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For the Love of Pete: Why “Crashing” is one of the Best Comedies on TV Right Now

Full disclosure, I fell in love with Pete Holmes the moment I saw him show up on my screen like some gangly white ray of sunshine.  I stumbled onto his show Crashing by accident, scrolling along the homepage of my HBO GO app until I saw a photo of a man sitting on a couch in the middle of the street mock-screaming directly into the camera. “I don’t know who this guy is,” I thought, “but I have a feeling he gets me.” Long story short, it was a show about a comedian, I’ve done stand-up a handful of times, and I’m a regular sucker for guys whose noses are of the Adrian Brody variety. I gave it a go.

My love of comedy about comedians started with Jerry Seinfeld. For me, he was the first comic to use serialized television to tell an audience the ins and outs of being a working comedian. Yes, I realize this dates me as a ’90s child – I’m sorry about it, too.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Top 8 List for Episode VIII

Top 8 Questions after watching the new trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

8. Is Disney borrowing from their Marvel well to add wall crawling to Rey's abilities because normal Jedi powers aren't cool enough already?
#8 – Is Disney dipping into its Marvel well to make Rey a wall crawler because normal Jedi powers aren’t cool enough already?

#7 - The first lines heard are "Breath, just breathe." Is Luke reviving the lost Jedi art of Lamaze coaching? Do the words "Captain Phasma is pregnant" excite anyone else?!
#7 – The first lines are “Breath, just breathe.” Is Luke reviving the lost Jedi art of Lamaze coaching? Do the words “Captain Phasma is pregnant” excite anyone else?!

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It’s Morphin’ Time!

Jason David Frank – or maybe you better remember him as Tommy Oliver – has to be credited as one of the driving forces behind the new Power Rangers movie. After the internet hyped some really great Power Ranger shorts, JDF approached series creator Haim Saban about the possibility of a mature Power Ranger movie following the Green Ranger (which would have been awesome to watch). Instead of limiting the film to just the Green Ranger, we get a full cinematic reboot of the series in the new film Power Rangers (2017).

These Rangers are very different from the ones we remember. While in the series Zordon instructs Alpha to recruit “teenagers with attitude,” the original Power Rangers severely lack the attitude. They are essentially “squeaky-clean” kids with martial arts skills. These new Power Rangers – screw ups, trouble makers, and even bullies – are edgier, bringing a certain amount of depth and realism to the characters. While the purists might see this as tainting the beloved heroes, to true intention is to sever the “campiness” which defined the series in favor of something more “realistic”.

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"This isn't the casual weekend I agreed to."

Get Out… Before You Meet the GF’s Parents

(Get Out of this page if you don’t want any spoilers.)

Yes, the Armitage family is cool. So hip! Rose (Allison Williams) is a knockout AND willing to stick up for her black boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), when a white cop gives him a hard time. They arrive at her parents’ estate where her parents don’t disappoint. They have created an environment where their kids are comfortable swearing in front of them. And talking about sex! Hell, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) even let them stay in the same bedroom. So chill! Despite Dean’s clumsy (but genuine) praise of Obama as opening conversation with a black man, their coolness is still intact by nightfall. Should we be worried yet?

No.

(Note: Boblius is rarely invited to studios’ critic screenings therefore at Get Out he found himself seated near an older couple with a 4 year old girl. Yes, these grandparents brought their granddaughter to Get Out. More on this later.)
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$10K Film Grant Available: Now Accepting Liberty Lab for Film Applications!

FIRST TIME APPLICATION FORM | ALUMNI APPLICATION FORM

Are you a liberty-minded director, writer, or producer? Bring your perspective to the Liberty Lab for Film (LLF) to fine tune your craft as a filmmaker and storyteller while making a great, professional quality short film or web series.

LLF is an advanced program from Taliesin Nexus, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, or producing experience eager to work alongside like-minded creatives with the guidance of seasoned professionals such as Daniel Knauf, (executive producer, NBC’s The BlacklistAdam Simon, (creator of the FOX series Salem) screenwriters Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu, Cold), Paul Guay (Liar Liar), David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2) and Erica Beeney (The Battle for Shaker Heights and “Project Greenlight” winner)  in making your film.

If selected, you will receive $10,000 to make your short film and embark on a 100 day development and writing phase, before moving into production and post.  You and your team will work together from script development until your film or web series premieres at our gala SmashCut screening in Los Angeles and/or selected cities across the country.

LLF participants will also take part in CineShots, intimate discussions focusing on screenwriting, producing, directing, and post-production lead by industry veterans. Participants will also receive a free copy of Final Draft 10 (valued at $249), the industry’s leading screenwriting software.

The LLF is not for the faint of heart. You will undergo a compressed studio experience including script development, pre-production, production, post-production, and editing before finally seeing your film on the big screen!

(Taliesin Nexus is the owner and operator of the SmashCut Culture blog.)

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“Girls” Season 6 Episode 6 Recap: Full Disclosure

Despite the surprising maturity that Hannah found in the first half of “Girls’” final season, episode six proves trying in familiar ways. Hannah gets a ridiculous idea in her head: that she has no obligation to tell Paul-Louie she is bearing his child.

Kudos to the even-handedness of the writers for including characters that think this is an extremely unfair and unreasonable decision on Hannah’s part. Thankfully, towards the end of the episode, she starts to come around and she even tries to contact him. Hopefully she follows through.

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New Kickstarter Campaign for “Arts and Minds” Promotes Liberty Through Art

A new liberty-oriented project in Portland, OR recently launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise money for a summer project that will use “creative energy to spotlight Oregon’s criminal justice system and activate change.”

Arts and Minds (a project of the non-profit Spark Freedom) plans to host a block party where members of the community come together for a day to paint a collaborative mural that tells the story of the criminal justice system in Oregon. United by a passion for freedom and criminal justice reform, attendees will engage in a city-wide “experiment in grassroots artistic activism.”

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The LEGO Batman Movie: Death of a Police Commissioner, Birth of a Batgirl

(Spoilers below? Oh yeah.)

A few years back there was a Lego movie. It’s name escapes me right now. Anyway, the Lego movie was thought to promote collectivism and criticize capitalism. The makers of the Lego movie (whatever it was called) denied an anti-business agenda BUT… the bad guy in the film was named “Lord Business.”

Well, a few years have passed and now we have The Lego Batman Movie on our hands. Perhaps to bring a Ra’s al Ghul-ish balance to the cinematic Lego-verse, this film asserts a strong critique of police policies largely revealed through the Barbara Gordon character. Her shedding of the commissioner’s uniform (Don’t get excited, it’s a PG film) in favor of her Batgirl costume formalizes her abandonment of supposedly enlightened law enforcement policies.

In the first reel Police Commissioner Jim Gordon finds himself in a crisis: The Joker has assembled a huge bomb to blow the literal floor out from under Gotham City. Gordon does what the G.C.P.D. does best: Call BATMAN!

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Don’t Switch Consoles Yet

On March 3rd, Nintendo released their newest gaming console — the Switch — and it looks like it is on track to be another failure. Do not get me wrong here, I have nothing but love for Nintendo, but sometimes Nintendo irks me more than a crying baby in a movie theater.

The first problem is: March…? Seriously, why on earth would they release a gaming system in March? Especially since the Switch will be hitting shelves with only nine games available. Instead of releasing the system immediately, why doesn’t Nintendo wait until November 2017, when most gamers are in the market for new systems, and the number of games accompanying the system break double digits? The news first broke about the Switch in October, 2016, and this would offer Nintendo an additional nine months to promote and manufacture hype.

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“Girls” Season 6 Episode 3 Recap: American B***h

Continuing the “bottle episode” theme, this segment shows only Hannah in the apartment of a literary idol, Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys). Hannah wrote a piece for a feminist blog about Chuck’s alleged probably-not-consensual sexual encounters with college-age girls on his book tour. Seeing the article, he invites her over to his apartment so he can prove her wrong.

Where “Girls” characters sometimes amount to cartoonish impressions instead of believable humans, this episode defies expectation. We expect Chuck to be portrayed as some obviously bad person that forced himself on an innocent girl. But we quickly see, through Rhys’ charming performance, all the difficult intricacies that surround issues of consent. He is portrayed more wholistically than we might expect: a man with a deep fatherly love for his daughter, a complicated history, and what seems like the capacity for vested interest and affection in women he likes.

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Lego My Batman

If you are anything like me, “skepticism” best described your thoughts when learning of The Lego Batman Movie. Yes, I love Lego’s. And yes, I love Batman. But “The Caped Crusader” in an animated film depicted by the world’s favorite plastic block construction toys? Sounded like too much of a good thing to me, perversely so in fact. I just did not think that Lego Batman could do the character justice. I did not think it could tell a Batman tale that anyone over 11 years old could get behind. I am glad to say: I was wrong.

Spoilers throughout.

The premise for the film is a rather simple one—what if Batman believed himself to be the bad ass that we believe he is? That’s Lego Batman, a narcissistic, frat-boy superhero who always saves the day, and always knows the he will. Lego Batman sacrifices friendship and relations out of his commitment to the superhero craft and out of his fear of losing others in the same way he lost his parents. Lego Batman’s narcissism is so profound, that even the Joker is disillusioned by it. In fact, we find that the Jokers criminal behavior is largely attention seeking. He just wants validation from Lego Batman, and to be accepted as the plastic hero’s arch nemesis.

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“Girls” Season 6 Episode 2 Recap: Hostage Situation

As I was watching the latest episode of “Girls” I couldn’t help but assume viewers all across the country were engaged in a collective slow clap. For the first time in five years, the characters start to say what the audience is thinking. The two most poignant examples are a paramount “GROW UP!” from Jessa to Shosh, and Hannah says to Marnie, “It can be pretty hard to have observations about other people when you’re only thinking about yourself. I would know.”

The creators made a fun and effective exploration into a genre-style episode that mirrored a horror film. Hannah follows Marnie and Desi on a trip to Poughkeepsie because the ex-spouses are sleeping together but they don’t want Marnie’s steady boyfriend, Ray, to find out. Hannah tags along so Ray won’t be suspicious. Super romantic.

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Stasi-Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich M¸he) sitzt in dem Kinofilm "Das Leben der Anderen" auf dem Dachboden eines Hauses und belauscht die Vorg‰nge in der Wohnung die er beschattet. (undatierte Filmszene). "Das Leben der Anderen" ist am Dienstag (23.01.2007) in Los Angeles f¸r einen Oscar nominiert worden. Der Film ist einer von f¸nf Anw‰rtern in der Sparte nicht englischsprachiger Film. Die begehrtesten Filmpreise der Welt werden von der amerikanischen Filmkunst-Akademie in diesem Jahr am 25. Februar vergeben. Foto:  Buena Vista (ACHTUNG: Verwendung nur f¸r redaktionelle Zwecke im Zusammenhang mit der Berichterstattung ¸ber diesen Film!) +++(c) dpa - Report+++

“The Lives of Others” : A Warning Veiled in a Thriller

In the movie “The Lives of Others,” the STASI and oppression of the East German regime are revealed to the viewer through authoritarian techniques of surveillance and control prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany and the collapse of communism in the region. Throughout this film, characters and scenes depict, in vivid detail, the attempts of the authoritarian East German government to instill unquestioning obedience and devotion to the state to ensure complete control. At face value, the baseline of the story seems heavy handed, but what the film truly draws is a tense thriller entwined with a morality play.

One especially powerful and telling scene is the planting of bugs at Dreyman’s house. After orders come from Minister Hempf to have continuous surveillance of Dreyman, Weisler and a team of STASI agents break into his house, plant equipment, and set up shop just upstairs in the loft of the building in order to watch, monitor, and record his every action.

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“Girls” Season 6 Episode 1 Recap: All I Ever Wanted

The sixth premiere of “Girls” started off its final season on Sunday with a special 40 minute episode and guest appearance from Riz Ahmed. The episode reaffirms exactly what we’ve known for the past five seasons: that these characters are, well, girls. This first episode focuses mostly on Hannah’s story, and a little on Marnie’s—a continuation of a stylistic change we saw last season in which the friends spend most of their time away from each other.

Hannah starts off the episode with relative professional success, a Modern Love column resulting in a paid writing assignment from a magazine. She is expected to write about a surf camp in Montauk but she Hannahs the opportunity in about half a day by immediately hating the entire experience and functionally abandoning the project to hook up with the camp counselor and “find herself.” Again.

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They Live! Movie Review

By Stevie Wang

In “They Live!,” a drifter stumbles upon a conspiracy about aliens who secretly rule over the human race. By wearing a pair of sunglasses, the drifter is able to see that aliens are disguising themselves in positions of great power such as company owners, police officers, and politicians and are essentially governing the human race and working for their own interests. Humans are completely oblivious to their rulers and are kept from seeking the truth due to consumer goods and materialism.

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Why Ayn Rand Would be Among the First to Snapchat

Would Aristotle have Tweeted? Would Isaac Newton have been too busy being distracted by Facebook that he would not have written The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy?

Would Ayn Rand have Snapchatted?

In reading about historical figures it is easy to forget that they were once living, breathing beings. We can read and even watch the voluminous material about Ayn Rand’s life, but forget that she would have had restless nights just as we do. We can read her works and hear that she fled Soviet Russia in 1926. We may know of her as a stolid stoic, but undoubtedly, in leaving her homeland, her family, and her friends, she wept.

The lives of those who came before us can be a guide to our own choices. We learn about staunch idealists like Ayn Rand and Winston Churchill and we become more idealistic ourselves.

Ayn Rand was a revolutionary in many ways. Not merely in challenging two thousand years of entrenched morality, but in the way she lived her life. She may not have had snapchat, but she had moving pictures.

From today’s perspective, we see her life and many of her choices as quaint. Watch the movie The Fountainhead or Love Letters, both written by Rand,and you will probably experience this feeling too. “Aww how cute she is creating little romances where they kiss on the cheek.” Seeing old films in general can cause this reaction in most people today.

No doubt in fifty years people will look back at our snapchat, instagram, facebook, and youtube activities as quaint and cute “Aww look how cute they are without cameras in their eyeballs.” Or whatever may be coming.

In our own day, especially among intellectuals and the more traditional or “pure” artists, there still remains a reluctance to fully embracing the culture which we all clearly live in today (for future generations this is January 2017).

To help you see just how revolutionary Ayn Rand was, here is a timeline of her life and that of the brand new technology: Motion Pictures. This was the artform that most inspired her to leave Petrograd for America.

When Rand was 8 years old, while living in Petrograd she saw a flicker across a screen — the motion picture camera was less than 20 years old at that time; when she moved to America she got her first job as an extra on The King of Kings, she was 20 years old and the feature length film was barely 13 years old. Even by the time she wrote and sold The Fountainheadscript in 1948, “Talkies” were barely 20 years old and the industry was not yet 40.

Every step of the way, even in her desire to adapt a teleplay for Atlas Shrugged in the 70s, she adopted whatever new technology existed as a means to tell her story. By the way, her adoption of technology had nothing to do with her age. She was planning a teleplay adaptation of Atlas Shruggedtill her death.

Let us imagine Ayn Rand being born in 1990 rather than 1905.

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Would MLK have Attended the Women’s March?

I did not attend the Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday. And not because I am not persistently subject to ridiculous sexism. Just last month a male superior at my office instructed me to “hold this paper like a good little girl.”

Not because I don’t care about equal rights either—as much as a buzz term as it has become. I have listened to women in the West Bank, Kenya and Amsterdam’s Red Light District talk about severe violence inflicted upon them because of a severe lack of equal rights.

Neither am I a stranger to the deep struggle of single motherhood (one of the surest difficulties for low-income women in America today). I was born when my own mother was seventeen and unemployed; she has, for most of my life, been the sole breadwinner for our family.

Plus I certainly have plenty of my own reasons why I did not vote for Donald Trump. To name one, there are peaceful, productive Muslim immigrant women and men in my family (my father and grandmother for starters).

My reason for abstaining was rooted mostly in the reality that I could not figure out what, exactly, the march was for. Even among discussion between the march’s potential participants about their purpose, I saw only an echo-chamber for a certain kind of woman: a kind that less than half of American women identify with.

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Why Trolls Was the Perfect Movie to See on Election Night

I don’t know about you, but I had absolutely no desire to be in the world while election results were coming in on Nov 8. So instead, I went to my favorite “escape from the world” place: a movie theater. A friend and I decided on Trolls. An hour and a half of bright colors and rousing musical numbers just seemed like a good idea before finding out who gets to screw up the country over the next four years.

Trolls was actually a pleasant surprise though. It wasn’t just good in a fun kids movie sort of way, it actually made me realize some important things I needed to remember as my country becomes as divided as I’ve ever seen it. [Spoilers below].trolls

Lesson 1: We can still be happy without shitting on other people

The antagonists of this movie are the Bergens, unhappy creatures that believe the only way to be happy is to eat the trolls. What makes the dynamic of Bergentown especially interesting is that any Bergen under the age of 20, including the king of Bergentown, has never actually tasted a troll, as the trolls escaped captivity 20 years before the primary plot arc of the film. So your primary villain isn’t someone who is just straight up evil, it’s someone who has been socialized to believe a lie, and that belief inspires him to do evil things. The movie isn’t a story of good triumphing over evil, it’s a story of good teaching evil the error in their ways.

Unlike some, I personally do not believe all Trump supporters are just straight up evil. I do however, believe many view the world as a false dichotomy. They have trouble seeing how immigrants and native-born citizens can live in peace and even benefit from each other’s presence, and instead believe one group can only benefit at the expense of the other. They believe that the rights of Americans are more important than the rights of people born elsewhere, even though such people are equally human. And I think for many, those beliefs were instilled in them at a young age. They voted for Trump not because they’re just terrible human beings that Satan sent to destroy America, but because they genuinely believe that was the only way to restore their own prosperity after other systems have failed them. Sad!

Trolls is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be “us vs. them” even when the world around us constantly tells us that it is. There are ways to be happy and successful without infringing on the rights of others. (more…)

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“Unforgiven”: Guns, Government, and the Non-Aggression Principle

s6zmsThe film “Unforgiven”, by the legendary Clint Eastwood, is a story of an aged outlaw who, with the help of his old partner and a young gunslinger, aim to kill and collect the bounty on two cowboys who attacked a prostitute in the small town of Big Whiskey. Eastwood, who plays the leading role (Will Munny) in the film, reluctantly joins the party aiming to kill the cowboys due to the fact that his departed wife would have been opposed. Once the trio of killers arrive in Big Whiskey, they are abruptly run out by the town’s heavy handed Sheriff, Little Bill. Thereafter they accomplish their mission, but with this comes tragedy. Munny’s partner, and close friend, Ned Logan, is captured by the law of Big Whiskey and killed for his crimes. Munny, upon finding this out, returns to Big Whiskey and exacts revenge on Little Bill and anyone who stands in his way.

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Livin’ In A Sports-Fans Paradise

maxresdefaultWith the Olympic Games in Rio behind ups and the start of football season around the corner, I came to a realization.  Here in ‘Murica, we are not just about apple pie, gun rights, and freedom – we are also about sports.  In fact, when we really think about it, we would be hard pressed to find a better nation for sports fans.  This is evidenced by the United States’ performance at the Olympic games which ended in 121 total medals.  Few places have both the diversity and depth within their sports culture.  Yes, there are fitter nations or nations with more passionate “futball” fans, but few places have such an abundance of competitive sports.  Those of us within the United States are really fortunate enough to be living in a sports-fans paradise.

But as I watched the Olympics, I could not help but think about the array of sporting events which we have far too minimal exposure to living in the United States.  That got me thinking, what are a few of the other sports from around the world which we do not realize, are even sports.  Sure – football and baseball will always remain the cornerstones of American sporting culture.  We are unlikely to shed the contributions from our Canadian neighbors-to-the-North, basketball and hockey.  The rise in the popularity of soccer and the expansion of Major League Soccer show that it is here to stay.  Since, we have a long history of adapting sports, I got to thinking, what are some of the other sports which would be welcomed in the mainstream American sports culture.  So, in the name of multiculturalism, the shared human experience, and sportsmanship which the spirit of the Olympics breed, I decided to investigate some of the more obscure sports from around the world.  It turns out, most of these are already exist in niche communities in the United States, and I think it would serve us well to integrate these events into our collective, mainstream sporting culture.

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You May Have Missed: Megamind

If you’re like me, you missed Megamind in theaters because the trailers didn’t really sell you on the movie. If you’re really like me, you will regret that decision after watching it at home. Megamind is another unfortunate example of a brilliant film being misrepresented and shown in its worst light via marketing (I think Mean Girls is another prime example). To be fair, I’m not sure the film knows whom it is targeting. Most of the jokes, such as the classic rock songs that Megamind favors for stylish entrances, seem like they would go over most kid’s heads. I would be curious to watch the movie with a child and see what they respond to and enjoy. As it is, I think the movie was made for me and my ilk. Especially because of what I consider the most interesting aspect of the film (spoilers): Hal Stewart’s character vs. Megamind’s and the representation, and critique, of white male privilege. Yes, I just went there.

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blood republic

Libertarian Thriller Predicts Demise of Two-party System

SmashCut Culture is proud to highlight the work of creatives who share a passion for a freer society. Please consider the following when deciding which book you will sink your teeth into next. 
Blood Republic - Ebook SmallPRESS RELEASE

James Duncan is the author of Blood Republic, arguably the first-ever “Libertarian” political-thriller. Published by Primal Light Press, the highly praised work of fiction has arrived just in time for the current-election cracks within the two-party system, leading many readers to the question, “did the author have a crystal ball?”

Corrupt politicians, crazed generals, biased media, NSA surveillance, and viral hate; Blood Republic examines current extremism through a heart-pumping thriller with the fate of the country at stake. Will America survive its next election, or collapse into a 2nd civil war of conservative versus liberal?

During the closing hours of the tightest presidential election in US history, firebrand Annie Daniels is a Democratic-socialist senator determined to win the White House. She dreams of eradicating injustice, and hopefully, saving her dying daughter’s life. Major Amos Daniels, her conservative Green Beret brother, might have something to say about that though, if her plans go against his faith. As an Electoral College tie nears, the country erupts into rioting, and Annie and Amos are thrust to opposite ends of a constitutional crisis with guns drawn. Will the Daniels family find common ground above ideology to prevent a second civil war? Or, will an unknown enemy-of-the-state escape justice while pushing the nation into chaos?
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American Illustrators, The Movies, and Drew Struzan

PhantomMenaceMuch like the word “genius,” the label “artist” gets bandied about quite a bit. When I was taking fine art classes in college, one of the more colorful and exuberant life drawing and painting instructors — let’s call him Charlie — a very hyperactive and passionate painter, talked to us about what it meant to be an artist.

“So you all want to be artists, huh?” He shouted as he strutted in and around our rows of easels as we worked. “I’m just here to teach you how to paint and hopefully paint well. I can’t teach you to be an artist. An artist is a way of life, man. Are you willing to starve for your art? Are you in it for the money? Van Gogh sold one painting in his life. He went mad and then committed suicide. He was an artist. Are you willing to let it consume you? Let’s just concentrate on painting for now.”

Now, I’ve always been fascinated by illustrators who were adept at rendering the human form, faces, and textures were able to put their subjects into fascinating settings and conjure up just the right mood. I had a knack — still do, though not so practiced of late — of being able to capture likenesses fairly well when I drew. The best illustrators and painters are very talented at drawing and their pen and pencil work alone is worthy of collecting. Without a foundation in accurate lifelike drawing a lot of paintings and illustrations meant to be realistic tend to look less real, less lifelike and dull.

ArchersIn America, there have been several periods where talented illustrators emerged. In the 1910s, 20s and 30s, the works of Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, and Howard Pyle (to name just a few), adorned the covers of Collier’s, the Saturday Evening Post, or in Wyeth’s case numerous works of literature: The White Company, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and The Last of the Mohicans.

Sometimes, these talented men worked on a grand scale – many of them, like Wyeth and Parrish were commissioned to do large murals — and much of their work for magazine covers, stories, and book covers were originally painted much larger and reproduced much smaller for print. When I worked at Stanford, helping to put out the Stanford Daily back in the early 1980s, I happened upon an exhibit of N.C. Wyeth’s work at a small gallery in Palo Alto and was awestruck by one of the paintings he had done to illustrate Robin Hood, depicting the outlaw’s band of merry men crouched behind the base of a massive oak tree with their bows pulled back waiting to let their arrows fly. The texture and color of the grass and the men’s costumes looked as rich and fresh as if it had all been painted yesterday. My recollection was that the work was enormous but time has a tendency to romanticize and embellish the truth. In fact the work is an oil on canvas about 40 inches tall and 32 inches wide; i.e., about the size of a standard movie poster (though five inches wider). And the painting was actually for sale at the time for about $25,000 and I dreamed of owning it one day.  I still dream.

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – It Will Be On Facetime

Unless you were living under a rock, you will recall the foiled coup d’état attempt in Turkey. The Turkish military attempted to seize control while President Tayyip Erdogan was vacationing on July 15, 2016. The President took to Facetime to encourage the populace to take to the streets in support of the elected government. Now if you are well versed in Turkish history, you will remember that military coups are not uncommon. The military intervened in 1960, 1971, and 1980. In 1997, the Turkish military executed a “post-modern coup”. The military – the secular defenders of the constitution – has initiated coups to restore order and to protect the secular nature of the republic created by Ataturk.

SEDAT SUNA / EPA
SEDAT SUNA / EPA

This is one of the reasons why many find this attempted coup so suspicious. The Turkish government continues to point the figure at Erdogan’s longtime rival, an Islamic Cleric living in Pennsylvania. Yet, accusations that the secular military would support radical aspirations to overthrow the government seem unfounded giving its institutional history. Furthermore, the hasty and unplanned execution of the coup which failed to lockdown national media, the presidential palace, and transportation centers seems out of character for a military which successfully orchestrated 3 previous military coups. For this reason, accusations continue to fly of Erdogan’s knowledge and even orchestration of the coup. Now, the President has the opportunity to imprison his opposition, implement centralized control, and even dismantle the military, the one institution threatening his authoritarian ambitions. This also portrays the longtime Islamist Erdogan as the secular defender of the Turkish Republic, creating an ideal scenario where he can maintain his agenda under the guise of defending secular democracy from elements (in the media, military, and education systems) which he feels threaten the will of the people.

Other theories have circulated that Iran is behind Turkey’s instability, as a means to destabilize western relations with their longtime neighbor. Some argue that Iran is simply trying to set pieces in motion to bring about the Islamic Republic of Turkey. While a secular, democratic Turkey with strong ties to the west and NATO may not be in Iran’s best interest; the creation of a Sunni Islamist government in Anatolia could rise to challenge Iranian interest as well. Either way, all the facts regarding the attempted coup remain a mystery.

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amaprim

What is a Pilot Season and Why Should You Care?

An Amazon Prime subscription is a bit like a closet with too many clothes in it: every once in awhile you discover some new thing you forgot you paid for and are pleasantly surprised by it. Among these things is a video streaming service that features a variety of tv and movies, including some originals. There’s also a nifty thing called a pilot season. Viewers can watch a bunch of different pilots, fill out a survey, and Amazon uses the info to determine which ones will become a full series. Essentially, Amazon has turned their entire subscriber pool into a focus group, a market innovation that gives us one more thing to love about the streaming economy.

m2_001_trans_1sht_V1.inddThe concept already has a few success stories to boast, most notably Transparent, which earned Amazon 10 of its 16 Emmy nominations this year, and it won five last year. The show’s lead, Jeffrey Tambor, not only won the 2015 Emmy for Best Lead Comedy Actor, but the equivalent titles at the SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards as well. (I would argue this show shouldn’t be competing in the “comedy” categories based on its content, but I won’t waste your time with that soapbox right now.) There’s also one of my new personal favorites, Mozart in the Jungle, which won the 2016 Golden Globes for Outstanding Comedy or Musical Series and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy or Musical Series. (Transparent was also nominated in both categories).

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