Month: October, 2014

Baconstein Triptych

Monster, Bride of the Monster and The Monster meets Abbott and Costello

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d repost my own set of Monsters

The idea for this triptych was born many years ago on the back pages of a sketchbook. It started with two names written beside one another: Francis Bacon and Roy Lichtenstein. It was a very simple procedure and in a matter of seconds I conceived a monster. Frankenstein was the quintessential postmodern mash-up assembled using the parts of many to redefine the whole and Baconstein would be born of the same stuff.

The concept of combining multiple art styles is not a new one. Lichtenstein himself started early in his career by appropriating comic strips and then later on tackling luminaries like Leger, Monet and Picasso. His artistic style helped redefine their conceptual content. Bacon had referenced Muybridge and Velasquez.

Both artists listed on the back page of my sketchbook have remarkable style and technique, although, their approach couldn’t be further from one another in how they depict reality. Lichtenstein painted in a very mechanical way; rendering flesh in a uniform manner, adopting the print technique of benday dots. Bacon, on the other hand, rendered flesh by splaying it open and using paint as a visceral instrument. The two seemed perfect for one another.

The two paintings I chose to use are from early in the artists’ careers, before they both reached their mature styles. Bacon’s “Painting” and Lichtenstein’s “Girl with Ball” are also close in size to one another and can both be found at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The final composition would be inspired by Bacon’s multiple use of the Triptych format. The first panel is the “The Monster”, then “The Bride of the Monster” and finally taking the Frankenstein reference to its extremity “Abbott and Costello meet the Monster”.  Abbott and Costello could also be considered early pioneers of mashing up genres to create hybrid works.

The final piece is a digital painting using a computer and a tablet. It is an appropriation of traditional painting techniques, using multiple layers of transparent colour to build up volume. I avoided the use of filters and all images are hand drawn. This style of creating the work seemed appropriate to the content and in the end it was electricity that brought my monster to life.

Birdman: “a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.”

BIRDMAN_gallery_cover_photoAlejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) slowly unravels like a sweater caught on a nail. Birdman unspools relentlessly through a continuous maze of backstage corridors and  claustrophobic dressing rooms of a Broadway theatre that could easily stand in for the mythological labyrinth of Minos. Michael Keaton is Riggan Thomas, who is Birdman; who may have or may not have been Icarus. Birdman reads like a Fable. Birdman felt more like a performance than a movie. While watching Birdman, I didn’t want it to end, right up until it did.

Note: at no point in the film does Michael Keaton utter the phrase “I’m Birdman.”

He does however say something along those lines in 1989 in Tim Burton’s Batman, when he played one of the first incarnations of our modern box-office super hero. His costars Edward Norton and Emma Stone are also no strangers to the comic book franchise both starring in reincarnations of The Hulk and The Amazing Spiderman respectively. Our fascination with super heroes is at an all time high and Birdman takes a sideways glance at the phenomenon. It also brushes up against: social media, the cult of celebrity, ageism, art versus commerce, magic realism, ego tripping at the gates of hell and the validity of criticism.

This last point has gotten under the skin of a small number of pop culture critics who may have unknowingly taken it a little too personally. They retaliated with words like “show-offy” and “pretentious”. The film is a well executed artful take on the continuous tracking shot that helps to establish the stress one experiences with the staging of any creative endeavor when you are working within a narrow timeline. If doing something well with innovation and intent is “show-offy” than so be it. As far as pretension goes, it is actually a theme the filmmaker addresses head-on and like most adult conversations you can actually discuss an idea without automatically falling victim to it. Birdman is an allusion to the idea of art as social criticism but demystifies the art of criticizing itself. (How’s that for pretentious?)

birdman-movie-picture-11Birdman is a drumbeat. Birdman is great performances; every actor brings their A game. Birdman is a comedy and Birdman is a tragedy; sometimes within the same scene. Birdman can turn on a dime. Birdman is a movie you should go see. In the end, Birdman is many things, and ‘a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing’.


Related: The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

6 Degrees of Harry Potter III

no-country-for-old-men_285495This past week J.K. Rowling set the twitterverse ablaze with a cryptic message that had Harry Potter fans chomping at the bit. The tweet was in reference to the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which currently is in the early stages of pre-production. We’ll have to wait until November 2016 before we get to return to the world of muggles and wizards, but in the meantime we can play a little 6 Degrees of Harry Potter while we wait.

Last time we ended off with the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw played by Kelly Macdonald; so this is as good a place as any to begin. Before she was Nucky Tompson’s wife on Boardwalk Empire she was married to Josh Brolin in the Coen Brother’s brilliant 2007 No Country for Old Men. This movie gets better with every viewing. The Coens won a best picture Oscar for their story of a man on the run after he finds 2 million in cash at the scene of a horrific gun battle. Javier Bardem plays the sociopath hitman who is employed to retrieve the money. He is easily one of the most menacing villains in recent film history and oh that hair. Along with the great performances; what makes this movie so compelling is what the Coens’ chose to omit rather than reveal that really propels the  story. We never get to see the huge confrontations in the film only their aftermaths. Even the sound design is minimal, no action movie soundtrack is added, only the atmosphere and dialogue of the scene are there to ratchet up the tension. Along with Josh and Javier, Kelly shares the screen with Woody Harrelson.

Kingpin1Woody has come a long way from playing the lovable but naive bartender from Hanover Indiana on CheersLast year’s True Detective was a revelation, along with some of his other performances like The People Vs Larry Flint or The Messenger, but the performance I want to talk about today is that of Roy Munson: the one handed bowler in Kingpin . This movie is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine and I would have to say Bill Murray’s Ernie McCraken is comedy gold. According to legend, the scene at the end of the film when Ernie bowls three strikes in a row wasn’t edited together but actually accomplished by Murray.  The crowd’s reaction is genuine.

The-Monuments-Men-películaThe crowd’s reaction to The Monuments Men was genuine as well; genuine indifference. I really wanted to like this film, it had so much going for it: great cast, true story and (my personal favourite) art history, but it couldn’t make up its mind what kind of film it wanted to be. Some parts tried to pull at your heartstrings where others tried to create suspense, neither with any real payoff. The movie had no real flow; you could literally shuffle all the scenes and play them in a different order and it would have made very little difference.  Everything felt a little forced, especially the little Ocean’s cheekiness tacked on at the end….. ‘oh those guys’.  And what guys they had: along with Bill, there was John Goodman, George Clooney and Matt Damon.

The_DepartedMatt Damon plays along Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese’s The DepartedMartin Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and Jack Nicholson is considered one of the greatest actors of our time, so it pains me to say, this is not one of the greatest films of all time – despite the fact it won best picture the year it came out. It feels really heavy handed to me and I blame it on Nicholson. His performance has the subtle nuance of a Black Eyed Peas song. He is more cartoon in this film then when he played an actual cartoon character in Batman. There’s still a good movie in there but it could have been great. The star studded cast goes deep with support players like Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin.

royaltenenbaumsAlec Baldwin is the narrator in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. It is hard to believe, it has been 10 years since Gene Hackman has starred in anything. He is perfect as Royal Tenenbaum who lies and cheats his way back into his estranged family’s lives. This movie too gets better with every viewing.

3810bGene Hackman is far and away from his lovable rogue persona of Royal compared to the calculated menace of Little Bill in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. This movie as well won for best picture and deservedly so. Clint Eastwood returns to his Western roots with a taught tale of revenge, redemption and damnation. Richard Harris plays the Duck  Duke of Death who is run out of town by Little Bill. Richard Harris also plays a little know character known as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

There goes another 6 degrees (best picture edition).


Cornershop 2014

Cornershop 2014