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.


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?


6 Films About the Artist in You

Whether it’s inspiration or encouragement you need today, these are six contemporary films from a variety of genres and styles that will feed, challenge, and change the artist in you.

I’ve added a few words about what I personally got out of these motion pictures. You know, because I’m good with words and stuff 🙂 It’s what I do, haha.


Midnight in Paris

This quirky Owen Wilson drama with a little humor thrown in (I mean, it’s Owen Wilson) is an Art and Lit major love fest. Seeing names like Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and my personal film inspiration Luis Buñuel (the movie features quirky inside jokes about his works that made me feel very smart indeed) just sets me squirming with glee.

The powerful message of this film is demonstrated in the first line of the book Wilson’s character is writing:

“Out Of The Past was the name of the store, and its products consisted of memories: what was prosaic and even vulgar to one generation had been transmuted by the mere passing of years to a status at once magical and also camp.”

This statement about the past not merely about vintage trinkets. It is about the temptation for artists to think that nothing new can be done in the era in which they live–that everything they and their contemporaries create is dull, average, and uninspired while the works of those who came before are the only true innovations. As the film makes plain, in the future, artists may look back on today and wish that they lived in this inspired bygone age.

Define your era. Don’t let it define you.


The Vow 

I know. I know. Sappy though this romantic film may be, it has two very powerful messages about the life of the artist.

The first is that it is important to know why you want to be an artist. It doesn’t so much matter why Rachel McAdams’ character Paige has decided to attend art school. What is important is the very personal journey she takes to discover why she fell in love with art (and Channing Tatum) in the first place.

The second is to not be afraid to be impractical. I think most people who have decided to be “professional” artist have already overcome this step, but it’s nice to know that others are making the same crazy life decisions you are. Misery loves company!


The Dead Poets Society

There has never been a film that more successfully demonstrates the profound impact that literature can have in the life of an average young person than The Dead Poets Society.

I think even the partly biographical Freedom Writers (not a personal favorite, great story but not-so-great movie) comes up short in comparison to Dead Poets.

From standing on their desks and quoting “Walt Whitman” to closing their eyes and blurting out whatever they see, Dead Poets is all about the students at a repressive prep school learning to let down their inhibitions and just create. While not all of them are or want to be artists in the orthodox sense, they all have something to gain from learning the lessons of eccentric Professor Keating (a surprisingly serious Robin Williams). Art and literature has the power to set them free.

Mr. Hollands OpusMr. Holland’s Opus

When Richard Dreyfuss’s character, Mr. Holland, gets a job teaching music at a public high school, he is tasked with the weighty feat of making a roomful of teenagers care about his deepest love–music.

It could just be the soft spot in my heart for the Deaf community, but I found this movie to be absolutely precious. The moment when Mr. Holland signs “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to his Deaf son Cole–bridging the gap between his language of music and Cole’s language of ASL–just makes me cry every time. And the final scene when his symphony is played by his former students who call themselves his “real symphony?” So many tears.

The lesson to be taken from this film?

Taking a day job doesn’t mean giving up your dreams of being an artist; it means embracing new ways of pursuing those dreams and encountering brand new ones in the process.

6P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.”

I may have left out Freedom Writers, but Hilary Swank made it onto the list anyway. Also a very sappy movie, P.S. I Love You is unique in the sense that one of the film’s main characters is dead for 90% of the film.

I will come out and say it, this is not a good love story. It is, however, a good art story. The main theme of the movie is to stop making excuses for not doing what you were made to do. If your business is to create, don’t let any obstacle (no matter how devastating) keep you from creating.

I also love that this movie is about an uncommon and unorthodox art form. Shoemaking! How unique is that?


The Artist

I believe that Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail perfectly sums up the poignant focus of Best-Picture-Oscar-winning film The Artist.

He writes that this French-made picture “uses old technology to dazzling effect to illustrate the insistent conquest of a new technology.”

This “love letter to cinema” so dubbed by the film’s director Michael Hazanavicius. Is all about the balance between satisfying an audience and satisfying oneself in the changing worlds of art and media. The ultimate message of the (silent and black-and-white) picture is all about art for the sake of art.

I hope that curling up to watch one of these films will give you the courage to continuing pursuing your dreams as an artist.

Always remember: If you believe you are an artist but can’t afford to pursue your art “full time,” that part of your identity does not go away from 9 to 5. Stoke it. Bring it to life in every possible moment.

American Beauty’s Paper Bag Scene (Re-Blog)

It’s been a while since I’ve roamed around the blogosphere visiting the sites of the brilliant people I tend to think of as internet “friends.” 
Today I popped in on my friend Optimistic Existentialist at his blog, Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer, where he had recently posted about one of his favorite movie scenes of all time. Say, film is on of my favorite things of all time regardless of which movie it is!
I checked it out, and while I have never seen American Beauty, I had to admit that the scene in question at least sounded like one of the most powerful statements about film that I could imagine . . . told through the medium of film. Doesn’t that make it that much more powerful?
Here’s what Optimistic Existentialist says about the onscreen moment.
I recently had a conversation with a friend in which our favorite all-time movie scenes were brought up. When my friend asked me about my all-time favorite movie scene, the answer came easily – the floating plastic bag scene in American Beauty.

American Beauty is by far my all-time favorite movie; and this scene is a perfect example of why. To set the scene up, Ricky (a troubled but fascinatingly deep individual) wants to show Jane (The girl he is falling in love with) the most beautiful thing he’s ever filmed. 

One random autumn day, he saw a plastic bag floating in the wind and began filming. He describes it as follows:

The Art of Dating: Reviving Valentine’s Day

While there’s nothing better than the intimacy of a committed relationship, it’s no secret that monogamy can easily become . . . well, monotonous if a couple isn’t willing to pair their love with a little creativity.

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to reawaken some of the romance than tends to get lost in bills and housework, but believe it or not, even this annual observance of love and romance can become rote and repetitive–something that you have to do in order to keep your relationship strong. Obviously, this sense of “have to” is no good for keeping the spark alive. You want to be excited to spend time with your sweetheart, so changing up the ways in which you celebrate your love is crucial.

Here are a few outside-the-box Valentine’s Day ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Your relationship is worth it!

Cute and Quirky

1. Pay a Visit to a Pub

A chain restaurant isn’t quite special enough for this special day, but for some couples a nice dinner with expensive drinks is too formal and high-pressure. Never underestimate the power of a pub when it comes to quality classic (and sometimes not so classic–chips and gravy?) comfort food. Not only do many pubs provide great eats and casual-yet-tasty adult beverages, they also have a unique environment that is both foreign and familiar. I always find myself feeling as though I’ve been transported to the British Isles somehow without ever leaving my couch.

2. Dine In, But Away

It’s always a great idea to skip the crowds and cook a romantic meal together, but why not make your dinner in feel like a night out? I don’t just mean candles and music . . . I’m talking way out. Like, out of this country. French or Italian cooking might be the romantic go-to, but what about Thai, Greek, or Ethiopian? Transform your low-key night together into an exciting getaway.

3. May I Have This Dance?

Dance. Just do it. Go to a restaurant with live music and have a passionate twirl with your love. If you’re not feeling confident enough for that, how about postponing dinner for a salsa or waltz lesson at a dance studio? Still not convinced? Stay home with a custom-made playlist and shuffle along in the dark 🙂

Four more unique ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day after the jump!

4. Do Brunch Instead of Dinner

You’ll find yourself wondering why you never thought of this before. What’s so special about dinner, anyway? You have some kind of dinner every night, right? You probably even go out for dinner every now and then. But when, I ask, was the last time you or your honey sat down some morning to someone serving you up a plate of bagels and lox, eggs Benedict, or bananas foster pancakes? A sunlit brunch can feel more elegant and romantic than you ever imagined it would.

5. Skip the Drama . . . Unless You’re Watching It

Instead of a chick flick, why not watch something together that will make you think as well as feel a whole range of emotions? Be it a historical film or some compelling theater, a little drama always
brings Josh and I close together with truly deep conversation.

Out of the Ordinary

1. Stay in Bed All Day

I’m determined to try this some day when we have some vacation time built up (or when V-Day falls on a weekend). With how much value Josh and I place on cuddling, I can only imagine how adding takeout food and some great movies could make this the best day ever.

2. Help Out Someone Else

Sort of the opposite of lazing around in bed all day . . . volunteer together at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to make your celebration of love really meaningful this year. An idea that I mention in 100 Cheap and Free Dates is to babysit another couple’s kids so that they can go out for a date night. What better way to try something new than to help someone else enjoy their Valentine’s Day in the process?