May 5, 2006

I don't want to hear that "Art School Confidential" isn't a good movie.

I can see it's getting weak reviews, but I really care about this one:

1. I went to art school, and no subject is more appealing to me than the mockery of art school.

2. I love Daniel Clowes -- who wrote the film: I'm a longtime reader of his comics, and was thrilled when he originally came out with "Art School Confidential" (because it mocked art school).

3. I have loved Terry Zwigoff -- the director -- ever since "Crumb," one of my favorite movies, which I saw it in the theater two days in a row and have watched on DVD 10 times.

4. John Malkovich is in "Art School Confidential." Don't you love John Malkovich? (He has a pretty cool website, where you can buy his clothes. Seriously, he has a line of clothing, which he models. Check out the hat. Nice line drawings there too.)

31 comments:

Matt Brown said...

Malkovich has some nice-looking clothes. I wonder if he designs any for puppets...

David said...

It reminded me of several episodes of FRASIER. I prefer Armani to Malkovich.

Michael Farris said...

I'd suggest a whole series of Dan Clowes movies:

Live a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron (maybe a miniseries on HBO)
LLoyd LLewellwyn (ditto, Hound Blood and Battlin' American would make great story arcs)
Dan Pussey
The Caricaturist

I'd see each, buy the dvd's and watch every one multiple times, but then that's the kind of taste I have.

Ann Althouse said...

The Caricaturist is my favorite.

CB said...

Hopefully the bad reviews are due to film reviewers' being the pretentious art-school types that are skewered in the film.

Bissage said...

Years ago I eavesdropped on two art professors as they graded student projects. (It was in the university art gallery after hours.) They were using a slide projector and they went on to the next slide.

One of them said, "Now, this demonstrates excellent technique." The other one paused for a while and eventually said, "Yes, I suppose so, but do you really think he's sincere?"

That kind of pissed me off.

Ann Althouse said...

Bissage: I would expect much worse from artprofs. I'm surprised they weren't just whining about what torture it is to have to look at this stuff! Are you sure the "sincere" comment wasn't inflected with sarcasm?

Henry said...

It really does sound like a poor movie, which is a shame because Ghost World was so good. Plus, I'll take Steve Buschemi over John Malkovich. Both would be even better.

reader_iam said...

Bissage: Boy, that brings back echoes from the past.

All those faculty get-togethers, where the musicians & artists & theatre people would get together and "talk deeply" about Art and their Scary Students while we kids would exchange glances.

Yeah, I'm exaggerating a bit--I just can't help the reflexive twitch to want take a needle and go "pop"!

It must be a real pain in the ass, sometimes, to have fac brats in class or even around.

I, too, have been looking forward to this movie. I hope the critics are wrong.

Dave said...

How do you grade art? Its only arbiter of worth is what someone will pay for it.

Actually, strike that last sentence. Consider, after all, what the Saatchi morons have paid for Damien Hirst's work.

I don't understand art.

knoxgirl said...

I watched the clip at rotten tomatoes and loved it, even though it was pretty much a series of cliches.

I had to take a lot of art classes to get my BFA in graphic design. I loved it, but got to where I was going to puke if I had to sit through one more critique.

I have to see this movie! First one I've been excited about in a long time.

Scott Ferguson said...

Ann, how in heaven's name did you transition from studying art to studying law?

Coco said...

Thanks for bringing up Crumb. Fantastic. I haven't seen it in years but I'm going to rent it this weekend now.

And your thoughts on Art School Confidential hit home. Bad movies can be much more interesting if you've peronally lived the subject matter....which is why I don't want to hear the tepid reviews for Mission Impossible III becuase of my past experiences an international super-spy.

bill said...

From the Storyteller album by Ray Davies, Art School Babe is his tale of having a unrequited crush on a fellow art student:

My art school babe with your palette-knives and brushes,
painted face, Egyptian eye-brows and bright red lips
Pale white make-up, tight black skirts like Juliette Greco
And there's me quoting pretentious chat up lines
From Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre

Sitting by a gasfire in a drafty bedsit
The art school babe quotes William Blake and she rolls a joint
And I think "Oh oh, I've scored", start to make myself at home
But the room starts moving as she starts to get me stoned

I close my eyes and give in, the room goes in a spin
My lips are dry, I wander around with a ridiculous grin
I grovel on the floor, I think "Yeah I think I can make her"
Then I wake up and realize I've been kissing the refrigerator

Art school chaps with creative grand illusions
My sketch pad at the ready, my eager charcoal in my hand
Boring the world for hours with political theories
Just to impress anyone who listens while my art school babe
Just puts another inch of makeup on her face

And she says to me:
"Arty farty, you'll never fool your Auntie
who knew you when you picked your nose and wet your pants"
How did she know that?
Arty farty, I try to throw a party
to impress my peers I struck a creative stance

Art school cat, ah, I was really on a mission
I made my play for my art school babe
By humming jazz tunes with words by Furlinghetti
I thought I was ever so cool,
but I was really such an obvious, pretentious, irritating little fool
for my art school babe

Bissage said...

Ann: Am I sure? No. But they were serious in their demeanor and the first artprof did not laugh at the remark. She remained silent and they went on to the next slide.

My impression was that the first artprof would have given the student an "A" but that the student ended up with something less because the second artprof thought the student had commited some sort of apostasy.

reader_iam: Where I went to school they didn't all get along. Apparently, there was this theater student who duly reported to a theater prof that a music prof had made a mocking remark that theater was not Art, whereupon the theater prof ran over to the other side of the building and the two profs ended up in a shouting match that would have come to blows had not a third prof intervened!

Boy Howdy!

Marghlar said...

Ann, how in heaven's name did you transition from studying art to studying law?

Well, I can't speak for Ann and art, but my wife and I both made the transition from studying acting to studying law. The nice thing about law school is that you aren't expected to show up knowing anything. It's pretty much a one-stop shopping experience.

Really, all the LSAT tests is basic logic and language comprehension. Everything else you can get in school.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, how in heaven's name did you transition from studying art to studying law?"

The answer lies in this blog.

Marghlar said...

I have such a love/hate relationship with Malkovich. He is occasionally great, but he is so often a lazy actor with a drawl that seems to defy vocal work.

However, I'm recently warming to him again. I liked his turn in the Libertine fairly well. However, I've never really liked him in a modern play or movie (aside from Being John Malkovich, in which he was pretty good).

But the previews look fairly amusing, so I think this one is probably worth seeing.

Palladian said...

As a professor at an art school, I have to jump to the defense of my institution a little bit. Although you'll find few people that complain about art school as much as I do, I do take a slight offense at the special mockery that art schools and students receive. In my view as much or even more disdain could be heaped on the average English major or sociology program (or law school, for that matter) for their brainless folly. It depends on the situation.

I think some people's disdain for art school stems from their experience with bad art schools and with poor instructors. A problem with teaching art is the general lack of a coherent set of standards with which to measure success- and failure, but this is not too much different that the challenges faced by instructors in any creative discipline. My classes are mixtures of students with different majors, from graphic design to advertising to fine arts (the smallest percentage) and most of them approach their work with the same seriousness and brilliance as any good 1L. Perhaps it's because I run a tight ship in class, and expect the best work from my students.

I watched the trailer for "Art School Confidential" and thought it looked stupid. It seemed way too "Animal House" compared to how my school operates. My drawing class works from a nude model each week and I have never encountered (nor would I remotely tolerate) piggish, sexualized behavior toward a model. If you've never been in a figure drawing class, you might think of them in a sexual way, but it's about the least sexually titillating situation I can imagine. And we actually have, you know, gay students, which didn't seem to be the case with the movie trailer.

Oh, and art school classrooms aren't moodily lit.

Maxine Weiss said...

Art is the same as law. It's all performance. Sales.

I flunked both art and drafting. I was told I have no depth perception, no sense of shading, and couldn't draw in the third dimension. And, color blind.

Although, I do a mean needlepoint, and crochet.

Peace, Maxine

reader_iam said...

Bissage:

The Art of the Duel!

I don't know that they always got along, it's just that they shared common enemies... . (I'm kidding, darn it.)

Palladian, you are, of course, right about English students and probably everybody else. Except maybe hard science people? Well, but then again, they've got their stuff, too.

Ah, people.

Maxine Weiss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff said...

Clowes attended classes at Pratt in the late 70's-early 80's. In an excellent interview in the Comics Journal ten years ago Clowes opined on the experience. His fellow-genius Peter Bagge ventured that art school was daycare for 21-year olds and Clowes agreed.

He said that the only concrete education that he received in four years was in a class taught by a romance novel cover illustrator. He took them step-by-step through his working process. "If you want a fleshtone, mix this and this, for shading do this, etc.."

Clowes has a vicseral hatred of pretentiousness and theory. He grew up attending a private school for University of Chicago faculty brats and had a rigorous K-12 education.

He's also a better writer than Zwigoff. Ghost World the movie is almost a parody of Ghost World the comic.

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian said..."As a professor at an art school, I have to jump to the defense of my institution a little bit. Although you'll find few people that complain about art school as much as I do, I do take a slight offense at the special mockery that art schools and students receive. In my view as much or even more disdain could be heaped on the average English major or sociology program (or law school, for that matter) for their brainless folly."

I went to art school back in 1970, so I don't really know what things are like today. I have a real grudge against it, because we were not given any rigorous training and at the same time, it was the most sexist place I've ever been stuck in. The women were second class citizens and were openly told so. That said, the figure drawing classes were not the slightest bit sexy and I never heard anything sexual said about a nude model. I don't know how different this movie is from Clowes's comic, but I thought the comic rang true. What's funny about the nude model is that it isn't at all sexual. Where else in life do you stare at a naked, live person right in front of you and it's not at all sexy? It's weird. It's amazing how bad most artists models are too. I still vividly remember the few models who were interesting to draw.

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: Thanks for that info. I was disappointed in "Ghost World" the movie. It's nowhere near the level of the comic. I might have been able to appreciate it if I hadn't known the brilliant comic. On the other hand, "Crumb" was brilliant, and I had a thing against R. Crumb before i saw the film. He just seemed disgustingly sexist. I can accept Crumb as an artist now that I know the depth of sadness he represents.

Jeff said...

I agree about "Crumb". Zwigoff did an excellent job under what must have been exceptionally trying circumstances.

I think Jim Jarmusch would have been a better fit for Ghost World's deadpan teen angst.

To read Clowes' take on the Ghost World movie, check out this interview.

The better interview was the one I mentioned earlier. Clowes goes on about the art school experience and many other things- really fascinating (and extremely funy)! The Comics Journal sells back issues here. (TCJ 154 - DANIEL CLOWES interviewed; -$6)

I also recommend this collection of interviews with Crumb. He really goes into depth about his family, especially his older brother. It's profusely illustrated with panels from Crumb's autobiographical work that key in to the topics at hand. Even better than the movie in some ways.

Palladian said...

"I went to art school back in 1970, so I don't really know what things are like today. I have a real grudge against it, because we were not given any rigorous training and at the same time, it was the most sexist place I've ever been stuck in."

Your complaint about a lack of rigor is still a common one among students, and is, I'm afraid, often quite justifiable. Without implicating any of the other instructors at my institution, there are certainly a percentage of art school instructors out there who have little understanding how to teach and how to maintain a balance between control, process and creativity. The biggest mistake I see is made with freshmen: instead of rigorous training and disciplined approach, the emphasis is on fostering "creativity" and "individuality" and conceptual ideas. These are certainly all part of the process we would like to encourage, but in a freshman drawing class the emphasis should be on drawing.

As for the sexist environment, it's very different now. Usually my classes are about 50-50 male and female, with the women often excelling beyond the men in terms of both skill and effort, and are often more willing to speak in class than the men, which reminds me of the discussion on your blog some time ago about male and female learning styles.

"It's amazing how bad most artists models are too. I still vividly remember the few models who were interesting to draw."

Ha, yes this is still sometimes a problem, though my school has some quite good models. It's quite palpable when the students are really inspired by the model and when they are not.

Ann Althouse said...

"Usually my classes are about 50-50 male and female,"

I honestly can't remember what the ratio was in my day. Probably more female than male, but the males were preferred. We had a sculpture teacher who told the class that women shouldn't be sculptors and could therefore at most earn a B in his class. This was well-known and tolerated. It wasn't a matter of the women not "speaking up" or anything like that. It was a matter of the professors actually having a sexist attitude toward us.

Joe T said...

Ann and Jeff, I agree with both of you. "Crumb" was great, "Ghost World" a disappointment. I was particularly creeped out by the Steve Buscemi character, and the magical realism style ending was way too hokey and nothing like the comic.

Did either of you see "Bad Santa"? I thought Zwigoff did a great job with it, so I am holding out a lot of hope for "Art School Confidential".

Ann Althouse said...

Joe, yeah, I didn't like the way the relationship had a story arc where the characters learned about their problems and moved forward in their lives. That made it sentimental and old-fashioned.

Di said...

I LOVE John Malkovich..interesting that he has a line of clothing!!