Almodóvar’s Triumph
March 27, 2012

Truth be told, I haven’t seen any cinema lately that has really bowled me over, until last week.  First I watched Black Swan, which I thought was quite good…  and then I finally got around to viewing Pedro Almodóvar’s La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) 2011.  It was fantastic, to say the least.  I know, I am behind on my viewing, and I am a little rusty on reviewing, so bear with me here.  I read reviews on this film when it originally came out in theaters last year, but for some reason I was under the impression that this was a somewhat straight-ish story about a top o’ the line plastic surgeon who is obsessed with making the perfect woman…  if such a plot can be straigh-ish.  I also somehow interpreted reviews that the woman in question was the surgeon’s lover.  I could not have been more off, and at this point I have no interest in backtracking reviews to even understand my misunderstanding.

The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya in La Piel Que Habito, 2011

Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, and Almodóvar favorite Marisa Paredes, the story is anything but straight-ish.  And for what reason did I expect it to be by such an imaginative filmmaker?  Probably because Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces) 2009 and Volver 2006, the last two feature length films by the filmmaker, weren’t as crazy or striking as his storylines have been in the past.  Which apparently gave me the impression that he was mellowing out as he aged, as so many  filmmakers do.

I was wrong.  I was so very wrong.  At this point, La Piel Que Habito is, by a huge lead, my favorite film Almodóvar has made to date.  So much so, that the only thing I am going to say about the plot is that, once I came to the revelation of the who, why and how of the patient/doctor relationship, I was itching to rewatch everything that had happened before that point.  I restrained myself, however, watched the film to the end, and then promptly re-watched the entire 120 minutes.  The story was so powerful it has etched itself in my memory and has been following me around since.  Bravo, Pedro, bravo.  Best film of 2011 and of his career, in my humble opinion.

Partir : Leaving
May 18, 2011

Recently I viewed the French film Partir (Leaving) from 2009.  What first drew me to this film was the presence of Kristin Scott Thomas, the wonderful French actress who won me over in Il y a Longtemps Que Je T’aime (I’ve Loved You So Long 2008). Her performance was astounding in that film, where her character is recently released from prison for killing her own infant child.  However, throughout nearly the entire film, her character stifles her reason and emotion, creating awkward encounters when trying to reintroduce herself socially.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Sergi López in Leaving 2009

In Partir, Thomas plays a wife, mother who falls in love with a contractor hired by her husband to construct a new physiotherapy office at their home so she can start up her practice again.  Sounds sticky, right?  It gets stickier as she tries to give up her lover on orders of her husband, just to go right back to her passionate affair.  As she attempts leaving her husband, he does his best to make life miserable for the two lovers…  and possibly succeeds.  You be the judge of the outcome.  Ultimately, I felt that her character handles the situation like a person who has thrown all logic out the window.  Her husband’s reaction is a form of angry denial, her son is the most understanding/accepting while her daughter wants nothing to do with her.  Oh the web we weave.

The outcome is strikingly reminiscent of one of my favorite classic Truffaut films, La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin 1964).  La Peau Douce has a similar plot of an extramarital affair, however the roles are reversed.  In this film the husband, father falls desperately in love with a young flight attendant, and his wife is unaccepting of the situation.  In both films the wives play the role of the emotionally illogical.  I won’t go into further details on either film, as I truly wish not to spoil either startling outcome.  You will just have to take my word for it that each is worth a serious watch.

Françoise Dorléac and Jean Desailly in La Peau Douce 1964

City Hall Artist Reception
May 18, 2011

Just a quick post about the next show I am in that starts with an artist reception this Friday night from 5-8pm at San Francisco City Hall.  I will have some older work from my 2007 Out-of-Sorts body of work in Supervisor David Chiu’s office, second floor, room 264.  The show will be up through 8/19, so you have plenty of time to drop by and see the work.  More information about the venue can be found here, including the other artists showing and the other Supervisors participating.  Hope to see you at the reception!

wonder, 2007

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The Lab Annual Art Auction
March 27, 2011

Well, everyone, it’s that time of the year again.  The Lab is having it’s annual live and silent auction on Saturday, April 2nd from 7pm-10:30pm.  The live auction starts at 8pm.  I have donated a drawing titled E.C.T., based on a line from the play Next to Normal that recently showed at the A.C.T. in San Francisco.  For a sneak peak at some of the art being auctioned off, go here. There is also an online auction happening now for those who can’t wait. Hope to see you there!

E.C.T. 2011

Big Thanks! Auction Attendees, et. al.
January 18, 2011

A big thank you to everyone who came out Sunday evening to the Art Auction/Fundraiser for our friend Natalie Hardcastle.  There is no right combination of words to express our gratitude for your support and contributions in effort to raise money for Natalie and her family.  The generosity of art, cash, in-kind donations, attendees, those who purchased work and moral supporters was overwhelming.  Almost every art piece found a new home.  It was because of all of you that we raised over $18,000 to help payoff Natalie’s medical expenses.

The list of contributors is still growing and we are most grateful for your help.  This was truly a beautiful experience and we hope that everyone will continue to support and aid those in need in whatever manor you are able.  Way to rally, all!

Natalie Hardcastle and Bob Nugent

Art Auction Fundraiser, Sunday 1/16/11
January 10, 2011

It’s almost here!   The art auction and fundraiser for our friend Natalie Hardcastle.  Please join Rick Kantor, Bob Nugent, Mark Perlman, Kurt Kemp and the caring art community of Sonoma who have rallied together prominent artists from across the country for this private fundraiser of great art at affordable prices.  The event happens this Sunday, January 16 from 4-7pm at Terrasanti, 11790 Main St., Suite E, Penngrove, CA.

Natalie recently underwent brain surgery to remove a golf ball sized tumor, just 4 short months after she gave birth to her second son. Natalie is a talented artist, advocate for the arts, former art student of Sonoma State University and one of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet.  100% of the money raised will go to pay off medical expenses that are not covered by Nat’s insurance. If there are any additional funds remaining they will be donated to the UCSF Medical Foundation for research.  Please come and support Natalie and her family.

Contributing artists include John Fraser, Judy Pfaff, Tim McDowell, Heather Patterson, William Smith, Sami Lange, Kiki Smith, Mark Perlman, Kurt Kemp, Jennifer Sturgill, Brett Grunig, Michael Gregory, Eric Oldmixon, Wendy Anne Crittenden, Erik Neff, Marianela de la hoz, Rob Keller, Chester Arnold, Michael Schwager, Ed Aiona, Jennifer Clark, Alison Harris, Hung Liu, Nancy Youdelman, Michael Manzavrakos, Frank Ryan, Anne Siems, Heather Wilcoxon, Suzanne Stryk, Gregory Raymond Halili, Aaron Fink, John Nava, Robert McCauley, Marlene McCauley, Tom Foolery, Bob and Janet Voruz, Matt Mullins, Kerry Vander Meer, Andrew Meiress, Halle Seipman, Ashley Heber, Gordon Powell, Era and Don Farnsworth, Monika Steiner, Kristine Branscomb-Fitzgerald, Bob Nugent, Lynda Nugent, Kara Maria, Enrique Chagoya, Robert Hudson, Andy Saftel, Judith Williams, Donn Brannon, Shane Weare, Tony Guaraldi-Brown, Kenna Moser, James Porter, Pam Longobardi, Steven Sorman, Dan Gualdoni, Jeanette Pasin-Sloan and the list grows…….

bated breath

bated breath, 2010, Wendy Anne Crittenden

January 16th, Save the Date : Art Auction-Fundraiser
December 21, 2010

Please join me from 4-7pm on January 16th, 2011 at the Art Auction-Fundraiser for Natalie Hardcastle.  The auction will take place at Terrasanti, 11790 Main Street Ste E, Penngrove, CA 94951.

Many quality small artworks will be auctioned off, 12”x12” or smaller and nothing over $300, with bids starting much lower than that.  100% of the money raised will go towards medical expenses that are not covered by Natalie’s insurance, who recently underwent extensive surgery to remove a brain tumor shortly after having her second child.  As you can imagine, this was not a simple or inexpensive surgery.  Any additional  funds remaining will be donated to the UCSF Medical Foundation for research.

All donations will be tax deductible: both art donated and purchased.  So please join in on the fun January 16th, buy some art, and help support Natalie and her family.  Below is my own contribution to the event, bated breath.  See you there!

bated breath

bated breath, 2010


‘Tis the Season for Movies
December 12, 2010

Here are a few movies in my radar this holiday season, listed on my “to-see” list.  If you want to be my date to one of these, I am 90% ears, though I do believe I am spoken for with Tron:

Top of the list is Tron: Legacy. Do I really need to explain myself here?  Big fan of the original, big fan of Jeff Bridges.  Tagline:  “A virtual-world worker looks to take down the Master Control Program.”  Opening day is December 16th.

Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy

Next up, the Black Swan. Looks creepy, looks good.  Tagline:  “Nina is a featured dancer in the New York City Ballet who finds herself locked in a web of competitive intrigue with a new rival at the company.”  Directed by Darren Aronofsky (director of Pi and The Wrestler) and starring Natalie Portman.  Playing now.

Natalie Portman in the Black Swan

True Grit. Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen.  This is a remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic.  Tagline: “A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer.”  Starts playing December 22nd.

Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld in the Coen Brothers' True Grit

Biutiful. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (director of 21 Grams and Babel) and starring Javier Bardem.  Plot summary: “This is a story of a man in free fall. On the road to redemption, darkness lights his way. Connected with the afterlife, Uxbal is a tragic hero and father of two who’s sensing the danger of death. He struggles with a tainted reality and a fate that works against him in order to forgive, for love, and forever.”  Javier always brings it.  Always.  In theaters December 29th.

Javier Bardem in Biutiful

The Fighter. Directed by David O. Russell (director of I Heart Huckabees) and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams.  Plot:  “A look at the early years of boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.”  I usually can’t stand films about actual people/events, but the trailer looks hopeful…  plus, how can you go wrong with a cast like this?  It’s all about the performance.  In theaters now.

Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter

Blue Valentine. Hoping this fits into my simple plot, great acting/execution category, but could go horribly sentimental, vomit-like wrong.  My fingers are crossed for the former.  Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, directed by Derek Cianfrance.  Story:  “The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.”  Starts playing December 31st.

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine

Welcome to the Riley’s
December 10, 2010

A couple of weeks ago the theaters were playing crap.  My sister was in town and we went to see 127 Hours.  If you are thinking about seeing this film, I’d put it off until you can rent it.  The plot is overextended in trying to keep the audience’s attention, utilizing terrible “artsy” editing and flashbacks to drag it all out.  Ugh.  Based on a real event and real person Aron Ralston:  how does one make a film about a guy whose arm is stuck “between a rock and a hard place,” who didn’t tell anyone where he was going, and whose water, food and time has run out, forcing him to amputate his own arm?  You don’t.  You read the book if anything.  127 Hours stars James Franco and was written/directed by Danny Boyle.

I was quickly losing hope in finding something of interest out there in the theaters, I searched for a glimmer of good stuff… and there it was, hidden, but staring me in the face.  Welcome to the Riley’s (2010).  What a great little film, I’m not even sure it’s out in theaters anymore, but if you can find it, you should see it.  Some of my favorite films to watch have a simple plot with masterful execution, this fits that category.  From what I can determine, this is the first big film by director Jake Scott, the writing is by Ken Hixon (writer of Inventing the Abbotts and City by the Sea).

James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Riley’s (2010) 

Welcome to the Riley’s stars James Gandolfini as Doug, whose wife has been housebound since the death of their teenage daughter years ago.  His only happiness seems to come from the time spent with his mistress, a waitress at the local waffle house. It is a happiness that comes to an abrupt and unfortunate halt.  Though mourning, Doug soon finds himself in New Orleans on a business trip, and in an attempt to avoid his business associates, he finds himself thrown in the presence of a young stripper/prostitute — too young — a teenager posing as an adult.  Understandably, he feels the need to take care of and protect her, as she conjures memories of his deceased child.  Unhappy back at home and finally feeling purposeful in New Orleans, he decides to stay, a move that has an unexpected effect on his housebound wife.  This film has the potential to be cheesy, but absolutely avoids the cheese factor due to it’s great writing and execution.  There’s also a small cameo of Ally Sheedy, who plays Doug’s sister-in-law.  Nice.

After the Wedding
December 9, 2010

This post is dedicated a good friend of mine (she knows who she is) in hopes she will reconsider her ban on all films containing “wedding” in the title…  or at least to make this one exception.  I, too, can’t stand the “wedding” genre, but what elevates this film from the rest is the complete absence of terrible romantic comedic attempts, in fact, I don’t remember laughing once.  After the Wedding (2006), directed by Susanne Bier, is a serious film with a doozy of a plot, so prepare yourself for an intense two hours.  The film begins and ends in India, with Jacob, a Danish ex-patriot.  Jacob is the founder of an Indian orphanage that is fiscally in trouble and on the brink of failure.  An opportunity arises for the orphange to receive a generous donation from a wealthy Danish donor.  The catch — Jacob is required to fly to Denmark to just “shake hands” with the donor in order to receive the funds.  Despite his overwhelming distaste for the wealthy, he has no choice but to go, leaving the children, including one he raised from a baby, behind.

Actor Mads Mikkelsen in After the Wedding

When Jacob meets the potential donor, Jorgen, his understanding of the situation has changed as Jorgen strings him along for an indefinite stay in Denmark, dangling the money just out of Jacob’s reach.  Jorgen invites Jacob to his daughter’s wedding, where a revelation sets everything in motion for the floodgates of Jacob’s past to abruptly open.  Each of the main protagonists endures emotionally painful ups and downs and a series of unexpected revelations that upends all.  The acting is supremely executed and this film is absolutely the opposite of every “wedding” film in existence.  The wedding is such a small piece of the film, however, it is a profoundly significant turning point of Jacob’s life path.  This film has it’s place in my top 5 viewed this year, a must see.