The Iranian Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, Mural on Red Indian Ground, 1950

Did you know that the government of Iran still maintains a vast collection of modern art acquired before the Iranian Revolution in 1979?

In the last years of the Iranian Shah’s rein, during a particularly flush
oil-boom period, the Iranian queen Farah Pahlavi assembled a formidable
collection of modern art, now valued at several billion US dollars. The
Picassos, Pollocks and Warhols (among many other household names) in
Tehran’s Contemporary Art Museum were viewable from the museums’ opening
in 1977 until the Iranian Revolution in 1979 at which time the art was
deemed ‘Western’, ie decadent and unsuitable for viewing. Curators
spirited the art away into a climate-controlled basement vault – there,
it has been safe not only from climate extremes but also knife-wielding
revolutionaries. The artworks are often lent to other world
institutions, but display in Tehran depends on who is leading the
country – a few works were mounted in a Pop Art/Op Art show here in
2005, but any works depicting nudity or homoerotic overtones, like
Bacon’s Two Figures Lying on a Bed With Attendants, remain hidden.

Has anyone ever tried to trade weapons for modern art? Would the Iranians accept a few Exocet missiles or a tank battalion? Would such a trade be legal?

It's a shame that all of that art remains hidden away in vaults.

Stuff White People Like

Did you know that "Stuff White People Like" is still in existence? It hasn't been updated in over four years, but if they were going to go with #137, they could submit "the 2015 Oscars nominations."

Yes, this is the whitest year in twenty years in terms of prestigious film award nominations:

Today's Oscar nominations contained a host of snubs that have critics and commentators up in arms (as they do every year). But the optics of this year's slate are particularly egregious when you combine the surprising coolness towards Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma—nominated for Best Picture but missing in the Director, Actor, and Screenplay categories—with the fact that all 20 acting nominees this year are white, the first time such a thing has happened since the Oscars honoring the films of 1995.

The Oscar slate that year featured a lot of British period dramas (Braveheart, Sense and Sensibility, Rob Roy), specific American historical pieces (Nixon, Dead Man Walking, Apollo 13), small-scale romantic dramas (Leaving Las Vegas, The Bridges of Madison County), and the talking-pig movie Babe. If the lack of diversity among the nominees was noted, it was probably less remarked-upon because there was no obvious "Oscar film” featuring people of color getting snubbed. We expect the Academy Awards to ignore all kinds of great genre material; the 2015 list feels all the more galling because David Oyelowo's performance and Ava DuVernay's direction were not just extraordinarily good, but also very Oscar-friendly.

Isn't a great thing for America to have no outstanding issues with regards to race or racism anymore? Isn't it just the greatest thing ever for an institution that has traditionally failed to follow up on efforts to diversify who gets awards to end up shitting the bed during an entire calendar year of race-related news events? Can you say out of touch with modern American society?

Congratulations go out to all the white people who are excited to see mediocrity win more awards. Yay!

Tearing Down Ray Bradbury's Home

Ray Bradbury House, LA Times

Well, this is sad.

Author Ray Bradbury (he was more than just a "sci-fi" writer), lived in the same California home for fifty years before he passed away in 2012. Efforts to save and preserve his real legacy--his papers and whatnot--have been successful. Sometimes, you don't get a chance to save things like that, but Bradbury was prominent enough for this to happen.

His house, however, wasn't worth keeping:

The home, which was purchased in June for $1.765 million, is being demolished. A permit for demolition was issued Dec. 30, Curbed LAreports, and a fan who visited the house over the weekend found it in the process of being torn down.

A home built in 1937 isn't that old, especially if it has been remodeled or upgraded since then. The value of the lot was, apparently, more than that of the house. Whatever they put there will be a separate and distinct property. I don't fault the nostalgia for an old writer's house, but his printed works and accomplishments are worth more than the built-in bookshelves that held them.

Jessica Roy Enriches the Language

The new term is manslamming:

there’s a helpful new word in the man-as-prefix lexicon. Meet “manslamming,” which New York magazine’s Jessica Roy uses to describe the behavior that is, on a sidewalk, refusing to yield to a fellow pedestrian such that a collision inevitably ensues. More broadly, Roy says, it’s “the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them.” It is (usually) done by men, (usually) at the expense of women. It is (usually) done unconsciously.

Awful behavior. I instinctively give way and get out of the way when I'm in public. I abhor the possibility of causing injury to someone else. That's more Minnesota Nice than it is anything else. Maybe I picked it up in the Army, which is where you have to get along with people or find yourself in peril. Who knows?

A Message From Mars

The brilliant efforts of film restoration experts yields a weird treasure--the first sci-fi film shot in Britain:

A Message from Mars (1913) is the first full-length science fiction feature in the history of British cinema. It stars the leading comedy actor of his day, Charles Hawtrey, as a selfish man who is taught a series of valuable lessons by a visiting Martian.
The stakes are high, for the Martian will only be permitted to return to his home planet if he is successful in his mission to instil a change of heart in his subject.

The film was based on a popular stage play which saw many revivals over 30 years in Britain. It features the first on-screen imaginings of Martians by a British film-maker, as futuristically clad members of the Martian court.

The film survived in the collection of the BFI National Archive as two shortened versions with significant imperfections in the third reel and a number of missing scenes.

You could shoot this today with only a minor change here and there and it would probably work just as well, so long as you injected an anti-hero with super powers into the mix.

People Are Tired of Matthew Vaughn Movies, Too

Christopher Nolan's three-film tenure as the director of Batman might have concluded, but the days of his dark, gritty style of superhero films may also be drawing to close, according to director Matthew Vaughn.

In the latest issue of SFX magazine, the Kick-Ass director, who is also Claudia Schiffer's husband, argued that audiences are turning their backs on such movies in favor of more lighthearted material.

"People want fun and escapism at the moment," he said. "Look at the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I think Nolan kick-started a very dark, bleak style of superhero escapism, and I think people have had enough of it."

The whole "superhero" motif is played out, and it was played out three years ago. The movies that Vaughn and Nolan have been making are great if you want to sell your stuff to teenagers in Asia but I wonder how artistically fulfilling that is after so many years of getting away with not having to come up with anything good.

I can see why Vaughn is taking a shot at Nolan, however. Interstellar wasn't explicitly targeted to the Chinese market and didn't have as much of that darkness he's talking about embedded into it. Nolan is trying to break away from the pack so, you know, he's the one with the target on his back.

These goddamned Marvel movies are eating everything. You have issues and super powers, I got it. I'm just not interested.