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!

Friday, September 10, 2010

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Grade: G+
Title: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga
Author: Chris Claremont
Artist: John Byrne

I encountered in The Dark Phoenix Saga a problem I have seen in almost all of the X=Men stories I have read. It is painfully written at times - OK, let's be honest: most times. However, if I separate that from the story itself, I find this saga quite compelling.

Although, some of the art is quite striking (see above - how can you not love this visual of a phoenix? Of course, the phoenix is one of my favorite mythological creatures. The symbols that the bird possesses are so intriguing - the images of rebirth, healing, fire, power and wealth - and they represent so much in sooo many cultures, from the Phoenicians to the Persians to the Greeks to the Egyptians), at other times I disliked it. For example, the color is that often tacky and ill-fitting However, I have to admit that the art is also successful. The way Byrne represents action and the characters is pleasing.

Here we have a page where Jane Grey goes into her crazy, violent self and her friends are forced to fight against her. This is a question that I always find intriguing. What I enjoy about the writing of Claremont (never the actual way he phrases it, but his overall ideas can be captivating). These elements in the story are notable because they show an attractive trend that occurred in the eighties in mainstream comic writing (The Dark Phoenix Saga was published from January to October in 1980).

One of my favorite aspects of the story are the fun mind games that Mastermind (classic name, right) plays with Jane Grey. He makes her relive the life of Lady Jane Grey (quick shameless plug - check out Lady Jane, old school Cary Elwes, prePrincessBride and Helena Bonham Carter, pre-creepyness, which recounts the sad reign of Lady Jane Grey) with himself cast as her love, which really kills Scott. Good times.

I actually really like that last picture (minus the Spiderman, you know how I feel about people other than Batman - are you ready for this: Right now I am sitting in my living room with my awesome roomies watching a Batman marathon. That's right. We started with Batman from 1966, moved onto Batman from 1989, to Batman Returns from 1992, then to Batman Forever from 1995, then to Batman and Robin from 1997 (I know it really is painful to watch), then to Batman Begins from 2005 and, finally, to end beautifully with The Dark Knight (which started my interest in reading comics, so I can't help bu that love it) aren't y'all jealous!!!!). Even though the cheesy mask kills me a little bit, the pathos grips me.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this story is Jean Gray's self-sacrifice. Granted, she had committed genocide of an entire planet and wreaked awful havoc on the X-Men team, but even so when she dies the note of tragedy is not lost. The powerful moment is somewhat lessened by the unfortunately large-headed (forever emblazoned in my mind as babies because of how they look - unfair, I know) Uatu, the watcher (an idea that intrigues me - those cursed to watch the universe and never interfere, but why do they have to look so unfortunate???) commenting, rather lamely, in my opinion, "Jane Grey could have lived to become a God. But it was more important to her that she die ... a human." I am really not sure why that strikes me as so cheesy. I know I love a good line as much as the next person, but, I suppose, this one just rings false for me.

However, I still believe that The Dark Phoenix is worth a read. It is an example of some of the best story you will get from an ultra mainstream storyline. I would suggest getting it from your local library (you know how much I like those), but if you just feel compelled to buy it, you may purchase it here:
http://http//www.amazon.com/X-Men-Dark-Phoenix-Chris-Claremont/dp/0785122133. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nosferatu, eine symphonie des Gravens

Grade: E
Title: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Gravens (1922)
Director: F.W. Murnau
Notable Actor: Max Schreck (whose name in translation means "fear!")

Nosferatu was the first silent movie I watched and enjoyed. The music, the cinematography, the plot - all of it worked together to create a beautiful film. From the first introduction to Nosferatu (who upon seeing Hutter's wife's picture mouths "Is this your wife, what a lovely throat" you can see just that scene here:
http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8IT4aAouus - classic) to his iconic rise of the coffin.

Nosferatu grips the viewer throughout. The fact that it is a silent film actually helps this movie. With only the eerie score that is played along as the sole source of sound context, the tension builds upon itself in such a way that the first time I watched it I was actually scared. Perhaps you don't think this is such a great feat (and, considering the fact that I wouldn't take a shower after watching Psycho in the 6th grade, perhaps you are right).

However, just look at that photo above. What! Tell me that you wouldn't be frightened if, after you looked in the mirror, seeing only yourself, you turned around to see him standing (or lurking is probably more accurate) behind you, it wouldn't be terrifying. In Nosferatu, you will not see a vampire who sparkles or just wants to love you or your daughter. Rather, Nosferatu is brutal and murderous.

When I first watched this film (and even upon my other viewings), my favorite scene is one where Nosferatu is sailing from his distant land to your home (yes, he is coming for you!), and slowly begins killing off the crew, one boatman at a time. This scene, or really series of scenes, is gripping because you literally know what's coming, yet you can't help but wish, hope, and maybe suspect that ONE will survive.

Of course, anyone who watches Nosferatu connects it right away to Bram Stoker's Dracula. When the movie was created, the Stoker family noticed it as well and where NOT pleased. Thus, Nosferatu barely got out of the gate and almost every copy was destroyed. Also, I have been led to believe that we may not even have a completed copy as the director desired.

Happily, Nosferatu can be found on youtube in its entirety because it is now public domain: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyzubFvBsA. It is an interesting look into horror before one could actually hear the proverbial girl scream. Until next time; go enjoy some art!