February 21, 2013
Just when you think you've seen everything, somebody comes up with an entirely new genre of art. What Nina Katchadourian thought of was airplane bathroom art.
Actually, the airplane bathroom is her studio. Starting in 2010, she has locked herself in the airplane lavatory and, using materials at hand (paper towels, toilet paper, the blanket provided at her seat), she poses in imitation of Dutch masters' paintings and snaps her own picture.
The results are both wonderful and hilarious. It helps that she has an expressive, sharply featured face. It would be insane if she actually paid for airplane tickets solely to take these pictures, but as a way to pass the time when you're flying anyway, it's quite a wonderful hobby.
See it for yourself at http://sn.im/airart
[Full URL: http://www.sadanduseless.com/2012/04/lavatory-self-portraits/]
It's Oscar time this Sunday. As usual, I'll be shunning the fancy Hollywood shindigs to which I'm always invited (but really, how many new things does Gwyneth have to say?) and will hold my own Oscar party.
The Oscars matter – they can transform a screen artist's career and provide permanent validation; they can also make really bad films weirdly important. We know that the Oscars often "get it wrong" – the winner may not have half the staying power as a film the same year that wasn't even nominated.
But the Oscars aren't about staying power – or, rather, they are an attempt to create staying power. Still, they're a product of their time.
The dreadfully simple-minded Guess Who's Coming to Dinner gave Katharine Hepburn one of her Oscars, when the truly enduring performances that year came from Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, and Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark.
But it was 1967, and the civil rights movement was very much on people's minds. Of course, since it was Hollywood, the official racial-intermarriage movie wasn't made until after all the hard work was over; if it had been made in 1963, that would have been something! Hollywood follows the trends, rather like a bloodhound following the elusive trail of the Next Big Thing and rarely finding anything but the Last Big Thing.
Yet there is a kind of perverse courage here and there. Hollywood never really challenges the culture at large, but it does sometimes challenge its own provincialism. The case in point is Argo, Ben Affleck's movie about the rescue of the non-hostage Americans who hid out in the Canadian ambassador's home until they were brought out by pretending to be part of a film crew.
On one level, of course, it's a standard self-celebration: Look, Hollywood pitched in to help fake a movie project in order to rescue Americans at risk!
But step a bit farther in, and you find that this is a movie that doesn't toe the politically correct Hollywood line. The CIA aren't bad guys. Neither are the political bigwigs. Neither, for that matter, are the Iranians – their anger is shown as being justified, even if their actions were outrageous violations of international law.
Argo does follow some Hollywood formulas, too – a somewhat artificial sense of urgency juices up the last-minuteness of the getaway. But it's a smart use of the formula, because it depends on the fact that the events took place before the instantaneity of the internet. No way could these events happen today – but they happened then.
Argo is playful and smart, and defies Hollywood political groupthink even as it uses stock Hollywood tropes. Ben Affleck is, of all things, a grownup.
With 10 films nominated in the Best Picture category, we can assume that the winner won't be a majority pick, or even much of a consensus choice. In fact, it might be very nearly random.
So I'm not going to try to outguess the results. I do have opinions, though, and because The Rhinoceros Times is such an open-minded newspaper, I am allowed to voice them in print.
Because I'm a member of both the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild, I got a lot of screeners – DVDs provided to voters in the various award-giving groups. I don't vote for the Oscars – you actually have to have achieved something in film in order to become a member of the Academy. But I had a chance to see everything.
Yet I didn't see them all. Why? Because life is short, I'm busy and there are movies that I couldn't bring myself to watch. Lincoln is the main one.
I actually revere Lincoln too much and know too much about the Civil War and the political questions surrounding it to be willing to subject myself yet again to the smug stupidity and dishonesty of Steven Spielberg. Especially since the screenwriter was the equally smug and dishonest author of Angels in America.
Spielberg has shown us again and again – Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Munich – that he has utter contempt for historical figures and will lie about them as readily as Oliver Stone.
When you add to that his penchant for the cheap pandering ending, I know exactly what Lincoln is. They will pretend that Lincoln wrestled with issues about which in real life his vision was clear; they will pick villains and lie about them; they will pretend that the Right Thing happened in spite of the people who actually brought it into being; and at the end we will be expected to respond with cheers and tears.
Every time a new Spielberg project is announced, I shudder at the realization that millions of people will watch his work and think they're seeing something close to the truth, when in fact his treatment of history ranges from the reckless to the malicious.
So no, I couldn't bring myself to see Lincoln. It also didn't help that Daniel Day-Lewis' makeup looked almost as rigid and masklike as the hideous big-face makeup Dustin Hoffman wore at the end of Little Big Man. Day-Lewis is as cold an actor as ever existed; Lincoln himself was a warm and funny man, even in the midst of adversity.
Except for a vague physical resemblance (obviously you can't cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lincoln), I can't think of many worse casting decisions. People say he's brilliant in the part, but knowing who created the script, I fear that the more convincing his performance, the falser the understanding of Lincoln in the minds of people who watch the movie.
If Lincoln wins the Oscar, it will be evidence, not the cause, of Americans' abysmal ignorance of and contempt for their own history.
I didn't see Django Unchained because Quentin Tarantino is a vain and terrible director and the subject matter leads me to assume the movie is yet another self-indulgent trip into "forbidden" (i.e., cliched but repulsive) territory. As far as I can recall, I have never found even five minutes of any Tarantino movie or performance to be tolerable. Why should I prove this to myself yet again? If it wins the Oscar, it'll be yet another example of Hollywood's self-loathing.
I didn't see Beasts of the Southern Wild because it wasn't among the screeners that I got, and I'd never heard of it until it was nominated....continued on page 2