Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comic #4

AlRIGHT! I'm now on the Spec Opinion website front page. Always a good sign.

I suck, yes, but considerably less so than others. That's certainly a success for THIS 40% Slytherin! Boo-yah.

Yes, I am the rightmost girl. I own that shirt, I have that haircut, and I made all 3 of those arguments about the movie 9 on my trainride home.

And if anybody cares, I don't pencil in outlines before I draw them, which is 100% due to laziness and results in pretty shoddy draftsmanship. Thank god for White Out.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Coco Avant Chanel

Saw the film "Coco Avant Chanel" (Coco Before Chanel) today. Opening day. Let's just say my friends and I were very excited.

I won't go into great detail here, but I quite enjoyed it. Even if it was produced by the same people as the atrocious (and fictitious) Jane Austen biopic "Becoming Jane." The target audience here is obviously appreciative of fashion and beauty, and there was much to swoon over in the Chanel film. I found myself literally driven breathless every time "Coco" (she was born Gabrielle Chanel) presented a new outfit... say, by cutting up and reworking her lover's suit. Breathtaking! I also liked how her fashion philosophy was linked to the modernist movement and women's liberation. Yet they didn't even mention her potential relationship with Igor Stravinsky, which I think is surprising.

Also Audrey Tatou, who plays the infamous Mademoiselle Chanel, is herself worthy of swooning over.

Coco Chanel. I love this woman. ONE DAY I will own a vintage Chanel jacket. One day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comic Pt 3

New comic up online on the Spec Website. Third in the series. Actually I had done one last week, but apparently it wasn't very good because they neglected to put it on the website.

Oh well. Moderately proud of this one. Literally taken verbatim from my Science of Psych class, and obviously from personal experience. This has happened to the vast majority of my Columbia friends. 95% at least.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paris (plus Juliette Binoche interview!)

So, unbeknownst to me, the Spectator published another film review of mine. For those who didn't know, I got to interview Juliette Binoche and Cedric Klapisch two weeks ago. It was a thrilling and frightening experience, and I can't wait for my next round-table interview. Although the stress of grad school applications might make the whole extracurricular business a tad more... difficult...

Article here

Also this title kind of stinks.

There are also a lot of things I could say about the film that I wasn't allowed to portray in the article. For example, it is VERY misogynistic, but this is only through an uber-liberal American perspective. Klapisch and Binoche did not see this aspect whatsoever. Also the last scene is ambiguous and actually kind of disturbing, and it probably was not meant to be... but of course I will leave you all to form your own opinions. On a scale of 1 to 100 I'd probably hover in the lower 70s, just because the cinematography was so outstanding (what else would you expect from the director of L'Auberge Espagnole?). I was nonetheless very affected by this movie, and its themes stuck with me for days, and days, and days... thus, I suppose, making the film successful, aesthetically-speaking. But this might be because its themes resonated so profoundly with my experiences this past summer (love, illness, family, friendship and whatnot, but especially that damned illness part).

Binoche and Klapisch explore the wonderful world of Paris

By Julia Alekseyeva

Published Thursday 17 September 2009 07:13pm EST.

The City of Light, The City of Love. Clichés about Paris are a dime a dozen. In his new film, “Paris,” director Cédric Klapisch (“The Spanish Apartment,” “Russian Dolls”) may embrace these clichés, but he uses them to his advantage. What results is an inspired film that ends up being as original as it can get.

Klapisch and his lead actress, Juliette Binoche, sat down at the French Embassy last week to discuss how he avoided clichés while keeping the magic of the city intact. “It’s an intellectual city, so we needed to have somebody who’s not an intellectual.... It’s a city of tourists, of fashion, of gastronomy ... I tried to incorporate those clichés into something that, at the end, is not cliché anymore.”

“Paris” examines the city through the perspective of one man. Pierre (Romain Duris) is a dancer who is waiting for a heart transplant, having been diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. After the diagnosis, he spends his time observing Paris through his window, imagining the lives of his eccentric and diverse neighbors, while growing closer to his sister (Binoche).

“Paris” attempts to capture the city as a locus of the French identity, rather than the home of any particular story. This desire, according to Klapisch, is the reason for the ensemble cast: “Just like a metro map, Paris is a network of interconnections.” The multiple stories are, in fact, so intertwined that it is impossible to delineate them, which gives “Paris” complexity while keeping the plot linear and comprehensible.

In fact, the tone of “Paris” is both joyous and celebratory—a far cry from the tearjerker its synopsis suggests. It exposes the amusing awkwardness inherent to all human relationships. In one scene, Elise attempts a striptease, but has trouble taking off her sneakers without falling over. “I was channeling Rita Hayworth,” Juliette Binoche explained, laughing. In another, a middle-aged man attempts to write a “sexy” text message but ends up appearing like an inept stalker.

Binoche and Klapisch stressed the elements of Paris-the-city rather than Paris-the-film. But because of the movie’s overemphasis on the city, some of the characters’ relationships seem forced, even ludicrous. Yet, it is hard not to fall in love with its dizzying cinematography. As he did in “The Spanish Apartment,” Klaspich employs sweeping zoom-ins and panoramic views, giving the viewer the impression of seeing all of Paris, both the grimy and the glamorous. “The bad things are as true as the beautiful things. I wanted to face that,” said Klapisch.

The music—a surprisingly cosmopolitan mix of jazz, hip hop, and rock—also suits the city. Everything enhances the film’s peculiar mix of joy and profound melancholy. One can argue that even the uncomfortable idiosyncrasies (such as slight misogyny and awkwardness) can make for an even more honest portrayal of so complex and magnificent a city. As Klapisch said, “People are ... uneasy. It’s part of the identity of Parisians … they are not happy people. I can see that in a positive way, that everything that is historical about Paris deals with revolt. We don’t accept things as they are.”

“Paris” opens today at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema located on Broadway between 61st and 62nd streets. Tickets cost $12.00.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver


How haunting is that line, "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves"... I get shivers every time I hear it.

Makes sense that Mary Oliver is one of the richest poets in the United States, no? Her and Billy Collins. At least somebody is successful, and by golly they've earned it.


And another poem:

Crater Lake

There was a war between good and evil.
We decided to call the body good.

That made death evil.
It turned the soul
against death completely.

Like a foot soldier wanting
to serve a great warrior, the soul
wanted to side with the body.

It turned against the dark,
against the forms of death
it recognized.

Where does the voice come from
that says suppose the war
is evil, that says

suppose the body did this to us,
made us afraid of love—

Louise Glück

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deerhoof at Le Poisson Rouge

How weird and wonderful! This past Tuesday the experimental band Deerhoof played a show at Le Poisson Rouge, a Greenwich Village venue that my friend tells me was created by a Columbia graduate. And what a venue! Le Poisson Rouge seems much smaller than it actually is, providing a deceptively intimate concert gathering. According to the site it "fits 250 fully seated, 700 fully standing, or any combination," but when I walked in I swore only 400 or so would fit on the GA floor. This is, by the way, a good thing. Also props to the venue for its red lights, good quality sound, and video projections displayed on screens behind each band. And the opening band, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, was fascinating... like Bjork or Portishead, but with stranger instruments, less electronic influences, and more drums.

I first heard Deerhoof my last year of high school, and they fascinated me. Probably because something about their music frightened me to the core. Listen to the eerie "Milk Man" and especially the song "Song of Sorn" and you'll see what I mean. I'm convinced that some cords are specifically made to physically grate on your hearing and perception of beauty. Deerhoof is certainly "noise rock," and holds little in common with all other indie rock. I'm not even sure it's indie, really, since lately the definition has come to mean a quieter folk/indie pop, rather than actually referring to an independent label.

My favorite songs of theirs actually blend the strange and the virtuosic. For example, listen to 81+ from Friend Opportunity. The last 2 minutes are simply a ridiculously catchy love song. Same goes for their latest single Fresh Born, out of Offend Maggie, or Giga Dance from Milk Man (still my favorite album of theirs, for reasons I don't really understand).

This was a damn good show, and not even because they played their "hits," or because I knew most of the songs. In actuality I knew about half, but the very fact that I enjoyed the songs I didn't know prove Deerhoof to be good performers. They pulled every gag and trick in the concert-giving book: costume changes! pretentious and adorable stage banter! friend found randomly in audience to play the drums for a song! artsy video projections! synchronized dance moves! not one, but TWO encores! props, such as a tiny stuffed penguin and a glow-in-the-dark basketball! all of the band members switching instruments! Sometimes all of these would occur within a single song.

Of course, this was all made better by the fact that I was practically front-and-center, except for a row of people with SLR's and Japanese groupies obsessed with lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki. (Actually a good number of Deerhoof's songs are sung in Japanese, and Satomi arrived fresh off the boat (theoretically speaking) in San Francisco when Deerhoof was being formed).

What a show, what a show.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Socialism and Healthcare

A fascinating article in the New York Times today, a kind of round-table gathering where leading intellectuals of the day discuss why "socialism" is being applied to Obama's recent health care plan, and why Americans so fervently (and, in my opinion, blindly) reject it.

Surprisingly, the part of this article I found most appealing were these words, written by no other than a conservative:

For conservatives, the battle cry is liberty. But for liberals, it’s equality. The former rests at the heart of capitalism and free markets, while the latter rests at the heart of socialism, government control and federal regulation.

This argument goes all the way back to de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, a favorite reading of mine, and a book I find at least 90% accurate, even nearly 200 years since its publication in the 19th century. Taken as an analogy, liberal: equality as conservative: liberty. (I will always lean on the side of equality. Even for someone who wrote a speech in praise of the 1st amendment in high school, I am even more a rampant supporter of "equality of opportunity") Yet seeing the healthcare debate in these black and white terms, however normally applicable, is utterly inhumane. If we are the children of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," what good is liberty without... life? When 18,000 lives a year (the approximate number who die each year of lack of health insurance) stand in the balance?

I love you Paul Krugman, and I agree, but something has to happen with this whole healthcare debacle... and, on a personal level, should my working class parents be penalized and virtually rendered destitute for the Soviet Union's mistake? Am I somehow to blame for an disease that I was (pretty much) born with, that racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills (no kidding) just over the last two months?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Millenium Actress, etc

I absolutely love this film. This isn't a review, it's a gushing flow of wonder and admiration. And no wonder: Director Satoshi Kon also made Paprika, a movie I love so dearly that I refuse to transport its poster across state lines, lest it gets creases.

Millenium Actress is the story of a great actress named Chiyoko Fujiwara. After 30 years in seclusion, two men find the elderly Chiyoko in order to film a documentary of her life. Her tale unfolds, and the two men are thrown, literally, into a film-version of her life. Soon, this becomes a mix of all of the films she has ever starred in. Fiction blends with reality, which veers into meta-fiction, while still steering clear of outright fantasy (this dubious line between fiction/reality, dream/awakedness is also explored in Paprika). It is a tale of reality as perceived by Chiyoko, and the exegesis of her rise to stardom. It is an animated homage to all of cinematic history. And of course, like nearly all captivating films, it is a story of love.

(I will never be able to stop loving anime)

And there is the phrase that the film repeats constantly, which I can't quite get out of my head: "I hate you more than I can bear. And I love you more than I can bear. You are destined to burn in the flames of eternal love."


On this whole "love" theme (but mostly randomly), I present: my new favorite John Ashbery poem, which I think is the most unusual love poem I have ever read, and thus the most beautiful.

The New Higher
By John Ashbery

You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.

Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Columbia & Its Discontents

My comic career? Nooooot quite starting off on the right foot. Pretty difficult stuff, actually. It's like learning to speak an entirely new language, even after years of being able to read it.

So now I have a weekly comic in the Spec, which isn't actually that impressive, seeing as it's a collegiate newspaper, but I suppose everybody (even talentless dilettantes such as myself) needs to start somewhere.

So here it is. The strip is called "Columbia & its Discontents," and the awkwardly self-conscious Columbia Core Curriculum pun (Freud, duhhh) seems to suit the paper. Really at this point it's an experiment in comic-drawing above all else. Although I was so embarrassed of the comic that I actually ran away (again, very awkwardly) before the editor got a chance to look at it. I think I'm not used to drawing in a more infantile style. Also those brush pens are damn hard to handle. Ed, how in the hell do you do it?!

As you can see I'm still shaky at this whole "surprise/bewildered" look. And the girl with the laptop in the 5th (?) panel-thing has a hand that looks like she's holding a cell phone and I'm not sure how to fix it. 15 years (no kidding) of art classes and I'm back at square 1.

One last note: I did not specifically want to do a "Columbia" theme but I figure it'd be easier to practice if I have a specific topic at hand. More direction usually produces better work (I'm hoping). Constructive criticisms always appreciated, but I won't promise not to cry in the corner.


Edit: So apparently people are liking the comic! You can even rate it at the website here. Starting next week it will come out every Tuesday in the Spectator.