PREVIEW: Buster Simpson Stamps Speaker Series

An alum of UM and native Michigander, Buster Simpson is a renowned artist who works in architecture, sculpture focusing on creating art in public spaces.  

He’s been actively creating art since the late 1960s, with socially and environmentally focused pieces that predated the more recent trends in relational aesthetics and “green art.”  He’s received a number of awards and recognitions for his work including UM Distinguished Alumni Award in Architecture and Design, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and the Americans for the Arts Artist of the Year Award.  His work is featured in public spaces across the country and has been exhibited in at The New Museum, MoMA PS1, Seattle ArtMuseum, The Hirshhorn Museum, Capp Street Project, International Glass Museum, and the  Frye Art Museum. Check out his body of work on his official website, http://www.bustersimpson.net/.

Like all of the other lectures in the Stamps speaker series, this one is FREE to the public and will take place at 5:10 at the Michigan theater.  This will be the last talk in a long series of fascinating and successful lectures so be sure to stop on by. If you miss the event there will be a review of the lecture here on art[seen], and be sure to look out for the winter speaker series once its announced!

REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I was not sure what to expect, going in to see this movie. The trailer didn’t give me much to go off of, and the brief summary provided little information as well. I just knew it was a black comedy drama as I sat in the Michigan Theater, waiting for the organist to stop playing and for the movie to start.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri greatly exceeded all my expectations.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that literally made me tear up and gasp and cringe, my hand covering my mouth as I watched tragedy and horror unfold that numbed my heart and chilled my spine.

This was that movie.

It brought the crime and the drama and the intensity and the violence that made your heart pound one second and stop the next.

It tackled issues of racism, divorce, rape, murder, suicide face on. It didn’t shy away from controversial scenes, and forcing it in your face so casually and blatantly is what makes this movie so powerful.

The best part of Three Billboards was definitely the characters, people so tough-skinned and resilient and raw and tender and so human. That’s the thing with Mildred Hayes and Chief Willoughby and Officer Dixon. They are so flawlessly full of flaws that it makes them painfully real. As the characters persevere through that pain trapped in their minds and exacerbated by the community, they maintain a truthfulness that allows them to forgive but not forget, a moral authenticity that rips them open viciously only to piece them back together, fragilely yet stronger than ever.

This movie shows humanity at its worst and at its most pure; it shows all sides of humanity, and it reminds you of the humanity in people, through the facades they put up.

It was brutally nasty and brutally honest. It was heartwarming and heart-wrenching. It was emotionally intense and intensely emotional.

Yet there was laughter throughout the movie, a humor so dark it brought light to this grim film. Frances McDormand’s caustic performance of Mildred Hayes, along with dim-witted, stereotypical clueless young girls, slow advertising men and eager midgets, helps ease the weight in heavy situations. This fine balance of drama and comedy worked perfectly as every scene kept you on your toes and engaged your heart and your mind.

At what price does justice come at? How can anger and hate be reconciled with hope and love? Is forgiveness possible? How do broken hearts heal?

To reflect on these questions and watch them transpire in a sequence of scenes of sinking realization, follow the journey of a grieving, bitter mother coming to terms with the haunting limits of reality and the remains of what life holds.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is now showing at the Michigan Theater with student tickets for $8.

REVIEW: Intergalactic Pops

This concert was not your typical concert. With hilariously-poorly-designed videos, a planet diss showdown, a lightsaber fight, and a game show, Michigan Pops definitely brought the pops to Michigan.

Before the main event, the early-arriving audience was entertained by Dicks and Janes, an a cappella group on campus.

 

Their singing was lovely, and I enjoyed listening to them as I relaxed and took in the beautiful venue, waiting for the Michigan Pops Orchestra to take the stage. I will definitely be on the lookout for acapella concerts after this!

After over 100 students and Music Director Rotem Weinberg filled the stage, there was lift off.

Opening with Also Sprach Zarathustra: Sonnenaufgang (which you may not recognize the name of, but you will definitely recognize the tune when you hear it) was iconic and set the stage perfectly for the rest of the concert. Some songs were very familiar, while some I never heard before. The program consisted of classical music, movie soundtracks, and video game theme songs, all centered around the theme of “space”. It featured soloists Benjamin Walker and Megumi Nakamura from SMTD, and their voices complemented the orchestra perfectly. “Sun and Moon” was captivating, and the bit from Pinocchio was such a childhood throwback — I wasn’t prepared for all the feels that night. But, the orchestra and voices were so powerful and beautiful that all I felt was the feels throughout the entire evening.

Music was not all there was in store, however. Before Jupiter, there was a battle for the title of best planet, ending with Assistant Music Director Tal Benatar claiming that “every planet is special in their own way.” Awwww.

Videos for Star Wars, E.T., and Mario were created and played.

Sometimes, I felt the videos were too entertaining that it was a bit too distracting from the music. I was too busy laughing at the pasted E.T. face that I forgot the orchestra was playing. However, during the Super Mario Galaxy 2 song, the music brought the video to life. So, I think the presence of the videos depended on the listener and whether that took away from the orchestra or added to it. It was enjoyable nonetheless. Additionally, there was a lightsaber duel that took place between two Pops alumni in a video that found its way into a live-action finale.

In the second half, there was a game show with audience participation called Planet or No Planet.

It was so ridiculous, it was amazing.

Ending with Reflections of Earth, which is from the IllumiNations show at Epcot, the night’s music really caused me to reflect on everything, known and unknown. At certain times, the orchestra was so intense and grand that I couldn’t handle it, and it caused me to realize once again how small and finite we are in the end. The power of their music was literally transcendent.

Finally, Michigan Pops brought it back home with a rendition of Hail to the Victors as an encore, ending with the Michigan pride that makes the stars shine maize and blue.

The time and energy the Pops orchestra put into preparing for this concert, in terms of music and all the entertainment, was as clear as the moon, and it paid off for an amusing night filled with laughter and emotions. As we journeyed through space on this night of wonder, I realized I’m really happy to live on this earth where I had the opportunity to experience all the talent produced by the lovely humans that graced the stage of the Michigan Theater that night. With their music, they filled our minds with universes beyond life. What I listened to was more transformative than a solar eclipse, more brilliant than a shooting star, more powerful than a black hole, more grounding than gravity; I listened to the Michigan Pops Orchestra. And it was certainly out of this world.

PREVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

An unsolved murder case. A grieving, demanding, unapologetic, bold mother. Controversial billboards. “Dim-bulb” police officers. Violence in the name of love, hatred, hope, rage, and forgiveness. Comedy. Crime. Drama. What more do you want in a movie? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri features all these elements and more. Starring Academy Award winners Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes and Woody Harrelson as William Willoughby, with Sam Rockwell as Officer Dixon, this dark comedic drama captures “something truthfully human.” The film opens at the Michigan Theater on Tuesday, November 21. Student tickets are $8, and it is also free with a Passport to the Arts voucher from November 22-29!

PREVIEW: Intergalactic Pops

Fan of the Star Wars movies? Never seen the films but like the iconic music in it? Just a lover of music?

If you’ve ever watched The Planets, E.T., or Star Trek, you’re also in for a treat.

The Michigan Pops Orchestra is putting on a concert that will put you over the moon. Intergalactic Pops will appeal to people of all ages as it explores the music that transcends space and time. And that’s not all! It will feature a unique combination of vocal performers, multimedia, stage antics, and special effects, which will be sure to engage and entertain the audience.

Comprised of students from all fields of study united with a common love for music, the Michigan Pops Orchestra is the country’s oldest collegiate Pops orchestra and is the only student-run, student-directed orchestra on campus.

I can’t wait to hear all the talent the Michigan Pops Orchestra has to offer. Get ready for this out-of-the-world performance on Sunday, November 19 at 7pm in the Michigan Theater. Student tickets are $5 at the door or it is free with a Passport to the Arts Voucher!

REVIEW: Loving Vincent

A painting in motion — Loving Vincent. Brushstrokes that mimicked the iconic artistry of Vincent van Gogh’s own paintings moved to tell the biography of Vincent in a never-before-seen feature film. An hour and thirty-four minutes of animated paint, in the style of Vincent van Gogh, was an exquisite film that I felt honored to behold with my own two eyes.

It was a rainy Sunday night, with the typical wind chills of early November in Ann Arbor, when I went to see the film with some of my colleagues. We had just come from a fantastic dinner of pizza, including margherita pizza — my favorite kind of pizza — and joined the ranks of Loving Vincent moviegoers lined up outside of Michigan Theater.

Luckily, we had arrived just in time not to miss the beginning of the film itself. The whole lot of us settled upstairs in the balcony, appreciating the extravagance of the Michigan Theater’s classic theater setting and ambience. As soon as we settled into our seats, the lights dimmed and the screen flitted between trailers of upcoming indie films and the like. And then, at long last, Loving Vincent painted itself across the screen.

In a word, Loving Vincent was…divine. Artistic. Exquisite. Every second of it, quite literally the epitome of a painting in motion, enraptured the audience with its imagery.

Honestly, the second the movie opened, I was already mesmerized by the names rolling on the screen through their careful and immaculate brushstrokes. I was watching the lines of colors, imitating Vincent’s illustrious and iconic style, move across the screen in unison to depict movement. It was enrapturing.

I felt chills go down my spine.

The movie opens with the most renowned and perhaps most well-known work by the artist: Starry Night — hooking every audience member with its fine brush work and celebrated imagery as one of the most historically reputable works of art. It was so meaningful to see that be the opening scene to a film revolving around the artist, to whom the film is dedicated for, I was just captivated and touched by it. And then, when that Starry Night picture began to actually move, animated brushstrokes depicting the scene, my heart melted. Such an extraordinary picture transformed into a setting for a narrative to take place. It was the most fitting way to tell the biography of Vincent van Gogh.

As for the narrative itself — the story follows Armand Roulin, who is to hand-deliver a letter from Vincent to Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s brother. In this narrative, Armand learns more and more about the late artist Vincent, who had been a new artistic sensation in Paris at 28 but took his life while at the verge of his own impending success as an artist. Although skeptical and critical of Vincent in the beginning, Armand slowly grows wistful and fond of him. In fact, Armand even comes to Vincent’s defense when bad gossip arises and surrounds his death and reputation.

I’ll spare you all the details, but basically — the film follows Armand, a man who seems far detached from having any relation or kinship with Vincent van Gogh, and Armand’s journey to find the truth behind Vincent’s death — whether it was a suicide or a murder, what his motives were, who Vincent van Gogh truly was.

Ultimately the film really is a biography of Vincent van Gogh, which doesn’t lend itself to having that much opportunity to deviate from reality and express creativity and imagination as wildly as possible, as one might expect from an animated film. I have heard criticisms of the writing in Loving Vincent that claim the story is hard to follow, but they heralded the artistry of the film itself. Animation is a breathtaking craft, and it’s painfully difficult, and being able to dedicate an entire feature film of animated oil paintings for Vincent van Gogh is truly the only way to express his biography, I’d say. I personally don’t have a bad opinion of this film, having been so mesmerized by the immaculate craft of the moving pictures.

Now, my colleagues and myself hail from the art and design school at the University of Michigan, and inevitably we were drawn by the uniquely beautiful craft of the film, especially because we all express an interest in the art of animation. Safe to say we were all very moved and absolutely amazed by the sheer amount of work and effort required to make Loving Vincent and transform his most distinguished and impactful works of art into moving pictures.

If you have not seen Loving Vincent, I hope you at least consider it! If not for the story or biography of the great artist Vincent van Gogh, then for the beautiful craft of the film and its hundreds of artists who carefully painted and animated each frame of the film.

Go and love Vincent!