Monday, August 18, 2014

Suddenly, Everyone Today is An Artist

Over the weekend I watched a lovely indie film released in 2009 called Local Color. It was based on the true story in the early '70s of an aspiring teenage artist who develops a friendship with a reluctant and rather coarse Russian artist, Nikolai Serov, as played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. Let me say right now that anyone who is a painter--and by painter, I mean those who can actually create something meaningful with paint on canvas WITHOUT the assistant of a paint bar (more on those in a minute)--should make this film required viewing. Seriously, make a point of renting this one from your local library because you will probably relate to a lot of what Mueller-Stahl's character says in the movie about creating art. It's also a wonderful coming-of-age story. 

From the film Local Color. Now that's more like it.
Besides that, the movie is pretty funny at times and there were two scenes that I thought were absolutely hilarious. The first is when  Serov is invited to judge a local art exhibition by his flamboyant art gallery owner friend, as portrayed by Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast) like you've never seen him before. As Serov meanders through the never-ending examples of head-scratching pieces of garbage passing for modern works for art, he grows increasingly frustrated and (before letting out a slew of expletives) finally declares the fan the only thing in the room that makes sense, slapping the blue ribbon onto it before leaving. 

The second scene is when Serov is showing the same friend a series of paintings that were done by mentally challenged children that he mentors--and is more and more amused as his friend praises the blobs of blue and red paint for their "anger" and "pain" like they were recently discovered masterpieces.

Which brings me to this "paint bar" craze that has popped up all over the U.S. in the past 5 years or so. To be perfectly blunt, if the real-life Serov (whose real name was George Cherepov) have lived long enough to witness this fad, he would have labeled it the nasty word that means ca-ca. In case you don't know what a paint bar is, it's an art studio where you reserve a date and time (which usually costs about $40) and the instructor gives you a limited amount of paint colors, and step-by-step instructions over the course of an hour or so on how to recreate the painting. Oh, they usually tell you to bring your own bottle of wine, so you can get sloshed during the session--I assume to distract yourself from how terrible your painting is, or delude yourself into thinking that you are an artiste (said in a French accent.)

How is this any different than the paint-by-numbers kits that were popular in the '70s...depicting Elvis...on velvet?

I know, I sound like a snob. But I have every right to be. My mother is a very talented painter--having worked with oil paints her whole life, and other members of my family were artists. I took painting classes in high school and college, so I can tell you that one does not become a talented painter in an hour. It takes years of dedicated practice. 

To be fair, some paintings offered by these gimmicky paint bars are much better than others. You can scroll through a website and choose which image you wish to duplicate, and I have seen some that approach professionalism. More often than not, however, these are cartoonish paintings that look like a child created them. I wish I could show one but many are copyrighted and I don't want to link to any paint bar. But for example, I saw one featuring two jumbled faces in a variety of awful colors you could choose to make that was called Paint Like Picasso. You get my drift. 

I do think paint bars are a wonderful way for people with little aptitude for creativity to dip their toes into art. However, after a certain point, if one really loves it so much why not try the real thing? I've known people who got addicted to paint bars and kept going back...kept paying $40 a pop for yet another awful looking creation. Why would you want anyone to think your 6 year-old nephew did the wall art for your living space? If you're willing to spend that much money, why not use it to buy some paints, brushes, and canvases at the local Michael's store, and then invest in a good instructional book on painting to elevate your skills? Or just head on over to YouTube, where the instruction is plentiful and FREE?

I mainly see these places as another sign of our instant gratification-dependent society (and one that rejoices in giving a medal to every child, because everyone is talented.) I really can't see how you can gather any sense of accomplishment after a visit from a paint bar, because they're not challenging enough. Wouldn't you rather stretch your mind and problem solving abilities by trying to duplicate a painting without the basic instruction? That's how one learns. 

It's like comparing a fast food meal to a gourmet, home-cooked one. When you're hungry, you can quench your appetite pretty quickly with McDonald's, but you may not feel so good afterwards about the sub-par ingredients you put into your body. Or you can crack open a cookbook and learn to make a healthy meal using your own hands. Which is ultimately more satisfying? 

The only real benefit I see to paint bars are the social aspect, and I get that. But paint bars seem like an insult to real artists who invested in years of work and dedication to reach the level they are at. When you watch those instructional artists on PBS, they're demonstrating different techniques with their brushes--the kid of tips you'll never pick up from a paint bar. I bet Bob Ross and Bill Alexander are turning over in their graves from this darned craze. 

Well, I guess I've bashed paint bars enough. All of this talk has kind of inspired me to dig out my oils and an empty canvas...but I'll leave the bottle of Riesling in the fridge. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Whatever Happened To...Rick Moranis?

If you were watching movies in the '80s then surely you remember Rick Moranis, the lovable nerdy guy who enjoyed a terrific film career throughout the decade, appearing in Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood, Spaceballs, Strange Brew, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. It was while watching Parenthood on cable a few weeks ago that I realized that Moranis hasn't seemingly appeared on the big screen for nearly 20 it was time to do a little investigating. 

Moranis' movie legacy is bittersweet. Of course, most of us know that he hails from Canada and got his start on Second City Television alongside friend and fellow actor/writer Dave Thomas. The two pals would soon become known for their Great White North sketches featuring the characters of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Prior to that, Moranis worked as a radio DJ and was persuaded by Thomas to join SCTV as a comedy writer and performer. After the success of Strange Brew in 1983, which featured the McKenzie brothers on the big screen, Hollywood offered several more plummy comedy roles to Moranis throughout the decade. 

Then in 1991, Moranis' wife died from cancer, leaving him to raise their two young children alone. That's when Moranis slowly started to extradite himself from acting so he could focus on being a full-time, stay at home dad. He did star as Barney Rubble (with a blonde wig and without his trademark specs) in 1994's The Flintstones, and alongside Tom Arnold in 1997's Big Bully, which was a certifiable flop. Since the mid-90s, Moranis has done voiceover work mostly for children's television programs, and starred in a 1993 music video for a song by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan called Tomorrow's Girls, in which he is married to a female alien. 

Moranis emerged from his private life last year to give an interview to NPR's Jesse Thorn and revealed that he had, indeed, pretty much retired from acting. He explained why it was easy for him to walk away from Hollywood: 

“Stuff happens to people everyday, and they make adjustments to their lives for all kinds of reasons. There was nothing unusual about what happened or what I did, I think the reason that people were intrigued by the decisions I was making and sometimes seem to have almost admiration for it had less to do with the fact that I was doing what I was doing and more to do with what they thought I was walking away from, as if what I was walking away from had far greater value than anything else that one might have. The decision in my case to become a stay-at-home-Dad, which people do all the time, I guess wouldn’t have meant as much to people if I had had a very simple kind of make-a-living existence and decided I needed to spend more time at home. Nobody would pay attention to it, but because I came from celebrity and fame and what was the peak of a career, that was intriguing to people. To me, it wasn’t that. I didn’t have anything to do with that. It was work, and it was just time to make an adjustment.”

Moranis doesn't regret his decision at all, and of course he's to be applauded. He went on to say in the interview that his own childhood was a happy one, and he wanted his kids to have that experience, too:

“When my kids came home, there was music, and there were lights on, and there were great smells coming out of the kitchen. And it was just a joyful place to be, and that’s what I wanted.”

Last year Moranis also released a comedy album, My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs, about growing up Jewish. He has also weighed in about the possibility of a third Ghostbusters movie, and if his character Louis Tully might make an appearance in it:

"I haven’t talked to Dan Aykroyd about it. Somebody he’s associated with called me and I said, ‘I wouldn’t not do it, but it’s got to be good.’ You know, I’m not interested in doing anything I’ve already done, and I thought the second one was a disappointment. But I guess I’m interested in where that guy is now. I sort of see him as being Bernie Madoff’s cellmate in jail. Both of them being so orderly that they race to get up and make their beds.”

It's good to know that he's doing well. 
Rick Moranis in 2013

Friday, August 15, 2014

New REBEAT Magazine Article Posted: 10 Criminally Underrated Beatles Songs

It's Beatles week on REBEAT Magazine as some members of the staff are gearing up for the Chicago Beatlefest this weekend, so in keeping with the week's theme of all things Fab Four, here's a little list I pulled together of 10 underrated Beatles songs. Yeah, yeah,'s a very subjective list (and really, could have been stretched easily to 20 tunes), but click on the image above to read it, and let me know which ones you would have included. Have a great Friday, everyone!

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