All posts tagged "Stories":

ART | Marina Abramovic and Ulay

My good friend Andrea shared this video with me earlier this week and I’m pretty much in love with it. Marina Abramovic is a well-known performance artist (you might remember her cameo in Sex in the City) and the above is footage from her 2010 MoMA retrospective “The Artist is Present”.

In the seventies Marina and Ulay shared a fantastic love story — performing together out of the van they lived in and creating art inspired by their relationship as lovers. When the relationship had run it’s course in 1988, their separation was marked by The Great Wall Walk — a one-time only performance where they started at opposite ends of the Great Wall and walked towards each other. They met in the middle for one last hug, then disappeared from each others’ lives forever.

During the “The Artist is Present” Marina spent 60 seconds staring directly into the eyes of a series of strangers seated across from her. It was reportedly the largest exhibition of performance art in the museum’s history. This is what happened when, after decades apart, her former lover appeared across the table.

So beautiful. Thanks, Andrea.

Marina Abramovic and Ulay | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

AAA-AAA (performance RTB, Liege)
1977
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011
Marina Abramovic and Ulay | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith
Breathing In/ Breathing Out
1977
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011
Marina Abramovic and Ulay | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith
Relation in Time
1977
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011
Marina Abramovic and Ulay | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Rest Energy
1980
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011
Marina Abramovic and Ulay | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Nightsea Crossing (Documenta 7 Kassel, 7 days)
1982
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011
Marina Abramovic and Ulay | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith
Nightsea Crossing (New Museum New York, 2 days)
1986
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011

Criterion Challenge | 101 Days of Summer

SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithSCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Here’s a fun little something: Criterion is streaming movies for free on Hulu! They’re calling it 101 Days of Summer, and It started on May 25th and goes through Labor Day. Each film is available for free on Hulu for 48 hours. The selections are a “mix of classic titles and brand-new uploads to Hulu”, a sample of which can be seen above. We’re on the edge of hitting the triple digits in Texas, so I’m ready to crank up the AC and watch some good movies. Maybe even a few bad movies. Whatever. As long as I’m inside with a cold glass of iced tea!

TAPING | Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell

emmylouPicI’m not going to lie. I dragged myself out the door to this taping after a long week of work, mostly out of duty and respect for names I grew up hearing. I did not know it would be it one of the best shows of my life. I did not know that Emmylou would bring me to tears, that both she and Rodney Crowell are two of the finest songwriters in country music, and that they’d be backed up by the tightest honky tonk road band I’ve ever seen. “Thanks for letting us come out here and play y’all some country music. Some real country music,” she announced, with her mane of white hair and trademark smile flashing under the hot stage lights. Turns out that “real” country music is a little bit like mainlining whiskey (which may account for the soggy state of my commemorative program.) In any case, it was the kind of show you didn’t want to end — when you realize how special it is while it’s actually happening. And this is why I go to concerts. A lot of concerts. In hopes that one out of fifty is like this. Maybe you only get a few. But you can live off those moments for a long time.

Emmylou is still impossibly pretty, so let’s get that out of the way first. And she’s done something I’ve never seen a woman do before — used the aging of her voice to her own artistic advantage. She’s breathier now, wiser, more road-worn. And when she’s telling you a story — say, about Pancho  –  she gives you no choice but to believe her. Over forty years of experience have turned both Emmylou and Rodney into the great living masters of ballad delivery. They tell many stories, but it’s undeniably the best when they’re telling their own. Two back-to-back songs, about halfway through the set, were the two I can’t stop thinking about: The first was Emmylou’s “Red Dirt Girl” chronicling the hard knock life of a girl from Harris’ home state of Alabama. And the second was Crowell’s semi-autobiographical story of abuse and salvation, “Rock O My Soul”. They came as a one-two punch straight to the gut, and pretty much knocked the wind out of me. I’ve yet to recover.

But there were happier stories, too — mostly shared by Emmylou and Roger between songs. Like how lead guitarist Jedd Hughes spent his youth practicing guitar in a garage in the 50-person town of Quorn, Australia (I swear to you, people, that is the only way you get that good. I have never seen anyone shred a Telecaster like this guy does.)  And the fact that drummer Jerry Roe is a third generation ACL performer. His grandfather was Jerry Reed and his father, Dave Roe, was the bassist in Johnny Cash’s band. She dedicated “San Antonio Rose” to the much beloved Texan songwriter who penned the tune, Susanna Clark (Guy’s wife). Anyways, it felt like being introduced to this larger family or network — the artists and songwriters who make up this sort of great quilt of Americana music. And just knowing that Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and The Band were very much a part of that quilt, too, well… it just doesn’t get much cooler than that. Friday night we heard songs by Townes, Roger Miller, Matraca Berg, Kris Kristofferson, and Gram Parsons in addition to songs by Harris and Crowell. It was, in the words of ACL producer Leslie Nichols, “a set list to end all set lists.”

And did I mention that the band kicked ass? There’s just something about a brushed drum behind smooth pedal steel… throw a smoking hot telecaster in the mix, and that’s a guaranteed good time. Which brings me back full circle to what Emmylou calls “real” country music — and to me that means traditional country instruments backing songs crafted with integrity about American life. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to real country music performed by seasoned musicians, then please do yourself a favor and tune in to this taping when Season 39 airs. I know I will.

CRITERION CHALLENGE | Summer With Monika

Summer With Monika | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithSummer With Monika | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithSummer With Monika | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithSummer With Monika | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithSummer With Monika | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith*title image by la porte rouge

In a whirlwind teenage romance, Harry and Monika escape the drab duties of their blue-collar jobs in Stockholm to live without rules on an isle of the archipelago.  The two young lovers arrive on the island in Harry’s father’s boat, and the celebration that ensues is quite wonderful. If you’ve seen Wes Anderson’s latest creation (Moonrise Kindgdom) then you will certainly recognize a few moments of tribute to Summer With Monika. That’s where the similarities end, however, as our young Monika and Harry actually get to stay on their island for some time. Long enough, even, to start having the inevitable problems that happen when you decide to live on an island. (They run out of food, she gets pregnant, etc.) I don’t think it would be fair to reveal any more of the plot but let’s just say — as the title suggests — all seasons must come to an end.

The story is very engaging and the actors give superb performances. Harriett Andersson as Monika is particularly fascinating — we know, almost immediately, that she is untrustworthy. Bold, selfish, manipulative… and yet these same traits make us believe that she will survive — not only on the island but in society as well. In what I thought was the most poetic visual of the movie, Director Ingmar Bergman indulges in a lengthy shot of the headstrong, striving Monika wandering through the tall grasses of the island in search of food.

In the end the thing that struck me most about Summer With Monika is that movies like this were actually being made in 1953. This old Swedish film captures a certain intimacy, a real-life kind of sexuality between the characters that I’ve almost never seen in American movies, even today.

Without revealing too much about how things play out, I will say this: Part of me wants to judge Monika (who is, most definitely, a “bad girl”), but I’m also left admiring something about her… maybe her commitment to herself and instinct for survival. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Miss Cherie Dior by Sofia Coppola

Miss Dior Cherie | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith


Miss Dior Cherie, by Sofia Coppola

Sigh… don’t you just adore Sophia? She really has a distinctly feminine point of view with everything she creates, even silly perfume ads. It’s fun to see the world through her eyes. She directed this commercial for the fragrance Miss Dior back in 2008. I love the playful song  “Moi Je Joue” sung by Bridget Bardot. Tres chic!

 

CRITERION CHALLENGE | Charade, 1963

Criterion Challenge | CharadeCriterion Challenge | CharadeCriterion Challenge | CharadeCriterion Challenge | Charade

Criterion Challenge | Charade

If you grew up in the eighties or nineties, you may not have seen Charade. But you’ll be sure to recognize Audrey Hepburn’s famous line, “Oh, I love you, Adam… Alex… Peter… Brian… whatever your name is,” from the film’s brief cameo in Pretty Woman (1990). I really can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this movie. The phrase “crowd-pleaser” definitely comes to mind. It’s a comedy, a romance, a thriller — but most of all it’s a high-stakes caper that will keep you on the edge of your seat! With an ingenious plot and quippy dialogue, Charade has sometimes been referred to as “the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made.” All that, and the story was filmed in lurid technicolor on location in Paris, with a Givenchy-clad Audrey Hepburn as it’s star. What more do you want, people?

Also of note — the trippy intro credits designed by Maurice Bender are definitely worth a rewind. The chemistry between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn is real good stuff. And for his dynamic and funny performance as Hamilton Bartholomew, I now have one more reason to love Walter Matthau.

If you’re currently in a rut with dark, moody indies or melodramatic tv shows, I prescribe to you one giant box of buttered popcorn and this movie. It will remind you why we like to watch movies in the first place: To be dazzled. To be entertained. And there’s no doubt about it — they’re not making ‘em like this anymore.

Ed Ruscha | He likes words, plants and the desert

Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas oil on canvas, 1963

Ed Ruscha | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Untitled photograph from the book, Colored People, published 1972

Ed Ruscha | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Cold Beer Beautiful Girls, acrylic on canvas, 1993

Ed Ruscha | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Pool Portfolio, ecktacolor prints, 1968/1997

Ed Ruscha | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Whether it’s the door to an intimidating building or the dusty cover of a giant textbook, it can sometimes feel like there’s a barrier between us and the people who actually create art. A Barrier of Seriousness. And if you’re not someone with the right graduate degree, then proceed with caution. But I see pieces of art that I like all the time, and they make me feel a certain way. And I wonder if the artist felt that way, too.

That’s why this wonderful little movie on Ed Ruscha (found via the Chance website) is so delightful. The short (called Ed Ruscha, Woody, and The World’s Hottest Pepper) reveals Ed’s fascination with words, the city of Los Angeles, and some of the thoughts and experiences that may have fueled his work. He’s laid-back. He’s plainspoken. He’s a guy I could get a beer with. And he creates fine art.

The pieces above are a few of my favorites. They make me think of being alone on the highway, daydreaming in cars, and being apprehensive about the destination. (The pool series reminds me of Andy Spade’s instagram account that I’m so obsessed with.) Cold Beer Beautiful Girls would look great in my guest bedroom, don’t you think?

One of the things I wanted to do with SCOUT was expose myself to more art. With videos like this one and sites like artsy.net, I’m finding that the internet is a pretty great place to do just that. No intimidation required.

 

DRAFTHOUSE NITE OUT | Django Unchained

Django Unchained | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Quentin sure does know how to blow a gal’s skirt up. And then shoot a bitch in the knee cap. His latest effort, Django Unchained, rocked my world for three hours (and four beers) last night at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Without going near any of the usual debates Quentin’s movies tend to spark, I’ll just tell you what I liked about it: Not only do we get a black western hero, but Django gives us an ass-kicking German Texan as well. And if you’re a Texan who knows that many Germans living here openly opposed slavery, this all makes beautiful sense. Dr. King Schultz is probably the best character I’ve seen in any western for the past decade, and Christoph Waltz gives an incredible performance as the mysterious dentist-turned-bounty-hunter from Germany. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s because the character is so intelligent and kind, or if it had more to do with the very dapper costumes created by Sharon Jones… but Dr. Schultz is kind of hot. I have confirmed this with another reasonable female. And if Mr. Waltz isn’t enticing enough, then please go see this movie for the horrifically funny moments that could only happen in a messed up Tarantino version of the Old South. You will be rewarded with a healthy dose of QT’s trademark dialogue, a soundtrack that surprises and, of course… revenge.

Django Unchained | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Django Unchained | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

TAPING | Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

If there’s one thing about living in Austin, it’s that you start to get spoiled. And nothing — I mean nothing – will ruin you like a taping does. You’ll arrive thrilled to be among the “chosen”, and leave wondering how you’ll ever go to a regular concert again. The sound is perfectly engineered. The crowd is perfectly engineered (college kids and excited fans down front, donors in the mezzanine). The artists are almost always on a high to be playing there. There’s not a bad seat in the house. Nobody’s on their cell phone. And you probably got your ticket for free. Now this is how live music is supposed to be.

Such was the case last Tuesday, when my friend and I stumbled in to the Moody already pretty happy from oysters and cocktails at Clark’s (again, spoiled) about three minutes into the first song, “Man on Fire.” The energy was alarming. What the hell did we miss in the first three minutes? And why are they letting that homeless guy dance in the aisles down front? Oh shit. That’s Ed Sharpe. And he’s not wearing shoes.

The next hour was spent in a euphoric, communal celebration led by Alex Ebert and his oddly wonderful family of nine. Nobody seems to know for sure if this band is being “ironic” or not with their communal 60s influences. After seeing this show I’ll be the first to say I don’t care. This band has such incredible range — I never knew where they were taking me next. One drink in, my friend and I decided they sounded “like the desert.” I kept looking for a steel guitar onstage and then realized that the sound was coming from the smoothest trumpet I’ve ever heard. “I Don’t Wanna Pray” had me dancing like I was at some sort of deep south tent revival. And by the time Jade Castrinos belted out the painfully bluesy “Fiya Wata”, I was tilting my head back to keep the tears from rolling down. She’s like one part Hope Sandoval, one part Bonnie Raitt. All truth.

The crowd loved “Om Nashi Me”, which Ebert revealed came from silly made-up words he uses when writing songs. (He also claimed that by complete coincidence, it happens to be sanskrit for “Oh infinite nakedness”. You know the people loved that…) But for me, the show climaxed with “Desert Song” and it’s slow, haunting build to an almost Radiohead-like crescendo. Guess they did sound like the desert after all.

As for the sincerity of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros? It seemed that all the genres touched on during the set — from gospel to vaudeville to folk — served a purpose of community. You didn’t have to know the songs to be able to sing along. There’s no denying that they were having a blast up there, playing off each other and rolling without a set list. And by the end of the show it definitely felt like we had all experienced something… together.

*This taping set to air in early 2013.

 

 

 

Criterion Challenge | Metropolitan

Metropolitan | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithMetropolitan | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithMetropolitan | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithMetropolitan | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose SmithMetropolitan | SCOUT by Jennifer Rose Smith

Whit Stillman’s first comedy of manners follows a group of young collegiates (the self-proclaimed “urban haute bourgeoisie”) as they navigate their way through deb season over Christmas break in Manhattan. Um, ivy league kids home for the holidays? Christmastime in Manhattan? Deb season? I’m already into it.

While the visuals blast you straight in to the carpeted living rooms of the Upper East Side eighties, the dialogue is the real art of this movie — it’s surprisingly fast-paced (especially for a movie that’s over 20 years old.)  At any given moment there are at least three running conversations happening as the characters spar with one another about everything from Jane Austen to Fourier to their definition of the urban haute bourgeoisie (“UBH” for short). My favorite (and certainly the funniest) theory raised is that a privileged background inherently dooms one to fail. This idea leads to a pretty fantastic interview scene in a bar with a forty-something UHB who is living a self-described life of mediocrity. That said, most of the movie is the kids hanging out late at night in their parents living rooms discussing Very Important Shit. And oh, yeah, they also trip on mescaline and play strip poker. They’re still a bunch of college freshmen, after all.

The Nick Smith character was a stand-out for me (played by Chris Eigeman). Definitely the most dynamic character of the movie — we all knew someone like that in college, right? Charismatic and deeply committed to the idea of never taking anything seriously. Over the course of the movie we get to see Nick unravel… slowly but surely leading up to the famous “Polly Perkins” monologue, which most people agree is the best scene of the movie. I also loved the sweet and sincere Charlie Black (played by Taylor Nichols) who delivers some of the funniest lines. I couldn’t help but wonder if he might be a predecessor of Max Fischer…

Reading this interview with Stillman after watching the movie really enhanced my experience. It answered many questions I had, the biggest being about the time frame of the movie ( the script was based on the 1969 deb season, but set in an intentionally vague time due to budget). I also learned that Metropolitan was followed by Barcelona (1994) and The Last Days of Disco (1998), to create a trilogy of movies that follow the “urban haute bourgeoisie”.

I liked this movie a lot — mostly because the dialogue really challenged me. I’ve also never quite seen anything like it… underneath the hilarious highbrow observations, it’s really a coming-of-age movie. Utlimately, Metropolitan is equal parts The New Yorker and The Breakfast Club. Stirred, not shaken.

As for the Criterion Challenge series, I’m starting to think this was a pretty good idea. I definitely want to watch the other two in the Stillman trilogy now. I’m not sure what the characters from Metropolitan would make of me, but I feel smarter already.