Tuesday, October 27, 2009




Monday, October 26, 2009

will your soul fly?

Receiving most of its publicity for being the movie Heath Ledger died while still filming, Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is quite the trip. Ledger is first seen on screen hanging by a noose from a bridge. Tom Waits plays the devil. And even a monk can be swayed by the temptations of immortality. Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 12 Monkeys) has said Dr. Parnassus is supposed to be a "fun and humorous story about the consequences of our personal choices in life," but it comes off darker than that. Perhaps it is in part due to the film's posthumous release of its star, coming more than a year after Ledger's death. But even the movie's composition is dark. The costumes and sets are somewhat gaudy, reminiscent of a Victorian traveling theatre troupe, but they remain dusky. Only in the imagination of the characters are there wide open spaces. The characters are usually held tight in the mise-en-scene by limiting, controlling spaces. This is all reminiscent of the controls we put on our creativity but also the temptations of the devil.

The images of the film are fantastic and fully absorb the audience. When a bright desert meets the inky, black river of immortality the scene looks like it may have been painted by Salvador Dali. 647 different effects were used in post-production to create this fantasy. It is not a story of a princess and her ideal prince with talking animals. It is the tale of dancing with the devil (literally), human faults, the disappointments of our dreams, and the Old Nick in each of us.

Gilliam overcame unbelievable complications. An actor dying a third of the way through a film, especially an actor as powerful as Ledger, is completely traumatizing to not only the movie, but also the cast and crew. CGI was considered for recreating Ledger for the rest of the movie, but instead Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell were all cast to play Tony (Ledger's character) in the imagination sequences. They were chosen not only because they're all strong actors but also because of their respect for and friendship with Ledger. Depp clearly stands out as the most similar to Ledger in the film, but the casting of each was accurate and the effect isn't too jarring. The casting of Christopher Plummer as Dr. Parnassus and Lily Cole as his seductive daughter were both impeccable choices as well.

For the first time in a long time, a movie fully immersed me so much that all other thoughts were lost. A movie that can do that to my busy mind is definitely worth something.

Symphonies by Dan Black
© Hiroshi Watanabe, courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery

Sunday, October 25, 2009

tragedy strikes the silver screen

When a film has you crying five minutes into it, you should realize you're in for a long ride. What is it about a movie that grabs hold of us and turns our emotions, and gets a physical response out of us? If film was purely escapism this wouldn't happen. No, films are about identification. Numerous film academics and directors alike would disagree with me, but for my argument let's focus mainly the big "blockbusters" that get so much of this attention. As a viewer there is an association we make with the characters of a film. Sometimes it's a distrust and dislike, but often it's symbiotic sharing of emotions. This is especially true in sad movies when a tragedy befalls a likable character.

In two days I saw both Bright Star and The Boys are Back at the London Film Festival. Jane Campion's Bright Star is about the the deep love between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I am not ruining anything by saying that Keats dies and the audience is left watching a wrecked and torn apart Fanny. I stared, elbows on knees, at the screen with uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. Campion set up the most gorgeous love affair between two people. The lighting and mise-en-scene reflected an airy, perfect love that from the get-go is doomed (or at least the viewers know that). We romanticize the great artists of the past and Bright Star is no different. Ben Whishaw, who plays Keats, is handsome with dark eyes, a curious smile, and a sincere countenance. He is exactly who we hope John Keats was. And naturally, we are heartbroken when he dies. But it is not only death that makes us cry in movies.

The Australian Scott Hicks film The Boys are Back utilizes sadness and happiness back and forth to pull at the audience's heart. Women cry and it's sad, but when Clive Owen cries, it's sadder. The story of Joe Warr (Owen), who loses his wife to cancer (literally five or six minutes into the film) and is left to learn how to be a single parent to his six year old son is, if nothing else, a story about learning. Not only the death of Joe's wife, but also the love between a son and father makes the audience reel. The movie places human emotions in relation to vast, sprawling Australian landscapes and a strong soundtrack by Sigur Rós.

Any emotional fragility will have you bleary eyed after and during these films, but if you can stand it and bring some tissues or don't mind using your sleeve, these films are absolutely worth seeing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Let It Go by State Radio

A few weeks ago, State Radio released their newest album. The boys seem to have found a harmonious balance between their heavy rock tones (much influenced by Mike Najarian) and Chad Urmston's reggae alternative roots. "Bohemian Grove" and "Evolution" instantly have you bobbing your head and grooving along, where as "Mansin Humanity" and "Held Up By Wires" have a heavier guitar sound. Chad's sweet voice and socially (even politically) fueled lyrics are still as good and strong as the State Radio sampler I received at "The Last Dispatch." The trifecta has done it again. Let It Go consists of twelve songs, but for only five more dollars, you can buy the forty-one song version. I recommend the latter because you haven't experienced State Radio until you've seen (or heard) them live. This second version of Let It Go contains thirty live songs, many of which Chad explains the meaning of. Many of their songs have seemingly bizarre allusions, so it's interesting and refreshing to hear the artists' thought process on such songs.

Show some love and just buy the album.
But if you want a free sample first, eat this.

beanz meanz heinz

A quick shout out to an under appreciated food in the States. The baked bean. Baked beans in a tomato sauce. Delicious. Delicious with eggs. Delicious on toast. Delicious alone. Please don't forget about the baked bean. Luckily, Roger Daltrey knows what it's all about.

RIP compakt disques

Early to meet a couple friends, I decided to kill some time in HMV. I followed the escalator upstairs to the music section and was perusing the rows and stacks of CDs. There were some good bargains 90's music compilations and there was a big sale on Neil Young albums. Walking around the 'rock & pop' section I looked up and glanced around me. There were probably a dozen or so other people on the music floor but I was the youngest by at least 10 years. And as I looked at a Katy Perry album I realized that most of my generation were getting all this music with just a few clicks of the mouse on their computer. Older generations are probably not as technically inept as we sometimes assume them to be, but maybe they still hold that appreciation for the physical CD. There were definitely albums I thought of buying, but then realized I could download it online (...and for free). Our recognition of music as a tangible entity has completely disappeared as music has become more accessible as a simple file we can click. There is no longer a need for a bulky, leather CD case. Even mixtapes these days are created somewhere in cyberspace. I'd like to eulogize the CD. Though you were frustrating with your scratches and sometimes skipped in the car stereo, you were faithful and always said just the right thing.
RIP the CD.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Looking Forward To...

Having something to look forward to can make the classes, the essays, and even the rain more bearable. What I am excited for in the near future:

1. The London Film Festival. I have tickets to Bright Star (Jane Campion, Abbie Cornish), A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen, Michael Stuhlbarg), and The Boys are Back (Scott Hicks, Clive Owen). Yay!

2. Apple Day. Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral, London. Sunday October 25th.

3. Passion Pit concert in London at Koko on Oct 28th.

4. Halloween. Happy to learn that the Brits have adopted the primarily American holiday. Now only if I had a costume...

5. Eurotrip. Ten days to days to do Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Adventures welcome.

6. Tim Burton at the MoMA (new york city). This of course will have to wait until I'm back from London, but from November 22nd to April 26th, the MoMa will have two exhibits on Tim Burton's work. One a gallery of his drawings and another of his film works.

beyond chuck bass

"Life's not always what you see; it's what going on in your head."

I am a personal believer that there is more to Ed Westwick than Chuck Bass. That's not to say I'm not a lover of Gossip Girl, which I am, but Westwick is one of the few on the show who has real merit as an actor. His IMDB profile lists him in only eleven shows or movies, one of which is still in production. It was probably seeing Westwick in a small role in Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men that made me pay more attention his acting. He is a tenacious actor and though the lines he recites in Gossip Girl are somewhat ridiculous, dramatic, and downright hilarious, Westwick does it with all seriousness and concentration. I have not seen Son of Rambo, one of Westwick's more recent film, but I am excited to see how Peter Webber's adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" (in which Westwick plays Heathcliff) comes out. Many of whom that have read Emily Bronte's novel have a glorified, gorgeous image of Heathcliff. I am skeptical if Westwick will pull of the chiseled, rough look of the character, but we will have to wait until 2010 to find out. I am excited though to see Westwick in a more serious, demanding role that will test his performance abilities - hopefully he will make the grade.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

© fashionphotographyblog.com

"she was the daughter of the second American revolution,
A tall girl with a stones constitution"

riddle in londontown - state radio

fashion fashion everywhere

With everyone telling us where to look for fashion cues, which cities can we actually trust?
Five cities claim to be the "Fashion Capital of the World." But who really has the title? Is it all opinion and sense of style? Or is it solely based on which designers are the most prolific and significant?

Every city seems to have a different style for sure but just because one has more acclaim than another, doesn't necessarily mean we should be dressing in their trends. Fashion is subjective. And though I love trends and runway shows and everything fashion-y, I find it hard to be told where to look for "the best fashion." In London leggings are vogue, so is wearing mini shorts with tights. These are trends I don't have any affinity for, though some girls can pull them off very well. Does this make me unfashionable?

I have no conclusion or answer to my question. Just food for thought. With everyone telling us how to dress, who to admire, and where to go, sometimes we need some direction of our own...even if that means being completely gauche.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

that bridge is on fire

© Leandro Badalotti

Islands by The XX

for all the naughty little boys sent to bed without supper

Like so many, I am eagerly awaiting Spike Jonze's interpretation of Maurice Sendak's acclaimed children's book Where the Wild Things Are. As you may or may not know, the film has experienced numerous setbacks, including being over budget, costume design flaws, and the studio's disapproval. Sendak asked Jonze to create the adaptation numerous times but Jonze always declined on the basis that he could not do the book justice. Thankfully, he finally acquiesced. Jonze is known best for his directorial work on Adaptation. He also won awards for his work on music videos (most notably for the Beastie Boys). Wild Things has weathered so much controversy that not only will it be interesting to see the film as an art form, but also to see how it has survived the storm. photo credit: newyorktimes
Until it's finally released (October 16th, USA; December 11th, UK), curb your Spike Jonze cravings with these:
New York Times Magazine Review
Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice Music Video (Ft. Christopher Walken)
Wild Things Trailer

Born into a musical family, Ke$ha (originally Kesha Sebert) may be just another upcoming pop star from LA but she's definitely making waves on the pop scene...even if it may not be at first in the US. A friend suggested her song Tik Tok (PDiddy) to me. One of her friends living in Spain said that every nightclub plays the song and she's become obsessed with it. Not surprising. At first listen it's an agglomeration of hysterical and somewhat satirical lyrics, but with an awesome beat that can't be ignored. And those lyrics, they're exactly what clubbers and pop lovers (and even pop-haters who hold it only as a secret guilty pleasure) adore.

listen to Tik Tok by Ke$ha