Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Damsels in Distress navel-gazes at an artificial college experience 

Girls Will Be Girls

Whit Stillman's flowery, absurd Damsels in Distress substitutes Animal House's crude frat boys for priss-pot coeds in this too-cute-for-school, obnoxious evocation of a make-believe college life. The damsels in question are all named for flowers, because girls are so, well, flowery. Block-of-wood indie queen Greta Gerwig is all square shoulders and flatline delivery as the bossypants Violet, the queen bee in a hive of girliness dedicated to rooting out bad smells and suicidal depression from their private Seven Oaks College. The slightly dim brunette Heather (Carrie MacLemore) and the elegant African-American girl Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who has come back from a London trip with an affected British accent and a conviction that all men are "playboys and operators," round out this coterie of Lanz nightgowns and proper enunciation. The girls live in a cozy dorm room where they curl their hair and apply mascara like 1950s coeds working toward their MRS degrees.

Comic Con Episode IV offers a heartwarming look at a nerd's paradise 

Freaks and geeks

With so much of American life centered on celebrity worship and aspirational window shopping, it is nice to be reminded of the merits of the not-beautiful, the marginal, and, frankly, the geeky.
Morgan Spurlock's new documentary Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope is a salute to the underdogs in life's lotto, the kids who didn't get all the lucky breaks and the good looks. But, based on this documentary, they at least wring their fair share of fun from it nevertheless. Their nirvana is the annual comic book convention in San Diego, Comic-Con. Inaugurated in 1970, the event has since grown into an enormous, celebrity-packed merchandise-shilling geek fest of 120,000 fanboys and girls that nerds across the country pine to attend all year long. In a tongue-in-cheek opening bit mimicking an old-school filmstrip, Spurlock shows the crude beginnings of Comic-Con in black-and-white stills of fuzzy-haired post-hippies sorting through cardboard boxes of comics. Cut to today, and the endless fans, many of them dressed as their favorite characters, flow like a fleshy Nile into the San Diego Convention Center.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sarah Emerson unearths troubling territory in Underland 

Local painter loses her innocence in a dark, abstract solo show

Cuteness may be wearing on Sarah Emerson's nerves. The Atlanta artist is known for her toxic Disney paintings in a macaroon color palette of raspberry, orange blossom, and cinnamon accessorized with the manufactured sparkle of rhinestones. The star of Emerson's show has often been a wary deer tentatively walking through sick and pretty scenes, an icon of innocence navigating a compromised world.

But something wicked this way comes. Darkness has overtaken the artist's latest body of work, Underland. The magical forest — always a sinister kind of enchanted in Emerson's lexicon — has decomposed into something more nightmarish. Gone are the wolves and the deer, the ravens and other totems of virtue and mayhem, leaving behind a paint-by-numbers-style killing field.
Emerson has taken one more step deeper into abstraction with Underland. Her gooey color palette remains, along with the oozing forms of her dream forests, a rotting Candy Land. Though still recognizable as forests, their inner workings have gone weird and metaphorical, as if the unconscious was bubbling out of the ground like crude oil. The trees and foliage drip and run, threatening to slide off of the canvas and creating a powerful sense of obliteration.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

                                                        Chip Simone, Midway in the Rain, Atlanta, 2004. Jackson Fine Art

Chip Simone exemplifies the photographer as flaneur, pounding the pavement of a dynamic urban space and documenting its perpetual transformation. Since 1972 Simone has been a resident of Atlanta, a car-centric city where such up-close-and-personal insights into the urban landscape are less common than in pedestrian cities like New York or London. It is a happy circumstance, then, that Simone is on hand to document the subtleties of this morphing metropolis often missed in a drive-by culture. Atlanta is also a city perpetually reinventing itself, a process captured in the palimpsest of paint layers, toppled architectural features or a slashed political poster that can signal neglect, overhaul or protest in Simone’s images. While other projects, from Walker Evans’s subway portraits to the recently discovered work of Vivian Maier, have captured the flux and diversity of city life in portraits of people, Simone focuses on the physical spaces that betray evidence of the human touch, but also exist as compelling studies in their own right. No subject is too minor or inconsequential for Simone’s roving, ravenous lens.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Books, arts and culture

Art and disease

In sickness and in health

Apr 14th 2012, 9:58 by F.F. | ATLANTA

FOR most people the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conjure up images of scientists in orange overalls hunched over petri dishes of anthrax, or some other nefarious microbe. If the federal agency, founded in 1946 to defend Americans against all manner of epidemiological threats, evokes culture, it is of the bacterial sort. And yet for the past 16 years its headquarters in a leafy suburb of Atlanta has been home to a 1,000 square metre (10,000 square foot) gallery.
The David J. Sencer CDC Museum, named after the outfit's longest-serving director, who ran it from 1966 to 1977, is devoted to promoting the agency's mission of educating the public about health, with an emphasis on disease prevention. It is open to everyone, though being ensconced within a government complex, getting to it involves running a gauntlet of security and ID checks likely to put off all but the most dedicated art buffs. Those who brave the bureaucratic obstacles, though, won't regret it.

Bully is a true-life horror story with many monsters


Bully has every element of a modern horror story. Sympathetic, persecuted victims, sadistic monsters, and even a deceptively banal setting, the sterile cinderblock hallways and asphalt playgrounds are where its tales of terror unfold.

The worst thing about this horror movie, however, is that it is all real.

This is one of the scariest, clammiest, most skin-crawling films in recent memory, a tale of victims stuck in small, isolated towns where no one hears their cries for help, and their persecutors — both bullies and clueless administrators and figures of authority — are pitiless. Whether you experienced some form of bullying in school or not, the way director Lee Hirsch (in a manner reminiscent of Gus Van Sant's Elephant) captures the architecture of classrooms, hallways, and cafeterias and the loneliness, fear, and dread they can induce is powerfully universal. But the children aren't the only bullies in this deeply disturbing film; the way adults close ranks and fail to protect their most vulnerable members in Bully can't be ignored.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Ice

(Image courtesy of the St. Regis)

Ice skating may be the closest adult women (and some enlightened men) can get to indulging their floaty ballerina visions in a public space. Which makes the ultra fancy-pants St. Regis Astor Holiday Rink all the better for stoking that element of socially-sanctioned fantasy. I have skated at a number of other dreamy ice rinks including above the footings of the Eiffel Tower last Christmas where Radiohead played and the skates were free in deference to the season. Also memorable was the iconic, epic Rockefeller Center rink where rink-envoys were on hand to inquire about your pain factor when an especially dramatic fall happens. And the Astor Rink has its own unique appeal.