A Good Yarn

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thank you!!

The theme of the current round of the Special Swap was a picnic. For some reason, it seems like a lot of us had a harder time coming up with a good selection for this theme, but my partner, Kim, was brilliant! She added a honey/bees theme to the picnic theme and look at the great package she sent me:

From the left, in the back, you can see a beautiful sunflower card. In front of that is some Tupelo honey - yum!! As soon as I finish this post, I'm making some toast to try some of that honey. Next to that is "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. I like the idea of including a good book in the package. The book is on top of the hottest pattern around right now, the Bee Fields shawl by Anne Hanson. It's so pretty and I've definitely been contemplating this knitalong. Next to the book is a set of stone stitch markers called "Little Bit O Honey". Next to that, starting in the front, a lip balm from Burt's Bees, a honey body butter and in the back, a very nice bottle of wine (Kim and I were totally on the same wavelength that you really need to have a nice bottle of wine to make it a decent picnic!) At the right end is a skein of Kim's merino laceweight yarn in a color called "Tupelo Honey" so that I can knit up that Bee Field shawl! It's so soft and lovely - perfect!! Thank you so much, Kim. Once again, it was a great pleasure being your partner.

I saw a couple of movies this week, both of which I'd recommend. First I attended a preview showing of this:

The film is about Marla Olmstead, a 4 year old girl who became the toast of the art world for her abstract paintings. The filmmaker began making a film about Marla and the nature of abstract art. If a 4 year old can create these amazing works, what does it say about abstract art? And what makes a great abstract painting great? But a few months into filming the documentary, 60 Minutes did a story about Marla which questioned whether she really created the paintings, or whether she was helped by her father, himself an amateur painter. The questions arose because no one had really seen Marla create a painting from start to finish. 60 Minutes got permission from the family to install a hidden camera in their basement and have Marla paint a painting down there for the camera. The footage shows her dad coaching her on what colors to use and the painting she did for the camera seems much less accomplished than the rest of her paintings. So the filmmaker sort of starts to insert himself and his own doubts into the film and it becomes not only about the nature of art, but also about the media and storytelling in general, whether through painting, documentary or journalism. It's a fascinating story and the film is really well-done. Besides those big meaty issues, you also have the parenting issues, the draw of fame, the question of art vs. artist - is a painting just as beautiful and worthwhile if it's painted by a 35 year old man or a 4 year old girl?, the value of art. So many questions. This is the perfect movie to go to and then sit around with some friends afterward to discuss. The director was at the screening and answered some questions and it seemed pretty apparent that the audience was divided on the issue of whether Marla was the artist behind the paintings or whether she was being exploited by her father. Everyone agreed that it was a really good film, though, so I highly recommend it. The official release date is in early October, so look for it in an arthouse theather near you in a couple of weeks.

The other film I saw is a little more mainstream:

This one is probably familiar to you, but I'll give a quick overview. Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, an infamous train robber in the post-Civil War west. After a train robbery, he lingers with a lady friend a bit too long and is captured. The Pinkerton guard and bank employee recruit help to transport Ben Wade to a neighboring town so he can be put on a train to be tried in Yuma. Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, a hard on his luck cattle rancher who desperately needs the reward money to save his land, so he volunteers for the "posse". Ben Wade is the leader of a violent gang who are guaranteed to try to rescue him, so the trip is dangerous. Both Crowe and Bale are masterful actors and their talent is on full display in this film. The film is based on an Elmore Leonard short story. If your familiar with Leonard's work, you know that Ben Wade is a villain who is very attractive. He's charming and smart and Russell Crowe displays both characteristics easily. Dan Evans is a bit of loser - his oldest son has lost respect for him and his wife can barely look at him. Bale's performance very subtly shows his decent core, his immense self-doubts and his determination. The interplay between the two leads is always fascinating to watch. There are a number of other really great supporting performances, too, especially Ben Foster from Six Feet Under as Ben Wade's right hand man, Charlie Prince. Every time he's on screen, he almost steals the show, but not in a distracting or annoying way. I wouldn't be surprised to see several Oscar nominations from this film. I would say that whether you love or hate this movie may depend on your reactions to its ending. I won't give anything away, but I will say it worked for me. On the surface, it seemed improbable (and some things like Bale's character, who has lost a leg in the Civil War jumping from roof to roof, are pretty improbable) but as I thought about it, I thought the choices the characters made were set up well earlier in the film and did seem completely within character. As a Western, the film of course is beautifully shot. The red rocks and canyons are gorgeous. There is definitely violence - people are regularly shot and killed throughout the film. But I didn't think it was overly bloody or hard to watch. I think if you enjoy a good story and amazing acting, this one is worth checking out.

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