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!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Human Experience: Different, yet the same

Me with my students at the symphony, Hanna Smolan (left) and Alysia Armijo (right).

By Elizabeth Hellstern

Last week I got to attend the first concert of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, The French Connection.  It was beautiful; I got goosebumps, and I sighed with dreamy melancholy during Erik Satie's "Gymnopedia," a piece that was dedicated to the late Dr. Pat Curry. My face got flushed over the loud brass parts (as when we sang the national anthem.) During "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Bolero," I felt like dancing around.

I guess music is very visceral for me.

I used to think that I was supposed to be reflecting and listening along a prescribed theme-line, a certain something that everyone else experienced when hearing classical music.  I didn't realize that everyone's inner world is completely different, and that part of the beauty is letting the music take me where it will.

It's extremely enjoyable for me to be able to watch the musicians as they play.  During "Bolero", I caught sight of a young violist, who was completely transformed by the music.  She was dreamily swaying, her face caught up in the swells of the music.  I knew that she had been practicing that piece for months, that she was "at work" up there on the stage, and yet, she was allowing the music to be a pleasure to her instead of a chore.

I loved watching the pianist play "Rhapsody in Blue," as she threw her fluffy blond hair around and used her fingers to convey her own unique phrasing.  She practically skipped to the piano bench, so excited to be channeling her inner life into the notes.  She played a piece that everyone knows, that United Airlines has even used for its commercials.  Yet, Sara Buechner is so in touch with her difference, that she played with a touch that people haven't heard before.

Yes, the concert was something special, something that could never be repeated exactly in the same way.

And we were all there together, experiencing it as one audience, in our own special way.  We were experiencing the human condition.  After the concert, I talked with people.  A retired faculty member remembered Dr. Curry, and the special way that he had mentored her career as a voice professor.  Someone remembered her first trip to Paris, and the excitement of young love.  And some of my students were there, young people so excited to be part of the audience for the first time, experiencing music like this with a group, feeling exhilaration and joy as they watched beauty unfold.

This concert was a little different for me, because I heard about so many other people's experience.  It was more meaningful to hear what was going through their minds. 

It's the beauty of personal connection—everybody heard the same thing, but we all went to different places, together.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Choosing people over places

My son Isaac, my cousin Matthew, and friend Taylor in front of Bumblebee at the Rt. 66 Car Show
by Elizabeth Hellstern

I think that art is meaningful, and it can change people.  But sometimes, the bigger question of art is how to get people to see it.

For example, I meant to go to the Open Studios closing reception on Saturday.  But my plans changed when my 20-year-old cousin came into town with his friend, and we went to the Rt. 66 Car Show instead.  This is my very sweet cousin who still says, "Remember the time you took me to the Frida Kahlo show at the Phoenix Art Museum?"  This outing that we went on in 2001 sticks out in his head as a memorable event.  And yet, he admits that he's never been back to the museum since.

I asked his friend, Taylor, who goes to school at ASU, if he ever gets to see plays or art exhibits.  He said no, but that he should.  "The biggest factor is time.  And then, if there's alcohol served."  Like, maybe if we had a tail-gate or something at each art opening, we could get more college students to see fine art...

Um, that's probably not going to happen.  But why is it that football and sporting events are equated with fun, while plays and art exhibits aren't?  Why is it that my cousin remembers an art exhibit he went to 9 years ago, but then has never gone to a museum since?  Why does everyone feel like they "should" go to art events, but they don't?

I'm not going to answer those questions today (perhaps next week,) but I am going to say that on Saturday we all went to soak in some super-accessible art at the car show.  While this art doesn't hang on the wall in a fancy museum, it's even better--it's three-dimensional, kinetic art. 

Ultimately, I think that the real meaning of art is that it is a reflection of the human experience.  And sometimes the human experience is about looking real cool in your wheels.  I'm sure if she were alive today, Frida Kahlo wouldn't mind going for a ride in a bright orange 1972 Firebird.

Yeah, I can totally see Diego and Frida roaring down the street in this bad boy. Frida would be driving, of course.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Toto, we're not in Flagstaff anymore...

Nine-year-old Lily will pull you an espresso shot at 100 Mike's Pike.

by Elizabeth Hellstern

My first week of resolution, and I more than fulfilled it. I attended three cultural events this week; I went to the College of Arts and Letters Film Series screening of "The Gold Rush." I went to the opening exhibit of The Fifth Biennial Print Exhibition at the NAU Art Museum. And I also went to ArtWalk, saw all of you there as well, and stopped by quite a few new places, including Jeff and Kari Maurer's new space at 100 Mike's Pike.

Just to be specific, and to clarify the rules of my fun little game, I'm defining cultural events as fine art exhibits, film screenings (not "movies",) theatre or dance performances, classical music performances, and intellectual lecturers or speakers. I did go to the County Fair this weekend, and while there is plenty of culture there, (the demolition derby alone could satisfyingly fill a graduate student's thesis paper with its American culture theme,) I'm just not counting it. I have a lot of options, and I only have to attend one event per week.

At the packed house of "The Gold Rush," my 14-year-old son was laughing uproariously, along with the rest of the crowd. I felt very connected to my fellow film-goers: we laughed together, we clapped together, we even cringed together when the Tramp kicked a dog (YUCK.) I had an incredibly virtuous feeling afterwards, too, because I had furthered my son's understanding of the history of physical humor. He loves George Lopez, Seinfeld, The Marx Brothers, and the Stooges. Now I've added a historical piece to his comedic understanding!

The NAU Art Museum has a fantastic display of prints up. I learned that the printing process is extremely complex (and involves quite a few chemicals.) It's a fascinating show, and if you go, you should kindly ask Ty to explain some of the processes for you. Maybe I'm just crazy, but knowing all the work that goes into each piece makes me just the tiniest bit in awe of the finished product.

Finally, on First Friday I dragged my friend to the Maurer's space, where Phoenix artist John Tuomisto-Bell is displaying his fantastic bronze-casted army of featureless figures and heads, of all shapes and sizes. I met Jeff last week, following early morning curiosity. Jeff and his wife, Kari, have created a totally restored historic building--but done with corrugated metal siding, cool window placement, and classy old wood. It feels historic, yet super-modern. In the middle of this aesthetic coolness is a super-fine espresso machine. Their 9-year-old daughter, Lily, will pull you the finest shot ever. Watch out Late for the Train!

In between having a good laugh at Charlie Chaplin, learning a ton of new information about the printing process, and drinking super-strong espresso at 8 p.m., a funny phrase started to float about within my earshot. "I feel like I'm not in Flagstaff anymore," I heard several times.

I think it's great that all of the art events are starting to bring people out of their culture box. I think it's great that Flagstaff is starting to bring it all home. But I think it's high time that we stop being shocked that we ARE in Flagstaff, and raise our expectations of our sweet little mountain town!

Yes, we are in Flagstaff, it's great, and getting even better!