Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hollywood and "Oscar Nominated Shorts" - Live Action, Animated and Docs

A couple of weeks ago I met my friend Karen and her sister Amy in Santa Monica, at the Nuart Theatre. We'd gotten tickets for the earlier evening show of Live Action Shorts. Then got later tickets for the Animated Shorts. The way it worked out, we had about 40 to 45 minutes in between to run across the street for miso soup and rolls! One cannot live on popcorn alone!

Compilation of all of the shorts ...

Before each little film, the screen would say the title, the country of origin and the length of the piece. The longest of the live action pieces was about 30 minutes. The shortest, I think, was 13 minutes. 

On the screen ...

Three of the five live action short were very heavy... 

The first Live Action short was Ave Maria and I would say it was definitely the lightest and had the most humor ... an Israeli family's car breaks down in front of a convent on the West Bank, and the nuns inside have taken a vow of silence. While the film comments on taking religion to the extreme, it's quirky and humorous.

Ave Maria 

Here's the trailer ...


This film stayed with me for days and apparently was based on true events, not long ago during the war in Kosovo. It's actually the first ever film nomination for Kosovo. It was rough but possibly the best of the bunch.

Everything Will Be OKAY

This felt very real and the two main characters were so connected. It was intense. A Father going through a divorce wants to take his little girl away. It was stressful but so well done. It was Amy's favorite of the five. It's from Germany.

The Stutterer

This was very short, so so well done, and well edited. It was one of my favorite shorts of the year.

This is the whole thing! Watch it fast before they delete it off youtube! It's 12 minutes 30 seconds!!!

Day One

This is the story of this woman's first day on the job in Afghanistan, working as an interpreter for the U.S. military.  I thought the actress was really good and because of the subject matter it might win but there were some moments that felt a bit like I was watching a movie of the week, and I was taken out of the moment. Not sure if it was the direction or writing or acting or what. I guess I'd need to see it again to figure that out but because of the subject matter I'll pass.

You can watch all the live action and animation shorts for 5.99 on youtube here! Totally worth it!

Sanjay's Super Team 
7 Min.


Here's a video of the backstory of the making of Sanjay's Super Team ...

Here's a clip from the film ...

It was very sweet and tender.

World of Tomorrow
17 Min.

This was fascinating ... it takes place in the future where little "Emily Prime" (Voiced by the niece of the filmmaker) meets on of her future clones ...

It was strange and funny and melancholy and I kind of loved it.

You can rent it for 3.99 on Vimeo Here

 We Can't Live Without Cosmos
15 min.

This is the whole film! (below) I loved this. It's a moving and sweet story about best friends, or maybe more? ... I actually cried with this one.

Bear Story
10 min.

This was beautifully animated and sort of sad. This bear's family was torn apart and he misses them but as it's from Chilé, apparently it's really an allegorical tale about how families were torn apart during the Pinochet regime.

Here's a clip from Bear Story ...

6 min.

This is really beautifully drawn and tell of violence and its after effects on a small child but feels unfinished. After reading about it, it sounds like it's maybe the beginning of a larger project.

If you want to read a great article with synopsis of these films in Variety, click here.

I hardly get to the Nuart in Santa Monica because, I hardly go to the westside these days, but it was so worth it!

 The Egyptian Theater

Last night I went with Lauren to see the Oscar nominated short documentaries, at the Egyptian Theater. Wow. Ebola, Honor Killings, Agent Orange, the Holocaust, and the death penalty. We went for a cocktail after.

Mixed Trailer of the Short Docs

As difficult as they were important, there was a lot inspiration in these films, as well. The screenings were put on by American Cinemateque, so a few of the filmmakers were actually there.

Body Team 12

This was an intense 12 minutes in Liberia, following this group "Body Team 12" around, to take those people away who'd passed from Ebola. The woman at the heart of it, is a badass and a total goddess. 

It was picked up for distribution by HBO so you can see it there. I think it was about 12 minutes.

A Girl in the River:
The Price of Forgiveness

The producers of A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness talked to us about the film and that with the attention that this documentary has gotten, a law has actually gone through to help in the prosecution of these crimes.

From what I understand it's airing on HBO, and HBO on demand. (or will be)

Giving voice to those who cannot be heard, Obaid-Chinoy has made over a dozen award-winning films in more than 10 countries. She celebrates the strength and resilience of those fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds — and winning. I dare anyone to watch this film and not be moved to tears and inspired into action. - Angelina Jolie

To find out about Sharmeen Obaid and her films, click here!

Chau, Beyond the Lines

This was about a young Vietnamese boy/young man, Chau, overcoming obstacles and Chau's passion to become an artist.

 ... One of the producers spoke briefly and asked us to see past Chau's physical handicaps and see how strong he is, and yes, inspiring.

You can stream it on Netflix and to find out more about the film, click here.

Last Day of Freedom "Chasing Shadows"

This was rough. It's about this Veteran, who came back from Vietnam with horrible P.T.S.D. and what happened from there, told by his brother. It was interesting because unlike the other nominees it was animated but with the voice of the brother. It's too much to go into now, but you should watch it.

You can stream it on Netflix Here.

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

This was about what Claude Lanzmann went though over the 12 years  of making "Shoah," the toll it took on him and his life. There's some very interesting behind the scenes stuff as well.

It will have its debut on HBO on May 2.

The were all great but it was a little exhausting and I'm happy to say that tonight, Lauren and I are going to see comedy!

After the screening of the docs, we walked west on Hollywood Blvd, to the little Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt, for a cocktail and veggie burger!

On the way back I took a few pics of Hollywood getting ready for the Oscars. As you can see, the street is blocked off, with chain link fencing, and has been for the last week. 

The Dolby Theatre where they hold the Oscars ... you can see all the platforms for the press set up for interviews.

 Corner of Hollywood and Highland

OH! And I didn't realize last night that yesterday Ennio Morricone (favorite film composer ever) received his star on the Walk of Fame. Can you believe he's never won an Oscar? Not even for The Mission or Cinema Paradiso??

He's nominated this year for the Hateful Eight. Fingers crossed! Give that man an Oscar! (He has an honorary but come on.)

Here he is in ASSISI doing a Christmas concert of The Mission, in the basilica! Just found it and I'm crying. So much beauty.

Go Ennio!!!

Here he was getting his honorary ... cheek out the audience and their faces. So sweet.

LOVE him.
And lastly ...
In a previous post I talked about two of the feature length documentaries, Amy and What Happened, Miss Simone.

I watched another the other night on Netflix, the other night. Wow, I feel like wherever I was getting my news coverage during the Ukraine demonstrations/revolutions in 2014 really sucked.  I had no idea.

This doc was incredible and very worth the watch.

 O.K. y'all! Enjoy the Oscars, if you'll be watching! 
I'll be back to my New Mexico posting of Taos this week!

Blessing and light!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Oscar Nominations for Best Picture and Acting Categories: Just my take

OK, so right off the bat I'll tell you my pick for best picture. I'd like Spotlight to win. It could be the Revenant but It's probably between the two of them, so it has a good shot.

My favorites this year are probably not going to go away with any of the big awards. First of all I LOVED Trumbo and Brian Cranston was amazing. I think DeCaprio will win, and after a few nominations it's "his time" but Cranston ... loved him in Trumbo. I will say I'm biased toward movies about old Hollywood, but the movie comes together as a whole, in a kind of perfect way and all the performances were solid and the script was tight and very smart. Even the smaller roles felt fleshed out, alive and interesting.

My other absolute favorite was Brooklyn. Maybe it's because so many of the movies and documentaries were so dark, but it was wonderful to see a really beautifully made love story that was charming, had genuine emotion that didn't feel like a manipulation (which many American love stories of the last couple of decades do), that was well acted and directed, and wasn't cheesy or over the top. And I loved the two leads.

Here's a piece I enjoyed with Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and Kate Winslet (who was great in Steve Jobs and I have loved since Sense and Sensibility!) interviewing each other.

Like I said, I really liked Spotlight. It's great film and an important one, on a lot of levels. I'm the pickiest about acting and everyone was so solid and it also didn't feel too "shiny Hollywood" which wouldn't have been right for the subject matter. I also thought Bridge of Spies was really good, solid film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't know that it will, but it should win for art direction.

 I also thought Room was great little film and it really stayed with me. 

I thought about it for days. Such a great connection and wonderful chemistry between the two main actors. Some child actors can be be a bit irritating in their precociousness but Jacob Tremblay was great. Here's a cute interview with him, and Brie Larson who is nominated and favored to win. (For good reason.)

Loved what Brie Larson says about working with him here ...

Everybody has heard about the controversy with the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and I think much of the problem starts with the movies that get made and how they are cast. Everyone wants to cast a "sure thing" and not stick their neck out with casting outside the box, for fear of losing money, tickets sales, and their jobs. I get it, but come on. There are times when a movie is set in Ancient Egypt and everyone is a white as I am.

It is also ridiculous that Idris Elba did not get a nomination for Beasts of No Nation. He should have been nominated in the supporting actor category. I've seen all but Sylvester Stallone in that category and I stand by my opinion. It should have also gotten a best picture nod.

It is a really difficult movie to watch, because of the subject matter and how well it's acted. It's disturbing what goes on with children and child soldiers, and how families, communities and countries are destroyed. The filmmakers did a great job of showing that and immersing you in that world.

Maybe people didn't want to see that, but if you are given the responsibility of nominating the best of the best, deal with it and watch the movie! They must have watched that serial killer movie to give Charlize Theron an Oscar, right? Or maybe people were having their personal assistants vote. (Nothing against Charlize here.) Is it because she's a beautiful white woman who made herself look ugly? I don't know, but there are serious questions when out of 60 actors in the last three years, there's been 3 or 4 non white actors nominated. 

OK, now that I got that off my chest. I want to say that the little boy was also brilliant. He was totally present and filled with the life of his character. It was so moving, powerful, and ultimately heartbreaking, and frankly I could never imagine watching it a second time. I had a very large margarita while during my viewing. (The benefits of having a screener, you can take a break and make yourself a cocktail!)

Here's a short featurette about the child actor who plays Agu ... please watch.

Since Idris didn't get a nomination, it's a toss up for me with best supporting actor. Mark Rylance gave a fascinating character portrayal in Bridge of Spies, which I've mentioned is also a movie I really liked a lot. If you haven't seen it, you can stream it on Amazon Prime right now. I also really enjoyed Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, which I've mentioned I'm rooting for for best Picture. He's great. (And still adorable. Just saying.)

Here's Tom Hanks on Mark Rylance.

Here's a scene ...

And then, there is Christian Bale, in The Big Short. Who knew a movie about the guys who bet against the housing market would be so entertaining?! Amazing script and direction! Bravo Adam McKay on a great film. Anyway, back to Bale. He completely disappears into a role the way Daniel Day Lewis does. Weird little quirks, speech patterns, and totally different energy and persona with every role. He's another actor that is just mesmerizing to watch and in The Big Short he plays an odd, kind of dorky, brilliant guy and was totally believable. It's as if he was channeling.

Christian Bale interviewed on The Big Short and the real person he played. He is obviously growing a  beard for his next role!

Here is a Hollywood Reporter Roundtable with Actors and creators of the film.

I'd heard a review about The Danish Girl and the reviewer said he'd wanted to be more emotionally invested. Maybe it takes a little while to become invested, but as I sat on my bed with tears streaming down my face toward the end of the movie, I thought (in reference to the reviewer) "What's wrong with people? Are they made of stone?!" Anyway, it was a lovely film and of course, Eddie Redmayne was phenomenal (I think he always is, and even was as the only tolerable thing in Les Mis.) Everyone is expecting Alicia Vikander, as Redmayne's wife, to win best supporting, and she did give a beautiful, strong but vulnerable performance.

The real subjects for the film were both artists. Lili the transgender woman, was a landscape painter and Gerda was an illustrator who did a lot of fashion illustration as well as portraits of Lily.

Here is a video slideshow of some of Gerda Wegener's paintings and illustrations ... (beware, though most are elegant, sweet or fashion oriented, a few are very racy!!!) There is also an exhibition of her work going on right now in Denmark at the ARKEN, until May.

You can see Lily "Einar Wegener's" art Here.

Here's a short featurette on The Danish Girl, which plays after a portion of the trailer, with interviews with the director and leads.

I've only seen 3 of the 5 best supporting actress nominees. The other two I saw were Rachel McAdams, in Spotlight (Go Spotlight!) and Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs. Like I said, love Kate. I think it's worth seeing Steve Jobs just to watch her and Michael Fassbender who are two of the greatest actors working and like Christian Bale, both become unrecognizable in their roles.

As far as the Revenant, it's worth seeing on the big screen if you are planning to see it. It's one of those movies with big sweeping shots of landscape and really it is beautiful. Well, it's also violent and stressful and gruesome and I had to cover my eyes with my cap, over and over. So, see it but bring your hat.

I think that pretty much covers the acting categories. Apologies to the few I haven't seen.  I'm going to try to see the rest of the feature length documentaries this week, which can be streamed on Netflix and Amazon Prime, and I'm going to a screening of the documentary shorts on Friday night at the Egyptian. So excited!
The Foreign films will have to wait.

OK, this was a way longer post than I intended and I don't know if anyone will read my musings on the nominations but there are!

Hope you are having a great week!
Blessing, light and movies!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Oscar Nominated Docs ~ What Happened, Miss Simone and Amy

I'm a real rebel with a cause.
~Nina Simone

Well, it's that time of year again. When most of the "serious" movies come out and I try to see almost everything I possibly can!

I get a certain number of screeners, because I'm still in the actors union, but when it comes to Documentaries, I'm on my own. (No acting nominations to vote on, obviously!)

I still have a long way to go, but of the documentaries, I decided to watch the two music docs first. Both were fascinating stories about brilliantly talented jazz singers who ... well, lets just say things were really rough and/or did not end well for the central figures.

First, I streamed What Happened, Miss Simone? on Netflix, about the jazz singer and pianist. I've had some of her music for probably 20 years and though I had appreciated her voice I had no idea that she had trained as a concert pianist or of how tumultuous and difficult her personal life was, though the emotional way she sang gave you a sense of that.

Here's the trailer ...

In the documentary they  play a bit of this clip from the Playboy Club, singing Porgy ...

It was a very interesting and well made documentary, with great old footage and I felt like it was a pretty all encompassing look at her life, and its different phases, including the civil rights movement. 

Here is another live concert performance, in Rome, 1968. 

I only knew classical Music, 
which to me was the only true music. 
The only way I could survive at the bar
was to mix the classical music with popular songs,
and that meant I had to sing. 
What happened was that I discovered 
I had a voice plus the talent 
to mix classical music together with more popular songs,
which at the time I detested.
~ Nina Simone

My favorite (and super sexy) song, that I don't think was in the documentary is I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl.  LOVE this recording.

And this awesome recording of Feeling Good ... 

You've got to learn to leave the table
When Love's no longer being served.
~Nina Simone

Then there's Amy, about jazz singer Amy Winehouse, which I just streamed on Amazon Prime. Definitely frustrating to see the people around her, some of which made things even more difficult for her, and to see how she never got the help she needed. She was so young and I'm sure if she'd just played jazz clubs and the whole fame thing hadn't blown up, she'd still be here. Very sad. 

There are definitely differences between the lives of Simone and Winehouse, their stories, and the demons they had to battle, but there are some similarities, as well. They both had a lot of people living off of their talent and working them to exhaustion without regard to their mental and physical health!

We've lost one of the jazz greats ...
~Tony Bennett on Amy Winehouse

Here is the trailer for Amy.

This is an interview from 2004 with Amy, that they used part of for the documentary. She's darling and it's nice to see her early on, healthy, with her cute personality at 20 years old. My favorite moment is at 3:08. At 4 minutes she performs. 

Here's a performance, not in the Documentary ... 

This is an audio recording (with slideshow) of Amy Winehouse that I'd never heard, doing a jazz version of the Beatles "All My Lovin'."

And the Recording with Tony Bennett ...

Tony Bennett said of Amy Winehouse, 
"She had the whole facility of an Ella Fitzgerald, 
of a Billie Holiday, who are the two best singers of jazz in the world. 
Since Elvis Presley into the Beatles, the Rolling Stones 
and the whole so called "new era" 
she was the best singer of any young singer that I've ever heard. 
She sang in the true tradition of being a great artist. 
She was a great artist ... "

So, both docs were both worth watching, especially if you like the artists, though I thought the tail end of Amy was a little heavy handed with the little review of footage of her, but it didn't ruin it or anything.

I'll be posting some more reviews, shortly! I've seen 6 out of the 8 best picture nominees, all the best actor nominees, but I'm behind on the women! I've only seen 2 best actress, but 3 best supporting. It's going to be a busy week! Friday I will go see the documentary shorts. I've already seen the live action and animated shorts. Love supporting the smaller short films! Anyway ... off to stream Bridge of Spies!

Have a great evening!
Blessings and light!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Santa Fe and the Road to Taos: San Miguel Chapel and the Classical Gas Museum

Sant Miguel Chapel
Santa Fe, New Mexico

According to our guidebooks, San Miguel Chapel is believed to be the the oldest church structure in the United States, so of course I had to see it! It looked so beautiful surrounded by snow.

They believe the building was started in around 1610, and then partially reconstructed a century later, after a fire. The adobe structure was built by the Tlaxcalan Indians of Mexico, who came to New Mexico as servants of the Spanish, atop an ancient kiva of the Analco Indians. (This reminds me of the churches in Europe built atop Roman Temples.)

Apparently, the altar screen was restored in 1955. It had at some point been covered over in house paint! Many other restorations have taken place over the years.

I love the old Spanish architecture so much, so that I am always drawn to visiting these places. The history is fascinating as well, but often sad when it comes to Native Americans and their culture being wiped out or taken over.

The San José Bell, which weighs around 800 pounds was said to be cast in Spain, in 1356. According to the very nice man who is the guide for the place, there is dispute about the date and there are theories on both sides of the argument, but we did ring the bell and it sounds wonderful. Love all the amulets on the posts!

Below, Christ on the Cross painted on buffalo hide by Franciscan Friars in about 1630, could be rolled up and taken around to use as a teaching tool to help in converting the Pueblo Indians to Christianity.

Found this video on the official website, about the restoration of San Miguel Mission. It even shows how they make the adobe bricks and resurface the adobe, all in less than 4 1/2 minutes!

Wood Station of the Cross
Date Unknown
"This is the only remaining Station of the Cross which rested in the body of the Chapel, when the Christian Brothers began using the Chapel as their private Oratory in 1859. This remnant may have been painted by one of the Spanish painters who decorated the Chapel during the 1710 restoration of the building, under supervision of Don Agustin Flores Vergara."

Across the street from the church ... this beautiful building!

After the church we headed north to see the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Rancho de Taos, and then the Taos Pueblo. I'll get to those in another post, but check out the view from our rental car!

We took the route 68 to Taos, so we could make it in a shorter amount of time. The high road (Scenic Route 76) is supposed to be amazing but takes quite a bit longer. We'll have to save that for another trip!

Check out Camel Rock in Tesuque, between Santa Fe and Espanola! You see it?

Surprises are the joy of living.
Surprises directly touch the soul.
Good surprises energize 
and bad surprises teach.
~ Alev Oguz

I'd seen this next roadside attraction on Route 68 in my guidebooks, as well, but had kind of forgotten about it and then we came around a corner and there it was! It's right along the Rio Grande River Valley and I think if you know about it, you can't miss it!

Johnnie Meier's
Classical Gas Museum
Embudo, New Mexico

We knocked on the door but aparently Mr. Meier was unavailable, and though we didn't go inside the little building, there was so much to look at and take pictures of outside, it was not a disappointment.

When your life itself 
becomes the subject matter of the creative process,
a very different experience of life opens to you.
~Robert Fritz

My mom wanted me to get a shot of her in front of an Edsel, to show our friend Evelyn!
Here you go Evelyn!

As you can see by my mom's coat (And Doctor Zhivago hood) that though it was beautiful in December, it was quite cold that day!

An Instagrammers dream!

Just across the road from the little museum ...

And then we were off again!

San Miguel Chapel
Camel Rock
Classical Gas Museum

I've been pretty busy lately getting ready for two art shows, plus working, trying to start working out on the treadmill, watching the nominated movies, and doing physical therapy for my shoulders etc. ... So, I haven't been able to catch up on here! I'll try to get caught up soon, as well as make some visits to your beautiful blogs and make some phone calls!

Hope this finds you well and enjoying 2016! 

The journey between what you once were 
and who you are now becoming
is where the dance of life really takes place.
~Barbara De Angelis

Blessings and light!