Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #36/64

Faceoff #1: Cragg v. van Leyden

Tony Cragg
born 1949

Tied with John Robert Cozens in his initial Round 1 outing, in September 2012.
Lost to Andy Goldsworthy in Round 1.


Lucas van Leyden
1494 - 1533

Thumped by L.S. Lowry in Round 1.

Faceoff #2: Luini v. Maillol

Bernardino Luini
c. 1481 - 1532

Lost badly to Mabuse, AKA Jan Gossaert, in Round 1.


Aristide Maillol
1861 - 1944

Skunked! Skunked! in a painful bout against Magritte in Round 1.

Vote for the two artists of your choice! Votes generally go in the comments, but have been known to arrive by email, by postcard, or in a sealed envelope.

Please note that you may vote only once in each face-off.  Opining that both of the artists in one of the two face-offs is superior to the other is fine, but casting your votes for two artists in the same face-off is not permissible.

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


Gabriel Metsu
1629 - 1667


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

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

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

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

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.