Documentaries, horror, and romances, there are all sorts of art based movies to enjoy this autumn-including one featuring a favorite artist of mine.
The documentary Philip Guston: A Life Lived (1980) began filming in 1971 at Guston’s Woodstock, NY studio and continued through his last retrospective in 1980 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The artist died that same year. In 2020 a handful of museums including the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston came under fire for postponing a long-planned Guston exhibition due to the controversial nature of his Ku Klux Klan imagery. This film triumphs over censorship and offers the chance to catch up on a recent scandal.
Before there was motion picture film, there was a simple toy that created convincing animations. Contemporary artists are still using variations of that technology to make their works appear to be in motion.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a film maker. I ended up becoming a painter.
The great director Akira Kurosawa went about it in the opposite way. However, he ended up using visual art to enhance his cinematic efforts.
Akira Kurosawa: Storyboard Painting for the Film Ran
The great Akira Kurosawa, a famed Japanese filmmaker who directed 30 films across a career spanning 57 years, initially began life as an aspiring painter.
Kurosawa’s elementary school teacher, Mr Tachikawa, was one of the first major influences on his life. Tachikawa’s progressive teaching methods—which encouraged his students to draw with free will—proved to be a moment which set the foundations for Kurosawa’s desire to spill his thoughts into a creative form. Set for a career in art, a young Kurosawa began focusing on the working class of his homeland, aiming to put “unfulfilled political ideals directly onto the canvas.”
However, after heavy influence from his eldest brother Heigo—who was obsessed with foreign film—Kurosawa decided to live with his sibling in Tokyo and began to indulge as much cinema as he could. “I intended to be a painter before I became involved in film,” Kurosawa is quoted as saying in Stephen Prince’s book The Warrior’s Camera. “A curious turn of events, however, brought me to cinema, where I began my present career.”
Kurosawa continued: “When I changed careers, I burnt all the pictures that I had painted up until then. I intended to forget painting once and for all. As a well-known Japanese proverb says, ‘If you chase two rabbits, you may not catch even one’.
“I did no artwork at all once I began to work in cinema. But since becoming a film director, I have found that drawing rough sketches was often a useful means of explaining ideas to my staff.”
Akira Kurosawa: Painted Storyboard for the Film Dreams
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Actor Derek Jacobi as painter Francis Bacon in Love is the Devil
The resemblance is uncanny
The myth of artists as larger-than-life tormented geniuses who lead debauched, bohemian existences is not always a myth. As such, the lives of artists can make for some compelling dramas and documentaries, often tinged with tragedy. This list includes ten examples of artists captured for the screen.
The Critical Drinker, Conducting Some Vital Analysis
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
– Oscar Wilde
Living as we do now, encroached upon by creeping tyranny behind the Silicon Curtain, there are many topics we are not supposed to be allowed to publicly speak about. Election fraud; virus statistical manipulations and outright deceptions; government corruption and hypocrisy; incompetence and betrayals perpetrated by the political caste; all these subjects, and more, are verboten. Our credentialed classes act like they have the mutant ability to wish truth into the cornfield, so that our only choice will be to obey the whims of their cartoonish nightmare substitutes for reality.
Outside this network of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected, we are expected to ignore the staggering evil unfolding in plain sight. Much of the populace seems to accept this. They lapse into the Brave New World soma option, which is really just a variation on a strategy as old as Roman bread and circuses. Sedate the masses. Use distractions to keep them docile.
The state of the art version of this is the onslaught of the establishment entertainment industries, pumping out endless shiny objects to the hordes of media addicts who are hungering for their next fix. Consuming show business commodities is their drug of choice. Who knows how many channels and services exist now, spewing series, sequels, prequels, reboots, rehashes, cinematic universes and universal sinning madness around the clock.
But there is a discordant note throughout the relentless entrancing broadcasting. The products being produced, which are intended to lull us into mindless passivity, incorporate misplaced content which breaks their siren song spell.
The Postmodern authorities who design mass media are greedy, and have totalitarian intentions. Everything is politics to these freaks; they won’t leave their ideology out of their efforts to beguile us. We’re supposed to be persuaded into collectivist submission by the addition of social engineering to the entertainment they offer up. However, grafting Cultural Marxist themes into art exposes how weak and off putting the ideas actually are.
Someone who excels in calling out when leftist activism ruins good story telling, common sense, and fun is the vlogger The Critical Drinker. His reviews are more entertaining than the lackluster blockbusters he ruthless analyzes.
The Critical Drinker is the alter ego of Scottish novelist Will Jordan, author of the Ryan Drake series of espionage thrillers. Right from the start on his Youtube channel, his commentaries on movies and television were very precise, verbalized in a sardonic yet straightforward style.
But with time, as Jordan continued to articulate pointed critiques against the philosophical corruption behind the poor quality of show biz these days, The Drinker became more of a persona. He mixes self-depreciating hyperbolic quips about his life as a debased sot into his reviews, now delivered in a slurred brogue as thick as the sarcasm.
The Drinker uses quick cutaways to a litany of film clips as punctuation to his comments. Snippets like Leeloo laughing, Tyrion puking, or Sam Neill bellowing are used as a shorthand reaction to the contemptible Hollywood handiwork which the Drinker, and the rest of us, are forced to endure. It’s crude and rude and becomes funny as hell as a running gag.
Perhaps the Drinker shifted gears as a strategy. Speaking out against the utter failures of the progressive status quo, he would be a prime target for cancel culture. But like Shakespeare’s Fool in Lear, the comic act grants license to speak the uncomfortable truth. The Critical Drinker sees the suicidal pattern of cultural deconstruction we’re being force-fed; the popcorn movie takedowns and fart jokes are camouflage for well-reasoned observations about the destructive failures of establishment culture.
The Critical Drinker’s philosophy is well presented in his video “How NOT to Critique Films.” He often receives comments about how his movie reviews overlook the redeeming power of politically correct themes, a major criteria in most criticism these days. He responds, “…things really start to fall apart when people decide what they’re going to see before they even see it, and then try to reinterpret the movie to suit their ideas…if you’re willing to stretch your imagination far enough, you can bend the plot of a film around just about any theme your twisted mind can come up with, and if every interpretation is equally valid, every interpretation is equally shit…themes aren’t a magical shield to protect a shitty film from criticism.”
The Critical Drinker explains how he looks at art as art, not in terms of activism. “…I want to be clear about how I go about reviewing an artistic work, and because I wanted to take a giant shit on anyone who doesn’t share this view. I’ve talked before about the problem of movies sacrificing narrative quality, character integrity, and simple dignity, in favor of politics and ideology…there’s been a real trend of people with lots of enthusiasm, but not much common sense, trying to deflect genuine criticism and make excuses for bad movies by pointing to stuff that has no bearing on their artistic merit…So what’s the endgame here? Are we expected to enjoy movies based on some theoretical idea of what they might represent, instead of how they actually function?”
The Postmodern establishment tells us the answer is yes. They are wrong.
Watch the whole thing, it’s worth it.
In another recent post, he dared to question China proxy Disney’s latest coming distraction,Cruella. “Now the year is 2021, and because apparently no one can come up with anything new anymore, we’re being treated to this piece of garbage,” the Drinker surls, as he dissects the sick corporation behind this pending flop. They’re stuck in a rut of unneeded, inferior live action remakes of classic animated features.
The Disney corporation, as vassels of an enemy state, demonstrate they are obsessed with undermining the past, trying to make villainy look cool, and preaching Wokeness. The Critical Drinker demonstrates there’s no entertainment to be found there.
Auteurs often claim critics are just bitter, driven by jealousy. The reasoning goes critics are themselves incapable of inspiration, so they seek to undermine the accomplishments of others. While that assertion is valid when applied to your typical SJW culture canceller, the Drinker demonstrates he is a real thinker who could outperform the hacks he harangues. His channel features a series called “The Drinker Fixes,” in which he describes major plot and character fumbles committed by the studios, and presents much more logical, character consistent, and compelling alternatives which could have been developed. It’s truly eye opening to imagine what might have been, if our creative class had any creativity, or integrity.
Andrew Breitbart was right when he stated politics is downstream from culture. We need more like the Critical Drinker who able to articulate what the scam is, and how wrong it is. We are being lied into oblivion. The controlled entertainment world is all in on their role as pure propaganda, an important means to enforce the totalitarian mindset. They have sacrificed actually producing art or entertainment in favor of just being another way to deliver Groupthink.
This is the natural conclusion of the parasitic Postmodern mentality. However, one of the ways to best challenge the elitist monopoly is through independent art. What the establishment puts out is so unappealing and false, it’s an area of vulnerability for them. Remodernism is the set of ideas and ideals taking on Postmodern corruption.
“The Modern age was the greatest liberation of humanity in history. As we became more efficient in providing the necessities of existence, we had more freedom to determine what kind of lives we wanted to live.
“As Modernism rose to highlight the potentials of individual initiative, leftist political movements counterattacked. Their goal was to squash humanity back into undifferentiated, subservient masses.
“The elitists understood to maintain power, they had to undermine resistance. That’s why the top down cultural forces have made Postmodernism so prevalent. Using mass media to communicate their sickening message, the establishment made dispiriting Postmodernism the terrain we all must navigate, the atmosphere we all must breathe, the environment we all must adapt to.
“But this effort at control loses its presumptive prestige once its mechanics and motivations are exposed. How can the spell of Postmodernism best be broken? You can’t beat something with nothing, even if the something is as stupid and unfulfilling as Postmodernism. A credible alternative must be established.
“Remodernism is the recognition that Western civilization is still mighty. Remodernism knows we can still use our talents to create unprecedented growth. Remodernism is understanding our best days are still ahead of us, if we make the right choices, and do the needed work.”
Indoctrination does not satisfy the human need for art. We have to call out the difference, now more ever.
That’s awl ah goat fur toady.
I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy abook. Or a painting.
Richard Bledsoe “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” oil on canvas 30″ x 24″
The second version
I have so many ideas for paintings, it is very rare that I would ever paint the same image more than once. In fact, there is only one occasion I can remember doing it. I was reminded of the circumstances recently while we were working on some home renovations, and I had to move 16 years worth of art.
I”ve written before of a troubled time in my artistic explorations, when for several years I made bad, unresolved paintings on wood panels. While most of these unsatisfactory works are exiled to my garage, while doing our rearrangements I found one stored in the house. It happens to be the only painting I ever explicitly repainted.
I am haunted by a story from the early days of film. In 1918 the stop motion animation pioneer Willis O’Brien made a movie called “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain.” Originally 40 minutes long, the distributors of the day cut the movie down to 19 minutes highlighting the dinosaur action O’Brien created.
Innovator: Willis H. O’Brien at work
The plot that remains features a supernatural visit to a hillbilly cabin and a time traveling telescope. It’s unclear exactly what got cut out. That version still survives, but the rest of the film is lost. Commercial pressures destroyed a rare representation of the birth of a new art form.
The title alone evoked a vision for me, and some time during the years 2004-2005 I tackled the painting, during the ebb of my artistic efforts. I wasn’t happy with the outcome.
But what I wanted that painting to be stayed with me, to the extent many years later, probably around 2008, I painted the image again. I was back in my artistic groove by then. The second version, depicted above, captures the eeriness I was after all along.
But what about the first version, which I did display in one art show before it was put safely out of sight?
Here it is, in all its dubious glory:
Richard Bledsoe “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” oil on wood panel 36″ x 30″
Version One circa 2004-2005
Ugh. I can only put this out there because it is so securely in the past. I have to say, out of all my bad paintings from the time, this is one of the better ones. Even now, I like the body of the creature quite a bit, and the rocks and trees of the skyline. But overall, a swing and a miss.
Seeing this made me feel maybe I should revisit some of the other works I failed to execute the first time round. There are still visions there that deserve to be manifested.
“It is the Stuckist’s duty to explore his/her neurosis and innocence through the making of paintings and displaying them in public, thereby enriching society by giving shared form to individual experience and an individual form to shared experience.”
“I had to learn to do everything because I couldn’t find another kindred soul. Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing by myself.”
A New Yorker article written after stop motion animation master Ray Harryhausen passed away in 2013 has some some hits and misses. Harryhausen and the Expressively Imperfect World by Adam Gopnik captures something of the mystery, but is a little too pat in its Postmodern self regard.
Where the article goes awry is the typical “Of course I know how he did that” smugness and detachment that is the curse of the contemporary academic mind:
“Though who—at least among those who saw her at an impressionable age—can forget the snake woman who emerges, Play-Doh body writhing serpentinely, before the Sultan’s court—and is met by carefully directed gazes of awe and wonder and cries of ‘Allah, be praised!’ on the part of extras who are, rather obviously, looking at nothing.”
Gopnik undermines the nostalgic awe by pointing out that of course HE knows that it’s just a campy movie and that a sense of wonder is just kids stuff. It wouldn’t be so annoying if he and his ilk didn’t live their entire lives that way, and insist on telling the rest of us about it constantly.
People like that think picking apart the presentation is the fun part; not to better appreciate the artistry, but to try to out-analyze someone who is actually accomplishing something. That sort of thing is only fun for deconstructive wankers who assume others are impressed when they whip out their tiny little pride.
But the heart of the article gets it right in the following quote:
“For, deeper still, in some primal part of us, there is always a vital role for the not-too-perfect in our pleasures. Imperfection is essential to art. In music, the vibrato we love involves not quite landing directly on the note; the rubato singers cultivate involves not quite keeping to the beat. What really moves us in art may be what really moves us in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”: the vital sign of a human hand, in all its broken and just-unsteady grace, manipulating its keys, or puppets, and our minds. Expressiveness is imperfection, and Harryhausen’s monsters and ghouls are expressively imperfect. ‘I don’t think you want to make it quite real. Stop-motion, to me, gives that added value of a dream world,’ he [Harryhausen] once said, wisely, himself.”
Wisdom is in short supply in our intellectuals, so that is a welcome admission.
I never approached his movies with the clinical awareness of how-did-he-do-that while watching them; I just embraced the poetry of the moment. In any great art, there is level of fascination that defies verbal explanation and rational analysis.
Later, when I pondered armatures, miniature sets, and incredible patient craftsmanship, it wasn’t doubt that was intriguing, it was the power of the achievement.
Gopnik does acknowledge this as well, though he seems leery of being so lowbrow to actually admit he enjoyed something: “…we appreciate them poetically, not for what they did given what they didn’t have, but for what they did with what they did have. We genuinely like them more than things we know are better at doing what they seemed to set out to do.”
A description of painting in the Stuckist Manifesto captures what Harryhausen accomplished in his animated films: ” Painting is mysterious. It creates worlds within worlds, giving access to the unseen psychological realities that we inhabit. The results are radically different from the materials employed…”
As Ray Harryhausen was an innovator, visionary and solitary creative genius who made art for the people, I nominate him as an honorary Remodernist.