Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Musical Ending!

Our vacation will be over soon; Payam* has already left and Leva and Vahid are leaving the East Coast to get back to the golden state tomorrow.** Besides our frequent visits to the New York City, we went to Washington DC and Philadelphia. In our city tours while trying to stick mostly to arts, we often ate the street food, which suited both our pocket and taste.

We spent the evening in Broadway last night; we saw the Phantom of the Opera. It filled our eyes and ears with its glorious set and music. The Phantom of the Opera in Majestic Theater is in its seventeenth year. I read Susan Kay’s novel, Phantom (1990 - translated to Farsi by Maliheh Mohammadi in 1998). Kay’s novel is based on Gaston Leroux novel of 1910. I should say that I like Kay's novel more than Gaston Leroux’s book. In Kay’s Phantom we follow Erik’s life in memories of different characters and we go as back as his birth. I like this collective style in which a specific event, Erik’s life here, is told from various points of view. But this was not the narrative style in last night’s musical; The Phantom of the Opera was based on the straight style of Gaston Leroux, starting in the Opera House enchanted by the ghost and ending by the phantom's disappearance.

Speaking of Broadway musicals in April I went to see another Tony Award-winning musical, Spring Awakening. A sophisticated rock musical, Spring Awakening, is composed by Ducan Sheik and written by Steven Sater. The story is based on Frank Wedekind’s play about a group of teenagers and their attempt in breaking the limits of their sexual freedom.

The 1925 poster for The Phantom of The Opera

* I wish Payam had stayed for a couple of more days, so we could see the Phantom together.
** I've already started missing them!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Metropolis In View

I have my friends over here from the West Coast and their company is an excuse for me to re-explore the big apple. Today we started from the Statue of Liberty and we ended up on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we visited Koons’ exhibition, Jeff Koons On The Roof. I also quickly went through the special exhibition on the first floor of the MET, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy. I will write more about these two exhibitions.

I will put an experimental plan for Tameshk’s interactive film club here soon, but in the meantime check out these two: one is Death in Gaza (2004) an upsettingly potent documentary by James Miller and Saira Shah about the lives of children in the Gaza Strip which ends up with the death of the director, James Miller. And the other is Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) a mystery-thriller directed by Otto Preminger; he is a genius. I loved the movie. Apparently there is going to be a reproduction of Bunny Lake Is Missing (2009) by Joe Carnahan. But don't miss the Preminger film.

Also my two page article, Qajar Paintings: Royal Portraits, was published in Peyk newsletter, May & June 2008 (English section). Bahar Sarkash's article, Islamic Art?, was also published in the same issue. These articles and many more are now available on the English section of Peyk 115 here as pdf.

And last but not least: This week is Shirzanan's first year anniversary. It is an online weakly magazine and the first that exclusively covers women’s sports in Iran. I help with their English page (since September 2007). Read more about Shirzanan here on Wikipedia. Happy Birthday Shirzanan!

The Metropolis in view, Self Portrait on Met's Roof, New York, May 2008
Balloon Dog(detail), Jeff Koons, 1994-2000

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Movie Buzz!

Movie Reviews (Part-1):

You have probably noticed by now that I have many posts on films and cinema in general. I always wanted to make them more organized. For the start I decided to give two posts each month specifically to movie reviews; one of the posts will be short reviews of Newly Released films and the other one will be a review of older films that I regularly see on DVD. This is also a start point for Tameshk's interactive Film Club. (Let me know if you like to join!)

Recently Released:

Iron Man (2008): A Must See movie directed by Jon Favreau, who among other films also directed Elf in 2003. This action supper hero adventure is not like other super-heroic characters out of comic books; Unlike many other super heroes Iron Man does not get its power from a mysterious source or from a science experiment-going-wrong, Iron Man consciously built its super heroic power. It is an Iron shield that enables him to fly by using a small reactor. Iron Man is the supper hero of engineers; he is a genius inventor whose lifetime achievement was producing elaborate and efficient arms and weapons; But not any more. The plot is very well written (more than 7 people worked on the screenplay and the development of characters) and the movie ends beautifully. Every single shot of this 126 min film is worth it. and who doesn't love Robert Downey as Tony Stark & Iron Man. I hope you get to see it on the big screen. My vote is A for Iron Man.

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher, 2007) directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky is the story of the largest counterfeiting plot in history that was set up by Nazis in the late 30’s. The Counterfeiters portrays the inside story of a group of prisoners (professionals and criminals) who are forced to produce fake foreign currency under the program Operation Berhard by Nazi regime. Karl Markovics’ brilliant performance as Salomon Sorowitsch (Sally) has such a grip on the viewer that he or she doesn’t need to know German to understand his character. Unlike many other World War II films The Counterfeiters is more than anything is the story of survival rather than resistance: survival of the fellow prisoners survival of self and survival of the Nazi regime. Yet at the end one easily comes to agreement with Sally, that under any dictatorship surviving is the most powerful resistance. Don’t let the foreign language scare you; it is very easy to follow the English subtitle. My vote is A- for The Counterfeiters.

The Bank Job (2008) is not actually this month’s movie but I have seen it recently. A crime-thriller directed by Roger Donaldson who also directed Cocktail (1988) and The World's Fastest Indian (2005), Bank Job is based on the true story of Baker Street bank robbery in 1971. One of the biggest bank robberies in Great Britain which was never solved or better say never told for over 30 years, only to cover a robbery ordered by government. It is well directed and despite its straight story Bank Job remains exciting throughout the film: a bank robbery plot that has a complex conclusion for its engaging criminals. It is an entertaining B+ film. For me the only thing that is bothersome is the ending sequence and David Suchet’s (Lew Vogel) physical struggle with Jason Statham (Terry leather). (David Suchet played Detective Hercule Poirot in my favorite Agatha Christie series)

Baby Mama (2008) directed by Michael McCullers is a disaster. I don’t want to be hard on a first time director but no matter how much I try, the nicest way to say it is that Baby Mama is a terrible comedy with a bad story. The movie is a proof that a bunch of great and funny SNL actresses cannot save a movie that has a terrible story. The movie tries to touch on the life of a single successful businesswoman and the issues regarding surrogacy and it fails heavily. I am really glad that they had Romany Malco (Oscarr) there otherwise my face even wouldn’t have that one smile during the film. My vote is C- for Baby Mama.

Forgetting Sara Marshall (2008) directed by Nicholas Stoller is a very funny romantic comedy. The movie is a success especially since it is Stoller's first directing experience. Walking on the tin edge of relationship, sex and betrayal Forgetting Sara Marshall easily escapes from being cheesy. The movie benefits form the strong performances by Kristen Bell and Jason Segel. I am definitely looking forward to Stoller’s second film: Get Him To Greek. My vote is B+ for Forgetting Sara Marshall.

I very much want to see The Visitor (2008) directed by Tom McCarthy. I hope to find some time soon. And the film that I am not going to see on the big screen is Sex & The City (2008); I think it is only wiser to get it from Netflix; I don't mind at all to wait for it.

Robert Downey, Iron Man 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More On Design & The Elastic Mind

Charlie Rose Program on Design and the Elastic Mind @ MOMA:

This is a postscript* entry for the second part of my previous post, where I wrote about MOMA's exhibition, Design and the Elastic Mind. You will find this interview helpful if you are looking for a shortcut to understand how new developments in science and digital technology has affected the modern design and transformed today's art world. This interview is very important, so I decided to put it here as a separate post:

* PS. Charlie Rose & Design and the Elastic Mind, is an interview with Paola Antonelli, the senior curator at the Department of Architecture and Design at MOMA . This is a great interview, not only because it is one of Charlie Rose's interviews but also because it will give you the heads up in understanding the main idea behind technological based art exhibitions such as Design and the Elastic Mind. I just watched it today (May 8th 2008) on channel Thirteen.

Design and the Elastic Minde,
Catalogue Cover

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

When Art Gets You By Surprise!

The art exhibitions I visit weekly in New York, are not always planned; although often I go to New York knowing which art exhibitions to go to, how much time to spend there and what to do next, many times I get to see exhibitions just by chance and purely unintentional.

Couple of weeks ago I experienced another coincidental art visit, thanks to Pope Benedict XVI. Because of the papal visit, some streets were either closed or overwhelmingly crowded. That led us to the 63rd Street, where we came upon Illustrators 50 Annual Exhibition in The Society of Illustrators. It was an interesting visit, I don’t know if that show is still on but I know the Society of Illustrators has a permanent collection and interesting exhibitions from time to time. I really liked the works by Sterling Hundley and Chris Buzelli; Hundley won the Gold award in the Advertising category and Buzelli won the Gold award in the Institutional category.

What is Illustration and what is the difference between an illustration and say a painting; I can say that an illustration usually accompanies a written text to both decorate the text and make the understanding of the text easier. An illustration is usually a figurative drawing or painting, in which the subject matter is usually more important than the form. You can read more about the origins of Illustration in America here.

More Surprising:

Ever heard of a leather coat that lived through an art exhibition and then died: Victimless Leather, one of the pieces in the “Design and the Elastic Mind” * exhibition at the MOMA was a tiny coat made up of embryonic stem cells taken from mice. The coat grew so big that it died 5 weeks into the exhibition. The Victimless Leather is part of a project called Tissue Culture and Art founded and developed by artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr. This piece was not as victimless as its title suggests; there was a dead coat at the end. Read more in The Art Newspaper! The Design and Elastic Mind exhibition will be up at MOMA until May 12. Although there will be no coat, there are other fun pieces to inhale.

Genetic Adjustment, By Chris Buzelli
Gene therapy offers hope to kids with Muscular Dystrophy

Mother of Pearl, by Sterling Hundley

* PS. Charlie Rose & Design and the Elastic Mind, is an interview with Paola Antonelli, the senior curator at the Department of Architecture and Design at MOMA . This is a great interview, not only because it is one of Charlie Rose's interviews but also because it will give you the heads up in understanding the main idea behind technological based art exhibitions such as Design and the Elastic Mind. I just watched this today (May 8th 2008) on channel Thirteen.