Friday, December 30, 2011

Fashion: Jean Paul Gaultier

Way out there exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art - The fashion world of Jean Paul Gaultier. The man had a vision even as a young boy influenced by his grandmother in France, or digging through her drawers and creating a bustier for his teddy bear.

Whether it's futuristic designs for movies like The Fifth Element, or costumes for Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour, Gaultier's designs are unique, eyepopping, and distinctive. The couture aspect is demonstrated with the amount of hours noted to complete a piece. Sequins, feathers, lace, etc. are hand stitched, appliqued, or woven into intricate patterns for his seasonal themes.
I got a kick out of the cammo/wild hunter theme - oh yeah, I could see my husband in those outfits at his deer lease.

The museum exhibit is a fabulous experience. The mannequins' faces are animated - thus they pout, blink, and appear alive. It's disconcerting at times, yet fascinating. Step out of this world and into the future that is now - see Jean Paul Gaultier's exhibit through February 12, 2012.

C'est magnifique!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review: The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer. Whee!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was excited to pluck it from the library stacks. Wow - how could it NOT be on a special you had to make an effort to get it? Well........

I admit I had to skim. a lot of chapters. I hated most of his characters - they were self-involved jerks.

Guess I'm just not freakin' literary enough. Sigh.

Here's a paragraph from the jacket: With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.

I don't think so. Most of the people I know are not dolts like these whiny-ass wieners. The writing is quite good and the general flow of the book is fine. And I understood whatever symbolism existed. Yes, I got the underlying current and the overlying blah-blah. It was all of the stuff in between that did not engage me.

I liked the line on p.136 It was as if the entire city of Paris had agreed to abide by a single understated taste. I could picture what he meant and I liked the understated implication. Good stuff there. There are a lot of rich moments like this as far as description.

However, our "heroine" Madeline is an idiot. Plain and simple, she doesn't make good choices. Maybe that's the point, but it's rather sad. I'd love to hear another person's opinion, besides the Pulitzer Prize committee. Then again, I read awesome reviews, so I'm in the minority.

Go ahead. I dare you to read The Marriage Plot and LOVE it. Please convince me I'm wrong.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Cards

Lots of Grinches report that Christmas cards are a thing of the past. Too expensive. Too time consuming to prepare. The post office is a dead letter black hole. Well, I say Bah Humbug! Isn't it nice to see a cheery red envelope in your mailbox?

I send out approximately sixty cards. Addressing the cards, I think of the people - friends or family - and reflect on this tradition of best wishes, good cheer, and a hearty hello.

In return, we receive cards, across the miles, filled with notes, news, and a connection.

Here's a homemade card from my cousin Jen. Absolutely delightful!

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Kids are growing up, Rangers were in the World Series (that was a big theme this year in Texas), and a year is chronicled with smiles.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Review: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The opening credits of the American version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo are some of the most original, hottest, best I've seen since James Bond movies. Truly - the howl of a Led Zeppelin tune and the swirl of black is amazing. Trust me. You'll be drawn into this movie. Kudos to David Fincher, the director. I'll start with saying this movie is hard R - do not allow any children near the theater. Violence, sex, adult themes abound. That said - I've read the books (trilogy), seen the Swedish films (excellent with subtitles), and now I give this version a huge thumbs up.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist, currently on the outs due to a scandal. However, he's hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the forty year old murder of his niece, Harriet. The Vanger family is a mess - rich with Nazi history and no family member talks to each other even though they live on the same island. Trust me, there are issues. Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgaard) runs the business now and oh, is he twisted. Finally, Lisbeth Salander, our girl with the tattoo, piercings and goth hair (Rooney Mara in a transformational role) is a computer genius with social issues. There's so much more to her story - you have to read the books and see the movie.

The Swedish countryside is cold and forbidding. The search for a murderer is unrelenting. The performances are riveting. Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has many layers and is well filmed, well acted, and just really really good. No, not a happy Christmas family picture. But, if you want to think, feel, and experience a film - this is the one. Read Stieg Larsson's trilogy and see the movies. Quality abounds.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo

Hugo, seen in Real 3D, fills the eyes with wonder and enchantment. The film is set in the Paris train station in the early 1900s. The clock gears connect and run perfectly thanks to a young orphan named Hugo. We watch as he learned mechanics from his clockmaker and inventor father (Jude Law), but sadly is orphaned due to a fire. He's hustled to the train station by a drunk uncle and ultimately takes over the behind the scenes tick, tick, tick. His clear blue eyes observe the locals - the dour man running a toy booth, the flower girl that the head stationmaster (comic relief provided by Sacha Baron Cohen) falls for, the elderly couple in love, and Isabelle, the toyman's goddaughter.

Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) befriends young Hugo and senses his loss and also secrets. Sure enough he slowly allows her into his world and finds that she has a key to unlock the one thing his father left him - an automaton. That automaton leads to further secrets - the toy booth man (Ben Kingsley) once had a creative vibrant life.

The crux of Hugo is the idea of life purpose, following dreams, and fixing things - whether it's machinery or people. Somehow, there's a solution to problems. While this is a kid film, I found it quite magical as an adult and the message was heartfelt. The Real 3D gave an added sense of being in the cogs of momentum.

Director Martin Scorcese embraced the challenge and once again created movie magic. The film builds slowly, has pauses to allow the viewer to bask in the style, and tells an old fashioned story. The young lad playing Hugo, Asa Butterfield, looks frail, but proves a strong worthy hero. He keeps us concerned, and the tick tick we hear is our heart beating as we race through the clock tower corridors to find Hugo a home and happiness.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes - Game of Shadows is jolly good fun. This is what Christmas movies are all about - breezy dialogue, plenty of action, and Robert Downey, Jr surprising us at all times. Robert's Sherlock and Jude Law is Dr. Watson. Poor Dr.Watson. He thinks he's getting happily married and going to Brighton for his honeymoon. Well, doesn't that sound dull? At least to Sherlock it does. There have been bombings in London, and anarchy appears to be in the offing courtesy of Professor Moriarty. Oh, he seems harmless enough, but Sherlock has diagnosed him as an immoral terrorist.

Thus, forget the honeymoon. Dr. Watson's wife is pushed out of a train (on purpose) to be saved by Sherlock's brother. Meanwhile, Sherlock and Dr.Watson must join up with a gypsy (Noomi Rapace in her first American role) to put together pieces of the puzzle. Is there going to be an assassination and where will it occur? Only brilliant minds, quick footed work, swordsmanship, and the trust of true friendship can foil Moriarty's dastardly plans.

Game of Shadows is well filmed and sharp looking. Rich backdrops and plentiful explosions keep viewers on their toes. It's obvious that Downey, Jr and Law are having a heck of a good time on screen, and they share the wealth of laughter with their banter. Enjoy this holiday treat with the whole family (and sneak in a Christmas cookie or two).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Fielding

Henry Skrimshander lives and breathes baseball. As shortstop, he has an uncanny knack for knowing where to be, where the ball is going, and then where to throw the ball. Graceful. No waste of motion. Fluid. He's destined for the Big Show - to be recruited by the St.Louis Cardinals and live the dream. Meanwhile, he's on scholarship at Westish College in Michigan and learning about life.

However, a routine throw goes disastrously off course and the fate of five people are upended.

College president Guert Affenlight and his daughter Pella are becoming reacquainted. Owen, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, has an affair that proves problematic. Mike Schwartz, Henry's team captain and mentor, has been too caught up in Henry's career path to worry about his own. Then Henry himself must confront fears, hopes, anxieties, and the season countdown to the finals.

With The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach has written a delightful tale of youth, sport, ambition, and limitations. His characters are fully drawn and irresistably flawed. The love of baseball shines through and is an excellent backdrop for life choices.

Here's a style sample (p. 5): The kid glided in front of the first grounder, accepted the ball into his glove with a lazy grace, pivoted, and threw to first. Though his motion was languid, the ball seemed to explode off his fingertips, to gather speed as it crossed the diamond.

Thus we meet Henry. You'll root for him and enjoy this pleasant worthwhile read.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Caravaggio Fills the Kimbell

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome is an electrifying exhibit presented only in Fort Worth at the Kimbell Art Museum and in Ottawa Canada. The Musician (pictured) is one example of the talent displayed. Rich colors and details abound, and Caravaggio (1571-1610) captured life as he saw it. Famous for The Cardsharps, his eye for the seamier side was new to the art world.

There are ten Caravaggios as well as forty or more great masters of Baroque Art included. The exhibit allows you to compare and contrast similar topics and treatments of subjects, especially those of saints. I liked Caravaggio's Saint John in the Wilderness versus others' versions.

As always, a visit to the Kimbell is a treat. Two large Christmas trees add to the festivities, and their lunch buffet offers a delicious respite.

Indulge the eyes and travel to 16th century Rome, a la Ft.Worth, for some culture. Ciao.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Movie Review: The Descendants

George Clooney keeps getting better and better. I wrote that for an Ides of March review. Now I double triple my claim for The Descendants. Wow. The previews are deceiving. This looks like a comedy. The film has funny moments, but it is a serious look at family, life, connecting, tragedy, and Hawaii.

First - the scenery is gorgeous and Clooney's family in this film owns a nice slice of heaven. However, the land is in trust and cousins want to profit. Thus there's a huge vote coming up for whether to sell the land and to whom. Clooney's Matt Price has the final say. He's a lawyer and the key trustee - a lot of responsibility to his heritage and the descendants.

Second - Clooney's wife is hospitalized for a coma. She was in a boating accident and the prognosis isn't good. Clooney's dealing with his ten year old daughter, Scottie, and a teen daughter, Alex. She's been at boarding school due to drugs/drink/mischief. This father's got his hands full and has not been dialed in for years. Obviously, since Alex informs him her mother has been cheating on him. He's bewildered, shocked, sad, and then realizes he'd been out of touch all along.

The Descendants has everyone questioning their relationships, loves, and priorities. Directed by Alexander Payne, the film's subtle humor and sly viewpoints prove successful. Oscar buzz galore - Clooney is superb and Shailene W. (Alex) is intense with her unwavering, unforgiving teen stare.

Hawaii is a wonderful backdrop, but even paradise has its troubles. Aloha to an excellent film.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas in the Stockyards: TWW 2011

Trinity Writers' elves - Lacey, Lauren, and Sharon were ready to greet children, and help with Letters to Santa, an annual event. They were joined by Ann and Jim.

Christmas in the Stockyards 2011. Even the cowboys are decked out for the occasion.

TWW member, Jim Mitchell, is delighted to read the Trinity Writers' Workshop 2011 Christmas collection of stories and poems. All family friendly and free - this giveaway, along with Letters to Santa has proven to be a successful tradition.

Jan Nourse, TWW member, along with her Sonshine Singers entertained stockyard visitors with joyous carols.

They rounded up a few bellringers from the audience. Rainy weather did not dampen spirits and we all enjoyed the smiles from parents and kids alike. 'Tis the season, indeed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review: The Family Fang

Funny book in a weird twisted way. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson introduces us to Caleb and Camille Fang, plus children Annie and Buster, as they expose themselves in the form of performance art. Often the children have no clue as to what will happen in the middle of the mall, and ultimately become the butt of the exercise. It's a thrill and a humiliation.

In flashbacks, we witness various stunts. Often clever, often groan-inducing. It's a weird life. No wonder Buster becomes a writer, and Annie is a successful actress. While they seek attention, they also cower from it. It's a strange life perspective.

Then both kids end up back home for various odd reasons, and the parents appear to die in a violent car crash. However, nothing is as it seems in The Family Fang. Buster knows his parents are still alive and sending clues as to their whereabouts. He wants to draw them out, back into the art world for a grand finale.

I won't give away more plot. Just know that these are unique characters. The book is well written, and Kevin Wilson is a literary force. The Family Fang - a stunt worth reading.