Category: movies

Linkalicious

A list of links to inspire:

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Eno Kisses The Future: Producer/musician/all-around genius Brian Eno is the Guest Artistic Director of the 2010 Brighton Festival, running May 1st through 23rd. Discussing the vital role of art in shaping future events, he says “it’s very easy to be pessimistic about the future” but adds that “artists offer new kinds of worlds” from which imagination can rise to offer new, creative solutions to problems like climate change and poverty. The fest will include Eno’s 77 Million Paintings and a sound installation set up throughout the city.

Austen Bites: What do you get when you mix Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and vampires? A whole lot of sales, it seems. Author/teacher Amy Leal takes apart the literary mash-up trend, drawing some hilarious (and valid) lines between the two writing giants, their respective works, and their modern-day neck-chomping counterparts.

King Bites Too: Horror writer Stephen King is releasing a comic book (courtesy of DC Comics) tomorrow. Called American Vampire, it’s about “a Wild West outlaw who’s a sociopath even before he gets vamped.” While the project has echoes of his Dark Tower/Gunslinger series, this is the first time the multi-mondo-selling author has done a comic book formally. Sounds killer.

Legacy is greater than currency“: Best-selling author and wine guy Gary Vaynerchuk gave this talk at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2008. He talks about “hustling” and the benefits of pursuing what you love, rather than being stuck in a job you hate. I’m still not sure how it relates to the world of journalism, but there’s something heartening about his energy and enthusiasm, and I like his idea of establishing “brand equity in yourself.”

Women Who Go Beyond: This collection of photos is a nice complement to this past weekend’s Women In The World conference. Based on The One Campaign‘s recent trips through Ghana and Sierra Leone, the photos are both beautiful works of art an incredible documents of people making a difference. The stories accompanying them are equally fascinating and inspiring.

Rockin’ Runaways: According to this report, director Floria Sigismondi got the grit just right for her new film, The Runaways, detailing the rise of the late 70s band that featured Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. I was never a huge fan of the band, but I love Sigismondi’s rich visual sense and intuitive feel for atmosphere (look at her video work for Sigur Ros, David Bowie, and The White Stripes, for example). Combining her operatic style with rock and roll seems molto bellissimo.

Oscar Cool

Oscars: fun, silly, big business.

However, you choose to look at them (and all the itinerant outfits), you can’t help but choose a favorite moment when the little golden man makes his appearance every March. My personal favorite segment was short, snappy, and very stylish: Tina Fey, in sparkling black one-shoulder dress, and Robert Downey Jr. rocking a bow-tie and Warhol shades, presenting the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (it went to the entirely-deserving Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker, fyi). The two shared a comfortable, natural chemistry; their deadpan delivery of tacky lines, with Fey’s sarcastic cheery-chipper-yay-team-ness, and Downey’s sourpuss antics, easily became my top Oscar moment. Kathryn Bigelow taking top director honors, and her incredible film winning big, were different kinds of joys entirely, but for smart, smarmy, smirking entertainment, Fey & Downey were tops.

What a deliciously refreshing moment of two supremely funny, smart people, their awareness of the ridiculousness of the spectacle they were involved in (and indeed, work daily in) writ large on their expressive faces. What a joy, to witness their playing with the absurdity, mocking and milking the fatuous fabulousness of big gowns, big hair, bright lights and booming music. Downey’s later appearance on Jimmy Kimmel‘s post-Oscars show was every bit as entertaining; he seems supremely aware of his position within the Hollywood game, and is content to play into it, while keeping watch to not be played by it.

Here’s to the artists who make these award shows -and their post-mortems -so entertaining, while reminding us there’s sometimes a very creative brain behind the box office buzz.

Boogie On, Darth

As if you needed proof Star Wars crosses every barrier in the universe -social, political, financial -comes this clip, proving it also crosses artistic and cultural worlds. It may be clumsy, it may be silly, but it’s earnest, and so clearly trying. Combining Charleston-esque dance moves with pseudo-Martha Graham waves and mixed with a super-hefty dose of 70s tacky factor, this has to be one of the most glee-inducing tributes to the beloved George Lucas flick.

There’s also a clearly discernible vibe from another movie that was huge in 1977: Saturday Night Fever. Dancing -good, bad, and everything in-between -combined with popular media like television was a big damn deal back then. Clips like this seem to echo this trend. After the painful, tumultuous times of the 1960s, I think people just wanted to boogie. Who can blame them? And… who knew Darth Vader could wiggle like that? I’m pretty sure the force has a beat -whether or not you can dance to it doesn’t matter. The point is, you should try -having a nifty cape or gold jumpsuit doesn’t hurt, either.

Dance Dance Dance

Lastnight, I came home to enjoy an old documentary called That’s Entertainment on television. The piece covers the bygone era of Hollywood musicals. Having sat through previews detailing the latest super-action-charged, effects-laden films, as well as the action-y, effects-filled main feature, I was struck by the simple, lovely pleasures of watching the human form move and pivot through space, to music. Somehow, the cinema of fifty-odd years ago seems purer -and for me, oddly more satisfying than many of today’s flashy offerings.

That doesn’t I’m a Luddite, however. I sometimes deeply enjoy the digital artistry on offer in modern films (Lord of the Rings was beautiful, perfect, and very moving), so long as it is in the service of a strong story and interesting characters. But I have to admit that I find the combination of simple, if carefully-choreographed, song-and-dance numbers from yesteryear thrilling to behold. Even with the reams of stylists, camera people, and dance captains, there is some kind of simple pleasure at work in watching old musical numbers. The mere act of watching a staged dance number -a la Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain, or Kelly and Fred Astaire in Ziegield Follies -has a kind of magical aura that simply can’t be duplicated, even with modern Hollywood musicals like the recently-released Nine or the Oscar-winning Chicago. Call it glamour from a long-gone era; call it raw artistry; call it, as Kelly does in the telly special, a urge toward what he terms “perfection” … whatever it is, it’s magical. It re-awakens my love of dance like few others things do.

I’ve done a variety of dance -ballet, jazz, tap, and later on, bellydance -so that might be why seeing Astaire, Kelly, Rogers, Charisse, Miller, et al strut their stuff affects me so deeply. I’ve seen plenty of musical stage productions, but strangely, I never get the same feeling; it’s as if the musical on-film captures not just actual dance but a moment in time, when people actually went to the cinema to see other people move around and sing to music. Looking at it from our digital super-special effects era, there’s something thoroughly quaint about the whole thing -even if Astaire’s famous ceiling-dance is still jaw-dropping, decades later. This is what special effects looked liked in the early 50s. People made them special -and that human effort can be seen in all it glorious, frail, masterful glory in such classic movie gems. Cinematic magic doesn’t have to be complicated -at least not for me; so long as there’s heart, art, and commitment, I’m happy -dancing in the dark, or otherwise.

Elementary

I’m currently in the process of compiling favourite moments from 2009; though not entirely finished, the list will include tidbits from the worlds of music, food, fashion, and art. They’ll be small, delicious morsels.

Typing of which, I’m also going to be posting my recipe for sugar plums shortly. Haven’t done much holiday baking? Want to impress the in-laws? Oven-allergic? These little balls of joy are for you.

First, however, Holmesian goodness:

As a teen, I voraciously read Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of the British detective, and eschewed Basil Rathbone‘s dry, humourless interpretation for the utterly-excellent Jeremy Brett, who will, to my mind, always remain the quintessential Sherlock. Not even Robert Downey Jr. can compete -though truth be told, I don’t think he’s trying to. It seems as it director Guy Ritchie is more interested in using the aesthetic of Victorian London and combining it with a modern action-film sensibility, all filtered through a steampunk perspective. The only connection the film would seem to have the Conan Doyle originals is the title -and truly, that’s fine by me. If it inspires younger people to return to the original source material, so much is the better. They might even discover the beautiful British series featuring Brett. There’s room for all kinds of interpretations here. Why be stodgy?

The yucky-faces surely being made by Holmes purists over the new film reminds me of reactions to new interpretations in opera and theatre; heaven forbid they be done in anything but “traditional” mode! How boring. What a good way of killing creativity. Ugh. I’d think a captivating reinvention would make people more apt to go back to the source material. If the original art is strong enough -whether written, musical, dramatic, or otherwise -it can easily withstand re-envisioning. Remember Bridget Jones? Jane Austen is grinning from the great beyond. I have a feeling Arthur Conan Doyle is doing the same with the new Sherlock Holmes. If the aughties have taught us anything, it’s that re-imagining and reinterpreting art from the past is every bit as vital (and hard) as creating the original stuff. At the end of the day, it’s all elementary.

Do Ya Love Me?

I never thought of Patrick Swayze as an actor. I never thought of him as a singer, either.

I always thought of him as, first and foremost, a dancer.

This is a big reason why.

Not a fan of Dirty Dancing, I nevertheless found his easy, clear, sinuous movement entrancing; he was so comfortable in his own body, and his sense of joy at his own movement was palpable. Yet he wasn’t afraid to poke fun at the beefcake status he gained after the release of Dirty Dancing, as this Saturday Night Live clip demonstrates.

There was a real sense of play when he moved; a play with air, with limbs, with range of motion -and between floor and body, gravity and air. Like the great Hollywood dancers of the past, Swayze understood the theatre of dance -and the necessity of incorporating play within that theatre.

Thank you, Patrick.

He Understood. He Really Did.

This is turning into the summer my youth died.

First, my favourite singer as a child passed away last month, and now comes word my favourite filmmaker as a teen is gone.

John Hughes died today at the far-too-young age of 59. Filmgoers of a certain age and generation will remember him for classics like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Weird Science. he also wrote or co-wrote the hugely successful Home Alone series.

Hughes was the man behind two of my favourite films: Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I felt a real kinship with the awkward misfits and gawkish outsiders that populated Hughes’ world. He was a champion of the underdog, but not in a patronizing, grossly over-moralizing way. Some of his characters -and lines -may have veered into cartoon territory at points, but those of us who went off to our local mall cinemas back then didn’t care; Hughes spoke for us through Andie and Ducky, and Ferris and Cameron.

As an entirely-non-confident teen girl, I especially appreciated his casting of Molly Ringwald in so much of his work; while pretty, she wasn’t model-esque and perfect in appearance, and she never came off for a minute as being pretentious. She seemed… awkward and unsure, kind of like me, still feeling her way into her own physicality and personality. Her portrayal -as well as the writing -of Andie in Pretty In Pink was spot-on when it came to exploring the crap of being the lone daughter of a single parent with limited resources. I could relate to Andie’s embarrassment at where she lived, her awkwardness going after the rich boy, her pain in missing an absent parent, and her exhileration in moments where self-expression triumphed. It was simply a wonderful film for me, and a real moment that marked my path through youth-dom.

Then, of course, there was Ferris Bueller. The character -indeed the film -was a radical departure for Hughes’ style, in that it portrayed a popular teen -someone who came from the supposed “right” side of the tracks, who was well-liked, and generally set up to be hugely successful in life -going about his day avoiding the drudgeries of school. It played like a teen fantasy, with an air of high-class awesomeness I still adore: Ferris, Sloan and Cameron take a classic Ferrari to downtown Chicago, where they go to the Art Institute of Chicago (where, among other works, they admire Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in the process), visit the stock exchange, have lunch in a super-posh restaurant and join a street parade. Not too many teens have tastes that sophisticated (I did, natch -which made Ferris that much more awesome to me. I half-expected a scene in which he went to the opera!).

Ferris is wise beyond his years, bored of the high school scene, bored with unchallenging work, and eager to challenge the impotent idiocy he sees surrounding him. Sure, there is a huge streak of nihilism to Ferris… but there’s something incredibly likeable about him too. He’s faithful to his friends. He’s willing to take the fall. He probably did marry Sloan. And he probably sang in many more parades. The sheer joyousness with which Ferris approaches life is awesome. No wonder Cameron says “he can do anything…”. Yeah dude. That’s the point. Now go do it yourself, the movie -indeed, Hughes’ career -urged. Go. You’re you, that’s awesome, go.

There’s something fabulously celebratory about Hughes’ work, a quality I still find captivating, even now, more than twenty years after seeing his work for the first time. His observations, written and directed from a teen point of view, were unique for the moment, and so tied to a specific time and place. But like a lot of good art, they’re also timeless. Like many today, I feel like I’m mourning a friend. And I’m mourning the man who understood what it was like to be a teenager. He really got it. There will never be another John Hughes. Thank you, sir.

I do have a test today. That wasn’t bullshit.
It’s on European socialism.
I mean really, what’s the point?
I’m not European. I don’t plan on being European.
Who gives a crap if they’re socialists?
They could be fascists anarchists.
It wouldn’t change the fact I don’t own a car.
-Ferris Bueller

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