Friday, March 28, 2008

Mystic-Art Miscellany

Featured Artist:
Bec Stupak - A fun artist to watch - colourful, lively and full of energy! Meet the girl behind the coolest hair you've ever seen. Bec is the epitome of the amazing life that waits for you if you follow your heart. She left a boring corporate job to be an artist full time. Today she leads a very colorful life traveling all over the world and having lots of fun. She says she defines herself as someone who is brave, creative, fierce, and passionate enough to follow her dreams... See her installation
Radical Earth Magic Flower and her YouTube video. More...

Recommended Site: on the Arts

Recommended DVD:
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye (2003) - If you want to study photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson is a good place to start. This documentary is a wonderful, evocative biography of the man considered to be the greatest photographer of the last century. Cartier-Bresson’s life reads like a history of the century – World War II, China, Egypt, Mexico, India, Sartre, Matisse, Gandhi (minutes before he was assassinated) and Cuba all became subjects of his famous "decisive moment" style. Interviews with Cartier-Bresson, Isabelle Huppert, Arthur Miller and other luminaries are woven into this indelible portrait of an icon of both photography and the world.

Recommended TV:
HBO's Miniseries - John Adams Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney - Giamatti and Linney are sublime! It'll inspire you to learn more about the U.S. and our founding mothers and fathers.
HBO's Series: In Treatment - As they say, addicting! This is an intense show to watch, very emotional and moving. Almost anyone will be able to relate to the doctor and his patients.

Avoid Like the Plague: - pathetic in its depiction of the daily lives of celebrities. This guy, Harvey Levin, pays paparazzo to follow so-called celebrities and then they all sit around ridiculing them on this show. "Who did more damage to entertainment reporting in 2007 than Harvey Levin?... he and his gutter operation… almost singlehandedly transformed Hollywood entertainment reporting into a gutter-level street battle fueled by self-hatred, jealousy and anger, with no concern for what once determined greatness, excellence or fame…"

CNN Headline News' Showbiz Tonight - The anchors are so self-righteous and holier-than-thou and pretend to be experts on anything and everything in their nightly analysis of the lives of people whom they do not know. Their wild speculation and airing of gossip and rumors are ruining our society and though a lot of the people they talk about bring this kind of thing upon themselves, it's not fair that these talking heads make a living sitting around chit-chatting about personal lives as though they know what's going on and especially the way they act like they're above it all.

For a Laugh:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Creative Mind Behind "Possibilities"

March 12, 2008--The Grammy's did an unexpected thing this year. They awarded Album of the Year to a deserving talent. Herbie Hancock won for River: The Joni Letters, a tribute album - homage to Joni Mitchell. He was up against a hard rock record, a country guy, a rapper and a druggie... Thank heavens someone at the Grammy's came to their senses! His 47th album was released on September 25, 2007 by Verve Records; guest vocalists include Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and Luciana Souza.

But Herbie has created such magic all throughout his career. In 2005, an intimate documentary was filmed about
POSSIBILITIES - Herbie Hancock and his in-studio collaborations with a dozen formidable pop recording artists, collaborations that explore the unexpected, like jazz improvisations. The film is also about how Herbie’s unique worldview shapes a creative environment that encourages artists to step outside their comfort zones - into a world of creative exploration heretofore unknown.

The documentary opens with Herbie jotting notes on staff paper - the intuitive talent miraculously channeled from paper to fingers to instrument. He states emphatically that to be "pigeon-holed" is the death of creativity. His solution: exploring by collaboration.

POSSIBILITIES follows Herbie Hancock over a year and a half collaborating with musical icons Carlos Santana, Sting, Angelique Kidjo, Annie Lennox and Paul Simon, Christina Aguilera, John Mayer, Trey Anastasio and Jonny Lang as well as Joss Stone, Raul Midon, Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan.

The film also includes rarely seen archival footage of Herbie with the Miles Davis Quintet in 1962; Herbie’s classic video for “Rockit”; and never-before-seen duets of Herbie playing for peace in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the atomic explosions. Hancock said then that he tried to use his music to spread a message of peace and help humanity, and that he intended to continue his efforts at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.

His ability to marvel at the talent of those he chose to do this documentary with is amazing. "Each artist brings what they want to the table" - he from jazz. Their youth, their connection to the era in which they were born will bring new light, a new sound. "I feel that many of our systems that worked to encourage creativity are being challenged and there's more of an encouragement to stay where you are - don't make a wave. I think the word that captures the spirit of what I believe in and what I'm really about and what I hope to achieve is POSSIBILITIES."

"As children, we have that sense that anything is possible and we have that kind of openness; we're not jaded. The older we get, the more closed in we get, the more frightened we get, the more set in our ways we get because we're afraid of the unknown; whereas as a child, everything is unknown! What a beautiful place to reside in - in your own being - where you still have the wonder of a child."

The Mystic Artist I wrote: "...artists, more sensitive than the average person, feel or intuit their way into other dimensions - magnetic fields that remain shut to the 'normal' individual. Artists realized the validity of the acausal factor long before physicists began..."

An artist's natural impulse that does not involve logical reasoning, reacting somewhere beneath the conscious level, allows the truest art to blossom from the seeds of the soul. Such quick and ready insight that is child-like, original and without preconceived notions, prejudice or artifice brings forth the most meaningful creations. Federico Fellini couldn't have said it better: "An artist is a child always and sees things with childlike wonder. That is what makes him an artist." The singer interprets a song effortlessly; the painter designs his canvas without mechanical caginess.

Living child-like by instinct and intuition alone is perhaps the most difficult thing to relearn once the harshness of life robs us of our innocence. But awakened intuition is a powerful force; though the fragile bonds of memory must run its natural course. We must search the silence of who we are; and the inward journey through the World of Chance can't be imagined because all at once, part of us is living in the afterlife... especially during childhood.

Recapturing innocence is the only way to truly understand what lies beneath the prisons of who we are, what we've turned out to be. We may relearn such innocence - lost aspects of ourselves - through children who are the only people truly able to live freely by instinct and intuition. "Dreams, imagination, courage and self-confidence - these are what really nourish us," states Robert Fulghum, a teacher and best-selling author. As we pass into adulthood, we lose our most valuable gift - instinct.

"To draw is to look.
To look is to see.
To see is to have vision.
To have vision is to understand.
To understand is to know.
To know is to become.
To become is to live."

We must, each day of our lives, try to LIVE - the way we did as children, the way we lived before we were not yet old enough to know we CANNOT. We are all unique individuals; yet we limit ourselves more and more as time goes by. We've got to go back to the Kindergarten of our lives to re-enable ourselves to channel through intuition, instinct and emotion.

Remember the image we once had of ourselves before we became aware of and conditioned by our own limitations. We must learn from great creative geniuses like Albert Einstein who made incredible breakthroughs in science simply because he did not accept what he had learned as being the absolute and final truth. In fact, he didn't get along in school too well and mostly refused to be taught. He was obliged to go back to the simple, original basics and reformulate from there. In many ways, he was just returning to "the conceptual world of childhood." It was his powerful intuitive wisdom that nudged him to close in on the new solutions the world was waiting for.

* * *

Herbie Hancock expressed it with such purity: "The strongest thing that any human being has going is their own integrity and their own heart. As soon as you start veering away from that, the solidity that you need in order to be able to stand up for what you believe in and deliver what's really inside, it's just not going to be there. So that's one thing. The other thing is to - and this is the advice I try to give to anyone - is forget about trying to copy someone else. Forget about trying to compete with someone else. Create your own pathway. Create your own new vision. There's an infinite number of ways to look at things, so find one that hasn't been done. Or find a way that something hasn't been done. I made a collaborative record. A lot of collaborative records have been done before, but I don't think they've been done like this."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Foreign Films: An Adventure for the American Movie Lover

March 4, 2008--I'm certainly no expert on foreign films, but I've loved them for a long time and I thought I'd share some of my favourites here with you on my blog. I always consider it to be an adventure to watch a foreign film - a way to exercise my brain, think more, expand my mind. It's like traveling to a foreign country and experiencing a new way of doing things, a new way of life. I've loved many foreign films as much as my favourite American movies and watch them over and over for inspiration.

But for most of us, it's difficult to stray from our 'comfort zone' and we tend to do and watch and eat the same things over and over. So we limit our lives and tend not to experience new things often enough to absorb all that life has to offer. Whenever I watch a foreign film, I feel like I've tasted a new flavor, heard a new song, discovered a new colour, tried a new dish...

The following are my top 20 foreign films... I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Au revoir les enfants (1987) - always moving!

Avventura, L' (1960) - haunting film noir.

Babettes gæstebud (Babette's Feast) (1987) - The great film from Denmark that is all about the sensual versus the spiritual sides of human nature. It is the story of an exiled French cook/housekeeper, Babette, who serves a pair of devoutly religious, elderly Danish sisters. When she wins a lottery, she asks the sisters if she could spend the money to prepare a Gaelic feast for them and their friends (in honour of their deceased father, the great minister and prophet). She wanted to show her appreciation for them having taken her in after she'd lost her husband and child. All their lives, the two women had worked as humble servants of the Lord, living simple lives, eating simple foods of the earth. On the night the ingredients for the elaborate French dinner arrived, the two humble women had nightmares about overindulgence in food - haunting visions of cows, turtles and wine. They considered the temptation of gluttony to be dangerous, even evil; for they'd been taught that food and drink were only to be taken for nourishment and sustenance.

"The tongue... the tongue, this strange little muscle... has accomplished great and glorious deeds for man... but it is also the source of unleashed evil and deadly poison."

But after the sumptuous meal had been eaten and the two women realized that Babette had spent all her winnings on the feast for them, and was thus doomed to live a life of service in poverty forever, they knew that whatever they had sacrificed in the way of earthly pleasures had been returned to them. Babette tells them, "An artist is never poor." She had, indeed...

"...transformed a dinner into a kind of love affair - a love affair that made no distinction between bodily appetite and spiritual appetite."

Dreams (Akira Kurosawa) (1990) - a rare bird and I love Scorcese as van Gogh!

Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001) - enchanting! This is one movie that is so much fun to watch, you just can't get enough of Amelie! And she teaches you to really love life.

Fauteuils d'orchestre (2006) - also known as Avenue Montaigne, I saw this film the other night and truly enjoyed it. Very arty, fun and exhilarating.

Fellini - Satyricon (1969) ...and all the great Fellini films (too numerous to list here) - incredible, colourful adventures. His films of neo-realism (a movement in filmmaking characterized by the simple, direct depiction of lower-class life) are like wonderful dream sequences. Prior to the making of Juliet of the Spirits, he is said to have attended a séance in which he claims to have seen and spoken to the ghost of his dead father. He used his intuition in order to create; he felt ideas were less important than the feelings. "The world of my imagination is always closer to the truth than is the truth."

Federico Fellini's films are perfect examples of an artist creating scenes that work like dreams "in which some random comment made during the day can set off a resonant and haunting episode while one sleeps." He never dismissed dreams as mere fantasies; instead he allowed the dreamscapes he created to cut to our very souls. Sleepwalking headlong into dream-scenes, landscapes of the mind, our visionary hallucinations may show us a new reality. We become magical realists, surrealists "encouraging our imaginations to romp among the absurd allowing colorful, extravagant, inappropriate elements to invade the flatness of ordinary life."

Laberinto del fauno, El (Pan's Labyrinth) (2006) - I found this film to be so imaginative and creative; I was in awe throughout. It's about the forces of good and evil and life's choices. It was, however, very graphic and violent. A lot of bloodshed, gore, and slime... but really quite beautiful with its balancing contrasts. Hope, faith, trust and the search for truth bring lasting memories. It reminded me of my love for my mother, which was particularly touching. Contrasting beauty: the darkest darks and the lightest lights.

Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) (1948) - great classic!

Moskva slezam ne verit (Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears) (1980)

Nóz w wodzie (Knife in the Water) (1962) - one of the masterful film noir works.

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979) - one of the greatest vampire movies - filming on location in Germany, Herzog uses dreamlike camera angles, mixing them with a rich color palette and masterful lighting.

Postino, Il (1994) - positively poetic!

The Tango Lesson (1997) - Sally Potter's wonderfully romantic dance film.

Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) (1991) - every musician must see this one!

Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto (1974) - the ORIGINAL 'Swept Away' - funny, wild, relentless...

Ultimo tango a Parigi (1972) - Brando's unforgettable 'Last Tango in Paris.'

Un homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman) (1966) - darkly romantic.

Vita è bella, La (1997) - the great award-winning 'Life is Beautiful.'

Volver took me back to a time long ago... to the days of Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, but with much deeper more genuine acting by the multidimensional Penelope Cruz. At times I was 'lost in translation,' however, it was easy to catch on via the wonderful acting skills of the cast and I was captivated every minute. What a gorgeous film! I haven't enjoyed a movie this much since Frida.

These are some of my favourite films set in foreign countries:

Artemisia (1997)
Chocolat (2000)
Frida (2002)
Lost In Translation (2003)
Moulin Rouge (1952)
Mystery of Picasso, The (1956)
Red Violin, The (1998)
Sophie's Choice (1982)
Stealing Beauty (1996)
Unbearable Lightness of Being, The (1988)

For lots of great movies, check out: My Recommended Films, IFC, and Sundance Channel.