Thursday, December 30, 2010

Somewhere & The Tempest

This being academy season, I get to view many of the new Oscar contender releases. I want to talk about two of them in today's Blog in order to tell my loyal readers to stay away.

The first one is "Somewhere" by Sofia Coppola. This film has a bit of history behind it, in as much as it won the grand prize Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this year. The scandal arose when Quentin Tarantino, the head of the jury and Sofia's ex-lover, awarded her the prize. But to compound to the fiasco, the film is one of the most boring films of the year.

The theme is about a Hollywood actor played by Stephen Dorff, who is bored by fame and by life and spends the whole film doing nothing. Now this is a theme she's covered in her two previous films, the wonderful "Lost in Translation" and the not so wonderful "Marie Antoinette". Fortunately, I was able to see it on DVD so I could fast forward the very long tedious parts – I give "Somewhere" a D.

Unfortunately, "The Tempest", by the embattled director Julie Taymor, was shown in a movie theater so I couldn't speed through the slow spots. How this film got money for financing, I do not know. With its Shakespearean verse – I was lucky if I could understand 2 words per sentence. It should have had subtitles. If one doesn't understand the dialogue, what's the point? And the visual effects and costumes, Ms. Taymor's forte, were incredibly cheesy.

The group I saw it with got into a heated argument about the costs of this ill-fated production. I guessed 2 million and another guessed 20 million – suffice to say, I lost.

How they're going to get people into the cinema to watch an indecipherable film, Helen Mirren notwithstanding, is beyond me. Unless her Broadway version of "Spiderman" is a super smash success, I can't see how she'll be able to make another film. I give "The Tempest" a D-.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Michael Klein..

Michael Klein paints with an unusual sensitivity toward nature”something he attributes to growing up in the Midwest" . After completing high school, Klein enrolled himself in numerous stringent atelier programs, dictated by the French tradition of painting. Later he left Minnesota and sought out the renowned painter Jacob Collins (the same teacher that my studio mate Tony Curanaj studied under)

Klein places the greatest importance on staying truthful to life and his own experiences, so despite his rigorous classical training and the influence of his accomplished peers, he sees his work developing in a direction that is both unique and representative of his own era. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Underwater with Jason de Caires Taylor...

Jason de Caires Taylor's childhood was spent on the coral reefs of Malaysia where he developed a profound love of the sea and a fascination with the natural world. This would later lead him to spend several years working as a scuba diving instructor in various parts of the globe, developing a strong interest in conservation, underwater naturalism and photography... which led directly to a very unique venue for his art.. In May 2006 he created the world”s first underwater sculpture park in Grenada, West Indies. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More John Kenn..

I still can't get enough of John Kenn's wonderful monochromatic illustrations of monster and ghosts.. and their interaction with a storybook world. It seems to me he's only getting better! click here for my previous posting relating his work to the quality of using scale. Be sure to visit his site here, filled with more great stuff. Enjoy. (and btw.. despite various attempts to correct me, his name IS John. The name of his site is confusing, perhaps intentional in order to spot tourists that don't dig).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Smith Christmas so far..

my buddy amid told me that bill and I need to make this blog more personal. he would know.. his blog gets a trillion visits a day (albeit they're all geeks). ok.. here we go..

BLIZZARD! it was great.. I always sleep well during harsh montauk weather:
The studio becomes very inviting when it's cold and snowy out.. there's something about turning up the heat and working the day away!
ok.. this is weird. Montauk has a pig. he just roams around. I've heard about it before but never actually saw the dude.. well here he is on christmas day:
Prior the the blizzard, I managed to put up some cedar shingles on the studio, I was happy with how it came out, they should turn nice and silver in a few months time:
The only good thing about jet lag is that you get to watch the sunrise every morning:
Christmas party at our friend Nick Webers house.. it got weird:
The Stutterheim sisters.. victoria and sydney. this is before the mask came out:
What's on my screen? that would be "a christmas story".. you'll shoot your eye out kid:
Bud light lime and tiny plush duckies.. any questions?:
Some people surf in the winter out here.. i don't. my board warming up by the heater:
I really should replace my old windows.. but they're so damn pretty:
Sunrise. window reflection..lake is frozen:
Cheers Everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Rockwell..

It wouldn't be Christmas time without my annual posting of my favorite Holiday Rockwell illustrations!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

True Grit

It's awards season! And my mailbox is full of screener DVDs in competition for the mighty golden statue. The great part of this time of the year are the special screenings with fancy parties. One of the best this year was the “True Grit” event. They showed the film in the huge Ziegfield Cinema, which seats around 2000 film lovers.

The story, written by Charlie Portis, was originally filmed in the late 60's as a swan song for John Wayne as “Rooster Cogburn”, and the 2010 version is by the esteemed Coen Brothers. As is there style, the film is very visual, violent, and gorgeous. But what's particularly engaging is the wonderful use of mid-18th Century frontier language. Starring the fantastic Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin, it's one of the most powerful films of the year.

Afterwards, we were lead to a fancy dinner party at the Four Seasons. I saw a lot of fellow Academy people there. And then, in walks Jeff Bridges and Joel and Ethan Coen, with a crew of fans and photographers trailing behind. I try to get in to chat with the Coens – after all, 20 years ago they chose my film, “How to Kiss”, to open for one of their new feature films (I can't remember which one) so I thought they might remember me – but the crowd was so tight I wasn't able to get a word in.

Out of a possible 10, I give “True Grit” a 9.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tangled Review- Bill

They say that “Tangled”, the new animated feature from Disney will be the last fairy tale princess film from the studio that Walt built. I don't know if that's true or not, but I rushed out to see the well-reviewed film to see if they succeeded in creating a charming, old-style fairytale.

Two years ago, I remember visiting the Disney Studios and running into my buddy and master animator Glen Keane, and he showed me some animation from his new feature, then called “Rapunzel”. For some reason, they removed Glen from the film and changed the title to “Tangled”. I'm very happy to say it's an excellent movie and great entertainment.

Some problems I had were the use of Broadway show tunes music (like they can hardly wait to put it on the Great White Way) Also, there's a little too much dialogue in the film, especially at the ending. But the thing that really bugged me was the huge anime eyes that were placed on all the characters, even the comic star horse's head.

The parts that I loved the best were the bad guys in the roadside restaurant and the climactic chase across the castle walls. And aside from the eyes, the designs were excellent. Overall, I give Tangled an 8 out of 10 – especially in 3D, I recommend you go see it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival

One of my favorite events is the June Mocca arts fair because they concentrate on small press and more adult books and art. So it was fun to visit a newer version of that in a church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It's called the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. It was a small affair, one room on top for the book tables and then in the basement was the speakers' room.

But for such a modest event, it was packed with friends and celebrities. Cartoonist and animator Mark Newgarden did a show, and I got to chat with Charles Burns and Doug Allen.

Also Steve Guarnaccia, Mark Stamaty, Jake Armstrong, Dan Pinto and Will Krause were there. But the headliners were Matt Groening and the ever glamorous Lynda Barry – what the hell were they doing in a tiny church basement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Apparently they were on their way to a comics convention in India and they stopped in NY to meet up and take the plane to India. I chatted with Lynda about her great book “Cruddy” and how much I loved it. Then I ran into the great Gary Panter of Pee Wee Herman Show fame. We chatted for a while, he told us about his frustration not working on the Pee Wee Herman stage show.

It's too bad the festival doesn't have a larger space, 'cause I'd love to take part. But maybe they don't allow DVDs or animation. Anyway, check it out next year, you may see me there at the DVD table.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

More gifs to make you happy..


this one is pure gold:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can't ever get too much of Leyendecker...

My favorite illustrator.. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Cow" Makes the Short List

Several weeks ago, I went to the Academy screening of all the eligible animated shorts – about 30 films. It's held at the N.Y. Academy screening room (The Lighthouse) and is attended by all or most of the Academy members living in the Northeast area. Members even come down from Canada. It's one of my favorite events, because often I discover films I've never seen before and I always have a film that I'm trying to get nominated.

The first film on the 30 film program is a long one, 25 minutes, and not only that, but it's terrible! It's called “The American Dream”, it's one of those amateurish flash political agenda films, and it just got weirder and weirder. We came to find out that it was a Tea Party film about how the “rich jews are creating the economic recession”.

There were some famous animators who entered their films, Don Hertzfeld, and Pritt Parn from Estonia, and Pixar and Disney of course,. But I felt my stiffest competition would be “Incident in Tower 37” and Kyle Bell's wonderful “The Mouse That Soared”.

In any case, they recently announced the short list, and thanks to the animation gods, my film, “The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger” is selected! Yeah!! The other notables in the list of 10 finalists are Teddy Newton's “Day & Night”, Geefwee Boedoe's “Let's Pollute” (I met him in Annecy), and Andrew Ruhemann's “The Lost Thing.”

The main surprise was Don Hertzfeldt's wonderful “Wisdom Tooth” didn't make the list. It's very funny film and should have been included.

The next stage is we vote on all the shorts, docs, live action and animation – which takes place in early January – then on January 25th, we would see whether the Cow film has the right stuff. Be sure to pray to the animation gods.

Quentin Tarantino Roast

In October I was invited to take part in Quentin Tarantino's Friar's Club Roast. I was very excited because I've known Quentin since 1992, from the Sundance Film festival where he exploded onto the indie film scene with “Reservoir Dogs”. We've bumped into each other many times at film festivals and comic conventions.

But tragically, his editor Sally Menke died just two days before his schedule roast, so it was rescheduled in December. I was in town then, so I was able to attend.

It was held at the NY Hilton in their largest room. It was a very tony affair, lots of suits and celebrities – good food and a four hour roast. They stuck me at the furthest table, behind a very large pillar. But fortunately they had TV monitors all over so I could see the presenters. The dais fit about 100 chairs, I didn't know half the people up there, but they did have a great line-up. Samuel L. Jackson kicked off the ceremonies with some great gags, Rob Schneider was very funny, Steve Buschemi didn't talk unfortunately, Michael Madsen was an incoherent disaster. Sarah Silverman was dark and funny. Jerry Lewis only talked about his telethons, and the beautiful Uma Thurman toasted Quentin with champagne from her expensive high heels with Quentin.

The only other roast I'd been to was my own ten years ago at Caroline's Comedy Club, and this one was a lot of fun. It's better when you're not roasted.

Adrian Tomine..

This has got to be one of my favorite New Yorker covers of all time, by Adrian Tomine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cedric Delsaux- Composite Star Wars Photographs..

I've seen these kicking around blogs for a while, and keep meaning to post some of them for here. Photograper Cedric Delasaux pulls at my heart here. There's just something so satisfying about seeing such wonderful fantasy images juxtaposed into reality. I'm a sucker for thinking movies are real, and this speaks directly to me in that way! I still really wish I could go to Jurassic park.. well .. that was until dennis nedry messed up the security system!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

In Love with Ali Cavanaugh...

Ali Cavanaugh beautiful and subtle paintings use many of the principles I teach in my classes, namely utilizing a clear silhouette to express a pose and to help with staging. Ali is partially deaf, which is probably the reason she constantly puts solid body and hand/arm language into her poses. Please see more of her work at her own site here. Enjoy.A great way to test drive your poses is to turn them into silhouette, a clear pose will read perfectly.