An Artist Finds True Love in P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.” 

In this post about art-related films, I mentioned that I thought P.S. I Love You was “not a good love story, but a good art story.” After my traditional St. Patrick’s Day viewing of the film (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided that I may have made a hasty judgment, and that art and true love might be more closely related than they seem.

So once upon a time, Josh and I went to Ireland for Spring break and St. Patrick’s day. It was a wild ride and totally exhausting, but absolutely beautiful. It’s something we would love to do again. Spending time in the land of the shamrocks those years ago put me in an inexplicable mood to watch P.S. I Love You–inexplicable because when I last watched this flick as a single and hormonal teenager, I completely hated it. The critic in me thought it was depressing and cheesy as all get-out.

Relax, you swooning and now-irate Gerard Butler fans. Upon watching the film again as an adult in conjunction with Dear Frankie (Butler accent marathon!), I quite surprisingly found it among some of my favorite films of the decade. Not only this, but Josh was quick to second the motion–and it’s a chick flick, guys. Needless to say, it’s now a family favorite.

I’m pretty sure that where I went wrong when I first watched this movie was in watching it as a chick flick–as a cliche story of romantic love, romantic love lost, and romantic love rediscovered.

As a traditional love story, P.S. I Love You is mediocre at best; however, as a story about art, identity, intimacy, and true love it is quite touching and maybe even outstanding.

According to the quirky Holly’s quoting of William Blake in an attempt to impress roguish Irishman Gerry Kennedy, “My business is to create.”

As an art student with no idea what she wants to do with her life, the only thing of which she and (she believes) everyone else on the planet can be sure is that we each need to create something–not because we are obligated to offer something beautiful to the world, but because this something is an inescapable part of who we are, how we are unique, and how we communicate that.

“All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco or a pair of socks! Just create something . . . new, and there it is, and it’s you–out in the world, outside of you–and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it–and you know a little more about . . . you. A little bit more than anyone else does.” 

What do you know about you?

Not enough? Well, you don’t have to know everything, believe it or not. If you did, what would be the point in looking for yourself through the soul-searching act of pure creation–of pure art?

Which reminds me of another favorite P.S. quote . . .

Holly: “I see people buying bigger apartments and having babies. I get so afraid sometimes our life’s never gonna start.

Gerry: “No, baby. We’re already in our life. It’s already started. This is it. You have to stop waiting.

Man, this scene hits me like a ton of bricks every time.

I know that I and many others like me are constantly guilty of looking to the next milestone of graduation or getting our dream job or buying a house or having kids. We’re too busy looking ahead to inhabit our own lives in the moment.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out in my meager 22 years, life isn’t about scrambling to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life so that you can blissfully do it for the rest of your days ad infinitum.

The scrambling–the journey–the search is your life.

Personally, I believe as Holly does that creating is a big part of that search. It’s a part of the process of knowing and being known–or trying to. It’s reaching deep down inside yourself and and pulling out a piece of what you value or how you see the world, and it says out loud (even if only to you) “This is who I am.” When you appreciate the creations of others, you’re stepping into a bit of who they are and taking a walk around, willing to share that intimacy with them.

This ideology is how I try to approach every moment of each one of my days on this earth. It’s my goal–my mantra–

To know and to make known.

This is love to me. Self-love and love for others all wrapped up in one beautiful life mission. This mantra includes tolerance and acceptance but also challenge and discussion when it comes to really getting to the bottom of what makes a person tick. It sounds so over-simplified, but it’s really not simple. Sometimes what you know about yourself, your God, and your friends/family/etc don’t quite jive, and you have to reconcile that.

But somewhere in the process of constantly pursuing a depth of knowledge of yourself and the world around you, you encounter people who love and understand you for who you really are.

So make something. Make a poem. Make pasta. Make a mess. Make love. Make mistakes.

Every time you let that glimpse of who you really are and who you want to be out into the world, you are leaving yourself vulnerable–open to being known and loved fully, or fully rejected–and you are promising that same love to those who open themselves to you.

Okay, so I know that I waxed a bit philosophical in this post, but I hope that I’ve encouraged lonely people everywhere to let art lead them to every pure form of love.

Do I Want to Be a Hipster?

“I wanna be a hipster,” she says simply, pointing to her biblical tattoo and short-cropped hair in the middle of a conversation about her favorite folk music lyrics. “I’ve decided. I wanna be a hipster!” She is one of my best friends, and I generally respect her taste a great deal. But I don’t know how to react.

Maybe you can relate with her.

Maybe you most certainly cannot.

Maybe you’ve been enthusiastically jabbering on about your favorite band, independent film, art collection, or philosopher, when suddenly your conversation partner shakes their head and says, “Oh, you’re such a hipster.” You stand there in your plaid shirt, lace cardigan, maroon skinny corduroys, and vintage oxfords unsure of how to take this–and even less sure of how to respond. “Do I say ‘thank you?’ Do I shrug shamefully? Do I adamantly deny it?” This last course of action is the most dangerous, because many people believe that the strongest mark of a hipster is the inability to admit that one is, in fact, a hipster.

I felt that a lot of this trouble could be cleared up by settling on a concrete definition of what it means to be a hipster. Of course, no such definition exists. Even less-than-scholarly Urban Dictionary offers about seven encyclopedia-entry-sized explanations of this cultural phenomenon. Even so, this one seemed like a safe place to start:

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

That doesn’t sound too repulsive, does it? Especially for an Urban Dictionary definition. Those can get grody.

Honestly, I want to be a lot of those qualities described in the above definition. I am a lot of those qualities. I love me some intelligent, witty banter and independent thinking. I’m a huge fan of art and indie music. I keep close tabs on progressive politics. I’m creative. I’m in my twenties.

Am I a hipster? And more importantly, is that a bad thing?

What People See as Desirable About Hipster Culture:

Creativity and experimental fashion

So the style in the hipster world is pretty fly. It’s incredibly diverse and usually an eclectic mix of a variety of other styles–bohemian, punk, preppy, scuzzy lumberjack, etc. I know labels are the worst, but words are what we use to make sense of the world, so deal with it, hipster readers. My point is, their fashion and beauty creations tend to be interesting and refreshing.

Also, this gallery of celebrities re-imagined as hipsters is my favorite thing since Benedict Cumberbatch photobombed U2 at the Oscars.

Refusing to get caught up in fads

I dislike sweeping fads as much as the next person, although a job in marketing basically means I have to make a career out of studying them. So when a chunk of the population says, “No, thanks,” and continues to do their own thing despite social pressure, I enjoy that. I appreciate the courage to be oneself without needing the approval of the masses. I knew a girl in college who got engaged to her boyfriend without a ring because they didn’t see the point. I think that kind of freedom has to feel so good.

A genuine appreciation for the arts

Yes, some hipsters only listen to the music they listen to or watch the movies they watch because no one else does. Others, however, really look for a higher standard of quality when it comes to the media they consume. While the masses are content to watch Transformers, hipsters call BS and curl up with The Iron Giant instead. I also notice that hipsters are more likely to be interested in theatre and visual art. Sure, it can feel like snobbery at times, but I really admire it.

A genuine appreciation for vintage culture and nostalgia

I am all about nostalgia lately. I cry thinking about bygone days when people didn’t take a miniature telephone/computer with them every time they left the house. I like it when hipsters value the past and the simple life. They upcycle grandma’s old jewelry and dad’s old trousers. They ride bikes and tune up old record players. This kind of respect for the things of the past is heart-warming to me.

Enjoying knowledge for the sake of knowledge

This might not be an “official” hipster trait, but it’s something that I’ve noticed. Hipsters generally like to know things about the things they like. They make a hobby of gaining knowledge about their hobby. These are the people who read Bukowksi for fun and study coffee growing and roasting techniques. Fine by me. If you care about something, invest some time and effort into it, I say.

P.S. But remember no one likes a know-it-all.

Frugality and resourcefulness

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with appreciating vintage goodies, but hipsters really are responsible for thrifting being as popular as it is now. No, it wasn’t Macklemore. We were doing it before it was cool.

A desire to discuss important topics

Again, maybe not a hallmark of all hipsters, but it’s a trend I’ve seen. Those I’ve encountered who fit the hipster mold are eager to engage with others about social justice issues like feminism, marriage equality, and human trafficking as well as political and economic topics. I personally find it delightfully refreshing to encounter people who are not only educated about what’s happening in the world around them but who also think and feel passionately about those happenings.

What People See as Repellant About Hipster Culture: 

Refusing to acknowledge genuine talent and quality just because it is popular or “mainstream”

This drives me freaking nuts. Yes, Lady Gaga is an overrated mainstream fame-monger. That does nothing to change the fact that she is a stellar vocalist and an out-of-this-world performer. Just admit it! Millions of people love her for a reason! Why does that deter you from admitting she is good?! I can’t even . . .

Seriously, I have never been able to wrap my head around the “They’re famous now, so I can’t like them anymore” thing. They’re famous because they’re good, for crying out loud!

Condescension or snobbiness

You’ve all felt it–judgment from a holier-than-though hipster who felt the need to inform you that your fedora is actually a trilby or that your Chai tea isn’t fair trade. Nuff said.

Excessively expensive or excessively abnegating lifestyles

These are two sides of the same coin. (Abnegation is a 50-cent word for denying yourself things you want). Both extremes are bad as far as I am concerned. Some hipsters are the style who will blow their money on organic everything and memorabilia signed by the Smiths. Others are the kind who won’t wear shoes or eat chocolate in order to make a statement. I’m not a fan of either.

WORST EVER: Caring about being different more than they care about interpersonal connection

This takes the cake in terms of bad hipster qualities. It’s unfortunately come to be the signature of hipsters everywhere. These people find their sense of self in participating in only aspects of culture that are unknown or “underground.” Often the minute these bands, or anime series, or clothing brands, or whatever begin to become popular, their hipster followers will abandon ship and move on the the next heretofore undiscovered thing. It’s as if the only way they can be truly unique is to like things that hardly anyone else likes.

They form their identity based on the things they enjoy rather than the people they enjoy them with.

The irony? Now hipsterism itself has become popular, so the hipsters have nowhere to go. They’re having a massive identity crisis.

So Who Do I Want to Be?

In light of acknowledging the positive and negative aspects of hipsterism, what can those of us who are “on the fence,” if you will, conclude about who we want to be going forward? I can only speak for myself, but I think I’ve learned some important lessons in studying hipsters.

I want to be myself first of all. And I want to be with people second.

Being myself means that if I do or do not like or care about something, I will be honest about it–to myself and to the world.

Being with people means that I will never let these passions alienate me from those I encounter. I will embrace connection.

hipYes, I occasionally enjoy some obscure and/or unpopular things. That just means I’m all the more delighted when I meet someone who shares that interest. If we have that obscure thing in common, odds are we have other things in common and we’ll probably hit it off! Yes, my style of dress is a little unorthodox sometimes (not so much anymore,) but I do it to feel happy and free about my appearance, not to scare people away. Yes, I value academic intelligence and being politically and socially aware, but why would I want to keep those things to myself by avoiding people who are not “up to my standard?”

I want to love and be loved, and if I can love on someone while we both love on existentialist philosophy, Chvrches, Attack on Titan, matcha green tea, blackbox theatre, pad thai, and Modcloth, that does not threaten my sense of self at all.

Why can’t we all embrace intelligence, activism, resourcefulness, creativity, critical consumption of media, multiculturalism, and other admirable qualities without trying to label such things as being counter-cultural and “hipster?”

Alienating ourselves from others through our cultural identity is unhealthy, but so is mindlessly consuming the pop culture fed to us on a large scale. That’s why I love the fact that hipsterism is not a subculture anymore. Hipsterism is becoming mainstream because people are realizing that they can explore the culture beyond what is readily accessible to them and in so doing encounter others who are also happy to challenge the status quo.

Yes, we are all forming our own identities, but our identities are tangled up in the people we let into our worlds. Let’s fill those worlds with the things we love and trust that they will attract people who we might come to love as well.

Why You Should Embrace the Noah Movie

Noah poster

I am just plain psyched for the upcoming Darren Aronofsky Noah movie. As a filmmaker and as a Christian, no matter how many times Hollywood disappoints me I never cease to get excited when it comes to an on-screen adaptation of a biblical story. I never stop hoping. I love seeing my faith brought to life through art.

Of course, this movie is causing a lot of controversy in the Christian community for not being “biblically accurate.” Many people of faith are even publicizing their plans to boycott the film. Here’s why I think they are wrong.

Why the Bible Should Be Made into Movies–All Kinds of Movies

Regardless of your faith background, it is hard to deny that the Bible is one of the most influential (if not THE most influential) works of history and literature ever written. Ever! I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, or Atheist. This is a centuries-old fact of Western and now even global culture.

How is it right that less-important (though admittedly great) works are made into hedonistic blockbuster films a la Troy and even popular video games a la Dante’s Inferno while many believe that the Bible remains “too holy” to bridge this cultural gap? Why do classic mythology and literature get to shape our culture through the permeating medium of film and video while the Bible collects dust in a church pew?

The Bible needs to be made relevant, and little is more relevant to today’s society than the movies.

Why aren’t there more action films about the judges, the mighty men of David, the fall of Jericho, Elijah’s challenge, or the fiery furnace? Why aren’t there more classic war films about Saul and basically any Old Testament king or general? Why aren’t there more romances and dramas about the stories like those of David and Abigail or Samson and Delilah? Well-told stories like these could make disconnected, apathetic audiences relate with and invest in the characters, and maybe invest in looking deeper into the Bible as a result. That’s something I’d like to see more of–the gritty reality of inspiring biblical tales paired with solid artistic direction to make great films that people like.

I could be proven wrong, but I think Noah is that film.

Of course the production team has tweaked some details of the account to make for a more well-crafted story, adding characters and conflicts for depth and character development. Honestly, when doesn’t this happen in a historical account being adapted for film? Some of the details of reality are either dull and boring or just not conducive to being depicted onscreen. Filmmakers have been tweaking true tales for the big screen ever since Battleship Potemkin. It’s called dramatization.

Also, Paramount had the big-boy pants to post this “disclaimer” at the start of the picture:

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, was even quoted as saying that Paramount is “very proud of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.” How wonderful and once-unimaginable is it that a movie based on a Sunday School story is something that the most experienced and influential Hollywood bigwigs can be proud of? I find that amazing. What more could we want from these people? They are skilled media makers, and they are respectful of the spiritual significance of the Bible. They are bringing our Bible to life for a media-driven generation. They are making great art (I hope) with a great message. 

We have been asking for years for Hollywood to helm faith-themed and biblically-based projects. Now that they are heeding our calls, do we really have to complain about how they have chosen to do so?

Okay, so instead of continuing to talk about a film I have yet to see, I’m going to point you to a great article written for the Christian Post by John Snowden. NOTE: I have since found that this piece may have originally been written by Snowden as an educational packet to give to attendees of the NRB International Christian Media Convention.

This article is cool because, unlike all of the faith bloggers who have slammed Noah without even seeing it (?), author John Snowden has not only seen the film, he has worked on the production team as the crew’s biblical adviser. This concept is near and dear to my heart as the Christian film that I worked on a few years ago had a team of faith advisers who were very special people. I love the role. It is so crucial to the believable marriage of faith and film nowadays.

Anyway, here is Snowden.

———————————————————————————————

There has been no shortage of headlines in recent weeks about Paramount Pictures’ upcoming feature film Noah – with a fair amount of the coverage speculating about how closely or loosely the movie adheres to the story of the title character as found in the Bible.

Unfortunately, those who have felt compelled to criticize the film in these stories haven’t actually seen it – so it’s difficult to understand what exactly they’re criticizing. I have seen Noah – in fact, I’ve been working on it for the last two years as the filmmakers’ biblical adviser.

I will confess, when the studio first approached me about consulting on the project I had mixed emotions, weighing my caution of Hollywood’s ability to take liberties with stories and values against my standard for good theology and a healthy presentation of Bible stories, theology and mission. Paramount was adamant about having a practical, integrated adviser in the process from start to finish, which impressed (and surprised) me.

I read an early draft of the script and was particularly impressed with their exploration of judgment and mercy. I accepted the offer and quickly found myself fully engaged with the creative team, talking about Noah, God and Jesus a lot. And they listened. And asked more questions. I’ve read probably more than 10 drafts of the script, given longwinded feedback on each, seen every piece of footage that was shot and been flown around the world … twice.

With all of that work under my belt, and the March 28 premiere just a little more than a month away, I am happy to offer the following 10 reasons I believe we as a church can find very valuable reflections on Noah, God and theology in the film. This isn’t to suggest the movie matches everyone’s read of Noah perfectly, but it is a very worthwhile time to spend understanding how a couple of very thoughtful filmmakers interact with Noah.

1 – Noah Has a Relationship with God

In the film Noah, Noah hears from God at times, wants to hear more from God at other times, is directed by God, and acts singularly different than his contemporaries in following God’s directives. Scripture is overtly quoted by many characters in Noah. God’s words from the Bible are unmistakably a part of this film. The film is pro-God.

The Biblical text lists out what God said to Noah but never tells whether that was verbal or written communication, though most would assume it verbal. In our film, God gives visions to Noah just like God gave to several prophets and many key Biblical figures (Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and John to name a few). I pray one day my sons will dream dreams and receive visions directly from God, just like God promised us through His prophet Joel.

2 – Noah Acts Faithfully Yet Isn’t Perfect

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That includes Noah. It’s healthy that Noah struggles to understand precisely what God is saying, but, regardless, Noah trusts and acts faithfully. The struggle is not always easy to watch, particularly in the later parts of the film, but the values that come out of this narrative are special.

A woman in her early 20s whom I spoke with about the film (she grew up “churched” but is since disengaged) really appreciated that the film’s Noah heard from God but not in a simplistic way. It felt to her ironically accessible; since she’s never personally “heard” God’s voice, she felt a connection to Noah as he began to trust God’s vision.

3 – Noah Sees and Acknowledges His Own Sin

Noah sees his own sin as no better or worse than those who will die in the flood. This evokes the great scriptural dilemma: God’s plan to fill the Earth with humanity reflecting His glory has been promised, but our sin has stained the reflection of His glory in all of us. Four-thousand-ish years after Noah, Jesus did the work of restoration for us. Noah the movie agrees that we hadn’t earned our salvation back then either. Our long-white- beard, long-white-robe depiction of a docetic (proto-Evangelical?) Noah has not helped our kids learn that we’re all coming up short were it not for God’s grace. That ark Noah built is a gift, not our own proud creation, so that His purposes can be fulfilled through us.

4 – It Keeps Closer to More of the Text Than You Might Have Imagined

The film sticks to many key details from the Text. The ark set was built twice to full-cubit
scale, though not out of gopherwood. It depicts a global flood. No extra people survive the flood who shouldn’t. God speaks to Noah. Noah gets drunk. Tubal-Cain forges iron and bronze. Ham and Noah have a rough father-son relationship. Creation from nothing. Sin. Murder. Methusaleh. There’s a dove and a rainbow, two of each animal (admittedly seven of each clean animal was a detail that didn’t get communicated in the film), an olive branch and lots of water coming up from the ground.

Read the rest of the article here. It’s good stuff!

How to Incorporate Women into the Superhero Shuffle

Hi all! I’m so embarrassed, but during my week-long blog absence, things went a little haywire on Nine to Phive. Posts that I had scheduled promising to finish them at a later date published while completely unfinished–and in one case, completely blank.

So yeah, sorry about that. Josh quit his job this week in a career-changing move, and though he has another more satisfying position lined up, the change had been stressful.

Translation: I’ve forgotten literally everything about doing my life.

Anyway, I’m back! Not only that, I’m actually guest posting over at Ink and Image today, the blog of an old friend with lots of compelling and creative ideas. The gentleman interviewed me about the status of female characters in superhero films. I was flattered that he thought I knew enough about women, superheros, or film to solicit my opinions ;-). His questions were very thorough and led to a fascinating (albeit long, I’ll admit) critique of sexism in superhero film.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“Is including a female member in every major team of heroes a good sign, or should more be done?

I suppose it’s better than nothing, but it feels patronizing in its current state. It reminds me of the character of Token Black from South Park. I don’t think I’m grabbing at straws when I suggest that his presence in the cast is not an honor but an insult–albeit a clever one with a lot of social commentary. I feel the same way about “Tokena McHotchick” on every superhero team, except she does not exist to be ironic and to make a comment on the state of gender relations in the modern world. She often exists just to “appease the feminists” and provide male viewers with a little diversion. She is not a commentary on sexism–she is a sexist creation.

If you’re not going to write her a good character, don’t write her in at all. The fact that she’s female is not enough.

Read the full piece here.

‘Frozen’ Fan Art to Melt the Heart

If you (along with the majority of the world’s school children . . . and twenty-somethings for some reason) are a fan of Disney’s latest out-of-the-park blockbuster Frozen and you haven’t yet seen the breathtaking fan art by graphic design student Nadia, you haven’t lived.

In the first place, the girl has mad talent. Her visual style is beautiful, colorful, and heartwarming. It’s a romanticized version of reality very true to the Disney aesthetic but with her own unique twist. The lighting, the costume design–it’s all spot-on.

In the second place, if you let any of these characters into your heart at all throughout the course of the film, you’ll be very moved by her take on Kristoff and Anna’s life after the end of the film. I love that she went beyond the patent fairy tale ending and actually showed what “happily ever after” would look like for these two characters. Website The Daily Dot mused that even a sequel to Frozen wouldn’t be as satisfying as these images, and I have to agree. Any sequel would have to include a new danger, a new villain, a new drama of some kind in order to be Disney-film-worthy. The story that Nadia has chosen to tell, however, isn’t about a love that moves mountains or triumphs over evil–even though it could! It is about the quiet, caring, unconditional devotion that carries a relationship through the years. There may be times of extreme stress as well as times of extreme dullness, but as these pictures remind me, it’s the moments in between that make a life.

Nadia insists that she didn’t intend to make their relationship progress with each picture, but take a look for yourself and watch “Kristanna’s” love unfold in an adoring fan’s gorgeous take on the tale.

The above picture is definitely not as polished as some of her others, but it’s too funny not to include! She’s thought to depict so many moments that would be absolutely inane as “plot points” but that are important and precious in real life. Absolutely adorable.

The beautiful royal family! I love that Nadia made sure to keep Elsa as a part of Kristoff and Anna’s story. She’ll be such a loving aunt.

Nadia admits on her tumblr that, while she loves everything about Frozen, she is very partial to the Kristoff/Anna relationship (well, obvi). To me it seems pretty clear that what she really loves is Kristoff–

. . . which becomes apparent the more times he is depicted shirtless–wet and shirtless. Haha, it’s okay, Nadia. Disney dreams up some handsome dudes!

This is Prince Joseff. Don’t remember him from the movie? That’s because he wasn’t in it! He’s the firstborn son of Anna and Kristoff who Nadia completely made up! How sick is that? She developed a whole character for him. He looks a lot like Kristoff but with Anna’s eyes and smile. Download the full-sized image to see all of the details she added in print. Also, based on the range of emotions she’s drawn here, I’d say the gal might have a future in animation if she has the interest.

I have to admit, I love fan contributions to fictional universes. Fan art, fan fiction–it’s all good to me. I wish I had Nadia’s skills just so I could make fan art. No other purpose. Anyway, expect another post at some point about fan art in general. Maybe by some miracle I’ll be able to wheedle an interview out of Nadia!

All images taken from Nadia’s deviantart gallery.

Rochester: We Win Some & Lose Some

A message in the playing field at Fairport High School. From the Democrat & Chronicle.

It seems like lately time has been swirling around and through the city I call home. So much has happened to remind us of our humanity and even our mortality.

Perhaps most jarring is the well-known fact that beloved actor and father of three Philip Seymour Hoffman has passed away presumably from a drug overdose. Some of you may not know this, but Hoffman was originally from a beautiful suburb of Rochester, NY called Fairport. It’s a community I visit often. In fact, it’s the community to which Josh and I are hoping to move when we start our family. Even though I never met or came close to meeting Hoffman, it seems that the physical proximity of places he would have known and loved makes his passing seem more haunting. Also, a mere matter of days ago I briefly mentioned him in my blog post about Hollywood directors and their muses, pointing to his relationship with director P.T. Anderson.

I never think about Hoffman . . . and I was talking about him just this week. It feels so strange. Too convenient or something like that.

Relevant magazine posted a wonderful article praising some of his finest roles. I’m happy to link to it here to honor the memory of great actor, but I would also like to direct readers’ thoughts and prayers to the children and ex-partner he has left behind and to the tragic drug addiction and mental illness that contributed to his death.

He will be missed by those closest to him who loved him, by aspiring actors who admired him, by film fans whom he touched, and by Rochester natives whom he made proud. His death is a loss in every sense of the word.

More Losses

Rochester has had some other rough breaks recently in terms of our celebrity denizens making the news. It’s not like anybody knows or particularly cares that Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis went to college at my alma mater here in the Roc, but I can’t help thinking about it when he says things like his recent public comments about gay people being “more pervert.” As someone who speaks a second language, I’m sympathetic of the fact that he might not have been able to express himself well in English. I hope it was just a slip-up. Let’s face it. A homophobic statement like this during an interview doesn’t help anybody.

Then there was the more recent Bachelor scandal involving what many are calling the show’s first nationally-televised “slut-shaming.” Juan Pablo apparently made some promiscuous sexual decisions with contestant Clare and then proceeded to blame her and make her feel guilty about what he now sees to be a “wrong” action. There’s a whole other post there somewhere, but the beginning and end of the story is that JP is basically the most childish Bachelor to ever walk the earth. Go Roberts!

And such is life. No city always gets into the news for exclusively good reasons.

Just this week I learned that a mother here lost two of her sons to gun violence a mere 19 days apart.

A psychiatrist down the road from one of my husband’s coworkers was found to have a body buried in his yard.

Have you heard of the serial murders of the Alphabet Killer? Guys, that dude was from Rochester.

Wins

Of course, good things happen because of people with ties to Rochester, too.

Rochesterian Renee Fleming brought down the house with her rendition of the national anthem at the Superbowl this past Sunday. I have good friends who go to Eastman School of Music downtown who sing and play in the practice rooms where she would have studied. Perhaps I’m biased, but this matchless contributor to the beautiful Lord of the Rings soundtrack (y’all know how I feel about Lord of the Rings) delivered what I believe to be the best performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” I have ever personally witnessed. What a difference classical training can make! Not that pop covers of the song aren’t great, too. That was just incredibly powerful.

Then there are successful Olympian athletes Ryan Lochte and Jenn Suhr, Travie McCoy and Matt McGinley of Gym Class Heroes, and the incomparable Kristen Wiig.

These are people who have put us on the map for good reasons–just like Phil did. (I know being from the same area where he went to high school doesn’t mean I get to call him Phil. It just felt right.)

Moving On

Weeks like this remind me of the circle of life not just as it pertains to me, but as it pertains to one’s city or one’s sense of place.

Right now, Rochester is the city in New York state most affected by the economic recession. The devastating bankruptcy of Kodak alone is enough to imply that financially our town is not doing well.

By some standards, we are dying.

But then I talk to my friends and I browse my Facebook feed and I see people opening restaurants, teaching photography classes, publishing articles, dancing on stages, building sculptures, meeting to discuss social issues, volunteering in homeless shelters, and sledding down hills–

And I realize that we are also very much alive.

Hollywood Muses

Movie directors and their muses.

As an occasional filmmaker and full-time film appreciator, I loved this infographic. As someone who constantly chews on the concepts of muses and their power and appeal, I was left wanting more.

First of all, the image made me realize that I wasn’t crazy and that a lot of the movies by these directors start to look the same after awhile–same faces, same style of cinematography, etc. Secondly, it made me realize that there’s something to this whole business of muses, especially in the film industry. There’s something about maintaining a relationship with an artist whose work you love who you can trust to deliver the performance you envision.

I’ve been just shy of outright admitting my muses in the past for fear of sounding obsessed. People sometimes let you get away with that sort of gushing when you’re talking about celebrities, but when you’re talking people you’ve actually met, it gets awkward fast and sometimes sounds borderline stalkery. Therefore, in this list compiling the muses I am willing to admit (some of whom may not be secrets to you), I have omitted the people I know personally. For one thing, that would be very uncomfortable for them. For another, they are not famous (yet), and you would have no idea who I was talking about.

Also, I just want to throw out there that I would probably steal Frances McDormand as a muse if I didn’t think the Cohens would take issue with that.

Evangeline Lilly

I could completely take or leave Lost, and don’t even get me started on her completely made up non-canon elf character in The Desolation of Smaug. All I know is that Evangeline intrigues the crap out of me. The girl is so freaking diverse! The Hurt Locker? Lord of the RingsEt Après? I kind of want her to be in, like, everything and see how she does . . .

Just for starters, I’d like to cast her as a witch, a professional athlete, a single mom, a writer with a club hand, a frigid wife of a Roman senator, a charming and multilingual spy with zero combat training, a tactless spy with the world’s best combat training, a socially awkward woman who helps the disadvantaged because she feels inferior in the “real world,” a stripper, a girl-next-door whose boyfirend is tragically murdered . . . I could go on.

She’s also freaking beautiful.

Troy Baker

I don’ know how long this director-actor relationship would last. I mean, Troy is technically a voice actor, heading up dozens of really solid anime and video game roles, The Last of Us most notably. He impresses me a lot because he’s a skinny blonde guy in his mid-thirties who makes the character of Joel sound (and look! He did the mo-cap for Joel, too) like a super-jaded guy in his fifties.

I can’t help wanting to get him in front of the camera and see him in some gritty roles–drug addiction, messy and/or violent divorce, employment of questionable legality. I guess I’m not thinking of anything too far in tone from what he did in The Last of Us–but more age-appropriate and, you know, with his own face visible instead of some grizzly middle-aged dude.

No offense, Joel. Please, don’t kill me with a baseball bat with scissors stuck in it.

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Guillermo Navarro (cinematographer)

Even though I think he (along with one of my all-time favorite directors, Guillermo del Toro, who may fight with me for his muse status) has sold out a bit with movies like Pacific Rim, Hellboy, and (gack!) the Twilight movies, I adore this man’s visual style. Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone are stunning–so eerily beautiful.

I will also admit that I absolutely love the feel of Night at the Museum. It just feels fun and carefree and mysterious and dangerous all at once–something which I attribute at least in part to his skills as director of photography.

Emma Thompson

Is there anything this woman doesn’t make beautiful? I haven’t been able to get over the tragically lovely complexity of her character in Saving Mr. Banks.

She is my favorite free spirit and my favorite tortured soul all at the same time. I could work with her for the rest of my life.

Kenneth Branagh

Yes, I know that Emma and Kenneth were married for a while. It’s a total coincidence. What can I say. They were perfect together.

I can’t quite explain why, but I am very eager to see Kenneth in the role of a mentally disturbed character–schizophrenia perhaps, or multiple personality disorder. Ooh oooh! I would cast him in Jekyll and Hyde! Why didn’t I think of this before?

Too bad I’m pretty sure he is already his own muse . . .

Tom Hiddleston

Oh, what fun I would have with Tom as a muse. I meant that way less sketchy than it sounded.

He would automatically land the role of every misunderstood antihero without auditioning. I mean, look at his track record–Thor, Deep Blue Sea, his current National Theatre smash Coriolanus–he is the master of brooding complexity. Of course, I would also have to experiment with throwing him into roles where he was completely good-natured, pure, innocent–naive, even (sort of a la War Horse). You know, just to  keep people in theaters on the edge of their seats, waiting for him to show his dark side but enjoying every beautiful minute that he didn’t.

Also, basically any adaptation of classic literature I ever did would star Tom and Kenneth. If the story requires a female lead, I’m screwed.

How about a Pickwick Papers movie? Or a Lord of the Rings prequel about neglected Tom Bombadil? I could totally make this work!

Are you into filmmaking? Do you ever fantasize about being a major Hollywood director? Who would some of your muses be?