Sunday, October 1, 2023

Art as a Creative Endeavor : Norman Rockwell

Art Critic by Norman Rockwell, 1955

I think understanding the sources makes the Rockwell more entertaining. They aren't simply made from imagination but are slight modifications of existing art. 

To the left is Portrait of Isabella Brant by Peter Paul Reubens, c1620–1625
Portrait of Isabella Brant by Peter Paul Reubens, c1620–1625

To the right is Banquet of the Officers of the Saint Joris Doelen by Frans Hals, 1616
Banquet of the Officers of the Saint George Militia (Banket van de officieren van de Sint-Joris-Doelen) by Frans Hals, 1616

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Movie notes: Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

I was recently watching the movie “Mary Queen of Scots” from 2018.
A Scottish army of nameless, non-diverse extras

It turns out that Tudor England & Scotland were racially diverse at the highest echelons of power although not so much when it comes to the rank & file soldiers. Apparently, painters at the time did a really poor job of capturing how black or Chinese they really were.
After Mary Queen of Scots (the Irish Saoirse Ronan) catches her husband naked and in bed with her prancing male aide David Rizzio (I didn’t recall that from the old history books), the aide begs forgiveness and the very Catholic Mary tells him to stand and that “you have not betrayed your nature” and he resumes his duties. Surely all Catholics in the 1500s were as tolerant, even Spanish ones.

Don’t think that this is a woke version of history : later she demands and tries to force sex from her drunken husband who repeatedly says no and he makes excuses while she turns violent and attacks him.
Later, a Scottish preacher calls her ”Queen Strumpet” and a crowd chants “death to the Whooooeeeerre” in a surprisingly charming Scottish accent.  I may have unintentionally laughed out loud.

Another line I that seemed questionable was her asking a Scots soldier if he was Catholic, him responding no and her telling him they all go to the same heaven.  

Visually it looks good but the script seems taken from a fairly boring soap opera with historical figures given roles and an extra dose of melodrama as opposed to a script telling what we know (or don't know) about consequential figures of history.  

Despite the drama that should be inherent in the story it was boring. It ends with a boring dialogue between Mary & Elizabeth that the filmmakers admitted was pure imagination and ahistorical. 

I doubt someone without prior knowledge of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth would come away with either a good understanding of the situation or a good understanding of history. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

movie notes : Ad Astra

The main problem with the movie Ad Astra (Latin for "to the stars") can be summed up with the filmmakers neglecting the advice : Show, don't tell. This is especially necessary for characterization. Repeatedly, the movie has Brad Pitt & Tommy Lee Jones characters say a lot of things about themselves but doesn't show very much to establish what is said.

The movie was a big disappointment. Spoilers below.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Movie Notes : Downsizing (2017)

Downsizing (2017) stars Matt Damon, Hong Chau and Christoph Waltz.

Hong Chau's character of annoying. She had an annoying voice and accent that sounded like a un-pc stereotype. I think the intent was for her to sound like a stereotype and then as her character develops the audience would see her differently. Worse, her character development was based on exposition.

Christoph Waltz played Christoph Waltz.

Matt Damon's character was an annoying idiot.  More than once I wished someone would slap him. Or that the movie be shown in Slap-O-Vision where anytime Matt Damon is speaking a guy in a mascot outfit with a gigantic Matt Damon foam head would walk down the theater aisles allowing viewers to slap him.

Who hasn't wanted to slap Matt Damon? Introducing Matt Damon Slap-O-Vision
mock up of Slap-O-Vision giant foam head of Matt Damon

At one point it is announced that Matt Damon's character is going to Norway. Why I wondered. Did I miss something? Ah, because the writer said "Lo, so it has been written, so it shall be done" Upon occasion it was preachy in a quite unsubtle way.  I did like his character being a goofy idiot when it comes to celebrities. The intended direction of his character arc was obvious but not convincing.

Generally, I don't like Matt Damon.  I'm not sure exactly why as I liked the Jason Bourne movies and some others but in others I simply find him grating – I'd suggest he has a powerful anti-charisma.  In the Martian (2015), I kept hoping he would run out of air but despite that it was still a good movie. I laughed when he appeared in Thor Ragnarok (2017) opposite Sam Neil and Liam Hemsworth. I think my antipathy started when he was promoting Good Will Hunting (1997, awful) he went on Charlie Rose along with Robin Williams and it turned out Robin Williams was the sophisticated intellectual and Matt Damon was a window licking moron who clearly had no idea that he was a window licking moron.

Keeping that dislike in mind I can confidently say that Downsizing would have been awful even if it had been Matt Damon-less. It started out ok. The first half hour introduced the characters and the shrinking premise and not long after the special effects gimmick was introduced they basically ignored it. 

The movie is described as :
"Feeling that their lives are out of control, a husband and wife decide to be reduced to tiny size to make life more affordable and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Unfortunately, after he undergoes the procedure, his spouse backs out."
It sounds interesting. It wasn't. The interaction between normal sized and tiny sized were few and after about a third of the movie there were only a few oversized props to remind you what the movie was supposed to be about. Once he is shrunk his wife makes a one minute 45 second appearance (by a phone call!) and then completely disappears from the movie. It was almost as if a different movie that had nothing to do with shrinking had been grafted onto the final 2/3 of the movie.

I suspect they didn't know what to do with the premise so they opted to make it an "issue" movie so they'll get plenty of good imdb reviews because the issue resonates with those reviewers and not because of the quality of the movie.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Movie Notes : Father of the Year (2018)

Father of the Year (2018) : a mediocre movie where David Spade spends an entire movie doing an impersonation of Adam Sandler. That's about all worth saying about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Phony Egalitarianism : Smirnoff Equalizer

Some phony egalitarians at Smirnoff created an app to adjust Spotify playlist to include 50-90% women.
"performed by men artists" do they mean to use a noun as an adjective or do they mean male artists?

by "100% of the top streamed tracks" they apparently are referring to a subset of the lists published by Spotify.
part of the Spotify list of top tracks of 2017 (with Katy Perry at #14 and Rihanna at #15)

part of the Spotify list of top artist of 2017 (with Taylor Swift at #10)
Clearly by "100%" they really meant "not 100%"

So listening to an unequal playlist is bad, but the "equalizer" slider ranges from 50/50 to 90% to 10% favoring women. It's because they care about "equality" but it isn't as important as posturing