Double Happy: The Anatomy of a Tragic Screw-Up

Double Happy: The Anatomy of a Tragic Screw-Up

Double Happy is an unusually observant short film written and directed by the young New Zealand filmmaker Shahir Daud, which has been selected for presentation at the Montreal International Film Festival, HOF Film Festival (Germany), Interfilm (Berlin), CFC Film Festival (Canada), Winterthur Film Festival (Switzerland), and Show Me Shorts (New Zealand).

A film of rare quality and power, Double Happy is a lovely film to look at and it possesses a high level of technical excellence. At its heart, the film is a character drama, relying on expertly presented profiles to build its story, showing, rather than telling, the essential details about its characters in order to relate their motivations. Finally, it displays a subtlety and patience in unfolding its drama, only to upend you at the climax in a shocking fashion.

Double Happy presents a detailed look at the inevitable emergence of a huge social fuck-up, the slow buildup to the moment you eternally wish you could take back. It’s been said that almost all extremely terrible, destructive actions have their origins in positive desires, and in this simple drama about four New Zealand teenagers in tne 1990s, we are, in a very shocking fashion, made witness to that truism.

If there is one particular feature that makes Double Happy stand out, it would be that it is an unusually observant film about young people, their shy gestures and bold dares, as well as the sometimes very strange characteristics of their group dynamics; the constantly fluid shifting of in-group and out-group designations achieved and enforced through secrets and put-downs. At this age, one discovers that even when you care, you can end up trampling on one another out of simple inexperience, fear and carelessness. Double Happy paints an impressively clear and nuanced picture in which the emotional and physical denigration of its protagonist slowly builds, causing his anger to mount and ultimately leading to its tragic misdirection.

Double Happy: The Anatomy of a Tragic Screw-Up

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The Animals are Outside Today

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Mold-A-Rama Dinosaur with Ruth

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Sleeping Lion

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Daniel’s Lions

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Horseback

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Amish Horses

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Circus Elephant

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Nungesser Elephant

Photography by Colleen Plumb: Bird Hat

The Animals are Outside Today

Photography by: Colleen Plumb, Chicago

Animals are Outside Today is a fascinating collection of photographs by the Chicago photographer Colleen Plumb. Plumb’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago; and the Beijing Natural Cultural Center in China. Her photographs are part of the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Chicago Project at Catherine Edelman Gallery. Recent exhibitions have included shows at the Jen Bekman Gallery in New York City; group shows at Santa Monica Art Studios, California; Humble Arts Foundation, New York City; Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago; Chicago Cultural Center; and the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C.

Plumb describes Animals Are Outside Today as a visual journey offering us the chance to contemplate our intersections with animals and to consider the multi-layered impact that humans have on other living beings. According to Plumb, “Contradictions define our relationships with animals. We love and admire them; we are entertained and fascinated by them; we take our children to watch and learn about them. Animals are embedded within core human history, evident in our stories, rituals and symbols. At the same time, we eat, wear and cage them with seeming indifference, consuming them, and their images, in countless ways.”

Our relationships with animals today are often developed through assimilation and appropriation; we absorb them into our lives, yet no longer know of their origin. Most people are cut off from the steps involved in their processing or acquisition, shielded from witnessing their death or decay. This series of photographs moves within and between these contradictions, questioning whether the notion of the sacred and primal connection to Nature that animals convey and inspire will survive alongside our evolution.

Who Does She Think She Is?

Photo-Gallery: The Animals are Outside Today

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Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room

Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room

Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room is a gorgeous 24-minute family-friendly fantasy short film by British filmmaker Mike Le Han, which is rapidly acquiring a cult following in the U.K. and further afield.

Softly-spoken, with an unfashionable English Midlands accent, and wearing 1970s-style chest-length hair, Le Han looks like everybody’s idea of a hard-working rock band roadie. His style may appear retro, but he is clearly a very persuasive man since everyone involved in Mrs. Peppercorn donated their services. This left the production costs coming in at a miserly $50,500, all raised by family and friends. Remarkably, Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room boasts the kind of performances and production values normally found in a big-budget blockbuster.

The film is both magical and mysterious, and from the opening frame it creates a dark world where things go bump in the night and mystery lies around every corner. Mrs. Peppercorn tells of a lonely child who is forced to move by her adopted parents to a remote and spooky Cornish fishing village in the dead of winter. The story is rich in atmospherics in the way it shows how the child finds solace in a mysterious, dust-encrusted bookshop that satisfies her craving for reading and, more important, gives her a sense of belonging.

Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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Vicenta: A Spine-Tingling Tale of Lusty Betrayal and Bloodthirsty Revenge

Vicenta: A Spine-Tingling Tale of Lusty Betrayal and Bloodthirsty Revenge

Vicenta is an awesome stop-motion animated short film directed by Sam Orti at the Spanish studio Conflictivos Productions. This plasticine/claymation movie turns out to be an epic little horror-film, with scenes of hot sex, bloody corpses and intense violence. The film tells the story of a woman in search of her husband’s lottery winnings, whose rich but miserly husband is having a steamy liaison with the scheming floozy who lives in the flat next door. If you’ve ever wondered what a hardcore claymation sex scene might look like, then you’ve absolutely got to check this one out!

Vicenta: A Spine-Tingling Tale of Lusty Betrayal and Bloodthirsty Revenge

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David LaChapelle: The Fellini of Photography Returns to Fine Art

David LaChapelle: Flowers, Early Fall

David LaChapelle: Pieta With Courtney Love, 2006

David LaChapelle: Christina Aguilera

David LaChapelle: Eminem

David LaChapelle: Amanda Lepore, Breast-Feeding

David LaChapelle: Madonna

David LaChapelle: David Beckham

David LaChapelle: The Fellini of Photography Returns to Fine Art

During the course of his artistic career, David LaChapelle was hired by Andy Warhol, fired by Madonna, photographed Pamela Anderson, Lady Gaga, and Hillary Clinton, and made a star of the transgender personality Amanda Lepore. He earned millions and spent much of that on his self-financed movie about an urban dance form created in the rough neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles. When the film, Rize, failed to attract a large audience, the weary LaChapelle packed up his career and disappeared.

Now, LaChapelle is back in New York briefly, overseeing his one-man show at a Madison Avenue art gallery and a separate commissioned installation that is opening in the lobby of the Lever House on Park Avenue. With their erotic gloss, their sizzling aesthetics and their slick production values, the photographs at Michelman Fine Art are recognizably the work of a man who in his editorial work for Vanity Fair, Interview, Rolling Stone and others photographed David Duchovny dressed in Lycra bondage trousers, Kanye West as Black Jesus, a turbaned Elizabeth Taylor looking like a $5 fortune teller, Eminem naked but for a well-placed prop and other stars like Tupac Shakur (wearing soap bubbles), Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga baring their souls for the camera, along with a good deal more.

At the Lever House, however, the artist has returned to techniques he employed when, at the very beginning of his career, long before he became the go-to video director for pop music divas, he used naïve, childlike forms like linked paper chains to make his work. In the space that in the past has presented exhibitions of works by artists such as Barbara Kruger and Damien Hirst, Mr. LaChapelle has hung the chains from walls and ceiling in looping festoons. At first glance, the stapled links only look like colorful decorations for a children’s party, but when viewed more closely they reveal images of naked bodies, as an allegory for human connection.

Viewers can read more about David LaChapelle’s return to the art scene in The New York Times here.

David LaChapelle: Elton John/Candle in the Wind (Marilyn)

David LaChapelle: Elton John/Philadelphia Freedom

Photo-Gallery: David LaChapelle/The Fellini of Photography Returns to Fine Art

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You Are Here: The Formative Power of Architecture

Candida Höfer, Palais Garnier Paris XXX, 2005

Candida Höfer, Biblioteca Girolamini Napoli III, 2009

Candida Höfer, Biblioteca Nazionale Napoli III, 2009

Candida Höfer, Museum Morsbroich Leverkusen I, 2008

Cyprien Gaillard, View over Sighthill, 2008

Cyprien Gaillard, Chateau d’Oiron, 2008

Cyprien Gaillard, Belief in the Age of Disbelief, 2005, Etching

You Are Here: The Formative Power of Architecture

You Are Here: Architecture and Experience is an exhibition of works by two contemporary artists at the Carnegie Museum of Art that examines the formative power of architecture, or how architectural environments influence our experiences and perceptions of the world. The exhibition brings together the photographs of German artist Candida Höfer and a video, photographs and etchings by French artist Cyprien Gaillard. Both artists express the formative power of architecture in ways that are different, but also complementary.

Candida Höfer’s lush color photographs of ornately palatial historical and contemporary interior spaces are usually devoid of humans, embodying a sense of peaceful quietude. Yet, they also reveal details that draw the viewer into considerations of what each place might mean.  In Höfer’s photographs, the experience of each room becomes completely subjective: Is it stifling in its grandiosity, or perhaps enlightening in its lavish beauty? We see spaces as moments of history and definers of class, the anachronisms, vanities, and beauty of spaces; the humanity, in all its sins and glories, that can inhabit a built environment, without so much as a glimpse of any humans. Each space can help us decide our point of view, but Höfer seems to say that deciphering these spaces is a task ultimately left up to each of us.

Contrasting with Höfer, Cyprien Gaillard’s video Desniansky Raion, his photographs and meticulously detailed etchings all probe the human legacy of Modernist high-rise housing blocks. Constructed after World War II throughout the United States, Europe and the Eastern Bloc to provide decent housing, these buildings too often have become warehouses for the poor and incubators of crime and antisocial behaviors. While Gaillard’s video alternates between order and destructive violence, packing a powerful and direct emotional punch, Höfer’s photographs embody a kind of quietude that encourages slow, sustained exploration of meanings that build through the accumulation of detail. Nevertheless, both works are equally affecting and bring the viewer into the realm of architectural experience with compelling intensity. Höfer and Gaillard capture the constant vacillation between what we make of our architectural environments, and what they make of us.

Cyprien Gaillard: Desniansky Raion (2007)

Koudlam: See You All (Music for Desniansky Raion)

Photo-Gallery: You Are Here/The Formative Power of Architecture

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Jellyfish Lake Palau: Swimming Through Millions of Jellyfish

Jellyfish Lake Palau: Swimming Through Millions of Jellyfish

Jellyfish Lake Palau is a beautiful, dreamy short film/music video artfully filmed by photographer/videographer Sarosh Jacob, with music by Radiohead. Now, you’ve probably heard of swimming with sharks before, but swimming with jellyfish? Swimming in water that’s filled with millions of jellyfish may be most people’s worst nightmare. But for visitors to the island of Eil Malik in the Republic of Palau, it’s the main attraction.

Twelve thousand years ago these jellyfish became trapped in a natural basin on the island when the ocean receded. With no predators amongst them for thousands of years, the jellyfish evolved into a new species that lost most of their stinging ability, since they no longer had to protect themselves. They are pretty much harmless to humans, but it’s not possible to scuba dive in this lake because the nutrient rich layer at around 50 feet and below contains hydrogen sulphide that is highly toxic to humans. If a scuba diver was to swim in that layer, the toxins would enter the body through the skin and that exposure could be fatal. However, snorkeling is perfectly safe and Palau is the only place in the world where you can have the surreal experience of swimming through millions of jellyfish.

Jellyfish Lake Palau: Swimming Through Millions of Jellyfish

(Please Watch in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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