Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just watched...

...Alan Brown's 2011 film "Private Romeo."

I hesitate to call “Private Romeo” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” It is something more akin to a variation on a theme.

At McKinley Military Academy, eight cadets are left behind when the rest of the school goes away for “land navigation exercises.” These eight are expected to continue as if nothing is different: rise at the same hour, line up for inspection, go to class and study their subjects. We see them in a classroom studying “Romeo and Juliet” with each cadet reading aloud the different roles from the script which neatly introduces Elizabethan English into the common, 21st century speech we have already heard from the cadets.

As one can guess, the microcosm of relationships in this small group shifts. Our Romeo, Private Singleton (played by Seth Numrich) falls in love with our Juliet, Private Mangan (played by Matt Doyle), who falls in love right back. We continue to slip back and forth between modern American English and Elizabethan English as Singleton flirts with Mangan, telling him he likes his “kicks” (shoes for those not up on current slang—sneakers in this case). But we immediately begin the classic scene where Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time.

This switching back and forth between old and modern English, and between the reality of the military academy and Shakespeare’s story, creates a peculiar phenomenon. It is clear that we are not witnessing Shakespeare’s original play or even the play with a different time and setting. Much like Carlos Saura’s classic film “Carmen,” in which the director of a flamenco dance troupe rehearsing a production of “Carmen” falls for the lead actress playing Carmen, echoing Don Jose’s infatuation for Carmen, “Private Romeo” seems to be a story within a story. One almost gets the feeling that these eight cadets have memorized the play in class and are now acting it out. But they could be acting it out consciously or perhaps they are compelled to act it out because of the budding love between Singleton and Mangan. The play gives them the ideas and language to express their feelings and reactions. Their isolation, the flip-flopping between two styles of language, and the fact that there is no one-to-one correlation of characters or roles—the eight cadets play a variety of characters young and old, male and female—gives the film a disorienting, dream-like quality. These layers are cumulative and appealing.

And the fact that there is no one-to-one correlation, and the fact that the director is not slavishly following the original script or story means that liberties are taken. Some of these liberties work, and some are confusing. But in the end, it does not matter. SPOLIER ALERT: I will say however, that one of the biggest liberties taken is that we have a—relatively—happy ending. No one dies! The young men drink water laced with, what, Vicodin or Oxycontin (?), but are free to pursue their love when they sober up. At the end we see private Mangan singing a lovely and heartfelt version of “You Made Me Love You” directly to the camera. This must be an homage to Derek Jarman—I instantly flashed on Annie Lennox singing Cole Porter in Jarman’s “Edward II.”

Oddly though, there is no real mention of homosexuality despite the fact that we are watching two young men fall in love. Openly gay director Brown says he made the film to reference the now defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the United States military. But there is no homophobia to be seen in his film. The other cadets are driven by Shakespeare’s family conflicts between the Montagues and the Capulets. I can’t decide if I think this is refreshing (how nice that the love between the young men is accepted and treated not unlike any other love) or completely unrealistic (no homophobic slurs or violence?… in an AMERICAN MILITARY ACADEMY where young men are still trying to figure out their own sexuality and personal power? REALLY???).

The film is beautifully photographed by Derek McKane and the cast is quite good at handling all they are asked to do, including speaking Elizabethan English. The leads are very good and their falling in love is believable—as much as it can be within an iambic pentameter structure. But for me, the standout talent was Hale Appleman who played Private Neff as well as delivering a riveting rendition of Mercutio.

Recommend? Yes. It is uneven in many spots but in the end, it manages to be successful.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

BEAUTY: Painting--Josh Keyes

The mission statement on artist Josh Keyes' website sums up his work succinctly.

"Josh Keyes' style is reminiscent of the diagrammatic vocabulary found in scientific textbook illustrations that often express through a detached and clinical viewpoint an empirical representation of the natural world. Assembled into this virtual stage set are references to contemporary events along with images and themes from his personal mythology. Josh Keyes' work is a hybrid of eco-surrealism and dystopian folktales that express a concern for our time and the Earth's future."

In other words, these are cross-sectional images from the end of the world. Or rather, the end of the world as we know it. We are gone, the animals escape from the zoo, join those in the wild, and all take their rightful place.

Top to bottom: Drifting; Entangle 2; Sirens; Stampede; Tangled I; Tangled III; Tangled IV; Tangled V; The Exchange

For the last many months, I have been having a lot of anxiety, strong emotion, and fear of the future and Josh Keyes' work is a visual example of a possible--even probable--future. I am not being facetious when I say that I truly believe the future is going to be a cross between “Water World,” “Mad Max,” and a Margaret Atwood story. Look at every element around you in the world. Now follow it to its logical conclusion. And there you have it.

BEAUTY: Men--Vintage, End of Summer

Every summer ends, only to return again... as it has always done.

Monday, August 27, 2012

BEAUTY: Interiors--Dining Room Lights

There are nearly as many fantastic dining room light fixtures and pendants as there are dining rooms.

By Lisa Perry

By Jay Jeffers

By Jessica Helgerson

By Elizabeth Gordon

By Marjorie Skouras

By Trina Turk

By BNO Design

By Brown Design

By Melissa Collison

"Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Deny Evolution"

This is making the rounds on news sites, but it is worth posting here because Mr. Nye's message is so vitally important and true.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BEAUTY: Illustartion--Saul Steinberg

I feel like I should have put this post under "Illustration" since Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) created 90 covers and 1,200 drawings for The New Yorker magazine. There is often a blurry line between "art" and "illustration," but his work is so compellingly odd and his vision was so fascinating, that I feel it really exists outside of what is traditionally thought of as "illustration." His doodly style betrays the seriousness of his oeuvre.

I love how wriggling, pulsing geometric shapes live in traditional rooms, or people created from different schools of art coalesce into a family portrait. And his interpretations of various cities or places, although sketchy and surreal, manage to capture the essence by eerily pinpointing certain elements that symbolize those places. But of course his most famous piece is a view of the rest of the world, looking west, as seen from 9th Avenue in New York City.

Top to bottom: Paris; Techniques At A Party; Wyoming; untitled; untitled; Georgetown Cuisine; View Of The World From 9th Avenue

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Miss A World...

"I Miss A World" by Sean Landers

Currently listening to...

...the ambient "Requiem For Dying Mothers Part 2" by the transcendent Stars of the Lid.

Listen to how the texture masterfully shifts from drone to strings. Truly a marvel.



The sun goes away at night
but only comes back
the next morning.
Did you know that the earth rotates
at fifteen degrees per hour?
So the sun went away
and came back and
on the sixth day of seven
the Adaptation of the World began.
History prospered and
many important events
were told through dance.
And fruit hung from every tree.
But the nomads began killing.
War was invented
and the sun went away
and came back many times
and no amount of prayer
or wishing or hoping
would stop it.
There’s no turning back now.
That’s the sound of nature exploding.
And history took
small, ecclesiastical steps...
the written word,
the spoken word,
the word that’s heard.
And the world shook
and screamed
and shrieked
like an army of banshees,
like a thousand hornets,
like white thunder.
The elements writhed in ecstasy,
the wind blew,
trees were uprooted,
crops were destroyed,
the fire burned,
the waters rose but it didn’t
wash away all stains
or forgive all our mistakes--
especially the elusive ones:
the mistakes that live in seeds
and grow when nurtured
or the mistakes that
float on the wind
and settle in lungs.
So the sun went away
and when it came back,
machines were everywhere,
machines that ate
and slept and moved
and breathed and cried
and the Adaptation of
the Cool Frontier began.
Then the world laughed
because it thought of a joke
it had heard a long time ago,
a joke an animal told,
so the world turned
and chuckled with irony,
and the poet spat blood.
History stopped to
watch itself on television,
the newspaper headlines read,
and the sun went away
and came back many times
but now it does so impatiently.
Birds no longer sing,
the air is stagnant
and nature shrinks and hides.
No one dances
or goes on picnics
and everyone feels
a nagging doubt
like a throbbing pain.
They all said,
“Don’t believe in things you can’t touch”
and Mother and Father
and Teacher and Policeman
and President asked in unison,
“What new world
are you talking about?”
and I said,
“The one that never came.”

©JEF 1984-2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We're Eating Out Tonight

How you remember it...

“I sometimes seem to myself to wander around the world merely accumulating material for future nostalgias.”
--Vikram Seth

“I remember the first time I realized the world we are born into is not the one we leave.”
--Excerpt from I Remember, I Remember: On the handsome roofers, attentive cows, and sudden tears of youth by Mary Ruefle

Mars, The Sane Half, and Science