A masterful collaboration by documentarians Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.
A world class documentary that is equally stunning and disturbing. Surreal and sobering. The mind boggling cinematography by legendary photographer Edward Burtynsky was the stunning part. The disturbing part was everything else. It showcases to great effect our unprecedented impact on planet Earth to date.
And there was a lot to be captured. And there is a lot to be fearful for. And there is a lot to change…if we still can.
A short synopsis: scenes of almost inconceivable scale such as monolithic machines hell-bent on terraforming their surroundings, land-fill sites staffed by thousands, heaps of elephant tusks piled high and set aflame, concrete seawalls lining China’s coastline, on and on. Only some of the things humans are responsible for that endanger and change the structure of the planet.
I knew it wouldn’t be a feel-good film. But it was a necessary one. Which brings me to this famous quote:
It’s that time again…Following TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). Leafing through the booklet (shown above) there are too many films that I’m anxious to see. A Sampling:
ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch
Okay; not feel-good but necessary knowledge:
The latest masterful collaboration between Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky isn’t so much eye-opening as mind-blowing as it essays our unprecedented impact on the Earth to stunning effect. The staggering tableaux captured here are at once surreal and sobering, including monolithic machines hell-bent on terraforming their surroundings and potash mines that evoke a bad drug trip. This is filmmaking of the highest order that unfolds on a dizzying, almost inconceivable scale.
Bathtubs Over Broadway
MAD | Music/Art/Design (Because I LOVE Broadway Musicals)
Where did Chita Rivera, Martin Short and the late Florence Henderson (all present here) get their starts? In “industrial” musicals–musicals commissioned by corporate America from the 50s through the 80s to entertain employees and celebrate, say, bathroom fixtures or Fords… Dava Whisenant’s supremely entertaining film follows industrial musical obsessive Steve Young (a writer for David Letterman, who also appears) as he uncovers a hidden world. “Get ready to laugh, sing, cheer, and be dazzled.”—POV
In My Room (Israel)
Impact | VIFF Impact
Deeply intimate, unexpectedly moving and entirely of its moment, Ayelet Albenda’s documentary unfolds through footage culled from six teenagers’ self-produced YouTube videos. Make no mistake: these aren’t social media stars or influencers. They’re just average kids documenting their trials (including pregnancy and eating disorders) and trying to make some sense of them. The remarkably honest moments they share quickly coalesce into an involving study of the myriad iterations of adolescence.
I’ll be focusing on reviewing a bunch of diverse cinema during the festival.
Art speaks where words are unable to explain – Unknown
Diary of a Leitmotif
Leitmotifis a term originating from opera, where it referred to a recurring melody or that played along with a character or allusion to a theme (idea or situation) whenever one or the other appeared on stage. It derives from the German words for “leading” (leit) and “motive” (motif). But these are only words.
Last Thursday I attended the opening of Berlin based artist Deborah Wargon’s Diary of a Leitmotifat the Back Gallery Project on Vancouver’s East Side. A most intricate and thought-provoking display of lines, contemplations and vibrations. Made from elaborately cut paper works and presented like archived insects in entomological display drawers from the Natural History Museum, Berlin.
Our fellow friend & filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming curated this intriguing exhibition which runs until October 8th.
The other day I wrote briefly about the importance of using ART in all its various forms (to view, read or listen to) as a healing tool for managing grief. Here’s one of the best remarkable examples of a great art piece created out of tragedy to commemorate a terrible time in history:
Probably Picasso’s most famous work, Guernica is certainly his most powerful political statement, painted as an immediate reaction to the Nazi’s devastating casual bombing practice on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
Guernica shows the tragedies of war and suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace.
On completion, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed. This tour helped bring the Spanish Civil War to the world’s attention.
Another reason why ART is so important in recovery.
Omar Ortiz – born in Guadalajara, Mexico (1977) where he still resides.
His paintings are surreal. His work is characterized as minimalistic – described as hyperrealism where the human body is predominate, done in oil with texture-filled backgrounds. He has also worked with pastels, charcoal, watercolor, acrylics, and airbrushing.
Omar describes his work:
“Since I started painting I have always tried to represent things as real as I can. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes not, but it’s a fact that it is very difficult for me to do the opposite. I really enjoy the challenge of reproducing skin tones under natural light and the nuances that it gives us, particularly in bright conditions. I like to keep simplicity in my pieces since I believe that excess make us poorer rather than rich.”
Art moves us. Everyone should be in agreement with this. While we may not all agree on liking a specific piece enough to want to hang it in our home, we can admire the work for what it is and the dedication involved in bringing something to life and/or giving us something to ponder. Everyone can visualize something different in abstract, but in realism everyone sees the same – it’s like looking in the mirror (technically speaking).
Opera unites music, poetry, drama, and spectacle in the most elaborate of all art forms.
So it was an absolute pleasure to finally attend “Opera in the Park“, the Palm Springs premier cultural event in April . This is the first time I’ve stayed here this long. Usually I’m gone by the end of March because it gets too hot here, but this time I decided to stay a little longer. The event takes place at Sunrise Park which is a very short drive from where I live (part-time of course).
I originally had a spot reserved under the big white tent but decided to sit on the grass just outside it in a shady area with my lawn chair and the lunch I packed because I wasn’t sure they’d have food. But they did have food and drinks. And souvenirs. Most people were sitting outside the tent. It was lovely.
This live concert with arias from operas by Bizet, Delibes, Donizetti, Gounod, Mozart, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi draws thousands of people from all over Southern California every April in a celebration of great music with a professional orchestra conducted by Valery Ryvkin. In addition, a special tribute to Leonard Bernstein’s Centennial featured music from West Side Story and Candide. It also marked the 20th Anniversary of Opera in the Park. Oh, did I mention that it’s free?
The Palm Springs Opera Guild Orchestra performed from 1-4 pm with famous operas including Carmen, Rigoletto, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata, Faust and more.
There were food vendors from well known establishments offering delicious sandwiches, salads, platters, wine, beer, and cocktails. You could even pre-order online from Triorestaurant.
Presenting Sponsors: The Augustine Foundation and
*Newman’s Own Foundation
Using the power of philanthropy to transform lives*Newman’s Own Foundation is all about supporting people doing great things. People whos stories inspire us.
This month there’s also Coachella, a more famous and enormously profitable music festival with a great long lineup. A lot of musicians whom I’m familiar with and many I’m not. But it was actually Opera in the Park that I really wanted to go to. Coachella maybe another time.
Have you been to either?
Opera in the Park: Music Director: Mona Lands. Artistic Director: Andrew Eisenmann.
Last Thursday I had the opportunity to see a special performance from London’s National Theatre of Tennessee Williams’s 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
But I saw it from the comfort of my seat at the Camelot theatre in Palm Springs.
When my friend Megan told me she had an extra ticket for the showing I actually thought we were going to watch a live stage performance. It was instead a pre-recorded live performance in select cinemas around the world for one night only. And to my surprise it was very much like being right there in person. Or at least the closest thing to experiencing the actual feeling of sitting in the theatre. This was the first I’ve heard of National Theatre Live.
National Theatre Live was founded specifically to bring access to the incredible live performances of The National Theatre and shares them with audiences who may not have the opportunity to go to London’s West End to see them.
Broadcasts retain the feeling of a live performance and though each broadcast is filmed in front of a live audience in the theatre, cameras are carefully positioned throughout the auditorium to ensure that cinema audiences get the ‘best seat in the house.’ I was amazed at how good it was.
I vaguely remember seeing the movie about a tempestuous marriage in a dysfunctional family with lots of secrets and lies. In the original it was Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in the title roles and I thought who would ever be able to outdo them? But this play, directed by Benedict Andrews managed to pair a wonderful Jack O’Connell as drunken husband Brick, and an amazing performance by Sienna Miller as Maggie “the cat”, Brick’s neglected wife. It’s a steamy family fight for survival that’s complex, riveting, disturbing and poetic all at once. I have to admit their Mississippi accents makes the fighting and arguing sound that much more romantic.
So unless I’m actually in London, I’ll be on the lookout for more of these cinematic events by this exceptional company.
ABOUT NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE National Theatre Live launched in June 2009 with a broadcast of the National Theatre production of Phèdre with Helen Mirren. NTL captures live performances from the National Theatre and from other theatres in the UK and broadcasts them in more than 2,500 movie theaters and other venues in 60 countries worldwide. As of February 2017, the global audience reached almost 8 million people.
Next Production is Hamlet – The 2015 broadcast, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, returns to UK and international cinemas.
I could change the heading to Melancholy Mood a song sang by Frank Sinatra but that sounds pretty gloomy. After viewing a special screening of the fabulous documentary film by *Leo Zahn which ended Modernism week here in Palm Springs, we know Sinatra’s life was anything but gloomy.
Sinatra in Palm Springs – The Place He Called Home.
I, like so many others have always loved Sinatra’s music, his style and well…the lifestyle was anything but dull. Because I’ve spent the last several years coming to Palm Springs and now live here part of the year I was really looking forward to seeing this film if only because it explored Frank Sinatra’s deep attachment to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, his primary home for almost 50 years.
His wife Barbara called him a desert rat. Meaning he embraced the dreamy “desert rat” lifestyle of tennis, golf, cocktails, cards and entertaining. Very similar to my lifestyle minus the tennis, golf and cards.
The film captures the spirit of the Sinatra era and pays tribute to the unique lifestyle especially surrounding the renowned racquet club. Revealing interviews bring to life a bygone era . . . beginning with the post-WWII years and Sinatra’s 1947 home in Palm Springs, tumultuous times with Ava Gardner, his 1954 move to Rancho Mirage, his marriage to Barbara, and life at the “compound.” Major sequences are dedicated to historic restaurants Sinatra frequented for decades. Many still here and some I’ve gone to. My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting with Mel Haber who owned the historic Ingleside Inn and Melvyn’s cocktail bar which Sinatra frequented. He described Sinatra as having “an aura” about him. He’s the first and last person to be interviewed in this wonderful documentary. It didn’t matter which president or other famous person frequented your estabishment. Everyone wanted to know if Frank or “Mr. S” as they referred to him came in. If he showed up with his entourage and liked it, you were good. If he didn’t like the pasta it could get thrown against the wall.
‘Sinatra in Palm Springs’ tells the story of a man whose generosity and compassion for his fellow citizens had no bounds. He loved the desert and its people. He loved the local restaurants and bars. His best friends lived nearby.
How many people can aspire to live like him? It’s a large, legendary life and that’s why the screening was sold out. He really did do it HIS WAY.
At the end of the screening Mr. Zahn (*the filmmaker) was here for an audience Q&A.
And that’s another thing I love about being here. The filmmakers are on hand to answer questions especially during Film Fest and Modernism.
A bad attitude is like a flat tire. If you don’t change it, you’ll never go anywhere.
Cycling is an enjoyable sport. Recently I’ve gotten on my bike to do a grocery run, pick up pizza from a nearby restaurant and meet friends for coffee. Sometimes it’s fun to be part of a local event even if you’re not a big enthusiast. But I might become one.
The *Tour de Palm Springs may not be The Tour de France but there are some similarities. For instance, thousands of cyclists riding along gorgeous scenery while challenging themselves for many miles to help fundraise for a variety of charities.
February 10th: I just did the 100 10 mile tour which although hardly challenging, was worthwhile and rewarding in the sense that I tried it out for the very first time. It wasn’t a race, it was a ride – there’s a difference. Bands and cheerleaders entertained us by playing the American anthem & then as we began filing out, the theme from Rocky. With so much energy it made us feel like athletes. Actually, there were some authentics.
What was really great was attending a carb loaded dinner with outdoor seating the night before, then watching an award winning documentary at the **Palm Springs Cultural Centre (used to be the Camelot Theatre).
In partnership with the American Documentary Film Festival, Tour de Palm Springs presented Le Ride The story of the first English speaking team to ride the Tour de France. Multi Award winning producer Phil Keoghan (creator The Amazing Race) showed us what it was like to do the ride in 1928 when he re-created a history that many are not aware of. He challenged himself to the toughest road race in the world by retracing the 1928 Tour de France riding an original vintage bicycle with no gears, breathtaking scenery all along the way. Keoghan was in attendance for the screening and for a Q&A at the end. He was also riding on the Tour de Palm Springs. But I have a feeling he did the whole 100.
The **Palm Springs Cultural Center, a non-profit organization, was established to encourage the development of the cultural arts in the Coachella Valley with a specific focus in the areas of film, fine art, live performance, dance, music, and community festivals. The Center is dedicated to advancing education, to nurturing community-wide participation in the cultural arts, and to sponsoring scholarship awards for deserving individuals.
*Tour de Palm Springs is a sponsored event designed to raise money for nonprofit organizations in the Coachella Valley and helps support more than 100 local charities. It’s also great exercise.
I wanted to prove that I, as an individual, deserved a place in the world – Paul Revere Williams.
Focus on Palm Springs Modernism and Preserving the Legacy of Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980): Architect to the Stars…and Everyone Else.
“Expensive homes are my business and social housing is my hobby,” Williams once said.
One of my favorite months to be in Palm Springs is February, if only for the numerous events surrounding Modernism Week. A feast for the senses; especially the eyes.
The mission of Modernism Week is to celebrate and foster appreciation of midcentury architecture and design, as well as contemporary thinking in these fields, by encouraging education, preservation and sustainable modern living as represented in the greater Palm Springs area. But you don’t have to be here to appreciate it. But if you are here, you’ll certainly enjoy it!
“California represented an acceptance of both Williams, as an African-American and his work. Maybe Southern California was the only place he could have achieved all this.” -Robert Timme, dean of the USC School of Architecture
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz tapped Williams in 1954 to design their Palm Springs residence. The Ball Arnaz home is an excellent example of his uncanny ability to transform a client’s dreams into substance.
Frank Sinatra also hired the architect to build a house. Williams recalled the experience designing for the crooner as particularly challenging.
“Frank Sinatra wanted a bedroom; press a button and the doors open to the patio. Press another button and the bed rolls out into the patio.” Ahhhh….. if you can, why not?
In a nutshell….
Paul Revere Williams is an important part of Southern California’s architectural legacy. He’s well known for his sumptuous residential designs for movie stars, entertainment and business leaders, mastering a range of styles from Southern Colonial to Spanish Colonial, from Hollywood Regency to Modern. While residential design would remain an important part of his practice, in the course of his five-decade career, Williams designed thousands of buildings of all types, served on many municipal, state and federal commissions, and was active in political and social organizations earning the admiration and respect of his peers.