Drool on the Frog

Friday, January 26, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: Strictly Ballroom * * * *

Strictly Ballroom
Strictly Ballroom

Baz Luhrmann, 1992
Comedy, Romance

The films in Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy are engaging, melodramatic, fun, intoxicating, and fantastical. They're an adventure and a ride. He transports you to what, by description, are familiar places – an Australian Dance studio, modern day Los Angeles, and the Moulin Rouge in 1899 Paris. But, as energetic as these places are known to be, they are nothing compared to Luhrmann's depiction of them in Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!.

The Red Curtain requires some basics. One is that the audience knows how it will end when it begins, it is fundamental that the story is extremely thin and extremely simple - that is a lot of labour. Then it is set in a heightened, created world. Then there is a device - the heightened world of Strictly Ballroom, Verona beach. Then there is another device - dance or iambic pentameter or singing, and that's there to keep the audience awake and engaged. The other thing is that this piece was to be a comic tragedy. This is an unusual form, there's been a few goes at it - [like] Dancer in the Dark - but it's not common in Western cinematic form. - Baz Luhrmann

Luhrmann works with sound, fast editing, perspective but, mostly, color. He uses all of these effectively to give the film energy, heightened mood, and bigger-than-life people and settings. Mainly, they are used to create intimacy and interaction with the audience. You sing; you dance; you fall in love. My Geek and I saw Strictly Ballroom when it was released in 1992 in one of the art theaters in Dallas. It not only became "our film" for several years it also influenced us to take a few dance lessons.

Strictly BallroomIn the first film of the trilogy, Strictly Ballroom, Scott is a ballroom dance champion. He comes from a family of ballroom dancers. He is the golden child of the family. Where some families strive for their children to become doctors, Scott is expected to be the next Australian Pan Pacific Latin Dance Champion. But Scott has an unrest brewing inside of him. It's a rebellion to simply learn the same steps his parents learned and their parents before them, and that it's time for new steps. But new steps aren't recognized by the Federation and, not only will prevent Scott from winning the championship, could disqualify him from ever competing again. His dance partner leaves him, his mother is having a breakdown and Scott simply doesn't know what to do.

Enter Fran, a beginning dance student who believes in Scott and his new steps. In an audacious move, she asks Scott if she can be his new partner and go to the Australian Pan Pacific Latin Dance Championship doing their own steps. While he admires Fran's courage, Scott easily caves to the pressure from his family, the dance community and the Federation. Fran is humiliated and rejected after risking so much to come into her own.

Strictly BallroomThis film is so funny and so much fun. It's a modern and unique Cinderella story with a Rocky ending that you'll rewind and play over and over again. Everyone should have a little dance in their lives… and a little Baz Luhrmann.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Coordinating Gift Tags

Whenever I buy wrapping paper, I love to create matching gift tags. I've made wrapping paper on a couple of occasions, but it takes a lot longer.

The tags I recently made matched my retro style Christmas paper. The colors are really hard to represent online but here they are. There were three coordinating rolls.
Christmas wrapping paper
The inks I chose to coordinate with these were:
VersaColor Olive
Brilliance Rocket Red
Brilliance Platinum

I cut my tags out of white card stock. The particular kind I buy has little silver flecks in it. The tags are 1 1/2" x 2 3/4". You can get 21 tags from an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet.
How to cut the tags

Since the shapes in my wrapping paper were mostly symmetrical geometric shapes, I used tracing paper to trace a small, medium and large version of each shape (circle, star, asterisk). I transfered the tracings directly to my rubber by simply laying the tracing paper, graphite side down, on the rubber and burnishing with the opposite end of my x-acto knife.

cut a valley all around the image with an x-acto knifeBefore using my carving tools, I first cut a clean line in the rubber at a 45 degree angle (away from the image) all the way around the image. I go back again and cut at a 45 degree angle outside of the first cut (towards the image this time) which results in cutting a "v" shaped valley all around the image. Now I take my carving tools and finish the carving job.
hand carved stamps

For the white tags, I rubbed the edges with either olive or red ink, leaving the middle of the tag mostly white. Then I stamped a large and small asterisk on each tag (see tags below for colors). After inking the medium sized asterisk, I stamped it first on scrap paper and then stamped the tag (bottom left) to get the faint color. Finally, I stamped a large, medium and small silver circle.
tags with rubbed edges

I wanted some solid green and red tags like my paper but I knew I couldn't get colored card stock to match. Instead, I used the inks I had chosen and rubbed the entire tag. My experience is that you will always have better luck matching ink colors than paper colors.

tags colored with inkOn the green and red star tags, I wanted the large star to be white which meant, before rubbing the entire tag with ink, I needed to put down a resist of some kind. I also wanted the color of the small star in the upper left to be a pretty red or green. If I stamped the red star on a green background or a green star on a red background, I knew the red and green ink would mingle and produce a duller color (see the stars in the bottom left of the tags). So, in addition, I needed to create a resist for the small star so I would have a white spot to stamp into.

Here's how I created the resists.

  1. I wanted the large and small star to be white so I stamped each of these once on a scrap piece of paper.

  2. Since these stamps are relatively small (2" or less), I do not mount them on blocks. That means when I stamp them, I can't see what I'm stamping. I do two things to help position a stamp. First, I trim as much rubber as possible from around the shape so that I can get a relative impression of the shape from the back. Second, if the shape is symmetrical, I will place a mark on the back of the stamp and use this as a guide. Usually, it means I will always use the stamp with the mark at twelve o'clock.

    Stamp on scrap paper. See the mark on the back of the stamp?
    For this resist, I will also mark the image I have just stamped on the scrap paper to indicate what position I stamped, matching the mark on the stamp itself.

  3. Cut out the stamped image. See the marks on the cutout that indicate the position it was stamped.
    Notice the marks across the stamped image indicating the position of the stamp.

  4. Cover the back of the cutout image with removable adhesive.

  5. Stick the scrap image on the tag where you want it to remain white.

  6. Repeat for all the resist images.
Now you can carefully rub the entire stamp with either the green or red ink. Remove the resist papers and finish stamping your images. Remember what position you laid down the small resist image in the upper left of the tag. Stamp inside of the white space with the stamp in the same position. This is not an exact process, by any means, but I like the poor registration look it gives.

To finish up, I used a Japanese screw punch to punch small holes in the tag and then threaded them with twine (nothing fancy). Silver would have been nicer but I didn't have it on hand.

I can also use these same stamps to create matching greeting cards, postcards, etc.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: Brick * * * *

2005, Rian Johnson
* * * *

The Brain: Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it from that, who scored it from this, who bought it off so, and after four or five connections the list always ends with the Pin. But I bet you got every rat in town together and said 'show your hands' if any of them've actually seen the Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets.

To stay out of the various drug-linked cliques at his high school, Brendan makes the unpopular choice of being an outcast. Although they are in love, Emily’s aspirations win out over Brendan’s isolation and she breaks-up with him. He loves her very much but he won’t compromise and follow her into what he knows to be a destructive cycle.

Two weeks pass. In that time, Brendan has lost all contact with Emily (Emilie de Ravin, LOST) – until now. She leaves the address for a phone booth in his locker. When they talk, he knows she’s in trouble but she’s not making sense. There are squealing tires and she hangs up. The next time he sees Emily she’s dead. He is consumed with who did it and why.

Brendan is a doomed hero whose love is lost at the beginning of the film. Her death gives him his courage, determination and nobility. You can tell how much he loved Emily because this new attitude is devoid of fear, practically daring someone to kill him. You hope he comes out a winner in the end but, besides the possibility of avenging his love’s death, he is used, beaten and witnesses nothing but the same. This defines the dark hero of this mystery noir.

It took me a while to figure out this was set in a high school. Although the setting and habits of the characters indicated they were in high school, the actors may have been just a little too old to be playing the roles they were in (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Laura Zehetner and Emilie de Ravin were all actually 22 when making the film).

That being said, I really looking forward to seeing Gordon-Levitt come into his own in a heavy drama like this after his exceptional work in 3rd Rock From the Sun.

Brick operates so much to a rhythm it’s lyrical – somewhat Shakespearean. I had trouble understanding the dialog in the first few minutes so I turned on subtitles. The dialog is essential in establishing the age of this group and the circle they run in. It was beautiful simply in its delivery and sound.

In the closing scenes I was smacked with the similarities to film noir like The Maltese Falcon. It didn’t come off as a tribute but an influence or fabulous reinvention. It’s easily a film you could watch over and over again.

This is Johnson’s break out full-length feature. He wrote and directed Brick. I look forward to his next work, The Brothers Bloom, coming sometime in 2008.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sigh. The Holidays Are Over

Elf with Will FerrellMy hiatus was much longer than I had planned. But I'm back on-line with lots to talk about in art and movies. This Friday I will have a review of the movie Brick.

I made out like a bandit in the DVD library this holiday. My Geek contributed the most. I was thrilled to receive Elf and Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Triology which are the three movies made by Baz Luhrmann.

  • Strictly Ballroom This is a colorful spoof on ballroom dancing competitions, full of great music. We loved this movie so much back in 1991 that we took dance lessons.

  • Romeo + Juliet I love this modern intepretation of this classic. This film charges Shakespeare's words with energy. The first impressive role I saw with DiCaprio.

  • Moulin Rouge! Luhrmann's explosive energy, color and over-the-top drama peaks in this film. Great editting and music.

My Geek also received a copy of The Graduate as a graduation present from my sister. I received The Da Vinci Code from a co-worker. Very thoughtful. By default we got a copy of Serenity. This was intended to be a gift to one of our bestest friends but ValetBoy already had a copy. We kept it, already owning the Firefly series, and got him How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime.

We didn't watch a lot of movies over the holidays. I have a basic requirement of three holiday films that I must see and I only got to see one of them this year. I wonder if that's why I don't feel like the holidays are over. I missed Scrooged with Bill Murray and Alastair Sim in Scrooge. I enjoyed catching The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2, though. I have to make sure to own the other two movies if my holiday is going to be complete next year.