Saturday, October 16, 2021
Friday, October 08, 2021
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and education, and how you came to be a graphic designer.
A: I was born and raised in the Bronx, NYC and lived in the projects until we moved to Co-Op City. As far as I can remember, I was always drawing or copying pictures from American History, comic books and Mad Magazine.
Living in the projects, you tend to stay inside a lot because it’s safer and you stay out of trouble and to take up the time, I volunteered for all the painting assignments in school, like stage decoration, lobby paintings for various subject matter or events like the holidays. Junior High School was tough, so I used to draw nude girls for the gang members in school and they left me alone. After getting reported by a teacher, I was sent to the guidance office in school, and they asked me to stop drawing the pictures but encouraged me to try out for the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan.
My art teacher was my mentor who reviewed with me what I needed for a portfolio and other requirements for testing at the art school. I was accepted and that was the start of my career. I had other school mentors and the high school had many professional artists to help me decide where my strengths were, and I went into graphic design.
I was accepted in 1971 to Parsons School of Design and did my degree work at the New School for Social Research. My parents and grandparents were always very supportive, and my dad would always ask people he knew if they might help me to get art supplies. To help my family, I was also working odd jobs and selling artwork since 1968.
After graduating Parsons in 1974, my first job was as package designer at Doyle Dane Bernbach. DDB was the agency that started the creative revolution in advertising with the “Think Small” ad for VW.
Q: You worked for Hasbro, on Hungry Hippos and Superman and Batman board games. Can you tell us about your work on each of those projects, and what you contributed to them?
A: Every year Hasbro would assign an agency to design that year’s toy line. I just got a job at Werbin and Morill and handled many packaging projects, including Hasbro. This was always a group project with a few other designers, but I was lead designer. We created the “arrow” graphic that started at the top of the package below the Hasbro logo and went down the right side of all boxes.
Being a good packaging firm, the graphics and photography were well done. You have to understand, toy packaging assignments had tiny budgets and the worst designers started in that field. We would get a written briefing from Hasbro product managers about each toy, the problem/concerns, and redesign according to the brief.
On Superman and Batman, they were redesigns of the older board games and the bad guys, graphics, art were upgraded to be more exciting and the game itself was changed to be exciting. Similar to updating a food package. Make it appeal to kids. I also designed Terron for the Action Team, part of GI Joe line. That was fun, and I did some work on Charlie’s Angels tree house and accessories.
Q: In the late 1970’s you began to work for Bandai. What was your experience with the company? What were your tasks as graphic designer and marketer?
A: I was freelancing and looking for a full-time job when Sue Motsumoto (Design) offered me a 6-month freelance job for $18,000. I agreed and I started redesigning all the toys for LJN Toy Co. On a side note, a low budget toy named Silly Sammy the Seagull became a cult type toy for some reason. Nobody knows that the box art was done by the great cartoonist, Jack Davis. I don’t have the toy, but I still have the artwork from Jack Davis.
Bandai approached Sue to work on Bandai’s line of new products to be introduced under their American distributor, Bandai America. They included Bandai Electronics, and some other children’s games. In my portfolio are some sell sheets of the toys. Most were for 5 and up children.
Saturday, October 02, 2021
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Monday, September 13, 2021
By Jonas Schwartz
There's a tantalizing movie inside the brick wall that is Respect, the new biography of Aretha Franklin. But due to poor direction, poor writing, and incoherent editing, it's impossible to penetrate it. Jennifer Hudson is volcanic singing the role, but it is impossible to track the character presented because of narrative issues, so the audience loses interest in the story of this musical genius.
Respect follows Aretha from her childhood, as the daughter of a controlling Baptist minister (Forrest Whitaker) and an estranged mother (Audra McDonald). Aretha suffers both the wrath of her father and the sexual abuse of a congregant (who fathers two of her children according to Wikipedia, but that fact was cloudy in the film itself) and jumps at the chance to escape her repressive family home with a man (Marlon Wayans) just as manipulative as her father. At first, Aretha flounders as she can’t find her distinctive style, but the musical phenom discovers her voice and creates a catalog of monster hits like “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, “Think”, and “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.'
The script by Tracey Scott Wilson (story by Callie Khouri, Oscar winner for Thelma and Louise), follows every bio cliché, without adding any dazzle to keep audiences invested, but also clutters the story so that it’s unclear of the facts that led the young girl to sprout into the iconic diva. The film skips around ferociously. One moment, a predatory family friend is locking himself in the bedroom with adolescent Aretha (Skye Dakota Turner), and then she has children. There’s no conversations about a 12-year-old being raped and having a child at that age. She just all the sudden has children running around the house. Later, Aretha scores a huge comeback with “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” but the audience never sees anything from the moment she revamps the song in her unique style with her sisters (back-up singers) forming her version of the already popular Otis Redding song to performing at Madison Square Garden. How does she feel when the song comes out, when her years of being ignored have ended? I’m not sure. I’ll have to look it up on Wikipedia because the script doesn’t care.
There are a few scenes the script gets perfectly. First, an argument in a dressing room with family friend Dinah Washington (Mary J Blige) that sets Aretha on her course of finding her groove. Second, the moments that demonstrate the creative process are effective. The scenes at the Alabama studio where — under the eye of her producer, Jerry Wexler (Mark Maron), the studio founder Rick Hall (Myk Watford), as well as her hot-headed husband — Aretha and the band of southern Caucasians turn a bland song into the hit “I’ll Never Love a Man (The Way That I Love You)” are riveting. Also observing Franklin and her sisters restructure “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” into the blockbuster it became is exhilarating. But those scenes are few and far between.
Director Liesl Tommy, who comes mostly from Broadway and episodic television, is directing her first major motion picture and her direction on the film lacks the epic scope required for the subject matter of this caliber. The movie drags, mostly because every scene seems lifted from a TV-Movie biopic you’d find on Lifetime. There are no surprises in store for the audience OTHER than THAT VOICE.
It's no wonder Franklin personally picked Jennifer Hudson to play her. Hudson sells a song like she’s expelling a deadly toxin from her body before it eats her alive. Her intonation, her vocal heft, her kindness towards the lyrics, exemplify a master Diva. She can act a tune and make the audience feel every emotion flooding from her. Her acting in book scenes, though, is fair. She’s not a poor actress, but her caliber while singing far surpasses her depth when speaking for the character. Her Oscar® for Dreamgirls was mostly due to “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and “I Am Changing” — NOT for her dialogue. And for those two songs, she deserved every ounce of the gold.
The rest of the cast give fine performances, particularly Whitaker, but the script gives them little on which to chew. Audra McDonald, a multi-Tony-winning dynamo (she could walk across the stage and still win a Tony), is wasted in the underwritten role of her mother. She shines in her moments interacting with young Turner, but the audience should get to spend more intimate moments with the two.
Respect features an outstanding soundtrack, with Hudson owning all the songs that made Franklin a star. But the film itself makes little sense. It feels like the film canister accidentally mixed the reels and left two or three in the trash. Aretha Franklin deserves more RESPECT. And so does Jennifer Hudson.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Saturday, September 04, 2021
In “Spacewrecked,” John Blackstar’s lover, Katana follows his trajectory by tracing the photon vapor trail from his ship. It leads through ...