Art Book of the Day : FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA by Edwin Lord Weeks

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Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.

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I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.

For more on my first exposure to Edwin Lord Weeks go here!

I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.

While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.

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Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.

Today’s selection is one of those books.

“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.

In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.

Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.

So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.

Get your copy here:

From the Black Sea through Persia and India

Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

And American Gallery offers a great look at Weeks’ paintings here.


Movie of the Day : GOODBYE WORLD (2013) Directed by Denis Hennelly

The real value of streaming, which only slowly are people finally catching onto, isn’t to bypass buying DVDs and Blu-Ray’s, but rather it’s a no-risk and relatively low-cost way of discovering the movies that are worth buying and viewing and preserving on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Movies that having seen them for ‘free’ courtesy of streaming, you don’t want to leave to the vagaries of temporary licensing deals or uneven broadband speeds/picture quality to see again.

Movies that you want to see all the way through, and with director’s commentary and special features.

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GOODBYE WORLD from 2013, qualifies as one such movie. A bunch of friends come together in an isolated compound during a worldwide crisis. Doesn’t sound like much, and the poster doesn’t fill with confidence, but the film surprises, by being far richer, and smarter, and more compelling than the marketing would indicate.

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It’s in fact, on its apocalypse bones, a memorable and endearing, if slightly twisted, look at relationships. A grown-up BREAKFAST CLUB meets THE DAY AFTER. Strongly recommended!

Grade: B+/A-


Currently streaming on Netflix! Buy the Blu-ray complete with Director’s commentary here:
Goodbye World [Blu-ray]

GRAPHIC Novel Recap – Draft

UNCANNY X-MEN 4 – Bachallo’s art is great but his coloring job and preference for a muted and monotone pallette doesn’t help when clear storytelling is necessary. His art and Marco Rudy’s is the highlight.

The story ends poorly, without a climax, which gives the whole book an unsatisfying, unfinished feel. A Bendis staple. Verdict : Rent do not buy

STRANGER TALES – Has some fun strips, but overall forgettable

PRETTY DEADLY – Could not get into it. While I found the art slightly reminiscent of Paul Pope, I found it and the general story just didn’t interest or intice enough to read or complete.

‘Simon, why is it everytime I’m around you my life is in danger?

My friend, what you don’t realize is that being in danger… is life. All the rest is television. You need me to remind you of that.’ –Terrence Howard and Richard Gere in THE HUNTING PARTY. Now available on streaming

Movie of the Day [Streaming and Blu-Ray] : 3 DAYS TO KILL

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3 DAYS TO KILL – With over 50 movies under his belt, Kevin Costner continues to mature into a better and better actor. Deftly and pulse-poundingly directed by McG from  a Luc Besson script, 3 DAYS TO KILL is simply a joy from its impressive opening credit sequence to its close.

A great and surprisingly smart and humanistic action-thriller, Costner is compelling as Renner, a man who has grown tired in the killing, and his understated performance is picture perfect, and is but one of an across the board great cast. Add to that vibrant cinematography and an ebullient score, and you have the kind of emotionally rich action movie that Pekinpah  would have made, and that’s high praise indeed.

Catch it free on streaming, then buy the Blu-Ray for the commentary and special features. It’s that good. Grade: A-.

 

REASONS TO GET THE BLURAY: “watched this film on an excellent Blu ray transfer. It comes in a 1080p resolution and a 2.37:1 aspect ratio. Beautifully detailed – check out the gracefully aging Costner face – and provides some terrific panoramic shots of Paris. Colors are excellent. Great picture. The audio is excellent as well. The primary track is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It works great, especially in the numerous action sequences including the requisite car chase, several gun battles and some close up fighting. Dialog is clear and well positioned. Subtitles are available in Spanish, English and English SDH. Extras include a making-of short, a profile on director McG, a piece featuring a real CIA operative and a trailer. There are 2 options as well as to which feature to watch. The theatrical version and an extended version (5 minutes longer).”–Amazon.com review

 

This is a really beautifully shot film, and depending on time of day or bandwidth issues, that can be lost when viewing via streaming. Which is why I say streaming is a try before you buy medium. When you determine this is a movie you’re going to come back to, that’s when you want to purchase the Blu-Ray.

3 Days to Kill [Blu-ray]

TOP TEN Movies and TV shows on NETFLIX Today!!!

TV SHOWS/Mini-Series

COSMOS – Easily the best and arguably most important and informative show on Netflix. Neil DeGrasse Tyson hosts with brilliance and charm this visually astounding reboot of Carl Sagan’s classic series. More than a ‘Space’ show, this is about history and politics and religion, and who we are, who we were, and who we may be. A seminal show.

BLACKLIST

SUPERNATURAL- Shame on me for avoiding this show so long, On the 5th season and I’m loving it

THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY- 2 part series. Excellent direction.

KIDNAP AND RANSOM – Great six part series

CLONE WARS

WALLANDER

PSYCH

BEING MARY JANE – Finally something interesting and good from the BET channel

BBQ PITMASTERS

 

MOVIES

COMMITMENT- Good Korean action, espionage thriller
DAY WATCH/NIGHT WATCH
HIGH ANXIETY
I KNOW THAT VOICE – great documentary on voice-over actors
BLOOD GLACIER- I quite like this low budget horror film, with a greenhouse conceit. A definite homage to Carpenter’s THE THING while still being its own pretty imaginative animal. Pun intended. If a fan of THE THING or FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, you’ll like BLOOD GLACIER.
BLUE RUIN- It begins with a seeming vagabond and where it ends…a brilliant, violent and perhaps cautionary thriller. Strongly recommended.
DEAD SILENCE – Not great, but a solid good horror flick
OPERATION CONDOR 2 – Fun, 80s Jackie Chan action
HARLOCK SPACE PIRATE- Great motion capture Animation and a spectacular story. Watch the subtitled version as the dubbed one is just different enough to be unclear.
TRUE NATURE- Far better than the poster would lead you to believe. Go into this one blind, you’ll enjoy.

 

 

And ones not worth your time would be:

PARKER (boring), ANDROID INSURRECTION, SHADOW FURY, THE LAST DAYS ON MARS, STAKE LAND (well made, I’m simply not a fan)

Image, Picture of the Week!

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This picture was taken at this past weekend’s War of 1812 Commemoration, capturing a moment in one of the biggest firework celebrations on the Eastern Seaboard.

I like how it turned out, all mired in reflections of reflections.

I’ve been reading and observing Abelardo Morell’s seminal photography book/monograph titled CAMERA OBSCURA. And today’s picture has some of that concept, of the strange tricks that light plays.

 

Pick up your copy of CAMERA OBSCURA

Here!

Currently Watching : THE MACHINE (2013) – NetFlix Streaming VOD Movie of the Day!

 

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THE MACHINE – Directed by Caradog James, is a definitely worth a look scifi thriller, however if you have the slightest familiarity with the Science Fiction genre you are clearly aware the film is breaking no new ground.

Indeed much of it, is you marveling at the stupidity of supposedly brilliant scientists (a stupidity that unfortunately is not relegated to fiction), that open seemingly obvious Pandora’s Boxes of moral and spiritual and existential chaos.  Humanity has enough trouble being humane to other humans, much less the storm of confusion and conflict and potential horror and abuse, that will spiral up around the  very concept of potentially conscious beings that are built or grown, rather than born in the traditional sense.

It is a door that Mary Shelley saw two hundred years ago we were not ready to walk through, and humanity for all its technological leaps, has become no more emotionally or morally responsibly since. Indeed it can be argued that as our technological marvels increase, our humanity decreases. That humans increasingly become drones, in a world were we have relegated the marvelous to our creations.

So THE MACHINE touches on all of this, but it’s a well worn topic, and the movie often feels plodding and redundant rather than an innovative new take on the dwindling of the human spirit. So again worth a look, but ultimately pretty forgettable.

Far more satisfying takes on the subject would be Whales’ BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN or Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER or the enigmatic, but brilliant UPSTREAM COLOR. The latter is also available courtesy of Streaming.

Grade: B-.