Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Fox
Director Wes Anderson’s movies— Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic—have become some of the most beloved independent films of the last decade with their pops of vibrant color, eccentric casts, and genre-defining devotion to twee weirdness. Now, Anderson has made his first Hollywood blockbuster (with stars like George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman), The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but he has not abandoned his singularly odd cinematography. In fact, for his adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl story, Anderson employs an even more distinctive technique, stop-motion animation, which gives his animal characters human qualities that are irresistible. The critics all agree that Fox is Anderson’s best film yet—New York’s David Edelstein calls it “marvelous toy box of a movie,” while the New York Press’ Armond White writes that the film “renews one’s sense of animation’s possibilities.” The magic of Fox may cement 2009 as the year of stellar family films—from Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are to Pixar’s Up ( which came out on DVD this week and will be the holiday gift to beat), this year has truly upped the ante on children’s entertainment.
Man Ray’s Hidden Identities
Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention, a comprehensive exhibit of the celebrated photographer’s work, lands this Sunday at the Jewish Museum in New York. Born Emmanuel Radnitsky in Brooklyn in 1890, Man Ray changed his name at age 21 to fit in with the art world avant-garde, and never looked back, constantly reinventing himself and only living consistently through his lens. The Daily Beast’s Phillip Gefter spoke to curator Mason Klein, who focused the retrospective on Ray’s constant shape shifting: “His refusal to be classified—whether as a painter, sculptor, poet, photographer, object maker, Dadaist, or Surrealist—is deliberate and persistent.” Throughout his life, Ray wore an incredible number of hats. He began working as a painter within New York’s Dada movement of the 1910, and in the 1920s moved to Paris, where he photographed many prominent members of the American expat community (Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein). In the mid-1920s, Ray came up with his “rayographs,” photos that he manipulated with exposed light in order to create swirling, abstract, shapes. He moved back to California in 1940 (due to WWII), but was quick to return to Montparnasse in the ‘50s when he had a chance. For someone so adept at capturing other people on film, Man Ray was an incredibly hard man to define or bring into focus. Read more about Man Ray’s work and scrambled identity on Art Beast.
All That Newport Jazz
As The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff reports this week, an online concert-recording site called Wolfgang’s Vault has done jazz music a great service; founder Bill Sagan purchased a vast archive of recordings from the legendary Newport Jazz Festival (from 1955 and beyond) and has started to make the recordings free and open to the public via the Web. The festival, which has taken place every summer since 1954, seemed doomed when its production company collapsed in 2007—creator George Wein managed to revive the show this summer, but the future of the fest is still uncertain. At least we will now have a public record of the great performances that took place in Newport over the years (and there have been many, from Ellington to Coltrane). Jazz fans can stream the music for free online, or purchase downloads for $10-$13, and the Vault will roll out more recordings over time (with “dozens more” coming to the site starting November 17). Now that’s easy listening.