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Flash Movie Review: Echo in the Canyon

EXCEPT FOR A COUPLE OF PARTICIPANTS WHO came with a friend none of us knew each other as we sat in the room, waiting for the instructor. The class each of us signed up for was a pottery class at the local community center. I was interested in pottery after seeing a potter at an art fair use a potter’s wheel to make a bowl. Watching him take a lump of clay, throw it onto the wheel and with some water and wooden utensils turn it into a beautiful etched bowl; it was mesmerizing to me, as it seemed to be pure magic. The instructor walked into the room and introduced himself to us. After explaining what he planned on us achieving, he asked us to come up and get some clay to work on for the day. With a quick succession of instructions and encouragement, the instructor asked us to talk to each other and left us to explore the possibilities with our clay. Before we turned on our potter’s wheels a member in the class asked what people were thinking of making with their clay. I planned on doing a bowl, but I was surprised by all the different comments. The creative ideas some of the participants expressed were fueling the conversations as we began our projects. It wasn’t until after the potter’s wheels were on and everyone’s lump of clay were halfway towards completion that I realized how exciting it was to be sitting in a room with engaged and creative “artists.”      THE CREATIVITY THAT CAME OUT OF THAT classroom could be seen by the variety of objects that each of us made and designed. I surprised myself by how quick I adapted to the environment. Almost all of the time, I need time to process a situation. As you can imagine being spontaneous is not something I do often, or maybe ever. When I have attended aerobic workshops, I always have a fear the presenter is going to ask us to break up into smaller groups and create an exercise routine. I am horrible in these types of scenarios. Now granted, I am aware and can feel the excitement participants experience while working together to create a routine to present in the workshop; I, on the other hand, experience an undercurrent of dread as I feel I am put on the spot to come up with something to share with the rest of the group. I do see the merits of working together to hash out ideas and there have been times where I do contribute once I feel more comfortable; however, I prefer sitting back and think over the variety of possibilities that begin to pop up into my head. This is why I totally understood what the musical artists were experiencing in this musical documentary.      DURING THE 1960S, A GROUP OF MUSICIANS found an area in Los Angeles that not only allowed but also encouraged them to take creative license with the music they were creating; it was called Laurel Canyon. This film festival winning movie had a variety of interviews and performances by Fiona Apple, Ringo Star, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, and The Mamas and the Papas. This film’s journey was “hosted” by Jakob Dylan who also performed. I did not mind him being the interviewer, but wished he had asked more questions of the musical artists instead of simply nodding his head. I enjoyed watching and listening to this documentary because of the historical significance and the personal stories being told. At times, I felt I was being taught a history lesson as I listened to the artists explain their connection and influences to the creation of a particular song; it was so cool. For music lovers in particular, this would be a worthwhile viewing experience. It reminded me of my younger days in winter when I would sing to myself “California Dreamin’” to stay warm.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Love & Mercy

I feel very fortunate that I was introduced to a variety of music genres at an early age. For anyone who can put two musical tones together, they have my respect. Music has a way of clearing the fuzz off of our daily life, allowing us to experience emotions in a pure way. One of the first composers that made a strong connection with me was Ludwig van Beethoven. There were 2 things that grabbed my attention about him. The first was his place in history; he was a trendsetter, leading music from the baroque period to the romantic era. Next, his ability to continue writing music after he had become deaf amazed me. Beethoven was the first artist where I realized there could be a connection between great art and human suffering. Walk through any art museum and you are bound to experience breathtaking art done by an artist who had to deal with their own demons or tragedies. Cutting off an ear or dying from a horrible disease and yet these artists created something of lasting beauty; I have to wonder what came first, the ability or the suffering. Someone had once told me that when a person cannot use one of their 5 senses, the other ones acquire a heightened ability. An example for me would be Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Look at how many musical artists we have seen who died early or experienced some type of deficiency, yet produced music that not only moved us but stayed with us.    CREATING a whole new sound for a song took more than stringing a group of musical notes together for Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He would have to battle against the voices in his head. No matter when you were born, more than likely you have heard at least one song by the Beach Boys. This film festival winning biography, not to be funny, blew my mind. Getting a glimpse of what was taking place during the time the Beach Boys were producing their hits, it was incredible to see what was happening to their major songwriter Brian. With the dual story lines Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) played the younger Brian and John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, The Raven) played the older one. The 2 of them were excellent and I thought it was a great idea to have 2 actors play Brian as the script took us back and forth between the different eras. Also part of the cast in this musical drama included Elizabeth Banks (Every Secret Thing, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Melinda Ledbetter and Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Cinderella Man) as Dr. Eugene Landy. Due to the story being so compelling, the minuses to this film were minor compared to the pluses. Once again here was an example of artistic genius coming out of painful darkness.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

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