Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22

Neill Blomkamp's District 9 is a science fiction film with a lot on its mind -- racial themes, medical experimentation, recent South African history -- and deserves high praise for that alone. There are some interesting ruminations on its thoughtfulness here:

But the science fiction scaffolding of District 9 is pretty sketchy; maybe a sequel will make all clear. The last third of the movie draws heavily on the aesthetic of video games in a way that doesn't interest me; I'm reminded that Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson originally planned a feature version of the Halo video game. I agree with Roger Ebert, too, that the alien "prawns" are kind of repulsive to watch, and that also limited my enjoyment. But this is undeniably an impressive film, worthy of its spot in the expanded group of Oscar Best Picture nominees. In fact, if that expansion draws attention to films such as this, I have no problems with it.

The Auteurs offers a compelling two-part interview with Ramin Bahrani, "the new great American director" (Roger Ebert) of Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and Goodbye Solo:

Australian novelist Markus Zusak contributes a stimulating list of the ten best books on boxing:

War Poets profiles another of the "one hit wonders" of World War I poetry, Julian Grenfell:

One of the great merits of ArchDaily's presentations of buildings of note is that they take you to places around the world you might not otherwise have given a thought to -- for example, Cagliari, the capital of the island of Sardinia, where the colorful Condominio P designed by C+C04 Studio has recently vivified the streetscape:

Animalarium draws my attention to the appealing Japanese artist Kiyoshi Awazu:

On April 29th last year, Kiyoshi Awazu died of pneumonia in Kawasaki, Japan at the age of 80. A self taught painter and graphic designer, Awazu was a man full of curiosity and imagination. Born in Tokyo, he started working at 12, and soon became interested in Christianity, philosophy, communism and western cinema. At 18 he started to teach himself drawing by copying from old art magazines and sketching fellow commuters on the train to work. At 21 he started working in the animation field making rough sketches, and at 25 had his first opportunity to design a poster, commissioned by a theater group. He went on to become a famous multifaceted graphic designer and artist involved in book design, illustration, printmaking, painting, sculpture, exhibition and urban design, playwriting, film production and art direction.

Another artist of markedly different leanings, towards images of "urban desolation," the Dutchman Tjebbe Beekman, comes my way via {feuilleton} (scroll down):

The thumbnail images at Beekman's own website are well worth clicking on.

These designs for covers of classic Jules Verne novels are completely delightful. They were created as "a senior project in the illustration department at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia," rather than for an actual publisher; but I would bet a considerable amount that an enterprising publisher will spot the obvious potential and produce these.

Among notables born on this date are President George Washington, Senator Ted Kennedy, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, poets James Russell Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Hugo Ball (Germany), novelists Ishmael Reed, Jane Bowles, Morley Callaghan (Canada), Jules Renard (France), and Sean O Faolain (Ireland), artist/author Edward Gorey, sculptor/designer Eric Gill, painter Rembrandt Peale, film directors Luis Bunuel and Jonathan Demme, jazz saxophonist Buddy Tate, rocker Brad Nowell, literary critic Terry Eagleton, and actors Giuletta Masina, Miou-Miou, Paul Dooley, John Mills, Kyle MacLachlan, and Drew Barrymore. I have had a Gorey fixation for years; I find him endlessly fascinating. He was a man of incredibly broad culture, as the interviews in the book Ascending Peculiarity make clear. Opera, ballet, obscure Victorian novels, French comic poets, forgotten children's authors: He knows much about and has delightful observations on all of these and more.

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