L’accordeur pour Halloween

New York. 31st October, 2013.  It’s  grey and rainy in New York City as Halloween night descendeth.  A perfect time to place Olivier Treiner’s haunting Hitchcockian 13 minute 2012 César-winning short film, “L’accordeur” (The Piano Tuner). I first watched this mesmerizing gem of a film last year on the eve of Hurricane Sandy around this same time, and it still remains etched in my memory. Ach, the chilling  uncertainties of life…………

Piano Tuner (L'accordeur)

For a high-res version of the film: http://www.lstudio.com/films-on-l/the-piano-tuner.html

Directly on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/72408751

*

Goodbye, Mr. Soprano

New York, June 20, 2013. Since last night and all of today, there’s been the name of only one man dominating the media and people’s conversations from Italy to Jersey and far beyond – the man who became legendary in his role of TV’s favorite Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano – actor James Gandolfini. He died in Rome, Italy, last night of a sudden heart attack. He was only 51 years old.

Here is a wonderful, candid and insightful interview of his from the series “Inside the Actor’s Studio” in New York. 

RIP James Gandolfini, who despite all his other movie, theatre and TV roles, will forever be entrenched in the psyche of his audience as the complicated and memorable character of  Tony Soprano.

At the price of sounding like a total buffoon, I will admit that I am perhaps, one of the very few in North America who did not watch the entire series. Five sporadic episodes was all that I’d watched (television has never been one of my pass times, and the only few shows I watch/watched with some regularity are Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, BBC’s Planet Earth, a few wildlife series on National Geographic and yes – a guilty addiction – Science Channel’s How it is made. And of course, Monty Python any time, as well as BBC’s Sherlock. For some reason, soaps, drama, character-laden plots just don’t draw me in. Don’t know why – they just don’t (unless it involves Daniel Day Lewis.)

But just five episodes of the Sopranos were enough to at least understand what a great actor Gandolfini was. While I could not share the same addiction as many of my friends had for the series, I can fully comprehend their immense attachment to the show. So, while for many who loved him as Tony Soprano, it was as though the mob-boss himself had died, for me – this interview reveals more the workings of one of the finest television actors of our time James Gandolfini.

*

Live long and prosper!

When I was in high school, girls my age used to fawn over and have posters of and crushes on rock stars and sportsmen. I must have had some  “norm-chip” missing, as the only two men I was fascinated by – heck, even related to – were two fictional characters: Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes.  To use a cheesy movie phrase – Spock had “had me” at “It’s logical, Captain,” and Holmes about whom I’ve written (or rather gushed) about in an earlier post – had had me at “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts,and of course, much more.

So, it gives me great pleasure, and in a sense, a form of therapeutic closure that characters for which I was teased about for having crushes on back in school (and college) have now proven to be timeless icons of intelligence, poise and “cool.” Why is it that in life, those who were considered “uncool” for not following any trend, nor buckling to any peer-pressure or fashion-du-jour find out years later that they had just been ahead of their times in their individualism, and years later when more prominent figures reveal that they too liked trend-buckling oddballs – it is considered “cool?”

Why is it so important to be “cool?” Really, who cares? In fact the people who are really cool are those who never cared about trying so hard to be “cool” in the first place but the guts to face the snickering for not being afraid to like what they themselves could relate to – not what everyone was following. Also, trying to make a great show of going completely in the opposite direction of trend-following, and thereby joining anti-establishment groups – is quite simply following something else in the opposite direction – so that’s not being too different either. The true individualist doesn’t really care too much about being popular nor unpopular and that’s what makes them different, without even trying. There is freedom is just being. Being you. Knowing yourself. 

Some people wrongly assume that loving or possessing a Vulcan sense of Logic or stoicism must mean that Emotion is alien to such possessors. I do not understand why there is such an either/or approach. Having a logical and analytical mind does not mean that that person is devoid of deep, indescribable emotional magnitude. In some, the Apollonian and the Dionysian does not come at the expense of the other. It is best described in the words of Spock’s father Sarek when he explains to his young half-human half-Vulcan son the basis of their calm self-assuredness on the surface while a wide spectrum of emotional depth churns underneath. (For some reason when I watched that scene in the 2009 reboot movie, it made me cry. For some reason I could relate too well.) Sarek’s words to a very young Spock: “Emotions run deep within our race. In many ways, more deeply than in Humans. Logic offers a serenity Humans seldom experience. The control of feelings, so that they do not control you.”

Anyway – on the eve of the release of Into Darkness, a photo of me and Jack Black – who is doing his own version of Spock’s hand sign. Both of Black’s parents were satellite engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. This was during a spontaneous moment after which Jack and I did a silly Star Wars laser hand-fight but with Spocky hands.

Live long and prosper, those who loved/love Spock – especially the few girls who were open about it and thereby faced ridicule for making choices which were  different than those of their peers…..

Actor/comedian/musician Jack Black & yours truly, bonding in geeky, Spock salutes

Actor/comedian/musician Jack Black & yours truly, bonding in geeky Vulcan salutes (click to enlarge)

Actor/comedian/musician Jack Black & me doing geeky, Spock signs

*

The new May 2013 Audi commercial featuring both the old and new Spocks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPkByAkAdZs

*

Star Trek fan President Obama flashes the Spock sign:  http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/star-trek-fan-president-obama-picture-nichelle-nichols-vulcan-hand-gesture-article-1.1055970

Aaah….therapeutic indeed after those early years of being teased for being the oddball girl in school who loved Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes…….and who still thinks they are timelessly awesome.

*

Here’s one more – moi and Scott Ian from Anthrax (Thanks, Alex Skolnick)

Scott Ian (Anthrax) and the Gipsy Geek backstage

Scott Ian (Anthrax) and me both making our respective ‘signs’ (Thanks Alex Skolnick for taking this!)

*

Beasts of the wild at heart

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

One of the most poetic, poignant and original movies I’ve seen in a looong time. (ok – loved Django insanely) but this is a whole other animal. And it’s an independent film made on a small budget. I’m in love with this little strong-willed girl/actress who is the protagonist in the movie. The trailer does no justice to the full film though. Do turn off the irritating youtube annotation button if you watch this.

 If there are problems viewing the video, you can watch it directly on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF7i2n5NXLo

I will not write a long post or review of the film, just that it is one of the most beautiful, fantastical, poignant, quirky and unique films I have had the pleasure of watching in my life, and is a reminder of the magic film-making can still be able to create with no expensive CGI effects, but just a strong narrative, stunning camera-work, incredible acting by first-time actors (both the little girl and her daddy) and a lot of love and passion by the film’s makers – Benh Zeitlin and Luci Alibar.

Personally, I have always felt a strong connection with movies which had the female protagonist who was different, not the loud, “popular” girl, or the one who is always with a bunch of other girls – but the introverted, introspective and precocious girl who lives in her own world of action, intellect, imagination, loves her solitude, books and nature and wild clean adventures, looks soft and feminine yet is strong and self-assured and is not afraid to fight her battles or those of the innocent….there are so few in films that way – Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain), Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), Elizabeth (Pride & Prejudice – the 2005 film) and Jane Eyre – two Victorian women I have always loved, along with Irene Adler from Sherlock Holmes (the books – not the movies which do not even come close to the intelligence Doyle had endowed Irene with) and Ofelia (in Pan’s Labyrinth). And Hushpuppy from Beasts of the Southern Wild certainly is one from the same family – even though at five years of age, she is definitely the bravest yet the most vulnerable and the youngest and poorest. But you see the same characteristics – the strong will, the powers of observation of the world around her, and the inner strength and ability for introspection; and quiet non-verbal kindness and understanding, but at the same time a determined sense of justice, and wishing to heal and fix the fractures in existence. The introverted girl – a minority in our world and in evolutionary statistics.

Beasts of the Southern Wild also has one of the coolest movie websites…took me a while to realize if you hover the mouse on the screen, little creatures pop up to take you to different scenes.You can directly download the movie from the Apple website (details on the film’s website in the link below) for only 5$.

http://www.welcometothebathtub.com/

An experience not to be missed…..

Movie synopsis: In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

A good review by Bret Fetzer: The devastated landscape of the Louisiana bayou becomes a primordial world in the eyes of 6-year-old Hushpuppy (the fierce and magnetic Quvenzhané Wallis). Hushpuppy’s father Wink (Dwight Henry), emotionally unstable and increasingly ill, fights to maintain their ramshackle home, along with the rest of the precarious community of the area known as the Bathtub–but a Katrina-esque storm leaves the Bathtub flooded, driving Wink to desperate lengths. Faced with the loss of everything she knows, Hushpuppy decides her only hope is to find her mother, but her only clue is a winking light in the distance. Beasts of the Southern Wild tells its story entirely from the 6-year-old girl’s perspective; the actions and emotions of adults take on a mythic scope, as does the damaged environment in which she lives. The movie is dense and rich, often as obscure and murky as the overgrown bayou itself, sometimes off-putting and enticing at the same time. Wallis, her performance brimming with feral energy and a wounded soul, carries the movie with more star power than most adults could muster. The dialogue is thick with intriguing metaphors and the images resist being easily interpreted into a conventional plot, but the story gradually emerges, rising to a potent end. Viewers who take the time to sink into its mysteries will be rewarded. 

beasts of the southern wild

.

Come hail or storm….

New York, October 31, 2012. Yes, indeed, it has been 10 full months since I have posted anything new on this blog. It has been an interesting year, professionally and personally. On April 9th of this year, I lost my father, suddenly, unexpectedly, to a massive heart attack. He was always a hyper-active man, with no prior heart issues, so it did come as a surprise. Thankfully for him, death was quick and he did not suffer. A sudden afternoon 3 second attack on a normal day. 

Today is Halloween, which comes after the largest hurricane to ever hit the Atlantic Ocean. While the area I live in, in New York, was safe and sound, devastation occurred in Lower Manhattan, parts of Queens, and many areas of New Jersey and upstate New York. Some of the most dramatic photographs can be found on this link:

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-after-landfall/100396/

The lights on the Brooklyn Bridge stand in contrast to the lower Manhattan skyline which has lost its electrical supply, early on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, after megastorm Sandy swept through New York. A record storm surge that was higher than predicted along with high winds damaged the electrical system and plunged millions of people into darkness. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A parking lot full of yellow cabs sits flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, October 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

A 168-foot water tanker, the John B. Caddell, sits on the shore Tuesday morning, October 30, 2012 where it ran aground on Front Street in the Stapleton neighborhood of New York’s Staten Island. (AP Photo/Sean Sweeney)

So, for Halloween and after the trauma of Sandy – one of the most brilliant, metaphoric and strangely traumatic short films I have seen in a while: ‘Keha Malu’ or ‘Body Memory’ or ‘La memoire du corps’ by young Estonian director Ulo Pikkov. This multiple award-winning experimental film, just 8 mins long, looks at the idea that our bodies remember more than just our individual experiences, but the pain and sorrow of those who came before us.

Please watch in full-screen mode with the HD high-def version. It’s worth it…..There can be many interpretations of the film – the trains going towards Aushwitz and death, our existential crises as we are pulled like puppets on a string by various ‘systems’ of society, or just the collective pain of mankind from impending endings. But either way, a rather poignant and dramatic impact on the viewer.

*

Parallel Lives

Split Screen : A love story featuring 3 cities

JW Griffiths’ quirky little film is shot entirely on the Nokia N8 mobile phone. It is the winner of the Nokia Shorts competition 2011. Two citizens from opposite ends of the Atlantic. At which common point will they meet, if at all? Shades of the “Griffin and Sabine” trilogy,   but in a more contemporary and refreshingly simple, concise manner.

.

Director: JW Griffiths
Producer: Kurban Kassam
Director of Photography: Christopher Moon
Editor: Marianne Kuopanportti 
Sound Design: Mauricio d’Orey
Music composed by: Lennert Busch