Archive for February, 2012

February 23, 2012

Those silly gold statuettes

For most of my adult life, I’ve tried and failed to see every Best Picture nominee in advance of the Academy Awards.  This year, I finally did it and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to watch the show (red carpet and all).  While I’m not a big fan of awards, especially in the arts, I think the only time I may have missed the Oscars was during the early ’80s when I was  busy hunting punk rock singers and vintage house dresses.

Here are my thoughts about the nominees for Best Picture from best to worst (and thank you Hollywood for remembering what it means to entertain.)

HUGO: This is my personal choice for winner. There is a perfect chemistry that’s created when all the elements come together so seamlessly to make a film great and memorable: for me, Hugo accomplished this (despite flirting with Disney formulaics).  From the poignant story/script to the gorgeous art direction, delightful (not distracting) score and flawless direction plus the happy ending I personally needed to see, it was the one film that swept me entirely away and lingered with me for many days.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS: This is one of those love or hate films and I loved it. LOVED IT.  If Hugo wasn’t so amazing and The Artist so ambitious, this would have been my pick for best picture. As a Woody Allen fan from way back, I can say it’s been a long time coming since he made a movie that delighted me so.  Not just any director could pull off this premise and he did it beautifully. Big ups to my man Woody, perv that he is. (Did you not notice how many times he made Rachel McAdams bend over?) Also, he deserves a special award for making McAdams a villain. Yay.

THE ARTIST:  As much as I enjoyed this film, the story, the message and the artistry, and as much as I related to it working in an industry that may be in its twilight, I wasn’t as deeply moved by it as I was by Hugo. As an emotional person (a woman, go figure), I suppose feelings play into my choices more than intellect. This too had the happy ending I hoped for, great acting and direction, and of course the novelty of being without dialogue, but I wasn’t gripped.

THE HELP: Despite the backlash, I thought it was a great little movie, superbly written and well-acted. I’m a white girl, I’ll never know that particular pain. I’m sorry.

MONEYBALL: I saved this movie for last because I figured I’d hate it. Generalizing aside. Boy was I wrong. Thought not really a Best Picture, it was a great picture. Granted it was hard to lose with such a fascinating story but the writing and direction kept a nice pace and the acting (read: Brad Pitt’s muscles) didn’t hurt either.

THE DESCENDANTS: Good movie, good acting, but Best Picture? I think not.  I don’t understand the blanket praise for Clooney’s performance, either.  What am I missing?

TREE OF LIFE: I expected to fall deeply in love with this film. I figured it would end up just behind Magnolia on my list of all-time favorite films.  Lo, my expectations were too high. That’s not to say it doesn’t deserve something, because there is much to be enamored of here but somehow the pieces don’t quite fit together. I do think Brad Pitt’s performance was worthier of an award than his portrayal of Billy Beane in  Moneyball. I’m not at all opposed to a film that takes some work, but Malick needs to learn to kill his darlings.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE: Ridiculously contrived and unbelievably tiresome. Ever heard of a script supervisor? Didn’t think so.

February 19, 2012

Cultural tourism: a thing of the past?

Some years back, cultural tourism was the on-trend catch phrase du jour for bureaucrats seeking ways to draw consumers to their fair cities. Predictably, Ventura glommed on to it, if for a brief moment, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was right around the time the San Buenaventura Conservancy was born and there was some great energy swirling around historic preservation.

At a time when Ventura was seeking identifying factors in order to brand itself for tourists (the beaches and weather weren’t quite enough) it seemed to make perfect sense to spotlight our other great resource: history and architecture. Unfortunately, the city’s vision began to plummet in tandem with a failing economy and all that sort of went poof!

Since then the city has reorganized and begun seeking new, creative ways to get people excited about visiting Ventura and doing business here, but cultural tourism seems to have gone the way of most trends, despite being a solid foundation to build something lasting upon.

An article in the L.A. Times about a neat event in Palm Springs, a city which knows what it is and how to market itself, made me nostalgic not only for mid-century whimsy and practicality (a personal interest) but also for the days when the folks working for the city of Ventura had some heart and vigor.

February 16, 2012

The value of a musician

Nearly every day, music saves my life.  Hyperbolic as that statement may seem, it’s true in the sense that since I was a young child, music has carried me through life. It has been a soundtrack, a motivator, a friend.  We all have songs that define a time period for us and songs that have pulled us through difficult times. I can’t imagine my life without music.

It is not possible to proclaim the value of the song without also acknowledging the value of  the musician. Without its writer, its composer, its singer, its players, it has no life.  Yet as Jake Pegg of Fair Trade Music PDX told me last week, “The musicians are last in line to get paid, but first in line to take a pay cut.”

We’ve all heard the stories of great musicians (and artists of all kinds) producing extremely important bodies of work, yet leaving this world without a penny to cover their burial costs. Meanwhile, an entire industry was created on their backs. From the bartender at the venue they first played and the promoter that booked them to the record executive that signed them and the music journalist that wrote about them, people have relied on musicians for their own livelihoods (not to mention inspiration, courage, comfort etc. ).  And while that industry has become weak in the past decade,  maybe it’s for the best. Maybe we should let it die. Don’t be fooled by campaigns disguised to protect musicians (SOPA) but really created to keep money in the pockets of rich industry people.

Long ago, when musicians’ jobs were being replaced by recorded music (in tandem with talkies rendering silent films obsolete–see The Artist, if you haven’t already) they came together as one force and supported each other through the changes. Today, the American Federation of Musicians has lost relevance in the unpredictable conditions surrounding popular music, especially vis a vis technology, but perhaps unionizing is something musicians ought to revisit.  The Fair Trade Music campaign, which is being supported by the musicians union, has some interesting ideas about reeducating people about live music and creating an environment in which they are not only honored, but paid.

This week, VCReporter published its annual local music issue and I attempted to explore in depth the economics of live music. I did this because it’s a subject dear to my heart as a fan and as someone who has been surrounded by musicians for much of my life.  I hope you get a chance to read it, read up on the union and maybe consider a Fair Trade Music campaign in Ventura and surrounding areas (Hello, L.A.!)

Long live rock ‘n’ roll

Support local music


February 9, 2012

Downtown Oxnard’s arts community and the ill informed decision to cut Tracy Hudak out of the picture

Artist Eric Reel wrote an insightful,  in-depth article for Society 805 about Tracy Hudak’s  short term as Arts Impact Director for the Oxnard Development Management District (ODMD). I wrote an article about Hudak for the VCReporter last year and discussed her departure in arts briefs last month. Having spoken to ODMD Executive director Abel Ramírez Magaña, at length, it became clear to me that he’s just another vision-void bureaucrat and that downtown Oxnard is following the same path to revitalization as  other historic downtowns: spend an indecent amount of money on outside consultants and pin your hopes on decorative planters.

February 3, 2012

Everything has a shelf life

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Matthew 24

Dying mediums and rumors of dying mediums: a list poem


vinyl records

cassette tape



printed paper

telephone lines






a free press

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