Tag Archives: Art

Blu-ray review: BIRDMAN

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There’s the legendary tragic story of 19th century American actor, Edwin Booth. He was so celebrated for his performance as Othello that he kept to that role, made a career out of it, and died with it. If only actor Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) were so lucky. He’s stuck with being known as the guy behind the Birdman mask in a ridiculously successful superhero movie franchise. “Birdman” is about a lot of things, including Riggan’s journey toward redemption. After so much water under bridge, he feels he’s found something meaningful he can do with all that he’s learned. He’s adapted Raymond Carver for the Broadway stage. It’s an audacious move and one that rankles those who position themselves as arbiters of taste, specifically the New York theater critic, Tabitha Dickinson (played by Lindsay Duncan). The role of Tabitha is relatively small and yet so pivotal. She’s the one who, for better or worse, holds the fate of Riggan’s play and perhaps much more. And she’s the one who should be most eloquent on matters of culture except her delivery is all too pointed. In a great balancing act, “Birdman” arrives at its satire with grace.

“Birdman” is one of those films that hits the nail on the head so well that it leaves you wanting more. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman” is an instant classic. Forget about anything you may have heard or read from naysayers giving it a nonsensical label of being “pretentious.” I read that’s what, of all people, shock jock Howard Stern labeled this film as being. That absurd assessment, that twisted view of culture, is the sort of thing that is lampooned in “Birdman.” It’s as if Federico Fellini and Paddy Chayefsky were both alive today and created a masterpiece speaking to where we find ourselves. And where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves with the Howard Sterns of the world making empty gestures each day to countless fans.

We are stuffing ourselves with pop culture that often, some would say always, proves to be as fulfilling as cotton candy. In a film full of great conflict, the resounding head-butt is between high and low culture. Not only do we have snooty critics like Tabitha, but we have snooty thespians out to make life a living hell for Riggan. Enter Mike Shiner (played by Edward Norton). When Riggan finds himself in need of a replacement for a lead role, Mike is fortuitously available. He also happens to be notoriously rude and unstable. He thinks Riggan is incapable of genuinely caring about anything. He laughs at Riggan’s personal story about Raymond Carver. Mike also realizes that he has a very crazy way of showing that he cares.

And to care about something is at the heart of this film. Riggan is given many reasons to care, including his daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone). There’s a wondrous scene where Sam lashes out at her dad. What’s remarkable is how much is said and conveyed. Sam goes from being triggered into conflict, to full-on rage, to a descent into regret. It’s the sort of sustained moment you would experience in theater. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu pushes the boundaries of what can be conveyed in film, particularly with a series of awe-inspiring continuous shots. It’s theatrical on one level. It’s hyperreal on another. And, you better believe it, it makes you want to care.

“Birdman” is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. The feature with a behind-the-scenes look at the film is priceless. For more information, visit Fox Searchlight right here.

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Filed under Academy Awards, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, movies, Superheroes

Leonard Nimoy, RIP

Leonard-Nimoy-Star-Trek-RIP

We live our lives and we’re not always aware of our achievements, our moments in the sun, that define us. For Leonard Nimoy, he was all too well aware of his legacy. His autobiography famously declared, “I Am Not Spock,” only to be followed years later with, “I Am Spock.” We all knew, all along, that he was Spock. This was not some burden. It simply was what it was. Pretty logical, and befitting a great actor and decent human being.

We will all miss Leonard Nimoy no longer among us. But we have his work to still enjoy. There’s that magical episode of Star Trek, “Amok Time,” written by Theodore Sturgeon, where Spock first says that famous line, along with the first time we see the Vulcan salute, “Live Long and Prosper.” He would wish that for you.

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Filed under Leonard Nimoy, pop culture, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Trek, Theodore Sturgeon

Kickstarter: Comic Book People 2: Photographs from the 1990s

 Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Gibbons at the 1991 San Diego Comic-Con.


Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Gibbons at the 1991 San Diego Comic-Con.

Jackie Estrada is a Comic-Con legend. She knows everybody. And she’s photographed everybody. Her work has appeared everywhere, including the recent PBS program on superheroes. She’s been a supporter of Comic-Con from the very beginning and administrator of its Eisner Awards since 1990. She has vivid recollections and has documented them in her first book, Comic Book People, which covered the ’70s and ’80s. Now comes Comic Book People 2 which covers the ’90s. It’s a perfect next step in seeing the history and behind-the-scenes fun that is Comic-Con International in San Diego as well as the Chicago Comic-Con, WonderCon, the Small Press Expo, and APE. And you can make this new book a reality by joining in support of the Kickstarter campaign going on now through March 13. Join in your support and visit the campaign right here.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Comic-Con International, Comics, Jackie Estrada

Review: THIS IS GAUGUIN, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Paul-Gauguin

We think of Paul Gauguin when we think of the stereotype of an artist running away from it all to an island paradise and going native. Well, at least that used to be the dream. Paul Gauguin certainly lived it. He remains the most celebrated example even if the details cast a shadow on his work. His was a most eccentric artistic and personal journey. Written by George Roddam and illustrated by Sława Harasymowicz, this is a complex story told in a clear and concise manner.

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Born in Paris in 1848, Paul Gauguin came into the world during an uprising that would have made the Occupy movement blush. It led the family to flee to another familial branch in Peru, but not before Gauguin’s father died of a heart attack. In 1855, the family returned to Paris but Gauguin’s love for the tropics ran deep. Fast forward a few more years, Gauguin’s life reached critical mass. He had allowed himself to enter into a career as a stock broker and had married Mette, a young Danish woman from a respectable family. They had children, five in all. However, he was developing into a very capable artist. In time, he would establish himself among the great Impressionists of the day. And an inevitable conflict would arise.

Teha'amana, Paul Gauguin's 13-year-old lover

Teha’amana, Paul Gauguin’s 13-year-old lover

We look at Gauguin’s work and it feels all part of a whole. The depiction of young women from Brittany eventually makes way for the depiction of young women in Tahiti. Gauguin follows his idealistic and romantic notions. In the same way that he mistakens the traditional head-dresses of the Breton women as significant, so he goes on to project wisdom and nobility upon the Tahitian girls he meets. There is one girl in particular, Teha’amana, only 13 years old, who he takes as a lover. She proves to be very silent. Gauguin sees that as a sign of great wisdom. More likely, it was a child’s reaction to becoming sexually involved with a grown man. Gauguin explained the relationship as part of the local custom.

What we remember most of the work of Gauguin is an unapologetic embrace of primitive culture. His work is a unique offshoot of the Impressionists’ aim to depict daily life. This book does a capable job of providing context to the most celebrated case of an artist going native.

Learn more about this new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Impressionism, Laurence King Publishing, Paul Gauguin

Review: THIS IS Dalí, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Salvador-Dali

Salvador Dalí is another artist that we feel we know. We can think of one of his paintings of melting time pieces in the desert and instantly identify with Surrealism. Dalí is a prime example of an artist superstar. Much in the same vein as Warhol, his persona was a formidable brand. Unlike Warhol, the antics of Dalí could often cloud the actual work. If you pore over a number of Dalí paintings, then you see something deservedly ranked at the top. Without a doubt, there was both Dalí, the eccentric, and Dalí, the master artist.

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In “This is Dalí,” we get another wonderful pairing of scholarly and lively writing by Catherine Ingram and compelling illustrations by Andrew Rae.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Laurence King Publishing, Salvador Dalí, Surrealism

Movie Short Review: C.T.R.L

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and Philip (played by Mathew Blancher)

Here’s the synopsis: “A young man’s attempt at a first contact with a love interest is hijacked in a most entertaining way.” Hmm, so what happens? Well, things look promising at first. Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) is about to walk past Philip (played by Mathew Blancher) but not before something big happens. And that something big is likely to add up to this film short going viral.

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What’s it take for a video to go viral? “C.T.R.L” is brimming with charm. It’s an unexpected treat: a mashup of street performance, music videos, and silent movies.

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

So, we’ve got a potential case of star-crossed lovers. But, lo and behold, in the background lurks trouble. Seated nearby in a cafe, Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi) control the destiny of the young man and woman byway of some wicked app that can manipulate their every move. Dance mayhem ensues.

Director Mariana Conde

Director Mariana Conde

This is a triumph for new director Mariana Conde, creative/executive producer Stu Grant, and choreographer Damien Anyasi. Here’s what Mariana Conde has to say about her short film: “I believed in C.T.R.L from day one. It was a risky idea but that made it even more appealing. I could grasp the potential and the bigger the risk, the bigger the achievement. It’s a visionary short that will add another spark to the discussion of how far we are willing to take technology. From young professionals looking for a quick shot of entertainment, to dance enthusiasts, gamers, kids and a more mature audience in search of something different, C.T.R.L will appeal to a vast and varied audience.”

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

The performances are exquisite. You’ll root for Sophie and Philip as they follow their fate. And you’ll hiss at Tom and PJ, the fiendish villains. This short work is truly worthy of mention. It provides a nice uplifting vibe with an urban attitude, a decidedly English style.

Where can you find out more about this film short? Go here. And, of course, be on the look out. You’ll be seeing more of C.T.R.L.

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Filed under Dance, film, Filmmaking, Music, Short Film, Video, Viral Video

Review: THIS IS BACON, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Francis-Bacon

Francis Bacon is a little bit less well known to the general public than Warhol and Pollock but every bit as powerful. Bacon was the product of the vibrant and gritty London Soho scene of the ’50s and ’60s. It was a world of rough trade and intellectuals. It was a bubbling cauldron of sexual liberation and creative abandon. Bacon quite naturally exemplified the zeitgeist. Having been caught by his father as he was reveling in wearing his mother’s underwear, he was summarily kicked out of the home at age 16, left to fend for himself. He wasn’t involved with art at the time, never had formal training, but art became his outlet, and he mastered it.

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The British contemporary art scene was more introverted than the American. It really wasn’t pop as much as personal. Its answer to Abstract Expressionism was a return to the figure and to the self. Along with various other artists exploring the inner life, like David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, it was Bacon who took this soulful approach to some of its greatest heights.

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Funny how some people mistake Francis Bacon with the great philosopher. And how ironic that this artist, by the name of Bacon, would come to paint on, in part, the theme of meat.

Part of Laurence King Publishing’s This is Art series, this little book packs a lot of valuable information. It is quite a compelling narrative, written by Kitty Hauser with illustrations by Christina Christoforou. It will prove inspiring to any artist working today. Here’s a little taste of the text:

Bacon’s training took place not at art school but through the voraciousness of his eye, and the extremity of his experiences. He liked to observe human behaviour, especially when it was governed by instinct rather than convention. His relative lack of a formal education meant he did not make the usual kinds of distinctions between life and art, or between high culture and low. His mind and his studio were well stocked with images from a multitude of sources – cinema, medical literature, art galleries, everyday life – and some of these images inevitably found their way, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, into his paintings. ‘Don’t forget that I look at everything’, he said. ‘And everything I see gets ground up very fine. In the end one never knows, certainly I myself never know, what the images in my paintings are made up of.’

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Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Francis Bacon, Laurence King Publishing

Review: THIS IS POLLOCK, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Jackson-Pollock

Jackson Pollock can still be a slap in the face for some art elitists, and that’s just as it should be. In a lively new art series by Laurence King Publishing, we get a clear picture on one of most significant artists among the Abstract Expressionism movement.

I was at a party, only a few years ago, when a discussion on art began to take shape. Our host, I recall, had a problem with any art outside his traditional taste and this guy, although young, was already quite a conservative old fogey. He lambasted Pollock. I, in turn, explained to him that Pollock’s drip paintings were, in part, a complex dance with paint. Many have attempted to emulate a Pollock drip painting and have failed. The best I could get out of my friend was a nod and wink and his suggestion that I had a perfect conversation chestnut to use at parties. Of course, he was dead wrong. Pollock is no party favor.

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I wish I had this book to hand out to everyone at that party. Maybe it would have changed minds. Maybe it would have provided information that was new and compelling. As in her book on Warhol for this series, Catherine Ingram tells it like it is. She gives us an intimate picture of Pollock growing up, albeit a rather bumpy ride. And she fills in the gaps on how Pollock grew as an artist and how he came to lead the charge in contemporary painting. His drip paintings would prove to not only take the art world by storm but the general public as well. Peter Arkle provides poignant as well as whimsical depictions of Pollock’s life in the graphic novel-style presentation.

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For an artist with a reputation for being a “bad boy,” Pollock actually desired solitude. He found that in the woods of Long Island, along with his wife, the artist Lee Krasner.

Pollock remains a powerful force even today. All it takes is the latest “rediscovery” of his paintings. You can read about one of Pollock’s earliest drip paintings returning to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice right here.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Book Reviews, Books, Jackson Pollock, Laurence King Publishing

Interview: Jason V Brock and the World of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Jason V. Brock

Jason V Brock

Jason V Brock is an author, artist, and filmmaker who finds himself in a very interesting place in pop culture. For starters, he has created two well-regarded documentaries that focus on two very different men, both great contributors to science fiction, horror, movies, television, and the arts in general. One is Charles Beaumont. The other is Forrest J Ackerman. We chat about them and the creative process. How do you create art? One rule of thumb: Do it yourself! We begin with a look back at Brock’s childhood and how he, a child of the ’80s, grew up with the DIY ethos. In Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where Brock cut his teeth on comics, retro cinema, vintage LPs, pulp fiction, and Playboy. Brock began working at his local comic book shop at the age of 13. His dad was a writer and graphic designer. It sounds like an idyllic way to grow up, right out of a Ray Bradbury story.

Charles Beaumont and Robin Hughes on the set of “The Howling Man”

Charles Beaumont and Robin Hughes on the set of “The Howling Man”

Speaking of stories,there are so many stories to cover just in Brock’s documentary on Beaumont. Take the case of the short story, “The Crooked Man,” by Charles Beaumont. It is a classic today that was highly controversial for the time, circa 1955. It imagined a society where homosexuality was predominant while hetrosexuality was outlawed. The story was bought by Esquire but subsequently was not published. It turned out to also be too hot for the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But when Playboy published it in 1955, then that same story became okay, more than okay. Charles Beaumont sold his first science fiction story, “The Devil You Say,” to Amazing Stories in 1950. By 1954, he had written the first work of fiction, the landmark work, “Dark Country,” to appear in Playboy in 1954. This kicked off over a decade of Beaumont stories in Playboy. Writing for movies and televison soon followed including some of the best episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” All this, and so much more, before his life was cut short at 38 by a mysterious illness.

And, that gives you some sense of what to expect in Brock’s “Charles Beaumont: Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man.” You can find that documentary as well as Brock’s documentary on Famous Monsters of Filmland’s former editor, Forrest J Ackerman (Uncle Forry), “The AckerMonster Chronicles!” right here.

We also chat about Brock’s work in editing and writing his own stories. This led us to discussing a unique pairing of talents. In the course of working on the Beaumont documentary, Brock got to know one of the members of the Southern California Writer’s Group, William F. Nolan. They struck up a solid friendship. When Nolan was at a turning point on where he wanted to live next, it was a reasonable choice for him to move a bit further north from Bend, Oregon to Brock’s neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington. It turned out to be a natural fit and Brock and his wife, Sunni, could not be happier to share meals but not only that. Bill Nolan became family and you look out for family.

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Among Brock’s impressive editorial work, there’s the recent anthology, from 2014, “A Darke Phantastique.” This is a 730-page lushly illustrated collection of some of the best dark horror fiction around with more than fifty stories, poems, and one teleplay. This includes Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Case of the Four-Acre Haunt”; Paul Kane’s “Michael the Monster”; William F. Nolan’s “The Last Witch”; Nathaniel Lee’s “The Wisest Stone and the Zoo”; Derek Künsken’s “The Buddha Circus”; E.E. King’s “Three Fables”; Jason Maurer’s “In Your Dark: Differing Strategies in Subhuman Integration Through Monster Academies” and S.T. Joshi’s “You’ll Reach There in Time.” “A Darke Phantastique” is published by Cicatrix Press and you can find it here.

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And another recent anthology, out this year, is “Disorders of Magnitude.” This is a 336-page overview of the genres of horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. It will prove useful to anyone who wants a better understanding of the roots of one of today’s dominant forms of entertainment and art. Included in this collection are essays, reviews, and interviews. Brock studies such dynamic figures as H. P. Lovecraft, Forrest J Ackerman, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Rod Serling, and William F. Nolan. This collection also includes filmmakers Roger Corman, George Romero, and Dan O’Bannon, and such fantasy artists as H. R. Giger. “Disorders of Magnitude” is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. You can find it as Amazon right here.

You can listen to our conversation by clicking the link below. For anyone interested in writing, filmmaking, and creativity in general, there’s something here for you. Enjoy.

And be sure to visit Jason and Sunni Brock at JaSunni Productions to find out more about their products and services right here.

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Filed under Charles Beaumont, Documentaries, Forrest J Ackerman, George Clayton Johnson, Interviews, Jason V. Brock, Rod Serling, Sci-Fi, science fiction, The Twilight Zone, William F. Nolan

Review: THIS IS WARHOL, published by Laurence King Publishing

Andy-Warhol-Laurence-King

This week we will consider Laurence King Publishing’s exciting new artist series in a graphic novel format. We begin with “This is Warhol.” We will continue with Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, and end the week with Paul Gauguin. How often have you started the week with Andy Warhol and ended the week with Paul Gauguin? Well, you lucky duck, this is your week. These are all iconoclasts and each of their work continues to reverberate. Among this group, we feel closest to Warhol, despite the fact he was personally quite distant. We think we know him. But, as this book clearly demonstrates, there is much more than meets the casual observer.

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Catherine Ingram writes with great enthusiasm and confidence in her subject. She weaves a compelling narrative in such a concise manner, never wasting a word. As she’s describing Warhol’s childhood, she is deftly planting seeds that link us to the vision of the leading figure of Pop Art. Andy, the child, is gazing upon his neighborhood church’s icons. As a Catholic, the icons are powerful figures for Warhol. As an adult, he will take that same level of emotional attachment to his depictions of Campbell’s soup cans and Hollywood stars. But weren’t these repeated images from pop culture simply statements about an empty and shallow society? No, Ingram makes a case for much more being said.

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Filed under Andy Warhol, Art, Art books, Laurence King Publishing, Pop Art, pop culture