The complexity of art and Legos

BY BARRETT SONN | JUNE 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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On June 17, The Lego Movie and The Grand Budapest Hotel were released on DVD and Blu-ray for pop-culture consumers to enjoy. A few days before that, an amazing video went viral, showing a team of nine Lego builders recreate the hotel from The Grand Budapest Hotel. The timing was not a coincidence; it was to commemorate the aforementioned release date.

Obviously the replica wasn’t on a 1:1 scale, but it was still very impressive. And when I saw the YouTube video, I thought the collaboration between Lego bricks and a movie by director Wes Anderson was profoundly appropriate. It was like Beyoncé and me … I mean Jay-Z or Nutella and anything. We all know the deal with Legos and The Lego Movie itself: They’re both wildly successful. Perhaps fewer of us are aware of Wes Anderson’s masterful — if somewhat repetitive — movies.

Regardless of what you think of Anderson’s cloyingly consistent “hipster” movies, one of his greatest abilities has been to meticulously create colorful and quirky universes for his actors to have fun in. In today’s world, we take a lot for granted, be it indoor plumbing or a vast country that has mountains, deserts, plains, lakes, and beaches available to explore. We also seem to forget the importance of art. 

As you know, art is subjective. Because of that, many people believe it to be easy. This erroneous belief is especially noticeable in two areas: abstract art and movies. While I can’t argue against the skepticism toward abstract art, I would say the process of making a movie, especially a good movie, is underrated. It’s a hard thought to digest, seeing as it seems like every film nowadays is a sequel or a prequel or some ungodly fusion of both, like 300: Rise of an Empire.

Movies take real skill, even if they’re directed by Michael Bay. People seem to think all they need is a camera and they’ll instantly make a cult classic or a Hollywood blockbuster. Sorry, but it’s not that easy.

A movie takes a huge team of people working together, and sometimes they do it with costly consequences, as with the production of 2012’s Life of Pi, in which the studio responsible for the Oscar-winning visual effects went bankrupt. Hollywood is a cutthroat business, and thriving for a prolonged period of time is worth applauding. Isn’t that why there are lifetime-achievement awards?

At this point, you might be wondering why any of this matters. After all, Hollywood has a direct influence on none of our lives. Well, I mentioned earlier how abstract art is pretty tenuous in terms of credibility. Believe it or not, the university has a couple of art buildings. The Studio Arts Building, for example, used to be a Menards. I spent a lot of time there in April, shadowing some of my metalworking friends as they prepared for such things as B.F.A. shows.

Every single day, including the weekends, they were there for more than 12 hours. I saw tears, anger, injuries, torn clothing, and stress — things other students may experience but not on a weekly level like art students. The subjectivity of judgment in art provides freedom that is both refreshing and frightening. Because there is no absolute — perhaps, even, remote — guarantee of success, like hard numbers in math and science, art students spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about their projects.

They also work in a pretty horrible environment, where all sorts of machinery and chemicals wait the careless and tired to mess up and do some damage. We may like to scoff at art students. We may like to scoff at bad movies. But art takes an extraordinary amount of work. 

Ultimately, the replica hotel built by the Lego builders in that YouTube video was so poignant for this reason: it was dedicated craftsmanship paying tribute to dedicated craftsmanship. Perhaps we can learn from example.

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