On Beauty in Retrospect


“The great artists are the ones who dare to entitle to beauty things so natural that when they’re seen afterward, people say: Why did I never realize before that this too was beautiful?”

– André Gide

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Recycling Ideas in the American Film Industry


Even though remakes are as old as the movie industry, the recycling of ideas in the American film landscape is getting more prevalent.

In the 1930s, the storylines of 16 percent of the 500 most successful films were recycled. Films such as Dracula and Frankenstein were made several times. Treasure Island (1934) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935) had been produced previously as silent films.

In the 1980s, the percentage of rehashed storylines increased to 22 percent. The 80s became the decade in which the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series were continued. It was also the time of the Scarface remakes (1983) and the creation of franchises such as Die Hard, Police Academy and Rambo.

In the first ten years of the 21st century, no less than 36 percent of the 500 most popular films are either a remake, sequel, spin-off or part of a franchise. Harry Potter, Pirates of The Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, and (again) Star Wars – to name a few – are turned into film series. Other examples include the Disney remakes of the Marvel superhero films, and the modern takes on Starsky & Hutch (2004) and Miami Vice (2006).

“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” – Michael Eisner, Disney CEO (1984-2005)

In other words, there has been a 20 percent increase over 80 years since the 1930s in the number of major American films whose storylines is either a remake, sequel or spin-off. The number of mainstraim American films which can be labelled “recycled” according to these criteria was 36 percent in the 2000s.

Impossible to Tell


Slow dulcimer, gavotte and bow, in autumn,
Bashō and his friends go out to view the moon;
In summer, gasoline rainbow in the gutter,

The secret courtesy that courses like ichor
Through the old form of the rude, full-scale joke,
Impossible to tell in writing. “Bashō”

He named himself, “Banana Tree”: banana
After the plant some grateful students gave him,
Maybe in appreciation of his guidance

Threading a long night through the rules and channels
Of their collaborative linking-poem
Scored in their teacher’s heart: live, rigid, fluid

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Los Caprichos No. 43


The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is an etching by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Created between 1797 and 1799, it is the 43rd of 80 etchings making up the suite of satires Los Caprichos.

The full epigraph for capricho No. 43 reads:

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her (reason) , she (fantasy) is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

Dazzle Ships


Dazzle camouflage was a military camouflage paint scheme used on ships, extensively during World War I and to a lesser extent in World War II.

After the Allied Navies failed to develop effective means to disguise ships in all weathers, the dazzle technique was employed. At first glance, this was an unlikely form of camouflage, as ships were painted with zebra-like black, grey and white stripes.

This type of camouflage was used, not to conceal the ship, but rather to make it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and direction of travel. Also, each ship’s dazzle pattern was unique to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to the enemy.

After seeing a canon painted in dazzle camouflage trundling through the streets of Paris, Pablo Picasso is reported to have taken credit for the innovation which seemed to him a quintessentially Cubist technique.

Truthful Portraiture


Sutherland: It’s art. It’s not personal.

Churchill: Well, you are a lost soul. A narcissist without direction or certainty.

Sutherland: Please, sir. Don’t overreact. Give it time. I showed those sketches to your wife throughout. She remarked on how accurate they were.

Churchill: That is the whole point. It is not a reasonably truthful image of me!

Sutherland: It is, sir.

Churchill: It is not! It is cruel!

Sutherland: Age is cruel! If you see decay, it’s because there’s decay. If you see frailty, it’s because there’s frailty. I can’t be blamed for what is. And I refuse to hide and disguise what I see. If you’re engaged in a fight with something, then it’s not with me. It’s with your own blindness.

The Crown (2016) Season 1, Episode 9; “Assassins” [No. 9]