Turning up the heat
The premise of The Heat is a simple one — an unlikely pair of detectives is forced to team up in order to take down a ring of dangerous drug dealers. With Sandra Bullock playing an FBI agent angling for a promotion, and Melissa McCarthy as a Boston police officer with anger management problems, The Heat begins to sound a little too much like Miss Congeniality 2 meets 21 Jump Street. But while the movie is predictable, it is far from stale — director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) steps back to let Bullock and McCarthy unroll their comedic chemistry.
Something new, something blue
I grew up surrounded by blue and white dishes — Spode Blue Italian, Churchill Blue Willow, Chinese rice pattern teacups. They are comforting objects, objects of beauty, but not things that I often think about.
Satisfy your urge to travel
For those of you whose wanderlust is currently constrained by the demands of the academic calendar, Joël Tettamanti: Compass Points is not to be missed. After all, this newest exhibition at the MIT Museum — and the first solo exhibition in the United States for Switzerland-based Tettamanti — is all about travel. Compass Points includes more than 70 works by Tettamanti, shot in locations ranging from the built-up city of Seoul to more isolated communities in Greenland.
History of a fascination
Be it pre-WWI and flapper gowns in Downton Abbey, or the green halter dress that Keira Knightley donned in Atonement, costume drama (post-Victorian costume drama, in particular) continually draws us in. Last month, Jacqueline Durran won the Oscar for Best Costume for her work in Anna Karenina — a strikingly modern production not just because Keira Knightley practically drips vintage-style Chanel jewelry, but also because the story, set in the late 19th century, was purposefully presented with a good measure of 1950s couture tailoring. What is it about 20th century fashion that fascinates us so much?
The evolution of art
Rare are those who profess a love for every kind of art, and rarer still are those who actually have time to read about all of it. With the sheer volume of media that bombards us on a daily basis, is it even feasible to break art down into smaller, more digestible pieces? Luckily for the rest of us, art historian Michael Bird has written a book that caters to every sort of art lover, from novice art historian to seasoned museum-goer. 100 Ideas that Changed Art explains art’s long history in bite-sized chunks, covering topics ranging from cave art to the Internet.
Art, and the age of man
If you have not yet been to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, now is the time to go. Thanks to street artist Swoon (Caledonia Curry), the ICA, or at least part of it, is temporarily festive. Swoon installed Anthropocene Extinction in its lobby just over a year ago, and the effect is still as refreshing as ever.
Is greed good?
It’s always disturbing to see how quickly money (a lot of it) can persuade people to compromise their morals, and Nicholas Jarecki’s feature-length directorial debut offers a glimpse of this in the form of the glitzy, sometimes seedy, world of high finance. Arbitrage follows the story of Robert Miller (Richard Gere), a 60-year-old hedge fund executive getting ready to retire into full-time philanthropy. But, as in any Wall Street thriller, there are a few catches in the plan: Miller’s a fraud (he’s padding his company’s books with some $400 million of his friend’s money), and he needs to complete the merger of his company before he’s exposed. The stakes become even higher when Miller accidentally becomes involved in the death of his mistress, art gallery owner Julie (Laetitia Casta). A massive cover-up ensues, one that involves Miller keeping his family in the dark and enlisting the help of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), the son of a former employee and the only guy who he knows from the other side of town.
Sunny summer soundtrack
Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald entered the US music scene five years ago with This Is the Life, but we haven’t seen (or heard) much of her since. It’s been a long wait for US-based fans — her second album, A Curious Thing (2010), is not readily available on this side of the Atlantic — but the recently released Life in a Beautiful Light makes for the perfect summer soundtrack.
A visit to the art galleries on the second floor of the MIT Museum yields a pleasant surprise. “Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya”, featuring the photography of filmmaker-mountaineer David Breashears, successfully integrates art and science to paint a fascinating portrait of climate change in the Greater Himalaya region.
A study of scarlet
In her stage adaptation of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, Alexandra Wood has crafted a vivid portrait of the political turmoil and uncertainty surrounding Mao Zedong’s rule in China. Chang’s memoir, which spans a century of history and covers the lives of three generations of women — her grandmother, her mother, and herself — is a lengthy one, but on the stage, the epic plays out in five acts and less than two hours.
Music and fashion, as the French do
Last Thursday’s French-themed program at the Boston Symphony Orchestra featured a fashion show to complement the performance of Debussy’s La Mer. Project Debussy, part of an annual fashion competition based on the works of a composer, featured eleven Debussy-inspired designs by local fashion students. This Project Composer series adds a new dimension to the usual symphony-goer’s experience, as couture and music — at least classical music — is rarely explored together.
The year in arts, 2011
2011 was a year of general unrest and uncertainty — rioting and political upheaval throughout the world, a possible start to the collapse of the Eurozone, and on American soil, the Occupy Wall Street movement. On the arts front, the arrest of Chinese contemporary artist and political activist Ai Weiwei on charges of tax evasion sparked international protest. Despite the universal tensions on political and economic fronts, however, the entertainment industry somehow managed to maintain its golden world of sugar-coated pop and blockbuster films.
Happy New Year, Maggie Thatcher?
While many movies focus on the private life behind a public figure, The Iron Lady focuses on the private life of a woman already retired from the spotlight. In keeping with the recent trend of making films about contemporary (British) politicians and royalty, this Margaret Thatcher biopic skillfully weaves fact and a great deal of artistic liberties to create a portrait of the first female prime minister of the UK.
DOCUMENTARY REVIEW Reviving a culture through language
The Wampanoag people of southeastern Massachusetts, who helped the Pilgrims survive 400 years ago, had no spoken language to call their own until about 20 years ago. Anne Makepeace’s newest documentary, We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân, delves into the fascinating linguistic — and consequently, cultural — revival of a tribe.
MOVIE REVIEW Tour of a painting
It starts with a sound and ends with a painting. Creaking. Voices. Echoing footsteps. The soft swish of fabric. Above all, darkness. When the scene opens, the camera slowly pans back and forth across an evolving painting: The Mill and the Cross is centered around Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Way to Calvary (1564), so what better way to open the film than with a tour of the painting itself?
Can an elegant book be transformed into an elegant film?
The Hedgehog proves that a film is best enjoyed if you watch it with low expectations at the outset. Admittedly, I read Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog this summer and enjoyed it so much that I was convinced that the film adaptation would be an absolute failure. After all, aren’t all movie adaptations of books at least something of a disappointment? Morbid curiosity is what drove me to watch The Hedgehog, and, well, thank goodness for morbid curiosity.
OPEN-AIR ART Viewer, artist, artist, viewer
Miranda July’s Eleven Heavy Things cleverly skirts the word “sculpture,” one of those ill-defined “things” that suggests a commercial object just as often as it does an artistic one. This installation, sculptural merely by virtue of the fact that it is three-dimensional, lets us in on the artistic process and blurs the lines between creator and observer. Eleven Heavy Things originally debuted in 2010 in New York’s Union Square Park, and its journey to Los Angeles this summer came in conjunction with the release of July’s latest film project, The Future. Although I have not yet seen the film, this exhibition has certainly whet my appetite for the wacky but strangely candid ideas that emerge from July’s head.
GOING DIGITAL Maps of paint
Google Art Project was only unveiled in February, but already it has professional artists and amateur art lovers alike raving. It’s no wonder that people are impressed. A visit to the home page gives a crystal clear close-up of a famous painting. In the introduction video, painting after painting presents itself in proper Google Maps style as a voice tempts us to “discover hidden secrets, or get in close to see the most miniscule details, like the brushstrokes of van Gogh.”
BOOK REVIEW Giving back the funk?
Perhaps I can explain the draw of Tony Rauch’s new book, eyeballs growing all over me … again, rather quickly through one analogy: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984, Chris Van Allsburg). Harris Burdick was a collection of illustrations by Van Allsburg, each accompanied by a title and a single line of text. The goal, according to elementary school teachers, was to make children think creatively and come up with stories incorporating the text and the picture. “Mr. Linden’s Library,” a picture of a sleeping girl and vines sprouting from the binding of an open book in front of her, sparked a sea of creative juices from excited fifth graders; eyeballs does the same thing for the more mature reader.
EXHIBIT REVIEW And then there was glass
Dale Chihuly has been working with glass for over 40 years, and his newest collection of glass sculptures is now on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass is not your typical art exhibition, it’s a celebration of installation art and fragility at its very finest. Of course, before we give Chihuly all the credit, you should know that he does not work alone. A dislocated shoulder from a 1979 bodysurfing accident left him unable to hold a glassblowing pipe; since then, he has relied on a team of glassblowers to carry out his artistic plans. Chihuly classifies his role as “more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor.” The result of these artistic collaborations is an oeuvre focused just as much on presentation as craftsmanship.
The Silver Screen in 2010
The King’s Speech, True Grit, Inception, and The Social Network garnered the most nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards. But what about the films that didn’t get an Oscar nod? Here are some of the good and the mediocre.
The Year in Arts
What with earthquakes, volcanoes, and oil leaks, 2010 had almost enough disasters to make The Day After Tomorrow seem closer to everyday life. The arts and entertainment world chose to confront these events with creations of both truth and fantastical fairy tale, dark or otherwise. Perhaps the fact that a Picasso painting sold for 106.5 million dollars illustrates this strange but successful marriage between substance and imagination.
FILM REVIEW A voice for the King
It’s post-World War I England and George V (Michael Gambon) is an aging monarch with a domineering personality. David (Guy Pearce), the immature successor to the throne and the future King Edward VIII, will later abdicate in order to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Bertie (Colin Firth) is his younger brother, the Duke of York. When the time comes for Bertie to take up the title of George VI, the reluctant king must overcome his debilitating stammer and lead his people into war.
EXHIBIT REVIEW Fresh Ink: Ten takes on Chinese tradition
Settled in a gallery that’s not quite part of the new Art of the Americas wing and not quite part of the old MFA, Fresh Ink is surprisingly quite at home. In this newest project, ten contemporary Chinese artists responded to pieces in the Museum’s collection with works of their own, adeptly treading the boundaries of the traditional and the modern, bringing the past and present closer together.
ALBUM REVIEW Tunstall plays dress-up
If “Suddenly I See” conjures up the lipstick-and-heels world of <i>The Devil Wears Prada</i>, then “Uummannaq Song” invokes a different kind of fierce. KT Tunstall’s new album <i>Tiger Suit</i> opens with the rattling and echoes of mysterious campfire rituals. Then an unmistakable voice breaks in: “Hold your fire / I’m coming out and I’ll tell you the truth.”
Lifestyle, Yes. Life and Style, No.
Today, Grace Kelly may just be the song title of a mildly annoying, sugar-coated pop song by Mika, but thirty years ago, Grace Kelly was one of the most photographed women of the twentieth century. An Academy Award-winning American actress, she became a film star just as suddenly as she married a real prince, became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, and then tragically died in a car accident.
MUSEUM REVIEW Through the window-glass
It seems as if Tim Burton’s most recent project has sparked a resurgence of Alice in Wonderland. Certainly Alice is all the rage in London, with the movie’s recent Leicester Square premier and Selfridges’ Alice-themed tearoom (although second to Harrods in posh-ness and size, Selfridges can still boast unrivalled bumblebee-yellow bags and equally eye-catching, face-against-glass window displays, displays that for a time matched the said tearoom).
EXHIBIT REVIEW A little bit of Paris, in all its glamour and decadence Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts depicts turn-of-the-century Paris society
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec produced intimate perspectives into the decadent lifestyle of early 20th-century Paris. While we look back upon his work as modern and fashionable, his images had been considered provocative amongst his peers.