Thursday, July 18, 2013

Assorted Emmy Related Thoughts . . .

 . . . offered up, more or less, without rhyme or reason (you know, like a voting academy):

Mad Men: As the series continues its slide into mediocre, high-brow soap opera, Emmy voters' enthusiasm decreases as well. The surest sign members do not cast their ballots purely out of habit was that there were no nods for writing, which is good, as it deserved none. Unless, something amazing happens in those final two episodes of the season I haven't watched yet, it's fair to say that this was a good call.

Mad Men II: That said, it was nice to see Harry Hamlin get a guest appearence nod, as he has been one of the brighter spots of the season.

Mad Men III: I'm just going to say it (and feel free to send the villagers with pitchforks after me later): Mad Men did not deserve it's best drama nomination. Fringe was much stronger. Of course, I never expected it to get nominated, but, that's a whole other story . . .

Fringe: The final season should have been recognized, John Noble should definitely have been recognized. Recognition for Michael Cerveris' guest work would have been nice too. It's a shame. (And don't give me that "genre bias" excuse, not after the most nominations go to a horror franchise, plus multiple nods for Game of Thrones).

Fringe II: Every year, I suggest that the Oscars create a category for Best Use of Non-Original Music. Today, I would like the Emmys to consider this possibility as well, so that I might nominate Fringe for their use of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World."  

Arrested Development: The original three seasons of this series are among funniest of any show ever, yet, I'm still bogged down somewhere around episode 8 of the new season. There have been some highlights, yes, but, mostly it's been rather disappointing. (Don't even get me started on the continuity errors, that's a whole post in and of itself). This mostly shut out series, deserved to be.

Archer: How is one of the funniest shows currently on television unable to even score a nomination for best animated series? Can someone explain that? Anyone? Anyone? Maybe, if there's more ocelot next time around?  

Veep: Very nice to see increased acting nominations, and naturally, Louis-Dreyfus up again, however, no writing? Yet, The Office finale made the list? Emmys, you just lost all the points you gained for snubbing Mad Men's scripts . . .

Behind the Candelabra: Safe to say that this has costumes wrapped up? Seriously, I would not want to be against this in most of its categories. That said, I suspect that American Horror Story (and perhaps Top of the Lake) will walk away with something of value.

Homeland: No complaints, really, none at all. Deserves pretty much everything. Kudos especially for citing Mandy Patinkin and Rupert Friend. Maybe add Morgan Saylor to the list next year?
Scandal: As a longtime Kerry Washington fan, I have no excuse for not watching this show. None at all. Time to update my queue (and while I'm doing that, I highly recommend adding her early film Our Song to yours).

That's it for now. Cheers

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Filming the Human Comedy

Long time readers of this blog may recall my fondness for the 2011 film The Mill and the Cross by Lech Majewski. The movie examines a moment in the life of the painter Pieter Bruegel and the creation of one of his masterworks, The Way to Calvary. The painting is one of the sprawling canvases, teeming with activity, for which Bruegel is well known. The figure of Christ weighed down by His Cross may be centered in the composition, yet He is not given any special emphasis by the artist. Indeed, He receives no more prominence than any of the other characters populating the scene. (The only figures given such special designation are the Virgin with her companions). As with many of Bruegel's works, this is an illustration of history in progress, even if few of the passersby have any inkling what they are witnessing. Many do not pay any heed to the procession of condemned, preoccupied as they are with their own cares. Bruegel was interested in more than simply recording the Important Events of History, but also the more typical everyday actions that co-exist alongside. Majewski takes this approach in his film as well, giving us less a portrait of the famous artist than of the society in which he lived and the range of behavior he witnessed in his daily life. Like the painter with his brushes, Majewski wishes to capture with his camera, as much as possible, the sum of human experience.

This summer, another approach to Bruegel through cinema can be experienced. Jem Cohen's outstanding Museum Hours is the story of two individuals who meet in a Vienna museum. Johann is a guard at the institution, while Anne is from North America, visiting a once-close cousin, who has lapsed into a coma. Large sections of the story occur inside Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, which happens to contain an entire room of Bruegels, including some of his most famous works (The Way to Calvary being among them). A scene in which a "visiting guide" shares some remarks on Bruegel highlights Cohen's own desire to reproduce the aesthetic of the artist. The guide speaks a little on The Way to Calvary and other paintings, but Cohen seems most in sync with Bruegel's The Peasant Wedding. Here there is no lofty subject of the past being ignored, only everyday life being experienced. There is no hidden subtext within this picture, or some old-wives' proverb being illustrated for our edification. Instead, the artist simply shows how people live. We witness the good, bad and ugly just as we might at any contemporary wedding celebration we might attend ourselves this season.

Throughout the movie, Cohen inserts seemingly random sequences of bystanders, both in and outside the museum, going about their business. Then, late in the film, Johann takes Anne to his regular tavern for its weekly "immigrant night." There is no narrative purpose to this scene, yet it is one of the highlights of the story. Music foreign to both the local and the tourist plays while patrons drink, sing and dance, welcoming Anne into their celebration. During the time in the tavern, Cohen focuses on a huge collage of photographs, reminders of the people who have been there and the various events they have observed. A faded banner hangs prominently on a nearby wall. Bruegel used paint; the tavern uses photography, Cohen uses a movie camera, yet they all follow through on the same human instinct: to document, to express through art, "we were here and this is how we lived." In such a way, Cohen, like Majewski, successfully translates the aesthetic of Bruegel's paintings to that of cinema, and in the process attempts to capture as wide a spectrum of the human experience as possible.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Some Recent Verses

Last night, after too long of an absence, I returned to an Inspired Word open mic. My contribution to a great evening of talent was a pair of poems, the second of which was "Anticipation." This piece, making its performance debut that evening, is one of my most recent compositions. 



A glass filling gradually
Is how I demonstrate discretion
Before gulping,
Giddy for some tickling sensation.
But, no need to worry,
I’m alright,
Let’s have another. Slower. More preamble.
Swing that shaker one more time.
I’m patient,
I have nowhere else to be tonight,
Just here, with you, so pour another.
And another.
Steady hand, careful now,
I glimpse stray drops,
Overflowing, trickling down your bare arm–
Tempt not, waste not,
My fingers gently brush your skin,
A tease for
That perfect moment (perfect excuses).
Another round,
My lips denied their true desire:
Are we on to the good stuff yet? 

Photo by Creighton Blinn