The Exquisite Pain of Anna Karenina

Title Shot for Anna Karenina

There’s a lot to talk about in the movie Anna Karenina, but what I feel like talking about is this: Anna Karenina is just pretty.

The set design, staging, lighting, and costuming are all exquisite. Moreover, the movie flaunts this exquisiteness to the point where it can’t be ignored. Each choice is meticulously made, with texture and color used to full effect.

Costumes of the dance scene

For instance, the initial dance scene between Vronsky and Anna is beautiful and beautifully obvious at the same time – Vronsky and his partner: golden blonds in gleaming white, Anna and her partner: dark-haired, shrouded in dark colors. The couple’s meeting is a visual discord that sharply foreshadows the chaos to follow. Scenes like this dazzle the eyes no matter where your gaze falls. (It helps that the milieu is populated by pretty people.)

The most self-indulgent, magnificent choice is clearly the one to set most of the movie’s action inside of a theater. In the opening scenes, the elaborate staging is in full force, and the audience is treated to set changes, model trains, and a tour of seemingly all the nooks and crannies of the old building.

Shooting inside the theater

I’ve read some reviews that complain that the theater staging gets old, tedious. The pretty sets, the pretty costumes, the pretty people all become too much. For me, this is no complaint – it’s a compliment. As the movie (and the affair) progresses, the beauty still exists, but it becomes torturous. The indulgences feel overdone, the characters (while still pretty) become ugly through their actions, and the scenes are more shadow than light. There are fewer clever transitions within the theater and more action away from it. A memorable vignette: Anna, half-dressed, wearing the skeleton of her dress rather than the full extravagant costume. By the end of the film, it is now the pain that is as exquisite and impossible as the earlier staging.

The audience should feel this shift and be unsettled by it. What would be worse is if there was no change at all – if the pretty people on the stage lived forever in their furs and ballgowns, bathed endlessly in rich light sources and riding on toy trains. The genius of the movie is in the transition. As the tragedy of the plot reaches fruition, the film takes full advantage of its visual medium to follow it. In the final act, the audience wishes for the end as much as Anna Karenina does.

Anna Karenina

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The Days of the Black Friday Week

I keep seeing advertisements for “Cyber Week,” leading me to believe that if you are in the U.S., Black Friday is inescapable.  It has its own “holiday week” now:

  • Travel Wednesday: This is the day for getting to wherever you’re going. Figure out which relatives have the most strategic shopping positions, and visit them.  (Also the time to prepare for hordes of family members: cleaning, baking dishes, etc.)
  • Thanksgiving Thursday (Black Friday Eve): Something about stocking up on calories and taking a quick nap before getting in line for the 8pm store openings.
  • Black Friday: Shop like you will never see a Best Buy again!  Wear war paint.
  • Small Business Saturday:  Do more shopping.  Feel better about yourself this time.
  • Stay-home Sunday: Supposedly this is when you recover from the trauma of the first half of the week. But beware – the leftovers are getting scarier.
  • Cyber Monday: Do more shopping. Slouch on your couch this time. Free shipping!
  • Blue Tuesday: Realize that the holiday is over, and most of the sales are gone.  So is most of your money.  And you still have to buy presents for most of your family.

Denver Post: Black Friday Cartoon

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Have fun on your birthday – but not TOO much fun!

Today is a day for reading.

Shh.  I have to see what happens next!

Nonword of the Week: Packaholic

Packaholic: a person that enjoys placing belongings into travel bags, esp. someone given to overpacking a suitcase in order to be prepared for every foreseeable clothing scenario.

Example: The average traveler brings three outfits per weekend; the packaholic brings six, which can be combined and rearranged to form a further twenty-one.

Related nonwords: lootcase, desocked

I admit, I can be a packaholic at times. I think it might be related to my tendency to hoard things (it might come in handy someday!) or maybe it’s because of my occasional bouts of super-organization (shirts are currently arranged by color).  If I’m going on a long trip, I will make lists of everything I need to pack, and I might spend half a day gathering up everything I think I could possibly need. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.

Have a unique nonword of your own? Leave a comment!
Not sure what a nonword is? Check out my first nonword of the week.

Disclaimer: I do not condone idle word-mangling. Please mangle your words with care. Should not be attempted by the faint of heart or those with reading disorders. Side-effects include peculiar looks, disapproving frowns, essay markdowns, and utter confusion.

Sunday Speedpaint: Happy Holidays

These days it seems like Thanksgiving and Christmas are getting all tangled up in each other. Poor turkey. Inspired by these references of a turkey and a trapped chickadee (with a dash of Skyfall, I must admit).

Total time: about 1 hour.  Process video:

Saturday Snapshot: November Sky

Photo of clouds taken on Black Friday, near sunset. It was windy, so they were moving all over the place.  I like the different layers of color.