Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Artwork Day

I finally got around to putting some of my illustrations up on etsy.

More to follow, of course.

This is the dog. Not a Chinese dog, I know. He's a borzoi, or a Russian wolfhound. This is the dog I have always thought I would get, if I was in any way a dog person. Maybe it's all the years of staring at Alfred Knopf spines.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Advantage: Books

There are 10 movies nominated for Best Picture by the Academy this year. I think this is the second year since they expanded the category. Looking at the list, there are five wonderful, crowd pleasing, artistic, brilliant entries- The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, An Education, Inglorious Basterds, and Up. That's five good ones. Give it to any of those, and I would totally agree. (except I'd swap out Up for Where the Wild Things Are) so why do they need to tack on stuff like The Blind Side, and District 9?

Because a few years ago, the movies were too good.
No, really, that's the logic. Remember '08, when No Country for Old Men won? When its competition was There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Michael Clayton? Well, it was also the lowest rated Oscar broadcast of all time. Which was immediately attributed to the Academy being full of snobs, and the movies being too smart. The average movie goer couldn't relate, or wasn't interested, or whatever excuse was used for low box office grosses among the most decorated movies. To get people to watch the Oscars, they added 5 slots to the Best Picture category in an incredibly crass attempt to show give the television audience a reason to tune in.

The problem isn't that the most artistic films are too high brow, and no one wants to see pictures of that caliber. The problem is this- the nearest cinema to my town is a 14 screen multiplex. 14 freakin' screens, and they didn't show Atonement until after the Oscar picks, and Michael Clayton not at all. ?!?!

Let me repeat- Not. At. All. FOURTEEN SCREENS!!! They could set aside two whole screens for art films, still show 3 screens of Alvin and the Chipmunks, plus 3 screens of Avatar, and still have six (6!) other screens for showing whatever plotless Nicholas Sparks novel was just optioned into a film, plus all those buddy cop comedies we've been clamoring for. The multiplex, of course, argues that audiences in my town don't pay to see films like An Education, even though they don't bother to show films like that in the first place, so what data are they basing this on? Of course they didn't make a profit off of a product they didn't offer for sale.

Now, to see films like An Education, or No Country on release day, I drive 45 minutes to see it an an art house. Fine. They have 3 screens, they show only stuff like documentaries, foreign films, and stuff with Daniel Day Lewis involved, and they've been around since long before the era of the multiplex, so they seem to be turning a profit. Surely the 14 screener can support something other than blockbusters, mindless rom-coms, and 12 Tyler Perry movies a year.

My point is this- Movies suffer greatly at the hands of distributors, theater chains that pander to the lowest common denominator, and an industry that blames their own audience, and calls them dumb. There is no reason in the world why artistic awards should be based on box office grosses. If they do, then things like Norbit are going to start being nominated*, so Eddie Murphy can be named in all 4 acting categories at once.

Books have distribution issues of their own, certainly. But when I want to read almost any book that is in print, I can find it online, buy it, and let the publisher know with my $$ what I support as a reader. I can't choose to vote with my dollars at the box office if the movie I want to see is only in limited release in LA and NYC.

So I hope, dearly, that our publishing industry can get their @$%! together with the e-readers and electronic rights. There is no reason now to say that a certain genre, or a topic won't sell in a given geographic area. We can finally see what people in the flyover states really do want to read and watch, and this could be a golden age for literature.

* Norbit was nominated for an Oscar the same year as No Country for Old Men won. No, seriously.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valen-Tiger Day

So it's Valentine's Day and the official start of the Year of the Tiger.
Here's my Tiger, from the series of Lunar Zodiac animals I've been painting. Yes, he's still a work in progress. I'm hoping it's good luck to finish him in his official year.
I am from the year of the Sheep, or the Goat, depending on what source you use. I prefer sheep, because then I can be the black one.
Mr. Cate's year was the Rabbit, which brings me to the other occasion today. I know I should be making a list of romantic books, but cuddling up together and reading silently isn't exactly something you plan for a date night (well, maybe in this crowd!). Also, Mr. Cate and I met at a movie theater, and fell in love (even more) over late night diner discussions of cinema. So here's a list of my favorite romantic movies that I can think of right now while I type this.
This one is so simple, and so touching. The whole movie consists of one night of conversation between two twenty-somethings who meet on a train ride through Vienna, and spend one bittersweet evening together before they have to go their separate ways. This movie had one of my favorite endings, until the sequel-
This one came out nine years later, and once you overlook the opening, in which Ethan Hawke's Jesse is wrapping up his international book tour for his debut novel at a reading in Paris's Shakespeare & Co. (where the crowd of media types is hanging on his every word) and get to him catching up with his long lost love, Celine, it is the perfect follow up to Sunrise.
This one was surprising, considering it came from the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler. And also its about a woman dying of cancer, and a time traveling philosopher/soldier/scientist who is driven to the brink of madness trying to find a way to be with her forever, and in the meantime, ends up loosing the short amount of time he really had. But when you think about it, Aronofsky has cast his wife, Rachel Weiss, as the embodiment of beauty, unattainable perfection, and eternal life. Kind of an elaborate way to say "I love you", but hey, it works.
Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenwriters, and this is possible his best script. It also boasts a cast that includes Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and what will probably be Jim Carrey's best theatrical performance. As in the best Kaufman works, its not the story he tells, but how he tells it, through the memories of Joel Barrish as he simultaneously tries to erase his ex-girlfriend Clementine from his memory, and desperately hang on to her. In the end, Joel and Clementine realize that even if you could wipe someone from your memory like erasing a tape, you couldn't forget that you loved them.
So what are your favorite love stories? They can be books, too ;)

Monday, February 8, 2010

How Sports Works for Me

Hockey is awesome live. Can't stand it on TV.
Baseball can be fun live, but the season is too long.
Football is awesome always. Someday I'll get to see a game live. Good work, New Orleans.
I have absolutely no use for basketball. Ugh.
The Olympics are coming up, which means we get to see some weird sports that don't get out otherwise. Biathalon? Cross country ski races? It's like a world-wide county fair.
Bobsledding and downhill skiing are unreal. Love to watch those.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Romance Versus Responsibility in YA*

Ah, stupid teenagers... thinking love is all pure and true and magical. Why can't they just be bitter and disillusioned like normal people?

I keep coming across opinion pieces discussing the perils of all the romance in YA, and how it is silly/stupid/damaging to young women. How too much of female centric YA is about love and guys and how bad that is for the self esteem of every teen girl, which is the most fragile thing in nature, and must be guarded like the mythical mcguffin of every fantasy novel- when we all know it will fall into the hands of some dark lord or other eventually, anyway.

Romance is for teenagers. The way Christmas presents are for children. Yes, we still get some when we're older, but it never holds that same mystery and wonder as it did in the beginning. There's a reason Juliet was all of 13- any older and she would have thought about it for a minute.
"Kill myself?... I mean, you're cute and all, but damn, I have to think about that one."

Make her a 30 year old, and it just doesn't fly, the way the woman in Braveheart seemed WAAAAAY to old to be living unmarried in some pastoral hut village when the clearly 40something Mel rides back into town and woos her. That never played right for me, because were both just too stinking old.

Your teen years are the only chance you get to fall in love for the first time, all fresh and optimistic.
At my age, if you're still out there dating, it's because you're a little messed up, or something a little messed up happened to you. Now, that doesn't mean you don't find happiness. You probably end up making smarter choices. It just isn't as magical watching a jaded 30 something chick lit heroine learn to love again as it is to see a 15 year old have that first experience of "I really like him, and he really likes me back!!!"
In that way, romance was made for teenagers.

Yes, there is a metric ton of romantic YA being backhoe'd into bookstores every week. Yes, agents you get a lot of queries for YAs with paranormal love stories. That's what teenagers like to read. Always? No. A lot of the time? Yes!

I don't think books about relationships, or romance, or even sex are damaging to girls. It's the "Happily Ever After" part that requires some caution. We have to remember that we're telling a story, not the whole story. People of every age get the difference between fantasy and reality.

*Disclaimer- written by a girl who met her love at 19, would have married him that day, and has been wildly in love with him every day of the almost-11 years since.

** also, thanks for the opinions on the posters!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Shameless Solicitation

So it's February!
This is the month to discuss Romance in Writing. I have some plans for the upcoming posts. But first, in the name of love, I have to ask a question on behalf of Mr. Cate.
Which one do you prefer, the green background or the white?

This is his new project for '10. We're camera shopping now, which is a trip. There are some new cameras you can pick up at Best Buy that do more than the top of the line DV camera Mr. Cate used to film his last movie, Starts Friday.

Also, from now on, I promise to keep the film making stuff to Mr. Cate's blog. Oh, that's right, he has his own blog now, and for some reason, he's adorably shy about it. So I'm going to try to help get him some followers. Pop over to September Son Films and say hi.