April 19th, 2016


On Tuesday, April 5th, we went to see Zootopia, the new animated feature starring Ginnifer Goodwin as “Judy Hopps,” a rabbit who aspires to be the first rabbit police officer in a world of talking (mostly) civilized animals. Jason Bateman is the voice of “Nick Wilde,” a street-hustling fox that she initially coerces into helping her with her first big case.

Zootopia is the greatest city of the animal world, where all species* live together in relative harmony**. The city is a beautiful construction of the scene designer’s art, a modernized Metropolis (or Duckburg), divided into climatically controlled neighborhoods suiting various tastes in habitat. There are also some very clever adaptations allowing large creatures like elephants and giraffes to co-exist with mice and shrews.

(* All species, as long as they are mammals. I don’t recall seeing any intelligent birds or reptiles, and insects aren’t represented. For that matter, there are no apes or monkeys, either, at least not with speaking roles.)

(** It’s glossed over what the civilized carnivores eat. The only foods we see on screen are rabbit-raised vegetables, frozen desserts, and doughnuts. Hey, it’s a cop movie, gotta have doughnuts--.)

The early part of the film follows rookie cop movie clichés: Judy graduates top of her police academy class through grit and wit, is accepted by the Zootopia Police Department under the Mayor’s affirmative action program, and then is assigned to parking patrol by Chief Bogo (Irdis Elba), since all the other police officers are large, powerful animals. Frustrated, Judy shoehorns herself into an unsolved missing persons case, wagering the Chief that she will resign if she doesn’t crack the case in 48 hours.

She does so, and normally this is where the movie would end. Judy keeps her job, gets a commendation, and becomes the public face of the Police. However, there’s a larger mystery yet unsolved, and Judy doesn’t help ease public fears.

How Judy and Nick solve the greater problem, expose the ultimate villain, and resolve their difficult relationship takes up the second part of the film, which is also interesting and exciting.

The film is really clever in a lot of ways. We will see it again just to look at backgrounds and character designs. While using a lot of cliché characters (the gruff police chief, the doughnut-gobbling desk officer), the film also has a lot to say about “profiling” such as the “dumb bunny” or “sly fox” caricatures and how this causes people to sometimes live down to expectations.
Good clean fun for all ages, although (as the toddler behind us demonstrated) some action sequences and snarling beasts may be too intense for young children.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/289669.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Haggerty Art Museum, Exhibitions, January 21-May 22

On Thursday evening, April 14th, we went to the Haggerty Art Museum on the Marquette University campus to see their current exhibits. This small museum consistently has interesting shows, and this season’s collection was particularly interesting.

“Women” was a common theme to all the exhibits. There was “Joan of Arc: Highlights from the Permanent Collection”; “Carrie Schneider: Reading Women”; “Page Turners: Women and Letters,” and “Bijinga: Picturing Women in Japanese Prints.”

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the reconstruction of the nearby Joan of Arc chapel, the museum pulled out four interesting pieces from its collection. There was a beautiful alabaster bust and a medieval-styled tapestry, both showing the “Maid of Orleans” as a shepherdess. The evening sunset light had a fascinating effect on the bust, as the expression changed if it was in shadow, or if the full sun was falling on it. The saint’s warrior phase was represented by a silver reproduction of a statue by princess Marie de France which shows Joan of Arc in armor, praying; and a study for a cathedral fresco, which shows a close-up of a formidable laurel-crowned saint scrutinizing her viewers.

“Reading Women,” by Carrie Schneider, has an interesting premise. The exhibition is a collection of poster-sized photographs depicting women reading works by women. In addition to the photographs, there is a four-hour long video installation of close-ups of the readers, which includes one hundred subjects. While there is a variety of women and settings in the photos, I was struck by an undercurrent of sameness in the poses. The majority of the women depicted are young. They mostly have a cozy-looking spot to sit or recline, most often by natural light. They all have serene expressions of contemplative concentration. Most all of them are reading serious literature, non-fiction or biography: in the collection of a hundred books, one is an Agatha Christie; there’s one Austen and one Bronte; after that the lightest work might be Zora Neale Hurston’s folklore collection. We didn’t have four hours to spend watching the video, but I would be surprised if any of the readers were depicted smiling or laughing.

It was interesting how this dovetailed with the “Page Turners” collection, which deals with written works about women reading, women’s education, and women’s rights. Through the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries, women readers were depicted as thoughtful and serious, the same slant as given by Ms. Schneider’s works. Of course, the women of earlier centuries were expected to be reading mostly prayer books. In the 19th century, we see more intellectual ferment, as both leisure reading in the form of novels for women, and books, articles, and broadsides for and against women’s education and rights began to appear. These texts are also represented in the collection, with illustrations reflective of the respective publishers’ often unflattering opinions on the subject.

Upstairs, there was a very interesting collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Although coming from a number of different genres, they all fall into the class of “bijin”, or “beautiful woman” pictures. Some were illustrations from classic stories, some were essentially advertisements for courtesans, some records of life in the kabuki and noh theaters (in which the beautiful women are actually men), and everyday life. Usual suspects like Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro are represented along with other less-known artists. This was a particularly beautiful collection, with the artists’ meticulous depictions of fabrics as they fold and fall being just amazing.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/289978.html. Please comment there using OpenID.