Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I know, I know. I am such a punk! I can't believe how long it has been since I last posted. However, this is still not a real post (yes, it doesn't exist). It is more a post to explain where I have been. Sadly, I have been really overwhelmed by school and grading (especially the latter). I was able to take a break this past weekend and do some painting (finally!). And this is what I created:

I wanted to do a study in suffering. Here is my first one titled Lost in Sin.

A little bit of a close up on it...if a little blurry.

My other one is what started the series. I love Velazquez's painting (see earlier post on Daredevil), and I just love the emotion he got in the face. This is my version of that, which I have just titled "After After Velazquez."

A little bit of a closer look...

A much closer look again to see how I used the color in this one.

Something to inspire you though: I have just watched one of the most beautiful films ever! It is silent and superb! It is called The Man Who Laughs and came out in 1928. I loved it so much!!! You should go watch it right now - it is free on youtube because it is public domain.
Look at that emotion in his face! So good! Plus, based on a Hugo book!?! You should know that Les Miserables is my favorite book ever - such a picture of redemption! I loved the movie.

Plus, check out that legit smile! This was the inspiration of the Joker from Batman. Isn't that awesome! It made my day when I learned that (thanks to my awesome bro!), and I have been telling all my kids to go watch it, though I doubt they will. You should though!
Alright, I am not sure when I will be able to return to regular postings since I am getting more papers to grade soon and my schedule is out of control. I will try to make time though (that's right, I'm magic). Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven)

Grade: F
Title: A Matter of Life and Death (in US: Stairway to Heaven) 1946
Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Notable Actors: David Niven, Roger Livesey, and Kim Hunter

How can you say no to David Niven? He is just so wonderful - Let's just reflect: The Pink Panther, The Guns of Navarone and he played Bertie in Thank You, Jeeves! So, right away A Matter of Lfie and Death should intrigue you. Plus, and I'm not sure if you caught this, but it is directed and written by the same people (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) who did The Red Shoes, which you know I love. This movie had much the same effect The Red Shoes had on me. It literally blew me away - I adored it soooooo much: sublime!

It begins a little oddly, and really that is what defines the movie the entire way through because it is just super curious but in a really good way! However, the first scene beyond the little prologue is simply lovely. Niven's character is in a plane that is on fire and he ends up calling to the nearest station, which is manned by an American girl. He recites some poetry to her while she is trying to figure out who he is and what is happening to his plane. It is such a poignant scene that it pulls you into the story right away.

Powell and Pressburger really enjoy themselves in this movie and have some fun with common stereotypes given to nations. For example, as you can tell from the picture above, the Frenchman here is depicted as foppish, effeminate, and completely sympathetic to love. Of course, Niven is an Englishman and the young woman he falls in love with is American,, which leads to a whole bunch of tension later when Niven is tried by the first American to have been shot and killed in the Revolutionary War.

I added this picture because I LOVE books and hope to have a room quite similar to this when I grow up (right now I do have stacks of books everywhere, but I can hardly stack them everywhere because my poor roomies - I live with four other girls - would kill me, especially since I have stashed my books as "accents" and "decorations" all over the place already). So this might have been a little bit of a digression, but let's face it, if this set is present in this movie how can it not be superb?

As mentioned before, Niven's plane was heading to a crash, with no hope of escape for him; however, he is able to wash up on the shore seemingly fine. But, as time progresses, Niven is visited by a Frenchman (see above) who is trying to get him to come to the afterlife since he was supposed to die in the plane crash. When this man comes to visit Niven, everything stops in time, which is what you see in the picture of the girl playing ping-pong (never much good at that game - or any game that deals heavily with eye/hand coordination). Kim Hunter, who plays the girl, is surprisingly good at holding her pose, which she has to do throughout the movie. These scenes create interesting moments in the film, revealing much of the beauty that Powell and Pressburger are able to achieve.

This is the iconic "Stairway to Heaven." As you can see, it is lined by statues of the most famous men, which the Frenchman attempts to get Niven to chose for his defense. I love this scene, which has this great driving tune being pounded out on the piano. It fits so well with the subversiveness of the Frenchman and the confusion of Niven's character. This scene is why the American released version was called Stairway to Heaven (apparently, there is not much different between the two - the American version did take out this super odd scene with a clothe-less boy on the beach, seemingly representational of Pan), and has been used as album art for Phil Collins.

This movie made use of a HUGE number of extras to make up the crowd at the trial. Interestingly, these extras included real R.A.F. crews, Red Cross nurses and W.A.A.C.s. The scene of the trial is preceded by the classic and ominous picture of Niven's eye closing over the lens, effectively placing the viewer as the person about to be placed on trial. The whole sequence of the trial is fascinatingly written, as all the different people groups interact and respond. It takes place in heaven and plays off of classic stereotypes. While I'm thinking of it, I want to mention how beautiful and evocative the scene is where they first introduce heaven. At first, there is little dialogue - just people walking in and the viewer figuring out who they are and we watch them get placed. It is such an interesting picture of heaven, though deeply flawed of course (as every version of heaven is that is created on earth).

This movie did change my life. I loved it so much, and I only watched it for the first time last week! I wanted to buy it right away, and so looked for it on amazon. However, I couldn't find it for region 1 (irritations galore!). I am not sure how to get my hands on it, and I fear I will have to be patient. I would recommend that you watch this movie right away!!! You can definitely get it from your local library. If they don't have it in stock, make use of the wonderful tool called InterLibraryLoan (it can be your best friend and save you tons of money). Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Lost Weekend

Grade: F
Title: The Lost Weekend (1945)
Director: Billy Wilder
Notable Actors: Ray Milland and Jane Wyman

I can't tell you how much I love this movie! I'm really not sure why. Like so many classic black and white films, I first watched it on TCM and then went out and bought it right away! I just fell in love with the endearing, irritating character that the brilliant Ray Milland portrays. Just look at this picture of despair...

Can't you feel his utter inability to control himself? What could be more terrifying than that? You are not being victimized by anyone but yourself, which is why it is so gripping and frightful because if you can't control yourself you clearly cannot control anything else. Ray Milland can also be recognized as the equally terrifying (but for completely different reasons) husband from Hitchcock's masterpiece Dial M for Murder.
Quick side note: while we are on the note of leading actors, I hope you all recognize Jane Wyman's name. Anyone know who she was married to? I'll let that marinate for a bit ... one clue - when his statement that he cut wood was questioned by a journalist he preceded to have his secret service men video tape him chopping a HUGE load of wood ... hahahahahahahahaha. What a great story!

The main premise of this movie is that a young man has become obsessed with drinking (you can see the ridiculous lengths he goes to in order not to be caught...here he has hidden his alcohol outside his window, so his brother does not find it as he searches - literally, awkwardly, horrifyingly - his room). His brother wants him to come with him for the weekend to help him not drink his nights away. However, we get to watch his complete fall into oblivion and departure from reason. It is haunting and surprisingly insightful because we all have obsessions that are better left unexplored.

Some of the best elements of this film (there are so many!) are the two women characters. One is sassy and ridic (yes, she shortens the word...who knew? I always thought that was something more recent), while the other is refined and sophisticated - showing the two spectrums he kind of pivots around. He only is associated with the sleazy girl because he hangs around in the bars when he should be with his brother; however, even she proves that she is not as sleazy as he is because she knows when to say no, which is his constant struggle.

Thus, we are presented with a beautiful, sparkling woman and the man who won her heart (the way they met is almost too classic...you should watch it at least for that). He is a promising writer with a strong career in front of him. However, as his character is unfolded, it is clear that his need for drink is so overwhelming that it constantly defeats and gets the better of him.

The last part of the film is my favorite. It shows his awful descent into drinking madness (even Hell) as he hallucinates and ends up in the hospital. He finally realizes that he has to give up drinking in order to move on with his life. True, he lost the past weekend with his brother, who he will have to rebuild his relationship with, but he realizes that he has not lost his life. I love this ending because it does not ignore the consequences of sin, but it shows redemption and hope. To me, it ends on one of the most hopeful notes it could - him starting to write again.

I do enjoy this movie a great deal. The emotion and passion one character is able to portray. I would definitely recommend that you buy it right away!!! (easily found here: http://http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Weekend-Ray-Milland/dp/B0000549B1) or at least netflix it or borrow it (I'm sure your library has it). Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Grade: G+
Title: Stitches
Author AND Artist: David Smalls

Yes, I am finally back and better than ever (so what if I have 70 conferences with my darling students next week, so what if I have my proposal defense next Friday, so what if I have to take the GRE Subject test next Saturday - life is good)! I am glad to be back, and I am so glad I went and bought this comic. Stitches is a beautiful comic about the life of a young boy (the author) who grows up in a family that doesn't communicate. When he is fourteen he has to have surgery, he thinks to get a minor lump removed but really it is because he has cancer. After he wakes up from the surgery, he finds that he no longer can speak.

On the cover of Stitches, it bears the phrase "a memoir..." Indeed, Stitches is a memoir in the same vein as Running with Scissors. The latter details the very odd life of a young boy who is tossed around because everyone is too selfish to care, which he portrays quite aggressively. In the same way, Stitches mainly focuses on the relationship, or lack there of, of David to his parents. Both of these memoirs, while enjoyable and fascinating, paint an almost painfully pleasant portrayal of the main character. Essentially, they are both too ... not self-righteous, but self-pitying.

Here, David is portraying himself as his father subjects him to his many X-rays. He grew up in the fifties, when they didn't realize the radiation effects X-rays had, and, since he had some trouble breathing and his dad was a radiologist, he received a great number of them when he was quite young. This, quite sadly, causes his cancer, but David finds himself unable to forgive his father for the loss of his voice. Thus, for me the lack of hope and forgiveness (I love art to represent redemption something we all desire to experience at some time) present really limited the power of Stitches. It was too worthy of itself, rendering much of the story unpleasant.

However, both the only element to represent hope of any kind and the redeeming factor in this book is the art. The art is beautiful and even sublime throughout the whole work. Small's choice of using only black and white fits perfectly with his dire, somber story. However, as the story unfolds David realizes that he needs art in order to express himself, which gives him a glimmer of hope. This art also gives him a voice, as his has been taken from him.

With this picture, you can see the beautiful (if a little grotesque, which you should know I kind of love, which is why I am writing my thesis on it) detail Small is able to include, even as he simplifies his lines and is very intentional in what details he does include. The way he doesn't bother to capture a perfectly realistic representation of shadows on his body works because he wants his viewers to be focused on the stitches. This style works amazingly well throughout the entire book, elevating an otherwise dreary memoir into something beautiful and worth reading.

Ultimately, Stitches presents itself as a strong comic worthy of being read. I am glad I own it because the art is luminous and simply divine. I enjoy studying it and mimicking his effective style. However, the story does not sell me, so it might be better to rent it ... really up to you. Until next time; go enjoy art!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Golly, I am so ashamed! Here I am, neglecting my blog. The truth is that I got my first batch of papers from my lovely students a week ago, which means I have been busily grading fifty painfully freshman compare/contrast papers. I have to give them back tomorrow, which means I was doing some major grading today. All of this to say, I did not write my blog on Friday, nor am I going to today.

I know, it is so sad! Never fear; I will leave you with a few things to brighten your day until my return on Friday.

First, I have video to offer you (found here: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4vf8N6GpdM) that typifies how I feel as I grade (especially note the ending). It is a clever parody of Inglorious Basturds, a good film, if not pleasant.

Second, I don't feel that I should ignore the Twilight craze, so I offer the only way anyone should watch the movie (http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpT8l94CKcs). Now, you can be up on the cultural phenomenal without having to actually take part in it. Doesn't that feel good?

Finally, I have two paintings to leave you with.
The first makes me think of my mother. This pretty well represents her entire personality and being (well, as much as can be represented in one image).
The second always makes me think of my Dad. Not that his personality is really represented here. But,when I was a little girl, and I first saw this painting I thought of Jeeves and Wooster, an amazing British comedy that is based off of P.G. Wodehouse's amazingly hilarious novels. Anyway, my Dad introduced me to Jeeves and Wooster when I was young and so, for me, this painting represents him.

Allright, until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Heiress

Grade: F
Title: The Heiress (1949)
Director: William Wyler
Notable Actors: Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift

The Heiress. I can't tell y'all how much I adore this film! I found it fascinating, haunting, and provocative for many different reasons. Also, I thought this movie, with its intense focus on just a few key characters, presents an enthralling portrait and study of humanity. A little side note, not that I only care about awards, but I hope you noted the fact that The Heiress won FOUR Academy Awards (including Best Actress) - pretty impressive, huh!

It is no wonder that Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar, which she had done once before for her role in To Each His Own, because she is a wonderful actress. First of all, she made a number of exciting actiony movies with Errol Flynn, and then she took a complete change of direction by insisting on doing the role of Melanie in Gone with the Wind. She showed her versatility and her ability to play someone who was not chiefly a beauty. Montgomery Clift also established himself as a brilliant actor (although he never won an Academy Award...he was nominated for four - and I think the fact that he didn't win for A Place in the Sun is a travesty...an AMAZING movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters - watch it now).

The Heiress is mainly concerned with a woman from a rich family as she "enjoys" society. She is naturally shy and so finds it difficult to be completely comfortable at parties or other social gatherings. People are kind to her, but her painful awkwardness is highlighted over and over again (remember, this is before awkwardness became a tool for comedy - see The Office). Within the first ten minutes, I felt attached to her because she just kept doing the wrong thing, and I really wanted to help her. Anyway, she attends yet another party and meets a dashing young man, Clift.

She is flattered by him and wants to develop their relationship because he is the only one who has ever shown any interest in her. However, her overbearing father quickly undermines her hope. In fact, the most compelling element, for me. in the movie is the relationship between the father and the daughter. It is something I find so heartbreakingly sad - what a waste of what could be a beautiful relationship. He is a widower, lonely and cold and his daughter could provide comfort and warmth for his life. Instead, he continually pushes her away, refusing to see her virtues and condemning her to a loveless life.

Ultimately, The Heiress is a love story, of sorts. You have a boy who seems to be falling in love with a girl who seems to be falling in love with him. What could go wrong? Of course, love is never that simple because whenever we fall in love we second guess ourselves - and the person we are falling in love with. This leads to a quagmire of questions and worries within the heiress' life as she hopes that Clift really loves her.

After being gone for years, Clift comes back from the West to seek out de Haviland. He is sporting a mustache (good choice? doubtful) and promises to love her now that he has returned. Is she happy? Will she trust him? I am not going to mention any of those questions; rather, I will let you discover the truth. The emotions at the end of this film run high and should hold you tightly to your seat.

The Heiress is a must see movie! I would recommend you buy it right away (I know I did), which you can do here:
http://http//www.amazon.com/Heiress-Universal-Cinema-Classics/dp/B000KGGJ1I, or if you don't quite have the funds or the inclination you can watch it free on youtube: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOAxiZ1fAY0. Really, it is a good time for pretty much anyone of any age. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Daredevil: Born Again

Grade: E
Title: Daredevil: Born Again
Author: Frank Miller
Artist: David Mazzucchelli

This is my second Daredevil comic to look at, and I loved it so much more than the first one! It made me remember why I thought Daredevil was such a compelling character (please, don't think of the awful Ben Afleck Daredevil - in the comic he doesn't even have the same look, thankfully). The plot is simple: Kingpin (the nemesis of Daredevil) discovers Daredevil's secret identity and works to take everything away from Matt Murdock (who is, of course, the owner of the alter-ego Daredevil) from his job to his home to his friends.

Let's start with the bad stuff (even if it is a little out of order). Born Again ends with a real campy, kitchy villain, which leads to the involvement of Captain America (among others). This ending just falls short from the rest of the volume, which is beautifully done. I am not sure why they ended it like they did - why they had to pull in these random people, who didn't have any involvement with the rest of the story (I mean, it would be like if the writers at Penguin felt the need to draw in random people from other stories - taking liberally from both good books and bad ones...really not an advisable idea).

The rest of Born Again is really quite brilliant. Obviously, from the title and the cover, Miller was drawing from a distinctly religious theme. This thread runs throughout the comic and really achieves a lyrical and moving storyline. Apart from being lyrical, Born Again presents some of the most harrowing moments that one could ever encounter. Matt's life literally falls apart in one day as he loses everything, even faith in his closest friend Foggy. However, for me, for obvious reasons, the Christian elements are the most intriguing.

This image, from just after Matt had stooped to his lowest point, beautifully invokes the classic motif of the pieta (sorry, I couldn't quite figure out how to put the proper accent over the "a"). This is a symbol that I find quite evocative, so I am going to take the opportunity to share some of the most sublime pietas from art. mwhahahahaha!

Here is the haunting painting by Bouguereau of the Pieta or "the Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives Jesus' Body into Her Arms." Just observe the intense look on Mary's face! In fact, this painting is what inspired Mel Gibson (please excuse all of his many indiscretions and don't judge his past work for his present deeds - or should we?) to look for a similar looking Mary in Passion. I find the white body of Jesus particularly striking against Mary's black robes.

Here is probably the most famous Pieta, and famous for a good reason, sculpted by the ever astonishing Michelangelo. I remember the first time I saw a picture of this statue I was a freshman in high school. We had to analyze it for my history class and as a group we particularly noticed how much larger Mary's body was compared to Jesus' waif-like corpse. The emotion conveyed by the way the figures are arranged is especially poignant.

Another image from Born Again that is evocative of religious symbolism is this touching picture of Matt and his mother (she is the nun clutching his hand, in case you were curious). I love how Mazzucchelli uses the negative space to create the illusion of a cross, especially with the tiny crucifix at the center, reminiscent of the sign nailed above Jesus' head when he was murdered.

Oh yes, I found a way to fit in one of my favorite paintings of Jesus, this one done by Velazquez (yes, I didn't get to put the accent over his a either...oops). Isn't it exquisite - try to get a close up of his face - I find myself always drawing this eloquent depiction of Jesus' sacrifice everywhere (right now it is scrawled across our bright blue kitchen wall in chalk). Just take a few moments to ponder this painting . . . doesn't your soul feel better now!

Ultimately, Born Again is a comic definitely worth the read. In fact, despite its somewhat weak disappointing end, I would say you should buy it right now. Cave under the pressure: http://http//www.amazon.com/Daredevil-Born-Again-Frank-Miller/dp/0785134808. The way this comic inspires you to think, to look at your life, to evaluate makes the read especially worthwhile. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harold and Maude

Grade: G+
Title: Harold and Maude (1971)
Director: Hal Ashby
Notable Actors: Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort

Harold and Maude was actually first recommended to me by a good friend of mine. He loved it, but his wife told me not to bother. I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did. It is a very strange movie, but kind of refreshing in its oddity. I quite liked the characterization of the two leads, especially Maude. Ruth Gordon did an excellent job with her character, who is an erratic old lady who steals cars and demands to live in the moment. She changes the life of the morbid Harold when they meet at a funeral.

Now, this isn't strictly about this movie, but look at these pictures! Ruth Gordon was truly beautiful when younger, and she certainly aged well, which you can see in the film. I found these two pictures of her, and she looks so stunning and classic I had to share them. The top picture made me think of a Gatsby (see F. Scott Fitzgerald's immortal The Great Gatsby) girl, while the bottom picture made me think of Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (a movie you really have to see - so beautiful) or Greta Garbo in Camille, one of her best roles.

OK, now back to the movie at hand. I have already mentioned that it is a strange film, but just because something is strange does not mean it is bad (just think of Van Gogh. It is decidedly strange to cut off your own ear in order to study it better, but I'm sure anyone in the world could find at least one of his paintings beautiful). In this movie, the strangeness works most of the time. Harold has a penchant for pretending to kill himself, which can be quite funny, especially the scene with an actress his mother has set him up with who jumps right into character playing opposite the dead man. However, it can also be humourless and gets a little redundant after a while.

Nevertheless, the story, pulled so tautly between life and death, is an intriguing one. Indeed, a quick fun fact about Harold and Maude: the screenwriter Colin Higgins took this story from the thesis he wrote in order to complete his schooling at UCLA. This is particularly encouraging to me as I am entrenched within my own thesis writing process. Actually, I am entrenched in thesis proposal writing process (which I hope to defend in less than two weeks). See, theses are good for something after having been written.
This movie is a fun sort of romp through the early seventies. It is interesting to see how the culture of that day influenced this film, from the clothing to the ideology. In fact, a song that provides a common thread throughout the movie is Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out" (which you can go here: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha3Rm4MSX-g to hear if you aren't familiar with this song).

The movie moves from a bildungsroman (coming of age tale) about Harold to Maude's emphasis on when she is going to pass, she repeatedly says that eighty is the best age to die. Harold has now fallen in love with the fifty-years-his-senior woman, and they share an almost poetic but, of course, disturbing kiss. Apart from the awkward age difference between Harold and Maude the kiss does point to the beautiful cyclic nature of life, which is particularly fitting in light of how the film ends.

Harold and Maude is a strange film and probably isn't for everyone (which is why it has won the "cult" label), but I think it is worth at least a renting. Also, I have some exciting news that I can't help but share it: I am going to a comic book club on Thursday night! Jealous? You should be. I'll let you know how it goes on Friday. Until next time; go enjoy some art!