Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two View Movie Review: Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a delectable, computer-animated story about Remy the rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt,) who, unlike his brethren, aspires for fine dining & gourmet cooking. After getting lost in Paris, Remy comes across his deceased cooking idol's restaurant. There, he meets Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano,) a hopeless kitchen cleaner who desperately needs the job. Linguini learns that Remy can cook & the two strike a deal: since a rat can't be in the kitchen & Linguini is a bad cook, Remy stays under Linguini's chef hat & controls him using Linguini's hairs like strings on a marionette. Instantly, Linguini is the new talk of the town, but there is trouble. Skinner (Ian Holm), the owner of the restaurant, learns that Linguini is the illegitimate son of Auguste Gusteau, the founder of the restaurant. This would make Linguini owner of the Gusteau brand & Skinner believes that Linguini is going for a power struggle (but Linguini doesn't have any knowledge of this.) Also, food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole), has it out for Gusteau's restaurant, as he deemed the place as part of "the tourist train," & Ego's previous poor review may have been the cause of Gusteau's death.

Ratatouille is Pixar Animation Studios' eighth full-length feature & the second to be directed by Brad Bird & I would say is one of their best. The computer artist recreated Paris with a fine detail, including the rest of the mise-en-scène of the film, except for the characters, which contain cartoony proportions that display their personality: Linguini is lanky & awkward, Skinner is diminutive & petty, & Ego is pencil thin, because he only shallows food if he loves it. The visuals are top notch & are a feast for the eyes.

Bird has created a perfect family film, because it is for the whole family. Kids will like it because of the physical comedy & action sequence, which Bird is an expert at choreographing. Older viewers will enjoy the biting, witty dialogue & the themes explored in the film, which includes regular family film themes like overcoming social status & following your dreams, but also include pretension in the critical community & animal rights. One part that I enjoyed was the shifting notion in the film that "anyone can cook," as many characters have changing & varied thoughts on that maxim.

What is great about Ratatouille is that it doesn't talk down to the viewer, whether it's a child or an adult. It's a light-hearted, well written comedy that doesn't go for explosions; it is subtle, yet savory, like a great dish. This is a love letter to food, the French, & maybe, rodents.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Paradise Parking by Peter Lippmann

I'm inspired to write this post because one, Arthur Jaffe's car show project comes to an end March 23rd, when vintage cars will be displayed on FAU's new football stadium; & two, cars decaying in nature is a fascination I didn't know I had. It's beautiful to see them deteriorate & be broken down to the simple minerals that these cars started as & is a good example of nature vs. industry. Photographer Peter Lippmann traveled around in search of these deserted cars, which brings up questions like how the cars ended up there, but these abandoned car photos bring up feelings of nostalgia & either triumph or defeat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Center Paige: Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood) was created by the legendary illustrator, Warja Lavater. The book is accordion bound between maroon linen covered boards. It was created in 1965 & is executed in original color lithography. The first page features a key in French, German, English & Japanese that explains the symbols in the book. The red dot represents Little Red Riding Hood, the black dot represents the wolf, etc., and that is the only text in the book. The symbols tell the story.

Presenting a story with symbols makes the storytelling universal. Even if one doesn't speak the four languages in the key, if they know the story of Little Red Riding Hood then they would understand the book. The method makes for an artistic & dynamic recreation, particularly during the part of the story when the woodsman kills the wolf; the wolf explodes like lava shooting out of a volcano. The book can be unfolded & stretched out & viewed like one piece of art.

The book is an interesting study in semiotics & symbols. We, as a culture, know the story of Little Red Riding Hood & we see the symbols in the book & by elimination & combination, can flesh out the narrative. The symbols allow interpretation, giving the reader the chance to create their own dialogue & motivation.

Lavater created many books like this about fairy tales & there are a number of them here at the Center. These books were sold at gift shops in museums, like the Louvre, & they allowed people to have a little pieces of art in their hands for about $15. These books may have inspired many future art aficionados & collectors.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Graphic Novel of the Month: Batman: Hush Unwrapped

Batman, "The Dark Knight" & "Caped Crusader" of Gotham City, has a stalker who is teaching his old enemies new tricks. Villains like Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, & The Joker pop-up, all refurbished in different way & Batman knows that someone is helping them out, who is a wrapped stranger who goes by the name "Hush". Feeling this constant shadow, Batman begins to reevaluate his relationship with those closest to him, including his sidekick, Robin; his ex-sidekick, Nightwing; his friend, Superman; & the anti-hero, Catwoman. Batman & Catwoman's relationship begins picking up some heat, but Batman can't help but feel that their new romantic feelings appeared the same time that Hush began lurking around.

Batman: Hush Unwrapped is the same story created by comic superstar creators Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee, which was Batman: Hush, but this Unwrapped version contains only Lee pencil drawings with no inking or coloring, except for the sound effects & Batman's internal dialogue. These raw drawings show off Lee's incredible talent. They are detailed, clean & kinetic. Critics may not like his mainstream approach to his characters that contain unrealistic anatomy for both female & male characters, but Lee is the best of the blockbuster artists. He tries his hand with painting with great results at times during Hush, & his splash pages are particularly noteworthy.

Loeb is known for his work with Batman, writing the best-selling Batman: The Long Halloween & Batman: The Dark Victory. Hush is similar to his other Batman stories; they contain a large array of characters from the Batman mythology with a mysterious enemy in the background. This allows staple characters to react in new ways not thought of in the past. Loeb takes advantage of what the Batman character does best: be a detective. Batman is constantly pondering, as is the reader. The mystery is real & the threat is ever growing, while the character relationships are believable. The interactions between Batman & Catwoman are my favorite parts of the novel.

This is a fantastic collaboration that resulted in one of Batman's most torturous stories, both physically & psychologically. If you're a Batman fan or just a fan of superhero comics, this is a must read & non-superhero comic readers should pick is up for its thrilling style & mystery.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Packing Tape Portraits

Max Zorn is an artist that uses packing tape as his medium & he decides to recreate people with this form. It is done with meticulous layering & cutting away & I'm sure it is not an easy medium to work with, as anyone who has tried to tape up a package knows that tape is a pain. But, Zorn has a great eye & great patience & his pictures are surprisingly photo-realistic. And while it seems like using tape is a waste & pictures could be done in a different manner, I respond to the dark browns & golds that are created from the tape. Let's hope we see more from tapework & Max Zorn.