Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When Harry Met Eleanor

Eleanor Callahan, wife and muse of the late Harry Callahan died yesterday at the age of 95. I don't think there was a photographer who loved his wife more or longer than Harry Callahan loved Eleanor. The couple met in 1933 when both were working at Chrysler in Detroit. She was 17 and he was 21 and for more than 50 years Harry photographed her the way his hero Ansel Adams photographed mountains - with respect, and awe, and love, at all times of the day and night and in all kinds of weather.

Eleanor's plain beauty made the photographs timeless. Her faith in her husband's taste and judgment allowed the most intimate pictures. Here's hoping that a match made in heaven continues where it began.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And the winner is ....

Watching the Oscars has always been a major pleasure and unmissable tradition for me. (And I've seen the awards in quite a range of places.) I've been a guest at Swifty Lazar's famous party at Spago in L.A., hosted an Oscar bash with my wife at The Mercer Hotel, and watched my good friend Doug Wick get the Oscar for Best Film (for "Gladiator"). But if I had to pick my favorite way to view, I think snuggling in bed with your family or loved one is the best of all.

Recently though the speeches seem to be getting more mundane. Perhaps it's the weight of the fashion choices and instant judgment that makes the participants less spontaneous. Perhaps the winners themselves are less joyous. To see what I mean click here to watch my absolute favorite moment - Roberto Benigni's acceptance speech for 1999's Best Foreign Film, followed moments later by his surprise win for best actor.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chico and Rita

This past weekend, inspired by a great review in The New York Times, I went to see the animated movie "Chico and Rita". A full length feature set against the Cuban music scene of the late 1940s and 50s, the film is a love story not only of its two protagonists but also to Havana, Cuban jazz, and creative film-making.

Directed by Fernando Trueba, the filmmaker responsible for the cult Cuban jazz documentary “Calle 54”, and designed by Javier Mariscal, a Spanish graphic artist and designer, the film is so true to life that at first you wonder why it wasn’t simply made as live action. An early car chase scene is so realistically done you actually find yourself flinching, but the quirky hand-drawn animation quickly wins you over.

The music, combining Cuban jazz standards with new compositions by the great pianist and composer, Bebo Valdes, sticks with you long after the film is over – as does the sultry sexiness of the animated Rita – who gives Jessica Rabbit a run for her money (while displaying the full frontal nudity which is really the only reason the movie would not be child-appropriate).

While the film moves as far afield as New York and Las Vegas, the other star is the exquisitely rendered and vibrantly colored Havana. The filmmakers spent several months shooting on location in Havana, and their attention to detail produces a feeling that is both realistic and seductive. I can’t wait to visit Cuba.

While foremost a love story, the film doesn’t sugar-coat the place and time. Chico and Rita, both black Cubans, have to deal with discrimination and exploitation as they work their way up the commercial ladder and without giving anything anyway, their story is bittersweet.

Most surprising of all, though, “Chico & Rita,” has been nominated for an Academy Award as best animated feature – usually the sole province of family oriented fare. In a film year generally acknowledged as one of the most lackluster, it will be interesting to see if “The Artist” and “Chico and Rita” show that breaking out of the box sometimes gets you to the Oscar stage.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Keeping Up With The Web ...

An interesting piece in today's New York Times (click here) about the most watched video on YouTube. Over 417.6 million views! Hard to fathom when you see what it is.

Meanwhile, as those who know me can attest, I'm not much of Facebook user (this blog being my outlet). But I find the pictures people post interesting and have recently been struck by how many people are now using Facebook as on online gallery to showcase photographs by other people that have resonance for them. Quite often you find accidental themes emerging from random posts - most recently I noticed this underwater theme. A wish for warmer times? A feeling people are drowning? Or a more optimistic feeling of floating? You be the judge of this pictorial zeitgeist.

Top photo by Phiippe Paoli; second photo by Seth Casteel, and bottom, this classic fashion photograph for VOGUE in 1948 by the late Toni Frissel.