Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Michelangelo v. Millais!

1475 - 1564


Sir John Everett Millais
1829 - 1896


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, April 17, 2015

At the Movies: "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter"

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
David Zellner, 2014.

imbd: not in imdb 250: 7.2
Ebert: Never got to see it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% Fresh
Provenance: Watched at the fabulous Hollywood Theater with Mrs.5000, but not Patrick.

We have been told stories about quests all our lives, so we know what kinds of behaviors and virtues will be rewarded if someone is just heroic enough to persevere in following a dream. We know that they will find a few steadfast allies, but that there will be villains to be defeated. We know that when society laughs at someone on a quest, it is society that is wrong. We know that it is the boring people who stay at home and never go out seeking their destiny who live small, pitiable lives.

We know all this about quests, but for some reason we don't actually spend much time questing.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is the story of a heroic quest as it would play out in the real world. It is unsatisfying, and unsettling, because it has an odd, quixotic realism that undercuts all of your assumptions about what is supposed to happen in a story. Fortunately, there's a happy ending. Or is there?

Plot: A woman discovers a carefully wrapped VHS casette of the movie Fargo under a rock in a sea cave. Now, that's pretty weird already, and it's only the opening scene. When she watches it, the obvious question strikes her -- how can she get her hands on the ransom money that the Steve Buscemi character hides in the snow? To start with, she'll need to find a map of Minnesota.

Visuals: Very lovely. Kumiko's red hoody blazes against muted cityscapes and snowscapes. Later, the geometries and riotous colors of an old motel comforter will play against organic shapes of bare tree limbs and ice. There are lots of pretty things to look at.

Dialogue: Spare, roughly half in Japanese and half in English. Often, the awkward words of someone completely failing to make any kind of human connection.

Prognosis: More of an artwork to be appreciated than an entertainment to be enjoyed. That sounds damning, but it's not.  It's actually fairly entertaining, but it's a top-notch moving picture.

Michael 5000's imdb rating: 8.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #37/64

Faceoff #1: Dobson v. Malevich

William Dobson
1610 - 1646

Tied with Theo Van Doesburg in his first try at the First Round, back in December 2012.
Lost to book artist Tim Ely in his second try at Round 1.


Kasimir Malevich
1878 - 1935

Lost to Man Ray in Round 1.

Faceoff #2: Mangold v. Manzù

Robert Mangold
born 1937

Lost to household name Manet in Round 1.


Giacomo Manzù
1908 - 1991

Lost to Andrea Mantegna by a single vote in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Michael5000 at the imdb Top 250, part 2

Michael5000 at the imdb Top 250, part 2

The permanent, updated version of this list is here.

I've been watching a lot of movies lately.  For a Christmas present, I got Mrs.5000 and me a membership at a non-profit cinema here in the City of Roses, the Hollywood Theater.  With the membership, we can just waltz right in whenever we want to, and so we have been.  Waltzing right in, that is.  And we've been watching movies at home, too.  Watching movies has a way of making you interested in watching more movies.

Like a lot of people, I enjoy writing about movies.  It is by its nature a futile exercise.  To analyze a movie is to make helpful suggestions about a project that wrapped up long ago, and whose participants have all long since moved on to something new.  Too, movie-making is an enterprise on a vast scale comparable with war, opera, or space flight, requiring the cooperation and shared expertise of a huge company of specialists, artisans, technicians, showbiz types, and people with great big heaps of money.  I have only the vaguest sense of how the process even works.  Who am I to criticize?

But, I enjoy writing about movies.  What with that, and our membership at the Hollywood, and my recent fixation on the imdb Top 250, I think that the cinema, as we cinéastes like to say - when we're not saying mise-en-scène - will be returning to the same sort of level of prominence in this online journal that it had back in 2007-2010!

See also Michael5000 at the imdb Top 250, part 1

I'm a sucker for requests.  Also, I have also started a brand new imdb account (as Michael5000, of course), in the event that you would like to socially network.

Imdb rankings and ratings as of March 1, 2015. 

51. Alien (1979), imdb rating: 8.5 
  • I've seen it: on video, a couple of times.
52. The Prestige (2006): 8.5
  • I haven't seen it.  I've read the book, but didn't know there was a movie adaptation.  I've got it on reserve from the library.
53. The Great Dictator (1940): 8.4
  • I haven't seen it.
54. The Lion King (1994): 8.4
  • I haven't seen it.
55. The Lives of Others (2006): 8.4
  • I've seen it: The one about the Stassi officer.  It was good! 
56. Django Unchained (2012) 8.4
  • I've seen it: Quentin Tarantino is all about camp and violence, and often I like what he does.  This time, not so much. 
57. Cinema Paradiso (1988): 8.4
  • I've seen it: I thought it was treacle.
58. The Shining (1980): 8.4
  • I think I've seen it, but I'm not 100% sure I haven't just seen clips and parodies..
59. The Dark Knight Rises (2012): 8.4
  • I haven't seen it.
60. Paths of Glory (1957): 8.4
  • I haven't seen it.
61. American Beauty (1999): 8.4
  • I've seen it: in its original release.  I think I might have liked it, but mostly remember flaws.
62. WALL•E (2008): 8.4
  • I've seen it: on the big screen.  Charming.
63. North by Northwest (1959): 8.4
  • I've seen it: it's kind of a proto-James Bond movie.  Its presence this high on the imdb kind of highlights that this list privileges movies that nobody dislikes over movies that some people think are really amazing.
64. Aliens (1986): 8.4
  • I've seen it: at least three times.
  • I've reviewed it: " still pretty much owns the science fiction action thriller category....  ...puppeteering raised to apocalyptic art of the first order."
  • Michael5000's imdb rating: 9.
65. Citizen Kane (1941): 8.4
  • I've seen it: a couple of times, most recently in 2009.
  • I've reviewed it: "It is perhaps the single most important step on the History of Film Grand Tour.... Plus, it's a good story well told."
66. Vertigo (1958): 8.4
  • I've seen it: most recently in 2010.
  • I've reviewed it: "Certainly not a Great Movie, but a fun entertainment with a strong first half."
67. Amélie (2001): 8.4
  • I've seen it: In its original release.  I remember it as charming, but I also remember somebody scolding me for thinking it was charming. 
68. Grave of the Fireflies (1988): 8.4
  • Never heard of it.
69. M (1931): 8.4
  • I've seen it: in 2008.
  • I've reviewed it: "It's a well-made movie, but it feels a few years older than its 1931 date of release. People who are interested in film history will likely find it interesting and reasonably entertaining. For a more general modern audience, though, its entertainment value alone won't quite cut it."
70. Das Boot (1981): 8.4
  • I've seen it: a couple of times.  Gripping!
71. Oldboy (2003): 8.4
  • Never heard of it.
72. Princess Mononoke (1997): 8.4
  • I think I've seen it: but Japanese animated features, though generally good if we're watching them in the United States, tend to blur together a bit for me.
73. Toy Story 3 (2010): 8.4
  •  I don't know if I've seen it: I've seen some such, but not all of them.
74. Return of the Jedi (1983): 8.4
  • I've seen it: in its original release, and perhaps once or twice since.  It's the one with ewoks.  A disappointment.
75. Once Upon a Time in America (1984): 8.4
  • I don't think I've seen it.
76. Reservoir Dogs (1992): 8.4
  • I've seen it: Rather disturbing.
77. A Clockwork Orange (1971): 8.4
  • I've seen it: in college.  I thought it was great.
78. Taxi Driver (1976): 8.3
  • I've seen it: On the small screen, in 2009.
  • I've reviewed it: "...a tour de force of filmmaking craftsmanship. Not recommended to those who are troubled by explicit violence, or who are trying to hang onto a good mood."
79. Braveheart (1995): 8.3
  • I've seen it: It was all right.
80. Double Indemnity (1944): 8.3
  • I've seen it: in 2008.
  • I've reviewed it: "a well-made and absorbing entertainment."
81. Requiem for a Dream (2000): 8.3
  • I haven't seen it.
82. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): 8.3
  • I'm not sure whether I've ever seen it
83. Witness for the Prosecution (1957): 8.3
  • I'm not sure whether I've ever seen it
84. Lawrence of Arabia (1962): 8.3
  • I've seen it: twice, on the small screen
  • I've reviewed it: "Lawrence of Arabia is a pretty amazing film. The interminable shots of the desert, for starters, are quite lovely..."
85. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): 8.3
  • I've seen it: in its original release, and again in early 2015.  It didn't hold up as well as I'd expected.
86. Full Metal Jacket (1987) 8.3
  • I've seen it: In its original release.  Thought it was pretty great.
87. Singin' in the Rain (1952) 8.3
  • I've seen it: in 2009.
  • I've reviewed it: "It is a spoof of the song-and-dance spectaculars of the early talkies that manages to have its cake and eat it too, effectively skewering the nonsensicality and cheesiness of the genre while wallowing in the same sort of stuff in a highly entertaining fashion. It's ironic, so it's cool."
88. The Sting (1973): 8.3
  • I'm not sure whether I've ever seen it.  I think I have.
89. The Bicycle Thief (1948): 8.3
  • I've seen it: in 2008.
  • I've reviewed it: "Ultimately... this is a movie about a guy looking for his bike."
90. Amadeus (1984): 8.3
  • I've seen it: I liked it!
91. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): 8.3
  • I've seen it: Any number of times.  Good bits, and bad bits that are so bad they're good.
92. Snatch (2000): 8.3
  • I've seen it: I think I thought it was very entertaining.
93. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): 8.3
  • I've seen it: most recently in 2007.
  • I've reviewed it: "Whether you find it moving, or tedious, or heavy, man, will depend on what you bring to it."
94. For a Few Dollars More (1965): 8.3
  • I haven't seen it.
95. Rashomon (1950): 8.3
  • I think I've seen it, but I'm not 100% sure
96. The Kid (1921): 8.3
  • I haven't seen it.
97. L.A. Confidential (1997): 8.3
  • I've seen it: I think I liked it.
98. All About Eve (1950): 8.3
  • I've seen it: in 2007.
  • I've reviewed it: "I have seen it described as 'the smartest movie ever made.' This raises a question of terrifying implications: What if I missed the best jokes? What if this movie is too smart for a lumux like me to fully appreciate?"
99. The Apartment (1960): 8.3
  • I've seen it: in 2008.
  • I've reviewed it: "The Apartment is such a fantastic movie."
100. Inglourious Basterds (2009): 8.3
  • I've seen it: I liked it.

I've seen 32 of this set and written reviews for 11.  There are 11 I haven't seen, and 7 I'm not sure of.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Manet v. Mantegna!

Édouard Manet
1832 - 1883

Thumped on Minimalist Robert Mangold in Round 1.

Andrea Mantegna
1430ish - 1506

Defeated Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzù by a single vote in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The New Monday Quiz Celebrates April 13th!

April 13 is the 103rd day of the year!  Celebrate in style with the New Monday Quiz!

1111 -- Henry V and Pope Paschal II had different philosophies regarding the boundaries of church and secular authority. After Henry took Pope Paschal and sixteen of his cardinals prisoner, however, the Pope gave in and consented to his coronation. What title did Henry V assume on April 13?

1204 -- The Fourth Crusade, which at least in the planning stages had been all about conquering Jerusalem, instead sacked what city on April 13, and for several days after?

1570 -- Remember, remember, the Thirteenth of April, the birthday of the most famous member of the Gunpowder Plot. Who was he?

1742 -- A famous religious musical work made its debut in Dublin on April 13. Here's a description:
The text begins in Part I with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only "scene" taken from the Gospels. Part II concentrates on the Passion and ends with the "Hallelujah" chorus. Part III covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ's glorification in heaven.

What is the piece, and who was the composer?

1849 -- After the civil war diagrammed on this map, what country became a republic on April 13?

1860 -- The man who would eventually paint Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889 was born on April 13th. Who was he?

1870 -- The famous art musuem that is now housed in this building was founded on April 13. What's the museum?

1958 -- The Americans struck a blow against the Soviet Union in Moscow on April 13, as the Texan Harvey "Van" Cliburn won a major international competition in what field?

1970 -- An oxygen tank explosion on April 13 put James A. Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred W. Haise in quite a fix. What was the scenario, and what was Swigert's famous line?

1987 -- The future of Macao was decided on April 13, as two countries agreed that it would be transferred from one to the other in 1999. What were the two countries?

New Monday Quiz Answers, Huzzah!

The Questions are, I find, much more interesting than the answers!

The New Monday Quiz XII

1. Vladimir the Great
2. Vanity Fair
3. Vancouver, British ColumbiaB
4. St. Vincent de Paul
5. It's the skyline of Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu
6. Element #23 is Vanadium
7. Vertigo
8. Vichy France
9. The artist, and the beard, and the painting, are all Van Dykes.
10. The forgotten Red Priest was Vivaldi; we remember him these days.

Mrs. 5000 aced it, and we will also give full marks to Elizabeth.

The New Monday Quiz XI

1. Braque
2. Roland Barthes
3. Buenos Aires
4. The Boxers, of Boxer Rebellion fame
5. Bladerunner
6. Not Boron, which is Element #5, but Beryllium.
7. Brazil
8. Bathsheba
9. The Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin
10. Bitch's Brew

DrSchnell takes top honors, with nine out of ten right.

The New Monday Quiz X

1. Great Imperial mediaeval Lithuania
2. The Lord of the Rings movies
3. the Liberian flag, the star and stripes
4. Laertes has the tough lines in Hamlet
5. Lovecraft came up with Cthulu
6. Lithium is Element #3
7. Fra Fillipo Lippio
8. Lao-Tsu
9. a cuddly lamprey
10. The Book of Lamentations

This was a nifty five-way tie: Elizabeth, DrSchnell, Mrs 5000, Susan, and gS49 all scored 9/10.

The New Monday Quiz Succumbs to Nostalgia for the Good Old Days

1. The Meditative Emperor = Marcus Aurelius
2. The Ottoman Empire makes a grab for the Suez Canal.  Half marks for Turkey.
3. Hit Movie about the Klan? Birth of a Nation
4. The Willard/Johnson fight was in America's playground, Havana
5. Green poison gas: Chlorine
6. The Great American Idealist: William Jennings Bryan.
7. The Eastland capsized in Chicago.
8. Haiti was occupied by the U.S. 1915-1934.
9. Bulgaria entered The Great War.
10. Wegener figured out Continental Drift.  I'm proud to say that I did too.  I had better sea-floor maps, and instead of being made fun of like Wegener, I got kudos from my fifth grade teacher.

This one was all DrSchnell's. 

The New Monday Quiz IX

Ooh, it's been a while.  Let me think here...
1. Cezanne.
2. Cymbeline.
3. Cadmium.
4. Crime and Punishment.
5. Croatia.
6. St. Augustine's Confessions and/or the City of God
7. The Complex numbers.
8. The Cranium.
9. Cameroon.
10. Concerti!  But I'm no stickler, and will gladly accept "concertos."

Pow!  Another one knocked out of the park by DrSchnell!

The New Monday Quiz VIII

1. Wild dogs in Western Australia
2. Odobenus rosmarus is the Walrus, goo goo ga joob.
3. Wall-E
4. The War of 1812
5. William Tell.  Isn't that picture priceless?
6. Wagner
7. Winnipeg!
8. Purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism was the World Trade Center, or so some thought.
9. Welsh.
10. The Whore of Babylon!

This one was co-dominated by Eavan and gS49.