Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swan Lake Gets A Dark Makeover in "Black Swan"

The fairy tale ballet Swan Lake gets a seriously dark makeover in the new film Black Swan, premiering at the Venice Film Festival on September 1st. When you read the premise you have to wonder why they haven't done it before.

First of all, this is NOT a film for kids or even many teens. We're talking serious psychological thriller bordering on horror here. It's set in the world of the New York City Ballet company but isn't just a 'rival ballerina meets rival ballerina' plot. In this film reality and fantasy begin to blur until you wonder if there might be more than one way the lead Swan named Nina (played by Portman) is right for the role. A particular scene in which Nina pulls a black feather out of her back raises a ton of questions: Is she under attack by someone? The other ballerina? Her mother? Herself? Is someone manipulating her into thinking she's going crazy? If you know the story of Swan Lake, you'll instantly see how each of these scenarios is a plausible possibility and Director Darren Aronofsky explores them all.
Here's the official synopsis from Rough Cut Reviews:
"BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter's professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her."

If you Google for information you'll find the big buzz is not only about Natalie Portman's scary and dark makeover (and a controversial kiss scene) but also spotlights Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) and his penchant for portraying strong but conflicted women in eerie movies. This film definitely falls into that category. (See HERE for the Times article but be warned - the page opens with a scary image right at the top!)

Natalie Portman is indeed a ballet student and has been working and preparing to make this project a reality for at least the last decade, though I haven't been able to find much information on how much actually dancing she does in the film herself (though you can see her signed pointe shoes used in filming, below). With regard to the traditional Swan Lake dual role of Odette/Odile, which is explored at least in part through the film, it is a principle role and very demanding role.
So make the kiddies leave the room before you watch the trailer below - although you don't really see any violence, some of the images are nightmare-making for little ones (maybe some sensitive big ones too):

It's on my must-see list (combining ballet, fairy tales and psychological twists has me intrigued) but I have no idea how I'm going to see it before my toddler goes to preschool!

The official site is HERE.

The film opens in theaters on December 1st, 2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Puss in Steampunk Boots by Matthew S. Armstrong

I'm surprised there aren't a ton more steampunk variations of Puss in Boots around, after all, boots are to steampunk 'almost' what goggles are to steampunk. (ie. iconic)

The title for this piece is "Puss in Steampunk Boots" (aw!) and the artist, Matthew S. Armstrong (also known as 'Matthewart' on deviantArt), wrote a cute caption too:
The classic tale with clockwork ogres and airships. (not pictured) ^_^
I'd definitely pick up that story book! (Hint, hint.)

Matthew S. Armstrong has a very busy career, involved with a wide range of art and subjects in comics, games, picture books and particularly some recent Narnia books (see his Harper Collins Illustrator page HERE). You can see his official site with gallery of different samples HERE. (Be sure to click the 'comics' tab - adorable little stories!)

Matthew's gallery (on deviantArt) concentrates more on the whimsical with picture-book based illustrations (there is some overlap with the website). You can browse and appreciate it HERE and there's a Cheshire Cat too if you love Alice in all her variations.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mila's Daydreams - One Baby's Imagination Brought to Life

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman's Baby

Beware the Super Cute!

Adele Enerson is one creative mama on maternity leave - she's imagining her super-sleepy baby's dreams and bringing them to life long enough to snap a photo. (Magically without disturbing her sleep - how does she DO that? My son was/is totally anti-sleep and has been since day one...)

The awesome (and seriously cute) blog is HERE with the lovely tag line of: "I'd love to see into your dreams, my little one."

Anyway, Adele has kindly allowed people to blog about her project and to post a couple of photos of hers. But that means I had to choose! Ack! there's such a huge variety so I chose a couple of urban legends/mythic heroes (plus the nesting dolls were a must) but you really need to go look at them all - Mila is a little mermaid, Mary with her lamb, bookworm, sitting on Alice's mushroom and much, much more! You'll want to bookmark it too - there's more being added every few days or so.
Her Super Pinkiness

Adele has also put together an FAQ for all the curious (and all the worried) people out there too. A fun and humorous read.

And here's a lovely video, complete with pretty music by Mila's Daddy, Lasse Enersen (oh my goodness could the sweet get any sweeter?):

There's also a recent ABC World News interview on YouTube from August 5th with Adele and Mila (who fell asleep) HERE.

Looks like a book in the making doesn't it? Bring it on - but, don't grow up too fast Mila! Sleep is good!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wolf Women, Deer Girls & Other Animal Spirits Brought to... Hair

What if Goldilocks and the bears weren't as far apart as we first thought?

Being that Rapunzel is so the 'fairy tale girl of the moment' I thought it'd be interesting to look up some art people have made with hair. I found one stunning picture of an 'animal hair hat' that instantly brought to mind tales and legends of women in animal form: fox women (some of my favorite dangerous fairy tale creatures), deer girls, were women of all types, shapeshifters and other 'Beastly Brides'.
It also provoked other questions like the one I wrote above: we know about shapeshifting in tales, they're prolific and we have many wonderful resources available discussing shapeshifting tales, BUT what if the traditional fairy tales (and legends) with animals and people interacting were also viewed through a shapeshifting lens? (A reminder that the new Datlow & Windling anthology The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People was released just a few months ago*. The Fairy Tale Cupboard has a lovely post HERE.)

I did a little investigating to find a) the 'hair hat' was created by well known Japanese artist (and Art Director) Nagi Noda and b) she'd actually created fifteen of them. Sadly, she died in 2008 from surgical complications (initial injuries were from a traffic accident the previous year) at the age of 35 but she left behind a very interesting body of work.
From the archives at CMYKaboom:
Let me tell you a little bit about Nagi Noda. Nagi is a Japanese designer, and dominating nominee for "Person I Would Most Care to be When I Grow Up." An art director who became known for her cutting-edge work in print design, Noda was soon drafted by the big boys, specifically, Nike and the famed Laforet. More recently, Noda has moved into video, where she has proceeded to sweep awards with her music videos and commercials.
Nagi Noda's work is simply stunning: based deeply in surrealism, she makes whimsical works that are as beautiful as they are mind-bending; whether it's costume bags or poodle aerobics or carnivorous flower bunnies. She is also so prolific with these new ideas it is liable to make ones head spin. (FTNH Please note: I had some difficulty with the links but am keeping them in the quote in case they work for you.)

While fashion shoots often get flack for 'artistically bared skin' this is one of those cases in which it makes sense (though it's rarely more than a bared shoulder or two in this case). I also like that some of the models' features match/blend subtly with their animals - beauty in all forms.

The official Nagi Noda website is HERE and you can see some more of her work HERE (and make sure to scroll down to the underground house and the animal shadows).

One more for fun (also a Nagi Noda creation):I like this one for its storytelling. Are we surpressing our inner natures too much? Or is it just as well we try to keep a grip on our wild sides? This is one of the conundrums fairy tales do a great job of exploring and a reason I adore shapeshifter tales.

*You can read the preface to The Beastly Bride anthology HERE.

Sources for images at CMYKaboom and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. Gorilla hands also found HERE (link also shows a couple of other wild hair sculptures)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Disneyland Is About To Get Hairy

(Yes - it's a preview thanks to Photoshop - not yet built)

Starting October 15 Disney's Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (from the coming-soon-feature-animation Tangled) will be greeting guests at Disneyland Park in Anaheim. According to this announcement HERE, it looks like they'll be meeting-and-greeting in Magic Kingdom in Orlando too. (See the link for details of what's getting bumped to make room for the 'Tangled Experience'.)

From's First Look:
Rapunzel will be greeting guests in the location that currently houses Gepetto’s Sweet Shoppe.


We’re sharing a first glimpse of concept art created for Rapunzel’s new meet-and-greet location in Fantasyland. As you can see in the image above, Rapunzel’s 70-feet of golden locks will drape luxuriously around the room. Flynn Rider, Rapunzel’s love interest, will also be on hand to meet and greet guests throughout the day.
What? No hair salon? ;)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wall Street Cyclops by Charles Santoso

Well? How do you think a cyclops would adapt to life in the fast lane? Now I've seen this, I kind of wish they were real... Think I might suggest this concept to my urban fantasy writing friends. I'd love to see what other improvements (aka damage - depending on where you're standing) he would do.

Created by the very talented Australian illustrator Charles Santoso who has a wonderful blog HERE and can be followed on Twitter HERE. Every one of his pictures seems to tell a story (often with a little wink and a nod). His style if wonderfully appealing and there's quite a bit of myth and folktale thrown into his work too so be sure to have a good browse.

Via the always-awesome Super Punch.

Furniture & Home Goods for Colussus (and other Giants)

Did you know local Los Angeles giants (as in ogres and their kin) actually have someone making furniture for them? Well sort of. I'm sure Robert Therrien would be surprised if Jack's nemesis appeared at the workshop and ordered a set of replacement plates but at least he could fulfill the order and keep a troublesome customer happy!
The Los Angeles based artist creates over-sized (REALLY over-sized) plates, tables, chairs, pots and pans and more (which make for awesome photos ops!). You can see more images HERE.

The image above gives me instant Jack and the Beanstalk recall.

From an older exhibit reviewed by

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art – LACMA – presents the exhibition Robert Therrien from February 20 through May 7, 2000. Robert Therrien features six major sculptures, most done within the last five years. Among the newer motifs included in the exhibition are a spiral of fifteen beds, a stack of giant plates and bowls, and three 15-foot fake beards that hang on their stands from armatures that would encircle a monumental pair of ears. A further selection of two- and three-dimensional pieces in a variety of media illuminates the artist’s unique method of developing and recycling imagery.

Did you see the note about the 15 FOOT BEARDS?! This is a guy homo-gigantor-sapiens must love (sorry - not sure of the actual Latin classification of giants). It probably comes as no surprise to learn Mr. Therrien's first exposure to art was comic books. There's an awesome article on him and his wonderful art HERE.
On a related note, looks like some messy teenage giants have been roaming Venice and leaving their chewing gum behind them... (See HERE for some more great - as in both giant and cool - pictures like the one below).
Anyone noticed how we sometimes find evidence of giants (footprints, chewed gum etc) but not the actual giants themselves? Methinks giants must be super-stealthy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Red With A Twist Makes "Top 10" Best Designed Movie Posters

The movie is "Hard Candy", the year was 2006 and features our beloved Red - sort of. It's a psychological thriller (as you might have guessed from the poster) and it doesn't take much to see why this design is so good.

From Total Film:
... the best thing about this poster is that it throws us a complete curveball – our immediate assumption that this kid is in for a torrid time, but then we look again and notice, hey, she isn’t actually caught in that trap...
You can read the rest of the poster review HERE.If you're interested, you can learn more about the movie on Wikipedia HERE but please note: this movie (or its description) is not for the faint of heart. The review excerpt above has given you a clue...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Red Riding Hood in Blue

Yep. Red Riding Hood is wearing blue - at least in the photos we've seen so far. Cast-in-costume photos shot behind-the-scenes of the movie-currently being shot in Vancouver, Canada, include pics of co-stars Virginia Madsen (Red’s mom), Gary Oldman, Cole Heppell, Jen Halley, Billy Burke and Lukas Haas.
(Yes, that's the on-screen love interest, played by Shiloh Fernandez.)
You can see all 17 photos HERE.

But that's not all.
All sites posting and commenting on the photos agree the costuming for Amanda Seyfried, who plays the title role in The Girl With the Red Riding Hood (working title), isn't sporting the iconic Red Riding look. But I suggest you take a closer look.
Maybe I'm reading much more into this than is intended but is anybody else looking at the virgin blue, the red threads woven in, the 'horny' headdress and thinking that maybe the costume is perhaps closer to a red hood than it first appears? Of course I could totally be reading into it. I do love symbology and have a tendency to see it everywhere but if this isn't intentional I'll be very surprised. Any costume designer worth their salt builds story into their characters' costumes, even if it's story that's never directly addressed. This appears a little less subtle than that to me, but it's effective, nevertheless.

The plot remains largely a mystery at this point other than "a Gothic retelling of Red Riding Hood" (actually it would be 'Little Red Cap' as 'Hood' is the Perrault version) and the IMDB one sentence synopsis:
Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure.
... but the dress, particularly the one with the horned headdress (which would logically appear to follow the 'walking in blue with boots' one at the head of this post), says a lot. Particularly about transformation, magic, blood magic, lust (and hormones) and innocence.

Until the script and story come to light speculation is king but so far I haven't seen anyone connect the dots like in this particular way. iO9 mentions magic but even the 'sexy superstar' sites haven't twigged to the horned = lust = sexual maturation aspect of Red that I've seen.

Just my take.

Of course, you didn't really think they would do a 'Red' film completely minus the hood, did you? I found the other half to the top photo. Take a look at what Amanda's harried assistant (dresser?) is holding over her arm.

Note: Additional horned headdress costume images via HERE and Amanda-plus-assistant photo found HERE.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Story of Snow White - Art by "12x07"

DeviantArtist "12x07" had her Snow White image featured on the site recently with this recommendation:
story of snow white by ~12x07... some juicy, energetic pop art to quench one's hunger for bold colours, masterful execution, and tantalisingly awesome loose structuring, with an endearing subject matter in addition to all... how could one resist?
Watercolor with white gouache and, if I'm not mistaken, a little Klimt influence in there too. Even with the traditional 'girl holds apple' presentation of the character it still brings some fresh perspective to the story.

You can see more of "12x07"s dark work on her deviantArt gallery HERE.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fairies in Lampshades & A Forest of Forks - Meet Compagnie Akselere's Sleeping Beauty

This would have to be the most unusual theatrical retelling of The Sleeping Beauty I've seen in some time. Perrault is credited as the source author while Liverpool-born, French artist and puppeteer Colette Garriger is the creator & main performer. The show is just arriving in the US now after an lengthy international tour, with performances scheduled from September 2010 on.
Here's the official blurb:
At her birth they call her "Princess." Her fate is sealed. Left to her own devices and brilliant imagination, this modern day Princess pays off her debts and takes her skeletons out of the cupboard once and for all. Now arriving in the United States after an international tour comes a creative retelling of the Briar Rose tale joining shadow puppetry, object theater, and passionate monologue into a hard-hitting story filled with dark humor.Created by Liverpool-born, French-transplant artist and puppeteer Colette Garrigan.

* Funded in part by a Jim Henson Foundation Presenter's Grant (2010)
And excerpted from a review on Australian Stage:
This version of Sleeping Beauty is closer to a nightmare than a fairytale. A girl grows up in a poor family in Liverpool, England. She is the youngest of seven. Her father dies. She gets farmed out to her grandmother who locks her in the cupboard under the stairs. She steals and thinks it is so exciting to be going in a police car that she waves to all the people she knows. She meets boys who lead her astray. And she knows she is a princess and that prince charming will arrive - even if it is in the form of a medical miracle.From the mind of creator and puppeteer Colette Garrigan comes a passionate monologue with shadow puppets about the loss of innocence and reality versus fairytale.... Garrigan is very much centre stage, and creates the shadow puppets primarily from herself and various unusual objects on the table in the centre of the stage. Forks become a forest, a toaster rack a shopping centre, all projected onto the white semi transparent screen hung at the back. This is not puppetry as most would know it, with only one brief scene using small hand operated puppets that are ingeniously fitted into a lampshade.
You can read the whole article HERE and see more performance photos from the company site HERE.