Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I must be getting old. I just re-watched a movie that had an 80's style soundtrack, an 80's style budget [$15 million] and ran for just a little over 90 minutes.

It was a remarkable piece of film - nearly unexpected in every way. It's the story of a wheelman/auto-mechanic/stunt driver who falls for the 'young mom next door' only to see his dreams taken from him because of greed and fear.

This is a slick film. Ryan Gosling dominates by silence, letting what he does NOT say scream at you. If you are a child of abuse, if you understand sub-text, if you understand cinematography, you are going to like this film.

Haunting, haunted, hunted, hated, Gosling's character is FAR more than meets the eye. I swear it was as if The Batman had a love-child by Ellen Page. Don't let the boyish good looks fool you.

It is also strangely compassionate even to the most obnoxious villains: you see their fears and flaws and in brilliant two-scene performances by the likes of Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman [remember Beauty and the Beast, you romantics of the 80's?], you understand these men were boys once - and had dreams of being loved, accepted and respected - and life just has not turned out that way.

What keeps them unredeemed for their sins, unlike our nearly anti-hero Boy Driver, Ryan Gosling?

He wants only to be loved - and money is NOT part of that need.

Look, my ADD is kicking in, 'cause I am gushing - but this film NAILS the tragedy of many human motivations - and how our secret sins are our undoing - and how our secret nobilities may hold the key to some form of redemption.

I mean I KNOW Christ redeems us - but He can only speak to a heart that will listen - and those noble hearts are rare. Good men do dastardly things and bad men can show strange sympathy at times. Drive covers that ground nicely.

One of the most effective visual/song bricolages in the film is found here - where a lovely old style torch song is is used as the Driver appears in a mask, spies on the man he will kill and then hunts him down. It is more than that, though. It is more than irony - for the song is singing of what he has lost and is losing because of this man - a passionate romance that sends [or would have sent] his heart into ecstasy instead of more violence and alienation.

Go rent Drive - you will not regret it.

There is a bittersweet victory in the end I will not reveal.

If you like your coffee black with a hint of sugar, you have the right taste for this film.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Art for Art's Sake

Years ago when I was getting my B.F.A. in Communications/Fine Art at the University of Memphis, I had to take a few thousand hours of Art History.

Hey - I'm an Irishman- we get to overstate all the time! ;)

Anyway, "Art for Art's Sake" was one of the phrases accepted by famous artists in the mid-19th century, the pre-impressionists and impressionists, who were pushing back against the idea that art had to mean something or represent something or had to have a moral value to the viewer. Edgar Allen Poe was the one who got this ball rolling I just found out from Wikipedia - he wrote an essay in 1850 called "The Poetic Principle," in which he states:
We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake [...] and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force: — but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's sake.
Poe was a brilliant writer, but here is where he inadvertently introduces a prime evil, the sin of glorifying a bit of self - self that is written by self and for self.

Now I can really understand this - I am so PROUD of having written and having drawn anything, I forget sometimes that my feeble attempts are as nothing in the sea of beauty and eternal glories. It is very easy to gaze at what one likes and is proud of and to lose oneself.

But the artist [poet/writer] has a doubly troubling danger: we can create our own idols.

Be it a painting, a piece of music, a well-written essay, a poem. I think Poe and the artists following him forgot that art that does NOT engage others and serve up beauty or insight or revelation - or conviction and soul-reflection - has failed to do more than make the artist feel good.

I think that is allowable in small doses - it is chocolate for the soul, I think - but a steady diet of it would make me uncommunicative, non-relational, unrelatable and isolated.

So I don't think art should exist just for art's sake. But that is because I do not think I, a living human being, should exist solely for my sake.

If I do art, I want it to serve; I guess that makes me a utilitarian. I want it to be cool and exciting or clean and identifiable or alarming and amazing - my emphasis was Graphic Design by the way.

At the end of the day, we fully realize art brings value to much of our life here in a fallen world.

But it does not have life unless we breathe into it and it does no good to merely exist - we must see it, read it, touch it, hear it.

And then the talent and grace that God gave the artist turns into a blessing for us all.

Art is not for art's sake.

Art is for God's sake.

So, for God's sake, go do some art.

And show it to us.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's a Dirty Job but Someone's Got to Do It -You're The Batman

I ran across what I will affectionately call "Geek Grunge." Seeing it is Batman's fictional brithday this coming February 19th, I thought it good to show it.

There is something so right and so wrong about this song - like mag wheels on a Toyota Corolla - or a laser sight on a BB Gun.

Just watch, and you'll see what I mean.

And no, no great message. Like I said, this is just worth sharing - and maybe we should ponder over the fact that the crap and bad things in our lives are to make us heroes, not whiners.

Like Batman. "It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it."