March 13, 2008

Mona Lisa, the Parthenon and coincidences

Posted in Books tagged , , , , at 4:23 pm by myrlinn

In my previous blog, I mentioned how it seemed quite coincidental that after many months of not stepping into even one movie, I went to two within a week.

This week, it happened again. This time with books. I came across the passages below within a week of each other, and being the geek that I am, was complete fascinated.

About Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa:

…In 2003, Harvard neuroscientist Professor Margaret Livingstone attempted to solve scientifically the mystery of perhaps the most famous smile in art… For years, people had noticed that Mona Lisa‘s smile was far more apparent to people when they looked at her eyes, and appeared to vanish when they looked directly at her mouth… Professor Livingstone discovered that the illusion was due to the fact that the human eye sees the world in two very different ways. When people look at something directly, the light falls on a central part of the retina called the fovea. This part of the eye is excellent at seeing relatively bright objects, such as those in direct sunlight. In contrast, when people see something out of the corner of their eye, the light falls on the peripheral part of the retina, which is much better at seeing in semi-darkness… Leonardo’s picture is using the two parts of the retina to fool people’s eyes…the great artist had cleverly used the shadows from the Mona Lisa‘s cheekbones to make her mouth much darker than the rest of her face. As a result, the Mona Lisa‘s smile appears more obvious when people look at her eyes because they are seeing it in their peripheral vision. When people look directly at her mouth, they are seeing the dark area of the painting more clearly with their fovea, and so the smile looks far less pronounced. (Source: Richard Wiseman (2007) Quirkology pp 67-8)

About the Parthenon in Athens, Greece:

The huge marble structure does not have a single straight line; all four sides are slightly cured to make the building appear less heavy. In spite of its colossal dimensions, it gives the impression lightness. In other words, it present an optical illusion. The columns lean slightly inwards, and would form a pyramid 1,500 metres high if they were continued to a point above the temple. (Source: Jostein Gaarder (1995) Sophie’s World p 58)

The first passage caught my eye probably because as someone who was in advertising some years, I foundĀ  the science behind the art interesting. When I finished Quirkology, I went back to Sophie’s World, and right about where I left off, I came across the second extract about the Parthenon.

Of course, it may just be that the second passage jumped out at me because I was already intrigued by the first one. Kind of like how when you learn a word, suddenly you start seeing that word everywhere! Still, I think it is more in keeping with my ‘crooked turret’ universe to think of this as a ‘coincidence’ — a mysterious conjunction of events. So that’s what I will believe, at least while in the universe of this blog;)

March 10, 2008

‘Juno’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’

Posted in Movies tagged , , , at 10:50 am by myrlinn

I hadn’t seen a movie for many, many months now, perhaps even as long as a year or more, so it’s something of a coincidence that I got pulled in to watch two movies in the same week (last week). Incidentally, or coincidentally, I am in the middle of reading book titled Quirkology by Richard Wiseman which touches on… yup, coincidences.

Back to Juno. I loved, loved, loved it.

The main strength of this movie is in its script. Clever and funny dialogue with a very fresh feel. Really well-deserved Oscar for the screenwriter, Diablo Cody, there.

Another plus was the movie’s strong ensemble of characters. People who are fallible, real, while still remaining quirkily charming. Juno especially. Witty, plays to her own beat, yet with such a level head on her shoulders. Makes you want to be like her.

The soundtrack was also a winner. Alternative in style and delivery, it is a great fit for this film.

To top it all off, the film had a feel-good ending (I’m such a sucker for that).

The only weak link was Jennifer Garner. She was so good in Alias the TV series, where she brought just the right blend of toughness and vulnerability to her role. But in this movie, her acting seemed forced, stilted.

No Country for Old Men started off promisingly. The opening scenes were beautifully shot. I was also intrigued by the dialogue/narration, which reminded me of Beckett’s famous play, Waiting on Godot.

By the end, though, I was left with a feeling of disappointment. And it seemed I wasn’t alone. When I got up to leave the cinema, I could hear someone behind me remark to her friends, “I don’t know whether I like this film.” And my brother, who was the one who pulled me along to watch the film, said that it wasn’t as good as he expected it to be.

This may be inconsequential to others, but the plot/character line related to the man (a bounty hunter?) sent to hunt Chigurh was the breaking point for me. He was set up in the film as smart and resourceful. He found Llewellyn Moss in Mexico, and seemed to be able to anticipate Moss’s and Chigurh’s every move. Yet, Chigurh found and killed him so easily.

After that, I really started to feel that the movie was too pretentious, too overdone. It was trying too hard to build an All-Evil persona for Chigurh. And then came the ending. Too abrupt, and in a way, also too predictably open-ended and without hope.