venetian wines were poured.

20151202 115823We were summoned by a pal to a party thrown by Ocean Drive Magazine at the former home of steroidal Yankee A-Rod in the toney mid beach neighborhood. Formerly brainwashed scientologist Katy Holmes was the cover girl. We were denied access by an over zealous iPad wielding door girl who found our journalistic posse threatening. Oh well...

The rains continued next day so we passed on the over done Sagamore Hotel brunch and opted instead to visit the Design Miami exhibition which featured lots of cool Italian furniture as well as state of theartjewelry that exceded our budget. Perrier Jouet champagne in the VIP lounge provided a nice break from the ubiquitous Ruinart bubbly.

Art Basel Miami2015 was bigger and arguably better than previous years as we have become more selective in our jaded ramblings. There was even a thankfully non-fatal stabbing Chinese girl cat fight on the Convention Center floor that was mistaken for performanceart. Guess it's time to head back to Gotham for the holidays.

Festivals and Hollywood

Princess Kaguya

For some in the international film community, the movie “season” starts with the Festival de Cannes during the month of May. Some might say Berlin, which takes place in early February, but the Sundance Film Festival should also be included, particularly for American independent films.

After the festivals for a calendar year are finished, then comes a different season – the awards season, ending with the Academy Awards™ which take place in late February. It’s usually the same small group of films that vie for these awards (too numerous to mention, even keeping to a list of American awards shows). Now that the Oscars™ have been given out and the interminable awards period is over, how have films from these international and independent festivals fared in the most Hollywood of events? Not particularly well, but that’s to be expected.

LeviathanWhiplash,” which began life at Sundance over a year ago in January 2014 but also played in the Directors Fortnight section of Cannes, was the only film from that edition of Sundance to get any Oscar™ nominations. It got a slew of them, and won three: Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons, which was expected, Best Sound Mixing and Film Editing.

Other titles from Cannes received nominations: although it won nothing, competition film “Foxcatcherwas nominated for Best Actor (Steve Carrell), supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo), original screenplay, and director (Bennett Miller). Wim Wenders’ documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” lost best documentary to Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour.”

Mike Leigh’s Cannes competition filmMr. Turner had four nominations (cinematography, score, costume and production design) but was shut out; although it should be added that Timothy Spall, who won the actor prize in Cannes, was not even nominated. Marion Cotillard did receive a nomination for her role in Two Days, One Night,” but no prize. (At the Oscars™, that is. She has been feted by many other organizations as well as critics group for her role in the Dardenne brothers’ film.)

Other films received nominations, but brought home no award: Out of competition film How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Tale of Princess Kaguya from the Directors Fortnight competed for best animated film but lost to “Big Hero 6” a film that, admittedly, this writer never heard of! A Cinefondation film,The Bigger Picture,” received a best animated short nomination.

Many films from Cannes have made their way into the best foreign language film category in the past, and this year was no exception. Although none of the Cannes-premiering films won - “Leviathan” from Russia; “Wild Tales” from Argentina and “Timbuktu” – the first time a film from Mauritania has been nominated (and which is the best film of the year in this writer’s opinion), they certainly all deserved their slots.

Fortunately, as much as we enjoy handicapping the winners and losers, none of these awards are the be-all and end-all for the lives of these films. The real winners get seen be audiences all over the world and appreciated for their various levels of artistry. And live on.

And after? Then we begin again! The 2015 edition of  Festival de Cannes will take place May 13 through 24. Competition and Un Certain Regard film will be announced in mid-April.  Watch this space.

Beyond the Longbox: 2000 AD

2000 AD has been cranking out titles unlike anything else in the world all out of their humble HQ in Oxford, England. From the sardonic Judge Dredd, to the grim ABC Warriors, to the madcap swashbuckling adventures of Nikolai Dante, 2000 AD has generated standout titles while also being a proving ground for talent that went on to conquer the American comics scene like Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, and Garth Ennis.

Beyond the Longbox (courtesty of Team A-Go-Go productions) is a new webseries that explores the world of comics, and Film Festival Traveler will be featuring their exploration of the world of comics for you.

Beyond the Longbox's Rishi Gandhi visited 2000 AD to give you a close look at where comics created by sheer Thrillpower are born.


How Poker Games Play on Film

Although a bunch of people sitting around a table playing cards might not seem like cinematic gold, movie writers and directors love poker, as it's the best of all the casino games. If put together correctly, a poker scene can deliver the drama, or ladle out the laughs, like nothing else — and these are a few that got it right.

We all know how exciting poker is, and if you don't, you can check out these films to get an idea.

This 1998 drama directed by Matt Dahl, which stars a young Matt Damon as Mike McDermott, is pretty highly regarded by poker fans, and it does recognize the skill the game involves compared with other casino games. However the memorable final scene of high stakes Texas Hold’em is actually the only time it veers into daftness. The "tell" displayed by his adversary Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) with the Oreo cookies is amusing, but so obvious it has to be unbelievable.

Casino RoyaleCasino Royale 2 - UK cinema poster
Part of giving British secret agent 007 (Daniel Craig) back his edge in this 2006 reboot of the long-running series involved changing his favorite casino game from Baccarat to Texas Hold’em poker, which you can also find at an online site like It certainly made for a thrilling scene when he faced-off against Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) at the high roller casino -- although the hands both players were dealt ensured that James Bond remained reassuringly in the realm of the ridiculous.


The Sting
Unsurprisingly the train-based poker scene from this 1973 classic film directed by George Roy Hill is more about cheating at poker than anything else — but it does provide a masterclass in how to cheat at poker. Nonetheless, it’s probably best not to copy Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) here, unless you prefer not to wait for the train to stop before disembarking.

Tillie and Gus
The poker scene from this 1933 Francis Martin film featuring the late great W.C. Fields is comedy all the way as Augustus Q Winterbottom (Fields) cons his way to poker victory by leading the other players to believe he barely even knows the rules of the game. It’s not exactly cheating, although it is unsporting, and it is one of the many memorable scenes that Fields left us with during his career. 


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