Monday, February 28, 2011

Blue Tailcoat - Part 2

Coats are a particular kind of challenge. I've made two without patterns for different periods and I worked in men's alterations for over a year so I've got a solid background... but it's still really interesting to start the process from step one again.

Anyhow, I had to dig out some of my own fabric for the facing and that meant pulling out my bag of whites and creams. I found some sheer stuff I didn't know I had... now I need to make something with it!
A look at the extent of my collection.
The front facing.
My customer asked for a bit of the lining to show around the collar and cuffs. The best way to do this is to create piping. Thankfully I had some thick yarn that would be perfect for the core of the piping.
(I got a new camera. Hence my fascination with taking a lot of pictures, including the soundtrack I was listening to at the time)
Ah, now we get to the meat and potatoes of the operation. Cutting out all the pieces on the main fabric. That was a LOT of cutting!
Here's the piping! It turned out very well... it should look very elegant when inserted into the seams!
This particular seam baffled me for quite awhile. I was worried it wouldn't properly fit together...
But I staystiched and clipped and eased and stretched all according to the instructions and what do you know -- it worked!
Laying out the lining...
Lining is almost done! Just have to add the sleeves! (Which are cut and sewn already)
Stay tuned for part three, coming after I return home on the 11th!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


My complete play-by-play and thoughts on the big night... starting with the Red Carpet Coverage and leading up to BEST PICTURE.

Nice map to snow the layout of the red carpet and its relation to the theatre.

Hailee Steinfeld – lovely, 50's style dress, beautiful shiny and eyes. Elegent clean twist for her hair.

Amy Adams – WOW. What a looker! A million stars on a midnight blue dress... sequins? The cut is extremely flattering. Maybe a little showy but she can pull it off.

Jennifer Lawrence – well she can pull off the red and her hair looks great, but I think the dress is too simple... it looks lovely on her, but it's a little understated for the Oscars.

Cate Blanchett – lovely haircut – she looks younger than ever. But her dress... I like the cute and style but up close the bead and embellishment is kind of weird...

Lovely little montage with the mothers of many of the nominees. What a cute idea. :)

Scarlett Johansson goes with a daring but flattering shade of purple in a lovely lace design. Her hair, however... is a little bewildering. What's with the windblown?

Anne Hathaway! The Belle of the ball... red, as almost always. Simple on top, but a gorgeous train! Lovely necklace and elegant hair. Looking forwards to seeing more of her!

Reese Witherspoon, her dress... it looks more high school prom than oscars... but her earrings are gorgeous. And love her hair. Lovely hair.

Jennifer Hudson – love her hair, and the drape on her waist and torso... not so hot on the neckline!

Natalie Portman, looking beautiful! The purple is gorgeous and flattering, perfectly styled around her baby bump. Love the layers of chiffon and beading.

Red is tonight's color. Here is Sandra Bullock, in red. Again, fairly simple dress with some detail on the back.

Nicole Kidman... my first impulse? I liked her dress. Then I realized... it reminds me too much of Elvis. It's got sort of a Japanese influence, which is pretty cool though.

Gwennyth Paltrow – fake tan? She looks pretty orange. Her dress has some appeal, however. Sort of Greek Goddess-y.

Halle Berry – really lovely dress with beadwork and organza, I love it! I also appreciated about how she loves the Oscars for the fashion and how others choose to present themselves. Pretty cool stuff.

Teeheee... Tom Hanks sometimes seems to me a little overrated but he was pretty funny here.

Really awesome opening montage/countdown of the best picture nominees. Very nicely assembled!

And... Live from the Kodak Theatre...

OMG. What a brilliant start! James Franco and Anne Hathway get Inception tips from Leonardo DiCaprio!

“This might be more confusing than inception”

James Franco under a Bear Head. Oh my. This opening might outdo even Hugh Jackman's opening song and dance...

“Alec likes me to narrate his dreams.”

“I have good news from the future. Microphones get smaller.”

And then they go Back to the future... IN A DELOREAN!

And cue the announcers... Anne Hathaway in a gorgeous dress... beautiful Oscar music... I love it so much... and I want to watch the whole opening again...

Side jokes about how they are there to appeal to a younger crowd.

“Do I get money with it?” “No, you get prestige for the rest of your life.”

Gorgeous, gorgeous homages to some epics... “Gone with the Wind,” “Titanic...”

Art Direction goes to Alice in Wonderland. A little annoyed... I really wanted Harry Potter to get recognized.

Inception got Cinematography!!!!! Hurrah!

Kirk Douglas makes an appearance to present the best supporting actress award...

(Helena Bonham Carter actually doesn't look too weird tonight...actually quite normal for her.)

And the Oscar goes to... Melissa. For the Fighter. And while I'm sure she was great, it was not who I wanted. (goes off and weeps for Helena Bonham Carter). But wow, I can't begrudge her this, she's so refreshingly normally astonished and happy. Just adorable.

Best Animated Short goes to – “The Lost Thing”

Best Animated Film: No surprise here. Toy Story 3 carries the gold.

The Stage gets a lovely 20's era refit... absolutely gorgeous! It's setting the mood for the screenplay awards...

The Social Network gets the best adapted screenplay. I'm a little disappointed, but I've heard that it actually is a pretty fantastic script.

King's Speech takes home the best original screenplay! Absolutely delighted to see this! Really lovely acceptance speech there too.

Anne Hathaway now changes into a tuxedo... she mentions her turn as a a participant in the song and dance number two years ago --- then says she wanted to do a dueet again, but 'somebody' wouldn't help her. She then does a song about HUGH JACKMAN and how he broke her heart and deserted her! OMG. SO FUNNY! Hugh Jackman's face is hilarious...

oh dear. James Franco walks out in a dress. “You got to wear a tux so I get to wear this.”

Helen Mirren looking gorgeous as always, but with short hair! Wow! Cute!

Foreign Language Film “In a Better World” wins.

Best Supporting Actor goes to: Christain Bale. The Fighter is snatching up the acting awards... and the King's Speech appears to be getting snubbed there. No clear strong choice for Best Picture appearing... this could be interesting.

Anne Hathaway changes into a stunning black and white number with beautiful crystals and loveliness...

Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidnam come up to present the next award!

Then we get a full orchestra rendition of famous themes.... and it's time for Best original score --- which goes to – “The Social Network.” Which is a bit of a letdown because, though cool, it's not quite as awesome as some of the others...

Two lovely people, Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey come up to present the next award!

Sound Mixing -- INCEPTION! (Insert sound of Rose and I sending up cheers over our chat through which we're enjoying watching this together.)

Sound Editing – Matthew McConaughey gives a very unsurprised “mhmmm” and announces INCEPTION.

Now we get a LOTR backdrop.... it looks amazing. And music... and this is of course presented by Cate Blanchett.

Make-up goes to: The Wolf-man

COSTUME TIME! (now I get happy). Well I wanted the Tempest to get it, but I figured Alice in Wonderland would get it... and it did. The costumes do look pretty amazing.

And now we look at best song...

Mandy Moore and Zachari Levi perform their song from “Tangeled” SO ADORABLE. :)

James Franco introduces Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhall – and acts grumpy saying that Jake “Made out with my co-host... in a movie.”

Best Documentary Short - “Strangers no more.”

(apparently the envelopes are hard to open this year because several presenters seem to be having problems opening them)

Best Live Action Short Film: “God of Love.”

Anne Hathaway changes AGAIN into a gold dress...

Harry Potter music video? LOL... oh I get it. Making fun of movies. Toy Story is up... then Social Network...TWILIGHT? OMG. So funny.

Well I may not like Oprah but she has a kind of cool dress.

Documentary of the Year: Inside Job

AWWW, Billy Crystal just got introduced! :) (Longtime Oscar Host) Very, very funny.

Then some great archival footage of Bob Hope.

AND ROBERT DOWNEY JR! And... JUDE LAW. Oh this is too much... and they're hilarious. They play off each other great, just like in Sherlock Holmes.

Special Effects – (so many good films in this category – but) INCEPTION wins!

Achievement in film Editing: The Social Network. (I think maybe I need to actually see this film now? Possibly?)

Now Anne Hathaway changes into an absolutely stunning red gown... I'm in love.

More best songs... and awesome! We get to see Gwennyth Paltrow sing! She sounds fabulous.

Winner of Best Original Song: “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3) So Rose and I feel that the other nominees were better and we're a little perplexed by this choice... anyone have any light to shed on this? (That said, it is nice to see an animated film getting more serious recognition)

I always love how they do a video tribute to those in the film field who passed this year. I think it's really touching and wonderful, though also quite sad.

Now Anne is in Blue... and it's a little too shiny for my taste.

Hilary Swank in a gorgeous silver dress! Metallic – extreme shine, seems to really be in this year.

Best Director – King's Speech! So happy to see this! And a really lovely tribute to his mother. :)

Oh my.... now some biggies... Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach come out...

Jeff Bridges to present Best Actress... really great performances here...

And the winner is: NATALIE PORTMAN!!!!! (although, okay, is anyone actually surprised?) Very, very happy for her. Even though I'm not sure I want to see the Black Swan (at least for awhile), I really love Portman and I understand her work in this film was phenomenal.

Sandra Bullock out to present the best actor award... and again, so much talent, it's amazing...

And COLIN FIRTH WINS!!!!! Hear me cheer... :)

More metallic as Anne comes out in silver...


Best Picture goes to THE KING'S SPEECH! While I would have been happy to see Inception win, I am also very glad that The King's Speech pulled this award. :)

To cap it all off, we've got the adorable PS22 Chorus singing “Somewhere over the rainbow...” and now all the winners come walking out. :) The Emerald City appears in the background... it's very magical.

And the Winners here at Elenatintil.blogspot are...

After a month of voting (including some very close races and one tie!) it is time to announce the winners!

Best Picture – Inception

Best Actor – Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

Best Actress – Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Supporting Actor – Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Supporting Actress – Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)

Animated Feature – How to Train your Dragon/Toy Story 3

Cinematography – Inception

Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland

Directing – The King's Speech (Tom Hooper)

Makeup – The Way Back

Music (Original Score) – How to Train Your Dragon

Music (Original Song) – Tangled “I See the Light”

Short Film (Animated) – Day and Night

Visual Effects – Inception

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – Toy Story 3

Writing (Original Screenplay) – Inception

Thank you so much for participating in the polls! I really enjoyed seeing what you all voted for and found worthy of winning.

Now to see what the Academy votes! Tune in later to see my reactions and chime in with your own opinions! Also -- fashion lovers, don't forget to watch the Red Carpet at 7:00 Eastern Time! I'll be offering opinions on the dresses and would love to hear your thoughts as well!


We're getting so close! Remember, Oscar night starts at 7pm, Eastern Time, with the Red Carpet coverage!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flotsam and Jetsam

All sorts of shiny things to share with you all today!

First off, would you like me to draw a unique piece of formalwear for you in honor of the 2011 Academy Awards? I'm extending the drawing through tomorrow, so if you haven't left your comment yet, go ahead and so NOW!

Secondly... the last three polls are going up now! So vote vote vote for BEST ACTOR, BEST ACTRESS and... *drumroll please* BEST PICTURE.

Next... I'd like to mention a little TV show called Firefly. Ever heard of it? Best show ever to be prematurely canceled. Possibly best TV show ever. Anyhow, there are some waves going out over the internet to seriously get this back on the air (or the internet, at least). Lead Actor Nathan Fillion (you may know him from the show "Castle") mentioned that if he won the Calafornia lottery and got $300 million the first thing he'd do is buy up the rights and bring back the show himself. Of course, the Firefly fans (Browncoats!) took this pretty seriously and are starting up what is turning into an extrodinary effort to bring back the show... check it out and maybe help make TV history! (Also, join the 45,000 and growing crowd over on facebook!)

Then -- X-Men Fans --- interesting interview today from James McAvoy! Check it out here.

I am heading out for some warm Spring Break Vacation Weather this weekend! I'll still post all sorts of goodies (and don't forget -- tons of Oscar coverage on Sunday!), but you may find a few pictures of beautiful ocean views tossed in. That's okay. You can be jealous.

Finally, the name of this post is a partial homage to Joss Whedon's run on the Astonishing X-Men, which I consider some of the finest writing in the entire X-Men canon (Not that I've read everything, but... yeah). So if you're interested in checking out the comic 'verse, I suggest picking up "Astonishing X-Men Volume 2" and checking it out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

X-Men... new thoughts

A new article popped up today with some interesting new information regarding X-Men first class. This evokes some new thoughts that I thought I'd share with all of you...

I'll be quoting bits and pieces of the article here, but the full thing can be read on the Geek Files here.

January Jones (Emma Frost) says:

"We're almost done. The fact we've had to push the wrap date but they haven't moved the release date is really interesting to me. I guess they must know what they're doing. I have a lot of faith in Matthew [Vaughn] as a director and an editor; I think his movies are great. And I think they've been cutting as we've been going. We should be fine."

While the time crunch has me worried, I do have to give credit to Matthew Vaughn. His adaptation of "Stardust" -- while not accurate to the book -- was incredible and is one of my favorite fantasy movies ever. If he can make "First Class" as good as he made "Stardust" then I think I will count myself satisfied.

Jones says there is plenty for fans to feel optimistic about, telling Omelette: "I think they should look forward to the story, the script was really amazing and really intelligent, and I think the group of actors that he got involved in this movie speaks for itself. I think if the script wasn't good and if they didn't trust Matthew Vaughn's vision for the movie that James McAvoy, Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender and everyone else involved wouldn't have signed up, so I think they should be excited about it."

This... well... I've heard this about movies before. Just because a well-known star signs up for a film doesn't mean it's going to be good (Yes, "Clash of the Titans" I'm looking at you). However I will admit that James McAvoy does have a fairly good track record of project choosing, sooooo...

Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-movies and is a producer on First Class (as well as conceiving the story), explains: "I really, really like [Lucas Till as] Havok, who we're bringing in [to the continuity] at a sort of a different time relative to the comic book lore. It's an extremely cool character. What's great, too, about all of these characters is that they haven't honed their abilities yet. Havok is a danger to himself and everyone around him. That's where this movie is at - the recruiting of these mutants and bringing them together."

Speaking to the LA Times' Hero Complex blog, Singer confirms: "Yes, the timeline is different. It wouldn't physically fit for him to be the brother of Cyclops. We take some liberties on that."

So... there it is, folks. What we've all been wondering. Havok isn't going to be Scott's younger brother. Or his brother at all. This isn't the hugest surprise at this point, as some fans have already speculated as much, even going so far as to suggest that Havok may be Scott's father or uncle (their powers are too similar to disregard ANY family relationship). But it's still a let-down, and leaves a lot of questions such as what will this mean for ever seeing Scott and Emma Frost as a couple on screen?

And hinting at ideas to continue the First Class saga in sequels, he adds: "I don't want to give away certain interrelations, but let's just say there are some things that do adhere to the comic books and do so in a way the fans will get a kick out of. And those things can, perhaps, move forward into the future.

Well this is intriguing...

"That's one reason we wanted to call the film First Class even though it isn't the First Class in the comics. You couldn't really tell that story without going even earlier and explaining how they got there and how it came to be. I liked the title, so we kept it, but this is a prelude in a way that will eventually lead to the [scenarios] that fit in more clearly with the First Class comics and situations."

So BASICALLY what you're saying is... if we give you our money to see this film, you'll give us the films we REALLY want to see? ;)

Singer goes on to say: "We have younger versions of Mystique and Beast, so I'm very excited about them and what they bring to the film. Jennifer Lawrence's work [as Mystique] and Nicholas Hoult's portrayal of Beast - these are characters that we've seen in the earlier films, but then these are very different portrayals and you have to bring a lot of attention to those.

Not gonna lie. I am SO excited to see younger and hopefully more accurate versions of Mystique and Beast.

But fans needn't fret about the comics being ignored. January Jones previously admitted studying the depictions and backstory of her character, James McAvoy already told us he has looked at images of Professor Xavier and strikes the same hand-on-temple psychic pose we see in the books, and Michael Fassbender now adds that he has done his homework on the Magneto of the comics.

Okay, THIS bit is just plain awesome. THANK YOU.

Then Michael Fassbender (Magneto) magnifies the coolness by sharing his knowledge:

"Obviously, what was happening in the concentration camps and then he escaped from there with Magda, fell in love with her, then their child got burned and he ended up killing the whole town and she's like 'Whoa, this is too heavy for me, I gotta leave.' So the love of his life left him."

But we won't be witnessing all of that on the big screen, he says: "We see the stuff that's happening in the concentration camp, but you don't see that relationship (with Magda). I've just held that for my own personal use (in developing) the character, so when we meet him at the beginning of this film, he's definitely a lone wolf.

If only, if only we could see Wanda and Pietro enter into this... Oh well. It's still cool.

He concludes: "There are so many X-Men fans out there. Hopefully, they're going to be happy. They didn't seem to be happy with the last two instalments so hopefully this will please them again."

THIS. Yes. Win. Our unhappiness has not been ignored. They know what they have to win back. Encouraging... yes?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blue Tailcoat - Part 1

So I've got another sewing project to share! I've been commissioned to create a period tailcoat based on the pattern below -- but with quite a few alterations!A look at my workspace... l-r, the pile of cut patterns, on the table is my printed correspondance with details regarding changes, and then the computer is out for easy checking on the pictures in other e-mails, and finally is my wacom tablet for making a sketch of the project.
The materials. The navy is a wool blend, the cream is a lining, and the buttons are... well, obviously buttons!
Below is a VERY rough sketch I did showing the changes I'm going to be making to the pattern. It's not perfect -- the number of buttons are off and it's missing the cuffs on the sleeves, but you can get a general idea of the color coordination.

Birthday celebrations -- when Dr. Who meets X-Men, and more!

I celebrated a birthday this weekend. After much consideration, I decided to make the theme "celebrating the inner geek" because this year I've totally come to embrace that side of myself. And also because I was dying to make a TARDIS cake. (points below)I also requested that all of my friends come as characters from something geeky. I have the coolest friends who definitely understand that dressing up is for more than just kids! Anyhow, I went as Rogue, and one of my friends came as Charlie from LOST. We decided we ought to take an action pose...
My sister came as Pixie of the X-Men! She looked just like her!

We also had Amy Pond (Dr. Who), Claire Littleton (Lost -- and she showed up with a baby doll for Aaron!), Deadpool (Marvel), Claudia Donovan (Warehouse 13), Miles (Lost), and Rose Tyler (Dr. Who). It was a blast! Especially when we played Mafia in character...

It just goes to show that you can grow up, get a job, take on all kinds of responsibilities, but you're never too old to have fun. So thank you, friends, for celebrating inner geekiness and imagination with me. :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Power of Cinematography

When the first film was made, cinematography was very simple. They set up a camera at one end of the room and acted out the entire scene in one wide shot. In short, it wasn't much more than a filmed play and the cinematography reflected this.

A few years down the road D.W. Griffith's released his "Birth of a Nation" and suddenly the camera became an active player in the story. Close-ups, and shots of objects came into play, drastically changing the way the story was told.

In fact, Griffiths declared at the time that film would allow us to see history objectively, as we'd be able to "watch" it ourselves and make our own judgement. And yet the very opposite was really true. Film showed us a biased view of history -- whatever the filmmaker wanted to show, and the camera was an important piece of that.

Because cinematography is far from objective. It shows us what we are meant to feel by what it focuses on. Is it a wide shot, showing the hero as a tiny speck against the background? In a break-up scene, does the camera focus on the pain of the person doing the breaking up, or the reaction of the listener? (look how your sympathy changes depending on the angle choice!). Is the camera placed high, giving the characters a feeling of smallness and insignificance? Or is the camera positioned low, making a character appear powerful or menacing?

Is the camera tilted, giving the world a feeling of being off? In "The Third Man" nearly every angle is some sort of tilt, highlighting the theme of the story which is that something is not quite right, something is missing.

What about the steadiness of the camera? Is it smooth and romantic, flowing gracefully between actors as in the 2005 "Pride and Prejudice"? Or is it hand-held and gritty, giving almost a documentary, realist feeling as in Joss Whedon's "Firefly"?

I would have to say that my all time favorite cinematography can be found in the 2005 P&P. It's graceful, lyrical, poetic, romantic. Every shot is chosen carefully to convey a very specific meaning. It's like a series of paintings, yet never looses it's sense of realism that makes the story so incredibly personal.

So let's celebrate the wonder of cinematography! I just put up the poll for "Best Cinematography" at this year's Academy Awards. Hurry up and get your vote in before it closes!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts about Worrying

Do you ever worry?

No, wait, that's probably a dumb question. I've never met someone who didn't worry at some time or another. So let me rephrase.

Do you ever spend what seems an excessive amount of time worrying?

I sure do. I worry about a lot of things. Money, relationships, projects to complete, people in trouble, past mistakes... there's always something to fret about. Which in my case is really kind of weird because I don't consider myself the sort of person who sits around and broods about things. I mean, I do, but it's not natural for me. I'd far rather look at life with joy and excitement than with worry.

I've been reading Jesus's Sermon on the Mount this week and wow, what a fantastic passage of Scripture that is. In fact, it's probably one of my absolute favorites. It's just full of so many important things for daily living. They're clearly stated, and somehow I find them so encouraging to read. (Why is that? Why does reading them make me so happy? Feel so safe?)

Yesterday I was reading Jesus's words on anxiety. The whole passage is wonderful, but I'm just going to quote the very last verse here.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34

That doesn't mean that we can always just stop worrying. Worrying is both a habit and often both a symptom and cause of depression and it can be a lifelong battle to defeat.

But what I find encouraging is that Jesus says we really don't have to worry. I think sometimes we maybe feel that if we don't worry and think about what could go wrong in the future, we're somehow being careless and irresponsible. And while being prepared is good, there is such a thing as overdoing it, and I think that is what Jesus is talking about here. Do what you can do, then leave it rest, because over thinking it is only going to make you sick (and certainly not, as Jesus points out in earlier passages, add a single day to your life!).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Red Carpet -- You could Win...

I love watching the Red Carpet arrivals at the Oscars. I mean, I'm a designer so of course I love seeing the pretty dresses. Also, the Oscars tend to be a bit more classy and modest than the other award shows so there are less cringe moments.

Here at we are going to have our own red carpet event! On the afternoon of the 27th (OSCAR DAY!) I will do a post including my own "formal dress" which I'll be designing, as well as whatever YOU chose to wear! All you have to do is find or draw or take a picture of what you plan to wear and send it to me at theshadowofthebear [at] ymail [dot] com by February 26th! Only restrictions are that it can't be provocative and I'll need a name of some sort to include with it! And this isn't by any means limited to girls, guys are welcome to submit their snazzy attire too!

Not a designer, but want something original? Well I've got a special treat for you! One lucky person who comments on this post is going to get chosen (by random drawing) to receive a custom sketch of the formal wear of their dreams! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post before the 22nd and you could win!

Want an extra chance to win? Post a link to this post on your facebook or blog and then comment again to let me know you did so! I'll enter your name in the drawing again for every reference you make!

Finally, all of this got posted today because... *drumroll please* I just put up the poll for Best Costume Design! So head over to the right sidebar and vote!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Theatre, strong femininity and too much time.

Being sick for a long period of time is interesting. It's like an ocean shore, with waves of worse days and better days. Sometimes it's hard to tell if one is really getting better or not.

However, on Tuesday I was up to leaving the house for awhile. My friend Anthony (some of you know him as "Fish" in SOTB) has been participating in an acting class for the past month and invited some of us to come down to his showcase. Another friend was kind enough to give me a ride down (driving really isn't an option for me yet), so we were able to go downtown to see it.

It was a frightfully cold night, well below zero, and our parking meter decided to be finicky and torture us by making us try the payment about three times before it went through, and completing each step in excruciatingly slow time. It was worth it, though, because we were able to park right next to the theatre and didn't have to walk hardly at all.

The theatre was pretty awesome. It was built in the 1920's and still has the original period architecture. It's a fairly beat up place but the setting was just so cool! I think it would be amazing to act on that stage. Anyhow, we watched the string of monologues (mostly Shakespearean) with enjoyment from our second row seats. Anthony performed from "Julius Caesar" and we agreed he was definitely the best of the group (although the others were quite talented as well).

Other than this adventure, I've been mostly stuck at home. Thankfully I have been feeling well enough to do some SOTB editing, which has been strangely addictive.

I've also been keeping entertained with a variety of X-Men related things, which should come as no surprise. Latest activity? Retelling the first three films using office supplies with my also-sick-and-stuck-at-home sister. It was probably one of those "you had to be there" moments, but boy, sometimes there is nothing like putting your own humorous twist on a popular story.

I've also been writing a fanfic/RPG with some friends that has once again got me thinking about characters and what I value in them. I've been especially thinking about what makes for a strong female character, and how a woman can be strong, yet feminine. I've been considering writing a longer post on this subject, but no promises because I find that often when I promise to write something, that's exactly what doesn't get written... oh well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

X-Men: First Class Trailer -- Thoughts

All right friends. It's here. The first official trailer for the newest X-Men film.

My feelings on this are just all over the board. I went through stages of ranting, denial and acceptance after the release last night, commiserating with fellow fans and explaining my disappointment to the less initiated.

I also read the following analysis's on comicvine, which did help me come to a more grudging acceptance, if only because unanimously all of us fans are agreed on the worst points, yet we can admit some elements of coolness all the same.

So, without further ado, let's plunge into examining this piece of advertising, shall we?

The first 30 seconds are purely for grounding. "Before he was Professor X... Before he was Magneto..." Which of course makes perfect marketing sense and explains to fans exactly what they should be expecting. It does however make a pretty tight connection with the existing films, which will cause problems further on.

That said, as a James McAvoy fan, I am pretty excited to see what he does in this role. He may not look exactly like what we might expect a young Xavier to look like, but there's no questioning that he's a fantastic actor.

Also, I've been a fan of the young Magneto for ages. Since Magneto regenerated long ago and has spent most of his time in comic books as a pretty buff powerhouse, I always felt that Ian McKellen's casting was a letdown. Not that he isn't a brilliant actor because he is, but he just is too old to really embody everything that Magneto is. So even if the rest of the movie were going to be trash, I would probably still want to see it just for the sake of a properly done young Magneto. Only I really do miss the white hair...

Next we're shown into what is presumably the X-Mansion (although it could also possibly though not probably be an estate belonging to Xavier or Moira in Britain), and a glimpse of the main team in street clothes. This includes:

Havok (who? I'll explain in a minute)
Young Mystique
Moira MacTaggart (Scottish Scientist and Xavier's early love)
And what we think is probably our first glimpse at Sean Cassidy (Banshee), an Irish mutant who uses his voice to do awesome things like fly.

JFK on Television also sets this up as the 1960's.

Retro is totally cool. And I love the music they're doing here. As for the line-up... Magneto, Xavier, Moria and Mystique are all the right ages (Moira MacTaggart makes me SO VERY HAPPY). You could make a fairly strong case for Banshee as well.

Beast... well maybe. The First Class of X-Men consisted of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Bobby Drake, Warren Worthington and Hank McCoy (Beast). For the longest time the filmmakers were actually making it sound like we'd get to see at least Scott and Jean (though probably not Bobby or Warren). In the end we just get Beast... and Scott's younger brother Alex (Havok.)

Yeah, a LOT of fans are wondering why Scott's younger brother is joining the team before Scott, especially when Scott couldn't even have been born in the 1960's if they want to connect with the previous films AT ALL.


Moving on.

At 0:50 we get a shot of Xavier opening up what appears to be either a future Cerebro or a vault. One of the students, however, is carrying a dress form which leads me to suggest two other options --

a) it's an early danger room, and the dress form is some sort of test dummy/practice victim to save, etc

or b) it's going to be where they store their cool supersuits and the dress form is for holding them (think of Wolverine's discovery of the suit room after freaking out on Jean in X1)

0:53 we see Emma Frost (in a pretty cool Emmaesque suit) in a weird looking room. Based on the fact that we've also seen Magneto in this room in promo pictures, it seems that it might possibly be something for containing mutants/subduing their powers. A mutant prison, perhaps? Or testing center? I'm wondering if Emma is being held there and is going to get offered a deal to get out and join the Hellfire Club.

...Emma. Oh I'm so picky about Emma. As she's currently written, she's my favorite female mutant. Her confidence, her poise, her intelligence... I just think she's awesome. So while I'm excited she's making an appearance here, I'm also extremely skeptical. Especially because what makes Emma most awesome is her relationship with Scott Summers... who, again, according to the X-movie-verse hasn't even been born yet. Not to mention that Emma herself appears as a teenager in "Wolverine" which takes place fifteen years later. Is someone going to use some sort of anti-aging thing on her?

0:56 -- okay, this is the scene that really makes me go WHAT THE HECK? I didn't actually notice it on my first time through, so I owe a thank you to the cool people at comicvine for pointing it out. WHY are Xavier and Magneto sitting on a bed, and WHY is Angel (this is the FEMALE Angel -- don't ask why they give two mutants the same name) stripping for them? I agree that this is probably some infiltration of the Hellfire Club or something of the sort, but it seems incredibly tasteless and offensive. OY.

We now get some quick flashes of the various mutants in the movie (most of which I've already mentioned). Quick note on Mystique-in-bed. If you didn't know, Mystique is Nightcrawler's mother, and his father is the red teleporting guy who appears later in the trailer. So that's one scenario that seems likely for this particular shot... However since she's also seen kissing Hank later, there's a second explanation as well that I'm much less happy about.

Passing the 1 minute mark, we get to see the Blackbird and the X-Men in action. Bring on the coolness.

1:13 -- quick shot of Hank in his furry blue form!!!!

1:16 -- Magneto doing evil undercover work.

1:18 -- sweet geeky Hank transforming. Why do I get the feeling that I could end up a bit teary-eyed over this in the actual film? Poor Hank.

1:19 -- any shot of Emma Frost makes me automatically want to squeal. And here she's turning into diamond which is that much more awesome. Yes, I know she technically doesn't get that power until later on Genosha, but honestly, it's too cool a power to waste, especially if they don't plan to ever show her acquiring it later. What enrages me about this shot is that Emma does NOT get any sort of cool leather corset, but rather a very skimpy, supportless bra. Which is impracticaland NOT classy. Emma may dress provocatively, but she is extremely classy and would never be so stupid as to wear a bra for combat (as she seems to be here since she's going into her diamond form).

Sebastian Shaw (ringleader of the Hellfire Club) also appears in this shot, and he's looking pretty cool for a slimeball.

1:20 -- interesting little montage. We see a danger room setting, with someone (who I assume is Hank) doing a flip. Cut to Mystique with an expression that says "My kinda man" and then a romantic picnic in this same room with Mystique and Hank. Cute... but... uh... what? (Mystique does get around, though, no matter what universe she's in.)

1:21 -- Havok doing power-y things. I'm interested in exactly what his role is going to be in this film, and especially how he is going to relate to Magneto. See in the real early days of the X-Men, when Havok first joined the team, he was dating a girl who went by the code-name Polaris -- and was later revealed to be Magneto's youngest daughter. Is there any chance at all we'll see Polaris in this film? We HAVE been told that they are keeping some characters a secret, and a daughter of Magneto would certainly be the sort of thing to keep under wraps. It would make for some really interesting characterization on Magneto's part (especially if the badies kidnapped or killed her) and would explain Havok's presence in the film.

1:24 -- Xavier tries out an early (and painful) Cerebro.

1:25 -- Azreal (Nightcrawler's Dad) makes his appearance, apparently in service to the Hellfire Club.

1:38 -- Magneto doing some super-awesome-submarine-lifting awesomeness. (Yes, I know I used awesome twice)

So... am I excited? Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I curious? Yes. Am I fearful? Yes. Will I see it in theatres? Yes. Will I probably rant some more at some point afterwards?...Yes.

All of that said, I DO think, after much consideration, that there is a chance this film may be the best X-Film we've had since the first two came out.

And if they don't ruin Emma Frost, I may even approve of a sequel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Help Create a New Superhero

Hey friends (and fellow comic fans),

I wanted to personally ask you to consider voting for my friend Alicia's design (pictured on the left) in the Stan Lee Foundation's contest. Not only is she a very special friend of mine, but she is a huge comic fan and extremely talented artist. It would be so amazing if she could win this! She'd get to meet Stan Lee, recieve an award at the San Diego Comic Con, and other really cool stuff.

All you have to do is go to the link below and vote. You can even use your facebook account to do it! And it would mean so much to me! (If you're really psyched about the design you could even post a link on your facebook page or blog)

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I really hope you vote!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Look at the Oscars -- Guest Review by Lirra (part two)

(Read Part One of Lirra's Review here)

When we enter the animated category, I feel like some films got rather gypped. The Academy will pick Toy Story 3. It has a Best Picture nomination (which is becoming just a fad, because it seems unlikely an animated feature will ever win an Oscar, even though last year’s nomination from Pixar was a better film than The Hurt Locker). But, this is kind of too bad for The Illusionist and How to Train Your Dragon. Both are high-quality contenders that, without the presence of Pixar, would be possible winners. But, Pixar is not only almost entirely consistent with high-quality, but is also consistently a screen favorite. Toy Story 3 really was a great film, entertaining, heartfelt, and even moving. But, it almost feels like a predestined win in this case, which is a little unfair to the other contestants. Also, critical and audience favorite Despicable Me was not nominated. And, since my family owns this film, can I give a big, “Thank goodness!”? Talk about overrated. This was a simplistically animated, only middling funny film with clichés aplenty. Everyone seems annoyed that it was snubbed, but I say that’s great. The Illusionist is a better runner-up any day, and Jonsi sings in How to Train Your Dragon. (Freaking Jonsi! Cue some ‘Vas’ now, please?) I rather wonder why the dualing film, Megamind, was snubbed by critics, actually, but it’s not really Oscar material, either. However, as a family film, Megamind rocks and is much better than Despicable Me. Seriously, just go see it. You won’t be sorry. It’s hilarious!

Otherwise, apparently the favorite as of now for Best Picture is actually The King’s Speech. But, since I haven’t seen it (yet), I can’t say how I feel about that. It does look amazing, though, and the reviews are great. It’s also wonderful to see Helena Bonham Carter in a non-Burtony role. She used to be such a great period actress! She was the go-to girl for costume dramas! And… then she went all high school goth on us. I would love to see Tim Burton manage to make a film without his wife and best friend, and do something serious, like his biopic about Ed Wood, and I’m very happy that Carter decided to ditch the white makeup and be an actress instead of a sideshow event. Apparently, she was splendid, and I am excited to see her performance. Also, another costume drama darling, Colin Firth, has his Best Actor nomination from this film. So, I’m excited to see how that plays out.

But, wait, what about Burton’s films? I have to say… curse Alice in Wonderland! I have no idea why anyone liked this film! It was so cliché, so poorly written, so not like Alice that I actually wanted the Hallmark TV version. Great actors like Stephen Fry were totally wasted. Johnny Depp decided to make the Hatter a Scottish, bi-polar drag queen. The pseudo-feminism was so out-of-date it didn’t even have relevancy to defend itself. The March Hare was apparently mentally challenged. The sleepy Doormouse became freaking Reepicheep! In fact, the whole story became the Narnia movies, while Alice became Joan of Arc! It didn’t even feel like a Burton film. It felt like an Asylum Films director pretending to be Burton. And the 3D conversion made everything dark and muddy, so Wonderland really did become Underland (why?). And, let’s add pointless violence to the mix. It was so depressing, ugly, annoying, poorly acted, and poorly written that I was honestly angry after seeing it. I’d rather watch the cartoon, and that one gives me an anxiety attack! I’d rather see Best Art Direction go to a Harry Potter flick than this piece of uninspired rubbish and commercial horror. Also, PG? Really? This film is way too violence and scary for the usual PG audience. Don’t take small children to see this, please. It will only upset them and give them nightmares, and it’s too boring and unpleasant to be entertaining.

A couple films I haven’t seen but which are in the running and look amazing are Buitiful (Best Foreign Film and Best Actor for Javier Bardem), and Exit Through the Gift Shop (Best Documentary –even though it’s unlikely it’s actually a documentary…). The first looks gorgeous and seems to be the Best Foreign Film favorite, though some critics found it too unrelentingly depressing. Bardem won Best Actor for his role as the cold-blooded killer in No Country for Old Men, but is supposed to be equally brilliant in this sympathetic role. He’s extremely versatile and I’d love to see his performance. My sister is convinced he’ll win Best Actor, even. Exit Through the Gift Shop is about Banksy. If you’re into art, you know Banksy as the mysterious, enigmatic graffiti artist (so, he’s the Boba Fet of the art world, basically). The documentary-that-may-not-be-a-documentary is done in Gonzo style, which you probably know as the journalistic, “most accurate and least factual” style of writer/social critic/drug fiend Hunter S. Thompson (popularized by Johnny Depp in the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Depp will be reprising the role for Rum Diary, so watch out). It’s supposed to be as entertaining as Man on Wire, another great documentary, and looks very exciting. It’s the favorite for its category as well.

And, last of all, where is Christopher Nolan? Well, to be honest, I never saw Inception. I want to, but I haven’t yet. So, I can’t really give an opinion. Based on his previous work in Memento, The Prestige and The Dark Knight, he’s a very competent director. I think he’s a tad overrated, because none of those films are masterpieces. People are going around saying he’s the greatest director of our time, and that just isn’t true. Best mainstream popcorn director? Yeah, probably he can claim that title every time del Toro isn’t making a popcorn flick, but otherwise I don’t see him as our generation’s Kubrick, Bergman, Lang or what have you. I don’t think he’s as innovative as people say, and, frankly, The Prestige was stupid. Okay, did anyone really miss the twist ending? It was a Twilight Zone episode, but pretentious, like it thought it was Annie Hall or something. And I’m no Woody Allen fan, either! But, Nolan does raise the bar, is visually very interesting, and he’s different. He’s not especially cliché, and his faults are usually that he’s trying too hard to be impressive, not that he’s conforming to Hollywood. So, I like that. And, I love The Dark Knight. It was awesome and was totally snubbed for no good reason when it was released, so there’s that. (Though… the choice to make Christian Bale have that ridiculous voice was just a major misstep.) As for Inception, I have no idea what to expect. People have set the bar pretty high and said it was amazingly mind-bending, has gorgeous art and is very philosophical. The trouble is, the last time people said those things about a tent pole was when The Matrix came out, and that film was, I’m sorry, very mediocre. It was style over substance, full of cheesy one-liners, all flash and no soul, and had obnoxious pretentions to brilliance. So, I’m a little wary. I don’t want to go in expecting great things and then be disappointed. I’ve read too many far-fetched articles claiming Nolan was referencing any number of philosophies, and I just highly doubt that is the case. It really just looks like a live-action Paprika to me, though, I imagine, less insane. When it comes to films that are a little obscure, especially those that deal with dreams, people read in all sorts of their own ideas. But, then, maybe that’s its glory. Maybe its ability to make people see whatever they want in it, like Finnegan’s Wake, is what makes it so good. I guess I’ll see when I get around to watching it. I think I’m a tad biased against it because of the hype, and also because I think that some of my favorite art films just don’t get any attention. From what I’ve seen, the art direction isn’t actually as beautiful, original or mind-bending as, say, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, or Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, or Rashomon, or Mulholland Drive, or even del Toro’s better works. When it comes to philosophy, I like “gentler”, smaller works that really ponder what it means to be human, like Wes Anderson’s films, or Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, et cetera. And, when it comes to mind-benders, I wonder if anyone who likes David Lynch’s work is going to find Nolan that difficult to understand. Not to be snobbish, but, yes… I’m being snobbish. Anyway, that being said, I may come in with so many reservations that I might actually be a bigger fan of Inception because of it. Whenever I go to a film expecting great things, and that film is not by the Coens or Tarantino, I usually just end up angry (Valhalla Rising and Alice in Wonderland spring to mind). But, when I have reservations, I’m often pleasantly surprised. So, who knows? I can’t say anything as of yet.

So, that’s basically my opinions about what I know of the Oscars this year. I haven’t seen a lot of the contenders. I hope I’ll get to see all of them later. And, I hope that my little rambles make sense. Again, these are just my opinions. Maybe someone reading this will go, “No way, Black Swan is totally the best picture of the Year!” or “Nothing can beat the original True Grit!” And, that’s fine. These are just my opinions. I have my biases as much as anyone else.

Aronofsky (and films I mentioned in reference to Aronofsky)-

Black Swan: R Requiem for a Dream: R The Red Shoes: R Opening Night: PG-13 Kill Bill (1 and 2): R The Haunting: G (though, seriously, it shouldn’t be) Suspiria: R Dario Argento’s Phantom of the Opera: R

The Coen Brothers and films I referenced while talking about them–

True Grit: PG-13 True Grit (original): G No Country for Old Men: R Fargo: R

David Fincher et cetera:

The Social Network: PG-13 Fight Club: R Se7en: R Zodiac: R

Nolan et cetera–

Inception: PG-13 Memento: R The Prestige: PG-13 The Dark Knight: PG-13 Mulholland Drive: R The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes: Unrated Paprika: R Alice by Jan Svankmajer (Neco z Alenky): Unrated Rashomon: Unrated Annie Hall: PG Into the Wild: R Fargo: R Pulp Fiction: R

Animated flicks–

The Illusionist: PG Toy Story 3: G How to Train Your Dragon: PG The Triplets of Belleville: PG-13 Despicable Me: PG

Assorted nominees or rejected candidates–

Blue Valentine: R Alice in Wonderland: PG (but should be PG-13) Winter’s Bone: R I Am Love: R The King’s Speech: R Rabbit Hole: PG-13 Buitiful: R Exit Through the Gift Shop: R


Man on Wire: PG-13 Saw franchise: R Valhalla Rising: R Avatar: PG-13 Titanic: PG-13 The Hurt Locker: R Up :PG Inglorious Basterds: R Megamind: PG Narnia films: PG Sweeney Todd: R Final Fantasy: Advent Children (from footnote): PG-13

*I’m aware Avatar didn’t win. But, it shouldn’t have been nominated at all. That script is wretched, and the FX is better in Final Fantasy: Advent Children!

Thank you so much Lirra for taking the time to write this up for us!

I just got a new voting category up -- Original Score. Also, today is the last day you can vote in the Short Film (Animated) category!

And don't forget, I still need nominations for our own short film category! Nominate them here!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Goodbye, Brian Jacques

This post is in honor of Brian Jacques, author of the much beloved "Redwall" series. He passed away this weekend after a heart attack at the age of 71.

Mr. Jacques, you taught me so much about writing, characters, imagination, and pacing. Redwall will forever be a part of my creative consciousness. Rest in Peace

One of my very first posts on this blog was about the effect of the Redwall books upon my own writing. You can read it here:

Were you a "Redwall" fan? Did Mr. Jacques influence your creativity, writing, or the way you view the world?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Look at the Oscars -- Guest Review by Lirra (part one)

Special treat for you all today! I've asked my friend Lirra to give us a look at the Oscars from her eyes. Lirra is a major film lover with strong interests in the independent and foreign projects. She always has something interesting to say, and though I may not always agree with her conclusions, I do find them intriguing! After all, film, as art, is subjective and a well-rounded film lover will examine as many points of view as possible to fully understand the medium.

One note -- Lirra and I both wanted to make sure that you all understand that just because she mentions a film or it's production values positively in her review, does NOT mean it is appropriate for all audiences. All ratings will be giving at the end of part two (coming on Wednesday) and we strongly encourage you to do your own research into appropriateness levels before watching any of these films.

Elizabeth asked if I would write up something about the Oscars, in preparation for the most exciting event… other than Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and other major film event motion picture snobs and fanatics get all antsy for. But, honestly, the Oscars, while sometimes (often) clinging to the annoyingly conventional –and let’s not forget they didn’t give Best Picture to Citizen Kane!– are still important. Why? Because that little, naked, gold man can spell major film victory for newbies and arthouse films on the market and change filmmaking trends. Or, just continue to perpetrate the popularity of bad sci-fi flicks about blue cat people in an evolutionarily improbable universe of McGuffins*. Whatever works.

So, that being said, I unfortunately didn’t get to see a lot of films in theatres this year, due to college-poverty. But, I’ll try and fill in my gaps of knowledge with what I’ve gleaned from lurking on film blogs religiously. These are just my opinions, so feel free to disagree with me. Also, these are really just reflections on what’s going on right now in film, and not critical reviews.

First thought, the best picture nominations this year are phenomenal. We’re really light on popcorn fare, and leading the charge are very humanly-based films like The King’s Speech, True Grit, The Social Network, and Winter’s Bone. I have nothing against the big, FX-heavy flick, but when the Oscars aren’t being blown away by style, and are giving note to substance, that’s a good sign for me. Maybe the day of Titanic winning practically everything (for no good reason) is finally closing. We can only hope. But, at least this year isn’t threatening to make me as irrationally angry as last year’s snub to Tarantino in favor of films that are conventional in every sense of the word (and lacking in David Bowie scored scenes with Mélanie Laurent).

There are also some surprises this year. I think one film (nominated for Best Animated Feature) that may surprise a lot of people outside of the animation-geek crowd is The Illusionist. A many viewers really hadn’t heard of this film, and honestly the publicity wasn’t very good. It’s by Sylvain Chomet, the director of Oscar-winning animated feature The Triplets of Belleville, which made him a shoe-in for nomination, in my mind. But, Triplets didn’t quite come in with today’s animation craze and went under the radar for most viewers (which is a mixed bag because the film isn’t exactly the masterpiece some critics think it is). The Illusionist, however, seems much more fluid in style and with a stronger sense of story and purpose than Triplets, so I hope people take note of it. While I think it’s obvious the box-office favorite, Toy Story 3 (also a Best Picture nominee), will win Best Animated Feature, it’s nice to see serious, traditional, Western animation get some recognition. Japan isn’t the only country that can make great cartoons.

Another unusual submission is Winter’s Bone, which I haven’t seen, but which has a whole lot of hype and looks like an incredible film. It’s a gritty family/social drama, and has won or been nominated for quite a number of awards, including four Oscars. This is especially interesting considering that Winter’s Bone is really an alternative film, not a big flick, and without the pop-culture icons and flashy FX that usually wins audiences. It’s a small, quiet picture. And, for those interested in filmmaking, it’s good to know that the director is a woman, Debra Granik. Looks like the gender gap in directorial positions may be finally falling, considering last year’s winner was also female helmed, and she won best director, too. Not bad for being formally known as the maker of a vampire western. A comforting change for those of us girls who want to be behind cameras, not in front of them.

Another interesting nomination is Michelle Williams, not so much for her performance alone (not to downplay it), but because it seems like an apology. For those who have lives and therefore don’t follow film buzz that often, Michelle Williams starred in the domestic drama Blue Valentine, which was supposed to be a Best Picture contender. Where is it now? Well, Blue Valentine got saddled, albeit temporarily, with the infamous NC-17 rating. And so, the Oscars won’t touch it, even though the rating was revoked for being… stupid. Really, it was a single scene, between a husband and a wife. We’re allowed to see people fall into pits of hypodermic needles (Saw franchise), slice open the guts of living people to fish out keys (Saw, again), get trapped in razor wire (again, Saw), bite out chunks of skin out of people’s necks and disembowel people on rocks (Valhalla Rising), cannibalize people (Sweeney Todd), and so forth, and all of this is more natural than human relationships –according to Tinsel Town and the rating demons. So, Michelle Williams gets a Best Actress nomination, but Blue Valentine doesn’t get its Best Picture. I doubt she’ll win, though.

Of the favorite selections this year, the outlook is really diverse. We have two flicks from indie-rooted filmmakers, the Coen Brothers and David Fincher, and a whole handful of indie films. Fincher, as you probably know, directed this year’s critical success, The Social Network, but was originally indie darling for his groundbreaking neo-noir serial killer flick, Se7en, and his adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s cult favorite, Fight Club. Both films are stylish, tight, dark and boasting brilliant scripts and performances, so you should really check them out if you haven’t yet. Fincher doesn’t disappoint in his flick this year. The script is streamlined to the point of Hemmingway, with no word wasted. Every performance is raw and achingly believable, with fresh, new talent packing the box office as well as any old hand at the art. The visuals are dark, striking with a sleek, technological color pallet, with stylish cinematography and hip score to match. But, Fincher may have shot himself in the foot with his comments about how it’s really just a movie, not a film, and that his Zodiac flick is superior. This was quickly picked up on by those critics who think the film is conventional. Which, honestly, it is. But, it has a great Old Hollywood feel that pulls it through into something fresh, in my opinion.

The Coens, of course are veritable idols to cinemaphiles. While they’ve had some misses, their distinct style, emphasis on strong storytelling and brilliant writing, and their unconventional approach to complex human dilemmas in entertaining scenarios make them national treasures. But, was True Grit any good in comparison to the original? Now, I grew up on the old True Grit, and it’s been a childhood favorite. However, while the John Wayne version is great, solid, classic fun, this version is an A-list work of art. The performances are incredible, even better than The Social Network, and the film steers away from familiar clichés. It’s a classic western, sure. But it’s like seeing the genre anew. And it looks glorious! No one does the American landscape justice like the Coens! I would suggest this film as a set with No Country for Old Men. In No Country, the western is anti-heroic, a dark, postmodern story of evil in its most pointless, nihilistic sense. True Grit is a story of heroics, classic bravery against evil, in a world where the guns of the past are pointed at outlaws and wild animals, not at innocent people for the sake of a dark vision of chaos. They’re both brilliant films, and you should try to see them together if at all possible.

There were some very surprising snubs this year, as well. Two of the biggest surprises for film fans are the omission of Rabbit Hole, which earned Nicole Kidman a Best Actress Nomination, and the Italian-language film I Am Love, which boast Tilda Swinton channeling Meryl Streep by playing her role entirely in a language she isn’t actually fluent in. Both films were supposed to be runners for the Oscar gold, but were strangely snubbed. I haven’t seen either, but the buzz was terrific enough to make this oversight very puzzling. Tilda didn’t even get a Best Actress nod, which seems unfair, since her role is supposed to be brilliant. And, of course, the Academy seems to be allergic to Nolan for some reason, even though he’s superior to their precious James Cameron in every way. (Cameron…)

One film that is high in the running (as well as the buzz) is Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Now, critics seem pretty divided over Aronofsky. Is he a stylist but a hack director, or is he an unconventional storyteller like early Tim Butron? Now, I’m more of an Aronofsky supporter. I appreciate how he takes difficult, unusual subjects and turns them into entertaining, if dark, films. Requiem for a Dream, for example, is made like a thriller, but is about levels of addiction in society and the disintegration of human relationships for cheap substitutes. If you’ve been following the buzz on Black Swan, you know it was compared to everything from Red Shoes to Dostoyevsky’s The Double. The blend of old-school Hollywood with high-brow concept and arthouse visuals, as well as a tight thriller plot, is immensely entertaining, (although one could argue this mix is better served by Tarantino, and yeah, this is no Kill Bill). Portman does a wonderful job playing the woman-child protagonist, and her fragile beauty transforming into a dark, seductive Black Swan character is truly marvelous. She reminds me of Nell from The Haunting in her childlike exterior and tormented interior, complete with twisted mommy-issues for wonderful, gothic goodness. But, the film does suffer from being… well, derivative? Some of the homage , and I’m all for a good homage (like I said, I’m a big Tarantino fan), feels a bit more like copying. While it’s great that Aronofsky seems to have one foot set in classic horror cinema (lots of The Haunting, Argento, etc…), and a wonderful sign for those of us who think horror cinema is vastly underappreciated, he does lift a bit more than one would like– from all genres. Red Shoes is rather more than nodded to, and some of the scenes are classic Argento in set-up and design. I was waiting for Goblin to burst out in the Suspiria theme at moments. I think Aronofsky’s rather fond of his ‘60s and ‘70s dramas, too, because Black Swan feels pretty Opening Night-esque at parts, as well.

But, aside from the derivative points, the film is actually very entertaining, and it looks gorgeous. I know a lot of dance fans had a cow about how it isn’t, I don’t know, a real ballet, but the thing is: it’s not. It’s a film. And as a film, it does capture all the emotional intensity, artistic passion, and dedication of any determined practitioner of the arts who wants to get ahead in her field. The character interactions are great and twisted in an almost David Lynch fashion (lots of Mulholland Drive spice was added to the mix, I suspect). The visuals, though a very Dario Argento (before he went insane and made that horrible Phantom of the Opera film… with rats), are dark, sleek, and make great use of form and color. The writing is excellent, as well. Do I think it will win? Well, honestly, no. It’s too devoted to its camp/horror roots for the Oscars, too artsy in its approach, too derivative, and too controversial in its gender-issues, sexuality and violence. The Academy will most likely be too skittish to give this one the gold, in my opinion. And, honestly, True Grit and The Social Network are better films.

You can read Part Two here!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weekly Art Roundup

For a week that actually had a couple days of no art work, I turned out quite a number of finished pieces!

First off is a subdued rendering of Illyana Rasputin - Magik (better known as the younger sister of X-Man Colossus).

Second is my most recent work, a self-portrait based on a picture from two years ago. This is the first "photo realistic" coloring project I've attempted and I'm quite happy with the results.

Third is a drawing of X-Man Psylocke done by my talented friend, Alicia. She gave me permission to color it, and I definitely had fun doing so!

While parts of the forth piece remain problematic, this was a good exercise in action poses. It's a duel in a telepathic landscape by Jean Grey and Emma Frost. The background is a photo from my Virginia adventures that I tweaked around.

Lastly is a more cartoonish style rendering of three X-Men members. Featured below are Pixie (Megan Gwynn), Rogue (Anna Marie Raven) and Jubilee (Jubilation Lee) on a shopping trip to the mall. Thanks to Alicia and Andy for giving me some constructive criticism on the proportions!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Princess and the Wart: A Fairy Tale Parody

A short story by Elizabeth Hausladen

There once was a princess as fair as the day, with hair like gold and eyes like cornflowers. She was renown for all princessly virtues (dancing, embroidery, singing and the like), and her kindness made her beloved as well.

She was the only heir of her father the King, and this fact along with all her less political assets made her desired of men the world over. Suitors came as far as China, Russia and the South American jungle to woo her. Some, like herself, were royalty (princes and dukes and film stars and such), and others were merely wealthy, famous or talented (one had invented Orange computers, which are sort of like Apple computers, only less famous).

Every night the Princess danced with dozens of these young men. Some she liked much, some she liked little, and some she just found boring. Because of all this dancing the Princess was very strong, and her feet were well hardened. She could easily dance into the wee hours of the morning, long after the hardiest football player had given up in exhaustion.

Then, one night, everything changed.

It was still early, and the Princess had just started dancing with the sixth suitor of the night (a Wall Street Tycoon), when suddenly a sharp pain shot up her foot.

“Ow!” cried the princess.

“Terribly sorry!” said the Wall Street Tycoon. “I'm a very bad dancer, I know, but –,”

“Oh, it wasn't your fault!” said the Princess, giving him the sweetest smile she could under the circumstances. “I think there's something in my shoe.”

Quickly the Wall Street Tycoon led her over to a chair and she slipped of her shoe. To her surprise she found no pebble or bead or (heaven forbid!) pea. However the pain was still throbbing. So she stripped off her stockings and found, to her horror, a hard sort of callous with little black dots in it.

In terror the Princess let out a scream. Immediately the music stopped and everyone came running to her side. The Queen pushed her way through the crowd and asked her daughter what could possibly occasion such a cry.

“There's something horrible on my foot!” said the Princess.

“Let me see,” said the Queen. She bent down, picked up the Princess's foot and turned it over. After examining it for a moment she declared, “My dear, I'm afraid you have a WART.”

A wart! The Princess has a wart! The news ran through the assembly like wildfire. For warts were well-known to be painful and persistent things that often defied all remedy and made dancing quite impossible.

The Princess went to bed in tears, and the King gathered his counselors.

“What shall we do?” asked the King. “For the Princess cannot dance if she has a wart, and if she cannot dance, she cannot choose a suitor, and if she cannot chose a suitor, she cannot marry and if she cannot marry she can have no children and there will be no heir to the kingdom and all I have worked for will vanish in fire and sword! Well, machine guns, anyways...”

“The situation is dire indeed,” the counselors agreed. “However, there may yet be a solution. The Princess's suitors are from all over the world. Surely, somewhere, someone has found a cure for warts. What if we were to make a proclamation that whosoever of honorable and chivalrous character shall produce a satisfactory cure, will then become the Princess's husband?”

The King was delighted with this idea, the Queen set about drawing up an addendum that detailed what constituted “honorable” and “chivalrous” and the Princess was in so much pain that she begged them to issue the proclamation as quickly as possible.

So the heralds went out through all the kingdom and the Queen posted it on her official Facebook page and all the suitors added it to their twitters and within twenty-four hours the world knew of the Princess's plight. Almost immediately every plane, train and boat coming into the country filled up with prospective suitors and their 'cures.'

The Princess got up, allowed her nurses and maids and make-up artists to pretty her up, and went down to the throne room. Then she began to receive the hopefuls and their remedies.

The first cures were traditional ones. A respected doctor tried to freeze it off. A medical student in his residency proscribe beetle juice. A pharmacist brought in antibiotic bandages. A world renown-surgeon attempted to remove it.

Nothing worked.

The medical professionals stepped away and more obscure healers came in. A Brazilian brought in an herbal remedy. A Chinese teacher made her drink three pots of his secret tea for three weeks. An Indian politician suggested a combination of spices.

Still, the wart remained.

Then came the faith healers, the psychics, the hypnotists and the psychologists. They tried telling the Princess it was all in her mind, to pray to every deity they could name, and tried driving out evil spirits.

The Princess drove them out.

The Palace was in despair. The King spent long hours with the court geneologists, trying to locate distant cousins who might make suitable heirs. The Queen searched the internet for any possible mentions of the word “wart” and any cures that had not yet been tried. The Princess shut herself away in her room and read the Twilight series for the fifth time.

Then, late one night, a knock came at the palace gate. When the guards opened it, they saw a scruffy young man in a hoodie and torn jeans, with a canvas messenger bag slung over his shoulder.

“Hi,” said the young man in an American accent. “Is this the place with the Wart Princess?”

The guards stared in astonishment.

“Our princess does have a wart,” said the Captain. “But what could you possibly want with her?”

“Oh, I have a cure,” the young American explained.

The guards were skeptical, but seeing that all the other applicants had failed, they decided to admit him. The Chamberlain was even more appalled, but he was tired of being asked by the princess when the next “Twilight” book was coming out, so he brought the young American to meet the King and Queen.

“You believe you can cure our daughter?” said the King incredulously.

The young American nodded. “Absolutely. I had a wart myself, once, and I got rid of it, so I'm pretty sure my cure works.”

The King and Queen looked at each other. The King shrugged.

The Queen turned to the young American. “Are you honorable and chivalrous?” she asked.

“I think so,” said the young American. “I volunteer at the soup kitchen every Tuesday, I took my younger sister to her prom when her boyfriend bailed out on her, I've never had a library fine in my life and I've read every single Jane Austen book twice.”

“Well then,” the Queen said with a pleased smile. “You absolutely may try your cure. Only, would you please shave first?”

While the young American shaved, the King and Queen got the Princess out of bed, bundled her up in a bathrobe and hurried her down to the Throne Room. When they got there, the young American was waiting with a thick roll of silver tape.

“What is that?” asked the Princess.

“This is the cure,” said the young American.

The Princess frowned. “Tape? You're going to cure me with metallic tape?”

“Oh but Princess, this is no ordinary tape!” the young American told her. “This is Duct Tape, the most marvelous creation ever invented by man.”

The Princess stared skeptically at the duct tape.

“Here, let me show you,” said the young American. He bent down, lifted up the Princess's bare foot and smoothed a square of duct tape over her wart. “There. Now leave that on for a week.”

The King, the Queen and the Princess weren't quite sure what to say, so the young American just smiled and walked away. The Chamberlain offered him a room in the palace, but the young American said he wanted to do some sightseeing and disappeared into the night.

Every day that passed the Princess looked at the duct tape. At least six times a day she debated whether to pry it off and see whether it was doing any good. However, at the last minute she would always remember her pain and leave the tape on.

On the seventh day, right at daybreak, the young American returned. They summoned the Princess and the young American immediately proceeded to take the tape off and soak the wart in hot water for a quarter of an hour. At the end of that time, he called for a pumice stone and cleaned out the wart.

“How is that?” he asked the Princess.

She twisted her foot up to get a good look at it. “Why, it's half gone!” she exclaimed in surprise.

“Of course it is,” said the young American. “Now, you'll need to do this for a couple more weeks, but you shouldn't have any more pain.”

The Princess let out a delighted shriek that brought her parents running. Then, to the surprise of the young American, the Princess bent down and kissed him on the cheek.

“You are my hero,” said the Princess. “Will you marry me?”

The young American scratched his head. “Well, I've never tried ruling a country. I'm not sure I'd be very good at it.”

“That's all right,” the Princess replied quickly. “Father will teach you everything. Mother says you read Jane Austen, so I'm sure you'll be very quick to learn.”

“All right,” said the young American. “Let's get married.”

So they did. And if the Princess was surprised by some of her new husband's louder music choices at their wedding, she didn't show it. Because he looked so very handsome in a suit (more so, even than Edward Cullen) and he really was a superb dancer. But more than that he could actually talk while he danced, and the Princess realized that was what she'd been looking for all along.

And they lived, more or less, happily ever after.

The End.

(The author makes no claims to be either a princess or have scores of suitors. She does, however, know first-hand that duct tape is the best weapon against a wart and this story is a celebration of the near conclusion of a long and frustrating battle.

The author also wishes to recognize Red Green (of the Red Green show) and Miles (of Lost) for their inspiration in carrying on the crusade of the duct tape)