Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Oscars- But Not Quite

I'm hoping you all watched the Oscars, dear readers, but if you didn't you certainly missed out! I am so very pleased to tell you that The Artist (previously reviewed by yours truly) took the award for Best Picture! It came completely out of left field, though it had been my favorite for the category. I never expected that a silent film could win out against eight other talkies. That makes the Artist the second silent film to win Best Picture, the other being "Wings" which won Best Picture in the original ceremony of 1929.


Christopher Plummer won for Best Supporting actor for "Beginners", making him the oldest living recipient of the Academy Award, only two years younger than the ceremony itself (I'd like to point out that my grandmother, whom I watched the Oscars with, is exactly as old as the Oscars!).


Though I was sad that The Help didn't win many awards, I was glad that they at least got Best Supporting Actress with Octavia Spencer.


However, the awards themselves aren't what I want to talk to you today. In fact, it's the commercials they aired during the ceremony - or two of them, at least. If you haven't yet heard, Ellen Degeneres was recently picked up by JC Penney to be their new celebrity spokesperson. I won't go into the One Million Mom scandal, but suffice it to say that equality won out. Anyway, JC Penney premiered five new commercials during the Oscars - four of them set in different time periods.

Ancient Rome  
The Wild West  
Victorian England  
The 1950s

Probably most striking of all, though, was the following ad from Dior. Pay close attention. If you blink, you'll miss it:

Did you see them? All three of them? Rumor has it that this technology has been in development since the early days of CGI (my dad has been talking about this for about twenty years). So far it's only been used to change an actors appearance, like Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button or Ralph Fiennes in the Harry Potter series. As seen here the idea is to have an actress play the body of the deceased star and digitally place a mask created from captured footage. We'll see. Marilyn is still in the Uncanny Valley, if you ask me but who knows? Maybe someday we'll get to see Meryl Streep and Katharine Hepburn (the two most Oscar-nominated persons of all time) co-star in a movie. I'd pay movie theatre prices to see that!

PS: Happy Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day!

I've got a whole bunch of ideas lined up for you guys, but more on those later this week. Today is - you guessed it - Valentine's Day; the day where sweethearts express their love through greetings cards, candy, and flowers!

Nothing like plant genitalia to get you in the mood, am I right? (via)
I figured I'd go the route I've gone for other Holidays and do a retrospective on the history of this "love"-ly day. The feast of St. Valentine was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 469 AD. This feast celebrated only two of many Saints named Valentine; most of whom were persecuted and invariably martyred at the hands of those crazy Pagans: the Romans!

I'm in the mood for looooooove... (via)
Sexy, right? Actually Valentine's Day didn't get its Romantic context until almost a thousand years later in Medieval Europe. The earliest known written link between St. Valentine's Day and Romantic Love is found in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when Courtly Love was all the rage.

Porno music not included (via)
Of course, nothing in history is that simple. The true origins of modern Valentine's Day are pretty much unknown to us. I'm sure at least some of you have heard the story of Saint Valentine writing the first Valentine to the blind daughter of his jailer, which apparently made her see again. This has never been historically attested and has probably been attributed to all the different Saints named Valentine in turn.

"In other words, we haven't the foggiest." (via)
Some even speculate that Valentine's Day's romantic connotations were a rediscovery of Ancient Roman and Greek festivals such as Lupercalia, a festival which was supposed to cleanse the City of Rome of evil spirits to promote prosperity in the coming year, and Gamelion, a month set aside by Athenians to honor the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. However, these pagan festivities had more to do with ritual sacrifice than Romantic Love...

Isn't it romaaaaaaaaaaaaantiiiiiiiic? (via)

Anyway, somewhere in the Middle Ages people made up an excuse to send each other love letters because, really, what else was there to do in Medieval Europe? Also, considering the little Ice Age that gripped the Western World, February would have been the point in winter where the cabin (or 'castle') fever would have been too much to bear and people would have seriously needed an excuse to take off their clothes. So, that's how it all got started (kind of). The earliest surviving modern 'Valentine' was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans during his captivity in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt. You can read it here.

He's got on his "do-me" robes. (via)
As time passed and industry grew, people began taking advantage of this holiday to sell pre-made Valentines to the Western public. It really picked up here in the United States and in England around the turn of the 19th Century - and paved the way for the commercialization of other holidays. Many entrepreneurs found success in the Valentine business, including Esther Howland:

"Wedding now are all the go,
will you marry me or no?" (via)
The 20th century brought mass-produced cards known as "mechanical Valentines" and with the rise of advertising in post-war America, the typical Valentine's Day shopping list expanded to include candy, toys, flowers, eventually jewelry. Today it is estimated that around one billion Valentine's Day cards are exchanged every year, with teachers receiving the most.

Next Year? Your SOUL. (via)
Of course, no Holiday this commercialized could go without its critics. Vinegar Valentines - generally mean-spirited insult cards - have been around as long as people have been able to buy regular Valentines. In probably the most famous instance of Vinegar Valentines, Calvin of "Calvin and Hobbes" regularly sends these to Susie in order to hide his true feelings from her:

Others still choose to ignore the holiday altogether:

However you choose to celebrate this day (be it a ritual sacrifice, vinegar valentine, or oral surgery) a very happy Valentine's Day to you and yours.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Artist - Film Review

Caution - spoilers and un-spoilers ahead.

Probably the most intriguing nominee for Best Picture this year is an unassuming import called "The Artist"


It tells the story of (fictional) silent film legend George Valentin and (equally fictional) bright new starlet Peppy Miller during the advent of 'talkies'. While Valentin stalwartly stands by silent film, Miller embraces the new medium, to very different results

What really sets this film apart from its competitors is that it's both black-and-white and silent. That's right folks: a silent film took the Golden Globe this year! Here's my review in three parts. Story This was the weak-point of the film. The story follows the expected talkie-takeover plot until you near the end of the film, when the two characters meet again (under circumstances I shan't reveal). Here though, the film takes a couple of odd twists and turns, and doesn't really end up where you'd expect it, especially with the googly-eyes the protagonists are making at each other in the poster (have I said to much?). Then again, it's kind of refreshing to watch a movie that doesn't just follow the standard expected endings. I'll give this film a B for story.


Craft This is where "The Artist" really takes the cake. It's been a while since I've been completely captivated by every moment of a film, and you might think a movie with no talking would put you to sleep, but here the silence electrifies the audience. I'd compare it to the idea that when one sense is taken away, the other senses take over. Since you can't hear the actors talk (and since you obviously can't taste, touch, or smell them), your eyes are drawn in as the only thing that can connect you to the story. The cinematography is outstanding, the actors are just the right amount of expressive without going overboard, and the black and white just made each scene delicious to watch.


The film isn't 100% silent, actually - there are two scenes where sound is present, and the first (a nightmare sequence) takes full advantage of the audience's malaise at the sudden introduction of sound. There is also at the very least one instance where they take advantage of the silent film title cards to play around with the audience. My friend put it best when she said, "it's been a long time since movies have been coy." For craft, the film gets an A+.


Costume The story covers the years 1927-1932, and though the costumes are beautiful, for the most part one fails to see the gradual transition over the course of the film. This might be understandable for a character who gets hit by the Great Depression, but Peppy Miller's Hollywood wardrobe doesn't really change for the greater part of the film, even after the Stock Market crash.


The only costume I had real issue with was the uber-short fringed number pictured above and featured abundantly in the trailer. It was really short by 20s standards, even in pre-code Hollywood, that skirt would have raised eyebrows. Of course, if the script called for a Burlesque dancer or other such temptress then that would have been fine, but the scene they film in the movie is a sort of evening party. Basically the dress was pretty but just too short. Overall, I'd give the costumes a B.


Please, please, please see this film while it's still in theatres. I guarantee it will not be the same on home video. This is a cinema experience you do not want to pass up.

She's sad because you're not buying tickets RIGHT NOW. (via)

They do make them like they used to.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Guess who's back, back again?

Do you remember that fateful day?

"Nostalgically Yours is going on HIATUS?!?!"

Alas, it was true. I was forced to leave cyberspace for a myriad of reasons, most of which are far too dreary to bring up. Anyway, I'm now living in New Orleans (again) and plan to do a better job of posting on a semi-regular basis! Also, I've made a new banner! Friends?

"Not good enough."
I know. My gift is nothing compared to all the pain and suffering I've caused you, dear readers. I only hope to make it up to you via the posts and projects I have coming up. I'm going to make future posts a bit less dense to keep the Tumblr generation awake (get back on my lawn and read this!), while still keeping enough substance to titillate even the most refined palates.

Who knows, maybe the job market will turn out bad enough to give me plenty of free time for blog-writing...


pics via fyeah Gone with the Wind and fyeah Silent Films.