Seniors Art Classes – A Great Way to Meet New People

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senior-art-classesDuring your golden years you want to be happy. You may miss the companionship of the opposite sex. One of the best ways to meet someone is by pursuing your interest. Whether you are interested in art, cycling, bridge, or traveling, taking a class is an excellent way to make new friends of either sex. Seniors today are some of the most active people in the community.

Seniors art classes allow one to explore their artistic talent. Maybe you worked your way up the corporate latter and never had the opportunity to explore your artistic side. You never know, you may have a natural talent for art.

Many seniors love to paint. Painting is an excellent outlet for personal expression. Plus it allows one to be introspective and put your life story on canvas. Painting classes are a great way to share yourself and your life story with others.

A Great Way to Meet New Friends

Art classes are an outstanding way to meet new people. They provide a relaxed atmosphere and there is no pressure. Some people go to dating events for seniors, but that puts added pressure on you which you don’t need. The advantage of an art class is that you can spend your time doing something you enjoy while making new friends. Plus these classes offer a common starting ground for developing a relationship.

Another advantage of senior art classes is that they are affordable. This is great, since they will fit into any budget. You don’t need to be rich to attended classes at your local senior center.

Art classes for seniors also improve the mental health of elderly. Meeting other people makes them happier and seniors that take classes are less likely to become depressed. Active seniors tend to live longer and have better health.

Seniors who are feeling lonely at home need to get out and become active in the community. Most community centers offer classes for seniors. An art class is an excellent choice, but there are also yoga classes, exercise classes, photography classes, and writing classes. No matter your interest, there is a class for you.

Don’t wait any longer to sign up for an art class, since you will be glad you did. Before you know it, you will be meeting your new friends for coffee and tea on the weekends or having them over for dinner. You may even meet that special someone to enjoy your golden years with.

Category: Art

Top Female Artists from Around the World

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Even though the world of art continues to be greatly populated by male artists, women are rising in the ranks of notable creators. In 1993, Rachel Whitehead became the first woman to win the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize.

Since then, more women have gained notice both in the world of art sales and in the competitions for the major prizes awarded to artists.

Outstanding work has been produced in many forms: painting, installations, sculpture. The following five women can be considered among the top female artists from around the world.

Valerie Favre1. Valérie Favre is a Swiss born painter who is based in Berlin, Germany. She moved to Berlin after several years of working in Paris. She began her career as a theatre set artist, an experience that has continued to have an effect on her work.

She looks to bring feeling into the forms of her works. Her “Lapine” series of painting exhibits energy and a determined feminist outlook, beginning with the word-play (in French) of the title of the series: “lapine” being the word for rabbit, but also as “la pine,” it references the paintbrush as a female penis.

In the works of the series, feminine figures with long rabbit ears display great energy and defiance of constriction. In 2012 she was nominated for the Marcel Duchamp Prize.

art work by - yayoi kusama of japan2. In 2008, Yayoi Kusama of Japan set a record for the sale of the work of a living female artist when Christies New York auctioned one of her works for $5.1 million.

Her conceptual art envelops attributes as diverse as minimalism, surrealism, and pop culture. Her work has encompassed painting, collage, sculpture, environmental installations, and performance art.

Afflicted by hallucinations as a child, this incredible Japanese woman’s work has a reach that stretches the viewer’s imagination and has managed to reach a global audience.

The motif of polka dots runs through her work, representing her view of herself as “a dot lost in a million other dots.” In spite of her feeling of being lost, her work is found by quite a large audience.

Tomma Abts3. German-born abstract artist Tomma Abts brings a complex approach to her work. None of her paintings are representational, but neither are they simple. Working in acrylic and oil, Abts layers her complex shapes, weaving them together on the canvas.

Her abstractions dance on the edge of familiarity, evoking the ghost of representational images without quite allowing a final definition. This intricate play of shape and color holds the viewer’s attention. In 2006, her work won the Turner Prize.

Angela dela Cruz4. Angela de la Cruz of Spain pushes her work beyond the customary perceptions of dimension. While still a student, she was struck by the appearance of a canvas which had part of the frame removed.

The unexpected encounter of what had been a two dimensional representation now seen as a three dimensional object changed her approach to art.

Her paintings and sculptures create installations the viewer encounters in a physical way. No longer flat objects easily passed, her works demand attention—and they get it. She was nominated for the Turner prize in 2010. She currently lives and works in London.

Tatiana Trouve5. Tatiana Trouvé brings an architectural thinking to her sculptures, drawings and installations. She was born in Cosenza, Italy, but is now based in Paris.

She works in a large scale, creating room-sized installations. She uses materials with an industrial feel to them, piping, cement, concrete and other such substances.

Yet, a playfulness lurks in her pieces, tantalizing the viewer into imagining that something is about to happen. In a 2009 interview, she said, “Time is the theme underlying all my work.”

When viewed, her pieces convey the use of space as a way of examining our experience of time. In 2001, she won the Paul Ricard Prize and in 2007, the Marcel Duchamp Prize.

Each of these women has built a remarkable body of work. They embody the boldness of the creative spirit, challenging viewers with new perspectives on the world around them.

Category: Art

9 Cool Backyard Art Projects For Kids

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There are many hours of arts and crafts fun available in your own backyard – literally. Here are a few projects for the backyard which the kids will love, and which won’t break your budget.

Acrylic Skins Make Creative Canvases

It’s easier than you think to make acrylic skins. Just cover a baking parchment sheet with acrylic paint, and wait for it to dry. Then the acrylic skin can be peeled away from the paper and – Voila! – you have gorgeous sheets of stretchy acrylic.

You can decorate the larger sheets and use them to make colorful book covers, or even use them as your canvas for amazing paintings or collages. Then, cut up the smaller skins to fashion mosaics and eye-catching jewelry.

Make a Giant Mixed Media Board

Mixed media boards, with a fantastic combination of stones, beads, and mini signs glued together for a 3-D masterpiece, have been used by many famous artists, including Picasso.

The sky is the limit, as you add toys, dolls, magazine pages, stamps, stencils, and half the contents of your junk drawer. To make it more challenging, decide on a theme for your media board, and attach items that tell a story.

Hang a Colorful Polyhedron in the Wind

A polyhedron is just a multi-sided figure, and there are many types you can make with construction paper, glue, and a creative eye. Cut out about 30 strips of different colored paper, and configure them into round, triangular or free-form shapes.

For older kids, hide the glue and let them use paper-folding skills to fasten the strips. When you’re done, hang the handmade polyhedron, and watch it dance in the wind. The more colors you use, the better.


Splatter Painting for Messy Fun

The art of splatter painting is perfectly suited for backyard fun because it keeps the mess outside. You might as well go “big” with a large bedsheet as your blank canvas, and spread it out on the ground.

Dip your spoon, spatula, or brush into the paint and go wild. Flick your wrist, twirl your brush, and let the paint splatter where it may. See what happens to the paint patterns when you move away from the sheet.

Use an Old Bicycle for Amazing Spin Art

Do you remember squeezing paint from plastic ketchup holders onto a spinning card,for example, at a county fair or midway? Your backyard version requires a bicycle, a sheet and a few squeeze-bottles of brightly colored paint.

Neon is the perfect shade for this project. Lay a clean sheet of white paper or cardboard over the sheet, then place the bicycle flat on the ground, with its front wheel above your white canvas.

Spin the tire with your hand, and squirt paint onto your canvas. As the paint passes through the spinning wire spokes, it sprays a mesmerizing pattern that will truly amaze the little ones. Note how different the piece looks when you speed up the wheel.

(NOTE: washable water-based paints only for this project.)

Erupting Sidewalk Chalk

To make erupting sidewalk chalk paint, simply mix equal parts of water, cornstarch, and baking soda. You’ll need a good amount of watercolor paint to offset the white baking soda. Pour the concoction into squeeze bottles, and let the fun begin!

Kids love squirting the chalk paint onto solid ground or stones, and watching it dry to a smooth and soft finish – after it erupts and fizzes! Even toddlers can get in on this project.

cyanotype or sun printing

Make Sun Print Cards With Mother Nature

This is actually an age-old photography style called cyanotype printing. After mixing up the special solution (or buying sun print sheets), find a few interesting flat-shaped objects from your backyard.

Flat leaves work well, as does any foliage with a lot of detail, to give you a crisp sun print. Place the leaves on cards, cover them with pieces of glass, and set them in direct sunlight for 20 minutes.

Following the sun exposure, wash the cards under running water for several minutes. Your beautiful sun-kissed print will develop before your eyes, like an old Polaroid picture.

Rainbow Stick Wind Chimes

This project combines woodworking elements with arts and crafts, and will entertain the older kids for hours. First, collect a number of sticks and break them into pieces measuring 8″ – 10″ each. Then, paint them with acrylic paints in a rainbow of different colors, using two coats and a sealer.

When dry, insert small screw-eyes in the ends by twisting them in. Finally, string them about one inch apart on a crossbar with string or twine. You can admire your handmade rainbow wind chimes all season long.

Ice Bubbles to Decorate Your Yard

This next activity is a wondrous combination of science and art, but it’s only for cold climates. When the temperatures dips below freezing, head for the backyard with some warm clothes and a bottle of bubble mix. With some practice, you’ll be able to blow bubbles that freeze instantly, frozen in time and shape.

Be forewarned that these ice bubbles will be as fragile as they are beautiful, but even when they shatter, the pieces are crystal-like and colorful. What do you think will happen if you carefully carry one of the ice bubbles indoors? Try it and see!

Category: Art

National Arts Programs for Kids

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Arts programs for kids, may it be in an academic environment, after-school, or other extra-curricular type lesson or group activity strengthen a child’s imagination, creativity, and strengthen, as well as aid in the development of a multitude of motor-skills.

For children of all ages, including those with disabilities, Arts & Crafts activities exercise the ability to express one’s self, regardless of age, mental illness, or physical disability. Arts programs have been implemented and consistently followed, redeveloped, strengthened, and immersed in a variety of environments, including the internet (think Cyberschools), yet of course maintain its primal popularity via physical, or brick and mortar environments.

Let’s review some of the most popular, American Arts & Crafts programs and why they’re effective, make sense, and offer children of all ages a brighter future!

Young Rembrandts

simple drawing of Zoo from a kid

The Young Rembrandts Arts & Crafts program is a prime example of a multi-age faceted program designed to re-explore creativity, imagination, and reinforce the conceptual methods as well as information, lessons, and learnings of various academic materials through the exploration of arts and crafts activities.

Using their step-by-step, multi-sensory approach, children of all ages, backgrounds, disabilities, and upbringings can enjoy arts and crafts, expressing themselves through imagination and art, and all the while gaining new academic-based knowledge perhaps relevant from a broad array of topics ranging from homework all the way to science assignments!

With both preschool and elementary programs, children are encouraged to explore and make sense of their adventures, school lessons, and furthering creativity which is reinforced with humor, fun lessons, interactions between themselves, and of course teachers and parents!

MICA Arts Development Program

Accessing the Party Illustration in Mica Arts


MICA is an internationally active and recognized creative arts program geared towards children all the way up to high-school students for arts activities and creativity, directed towards preparation for a professional art career—if desired—and what it takes to create an adequate portfolio to get into an art-based university level program or degree program.

MICA starts with building confidence and skills through their Young People’s Studio focuses on grades 1 through 8 and offers both weekend and daily classes to corresponding schools, or for families seeking this extra-curricular activity and developmental set of courses should they be appropriately located in the honored geographic areas.

The next courses and levels consist of Preparation (High School Level), and then lastly end with summer courses and classes, also known as the “Pre-College” Phase.

John Cabot’s Arts Abroad Program

art history at John Cabot University

We wanted to bring to your attention a very accredited, recognized, and efficient program that has been implemented for quite some time, between John Cabot University, a headquarters in Rome, Italy, and the opportunity for young students to experience both immersion in a foreign country, as well as the opportunity to acquire the adequate skills, creativity, and professionalism necessary to have a fair-shot at making it into one of the university’s many accredited programs, recognized by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

While it might be a pricy-flight and ordeal, opportunities for scholarships, grants, and other forms of payment are indeed acceptable, and extended to young high-school students seeking to broaden their horizons and future in the field and professionalism of Arts.

Along with the Italian Ministry of Education young students have the opportunity to receive overseas credits in the form of both foreign, as well as local college credits—further strengthening their Resume, or ‘total application’ to competing universities in the future. In comparison to other free, weekend, or government run Arts programs this is definitely at the top of the list for any young students interested in potentially acquiring the necessary means, education, and experience to be successful in their future Arts ca

Category: Art

James Cameron Adds Another Film to His Slate

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Trying to nail down exactly what James Cameron is up to has become a bit of a futile exercise in recent years. Following the massive success of “Titanic” the director abandoned narrative films altogether and opted instead to make underwater documentaries.

When he finally came back to movies he exploded the record books with “Avatar,” but since then he’s become somewhat elusive again. Cameron’s made it clear that he intends to do several “Avatar” sequels, but exactly how many seems to be in flux. And then what he plans after that is even harder to nail down.

In a recent press release Lightstorm Entertainment announced that a new film on Cameron’s plate after the “Avatar” sequels would be an adaptation of the thriller “The Informationist.” This is seemingly a direct contradiction to what Cameron’s producing partner Jon Landau said earlier, that the long in development “Battle Angel” would follow the “Avatar” sequels.

Landau is also involved in this new project so it could just be that Cameron changed his mind about what his follow up to “Avatar” would be, rather than there being some kind of misunderstanding. It’s worth pointing out that the press release don’t specifically say it will be his very next project, just that it will follow “Avatar.” So it’s possible that “Battle Angel” will still happen first.

“The Informationist” is a thriller about an information specialist who is hired to find a billionaire’s missing daughter. This leads Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, the titular informationist, to Africa where she has to confront some demons from her own past. It’s a potential franchise starter as a book sequel was released earlier this year.

Cameron has a history of strong female characters so in many ways this a natural fit for him. However it’s also much more grounded in reality than most of his best known films are. That may be part of the appeal, a break from sci-fi and high fantasy before getting back into that with “Battle Angel.”

Even if it comes before “Battle Angel” the project is still some time off as Cameron has at least two “Avatar” sequels to complete. The films are going to be shot back to back which will cut down on the time frame slightly but it’s still going to be a few years off. In the meantime Lightstorm will likely begin the adaptation process.

In fact the press release mentions that the next step will be for the producers to hire a screenwriter to adapt the novel into a script. It’s yet another project for a director who is rapidly becoming notorious for taking a great deal of time between films.

Category: Film

The Midnight Disease is Coming – Upcoming Independent Horror Film with a Twist

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The state of underground independent horror cinema today seems to be overrun with films about zombies, werewolves, and vampires. What are many of these films lacking? Some would say an original idea.

Maryland-based production company Magothy Entertainment recently wrapped principle photography on their first feature film, The Midnight Disease. It’s the story of Jack Jones (actor Lawrence Griffin), a novelist suffering from some serious writer’s block a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining. When a mysterious jar filled with blood appears on his front doorstep one evening, the scent of the blood awakens Jack’s Muse-quite literally-and, according to director/producer Ryan Fowler, “chaos ensues.” Bodies begin stacking up while blood is spilled, and the audience promises to be treated to a variety of quirky characters and slick, original storytelling.

The film is directed by Ryan Fowler and Robbie Ribspreader, who also wrote the screenplay, and is being produced by the duo’s own Maryland-based production company, Magothy Entertainment. “It’s our first feature as well as our directorial debut,” explained Ribspreader, who is most known for authoring the screenplays of numerous low-budget horror films, to include director Sv Bell’s award-winning bulldozer-gone-wild flick, Crawler.

“I fell in love [with the script] as soon as I read it,” said Fowler. “Rob made a few more tweaks and it ended up being exactly what we were looking for.”

“It was written in a whirlwind, and took me all of two weeks, I think,” said Ribspreader. “Which is ironic considering the film is about a novelist suffering from writer’s block.” Ribspreader also explained that the title comes from author Edgar Allen Poe, who had coined the term “midnight disease” for his own writer’s block.

“After we decided on the script and gave the project a green light, the toughest thing we had to do was find actors,” Fowler said. “Neither of us had worked on any projects locally. The only people we knew were either out of state or, in most cases, out of the country.”

“We knew the success of the film would rely solely on the quality of the actors we chose,” said Ribspreader. “If we weren’t able to find the right actors, the film would not work. We knew this from the very beginning. Thankfully, we were overwhelmed by the caliber of actors who showed up and auditioned.”

Open auditions were held in January and February 2009, and they wound up with a cadre of talented actors and actresses, to include leading man Lawrence Griffin, who plays the haunted and tumultuous Jack Jones. “Lawrence is fantastic,” said Ribspreader of his leading man. “His performance is both haunting and whimsical, terrifying yet humorous. It’s rare to find an actor capable of commanding those types of emotions simultaneously.”

“I play Jack Jones, a novice writer who had one successful book and is trying to write a second,” said Lawrence Griffin, the film’s leading man who, until now, has done most of his work in the theater. “However, he is stricken with a nearly debilitating case of writer’s block that is slowly driving him insane.” As for what drew him to the character, Griffin said, “I suppose it was the fact that as an artist, I can understand the desperate urge to create something wonderful and the maddening frustration of not ever feeling like what you’ve done is good enough.” He added, “I feel like anyone who has ever tried pursuing any kind of creative endeavor can identify with this character.”

Mia Chiarella plays Michelle, the female lead and the ying to Jack’s yang. “Michelle is a very interesting and complex person,” said Chiarella, who described her character as someone searching for friendship and comfort but not necessarily a romantic relationship. What interested Chiarella in the film? “The fact that this wasn’t just a typical ‘gory horror flick’ type of story really hit home for me.”

Nonetheless, both Fowler and Ribspreader agree that fans of the horror genre will not be disappointed in the film. “It has all the elements that make horror so great. Blood, hookers, cops, love interests and fine literature,” said Fowler, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. “We wanted to make a horror film with a twist so that we could hopefully reach a wider audience while still keeping our feet firmly planted within the horror genre.”

“It’s certainly dark and horrific,” explained Ribspreader, “but it’s also fun and humorous, too. I don’t think you could tell a story as crazy as this without finding some humor in it. The trick was never to take the subject matter too seriously-that would be the downfall of the film.”

As far as directing the film together, Fowler and Ribspreader said it was practically second nature for them to work together, since they’ve been friends for so long. “We both excel in separate areas,” said Ribspreader, “so we help pick up each other’s slack.”

“When we started working on this film, although neither of us had a ton of practical experience making movies, we had a very clear vision as to where we wanted to go with it,” said Fowler. “It didn’t take long for us to develop an efficient workflow that drew from each of our individual strengths.”

Their actors seemed to agree. “Robbie knows what he wants to happen artistically,” said Griffin, “and Ryan knows what needs to happen technically.”

“They’re really good friends and know each other well enough to make things work,” said Ann Pratten, who plays Detective Penny Lane in the film.

“They complimented each other so well,” added Chiarella. “It was great to have two different perspectives for the filming process.”

Actress Carleen Troy, who plays a prostitute in the film, agreed that the experience was a good one. “Everyone had one purpose, which was to make a great film.”

The movie is slated for a release in early 2010. Still in post-production, the team has yet to land a distribution deal, but seem upbeat about the prospects. “There are a ton of distributors out there now who cater to the type of films we want to make,” said Ribspreader. “The trick is to be careful where we go and to land the best deal.”

As for the future, their goals are modest. “We are hoping to sell this film and make enough money to finance our next feature,” said Fowler.

Category: Film

First-Time Filmmakers: Save on Production Costs!

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I am sure there are some aspiring filmmakers out there who are intimidated by the mere thought of producing a film, not because of lack of knowledge, but lack of money. Yes, you need money to make a film, not a lot of money, but you do need money.

I have produced three short films within the past two years and have gained valuable knowledge about the filmmaking process. I’ve learned that employing the right kind of people and thinking outside of the box can save you not only money, but time, and we all know that time is money.

Hire actors who will work for free. There are so many actors out there who are looking for their big break or just to build a resume. I’ve done it and so have many other famous actors and actresses when they were first starting out. It’s called paying dues.

Many actors who are non-union can and will work for free because many who are talented don’t even have talent agents yet. I’ve utilized the casting websites, LA Casting and Craigslist and have found talented actors to audition for my films.

Many actors will agree to work for free in exchange for meals on the set, credit, and a copy of the film. If you don’t plan to pay actors because of a low budget, make sure you have something else to offer in exchange for their talent, work, and time, such as what I listed.

A film cannot be made without a crew. The crew consists of your director, cinematography, sound person, key grip and a lighting technician. These people don’t care about being famous. Most likely, they will not work for free unless they are your friends and are doing you a favor.

Pay them by the day, not by the hour, for if you end up having to keep them a little longer on the set, then you don’t have to worry about paying extra. Some crew members will negotiate their standard price, and some will not. Just make sure you have a budget set aside only for them.

Make sure the screenplay is character-driven, that the story is centered around the actions and development of the character. That will cut down on the number of locations needed to create an interesting story. Locations cost money, sometimes lots of money. I posted ads on craigslist in search of shooting locations and negotiated my price by the day.

For the very first short film, I produced, I ended up using my own apartment as the location, and that saved a lot of money on production costs. Use your family or friends’ homes as a location in exchange for whatever they are asking in return. You usually won’t have to pay family and friends as much money to use their homes as a shooting location as you would a stranger.

Scout for locations that don’t require a permit to shoot there. A film permit can cost upward to thousands of dollars even just for a day. Many of those places where you may can get away with not having a permit are public places such as a park, street corners, freeways. It all depends on what kind of location you need.

For instance, let’s say, you need to shoot a scene in a restaurant. One of my networking colleagues was able to shoot a scene inside a restaurant during off hours in exchange for advertising in the film.

Use time wisely. If you are scheduled to start shooting at 10 am. Stick to that as close as you can. A day in the life of a filmmaker is definitely unpredictable, but control what you can control. Do not tolerate too much clowning and joking on the set from actors and crew because that wastes time, and time is money.

I shot my last short film in one day. I paid for one day for shooting at the location. We were running behind schedule. I knew that if we didn’t all of the film shot in this one day, I would have to come out of pocket for another day of shooting. I was not willing to do that, because there was no more budget.

I, and the co-producer, spoke to the director about making adjustments in the script so that we can stick to schedule, and also about being a bit more serious about the shoot because time was being wasted. I hated to have to do that, but when you are the one with the gold, you have to make those kind of rules.

I worked on a set one time with a director who had her mom bring in food for the cast and crew. Craft services is usually one of the biggest costs because you have to feed everyone, cast, crew and yourself. That saved her money because she didn’t have to spend a lot of money on food.

Another director I worked with had a restaurant bring food to the set in exchange for having their name listed in the end credits. So yes, there are obviously some restaurants that want the advertising and are more than willing to work with filmmakers, without you having to pay them. And there are family members or maybe friends who would be honored to cook for the cast and crew. You just have to ask them.

Taking the time to research, network, think, and negotiate can keep many dollars in your pocket. These tactics are almost guaranteed to save you money. They worked for my colleagues and me, therefore, they can work for you too.

Category: Film

Top 100 Best Animated Movies

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This is my list of the top 100 animated movies. Choosing the top 100 was really tough, and since my opinions of movies seem to change on a daily basis, it was hard to put these in a particular order.

I know plenty of people will disagree with the arrangement and I’ve probably left some favorites off, but whether you like family-friendly animated movies or adult animated movies that push the envelope, you’re sure to find some you’ll enjoy on this list of 100 of the best:

1. Ratatouille – This is one of the animated movies here that just moved me. It was fresh, funny, and I absolutely loved the ending, finding myself very surprised that I fell so much in love with a film about a rat that can cook (it made me tear up in a good way).

2. How to Train Your Dragon – It was nice to see an animated movie starring dragons that weren’t fearsome foes for princes to slay in order to get to the damsel in distress, and it’s the creative storyline and amazing animation (the action sequences are fantastic) that help this one snag a spot on top of my 100 best animated movies.

3. Grave of the Fireflies – Talk about a tear jerker! You’ll never see a better animated movie about the bitter reality of war and its aftermath. Just keep a box of tissues handy while watching this anti-war tale of a boy and his young sister trying to survive at the end of World War II.

4. My Neighbor Totoro – And if you need something to cheer you up, I highly recommend this cheerful film. It’s one of the most imaginative animated movies in the top 100, as two young girls discover a magical world in the woods near their new house. Here they meet the friendly giant forest spirit Totoro, who has since become quite the pop culture icon (he even has a cameo in another movie on this list).

5. Barefoot Gen – This is another of the best animated movies when it comes to dealing with war, but some of the images are extremely disturbing in this tale of a family struggling to survive after the bombing of Hiroshima. It’s the powerful way that this movie will move you that lands it so high on this list of the top 100 best animated movies (it makes a great companion movie with “Grave of the Fireflies”).

6. Princess Mononoke – Of course many of Miyazaki’s masterpieces have snagged spots on the top 100, and he continues to prove that he’s one of the best animators of all time in this movie that blends a magical forest world with a message about man’s effect on the environment.

7. Fantasia – One of Disney’s most imaginative animated movies beats out all of the princess flicks to secure a place in the top ten. Since I was a child I’ve loved seeing the many different worlds brought to life in “Fantasia”, magical places inhabited by fairies, dinosaurs, mountain-sized monsters, centaurs, and even dancing hippos. Plus the movie is a great way to introduce kids to classical music.

8. The Iron Giant – This movie didn’t get much love when it was released, but it’s now become a cult classic. There’s just something fun about the thought of befriending a giant robot from another world with the capability to destroy entire cities, and the movie also sends a great message about not judging a book by its cover.

9. WALL-E – Another of the best robots of animated movies lands high in the top 100. I love the silent-movie feel of the beginning of “WALL-E”, but it also makes a great statement about the dangerous direction our society is headed in (curse you, Facebook!).

10. Toy Story – And of course I can’t leave the movie that started our love affair with Pixar out of the top ten. We have a cowboy doll and an astronaut action figure to thank for helping to usher in a new era of animated movies that appeal to both kids and adults, but this one is also up high in the top 100 for being the first to take our breath away with slick CGI animation.

11. Castle in the Sky – But of course Miyazaki doesn’t need CGI to wow us with his animated movies. I absolutely love this tale of a floating world in ruins, and, as in all of Miyazaki’s masterpieces, you’ll also find a message about why man shouldn’t be allowed to have nice things.

12. Spirited Away – And this Miyazaki movie is like a more interesting version of “Alice in Wonderland” as a girl gets whisked away to a magical spirit world.

13. Up – This is one of Pixar’s biggest tearjerkers. Sure the physics of the house being carried by so few balloons is baloney, but so is a collar that allows a dog to talk (and this movie just wouldn’t be the same without Dug).

14. Akira – I’m not big on anime (as you’ll see by the rest of my top 100 best), but this futuristic thriller is definitely a lot of fun to watch.

15. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut – Turning this hilarious series into a full-length movie could have been a huge fluke, but instead the musical movie was a major success and a great companion piece to the show (the song “Blame Canada” was even nominated for an Academy Award!).

16. The Nightmare Before Christmas – Jack Skellington is definitely one of the most creative animated characters ever created, and this story about turning holiday cheer into holiday fear is ingenious.

17. The Plague Dogs – There has probably been no better depiction of animal cruelty in animated form, and the fact that this movie can make you hate humanity is proof of just how powerful and moving it is.

18. Bambi – As an animal lover, I’m glad that the hunters are the bad guys here. And its Disney’s surprising move in portraying man as evil that has earned this movie a spot so high up on my list of the top 100 animated movies (plus Thumper and Flower are just so adorable).

19. Howl’s Moving Castle – The love story in this movie featuring air pirates and a walking house is much better than any you’ll see in a Disney princess movie.

20. Alice – This bizarre stop motion animation version of “Alice in Wonderland” is extremely trippy but intriguing (just beware: the White Rabbit here is extremely creepy).

21. The Incredibles – I love this movie’s different take on superheroes, as the super family here has to live in a world where their powers are seen as a liability.

22. Beauty and the Beast – This “tale as old as time” is spruced up with fun music numbers and that unforgettable ballroom scene.

23. The King and the Mockingbird – This unusual fairy tale features a pompous king who is in love with a painting of a shepherdess. However, the shepherdess is in love with a chimney sweep in another painting, and the two spring to life when no one is around as they try to escape from a painting of the king. It might sound a bit odd, but that’s why it’s so grand (plus the fantastic somewhat-futuristic kingdom is something to behold).

24. Ninja Scroll – Why is this movie on the list? One word: ninjas!

25. Metropolis – And here’s another anime that makes the list in part for its stunning portrayal of a futuristic society, one where robots are discriminated against (sorry, WALL-E!).

26. Ghost in the Shell – Well, I didn’t mean to group so much anime together, but this sleek and stylish tale of a futuristic form of hacking definitely deserves a spot here.

27. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – And here’s the animated movie that could be called responsible for starting it all. The combination of princess, prince, evil witch, and loveable sidekick characters would be a successful formula for Disney for many years to come, and, while not quite as popular, princess movies are still going strong today.

28. The Adventure of Prince Achmed – This is an even earlier example of exemplary animation. It’s a stop-motion film featuring a stunning silhouette animation technique, making this 1926 “Arabian Nights” tale a must-see for animation fans.

29. Waltz with Bashir – Here’s yet another of the most innovative animated movies to make the top 100 as an animated documentary about the Lebanon war.

30. Persepolis – This is another of the best animated movies of the 2000’s. It focuses on a young girl who comes of age during the Iranian Revolution, expressing her individuality through her outspokenness and love of Iron Maiden.

31. Mary and Max – I love stop-motion animation, and it’s nice to see that movies like this one are keeping the art form going strong in the 2000’s. I also love quirky and odd stories, and it’s hard to beat this witty tale of very unlikely pen pals: an 8-year-old girl and a 44-year-old man with Asperger’s.

32. The Triplets of Belleville – And here’s another of the weird and wonderful animated movies that makes the top 100 thanks to its unique style and strangeness. From the Anita Baker caricature at the beginning and a bike-obsessed boy to the frog-slurping triplets and the movie’s Tati-like world, this fun film is something to behold. Chomet definitely does a wonderful job proving that classic animation isn’t dead.

33. Toy Story 3 – This is the movie where Totoro makes a cameo. It’s extremely hard to make a good sequel, but this one is almost as good as the first (you’re sure to find something in your eye while watching it).

34. The Lion King – Like in “Bambi”, a character dies here, which is a big deal for Disney. But Timon and Pumbaa are great comic relief.

35. Heavy Metal – It’s one of the best animated movies for nerds ever, featuring far-out fantastic planets, heavy metal music, and, of course, a very bodacious animated babe (the “South Park” spoof of this movie is almost as equally awesome).

36. Chicken Run – The creator of Wallace and Gromit takes on the world of chickens by putting a rooster in the hen house. But the hens here aren’t looking to make eggs; they’re trying to hatch an elaborate escape plan. The result? Yolk on the faces of the chicken farmers looking to turn their egg-producers into pies (and plenty of hilarity, of course).

37. Yellow Submarine – It’s a psychedelic animated movie featuring Bealtles music. What more needs to be said?

38. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – And this wacky movie gets a spot on this list for the innovative way it combines live-action and animation (plus it’s the only time Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny appear onscreen together, and you’ve got to love Jessica Rabbit).

39. Mad Monster Party – Rankin-Bass goes to the monsters in this wild and wacky flick.

40. Pinchcliffe Grand Prix – This movie about an inventor and his animal friends that enter a race with their crazy car is like a combination of “Wallace and Gromit” and Rankin-Bass.

41. 101 Dalmatians – I loved this movie as a kid, but still haven’t fulfilled my dream of opening my own Dalmatian plantation.

42. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Wallace and Gromit’s first full-length film about a monstrous bunny turned out to be everything I hoped it would be.

43. Kiki’s Delivery Service – It’s not Miyazaki’s best, but it’s still impossible not to fall in love with this film about a witch-in-training (poor Kiki wasn’t as lucky to get the same witchcraft education as Harry Potter and his pals).

44. Finding Nemo – For its amazing look at an undersea world (and a father’s touching love for his son), another of Pixar’s best swims into this top 100 list.

45. Shrek – I’m burned out on Shrek now, but absolutely loved the twisted take on fairytales when it was fresh.

46. Toy Story 2 – It’s not as good as the other two, but many animated movies dream of being as great as this one is.

47. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – And here’s another of Miyazaki’s amazing movies that’s a cautionary tale of man’s effect on the environment (maybe we’ll learn our lesson by the time the Earth is covered with a toxic forest inhabited by giant insects).

48. Whisper of the Heart – In this cute love story about a couple of dreamers, a young girl gets inspired to write a book after meeting a boy who checks out the same library books as she does.

49. Asterix and Cleopatra – Asterix and Obelix help Cleopatra quickly build a palace in this musical full of mirth and mayhem.

50. Allegro Non Troppo – This “Fantasia” spoof is almost as fun as the original.

51. Waking Life – Richard Linklater’s movie earns a spot on this list of the top 100 animated movies not just for its exploration of dreams, consciousness, and the meaning of life, but for its innovative, surreal animation style.

52. Monsters, Inc. – It’s nice to finally put faces to the monsters hiding in our closets.

53. A Bug’s Life – The “Seven Samurai” story never gets old, even when it’s starring CGI insects.

54. The Jungle Book – Mowgli can get along with dangerous critters like a bear and a black panther, but he just can’t tame that tiger. (This movie had me and my brother and sister doing the “I don’t know, what you wanna do?” routine for weeks.)

55. Cinderella – If only finding Prince Charming was as easy as having small feet…

56. Lady and the Tramp – This adorable tale of puppy love proves that you don’t have to be from the same side of the tracks to be happy together.

57. Watership Down – This movie combats the stereotype that rabbits just multiply by showcasing their complex society.

58. Animal Farm – “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

59. The Fantastic Planet – In the future, we’ll all be pets for giant aliens. This sci-fi flick is fantastic, indeed, with its imaginative alien world and message about the importance of learning to live in peace with those that are different from us.

60. Heavy Traffic – One of Ralph Bakshi’s best is about a cartoonist and his crazy fantasies. In this dirty pinball-machine of a movie, there’s a pile of garbage worshiped as a religious figure; a money-making scheme that involves killing potential prostitute customers; and lots of sex, nudity, and violence (all the things that make Bakshi animated movies so great).

61. Dumbo – But if you’re looking for something a little less dirty, let this adorable elephant and his floppy ears fly away with your heart.

62. Pinocchio – And the wooden boy with the nose that grows can still steal hearts with his little white lies.

63. Aladdin – The genie steals the show in this fun take on an “Arabian Nights” tale.

64. Coraline – The button eyes on the “other people” in this stop-motion animation tale are incredibly creepy (but this movie’s creepiness is what earns it a spot in the top 100).

65. Tangled – This swashbuckling retelling of “Rapunzel” is a fun and fresh take on princess movies.

66. The Secret of Kells – You’ll enjoy being let in on the secret behind the creation of the treasured Book of Kells.

67. Paprika – This movie beat “Inception” to the idea of being able to enter other people’s dreams.

68. Charlotte’s Web – It’s tough to eat bacon after watching this.

69. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – This animated movie is almost just as good as “The Dark Knight”.

70. Fritz the Cat – Another of Bakshi’s films sees Fritz the Cat shock with his crass behavior.

71. The Secret of NIMH – But mice make good movies, too; this one is about a mysterious group of smart rats (some too smart for their own good).

72. Cat City – The cat vs. mice battle has never been shown on such a large scale.

73. The Last Unicorn – Unicorns have never made me so sad.

74. The Fox and the Hound – Friendship between hunter and hunted has never been so adorable.

75. The Polar Express – This is one of the best animated movies for parents trying to keep their kids believing in Santa Claus as long as possible.

76. Heaven and Earth Magic – If you’re a fan of the Monty Python animation, you should enjoy this avant garde film.

77. Lilo & Stitch – You won’t find a more adorable alien than surfer dude Stitch.

78. The Little Mermaid – This one makes the top 100 because I can still remember the words to a lot of the songs, and Ursula is definitely one of the best Disney villains.

79. Peter Pan – Mermaids, a fairy, pirates, and a ticking crocodile. What more could you ask for in a kid’s movie?

80. Corpse Bride – This creepy film doesn’t get a lot of love, but it’s the weirdness of its disturbing love story that lands it on this list.

81. The Great Mouse Detective – I love Sherlock Holmes stories, and this movie is what helped get me hooked as a kid.

82. Ice Age – It’s such a shame that so many species so willing to help humans are now extinct.

83. Sleeping Beauty – Malevolent Maleficent and her ability to morph into a dragon is what makes this movie great.

84. The Princess and the Frog – It took Disney long enough to give us our first black princess.

85. The Brave Little Toaster – It’s such an odd premise that it just belongs on this list.

86. The Transformers: The Movie – I know people who’ve told me that this movie makes them cry (beat that, Michael Bay).

87. Alice in Wonderland – It’s hard to capture the magic of Carroll’s book, but Disney did a decent job.

88. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron – I just haven’t grown out of loving horses.

89. Mulan – It’s nice to see Disney take on a strong female character that’s not in the traditional damsel-in-distress role.

90. Robin Hood – A fox was definitely the right choice for the crafty character of Robin Hood.

91. Beavis and Butt-head Do America – I miss the days when these two were the only boneheads on MTV.

92. James and the Giant Peach – Here’s another stop-motion animation great, and another strange story featuring giant bugs inside a giant fruit that functions as both food and a rolling roof over their head.

93. The Land Before Time – Before the “Ice Age”, these prehistoric pals stole our hearts.

94. The Emperor’s New Groove – Instead of losing his clothes, this emperor has to deal with the drama of being turned into a llama.

95. The Little Fox – This is one of many great animated movies about these crafty critters, with a cute love story and a good dose of revenge.

96. Tarzan – The animated version of Tarzan’s tale is much more tolerable than the original.

97. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – It’s nice to see a hero that isn’t handsome every once and while.

98. Coonskin – In lieu of the racist “Song of the South”, I’ve included Bakshi’s satire of racist stereotypes, featuring none other than Scat Man Crothers.

99. Team America: World Police – The best movie ever made starring marionettes.

100. Wizards – And I’ll end this list fittingly with one more Bakshi flick. This one blends sci-fi and fantasy with a war between wizards representing technology and magic.

So I know many will disagree with my top 100 animated movies here, but if you haven’t seen all them, I highly recommend giving those that are new to you a chance.

Category: Film

Artist Interview: Cecily Kate

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Stage Actress, Singer and Dancer

Being a music theatre star is one of the most demanding roles in show business. There is a three-tier criteria for the profession, which consists of being a singer, a dancer and an actress, although it’s a bonus when the stage performer can make audiences smile and laugh like Cecily Kate can.

Her ability to make audiences laugh was purely accidental as she tells, “My first lead was in high school where I played Sarah Brown in ‘Guys and Dolls’. I slammed the Bible closed in a scene and the audience laughed. I had no intention of being funny at that moment. I stopped for a moment, looked out at the audience and thought, this is awesome. I want to do this forever,” and so began her journey.

Cecily Kate showed she had the right stuff to build a repertoire as a stage performer. She played Annina in “La Traviata” one year in New York City’s Central Park preceded by playing the character of Belle in the off Broadway production of “G & S Christmas Carol”.

In 2005, she performed in the Broadway production of “It’s A Wonderful Life” acting alongside Judy Kuhn and Brian Mitchell. She explains why out of all the disciplines as a stage performer, she gravitated to singing the most. “I chose to be a singer because it makes people happy and I love that feeling.”

The experience in the dramatic arts exposed her to Broadway showtunes and operas whose musical content has become woven into America’s cultural fabric making the songs into industry standards and fan novelties.

The experience inspired her to record her 2012 debut album Standards featuring a selection of melodies taken from the Great American Songbook, giving audiences a taste of her vocal prowess.

She reveals, “I had been singing this set in performances for over the past several years and it occurred to me that it would be really lovely to make a studio recording. I liked the idea of making these songs my own, having a record that I could be proud of, and also have something to share with friends, my family, my students, and fans, both at present and in the years to come.

I received a lot of encouragement from the musicians who played on the album and my friends who shot the cover, but I was solely responsible for producing Standards. It is the achievement I am most proud of to date.” She adds, “I hope people smile while listening to Standards and that my voice does these wonderful songs justice.”

She shares, “I recorded Standards in a studio a couple blocks away from my apartment where Art Polemus has been recording for about fifty years. The arrangements were a collaborative effort between Brad Ross and myself.

A few of the arrangements we used he had already created prior to our sessions, but most of the songs we arranged in rehearsal. I had a set song list and we went from there. I think the ending of ‘Where the Boys Are’ changed every time we practiced.”

Her rendition of “Where the Boys Are”, written by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka for singer Connie Francis in 1957, is a tune Cecily Kate fondly refers to as “The perfect girl anthem.” Her co-producer Brad Ross assisted her in the song selection and recording and in building up her confidence as she describes, “I met Brad over ten years ago.

He has been my coach since I moved to New York City. He is my biggest fan, and he knows my voice so well. Brad always says I am the best singer in New York City; of course, I know this isn’t true but it is always great to hear him say so.”

Also accompanying Cecily Kate on the recording is a cadre of gifted musicians including Chris Booner on acoustic double bass whom she praises. “Chris and I work together for our day jobs. He is an amazing bass player and is always giving me advice on everything from recording to how to play darts. I didn’t give him direction. He listened to me sing the song and then just started playing.”

On trumpet is Brian Pareschi whose solo parts on “My Funny Valentine”, a tune originally penned by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, display creative impulses that only a free spirited imagination could conjure up.

She compliments, “Brian is a well-known trumpet player in the city who is also the arranger for Max Weinberg. I was very lucky to have him play on Standards. Brad had the idea to add trumpet and Brian improvised his solos. My favorite part of the album is how it begins with his trumpet solo.”

Another favorite part of the recording for Cecily Kate is her interpretation of the Celtic folk tune “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” written by Burton Lane and E. Y. Harburg. She notes, “My director Peter Palame introduced me to ‘How Are Things in Glocca Morra’.

I work for him performing cabaret shows around the Tri-State area. I absolutely love this song. It falls perfectly in my comfort zone, which is musical theatre with a legit sound. Every time I sing it live, everyone sings a long. It is a crowd pleaser.”

Pleasing crowds is a top priority for Cecily Kate who remembers when she first tasted the nectar of performing in a big production. “My first Broadway credit was at Paper Mill playhouse. I was a nun in ‘The Sound of Music’. I was in a chorus of fifteen Broadway veterans.

They showed me how to act onstage and off, how to take care of your voice and your body and the truth about how much of a sacrifice being a singer is. I also received my Equity card for that show. Everyone in the cast applauded me and welcomed me to the community. It was very inspiring.”

She cites, “I never danced ballet professionally.” Still, Cecily Kate developed the discipline needed to continue a duel regiment that keeps her body physically toned for stage shows while maintaining her vocal practices.

She purports, “Singing in musicals requires you to learn how to dance well. I do consider them completely separate. I teach fifteen dance and voice classes a week here in New York. It keeps me in great shape. Being a dance teacher is as much a dream as singing on stage to me.”

Her music education at Indiana University prepared her for the journey she has embarked on to becoming a stage performer as she imparts, “Indiana University has one of the best music schools in the country.

I trained to be an opera singer but after college I realized it was not where my heart was. It took two years to transition from a classical to a Broadway sound. I truly believe that if you begin with classical training you can learn to sing anything. It gives you a complete understanding of how to correctly use your instrument.”

As a singer and producer on her debut album Standards, Cecily Kate shows she is a well-rounded artist with the ability to make decisions and take direction. Possessing a three-tier talent as a singer, dancer, and actress, Cecily Kate’s girth as a stage performer is laudable. Her attributes complement one another with the added ability to lure audiences into making them smile.

Category: Music

Top Ten Female Rockers

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Rockers are not just men who rock the show. Women have come along to show the music industry that they too can rock out a show. Female rockers have become the best rockers of all time. There isn’t just one to choose from, but females have been known to be one of a kind rock star. Who makes the top ten list?

JANIS JOPLIN. Her legacy has a singer and songwriter has been influential to all rockers of the 1960’s. In those years, the male species out ruled the females who tried to be rockers. Believe it or not, Janis Joplin had her own and made it big. Not only was her career as a solo artist big, but she also performed with the Big Brothers band. This woman had an amazing talent. She will be forever missed. She is top on the list of female rockers.

JOAN JETT. Joan is most famous for her song, “I love Rock and Roll.” She isn’t just a rocker, she is an actress. You can find Joan Jett on many episodes such as “Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Roseanne Show, and so much more.

STEVIE NICKS. You can find this remarkable singer with Fleetwood Mac band. She gives rocking a new name and meaning. This woman has created many beautiful rock ballads with Fleetwood Mac. The band and Stevie is going strong. Since the 1970’s Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks has been producing hits that keep rocking in our hearts. A few of their songs can be found on several different shows such as “Friends, Charmed, Jack Frost and The school of Rock.”

MIA ZAPATA. This young woman lost her life before her and her band, “The Gits,” became famous for their raw emotion music. Punk rock music was her passion and they were going many places. Mia was brutally murdered, she died young. Her beautiful rock and roll music will never be forgotten. She continues to live on in the music and in her fans.

ALANIS MORISSETTE. Her lyrics has hit a raw emotion with those who enjoy listening to her music. Her album, “Jagged little pill,” earned her four Grammies. She has come along way through the years and has proven it over and over again that she can be an outstanding rocker in the industry. Alanis is still producing hits for example; “Hand in my pocket, You Outta Know, and Jagged little pill.”

BONNIE RAITT. This woman has produced numerous tracks throughout the years. She is more than just a rocker, she is a blues and country singer who has sold over a thousand albums. A famous track of hers is “Something to talk about.” In the beginning of her career, it took a few years before she reached “stardom.” Even at her age, she is still producing great music and gaining more and more love and respect for her music.

COURTNEY LOVE. She was once married to Kurt Cobain, a great rocker of his time. Her music is one of a kind. She is the lead singer for the band, “Hole.” She has gone through so many tragedies in her life. Before her band, “Hole,” was formed, Courtney Love was kicked out of several different bands due to different reasons. Despite all the tragedies in her life, she continues to go on with life with strength and courage.

AVRIL LAVIGNE. This rock star knows exactly what she wants in the industry, and she doesn’t stop till she becomes successful in what she does. The song, “Girlfriend,” has put her over the top. Avril is on top of world with her music and she is here to stay. Not only does she produce grand music, she has a wide collection of merchandise for fans to purchase. This rock star is involved in so many wonderful charities and benefits to help out those who are in need.

MEREDITH BROOKS. Wow, what an incredible rock star. “Bitch,” gave her starting career in the business. Since 1997, she has produced seven successful albums. Each time she produces a new hit song, or album, the more fans enjoy her as an artist and as a woman.

FIONA APPLE. A woman of her many talents knows how to rock a show. In 1994, was her big break. She was signed a record deal with Sony, a major recording label. Fiona isn’t the only one in her family with musical talents. In the Apple tree legacy, there are actresses, singers, and dancers. Her music inspirations come from life events as well as poetry.

Category: Music