WEIRDLAND: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Centennial Tribute to Gene Kelly

HOSTED BY PATRICIA WARD KELLY: The Academy will celebrate the 100th birthday of the incomparable Gene Kelly (1912-1996) with a special gala evening of film clips, stories and personal remembrances of the multi-talented motion picture legend.

Gene Kelly is perhaps best known for his remarkable dancing, but his talents extended to many different aspects of filmmaking. His work behind the camera, as an innovative director and choreographer, has had a lasting influence on the way that dance is filmed, and on screen, he was the proverbial triple-threat as an actor and singer as well as a dancer.

Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952): This centennial tribute to Kelly draws from the one-man show he presented in theaters around the country during the 1980s, as well as from thousands of hours of interviews conducted by his widow, film historian Patricia Ward Kelly, who will serve as program host.

Film clip montages and nearly 20 film excerpts will highlight the scenes, musical numbers and on-screen partnerships that meant the most to Gene. Special guests – some who knew him personally, others whose work and career have been influenced by his genius – will also participate.

The night will showcase Kelly's charisma and creativity, including his unique use of props (mops, sheets of newspaper, roller skates) and environments (a rain-drenched street, a creaky old barn) and his extraordinary athleticism in films like "Living in a Big Way" and "The Pirate." His beloved classics "An American in Paris" and "Singin' in the Rain," and later directorial efforts such as "Invitation to the Dance" and "Hello, Dolly!" will be discussed as well, with insightful commentary on Kelly's creative process. Source: www.oscars.org

Happy Birthday, Kirsten Dunst!

Happy 30th Birthday, Kirsten Dunst!

“I’d like to grow up and be beautiful. I know it doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t hurt.” -Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst plays Camille in "On The Road" (2012) directed by Walter Salles

Gene Kelly: Dancing Dreams and the Aesthetics of Postwar Masculinity

Vera-Ellen and Gene Kelly in "On The Town" (1949) directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

On a summer morning during World War II, it's 6 a.m. at the Brooklyn navy yard. Three sailors—Chip, Ozzie, and Gabey (Gene Kelly) begin their 24-hour shore leave, eager to explore "New York, New York".

Gabey falls in love with the picture of "Miss Turnstiles," who is actually Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen). The sailors race around New York attempting to find her in the brief period they have ("New York, New York"). The group have a number of adventures before their leave ends and they must return to their ship to head off to war, and an uncertain future ("Some Other Time").

"Sarasota Police are investigating a crash where a car hit the "Unconditional Surrender" Kiss Statue at the Sarasota Bayfront. It happened Thursday around noon on U.S 41.

"Unconditional Surrender" is a larger-than-life recreation of a famous photograph showing a sailor and a nurse kissing during during a V-J Day celebration in Times Square at the end of World War II. The sculpture is created by artist Seward Johnson". Source: www.mysuncoast.com

Gene Kelly and the Aesthetics of Postwar Masculinity: Gene Kelly’s desire to be seen as strong and brave rather than a “sissy” was part of a larger pathology to prove his manliness, a pathology that stemmed from his early childhood days in Pittsburgh and was subsequently reinforced by postwar American culture. By the end of the postwar era, however, his attitude had shifted markedly. Rather than deny that he was a sissy dancer as he had in 1946, he rejected the claim that male dancers were sissies at all.

On Sunday, 21 December 1958, he starred in “Dancing: A Man’s Game,” which he wrote and directed for Omnibus, NBC’s cultural and educational program for “eggheads.” The central premise of this show, for which Kelly received an Emmy nomination, was that dancing was manly. As proof of this manliness, Kelly enlisted top athletes of the day, including Mickey Mantle and Sugar Ray Robinson, to help him demonstrate the common bonds between athleticism and dance.

Kelly never lost his youthful sensitivity to verbal insults. He recalled an incident when he was 20, performing with his brother Fred in a club in Chicago in 1932: “One night a guy called me a fag, and I jumped off the stage and hit him. But I had to make a run for it, because the owner of the place and his brother took after me with a couple of baseball bats.”

-What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

-Gene Kelly: Sweetness and reticence, couple with brains.

-What qualities do you find most obnoxious in a woman?

-Gene Kelly: A general air of loudness. That is, women who try to talk loud, dress loud or try to monopolise the attentions of everyone in the room by their conduct. -Motion Picture magazine (October 1944)

-Do you think dignity is an important part of a women’s appeal?

-Gene Kelly: “I definitely do and I think most men will agree with me. A man wants to think a woman is a little better than he is – that’s why he appreciates her refinement of manner, dignity of bearing, quiet speech.” -PICTUREGOER magazine (October 1957)

Barbara Laage and Gene Kelly in "The Happy Road" (1957)

Gene Kelly’s “heterosexuality had to be asserted;” Jane Feuer reminds us, “it could not be assumed.” “…When a woman dances like a woman beautifully and gracefully, fine; the man can lift her up and he makes her look lighter and more beautiful,” Kelly insisted.

“The woman’s best advantage in the art of dancing is when she is up against a man and you see her dancing with a man, it is most interesting. Why? Because she looks more like a woman then, you see, more graceful, more beautiful, she is set off by the man.” According to this logic, dancing was the “province of the man”, a woman’s role was to help the man demonstrate his strength and agility. “I never did a musical to teach a lesson, just to bring joy,” he insisted in a 1980 interview with New York Post.

Kelly consistently evaded the question of who his favorite dancing partner was, sometimes cheekily responding it was Jerry the cartoon Mouse from "Anchors Aweigh" (1945), or even Fred Astaire in “The Babbitt and the Bromide” in Ziegfeld Follies (1946). In truth, Kelly claimed that “your favorite dancing partner happens to be the one you’re playing with, acting with, and dancing with at that particular time".

According to journalist John Cutts, “It is often said of Kelly that he ‘dances people’; but this really isn’t true, for he danced but one person: himself.” Like Peter Pan, the eternal boy who chased his shadow, Kelly played with his own even beyond the literal shadow dance of “Alter Ego.” And, much like Peter Pan, Gene Kelly was a figure who, at some level, refused to grow up.

His dances expressed joy, exhilaration, beauty, and vitality, encouraging spectators to be themselves even if that meant disregarding social expectations. This was his trademark, according to Rick Altman: “For Kelly dance is… a silly, clowning, childish activity, an expression of the eternal youth which seems even today to be fixed in Kelly’s smile. From film to film Kelly’s partners and his style may change, but his adolescent energy and ego never disappear.”

Gene Kelly fused middlebrow art and technology together to create a safe space where he could dance unfettered — he could be playful, boyish, asexual, and macho all at the same time.

Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Dorothy Dandridge, as much as their musicals, all stood as “in-between” figures, but their messages did not go unnoticed. They showed the way to finding release in a stifling postwar climate, and their small rebellions—whether artistic, gendered, or racial—served as uncensored examples of the kinds of private but very radical rebellions that were possible in the 1950s". -"Dancing Dreams: Performing American Identities in Postwar Hollywood Musicals, 1944-1958" by Pamela R. Lach (2007)

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Donnie Darko" will always be our masterpiece

Donnie's crush Gretchen (Jena Malone) says when she meets him, “Donnie Darko? What the hell kind of name is that? It's like some sort of superhero or something.” Donnie replies, “What makes you think I'm not?”

That's the crux of the film: Donnie, like every kid growing up in these patently insane times in which we are constantly threatened by mass destruction and death, must see himself as a kind of crazy superhero in order to survive the despair that chews at his mind.

It's a state that “healthy” people grow out of, forcing our anxiety below the surface and hiding in denial and compulsive rituals – but it's one that lingers in the shadows of our dreams, perhaps driving us slowly mad over the course of years, until the world no longer resembles anything acceptable to a sane mind.

True art is one third intent, one third technique, and one third public perception. That's the magic of it – that we are all partial participants in the creative process for every great work.

Intentionally or otherwise, Donnie Darko will always be a masterpiece, and, more importantly, it will always be our masterpiece. Source: www.buzzinefilm.com


Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG, IATSE Local 600), will be a key speaker as part of the World Intellectual Property Day celebration in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., April 26.

Poster will show a clip from Donnie Darko, a film he shot and discuss how digital theft threatens the future of the motion picture and television industry.

This event is organized by the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to the value of copyright as an agent for creativity, jobs and growth. Source: www.btlnews.com


Jake Gyllenhaal attending a private party on April, 25

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Singin' in the Rain" (Symbolism and Interpretation): An Alternative View

I consider "Donnie Darko: An Alternative View" as one of my best articles/interpretations I've ever written, maybe it's due (from a sentimental point of view) to being Richard Kelly's cult classic "Donnie Darko" the subject of one of my first serious analysis in film criticism.

Another film which has similarly gotten such a hold of me lately is "Singin' In The Rain", which deserves on its own classic merits a new essay, this time related to Sigmund Freud's symbolism theories, also invoking the themes of matriarchy and incest that can belie its gleaming surface. Here is my postulation: "Singin' In The Rain, allegory and symbols". I've used as examples for my thesis fragments from "Freud, Psychoanalysis and Symbolism" by Agnes Petocz (1995)

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly): -I can't get her out of my mind.

Cosmo (Donald O'Connor): -How could you? She's the first dame not to fall for you in ages.

Don Lockwood: -She's on my conscience.

Sigmund Freud regarded conscience as originating from the growth of civilisation, directed its energy as a superego against the person's own "ego" or selfishness. According to Freud, the consequence of not obeying our conscience is guilt; Freud claimed that both the cultural and individual super-ego set up strict ideal demands with regard to the moral aspects of certain decisions, disobedience to which provokes a 'fear of conscience.'

Film director: -What's your name?

-Don Lockwood, but people call me Donald.

Freud often uses 'symbol' in the sense of metaphor, and he allows that the concept of a symbol cannot be sharply delimited: it shades off into such notions as those of a replacement or representation, and even approaches that of an allusion.' "Lockwood"´s name seems to be an allusion to "Hollywood": that is, Hollywood as a locked place.

Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds): -And there was a girl. Lina Lamont. I don't go to the movies much. If you've seen one, you've seen them all.

We could see as a scurrilous allusion to a tyrannical mother in the figure of Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), a forced "fiancée" of matinée idol Don Lockwood (who pretends to be socialising with her around the party atmosphere of Hollywood in the 20's).

Don Lockwood (exposing his true feelings to Lina): -There is nothing between us. There has never been anything between us. Just air.

In a classic Oedipal dream, for instance, the presence of the queen might be a 'disguise' for the mother. But the conditions of pictorial representability are equally applicable to both; it is no more difficult to represent the mother via a visual image than it is to represent the queen. Freud recognised that a dreamer in relation to his dream-wishes can only be compared to an amalgamation of two separate people who are linked by some important common element.

Kathy Selden (whose surname could be a substitute for "Seldom") is a young actress who, the same as Don, is exaggerating her "dignity" in order to gain sympathy in a ruthless industry. Although a romantic relationship is clearly established, however one can't shake off the impression of being contemplating a courtship a little too pure and restrained, almost as if we were witnessing siblings role-playing in a platonic romance. In "On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love," Freud discusses the "incestuous fixation on mother or sister", so Kathy's character could stand for Don's sister. In Freud's most famous work, "The Interpretation of Dreams", incest -in which the original object (for the male) is the mother or sister- forms the material for the most common theme in art and creative writing. Interestingly, Lina expresses a desire to kill her 'successor' Kathy ("I'll kill her"), who becomes a reminder of Lina's caducity.

In the non-dialogue segment of "Broadway Ballet" between Cyd Charisse (the vamp) and the young hoofer (Gene Kelly), a lubricious dance spirals into a veiled catachresis which isn't easy to decipher when the figure of a ganster appears winning back the indecorous vamp. In "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men," Freud considers men who are interested only in women over whose affections they must compete with another man; women who by virtue of their sexual life have something of the prostitute about them and for that reason are more exciting. The lover of this type proposes to save the woman he desires, though he readily accepts the presence of his rival. Thenceforward he feels he must save her from degradation. This pattern, Freud adds, is repetitive, because it can only result in disappointment.

The staircase symbol: 'Ladders, steps and staircases, or, more precisely, walking on them, are clear symbols of sexual intercourse. On reflection, it will occur to us that the common element here is the rhythm of walking up them.' Symbolism is like a language, but one which, curiously, the dreamer has not learned. Knowledge of the language is unconscious, but this, according to Freud, is more problematic than unconscious 'endeavours' (wishes and impulses).

Despite the fact that Freud earlier referred to unconscious psychical conflict as leaving the patient 'in the peculiar state of knowing and at the same time not knowing', here, unconscious knowledge presents a problem. The very great majority of symbols in dreams are sexual symbols. What makes the symbolic relation 'a comparison of a quite special kind' is not just the obscurity in some cases, but the curious fact that the dreamer is not 'acquainted with' the symbol, uses it 'without knowing about it'; we are faced by the fact that the dreamer has a symbolic mode of expression at his disposal which he does not know in waking life and does not recognise. Thus symbolism is a second and independent factor in the distortion of dreams, alongside of the dream-censorship.

Freud identifies displacement as the most powerful instrument of the dream-censorship. We can guess how much to the point is Nietzsche's assertion that in dreams 'some primaeval relic of humanity is at work which we can now scarcely reach any longer by a direct path'; It was later found that linguistic usage, mythology and folklore afford the most ample analogies to dream symbols. The use of a common symbolism extends far beyond the use of a common language.

Audience: -lt's a Lockwood & Lamont talkie. This is terrible. The sound is out of synchronization!

The relationship between language and thought by Lakoff and Johnson: according to their proposed 'contemporary theory of metaphor', which rejects the classical treatment of metaphor as a strictly linguistic device, 'the locus of metaphor is not in language at all, but in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another'; thus metaphor, like (non-conventional) symbolism, is 'fundamentally conceptual, not linguistic in nature'.

CONCLUSION: As representational meaning, Lina Lamont would adopt the role of surrogate mother to estranged son Don (he calls Lina "rattlesnake" and "reptile" and whom he'd want "to break every bone in her body"), Kathy Selden would assume the figure of Don's sister (or even daughter, given the fatherly treatment in their fairy tale romance); probably the most interesting (although screen time-wise brief) female character is Cyd Charisse's: her dual character as femme fatale and bride would personify the flesh and blood girlfriend who abandoned Don to become a ganster's moll, which would lead us to conclude that the "Broadway Ballet" (intended to be a dream scene or a surrealistic proposal which will be discarded) is maybe the only real scenery all through the film, therefore Don Lockwood is basically a popular dancer from Broadway, a Hollywood actor in the making, but still not the superstar Don Lockwood appears to be in the beginning of the film. So the fantasy part in "Singin' in the Rain" would include all the story except the fourteen minutes of "Broadway Rhythm Ballet", hence its seemingly anarchic structure makes sense if we see the film as a paradigm of the musical genre that venerates happines above reality.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"For Me & My Gal" (1942) - Full Movie, starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden in "For Me & My Gal" (1942)