Last night around 10 pm I put this doc on and thought I would just drift off into oblivion and at some point I would actually watch it the whole way through. I do that a lot, put films on and fall asleep and I repeat the process over and over until I do finally reach the point where I finish it. But when I pushed play on Ross McElwee’s – Bright Leaves – I didn’t drift off to the land of nod, I started laughing and couldn’t stop.
In typical McElwee fashion, (like it’s predecessor Sherman’s March) the director starts off on a path of historical research and gets sidetracked with his own interests and agendas along the way. Bright Leaves see him travelling down to his home state of North Carolina to uncover information about his families history in tobacco and his great grandfather’s legendary feud with tobacco baron James Duke. His cousin, an avid film buff, finds a 1950 film of the same name starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, that he believes is loosely based on their family legacy. This sets Ross off on a hysterical historical quest. McElwee sees what could have been had his family continued in the industry, and grapples with guilt of his families connection to the most powerful drug on earth. Pure comedy genius. Essential viewing for Southerners!! In my opinion better than Sherman’s March! See trailer below. Rent from itunes here and Netflix here! Enjoy! oxo gd
I tend to not watch many documentaries about artists. At least not from the 20th century onwards. Dunno why, I just don’t. Eames: The Architect & The Painter – kept cropping up on my suggestions on Netflix. I ignored it for awhile. What is there to know about a modern furniture designer I thought. I was a fan, I had previously owned a set of Eames designed Hermen Miller Shell Chairs, and A fake Eames Wood/ Leather Lounger & ottoman. But I suppose in my mind, I assumed them to be austere and serious, German perhaps, like the school of Bauhaus, cold, utilitarian. But what I found was quite the opposite. While Charles was certainly the driving force behind the mechanics of their designs, Ray injected the color and fun. And together approached their designs in a childlike way, learning as they went, creating new, modern, fun worlds.
Here is Ray standing with a prototype of “The Toy”.
After the Eames designs became household names and staples in American households, they segued their creative passions from furniture and sculpture, to film making, even animation! And from 1950 to 1982, that was their main medium they worked in. Creating over 100 powerful visual shorts for the American Government, IBM, and many other big corporate entities.
The Powers of Ten – Made for IMB in 1977, explores life in time & space by the number 10 and is still regarded as a revolution in film, way ahead of it’s time.
It was a very enjoyable watch, about 2 souls coming together with a strong love of creating, learning and each other. Together they did change the world. It was so refreshing to see artists working successfully in many creative fields, and not letting society pigeon hole them into one medium. I am an animator, but one day I will design furniture!! Watch this space!! Anyhoo, the trailer below. Rent from itunes from just $2.99. Enjoy! More soon! oxo gd
Yesterday I had plans to work on some other art projects, but after running myself into the ground the week before, thought it best I have one more day of rest and relaxation. So I laid in bed and surfed netflix for docs to watch. Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap Box kept popping up. I first tried Dr Bronner’s Peppermint Soap in my early 20′s in California. It was kind of a household staple of hippies and counterculture people. I always loved the smell and feeling I got when using it, and I, like many others sat in the bath and tried to read the mad rambling’s on the bottle’s label of the Moral ABC’s. I always assumed it was made by a fundamentalist cult out west, that was about as much thought as I gave it, then a few years ago I read about one of the Bronner’s protesting for hemp production outside the White house. So I thought it might be an interesting story, and gave it a go. And wow! I was really shocked. Emmanuel Bronner emigrated to the US from Germany in 1929. He was a chemist who came from a long line of Jewish soap makers. He pleaded with his parents to join him, but they stayed put, eventually having to sign their soap factory over to the Nazi’s and then both being killed in concentration camps. He married and had 3 children. Both he and his wife went a bit mad and the children were put in orphanages for years, the wife eventually died. He went on and on with his “Moral ABC” preaching, telling anyone who would listen that we are “All-One-God-Faith”. There was no dominant religion. He was obsessed and would go on for years with his mantra, some attribute it as a reaction to his parents being killed. After years of shock therapy he was released from an Illinois state hospital and made his way to California, leaving his children scattered in different places, while he set up his soap business in 1948 in a rundown tenement apartment. His sons eventually joined him and the business grew. Dr Bronner continued his rants, and spoke publicly on unity and the “earth spaceship”. All though many wrote him off as crazy ( and after seeing footage of him, he certainly was a man possessed!), he picked up many fans of his teachings along the way, including Eldrige Cleaver of The Black Panthers! He was a man on a mission with a strong conviction to change the world and in 1997, died at the age of 79.
Since then his sons and grandsons have taken over the business and have made it a successful multi million dollar operation. But not only that, they continue Dr Bronner’s legacy by leading with a wonderful business model. All of the CEO’s have a wage cap and no one at the top makes more than 5 times the wage of the entry level employee’s. They give generous bonus’s to all their workers. They were the first company to use fully recyclable plastic and hemp oil. They have scholarship programs and invest in many community projects. And on top of everything else they give away 70% of all of their net profit to charity!!! Can you believe that??? They really do follow the Moral ABC’s. If only the rest of the world’s corporations had a conscience and would follow their wonderful example! After watching this fascinating doc, that’s it, I am a customer for life! No other soap for me! It’s great knowing when you buy something, where your money is going and how it’s being spent. I urge everyone to watch this fascinating story! And please buy their products and help tip the balance of our world from wrong to right! Trailer below! Rent for itunes for only $2.99! Together we CAN change the world!! Enjoy! oxo gd
I have always hated my name. Ever since I can remember I had alias’. My first was at 4 – I expected everyone to refer to me as Miss Diamond Pearl (such a little drag queen!), then later Blaine Arden Doubleday (I always loved my cousins last name), then Lacey Doubleday (very stripper), then when I started performing I had a myriad of alais’ – Chesty Chesterfield, Vera Vortex Gateway to The Galaxies, Chantilly, Chantilly Peach, Crazy Girl and now Grande Dame. I have never used my real name, never felt like a “Tiffany”. Of course then the 80′s came and the name was highjacked by a tacky tween singer and it will always be synonymous with malls and strippers, so I hated it even more! And never could stand Tiffany Rene Darwish and her crappy pop muzak. My friend Wendy gave me this t shirt for my birthday. I used to wear it as a joke. A few days ago I watched an incredible documentary about 2 superfans that take obsession to a whole new level. And they LOVE Tiffany! Jeff Turner, a 50 year old man from Santa Cruz, CA, who suffers from Asbergers Syndrome. People with this disorder are obsessive about one thing, and his is Tiffany. She has even had to get restraining orders against him. He is a devout christian, and one of the most cringe worthy moments is when he turns up to church with the playboy issue she had bared all in. The other superfan is an intersexed pre op transvestite from Denver named Kelly McCormick. Kelly had some sort of accident which resulted in head trauma. At first I thought it was an actor playing a character, because they are soo strange. But no, they are real and Kelly is madly in love with Tiffany. It’s riveting car crash viewing. And unbelievable to me that 2 people would be into her music at all! The universe is an amazing place. Here is the doc in full below. Or click the pic to watch on vimeo. Enjoy!! oxo gd
My mom turned me on to this wonderful documentary – A Man Named Pearl – about a self taught topiary artist in Bishopville, South Carolina. She is taking a trip up there and his garden is one of her stops. I’m so glad she reccomended this film, as it was the perfect watch to my Sunday morn. Pearl Fryar was the son of share croppers who grew up to work in a tin can manufacturing plant for 35 years. It wasn’t until mid life that he became interested in plants. The local gardening center allowed him to pick scraps and cuttings from their cast off pile, he took them home and created THIS! Looking at his work I am reminded of so many things – Henry Moore’s sculptures, Frank Gehry buildings, and Doctor Suess’ landscapes all covered in a rich, leafy green layer. So beautiful! Pearl had no formal training, he just got stuck in and learned as he went. Never sketching or using wire molds, he builds and sculpts as he goes. He also doesnt use any pesticides! So not only is his garden filled with magical green shapes, but lots of birds and butterflies too! But he not only transformed his garden to something special, he inspired his neighbors to transform theirs, he inspires children to be interested in nature, he inspires art students and others to think outside the box, he attracts thousands of visitors to his near bankrupt town, helping the economy to flourish. But most importantly, he transcends racial stereotypes and helps bridge the divide in an area long plagued by segregation. And his passion is awe inspiring! If you wanna see a great feel good doc – Watch it!! On itunes & netflix! oxo gd
I’m turning into a movie review blog lately! Seems like that is all I’m writing about… But I saw another corker of a doc and thought I would share. Paul Williams – Still Alive is a sweet almost love story of one mans obsession with the 70′s legend. Being a child of the 70′s I remember him well, guest starring on the Hollywood Squares, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Love American Style, The Partridge Family, Brady Bunch, Sonny & Cher, Carson, Merv, Mike Douglas – he was everywhere! A bit of an odd sex symbol, and certainly wouldnt happen now. But not only was he all over the tv screen, he wrote some of the biggest hits in music – We’ve Only Just Begun, A Star is Born, Rainy Day & Mondays, Out in The Country, and one of my all time faves – Rainbow Connection!! He was a massive influence on me and I didn’t even know it until 15 years ago. I was at a club in NYC watching a blue grass band and I asked them if they knew any songs from Emmet Otter’s Jug band Xmas. They looked at me with disgust and replied “That’s not bluegrass! That was written by Paul Williams!” Well excuse me! As you may recall – I mentioned previously how River Bottom Nightmare band’s theme song – inspired me to teach myself the riff on the piano when I was 8. It spoke to me! Still does… As the 80′s gave way Williams lost his path to drug and alcohol addiction and disappeared from tv. But super fan Stephen Kessler never forgot him, and this sweet film is one man’s journey to find his idol. Rent it from itunes for only $3.99! Enjoy!!
Many apologies for being the lamest blogger on the planet! I am still slaving away with this damn animation! I better win loads of awards or else I have wasted my life for the last year & a half! Ha Ha! I also started a silk screening class, which I am LOVING!! But man, it physically wrecked me and for 3 days last week I wasn’t able to move!! But the pain will be worth it, as the results so far have been phenomenal!! Yay!!
In the mean time, I wanted to share this really sweet, clever and funny short film! Made by WOW’s Reports Michael Lucid as a student film. It is absolutely brilliant! It’s a charming short starring puppets! “About a gay boy who sneaks off to seek adventure and love in the big city. On his way he meets a wise woman in the forest who offers him the healing waters of a magical lake. Later he encounters a dreamboat rock singer in a gay dive bar, and gets more than he bargained for.” It’s 7 minutes of joy! And a perf way to begin your day! More here. Enjoy! Back soon! oxo gd
Yesterday I was in a foggy mood… Was a bit achey in my joints from having 2 pints of beer the previous day. Note to self – do not drink beer! I needed a mood elevator, so I scanned the documentary section on itunes, and was pleased to find that the Diana Vreeland Doc – The Eye Has To Travel – was available to view for only $3.99 (£2.50). So I nestled in for a treat and was not disappointed. Built around interviews she had with author George Plimpton for her autobiography, the doc illustrated her need for constant, over the top fantasy. She lived, breathed, and existed on fantasy like normal people need oxygen and water. She revolutionised fashion & in particular fashion editorials, from clinical boring conventional spreads, to dramatic over the top beyond your wildest dreams looks! Not being a conventional beauty herself, she sought out women with strange looks and told the photographers to take their oddest features and exaggerate them. Barbara Streisand’s nose, Lauren Hutton’s teeth, Marisa Berenson’s long neck, Penelope Tree’s weird face… She made being weird cool! And also started the careers of many stars dating all the way back to Lauren Hutton! Diana made fashion art. She was art! Diana spoke in poetry. She was a woman of infinite one liners! She told her sons growing up “Always aim to be the very top of the class or the very bottom, but never in the middle”, or “I would rather be dead than boring”. She was a known story teller & exaggerator! But one would have had to be to create the wonderful stories she did with clothing. After her ousting as editor from Vogue in 1971. She was asked by The Metropolitan Museum of Art to curate their costume dept. But in true Diana style, not only did she curate fabulous, fantasy filled shows, she created magic and made the museum come alive! There were lines around the block for all of her shows and The Mets Costume Institute was born! One of the most poignant pieces of the film for me was when speaking on a costume show she said “It’s more important to me that the 8 year old girl from Harlem comes in and gets it, if she doesn’t get it, I’m doing something wrong.” I could go on & on… It was a pleasure to see, hear, & learn. A very inspiring view indeed! Click pic or here to watch!! oxo gd
I shed a tear this morning upon learning the death of legendary documentarian Les Blank. He made my fave doc ever – Always for Pleasure – about New Orleans Mardis Gras, local culture and colloquialisms in 1978. Every time I watch it I cry, as it reminds me of my amazing childhood. Once a year I would get to escape the stifling Georgia/Alabama, countrified, deliverancesque, bible belt & visit my family in this tropical paradise with music & laughter & costumes & beautiful buildings & yummy food & non stop fun. I hated to leave and told my mother it was child abuse that she bring me up in Georgia, and vowed as soon as I graduated high school, I move there and have a fabulous fun life. And I did. But by the time I moved, my close family were no longer alive and it wasn’t the same as when I was a child. Nothing in life stays the same… But I can always watch this beautiful film and go back in time, to my wonderful childhood. More amazing films by les Blank here. RIP LES! oxo gd
I know I’m late on this, but I finally got around to watching SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN – and all I can say is -YOU GOTTA SEE THIS FILM!! Really moving story about a singer – Sixto Rodriguez – a Detroit native, who released a few albums in the early 70′s, but whose career never really took off. He changed his path and started a family and chose a life of hard grafting and simplicity. He and his family lived in abject poverty, but they were rich in love & spirit… But little did they know, in a parallel universe called South Africa, Rodriguez was bigger than Elvis! Bigger than the Stones!! But because of harsh censorship laws imposed by the apartheid regime, many of bis south african fans had no clue to his back ground or where abouts, rumours abounded about his death… But he was very much alive and well in Detroit. I don’t want to give too much away if you haven’t seen it, but my god, it will move you to tears. The sweetness, and humbleness of this man is almost too much to comprehend. A touchingly beautiful, poetic story. Click to rent on itunes!! Only a couple quid!! Watch and make sure you get your hanky’s ready!! oxo gd