Date Archives December 2010

‘Public Speaking’ A Documentary About Fran Lebowitz by Martin Scorsese

Last night I had the chance to watch Martin Scorsese’s new documentary on the writer and speaker Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking, which I enjoyed immensely. If you’re like me and aren’t quite familiar with Fran, she was a writer back in the last 60’s/early 70’s hired by Andy Warhold to write for Interview magazine. Then in 1978 she wrote a collection of essays called Metropolitan Life which was quite popular after it was released with many companies and celebrities trying to option it for a movie. After that she released one more book and then stopped writing for the most part. Instead, she’s taken to public speaking, espousing her opinion about all number of things.

It was really interesting watching this documentary because I felt like a lot of the things she spoke about in regards to writing are very true about blogs and the internet as well. For example, she says that sure, anyone can write, but not everyone should write, writing should be done by people with talent. I love her strength and her determination in her opinion, I wish a lot more people were so fiery and determined about the things they believe.

You can see Public Speaking on HBO.

A2591 Minimizes The Effects of Overt Branding

The folks over at A2591 took on a lovely project of trying to simplify the branding of some major products. I’m sure a lot of you feel like packaging these days can get a bit out of hand, A5291 uses the great example of the Microsoft iPod packaging video that went around a couple years ago. What they’ve done is shown the original packaging and then began removing elements until getting it to it’s most minimal.

I’ve picked my three favorite designs which I think do the best job of proving and dismissing the need for simplifying packaging. The first is Nutella which in my opinion is the most successful of the bunch. The packaging when stripped down to it’s bare minimum is simply a showcase for the delicious contents inside. I don’t want to the ingredients or that I can spread Nutella on bread, the Nutella itself is enough to sell me.

Second is Mr. Muscle, which for this one I feel like the second one is best. When stripped of all it’s branding I feel like it’s a mystery bottle of green liquid. As cheesy as the packaging is I feel like that bit of context is necessary to really get a sense of what the bottle should be used for.

Last is Nestle’s Corn Flakes, which I feel needs a version between the original and the first revision. Yet again I think this is another good example of having context. Is the packaging a bit over the top? Sure. But at least you can see what kind of corn flakes they are, you can imagine how they might taste.

I think this was a great idea by A5291 and the examples are perfectly executed as well. To see hi-res versions of each of these products click here.


Three Must Have Christmas Albums

A few weeks ago, when Bobby asked if I wanted to contribute to the blog, I asked him what he had in mind. “I just want you to share what you’re listening to week by week” he said, adding that he thought it would be interesting for me to share it with you. Unfortunately I don’t think either of us considered that we were so close to December 25th and that my listening habits in the coming weeks would be far more predictable then interesting.

Christmas is the Bermuda Triangle of my musical radar. It’s that scary time of year that will see me humming along to Wham! and Mariah Carey without even noticing. As a precaution I’ve decided to share the three albums which I feel are the most essential to help you make the most of the next few days.

A Christmas Gift for You (1963)
from Phil Spector

For me, Christmas sounds best when it’s produced by Phil Spector and in 1963 Spector put together ‘a Christmas gift’ for fans of his trademark ‘Wall of Sound’. The album features The Crystals, The Ronettes and many more with each performing a number of Christmas classics. This really is the Christmas album to own. It also just happens to be Brian Wilson’s favourite album of all time, so if that that’s not an endorsement to go out and get it then I don’t know what is.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
by Vince Guaraldi Trio

Another favourite of mine is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. While it may have originally been the soundtrack to the Peanuts television special for me it’s become the soundtrack to nights curled up on the couch with a good book and enjoying a nice drink by the fire. What makes A Charlie Brown Christmas so special is that it’s one of the most popular Christmas albums of all time and yet it still sounds fresh.

The Home Alone Soundtrack (1990)
by John Williams

Speaking of soundtracks, it’s fair to say that for many Home Alone should be the perfect reminder of what it felt like to be a kid at Christmas. If, like me, you grew up in the 90’s then this is the way to remember how much you wanted to be Macaulay Culkin. The score is beautifully sweeping in that trademark John Williams fashion and it should easily help stir up memories of other great film adventures Mr. Williams has helped you go on as a kid.

If you’re still looking for more music then there’s certainly been plenty of new releases this year to satisfy your Christmas cravings. I’ve really been enjoying Dent May’s excellent Holiday Face which you can check out over on Gorilla Vs Bear. Likewise Beach House have delivered a really great track called I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun, available here. Finally Target have put together an exclusive Christmas compilation that features people like Best Coast, Wavves and Coconut Records. The whole thing is free and it’s got a few gems on it, download it here. Best wishes for the Holidays!


Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space

My buddy Felipe wrote me a nice email the other day letting me know about a new video that he had completed for MOCA’s new exhibit Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space. The show features Carlos Cruz Diez, Lucio Fontana, Julio Le Parc, Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida, and Jesús Rafael Soto and their exploration of light and color as a different way of seeing art. For someone like me who can have some, um, problems with contemporary art and how exactly it’s art this video does a great job of explaining why these artists are in the museum and why their work is important or unique. I think a lot of these works are really beautiful especially Cromasaturación by Carlos Cruz-Diez. It’s beautiful to see how he’s creating these spaces out of color and that you as the viewer are the final necessary part of the piece.


Kennedy Space Center

Today, I visited the Kennedy Space Center. Above are historic photos from the center of the assembly of the Saturn V rocket that carried the first humans (the Apollo 11 astronauts) to the moon. It’s the same Saturn V rocket that was developed by von Braun, the rocket scientist who wrote a book for his daughters, and we looked at illustrations from that book last week. But today I walked under the entire length of the Saturn V rocket, a rocket as long as a 36-story  building is tall and built with the precision of a microscope.

The concentration of space artifacts at the center is insane: I touched a piece of lunar rock, wandered around a ‘rocket garden’ and met an older astronaut. However, the most amusing thing I happened to see was video footage of astronaut Michael Good (nicknamed Bueno) making a fajita aboard the shuttle Atlantis. There was also a bevy of quirky space suits that I can’t wait to show you.


Verity Keniger

I am starting to believe that there must be something in the water in Scotland. Something very good. My latest Scottish love is Edinburgh-based illustrator and print maker Verity Keniger. Her style possesses a bold simplicity, undoubtedly owing to a degree in illustration and graphic design, and a visual delicacy. Indeed, the combination of a light touch and an eye-catching graphic sensibility makes for beautiful pieces. I particularly love the repeated motif of deconstruction, such as the bell that is shedding feathers and the unfurling fibres of the heart. As Keniger is a self-confessed “professional tea-drinker”, I think her work is testament to the wonders of a good brew.

Find out more on Keniger’s blog and take a look at the prints in her online shop.


Fashion Video for Christian Joy

I found this short fashion film by Jae Song & Claire Carré for Christian Joy a little while back and have been meaning to post for a while. It’s an odd little piece which looks like something out of the 70’s, I could totally see Goldie Hawn being one of these girls. I think these clothes are hysterical, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s so cool how the mirror reflects the girls and all in the colors in their outfits, it’s like a flashback to an acid trip.


‘Lust, Caution’

Lust, Caution

As you have probably gathered, I have watched my fair share of films. There are some that are indelibly printed on my memory and others that I know I have watched, but have little to no recollection of the plot. I originally saw Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2007) at a late night screening in Hong Kong. Over the next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about the film, going over its images and psychological plot twists. A number of years later when I watched Lust, Caution again, I wasn’t surprised to discover that I was anticipating certain gestures and images that had obviously been kept in my memory. I tend to believe that this is indicative of an exceptional film.

Mostly I would say, I was in the mood of love, romantic love, for this period of my career, of my life. Something after my mid-life crisis, I think I want to get into something I feel I missed in portraying or in going through myself personally. I don’t know what it is, they attract me, they draw me to make a movie. I was dealing with prohibited romantic love, something that is yearning, something impossible, something that is so difficult to portray, to put a word… definition on.
– Ang Lee

Although literary adaptations can sometimes be absolute disasters that see the original author denouncing the resulting film, James Schamus and Wang Hui-Ling’s screenplay not only evokes the mood of Eileen Chang’s novella, but also beautifully fleshes out the story’s fragmented details and ambiguities. Predominantly set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the 1940s, Lust, Caution centres on a group of students who plot to assassinate the Imperial Japanese Army’s most powerful Chinese collaborator (Tony Leung Chui-wai) and the female agent (Tan Wei) who seduces him. Like so many of Lee’s films, the period is impeccably recreated and every element of the World War II setting is intoxicatingly stunning. Although the film is indisputably gorgeous to view, it is merely the surface to a rich narrative.

The juxtaposition of sexual betrayal and political/national betrayal is at the heart of the film’s complexity. Heavily censored in Mainland China, Lust, Caution represents sequences of unsettling violence and graphic sex scenes. However, neither the violence nor the sex is gratuitous and is cleverly utilised to set up the thematic frame of the film. Lee captures both with such an unflinching intensity that he suggests that they are almost indistinguishable. In this sense, both sex and violence are bound up with brutality, confusion and emotional abandon.

And it is the uncertainty and the ambiguities of the film that make it such evocative viewing. Lust, Caution concludes with emotional threads left it tatters, and its unexplained actions haunt the viewer. It is one of the most mesmerising historical dramas that I have seen and certainly confirms Lee’s directorial artistry.


7D 2000 FPS

I think everyone loves seeing things in slow motion. The ability to see the tiny details in life more clearly, like actually being able to process them is amazing. I guess it started with bullet time and is now available to pretty much anyone with a few grand to buy a camera like the Canon 7D. This video is astounding to me, that a bunch of dudes on some BMX bikes can make something this incredible. Hands down the best shot is at the :30 mark where the guy is moving at normal speed when suddenly everything slows down out of nowhere. It’s almost like the world suddenly becomes completely clear. I want to see an entire video of this!


‘The Tree of Life’

I must admit that I know the name Terence Malick and I know he directed The Thin Red Line but sadly I’ve never seen any of his films before. But now with his new movie The Tree of Life I realized I need to get to seeing more of his films. The Tree of Life stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain in “a tale of a Midwestern boy’s journey from the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as a “lost soul in the modern world”, and his quest to regain meaning in life.” Sounds like an interesting plot and from what I saw in the trailer visually it looks amazing. He has a very human, almost reality TV sense of shooting that makes you feel like you’re actively participating in a scene.

The film comes out March 27, 2011.