Saturday, September 3, 2016

Summer is Over! Time to Art!

I took a break from art commissions this summer because it was way too hot to paint. My paints kept drying too much to work with and apparently, people don't like it when you get naked while painting for them, so, I had to wait for cooler weather. So, I've been collecting commissions since May of stuff people have approached me to work on.

Currently(in no particular order):

1. Family Tree (living room wall)
2. Apple Orchard (panel)
3. Elephants (panel)
4. Airplane (garage doors)
5. Owl (tree stump)
6. Turkeys (panels)

Now it's time to get to business!

This fall, much of my time is going to need to be split between painting and writing. As such, tonight, instead of writing anything, I ended up working on a commission design for a lady's family tree that she wants painted on her living room wall. She gave me this paper that was actually scraps of paper all taped together with her tree design on it. Tons of these little connections and branches with little letters on each branch. One side of the tree was all good, seeming to fan out in an even way. The other side, taped together on a separate sheet of paper, was stretched out more horizontal, insane compared to the other side. My task was to redraw it, without missing any of the branches, so that both sides looked about even.

It wasn't easy but I did it. But since I was watching a nonstop stream of Under the Dome while I did it, I'm not going to charge her for this part of the project.

I anticipate this being fairly easy to get done, now that the drawing is out of the way. We're going to put leaves down first, since they'll go behind the branches so that she can write in family names and such where they go. Then painting the branches shouldn't be too troublesome. I did something similar, texturally, with the buck and bull's antlers in the two garage door commissions.

So, that'll probably end up being the same technique I'll use. It'll just be time consuming to get each little branch done that way and very monotonous. But this commission isn't happening until October because of scheduling, so, that's going on the back burner for now. I'm just glad that I was able to get that out of the way.

Something I'll probably end up doing in the next few weeks is working on the owl because the tree stump it is going to be on is outside and I want to capture as much of the remaining good weather as I can.

Already this makes me excited and inspired because just the way that the thing is set up looks like owl's spread wings to me. It will be such a glorious challenge to make the bird look animated and in flight and I cannot wait. The turkey I was working on this past spring was torturous trying to get the feathers just right, so, I can't imagine how an owl's feathers will end up being.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August Movie Reviews

Mini movie reviews for August. Not very many since I've been writing a lot this month.

Watched We're Back! Ah, childhood memories. Although some of the artwork is just a little rusty, as far as storytelling and direction goes, this is a masterpiece. The voice acting is superb, the character tropes and archetypes are solid, and the musical numbers are fun and catchy. Although a simplified plot made for little kids to enjoy(the dichotomy of the brain gain cereal and brain drain pills, and the wish and fright radios, brothers on opposing side of the fence "New Eyes" and "Screw Eyes") it is apt for the messages they're trying to convey. I could spend an afternoon slicing through and picking apart the symbolism but suffice it to say that it hits that core of truth and that's why it still stands up. Even with Louie's ridiculous New Yorkisms and 80's hairdo.

Just finished Deep Dark and I cannot gush enough about this film. It's not "scary" but it's definitely creepy and unsettling. I feel like similar ground has been covered before with films like with Comforting Skin(which was horrible) and May(2002) but I also feel like the themes and artful metaphors are handled so much more aptly. An artist looking for Muse in a talking hole in the wall. So much of it is symbolically perfect, from the innocuous nature of the origin of inspiration itself, often finding us in a ball of lint or striking us down with the taste of a fruit we haven't had before, right down to the intimate relationship Hermann eventually develops with the hole, mimicking the trope of a Muse being a lover to the artist. The clingy, passive aggressive relationship is also a lot more fitting than the other movies I mentioned because creativity and inspiration can so often be isolating, especially once you tap into the vein you struggle so hard to connect to, it keeps bugging you, nagging at the back of your head for attention, even as you want to glorify and find validation in an audience. You feel pulled in two conflicting directions.

At first, I found the little baubles that Hermann pulls from the hole to be weird but then again, it strikes me as perfect. Encapsulating the organic nature of truly moving art, he incorporates these organ-like pieces of flesh into his mobiles, putting parts of himself(his Muse in the hole) into the works he's creating. Despite the trailer, there wasn't very much gore in this, not what I expected, although the hole does hurt people. I also really liked the theme of dismemberment as a catalyst for freedom, to give up responsibility to the mode of creation by relinquishing access to the creating limbs.

Just finished watching Little Monsters. One of my absolute favorite childhood films of all time. I love the concept, I love the story, and I love the makeup and effects. It's one of those that is rock solid 80's, Fred Savage and Howie Mandel at their prime delivering so much chemistry and bro love on screen that you really feel it at the end. I remember watching this at a young age and having a super crush on Maurice, the monster and I remember feeling sort of disappointed by Howie's revelation in later years that he hated making the movie because the extensive makeup aggravated his OCD and germaphobia. A great adventure movie would 10/10 recommend if you're looking for a fun time.

Watched Pathology and Stir of Echoes. Two very smart thriller type horror films and some of my favorites for their male casting. When I first watched Pathology, I thought both Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Weston were unattractive but after the first 20 minutes of the film, they grow on you. Especially with Jake's first scenes of camaraderie where he actually reveals a bit of fun personality. The best way to describe this film for me is: porn. Basically porn. Story is engaging, entertaining, absurd but takes the hit and faces it head on without a flinch. Drugs, murder, psychopathy, and a "game" spiraling wildly out of control. My favorite thing about it is the dark male characters though. I love the shit out of Jake, especially as his personality starts to evolve and he shows this more twisted side of himself.

 After I finished that porn...I watched some more with Kevin Bacon leading the story in Stir of Echoes. XD I cannot gush enough about this movie. As far as ghost stories go, it follows its own rules and there isn't a wasted line or a wasted scene. Even having watched it several times before, this time around, looking for anything that kind of felt out of place or didn't need to be there, I can't say there is. And it's super simple too. No gimicks, no overused tropes flailing about the scenery; it all feels very genuine, integral to the over all story, and new. That "awakening inner sight" thing they used again for the Insidious franchise(another great series of horror films that bring something new and inventive to the storytelling table!) but I hadn't really seen it before this movie. And don't get me started on 90's Kevin Bacon. Sweet Keksjar, I kid you not, 90's Bacon is my ideal man: slender, angular, wiry muscles, little bit of scruff, cynical grin, smokey voice, and heavy, American accent(what is that? His bio says he grew up in Philly but it feels almost Boston to me). It's the fun and beautiful kind of character to write too, the one he plays in this movie. I could go on for days about all the little manly things he does that just flick that switch for me.

Favorite scene:  Where he's digging in the yard and his wife confronts him about him acting so freaky. He tells her that he's digging for the body of the ghost girl who's haunting him, "feeling" that it's somewhere on their property. The wife glances over at their son who was previously designated as "helping" and Bacon shrugs off her mortification about the 4-5 year old boy helping with this task by giving her a shrug and shake of his head saying, "Don't worry. It's not over there(where the boy is digging in a different part of the yard)." It's just like, "perfect" delivery, great joke to indicate without too many words the state of mind that Bacon's character is in, his fixation with this haunting, and I love the shrug and look he has on at that moment, like "Tch, silly kid 'thinks' he's helping."

Adding a section to this called "Movies to See" which is for already released films that I intend to watch, my own personal list. These will not necessarily be new films but just movies I've got the urge to see. Sometimes, when searching for a movie to watch, my mind draws a blank of what I've recently been craving. This is a spot for those films to be listed as well.

The Darkness Starring Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, and David Mazouz(Bruce Wayne in Gotham). Although there are certain things that make me hesitant about this, like the ending of the trailer where the hand prints cover the wall and cover the girl being sorta cringey, and the reviews for this being very poor, it feels right up my alley. Not only am I a huge fan of the three main actors I just listed but the dark prints, the corrupting influence, the black drool/vomit, and the creepy kid are all tropes that I am attracted to in stories. So, it looks worth the venture even going into it knowing some of it might end up being weak.

Equals Starring Kristen Stewart and, come a long way from his About a Boy dorkiness, Nicholas Hoult! This looks good and I think it surprisingly apt that they found a role for Stewart where acting emotionless and subtly emotional might work in her favor, lol. All that aside, it looks like a really compelling romance, like the civilian side of Equilibrium. Also it looks to be the film version of Nero's "Promises" music video, released all the way back in 2011. Watching that vid way back when, I remember thinking, "I'd so watch this if they made it a movie" and pretty soon I will!

 Swiss Army Man with Daniel Radcliffe. I watched the review by my favorite movie reviewer, Chris Stuckman(GET STUCKMANIZED!! Swiss Army Man Review) and it really makes me want to see it. I'm not sure if you guys know this about me yet, but I'm pretty alright with spoilers. I like to watch trailers and reviews and analysises and theories and go through the tv tropes pages for shows and movies I'm sometimes thinking about seeing. Like, usually I do it with books because I am super picky about putting time and money into a book and I often go through phases where I obsess about certain themes. But sometimes, I do it for movies too. Usually, if it's free/cheap and it's right there, I watch the trailer and then just dive right into it, if it gives me a good vibe. But a lot of times I research a bit more, like with the upcoming Suicide Squad, where the first trailers made me feel conflicted, I read negative and positive reviews, I watched fact videos about the film, analyses about the new backstory revealed in recent years about the Joker actually being 3 people over the years; all things to sort of acclimatize myself to preparing for enjoying this experience a little more. I used to shun films that looked dumb or overhyped to me and after many years and the hype died down, secretly watched them and became a huge fan(can't think of any off the top of my head but there have been a few where I was like, "I wish I'd been a fan sooner rather than a stubborn dummy"). I've also been doing this acclimatizing to myself with the new Ghostbusters movie.

So, Swiss Army Man looks good from Stuckmann's review and even though I brought up this huge explanation for my spoiling myself on films, I actually hadn't even heard of this film until I watched the review.

Midnight Special - this looks super good! I've adored Michael Shannon ever since I was completely spellbound by him in Bugs(which, btw, that is one of those movies that over the years I've felt a craving to rewatch but keep on chickening out because I remember the parts of self mutilation him and Judd engaged in was so cringeworthy, like, nailing that body response of flinching so perfectly that now, all these years later, I still feel incapable of putting myself through that again). This looks like a good supernatural drama and very interesting concept with the boy's powers and the religious aspect as well.

Blood Father It just came out recently and I'm linking the review by Chris Stuckmann because my main motivation for putting it here IS his review of it. I'm an old school Mel Gibson fan and I loved his work in The Beaver in recent years, so, I'm kind of excited to see him doing movie roles again. Or at least starring in something that might remotely interest me.

Southland Tales lol, this actually came up during a WatchMojo video for "movies that ruined director's reputations". But the sequence I linked actually has me so excited about it. Not just because I love the Killers but also because it's so strange and full of that cartoonish, hyper-masculinity that I love. The bloody shirt, the scarred face, the guy's eyes, his hair, his facial hair, the way he sticks out his tongue, that little smirk, grabbing ladies, etc. etc. ffs gimme gimme! Justin Timberlake does not look like himself, more meaty in this, and even though it appears he features with a minimal amount of screen time, I don't care. the trailer looks zany and off its rocker too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Not Your Disney Princesses

Saw this meme recently and tried to have a discussion with someone about it but rather than actually presenting any counter arguments or facts, they admitted to not knowing all that much about the movies while making claims about Damsels in Distress and the Man Will Fix Your Life tropes. I’m not going to rock the boat with people I consider friends, especially since I am a Leo and get uh..."roar-y" when I argue. I still have a stick up my ass about my family thinking that dinosaurs can be cloned from dead and mixed DNA from ancient mosquitoes and being banned from talking about it because I got real intense trying to prove them wrong. So, instead, I’ll place it here because I think that Into the Night Land and EoP fall into the same category of being misinterpreted as Damsel in Distress stories, when in actuality, they are about women sucking it up, subverting their original flaws and weaknesses to take their lives by the horns. So, here is my analysis and refutation of that silly Disney princess meme which is false and not even funny.

Jasmine: Actually, the film argues against the premise that her worth being determined by her marriageability is "good", it doesn't promote it at all. Several times the male characters are shamed by Jasmine and each other for vying over her like she's property and the one guy who sticks to his guns and tries to turn her into a political chess piece is fooled into turning himself into a genie, defeated and mocked. She even plays a huge role in her rescue, distracting the wizard several times even though Aladdin and his stupid monkey almost botch the job. In fact, if he was a little bit better at being stealthy, her ruse would have worked until Aladdin got a chance to stick a knife in Jafar's back(what do you expect from a guy so boastful in the first scenes we see of him, singing and jumping and spinning all over the place? Where the fuck was that when it mattered, jerk off??). The ultimate choice to marry Aladdin is made by Jasmine, her opinion asked by her father, finally respecting her as a person with autonomy.

Belle: Actually it does matter for Belle. She is a prisoner in the Beast's castle and he doesn't even like her for a good chunk of their early relationship. He is an awful person when they first meet and it has nothing to do with him having a good heart and winning her over. She changes him by setting an example. If anything, Belle as a role-model is great as far as the Renaissance princesses go because she rebuffs the douchey fuck boy in town that all the women fawn over, she hates the idea of marrying someone just for "appearances" and genetics(Gaston tells her their kids will be beautiful), and she loves to fucking read and doesn't give a shit about the entire singing town that thinks she's "weird" for doing so. I remember Belle made me want a wall to wall, floor to ceiling library as a little girl. She made ideas and nonconformity cool and she was brave fighting off against wolves even though it was a super scary situation she found herself in. She never lost her femininity, being nurturing and empathetic, yet she wasn't "girly" like that trio of bimbos in town who were presented very negatively because they all looked exactly alike and yet had this ridiculous desire to hump the asshole of the town's leg. Belle demands change from the beast and doesn't fall for him until he shows progress, not tolerating his abusive bullshit. If anything, Belle complicates the Beast, not the other way around. Until she came along he was Gaston with fur, just more emo. It does present the flaw of "you can change a bad guy" but I always thought Belle's ability to demand what she wanted and not settle for anything less much more important than the theories about Stockholm syndrome or whatever.

Ariel: Another non-conformist, she doesn't fall in line when told to do so by the tyrannical male figure in her life. The story actually makes her sacrifice out to be a bad thing, we the viewers let in on the manipulation of Ursula and her ulterior motives right away. Ariel also gives the finger to the misogynistic view that women are something to be chased and pursued and captured, instead taking her destiny into her own hands and going after the man she wants. It isn't about her sacrifice winning her Eric because he's always looking past her. The only reason Ursula wins him over, other than the spell, is because she convinces him that she is the woman who saved him from the shipwreck(the enchantment is there to keep him from asking questions). So, he's not looking at petite little Ariel as "wow, she's silent and got legs and that hits my checklist" it's a hard decision for him to throw away his fantasy of the singing lady on the beach to go ahead and go for the budding romance right in front of him. Ariel wins him over despite being mute and basically unattractive as a partner due to her "damage" which let's be honest, was important in the setting, according to the gossiping ladies washing her laundry. The sacrifice she makes is about girls not waiting around for some prince to notice you, to actively pursue men because fuck traditional gender roles, you can ask them to dance too, even if you're handicapped and have to use sign language. Make him work to bridge that communication barrier. And to top it all off, she saves Eric. She realizes who he's marrying and the doofus is too enchanted to save himself in that situation so she rallies her friends and rescues his dumb ass. Eric returns the favor but not before Ariel saves his dumb ass again by yanking the sea witch's hair and making her shoot her pet lackeys. Dumb drowning human, lol.

As is the case with a lot of the early princesses in Disney films, the prince is presented as this cardboard figure, barely cognizant of his own desires and wishes except as a walking sword(both literally and figuratively in the slang sense). It is the princesses themselves that are given complexity and presented as ultimately likeable people in their own right. But they are also victims of the time they were made, presented with those traditional ideals, even though they're not terribly harmful. Plus, a lot of the most interesting female villains were made at that time. It was a fight of women against women, Maleficent, the Evil Queen, and Lady Tremaine all having interesting character designs on top of complex personalities that shake up the "good little house wife gets taken care of" imagery. They're badasses and are having fun being bad to the bone and one of the most popular Disney characters is Maleficent herself. Never do we mistake them for men, their power grabs not turning them masculine in any way, glorifying in their dignified authority. These are not ugly women, despite being "bad" people, seductive without being sexual objects for the dark side. I remember I used to fucking love that opening scene with Maleficent at the baby cristening(or whatever) so cocky and yet not taking their rudeness sitting down either. Fuck you, man. Imma curse your baby for trying to put me down, like you're fucking better than me. Alternatively, the princes are interchangeable in these pre-Disney Renaissance films. They literally look almost exactly alike. And they come in at the end, once all the fun and interesting shit has already happened, presented as a "reward" for the females, after triumphing over their own adversity.

Cinderella: The story wasn't even about her winning the prince. He's mentioned in name, I don't think he's even shown talking, if he is, I can't remember it. The king and his advisor were so much more interesting in the one internal palace scene that I remember. The story is a classist tale. Cinder(shortening it because I keep accidentally typing it alla instead of ella) is a servant, taking care of her stepmother and sisters and barely treated like a human being. They make ridiculous demands of her, presented as caricatures of selfishness and vanity, whereas Cinder is presented as beautiful and genuine. Her beauty is highlighted by the contrast as her optimism in her terrible circumstances is a ray of sunshine, and she actually cares about others rather than just herself. The story is about "her night", getting to feel worthwhile for once, which is often what a night of glamor and the saying "being treated like a princess" is all about. Owning the truth that she deserved to be seen beyond the superficial standards that these other women push onto her.

The plot presents a dues ex machina in exchange for the shitty situation she falls in. Tremaine gets the invite to the ball and it says "every eligible maiden" so despite her sisters mocking her and making fun of her, Cinder presents her case for why she deserves to go. Because she fucking fits the bare minimum of humanity presented to her by this flimsy piece of paper. Tremaine tells her that if she can find a dress and get all her chores done, then she can go, much to the sisters protest. When she's gone, Tremaine makes it clear to us, the audience, that she has no intentions of keeping her promise, using sly wording to put a loophole in there for herself. She tricked Cinder. Not only that, the story makes it clear that the sisters load her up with chores, so that she has literally 0 time to fucking work on the bare bones dress that she set out for herself. Her friends help her with that, so that she can fucking go because friends often help each other achieve their goals. What happens when she goes downstairs, ready to leave with the other ladies? Tremaine points out that her dress is made up of things that the sisters threw away and didn't want and they accuse her of stealing, tearing her dress to shreds to humiliate and dehumanize her. She is stripped of her humanity in that scene, not even fitting the bare minimum of humanity in being a woman and ordered to go to this thing by the king.

The godmother is a fantasy, a moment of escapism, where we see wish fulfillment when at our lowest point and her optimism simply cannot be jumpstarted again, that someone out there will give us everything we desire because we know we deserve it. It's god-like and she is given this opportunity when in reality, it's not an actual solution to the problem. It's for one night, a dream fulfilled, simply to give her that precious moment of dignity and humanity, to be seen as something other than the mop and broom she carries. The prince chooses her out of everyone else because of those contrasts that were laid out before as the groundwork. Her step sisters and step mother are in the crowd and fail to "wow" him, almost like he can see their ugliness inside. We root for Cinder not because she's physically beautiful but because we know that her sisters are fucking assholes. And the climax of the film is again Tremaine trying to control her life and destiny, to lie and steal from something that Cinder has basically earned. Whether you want to believe all she did was dance with the prince and he likes her for her looks, fine, but he's now HERS. HER prince because she's the one he wants. Not her stupid step sisters and the caricature contrasts are highlighted again as they attempt to trick the advisor into accepting one of them as the deserving ones. The scene with them trying on the shoe is over the top and ridiculous in how pathetic and desperate they are. Cinder, although saved again by her dues ex machina friends, arrives as the slipper breaks, poised, collected, calm, finally owning who she is inside. It is the allegory of the royalty of every girl, no matter her station or what the girls around her think and say. The shoe fits so she wears it, figuratively and literally.

Sleeping Beauty: the prince in this is a little more fleshed out and he does save the princess but he doesn't like her just because she's pretty and unmoving. Aurora meets him earlier, singing with him in the woods. The film is about her waking up as a person, both in an allegorical sense and literally. She is hidden away for her entire life, shielded from experiences because her guardians think they know what's best for her. And that whole evil fairy, thing. Done up in typical fantasy fashion, the story highlights both Aurora and Phillip as protagonists equally, dreamers amidst the pressure and coddling of the authority figures around them. The first step outside their doors that they take, they are punished by Maleficent, who is presented as an earthy force, like the woods, very threatening in an organic way, like walking off the worn path being a danger. I was never very fond of Sleeping Beauty because it's very sterile and reminds me of a medieval manuscript the whole way through. There are problems with it, I'll agree, but she's the second Disney princess to show up.

Snow White: I've watched this movie literally twice in my life because the artwork makes me want to kill someone. Since I don't know that much about it, I'll leave it alone.

The Disney Renaissance was a big shift in values and basic mission statement for the company. They were going out of business pushing those traditionalist ideals, so, shifted to a more modern viewpoint once the Little Mermaid came out.