jueves, 28 de febrero de 2013

85th Academy Awards Gala Show

In an evening full of glamour, glitz, young and not so young stars, the Dolby Theater glowed with smiles and sequins.

Through the red carpet, marched a parade of haute-couture and ‘oscaresque’ gowns where white and salmon-pink choices were the most acclaimed. Best Performance in Supporting Role winning actress Anne Hathaway triumphed with a satin designed by Prada, which inspired a Twitter account. Also dashing was Charlize Theron dressed in an immaculate crisp Dior, and Naomi Watts looked like a metallic mermaid on the carpet. With many people stepping on her beautiful cream Dior, Jennifer Lawrence ended up doing so herself on her way to embrace her trophy.

Although he made Tommy Lee Jones smile, host Seth MacFarlane’s sexist and racist jokes made the audience groan sometimes. William Shatner was right when he referred to them as ‘tasteless’. One particular original song made more than one renowned actress look to the ground; but truth be told: MacFarlene’s got a great voice.

The musical numbers were a great success. Jennifer Hudson shined with a light of her own and the cast of Les Misérables got a standing ovation. Among presentations, awards and all that jazz, Catherine Zeta-Jones blew the audience away with a Chicago number showing that she still has what it takes.

The Academy honored 50 years of 007 movies with a tribute presented by a sensational Halle Berry in Versace. “Bond music is a genre all its own, guaranteed to make your heart beat faster and take your breath away,” she said before Shyrley Bassey took the stage with Goldfinger. Adele performed Skyfall, which would later win Best Original Song.

Other surprises included Barbra Streisand’s first performance in 36 years at the Academy Awards and the appearance of the First Lady Michelle Obama via satellite to announce the Best Picture winner, Argo. This Oscar, along with Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing made up for the omission in the directing category.

Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Lead Actor for his incarnation of President Lincoln and Tarantino got a well-deserved Original Script. But the revelation of the night was Life of Pi. The feature film won for Original Score, Visual Effects, and Cinematography -in a rare tie with Skyfall- and Ang Lee, awarded with the Directing Oscar concluded with a “Namaste” in contrast to the roaring crowd.

miércoles, 27 de febrero de 2013

Final Assignment: Frank Ocean

If there is one celebrity, artist, personality or figure –pick whichever you prefer- who gets my attention far from the usual, that is Frank Ocean. Ever since his first record was released, everyone noticed he was different. Ocean’s music takes us into an Orange Nostaligia world. He dives into his lyrics surrounded by midtempo innovative R&B. At the beginning, he was associated to one of the anarchic group of rapers in LA, Odd Future. Would he have been successful otherwise? Definitely: yes.

I want to know and present both sides of the coin; analyze his impact both as a musician and a person in the industry. Here we have this brave and inspiring man, the first in the hip hop scene to publicly admit his love for a man. Someone who is not afraid. He is determined and expects to be listened to. He has also been cited for possession and driving under a suspended license and got into a fight with Chris Brown in a parking lot.

Facing the improbability of getting first hand material, I will go through every relevant interview from sources like the Rolling Stones magazine, The New York Times and many others. Also his personal publications and Twitter account and the different analysis of his lyrics to get a deeper understanding of his persona.

lunes, 18 de febrero de 2013

Pauline Kael

Described by Francis Davis as the “Queen bee of American movie critics,” Pauline Kael sure had a unique voice and set new standards for film critic. She wrote beyond mere technical aspects, and this style of analysis broadened the spectrum and definition of what criticism was and is.

                Being a critic for The New Yorker magazine for 23 years, she had followers –also fellow writers known as “Paulettes”- and haters, but both would listen to what she had to say. “I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people.” Sometimes those dissertations were not shared by many. But she was not afraid to run contrary to the established critical opinion. “If you write critically, you have to do something besides get excited. You have to examine what’s in front of you,” she said. Pauline had very clear ideas which she backed up with strong arguments, an extended background on cinema and the gift of speech.

She praised when it was necessary and well deserved, and so she did with the pans. Pauline was different from other critics in the sense that many have a monotonous voice; she was far from that. Pauline never watched a movie twice, so when writing, she went with her gut. Her approach to reviewing was “to write about the movies the way people actually talked about them on leaving the theater.” That made her more relatable and enjoyable. You feel her close when you read her and in Afterglow we get the image of a down-to-Earth woman who loved writing and loved life. A woman who had a strong sense of balance and criticism and knew how to share it with the world.

Sometimes her topic choices were controversial or she would write out of the expected line of an article. In her review of Funny Girl she analyzes the moral behind the plot, a discussion on whether talent is beauty. She wanted the readers to expand their minds and reasoning, she wanted to make us think.

“It’s difficult to be a critic of mass culture,” she admitted. But she made it so gracefully and still firmly. It is just so easy to get lost among so many people and opinions. But Pauline did her own thing her own way and she will be remembered for that.

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2013

Not so Little Mike

Disambiguation- this article talks about the DJ, producer, and promoter, not the race horse.

Following his brother’s steps, Mike Chapman started turning the tables at the age of 14. He had a musical background being trained as a classical pianist – he quit at the age of 18-, and his dad had a bluegrass band. His mom would drop him off at the +21 clubs where he played for crowds 6 years older than him. Soon he was referred to by the bartenders as ‘Little Mike’ and so has been ever since. He became a pivotal backbone in Denver’s DJ scene for many years, both as DJ and producer.

When he moved to Europe, along with Crazy-B, DJ Need, and DJ Pone, Little Mike originated Birdy Nam Nam, a DJ crew born in France. When I asked one of my French friends about them, she jumped of her seat and said: “Oh, Birdy Nam Nam, I love them! Every youngster in France does!” They became the 2002 DMC World Team Champions and Skrillex became a fan.  That was the start of the rise. They started collaborating with him, creating master mixes like “Goin’ In”. Their song “Trans Boulogne Express” was also featured in the feature film Transporter 3. Their projects for this year include a track with both Skrillex and A$AP Rocky.

But Little Mike is still hungry. According to an article in Vibe Magazine, in April we’ll be able to enjoy a self-produced mixtape ‘Time To Check In’, a solo release on Bromance Records. This mixtape in influenced by Southern U.S. rap and Mike’s European experiences. 

An evening with the Dudes

“There will be food, cozy fireplaces, and plenty of good A Cappella music!” This is how the Kalamadudes, one of the three A Cappella groups in Kalamazoo College, advertised their performance for Friday night. The Hoben lounge was filled with an audience ready to be entertained. The Kalamadudes are best known for the humor and personality of their covers. There is not one single song where you cannot see one of the members dancing or acting out the lyrics.

The opening song was “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel. Although it was not outstanding, the audience reacted really well. Elton John’s “Your Song”, which should have melted every girl’s heart, felt a little plain.

However, there was a change in the rhythm to cheer up the night; with more upbeat songs the Dudes came alive; they had fun it and so did the audience. The great thing about this performance was the relaxed and informal atmosphere. Even though the Dudes were all dressed up, it felt like a gathering of friends. They love music and they share that love; and we felt it. Between songs the members were talking and joking among themselves and with the audience. Somehow it felt like a show that you put up for your family on a Sunday evening.

The highlight of the performance was a cover of “Yellow” by Coldplay. Never out of tune, had the perfect tone for them added to their endless enthusiasm. Same thing happened with “Every Morning,” full of good vibes.

Along with hot cocoa, white chocolate spoons, the fire crackling and the familiar voices an hour went by. An oasis in the midst of midterm papers and classes; it was a nice way to start the weekend.

miércoles, 6 de febrero de 2013

Stop and hear the music

How many Street artists can we come across on a daily trip in D.C.’s metro? The answer might be: ”too many to stop.” What if there was a real prodigy? One’s got to get to work.

On January 12, 2007, Gene Weingarten-columnist for The Washington Post- decided to do an experiment described in the article as “a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius.”

At L’Enfant Plaza station, rush hour, a fiddler began to play standing against a wall; nothing too special about him –besides his irrefutable technique. That man was Joshua Bell, who made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 17 and is a Grammy Award-winning artist. One would think that he will get noticed performing six of the most challenging pieces ever written. Even more so if he was to play a 1713 handcrafted Stradivarius, one of the finest violins of all times.

Seeking some expert opinion, Mr. Weingarten asked Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. He assured that a crowd will gather and that Bell would make an estimate of $150.

That never happened.

In 45 minutes, only 7 people stopped, and the musician that had played full house at the Boston Symphony Hall the night before got $32 and change for the same performance.

So what are our standards for truly good or “genius” art? Oh, it depends on so many things from the staging to the looks of the artist down to one’s own mindset in that moment.

We should always be open to art in all of its forms; you never know what you could encounter.

lunes, 28 de enero de 2013

The Queen of Consumerism

      This is no fairytale but it has a Queen, and that is Jackie- 30 years junior, trophy wife of the businessman David Siegel. The objective of this documentary film was to witness the construction process of the biggest house in America- a 90,000 square feet palace modeled on the Las Vegas version of the French chateau of Versailles. When the answer to “Why are you building the greatest family house in America?” is “Because I can,” we get a hint of the lifestyle that these characters are used to. But the storyline changes completely with the fall of the market and the burst of the real estate bubble, when the Siegel family loses some of their millionaire possessions.

      This film has a different impact on the viewer. At first, one condemns the characters to satire and then with the sudden change of events, we learn to look at them from another point of view. Who would think they could relate to a billionaire family? But they weren’t born wealthy, they have a rags-to-riches stories on their backs, and they personify the modern American dream.

      The course of the film and incredible good timing manages to give a twist to the story. In words of one of the eight Siegel kids: “There is nothing normal about this life.”

      Despite the over-the-top expenses and an outstanding social agenda, the eccentric taste and uniqueness of Jackie Siegel is somehow magnetic and the extravaganza of it all entertains. We get many different characters, such as the nannies/full time mothers or the personal driver. And one of the most charismatics: the head of the family- CEO of Westgate Resorts- someone who “can’t separate business from personal.” During a period of cutbacks, the Siegels insist that everything changes, but you can’t get by without the support of friends and family.

      Though the film-maker has been accused of manipulation, we get a close reality-show like contact with that life. It gets so intimate that we might me oddly moved by the story.

      All in all, it is a contradiction of feelings that we encounter; sympathy versus shadenfreude.

      Lauren Greenfield was awarded the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award in 2012 for her direction of this documentary. And it is well deserved. This perspective of the economic crisis is narrated in a way never seen before.