Drool on the Frog

Friday, August 29, 2008

Willa's Flic Pic: The Darjeeling Express * * * ½

The Darjeeling Express

- Wes Anderson
- Drama/Comedy, 2007
- R
- Trailer
* * * ½

Francis: You don't love me!
Peter: Yes I do!
Jack: I love you too, but I'm gonna mace you in the face!

I’ve seen all of Wes Anderson's films except for Bottle Rocket, which I just put on my Netflix list. Anderson is the producer, writer, and director of all his films, including the more well known Rushmore.

The common theme throughout Anderson’s films is outrageous characters and the function of families full of outrageous characters. Although most may watch his films and think they don’t identify with his characters, looking from the outside in, more of us resemble this behavior than we may perceive or want to admit.

After his success with Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, I wonder if the reviewers grew tired of his theme. There are not nearly as many rave reviews for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Express, both of which I really enjoyed.

If you are a casual moviegoer, you may simply observe strange characters, sometimes in unusual settings, doing completely nonsensical things. "What are they doing?" and "why did he say that?" will run through your head often. But, as in real life, what we say and what we try hardest not to say is what holds an infinite number of subtleties about our relationships and ourselves.

For me, Anderson’s films are a great experiment in the complexities of communication in the family dynamic. A father may say, "Change the channel to whatever you want to watch," but the meaning may be, "I'm making a gesture of being polite but don't you dare change the channel."

These are the subtleties that Anderson plays with in very absurd and comic ways with only a sprinkling of heart wrenching sadness, just enough to make you realize he's just made a point but not so strongly that you leave the movie sad and depressed.

The Darjeeling Express is a complicated tale of three brothers reuniting after a year. What happened a year ago and since is revealed casually throughout the story. When you are finally equipped with a modicum of this information, you must think hard to look back over the outrageous behaviors throughout the film and recognize how it explains that odd behavior, very much like life itself. We forget all of the revealing moments and thus fail to interpret "Change the channel" in the way it was intended.

Anderson also has a beautiful style with the camera. Color and perspective are extremely important to his compositions. This is really played out in The Darjeeling Express, which is set in the rich and colorful India. Anderson does such a great job with the filming that you can almost smell and feel each scene; it's very immersing.

Anderson also incorporates what I call living dioramas – a very brief close-up of a small scene with one character and only small movements that tell a one-sentence story. This is a very daring technique given the stress of efficiently using the two-hour length of film and your audience's brief attention span.

I haven't mentioned anything about the cast but it is stellar. Like Joss Whedon and M. Night Shyamalan, Anderson has cast some of the same actors throughout all of this projects: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. They all seem to understand the importance of Anderson's efficient use of dialogue and movement.

For a study of dialogue and the power communicated through actions, use Anderson's films as some of your subject matter.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Project: Oil Tank 1.0

Project: Oil Tank 2.0
Project: Oil Tank 3.0
Project: Oil Tank 40

You've heard the phrase "putting lipstick on a cow?" Well, that's kind of like my current project.

Last year when the nights were beginning to get really nippy, we scheduled to have our heating oil tank filled. When I got home that day I knew something was terribly wrong. The air outside wreaked of heating oil and inside the house was just as bad. It turns out that our oil tank was too old to handle the weight of 240 gallons of heating oil and sprung a tiny leak. This is the hard way to find out that your heating oil tank needs to be replaced.

The old tank was in our basement which caused the whole house to smell. The new tank is installed outside to avoid this kind of problem. After installation, we were informed that the tank had a primer on it but would need to be painted within a year to ensure longevity. Paint, you say? Sounds like a canvas to me.

I immediately hatched a plan to paint a mural on the oil tank. I just love this idea of private graffiti.

Since the tank sat for almost a whole year before I started the project, it had already developed some rust. First step, sand away the rust with a wire brush and some medium grade steel wool pads.

The next step was to spray Rust-oleum Professional Gray Primer on all the scoured places.

The background color of my mural is black so I put one coat on the entire tank using a roller and paint brush of Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Satin Enamel that Home Depot mixed to a shade of Lamp Black.

Next I will need to trace my design onto the tank using a projector. This will be followed by painting the design with artist acrylics, and then sealing it with lacquer.

Stay tuned for updates on this project. Currently it's raining.

(As I write this I'm enjoying a bowl of Ben & Jerry's new flavor, Imagine Whirled Peace, and a cup of Krankies Decaf Costa Rica Cafe Vida.)

Project: Oil Tank 2.0
Project: Oil Tank 3.0
Project: Oil Tank 4.0

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Monday, August 25, 2008

MoPo: Jennifer Maestre

After spending a great deal of time in a certain field, you tend to develop a keen eye for things that others don't even notice. As the result of studying art, design, and illustration for several years, I've developed an eye for the small print. Mostly in magazines. Any time there's a photo or illustration, I look for the teeny tiny type that gives the name of the photographer or artist who created it. I'm a regular reader of WIRED magazine and am thrilled at their high quality of illustrators and photographers and their interest in hi-tech art. Besides marking interesting web sites and memorable quotes as I read, I'll also highlight any photographers or illustrators so I can find their portfolios on-line.

Every Monday I will feature the portfolio (MoPo or Monday Portfolio) of a current artist, illustrator, and/or designer I've found.

Today's featured artist is Jennifer Maestre. You can also check out the WIRED blurb here.

Jennifer does some amazing sculptures with pencils. That's right, folks, pencils. You have to see it to believe it. I love the creative take she has on such an everyday object.

(I have a personal rule that I will include at least one picture with my posts, but, since these are currently working artists and I value their copyright, I will not be including pictures of their work. I will, however, provide direct links.)

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