Sorry for the dearth of posts lately, it's not that I don't have things to post about, I have just been busy with the family here from Britain. They are leaving today, and it looks like rain--prepping them for what awaits them at home I expect. For us here in LA it is a precious and rare gift--water from the sky, we never get enough of it, at least not for my taste anyway. Back to full-speed blogging in a day or so.
(the pattern is from Laura Williams)
Singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, wheel-chair bound since a car crash at age 18, died on Christmas Day. He'd apparently been a in a come since a recent suicide attempt. Chesnutt had lots of admirers in the music biz and was often heard on KCRW, the local public radio station. RIP. His album, Is The Actor Happy, made it onto the list of 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die--a great resource by the way, if you are looking to expand your musical horizons.
Nine, was not high on my list of films to see but there I was on a Friday afternoon nestled into a comfy seat in a cinema filled with musical-lovers watching the latest outing from the director of Chicago(can I say how much I didn't enjoy that musical!!). But this one had a few extras in its favour from my perspective--Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz. A cinematic representation of a stage show homage to Fellini's 8 1/2, Nine is a thread of a story--writer's block sandwiched between big, extravagant over-the-top and very-dated lyrically, dance numbers, black and white memory scenes and pitch-perfect 60s italiano designs. And you know what? I really liked it. Oh, did I mention Glenda Jackson, yes, M, of recent years, and an actress able to take anyone to wherever her character is heading, plays sexy seamstress/confidante to Day-Lewis' Guido Contini, and owns every single second of screen time People have criticized DDL's singing in this film, but that I think misses the point, you don't have to sing well, you have to act well in a singing part and that is what he does, plus I thought his vocals matched the state his character was in--but there again I love Nick Cave!! It was really lovely to see him in a looser role--still enough sturm and drang but essentially, he is reflecting on the women in his life while he tries to come up with a topic for his new film. It is a thread of an idea, not much different in that regard to Avatar, and it relies on great staging and lighting (plus some very fine looking women) in big numbers to keep us interested--again a bit like Avatar--but for me, there was some soulfulness that managed to pull it all together. The lyrics to most of the songs are dreadful--Marion Cotlillard, playing his long-suffering wife has almost the indignity of having to open a song with the line, "my husband makes movies/to make them he lives a kind of dream," but by the end of that song her face is the only thing every living creature in the theatre is looking at, spell-bound, as the pain of loving a wayward man and seeing a relationship crumble before ones eyes moves across her eyes--surely one of the best single moments in film emoting in a long time. Nicole Kidman glammed up, Kate Hudson bopping around in full 60s glee, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz writhing in fishnets--it could all be so horribly wrong, but somehow, somehow, I found that it all came together for me.
In the New Year I will be teaching a class on theology and media culture. It centers principally on television, mainly because I wanted to address the theological disparity between film and other forms of electronic/digital visual media--plus I think television is really way more interesting socially and culturally for the most part. But another aspect of the class concerns new media technologies and one of my particular fascinations in that arena is with digital reading devices--e-book/kindle etc. Berg, a design consultancy firm based in London, explored the potential for digital magazines in a recent research project. The Vimeo piece is their presentation of some ideas--could be useful in a class discussion I am thinking.
Jakartan-based artist and photographer Agan Harahap has some great stuff on his site. Photography, paintings--very creative stuff. A series of photos inserting superheroes into vintage war and news images says something perhaps about our self-perception.