Australian artist Patricia Piccinini's "The Long Awaited" was the centerpiece of last year's Fairytales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination at The Frist, and Nashvillians everywhere fell for the artist's Fraggle Rock-meets-Carl Sagan vision. Her latest project, "The Skywhale," will surely make converts out of the rest of the world. Put simply, it's a hot-air balloon that was commissioned by the Australian government as part of the Centenary of Canberra, their capital's centennial celebration. But take one look at the piece and you'll see that it's so much more.
A series of videos documenting Piccinini's process and the creature's first flight are below. Watch all three, then help me figure out how to convince the artist to come back to Nashville and let us take a ride.
[Editor's Note: This is the 10th installment of 'Notes from the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
Lily Bennett had the kind of glow that didn’t brighten a space, but rather made the darkness steel itself against her. Sitting very still in the opaque blackness I imagined that I no longer had hands.
Lily spoke: “Zeta Omega Tau began to include a midnight visit to my hole in the ceiling as part of its initiation rites. The noise of their whispers and snickers made it impossible to write my riddles, and in not writing, I began to lose track of the east wing’s secret. I felt the secret’s heart flutter like a pet rabbit whose hutch door has been left open.
“What could I use to make them go away? What was in my mind? There was an ugly woman standing and clipping her long fingernails, a black outline of a leafless tree hung with eggs, a hungry cat in a tall field I couldn’t see, and the feel of cold pebbles in cotton pockets.
A few years ago, a young first-time director named Antonio Campos showed his directorial debut Afterschool at the Nashville Film Festival. Those who saw the movie that night were clearly witnessing the start of a remarkable career — the movie was shot with a formal rigor few veterans could match, using frames within frames and icily poised compositions to evoke the teenage characters' media-stoked alienation. Campos even stuck around after his screening, chatting enthusiastically with viewers about Michael Haneke and David Cronenberg movies.
His second feature, Simon Killer, shows tonight and tomorrow night at The Belcourt. (I really like the theater's move of devoting a couple of weeknight slots to movies of note that haven't played here, thus minimizing the theater's risk yet giving local moviegoers a shot at seeing them on the big screen. I understand the same thing is happening in a few weeks with Beyond the Hills, the second feature by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days director Cristian Mungiu.) Michael Sicinski wrote about it in the current Scene, and his piece suggests the movie deserves much better than the largely dismissive reviews it received on the festival circuit:
While I suppose it must be said that Campos' latest film Simon Killer isn't as accomplished as his debut, it's also equally vital to note that its shortcomings are a direct result of its ambition. Rather than simply refine his ample strengths (or worse, abandon them for some industry payday), Campos took on new challenges, and if the results are that Simon Killer is a flawed, imperfect film, then so be it. It's also a formally assured one, and never less than riveting.
[Join Ettes leader Coco Hames as she moves through the Janus Films Essential Art House DVD box set one film at a time.]
THE FALLEN IDOL directed by CAROL REED (1948)
Running time: 95 minutes
If you're into the tight, menacing vibe of Carol Reed's most famous film, The Third Man, I'll go ahead and guarantee you'll enjoy The Fallen Idol. It's the first of three films Reed did with author Graham Greene (1959's Our Man From Havana rounding out the trilogy). It's sillier and more obvious than either The Third Man or Reed's other great film from this period, 1947's Odd Man Out, but that's the fun of it.
An adaptation of Greene's short story "The Basement Room," The Fallen Idol features li'l Bobby Henrey (who, no, wasn't really in anything else ...) playing Phillipe, the son of a French ambassador living in London, and his relationship with his caretaker and butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson). Baines seems a good guy, and Phillipe looks up to him. But people aren't always what they seem, especially when the viewpoint belongs to an idealistic 9-year-old boy. I'd say "gaze," but that belongs to us, the audience, whom this film plays to more than anything.
With his parents often gone, Phillipe identifies and idolizes the man of the house. However, Baines is carrying on with another, younger woman, and his wife is wise to his misdeeds. Phillipe is confused, and absorbs the brunt of Mrs. Baines' punishment until ... something happens? That Baines did or did not do? There is a police inquiry? Justice is tested? Innocence is lost? Phillipe remains confused.
I've read some things extolling The Fallen Idol's virtues as a noir classic and precursor to some serious cinema, so it might just be me — but the little boy playing Phillipe is really distracting! Some say, oh, it's a boy acting just his age, that's just how a real 9-year-old boy would react! Maybe! But it pulls me away from the story and even the visuals, making it seem like a black-box theater play, which is fine, but less captivating than history might suggest it to be.
Being as sniffish as I could possibly be, I don't see that being a precursor to a classic film makes something a classic film — but like I said, I'm being mean. The Fallen Idol is a fun, beautiful, direct, and satisfying film, but if there's a child-centric book-to-stage-to-cinema movie of the era I prefer, it's The Bad Seed — man, that's a good one.
More often than not, nostalgia is a pretty crappy way of gauging any sort of entertainment. We’ve seen it countless times — heralded dreck is lifted to the throne of the cult kingdom, forever to reign in dorm rooms and midnight screenings across the globe.
Let’s zero in on film and television specials. When you think of a nostalgic cult classic, the typical time frame ranges anywhere from the mid-'70s to around 1995 — use the Star Wars Holiday Special and Clueless as your bookends. (Yes, we’re ignoring the stuff that Mystery Science Theater 3000 usually covers.) Around that time frame, countless pieces of oddball history made their way into the novelty hall of fame.
You just feel safer in a room full of Trekkies. A diverse crowd, it is, but one that shares at least a few of the same ideals. Progressives, fans of justice, equality, and weird stuff. Imaginative folk who take the horrors and cruelties of modern life personally and just want to have some hope on a cosmic scale. Trekkies are on the whole good people, and they give a shit. About most things. The world is a messed up and terrifying place, and your chances of being murdered in a room full of Trekkies is significantly lower than in a room full of most others.
Which is why Star Trek Into Darkness, the second in a new incarnation of the series, is going to be an interesting social experiment. Your classic Trekkies are a reliable variable — but what about the audiences who are just in for this week's summer blockbuster? The way summer movies work these days, there's a certain obligatory feeling to event movies. Once you've seen Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby, what do you do to kill time until Furious 6? You go see the new Star Trek film — it's what's there. That's certainly how Paramount wants it: it has shaped the film to appeal to the global marketplace, sanding down any of those rough edges that kept previous Trek films from reaching their full economic potential outside of the U.S.
The reconceived Captain Kirk is exactly how this new Trek wants to be seen — impetuous, edgy, reckless, anti-authoritarian, sexy, cool, unbound by canon or history ... but also capable in ways that the stodgy powers-that-be simply aren't. It is a testament to Chris Pine's charm that his Jim Kirk isn't a lad mag cliché or simply a pale Shatnerian echo, and it's that willingness to commit that helps anchor this crew.
But Kirk's cowboyism requires a specific balance, and Zachary Quinto's Spock is a unique achievement as well, making each conversation into a journey, of a mind finding its way along a new path. Quinto's youth makes all the difference in the world in this iteration of Kirk/Spock. That balance is also a suitable representation of the conflict between real-deal Trekkies and casual moviegoers/studio execs/exhibitors.
I've compiled a list of people who should definitely see The Source Family, the documentary about the ’70s sex cult (paraphrasing) that's playing at The Belcourt right now.
• Front men (Father Yod is your new role model)
• People who love psychedelics, or are on psychedelics at the time
• Girls with daddy issues
• Current cult members
• Anyone looking for summer fashion inspiration
For more help with that last item, check out my suggestions below.
I can't stop thinking about the David Byrne collage-painting by Wayne Brezinka that's currently hanging on the second floor of The Arts Company. Just out of this shot is a companion piece of St. Vincent, her hair a mess of cassette tape ribbon and yarn. But the Byrne piece is much more iconic — washed out colors, bushy white hair and a straight-ahead gaze bring to mind Warhol, but Byrne is giant enough to get away with that connection without seeming derivative. Brezinka models the face on a spacious canvas, and for all his use of cords, wires and fuzzy eyebrows, his technique is surprisingly subtle. Take a closer look below.
Seeing a movie in the late afternoon has never been a popular option. I like the old-fashioned "dinner-and-a-movie" combo on my Friday evenings. But Carmike Cinemas has an offer on the table that might change that storied lineup.
The theater chain is offering $5.50 adult tickets from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., which they dub the “Super Bargain Matinee” price.
This doesn’t include 3-D, but it shouldn’t matter because you shouldn’t see 3-D movies because most 3-D is awful and way too expensive.
I’ve lived in Bellevue for quite some time, and the Bellevue 8 was usually the go-to location to screen the ’90s classics. A younger Cory would catch the matinee of Toy Story or the evening performance of The Rugrats Movie. It’s a house of nostalgia that I still frequent (most recently, Gatsby. Yes, I saw Gatsby at the same theater I saw Toy Story. That’s pretty cool, folks.).
In just in the past two years or so, the theater chain started the Super Bargain Matinee price, a deal which has come in handy in more than one way.
Last summer, I ventured out into the summer heat to check out the fairy tale revision Snow White and the Huntsman. Fortunately, I went to the 4ish show at the Bellevue 8, which only cost my wallet the $5.50 bargain charge (may have been $5 at the time … finish the story grandpa!).
Hat tip to Sean L. Maloney for hipping me to this 16mm wonder.
That comment was so May 22.
Hello and welcome to 3 years ago
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