Art, Music, & Film: May 2005 Archives


| | Comments (4)

You're not going looking for great story. You are not going looking for profound resonance for the ages. You aren't going to learn something about human nature.

And it's a good thing.

On the other hand, you're going because a young one in the house sees paranoid penguin commandoes and knows that this is THE film to see. You're going because you want to see how a New York lion fares in Madagascar. You're going (although you may not know it yet) because life among the lemurs is a whole lot of fun punctuated by moments of extreme terror.

And you do after all like to "Move it, move it, you like to move it, move it."

And, if the little ones enjoy it, isn't it worthwhile after all? The answer, I'm looking for, of course is yes.

Recommended--good for an entire family of brainless fun.

Bookmark and Share

I have not been, until recent date, a country music fan. I probably still am not by the standards of the dyed-in-the-wool fan. I probably won't be populating my collection with the greatest hits of Merle Haggard, Travis Tritt, or Tanya Tucker (although given the sea-change in my attitude of recent date, who knows?). However, I have acquired a taste for certain new country music. For example, almost anything by almost any of the women of country music--Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Gretchen Wilson, Julie Roberts, Katrina Elam, Terri Clark, Martina McBride. . .

So far the men still leave me mostly cold--they tend to have high tenor voices that grate on my nerves. But I've found a few that I really like. Tim McGraw (on and off), George Canyon, and most recently Josh Turner. What I like about Josh Turner is the deep, smoky, Johnny-Cash-Like voice, particularly demonstrated on the title track of this album.

"Long Black Train" is called a country-gospel song. Can't say that I really understand what all that means; however, it is compelling and interesting listening. Most particularly the chorus:

'Cause there's victory in the Lord, I say.
Victory in the Lord.
Cling to the Father and his Holy name,
And don't go ridin' on that long black train.

(By the way, if you need lyrics this is the place to go. Be warned, it has an unfortunate propensity for pop-ups, which Firefox puts in their place.)

There is something is this chorus that is just catchy. I can't remember much of the rest of the song, but I find myself humming along with the chorus and even singing it to myself. It's good to have the reminder that "there's victory in Lord." And it's nice for it to have a hook that sticks with you.

On a side note, yesterday I was listening to some Johnny Cash (yes, I know he's classified as country, but I've never really thought of him that way), an album called My Mother's Hymnbook. A song came on that had Samuel suddenly joining in from the back seat. I had never heard it before, but it was another one of those punchy Baptist Hymns that get inside your head and won't fall out. This one was called "Do Lord."

Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me,
Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me,
Do Lord, O do Lord, O do remember me,
Way beyond the blue.

(If you haven't heard it before you can listen to a rather polka-ized over-droned midi here.)

Well, this was one obvious evidence of where he's been to school. However, it was amazing to hear him say--"Play it again. Play it again." He loved hearing something he knew--and it's a peppy little song with a bright chorus, and because of its simplicity a real hook that gets inside and won't come out. Given today's music, I don't mind so much a few reminders of the Lord getting in there and rattling around in my head. Sure as shootin' few of those OCP hymnal things that stick around five seconds after you've sung it.

And finally, yesterday at Mass (we went to the youth Mass) we sand yet another song that Sam knew by heart.

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, pow'r and love
Our God is an awesome God

Not your traditional Latin Mass, but it sent me out of Church on fire and alive. Don't ask me why, but the music lifted me up and brought me into His presence in a way few things have done in a long time. I'll be among those who praise the glories of the diversity available in the Mass. So long as you don't mess with the prayers, I can take in a wide variety of Masses. I've been to a Calypso Mass, a Creole Mass, a Mariachi Mass, an African Drum Mass, and several Asian varieties of the Mass, and each was beautiful in its own right. Now, I'm not sure I'd want a steady diet of any of these--but the Youth Mass at our Church is just fine with me. Late enough in the day that I can actually sing, and giving praise to God at my "peak time" is surely worth the time and energy.

Okay, so enough of my peculiarities in the realm of music. If you haven't heard it, I'd recommend hitting up the local public library or a friend and listening to Josh Turner's wonderful album Long Black Train. I really enjoyed every song on it. And it's nice to hear a country music song mention Florida, even if it is only in terms of a place you want to get away from.

Bookmark and Share

A couple of days ago TSO expressed disappointment with 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the first movie I saw more than a couple of times in the theatre, 2001 holds a special place for me. But I think it is an important enough film in one filmmaker's opus that perhaps some explanation of what is going on (as I see it) might be in order.

According to the Internet Movie Database Stanley Kubrick, the director of 2001 has a surprisingly sparse but amazingly broad and penetrating film opus consisting of some 16 films, 11 of which could be considered "major." Starting with The Killing in 1956, Kubrick produced film after controversial film. 1957 saw Paths of Glory, an enigmatic statement about war and responsibility. This was followed up by the first "spectacle" in 1960's Spartacus. In 1962 Kubrick brought Lolita to the screen for the first time. Then, in 1964 we get the startling, amusing, but dark comedy Dr. Strangelove.This was followed by the work in question, 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, and immediately (in Later Kubrickian terms) by the stark, frightening, and alluring A Clockwork Orange. 1975 saw the bizarre and slow costume drama Barry Lyndon made from a relatively minor novel by William Thackeray. His opus ends with a progressively less successful threesome of films, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut.

Now, Kubrick appears to have a couple of major obsessions in his opus--one of these is the (mis)use of sexuality, the other is isolation. It is with the latter that 2001: A Space Odyssey deals most; and I think of all of his opus, this film is the most exacting delilneation of the nature of alienation. in his entire opus. If we watch his films, from Colonel Dax and Phillipe Paris in Paths of Glory ("Paths of glory lead but to the grave.") to William and Alice Harford in Eyes Wide Shut we see a string of character--Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, Dave Bowman, Alex the Droog, Jack Torrance, and so on, all of whom are completely alienated from all of those around them. Sometimes, as in 2001, the alienation is dramatically physical, other times it is within the intimacy of the marital relationship. The "repair" of the relationship at the end of Eyes Wide Shut really amounts to a simple seal on the alienation implicit throughout.

Like Orson Welles, Kubrick was a Hollywood outsider. So much so that he made his last couple of films from a studio in Great Britain. He was an outsider in part because he refused to compromise the vision of his films--and that vision is a starkly cool, perhaps even cold and minutely scrutiny of the human condition.

What I like so much about 2001: A Space Odyssey is the way the appeal can grow. From the first time I saw it at a very tender age and was just tremendously excited about the whole science fiction aspect, to my most recent viewing, in which I noted the extraordinary effect of the Ligeti music creating an eerie sort of landscape for the monolith and the tongue-in-cheek use of Strauss waltzes to convey the sense of lightness and freedom that is carefully restrained in microgravity, the film has something for the casual or the careful viewer of almost any age. When you are young you tend not to notice the coldness of Kubrick's view. But when you begin to really investigate the relationship of the Hal 9000 with the astronauts, you begin to see Kubrick's point. Hal and the entire Jupiter Mission spacecraft are human endeavors--human endeavors to achieve a god-like end. As such they "create" an environment and the results of human creation are the direct consequence of the fallenness of human nature. Hal is insane, the ultimate in human calculation and self-protection. And yet the systematic dismantling of Hal the deconstruction of his own creation at the hands of the "god" who created it is startling, sad, and frightening. This is the end of any human endeavor not guided by God. When man's reach exceeds his grasp without a heaven then there is literally hell to pay. The creation of the human mind unaided by grace will always end in destruction. I doubt Kubrick would have expressed the end of his vision in these terms, but the end of the film, which seems so charming and amazing--the birth of the transcendent "Star Child," which makes absolutely no sense at all is left much more vague than the quite direct end of the book, in which the Star Child proceeds to provoke nuclear crisis on Earth by setting off orbiting nuclear stations and satellites. We have seen the works of fallen man and when he is given the power of a god, what can one expect but more of the same. Many saw the end of Kubrick's film as transcendent and hopeful. I think Kubrick was masterful in not going beyond the floating transformed Bowman--in leaving the audience to derive what they can from the end of the film. What I once saw--the promise of transformation and the good that could result, I now see as the terror of transformation and the havoc men will wreak upon the world.

In many ways, Kubrick's films must be "read" as a whole. 2001 does not stand outside the line of his vision, but is the most definitive statement of certain aspects of it. Humanity is untrustworthy, grasping, destructive, and out-of-control. It is hardly surprising that the next film in the opus is perhaps his greatest expression of the destructive potential of humankind set free from any circumscribing bounds. A Clockwork Orange is not necessarily, as many would have it, a polemic against the state rehabilitation of criminals. Rather, I think it is the ultimate statement that fallen man is a criminal who cannot be redeemed by any human means because such redemption would only lead to destruction in some other form.

The greatness of Kubrick's 2001 is not merely a greatness in isolation. It is one facet of Kubrick directorial vision and his vision of humanity, fiercely and plangently illuminated by the experience of physical isolation and the abnormality of circumstances. It is the melding of story, framing of image, music, and each individual element of the film that gives 2001 the deep resonance it has as a film. It is unsurprising that, like most of Kubrick's work, it tends to leave many adult viewers cold. That is precisely what Kubrick was aiming at. If there is any word to describe every element of his major opus, that word would be "cold." Kubrick looks at humanity with a fierce flame that burns with the freezing of catabatic winds.

Bookmark and Share

Calendar Girls

| | Comments (1)

A highly improbable, but true, story of a group of women in England who decide to pose for a calendar. The impetus is the death of one woman's husband from cancer. While undergoing treatment, she was often forced to remain in the inadequate waiting room. She thought that the Woman's Institute for the area should raise the money for a new couch for the room so it would be somewhat more comfortable.

Their previous efforts at fundraising were, shall we say, not terribly successful. One of the women hits upon the idea of the group of them posing nude for a calendar. Now all of these ladies are not, how shall we put it, in the first bloom of youth, although all are blessed with a certain beauty that comes only of age. So we think we've gotten outselves into a female version of The Full Monty. Not so at all--while there are obvious parallels, this story is unique, very amusing, and charming. In fact, the whole set-up for the first calendar shot is extremely funny, as are several other moments in the film.

Recommended for the adults in the house.

Bookmark and Share



About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Art, Music, & Film category from May 2005.

Art, Music, & Film: April 2005 is the previous archive.

Art, Music, & Film: June 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll