Scorsese, LaChapelle, & Others Discuss Caravaggio

Over the weekend, The Guardian (which takes the title of best English language newspaper, sorry NYT), published a discussion between various artists and filmmakers on the Italian painter Caravaggio, and it’s must read stuff. If it’s been a while since your last art history course, here’s what you need to know about Caravaggio: active in the late 16th century, Caravaggio was the bad boy artist to end all bad boy artists. In between getting in street brawls, dueling with swords, knifing people, and probably shacking up with various mistresses, Caravaggio managed to reinvent painting with his mix of radical naturalism and dramatic, chiaroscuro lighting. According to Marin Scorsese, David LaChapelle, Peter Doig, and others, Caravaggio was also a seminal influence on their work.

If you’re looking to get a sense of Caravaggio’s work, check out the painting I’ve used for the lede here. Titled Judith Beheading Holofernes, the painting shows the pivotal moment in the tale of Judith and Holofernes. In the story, the widow Judith seduces the enemy Assyrian general Holofernes, gets him drunk, and then decapitates him. The painting encapsulates many of Caravaggio’s trademarks: incredible realism, a vivid moment of action, and dramatic lighting. It’s easy to see how this style might have influenced filmmakers.

According to Scorsese, Caravaggio was a particular inspiration for Mean Streets and The Last Temptation of Christ:

He sort of pervaded the entirety of the bar sequences in Mean Streets. He was there in the way I wanted the camera movement, the choice of how to stage a scene. It’s basically people sitting in bars, people at tables, people getting up. The Calling of St Matthew, but in New York! Making films with street people was what it was really about, like he made paintings with them. Then that extended into a much later film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The idea was to do Jesus like Caravaggio.

David LaChapelle found inspiration in Caravaggio’s focus on the underclass of the day:

He always found beauty in the unexpected, the ordinary – in the street urchin’s face, the broken nose, and the heavy brow. That’s why Caravaggio is a very sympathetic figure to me. I too try to find the beauty in everyone that I photograph, whether it’s the kids in South Central LA who invented the new dance form I documented in Rize, or the transsexual Amanda Lepore who I’ve photographed a lot. People think she is freakish but I don’t – I love her.

Check out the article for more on how Caravaggio influenced other artists, from photographers to a taxidermist.

BREAKING: Amanda Bynes Un-Retires From Acting

Try not to get whiplash, but Amanda Bynes has un-retired from acting. I know! It seems like just yesterday that I brought you ultra-complete coverage of the beloved actress’ retirement from acting. You can finally stop sobbing, it’s all going to be okay now. You can dismantle the shrine where you pray to the great god Horus that Amanda Bynes will once again grace your multiplex, your TV screen, or at least (please, Horus) the stage of your local community theater. Worry no longer. The beloved actress, the light of your life, star of Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure and She’s The Man, one of Teen People’s “25 Hottest Stars Under 25” in 2006 AND in 2007, has finally started to once more do what she was born to do: act.

Here, dear reader, faithful friend, fellow lover of Ms. Bynes’ ouvre, is the incredible tweet that saved us all from a life of misery and pointlessness:

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And yea, the rivers overran with happiness and the Teen Choice Awards had someone to give awards to and all was right with the world.

Kid Cudi Fights A Stage Crasher

For a pot-loving ultra-mellow freaky peacenik, Kid Cudi has been on quite a tear lately. Between ripping doors off hinges, getting caught with liquid cocaine, and sort-of-but-not-really denying that he uses liquid cocaine (is that really a thing?), Cudi’s antics have been a little worrying. But, having just seen a video of him getting stage-crashed at his homecoming concert in Cleveland, following the crasher into the crowd, sort of attempting to beat the crasher up, and then returning to the stage to keep on rocking, I think we can safely say that Cudi is basically okay. Jump to the 40 second mark to see the fun begin.

No one who is strung out on liquid cocaine could muster up the energy to personally chase down a crasher. Um, right? Even Keith Richards had to get (mostly) clean before he began his stage-crasher bashing career in earnest.

That said, Cudi does seem to maybe have some anger issues? This is the second time he’s gone into the crowd to punch someone, the first being last winter’s epic fan punch-down-for-no-reason. Maybe he’s just cranky that he had to get Converse to sponsor his new song? Don’t sweat it, Cudi. It’s a really good song, no matter who sponsored it.

An Artist Wears Fly Legs As Eyelashes, Art

I used to like art. I was the sort of person who would drag their friends to the Met on a Friday night to see a Caravaggio painting one more time. “But Mike, you have seen that painting many times,” my friends would say, “Can’t we just look at it on the Google?” “No,” I would say, “art is important and we must experience it every day or die a little inside with each moment that we do not experience art.” I would look at the painting and then I would go home and hug my compilation book of Edward Hopper prints and sob into my pillow, “ART.” Well, that was all before I saw this video.

Here, Jessica Harrison wears fly legs as eyelashes in an exhibit titled Flylashes and (after making that horrible pun) terms it a “video sculpture.” I guess I don’t know as much about art as I thought I did, since I thought that videos and sculptures were different. ART! Nausea induced insomnia! The two are sometimes closer than you would think.

Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton Re-Team In The ‘Stone’ Trailer

For the first time since 2001’s pretty decent The Score, the legendary-but-now-tarnished Robert DeNiro has teamed up with Ed Norton, one of the best character actors of his generation, and the result is Stone, a sexy prison thriller about an arsonist trying to manipulate his way out of prison. The trailer is out and…yup, yup, okay, not bad. DeNiro does his squinty-eyed world-weary tough guy routine, Norton disappears inside a chewy accent and a pile of cornrows, and Milla Jovovich — playing Norton’s wife, who seduces DeNiro, Norton’s parole officer — is finally given something to do besides shoot zombies.

As decent as this looks, I’m a little bit disappointed by the trailer, at least in that it’s a DeNiro project. DeNiro made his name starring in some of the greatest films of all time, yet he seemed content to spend the aughts keeping busy with sub-bar projects and mining his tough guy/curmudgeon persona for cheap, if lucrative, laughs. Sadly, this doesn’t look like it’s going to reverse that trend.

If DeNiro is simply tired of really trying and just wants to spend his golden years making serviceable, if less than transcendent movies, that’s certainly his prerogative. With Raging Bull, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, et cetera et cetera, already in the bag, the man doesn’t owe us a thing.

On the other hand, why isn’t he teaming up with real talent any more? What, Paul Thomas Anderson or Martin Scorsese or the Coen brothers or whoever don’t have any juicy roles for him? We used to expect brilliant performances from DeNiro. Now we’re conditioned to expect by-the-numbers performances.

Oh well, at least we have Little Fockers to look forward to this Christmas.

The Beatles, Daft Punk, & Cypress Hill Get Mashed Up With Movie Musicals

This is the greatest mash-up you will see all…year? Month? Definitely week. It is seriously awesome. Video artists Crumbs Chief layer The Beatles, Daft Punk, Cypress Hill, Boston, the Beastie Boys, and Rare Earth together into one seamless, entertaining, incredible musical melange. Then, they throw it on top of video from classic movie musicals. As if that weren’t awesome enough, the title is Come Again. Beatles jokes FTW. So, is this the best thing ever? Or, is it the best thing Evah? Hit the break so you too can decide.

Pretty great, right? It’s part of The Videotones project, an epic mash-up contest run by The Kleptones in which video artists pull apart and reassemble their 2010 mash-up album Uptime / Downtime. If you’re interested in making your own mash-up for the project, you can hit up The Kleptones’ website to download the requisite tracks.

‘The Debt’ Trailer: Helen Mirren Is a Sexy Sextagenarian Nazi Hunter

Well, boys and girls, the trailer for John Madden’s The Debt is here and it is looking excellent. The film revolves around the story of three young Mossad agents who embark on a secret mission to capture and kill a Nazi war criminal. Something goes wrong–what exactly, is left out of the trailer (thank god)–and, when the Nazi resurfaces decades later, the now old and wizened agents go back undercover to investigate. Madden directed Shakespeare in Love and Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds, and Tom Wilkinson are set to star in the film, so, come December 29, lets get ready to hunt some Nazis and investigate some long-simmering secrets.

Between this and the “retired hitman thriller” Red, it looks like Mirren is having quite a late career renaissance as an action star. At the end of the day, I suppose you just can’t beat a dame. I’m hoping that Madden lets her kick an appropriate amount of Nazi ass in this one.

The Women Of Mad Men Give Great One-Liners

Thank god Mad Men is back on Sunday. Ever since the latest season of Breaking Bad ended, the TV landscape has been more barren than Johnny Drama’s bedroom. (With the exception of Friday Night Lights, of course). But how excited are you to have Peggy, Betty (okay, maybe not Betty), Joan, et al. back and rocking it in only a scant few days? Very excited, I’m sure. Suits! Martinis! Cigarettes! Casual misogyny! It’s going to be the best. In honor of the series; return, I invite you to enjoy this great video compiled by BuzzSugar, of the little ladies of Mad Men giving their men some of that sweet, sweet sass.

Neon Indian’s ‘6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know)’ Video: Not For Arachnophobes

Neon Indian’s excellent 2009 album Psychic Chasms is still paying dividends (metaphorically, people — no one gets paid actual dividends for music anymore) and the latest example is the excellent new video for the track ‘6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know).’ It’s full of super cool stop-motion spider animation, super cool colors, and a super cool song. Hit the break for the full super cool experience (unless you’re an arachnophobe, in which case “GET OUT OF HERE!“).

More bands should really use stop motion animation, especially when it involves the birth and growth of giant spider puppets. Rock on, Neon Indian.