June 6, 2016

Caillebotte's Pyramid

Here's a photo of architect I.M. Pei's glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris.

photo:Mark Pimlott

Here's Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte's Paris: Rainy Day, 1877.

Now squint.

Art Institute of Chicago
 Do you see any similarities? I was looking at this from a distance and absent-mindedly wondered what Caillebotte was doing with a pyramid in the background of his famous picture. If one looks at the intersections of the grands boulevards in Paris, pyramids like this are seen on many street corners, like the intersection of rue de Turin and rue de Moscou where this picture was supposedly painted. Of course it all depends on perspective and where you are standing at the time.

With all these "pyramids" in Paris, maybe I.M. Pei's glass example  at the Louvre is easier to understand.

May 30, 2016

Georges Méliès - The Inspiration for HUGO

Scene from Hugo, Paramount Pictures
 I first posted this story 2 years ago. I've just returned from seeing Martin Scorsese's Hugo and I hadn't realized that the film was so closely tied with the story of the real Georges Méliès. Here's a synopsis of Méliès life. Please enjoy the accompanying films. 
Many of us have seen a clip of the ancient film where the poor Man in the Moon gets smacked in the face by a rocket. Georges Méliès, born in Paris in 1861 is responsible for that early film and as a film maker Méliès was the first to utilize cinema's potential to tell magical stories.

Méliès was an illusionist by trade. Before making films he was a stage magician at the Theatre Robert-Houdin (how wonderful).

In 1895, after seeing a demonstration of the Lumière brothers' camera, he became interested in film. Two years later he established his own studio.

From his rooftop property in Montreuil, Méliès directed 531 films ranging from 1 minute in length to 40 minutes. These early films are similar to the magic tricks that Méliès had been performing on stage featuring disappearing objects or people. Despite this, Georges Méliès revolutionized early cinema. Although many of Méliès’s early films were devoid of plot, his special effects and storyboards became fundamental aspects of filmmaking. His films were even pirated!

He wrote, directed and acted in nearly all of his films. His most widely-known film is 1902’s A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la Lune) includes the celebrated scene mentioned above in which the rocket-ship hits the Man in the Moon.

However, Méliès, the poor guy, could not compete with the larger studios like Pathé (who eventually bought him out) and he spent his last years selling toys in a boutique in Paris’s Montparnasse train station.

Méliès did not grasp the value of his films, and he allowed most of his film stock to be melted down into boot heels during World War I. Many of his films were recycled into new film and as a result much of his legacy does not exist today. Luckily, a copy of Méliès's 1899 short film Cleopatra, believed to be lost, was discovered in Paris in 2005.

The importance of his work was recognized in the years prior to his death. In 1932 the Cinema Society gave Méliès a home in Château d'Orly where he died in 1938.
Please enjoy these Méliès videos found on Youtube.


February 27, 2016

This Joke Has Gone on Too Long.

If I have any American readers left please share this. The Globe and Mail's Marsha Lederman encapsulates what I'm thinking. This is no joke - shake your head and pay attention.


Celebrity culture has a lot to answer for, namely, a certain Donald Trump
MARSHA LEDERMAN The Globe and Mail Published Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 5:31PM EST

It may feel like the end of the world – it may well be the end of the world – but Donald Trump’s campaign of idiocy has sure made for some great TV. The scandalous sound bites. The outrageous attacks. The insults. The quips. The screaming, often misspelled, tweets. The offhand lines that become instant memes.

“I love the poorly educated!”

With Mr. Trump at the podium, it’s always a good show. If the stakes weren’t so high, you might even call it a comedy – no laugh track required.

Then again, if you wrote this script, you’d be laughed out of the boardroom. A clown like this? Taken seriously? Actually in reach of the U.S. presidency? Nobody’s gonna buy a premise like that, kid. You’re fired.

Donald Trump’s exaggerated, self-satisfied, not-always-metaphorical chest-beating has made for great television. It’s like some hot new reality-TV concept – complete with the dramatic, over-the-top back-stabbing and meanness.

But this is reality; not reality TV. And this is horror, not comedy. Imagine if this man – rash, unpredictable, maniacal – were elected to lead the world’s most influential superpower. Imagine if it were Mr. Trump responsible for dictating foreign policy. Imagine if it were his privileged finger on the button.

In trying to wrap your head around the unthinkable, that this man with his bullying buffoonery could be the U.S. president, it’s impossible to discount the power of celebrity and how it has helped elevate him to this truly unbelievable position.

Mr. Trump has taken the business he knows so well – show business – and made it work for him on the campaign trail, so that even when he’s making vile comments or making no sense, he ends up winning, winning, winning.

Mr. Obama promised hope; Mr. Trump offers hate. And everybody’s talking about it.

There is an entertainment factor to Mr. Trump’s rise – the crazed speeches, the loud debate domination, the Twitter wars. Maybe it seemed kind of funny at first, but there is absolutely nothing laughable about a guy who has suggested Mexicans are rapists bringing drugs and crime to America or that Muslims be barred from the United States. And yet we joke. We can’t help it; what else are we to do? It’s a power trainwreck unlike anything U.S. politics has seen before.

“Saturday Night Live couldn’t make up material this good,” celebrity gossip magazine US Weekly wrote. And from Yahoo News after Thursday’s debate: “The 10th Republican presidential debate was a good show, as it always is with Donald Trump on the stage.”

It’s a show, a spectacle; to appropriate a term from one of Mr. Trump’s lines of business, it’s an ugly pageant.

Mr. Trump’s rise is about more than name recognition and viral video clips, but his celebrity-fuelled head start and ability to command attention have surely been a factor. Somehow, with his offensive, out-there one-liners he has managed to dominate the conversation in this all-important race.

During Thursday night’s debate, as one of the moderators began to address Mr. Trump, he protested, “Every single question comes to me? I know I’m here for the ratings, but it’s a little bit ridiculous.”

You want ridiculous? The fact that, oh my God, this guy could be president. Or at least the Republican nominee – especially now with New Jersey Governor and former candidate Chris Christie’s endorsement.

Mr. Trump may be a joke, but this isn’t.

This is the age of the celebrity. We are bombarded with the most banal information about people who perform for a living. The Kim Kardashianizing of our culture is not inconsistent with Mr. Trump’s elevation.

Andy Warhol, fascinated with celebrity worship, promised (famously) that in the future, everybody would be famous for 15 minutes. Oh, if it were only 15 minutes of fame for Mr. Trump. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they were just about up?

This Sunday, people will gather round their televisions to listen to inane red-carpet chit chat between entertainment journalists and movie stars wearing borrowed jewels during the Academy Awards pre-show. Then, during the Oscar ceremony, we’ll hear the winning actors speak with great gravity about their craft, the bravery of what they do. Perhaps it will be Brie Larson going to the darkest places for her remarkable performance in Room, or Leonardo DiCaprio weathering harsh conditions in Alberta while filming The Revenant.

I love the Oscars, but I can think of a long list of things that take more courage than being a movie star.

Celebrities can use their powers for good. And many do – bringing awareness and a certain glamour to causes that are close to their hearts and might otherwise fall under the radar. Sure, we roll our eyes at this sometimes, but I think there is a real benefit to bringing these messages to the masses.

Perhaps on Sunday, ahead of Super Tuesday, these celebrities can do some grandstanding for the greater good and talk some sense into America. Thank their agent and makeup artist, sure, but before they get played off, maybe show some acceptance-speech bravery and put a word in for the future of their country (and the world, dare I add). If celebrity culture can contribute to the rise of a Donald Trump, perhaps it can help take him out too.