Thursday, March 20, 2014

My new favorite street artist: Starchild Stela

A few months back, I was introduced to the art of Starchild Stela when someone posted a photo of one of her pieces on Twitter.  It was so different, so colorful, so political, and cute! She instantly became my new favorite street artist.  (She considers herself more of a feminist graffiti artist and not a street artist per se).

Dr. Jessica N. Pabon, who interviewed Stela for her blog, described her style like this, “Stela’s work caught my eye because her absolutely curvilinear handstyle, pastel color palette, and pretty soft-eyed characters are almost always adorned with explicit and aggressive language.”

Indeed, it is that juxtaposition of cute, big-eyed, (almost anime style), female characters, with strong political messages, which sets her apart from her contemporaries.

I think it works artistically because, even though her drawings seem simple, they are colorful and full of life.  And, I think, it works politically because there is an element of humor to it, (which is what I believe makes Banksy so popular among basic masses).

Take for example, a cute little girl with the words, “Fuck your macho bullshit” spray-painted under her; or her clever drawing of a woman with some kitties and the words, “Cats against cat-calls.”

In the same interview referenced above, Stela says about her work:

"I love adding a little feminist twist to my pieces. I don’t really intend to add a social message to my pieces, the words I add often reflects the discussion I’m having with friends. But indeed we are talking about what matter to us, and what makes us pissed off."
Check out more of her work—and support her—by buying some of her stickers, prints, and original art from her online store.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Add to your Bluray collection: Killing Them Softly

From the start of the film you see that, besides being a gangster flick, it is also a very political film.  It takes place during the presidential elections of 2008, and we meet the first characters, two heist-men, having a meeting in an empty lot with Obama and McCain billboards in the skyline.

The heist-men do a sloppy—but successful—job robbing a card game run by local mobsters.  This is where Brad Pitt’s character, Jackie Cogan, is brought in: to hire independent contract killers to take care of those heist-men.

One of the many interesting scenes involves Jackie Cogan telling the mob representative who hires him how emotions can sometimes hinder an assassination attempt.  He tells him he likes "killing them softly," from far away.

Another interesting thread in the story is how they handle the guy running the card game, Markie (Ray Liotta).  Markie had nothing to do with the robbery, but since people on the street think he had something to do with it, then Markie needs to get whacked.  (If you read all the above and don't think about Blackwater, drones, Iraq, or Afghanistan, then I don't know what to do with you).

In a statement found on a promotional website for the film, Director Andrew Dominik says:

"I've always felt that crime dramas are essentially about capitalism, since they show the capitalist idea working in its most base form.  It's also the only genre where it's completely acceptable that the characters are motivated only by a desire for money.  None of this 'family values,' 'follow your dream,' moral compass bullshit."
Unfortunately, this film fell way under the radar when it was released in theaters in 2012.  It is also very much dialogue driven, which can be hard for an audience that has been trained to love only action driven films.

If you didn’t love Brad Pitt before, you’ll love him in this role, as a no-nonsense enforcer who delivers some of the best dialogue that takes a shit on American Democracy—which also includes some of the best final lines in any movie I can remember.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

That powerful new Johhny Cash video

Last week Columbia Records released a brand new video for a Johnny Cash song as a way of promoting a new album of lost Johnny Cash songs to be released on March 25.

I've been watching it repeatedly everyday since its release. It is powerful imagery and it captures a lot in just under four minutes.

The video starts with some recorded dialogue by Cash: "I'm no slave to whistle, clock, or bell; Nor weak-eyed prisoner of Wall Street.  Let me be easy on the man that's down; Let me be square and generous with all.  And guide me on the long, dim trail ahead that stretches upward, toward the great divide."

The video then takes you on a road trip of America: of the downtrodden, juxtaposed with the luxury that few in this country are privileged to.  Sometimes in color, but mostly in black and white, we see Downtown L.A. Skid Row and its residents; native peoples living in the reservations; jails and prisons and the men who are housed there.

My favorite scene looks like it takes place while driving by a reservation.  From a drivers point of view we see a house with large words spray-painted on them, it says, "My heroes have always killed cowboys."

In a press statement, the Director of the video, John Hillcoat, says:

The lyrics seemed to speak to America as it is now, to the nation that loved him and to the great divide he fought so hard against. This divide has only grown exponentially since he died, so we wanted to show America under this stark light and as a homage to the very reason Cash always wore black: to the shameful increase of the disenfranchised and outsiders

To watch the video and learn more click HERE.