Movie of the Day : STAR WARS VII FORCE AWAKENS in IMAX Laser 3D!

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After 2 years of hype the most eagerly anticipated film in years has arrived, STAR WARS VII THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I saw it at the Airbus IMAX in Chantilly, Virginia voted one of the 7 best theaters in the United States.

No less than the director JJ Abrams praised IMAX 3D Laser Projection as the preferred way to see this years in the making labor of love. He said of STAR WARS VII in a recent associated press interview:

ABRAMS: As someone who really hasn’t been the most vocal advocate of 3-D, the strangest thing happened to me on this. When I was watching the reels in 3-D, there were a number of shots — and I know this sounds insane — that I hadn’t understood in the three-dimensional space quite the way I did when I saw them in 3-D. I actually felt that there were things that were playing better in 3-D. I had never felt that before. And if people have access to a theater that has laser projection, it is shockingly better.

Having seen the film at the 86 foot wide Airbus IMAX, with their newly installed 3D Laser Projection system I have to say… It lived up to the hype.

The screen, the 3d projection system, blew me away. Initially it was so big and so overpowering, that it was daunting. It was so much visual imagery and information going on in every part of the picture, that I found my head going back and forth trying to take the scene in.

Because of how that IMAX room is built, there is not a bad seat in the house. The seats rather than going out away from the screen as most theaters, are closer to the screen and go up, giving the effect that you are almost in the screen, immersed in the screen rather than just watching it.

And adding 3D to the mix and the film is cinema cranked up to 11. That said, it takes a few minutes but suddenly you are grasping all the information your visual cortex is being sent, and there is no more playing ping pong. It becomes a completely immersive, and not at all distracting experience, as 3D can be. Sometimes when wearing those glasses the screen is too dark, not so here, the picture came across as if there were no glasses at all. No doubt this has to do with the far more substantial glasses you get at this IMAX. Not the simplistic RealD glasses.

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All in all, the visuals were stellar. One of my most impressive and memorable screen viewings, right up there with seeing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm and seeing Cameron’s AVATAR in IMAX. Now the 3D isn’t the spectacle AVATAR was, with things coming out of the screen at you, and while part of this is no doubt because STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS was not filmed in 3D or with 3D in mind, the sheer scale and majesty and clarity of projection via IMAX 3D Laser is a spectacle and wonder of its own. Rather than just looking at the screen, IMAX 3D Laser makes you feel as if you are in the frame. It’s a naturalistic and very cinematic effect, that transcends/eliminates the issues some people have with 3D. IMAX 3D Laser at the Airbus IMAX transcends gimmick to deliver an effortless viewing experience, and a rewarding cinematic one and comes highly recommended.

Now I’ve spent all this article discussing how STAR WARS VII is presented, but now a few words on the movie itself. My verdict? JJ Abrams had the unenviable task of living up to the expectations of fans of one of the most iconic film franchises in the world. To his credit he and his crew of writers, actors, etc, were in this humble writer’s opinion up to the task. The movie was a follow-up to a beloved franchise that (prequels aside) ended over thirty plus years ago, and much as he did for STAR TREK he was able to integrate the new and the old in a way that completely captured and paid homage to, what was best in what we’ve come to know as STAR WARS.

I love that the main principals from the original movies, were not only available to return, but were so brilliantly written into this latest chapter. It’s a smart script, that is also inventive, action packed, and satisfying, and leaves the future of Star Wars in good hands indeed.

While it falls short of being a great movie, the film is a solid entry in the Star Wars cannon, being only second to the great EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Grade B+.

 

 

Artist of the day: Edwin Lord Weeks and The Hour of Prayer

I had the great pleasure to see an Edwin Lord Weeks painting in person recently, and in a museum filled with artwork of the ages from Innes to Tanner to Sargent to Parrish, the Weeks painting remained the highlight. His paintings are oft of incredible scale, particularly the one I saw that took him a year to finish. Just a glorious painting.

I would be roaming the museum, in other rooms of that section, and the painting was positioned so that, even from a distance, it commanded attention. There are no decent pictures of it online, and even the best picture I’ve found, can’t really reproduce colors or brightness (typically too dark, poor contrast in the images) or the brush strokes or the gravity of looking up and into this painting of oil on canvas, that has seen the fall and rise of two different centuries.

The painting does not just capture a moment of culture and history that is quickly being westernized and bombed away, the painting is culture and history.

The painting I am describing, it is called THE HOUR OF PRAYER. Its full title is ‘The Hour of Prayer at Muti-Mushid (Pearl Mosque), Agra’,

I am quite enamored of it, one of the best paintings from Edward Lord Weeks, one of the preeminent American artists of the Moorish and the Oriental.

Here’s a bit of the history on the painting, with some specifics regarding dates courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Edwin Lord Weeks, born 1849, began work on what would become his most celebrated painting sometime in 1888, at the modest age of 39. He would begin, early in 1888, tossing oils on a canvas that, measured the insane size of 118 1/2″long by 79″ high. It was a monstrous and daunting empty space to have to fill, even by one of the acclaimed painters of his day. A year later in 1889, he would put his last bit of oil in place, and the endless painting, would be ended.

Edwin Lord Weeks, now 40, after a year of fighting oil and canvass and God and man, would step back from the painting that many thought would be his folly, and found it good.

The world agreed. As it was a painting that, unlike many works that meet with derision or indifference upon first viewing, was from the first… acclaimed.

THE HOUR OF PRAYER, from the first its brilliance by all who viewed it… could not be denied.

I quote from its auction description in May of 2007:


“The Hour of Prayer at Muti-Mushid (Pearl Mosque), Agra, is one of five monumental scenes of India which secured [Edwin Lord Weeks] reputation as America’s most celebrated Orientalist painter of the late nineteenth century. Based upon the artist’s second of three extended trips to India, in 1886-1887, ‘The Hour of Prayer at Muti-Mushid (Pearl Mosque), Agra’ won a medal at the 1889 Paris Salon where it was displayed to enviable advantage. Six years later, Weeks chose this expansive sun-drenched view of the inner courtyard of the Pearl Mosque to represent him in the colossal “Empire of India” exhibition in London in 1895, where his achievement as the premier painter of Indian scenes was lavishly acknowledged with a medal of distinction, a monetary prize, and a special display of 78 of his works. From the time it was sold by the artist’s widow in 1905, the Salon-scale Hour of Prayer at Muti-Mushid has had only two owners-the Brooklyn Museum of Art (1905-1947), which deaccessioned it at a time when academic painting had fallen sharply out of fashion, and a private American collection (1947-present).”

In May of 2007 The painting THE HOUR OF PRAYER, went up for sale for only the third time in the 114 years of its existence, selling for the very healthy sum of $850,000 (including buyer’s premium,taxes and fees). Less than a couple hundred thousand shy of a million.

The painting can currently be viewed in all its glory at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. And it is a trip worth making if just to see that painting in person. Because failing that, owning it would seem to be a possibility for only the wealthy few, and even then you are talking about, if history be our guide, a wait of decades before it next goes up for auction.

And I’d be willing to wager that in a future world where so much precious art, particularly of or depicting the Moorish influence has been lost, the painting will sell for astronomically more than its 2007 sale price.

I do wish however the Richmond Museum would put the painting behind glass. As much as I adored being able to see the painting at close proximity, it is a painting of some import and fragility, I noticed some damaged areas on the massive painting, and I, as a security minded person, would really feel better if it was behind glare-free and acid-free glass.

But that to the side, onto the final words on the painting.

in summation Edward Lord Weeks’ THE HOUR OF PRAYER is one of the most striking paintings I’ve seen in person in years, I’d think I’d have to go back to my first time seeing a Caravaggio or Rubens to get that same sense of… captivation. It is something of a reminder to those of us who are sometimes made unfeeling in this world of metal, and bombs, and death and indifference, that if we can not be cured by art, we can at least be… refreshed by it.

I’ll leave you with a few other striking Weeks images:

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And for books about and by Edwin Lord Weeks, see the following:
The Art of Edwin Lord Weeks (1849-1903)

From The Black Sea Through Persia And India…

And for more on the Virginia museum of Fine Art go here!

And The Rock Cried Out…

My 3rd Earthquake.

But my first on the East Coast of the United States, where no EarthQuakes should be.

“Lucy! You got some explaining!!”

Somebody is playing around with the (supposedly UN banned) Weather Modification Device again. :)

See my earlier post here for more on my thoughts on WMDs.

Back on topic though…

They are always unreal moments. Earthquakes I mean.

They are moments when reality…. evaporates.

Out of a calm, normal world, to suddenly have things around you, solid things, move… move… move. Odd disorienting feeling, that reminds you of the unremindable, that we are microbes on a hurtling ball of rock that is flying through space, circling a giant of fire, and held on to this world by nothing more… than the grace of an unfathomable God.

Puts it into perspective… doesn’t it.

And perhaps one more thing, woe betide the microbes that mistake the ability to sting a world, with a world’s inability to sting back.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere. A sign.

Perhaps just for you.

I have some books to pick up, till later… be well.