“Won’t You be my Neighbor?”

Love; or the lack of, is at the Root of all things – Fred Rogers

I never expected to shed a tear watching a documentary about a popular childrens TV show from the past.  But one of the scenes from “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) touched a chord. And when I looked around me, it was obvious that I wasn’t the only one crying.  Mr. Rogers Neighborhood hit a common thread in its most simplest form.  It reminded us of our innocence because we all grow up so quickly and the world has changed so much.  But really; we’re still kids at heart.

Our basic needs are the same no matter where we live, our religion, ethnicity, age, economic status or our jobs.  It is to feel safe, loved and worthwhile.  End of story.

Sorry; no skeletons in the closet found anywhere in this feel-good documentary  It’s almost impossible to not uncover even a little dirt on anyone nowadays, specifically the famous.  And you can imagine someone especially as likeable as Mr. Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers).  And by now they would have uncovered something from having interviewed many who knew him. For me, it was a case of not wanting to know any different. Because Fred Rogers was loved by millions of children, even though he was the unlikeliest role model. It is fascinating that he endured for so long.  This doc was a great character study.

We find out Rogers decided to go into television because he hated what he saw on TV.  So he created what can best be described as a landmark in children’s television.

But imagine being that likeable…

The thing is Fred Rogers, along with genuine spirituality…really, really cared.  And that is what is most admirable.  It was not only his persona, it was him.  No big secret.  Kids aren’t stupid; they picked up on his sincerity.  The show was a refuge for kids from all kinds of backgrounds.

Fred Rogers was a tireless children’s activist and advocate, bringing joy into our homes.  Can you think of any program like that now?

We certainly remember Eddie Murphy’s comical take with the spoof “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood on SNL.  It was pretty hilarious.

I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.

Rogers was an ordained minister who studied religion which most likely gave him the tolerance and the tools he used with or without puppets, to teach children about worth, unity, grief, racism, superheroes and…everything else that no other program on TV was offering.  It was a unique and needed niche which only he at the time was able to  recognize.  He even managed to get funding for PBS when they were going to cut programming based on his court appearance about the demand for this kind of educational platform.

There was a conversation afterwards with Director Morgan Neville (Oscar®-winner for Twenty Feet from Stardom).  I was already a fan of his work. This heartfelt portrait  more than does justice to the show’s beloved host. Expect to be surprised by the film’s relevance and deeply moved by its subject.  I know I was.

It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.

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 “Botero” – a documentary

A good painter looks for solutions.  A great painter looks for problems – Fernando Botero.

 A fascinating behind-the-scenes profile of Columbian artist Fernando Botero.   The North American premiere of “Botero” at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival was one of the most compelling documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. The figurative painter and sculptor is known as the world’s most recognized living artist –  although someone I knew very little about and was curious to find out more.

For starters, many people only know him from his illustrious paintings of distorted fat ladies.  Well…turns out he’s much more well rounded (pun intended) than that.  He does not only people but landscapes, animals, fruit and sculptures.

Botero’s style is familiar in the same manner that other famous artists are, no matter what they paint. Picasso, Warhol, Monet, Pollock….their style is always identifiable. Botero’s colorful whimsical work with a touch of satire  tends to appeal to the masses.

I was blown away by Botero’s body of work including enormous sculptures which grace some of the world’s major landmarks and institutions. You don’t have to like everything, however you can’t help but  admire and respect it. Not all art critics understand the thought process behind the artist. Some get it, some don’t.  It’s pretty simple.  A great artist makes you feel because there’s a story behind every piece of art whether it’s abstract or otherwise.  It’s not just brush strokes.

For instance,  Botero did a series of paintings of a young boy –  boy is sitting atop a wooden horse, dressed up as an officer.  We learn the young boy was Botero’s son, struck by a truck early on in life and died instantly. This was Botero’s way of honouring his boy.  For a long while the young boy is all he painted.  It must have been torturous for him to do so.  But we look at the painting not knowing the story behind it and feel what we feel .

Director Don Millar who was here in person for a Q&A afterwards delves not only into the psyche of what makes Botero tick, he also interviews Botero’s daughter and two sons.  You see the love and respect they have for their father. They are clearly family people, educated and articulate.

On display: many works by Botero are on display at the Botero Museum in the center of Bogotá, Columbia.

Botero also very generously donated ALL of his private paintings, drawings and sculpures (including works he owned by Picasso, Monet and more) to the Museo de Antioquia in Medellin, his hometown in Columbia.  He now spends most of his time in Italy but the donation in Columbia is a positive way to take the focus off of a city which conjures up images of drug cartels, gangsters and kidnappers. The collection is the largest of his work anywhere to date.

Ringing in the New Year starting with….

I look forward to this time of the year. It always starts off with a bang.  The bang being fireworks for New Year’s Eve and after a day or so of recuperation (depending of course on how much partying I do)…..my favorite way to start the year is by viewing & reviewing a bunch of great films at the Palm Springs International Film Festival; one of the largest film festivals in North America.  It’s always an exciting time to be in Palm Springs.

  • On Thursday, January 3, the annual Film Awards Gala will kick off the festival at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  The gala honours the best achievements of the film year by a celebrated list of talents.
  • The screening portion of the festival will run Friday, January 4 through Monday, January 14.

The Festival welcomes over 135,000 attendees each year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries.  Produced by the Palm Springs International Film Society, the Festival offers 12 days of events and film screenings featuring over 200 films from 78 countries.

I don’t present myself as a movie critic or pretend to be one.  I only attend the films and documentaries that interest me personally and blog about it for this website.  So I am obviously hoping to “like” everything I see and am aware that what I like, you may not.  I’m looking to be entertained and learn something new.  And I feel privileged to be given media passes to premieres and special events.

YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN. Star Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, the face of the “new China,” gave documentary filmmaker Pïetra Brettkelly an all-access pass for this fascinating — and occasionally troubling — behind-the-scenes look at Guo’s life and the run-up to her make-or-break Paris runway show.

See you at the movies!

 

 

 

Film: The Happy Prince

The world is a stage but the play is badly cast – Oscar Wilde

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde

Poet and Playwright Oscar Wilde is famous for many reasons.   I’m most familiar with his whimsical satire of Victorian society The Importance of Being Earnest – a classic about love, deception and mistaken identity.  A great character study… perfectly cast.

 And I saw his lipstick covered tomb at the renowned Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.

Other than that, I learned a lot more when viewing the special presentation of THE HAPPY PRINCE at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) yesterday.

No man is rich enough to buy back his past – Oscar Wilde

Actor Rupert Everett gives a simply remarkable performance as Wilde. He also impressively wrote and directed this powerfully empathetic account of the last years of the legendary Irish writer.

A short synopsis:

After spending two years in prison for his homosexuality—”gross indecency” was the official conviction—Wilde exiled himself to Paris, where he continued his self-destructive lifestyle while living in penury. Buoyed only by occasional contact with old friends Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), and with his wife (Emily Watson) and two sons far away, he’s a desperately lonely man who assuages his pain with alcohol, drugs and a succession of young men.  Everett was born to play Wilde, and his open, deeply felt film both honours his idol and conveys the essence of a man who, deprived of the things that make life worth living, maintained his ironic sense of humour until the end.

I can resist everything except temptation – Oscar Wilde

More exciting cinema until October 12th at:

Viff.org

Paper Diaries

Art speaks where words are unable to explain – Unknown

Diary of a Leitmotif

Leitmotif is 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 Leitmotif at 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.

With Deborah Wargon against a painstaking paper cut backdrop

More info:

www.backgalleryproject.com

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. – Thomas Merton

Healing Art: Picasso’s Guernica

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.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, oil on canvas, 349 cm × 776 cm. (Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid)

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.

 

 

 

 

The HyperRealistic ART of Omar Ortiz

The opposite of Abstract

Omar Ortizborn 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).

Music/Culture: OPERA in the PARK

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 Trio restaurant.

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.

Art/Culture: National Theatre presents “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

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

Sienna Miller & Jack O’Connell in the starring roles. Show image photography -Charlie Grey.

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.

Scene from the play.  Production photography – Johan Persson.

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.

Have you seen one of these?

 

Modern Lifestyle: For the love of Architecture

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.

Residence in Hollywood, Calif., designed in 1928 by Paul R Williams for banking executive Victor Rosetti.

“Expensive homes are my business and social housing is my hobby,” Williams once said.

Paul Williams added the Crescent Wing to the Beverly Hills Hotel

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!

Paul Revere Williams Wins 2017 AIA Gold Medal, LAX Theme Building, 1961
Paul Revere Williams

The Man:

“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.

Modernism Week – February 15-25, 2018.

http://www.modernismweek.com/

In addition, Modernism Week will feature two talks about Williams and his influence in midcentury modern architecture.

The world is a better place because of him.