Book art: four images by Thomas Allen.

This art is simply amazing. Thomas Allen takes old books, carefully cuts the covers and positions them to create entire scenes, tiny tableaus of pulp paper and faded ink. I love the creative repurposing of common everyday things. He didn't need paint and canvas; he only needed a stack of old books, an exacto knife, and the ability to see past what's there in the images and see what could be there.

You can view more here and at his website.


My 100 favourite films. Entry #30: Taxi Driver.

Taxi Driver (1976)
directed by Martin Scorsese
written by Paul Schrader
starring Robert de Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel
country: usa
genre: drama

Visuals: 10
Writing: 10
Everyday watchability: 4

I recently read an article called 100 Essential Male Film Performances, and de Niro's role as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver was obviously on the list. In the article, James R Fleming states that de Niro's performance is "a complex high-wire balancing act in which De Niro doesn’t choose to play Bickle as an all-knowing, completely detached loner or as an evil psychopath." While I was reviewing the film in preparation for this entry, I found this statement to be unerringly true. I'm not sure that it's something I've ever realized before. In talking about the film, Bickle is often pointed out as a sociopath, but there's much more to him than that.

Take for instance the scene where he takes Cybill Shepherd's character Betsy to a pornographic film for a first date. She runs out of the theatre in disgust. He follows her, and outside, with prostitutes arguing and city lights blinking, they argue about the appropriateness of taking a lady to see pornography. It's extremely clear in this scene that Travis has no clue. He doesn't understand what is and is not acceptable behaviour. He offers to take her to other (less risqué) movies, stating, "I don't know much about them, but I'll take you." There's an extreme sadness in his apology, and he's not at all violent toward her. He seems like any guy confused by the intricacies of women, but what confuses and confounds him is something completely obvious to the average person. What makes it heartbreaking is that he's so close. He's clearly capable of caring for people, but he's also incapable of understanding them.

While de Niro's performance is an obvious tour de force, the power of the movie doesn't lie completely on his shoulders. Scorsese's direction is at its very best here. He pans the camera slowly over black diner patrons as they eye Travis. He mounts it to the taxi, covered with water droplets as it drives down the crowded street, horns singing a plaintive wail. In a scene where Travis calls Betsy on a payphone, the camera slowly pans away from him into an empty hallway. Scorsese explained that the conversation is almost too much to take, too heartbreaking, so you have to look away.

There's a scene where Travis finds senatorial hopeful Charles Pallantine in his cab. Bickle tells him, "I think someone should just take this city and just... just flush it down the fuckin' toilet." Pallantine looks at him with a barely-hidden grimace of abject horror. Personally, I can't help feeling that Bickle's right. New York (at least Taxi Driver's New York) is filled with hookers, pimps, lowlifes and scum. Bickle's idea of vigilantism is scarily intriguing. Maybe the city does need cleaning up. To prove my sanity, it is necessary here to say that Bickle's brand of justice is off, that maybe someone with a more even temperament should be in charge. After all, who watches the watchers?


Four images by Sea Love.

more here:

Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks.

Two months back, I posted a really nice video for a great song. Now, a fan has made a music video of his own for the same track and it's truly gorgeous. Check it out. View it full screen for best results.

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear from Gabe Askew on Vimeo.


Movie clips.

The Cranes are Flying (8.5/10)
Movies like this weren't coming out of America in 1957. It's surprising to see such artistry from a film of this era.

Mon Oncle Antoine (7/10)
Not a redeemable adult character among the lot. I'm surprised it's not called My Uncle, the Drunk.

Tokyo Drifter (5/10)
After I watched this movie, I read the plot summary on Wikipedia and thought, "really? That was all that happened? I was so confused for the entire duration of the film. There wasn't anything else I'm missing?"

And the Ship Sails On (6/10)
I don't think any film director is as obsessed with filmmaking as Fellini. (see also 8 1/2 and The Nights of Cabiria)

All that Heaven Allows (7.5/10)
The first English language film I've seen in weeks.

Book series.

This is a series of books I'm working on. It's mainly to explore a type treatment I wanted to try. Would you buy these off the shelf?


Stalker poster redux.

Here's a rough version of the Stalker poster.

Solaris redux.

At this point, it's just some basic type treatment. Maybe soon, it will be much more. If you've seen the film however, you'll know that this poster is somewhat fitting.

Come and See poster redux redo.

This is my second (or third or fourth) attempt to translate this movie into a poster. The first attempt was interesting, but maybe a little bland. I think this version better encapsulates the film. Thoughts?

Come and See poster redux.

I was inspired by this, so I made this. I think it looks nice, but it's really nothing new and I've seen this dripping technique many times I'm sure. Also, the use of a swastika is probably an easy out design-wise. Still, it looks pretty decent.


Movie clips.

I left out some films that I watched previous to the last batch. So sorry to deprive you of these gems.

The Vanishing (7.5/10)
More a character study than a thriller, but excellently shot, well acted and impeccably structured.

It's a Bikini World (4/10)
Not without its charm, but completely ludicrous. Also, there weren't enough bikinis for being a "bikini world."

Garden Party (3/10)
Multiple converging plotlines, none of which make any sense.

Five possible website layouts.

These are five possible designs for my Lee Benson Designs (name pending) website. They all use the palette shown in a previous post. There will definitely be more designs in more color palettes, but tell me what you think of these first.


Four illustrated posters.

Are they not gorgeous? With today's fractured, frame-based posters, we truly need a return to the artistry of classic posters, where an artist carefully and meaningfully hand-rendered the image. The top image for the Russian film Come and See is nearly as harrowing as the film itself.



So, the 70s called me, and they're back apparently (albeit in wallpaper form).

Movie clips.

What I've watched recently:

In Bruges (8/10)
Shades of Ben Kingsley's Sexy Beast in Ralph Fiennes. Ben was much more ruthless.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (5/10)
The gross-out comedy overshadows the original's amusing satire.

Star Trek (7/10)
Clever. Maybe a little too clever? What with all the in-jokes and "remember that?" moments.

Casino (7/10)
I remember when I was 13 (when this came out) thinking that a guy's head in a vise would be the grossest thing ever. It wasn't.

Letters from Iwo Jima (7/10)
Clint Eastwood is not a war film director, but this is not a war film.


Four images by Saul Bass.

For those who are unaware, Saul Bass was a graphic designer, logo artist and title designer. He is perhaps best known for his work on a number of Hitchcock films, including Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho. He also designed the logos for AT&T, Geffen Records, the Girl Scouts of America and United Airlines, as well as posters for dozens of movies.

Saul Bass had his own personal style characterized by simplified and stylized depictions of human anatomy, large blocky squares and lines, and a gritty hand-drawn look. Bass has been a huge inspiration to me. I find the simplification of form intriguing, and while Bass simplified, he never lost the essence or meaning of the shapes, and in fact imbued them with different meaning for different projects. The jagged arm in the poster for The Man With the Golden Arm, for example, is contorted and distorted as a symbol for the character's addiction to heroin, and the blocks as symbols of his oppression by the drug.

The body shapes in the Anatomy of a Murder poster, however, are more rounded and docile, destroyed not by their own hubris, but by someone else's will, forced on an innocent figure.


Saul Bass = wallpaper.

Without the frames, Mondrian becomes Saul Bass.

Mondrian = wallpaper.

Speaking of Mondrian, I made these Mondrian-inspired backgrounds. One of them uses one of the Jimmy Corrigan palettes (which I'm somewhat obsessed with) and the other uses the colors from a photograph I took.

If you like, I'll make one for you. Give me your screen dimensions and pick out a color palette. This site is full of good ones.


Keep Calm and Carry On.

This was a British propaganda poster used during World War II. Looks better in blue, doesn't it? It's really hard to relax with such a bright red poster screaming in my face. (The original in red then some variations.) And in forest green by request.



...and if Piet Mondrian had as well.

Moulin Rouge.

If Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had made his posters in Adobe Illustrator...