Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ensemble Film

Most films have a single storyline focused on one or two leading characters. Ensemble film, however, provides us a broader spectacle by presenting multiple storylines with a group of equally important characters. These characters are interconnected directly or indirectly. Time becomes parallel, and our vision becomes panoramic as we move from one event/group to another.

The earliest ensemble film I’ve seen is Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). It pictures the daily life and racial conflicts within a black neighborhood in Brooklyn on a sizzling summer day. The switch between different characters feels so natural, as if we are walking down the street encountering the real life of the neighborhood. It’s very funny, satirical, at the same time realistic. The famous “fuck all” rant in his later film 25th Hour is actually a condensed version of the themes in Do the Right Thing.

Two years later, Richard Linklater made Slacker. I don’t much he was influenced by Lee, but Slacker appears to be an extreme case of ensemble film: we follow one group of people down the street, then another group pass by and we start following them instead. Thus the whole film flows between all the different characters who don’t know each other but only pass by each other by pure chance. The common thing among these people is that they are all slackers on the street.

Robert Altman’s The Player came out one year after. The opening sequence uses the same continuous flow as seen in Slacker. Then Altman made his exemplar ensemble film Short Cuts which palpably presents the everyday lives of typical families in LA. This film probably influenced many famous ensemble films later, such as Magnolia (1999), Crash (2004) and Babel (2006).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nature & Design - Jellyfish

Nature has always been a powerful source for design inspiration. Jellyfish is one miraculous design by mother nature: it is attractive for its exotic beauty, at the same time it's repulsive due to its poison. My favorite jellyfish images come from BBC's classic Blue Planet (above).

The unique form, color and texture of jellyfish has inspired so many designs, including product, architecture and art.

Jellyfish light fixtures

Jellyfish Sonic water speakers by Kota Nezu

Jellyfish House by IwamotoScott Architecture

Ceramic Jellyfish by artists Alissa Coe and Carly Waito

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Feeling of Loss

It's been over a week since the deadly earthquake occurred. Too many touching stories emerged from the ongoing rescues, donations and mournings... I wondered what else I could do except donating some money at this moment? So I did this poster.
There are tons of questions and problems need to be dealt with, such as the building code, rebuilding or relocation, orphan adoption. Hopefully we'll grow stronger and smarter each time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Black Monday

Earthquake, by Stack (source)

I had to replace the earthquake photo with an abtract painting, 'cause it's too painful to look at such photos everywhere these days. The death poll has hit almost 15,000 by now with over 25,000 people still buried in debris....

I can't helping thinking that even with all the science and technology we have mastered today, we are still not able to accurately predict earthquake or other natural disasters. When facing disasters, we are much more vulnerable and ignorant than animals who can sense changes in the environment way ahead of us.
P.S. reliable and convenient donation sites for people in US -

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Want You To Want Me

One of the ongoing exhibitions in MoMA is a brilliant 3D visualization project called I Want You To Want Me by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar -


Touch the Sound

I watched this wonderful documentary Touch the Sound: a sound journey of Everlyn Glennie, from the same director of Rivers and Tides. It introduces to me the life and work of Evelyn Glennie, an amazingly talented percussionist in spite of her deafness. Her success proves to us again the meaning of hearing is not limited to the ear, but rather the ability of touching and feeling sound with your body and other senses.

The film offers a fascinating sight-and-sound experience by blending in Evelyn’s various trips and performances with interviews on her own interpretation of music. In the film, we travel with Evelyn around the world, watching her spontaneous performances at Grand Central Station and Guggenheim in New York; improvising several pieces with musician Fred Frith in Cologne; playing with Japanese taiko drummers while experiencing Japanese culture in Tokyo; visiting her hometown in Scotland…Everywhere she went, she was sensitive enough to put together a playful musical piece out of any available materials around her.

Besides portraying the world of Evelyn, the camera also captures and enlarges much of the everyday sound surrounding us: from the infinite noises on the streets of big cities and construction sites, to the quietness of a Japanese garden and the natural symphony of the Scottish landscape. These banal sounds suddenly became more palpable to me. The life of each sound gets buried by our neglect, however, is understood and reanimated by Evelyn.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mini Bird's Nest

I was shocked at seeing these photos: mini bird's nests surrounding the big bird's nest. I wonder who came up with this idea? If we follow this logic, then landscape/lighting design would be much simpler: just copy the architecture! ?