Sunday, May 31, 2009
The show has wit, great musical numbers, edgy humor, and characters I can learn to care about.
Here's the finale of the show. The set-up is that the new glee club coach has decided to quit teaching so he can make more money to support his growing family, leaving the one thing he feels passionately about. As he leaves, he sees a number the club prepared on their own ...
I enjoyed every aspect of this show.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
I was raised on 1950s MGM musicals--glorious technicolor and energy. No matter how many times I see these clips, I just wanna dance along.
Friday, May 29, 2009
For more of the story, check here.
Frank Lloyd Wright is quoted as saying, "Tip the world on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles."
Thursday, May 28, 2009
As a former sponsor of my school's GSA, I have to say-- in the vernacular of my kids-- "This sucks."
According to the bioflick Little Ashes, Luis Buñuel, Dali and Lorca were all college students living together in 1929 pre-civil war Spain. These bougeoise young men’s lives together consisted of producing art, discussing art, drinking, and dancing.
Lorca and Dali discuss art in Little Ashes
Little Ashes - Clip - Dali (Pattinson) and Lorca Talk
Above all, the goal of Lorca and Dali’s group was to thumb their noses at the establishment--rebel and revolt by using shock. Going to a dinner party in the film, for example, the brash and egomanical Dali announces to the hostess that he has just come from serving a prison sentence and then he continues to play off that fiction for the rest of the meal.
During their “romantic period,” the real Lorca writes an ode to his lover:
A rose in the high garden you desire.
A wheel in the pure syntax of steel.
The mountain stripped bare of Impressionist fog,
The grays watching over the last balustrades.
The modern painters in their white ateliers
clip the square root's sterilized flower.
In the waters of the Seine a marble iceberg
chills the windows and scatters the ivy.
Man treads firmly on the cobbled streets.
Crystals hide from the magic of reflections.
The Government has closed the perfume stores.
The machine perpetuates its binary beat.
An absence of forests and screens and brows
roams across the roofs of the old houses.
The air polishes its prism on the sea
and the horizon rises like a great aqueduct.
Soldiers who know no wine and no penumbra
behead the sirens on the seas of lead.
Night, black statue of prudence, holds
the moon's round mirror in her hand.
A desire for forms and limits overwhelms us.
Here comes the man who sees with a yellow ruler.
Venus is a white still life
and the butterfly collectors run away.
Cadaqués, at the fulcrum of water and hill,
lifts flights of stairs and hides seashells.
Wooden flutes pacify the air.
An ancient woodland god gives the children fruit.
Her fishermen sleep dreamless on the sand.
On the high sea a rose is their compass.
The horizon, virgin of wounded handkerchiefs,
links the great crystals of fish and moon.
A hard diadem of white brigantines
encircles bitter foreheads and hair of sand.
The sirens convince, but they don't beguile,
and they come if we show a glass of fresh water.
Oh Salvador Dali, of the olive-colored voice!
I do not praise your halting adolescent brush
or your pigments that flirt with the pigment of your times,
but I laud your longing for eternity with limits.
Sanitary soul, you live upon new marble.
You run from the dark jungle of improbable forms.
Your fancy reaches only as far as your hands,
and you enjoy the sonnet of the sea in your window.
The world is dull penumbra and disorder
in the foreground where man is found.
But now the stars, concealing landscapes,
reveal the perfect schema of their courses.
The current of time pools and gains order
in the numbered forms of century after century.
And conquered Death takes refuge trembling
in the tight circle of the present instant.
When you take up your palette, a bullet hole in its wing,
you call on the light that brings the olive tree to life.
The broad light of Minerva, builder of scaffolds,
where there is no room for dream or its hazy flower.
You call on the old light that stays on the brow,
not descending to the mouth or the heart of man.
A light feared by the loving vines of Bacchus
and the chaotic force of curving water.
You do well when you post warning flags
along the dark limit that shines in the night.
As a painter, you refuse to have your forms softened
by the shifting cotton of an unexpected cloud.
The fish in the fishbowl and the bird in the cage.
You refuse to invent them in the sea or the air.
You stylize or copy once you have seen
their small, agile bodies with your honest eyes.
You love a matter definite and exact,
where the toadstool cannot pitch its camp.
You love the architecture that builds on the absent
and admit the flag simply as a joke.
The steel compass tells its short, elastic verse.
Unknown clouds rise to deny the sphere exists.
The straight line tells of its upward struggle
and the learned crystals sing their geometries.
But also the rose of the garden where you live.
Always the rose, always, our north and south!
Calm and ingathered like an eyeless statue,
not knowing the buried struggle it provokes.
Pure rose, clean of artifice and rough sketches,
opening for us the slender wings of the smile.
(Pinned butterfly that ponders its flight.)
Rose of balance, with no self-inflicted pains.
Always the rose!
Oh Salvador Dali, of the olive-colored voice!
I speak of what your person and your paintings tell me.
I do not praise your halting adolescent brush,
but I sing the steady aim of your arrows.
I sing your fair struggle of Catalan lights,
your love of what might be made clear.
I sing your astronomical and tender heart,
a never-wounded deck of French cards.
I sing your restless longing for the statue,
your fear of the feelings that await you in the street.
I sing the small sea siren who sings to you,
riding her bicycle of corals and conches.
But above all I sing a common thought
that joins us in the dark and golden hours.
The light that blinds our eyes is not art.
Rather it is love, friendship, crossed swords.
Not the picture you patiently trace,
but the breast of Theresa, she of sleepless skin,
the tight-wound curls of Mathilde the ungrateful,
our friendship, painted bright as a game board.
May fingerprints of blood on gold
streak the heart of eternal Catalunya.
May stars like falconless fists shine on you,
while your painting and your life break into flower.
Don't watch the water clock with its membraned wings
or the hard scythe of the allegory.
Always in the air, dress and undress your brush
before the sea peopled with sailors and ships.
Buñuel watches with growing intensity the flirting of Lorca and Dali. Buñuel’s homophobia and yet obvious attraction to his homosexual friend Lorca seems to prompt him to try to steal the sexually ambivalent Dali away from him and take him off to Paris, where the two later collaborate in making films and joining the Surrealist Movement.
Luis Buñuel once wrote that one of the difficult things for a surrealist in today’s world is that it was too difficult to shock the viewer. Certainly the surrealists tried. Buñuel and Dali in their film un chien andalou have a man slice open the eyeball of a woman who stares directly at the camera. Buñuel in his autobiography describes how Dali was once thrown out of his house by his father when he scrawled on a painting, “I spit on the portrait of my mother.” Carrying on the outlandish childish performance art of the Dadaists, the surrealists attempted to bring together totally incongruent images intended to both confuse and shock the viewer.
Watch un chien andalou here Buñuel says the film began by his recounting to Dali a dream where a cloud, like a knife, slides across the moon. Dali in turn describes a dream where ants crawl out of a wound in his hand. The two then begin throwing out ideas, shocking images, incomprehensible phrases and situations. From that the film is born. While not part of the Surrealist movement when they made the film, they soon are asked to join.
Sexual repression in Spanish society appalled the Surrealists. Among the things they did was publish a sexual questionaire in their journal, asking such provocative [and scandalous] questions as "Where do you make love?", "With whom?", "Where do you masturbate?" Buñuel in his autobiography describes how liberating and how dangerous the questionaire felt (Buñuel, Vanity Fair 110).
The film Lorca, who history shows was comfortable with his sexuality in spite of strong anti-gay sentiments, shows the torment of an ultimately unrequited physical relationship with Dali. One of Dali's biographers says he reviled all personal contact from anyone. In contrast, in a period when it is dangerous to be homosexual in provencial Spain, Lorca continues openly with others. [His openness about his sexuality and his importance as a Spanish poet and dramatist ultimately lead to his death.]
In the film, Lorca’s disappointment with Dali’s rejection of him spurs Lorca on to succumb to a female friend's advances. As the two make love, Dali voyeuristically watches in the corner. Lorca says later that this incident was used by Dali in un chien andalau to mock him.
After several years, the married Dali meets again with Lorca. After his wife Gala makes a play for Lorca, Dali proposes that they all move in together—including a lover if Lorca has one—and work on more projects.
The bizarre artist whose behavior far outshone his art can be see in the following clip.
Dali – The Spanish Painter and Self Styled Genius
Little Ashes presents this story of thwarted love intelligently and often tenderly. While Pattinson gives a surprisingly nuanced performance, Javier Beltrán playing Lorca has true cinematic charisma. For me, he dominated all of his scenes. I highly recommend the film for an adult audience.
A clip about Luis Buñuel
To read more about Buñuel and Dali with the Surrealists, read Luis Buñuel's When Art Was Revolution, a fascinating article based on his autobiography, My Last Sigh, in Vanity Fair (September 1983, 108+). For a later view of Dali, check out Diedrich Diederichsen's Say Butterfly.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
My reaction, having cast my one vote with my one phone, is that American Idol may well have lost me as a viewer next year. The outcome for me was clear and corporate machinery once again showed a real lack of respect for the customers it supposedly serves.
As far as I'm concerned American Idol and AT&T are now in my past news basket.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The grown up Capote became a popular talk show guest becoming more and more outlandish with his comments. Often I would assume that he had spent a lot of time drinking before going on.
Capote captures his aunts in his short stories, A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor. One aunt, Edna Marie Rudisill, wrote a book on Fruitcakes and gained fame as an outspoken advice personality on Jay Leno's show. Rudisill died in November 2008, but it's interesting visualizing a young Capote/Dill reacting to this flamboyant aunt.
The Fall opens with a montage of a 1920s movie company filming on train tressle bridge, pulling up from a river a horse that has died in a stunt gone wrong. We later learn that Roy (played with subtly by Lee Pace), the main character and a stunt man in the movie, has been paralyzed in the fall.
Switch to a hospital in Los Angeles “once upon a time.” Alexandria (played by charming Rumanian child-actress Catina Untaru), an unaffected 5 year old, has written a note to her nurse which she throws down to her. It ends up in Roy’s room. Alexandria, a Rumanian refugee, had fallen while picking oranges and broken her arm which is set in a rigid cast. As she sets out in the hospital, she sees an X-Ray technician in his lead protective garb [who frightens Alexandria and becomes the prototype of Odious’s henchmen dogs]. Searching for her note, she sees Roy reading it [we recognize it because it is decorated by cut out diamonds]. Alexandria goes in to retrieve her note from him. While talking with Roy, she stands looking toward a door. Through the keyhole (like through a camera lens) an image of a horse appears. When a nurse opens the door, Alexandria is transfixed with an image of man and horse. Roy begins telling her a story about her namesake, Alexander the Great, and she immediately imagines him on a horse in Roman ruins.
Breaking into the story, Alexandria joins Roy. He looks at the contents of her treasure box, which include an elephant trinket and a photograph of her family (with her father and her horse). Roy asks her if she has stolen these things. She replies that she has found them.
As the story resumes, Roy tells Alexandria that he was wrong, that Alexander the Great had no horse and was lost in a desert with his men and no water. We see then, in glorious vista, a group of men in a vast desert. One of Alexander’s men returns on horseback. He gives him a note to read (the note has diamond shapes cut out). The man gives Alexander a helmet with water saying that it is all the water that could be found. Alexander pours it onto the sand.
“Why?” asks Alexandria. “What would you do better?” asks Roy. “I would give every soldier just a little bit.” In this their first story, some of the ground rules for the film are set up: Roy will be the storyteller, but Alexandria imagines the story based on her experiences and suggests changes in the narrative. At any point, the narrative can be intruded upon, reminding us it is only a story. Roy asks her to return when he will tell her a great epic adventure of love and revenge. [Later in the film Roy says the only the reason he is telling her the story is to get her to steal his medicine for him.]
When the doctor comes and ends the interview, Alexandria meets an old man who offers her an orange. Then he takes out his false teeth and tries to entertain her with them. Later in bed, Alexandria is studying a picture of the itinerant workers in the orange grown, including an Indian in a turban. Only five, she goes to the head nurse, Nurse Evelyn her mother substitute, to be held and comforted.
At this point, we are introduced to other characters in the hospital story, including a compassionate doctor, an African-American iceman, and Roy’s film colleagues—the man with one leg (who tells Roy that losing his leg opened up new acting opportunities—especially playing one legged pirates), the leading man who has stolen Roy’s love from him (who becomes Odious), and the leading lady who has jilted him.
Symbols of the film include Alexandria’s box of treasures, oranges, the horse, false teeth, the man with the gap teeth. Everywhere Alexandria goes she carries her cigar box of treasures—an elephant figurine she found, a picture of her father [a man with gap teeth] and family with their horse. Her box later becomes Darwin's treasure box also. The symbol of the orange is obvious. It is how Alexandria’s immigrant family sustain themselves. The horse is a little more subtle. The first image of the horse is the dead horse being lifted up from the water. For Roy, therefore, the horse represents the fall which left him paralized. When Alexandria waits to talk with Roy, Alexandria faces a door and sees a horse reflected through a keyhole onto the wall. Later in the film, Alexandria’s imagination shows us how her father was killed by men burning their house and stealing their horse. For both, therefore, it might be the tangible symbol of what they have loss… a loss which bonds them.
Roy finally begins his “epic tale of love and revenge.” Five bandits—changed from pirates because Alexandria doesn’t like pirates—exist on Butterfly Island, sent there by their nemesis, Governor Odious. The five men have all been hurt by Odious. The first is an African who has been a slave to Odious The second is an Indian who strokes his eyebrow when he thinks (seen by Alexandria as her turbaned friend from India, even though Roy talks about his “squaw”). Odious has kidnapped his wife who dies escaping him. The third, an explosives expert, has been banished by Odious. The fourth, the scientist Charles Darwin who is trying to find the goal of his life--a butterfly (interjects Alexandria), the Americanus Exoticus. Finally there is the blue bandit, who Roy makes her father, complete with his gap teeth. The men are trapped on the island because the blue bandit can’t swim. Darwin’s pet monkey tells him of an elephant swimming—and the blue bandit rides to land on the elphant’s back.
When they reach the barren land, they find a tree with a mystic who has been trapped inside. Darwin says he has birds in his stomach. The mystic leads the men to Odious’ castle. At one point, he eats their map and that map eventually reappears on his body as magical tattoos.
In the hospital story, Alexandria eventually steals some hosts from the hospital priest and offers one to Roy. “Are you trying to save my soul?” he jokes. She doesn’t understand his question. At this point, Roy has the idea that perhaps she can steal for him the “medicine” he needs to commit suicide. He asks her to steal “m-o-r-p-h-i-n-3” and when she does, she brings him 3 pills instead of the whole bottle.
In Roy’s story the Blue Bandit eventually becomes Roy as Alexandria’s love for him grows. Eventually Nurse Evelyn enters as the Blue Bandit’s love interest, Sister Evelyn, and Alexandria becomes the Blue Bandit’s daughter, who saves him from Odious’ henchmen—and ultimately from killing himself.
The film gets very dark in the last third as Roy’s depression and desire to kill himself appears in the story. One by one he kills off the characters with whom we have come to identify. Ultimately, Alexandria begs him to live. “I don’t want you to die,” she tearfully tells him, "Make him live." And in a powerful existential moment, he rejects suicide and chooses life for his character--and himself.
The film ends with the hospital and filmmaker characters watching the moving picture that Roy was in. On the screen we see a feathered headdressed Native American Indian who strokes his eyebrow when he thinks, a one legged man who has arrows stuck in his leg, and a masked bandit. At the moment that the masked bandit jumps from the train tressle, he lands on his horse and rides off. Roy’s near-tragic jump has been removed by the magic of cinema. And the film within-a-film ends with the lovers reunited. Alexandria, who has never seen a moving picture, is enthralled.
Jump forward to Alexandria well and out of the hospital, picking oranges with her family. Her turbaned friend is there. She even finds a butterfly. And she tells us that Roy has recovered and gone back to being a stunt-man. We see him do stunts and Alexandria tells us she knows it is him—doing fantastical stunts that other people can’t do. In a glorious montage, we see all these surprising stunts. He has indeed chosen life.
The film sings the power of cinema and storytelling. Gene Siskel once said that great films take us to worlds we’ve never known. Tarsem Singh, the director, filmed in over 18 countries in exotic locales which create a fantastic vision. He allows us to see the subtle love growing between his two main characters while powering our imaginations with impossible actions.
Lee Pace discusses his role:
|Don't miss it! |
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I collect angel artwork. I'm fascinated by how many cultures have angels images and how those images both vary and are similar. For example, I took the picture above from a bowl in the Greek/Roman collection at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in last month.
A few years ago, I bought some angel items that were in a collection of a young woman's estate, which included a large wooden folk art angel, a ceramic plaque with two musical angels and a modern ceramic wall flower holder. The angel with trumpet ornament is a Christmas decoration.
There are several movies with angels, including It's a Wonderful Life and Heaven Can Wait. In The Bishop's Wife (1947), angel Cary Grant falls in love with mortal Loretta Young.
A similar theme is developed in one of my favorite films,The Wings of Desire (1987). [The film was remade in 1998 as City of Angels with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan.]
In Wings of Desire, the main character Damiel is an angel who wants to become human and experience love. My favorite scene of the film is when Damiel and the angel Cassiel walk into the public library and observes the readers sitting with their guardian angels whispering to them. I began thinking of libraries in a totally different way.
In literature, there's Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck which develops a similar theme as the above. in 1809 Frenchman Sobran Jodeau encounters an angel named Xas who Sobran determines is his guardian angel. For the rest of Sobran's life, the two develop a homo-erotic earthly relationship that goes way beyond the relationship Sobran and the reader expect.
Two graphic novels about angels come to mind.
The first, in two parts, is Yslaire's From Cloud 99: Memories Part One and Memories Part Two. In Yslaire's work, 99-year-old psychologist Eva Stern gets a series of emails from an anonymous sender with pictures documenting events in her life and the world of the 20th century and showing an angel in space who looks like her lost brother. With an assistant, she tries to decipher the messages, which seem to say that her brother is an angel--and eternal.
The second graphic novel, Murder Mysteries, is by writer Neil Gaiman and artist P. Craig Russell. A bum joins a stranger on a bench and begins telling him a story of how he is actually the angel of vengeance and how he solved the first murder of an angel. Why he is telling the story is another mystery.
Above is the angel from my Everyman paper doll set, done in the style of Albrecht Durer.
Below are more of my angel collection: first is a Balinese angel which I acquired at a garage sale. At right is a modern wooden folk African angel.
First is a 1980 Hallmark Christmas angel with lute, designed by Donna Lee; a 1997 Hallmark African-American angel with goblet; a Fontanini standing angel; large Fontanini wall angel with lute.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Earlier this week I watched an episode of Star Trek that I had never seen, and having been a loyal viewer of the show, I was surprised. It starred Jeffrey Hunter as the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I knew Hunter from his 1950s work in such movies as The Searchers and King of Kings (mocked by many as Jesus for having shaven armpits at his crucifixion). Hunter starred in the 1965 NBC pilot of Star Trek as Captain Christopher Pike, in an episode called "The Cage."
When the series was picked up, William Shatner took over as Captain James T. Kirk. That first season began in 1966, the year I began teaching, and continued until 1969, when I moved to my second job in Park Forest.
As was probably intended, after seeing the episode, I was primed to see the prequel.
Today I went to see the film and was delighted. The film had great special effects, the wit of the original, and great action sequences. The new crew pay enthusiastic homage to their predecessors. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock make a fun duo. I found myself laughing with the recognition of the new crew: Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), the cynical Dr. "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban), Mr. Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) who does great action sequences, Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and the comedy relief of "Beam me up, Scotty" (Simon Pegg). Eric Bana makes a good villain. And there too is Capt. Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) as Kirk's mentor and father-figure.
If you need inspiration, check out the movie website, here and watch the trailer. The movie is as good as the trailer.
If you want to know more about the Starships, check here.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The real world is often mundane; people live unheroic lives of boredom, monotony, and (according to Thoreau) quiet desperation. In the world of fairy tales, however, like David’s world, ivy can grown into our room trying to reach us, crooked little men can turn into magpies and appear to threaten our family, and wolves can walk upright and speak – and we can do the impossible of bringing someone back from the world of death.
The importance of the quest. Joseph Campbell describes the pattern for all hero quest stories as “the monomyth.” He summarizes the pattern in The Hero of a Thousand Faces:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Campbell then expands this pattern into various parts:
- Separation from the Present
- The call to adventure. The hero is sometimes thrust, sometimes enticed, into a new world.
- Refusal of the call. Often the hero’s reponse is to refusal the call. Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit is ultimately forced to go on the journey much against his will.
- Meeting with the Mentor – the hero is helped by someone older and wiser.
- Often also the hero has a companion who acts as a confidant.
- Crossing the threshold OR
- Entering the Belly of the Beast – some times a death and birth incident gets the hero into the new world
- Road of trials – the hero must go through a series of tests and trials
- Mother as Goddess – often the hero must encounter a goddess figure OR
- Woman as Temptress - the hero must resist the temptations of a woman
- Reconcilliation with the father – the hero sometimes has to reconcile with the father-figure
- Apotheosis – through his trials, the hero ultimately changes his viewpoint
- The Ultimate Test or Ordeal
- Receiving The Boon
- The Road Back
- Refusal of the return
- The Chase Sequence
- Crossing the Return Threshold – Bringing Back the Elixir
- Master of Two Worlds
- Freedom to Live
Here’s a visual map of the journey
Assignment: Trace how these elements are used in The Wizard of Oz or another favorite film.
Monday, May 04, 2009
A researcher claims that Vincent Van Gogh has been maligned regarding the loss of his ear.
Art history tells us that Van Gogh, in a fit of madness, cut off his ear and gave it to a prostitute. According to a new theory, Van Gogh and his friend Paul Gauguin were outside a brothel, having an argument about Gauguin's staying in the south of France. Gauguin, wielding a sword, waved it toward Van Gogh and somehow Van Gogh's ear ended up on the ground. Gauguin ran off and Van Gogh threw the sword in the river (says the researcher, to protect his friend from persecution). After presenting the ear to a prostitute, Van Gogh went home to bed. He refused to discuss the incident. Our knowledge of the incident came only from Gauguin who said Van Gogh cut off his own ear.
The friendship of the two fell apart, and seven months later, Van Gogh committed suicide.
Read the fascinating story here.