Archive for the ‘arts’ category

The Red Shoes: Art for Art's Sake

David Thomson is one of my favorite film critics, if for no other reason than he’s not above throwing film theory out the window to say, in effect, “I like it because I like it SO THERE.”

I’m always game to read a good shadowplay soapbox from Thompson’s lovably cantankerous pen. The fact that when we differ, oh boy how we differ, makes moments of complete accord all the sweeter.

He hit the nail squarely on the head on this one.

Jack Cardiff‘s decadent cinematography, Moira Shearer‘s elegant dancing, surreal art direction, combined with Powell and Pressburger’s powerful vision… it is an extraordinary, singular, everlasting piece of “art for art’s sake.”

How else do you account for film credit titles quite this beautiful?

Hollywood at Home: 1950 to 1965

“Hollywood at Home provides a unique behind-the-scenes look at the crossroads between the last real glamour years and the TV decade. It is a remarkable portrait of mid-century America.”

So reads the back cover of Hollywood at Home: A Family Album (1950 – 1965), a slight yet strong volume from Sid Avery’s lens and Richard Schickel’s pen.

And it’s quite true.

As film historian and cinema omnivore Richard Schickel writes in the introduction:

“In Sid Avery’s portraits of Hollywood in the 1950s, its citizens mime normalcy. They diaper a baby, fry an egg, play charades, wash their cars. Beloved screen veterans… the serenity and seemliness with which all of them face the camera in this, the entertainment industry’s most chaotic moment since the advent of sound, strikes the social historian– not to mention the movie critic– with a strange and occasionally poignant force.

Some variant on this question keeps recurring as one turns these pages: Why are these people smiling?”

And then: “Like these favored show folk, the rest of us ordinary citizens of the American 1950s were busy miming normalcy too. It was expected of us. A depression had been survived, a war had been fought, and now everything was supposed to be all right. … Get married. Have 2.3 children. Buy a house in the suburbs. Go to church. Send the kids to college. Die quietly. … But there was something abnormal about fifties normalcy. …

“As with all fictions, one was free not to by it. But the mass media did buy it and sell it. And we, the great audience, bought it from the movies and the magazines and the broadcasters. We also did our best to resell it, to our sometimes dubious selves, and then to each other.

The pictures in this book were made as part of that process. They represented Hollywood as it wanted to see itself and to be seen by outsiders: securely functioning and apparently contducting business as usual.”

Far be it from me to expound upon Schickel’s words, so I leave you with them… and Avery’s sumptuously subliminal shots.

Bogart and Bacall

Ernie Borgnine as Chef


Paul and Jo, laughing at home.


Paul Newman cooks as Joanne Woodward snooks w/ their puppy


Shelley Winters with hubba hubby Vittorio Gassman


Rock Hudson (in apron) serving up a mean BBQ to his guests…


And….. ROCK.


Debbie Reynolds– the ultimate working mum with kiddies Todd and Carrie. (1960)


Ohhhh Brando. You’d be SO nice to come home too…!


Audrey Hepburn and hubby Mel Ferrer


Dean Martin at home with the wifey and kiddies. Too cute.


Brando. ‘Nuff said.

Pendersleigh and Sons… and the Lost Art of Cartography

Vintage Cartography -- Map of California from the 1930s

The art of cartography is about as extinct as the art of the written letter.

What need is there for a hand-drawn community renderings in the age of instant information, when most people have GPS maps on their cellphones? No need at all.

But Los Angeles based writer Eric Brightwell doesn’t care.

Hence this blog post.

Taking his inspiration from the colorful, sometimes whimsical, often not exactly to scale maps that were popular in the early 20th century, Brightwell has created a cartographic journey though Southern California hearkening back to a much simpler, but no less keenly inquisitive, time in our history.

Being a California native, I’m terribly fond of this style of cartography– the mistmatched typography and rather askew geography which was often the result of the rushed booming years of California tourism.

The 1650 Gallery in Echo Park recently hosted a show of Brightwell’s high-spirited homage to the lost art of cartography (under the moniker Pendersleigh and Sons) and the experience was  so delightful that I simply had  to post just one or two of the many highlights here:

The Pictorial Palette #1 – Judy Garland

Henri Matisse once said, “With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.”

That being the case, I do not hesitate to say that movie color is without doubt some of the beautiful magic ever conjured. And given its proven abilities to brighten even the grayest of days, the Pictorial is implementing a weekly color palette, sampled off a film (or production) still from Hollywood’s Golden Age. One of the Pictorial’s missions is to always try and look at the world through Technicolor glasses–yes, even a world as problematic as ours– and it is our hope  that these little swaths of color will provide a needed burst of energy– perhaps even inspire a smidge of creativity–to infuse and rejuvenate the weekly drudge.

And so we have decided to begin our experiment with who else but one of Technicolor‘s most famous little darlings: Judy Garland. Although this is not a film still, I’m sure you will agree the deep saturation here is delightfully decadent.

Judy Garland, circa 1940

For you designers out there, hex your little hearts out: #0a2417; #fde54f; #c91204; #c15a87; #7b92c4

Bloomfest Music & Arts Festival 2010

Bloomfest 2010

This Saturday, August 14th, join your fellow Los Angeleno’s at Bloomfest in the downtown LA arts district. It’s a street festival with heart, serving the soul of Los Angeles with hearty helpings of food, art, music and plenty of culture. 15 bands are slated to play, food trucks will rule the day, and private galleries and restored downtown lofts will open their doors for your wanderlusting pleasure.

The festival is named in honor of the late Joel Bloom, whom the LA Times called a “pioneering community activist who helped shape the downtown Los Angeles arts district … giving it personality and was unabashed in his great love for it.” Bloom once said of the districk, “there’s a spark here—hopefully we can light it.”

Keep the spark alive this Saturday!

Read more about lineups and participating vendors at Flavorpill.