Category Archives: art criticism

Stranger Things Too

youtu.be-9Egf5U8xLo8-ed

I admit it.  I binge-watched Stranger Things 2 this weekend, just like everyone else who fell in love with the original.

871094landscape-1486386113-stranger-things-2-monster-from-first-trailer

The monster is bigger and scarier this time.  It uses new versions of last year’s monster for minions.  The characters are growing and changing and falling in love.  If anything, I love the characters as people even more than last time.

The whole thing is very seriously set in 1984.  You know, the year of Ghostbusters as a summer blockbuster.  References to D & D, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and visual homages to Speilberg movies, gritty urban dramas like The Warriors, and the video game Dragon’s Lair  don’t merely set the scene, they are cultural references artfully used to weave the story together and move the plot, providing short-hand explications of science-fiction-y ideas and Steven King tropes.  There is story-telling mastery to be marveled at here.

And my favorite thing of all here is the satisfying collection of resolutions to ongoing issues.  Eleven re-connects with her past and separates herself from it again.  She finds a place for herself and someone to love her, in more ways than one.  Jonathan and Nancy and Steve work on their love triangle.  And Joyce and Hopper move closer together in spite of the tragedy that tears Joyce’s world apart.  (I can’t talk about Bob.  I identify with Bob. He is just like me in so many ways.  And what happens to Bob?  Ack!  There have to be horrors in horror movies.  And the best ones rattle the foundations that you live on.)

giphy

 

screen-shot-2017-10-27-at-16-1509135095

I am the Uncritical Critic.  I only tell you about the things I love when it comes to movies, TV, books, and music.  And I definitely love this.

gallery-1499785028-stranger-things-2-full-poster

Leave a comment

Filed under art criticism, commentary, humor, movie review, review of television

About Bruce Timm

“Today I thought I would tell you about Bruce Timm.”

“Bruce Timm?  Who the heck is he?”

“You know. That artist with that style… you know, the Batman guy.”

“You mean he played Batman?”

“No.  He designed Batman; The Animated Series.”

“Oh, that guy… the guy who draws girls really good.”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

new-justice-league-series-bruce-timm

“He gave all the DC heroes their modern, animated look… their style and flair.  He made them angular, immediately identifiable, and powerful.”

4

“Yeah, I think he not only did the Batman cartoon, all film noir and retro-cool, but the Superman series that followed it, the Justice League, and all the cartoon series and movies that went along with those.”

“But that’s not all he did, either, is it?”

“No, there’s more.  He wanted to be a comic book artist, but before he got into animation, Marvel and DC turned him down.”

25e4094273e0d5a978ef3c3055e68176

“I heard he worked at Filmation for a while.”

“Yes, he got a chance to draw and design characters for Blackstar, Flash Gordon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra; Princess of Power, and the Lone Ranger.

“Dang!  He was busy.  But only superhero stuff?”

“In 1989 he went to work for Warner Brothers.  He worked on Tiny Toon Adventures.”

“That Spielberg/Bugs Bunny thing?  The one with Buster and Babs Bunny?”

“Yeah, that one, believe it or not.”

gimeno-logo-5-tiny-toons-copy

“Tell me more about the girls.  I want to hear about him drawing girls.  Wonder Woman in Justice League was hot.”

“Showing you is probably better than telling you.  Be prepared to cover your eyes, though.  He liked to draw the female figure nude and semi-naked.”

91a861e9c261d53b1d77a8e929c92401

Betty and Veronica from the Archie comics.

brucee-timm-teaser-2012-b-800

bt-nan-book-pictures-01

“I like how he draws pretty girls.”

“You would.”

“He’s the artist you wish you could be, isn’t he?”

“Pretty much.  He’s about four years younger than me.  If I had gone the comic-book artist route instead of becoming a public school teacher, our careers might’ve been parallel.”

“Except he has talent.”

“Yeah, there’s that.”

Leave a comment

Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, comic book heroes, humor

The Nerdwriter

Evan Puschak is a genius and a masterful artist working in the medium of the video blog.  He educated himself with intentions of working in the film industry, but he has found his niche by posting on YouTube a long series of insightful, in-depth video essays on what it means to be an artist, how an artist does what he does, and even theories about how the world of art works.  And not just for the sake of movie reviews, though he does some of the best of that kind of work that I have ever seen.  He knows about painting, television, speech making, essay writing… in fact, everything it takes to be a really great essayist in the manner of  Michel de Montaigne who created the form in the 1500’s.

c1gjrdsuuaak26q

Find Evan here on Twitter

Of course, I can’t make you understand the true scope of his essay-making powers without showing you some of his work.  So let me give you a heads up on some of his many wonderful creations and insights;

Here he examines the phenomenon of Trump speaking;

His insights and analysis inspire me to always dig deeper and look for the patterns that underlie the way things occur.  He is a master explainer who can connect ideas and facts together for you seamlessly.  And it is not only the art of speaking and essay-writing that he knows in depth.  He understands all sorts of art.

Here is his take on a single painting by Picasso;

Interpreting things is a matter of opinion, but he breaks down his opinions point by point and uses the evidence he is pointing out to you to help you follow how he reaches his conclusions.  He talks about 5 ways you can look at Picasso’s painting and gain a deeper understanding, not only of this one painting, but of all paintings.

I deeply love the films of Guillermo del Toro, and none more than his masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.  It is a weird and horrifyingly wonderful fairy tale of people, politics, and surreal juxtapositions of fantasy used to cope with people and politics.  But the Nerdwriter’s analysis not only helps me understand del Toro’s creation better, it makes me love it more.

And I can’t help but notice how Evan uses his film-maker talent and understanding of film to craft videos that flawlessly weave narration, idea, video clips, and music together in a way that even Frank Capra or Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese could learn from.  Witness this from his take on Pixar’s Inside Out.

There is such a pleasing power in the art-appreciation engines of this man’s video blogs that I could go on gushing about it and linking more videos here all day long.  Believe me, I have lost whole days of work to binging on his videos.  But I have to draw the conclusions sooner rather than later.  I don’t want to waste your time reading this humble blog when you could be sending your mind soaring with these Nerdwriter videos.  So, please, explore them and tempt fate to start you on a new addiction.

Leave a comment

Filed under art criticism, education, humor, insight, movie review, review of music, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

A $3.00 Treasure Trove

C360_2016-12-21-17-27-40-934.jpg

If you cruise the bargain sections in an old used book store like Half-Price Books, eventually you are going to find something priceless.  This book I am showing you is that very thing for me.

It was copyrighted in 1978.  The inscription inside the front cover says this was a Father’s Day gift on June 19th, 1988.  Someone named Gary gifted it to someone named Claude in Burleson, Texas.  It was probably a cherished book until someone passed away and the book changed hands in an estate sale.

c360_2016-12-21-17-26-52-638

Howard Pyle

The book chronicles the height of the publishing era when being able to print books and reproduce artworks began entertaining the masses.  Always before painters and great artists worked for a patron for the purpose of decorating their home in a way that displayed their great wealth.  But from the 1880’s to the rise of cinema, magazines and books kept the masses entertained, helped more people to become literate than ever before, and created the stories that made our shared culture and life experiences grow stronger and ever more inventive.  The book focuses on the best of the best among a new breed of artist… the illustrators.

These are the ones the book details;

Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Frederick Remington, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, and John Held Jr.

c360_2016-12-21-17-26-08-244

N.C. Wyeth

Wyeth was most famous as a book illustrator for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, other books by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain,  and a famous volume of tales about Robin Hood.

c360_2016-12-21-17-25-30-575

Frederick Remington

Remington is a name you probably know as a maker of Western art.  He was a famous painter of cowboys and Indians and the American frontier.

c360_2016-12-21-17-25-11-104

Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish is my all-time favorite painter.  His work is something I gushed about in previous posts because I own other books about his fanciful works painted in Maxfield Parrish blue.

c360_2016-12-21-17-24-36-579

Also Maxfield Parrish

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-24-09-869

J.C. Leyendecker

You will probably recognize Leyendecker’s work in magazine and advertising illustration as the standard of the Roaring 20’s.  His paintings set a style that swept American culture for more than a decade, and still affects how we dress to this very day.

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-23-44-163

More Leyendecker

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-23-26-011

Even more from Leyendecker

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-22-58-983

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell and his work for The Saturday Evening Post is still familiar to practically everyone who reads and looks at the illustrations.  As you can see he was a master of folksy realism and could do a portrait better than practically anyone.

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-22-02-082

Also Rockwell

I have also written about Norman Rockwell before too.  I have half a dozen books that include his works.  My wife is from the Philippines and she knew about him before I ever said a word to her about him.

c360_2016-12-21-17-21-38-237

Charles Dana Gibson

As you can plainly see, Gibson was a master of pen and ink.  His work for Collier’s and other magazines thrills in simple black and white.  More cartoonists than just little ol’ me obsess about how he did what he did.

c360_2016-12-21-17-21-14-634

Also Gibson

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-20-49-992

James Montgomery Flagg… with a name like that, who else could it be?

 

c360_2016-12-21-17-20-06-847

John Held Jr.

The work of Held is stylistically different than all the rest in easily noticeable ways.  He’s the guy that made all the big-headed Pinocchio-looking people in the 1920’s.  You may have seen his work before, though you probably never knew his name.

This bit of someone else’s treasure hoard will now become a part of my own dragon’s treasure, staying by my bedside for quite a while, while I continue to suck the marrow from each of its bones.  I love this book.  It is mine, and you can’t have it… unless you find your own copy in a used bookstore somewhere.

4 Comments

Filed under art criticism, art my Grandpa loved, book reports, book review, humor, illustrations, imagination, oil painting, old art, old books, pen and ink, Uncategorized

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (a review by the Uncritical Critic)

obrother

I love musicals.  What can I say?  I am a surrealist as an artist, and so I am dedicated to combining the disjointed and bizarre to make something that makes you laugh, or makes you cry, or makes you go, “Huh?  I wonder why?”  So when, in the middle of a sometimes serious but mostly comic story of escaped convicts on the lam in the Great Depression Era South, people suddenly burst into song… I love it!

And this movie is filled with creative stuff and biting social satire about religion, politics, crime and punishment, love and sex, desire and disappointment, and, most of all, the need to escape from it all if only for a moment to share a good, old-fashioned song.

The main character is Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney), so naturally the sirens overpower him and turn one of his crew into a frog.  This is because this story is based on the Odyssey by Homer.  Only the Trojan War is replaced by a chain gang singing spirituals as they break rocks, the cyclops is a Bible salesman and Ku Klux Klan member with a patch over one eye, and when Ulysses returns to Ithica, he defeats his wife’s suitors with a song.  How can you not love a story as creative as that?

The whole movie is shot in color-corrected sepia tones to give it an old-photograph, old-timey feel.  John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson are masterful in the role of McGill’s two idiot hayseed friends.

1546f27473495-560ac03f4ce25

Again, I remind you, as a completely uncritical critic, I have no intention of trying to tell you what is wrong with this movie.  I loved it.  I will watch it again.  I am writing this review only because I feel moved to tell you how much I loved it and why.  So if you don’t approve of that, well, don’t shoot me.   Put me on a chain gang and give me a chance to sing.

3 Comments

Filed under art criticism, commentary, humor, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism, Uncategorized

Where I’d Like to Be (a book by Frances O’Roark Dowell)

490978

This book made me cry. And that is not unusual, even though I am a 60-year-old man. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens made me cry. At the end, not during the funny parts. But this was a book about a lonely eleven-year-old girl trying to make friends. Why should that make me cry?
But it is also a bittersweet tale of memorable child characters who have nowhere left to turn but each other, and their imaginations. The poetic sting of it can make a grown man cry. You should read it. You will understand then.

Leave a comment

Filed under art criticism, book reports, book review, characters, compassion, empathy, good books, humor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Making Portraits

scan0005

My biggest regret as a cartoonist and waster of art supplies is the fact that I am not the world’s best portrait artist.  I can only rarely make a work of art look like a real person.  Usually the subject has to to be a person I love or care deeply about.  This 1983 picture of Ruben looks very like him to me, though he probably wouldn’t recognize himself here as the 8th grader who told me in the fall of 1981 that I was his favorite teacher.  That admission on his part kept me from quitting and failing as a first year teacher overwhelmed by the challenges of a poor school district in deep South Texas.

scan0006

My Great Grandma Hinckley was really great.

My great grandmother on my mother’s side passed away as the 1970’s came to an end.  I tried to immortalize her with a work of art.  I drew the sketch above to make a painting of her.  All my relatives were amazed at the picture.  They loved it immensely.  I gave the painting to my Grandma Aldrich, her second eldest daughter.  And it got put away in a closet at the farmhouse.  It made my grandma too sad to look at every day.  So the actual painting is still in a closet in Iowa.

scan0007

There were, of course, numerous students that made my life a living heck, especially during my early years as a teacher.  But I was one of those unusual teachers (possibly insane teachers) who learned to love the bad kids.  Love/hate relationships tend to endure in your memory almost as long as the loving ones.  I was always able to pull the good out of certain kids… at least in portraits of them.

dscn4715

When kids pose for pictures, they are not usually patient enough to sit for a portrait artist.  I learned early on to work from photographs, though it has the disadvantage of being only two-dimensional.  Sometimes you have to cartoonify the subject to get the real essence of the person you are capturing in artiness.

But I can’t get to the point of this essay without acknowledging the fact that any artist who tries to make a portrait, is not a camera.  The artist has to put down on paper or canvas what he sees in his own head.  That means the work of art is filtered through the artist’s goofy brain and is transformed by all his quirks and abnormalities.  Therefore any work of art, including a portrait that looks like its subject, is really a picture of the artist himself.  So, I guess I owe you some self portraits to compare.

20160424_180408

Yeah, that’s me at 10… so what?

Leave a comment

Filed under art criticism, artwork, autobiography, humor, kids, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life