miércoles, 20 de marzo de 2013

The Submission, by Amy Waldman

The Submission is one of those books that plays with the controversy of its topic. Amy Waldman, former co-chief of the South Asia bureau of The New York Times, writes this novel trying to recreate a portrait of the fears of prejudices of a society suffering from ignorance and irritation, as well as the capacities to forgive and show forgiveness.
An art jury gathers in NYC in 2003 in order to judge and decide which submission is the winner for a memorial where the twin towers once stood. The anonymity of the contest leads the judges to choose a submission called ‘The Garden’ that turns out to be designed by Mohammad Khan, an American-born and non-practicing Muslim.
Waldman describes perfectly well the agitation of the characters in the novel balancing the emotions of the reticent jury and the public’s emotion, especially those family members of the victims. Thus, she sets up a debate that mixes up topics such as religious freedom, cultural identity and immigration.
The story works thanks to one of Waldman’s most prominent skills, storytelling. Her sense of plot and her eye for small details, along with her cinematic and smooth writing, her cogent dialogue and the fast-paced rhythm of the writing are the strengths of The Submission.
However, it is perfectly recognizable her journalist grounding. Sometimes, even the story works and the style is pleasant, there are some weak points that impoverish the whole perception of the book.
Perhaps, the most evident is the multiple perspectives point of view, that weakness the characters and make them plain. The main characters, Mohammed and Claire appear detached from the reader and it is complicated to feel empathy with their issues. The secondary characters, like the journalist, anti-memorial activists, the Bangladeshi wife of a victim, the politician, among a others, enriches the background of the story, but most of them are stiff and they all sound pretty much the same.
The ending located 20 years after the time of the story probably is surprising and pleasing, as Waldman imagines an America healed from its paranoid mood, leaving suspicion Muslims behind, showing her own optimism in the future.
The Submission does not offer new reflections on or understandings of 9/11. It excels at bringing up again many of the 9/11 issues and leading the readers to rethink their preconceived ideas, resorting to sentimental and thought-provoking fictional arguments that seem really true to life.

miércoles, 27 de febrero de 2013

From Genius to Pariah (Abstract)

Fashion is a crazy world. Everybody is a Little bit out of their minds. After all, fashion is another way of Art, isn’t it? Designers express their selves by means of clothes, especially if we think about the wonderful Haute Couture

John Galliano must be one of the most controversial figures in fashion during the last decades. This creator born as an English man in the tiny Gibraltar, in the Iberian Peninsula in 1960 has been a master of fashion since he graduated at Saint Martin College with a collection called Les Incroyables.

After a short stay as Chief Designer on Givenchy, he finally was recruited by Dior in 1996, where he has been working until 2012, when his addictions put himself in a complicated situation in a bistro in Paris with some homophobe accusations to other customers.

Nowadays, rehabbed and creative as always, he keeps unemployed, though the creative directors of the different maisons have been changing a lot lately. His talent would mean success for the collections in any of them, but he is still at home, watching how fashion comes and goes, without him. Would he come back eventually?

lunes, 25 de febrero de 2013

So, who was the 85th Oscars' winner?

This year’s Academy Award gala was a clear tribute to musicals. One of the strongest points of the night was the singing performances, the musical numbers and the famous soundtracks as background music. All in all, it was good and entertaining, especially if we take into account the dullness that dominated the whole ceremony.

But Adele, Barbra Streisand, Norah Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Hudson and Shirley Bassey are too much for just one gala, especially if we add the Gordon-Levitt and Radcliffe number, the Charlize Theron’s dance or the boobs’ number -completely justified thanks to its irreverence-, among others.

As every year –except last year with Franco and Hathaway-, the host is the best part of the whole thing. In the 85th Oscars’ gala, Seth MacFarlane was the chosen one. He said “I can't believe I am hosting the Oscars. It's an honor everyone else said no.” And it was quite surprising this guy was there.
The Family Guy creator, singer, entertainer and so on put on stage the idiosyncratic elements of his well known TV-show: his patented kind of humor -full of a few funny quips and a lot cringe-worthy jokes- and a lot of musical numbers.

Probably, he was paid to be the smartass and spare nobody. He tried to be funny and he achieved it at the beginning. William Shatner coming from the future to amend his work as a host and the recreation of Flight with sock puppets were hilarious. But he ended up being too wounding with a bunch of jokes about sex, gender, race, etc. ‘funny not funny’.

Regarding the awards, there was too much predictability. The obviousness of Waltz and Hathaway in the Best Supporting Roles, as well as the Best Original and Adapted Screenplays for Django Unchained and Argo was really disappointing. There’s no fun when there’s no tension.

As well, Daniel Day Lewis was the clear Best Leading Actor… who else but Lincoln? Surprisingly, Hollywood’s new spoiled brat, Jennifer Lawrence, beat the magnificent Jessica Chastain taking home the Best Leading Actress. Argo became the best film of 2013, with a very moved and moving Ben Affleck on the stage.

In general, the gala was something to forget. Probably, in one week there would be nothing left, except for some of MacFarlane’s musical numbers and jokes and Lawrence lying on the ground on her way to pick up her award.

Visionary Wilde

It is funny how when we think about Oscar Wilde, the first thing that comes to our mind is Dorian Grey or The Importance of Being Ernst. But behind this writer there's much more, as we can see in the  essay "The Critic as Artist".

The English author shows a whole phylosophical theory on how Criticism is as much important as Art itself. According to him, criticism is the wheel that moves the gears of Art. Probably this is one of the most revolutionary concepts on his essay, especially in a time when the job of the critic was not as appreciated and broadcasted as it is today. This contemporanously is surprising, yet visionary.

It is also really the concept of individualism and personality the text reveals. "If you wish to understand others you must intensify your own individualism" (910) or "it is only by intesifying his own personality thatthe critic can interpret the personality and work of others" (910). These ideas are really revealing and get along with the ideas about what a good critic should be, related especially with the revolutionary figure of Pauline Kael in the 20th century.

Finally, the idea of "Criticism is itself an art" (904), is quite new. Wilde considers that writing about art becomes an art itself, because its raw material is Art. It made me think about ekphrasis, the description of visual arts that many poets and writers have done along History and that constitute a piece of art, as well as a piece of criticism. Sometimes, the critical pieces can became real pieces of literature, of art made by words out of a pictorical, dance, musical masterpiece.

If critics can't have the thing to be an artist, they can always become an artist with their pens, writing wonderful stuff about the work of others, "putting them into a form that is at once new and delightful" (904), [...] "a creation within a creation" (904).

Quotes from WILDE, O. Excerpt of the Part I of The Critic as Artist.

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2013

Tarantino wants to be a historian

Have you ever imagined about Tarantino making a trilogy? Neither have I. Apparently, he already has the idea wandering around his head and part of the job done.

During the post-BAFTA gala interview, the moviemaker of the controversial Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs awarded with the Best Original Screenplay BAFTA, declared: "This [rewritten history theme] begs a trilogy, it begs to have a third movie on this theme. I haven't decided about what yet, but I wouldn't be surprised."

His two last movies, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained are supposedly part of the plan. Whit this two and the one probably upcoming, the moviemaker will achieve his goal of rewrite the wrongs on history and give his own vision of the things. Ambitious, huh?

The big question here is: what would be the issue of the third part of the trilogy? It is impossible to tell, but it is sure that his legions of fans will be already rubbing his hand waiting for more Tarantino. 

Sincerely, I will not give much credit to Tarantino's promises of prequels and sequels of his movies. After all, Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction) and Vic Vega (Reservoir Dogs) were never reunited and Black Mamba's (Kill Bill) third episode never saw the light...

NYT'S Critical Defense: 'Wang’s Going-Away Present'

Cathy Horyn has been writing for the Fashion and Style section of The New York Times since 1999. She started her career in fashion journalist in Detroit and soon she was writing for The Washington Post. Also, she has contributed with her articles to Vanity Fair, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

The review published on Monday, February 11, 2013 is entitled Wang’s Going-Away Present and covers the third day of the New York Fashion Week Fall 2013. In the review, she analysis the collections of Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, Prabal Gurung, Rag & Bone, Band of Outsiders, Victoria Beckham, Louise Golding and Yuming Weng.

Horyn centers her attention in Alexander Wang’s collection and slightly analysis the other designers according to their relevance. She puts several “buts” all along the review, as she analysis different collections. However, the strongest “but” is on the review of Wang.

It’s not surprising Horyn’s rowdy reputation in fashion’s world, taking into account her judgemental writing style. In this review, it is distinctive the ironic tone with hints of provocation.  Also, the strength of her voice is remarkable all along the review, especially when she uses the first person or certain words such as, “this collection was more merchandised than designed”.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

'Sight and Feeling': Anselm Adams at Kalamazoo

From January 26 to May 19, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is hosting an exhibition of the work of Ansel Adams, sponsored by Friendship Village and Consumers Credit Union.

The showing is entitled ‘Sight and Feeling’ and it contains twenty-four original photographs placed in a cramped room in the lowest floor of the Institute of Arts. All of the photographs are framed in silver with a big white passe-partout.

The technique of the pictures is gelatin silver print. Besides of the pictures, the exhibition contains a replica of the camera which Adams used to take the pictures back in the first half of the 20th century.

"In my mind's eye, I visualize how a particular . . . sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph.” This quote describes the way Ansel Adams conceived photography.

The work of this Californian photographer is outstanding. His pictures are unique because of the black and white usage with high contrast of shadows and plenty of details.

Most of the pictures show one of the passions of Adams: the breathtaking views of Yosemite National Park in California. These shots are one of the identity signs of this photographer who was a declared environmentalist in love with United States of America’s landscapes.

Besides the Yosemite pictures, there are also some landscapes from Alaska, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Also there is a still life picture, some macros of leaves and tree branches, as well as a portrait of Edward Western.

The negative aspect of the exhibition is the arrangement of the pictures and the misplacement of lights. The crystal of the frames reflects the light which makes it complicated to appreciate some of the works properly. Besides, the space in which the collection is located is really narrow and it is mixed with the museum’s permanent collection.

All the works are labeled with their correspondent information (authorship, place, date, technique…). In addition, there are panels with information about the author and the techniques he used. This is formative for the attendants, taking into account that there is no catalog.

In short, Ansel Adams’ exhibition is worthy and a must-see. Sometimes, it is really astonishing how small institutions in small towns can organize interesting exhibitions and with a high artistic value.

Ansel Adams, Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, California, 1920, gelatin silver print | Collection of the KIA, Gift of Wm. John Upjohn, 1995/6.27.6 © 2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust