Monday, March 30, 2015

The New Monday Quiz XI




1. The 1911 painting La Tasse is fairly representative of what artist?


2. This brainy French guy was a leading figure in such schools of literary theory as semiotics, structuralism, and post-structuralism. His most famous essay, La mort de l'auteur ("The Death of the Author"), was a brilliant and seminal piece of literary criticism, despite being a bit silly. Well, that's litarary theory for you. What's his name?

3. La Casa Rosada, the Pink House, is the Presidential palace in the second-largest South American city.  What is the city?


4. The Militia United in Righteousness was a disciplined anti-Christian militia. Their slogan was "Support Qing government and exterminate the foreigners," and they had an unfortunate belief that they were invulnerable to foreign weapons. Eventually, they provoked Qing government into defiance of the "Eight-Nation Alliance" of Japan, Russia, the UK, France, the United State, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, and no good came of it.

What do we usually call the Militia United in Righteousness??


5. It initially was a box-office disappointment and attracted lukewarm critical reviews, but the reputation of this 1982 film grew rapidly in subsequent years.  I took the title out of the poster so that you can use it in your answer.


6. What's Element #4?  

No, you don't get any other hints!  It's only #4!  Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, then what?


7. Here is a climatic map of a place!  But what place?


8. Who was King Solomon's mom?

9. Here is one of the best known monuments of a major European city.  What monument?  What city?


10. When it was released in 1970, this jazz double album received a mixed response, due to the album's unconventional style and revolutionary sound. Later, it gained recognition as one of jazz's greatest albums and a progenitor of the jazz rock genre, as well as a major influence on rock and funk musicians.  Here's the cover art.  What's the record?


Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Merz v. Metsu!

Mario Merz
1925 - 2003
Italian



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Gabriel Metsu
1629 - 1667
Dutch



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Vote for the artist of your choice! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Michael5000 Returns to the Movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson, 2014.

imbd: #184 (8.1)
     (March 1, 2015: #185, 8.1)
Ebert: Never got to see it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%(!) Fresh
Provenance: Watched on small screen, on Morgan's recommendation.

Wes Anderson has directed a long series of glib, stylized, and more or less surreal comedies.  They have all had their strengths, including the important merit of being entertaining, but the overall trend has been gradually downhill.  Over the years, Anderson's signature quirks have been dulled by repetition, and watching his movies has sometimes made one wonder if being a wistful, harmless oddball is always a sufficient qualification for being the hero of a motion picture.  But never mind all that, because The Grand Budapest Hotel surpasses everything that has come before, wedding the Wes Anderson style to rich historical and literary traditions, nested narrative frames of stories within stories four or five layers deep, homages to who knows how many classic films, and cinematography to die for.  It is also funny as hell.


Plot: In a faded European capital, a young girl meditates on her nation's greatest author... who wrote a story about the owner of a huge old hotel... who, in his youth, was mentored by a remarkable concierge named M. Gustave.  Gustave fancies himself an unflappable service-professional superhero of the Jeeves variety, but can only pull off the act 95% of the time.  It is the other 5% of the time that makes him interesting.  Liking the cut of the jib of his new lobby boy, he enlists the lad in a series of wacky adventures involving a disputed will, art theft, trains being stopped for inspection at the frontier by military authorities, the murder of people who know too much, the murder of people who don't know enough, flight from a sadistic hit man through alpine scenery, an elaborately complicated prison break, gunplay, and so on.  It's all very silly, but it's good silly, boisterously energetic and unapologetically entertaining.

Visuals: The plot is an excellent excuse for the visuals, which are magnificent.  From iconic exterior shots of Mitteleuropa towns and countryside, to the spectacularly shabby interiors of the hotel itself, every image in the film is framed with loving care.  Costumes, sets, props, and furniture all capture an exaggerated sense of Old World decline.  The hotel itself is a marvel.  If a great luxury palace was given a grand renovation in 1967 by the tourism apparatus of a socialist state, and kept immaculate but unchanged ever since, that would the Grand Budapest Hotel.  Its interiors are too perfect to be sets; I think the location must surely have been found, and however much they paid the location scout it was less than he or she deserved.  [The Grand Budapest is a much more liveable sort of place than the collapsing Majestic Hotel of J. G. Farrell's amazing 1970 novel Troubles, but both are vessels carrying the relics of a dying way of life on a doomed, tragic, hilarious voyage into the future.  I wonder if Wes Anderson has read Troubles?]

Dialogue: Extremely stylized, with soliloquies delivered overtly into the camera and characters speaking in the slightly unnatural, formal, dusty language of translated Eastern European fiction.  With occasional swearing for comic bathos, which is funnier than it has any right to be.

Prognosis: Really fun, really funny, and highly recommended for anybody who likes a glib and world-weary movie with heart and vim.  Michael 5000's imdb rating: 9.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Lanyon v. Amador!

Peter Lanyon
1918 - 1964
British

Pounded by Georges de La Tour in Round 1.
Managed a win over French painter Nicolas Lancret in First Round Elimination in lukewarm voting.






Andres Amador
b. 1971
American

Tied for Second place in Phase 1, Flight 7, of the Play-In Tournament with a voting score of .688.
Placed Second in Phase 2, Flight 6 of the Play-In Tournament with a voting score of .455.
Beat established American painter Thomas Cole in Round 1.
Lost to Czech abstract painter Frantisek Kupka in Round 2.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Wednesday Post


Les boîtes de conserve
Five artists who had kind of a rough time in the Infinite Art Tournament



Jean Fautrier on a recent French stamp.



Fautrier went 0-2 in the Infinite Art Tournament, with 2 votes for and 22 against.  His "batting average" of .083 is the worst of the 149 artists who have left the Tournament.  He exited in November 2013.


Arshile Gorky on a 2010 United States stamp.



Gorky went 0-2, with 5 votes in his favor and 20 against.  This gave him .200, the 140th best record of the 149 former Tournament artists.  He exited in March 2014.



Antoine-Jean Gros on a 1969 postcard from Ras Al Khaima, one of the Arab Emirates and, until 1973, a semi-legitimate postage-issuing entity.


Gros had no wins and two losses, with 4 votes in his favor and 20 against for .167 and the 142nd best record. He left us in June 2014.



Patrick Heron on a 2006 stamp from the United Kingdom.


In Heron's two losses he garnered 5 votes against 16; his batting average of .238 makes him the leader of this group but the 135th place artist overall.  He left the Tournament in July 2014.



Godfrey Kneller on two of the seven portraits of the Stuarts from a recent UK series.



Kneller shares Gorky's stats (0-2, 5-20, .200) and is tied with him for the 140th spot.  He left the Tournament earlier this month.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Cole v. Landseer!

Thomas Cole
1801 - 1848
American

Tied with John Constable in his initial Round 1 outing, in September 2012.
Lost to beachcomber Andres Amador in a second try at Round 1.
Defeated Cuban Cubist Wilfredo Lam in First Round Elimination.






Sir Edwin Landseer
1802 - 1873
British

Beat French genre guy Nicolas Lancret by a single vote in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!
Mauled by Georges de La Tour in Round 2.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The New Monday Quiz X




1. In the 15th Century, as shown here, it was the largest state in Europe.  In 1795, it ceased to exist... for a while.  Since then, it has reappeared, ceased to exist, and then reappeared again.  It is the country of ____________.



2. Released in 2001, 2002, and 2003, the broad-based popularity of these three movies is shown by their ranking in the imdb 250: as of this writing, they occupy the #9, #11, and #16 spots.

3. Growing up near a minor industrial port, I saw this flag flying from a lot of scruffy freighters.  What country were these ships theoretically based in?


4. This character from an well-known play has a rough time of it, as can be seen in speeches like:
Alas, then she is drown'd?

Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet
It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
Let shame say what it will

and
Hamlet, thou art slain;
No medicine in the world can do thee good.
In thee there is not half an hour of life.
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenom'd. The foul practice
Hath turn'd itself on me. Lo, here I lie,
Never to rise again. Thy mother's poison'd.
I can no more. The King, the King's to blame.
 What is his name?

5. Meet Cthulu!  What is the source of this mythical creature?


6. What's Element #3?  

No, you don't get any other hints!  It's only #3!  Hydrogen, Helium, then what?


7. This Renaissance painter, a butcher's son, became a Carmelite monk at 16 and a priest at around 20. When he was 50, he is said to have abducted a convent novice who had been sitting as his model for a painting of the Virgin Mary. Their child would grow up to be a famous painter in his own right.  Here's one of his pictures.  Who is he?


8. He was, among other things, one of history's great masters of the epigram. Here are a few:
When goodness is lost, it is replaced by morality.

Try to change it and you will ruin it. Try to hold it and you will lose it.

When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
There arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
There arises the recognition of evil.

The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness.

When the highest type of men hear Tao,
They diligently practice it.
When the average type of men hear Tao,
They half believe in it.
When the lowest type of men hear Tao,
They laugh heartily at it.
Without the laugh, there is no Tao.

Who was this smart and witty guy?

9. This guy probably just wants a hug.  What is he?


10. Five chapters long, usually placed between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, it is a set of poems about the destruction of Jerusalem.