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!