Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life."

The Second of my European film directors is a sketch of the great Federico Fellini.  Winner of 5 Academy Awards and nominated for 12, Fellini had a career that spanned 40 years of filmmaking.

Fellini began professional life as a humor-writer and cartoonist for humor magazine Marc'Aurelio, which led to his writing gags for Italian comedies. It is difficult to believe that the fantastical Fellini, much like spaghetti-western auteur Sergio Leone, would re-enter filmmaking in the Italian neo-realism movement that followed the second World War.  After strking out on his own to create such films as La Strada (1954) and La Dolce Vita (1960), Fellini found himself with his own creative block as he sought to relate a film about a director with creative block, which led to what many consider his masterpiece, 8 1/2 (1963).

My introduction to Fellini was via his later Roman fever dream, Satyricon (1969), and though I've deeply enjoyed many of his films since, I still have a special spot for this film.  I've probably seen it a dozen times since, and even read the collected fragments from Petronius' great satire...and I still couldn't entirely tell you what was going on in the film.  Thing is, I don't want to have to understand it.  What to me sets Fellini apart from many other filmmakers is an infectious passion and joi de vivre that can excite any viewer, whether they have the faintest clue what Fellini is getting at or not.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Thank God I'm an atheist."

This week's series, for whatever reason the wind did will, is European film directors.  And first up is the great Spaniard Surrealist filmmaker, Luis Buñuel.  (I figure that's appropriate since Midnight in Paris won an Oscar, and one of my favorite scenes was Owen Wilson's character Gil trying to talk Luis (played by Adrian de Van) into making The Exterminating Angel (1962)).

It was at college that Buñuel met Salvador Dali, which would eventually culminate in the making of Un Chien Andalou (1929), the infamous surrealist short with the toe-curling eyeball-slicing scene (When researching images of Buñuel, I was kinda disturbed by how many copies there are of that image on-line.)  Buñuel ultimately made films in Spain, France, Mexico and did some minor film work in the U.S.  Probably his best known work are his later films that he directed in France, including Belle de Jour (1967) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

My first introduction to his feature work was in college in Charles Ramirez-Berg's brilliant film history class at UT with Los Olvidados (1950).  While I enjoy the man's work, I must admit to having taken a long time between taking one in and the next.  Buñuel is an artist to be savored and mulled over, definitely not gulped down.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"White Man's Town...Black Man's Law!"

My final sketch for Black Action Hero week is the great Fred Williamson in his role as...uh...the only more offensively named character "The Hammer" played after Capt. Oliver "Spearchucker" Jones in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970).

Fred Williamson started his career in the spotlight playing professional football for both the NFL & AFL until 1967. One of Fred's first roles was as an alien in an episode of Star Trek (which in an interview, I recall him saying that he only agreed to it because he got to "kick Capt. Kirk's @$$").  Fred became a staple of the blaxploitation genre starring in huge hits like Black Caesar (1973) and Bucktown (1975) before becoming a staple in european exploitation films like the original Inglorious Bastards (1977) and 1990: Bronx Warriors (1982).  During the 70's, Fred also formed his own production company and began producing and directing his own films.  Fred continues to make appearances in major movies like From Dusk Til Dawn (1996) and the remake of Starsky and Hutch (2004).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"And I got MY black belt in barstools!..."

The second in my series of black action heroes...Pam Grier as Miss Foxy Brown.  Grier who dominated the exploitation scene in the 60's and 70's starring in numerous "women in prison" as well as blaxploitation films is credited by many as being the first female action star.  Grier has continued to be a popular actress over the years and received a large critical and awards nod for her role in Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997).  On a more personal note, it's a tough call between this one and Coffy (1973) for my favorite early Grier action flick, though Foxy plays a lot more fun the "open with blowing a dude's head off" nature of Coffy...and as for Miss Grier, I'm sure that myself and a whole lot of other fellas in my age range will agree that she was one of the downright sexiest women to ever grace the silver screen...

Monday, February 20, 2012

This IS the Black Private Dick Who's a Sex Machine to All the Chicks

Coincidentally, it being Black History Month and all, this week's series of sketches' theme is Black Action Heroes of the 70's.

Naturally, we kick things off with John Shaft.  How could it be otherwise?  Shaft was created by screenwriter Ernest Tidyman who took the Academy Award for adapting The French Connection for the screen.  The novel Shaft (1970) was then adapted into a film by well respected photographer and director Gordon Parks Sr., and starred Richard Roundtree.  Isaac Hayes wrote the score and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the "Theme from Shaft".  Roundtree went on to play Shaft in two sequels and a TV series while Tidyman went on to pen six more Shaft novels (I own them all, including the rare Last Shaft (1975).)

Friday, February 17, 2012

And in this corner...

The final Drawing while Socializing sketch is a bit of a cheat.  I was sketching the picture of a boxer off the wall of the spot I was at...and naturally, the image I chose, which was clear when I started, was then constantly blocked by a revolving social circle of people.  I never quite got it right, and I never quite finished it.  So I found something close, and redid it...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Hear that loooooong lonesome train whistle cryin' in the wind..."

Entry No. 2 from the "Drawing while Socializing" Series.

For some reason, when all else fails, I start drawing old trains.  I have no idea why, but that's where my mind goes.  I certainly don't mean to imply that I'd rather be somewhere else than being with whoever I'm with...but trains are what come to mind.

(The lyric quoted in the title is from "Lonesome Train Whistle"...a favorite track by the Reverend Horton Heat from their album Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of...)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brush on Ice...

This week's sketches come from a handful of drawings I did while hanging out with Jason Shawn Alexander, Jim Mahfood, and Sherard Jackson at a Drink & Draw Event here in Los Angeles.

The first shows how obsessive I was becoming over the painting I'm very close to finishing up as of writing this.  I couldn't  work on it since JSA had coaxed me out of the cave, but that didn't mean it couldn't monopolize my creative energy.  So with a Powers Whiskey in my hand, I roughed out this fella with my brush pen, and then took some water to it, and ended up with this.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"...I say this from my heart...I've never liked you...Never..."

My final take on Comedians for this week is the fabulous Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles.  I've always enjoyed Don's work and marveled at the amazing speed and ferocity with which he could take apart an audience, patron by patron.  Even more amazing was ability and willingness to take down big shots, which is what made his tenure as Roast Master for Dean Martin simply amazing.  Don also has an impressive body of on-screen work in everything from Kelly's Heroes (1970) to Toy Story (1995). (I'm trying to remember which actor or comedian told some of the most hysterical stories of Don giving DeNiro a hard time on the set of Casino (1995)...I was on the floor laughing.)

And if you want to see Don's stage abilities both with and beyond insults (and see a lot of young celebs of the past)...Please, enjoy the following:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

"I musta snorted up Peru..."

Entry two in my "Ode to Comedians" puts the amazing Richard Pryor down on paper.  It was at a Half-Price Books in Dallas, Texas that I plunked down a couple of bucks for a used cassette of Richard's album That N$#%er's Crazy, my first dirty comedy album (It wasn't the first one I'd heard, my sister had let me listen to Sam Kinison's Louder than Hell with her and her friends).  Amazingly, I still have it here somewhere, though, as a very nice parting gift from a show I worked on, they bought me Richard's box set which included the album.

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor was born in Peoria, Illinois in 1940.  After a childhood growing up in his grandmother's brothel and rough early adult life, Richard began his stand-up career in mafia clubs in Youngstown, Ohio before transitioning to New York.  Pryor's early comedy records, though frequently racially charged in content, began to garner him a mainstream audience.  He wrote for several 70's sitcoms, was an early guest on Saturday Night Live, and began regularly appearing in films in both comedic and dramatic roles.  Richard passed away in 2005 of a heart attack after surviving for 20 years with multiple sclerosis.

Monday, February 06, 2012

"You're not a human being...Until You're in my Phonebook."

This week's series: Comedians.  I don't know why...just comedians.  They're a seldom honored group in the art world, and they were the first thing to come to mind.

We'll start with the unfortunately posthumously beloved Bill Hicks.  Born in Georgia, Hicks got his start in the Houston comedy scened of the late 1970's.  Bill's caustically biting satire and social commentary frequently attacked the mediocrity and stupidity of media, pop culture, and modern man.  Bill's popularity in the UK was greater than it was at home during his lifetime.  He succumb to pancreatic cancer at 32.

On a side note, while living in Austin in the 90's, my friends working at Vulcan Video informed me that Bill's homemade comedy movie, Ninja Bachelor Party,  was one of the most frequently stolen films from their collection...along with 1992's Australian skinhead flick Romper Stomper...I'm not sure what to think about that.

Friday, February 03, 2012

"A woman who freely surrenders her lips gives the rest very readily..."

The final in my "Stealing from the Masters" series ends with a depiction of Sir Percival (or Parsifal) from Arthur Hacker's 1894 painting, The Temptation of Sir Percival. Percival was the knight originally most connected with the retrieval of the Holy Grail.

Arthur Hacker (1858-1919) was a British Painter who produced works in classicist, orientalist, and later a Pre-Raphealite/symbolist styles.

(The title quote is from Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

"The Gift of All"

The second in my "stealing from the Masters" series is taken from Jules Joseph Lefebvre's 1882 painting Pandora II.  Pandora was the first women created by the gods as punishment for Prometheus stealing the fire of the gods (anyone looking for an Eve parallel?).  In the original stories, it was a jar not a box that Pandora opened.

Jules Joseph Lefebvre was a long time professor at the Beaux-Arts (teaching some 1500 pupils in his time) and a frequent exhibitor in the Paris Salon.