Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Toronto Film Festival, part 2

With only three tickets left and hundreds of films to choose from, I was in a quandary.   What to see? Well, there was a panel discussion called “Class of 2013: New Canadians Directors to Watch, around noonish, which the home office had  sent me an invte for and  they kind of wanted me to go, so I had to work around that.
So looking at the schedule, I had to find something that wouldn’t conflict, and after discovering that 12/12/12 hade been postponed for my convenience, I found a harmless enough romantic comedy called The Right Kind of Wrong, directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik, and starring Ryan Kwanten  as Leo Palamino, who’s backstory is ripped off from Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Leo, a failed writer turned dishwasher falls in love with Colette (Sara Canningon) the day of her wedding - to another man, the seemingly perfect but demonstrably evil Danny Hart (Ryan McPartlin).
Y’all out there in Internet land know how this thing ends. This sort of thing has been done before dozens of times. However there is some snappy dialogue and the scenery (Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies) is totally spectacular.  It’s almost worth the price of a ticket to see that alone.
So with that bit of fluff over, I headed to the Filmmakers’ Lounge at the Hyatt Regency Hotel for that panel discussion. ..
Throwing temper tantrums usually end in one of two ways, victory or jail. I had the invite on my hard drive. I showed it to them as well as my credentials, but since my creds were of the third rate variety, they wouldn’t let me in. I argued, I cajoled, I tried to call  the people inside (damn you Virgin Mobile!)  and it looked like it was getting hairy (and late, it had started) when  divine providence intervened.. One of the people who were hosting the thing was just walking by and heard me raising my voice at the security guard.
They weren’t very happy, but I was.
I was then treated to the final fifteen minutes of how to get a grant from the Canadian Film Board. That’s socialism for you. Down here we get to go to banks and have to pay all the money back.  One of the directors was one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen all year, and the rest looked like me. Oh well…
When that was over, I found out where the free soda was before heading back to the multiplex to see the next film. A Buffy parody called All Cheerleaders Die, which wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. Okay, it WAS, but nearly not exactly, which is what makes the Midnight Madness section of the festival the best part.
Now comes the logistics part. The home office had sent me an invite to a regular screening of a documentary called Mission: Congo, which was one of the most important films of the entire festival, but more on that later.  First I had to sneak in.
Now you may be wondering why I had to sneak in if I already had an invitation…well, this was a regular screening, which meant that without the right creds, I couldn’t just hang around the area and tell them I was on the list. So I had to sneak around and find who and where the publicists were and get a hard ticket. This was harder than it sounded. First off, they weren’t there just yet, and when they got there, they didn’t have my ticket.  They called their people back at the office and yes, I was on the list and someone somewhere hat the ticket.  UG. Happy ending: just as the lights were going out, they found the damn thing and I got in.
Lara Zizic and David Turner's engrossing documentary lays a well-deserved sucker punch on Televangelist Pat Robertson. It seems this thieving shit conned millions of people into financing his Congo diamond mines by disguising it as aide for the victims of the Rwanda genocide back in 1994.
The film reports that Robertson’s “Operation Blessing” is still soliciting donations to operate Congo hospitals and schools never actually built, Disgusting.
Robertson threatened a lawsuit. I don’t know whether or not he will….
So there was one more ticket left. I wanted to see Gravity, but it started too late. So , instead I took in Peter Landesman’s Parkland, which played out as an episode of  Law and Order: JFK. The acting was fine. There was nothing wrong with the film per se, but this story has been done over and over and over again so much, that it feels like it’s sleepwalking. True, it’s about the ordinary people who somehow got caught up it the whole thing , like Oswald’s brother(James Badge Dale) or the doctors at the Parkland hospital emergency room. The Kennedys, LBJ and Oswald seem to be totally out of place in their own story.  I expect it’ll come and go without much of a trace.
With that over, and the Festival barely started, I went back to my hotel, got my stuff, and left Canada.  Maybe next year, I’ll get to do it right.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The toronto film festival 2013, part one.

Its that time of year again in the great white north. All the stars fly up from Los Angeles and New York to that other city by the lake to see what Hollywood has to offer this fall.  I am, of course talking about the Toronto Film Festival, the preeminent cinematic event that Canada has to offer.
I haven’t been for a number of years, and I’ve discovered that the whole thing has moved south.  When I first came up there, back at the end of the 90s, the whole ting was primarily in a small area around Bloor Street, where the green line subway meets the yellow line. There were a bunch of theaters and restaurants in the area, all within easy walking distance and there was an underground area where you could walk around when it was raining. The Bes part was that I got to go to all the films and panels and stuff on a full pass. I really appreciated that.
Now things are different. The foundation that runs the fest has it’s own building, the uptown Varity multiplex has been replaced with the downtown Scotiabank Cineplex, and they let me have a measly five “rush tickets” That mean I have to wait out in the rain (okay, that only happened once) for at least 40 minutes for a P&I screening while al the  “real” critics” got to wait inside. To make matters worse, I wouldn’t be able to use any of the facilities, except maybe a toilet.
I knew this already, so I only went for two days instead of the usual ten.  You can’t really see or do all that much in that amount of time, but it would be better than nothing. The reason for this state of affairs was that I was asked bout last years request a couple of weeks after this year’s deadline, I wasn’t planning on going this year, and what it was all about. I told the editor in chief here what the thing was and why I didn’t go, and he said why didn’t I go? To make a long story short, we sent a request, and they sat on it for a couple of weeks and offered me my “consolation prize” less than two weeks before festival started.
This meant that the airline prices went up in less than 36 hours and I had to make up my mind ASAP. Still, all the cheap tickets were gone, so I had to do an open jawed deal going to Buffalo, crossing over Niagara Falls, and taking a bus to Toronto. 
After spending the night at a youth hostel on the American side and spending a few hours on the Megabus, I got to my destination. I checked in and went to the registration office in order to pick up my tickets.  That’s when the fun started.
This sort of stuff always happens. I go, wait on line, and when I try to pick up the tickets, they aren’t there. Well, THEY were, but my name wasn’t. We had words. They got the supervisor. HE had heard of me, but my name still wasn’t on the list, so he went to his supervisor. Time passed ..And passed. . I got my tickets.  This sort of shit is supposed to happen at Sundance not here!
Next was to check out the press lounge. The two nice ladies at the front wouldn’t let me in. I asked for the list of all the publicists. They wouldn’t give it to me.
I know they wouldn’t have given me anything had I not been sending them coverage for a full ten years for now extinct publications.   But still…jeez!
Having gotten dinner at one of the many high-end restaurants across from the festival headquarters. I went to Sociabank Cineplex and saw Kick Ass 2, which was as bad as everyone said it was. But it was good practice anyway.
Next day, I got up bright and early to see my first film. The Fifth Estate was supposed to be one of he highlights of the festival. There was an eight thirty AM screening and things being the way they were, I had to get on line soon. …
But they had decided to cancel that screening at the last minute.  Oh JOY! So I had to find a schedules so I could figure out what the hell I was going to do for the rest of they day.  That was actually somewhat easy. The next film worth seeing was Don Jon, a romantic comedy for men, written, directed and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
G-L plays the title character, who’s into porn, cleaning and religion, in that order. He meets a nice Jewish girl named Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who proceeds to take over his life. This leads to problems, which are somehow solved by Esther(Julianne Moore), whom he meets in a class Barbara forces him to take.. its funny and incisive and will make a ton of money.
So with that over, we look at the schedule and discover….*groan*..three films all at the same damn time. Now this has been a problem with the P&I screenings since I first started going way back in the ‘90s. So we I guess it’s best to go to a Harry Potter movie. This time Daniel Radcliff plays Allen Ginsburg, who is a freshman in college and has yet to become the first hippie. Here he meets Lucien Carr(Dane DeHaan), who introduces him to  Jack Kerouac(Jack Huston) and William S. Burroughs(Ben Foster) at a salon of sorts run by David Kammerer(Michael C. Hall), who has been stalking Lou and ends up dead.
This is not a murder mystery, but it is actually rather good, especially Foster. The film’s title is : Kill Your Darlings. I has to do with editing advice.
When this was all over, there was the David Cronenberg reception, which was a mile to the west of where the main action was. It was the opening of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Wine, cheese and lousy art, even if it was done by Cronenburg., and some of it wasn’t.            

Voyage to the bottom ofr the sea

Little kids love dinosaurs. Ages ago, as a little kid myself, I was like everyone else in that regard.  I had a Styrofoam T-rex skeleton in my room, some toys and a whole bunch of books on the subject. 
One of these was a guide to ancient life published by Little Golden books. Like some of my others, it went back to the beginning of the planet, which meant that it had a little bit on the first four billion years of earth’s history and really started in the Cambrian, where the first fossils came from. I really liked this part. The animals from the Paleozoic were so exotic and weird, especially the invertebrates, which were usually ignored after the Devonian’s fish and amphibians, took the stage and stuff started to look like dinosaurs
But I was fascinated by the invertebrates. I was a trilobite freak. They dominated the seas until the middle of the Paleozoic, and then they petered out, going extinct at the end of the era. But there were others, giant sea scorpions, and echinoderms: starfish, sea urchins, and beautiful and weird stalked things called sea lilies or crinoids.  Ah crinoids! a minor childhood obsession that stuck in the back of my mind for a lifetime. Crinoids still exist at the bottom of the seas and I dearly wanted to see one in real life.
Sea Lilies dominated the seas of the Paleozoic, they are some of the most common fossils and in the shallow seas of the time and, there were billions of them, covering the ocean floor like sunflowers in Kansas. One tiny group of them managed to survive into the Mesozoic and they flourished again, but after the dinosaurs died out, they retreated into the deep abyss, well out of range for snorkelers like yours truly.
Then, decades after I gave up hope, an opportunity presented itself.
Roatán is the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands. G Adventures had a month long tour of Central America that was 20% off, and it being cold up here in New York in December, I had decided to take it.  Roatain was one of the stops and it was primarily for the beach.  One thing I discovered when I got there was that there was this guy named Karl Stanley, who had a submarine and gave tours of the continental shelf all the way down to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.  The eight year old in the back of my mind screamed out: “There’s CRINOIDS down there and I wanna see ‘em!!!”  So the middle-aged rest of me decided investigate whether or not it was practicable or not.
There are lots of dive shops in Half Moon Bay, and they all knew about Stanley’s Roatán Institute for Deep-sea Exploration, but unfortunately none of them could get me a reservation. He makes them himself via his website or in person. It’s either PayPal or cash, and at $600 p.p. is out of most people’s league and I didn’t know it was per person at double occupancy.  Still, it was worth a try…
I went to Half Moon Bay’s lone Internet café and sent an email. Then I went to actually find the office. This was a bit harder than I expected, as it was on the second floor of a slightly rundown house surrounded by near identical rundown houses.  I found him and introduced myself. He then explained that due to weight distribution on his submarine, it was two passengers or nothing, but there was this woman who wanted a ride. He’d contact here and if she was a go, I was a go. That’s six hundred bucks, IN CASH. Something like Sixteen THOUSAND Honduran Lampiras.
So I went on an expedition to find an ATM that had that much money in it.  This required a boat trip to the next town and sneaking into a ritzy resort with guards.
I went back to Half Moon Bay with a huge bulge in my money belt and prayed that I wouldn’t get robbed.
I stopped by the office again and asked Stanly if he wanted my money. He said not yet, he hadn’t heard from the other person. So I went back into town and waited…
So I had dinner and then went to a bar for a bit and went to bed. The next morning, I got up, had some coffee and went to look at the submarine. Stanley came down and told me he hadn’t heard from the other person. I said he should call, in case the guy at the hotel had forgot to give her the message.
It turned out he had: The start of a glorious day.
So we waited while my partner went to get six hundred bucks in cash while we were waiting, Stanley and his crew prepped the boat while he told me his story:
He was a big fan of nature shows as a kid, and in junior high he decided to make a deep-sea submarine in his back yard.  That’s sort of like building a Lear Jet, it’s not rocket science, but…no, it IS rocket science. You have to find the right materials, understand propulsion and pressure, and make most of the parts yourself. 
I guess he tried it out in a lake or something, he went to a trade show and tried to sell it No buyers, which is understandable, who in his right mind would buy the equivalent of a homemade spaceship from a frigging teenager?
So Stanly went to college, getting a BA in American politics or something. I was pretty amazed because I would have imagined he would have majored in Oceanography. I think he took some courses however.
So he took his midlevel tech toy and went to Roatan. The reason was twofold: The continental shelf was only a couple of hundred yards from the beach, and Honduras didn’t have any regulations regarding submarines. That was 1994.
Since then he’s built a better sub and has gone down thousands of times. He complained that he undercharged National Geographic and Animal planet when they went down with him to film abyssal sea life.  He was telling me about the politics of the island when my partner and her boyfriend showed up.
We shook hands; I gave Stanly my money and so did she. We were weighed, signed a waiver (he doesn’t have insurance} and off we wen…no we didn’t. She went into the sub and got a massive claustrophobia attack.  She got out and demanded her money back.  White as a sheet she was. My dream of crinoids was dying right then and there. I still wanted to go, but without another person, it was impossible.  I waited while he got out his cell phone and called another person who was interested. He still was and was thrilled he had just gotten someone else to go with him.
I was stuck. Stanly was out twelve hundred bucks and all the work for the morning’s preparations. I felt sick, but then... then he came up with an idea. He was friends with a retired nurse who ran a clinic on the island for the impoverished residents and had promised to give one of the volunteers a free trip.  He made the call. Someone was picked. I would only have to pay the per person fee.
Inner space, here I come!
Continental shelves are something that is rather hard to imagine for us landlubbers. Most people who go to the beach generally find that the ground beneath the sea gradually gets deeper and deeper until one cannot stand up anymore.  One doesn’t expect a two-mile high cliff.  As we went along the surface of the Caribbean, it was like the glass bottom boats that were available for trips at far less money. Bits of coral surrounded by plants and small fish.  It was surprisingly drab. Then we hit the cliff face, went out into the open sea, and started going down.
With our backs to the cliff face, things started getting dark,that was about two hundred feet. Then five. It was totally black and our guide decided to turn on the lights, but that wasn’t much of a help until we passed a thousand then at around 1200 feet we hit bottom.
There was a rock. Stanly told us to look for a beer can on our left. The rock was further away than I had thought, and it was huge. There was a chimera, a kind of shark swimming close by. We didn’t see it for long.  However we did see sponges, though, lots and lots of sponges.
As we realized we were actually at the bottom of the sea, Jeremy got us off the bottom, turned our sub around, and began the slow ascent to the surface.
Over the last two million years, the polar ice caps have retreated and advanced many times, and with each advance the depth of the ocean has varied by hundreds of feet, and with no pollution to harm it for most of that time, the coral grew and grew. Coral only thrives near the surface, so the reefs down near the bottom are all fossils, but everything else is still quite alive and mostly sponges and crustaceans. We didn’t see all that many crustaceans, but we did see some fish swimming along the cliff face. They didn’t look as weird as I had hoped, but it was kind of strange to see them swimming vertically instead of horizontally.  Then we saw one.
There are two kinds of crinoids: stalked sea lilies and free-swimming, stalkless feather stars.  Down where were we were, the stalked kind pretty much had the area all to themselves. There one was in all it’s glory with its fronds hanging out, catching detritus from further up.  I’d been waiting decades to see this.  For a second I was a kid again, dreaming of the Paleozoic, which was what was sitting right in front of me. Jeremy pointed out a nondescript shell, which, he said was worth ten thousand dollars. It was a Monoplacophoran, which was known only from fossils and down around here. Prior to 1952, it was thought they had been extinct for 250 million years.  I’d heard of these and wished they were more interesting looking.
The thing about Jeremy’s submarine was that it had a huge front window. The view of the cliff face was really easy to look out of.  Life became more common as we ascended, and I got to see more sea lilies and Coral-like Sea Fans. There was a feather star sitting on a sea fan, which would have made a nice photograph, and all sorts of weird sponges and tunicates, which are vertebrates who think they’re sponges.  Then at about four hundred feet we saw a lionfish.
Lionfish are an invasive species that got into the Caribbean area when either hurricane Andrew or Katrina freed some from an aquarium breeding company in Florida or Louisiana. They are currently everywhere between the Carolinas and Venezuela and are THE ecological problem of the region, which is saying something.
All too soon it was over. Had that women not gotten claustrophobia, we would have had an extra hour, but I had seen what I came to see.  It would be enough.

Friday, March 08, 2013

ny art shows

2013 Armory Arts Week

The Armory Show
The Armory Show-Modern
Venue: Piers 92 & 94, 12thAvenue at 55thStreet
Dates: March 7 – 10
Daily Hours: Thursday - Sunday, Noon – 7PM

Volta NY
Venue: 82 Mercer Street, SoHo
Dates: March 7 – 10
Daily Hours: Thursday, 11AM – 2PM (VIP Preview); Thursday, 2PM – 8PM; Friday – Saturday, 11AM – 8PM; Sunday, 11AM – 6PM

ADAA Art Show
Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, New York, NY
March 6 – 10, 2013
Wednesday – Saturday Noon – 8PM
Sunday Noon – 6PM

Fountain Art Fair
The 69th Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
March 8 – 10, 2013
Thursday Noon – 5PM: VIP/Press Preview
Friday Noon – 7PM
Saturday Noon – 7PM
Sunday Noon – 5PM

548 West 22nd Street, New York, NY
March 7–10, 2013
Thursday 4PM – 9PM
Friday and Saturday 11AM – 8PM
Sunday 11AM – 4PM

Moving Image
Waterfront New York Tunnel, 269 Eleventh Avenue, New York, NY
March 7 – 10, 2013 (Opening Reception: 6PM – 8PM)
Thursday – Saturday 11AM– 8PM
Sunday 11AM – 4PM

New City Art Fair: Japanese Contemporary Art
529 West 20th Street, 2W, New York, NY
March 7 – March 10, 2013
Thursday Noon – 9PM (Opening Reception: 6PM – 9PM)
Friday Noon – 6PM
Saturday 11AM – 6PM
Sunday 11AM – 5PM

PooL Art Fair New York
Flatiron Hotel, 9 W 26th Street, New York, NY
March 8–10, 2013
Friday – Sunday 3PM-10PM

SCOPE New York
Skylight at Moynihan Station, 312 West 33rd Street, New York, NY
March 6–10, 2013
Thursday – Saturday 11AM – 7PM
Sunday 11AM – 6PM

Venue: Old School, 233 Mott Street (at Prince Street) NYC
Dates: March 7 – 10
Tuesday, March 5th, 2PM (Press Preview), 4PM – 6PM (Collectors Preview), 6PM-10PM (VIP Opening)
Daily Hours: Thursday - Sunday, Noon – 9PM (Closing Reception with Paddle8 Sunday, 6PM – 9PM)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dead Presidents

The election is over thank God, but fascination with the presidency goes on. The “big three”: Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, are back with a vengeance on the big and little screens.
First:  George Washington. The latest edition of Assassin’s Creed takes place during the American Revolution and GW is a major character. Unfortunatly, I suck at video games so I haven’t actually perused it
Next: is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Filmmakers have been trying to portray the Great Emancipator since at least Birth of a Nation a century ago, and with the possible exception of Raymond Massy most have failed. I guess the reason is that he’s too iconic. There’s something about being a national hero, THE national hero that makes a portrayal as a regular human.  Spielberg doesn’t do a full biography, but just concentrates on one incident, the passing of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, the first in over half a century.
The film is for the most part a celebration of the art of lobbying. Secretary of State Seward(David Strathairn), hires three  unsavory lobbyists(James Spader et al)  to bribe Democrats (who were the bad guys in those days) by offering retiring  and defeated congressmen patronage jobs.
 While Daniel Day Lewis is utterly brilliant as Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones steals the show playing Thaddeus Stevens, the Pennsylvania Congressman who led the antislavery movement well before there even was a Republican party. He channels Don Rickels and is a hoot. This is one of his best performances ever, and the whole thing is reminiscent of “The West Wing” in 19th century drag.
Finally, there’s Hyde Park on the Hudson, which has been going ‘round the film festival circuit and opens soon. If this doesn’t get Bill Murray an Oscar®, he’ll never get one. The film’s got everything a Masterpiece Theater fan or political junkie would want.  After all, there’s nothing the British are better at than a good costume drama, and the visit of King George VI(Samuel West) and his queen(Olivia Colman) to the US in 1939 is the perfect vehicle for expanding the American market.
With the Great Depression finally ending and World War II looming on the horizon, someone in the administration had decided that President Roosevelt(Murray) needed a playmate, and found one in his sixth cousin Daisy Suckley(Laura Linney), who is taking care of a very aged aunt. 
The film has a feel of Downton Abbey meets the West Wing to it, as Daisy and FDR fall in like with each other and what happens when she discovers he’s shagging his secretary Missy Lehand(Elizabeth Marvel), while their majesties are making a royal visit to deliver Neville Chamberlin’s request for help now that he realized he’d made a huge mistake trying to buy Hitler off.
It’s a fun film. All in all it’s really nice to see history done right for a change. I remember how Spielberg really botched Martin Van Buren in Amistad, a decade ago, and more recently, Oliver Stone’s horrible history series on Showtime            , but with the election over, and politics thankfully on the back burner for a year and a half, I don’t think we will see anything like these films for quite a while.            

Literary Classics

Why don’t they make more movies out of literary classics?
One reason is because the vast majority of them are vastly overrated.
One good example is Anna Karenina, based on Tolstoy’s classic soap opera. Anna is married to a saintly (as she says so over and over again) national cabinet minister, with whom she’s in love with. So, it’s obvious, Tolstoy, who was a bit of a misogynist, will move to destroy this domestic bliss. So she falls in love with a beautiful moron with the title of Baron, and…you get the idea.
Tolstoy is famously wordy. This appears to be based on the Cliff Notes® version, and that is mostly a mean little story (or two, but they appear to have little to do with each other), so how to make it watchable? Staging?
The film takes place in a theater. Since this is a movie, the entire theater, from the rafters to the seats, are used.  At first, this is a good idea; the camera angles and the stylized costuming distract us from the mostly boring story. The contrast between the lush costumes and scenery and the spartan, stylized space, and things like model trains going from St. Petersburg to Moscow, but then sometime in the middle, one of the characters walks out into a field, and the illusion falls apart. The illusion that we’re watching a play is shattered, and it turns into a regular movie, and then we discover that the only reason this is considered a classic is that it was written by Tolstoy, not on it’s own merits.
The problem with a film like this is that people come for the story and not the visuals. This isn’t always the case, Avatar was a huge hit and had one of the worst scripts of the decade. But in this case, it’s literary film all about the writing, and if the writing fails, then the whole ting falls apart.
The fact that it’s having a very limited release won’t be any help either, as this sort of thing is going to be decided by word of mouth of the literati. It’s going to be a massive flop.
Another literary adaptation that isn’t doing all that well is Life of Pi, which is a much, much better film.
They said Life of Pi was unfilmable. Clearly it is. . The reason is CGI animation. Many of the backgrounds and all the animals are computer generated, creating a wonder-filled sea and a carnivorous island. The magically realist story is brought completely to life by Ang Lee and his team of animators. The technology is now fully capable, and the visuals add greatly to the storytelling.
The acting is professional. No one gives a poor, or even mediocre performance and before the it turns into a literal cartoon, it more than holds one’s attention, but then the ship sinks and the Pi() begins to  play second fiddle to the CGI characters. It’s one guy in front of a green screen all by his little self. Armed only with Tom Stoppard’s script and Ang Lee’s direction. The whole thing works, so why isn’t it doing better? 007 and Vampires, as Parents were all at the stores buying gifts, as their kids go off to the movies so they don’t act as a drag on mom and dad.
This may be one of those years that the Oscars will go to film s that few before their nominated, and Classic books and recent best sellers will get the short shrift.  

the world is coming to an end

The world is coming to an end. Again. On December the 21st, 2012, long count of the Mayan calendar, which allegedly started back around 3200 BC, for reasons that no one actually knows. So lots of people think that when the long count ends, the whole world will go blooy. I’m going down to Copan in Honduras, which is the easternmost edge of the “Mundo Maya.” There’s going to be parties everywhere, so why not?

The end of the world is something that is predicted and re-predicted about two or three times a year. Sometimes, these predictions are right on. The Jehovah’s Witnesses said it would happen in August of 1914, and some Jewish mystic said it would on Rosh Hashanah 5700 (September 1939), and lo and behold; there were two world wars. So who knows?
All the brouhaha has to do with the fact that the Maya are famously mysterious. This is because they liked to throw away their cities every now and then, and melt back into the forest. They lost all but two of their books to Spanish censors back in the 1550s, and so their alphabet (actually a syllabary like the Japanese) was long forgotten and illegible. That was until the 1990s, but before then, they were considered a mysterious and peaceful bunch of astronomers who had a perfect civilization before they vanished entirely, and left their land to a bunch of savages who took the name, and oh yeah, they had this really funky calendar which ends in 2012. 
They still say that on some History Channel specials. 

But in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the “glyphs” were deciphered and everything changed, the Maya were learned to be ruled by a warlike bunch who liked to fight with each other until the commoners got fed up and left for the jungles, leaving their glimmering cities to collapse.
It is these cities, which were never really lost, that have become the center of the tourist industry of Western Central America, from Chiapas to the west to Somewhere in El Salvador to the east. The most famous of these is Chechen Izta near the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula, Iconic as is possible to be, it’s located in a theme park of sorts, just the place for an “end of the world “ celebration.
Most of the major public Mayan cities are gearing up for a tourist bonanza, New Agers from everywhere are going to do their thing to celebrate what they think are the ancient rites of the pre-decipherment mythology. With any luck, there’s going to be lots of semi-legal intoxicants to enhance the experience.

It’s kind of late to do anything about getting there, but in case you can, most of the festivities are near the beach. Cancun, for example is a genuine Mayan temple in the  Hotel Zone (it was the only thing there before the city was planned.), The dozen theme parks along the “Riviera Maya” are all having big events, and Belize is having a major push to double it’s usual tourism revenue.
The Mystery of the Maya is vanishing, Archeologist have managed to discover most of the reasons why the so-called “Classic” civilization collapsed  (El Niño, and a long drought) and even so, the ruins are impressive pretty much anywhere. The best are Chechen Itza, which is easy go get to and Palenque, which is not, Both in Mexico, Tikal and Copan, which are in Central America and are to some extent even better, but are quite difficult to get to.  There are lots of minor sites which can be fascinating.

Remember if you want to find out more, stay away from anything New Agey. The New Age movement has rejected most of the knowledge acquired by archeologists in the past few decades and tries to cling to stuff which was proffered by Eric Thompson, who was bamboozled by Mayan friends of his who proffered a totally fraudulent picture of the civilization and tried to enforce his view on the academic world for much of the 20th century.

Those who think the castles and pyramids were built under the supervision of Space Aliens are still around and are going to be down in the Riviera Maya in force. It’s going to be fun to watch them make fools of themselves up close.

The REAL thing is always more interesting than the fantasy. Hopefully the  end of the world will make this idea more popular.