Monday, December 20, 2010

Appreciation takes practice

The Culture Club;
These ladies help me appreciate art.
(from left, Kristi and her daughter Lauren, me, Clove, Janna, and Anne at
Celebraciones de la Gente.)
   Mission:  Accomplished.

  After 17 weeks of my semester-long resolution, I have fulfilled my goal of attending one cultural event per week (and writing about it on Monday.)  In fact, I've taken that goal to the moon and back.

  On average, I attended 1.6 events per week this semester, for a total of 27 events.  This is in comparison to the statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2008, 65% of Americans were unable to make it to a cultural event such as an art exhibit or performance even ONCE!

  And what have I learned?  I realized that getting to the events was the hardest part.  Once I was there, I was able to relax and get swept away by the music, or the art, or the theatre performance.  I also realized that music and art are great ways to break down the generation gap.  People of all ages were at these events.  They were easy to meet and they were always pretty happy.  (Perhaps being surrounded by beauty reminded people of their higher selves.)

  I also learned to look for the "sparkle." Sometimes it took persistence; I would have to come back to it again and again until I could find the things that sparkled just for me.  Just so you know, not everything in every performance was enthralling to me.  Sometimes I was tired, stressed out, frustrated, and completely unhappy to be there.  But if I kept reminding myself to listen, to watch and to feel for the moment of beauty, I would eventually find that clarity of recognition.  Because of this persistence, I became better at appreciation.

  And so, I think it has been worth it.  I'm appreciative.

  I think it's almost time for a new resolution.  Coming soon.  But first I'm going to hibernate for the winter break.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Putting our money where our heart is...

My son Isaac (on right) and his best friend Roman, continuing the tradition of attending the Parade of Lights together.

  The holiday season is a great time to introduce culture to the young ones!

  Among a slew of holiday parties last week, I also got to attend the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra's Nutcracker on Friday AND Saturday, and the Parade of Lights in downtown Flagstaff.  And I saw many kids at every juncture; they were skipping, holding hands, waving.  They were wearing holiday dresses, bows and ties, and often up-staged their parents with their fanciness and excitement.  It was pretty special. 

  I'm a parent too.  I value the arts and one of my favorite things has been engendering a love for the arts in my son.  I feel very lucky to be able to do that here.  We are so blessed to have a vibrant arts community in Flagstaff.  We have a premier performance hall with Ardrey Auditorium, we have the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, we have the Coconino Center for the Arts, Theatrikos, and even a large and thriving downtown art scene.    There's even a new local songwriting mentorship program called Bold Moon Music--just one of the many ways that our community gives back.

 And don't forget about my alma mater, the entire College of Arts and Letters, at NAU.  The college provides film, theatre, art, music and lectures to everyone in the campus and Flagstaff community.  It's pretty cool that we're able  to provide all of that cultural opportunity for our children (and ourselves.) 

  It's pretty cool that the people of this town value the arts enough to sustain it all.  Because, let's face it folks.  The government is not going to be able to take care of the entire bill.  We need to advocate for more arts-spending, but we also need to step up and take responsibility for it ourselves. 

  Tradition brings beauty to the holiday season.  To me, tradition equals culture.  When you are busy getting all of your gifts for everyone, don't forget the special gift of a cultural experience, and the people who provide that experience for us!  Please consider making a donation to one of your favorite cultural entities.  Give the ultimate gift of the season, one that keeps on giving throughout the whole year.

  Let's put our money where our heart is!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fashion as Art

Jenn Jones does alterations.

     You may start to feel a little out of place in downtown Flagstaff if you decide to rock the mom jeans, white reeboks, and fanny pack.

     Personally, I couldn't be happier about that.

     As if proof of my hunch that fashion is (perhaps at long-last) becoming more of a priority in the Flagstaff consciousness, last First Friday I was glad to see that Sundara: House of Beauty had local fashion designer, Jenn Jones of Red Thread Sewing, as their featured artist. I've known Jenn for around 10 years, and she has always had such an excitement towards creating wearable art.  She started with bags and purses (I once had an extensive conversation with her about the beauty of the hobo bag) and now she designs beautiful evening dresses with a vintage feel. Our girl has grown up!!

     I'm meeting with Jenn this week so that she can seriously modify a black-tie dress for a New Year's wedding with a bunch of uptown New Yorkers.  I'm looking forward to flaunting some serious local pride when I tell my old college friends - who all wish they could have stayed in Flagstaff-  that the dress is from a local designer. 

     I think that being fashionable is about appreciating beauty and creativity, and being a living canvas.  It doesn't have to be expensive stuff--goodwill and thrift store shopping is more fun and goes farther creativity and money-wise.  Taking your quality pieces and having them tailored is the smartest fashion step I've ever made.

     Jenn's designs make sense in all the ways that clothes should.  They're designed by a home-town girl, who knows what swings in this place (and yet she pushes the envelope in the right ways.)  She'll create a dress template, and after you buy it, she alters it for free, so you really are getting something that fits you perfectly.  In so many ways, you are getting a personalized fashion quality product that keeps your clothes in your closet for 10-20 years.  I think that's smart stuff!

    For Flagstaff to be the place it should be (such as stylish, welcoming to the arts, creative and vibrant) it's our duty to support the local designers and artists like Jenn Jones.  Beauty makes us happy.

  Jenn says it on her webpage, but let me just say it again.  Fashion IS art.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Illustrations, New Stories

I have a really cool class that I teach at the university.  My students have to organize outings to different cultural events and then host a salon afterward to talk about what we saw.  Basically, we go to concerts, shows and museums, and then have stimulating conversation and try to refine our minds with beauty, wit and cleverness. 

Last Monday, my bright students coordinated an outing and salon around "The Snowbowl Effect: When Recreation and Culture Collide" at Cline Library.  "The Snowbowl Effect" was made by local filmmaker Klee Benally.  Klee's website says that he has been a "media activist" for over 6 years, an enrolled member of the Dine' (Navajo) Nation, and the project director of the non-profit media group Indigenous Action Media. 

What I liked about the film was that it gave a voice to the indigenous cultures that are affected by Snowbowl expansion.  The players that spoke up for their cultures weren't movie stars (except for Klee Benally--HE'S movie star material!)  They were real people who have real values and opinions that they expressed.  Sometimes their words were awkward, sometimes they were articulate, but they were always heartfelt.

My students were really interested in the local politics, and really struck by how money seems to take precedence over cultural values.  Are we really a culture that values capitalism over soul?  My students were really concerned--bless their hearts.

I agreed with them.  But what really struck me about the film was the initiative behind it.  Indigenous Action Media was founded in 2001 "to provide strategic media support and action to directly address issues impacting Indigenous communities."  They are telling young people from the reservation that they, too, have something important to say, and they can say it with cutting edge technology!  That's pretty empowering.

Oh, how magnificent film is!  It gives voice to issues that aren't directly addressed by mainstream media.  Everyone can watch a film, and nowadays, almost everyone can make one.  It truly is the artform of the "common" man, because it is accessible, relatively cheap, and easy to learn.  The mistakes that young filmmakers make in film are sometimes the very things that endear the audiences to the film.

French filmmaker Jean Cocteau said that "Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper."

We are so lucky to be in the middle of a new art form, one that is as common as pencil and paper to provide  us with so many new illustrations and stories.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Art as Personal Mythology

The Valley of the Muse by Rodrigo de Toledo

  On a slight variation of my usual art/theatre/film/music circuit, I've finally attended a lecture on the artistic process.  I went to Rodrigo de Toledo's sabbatical lecture "The Self Mythological Realm - Branding a Designed Universe".

  Rodrigo is an associate professor of graphic design in the School of Communication.  This is how he described his talk.

"The research conducted during the sabbatical focused on formal aspects of visual and graphic language, and the visual representation of archetypical and mythological symbols. The project resulted on a new body of visual work, which will be showcased during the presentation."

  I  was excited to hear about this project because I'm very intrigued by Jungian psychology and archetypes as well as modern perspectives of Jung.  I'm interested in art that has a whole other narrative that isn't immediately apparent.   And finally, I think hearing about people's sabbatical projects is fascinating.  They've spent a lifetime building on their knowledge, they're at the edge of human knowledge in their specialty, and now they've spent a year pushing past it.  This is the epitome of niche domain.

  Rodrigo spent a long time developing visual symbols to represent things in his life, like the past, present and future, memories, and avatars, spirit guides, etc.  The shapes were based on organic and mechanical structures.  The resultant pictures -which kind of look like mandalas, tangkas, or icons- aren't just colors and shapes that look pretty together.  Everything had a meaning behind it, a whole historical narrative.

  Someone in the audience asked if it wasn't selfish to spend so much time exploring one's own inner world, when there is so much to be done in the outside world.  I would say that it's extremely important to square things up with ourselves first, so we know what we're doing and where we're going.  Identifying the symbolism of items along one person's journey is personal, yes, but it is also universal.  Here we are, living similar lives just with different details.

  It's helpful to know where people have been.  And if they are going to spend a lot of time identifying, categorizing and illustrating their symbols, all the better for us who aren't going to do so.  How wonderful that someone so visually articulate explored why symbols evoke a certain feeling or memory.  

  "Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious," said Jean Cocteau.  Absorbing, creating, and listening to art is something that helps us attune to ourselves and our personal mythology.  It's almost better than therapy--it's certainly more beautiful!

Rodrigo de Toledo's work can be viewed and bought at here.  More about the artist is available on his website,

The Mind's Cave by Rodrigo de Toledo

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ritual, Art and Veteran's Day

The procession held along Milton and Rt. 66 for the body of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Broehm was held Thursday, Nov. 11.

   At the beginning of the semester, I resolved to attend a cultural event every week throughout the rest of the school year.  I purposely left the definition of a "cultural event" very open-ended, although I hinted that it could be music, film, art or theatre.  

  On Veteran's Day, I attended what may have been the most touching "cultural event" that I've made it to so far.  The procession held along Milton and Rt. 66 for the body of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Broehm was one of the most poignant ways in which we can acknowledge the knowledge and values shared by our society.

  It's so important to let rituals mark the momentous and symbolic events in our life and in our society.

  Part of me wants to classify ritual as art.  They are both evocative of an emotion.  They are meant to be shared with others.  They fulfill a major part of the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group.

  And they're essential.  If we don't acknowledge the sadness of a marine killed in a war-zone, then we have totally lost sight of what is importnat to our human condition, here and now in 2010 America.  We become wrapped up in shallow, materialistic pursuits and forget that healing and remembrance of beauty occurs when you come together with others.

As I've said before, rituals and ceremonies can acknowledge your feelings towards death and transform these feelings into beauty.  We don't engage in rituals or look at art because we want to change the past.  We take part because we want to acknowledge our participation in something in the present.  We want to remember a specific point in time; metaphorically, we want to smell the rose before the season changes.

  Because there may never be another rose quite like it again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Save the Artists!

  There's a reason the stereotype "starving artists" has stuck around for so long.

  A three-part article by The Associated Press in Saturday's AZ Daily Sun talks about being on the upswing of "The Great Recession," but that people are still being "focused, cautious and tactical" about their spending.
  Which is wise, of course.  But the current climate of the economy makes me worry about the welfare of artists, both locally and nationally.

  Nowadays, it's "easy" to be creative, and we all know that there is an inner artist just waiting to come out of each and every one of us.  Pottery classes, Martha Stewart Living magazines, and just a trip to Michael's can be very inspiring.  But there's a difference between our creative episodes and BEING AN ARTIST.

  Being an artist means that you have taken a very real and dramatic plunge into doing your art full-time.  You have a schedule and your work day consists of producing product.  You are a professional; you are not a hobbyist.  And your job produces something that is intrinsically valuable to society. 

  I was struck by the importance artists have in our society as I walked around during First Friday Artwalk.  Mainly, I realized that if I didn't start buying stuff at First Friday, instead of just socializing, then the artists were never going to recoup the cost of wine and cheese, much less make a decent living for their services.

  Artists are already so giving to us.  They give more gifts, pro-bono, to charity than probably any other profession.  They buy tons and tons of liquor and appetizers for all the openings.  They don't even get health insurance for doing what they love.

  It is a good citizen who become a patron of the arts. Because I like to give as good as I get, I've decided that I'm going to buy all of my holiday presents from local artists.  It should be super easy--everyone loves something original and handmade.

  And if anyone wants to buy me a present, keep me in mind at the next First Friday on December 3rd!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Arts: Exercise for the Soul

Artist Raechel Running and Nick Reznick know how to enjoy the arts.
  Last week was overbooked for everyone I knew, including myself.  Who determined that Halloween, Homecoming, and all of the college board meetings would be simultaneous?!

  Life is so busy that it feels like there's not enough time for cultural events.  Au contraire, pussycat, (I find myself saying in the mirror.)

  When life gets overwhelming, we need to take care of both body and soul.  Like exercise, cultural events are exactly what you need to engage in to be able to keep it up.

  Exercise takes care of your body and gives you more energy.  It insures that you are a smoothly operating bodacious body machine, so that you can power through all those late night Halloween parties and then sit upright through all the board meetings the next day.  

  In the same way, music and art take care of your soul.  They let you relax and release all the stress of the planning, presenting, and partying of the week before.  Beats and brushstrokes can help you get in touch with your inner demons--because they were created by people living this human life.  You can acknowledge them, and then release them!

  For instance, I knew that going to the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra on Friday night was going to come at the end of a very long day and week.  But I also knew that this was time that I had allotted to sit with myself and relax.  All I had to do for 2 hours was hear the music.  I could daydream, I could think about work, and then I could hear the sympathetic response of the orchestra.  For instance, they played Haydn's "Sturm und Drang"  ("Stress and Storm".)  Silly me, but I find it comforting that music can so perfectly express things like work stress.  It makes it kind of romantic, don't you think?  Like, we're all in this together.

  After the symphony, I felt like I often feel after being outside in nature; I was replenished, refreshed.  I think that beauty has amazing restorative effects, whether it be in the clouds and the trees, or in a museum or auditorium.

  As we rev up towards the holidays, and everyone starts to really feel the scheduling burn, I encourage you to take care of yourself!  Go exercise and take care of your body, yes, but don't forget to drink in some cultural events and take care of your soul!

  Flex your art muscles and make the world a better place.

"Ole!"  Jason gets splendiferous after partaking of the symphony. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Aesthetic Gestalt: Greater than the sum of its arts

Lauren Frazier, the little esqueleta at Celebraciones de la Gente.

  After deciding to attend more cultural activities at the beginning of this school year, I helped form a wonderful group we call The Culture Club.  Three of my best friends and I get together to go to different cultural events around town.  Usually one of us (or a few of us) are responsible, in some way, for organizing the events.

  Why is it so great to attend art events with close friends?   Because having close friends and experiencing art and beauty are two things that make us happier people.  The gestalt of our group takes it from our individual experiences and ideas and creates a picture that is larger than the sum of our parts in it.  Before we know it, we've collaborated to share our knowledge and what we see to enhance everyone else's comprehension.  Having a cultural club combines two things, art and community, and creates something with fabulous growth potential.

 On Sunday, we were invited by card-carrying Culture Club member, Anne Doyle, to the Celebraciones de la Gente at the Museum of Northern Arizona.  Anne is responsible for all of the museum Heritage Programs, and promotes art and community in a big way in our town.

  At the Celebraciones, we got to see ofrendas, or altars made by local Flagstaff families in honor of Dia de los Muertos.  The holiday is a day of celebration with friends and families to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  It was an honor to participate in the celebration with people who freely shared their stories and their traditions with us.  It was also a time for us to talk about people who we have lost in the recent or distant past.

  One thing that is distinctive about Dia de los Muertos is that it's a celebration of the dead.  As it's believed that the dead visit their loved ones during this time of year, it's not a holiday for crying or sadness, as "the way of the dead is made slippery with tears." 

  I think I've watched this video by Sir Ken Robinson three times in the last 2 days.  In it, Robinson says that "An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you're present in the current moment, when you're resonating with excitement at this thing that you're experiencing, when you are fully alive.  An anesthetic is when you shut your senses off and deaden yourself to what is happening."

  With the arrangement of flowers, pictures, sugar skulls and charming esqueletos on the altar, the families at the museum this weekend acknowledged their feelings towards death and transformed these feelings into beauty.  They didn't disregard death.  Instead, they kept their loved ones alive by telling us stories about them, and creating visual representations of them.  With their altars and with their tales, death is transformed into an aesthetic experience, something, by contrast, that awakens us to our living state, something that we all share in our human experience.

They didn't anesthetize death.  They aestheticized it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Curmudgeon Prevention Program

                 You can see the finished product of "The Wall Draw" in Beasley Art Gallery until Oct. 23, when it will be painted over.  Wah!  Photo by Chris Taylor.
A big brain is a sexy thing.

There is a new scientific theory that says doing new things every day of your life increases your brain capacity.  It's called neuroplasticity. By challenging yourself with novel experiences, you can make new neural connections, stay flexible and open-minded, and perhaps even remain "forever young."   (As least in mind and spirit.)

How wonderful is that!

Here at the university we have a ton of people who are always doing new things.  For example, Christopher Taylor, adjunct faculty and Beasley Art Gallery coordinator at the School of Art, just produced something entirely different.  He taped off a geometrically shaped line on the walls of Beasley Art Gallery and had students from all over campus, community members, and guests draw their favorite images within these lines with black paint.

The resulting exhibit is called "The Wall Draw."

Chris and the artists spent a month drawing on the walls, and many of them said it felt good to get out of the classroom, good to break some taboos, and REALLY good to draw on the walls.  (I bet it felt kind of naughty, and I'm sure their neurons were just connecting like crazy!  A virtual neuro-party!!)

They did all of that work, and it's only up for a week.  It's an act of true creativity, something done for the love of process, not for the permanent nature of it all.

I admire that.

And  I admire the people at KNAU who are also concerned with making new connections; radio connections, that is.  In case you haven't noticed, this week is pledge drive week, and they are asking people to help keep public radio alive and well in our town.

The news, talk shows, and classical music that I hear on KNAU all certainly give me food for thought--they are good for my brain.  Everything I hear from them is brain food.  And I also got to challenge myself today by being a guest on the classical music hour with Brian Sanders.  Being a radio host is certainly something that pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

Attending and participating in these kinds of things is the stuff that keeps us from becoming curmudgeons, (a.k.a. crusty irascible cantankerous old people full of stubborn ideas.)

Photo by Chris Taylor
It's all about being open to new experiences.  It gives you a beautiful brain!  And that, people, is utterly attractive.

(Keep an eye out for my television story about Chris Taylor and The Wall Draw, coming soon on Inside NAU; The TV Show.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Filmy, film, film..A Flagstaff Zeitgeist

Me, Janna Jones and Kristi Frazier, at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival Director's party.
Between the three of us (and other hard-working cineastes,) we brought 4 days of solid film to Flagstaff this weekend.
  Have you ever heard someone say, "If you don't like it, you should just leave"? 

  I have, and I think it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.  If I decided to move every time there was something that I didn't like about my hometown, I'd be relocating every other week!

  When Movies at the Mall closed down 4 or so years ago, a bunch of people in Flagstaff didn't like it.  They didn't like it at all--but they didn't leave.  This dedicated group of people, many of them my closest friends, decided to stay in Flagstaff, and try to bring film back.  Nobody sat down and said, "let's do it!"  It was just a rising up of interest and passion--a film zeitgeist.  And eventually, we all found each other, and found others in town that loved film too.
  And the result, 4 years later, is a weekend like last weekend.  If you left your house at all last week, you couldn't help but be inundated with film.  There was film on campus, film downtown, even film at the bars! 

  "It seems like in the last 4 years I've seen film picking up in Flagstaff and there's more interest," said my friend Kristi Frazier, Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival board member and director of marketing.  "People are more educated than ever, and there's a greater diversity of films that come to the community because of it."

  It's true.  People all over are getting involved in making more film happen in our little mountain town.  Can anyone say "the next Telluride?"  

  For instance, the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival celebrated its biggest year ever, and announced their film winners on Sunday:  The winner for Best Feature was "Gasland;"  The Jury Award went to "Waste Land;"  Best Action Sport was "Eastern Rises;"  Best Short was "The Wonder Hospital" and the Best Human Interest and Cultural Film was "Sun Come Up.

  And on campus there was the Fashion Film Festival.  Lots of students got involved, and the Fashion Merchandising program in the School of Communication did two fashion shows.  I think I talked to 4 people who wanted to buy the stuff they saw on the "runway." 

Fashion merchandising students at their vintage fashion show.  Photo by Astrid Klocke.  
  If you missed seeing stuff on the big screen, and you are starting to feel a little left out, don't worry.  You can still catch three free films this week!
Tuesday:  "Strangers on a Train,"  7 p.m. Cline Library Assembly Hall
Wednesday:  "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" (USSR, 1980), directed by Vladimir Menshov.
  Winner "Best Foreign Language Film" at the 1980 Academy Awards,  7 pm, Liberal Arts 135.
 Thursday:  "Roja,"  a South Indian film, 7 p.m., Liberal Arts, Rm. 135
 All of these screenings are free and open to the community.

   The film options are enough to silence anyone who still complains about the Harkins monopoly.  When I traveled to Portland this summer, I was jealous of their screen options.  I almost moved there, just because of the film.  But I decided to stay, and I'm so excited to be a apart of a movement towards film HERE.  I love this town.  Because I love Flagstaff so much, I'm willing to put effort, passion, and time towards making it the kind of place I want to live in.  And so are a lot of other people.

  Instead of "If you don't like it, why don't you leave," how about "Be the change you want to see in the world"?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fashion Film Festival: Review by Maxwell Wheeler

                I often wake up and find myself looking at the calendar to see what I should wear. Work day? Pants. School day? Whatever is cleanest. Date? Call sister for help. So when I was asked to review a film about fashion, I was a little more than hesitant. My eyes were opened and my perceptions fashion changed after watching ‘September Issue’.
                At the beginning of the movie I had no idea how to react to what I was seeing. An icy head editor of one of the worlds leading fashion magazines travels the world criticizing fashion designs and sketches. She makes decisions on good or bad fashion in a manner of clarity and certainty that is astonishing. At first I was confused as to how and why she was able to make such instant judgments on expensive tailored fashion and design, and then I started to realize that fashion is a different world. Just like my own world of mechanical design would seem foreign and strange to many people, I began to see similarities between the two.
                The movie follows Anna Wintour and her staff in a documentary style story about the creation of the largest issue of Vogue ever produced. Countless, beautiful photo shoots and fashion designs are brought before the editor in order to be harshly criticized. Top designers of the worlds leading fashion names sit nervously at meetings to take directions from Anna on what to create, all in the hopes of having their designs featured.
                I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who can see it. It is a well filmed and highly personal look into a multi-million dollar industry. Even those who don’t see the purpose of high fashion can still appreciate the time, effort and commitment that go into a single month’s issue of Vogue.  We are always told to culture ourselves, but how many actually take the time to appreciate the culture right in front of us?

Fashion Film Festival: Review by Roger Lohr

       Nominated for four Academy Awards in 1958, “Funny Face” is the now classic story of Jo (Audrey Hepburn), a book store salesgirl who is dragged into the world of fashion by the promise of being able to go to Paris, France.  She meets Dick (Fred Astaire), a handsome photographer, in the bookstore where she works while cleaning up after his photo shoot.  Dick and the magazine editor Maggie are both intrigued by Jo’s appearance in one of the shots from the shoot and entice her into a modeling contract which she reluctantly accepts.  She feels that the fashion industry is nonsensical but as the movie progresses she learns to love her new job and her photographer.

     The movie is thoroughly enjoyable with its snappy dialogue and exquisite shots of Paris.  Hepburn really makes the movie with her reluctance to model and passion for life.  The fashion in the movie is spectacular.  It was so good that the film was nominated for the costume design category at the Oscars.  Hepburn’s beatnik look in the famous club scene was so iconic that The Gap decided to use it in their ad campaign for skinny black jeans.  I really enjoyed this musical romance and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fashion Film Festival: Review by Mathematics student Sofia Bieranowski

Editor's Note:  The Cinema and Visual Culture Studies is producing the Fashion Film Festival on Oct. 9.  The three films will screen for free throughout the day.  See the schedule at the end of the article.
“Coco Avant Chanel”
 reviewed by mathematics student, Sofia Bieranowski

“Coco Avant Chanel”  is a French film that focuses, as the title depicts, on the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel before her work redefined fashion.  The film, while an excellent depiction of Coco’s unique personality, does not give much insight into her inspiration for her work but focuses on her love life and the impact it has on her career. 
“Coco Avant Chanel” begins when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (played by Audrey Tautou) and her sister, Adrienne, are being dropped off at an orphanage by their father as a result of the death of their mother.  15 years later, Coco and Adrienne are working as seamstresses by day and in music halls at night, pairing to sing and dance.  It is here that Adrienne falls in love, and begins her own life separate from Coco, leaving Coco to fend for herself after the girls are fired from the hall.  
Coco invites herself to the estate of her lover from the hall, Etienne Balsan, (Benoit Poelvoorde) and begins to incorporate herself into his life, impressing his friends with her witty character and unique style.  She begins making hats for one of the lady friends of Balsan, and her hats slowly gain popularity.  Coco then begins making clothes for her clients as well.  Soon, she meets another man and falls in love, but her suitor is unavailable.  However, he encourages her to take her skill and passion further than private clientele, and the work we know of Coco Chanel begins.
Although the film did not play out how expected, I was very intrigued throughout, curious to see what quirky side of Coco would come out next, or what new outfit she would show up wearing.  Audrey Tautou does an excellent job of portraying Coco Chanel and all of her characteristics.  Passion and severity are thick in every scene, the viewer all too aware of the loneliness Coco tries to play off as she works her way through each situation and relationship.  The film ends with a fashion show of her work known to society today, but her face still expresses the theme of sacrifice as the story concludes.

Fashion Film Festival:

Oct. 9, Cline Library Assembly Hall, Free

Sponsored by Cinema and Visual Cultural Studies, the Merchandising program in the School of Communication, College of Arts and Letters, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and School of Communication.

There will be fashion shows before the 3 p.m. showing and 7 p.m. showing by the Merchandising program in the School of Communication.  Students will be modeling vintage clothing as well as the latest styles for fall.

12:30 p.m.--“Funny Face” directed by Stanley Donen, starring Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, 1957, 103 min., NR
3 p.m.--“Coco Avant Chanel” (Coco Before Chanel,) directed by Anne Fontaine, starring Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola, Emmanuelle Devos, 2009, 105 min., PG-13.  Screened in French with English subtitles.

7 p.m.-- “September Issue,” directed by R.J. Cutler, starring Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, 2009, 90 min., PG-13.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Flagstaff: A Cinema Mecca?

"The Push Bike"screened at the Manhattan Short Film Festival last Thursday.

  Has anybody else noticed that Flagstaff is becoming a film town?

  For instance, this week on Tuesday, the College of Arts and Letters is screening "The Bicycle Thief;" on Wednesday, the NAU International Film Series is screening the German film "Nobody's Perfect," and the Orpheum is screening "Ride the Divide;"  The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival is showing over 60 films Thursday - Sunday; and there is the Fashion Film Festival on campus, this Saturday.

  Film, anyone?!

  Just to warm up for this week of extreme film-viewing, I attended the Manhattan Short Film Festival last Thursday at Cline Library.  The Manhattan shorts were taken from 10 different countries.  We, as an audience, got to choose our favorite, and vote for them.

  The screening was fantastic, and a great chance to see shorts in Flagstaff.  The only speed bump in our experience was the young man in front of us who couldn't stop playing Monopoly on his cell phone, smack dab in our line of vision.  My friend asked him to turn it off or leave; turning it off seemed to be too hard for him, so thankfully he eventually just left.

  But back to film in Flagstaff.  I can't believe how many people have put their hard work into making these film festivals happen.  A lot of them are free, or deeply discounted for students.  They are usually films that you will never get to see at Harkins, and probably not even on Netflix.  The festival organizers want everyone to see them, to experience them, to think about what they are saying.  It's a labor of love, just so we can see good stuff on the big screen!    

  Film is one of the most accessible forms of art in this town, and it's open to everyone.  It's so great to enjoy with people of all ages.  Maybe I'll see you in the seats, watching the silver screen this week.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fashion Film Festival: Intriguing enough for engineering students

Editor's Note:  The Cinema and Visual Culture Studies is producing the Fashion Film Festival on Oct. 9.  The three films will screen for free throughout the day.  See the schedule at the end of the article. 

Review of: “The September Issue”
By Gregory Scott, engineering student

Most posters or release advertisements to “The September Issue” showcase the tagline “This is the Real Devil Wears Prada.” Honestly, I could not have said it better myself.  The film is mostly shot from a documentary point of view, however the viewer is immediately wrapped into the story due to some very engaging storytelling.  The movie covers the production of the 2007 September issue of Vogue, which remains today the largest issue of the magazine ever, and is speculated to have had the largest impact on the 300 billion dollar fashion industry compared to any other magazine.  The sense of urgency in the movie builds and builds, like a snowball rolling downhill, until at the end the viewer finds themselves worried if they even be able to finish the issue on time. 

Personally I was taken aback by how interested I became in this foreign world of fashion (as an engineering major.) This entire film was like viewing a National Geographic venture into a completely foreign world. This is not to say that the film is not accessible, it is fun and witty, just as much as it is serious and stern.  There are times where you will want to give Anna Wintour a serious piece of your mind as she mercilessly hacks and slashes her employees’ multi-thousand dollar shoots down to mere two-page features. As the film progresses though, you begin to learn how things really work and respect Anna’s discerning eye, just as much as you respect the brilliant ideas put forth by Grace Coddington.  The movie does an amazing job of following Grace’s exploits as well, following her every thought and every shoot. It almost seems like you are watching an action movie, seeing Grace’s every struggle and every defeat, until she comes up with her best idea yet and finally tames Anna’s disapproval.

Overall, it doesn’t matter if you wear the same blue jeans every day, or if you appreciate the subtle differences between six different shades of white within a Prada dress line, this movie will severely intrigue and entertain you.

Fashion Film Festival:

Oct. 9, Cline Library Assembly Hall, Free

Sponsored by Cinema and Visual Cultural Studies, the Merchandising program in the School of Communication, College of Arts and Letters, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and School of Communication.

There will be fashion shows before the 3 p.m. showing and 7 p.m. showing by the Merchandising program in the School of Communication.  Students will be modeling vintage clothing as well as the latest styles for fall.

12:30 p.m.--“Funny Face” directed by Stanley Donen, starring Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, 1957, 103 min., NR
3 p.m.--“Coco Avant Chanel” (Coco Before Chanel,) directed by Anne Fontaine, starring Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola, Emmanuelle Devos, 2009, 105 min., PG-13.  Screened in French with English subtitles.

7 p.m.-- “September Issue,” directed by R.J. Cutler, starring Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, 2009, 90 min., PG-13.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why one must travel

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
Berber Kaiser celebrates her birthday at Oktoberfest.  
Photo by Arne Kaiser.

  Last Thursday, my son and I went to the Matterhorn Grill for Oktoberfest.  We have lots and lots of German blood in us, so we joined others in celebrating German culture, heritage, and traditions.

  We sang in German.  We tried to speak our little bit of German.

  And then, we ate in German.  We had bratwurst, spaetzle, apple strudel, and then my German failed and I ate the nameless beets and chicken dishes and drank a double-bach beer.  They tasted just as good.

  I used up my 4 phrases of German pretty quick, and then, for some reason, a new-found friend and I started speaking French.  I mean, it's a European language, right?!  It seemed appropriate.

  My new friend was (impressively) learning Italian, French, German, and Finnish at NAU and from friends.  He wants to learn as many languages as possible, and he thinks that everyone should be able to speak at least two languages.

 But this is hard for Americans.  Perhaps it's due to our cultural and geographical isolation.  Perhaps it's due to our economic dominance.  Maybe we've just tried so hard to fit ourselves into an American identity that we've lost the appreciation for other languages.

  I remember growing up, and having no reason for learning Spanish.  I vaguely understood that someone, somewhere spoke this language.  I simply had never been immersed in a foreign language, never traveled to a non-English speaking country.  I had never heard Spanish outside of the classroom.

  But my son has.  I think one of his most valuable lessons in language integration was traveling to Spain, and making friends with Spanish kiddos on the plane and on the beach.  One of my proudest translation moments was standing near the tide pools in the Canary Islands and translating to a boy that my son wanted to play with him, wanted to catch crawdads and build sand castles.  And then, it was no longer important to translate words, because the universal language of play took over.

  Exposure to different languages and cultures, and most importantly, people similar to us, is important to motivate us to learn foreign languages.  We don't operate in a vacuum.  One must travel, and if travel isn't possible, then one must go to experience things like Oktoberfest!