The Wandering Eye: Waterfront revitalization in New Jersey, John Waters reflects on his career, and more

Al-Jazeera writer Jake Blumgart yesterday posted a well-researched story about Camden, New Jersey's struggle to rebound by revitalizing its waterfront using tax incentives. It's a strategy that was essentially invented in Baltimore in the 1970s, on the theory that incentivizing investment around the Inner Harbor would spark a ripple effect of revitalization in other areas of the city. While Baltimore's experiment has, indeed, brought an undeniable sense of ongoing success along the waterfront, evidence that the rebirth has brought the promised benefits to other parts of the city remain scant. Camden, though, hasn't even been able to achieve the first part of the equation. "Everything on the waterfront and the downtown area is either tax exempt or a PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes]," Blumgart quotes a downtown pizzeria owner as saying, yet, "by most measurable statistics, Camden has deteriorated since the redevelopment efforts began" in the late 1980s, Blumgart writes. Despite Baltimore's severe poverty, it's still in much, much better shape than Camden, where 35.2 percent of residents live below the poverty line, compared to Baltimore's 23.4 percent. (Van Smith)
 

 

Early last year, the Washington Village Development Association (WVDA) released a 35-minute documentary on YouTube called "Fleeing Baltimore," and it's a surprisingly slick production. Having failed to notice it until now, we're belatedly bouncing it because it addresses head-on a critical and ongoing challenge for the city: the flight of middle-class residents and homeowners due to perceived quality-of-life failures. With some exceptions—neighborhoods such as Hampden, Canton, Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Locust Point have thrived in the past decade or two, bustling right on through the Great Recession—much of the city appears to have languished for decades with continuing crime-and-grime problems. The documentary focuses on the frustrations of community activists in Washington Village (better known as Pigtown), but their experiences may resonate with residents in much of the city, posing a dilemma for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's stated goal of attracting 10,000 new residents to the city by 2020. (Van Smith)

 

Starting today and running for the next nine days at the Lincoln Center in New York is "Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Filth Can You Take?" It's a retrospective that features screenings of every Waters movie, including his earliest underground shorts ("Hag in a Black Leather Jacket," "Roman Candles," and "Eat Your Makeup") and two pre-"Pink Flamingos" features ("Mondo Trasho" and "Multiple Maniacs") along with all of the filthy features from Flamingos on up to 2004's "A Dirty Shame," and eight Waters favorites screening as "Movies I'm Jealous I Didn't Make." For those of us who don't want to schlep on up to New York, this event mostly means we're treated to Waters doing his dirty-minded Mark Twain thing and talking about his oeuvre (we can call it that now that he's got a retrospective at the Lincoln Center, right?) and his love of movies in rags like Interview, who just posted an excellent talk with the director. One particular Waters-ian aside that appears in there is his assertion that Andy Warhol's transcendently tedious, oft-forgotten movies like "Kiss," "Eat," and "Empire" should be celebrated as much as his paintings. "I think Andy's films are equally as good as the art. I think one day they will be considered equal. They aren't yet. They will be," Waters tells Interview's Colleen Kesley. Here is John Waters as provocative critic, carving out an alternate art canon. It is something of a lost trade in our current co-sign-crazy all-positive culture to question critical assumptions and and play informed contrarian, so it's refreshing to see Waters sending his fans into underexplored film territory like that. He's doing the same with the "Movies I'm Jealous I Didn't Make," wherein the weirdo Waters canon includes a few French titles ("Before I Forget" and "Thérèse") and some art flicks (Cronenberg's "Crash" and "Night Games") for sure, but it also finds room for sturdy Hollywood horror flick "Final Destination," and "Of Unknown Origin," an awesome, '80s bug-infestation thriller from George Cosmatos, the director of hot garbage like "Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Cobra." (Brandon Soderberg)

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