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.