Michael Fabiano

Twitter: MichaelFabiano

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Arts in the News: Why We Call Celebrities “Stars”, Costumes Behind Your Favorite Movies, Women Authors for Women’s History Month, Artist Spent a Week in a Rock

April 12th, 2017

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Why We Call Celebrities “Stars”
In “La La Land,” Ryan Gosling sings about Hollywood as the “city of stars.” But when did people begin referring to celebrities as “stars”? The broad usage of the word “star” to refer to a sort of leader among people dates back to the Middle Ages. Chaucer, who is also credited with the first recorded usage of the words “celebrity” and “famous,” may have been the one to plant the seed: in his “The House of Fame,” the dreamer worries about being “stellified” and asks “Will Jove transform me into a star?” Chaucer, in turn, was drawing from Ovid’s ideas about metamorphosis–how humans could be transformed, potentially into heavenly material. In Chaucer’s wake, Moliere and Shakespeare further personified “star” in their works. The application of the word specifically to those involved in theater appeared in the 1750s and ’60s, with notable references to an actor named Garrick, who was called “a Star of the first Magnitude” and a “bright star.” In the 1820s when British actors were promoted as “stars” for their U.S. tours, the terminology came stateside. The rest is Hollywood history, as “movie stars” paralleled the accessible yet distant constellations, gleaming and sparkling for all to see. What a fascinating history of a term most of us take for granted!


The Costume Shop Behind Your Favorite Movies and Shows
Founded in 1840, Angels Costume, a family-run shop on the outskirts of London, has come to be a big name in the business of costume design. Three of the five nominees for best costume design at the 2017 Oscars had gotten their costumes there. Angels Costume staff can create costumes from scratch, but most of what customers need can be found in the shop’s vast inventory: if you lined up all of the costumes in Angels’ storage, it would stretch about eight miles. The shop has its own display dedicated to the movies that the house has helped that have won recognition by the Academy. In total, Angels Costume has worked on 36 movies that ended up winning the Academy Award for costume design–the first was Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet” in 1948, the most recent “The Grant Budapest Hotel” in 2015. Other notable costumes coming from the shop include those for “Shakespeare in Love,” “Downton Abbey,” and Netflix series “The Crown.” The shop even has an entire room devoted to military and uniform badges–“The Badge Room”–where authentic historical artifacts, like buttons from the Egyptian navy, are kept. Another room, devoted entirely to furs, is kept refrigerated to preserve the garments. Angels Costume is a veritable treasure trove of costume history, and its beautiful and intricate creations will no doubt help costume designers inspire audiences for years to come.

Bringing Attention to Women Authors for Women’s History Month
To celebrate Women’s History Month, Loganberry Books in Cleveland, Ohio has flipped all male-authored books around, filing them spine-in on their shelves to hide the titles from view. The experiment, called “Illustrating the Gender Gap in Fiction,” kicked off on March 1 and is set to last for two weeks. The shop’s owner, Harriet Logan, admitted: “I was truly shocked by the effects of this exercise…I have been–or thought I have been–a conscientious book buyer and a supporter of women’s works. It’s hard to tell that from the shelves.” Images from the bookstore are striking, as the shelves appear covered now by the edges of pages rather than book spines. Eight of the shop’s all-female staff went through nearly 10,000 books, a process which took over two hours. The experiment is meant not only to demonstrate the gender gap in fiction and the continued dominance of male-authored works, but also to consciously bring attention to the works by women authors that remained spine-out. The organization “Rebel Girls” released a video this week exposing the “ugly truth of children’s books,” featuring a mother and daughter removing from the shelves any book that didn’t have female characters– the results are similarly striking. What creative and powerful ways to bring attention to the lack of gender parity both in book authors and characters!

Artist Literally Spent a Week in a Rock
Artist Abraham Poincheval, 44, has made headlines recently for a rather unorthodox performance piece: for an entire week at the end of February, he remained in a 12-metric-ton limestone boulder in Paris’s Palais de Tokyo art museum. For the entire week, Poincheval remained in a human-shaped hole carved into the middle of the rock; air flow was provided by small breathing holes in the limestone, but no light reached the cavity. Poincheval entitled the performance piece simply “Pierre,” which translates as “stone.” His work often involves intense challenges of confinement, isolation, and meditation–in 2014 he spent two weeks in the stomach of a dead bear, and he’s also spent time buried under a rock, on top of a 65-foot pole, and underground as a human mole. He survived for the week on dried meat, cartons of soup, and other liquids; he kept bottles for urination but was forced to store his own excrement around him for the duration of the performance. Poincheval trained both physically and mentally for months prior to the performance. He certainly is going places that no human has gone before…

 

Arts in the News: Show must go on, Ballet Training, Most expensive library, Can fiction characters be real?

April 3rd, 2017

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The Show Must Go On…Even After You’ve Thrown Up Onstage

In the midst of a performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the Houston Grand Opera, soloist and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke did what most performers only have nightmares about: she threw up onstage. But in an awe-inspiring and unbelievable move of dedication to the performance, Cooke immediately resumed her duet with soprano Angela Meade. Shortly after beginning their “Recordare” duet, Cooke seemed to cough and put her hand on her chest; she rushed toward the wing but vomited onstage before reaching it. Moments later, she turned around and resumed her part in the duet (the conducter and company had continued undaunted). Cooke exited the stage after the duet, amid applause from the audience, to recuperate during the sections of the piece that didn’t involve her. She later returned to perform her other pieces, at one point having to make another brief exit. As Steven Brown of the Texas Classical Review wrote, Cooke’s performance was “a heartening example of artistic grace under pressure.” A fine performance by a true professional!

Are There Psychological Dangers to Ballet Training?

While research continues to reveal the cognitive and emotional benefits of studying music, research on the effects of studying dance–and particularly ballet–are more mixed. There are obvious advantages to a dedicated study of ballet or any type of dance, most notably physical conditioning and the instillment of discipline and cooperation in students. A new study from Portugal finds evidence that ballet training may produce or exacerbate certain less-than-healthy psychological pressures. The study, led by researchers Telmo Serrano and Helena Amaral Espirito-Santo, suggests that, compared to both music students and peers who study neither art nor dance, dance students had higher levels of “psychological inflexibility,” which the researchers define as “excessive involvement with the content of internal events” like emotions, thoughts, and memories. In other words, the dance students in the study had an intence inward-pointing focus that increased fear of failure and led to avoidance of stressful situations (rather than confronting them). Psychological inflexibility has been linked to the development of depression and anxiety symptoms in adolescents. Serrano and Espirito-Santo survyed 113 Portuguese youth between the ages of 9 and 16 for the study. The researchers admit that it could be that students predisposed to perfectionism are drawn to an exacting art form like ballet, but also believe that the levels of the psychological inflexibility may be due to the characteristincs of training. Ultimately, Serrano and Espirito-Santo’s work certainly does not imply that students should not study dance; instead, their work simply points to the importance of dance instructors being aware of the potential effects of certain training and disciplinary techniques on their students. Hopefully this study will help ballet teachers more effictively serve their students, and enhance the experience of learning this beautiful art form.

The Most Expensive Library in the World

A newly built, gothic-inspired library in central St. Petersburg, Russia, is making headlines for something people don’t usually associate with libraries: the price of entering. In order to enjoy the library’s collection and atmosphere, patrons must pay a ticket of roughly 100 pounds (125 USD) for a four-hour session. Irina Khoteshova, the project director, explains: “One hundred pounds per visit is certainly not a low price, but it is less expensive than tickets to the opera or ballet.” Book Capella, which opened in December, isn’t exactly like other Russian libraries– the average price of a book in the collection is between roughly 500 to 900 USD. All the books date from the 16th to 19th centuries and are housed in thematic rooms. The library also has yearly and annual subscriptions (the annual subscription runs at roughly 86,000 USD) for those who want more unlimited access to the collection than the 4-hour pass allows. Khoteshova explains that the library is mainly used by book collectors, historians, scientists, and businesspeople, who often are simply looking for a quiet place to have meetings. She admits that most academics, whose average inccome is less than the average per capita income in Russia, could not afford entry–a fact that is certainly raising some eyebrows among critics of the new library. Perhaps at some point the library could offer discounted admission and access for scholars in the name of knowledge and academic inquiry, so that these rare books are not reserved only for those rich enough to read them.

Can Fictional Characters Be “Real”?

The Guardian worked with researchers from Durham University on a recent study that suggests that fictional book characters can effectively become “real” people in readers’ lives. The study found that 19 percent of reader surveyed reported that “the voices of fictional characters stayed with them even when they weren’t reading.” This included readers who reported having thoughts in the voice of specific characters, like a character narrating their life, as well those who simply had their thoughts influenced by the tone or perspective of a character. The study was carried out at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2014 and included nearly 400 novelists, nonfiction writers, and other particularly passionate readers. Because of the demographics of the surveyed sample, it may be that the results are not generalizable to the average book-reading audience; in other words, perhaps the phenomenon exists only for those whose lives revolve around writing and reading. There is precedent for the study’s results, however: in 2012, a smaller study found that readers of fiction could identify so closely with a character that it would, at least temporarily, change their beliefs and behaviors. If you’ve ever felt incredibly close to fictional characters, or had conversations with them in your head, clearly you’re not alone! A fascinating study that speaks to the power of literature and the human connection.

Sundance Film Festival

March 28th, 2017

One of the best things about living in Utah is the ability to attend the Sundance Film Festival as a local.  I worked in video store in high school and would anxiously await any independent films that came to VHS and DVD.  Independent films featured more of the fringe stories I was craving and complicated characters that didn’t fit into the mold of mainstream Hollywood movies.  Attending the Sundance Film Festival is a dream come true for any fan of this genre of film.  There is a palpable buzz of excitement that permeates the entire festival and many of the directors, writers, producers, and actors give Q&A sessions after the screenings of their film.

During the Q&A of “The Discovery” at this year’s festival, the writers said that the budgets of independent film force creativity because producers can’t rely on million-dollar stunts and graphic effects to create a believable worldview.  An example they cited from their film was a newscast featured in a pivotal scene playing in the background.  The writers needed a way for the audience to “buy into” their vision of the world without shooting on location in different countries and subsequently spending money they didn’t have.  For me, it’s details like this that make it seem like you are part of the world the independent film is portraying rather than watching a world producers created for a movie.

This year I’ve felt that I needed to be especially vocal in my support of the Sundance Film Festival and independent film.  While most people are familiar with the festival, many people are probably not aware that the initial grant and promotion from the National Endowment for the Arts (“NEA”) is what made the Sundance Institute possible.  Founder Robert Redford has said that the “very beginning [of the festival] was due in large part to the support of the NEA” and that the NEA “has played a key role in encouraging organizations like Sundance Institute to grow and expand its influence, not only through financial support, but, more significantly, through consistently articulating the importance of the arts and the artist in our society.”  With the NEA rumored to be on the chopping block for the current administration, it’s devastating to picture a society without independent film and festivals like Sundance.

Now, more than ever, it is important to support independent film so that incredible storytellers can share their art with the world and we can continue to have the privilege to experience it.  Support comes in many forms.  You can be vocal on social media about attending an independent film.  You can write reviews for exceptional and quirky films on websites like Rotten Tomatoes or Fandango.

You can donate directly to the NEA (click here) or become a member of the Sundance Institute (click here).  You can even sign one of the many petitions circulating to save the NEA.  Last, you can show distribution companies that there is a high demand for independent film by seeing them in theaters (see list below of my personal recommendations).

Here are the films I was lucky enough to see at this year’s festival and a description of each:

Rebel in the Rye.  This film is a biographical drama about the life of author J.D. Salinger and is a must for anybody who is a fan of The Catcher in the Rye.  While there are many Easter Eggs in the movie and references to Salinger’s infamous novel, Danny Strong does an excellent job of telling a captivating story and therefore you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the movie.  Catcher in the Rye was not my favorite book in high school, but this movie made me want to read it again – especially after you learn about Salinger’s struggles and more about his life.  Nicholas Hoult gives a great performance as Salinger and Kevin Spacey is terrific as his writing professor Whit Burnett.  The movie will leave you thinking about what it really means to “pursue your passion.”

 

Long Strange Trip.  When I first learned that the Grateful Dead documentary is aptly named because it runs for a whopping 235 minutes, I was nervous about sitting through the film.  That feeling quickly vanished within 10 minutes of the opening.  During the Q&A at intermission someone asked Director Ami Bar-Lev what his dream project would be and he immediately responded, “You’re watching it.”  You can certainly tell.  Long Strange Trip is a fascinating in-depth look at one of America’s most iconic bands and the unique culture they created.  It also has amazing graphics and never-before seen photos, interviews, and facts about the band.  Long Strange Trip will be available on Amazon Prime on May 26th.

 

The Discovery.  While the first season of The OA toys with the idea of providing scientific proof of an afterlife, The Discovery explores how such an event would affect everyday life.  Part Sci-Fi part romance, the film follows the son (Jason Segel) of the man who made the discovery (Robert Redford) as he falls for a woman with a tragic past (Rooney Mara).  Netflix purchased the film and it will be available worldwide on March 31st.

 

  1. XX.  This is an all-female directed horror anthology comprised of 4 segments ranging from more tongue-in-cheek horror in the form of suburban hell “The Birthday Party” to more traditional segments like “The Box,” “Don’t Fall,” and “Her Only Living Son.”  While the individual segments are worth watching, perhaps the coolest part of the film is the wrap around stop-motion animation segment directed by Sofia Carillo.  The objects that come to life are truly creepy, but Carillo is so talented that it’s hard to tear yourself away.  XX is set for limited releaseFebruary 17th.

 

Raw.  A horror film that is not for the faint of heart and possibly not for vegetarians.  Although no one passed out during the screening I attended, there were a few scenes that made me grimace.  There is also a fair amount of comedic relief that leaves you disarmed.  Based on some of the initial reviews, I was expecting a more traditional cannibalism horror flick and was blown away with the cinematography, the story, and all the performances in the film.  One of the directors of XX during her film Q&A said she thought Raw was one of the best horror films she’s seen in years because if you take away all the traditional horror elements there is still a mesmerizing story of sisterhood and a critique of group-think.  I couldn’t agree more.  Raw will be released on March 10th.

 

Colossal. It’s hard to describe this movie without sounding extremely weird (which should be part of the appeal).  After getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) returns to her hometown and reunites with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).  After drinking too much with Oscar and his friends, Gloria wakes up to discover that a gigantic monster rampaged through Seoul, South Korea and that somehow the monster is connected to her.  Colossal poses some interesting moral dilemmas as well as tells the story of what it means to stand up to a bully – something that should resonate with a lot of people.  Colossal is set to be released on April 7.

 

Wind River.  This is a thriller starring Jeremy Renner as a veteran game tracker and Elizabeth Olsen as a new FBI agent who team up to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.  The landscape for the movie is gorgeous and will have you contemplating the will to survive in cold, desolate places.  Wind River does not currently have a release date.

 

The Killing Ground.  Much like the Blair Witch Project, this film made me afraid to go camping in the woods.  A young couple travels to a remote lakefront camping site only to realize that things are not quite right with their neighbors and other visitors.  This movie slowly turns into a hair-raising thriller that had me on the edge of my seat until the final scene.  IFC has acquired the rights to the movie.

 

Rememory.  This was probably my least favorite film that I saw and I still very much enjoyed the concept of the film.  Gordon Dunn, a famed scientific pioneer, is found dead in his office just after unveiling his latest invention – a device that can extract, record, and then display a person’s memories.  Gordon’s widow (Julia Ormond) is left to put together the pieces in conjunction with a mysterious man who claims to know Gordon (Peter Dinklage).  Fans will also get to see Anton Yelchin in the film as this was one of the projects he was working on prior to his tragic death in real life.  Rememory does not currently have a release date.

Guest Blog: Sundance Film Festival 2017

March 27th, 2017

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One of the best things about living in Utah is attending the Sundance Film Festival as a local.  I worked in a video store in high school and would anxiously await any independent films that came to VHS and DVD.  Independent films featured more of the fringe stories I was craving and complicated characters that didn’t fit into the mold of mainstream Hollywood movies.  Attending the Sundance Film Festival is a dream come true for any fan of this genre of film.  There is a palpable buzz of excitement that permeates the entire festival as you wait in line to see one-of-a kind stories.  Another neat aspect of the festival is that many of the directors, writers, producers, and actors give Q&A sessions after the screenings of their film.

 

During the Q&A of The Discovery at this year’s festival, the writers explained that the budgets of independent film force creativity because producers can’t rely on million-dollar stunts and graphic effects to tell the story.  An example they cited from their film was a newscast featured in a pivotal scene playing in the background.  The writers needed to insert details like this for authenticity of their worldview without shooting on location in different countries and subsequently spending money they didn’t have.  For me, it’s details like this that draw you directly into the world the film is portraying.

 

2017 Sundance Recommendations

Here are the films I was lucky enough to see at this year’s festival and a description of each:

Rebel in the Rye.  This film is a biographical drama about the life of author J.D. Salinger and is a must for anyone is a fan of The Catcher in the Rye.  While there are many Easter Eggs in the movie and refences to Salinger’s infamous novel, Danny Strong does an excellent job of telling a captivating story and therefore you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the movie.  Catcher in the Rye was not my favorite book in high school, but this movie made me want to read it again – especially after you learn about Salinger’s struggles and more about his life.  Nicholas Hoult gives a great performance as Salinger and Kevin Spacey is terrific as his writing professor Whit Burnett.  The movie will leave you thinking about what it really means to “pursue your passion.”

 

Long Strange Trip.  When I first learned that the Grateful Dead documentary has a run time of a whopping 235 minutes, I was nervous about sitting through the film.  That feeling quickly vanished within 10 minutes of the opening.  During the Q&A at intermission someone asked Director Amir Bar-Lev what his dream project would be and he immediately responded, “You’re watching it.”  This becomes quite evident throughout the film.  Long Strange Trip is a fascinating in-depth look at one of America’s most iconic bands and the unique culture that surrounded them.  It also has amazing graphics and never-before seen photos, interviews, and facts about the band.  Long Strange Trip will be available on Amazon Prime on May 26th.

 

The Discovery.  While the first season of The OA toys with the idea of providing scientific proof of an afterlife, The Discovery explores how such an event would affect everyday life.  Part sci-fi, part romance, the film follows the son (Jason Segel) of the man who made the discovery (Robert Redford) as he falls for a woman with a tragic past (Rooney Mara).  Netflix purchased the film and it will be available worldwide on March 31st.

XX.  This is an all-female directed horror anthology comprised of 4 segments ranging from more tongue-in-cheek horror in the form of suburban hell “The Birthday Party” to more traditional segments like “The Box,” “Don’t Fall,” and “Her Only Living Son.”  While the individual segments are worth watching, perhaps the coolest part of the film is the wrap around stop-motion animation segment directed by Sofia Carillo.  The objects that come to life are truly creepy, but Carillo is so talented that it’s hard to tear yourself away.  XX is set for limited releaseFebruary 17th and is available for rent on platforms like Amazon prime.

 

Raw.  A horror film that is not for the faint of heart and possibly not for vegetarians.  Although no one passed out during the screening I attended, there were a few scenes that made me grimace.  There is also a fair amount of comedic relief that leaves you disarmed.  Based on some of the initial reviews, I was expecting a more traditional cannibalism horror flick and was blown away with the cinematography, the story, and all the performances in the film.  One of the directors of XX during her film Q&A said she thought Raw was one of the best horror films she’s seen in years because if you take away all the traditional horror elements there is still a mesmerizing story of sisterhood and a critique of group-think.  Her observation rings true throughout the whole film.  Raw will be released on March 10th.

 

Colossal. It’s hard to describe this movie without sounding extremely weird (which should be part of the appeal).  After getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) returns to her hometown and reunites with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).  After drinking too much with Oscar and his friends, Gloria wakes up to discover that a gigantic monster rampaged through Seoul, South Korea and that somehow the monster is connected to her.  Colossal poses some interesting moral dilemmas as well as tells the story of what it means to stand up to a bully – something that should resonate with anyone who has ever been bullied.  Colossal is set to be released on April 7.

 

Wind River.  This is a thriller starring Jeremy Renner as a veteran game tracker and Elizabeth Olsen as a new FBI agent who team up to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.  The landscape for the movie is gorgeous and will have you contemplating how humans manage to survive in cold, desolate places.  Wind River does not currently have a release date.

 

The Killing Ground.  Much like the Blair Witch Project, this film made me afraid to go camping in the woods.  A young couple travels to a remote lakefront camping site only to realize that things are not quite right with their neighbors and other visitors.  This movie slowly turns into a hair-raising thriller that had me on the edge of my seat until the final scene.  IFC has acquired the rights to the movie.

 

Rememory.  This was probably my least favorite film that I saw and I still very much enjoyed the concept of the film.  Gordon Dunn, a famed scientific pioneer, is found dead in his office just after unveiling his latest invention – a device that can extract, record, and then display a person’s memories.  Gordon’s widow (Julia Ormond) is left to put together the pieces in conjunction with a mysterious man who claims to know Gordon (Peter Dinklage).  Fans will also get to see one of Anton Yelchin’s last appearances on film as Rememory was made prior to his tragic death in real life.  Rememory does not currently have a release date.

 

Supporting Sundance, Independent Film, and the NEA

This year I’ve felt the need to be especially vocal in my support of the Sundance Film Festival and independent film.  While most people are familiar with the festival, many people are probably not aware that the initial grant and promotion from the National Endowment for the Arts (“NEA”) is what made the Sundance Institute possible.  Founder Robert Redford has said that the “very beginning [of the festival] was due in large part to the support of the NEA” and that the NEA “has played a key role in encouraging organizations like Sundance Institute to grow and expand its influence, not only through financial support, but, more significantly, through consistently articulating the importance of the arts and the artist in our society.”

 

With the NEA on the chopping block for the current administration, it’s devastating to picture a society without independent film and festivals like Sundance.  In his open letter to the administration, Redford perfectly articulates why it’s vital to keep the NEA.  Not only would proposed defunding “gut our nation’s long history of support for artists and art programs,” it ignores that festivals like Sundance film festival bring “millions of dollars of revenue…proving that art can be an economic force.”

 

More than ever, it is important to support independent film so that incredible storytellers can share their art with the world and we can continue to have the privilege to experience it.  Support comes in many forms.  You can be vocal on social media about attending an independent film.  You can write reviews for exceptional and quirky films on websites like Rotten Tomatoes or Fandango.  You can donate directly to the NEA (click here) or become a member of the Sundance Institute (click here).  You can even sign one of the many petitions circulating to save the NEA.  Last, you can show distribution companies that there is a high demand for independent film by attending in person.  If you are passionate about independent film, festivals, and the NEA, now is the time to stand up and advocate.

Original post from Liz Letak.  Liz Letak serves as the General Counsel for ArtSmart and her blog is reposted here with permission.

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Interview: Michael Fabiano on Faust

Limelight Magazine's Editor, Clive Paget, heads backstage to meet American tenor Michael Fabiano ahead of his appearance in David McVicar's production of Gounod's Faust, for Opera Australia.

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