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Monday, August 20, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians: Let's review the movie!

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians is the best romantic comedy I’ve ever seen.  And yes, simple man that I am, when plied with strong drink and the proper encouragement, I can sit through even a Hallmark movie….well, not often, but when the weather is too bleak for barehanded rat catching.

And yes, I have enjoyed When Harry Met Sally and did a great job of not sleeping through Sleepless in Seattle, although the ending caused nausea and vomiting.  And I laughed my way through the very excellent Something About Mary.

But, Crazy Rich Asians is a different sort of Romantic Comedy, different because it has it all.  Belly shaking humor.  Indelible characters. A well woven plot that keeps moving as it envelopes a host of supporting actors and actresses.  Huge cast!  Too many to name!

You never stop being entertained!

The setting is Singapore and inside the homes and lifestyles of the unspeakably wealthy.  The film is stunning and the scenes breathtakingly opulent, while carelessly tiptoeing down the blurry lines that separate the decadent, the stylish, and the sinfully debauched.

In short, an amazing movie, with characters you care about, characters that make you cringe as you burst out laughing, and characters that make you overcome your sense of decency….all at the same time.

So entertaining that getting to the bottom of your bag of popcorn will come as a complete surprise.  You’ll be that glued to the screen!

Kudos to the director, John M. Chu , the art director, Leslie Ewe, the cinematographer, Vanja Cernjul, screen writers Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim (from the novel by Kevin Kwan), and the casting director, Terri Taylor.

The cinematography is beautifully eclectic that captures not only the scene-by -scene, but the whole bustling city state, Singapore.  You’ll also be treated to the most original cinematography since the Beatles’ movies and Guy Ritchie films.

I didn’t even mention the main actors, did I?  That’s because they simply become the characters they’re playing.  They make the scenes come so alive, you find yourself mumbling:  Don’t!  Don’t do that?  Can’t you see she’s watching?   Don’t you know that guy’s an idiot?  Or, can’t you see she’s not your friend????

Main Cast:  Again too huge to mention more than a few.  Constance Wu – the girlfriend.
Henry Golding – the boyfriend, and Michelle Yeoh – the protective mother.

Your eyes will dart back and forth to see if people are watching because you said it out loud….or even worse if your significant other is staring back at you.  Oh, be still my lips!

Don’t even think about NOT seeing this movie.  Crazy Rich Asians is a treat for your eyes, your sense of humor and your ability to not talk during the movie!  The very best film in YEARS!

No, I am not being paid to write this, I simply can’t keep quiet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Meg

The Meg

Lots to like about this movie.  Jason Statham is a fine actor, exuding an air of authenticity through, drama, romance, and danger.

I’ve grown tired of the run-of-the-mill pretty boys in hero roles.  Sorry, but for my taste, you’ve got to be a man first.  Tom Cruise does his own outrageously remarkable stunts, as does Daniel Craig, and they both have scars to prove it.  Clint Eastwood is another actor who is his own man and at 90 still puts most men to shame in the manly category.

Statham was a diver on the British National Team.  That makes him courageous in my book, as my mind flits back to my trembling knees, standing atop a ten meter tower and knowing I would have to make the plunge.

He’s the star of The Meg and his screen presence is unrelenting and undeniable, but there is far more to the movie than one actor.

I congratulate the writers (Dean Geogaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber) for a coherent and believable plot, with enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat and your heart pounding in terror.  They even manage to weave in a modest amount of realistic romance and straightforward drama.

Kudos also to the casting directors (PoPing AuYeung, Rachel Bullock, Mindy Marin, Liz Mullane) for bringing together races and ethnicities without any pathetic pandering to the effete PC community.  This was an all too rare example of diversity as it should be in a sane and rational world.

Can’t leave out the director (Jon Turtelaub) and the acting done by the rest of the fabulous cast, (Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis) who so admirably made me suspend my disbelief.

If you want a chilling rendition of adventure on the sea, or horror in the depths, of romance and drama, you must see The Meg.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ocean Springs Art: Provence Pop-Up

Ocean Springs Art:  Provence Pop-Up

Ocean Springs, Mississippi is one of my new favorite places and just the place for an art colony.  The downtown, which I previously wrote about, is a Gulf Coast Carmel, but with authentic quaintness and friendlier people.  A lot friendlier!  The folks who live there love their town and one of the ways they express their love is with the driving urge to paint and write and do ceramics and other art.

Yes, this is an artsy part of the U.S.

In July, a year ago, many of the featured artists took a trip to Provence which a year later culminated in this July's Provence Pop-Up art show.  So why do you need to know about it now? Simple answer:  I want to introduce you to the vibrant Ocean Springs art community and let you hear from some of the artists.  I’m determined to get you in touch with your creative side. Don't tell me NO!  Everybody has a creative bent dying to jump into the sunshine, whether it’s cooking or flower arranging or ceramics or painting and drawing or woodworking.  Only you know the artist that lurks inside you.  I’m just here to help, folks.

But, even I cannot cover all the diverse realms in the world of art.  Sadly, you'll only get a look at a few of the many area artists who paint and do photography, but that alone may get your own juices flowing.

Maybe you live nearby.  Maybe you’re an aspiring painter or photographer.  Maybe you WANT to be an aspiring painter, but don’t know how to go about it, or are too timid to just leap into the pool, especially if you never learned to swim. (Boys and girls, that’s a metaphor and has nothing to do with swimming pools).

The best way to tell you about Ocean Springs is to show you some art and let some accomplished artists, art teachers, or raw beginners (blessed be the meek), who just a short time ago, stood where you’re standing, and took the plunge.

Sherry Carlson

Some of my featured artists have painted since they could walk, others thought painting-by-the-numbers was as far as their skills could carry them.  Happily they were wrong and their new found artistic abilities are gorgeous.

But enough from me. Let’s listen to some art and artists.  The artists you will hear from are only a few the wonderful artists represented at the Provence Pop-Up Art Show. Some notables missing are the well known photographer Billy Dugger , Patt Odam, prolific and well known and very accomplished artist, as is Carole Marie, Debbie Gautier and Sandra Halat.

Carol Marie

Debbie Gautier

Billy Dugger

Sandra Halat

I love to chat with artists and it’s not because they think outside the box, it’s because for them there is no box.  Determined individualists, they live in a constant quest to express themselves through the many forms that come under the heading of art.

I listened to a country band one night and saw a fellow playing a hammered dulcimer.  Played it really well.  So I asked him how he happened to pick and learn to play that complicated instrument.  He said, “See I found it in a yard sale and had to restring it and that’s about it.”  I always say, if the music is in there, it has to come out, even if it’s banging on tin cans with sticks.  Yep, I’ve seen that too.

Chatting with painters, you get the same kinds of ‘out of the blue’ responses.

First Question:  When did you think of becoming an artist?

Monique Greathouse (left) with visitors

Monique Greathouse:

My mother is a painter. From about the time I was two years old, I painted alongside her. I’m sure it was to keep me occupied while she worked, but it was also the best possible environment to “awaken my muse”.  Growing up, I always had access to creative resources and tools. Painting, sewing, clay making, crafting, and gardening. These are the things I grew up on. And my dad, as a photographer was also very creative.

I always dabbled in painting, but my passion bloomed when we lived in Germany.  Painting parties turned into art classes, which turned into painting travel adventures.

Glennis Crowell, part time painter and full time executive:

Glennis Crowell

This is a hard one to answer because I’ve been creating art since from the time I could hold a crayon.  I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating!  About five years ago, I began to more fully developing my art.  The trip to Provence, France exploded my need to paint, but also to travel!

Sherry Carlson, former corporate graphic designer:

Sherry Carlson's lovely Portrait

I've always been an artist, seeing things in shapes around me, and continually drawing and making things from papers and cardboard mostly. My mother supplied me with lots and lots of paper, pencils, crayons and markers. My brother and I used to take turns announcing what we would each draw next. He'd have us do a tank, then I'd have us do Miss Hawaii. While at Grandma's house, my cousin and I made little illustrated storybooks and greeting cards, even had a logo on the back "The Sherry & Teri Strawberry Company." I didn't think I was that unusual, but I later found out my extended family found me odd.

Jan Stroud, 2nd Grade Teacher and new artist:

I never considered myself an artist and when I see what others in our group are doing, I still have my doubts.  I really got my start when Monique was teaching art at a small town in Germany.  She’s a wonderful instructor, showing us techniques and trying out different mediums, very encouraging and always insisting that we didn’t have to follow her exactly.  Since then she organized several trips to different parts of Europe and I joined her and our artist friends every chance I could. Monique made it fun and exhilarating to paint and to keep discovering the artist in me.

Second Question:  Painting has so many mediums, so how do you decide which to pursuit?

Monique:  My mother painted in oils, so I did too.  I’ve explored other mediums, but my hand and my heart will always be with oil painting.

Glennis:  I think my medium found me.  I attended a six-week oil workshop when I was sixteen and that drew me in.  Everything about oils just appeals to me, the vibrant colors, the aroma, the buttery feel of the paints under my brush, the ability to quickly mix colors for as much variety as my mind can conjure.

Sherry:  I had an aunt who introduced me to watercolor when I was about seven years old, and it stuck.  She started out showing me how to add shape to a mushroom drawing, with lights and darks.  A paintbrush and watercolor were very natural and intuitive to me.

Jan:  I’ve painted with oils and acrylics and watercolor and done pen and ink drawings.  I’m still exploring all the mediums.   But, right now I’m into pen and ink drawings.  They give me more satisfaction, but I’m very much a beginning painter and that may change.

All four of the painters in this article went on the Provence, France trip, lived in a castle, explored the countryside and took beaucoup de photos!  The paintings and photos at the Provence Pop-Up were all the result of photos and impressions from the trip and the exhibition.  Here are some comments from the artists involved.

The Provence show was a fun reunion of travelers.   Some of us did not know each other very well, so it was good to get to know each other through our art.  Art has personality.  You can’t create it without putting some of yourself in there.  And good art will touch all your senses and take you right to the sounds, smells, sights and touches of being there.  As artists, we want you smell the lavender, sip that wine, and bustle through the busy street market, divert your attention from a shouting vendor to a colorful display of fresh vegetables.  An emotional response is what we all hope for, to be able to take you there.

-- Sherry

I loved Provence!  And very much enjoyed the show and more importantly the opportunity to visit again with all the artists and see the reaction of the public to our works.  To have traveled with this group and then experience the adventure all over again through their works was a priceless gift. Being around other artists and seeing how they approach their mediums is one of the best ways to grow as an artist.

-- Glennis

What I enjoyed the most was seeing friends and family members showing up in support of artists and their art.   It seemed to give validity to the world of art, making the show much more than just an interesting hobby indulged in by family members.  On a personal level, with the show coming up, I was forced to put my mind to painting and come up with art worthy of public showing. 

And in the art by the different artists, I was so impressed how they employed the colors of Provence, the hues and shades of color that came directly from our trip, the colors on the houses and in the dirt and the reflections of the bright Provence sun. 

It was also remarkable to see the collective art of the various artists and to compare paintings with their personalities.

-- Jan

Some words from Monique, developer of the artistic travel tours.

What better environment than traveling for the first time to a country rich in art and culture and beautiful scenery to awaken your personal muse, to open your creative mind, to inspire your heart and hands and to develop and practice your own art.

Travel trips blend a mixture of artists from Ocean Springs and a few of my friends still living in Germany.  The first trip was a small group to Umbria, Italy and the second trip was the group of fifteen to the Provence region of France.  The Provence Pop-Up was the first art show from traveling and it came together beautifully.  It was for a day and a half at the Ohr o’Keefe Museum in Biloxi.  Not only did a handful of works find new homes, but we had a steady flow of viewers.

Yes, I the fearless author have a few words of my own.  When you are among artists, you are with strong personalities, imbued with new and exciting views of the world.  You see their work and you’re witnessing the explosion of a volcano of creativity.  You can’t help but come away from an exhibit like the Provence Pop-Up with a renewed lust for travel, and seeing things through an artist’s eyes and a new found zest for life itself.

You want to put some color, literally and figuratively in your soul, visit an art exhibit that features the artists in person.  Chat, laugh, discuss, share some wine.  They will take you back to Provence or a thousand other places.  They’ll also provoke you to grab a paint brush, and even take a few art classes, or take a few trips to near and far and awaken your own inner artist.

Patt Odam (right)

The Gang