Showing posts with label arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label arts. Show all posts

16 July 2020

"Authors and actors and artists and such"


by Eve Fisher

Because the search for really good entertainment is never ending - especially these days -  I'm here to help.  I noticed a while back that there a gajillion stories about rock stars (and, dare I say it, not all of them that good - in fact, mostly extremely formulaic), but there aren't nearly enough about authors and artists and such.  Not to say that I don't like a good movie about musicians:


These are some great documentaries:

Amazing Grace - Aretha Franklin, directed by Sidney Pollack in 1972, released 2018.  Some great, great, great music - and a few surprising cameo shots of the audience.  (Netflix, DVD only)
Miles Davis:  The Birth of the Cool - 2019 (Netflix)
Chasing Trane:  The John Coltrane Documentary - 2016 (Netflix)

Yes, I like jazz - sue me.  

Now let's commingle the musicians as we move on to authors and artists and such:

Impromptu - (Netflix, DVD only)  with Judy Davis as George Sand, Hugh Grant as Chopin, Mandy Pantinkin as Alfred de Musset, and Julian Sands as Listz.  (And also Emma Thompson, and Bernadette Peters as a wickedly wonderful villain.)  I love this movie - a rom-com with great music, costumes, settings, set in the 1830s, all of it true, and Judy Davis knocks me out as George.   

I'm really becoming a fan of Argentinian Director Gaston Duprat.  I mentioned his Mi Obra Maestra (My Masterpiece) on Netflix back last July.  (https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2019/07/miscellany.html)  As I said then, You gotta love a movie that opens up with a guy saying, "I'm a murderer".  

So we finally watched another Duprat movie, and I wished I'd seen it earlier:

The Distinguished Citizen.png

The Distinguished Citizen (Netflix), is a film that should become one of every writer's darkest nightmares.  What happens when you go back to the small town you came from for a "special event"?  For a "special honor"?  It captures small towns perfectly.  I knew every freaking character all too well, and I have been to - in fact, I have JUDGED - that art competition, by God.  Small towns are the same in Argentina or South Dakota.  And while cities may have a real edge on small towns with sudden random violence, only in a small town can you get the slow, slow, slow burning build to the disaster you know is coming, but cannot stop.  Wonderful.  

Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (2015)

We watched Trumbo last night on Netflix:  Helen Mirren was brilliant as Hedda Hopper, who really was even more of a bitch in real life.  (Favorite story about HH:  she wrote a nasty about Joseph Cotton having an extramarital affair with Deanna Durbin.  When Cotton saw HH, in a restaurant, he pulled her chair out from under her.  The next day he got endless flowers and telegrams from people who wished they'd had the courage to do the same.)  Brian Cranston, excellent as Trumbo.  Louis C.K. was interesting casting.  Of course the script made Trumbo a little more of a hero of the Constitution than he actually was, and much more fun than he probably was - but one of the things I liked was watching him, writing, rewriting, cutting-and-pasting, and obviously wrestling his way through his great screenplays.  


Never Look Away (film).jpg

A truly great movie about artists is Donnersmarck's Never Look Away.  It's a fictionalized version of the life and art of Gerhard Richter, who said himself said that it goes too far (in this The New Yorker article HERE).  But I can understand why and how Donnersmarck couldn't resist:  

The heart of the plot is wrapped around the true story of Richter's schizophrenic aunt, who was forcibly sterilized and later "euthanized" by the Nazis.  The doctor who ordered both these "procedures" was - unbeknownst for a long time to Richter - the father of Richter's wife.  (As always, truth is stranger than fiction...)  But the heart of the movie is the drive to be an artist, no matter the circumstances, the lies, the world, the flesh, and the devil.  My husband, Allan, who is a great artist in his own right (see his webpage HERE) said it was the best presentation he ever saw of how an artist goes from nothing (a blank canvas, a lump of clay) to a work of art.  (Netflix on DVD or Amazon Prime for $6.99)

The Painter and the Thief.jpg

The Painter and the Thief is an amazing documentary currently available on Amazon, which takes mystery, art, addiction, crime, prison, domestic abuse, and tattoes and mingles them all together in a story that is unbelievable but true.  Barbora Kysilkova, an artist from the former Czechoslovakia, forms a relationship with Karl Bertil-Nordland, a man who stole her artwork.  She goes to his hearing to find out why he did it - and ends up painting him. Repeatedly. This means, as Bertil admits, “She sees me very well."  Then he adds, "but she forgets that I can see her, too.” The New Yorker called it a "quaveringly dark fairy tale" - and they were right. It's worth the $3.99 rental price, that's for damn sure.  

BTW - for some really great, entertaining, stylish documentaries on art, I can recommend all of Waldemar Januszczak's on Amazon Prime:  This is an English art critic who knows his stuff and has a wicked sense of humor.  Renaissance Unchained, The Impressionists, Rococo Before Bedtime, Brushstrokes, and more.  We've enjoyed every single one of them.  We just finished his documentary on Paul Gauguin, in which I learned that Gauguin spent his childhood in Peru.  (I swear no one ever told me this before.)  I consider this as important a discovery - it explains so much about his later artwork! - as when I found out that Aaron Burr was Jonathan Edwards' grandson (which I think explains so much about Burr's rebellion against, well, everything).  Some things really need to be told clearly, and from the beginning.  

Well, that will give you all a few nights' entertainment.  

And a few quotes that may also spark a story idea or two:
  • The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent - John Maynard Keynes
  • Put not your trust in princes - since they don't produce, they always steal - Robert Heinlein
  • Seek approval from the one person you desperately want it from, and you're guaranteed not to get it - David Sedaris
Oh, and Knives Out! is on Netflix, too.

Until next time!




26 March 2018

An Emotional List


by Stephen Ross

I read recently in a newspaper about a study into the range of emotions human beings can experience. The study turned up 27 of them. And this was a study undertaken by the University of California Berkeley, and not some random list drawn up by two men in a pub over a pint.

Generally, it's been held that there are only about a half dozen core emotions, e.g., anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise.

This study expanded on that.

In short, the researchers at Berkeley sat 800 volunteers down in front of video monitors and asked them to report and rank the emotions they felt when watching 30 short (silent) video clips. The clips included all manner of things, including births, deaths, marriages, sex, spiders, scenic wonders, natural disasters, and awkward handshakes (and probably, Donald Trump's hair).

In short again, they found that the responses they got to the clips were multidimensional. No one clip produced one single emotion. In fact, a clip could elicit a variety of "feelings" in the viewer. And each of these feelings constituted an individual and unique emotion.

For example, a clip of a man on tightrope walking between two mountain cliffs brought in the following response from the subjects: Fear 55%, Anxiety 45%, Admiration 9%, Aesthetic appreciation 9%, Amusement 9%, Entrancement 9%.

I don't want to get into an analysis of how they made their findings or drew their conclusions, but I think I can sum it up: Humans are complex creatures; our responses to stimuli are never one dimensional.


My real interest here, and reason for writing, is the LIST they drew up. And here it is:

27 Human Emotions
  • Admiration
  • Adoration
  • Aesthetic Appreciation
  • Amusement
  • Anxiety
  • Awe
  • Awkwardness
  • Boredom
  • Calmness
  • Confusion
  • Craving
  • Disgust
  • Empathetic pain
  • Entrancement
  • Envy
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Horror
  • Interest
  • Joy
  • Nostalgia
  • Romance
  • Sadness
  • Satisfaction
  • Sexual desire
  • Sympathy
  • Triumph
I like this. It's another handy list for the writer's toolbox.

And I like the concept of multidimensional emotional responses to stimuli. It's a good reminder to write characters that have depth and are of more than one emotion. If a character has only one emotion, he's not real, he's a transparent plot device.

The Illustration: This is a photo (close detail) that I took of a painting that hangs in the Auckland Art Gallery. "For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven" by Frank Bramley, 1891. It's quite big and quite haunting, when you stand in front of it. I can report Aesthetic Appreciation, Sadness, Empathetic pain, and Calmness.

www.StephenRoss.net

03 July 2014

Insulus Vitae


by Eve Fisher

I've been working for quite some time with a wonderful group of women artists, called JourneyWomen, in a series of collaborative projects.  We did Altars/Shrines/Boxes one year.  My piece was called "Cache" (accent on the "e"), and looks like this from above:


What we do is, each artist (there are 12 of us) takes a basic shape/thing to start and then passes it from artist to artist, everyone adding something to the work.  "Cache" started with a doll's trunk I found at the local flea market that was extremely old.  People added dried roses; a compass; a half a dollar bill; lace; messages; playing cards, etc.  (In case you're wondering, the woman is my second-favorite portrait by Van der Weyden.)

It's an interesting project, since we all have very different personalities and very different approaches to art. Some of us are darker than others.  One thing I added to a friend's piece was this little gem, lovingly photo-shopped by yours truly, of Anubis giving a massage:

It goes with this poem:
"The Body is a Temple":

          Quiet.  Calm.  Relaxed.
          The soft hiss of candles,
          the scent of wine and bread.
          Massaging hands.  Eyes closed.
          A light scent, sweet wood, rising.
         A thread of song:
                   "You belong to me like this plot of ground
                    that I planted with with flowers
                    and sweet-smelling herbs.
                    Sweet is its stream,
                    dug by my hand."
         Deep, deep, deeper.
         So many knots to be worked out.
                   "Dug by my hand.
                    A lovely place to wander in,
                    your hand in mine.
                   The body thrives,
                   the heart exults."                       
         Heart and mind, body and soul,          
         it takes so long to be made whole.      
                   "How beautiful is your face..."
         A dog barking in the distance.             
         A cry on the horizon.                          
                   "He who is on his mountain    
                    kisses you, caresses you..."  
          Look up:  your time is come.              
                                   Eve Fisher (c) 2011    
                                                       (Verses in quotation marks adapted from Poem 2, from IIc, The Third 
                                                        Collection, Papyrus Harris 500, circa 1000 BCE.)

This year, for one of the Spirit Boats, I photo-shopped (do you see a pattern here?) a variety of islands and named them Juventa, Fortunata, Marita, Aevus and Senecta, swirling around the Mare Memoriae:


With the following explanation:

"The Insulus Vitae, the Living Islands, a/k/a the Islands of Life, are known for their ease of access and their variety, in climate, terrain, flora, and fauna.  The following are some of the islands major sites, in alphabetical order:

  • The Broken Bridge
  • The Cliffs of Joy
  • The Caverns of Fear
  • The Dancing Pool
  • Heart's Desire
  • Hermitage
  • Mount Daybreak
  • The Mountains of Longing
  • The Overlook of Repose
  • Passion's Peak
  • The Sighing Shoals
  • The Slough of Despond
  • The Valley of Depression
  • Vanity Falls
  • Wadi Memoria
"The bewildering thing is that while these and many more sites exist, no one can confirm their exact location. Interestingly, bewilderingly, the location of each site changes with and for each visitor.  Legend says that every traveler will, at some point, reach at least one of these islands.
'Therefore pray, traveler, that thou mayest reach that most fortunate isle which is thine own.'"

Not bad advice, if I do say so myself.  




23 August 2012

Time with Art




 by Deborah Elliott-Upton

What's better than spending time with people you admire for their skills? Last week I had a leisurely lunch with a creative group of women. The assortment of talent ran the spectrum of the genres in the writing arena: one was a playwright, one a singer/songwriter, another a novel-length young adult writer, a children's author who handles novels and picture books, a historical fiction writer, a romance writer and me, the lone mystery author. (For some unknown to me reason, although my area in the state is known for its abundance of writers, few choose to write mystery.)

An eclectic gathering, we spoke of our current works in progress. A few won't discuss their work until it is finished, several only with their personal critique group members and a couple said it depended on which work at which specific time.

I am one that falls into the latter choice. At the beginning of  project, I tend to talk more about the basic idea with a few close individuals. This is more my way of seeing if the idea holds attention with the public as much as with me.

At that point, I tend to mull over the details of the plot and allow the characters to come to me with their own viewpoint. They need to talk to me!

Writing after this is usually kept more to myself until I am ready for someone else with a critical and unbiased eye to take a look.

This group -- like so many others in the writing community -- is less about stroking egos and more about supporting other artists in their artistic endeavors. Talking about writing to us is like finding a lifeline in a stormy sea.

Life hands out rejections like election ads during a campaign year: too many seem to bombard us at once. Many ads and rejections are too negative and lean on the nasty side. Negative remarks whether they are meant to received as such or not can bruise talent. I've heard each artist must suffer to find the truth in his work. Maybe. But I don't believe they must be beaten beyond recognition. Spread some of that random kindness around. Compliments are inexpensive and means much to the receiver.

Writers gathering to talk about writing is uplifting. It's good to hear what others are facing in their journey.

I enjoy spending time with people "new" to discovering their talents. Nothing is as contagious as passion.

The young playwright is reading every play she can find and attending avant-garde theatre productions. The singer is performing some new songs at a small town cafe. The young adult writer sings backup in the group. They're also collaborating on new songs together. The historian is finishing her novel and ready to take the next step to find a publisher. The children's author is finishing a six book series. The romance writer is new to writing and is fresh with anticipation. I advised her she is my newest protege and she didn't even laugh. (I like that in a writer!) I'm working on a hush-hush project I'm not ready to talk about to the masses. Soon though.

We laughed as we discussed introverts and extroverts and how even our small grouping was a combination of both. Writers don't come in one size fits all.

By the end of the lunch, we were full -- not just of the delicious food served (our singer is also a caterer -- lucky us!), but also of eagerness to get back to our own writings. Our own genres. Our own art.

Time spent with art and artists is never dull and always so very worthwhile. I think I just may mull on that thought for a few more days.