Wednesday, March 17, 2010


After being distracted for several weeks by other media (a run with Mad Men's first season for example) we finally curled up on the couch for a look a Citizen Kane. I am not sure my children are in concurrence with AFI's assessment of its status
as the best American film made, but, after a heavy dose of 3D overkill, the black and white simplicity of Welles vision was refreshing and compelling.

I tried to encourage my wee film critics to see this vision in the context of its time--Welles' use of angles and cutting must have seemed revolutionary at the time.Nahh, they just wanted to understand the story.

The acting was superb and my theatrical children definitely saw the advantage of using your theater ensemble in your film work! I got a chance to talk about all the directors who have essentially built acting ensembles in order to do their work. And I could see little light bulbs going off on that one as we look forward to a summer of short film making.

In the end though, the story worked. It worked well enough that questions continued to be asked about the film even the next day. I think that Citizen Kane is the kind of movie you keep going back to--every time you see something new, and you come to it with fresh eyes, because your experience has altered the filter that you see it through. I don't feel the need to do that with a lot of movies, and maybe that is why this film is so great.

Speaking of movies to look at again, my entire clan says its time to see UP and Wild Things again. They are looking at movies repetitively now in a new way. When they were small, they would want things over and over again for the comfort of sameness. Now they go back to find new things. And great movies do not disappoint. I am hoping that this year does not dissapoint in terms of new releases, but so far, nothing is sticking out for me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beauty and Creepy in the eyes of beholder

I recently attended a dance concert with my family. Ordinarily, dance has little to do with media, being the nice old fashioned art form that it is, but this was a dance concert that took film as its inspiration. Artistically, it struggled with the bridge, some times triumphing, some times falling short. There were two main challenges: one) many of the choreographers took films that the dancers (and most of the audience) had never seen as jumping off points leaving a bit of a generation gap and two) combining screen imagery with a live human is an endeavor fraught with peril, and in this instance, they did not often win the battle, except as a novelty and maybe a way of getting folks out of their texting in the dark (people, really!) Many have tried to integrate dance and media, from Merce Cunningham to Twyla Tharp. And many have failed. We should never stop trying.

But the most fascinating takeaway I had from the concert had to do with the piece
where a man was videotaping a group of young women and it was live streamed onto a video wall. I know the man--lovely dancer and brilliant teacher whom I have been priviledged to study with. Watching, I felt torn between watching the live stream giant video and the dancers. But I was truly shocked at my children's reaction to the piece. They found the vision of a man following a group of, to be totally honest, somewhat scantily clad young women around with a video camera to be down right creepy. Whether its been the recent news stories or one too many school presentations on Stranger Danger, something about the visual language of the piece put them off. What was fascinating for me wasthat I am frankly so inured to the innate visual vocabulary of young girls sexuality, what with the revealing clothing these days on elementary school girls,and the wiggly walks and suggestive movements that even toddlers pick up from YouTube, that I did not read the clear message that my kids got.

We do not notice how innundated our children are with sexualized imagery through media. And never before had my kids talked back to me about how uncomfortable they are with that language. They told me the piece was "inappropriate". Knowing the performers I absolutely know that the intent was not what my kids interpreted it to be. But I will converse with them a lot more on what is and is not "appropriate". This dance piece opened up an entirely new critical dialogue for us, and is making me really look at the visual shorthand we use each day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Nite

We lined up on the couch, shoved the dogs over, hunkered under blankies, and we watched. In some strange convolution of holiday traditions we made green mint milk shakes???? We followed on the internet, looking up filmic histories, and IMDB profiles and followed tweets, and tried to figure out where we had seen them before. We are soooo new media. (Except when it was over we watched a 40's Bette Davis classic)
We opined. We groaned. We ogled. We cheered. We laughed. And we did this weird thing where someone in the family had to call it, right before they gave the winner. It was like some strange parlor game--only in America, we can turn a supposed art form into sport. Collectively, I think we only missed two calls. We feel likeace prognositicators. And now we are itching to see the shorts, and I spent a hopeless waste of time trying to find where we could see the Book of Kells. I think Oscar night is just a wonderful night of family fun. Hope yours was!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone

I was supposed to be snuggled up on the couch with the kiddies watching Citizen Kane, an almost old fashioned entertainment, but I ended up instead at a workshop with Grisha Coleman, a dancer,(former Urban Bush Woman) vocalist who works at a thing called the Arts Media and Engineering Department at Arizona State University. And this is where someone like me, for whom there are usually categories for artwork,(I am going to the opera, I buy tickets for the ballet) finds her little mind sort of blown. Ms. Coleman is using technology and varieties of media, to create installation works that combine all sorts of disciplines into events. As I am sitting there, listening to her attempt to describe with simple English, her complex, multi-layered works of art, my mind is telescoping possibilities, and at the same time seeing pitfalls.

It concerns me in this wild west phase of new technology that we have yet to find vibrant functional support structures for the idea people. It has become difficult for artists to get sustained paid gigs. I know that truly creative folks always find a way, but we need as much creativity as we can get to solve some of our intractable human issues, and we aren't putting our money where our mouth is on that one. Every day I get emails from creative organizations who are laying off more staff. New technology is not cheap. And it takes time to develop, and sometimes it takes a very long time, a big investment, before there are returns. As we spiral out to the new frontiers of media, we need to support the visionaries who are creating it.

And hey, the Oscars are almost here!