Movies with ladies in them (but that does not make them feminist).

March 12th, 2018

While I am editing my numerous trip photos let’s talk about some movies I have seen recently, one movie in particular.  First of all, I finally saw the Oscar-nominated films Get Out and Call Me By Your Name, both of which were engrossing and I would recommend that you see them. No news there, everyone and their cat has been talking about how good those films are. Those are not the ones we’re going to discuss. No, my friend S. and I went to go see a double-feature at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of a series called “Witches, Sluts and Feminists.” Mainly movies with female leads where the females do not follow the assigned tropes of lady-dom. I heartily disagree with the curator’s definition of what a feminist movie is (more on that later) but the films definitely featured some XX chromosomes, that is true.

The first film was The Lure and it was… fine. I guess. It could have been great, it had the potential for greatness, but it was not. It’s a Polish drama / horror (but not really) film taking place in the 1980s where two mermaids come out of a lake and become songstresses in a nighclub and one falls in love with a human but the other one wants to eat him. See? There’s tension, there’s a plot in there somewhere… but it just isn’t anything. I felt nothing for any of the characters. The musical numbers need a thorough going-over by Lin-Manuel Miranda STAT because they were rough. The practical effects were lovely and the actors did their best but no. Just no.  Here’s the American poster and the original Polish poster. Do not be fooled by the dope graphic design. It’s a no from me, dawg.

The film that I want to delve into, the reason I went to the theater in the first place, is Belladonna of Sadness. Okay. Steel yourself. I knew nothing about this film until I read this description on the Alamo site (I highlighted the important bits in case you just want to skim):

One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, never before officially released in the U.S., Belladonna of Sadness is a mad, swirling, psychedelic light-show of medieval tarot-card imagery with horned demons, haunted forests and La Belle Dame Sans Merci, equal parts J.R.R. Tolkien and gorgeous, explicit Gustav Klimt-influenced eroticism. The last film in the adult-themed Animerama trilogy produced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka and directed by his long time collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (“Astro Boy” and “Kimba the White Lion”), Belladonna unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together. An innocent young woman, Jeanne is violently raped by the local lord on her wedding night. To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself who appears as an erotic sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire.

Extremely transgressive and not for the easily offended, Belladonna is fueled by a mindblowing Japanese psych rock soundtrack by noted avant-garde jazz composer Masahiko Satoh. The film has been newly restored by Cinelicious Pics using the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements – and including over 8 minutes of surreal and explicit footage cut from the negative. On par with Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet and Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards as an LSD-stoked 1970s head trip, Belladonna marks a major rediscovery for animation fans. If Led Zeppelin had a favorite film, this would be it. In other words, Stairway to Hell. (In Japanese with English subtitles.)

I could not buy tickets fast enough. That sounds straight-up bananacakes and I didn’t care if it was good or bad or anything, I need to see whatever the hell is being described here. And now I have a bunch of thoughts. I don’t think I can spoil the movie or even do it justice but I will be describing certain aspects in detail so if you want to see it unspoiled don’t read the rest of this entry.

  • The illustrations of this film are beautiful. You can see very clearly where one artist did one scene and a different artist took on another. Each one incorporated their distinct style while still moving the story along. I wish more animated films were made this way. I loved that.

    I also enjoy that even though the story takes place in medieval Europe and is drawn by Japanese people the style is totally 1973. So many shots look like a sewing pattern from that time.
  • The music in Belladonna of Sadness, also really good. There’s a variety of different musical themes: sad folksy songs, creepy organ music, psychedelic saxophones, all manner. The soundtrack is great.
  • Even though the lead of the film, Jeanne, is female, this is in no way a feminist film. Not even close. It is glaringly apparent that this is taken from a heterosexual male perspective, my God. The strongest example: Jeanne, regardless of what horrors are being inflicted on her, is smokin’ hot all the time. And unnecessarily naked. Oh, the whole village is chasing her into the forest and calling her a witch? Have her clothes conveniently fall off. Make sure her exposed boobs are visible even in scenes where she’s having a genuine emotional moment. The film is so obviously written with a miasma of boner-mist over the whole thing, it’s non-stop and exhausting.
  • The amount of time Jeanne spends laying on the ground or being flung to the ground like a victim is ridiculous. I didn’t get all the screengrabs but here is a partial collection. There’s a ton more.
  • Another male viewpoint: The main way Jeanne feels sexual pleasure is being impaled on phallii. She craves it, she seeks it out, it’s her jam. I know this film came out in 1973 when female pleasure hadn’t been fully explored but armed with the knowledge we have now fifty years later, this seems very dated. At one point she is surrounded by butterflies made of dicks because why the hell not.
  • Maybe one of my favorite moments: Jeanne has sex with the devil and when she climaxes a flurry of Peter Max clipart explodes on the screen, including a file cabinet (?). I couldn’t stop thinking about the “1,2,3,4,5” animation from Sesame Street.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hcx44e2gnfI
  • Warning: There’s an orgy. It’s a weird Hieronymus Bosch-esque orgy. Aside from the standard couplings there’s a snail and a clam, and I think there’s a goat, and someone’s male parts turn into a giraffe, and someone else’s hindquarters open up and bunnies hop out… it’s a lot. At one point I turned to S. and said, “I think I’ve been doing it wrong all this time because none of this happens to me.” She agreed.

Sooo, see this film? Or maybe don’t? I would see it again but I 100% understand if you don’t want to. Again, it’s a lot. Belladonna of Sadness is an excellent snapshot of an artistic period in both design and music for the early 1970s. That’s a plus. But there’s an upsetting rape scene. That’s a minus. It’s really up to you.

I left! And I’m back! Sorry for not telling you!

March 8th, 2018

Hey all, I went on vacation. Because when it’s winter where’s the one place you should go? That’s correct – Eastern Europe! Especially if there’s a polar vortex blowing over from Siberia, then it’s really perfect. So that’s precisely what I did. I went to Vienna, Austria and Krakow, Poland for ten days. Despite the frigid biting weather I had a really good time and as soon as I’m done sorting through my photos I will get to the telling of tales. In the meantime, look at this awesome picture of the inside of a Baroque church. Let it hold you over until further imagery comes.

An artist I am feeling right now.

February 20th, 2018

I will on occasion go on Pinterest because maybe I’m feeling too good about myself and I need to temper that, you know? I went there the other day and I saw a small tiger figurine that was adorable and had a galaxy pattern on it. I was intrigued. So I went down the wormhole that is Pinterest and finally found the source. It’s a young woman named Amba Jacobs from New Zealand and her work is The. Best. It is not uncommon for me to look at her work while clutching my face and shrieking because the cuteness, I cannot handle it.

I recommend you follow her on Instagram – she goes by the name @TheLittleMew. Her stuff sells out three seconds after she puts it online but just in case, here’s her Etsy page.

New York observations.

February 15th, 2018

1. On my way to work every day I come out of a tunnel that goes from Grand Central Terminal to further up midtown. There is a fancy glass office building being built across the street from the exit and the windows have a neat white faded pattern that have a top and bottom. It’s subtle, but it’s noticeable. Which is why I’m wondering when the building owners are going to notice that one of the windows was installed upside down and how they plan to fix it.

2. Additionally on my walk to work: Has everyone seen Moana? There is a small blorp of asphalt that is mushed up the sidewalk for some reason or another and it always reminds me of the anthropomorphic wave in Moana.

3. Occasionally I take a cab to work if the weather is garbage or I’m carrying something heavy and last week it was sleeting so I cabbed it. No biggie. When I got into the cab the cab driver was on a conference chat with like three other people. Also not that unusual. What was unusual was the cabbie who, shortly after I got in, decided to hold a prayer meeting with the other people on the conference call and they all starting being infused with the Holy Spirit. I was not thrilled with that. I do not want a person who is control of a large metal vehicle that has me encased in it traipsing through city traffic shaking their head and speaking in tongues. That’s not what I look for in a driver. I tried to casually video some of it and I isolated the sound. I was holding the phone down by my side so the cabbie wouldn’t see so you may have to turn up your volume but trust me, it’s worth it.

speaking-in-tongues

(I knew it was Christian-based because at the end the cabbie said, “Mumblemumblemumble HOLEE SPEEREET mumblemumblemumble JEEZUS CHRYYYYST.” But for a while there I thought maybe they were going to conjure a djinn or something.)

4. I didn’t go and see the window displays this Christmas but I did walk past one window that made me quite happy. I think it was the giant H&M on Fifth Avenue. They had cool giant dandelions aaaaaaand a big ole hare made of yarn! I thought he was great.

I loved that the window designers went fully into textures and kept the color palette super-muted. There was a giant yarn fox and a giant yarn otter in the store but I’m a rabbit-lover to the core so the hare was all I needed. I vote that this be the window display for the rest of the year.

5. The Westminster Dog Show happened this week and I watched religiously and picked my favorites and none of them won, the usual. The thing that stood out this year was The Camera. Let me explain. Normally, the cameras are manned by humans and I never had a problem with that. This year The Powers That Be at Westminster decided that they didn’t want live bodies on the judging green, they wanted robot cameras. On the main area where cameras that looked like tank turrets merged with R2D2 and that was fine.

HOWEVER, during the Toy Group I noticed someone off to the side. I say someone because I could have sworn it was a person. Look in the upper right-hand corner of this screengrab.

Uhhhhhh, who the hell is that? I eventually figured out that it was a robot camera wrapped in purple cloth but I could have sworn it was a person. Tonight was the finals and they moved The Camera right into the main shot where I couldn’t stop staring at it.

Even worse The Camera followed the dog presenting so it appeared extra-sentient.

So while I was supposed to be saying things like, “I love that fluffy dog’s ears,” I was yelling things like, “Why is the freakin’ Grim Reaper helping the judge?!??”

I hope next year they leave the camera naked. I’d rather see the inner workings of Robot Cam and I would imagine everyone else would too instead of being reminded of their own inevitable demise during the Terrier Group.

Thor and the 1980s Album Art!

February 11th, 2018

Actually it’s called Thor: Ragnarok but it clearly took 98% to 106% of its influence from those airbrushed hard rock and regular rock and heavy metal covers of the 1970s and 80s. Here, examples of what I mean:

Even Eddie from Iron Maiden is in there.

Plus so much Fifth Element influence, which I am perfectly fine with.

I’m going to summarize my thoughts and feelings about Thor: Ragnarok. All manner of spoilers below so if you haven’t seen the film yet maybe skip this until you have. Consider yourself warned, at least.

  • The first problem I had with this film was the opening scene. It’s an amazing fight scene between Thor and what appears to be the Balrog from Lord of the Rings (more on that later). It’s magnificent, in slow motion with “Immigrant Song” in the background. My problem is you’re starting at 10. Where do we go from there? We have, like, four more fights to go. All the other fights are great but by the time you get to the epic showdown at the end you don’t feel much because the awesomeness was all the way through.
  • Concerning the Balrog, I thought it looked familiar. As did the dragon, and the elfin doors, and a bunch of other things. Turns out they were all designed by Weta, the same New Zealand design company that did LOTR and The Hobbit. I honestly felt like they did some serious cutting and pasting from the J. R. R. Tolkien movies to this one. I understand that the director who is from New Zealand wanted to get his people in on this project but there’s got to be different approaches to elfin doors other that art nouveau plus celtic with a smattering of medieval. Lotta overlap.
  • Loved the Firefly vibes throughout. Still bitter that show was cancelled. Will be bitter forever.
  • Most notable Firefly-eque scenes were on the garbage planet. There’s a garbage planet where all the universe’s detritus ends up and boy do I want to visit there and sift through the debris. It looks like there’s a ton of fun stuff (and possible toxic and nuclear waste, but there’s always a cost) to discover.
  • REALLY loved Cate Blanchett’s drag queen eye makeup. And her voice. Has her voice always been that freakin’ deep and sexy? I need to pay more attention to her.
  • Thor has a shirtless scene and his side abs, they’re protuberant and they wrap around, I do not understand how his body works. I am confused when I look at him. He is strong and lumpy.
  • This is the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where Thor doesn’t have his hammer and uses lightning that he generates within himself (in the most music video-looking way) to defeat his enemies which is nice. There’s even a line about it. Thor is sad because his hammer is busted and Odin says, “But … are you Thor, god of … hammers?”
  • When Cate Blanchett gets into asskicking mode, she runs her fingers through her hair and it magically turns into a dead tarantula on its back. Or maybe demon antlers. I call it “tarantlers.” Feel free to use that. You’re welcome.
  • Lovely cameo by Matt Damon and Sam Neill in the beginning bits. Nice touch, much appreciated.
  • Did I mention I love the garbage planet? I cannot mention that enough.
  • The director Taika Waititi has a cameo as Korg, a alien made of rocks who’s companion is an ant with knives for hands named Meek. Korg’s a great character. He might be my favorite in the film.
  • Is it just me or does the Asgardian castle look like a big ole church organ? I see that every time its on screen. I feel like Handel is going to start playing at any moment.
  • I have learned an incredibly important lesson from these films (and the Disney films as well) which is green and black equals evil. Loki rocks it, Cate Blanchett’s character rocks it, the disturbing zombies she brings back to life rock it, it’s a thing for sure.
  • There is a solid good death when the Japanese Asgardian gets thrust backwards and impaled through the chest on a stalagmite. Everyone in the audience gasped.

I give this movie a solid A- / B+. It’s a good one. Lots of quippy one-liners and fun interactions and shots like this which is awesome:

So I would check it out.

What a wonderful day for an exorcism. Or charts.

February 3rd, 2018

And, because I’m going to Vienna and Krakow in late February and Krakow is one of the last places that has wild European Bison, this pertinent chart:

Hungry.

January 29th, 2018

Based on the title of this post you will think it is about something it is not. It is a misleading title. I recently saw Bjork’s new album cover and thought, “Wow, that is something. Specifically something between an orchid and some otherworldly ladybits stuck to your face. Interesting choice. Never change, Bjork, never change.”

And then I probably went about my day looking at internet memes of corgies or whatever. However, scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw an article titled “Meet Bjork’s makeup artist,” clicked on it, and a whole new world of amazing art was revealed to me.

The makeup artist goes by the name Hungry and she is a member of the Berlin alternative / distorted drag scene. Hungry designs her own outfits and they’re really really good, but the makeup… I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

ARE YOU SEEING THIS??? It’s amazing. I was blown away. She started doing drag work in 2014. That’s, like, three years. And she’s that good already. After staring at Hungry’s Instagram for two hours (https://www.instagram.com/isshehungry/?hl=en) I wanted to see if there were any videos. Bonus: she’s also really sweet and nice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXpy-rURysY

I can’t wait to see what Hungry does in the years to come. She’s really filling the hole left in me when Alexander McQueen passed away.

Mantis mantis mantis. (Mantis.)

January 25th, 2018

Mantis! First, my work companion. My coworker Tongue is obsessed with plants. He has a gazillion plants in his home, and seeds, and things that look like they’re dead twigs but are not, all the plants. In order to prevent bugs from eating his beloved plants Tongue bought baby mantises (I like to pronounce that “manteeses” even though it’s wrong). He brought a few of the mantises in plastic containers to work where I proceeded to get no work done because I had to cuddle the sweet wee demon-bugs! So cute! So sway-y!

I love how he has a little hat on his head between his sweet little curly antennae. It reminded me of the Pharoah’s crown, the one that looks like a bowling pin nestled in a wonton soup spoon.

I also love how the mantis had a neck that he can turn. And the swaying was great. And occasionally he would flick out his praying arms. As I said, not much work was accomplished during his tenure. Eventually Tongue took the mantises home which made me forlorn but was probably for the best. Sigh.

More mantis! A friend of a friend recommended me for some design work. A woman named Yoda was starting her own production company called Pink Orchid International and asked me for a logo. She said she was not opposed to anything related to pink or orchid. I got to make a variety of interpretations and you bet your sweet patoot I did an orchid mantis version, yes I did.

Yeah. Not surprisingly, Yoda did not use my super-amazing mantis logos. She chose the one in the upper left because she is professional and I want to incorporate insects and skulls and rainbows into everything I do. But I was appreciative of the opportunity. Maybe someday I will get the chance to make bug-related business identities. Who knows what the future holds (insect-logo-wise).

Nick Cave again.

January 21st, 2018

I’ve spoken about the artist Nick Cave numerous times (here, a little bit here and a little bit here). I’m big fan of his sound suits so when I heard that he had a full-room exhibition in MassMoca I knew I had to go. I’ve spent a goodly portion of my time avoiding MassMoca because it has modern art and modern art makes me hella-cranky. I don’t want to rehash my feelings on this but the tl;dr version is if it ain’t Jesus, ugly inbred royalty, a pudgy naked broad, a landscape or a still-life, I ain’t lookin’ at it. That excludes 98% of modern art ergo I don’t go to MassMoca. But for Nick Cave one can make exceptions and I was not disappointed.

The exhibition was called “Until.” The description from the MassMoca site:

For Cave’s MASS MoCA installation, Until — a play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” or in this case “guilty until proven innocent” — he addresses issues of gun violence, gun control policy, race relations, and gender politics in America today. … The aim of this is pointed, questioning us to spark discussion about important issues in a space that is at once dazzling, provocative, and — ultimately — optimistic. Cave believes in humanity, celebrating possibility while also creating a forum for critical discussion that eventually provokes the question, “Is there racism in heaven?”

There are three sections. You walk into a big empty space, like a high school gymnasium, and you are greeted with tons of those metal garden spinners that twirl in the wind. Some of them are stationary but some have disco ball rotators at the top so they twirl very slowly. It gives the look of being a forest. A forest of metal spinnies, some of which are sweet and ethereal and some of which are silhouettes of guns.

After that is a floating island hanging from the ceiling surrounded by three sets of stairs. The bottom of the island is completely covered in plastic crystals hanging like icicles as well as real crystal chandeliers. I found a bunch of pictures that other people took that are far better than mine.

When you climbed the yellow stairs you could see what was on the top of the island. It was a collection of American bric-a-brac covering every inch of space. Some of it was harmless – a garden gnome, some cheesy beaded Christmas ornaments – but then there were black lawn jockeys (eesh) and some Aunt Jemima items (oof) and other racist items. It was tough to look at. Merkin history is not terribly pretty.

And finally there’s this massive webbing covering the far wall made with tons of plastic pony beads. I don’t know what that represented exactly but it looked very cool.

The best part: people could bring their dogs in to appreciate the art as well. Because art is for everyone.

Russia’s vice-like hold on the apex of crafting will crumble at my feet.

January 17th, 2018

So you may or may not know that I have a personal ongoing feud with the entire former Soviet Union because every time I am feeling good about my artistic talents some Slavic person pops up on my Pinterest and destroys my self-esteem with their superior skills. Every time. Like clockwork. I’ve mentioned it here:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2013/10/08/two-artists-that-are-magnificent-and-humbling/

And here:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2016/01/23/two-artists-that-might-make-me-not-scared-of-dolls-finally/

And here:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2016/08/30/moooooooom-the-russians-are-being-better-at-crafts-again/

While we’re here, let’s add Julia Gorina to the list:

And Tatiana Verkhovskaya:

It never ends. But today is a new day. Today is the day I begin my climb to my rightful place as The Best At Crafts. I’ll take you through my journey.

I like jewelry. I like early 1900s fancy jewelry with enamel and plique a jour (enamel with no back, kind of like tiny stained glass) and diamonds and gold. Unfortunately I do not have the kind of money to buy all the things I want. So I’ve decided to figure out how to make it myself in far less expensive mediums like wire and resin and crystals. I made a folder of inspirational images to draw ideas from.

 

I started with this one:

I wanted a really simple shape with thicker and thinner parts where the diamond sizes are graded and the diamonds are on a dark background like tarnished silver. I only used stuff I already had in my apartment, so I wrapped some gold wire in some brown wire and soldered loops so it could hang and made sure all the shapes were closed because I intended to dip the shape into that plastic stuff that Sakae uses for her kanzashi.

I learned oh, oh so much during this process. Like if the wire is made of aluminum it does not want to be soldered. And if you have a big open space in the middle of your piece the plastic dip material will not go across it, you need little struts to break up the space. AND why people don’t have thick wires at in their plastic dip pieces is because of The Glop. More on that later. But I got it to a decent place. I wired, then I soldered, then I dipped, then I failed, then I picked off all the plastic, then I did it again, then I failed again, then I finally got it right, then I covered it in a thin layer of UV resin, then I painted delicate black calligraphic lines on the thicker edges, then I adhered graded flat-back crystals along the black paint. The final product looks like this.

With my hand for scale.

Here is The Glop situation I was describing.

Okay. Good start. Things I will do in the future:

  • Use raw copper wire with copper solder so it adheres more easily and the solder isn’t as noticeable (the solder I used was the standard silver-colored one and it’s REAL noticeable)
  • Spray it with a water / baking soda mixture to make it brown
  • If the “windows” are small I will use thinner wire to avoid The Glop
  • Try UV gel topcoat instead of UV resin because the resin is thick, prone to bubbles and has a yellowish cast
  • The black acrylic paint worked fine, that’s staying
  • Using UV resin with a paintbrush to attach the crystals also worked fine, that’s staying too

I’m psyched about where this is heading. I feel lots of growth and potential in this. Soon all of Siberia will be mine for the taking, craft-wise. Stay tuned for more on this as it happens.