Saturday, April 19, 2008

Heatley redesigns world currency

Same issue of The New Yorker has a full-page illustration by current Fanta-darling David Heatley. Essentially is a page filled with Heatley’s own colorful interpretations of various world currencies. The center stage is taken by a US twenty dollar bill (ya’ll) in which we see a seriously fretting and sweating Andrew Jackson with the words "Federal Disaster" on the top border, “The Precarious State of America, Please Don’t Take My House" and on the seal, "In Greenspan We Trusted," Signed by GWB.
An Iraqi denomination shows a Mullah with an eyepatch and read “When are you people leaving?”
A North Korean one shows a portrait of Kim Jong Il with the saying "Pay Attention To me."
A Jamaican coin features Bob Marley’s image and a quote from Redemption Song "Have no fear of atomic energy because nothing can stop the time.”
A Chinese bill shows a red dragon desperately spraying air freshener to stem the pollution before the Olympics and a mention of sweat shops. (Note: China has 12 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, and with the exception of Cairo and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the rest are in India).
A Euro is emblazoned with “The official currency of Jay-Z videos.”
And an Indian rupee shows Ghandi as a computer support specialist fielding a call with “Thank you for calling” and “How may I help You.”

Rest in Peace: Anthony Minghella

Saddened by the sudden death of Anthony Minghella. I really liked “The English Patient” when it came out, as much for it’s exquisite, sweeping David Lean-inspired shots of the desert as the fine performances of Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Naveen Andrews (who happily reappearedplaying an Iraqi no less, years later in “Lost) and the always wonky Willem DaFoe.

One wag said online that it was a glorified J. Peterman ad, which is kind of funny
but not fair. For one, it’s a period piece and people did dress that way and Fiennes character and sultry Kristen Scott Thomas playing his lover, were both educated and upper crust and only wearing clothing appropriate to the desert. Additionally compare The English Patient to a another desert set-film adapted from a novel and about a adventure-seeking but troubled couple played by John Malkovich and Debra Winger); Bernardo Bertolucci’s version of The Sheltering Sky. I like Bertolucci even though his films often seem awkwardly-paced and uneven, but The Last Emperor and his more recent The Dreamers have plenty to recommend them (and not just Joan Chen sucking toes in the former and Eva Green’s copious nudity in the latter). But The Sheltering Sky is mostly terrible. The dialogue is read so stiffly it feels far more like a stage production by a middling theatrical group than a major film by an acclaimed director and cast. For his part, Malkovich is as oddly affecting (and affected) as usual and does a solid job. As slightly oddball, scene-chewing actors go, he and the lower-key DaFoe are quite comparable and rarely dull (Being Willem DaFoe may make an even stranger film than Being John Malkovich, if only it were directed by Science of Sleep; but either would hold a candle of eccentricity to Being Crispin Glover by Harmony Korine). But aside from Malkovich the cast is wooden and Winger in particular proves that she cannot act. She’s mostly terrible in the role. Particularly disappointing because Paul Bowles is one of my favorite fiction writers ever, although I much prefer his short stories, and the film doesn’t in any way grasp the cold, almost alien and unsentimental tone of Bowles prose. Surprising since Bowles not only appears in the film but apparently overdubs a few passages from his book (which don’t work very well either). Anyway, were Bertolucci fails mostly miserably in his adaptation, Minghella’s screenplay and dirction for The English Patient had few false notes, excellent acting across the board, and spotless dialogue. It was warm and sentimental while still being cool and detached (the very definition of Fiennes, who after this and Schindler’s List and Quiz Show, seemed poised to be a peer of Daniel Day-Lewis).
Minghella also brilliantly pieced together The Talented Mr. Ripley bringing Jude Law to light and adding another layer to Matt Damon.
And I liked Cold Mountain also even though I struggle to see anything that features Renee Zellweger’s pruny, lemon-sucking visage; Jack White (Stripes) was quite good in his small role and the mountains of Romania subbing for the unspoiled forests of southern US mostly worked.

Gargoyle sculpting is kidstuff

From New York magazine: The Salvadori Center hosts a kid-friendly architectural tour followed by hands-on gargoyle making. Apparently the center which is located on site of the City College of New York, has roughly 600 gargoyle sculptures dotting the nearby cityscape, and will allow artistic little moppets to create their own monstrosities from clay. . While other cities and towns in the hinterland do no more to stimulate their kiddies than make handprints on paper and hold eating contests in effort to breed even fatter and more gluttonous future generations, NYC enfants terrible are crafting stone totems to ward of evil spirits. I say tres cool.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Frazetta's 80th birthday

I meant to post this back in February (when it was still relevant...what's that about the "immediacy" of the net?), but Frank Frazetta celebrated his 80th birthday a few months back.
British arts magazine ImagineFX printed an entire issue as tribute to Frazetta (on stands now) complete with drawn tributes from 80-artists (some decidedly better than others); a short overview of Frazetta's career by Spectrum's Arnie Fenner who notes that a Frazetta original has sold for $250,000.

Growing up I remember Frazetta's art being ubiquitous on ominous Molly Hatchet album covers (Frazetta's reknown "Death Dealer" painting) that spawned a thousand lesser imitators (Vallejo anyone?). In high school I remember the handsomest guy in school, Robbie Owens, drawing a nude that made the girls swoon (even more) and passing it off as his own original. Only I recognized it as an exact ripoff of a Frazetta nude but lacked the nerve to say anything.

Frazetta is an equal opportunity sensualist as his male and female figures are potently sexual in equal measures; the artist genuinely relishes drawing the human body regardless of gender.

Frazetta can hardly be blamed for having inspired generations of lesser artists who have appropriated Frazetta's trademark obsessions while lacking his blend of unassailable skill with anatomy, composition, and lighting. Thus the ugly steroidal barbarians and buxom women in fur loincloths that adorn so many tacky fantasy novels at your local bookstore, may be the unintended progeny of Frazetta's style, but they are not his responsibility.

BAKSHI: Truly, completely...Crumby

It seems a strange coincidence that I was just reading the aforementioned R. Crumb: Conversations in which in many of the early interviews Crumb expresses much consternation over Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of Fritz The Cat. Of course Crumb’s disgust with the animated version of his work (which led him to subsequently kill off the character in protest) is nothing new, but I really haven’t heard much of Bakshi in decades. But just out is a new book Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi, noted in the latest Entertainment Weekly alongside what else, an image of Fritz The Cat. I think it’s safe to say that the foreword is not by R. Crumb (no, but it is by Quentin Tarantino).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Raise your hand if you like orgasms

Paul Pope is the cover boy of the latest issue of High Fructose (which is trying to assume the "ugly art" mantle mostly vacated by Juxtapose, Pope's work being a notable exception, of course). Typical of these magazines, there are some beautiful examples of Pope's art accompanying a sparsely-worded interview. But that doesn't negate a few juicy quotes.

When asked apropos of nothing, whether at age 70, if he will be a "dirty old man, Pope's response:

"Will I be a man who loves beautiful women and who will love to have orgasms and make love? Will I be a sensualist who will love to eat and fuck and listen to music and drink good wine and embrace snow and sunsets? Yes..."

Well spoken, well said.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

AppleSoft Comics: Computer giants get into publishing in a big way!

Maybe it's just a blip in the mainstream press but it's huge news in the comics medium. Apple and Microsoft may be cats and dogs when it comes to computer software, but they're jumping into bed together to form AppleSoft GNP, a publishing arm that based on resources alone will immediately be the largest publisher of comics and graphic novels in the world. The GNP by the way stands for Graphic Novel Publishing while also cleverly alluding to the more well known use for that abbreviation, Gross National Product; appropriate since these two behemoths share worth that dwarfs that of many small countries GNP's.

Apple spokesperson Lori Flapos had this to say about the massive, albeit fledgling, venture:

"AppleSoft is essentially a pooling of resources by both companies in a highly collaborative realm to further the exciting medium of visual storytelling and graphic novels. AppleSoft recognizes the huge impact that comics have had on the film industry and multimedia gaming and merchandising from a commercial and creative standpoint. We also recognize the tremendous artistic contribution and potential and we are very excited to play a part in helping advance this artform we all love and respect. "

In a press release Applesoft suggested that it will not be tentative or glacial in it's movement into comics publishing, but plans a large, wide-ranging and longterm approach.

Flapos says: "AppleSoft has every intention of publishing established authors in the field, but also searching out and nurturing nascent talents. We are very interested in independent creators and unique voices. We will be seeking a viable synergy between publishing high quality commercial projects and less commercial but artistically worthy books, and both will be given equal priority and attention within our editorship. We have already established a mission statement of sorts and that will include paying the highest royalties, ancillary rights, and exceeding production standards for all of our creative collaborators."

But why would either company be interested in the antiquated and fading medium of print when both feature high-tech portable multimedia devices in iPod and Zune and Apple has previously released it's eBook reader?

Flapos: While AppleSoft is certainly always eyeing advancing technologies and ways to make people's lives oth simpler and more entertaining, we are all committed to print publishing and think that no handheld devices can ever entirely replace the tactile sensations and pleasures of reading a printed book. Of course all of the graphic novels we publish will be available on iTunes and open source to both iPod and Zune. But we find that graphic novels in particular are more suited to larger, less portable screens, because such a huge enjoyment aspect comes from viewing the art in a format as large as intended.

Flapos would not go into details as to flagship artists for the company or any specific projects in the works but did let slip this: Suffice to say AppleSoft plans on bringing the same level of energy, innovation an creativity that both companies are known for individually. We fully expect to turn the comics medium as we know it on it's head, but in the most exciting and stimulating fashion possible.

It is well-known that Apple CEO Steve Jobs enjoyed reading comics as a kid, and former Microsoft overlord and primary shareholder, Bill Gates was himself a comic geek (although computers proved infinitely more profitable) who professed his love for The Flash and slight dismay that more wasn't done with the character on the Canadian TV show The Anti-Gravity Room (couldn't locate the exact ep.).

It's unknown what impact AppleSoft will have on the current, relatively stable comics industry as we know it, but it's a safe assumption that Marvel and DC are already shuddering at the sight of the new hi-tech and unimaginably well-heeled 800lb gorilla in the room.