holditnow

Month: December, 2013

My Week in the Cinema

3D Film Audience

A rare thing happened these holidays, this TV addict went to the cinema -again and again. I’ve kinda been turned off movies for the past few years. This is not to say I’d given up watching them, but rather I wasn’t enjoying the ride as much as I felt I should. For me, I guess the formula had grown stale. The producers greedy little fingerprints seemed to be found everywhere. In my lifetime I may have seen one too many explosions. “I’m just getting too old for this sh*t.” So it came as a bit of surprise; that for the first time in a long time I wanted to go the movies. Not just one movie but several movies. On most occasions, it is rare to find one film you will brave the company of obnoxious cell phone addicts to go see, let alone five.  It didn’t hurt that two of the films were middle installments to films I’d already seen, of books I’d read. Two of the films were by directors I love: Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. Call me nostalgic, but the last movie in the list was a period piece centered around the late 70’s. I guess I’m going to the movies. (Spoiler alert)

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The first movie on the list was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I’ve always thought the second book in Suzanne Collins trilogy was just a lazy re-hatch of the first book with very little extra thrown in to make it a unique story. Katniss and Peeta are once again sent into the arena to fight for their lives, shock and horror ensue, Peeta adds very little to the equation yet again and we’re left with a cliff hanger at the end. The plot I wanted to see was Katniss becoming a mentor and being emotionally invested in her pupil. We as readers could still relive the arena but now through the eyes of a surrogate parent watching her child go through hell. Alas, this was not the book I read or the movie I saw. Having said that, I would have to say I enjoyed the movie. More than the book anyway and more than any other dystopian future YA action flick of recent memory . Jennifer Lawrence is extremely watchable and the direction this time around felt more synchronized to the emotional turmoil of what was going-on on screen. The supporting cast are fun as well with Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson having a good time in their roles. After watching the Katniss- Peeta -Gale dynamic, I have one question: are love triangles going to be the new norm? As audience members, will we always be choosing teams? What’s wrong with the tried and true: boy meets girl, girl isn’t impressed with boy, boy does something uncharacteristically selfless, girl falls for boy, boy falls for girl, misunderstanding breaks up boy and girl, misunderstanding solved, boy and girl live happily ever after, throw in some blood sucking monkeys – the end?   3.5/5

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Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street was next on the list. This is one bloated hot mess of a film. Clocking in at around three hours, it tells the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) shameless rise to obnoxious decadence and the tidal wave he creates along the way. What are we to make of such a story? Scorsese titillates and repulses in equal measures but never sermonizes. I liked the fact we were shown a person for what they were and got to apply our own moral compass to the proceedings. The movie didn’t lay its own verdict in our laps. We’re conditioned for movie karma  to kick in, but it never does. Watching someone abuse themselves as well as enabling everyone around them to abuse themselves  for three hours is both exhausting and a little tiresome but the movie was never boring and at times, it was laugh out loud funny. The plot was minimal and the performances fun. I appreciated what Scorsese was going for ( or what I projected he was going for) but it falls short of some of his greater works.  In the end it left me undecided, so I know I am going to have to revisit it again. This tends to be a good sign.  4/5

Desolation-of-Smaug-Movie-Dragon

Next up The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I enjoy Middle Earth as much as the next guy and am always pleased when I’m there. The greatest thing about these movies for me is that they employ so many artists and creative types. That’s excellent work if you can get it. Spending a couple of years designing dragons and elfish architecture sounds like fun to me. The team Peter Jackson has working for him does a superb job. The world they’ve visualized is both magical and believable at the same time. I am by no means a Tolkein purist and wouldn’t know the difference between a Wood-Elf from a Noldor Elf and am quite OK with that. The fact that characters who were not in the book show up to add equal parts action and romance doesn’t bother me in the least. The hints of a love triangle are luckily underplayed. The action sequences are thrilling and there may even be the odd cough cough explosion like thing. In the end, Smaug steels the show and is riveting to look at. Like Catching Fire the movie ends right when your interest has peaked to what will happen next.  4/5

Jennifer Lawrence

American Hustle has so much going for it, but falls just shy of greatness. It takes a while to hit its stride and never comes close to films it’s being compared to like Goodfellas or Boogie Nights.  Don’t get me wrong, it is an enjoyable watch with a great soundtrack but gets too easily bogged down with needless dialogue when actions would have served it better. The story is about the art of the long con. The more you tell someone ‘no’ the more they want it. This philosophy serves our protagonist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) well. He and his girlfriend played by Amy Adams are pinched by the FBI (Bradley Cooper) and forced to apply their talents to help entrap other shady characters. Everyone puts in a wonderful performance with the stand outs for me being Jeremy Renner’s altruistic Mayor and Irving’s over the top wife played by Jennifer Lawrence; the film really doesn’t get going until she shows up. My other two favourite things in the film were the ice fishing story and the term ‘science oven’. Unfortunately David O’ Russell lets you taste the seventies but you never really get to feel it. 4/5

Inside-Llewyn-Davis

By the time I got to the Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis the tickle in my throat that started somewhere between the Wolf and the Hobbit had blossomed into a full blown cold and I was feeling miserable. But at the same time, so was Llewyn Davis. Oscar Isaac does a wonderful job playing the cantankerous title character. Llewyn is a 60’s folk singer who just can’t seem to catch a break, most of it by his own design. Every decision he is faced with, he makes the wrong one. The Coen’s have created a character that is all sorts of shades of gray. The palette of the film reflects this with all the bright colours being bleached away. It is not that Llewyn isn’t good at what he does. It seems he’s just as competent as everybody else in the film in the folk arena. (I know as much about folk music as I do about elves.) but some are succeeding at it and he is definitely not. This is a cold hard fact about art, it doesn’t matter how skilled you are at it, sometimes the world just isn’t interested. The film takes place over the span of a week where rich characters slip in and out of his life (John Goodman is especially brilliant), all along the way he is chasing an elusive orange tabby. Inside Llewyn Davis is a subtle meditation on art, conceit, compromise, responsibility and the fact that life happens while you’re making other plans.  4.5/5

I think I’m good for going to the movies for a while. All in all, a most enjoyable romp through the 80’s, 70’s, and 60’s book ended by the middle ages and a dystopian future. The three period pieces highlighted seriously flawed characters and their poor decision making skills. I’m not sure why we gravitate towards these types of people at this time in society. Are they meant to be cautionary tales or glimpses of bygone values? Our entertainment will always reflect our sociology, and at least for the time being it’s not vampires.

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Hark the Herald

NO_USAGES =

Gislebertus   Dream of the Magi 1120-30

Frozen Toronto

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ice storm toronto 7

ice storm toronto 4

ice storm toronto 2

Art Noel

Warhol-Christmas-cat-228x300With only a week left till Christmas, here’s a little Christmas inspired art by Warhol, Hamilton and Matisse.

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Richard Hamilton I’m dreaming of a White Christmas 1967

Christmas was made for cut-outs.

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Matisse Christmas Eve 1952

Happy Holidays from Holditnow.

Lists the Season: TV edition 2013

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It’s that wonderful time of the year again; when we organize our lives into easily readable bullet-ed points rating our experiences from good to bad. Who doesn’t love lists? Many of you reading this right now probably have a few lists on the go as we speak: presents to buy, food to make, movies to watch etc.. Last year I listed my favourite Christmas tunes. This year I contemplated listing movies, but since I only saw 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine it would make for a  very short one. Both films are excellent by the way.

What I lacked in movie watching, I more than made up for in TV consumption. They say we are in the ‘new golden age’ of television. So much so, that it is hypothesized that TV entertainment may have enriched our standard of living. To add on to that, one seriously flawed outlook implies that no one can truly be considered poor when they are surrounded by so much rich distraction. Wow, who knew  TV wasn’t just  teaching us what to do in the case of a zombie apocalypse or how to be a functioning alcoholic at work but also trying to eliminate poverty? God bless us, every single one.

2013 was definitely a spoil of riches when it comes to TV entertainment. We had to say good-bye to some beloved characters and some not so beloved, as well as were introduced to a whole bevy of new ones. (Attention there may be Spoilers.)

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 10. Orange is the New Black garnered a lot of praise when it came out. It is a show I like but don’t love. It never graduated to binge watching. We would watch an episode or two and then forget about it for awhile. The high point for me is Tayrnn Manning’s portrayal of Tiffany Doggett. She does crazy well.

9. Treme / Boardwalk Empire HBO does TV well. I came up with a tie for number 9. Both shows are wonderful pastiches of unique times and places. Their settings are their protagonists, with many story lines running parallel to one another, sometimes never crossing and other times unexpectedly intersecting. Music is a key feature for both shows, delivering gems every episode.

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8. Broadchurch explores the fallout of a young boy’s murder on the inhabitants of a small seaside town. It is a classic who-done-it with multiple suspects and dead ends. They are remaking it for american TV, I just hope they get the emotional weight right.

7. Day of the Doctor The latest season of Dr. Who may not have been its strongest but all was forgiven with this year’s 50th anniversary special.

6. American Horror Story: Coven This season may not even be over yet but it has already made the list. It is experiencing its highest ratings ever and people are thoroughly hooked. On a show that out crazies itself every week I got two words: mellon baller. Yikes.

5. Shameless never gets enough love. William H Macy is in a word: without shame.

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4. House of Cards was definitely binge worthy. Kevin Spacey makes being bad look so good but it’s Robin Wright who can turn your heart to ice. I’m a little nervous after viewing the trailer for season 2. Francis looks like he is teetering into the dangerous and cartoonish ‘The Devil’s Advocate’s’  depiction of evil. Putting out candles with your fingers is never a good sign.

3. Game of Thrones  Two words: Red Wedding.

2. Mad MenFive wordsThe Desolation of Don Draper. 

TV Breaking Bad Gallery

1. Breaking Bad has gone on now to live in the Pantheon of all time greatest TV shows with The Sopranos and The Wire. Absolutely tremendous ride and one of the reasons we call it ‘the new golden age’.

W.T.G.A.: Michelangelo vs Matisse

michelangelo vs matisse

One was a master of stone, the other a master of colour. Both lived well into their eighties and both were  considered to be the greatest living artist in their lifetimes. Their chief rivals were Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso respectively.  Michelangelo Buonarroti was asked by the pope to put down his chisel and pick up a paint brush (against his will) and Henri Matisse was forced (by illness) to put down his paint brush and pick up a pair of scissors. They both rose to the new challenge and  left behind some of the greatest artwork the world has ever known. Their masterpieces are nothing short of iconic, but who is the greater artist?

 Matisse  The Red Studio 1911

Matisse The Red Studio 1911

For me, Matisse’s Red Studio is one of the greatest paintings painted by anybody everIt hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art beside another one of his great works The Piano Lesson.  It simultaneously shows space and negates it at the same time. It is mischievously simple and all together complex. The drawing is sumptuous and the use of colour totally avant garde. The abstract expressionist Mark Rothko was completely put under its spell, influencing countless of his own works. It draws you in with its joyous objects, sculptures and paintings scattered around the room, but it also keeps you out by its flat use of red reminding us that this is a place of serious work. Matisse rewrote the book on painting.

Michelangelo Doni Tondo 1504-1506

Michelangelo  Doni Tondo 1504-1506

It is hard to believe after looking at a picture like Doni Tondo or The Holy Family by Michelangelo, that he didn’t consider himself a painter. His handling of value and composition are nothing short of masterful. His figures feel as though they could take a breath, (although somehow the female form completely alluded him). He is a grand storyteller conveying deep emotions with a simple tilt of the head or the direction of the gaze. We follow those eyes because we believe those eyes. These figures seem real but at the same time other worldly. Michelangelo tests our faith and asks to believe.

Doni Tondo detail

Doni Tondo detail

Matisse also asks us to believe. We can see the reflection of a goldfish on the surface of water with a single orange brushstroke. He has condensed our senses to a dash of pure colour and nudged our perception to a flawless execution. We are rendered children in their presence.

Matisse The Goldfish 1910

Matisse The Goldfish 1910

Matisse is renown for his use of colour. He liked to use large swatches of pure colour. He believed in the axiom  ‘a kilogram of green is greener than half kilogram of green’. He also offsets his colours with both black and white, which creates great contrast as well as balances the palette. In Goldfish Matisse applies the paint loose and transparent with no real consideration for actual space preferring rhythm and pattern.

Michelangelo unfinished slave 1505

Michelangelo unfinished slave 1505

Michelangelo believed every piece of stone contained a sculpture waiting to be freed. You can see this process in his series of unfinished slaves. 5 centuries later we are fortunate that timing and dwindling funds forced Michelangelo to abandon his plans and work for the tomb of Pope Julius. The original plan called for 30 slaves in total with only two ever being completed and another 4 partially started. They illustrate the act of creation and serve as a masterclass for sculptors everywhere.

Matisse The Knife Thrower 1947

Matisse The Knife Thrower 1947

Throughout his career Matisse slowly reduced his figures to shape and flat colour. He eliminated the detail and emphasized the gesture. His cut-outs were the perfect culmination of this and for me some of his strongest work. Many artists peak  young and spend the rest of their lives imitating themselves, never again being able to recapture that younger vitality. Matisse is one of those rare individuals who was prolific throughout his career. Made near the end of his life with scissors and sheets of painted paper, the cut-outs are simply exquisite.

Michelangelo Moses 1513 - 1515

Michelangelo   Moses 1513 – 1515

As the story goes:  after Michelangelo completed Moses, he slapped him on the knee and commanded him to speak. It is true that stone was transformed by his chisel into something more. We are so humbled by their presence, that it is almost unfathomable that a person could actually create them. We are in such awe of his talent, we have trouble taking in the work. Embarrassing as this is; it was years before I noticed the horns on top of Moses‘s head. I was too busy marveling at his hands, his feet, his expression, the drapery and so on.

Matisse The Beasts of the Sea 1950

Matisse The Beasts of the Sea 1950

As much as I love Matisse and I love Matisse, he’s no match for the Italian. The work of Michelangelo is so impressive,  you can’t do anything but stop and take notice of it. I didn’t even mention David or The Sistine Chapel, but don’t worry their time will come.

Winner: Michelangelo

We have now come to the end of the first 8 match-ups and the winners are poised to face off in the next round. So far, the bracket looks like this:

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Purple Rain: Review

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For a movie with so much wrong with it, why is it so good? In a word: Prince. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to see him live, then you know all other performers are second best. If you haven’t, then here’s your chance right around the corner; he’s touring in 2014, first in Europe then in North America. Why should you see this guy? For starters, he’s one of the greatest guitar players on the planet. If you need proof, take a moment and listen to his solo on My Guitar Gently Weeps played at the Rock and Roll hall of Fame’s induction for George Harrison. Next reason to see Prince would be his backup band. He’s played with people ranging from Sheila E to Maceo Parker. Lastly, he’s got the songs and plenty of them.

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And this is the reason why Purple Rain is so watchable, it’s all about the music and the performance footage. The rest of the movie has some serious problems though. At this time I’d like to say, our hearts go out to poor Apollonia; in the film she’s humiliated, beaten, paraded around in lingerie and a cape, and forced to sing a song called Sex Shooter with lyrics:

I need you to get me off
I’m your bomb getting ready to explode
I need you to get me off
Be your slave do anything I’m told

I’m a sex shooter
Shootin’ love in your direction

Thirty years later, and we still feel for you kid. Prince has since turned his back on his overtly licentious and misogynist past but in 1984 controversy was still a major aspect to his persona. In the movie, he portrays a brooding volatile genius who still lives at home with his feuding parents and likes getting away from it all by taking sun dappled nature rides on his purple motorcycle.  Prince dressed in high heels, a pirate shirt and crushed velvet bolero pants having an introspective moment beside a shimmering lake is truly a haunting image. 

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The plot revolves around the price of fame, how to break a family cycle of doubt and abuse, the effects of an androgyny bomb being dropped on the city of Minneapolis and a tension-less rivalry between Prince and Morris Day for the final headlining spot at the club First Avenue. It boils down to the final performance where each band brings their big guns. Are we seriously expected to buy that a song like The Bird by the Time is in anyway a threat. (Spoiler alert) Prince counters with Purple fricking Rain. In the history of devastating defeats, this one is up there.

Other miscellaneous things to look for while watching Purple Rain:

The mad choreography from the crowd during Jungle Love by the Time

The deadpan delivery of the bands being announced.

Adam Ant Lurch – you’ll know him when you see him.

The note on the stairs during Darling Nikki – that takes planning.

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In the end, I’m not sure if Purple Rain is a musical or a movie with music in it or a performance with some movie in it. I kind of differentiate them by; if the music itself moves the plot forward then it’s a musical, otherwise it’s just a movie with music in it or random songs kind of tied together by a loose story. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Should you watch this film?- there are worse ways to spend your time. Should you get the soundtrack?- indeed you should. If Prince is coming to your part of the world in the near future, should you drop everything and go see him?- most definitely.