Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dinner's outside tonight...

See you there...

Different and Older

"One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure."
--Gertrude Stein

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just watched...

...the third installation in the NARNIA series, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," in an effort to keep up on the ever-growing Netflix queue.


I quite liked the first NARNIA film, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Based on the books by C.S. Lewis, it was enchanting, entertaining and very well done. There were some wonderful ground-breaking special effects (the legs of the faun Mr. Tumnes!) and it featured the lovely, amazingly talented, and in this case quite icy, Tilda Swinton as the Ice Queen.

The second installation in the series, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” was definitely not as cohesive. Even though the original cast of children returned, it felt fuzzy and frankly, a little rushed and cheap.

And now we have the third NARNIA film, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Oh dear. Where to begin?

Well, firstly, the production by Walden Media was supervised by a different company. Walt Disney Pictures oversaw the first two installments but after a dispute over finances, Walden shopped it to 20th Century Fox. Secondly, it feels as if the vision and energy that started with the first film has been completely abandoned. Where the first film, and to an extent the second, was entertaining for children as well as adults, this third episode feels like it is solely for children. Any subtlety or pretext at creating a plot that hangs together is lost. The film concerns itself with a sort of silly, infantile story line about some kind of green fog that is, um, evil incarnate I guess (?), which takes people and… well, it just takes them. For what purpose? Who knows. What does it do with them? Don’t ask. Even when they are rescued at the end (of course the Pevensie children save the day), they are just sitting there in fog.

C.S Lewis was a late-in-life convert to Christianity and his books have been seen by many as a thinly veiled metaphor for that religion. Lewis himself maintained that the series was not allegorical of Christianity. He conceived of the story before his conversion and included Greek, Roman, British and Irish mythology. But Lewis has also been quoted as saying that the character of Aslan the talking lion is the form Jesus might take in an alternate, fantasy world. Despite this, the first film in the series hardly felt proselytizing; it was easy to get lost in the fantasy aspect of it all. But unfortunately for the third film, that went out the window with the quality. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” has some heavy-handed, ridiculous Christian nonsense that seemed exaggerated and shoe-horned into an otherwise forgettable children’s film. That's offensive.

Recommend? No.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rain

Just watched...

...Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film "Contempt."


Jean-Luc Godard, legendary French New Wave film director, made twelve films before he made “Contempt” in 1963. I must preface what I am about to write by saying that I have seen other Godard films that I have liked. I understand French New wave cinema (I was a film major, after all). But...

“Contempt” was adapted from a 1954 Italian novel, IL DISPREZZO, and perhaps that is the start of the problem with this film. It is always a difficult task to bring a novel to the screen. Writers can use inner monologue, exposition, and narration to flesh out a story and let us glimpse the inner workings of the human mind through their characters. It is much harder to do that in film which involves showing instead of telling. Characters' inner lives and personalities as well as motives can get muddied in the transition from page to screen. And I suspect that is the flaw with “Contempt.”

Starring Michel Piccoli as a screenwriter and Brigitte Bardot as his wife, “Contempt” also features Jack Palance as a crass American producer with anger management problems who wants to hire Piccoli to re-write a film of Homer’s ODYSSEY, currently being directed by even more legendary director Fritz Lang, actually playing himself in the film. Bardot as the wife is inexplicably sulky, petulant and unpleasant right from the start. I had a hard time trying to figure out what she was so pissed about. Her husband is a fairly successful screen writer, they live in Rome in a pretty nice and new apartment, and her husband adores her. Rough life, I guess.

We watch as Bardot simply turns, like a wild dog, on Piccoli for no reason whatsoever—at least no reason we, as the audience, are privy to. Perhaps there was more back story and motivation in the original novel. All I know is that the “contempt” from Bardot is related to nothing in the story, I felt absolutely no connection or sympathy for her, and felt ambivalent about her ultimate and quite unpleasant fate.

There are some interesting moments when one considers the craft of film, such as tracking shots (the camera paces back and forth like a trapped animal during a long and boring argument between Bardot and Piccoli) and art direction (lots of primary colors). But that alone is really not enough to save this film. Given his place in film history, and considering other films he has directed, I was disappointed in “Contempt.”

The most interesting thing about this film is the amazing modern villa where the last third of the film takes place. It is the Casa Malaparte, in Punta Massullo, Capri, Italy, seen below in an aerial shot.


Recommend? Not really… if you are a student of film history, it will continue your education. Otherwise, watch “Breathless” or “Alphaville.”

Happy Birthday, Dave

Today in 1942, David Marquette Kopay was born in Chicago, Illinois. After a highly successful nine year career in the NFL playing football for five different teams--San Francisco, Detroit, Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay--he publicly declared his homosexuality in 1975. In 1977, he bravely wrote about his life in THE DAVE KOPAY STORY.


Kopay is currently a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation, and an ambassador for the Federation of Gay Games (the "Gay Olympics").

In 2007, he pledged $1 million to the University of Washington's Q Center, a support, advocacy, and mentoring center for LGBT students. Kopay said, "The greatest gift we can give one another is the vision and beauty of life. I continually hear from people all over the world that my act of coming out especially when I did in 1975 has empowered them in their search for self and to see their vision. Hopefully my million-dollar pledge will influence others to support the University and the Q Center continue to help others to do just that."

Thank you for your bravery.
Happy birthday, Dave.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Currently listening to...

...the classic "Cry" by Godley and Creme. The starkness of the sentiment is immediate and surprisingly quite moving.

Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were part of the legendary 70s band 10cc who recorded another classic, "Big Boys Don't Cry," which I will be featuring in an upcoming post in my continuing series of Masterpieces of Pop.




"You don't know how to ease my pain
You don't know
You don't know how to ease my pain

You don't know what the sound is darlin'
It's the sound of my tears fallin'
Or is it the rain?
You don't know

You don't know how to play the game
And you cheat, you lie
You make me wanna cry
You make me wanna cry
Cry...
You make me wanna cry

You don't know how to ease my pain

You don't know
You don't know how to ease my pain

Don't you hear any voices cryin'?
That's the sound of our love dyin'
Here comes the rain

You don't know how to play the game
And you cheat, you lie
You don't even know how to say goodbye
You make me wanna cry
You don't know
You don't even know how to say goodbye
You make me wanna cry
You don't even know how to say goodbye
You make me wanna cry
Cry..."

BEAUTY: Men--Cooling Off

Cooling off... for summer...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Rick Owens

This summer, we have had Pitti Uomo in Firenze, Milano Moda Uomo, and now we have just cycled through Paris Fashion Week for men. While it's not really a whole week (more like four days), a lot gets crammed into the schedule. And there were some amazing things being shown this year for Spring/ Summer 2012.

Regular readers know that I do not follow "fashion" as in "What does Calvin Klein's sportswear look like this season?" I follow fashion the way some people delve into the art world. I think of "fashion" as "costume"--as a way to convey an idea or a concept. I appreciate what some designers do the same way one appreciates what an avant garde sculptor or painter or performance artist does. And in a way, these designers are performance artists. For me, it is not about what is hanging on racks in stores, but what these artists are creating and the ideas and concepts they are working with as an influence on their marvelous creativity. It is moving sculpture. It is theater. Fashion and clothing at this level serves as a kind of visual shorthand. A piece of clothing in the hands of a designer can evoke a place, a region, a country, a specific time or an entire era, a work of art such as a novel or film or painting, a class of people, even a social, financial, or spiritual element... and the combination of such pieces of clothing, as well as their harmony or contrast, can tell a fascinating story.

On that note, American designer Rick Owens showed a collection that was not groundbreaking, but completely true to his oeuvre. Owens' clothes have always felt very science-fiction-y to me, and in particular they recall the 1984 version of "Dune" directed by David Lynch. I have never heard a fashion journalist make this connection before, but I imagine that Owens saw "Dune" lo those years ago and was either so inspired or traumatized by it, he has been trying to work it out ever since. To me, it seems obvious. Season after season, I have seen similar silhouettes and ideas that had to have come from Bob Ringwood, the brilliant costume designer for "Dune." Last year, Owens delivered a collection that looked exactly like saint Alia of the Knife (for those who have not seen Lynch's "Dune," please do), complete with Bene Gesserit nun head coverings!

This season we see Owens' models in what appear to be a cross between Bene Gesserit robes and Guild Navigator tunics. It is a shockingly otherworldly look which was helped tremendously by the setting for the runway show. In a cavernous space, the models emerged from a long groove in a glowing monolith while a hypnotizing electronic beat pulsed and grew.

The robes and tunics may have an ecclesiastical look to them, but they boil down to skirts and dresses for men. Of course the question is, will such pieces sell? Will men actually buy and wear long dresses or skirts? Who gives a sh*t. This is exquisite performance art, people.

Take a look at the video from Style.com, and then go to Owens' website (link at bottom) to see a widescreen presentation of the complete show!





http://www.rickowens.eu/

BEAUTY: Clothing

Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. Surprise! No Gothic black. Instead, we have white and green.

For SS '12, Tisci infused his collection with dazzling white, fuchsia and lilac tropical flowers, wet and dewy crystals, sequins, and green green green from olive to mint! It felt hot and exotic and fresh like Kauai, Bali or Fiji. The Gothic black might have fallen by the wayside, but the skirts made the transition nicely. Tisci has always liked men in skirts and really, why not? As Tim Blanks at Style.com says of Tisci, "Men in skirts? Get used to them. It's warriorwear from years back."


http://www.givenchy.com/

Sunday, June 26, 2011

BEAUTY: Clothing--Mugler

Nicola Formichetti continues to carry on the Thierry Mugler tradition with futuristic, body-conscious clothing. Paris week saw a fantastic SS '12 collection that was inspired by the giants of Italian cinema, Fellini and Pasolini, Japanese comics, and Greek mythology. Indeed, the Mugler models looked like gods striding down the runway in pieces of gold, silver, or bronze body armor (some of it on legs peeking out under shorts!). Lycra and Formichetti's favorite material, rubber, also figured prominently. The collection might have been based on fantasy but several pieces seemed like they would live well in reality like the bifurcated jackets held together by a horizontal strip of rubber and draw string.


http://www.mugler.com/us/en/