April 2012 Archives

Decisions, Decisions...

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I'm starting to sift through my photos and pick out what I might want to print for the WisCon art show. Some of these might work, but I'd love second opinions.



Before we could go get ourselves some sushi, we were back in line at the Orpheum for Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.

It was amazing because of what it was: After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, three 12 year old friends, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, began filming their own shot-by-shot adaptation in the backyards of their Mississippi homes.
Seven years later their film was in the can.

My. God. I have never, in all my 36 years on this earth, undertaken a project even half so grand as what these kids did over the course of their teenage years. Certainly never did anything like it when I was actually a teen. The movie was a love letter to Raiders of the Lost Ark and a love letter to cinema. I was amazed at what they were able to pull off, and was rather bummed that we weren't able to stay for the Q&A after the film.

If you grew up on Indiana Jones and you get a chance to see this film, you should not pass up the opportunity.



Jiro Dreams of Sushi

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I didn't see any films on Friday night, since I was at the Overture Center singing in Verdi's Requiem for most of the evening. But first thing Saturday morning, we were off to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the Orpheum.

During the pre-show announcements, they mentioned how many sushi restaurants there were within a five minutes walk of the theater. Good thing they did, because I'm pretty sure everyone left the theater dreaming of sushi as well.

While the film wasn't quite as meditative as The Meaning of Tea, it was very peaceful and refreshing. I have an admiration for people like Jiro Ono, who thrive on simplicity and order, and who can do the repetitive work needed to achieve excellence at something. I don't work that way myself: I like the idea of simplicity, but I tend towards complexity, variety, and a wee bit of chaos. But the contrast between my way of life and Jiro's made it particularly pleasant to watch.

The visuals were great. If you didn't want sushi by the end of the film, you probably never liked sushi to begin with. Piece after piece of perfect nigiri was lovingly filmed in lingering close-up shots. Mouth watering. Trips to the fish market were slightly less mouthwatering, but far from disgusting. It is easy to forget how crazy huge tuna are. It's rather a shame how divorced we get from what and where the food we eat comes from.

In some tiny way, I was reminded of Great, a webcomic by Ryan Armand (KIWIS BY BEAT!). Jiro doesn't seem to have much in common with Lyle Phipps (who is often an angry sad sack) but I found myself thinking of Lyle's drive to create the greatest ramen in the world. (I also found myself wanting ramen.)

Later in the day we stopped at T. Sushi, to give the newest sushi restaurant a try. It was good, but definitely no Sukiyabashi. I might go there again, but it won't be at the top of my list of Madison sushi restaurants. (I have a hard time taking a sushi restaurant seriously if you order tea and are given a cup of hot water and a generic food-service tea packet.)

Next up: Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation



Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night)

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Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) was the second stop on our festival journey. It was also at Sundance Cinema, so we got to take a brief intermission at the Great Dane Hilldale.

(The trailer lack subtitles, but the subtitled version I found also featured a terrible American movie trailer voice over. Too awful to link.)

The festival write-up describes this as "a thriller with all the boring parts cut out" and they were not lying. My adrenaline was elevated from the first scene to the last, and even though it was very late when I left the movie, I was very keyed up.

There are some very important details that would be spoilers for the very first scene, but I can say that the majority of the film is a tense, high-stakes game of cat and mouse in a loud, crowded nightclub. They skip right over many of the usual cliches that make up the slow moments in action movies and keep you right in the midst of the actual action. I'm sure that they inevitable American remake will have some sort of goofy comic relief and a love interest. I'd recommend seeing this, and not bothering with any Hollywood follow-up.



"Wisconsin" and "We're Not Broke"

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Our Wisconsin Film Fest journey for 2012 began on Thursday night at Sundance Cinema in Hilldale and a sold out screening of the documentary We're Not Broke and a local short, Wisconsin.

I'd seen Wisconsin when it was first uploaded to YouTube in March of last year, but it was great to see it again. So much has happened since then. Cold, snow, crowds, mud, pizza... Show me what democracy looks like: petitions, boxes and boxes of petitions.

It isn't the best of the little films that came out of the protests (the uncertain focus and camera angles was a bit maddening) but it was great to see and hear a variety of faces and voices.

We're Not Broke was well made, and if there was a person in the theater who didn't find themselves getting furious while watching it, I think they might have been asleep. It detailed the lengths to which American multinational corporations will go to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. and the ways in which they do so. They are literally willing to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaign contributions, lawyers, and accountants in order to reduce or eliminate their tax bills. The things they do *may* be legal at this time, but they are in no way right or ethical.

As is often the case in documentaries like this, there were occasional moments where the protesters came off looking a bit silly, but that was mostly due to the fact that they are not professionals. But it was corporate America that came off looking like jackasses at best.

I particularly enjoyed the interviews with Lee Shephard., who was incredibly droll with a dry and acerbic wit.

I ended up sitting next to two older women, whose sotte voce comments I could overhear during the course of the film. If I was seething internally at the nefarious practices of the corps, they were visibly (and audibly) bristling with indignation.

It was rather a good thing for me that it wasn't the last film of the night, because if it had been, I'd probably have seethed all night long. As it was, I had about an hour after the end to glower about corporate tax dodgers, after which I was plunged into French action sequences, and it was my adrenaline being raised, rather than my blood pressure. It has stayed with me, though, and I will definitely recommend it to other people, if they get the opportunity. This is something we should be made about.



This year, I am going to try to get them together in a timely manner. Here goes.



This Friday, April 20, the University of Wisconsin Choral Union and Symphony orchestra will preform Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem in Overture Hall.

The ensemble includes a 175-voice chorus, and 85-piece orchestra and 4 soloists, and has a sound that fills the hall. The "Dies Irae," in particular, features an explosion of sound, with a particularly wrathful chorus and an extra large bass drum ushering in the judgment day.

Tickets are still available and priced at a number of levels ($10, $15, $20, and $25). You can purchase tickets online, by phone (608-258-4141), or at the Overture Center box office.


I was of two minds about even linking this, but here are my thoughts:

Yes, this is a collection of ridiculous, dated photos. Glamour Shots and it's ilk had/have some very silly things going on. As a photographer who really strives to capture my subjects in the best possible way, this hurts my aesthetic sensibilities.

And yet, the mockery of the photos was also a mockery of the women in them. I don't know them, maybe some of them are/were genuinely mock-worthy people. But neither do the people doing the mocking. It may be just a random collection of silly pictures to them, but each one is a photo of an individual woman, who may very see this (or someone who knows her might.) What did they do that deserved to be mocked? Try to live up to society's demand for feminine beauty...for glamour...and fail. Shame! Point them out and let them know how stupid they look.

This collection is mean-spirited and cruel. I'll bet many of the women (and girls) in those photos went to have their portraits taken so they could look at the image and feel pretty, something that the world around them went out of its way to deny them on a regular basis. If your beauty doesn't completely conform to the basis of what society is celebrating that minute, someone is always going to tell you how you need to improve. You hair is too flat, too mousy. You need to lose a few pounds. Your boobs should be bigger. Your teeth are crooked. You're too old.

So you go to the place that promises to make you look like a model. They do your hair, they do your makeup, they give you something to wear. They make sure you have fun. Now, the photo stores in the mall probably aren't employing the best hair and make-up people, the top-notch photographers. They are hiring folks for a little bit above minimum wage and then instructing them to sell, sell, and up-sell. They get a small wardrobe to work with, and a set of poses they like (it saves a lot of time). Which means you get some silly end results. But I'll bet that most of the women looked at the photo they got and felt happy, felt pretty, even if just for a little while. Until society started reminding them how much they fail at looking like an ideal. How plain, how fat, how old, how silly.

And then we come along, a decade or so later, to point and laugh at their aspirations to glamour.

Good job, internet. Good job.



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