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On Trend The Year of Beyoncé

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On Trend: The Year of Beyoncé

Columbia Records

On Trend: The Year of Beyoncé

If you’ve walked through New York City lately (or, in all likelihood, any major city), you’ve probably been unable to escape Beyoncé’s face. It’s on the posters still pushing her heavily-rotated HBO doc, Life Is But a Dream; it’s on Pepsi ads that first emerged for her Super Bowl halftime show, sponsored by the soda; it’s on promos for Love Songs, the Destiny’s Child compilation album released earlier this year; and it’s on the cover of the March issue of Vogue, which unapologetically declares that the “Queen B” “rules the world.” Written by Jason Gay, the Vogue article, like the HBO film, isn’t especially revealing, and it feels as if it were shaped, to some degree, within the diva’s control, right down to the closing sentence that wholesomely acknowledges the promise embodied by Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s one-year-old daughter. The story—which, in a rarity for Vogue, includes a straight-on shot of its subject smiling—registers as one more part of the carefully calibrated Beyoncé machine, which is programmed to put forth an image as sexy and glamorous as it is untarnished and accessible. Such is not to say, necessarily, that Gay’s article rings false, but that it, like the artist herself, carries a constant aura of choreographed perfection, which, now, in the wake of marriage, childbirth, and continuing endorsements from the First Family, is tinged with a new layer of human transparency. Perhaps that layer was always there, and is just now more apparent. In any case, of the many affirmations made within the commendatory Vogue spread, one that leaps off the page is already clear to anyone with eyes: This year, “Beyoncé will be in your life like she’s never been before.”

DOC NYC 2012: Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story

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DOC NYC 2012: <em>Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story</em>
DOC NYC 2012: <em>Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story</em>

Last year, Anthology Film Archives programmed a series of documentaries lumped together under the title “Talking Head.” The concept behind the series was to give lie to the idea of the traditional taking-head documentary as inherently uncinematic. According to a program note written for the series at the time, filmmakers as various as Shirley Clarke, Jean Eustache, Martin Scorsese, and Wang Bing “have chosen to focus on men and women whose eloquence and charisma, and the momentousness of the events they’ve experienced or witnessed, render their testimony so compelling that the usual documentary affectations would only serve as distractions.”

The films I saw during that series—Eustache’s Numéro Zéro, Scorsese’s Italianamerican and American Boy, and Wang’s Fengming: A Chinese Memoir—didn’t quite banish my own personal doubts about such a claim (for all the praise critics have lumped onto the Eustache and Wang films, it’s Scorsese’s two short films that are more compellingly cinematic). But those films, as well as the series as a whole, crossed my mind frequently throughout Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, for reasons not always in the film’s favor.