Date Archives February 2012

Wintr’s video for ‘The Fox’ by Niki & The Dove

Niki & The Dove - The Fox

Niki & The Dove - The Fox

Swedish electric duo Niki & The Dove recently released a video for their latest track The Fox, and it really is a thing of beauty. Created by the Seattle-based Wintr and filled with beautiful shapes, color and motion, the video shows a creature with the head of a fox in free-fall as it hurls towards the ground.

It’s a simple (if surreal) concept, but Wintr keep it totally engaging, filling it with all sorts of odd and crazy imagery. I’m normally not one to get too excited about videos that feel overtly 3D or are synthetic heavy but this really works and I think it’s well worth checking out.

Sassy Architect of the Week

Louis Curtiss cartoon from 1908

Louis Curtis design from 1908

the Boley Building designed by Louis Curtiss and finished in 1908

Unless you have a special affinity for century-old Kansas City architecture, you’ve probably never heard of Louis Curtiss. As boldly modern as he was dandy, he drove around Kansas City wearing white from head to toe, trailed by garlands of smoke from the custom-made cigarettes which he ordered by the thousands. Above, you can see an illustration of Curtis at his drafting desk in 1908. You could probably glean his love of motorcars from all the pictures surrounding his drafting desk, but you might not guess that he was a terrible or driver or that he would die hunched over the same drafting desk 16 years after this drawing was published.

He’s not remembered as much as the architects to whom he is consistently compared (i.e.Frank Lloyd Wright, Benard Maybeck), but Curtiss left behind plenty of buildings and plenty of stories about his eccentric behavior. Sure, he might have been a chronic bachelor and paid his rent with gold coins, but he also was one of the first architects to use a curtain wall (in the Boley Building, completed the same year as his caricature). Had he lived and worked in larger coastal cities, he may have become a so-called starchitect, and while he behaved like one, he was also intensely private, leaving behind instructions to burn his personal files after his death. As it happens, he has been almost completely forgotten.

You can read more about Curtiss in an excellent article here, another here and find more examples of his work here.

Space Suit of the Week

Bitter American Seasonal Ale

Bitter American Seasonal Ale

Seems like the news is full of bitter Americans, though Ham the Chimpanzee, the first chimpanzee launched into outer space in 1961, has to be one of the most bitter in history. British artist Joe Wilson produced the above package design for San Francisco based brewery 21st Amendment’s Bitter American Seasonal Ale. It’s a nice, cheeky alternative to traditional alcoholic product packaging which can sometimes take itself too seriously. I know what I’ll be grabbing next time I pop down to the corner store.

Brice Bischoff’s colorful Bronson Cave portraits

Brice Bischoff's colorful Bronson Cave portraits

Brice Bischoff's colorful Bronson Cave portraits

Brice Bischoff's colorful Bronson Cave portraits

Brice Bischoff's colorful Bronson Cave portraits

These photos from Brice Bischoff aren’t what your average idea of a portrait may be, but trust me, he’s in there. Performing with large sheets of brightly colored paper, Brice creates these beautiful long exposure images which become swirling masses of color. He created these images at the Bronson Caves, which some of you may know as the location of Adam West’s Batcave from the original Batman TV show. The caves have been used for all kinds of shoots over the years, though I think Brice’s photos may be the brightest thing ever shot there.

‘Les Curiosités’ by Graziella Antonini

'Les Curiosités' by Graziella Antonini

'Les Curiosités' by Graziella Antonini

'Les Curiosités' by Graziella Antonini

'Les Curiosités' by Graziella Antonini

'Les Curiosités' by Graziella Antonini

Swiss photographer Graziella Antonini has a fascinating collection of photographs on her site. Her images create a wonderful dialogue amongst themselves, and it’s hard not to draw relationships between the photographs she takes. Her series Les Curiosités (The Curiosities) really captures my attention.

For Antonini, the series is about creating imaginary paths between the images. They represent animals, vegetables and minerals, yet without having a geographical reference for them, it becomes difficult to read them contextually. In her description of the work she asks: “Qu’est-ce qui est vrai et qu’est-ce qui ne l’est pas?” – What is true and what is not? Together, these images form a curious collection of photographs, a series which I find to be both unusual and enchanting.

Beyond The Black Rainbow will melt your brain

<i>Beyond The Black Rainbow</i> will melt your brain

<i>Beyond The Black Rainbow</i> will melt your brain

<i>Beyond The Black Rainbow</i> will melt your brain

A couple years back, Canadian director Panos Cosmatos released a movie called Beyond The Black Rainbow. From the trailer above, it hearkens back to movies of the late 70s, featuring floods of intense color, a futuristic institute to hold crazy people and a young girl trying to escape her deranged therapist. Sounds good so far, right? Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia:

Deep within the mysterious Arboria Institute, a disturbed and beautiful girl (Eva Allan) is held captive by a doctor in search of inner peace. Her mind is controlled by a sinister technology. Silently, she waits for her next session with deranged therapist Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). If she hopes to escape, she must journey through the darkest reaches of The Institute… but Nyle won’t easily part with his most gifted and dangerous creation.

I guess distributor Magnet Releasing will be putting out the film some time this year, which is good news. A lot of the time, Magnet releases their films straight to Netflix, so hopefully we’ll be able to watch this gem soon.

Re-Covered Books: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ – The runners-up

I’ve had quite a few readers ask if I’d give some commentary on the Re-Covered Book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz entries submissions which I thought were good, but didn’t end up winning. I thought it would be nice to give some pointers on what I really liked about these entries and some thoughts on what I think they could have done better. Think of it as an online crit.

Re-Covered Books: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ - The runners-up

This design was an early front runner to win the competition. When I first saw his design I was shocked that he was able to cut out all of these elements from money and put it all together into a cover. The amount of time and effort it must have taken is pretty mind-blowing. Visually, I think this is the most complex entry.

The reason why I didn’t choose this entry though is because the story isn’t about money. There are allusions to money in the story (that her silver slippers was about the price of silver and that when you watch The Dark Side of Oz the song Money starts playing when she opens the door to Oz) but that’s not what the book is about.

I also have some issues with the blurriness of some of the objects. For a piece so detailed the bottom part of the image feels like it was stretched a bit too much. There’s also a weird drop shadow on some elements and the light is coming from below, which is kind of visually odd when the rest of the elements are totally flat.

Re-Covered Books: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ - The runners-up

Next up is this entry from April Scarduzio, which in my mind is the version you’d see being sold at Anthropology. I love the image, I love the hand-written text, and the colors are beautiful. I think the image of the woman, face hidden from view, is a really nice touch. I think this allows the reader to insert herself into the book. My problem comes in because of the outfit and wrist accessories which are too contemporary and don’t fit the book at all.

Now, I’m guessing she didn’t take this photo, and she didn’t have some huge budget to work with either, so I don’t fault her. I think you’d need a real photographer to pull something like this off correctly, but I think April’s concept is super strong.

Re-Covered Books: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ - The runners-up

Lastly is this cover from design duo Ben Wallis & Mike McVicar. What I loved about their piece was the amazing image. The idea of her life being turned upside down is a fantastic visual metaphor. The image is powerful and epic looking, it shows you that crazy things happen in this book. I also think the colors in the image are spot on and are really pretty.

Where I think this cover design goes wrong is the typography. All of the emphasis is placed on the word “Wonderful” rather than the “Wizard of Oz.” If the emphasis had been switched, I think the cover would have been a lot more effective.

I hope the folks I’ve critiqued here don’t take offense to any of the things I’ve outlined. These are simply my opinions, and opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one. Hopefully some of you get some insight into the things I look for in a good piece of design and that this helps you some. I’ll try to continue doing these with each subsequent cover contest if you find them helpful or insightful.

‘Fall-N-Love’ by Slum Village

Way back when the world was turning from one millenium to another, I wasn’t much of a hip hop listener. In high school, my friends gave me three “indie”/”undie” records to get me into the genre, mostly underground west coast legends. When I finally got my shot on the radio, another DJ dared me to try to use the Technics-1200s, sitting in the studio collecting dust. Soon after, I never used the CD players in the studio – all I wanted was to try the turntables and the mixer. I loved, and still love, the feel of a vinyl record under my fingers, the incredible power of manipulation one has with a song that you know inside and out. From that love of vinyl I found out I could mix anything by Jay Dilla with Jay Dilla. It’s the hip-hop DJ’s greatest trick. You think the DJ is effortlessly mixing the Pharcyde, Busta Rhymes, Slum Village, Janet Jackson, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Erykah Badu together. But it’s all James Dewitt Yancey, a legend.

It’s those drums. Some songs have drums like a pistol shot, but Dilla’s drums cruise in from Alpha Centauri. The timing is inimitable. The sample, Gap Mangione’s “Diana in the Autumn Wind,” distorts, smoothing out into a seductive, intoxicating organ line. T-3 and Dilla’s verses are not about falling in love. They balance dreams against necessity. Dilla rhymes,

“I sit and wonder when I think about these written rhymes.
How’d I get to the point constantly taking all my time?
Time I could of been spending gettin’ cash, gettin’ mine.”

In 2000, maybe Dilla didn’t realize that this song was one step on his way to “getting mine.” This music is all about love. It has become one of my essential tracks, one that whoever I fell in love with would have to love as well. Thankfully she does and I have nothing to do with it. The flow of the organ on the drum is everything, something we can all fall in love with or to.

Chaos and destruction: A film review of ‘Meek’s Cutoff’

Poster for Meek's Cutoff

Meek’s Cutoff may be set in the old American West, but it is hardly a western. With its components defying all convention of the genre, this tale of a pioneering trek across the Oregon Trail is reminiscent of Gus Van Zant’s Gerry, and has the pacing of Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere. It’s slow. But it has to be. The year is 1895, and everything takes time and has its due procedure. The film is a hard sell, but it’s a work of Kelly Reichardt, and in true form she delivers exactly what we expect of her – challenging, subtle cinema that features the beauty of the North-western landscape, and embraces the female perspective.

Sharing the similar themes of hopelessness and travel that exists in her previous films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, in Meek’s Cutoff the prospects shrink to a narrow bleak desperation. Bathed in the warm light of the setting sun, Thomas Gately (Paul Dano) carves the word ‘lost’ into a dry, dead branch. It is the first word communicated in the film, but its blatant explanation is not necessary. The opening montage of long takes, (although sensual in their exposition of the land’s rich tones) present the unforgiving details of this arduous journey. The women’s dresses are stained by mud, and their filthy fingernails and sun burned faces silently divulge the imminent tragedy of the coterie. Mr. Meek, a callous mountain man played by the unrecognizable Bruce Greenwood has been hired to lead the wagon settlers through the Cascade Mountains into the promise land of Columbia. The families are caught in a maze of disorientation as they realize Mr. Meek might be leading them astray. No one trusts him. The men keep watch over their shoulders and the women whisper among themselves, as each gender group discusses his fate and motivation. Has he purposely taken them off track or is he is too coward to admit that he doesn’t actually know the way? Is Mr. Meek ignorant or evil?

The heart of the film rests is in Michelle Williams’s performance as Emily Tetherow, a strong willed settler who maintains the social norms and politeness of society even though she is trapped in the jungle of the Wild West. She fetches water, mills grain, starts the morning fire, yet has an opinion and is not afraid to wield it – a female perspective rarely seen in this environment. For the first half of the film, the men participate in spurts of non-expository dialogue which are shot at a distance, excluding audience from information which would normally be integral to the story. But here, the story is secondary to the experience. As the women are kept at arm’s length, Reichardt subsequently chooses to keep the audience out of the loop. The woman watch and the men decide, until a fateful moment that challenges the status quo of male centered decision making, when Emily  Tetherow takes their collective fate into her own hands.

The painstaking form of Meek’s Cutoff is sure to alienate the average movie go-er and the film itself can be used as a prime example of the polarizing power of cinema. I was drawn to it for this exact reason. It has been a consistent inclusion in many critics’ 2011 top ten lists, yet the gleaned audience response to the film has been an epic fail. Knowing the background of where this film comes from helps to have an open perspective. Kelly Reichardt has a day job. Her films are not money makers, but she is passionate about cinema and devoted to giving us unique works of art that simmer in the back of your mind, and have a lasting impression. It’s a great film, if you give it the time and space it needs to unfold naturally.

An Interview With Micah Lidberg by Hugo & Marie

An Interview With Micah Lidberg by Hugo & Marie

An Interview With Micah Lidberg by Hugo & Marie

An Interview With Micah Lidberg by Hugo & Marie

My buddy Micah Lidberg did an interview with his agency Hugo & Marie a couple weeks back that I thought would be nice to share. I got to hang out with Micah when I was in New York a couple years back and we chatted about some really deep stuff like aliens and the complexity of nature and all kinds of bizarre topics, and I think a lot of that stuff finds itself in his work. Whenever I see a new piece by him I’m always super impressed, so I’d definitely take the time to watch this video. Hugo & Marie also did an interview with another favorite of mine, Mike Perry, a couple months back which you can watch by clicking here.