Category Archives: Art

Books vs Moving Pictures

At one point last Friday night, while at a bar downtown, a friend of mine turned to me and said, “Have you seen Game of Thrones?” His question had a lot of enthusiasm behind it, and I laughed inwardly because I was immediately reminded of something I had seen earlier that day, which was this:

Now, I of course didn’t yell at my friend like the bearded fellow in the video. I just explained to him that I had read the books long before the tv show came out and I didn’t want to ruin, by watching a filmed version, my self-imagined images of the characters and settings in the book.

A couple days later I found myself thinking about that idea again. Does watching a dramatized version of one of your favorite books really kill the images you’ve created in your head? When I tried to pull up images of the characters from the book series I discovered that I don’t really have any clear images of any of them. Instead, what I have, are vague notions and blank faces. I can picture the places quite well but the characters remain illusive and ghost-like; lacking detail and shadow. Take for example the character of Jon Snow. He is a major character in the books and yet all I could say of him appearance-wise is that he’s a fair-haired, somewhat handsome teenager who looks older than his actual age. Very generic. Even a character with a very distinct look like the dwarf Tyrion, who is described with a lot of detail by Mr Martin, does not hold a strong image for me. The best I can come up with is a very cartoonish-looking short man with straw for hair and a pot belly; and even that image is influenced by a childhood memory of some old cartoon movie the title of which has long since departed my mind. Unable to escape the promos for HBO’s Game of Thrones, I have seen the live-action Tyrion and although I think he is a little too good looking a dwarf to be playing the disgustingly ugly Tyrion I have to admit that he was probably very well cast.

What, then, is the problem? Why am I so reluctant to watch the tv series? I have no reason to think that watching the show will impact my life in a negative way. I mean, why would it?

Back when I was in university, the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings came out. Previous to them coming out, I had read the three-book novel 3 times. It was and still is probably my favorite book. I remember at that time that I felt exactly how I feel now. I very much wanted to watch the films but was afraid they would disappoint me and ruin the images I had gleaned from Tolkien’s words. And then a friend of mine scored tickets to the midnight opening of the first film and gave me one. I thought to hell with it and gladly went to the theater. I liked the movie. I wasn’t impressed with the portrayal of the main characters and various casting choices but the masterfully done CGI and the amazing natural scenery of New Zealand, which matches the landscapes of the book so well, trumped the negatives. Those movies were obviously made by people who cared A LOT about the novel and didn’t want to mess things up. Turned out that watching the movies didn’t kill my perception of the books after all, nor did seeing the characters on the big screen replace my own mind-made images of the characters and the settings.

So, why this hesitation again? If the television series is good enough for the author of the books, then surely it should be good enough for me. He actually works on the show for chrissakes. I suppose I’m just being a book snob. But, I think that by writing this post, I have convinced myself to give the tv version a go.

Imagination, be damned.

The Problem with Argo

Argo

This isn’t one of those Argo-sucks-because-it-doesn’t-give-Canada-enough-credit arguments. Although, I will say that it was in incredibly poor taste to make horribly cliché Canadians-are-nice-but-useless jokes in a movie that literally would not exist if the Canadian embassy had not protected 6 Americans who ran away from their embassy in Tehran that day.

No, this is an argument about how the film Argo didn’t deserve any of the accolades it received in both Britain and Hollywood. Mind you, I’m basing this argument on the premise that awards given out for film (or any other art form for that matter) mean something, which of course, they don’t.

First, I’d like to make a distinction between two types of moving pictures: There exists those we can label ‘film’ and those we can label ‘movie’. A film is a work of art which is meant to dramatize some event or situation but not necessarily in an enjoyable-to-the-audience fashion. Films are usually serious affairs exploring some aspect of the human condition; in which the director tries to make every shot or scene carry artistic weight. A movie, conversely, is a story told in a way as to be enjoyed by the largest audience possible. Making the movie look appealing and for it to be enjoyable is far more important to the director than making art.

Both of these, the film or the movie, can be done well or done poorly. Some The Masterrecent examples: In the good column for ‘film’ would be The Master and for ‘movie’ would be Skyfall. In the bad column, I’m cautiously suggesting The Tree of Life for film (I mean seriously, what the fuck was with that movie and everybody gushing over it? It had NO point and Malick’s floating camera and wispy colors are just too much sentimentality for me to handle) and for movie, well, there’s a million I could put down, but I’ll throw The Avengers out there because I know so many people liked that movie.

[[The following paragraph contains spoilers]]
Argo
is a title which doesn’t fall neatly into either the ‘film’ category or the ‘movie’ category. Because it’s based on true events that weren’t that exciting to begin with (like another big name movie from last year *cough* zerodarkthirty *cough*) the director has a choice to make; either stay true to the story and ?????????????????make the drama about the characters and what they’re feeling using poignant dialogue or spice things up a little with comic relief and made-up action that wasn’t there in the real life story. Mr. Affleck chose to try to spice up the story and by doing so failed to make a good ‘film’. He also failed to make a good ‘movie’ because it wasn’t fun to watch; it was boring and other than looking good, had nothing to offer the audience. The sad attempts at comedy in this film were the aforementioned Canada jokes, everything that came out of John Goodman’s mouth and the line in the market scene, where the guy’s holding the viewfinder backwards and Affleck leans in and says something like, “If I was to tell you that you were looking into the wrong end of that viewfinder, would I be correct?” Groan. As for forced action sequences, the climax of the movie was a ridiculous airport scene, which culminates in the bad guys chasing the plane carrying the Americans down the runway. Really, Ben? Argo would have worked as a ‘film’ if they had stuck to the real story and not embellished things. Like I said, it was a good-looking period piece. What would have served it better would have been to write smarter, lengthier dialogue and to repress the urge to make a ‘movie’.

By trying to walk the line between film and movie, Argo fails as both. It was not 223902id1k_THE TOWN_27x40_1Sheet_0410.inddenjoyable, as a good ‘movie’ should be, nor was it an artistic achievement, as a good ‘film’ should be with great characters, dialogue, and meaning. There are certainly worse movies out there, but Argo provides a classic example of how a mediocre movie can be propelled to a status of greatness by riding a wave of Hollywood, in-circle, self admiration. Affleck should stick to making fun, entertaining, solid movies like The Town and forget about trying to make Oscar-bait films.

3 Bits of Art

In this post we have 3 bits of interesting art:

1 – Dan Hipp, or Mister Hipp if you prefer, draws amazing, nerdy, mash-up art:

 

2 – Robert Brandenburg takes old, mass-produced oil paintings and re-purposes them to comical effect:

 

 

3 – Eric Perriard takes photographs with a minimalist approach and with myself being a fan of simplistic photography, I like it:

 

 

Bae Bien-U

Bae Bien-U (배병우) is a Korean photographer really worth checking out. His use of large format film and mastery of light to capture nature, most notably pine tree forests is world renowned. No HDR bullshit for this guy.

He seems like an interesting character; blunt and honest, in a recent interview he did in Korea’s JoongAng Daily:

Until the early 1990s, my photographs were mocked in Korea because experimental works were in fashion. Koo Bohnchang and Kim Jung-man were much more popular, though they were simply following the trend overseas. What’s funny is that both are doing landscapes now.

When asked if he gets tired of taking pictures of pine trees, he responds:

But people still keep buying them. I’m running out of stock. [Laughs.]

On how much money he makes:

I can live for a year with what I earn selling 10 pieces.

[…]

People around me say that one piece can cost over 100 million won [$86,603].

Finally, when asked what matters to him most, he responds:

Work. When you are good at your work, you get everything from money to female fans. Exerting effort to excel in something revitalizes your life. Whenever I spend a couple of days drinking in Seoul, this thought that I am not supposed to be doing this hits me. Happiness is enjoying nature as it is.

Great stuff. Check out the full interview here. See his portfolio by clicking on the pic below.

 

Street Art and Old Posters

First we have a collection of some of the best photos of “street art” from 2011. It’s actually more like a random collection of art that one can see outside. Regardless of that, most of this stuff is genius. Click on the pic to go to the collection.


 

Second we have a collection of old U.S. government sponsored posters from the years 1936 to 1943. Some of them had some good advice and some of them were gorgeous, like the one below. Check them out by clicking on the poster.


‘Mericentrism Strikes Again

Before I begin on the actual topic of this post, I’d like to point out that the term Americentrism (-centric) is horrible, both visually and phonetically. I found that by dropping the A it sounds a little better. Why can’t it just roll off the tongue like its cousin Eurocentric?

But, enough of that.

 

Sometime in the past week or so, news of a planned building project in Seoul, began circulating both domestically (in Korea) and internationally. It’s making the news because some Americans are upset about it.

I first saw and heard about this project here, and when I saw the picture of it – and even after reading the accompanying post – I had no idea why someone would take offense to it.

Until I read this.

Honestly, the image of New York’s Twin Towers under attack never came to mind. I saw what the architects (MVRDV of the Netherlands) who designed it had envisioned; a cloud suspended between two skyscrapers, and nothing else.

If the architects didn’t see the resemblance to the exploding World Trade Center when they drew the design (as they stated they didn’t, and which I don’t doubt for a second), then why should anyone take offense to this? And why should the rest of the world worry about the complaints of a few knee-jerk Americans?

It’s absolutely true that what happened in New York on that day was terrible, but what gives the people who were affected by that tragedy the right to place their sorrow and anger above the feelings of those who live in other parts of the world and have likely felt some sorrow and anger of their own over some other tragedy? And why should the world media report about those angered over such a trivial thing as the design of a building, while there are certainly thousands of people in Africa, for example, experiencing some horrific tragedy at this very moment?

The answer to these questions, is that this is a case of ethnocentricity in a powerful nation-state. Americans view the world from their perspective only (as do people in other countries as well), and the United States happens to be the most powerful state in the world, which results in the opinions of Americans being overrepresented across all mediums. And as such, world opinion tends to be influenced by American opinion.

I’m sure that the developers of this building project will not proceed with this design now, because their rational decision – choosing an interesting and eye-catching design – has been tainted by the irrational objections of some people who live thousands of kilometers away.

 

[On a side note, I rather like this design. You can see more of it here. I really like the cubical design of the ‘cloud’, which allows for terraced green spaces outside and an airy, open-level interior. And besides that, any sort of interesting architecture is a welcome addition to the bleak cityscape Seoul is currently plagued with.]

 

Film, Photography and Architecture

Some interesting things from the world of art, which I’ve come across recently.

First up is the New York Times’  Touch of Evil, a series of shorts in which famous actors portray various villains from throughout film history. Some of them are not great, but some are pretty neat, such as Rooney Mara’s (which happens to be my favourite). Click on the pic to go to the NYT gallery.

Rooney Mara as a certain famous bad-boy.

 

Next is a series of eerie photographs taken by David Gray and collected by Reuters. They show a half-built, abandoned theme park in China which was to be named Wonderland. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Click on the pic to go to the Reuters gallery.

REUTERS/David Gray

 

Finally, we have a short video featuring the architecture of Los Angeles, Charles and Ray Eames, and Ice Cube. How do these sundry things all fit together? Check out the video to find out.