Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Five Favorite Movies

In the fun tradition of year end lists, even though they have nothing to do with 2010, here are my top five favorite movies in no particular order:

Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) and his royal family are sent by the Emperor to the desert planet Dune to take over spice mining operations. The spice is the most precious substance in the universe, used to fold space for interstellar travel. The story is too complex to explain here as it includes "plans within plans" and a huge cast of characters who bring the Atreides, Harkonnens, Fremen, and Bene Gesserits to life. Written and directed by David Lynch, this movie comes very close to being as satisfying as the book of the same name by Frank Herbert (though I didn't like the rest in the series). I have read the first book three times and have seen the movie dozens of times. I always enjoy the visually stunning sets and costumes and somehow never tire of the story. Many of its phrases have come into my normal vocabulary such as "I hold at your neck the gom jabbar," "And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!"

In the future, genetic traits are chosen by parents to create superior people. Those conceived by traditional means are consigned to an underclass of menial laborers. Although genetic discrimination is illegal, the technology to distinguish between the "valids" and "in-valids" is everywhere. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) wants to explore space but he can't get into Gattaca Corporation except as a janitor. He assumes the identity of a more perfect man, Eugene (Jude Law), by using his hair, skin, blood, and urine. Everyone including his love interest Irene (Uma Thurman) is fooled for a while. This story is great for showing how nothing stops the human spirit and how ambition trumps supposed destiny. The title comes from the four letters for the molecules that make up DNA, and the character names are clever, too (Vincent Freeman, Eugene Morrow).

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Although Diane (Nicole Kidman) looks as normal as her family, she feels most herself with her neighbor, Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.) and his unusual friends. This fictionalized biography of the photographer shows two worlds that are very different both on the surface and below it.

The Razor's Edge
This is one of the few movies that is better than the book. After returning from World War I, Larry Darrell (Bill Murray) searches for meaning from Indiana to Paris to India and back again. I love what Larry discovers in the Himalayas and the atmospheric scenes in Paris, especially the bar where he takes Isabel and his apartment which Sophie helps paint.

Local Hero
Local Hero is a movie about a man who thought he had it all until he visits the beautiful Scottish village of Ferness, a utopia of quirky characters. Mac (Peter Riegert) opens his eyes to true beauty and happiness. It was filmed in Pennan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which didn't actually have a red telephone box until after the movie when fans asked the phone company to install one. I hate the parts with Mr. Happer (Burt Lancaster) and his psychiatrist, but the rest of the movie is absolutely perfect.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2011! Skål!
The Bowen Beer Bottle Band blows
"Angels We Have Heard on High"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Children's books 23.24.25

In November, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Jill Kastner, is a simple book with pretty paintings of fall scenes. Trees have lost their leaves, mice are snug asleep under logs, and families come together for the Thanksgiving feast.

Midnight Moon is about an adventure a child takes with the Sandman to visit the Man in the Moon and his dog. Clyde Watson's story doesn't have a big lesson, it's just a sweet dream with cinnamon stars in a silver bowl and elves dancing in a hayfield. This small, square book with Susanna Natti's paintings is absolutely adorable.

An old lady who lived by the ocean with her seventeen cats and little blue grey kitten gets a bad toothache in When the Wind Blew. She doesn't have a hot water bottle to soothe her ache, and you feel very sorry for her until she finds something even better. Margaret Wise Brown wrote the story in 1937, and Geoffrey Hayes illustrated it forty years later.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Muse on this News
Get your daily art news and a nice dose of visuals with the first art newspaper on the net.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sing along

Let this happy love song make you smile and wiggle
while your eyes feast on an equally beautiful video,
"Do you love me" by Guster, directed by Chad Carlberg.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Neat-o Paper Perspective
Paper sculptor Jeff Nishinaka

Children's books 21.22

These two books always felt foreign to me, exotic and interesting.

Tales of Alyonushka is a delightful collection of homemade Russian folk tales by D. Mamin-Sibiryak, Alyonushka's father, which he tells to his daughter at bedtime. One eye sleeps and one ear listens as readers meet Stingy-Wingy-Long-Nose the Mosquito and Yasha the Cheerful Chimney Sweep.

My grandmother gave me this book when I was little. Hopsi by Susy Greiner, illustrated by Magda Moses, came with a doll you could stuff and sew. I loved the big hole in every page showing her face while each page had different outfits and scenes.

Lake Monster and the Noisy Alphabet

Lovely illustrations by Tom Gauld

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Children's books 18.19.20

I always pick books for their great illustrations, and I chose
these books as a group for their brilliant writing as well.

The Diary of a Church Mouse by Graham Oakley is one
of the few books that makes me laugh out loud. Humphrey's
charming personality clearly comes through in his diary
entries, the mice have great adventures, and the many
paintings have lots of details that are fun to pour over.
The book is also a great example of how words and
pictures should work together and not repeat each other.

a Balloon for a Blunderbuss by Bob Gill begins,
"I have a butterfly in my hands. What will you
give me for my butterfly?" And so begins a series of
great illustrations by Alastair Reid showing what one would
trade for this and that. The ending is the real gem of the story.

I didn't like Lucky Monkey Unlucky Monkey at first. There are
characters at the bottom of the pages who say little asides as an
adult might in a tone that is different from the story's narrator.
This didn't seem humorous or necessary and stood out as just a
gimmick to me. And as I read, I wondered what James Kaczman
was thinking when he wrote about how Ed the monkey had
all the beautiful luck in the world while Ted the monkey
had none. I changed my mind and fell in love with
the book when I read the last page.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Moth Stories

No visuals for this entry; you will picture your own
when you listen to these stories. Some are sad,
some are funny, all are true and amazing!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Treat Your Mother Right
Enjoy the great singing, dancing, and acting by
Mr. T and his friends as you learn a valuable lesson.

Singing Ponies
This interactive animation is a good one
to get your grandmother giggling.
Click on each pony to get the chorus going.

Wee Sculptures

Dalton Getty is a carpenter who carves pencils for fun.
Some of his intricate sculptures take months to finish,
and the alphabet took two and a half years!