anniesoga:

Here’s a little taste of another shoot from last summer that I’m finally adding to website soon. It’s part of my ongoing series, The Collected, which chronicles—what else?—collectors! Everything should be up over on my site in the next day or two, go have a look!
Tommy is a Flushing, Queens native who has been collecting early animation on film since about age nine. In addition to amassing his own set of films, Tommy runs a business in restoring and preserving 16 millimeter films, and selling DVD transfers of early animation. Lucky for us, he also puts on a several-times-a-year screening series, the Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival, where you can see many rare and amazingly relevant and comical cartoons from his 1,100+ collection of reels. In fact, you can go see his sixteenth installment of the series, "Back to School!" next Saturday, September 7, 7:30pm at LaunchPad Gallery in Brooklyn—popcorn included!!
And, as always, if you happen to be a collector of some sort and would be interested in participating in my work, please message me!

anniesoga:

Here’s a little taste of another shoot from last summer that I’m finally adding to website soon. It’s part of my ongoing series, The Collected, which chronicles—what else?—collectors! Everything should be up over on my site in the next day or two, go have a look!

Tommy is a Flushing, Queens native who has been collecting early animation on film since about age nine. In addition to amassing his own set of films, Tommy runs a business in restoring and preserving 16 millimeter films, and selling DVD transfers of early animation. Lucky for us, he also puts on a several-times-a-year screening series, the Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival, where you can see many rare and amazingly relevant and comical cartoons from his 1,100+ collection of reels. In fact, you can go see his sixteenth installment of the series, "Back to School!" next Saturday, September 7, 7:30pm at LaunchPad Gallery in Brooklyn—popcorn included!!

And, as always, if you happen to be a collector of some sort and would be interested in participating in my work, please message me!

Love, an instrument of Social Repression

In Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, we are shown a love story between a German woman and a foreign worker many years her junior who is a native of Morocco. Themes in the film encompass racism, controversial relationships, aging, economic unrest, and human suffering in general.

“Love is the best, most insidious, most effective instrument of social repression”, Fassbinder wrote. A bitter pessimist, Fassbinder seems to have expressed that the phenomenon of love has many a controversy attached to it more often than not. While both main character of the film find themselves in love with each other, it proves to be the outside forces of society, family, and culture which make the relationship a struggle. The scenario is as old as the Greek tragedies. For many who experience it, love is not a walk in the park, nor is it lingering. It is a fleeting illusory feeling, one that hopefully leads to a bond of mutual trust and appreciation that makes a long-term relationship possible.

Despite the fact that Fassbinder was of German origin, it is either a curious intended or unintended factor that racism plays a major role in the narrative. Casual references are made to Hitler as a trivial memory in the society, yet its inhabitants are still seemingly racist and disgusted by foreign workers in their land. While Ali and his Arab friends have their own sub-culture while existing in Germany, his newfound love is a native German. It is suggested that she has a long-time taste for foreigners as her deceased husband was of Polish descent working in Germany. Still, her children with this man are initially disgusted by Ali as well in an almost ironic but expected twist. 

Is love an instrument of social repression? Perhaps, but one thing is for sure. The coming-forth of love allows for social repression of lovers by their outside world. Fassbinder illustrates this magnificently. 

Can trash be art? As with any opinion-based and open-ended question, this is a highly subjective and gray area to explore. To say that something is trash suggests that it is useless and in a most generous way, has no beauty either. In order for anything to be considered beautiful or at best useful, there needs to be an understanding for the item in question…a keen eye may or may not be an acquired gift but is necessary for anyone to consider something beautiful.
I’ve chosen the art of Henry Darger to illustrate my point. Darger was an ‘outsider artist’, an individual who has had no art training and yet produces art of various kinds. Classically, some such works have been considered folk art and there is certainly a cultural appreciation for this humble, almost functional art form. It is not of particular relevance here but it might be noteworthy that Darger was a person who suffered some forms of mental illness and challenge. Despite this sidenote, Darger picked through garbage and salvaged magazines and childrens’ coloring books which served as inspiration and fodder for his drawn and painted artwork, as well as his monstrous number of written texts.
Darger took “trash”, such as drawings of little girls in discarded coloring books, and traced them for his wildly surreal drawings. In some cases, characters from these books were directly cut out of the pages and pasted onto the artwork alongside Darger’s own illustrations. 
At this point in time, scholars seem to vastly appreciate Darger’s life works as a gift from the outsider art field. Considering Darger in many cases used actual trash as his subject matter, some without a keen eye or open mind might consider his work to therefore be unorthodox junk. I say it is not, and most in the field of arts studies will defend and praise Darger’s work almost as highly as the famous classics. 

Can trash be art? As with any opinion-based and open-ended question, this is a highly subjective and gray area to explore. To say that something is trash suggests that it is useless and in a most generous way, has no beauty either. In order for anything to be considered beautiful or at best useful, there needs to be an understanding for the item in question…a keen eye may or may not be an acquired gift but is necessary for anyone to consider something beautiful.

I’ve chosen the art of Henry Darger to illustrate my point. Darger was an ‘outsider artist’, an individual who has had no art training and yet produces art of various kinds. Classically, some such works have been considered folk art and there is certainly a cultural appreciation for this humble, almost functional art form. It is not of particular relevance here but it might be noteworthy that Darger was a person who suffered some forms of mental illness and challenge. Despite this sidenote, Darger picked through garbage and salvaged magazines and childrens’ coloring books which served as inspiration and fodder for his drawn and painted artwork, as well as his monstrous number of written texts.

Darger took “trash”, such as drawings of little girls in discarded coloring books, and traced them for his wildly surreal drawings. In some cases, characters from these books were directly cut out of the pages and pasted onto the artwork alongside Darger’s own illustrations. 

At this point in time, scholars seem to vastly appreciate Darger’s life works as a gift from the outsider art field. Considering Darger in many cases used actual trash as his subject matter, some without a keen eye or open mind might consider his work to therefore be unorthodox junk. I say it is not, and most in the field of arts studies will defend and praise Darger’s work almost as highly as the famous classics. 

The Great Whatzit

A major theme in Kiss Me Deadly is the unknown. The protagonists are seeking elusive qualities of life, making them part of the unknown. A literal factor is a physical box that private eye Mike and others are seeking; neither the players in the film nor viewers know what this box contains.

In life we sometimes come in close contact with the unknown…we find what we are seeking, yet we still cannot interpret or utilize the ‘unknown’ properly. Kiss Me Deadly depicts just this; Mike finds this fabled box and discovers that he knows even less now than he did before. The container is a veritable Pandora’s Box, as we are shown that trying to open it proves to be dangerous. In a most human turn of events, this aspect of risk does not deter others from further attempting to open the ‘can of worms’.

It is all too expected that the literal opening of the box proves catastrophic. The historical context of the film immediately brings the Cold War to mind; an age of the unknown and of distrust. We as a nation and culture sought to uphold our political systems at home and abroad while European nations under different systems were the ‘unknown’. In a political sense, the film is symbolic by suggesting that when we meddle with foreign affairs, the results too can be catastrophic. 

In a more individualistic light, the film is also a commentary on what we as human beings seek in our daily lives. Whether it be beauty, wealth, the fountain of youth or anything else, we spend so much time seeking that which we do not have…or more of what we do have in a mania of greed. We sometimes find that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and greed if often duly punished as human beings tend to employ tactics in encountering that ‘unknown’ which impede on the general quality of life for others. The directors of Kiss Me Deadly undoubtedly understood this and peppered the narrative with lessons on close encounters with the unknown.

"Thinking" TV

Is there such a thing as “thinking” television? I think all forms of television can be for the thinker or the comatose viewer. All visual motion-picture mediums, in my opinion, are a double-edged sword in this respect. 

We are all familiar with sitcoms. In a fair light, period-piece sitcoms of the 1950s for example were in many ways well produced but also the beginning of a form of programming where the viewer is told and shown a story; usually comprising its introduction, climax, and conclusion. Does the viewer really have to “think” much by consuming this narrative? Yes and no. Or a combination of both. It really depends on the viewer as well as the production values and message of a given program as well as how much a viewer can relate to or understand the program.

It seemed appropriate to select a video for this post showing Edward R. Murrow hosting the inception of WNET-13 on September 16th, 1962; what we in the New York area now know as PBS channel 13. “The only thing this channel will sell is the lure of learning…the price you will pay now is the time you will invest to listen and to see. Though this channel will be educational, I’m assured it will not be dull” says Murrow early on in the broadcast. He is in some ways suggesting that while educational television should be just that, educational, it has suffered from being dull in the past. It seems to fit into a classic idea some people have that educational media is ‘boring’ in comparison to purely entertaining programs. 

In my personal opinion, thinking can occur by watching sitcoms as well as educational programs. I do feel that more thinking tends to occur when watching an informative documentary which will usually arise on educational or specialty networks.

So, is educational television “thinking” television? I believe so…but then again, those who peruse it tend to find it entertaining as well. One who has an aptitude for the enjoyment of learning may not, in turn, appreciate the farce humor in mindless television. For the sake of variety, thankfully, there is an audience that appreciates both; the end result being that all forms of television could very well be thoughtful, mindless, both, neither, or either…all subjectively decided by the individual viewer.

Drama is an unsung favorite genre of mine when it comes to film. I have always been a sucker for dramatic film, though this particular genre tends to fall through the cracks of regular film screenings for a number of reasons. Comedies and topical parody films, both of which date very quickly, are all too prevalent in the contemporary mainstream film industry. Studio executives see big bucks in intellectually devoid subjects; but financially valuable as pure farce may be, its prevalence causes drama to suffer as a result. When you do see a contemporary Hollywood drama, narrative is watered down (especially in film adaptations of books); dramas are given much more attention for their elaborate sets, costume design, and star power. THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL disappointed me greatly in this respect; it was Hollywood’s 2008 excuse for asserting that a drama can be mainstream, but it offered nothing for the viewer to critically think about, either during or after the screening.

One film that comes to mind when I think of decent mainstream drama is LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, a film adapted from a wonderful novel by famed Colombian author Gabrial Garcia Marquez. Unfortunately, this film suffers from an intense focus on elaborate, albeit well-done, sets and costume design; whereas, I feel, make-up and proper casting sometimes suffers when screened by a keen viewer. Despite these typical faults, I was nonetheless enthralled by the detailed narrative which was ‘outside the box’, much like Marquez’s writings. The story encompasses approximately fifty years, and the pacing suggests this passing of time without tiring the viewer. Good editing and elaborate visuals prove this drama to function effectively with viewers, be they concerned with entertaining narrative or with visual appeal.

In a general sense, although today’s typical viewers generally aim to seek out sarcastic humor in media, nothing can jerk a tear of true deep emotion like a well-made dramatic film.

Joss Whedon

As expected, Joss Whedon’s interview encompasses several important aspects of his personal life and career. A good amount of focus is given to Whedon’s early childhood and the background he came from, such as having a mother who was involved in theater. Being immersed in theater and watching many films clearly inspired Whedon to choose a career path in a related field, which would ultimately be television.

I feel like I have something in common with Whedon. My mother was always involved in the arts, namely fine arts like painting, costume design, and cosmetology. I’m not exactly interested in these same things, but having a mother with these interests enabled her to encourage me to explore the arts as well, whatever type I fancied. From an early age I became interested in film studies, something I have built somewhat of a career on in terms of studying and preservation in the area of film history. Just as I’m sure Whedon credits his mother for much support, I feel just the same way as my mother has and continues to be my main source of encouragement. 

A WAIF’S WELCOME (Van Beuren Studios, 1936) Here is an animated cartoon from the Van Beuren Studios, produced in 1936. The studio was known primarily for offbeat and strange black and white cartoons but by the mid-1930s, Amadee J. Van Beuren hired Burt Gillette, an ex-Disney producer, to create a series of color cartoons that resembled Walt Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” series. This particular entry in the series, in my opinion, not only looks as beautiful as it did when originally produced but in many regards is still very entertaining. Certain aspects of the film are dated; at least in America there are no longer orphans walking the streets as there are now Child Services and social programs to help prevent this kind of situation. The cartoon also shows an interesting and common contrast between men and women of the time: the father figure is ready to physically and verbally abuse the children on several occasions while the mother is not only forgiving but almost “spoiling” her son. While the term “waif” may no longer be used in our daily language either, a few themes are still relevant today, such as children dealing with issues of honesty and learning to interact socially. -TS