Feel-good Friday: Listen up

My friend went to Cuba and all she brought back was this fine bunch of Cubans. They’re called Brisas del Palmar.

If you live in Vancouver you have the opportunity to watch them perform this evening.  I’ve seen them before – they’re amazing! In Vancouver for one concert only before returning back to Cuba for Fall/Winter is EL GRUPO CUBANO – BRISAS del PALMAR.

Fresh from engagements in Victoria: these Cuban musical ambassadors have performed for the Pope and granted diplomatic passports to represent Cuba in international music competitions. Their traditional music and danceable tunes are featured daily on the nationally broadcast Radio Taino. Their winter engagements include Bodequita del Medio, the Havana bar made famous by Ernest Hemingway!  Yes, I’ve been there too. And yes, I had a daiquiri (a temporary departure from mojitos).  Havana little more:

Where: St. James Hall – 3214 West 10th Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

When: Friday, October 13th at 8 pm. They start on time. Doors open at 7:30.

Cost:  $20 at the door

Sampling: 5 years ago at the Vogue Theatre:

 

PURE FEEL GOOD MUSIC

 

VIFF: BLUE 

What lies beneath the waves falls on silent shores

The very first time I went scuba diving was in the Bahamas. Fascinated with what lay beneath the sea, I was lucky enough to go out with a team from National Geographic and swam with sea turtles and lots of Grouper.  I was hooked!  Since that time, and in other locales, I noticed it getting rarer and rarer to spot certain fish and especially sea turtles.  A lot of these creatures have been around much longer than me, and sharks have been around since the time dinosaurs roamed the earth. Which is a lot longer than me.

Karina Holden’s Blue is an important and timely documentary for everyone living on planet Earth. Filmed on location in Australia, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Philippines and Indonesia, it’s a very tough closeup look at our oceans and all disappearing marine life.

It really hits home, as it should. It makes you consider your choices and makes you question how you can make a difference.  How even one person can help make a difference.   Think about it.

Why on earth, in this day and age, are people still cutting off shark fins and throwing shark bodies back into the ocean?  It’s sickening and it made me cry. Seabirds who rely on fish to sustain them are also in rapid decline. We, as a whole, have to do something about it. But there is a chain reaction because uneducated people who have no money and who live in small fishing villages in third world countries thrive on the livelihood of this industry. And $100 per shark fin is a lot of money. It is wasteful and horrific.

WARNING: More than half of all marine life has been lost due to plastic pollution, over fishing, habitat destruction and the expansion of industrialization.

While we get closer to a trek to Mars, why not concentrate first on what we can do here on Earth to make our planet a better place for all living species?

Because a healthy ocean is key to a healthy planet.

Please WATCH this short Trailer:

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is on until Friday, October 13th.  For tickets and information please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

 

VIFF: The Florida Project

Two things drew me to this film: 1) Willem Dafoe is in it 2) it shows the gritty side of living near a place where dreams come true.

That place is Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

On the other side of the tracks, just outside the magic kingdom lies a bunch of rundown motels originally built for the overflowing tourist trade looking to save a buck but still be close enough to get fairy dusted.

But this is not an enchanting story. It revolves around a specific motel The Magic Castle. A mother/daughter relationship, a place where tough talking families live, barely able to make ends meet, scraping by just to make the monthly rent as the housing crises rises. The inwardly frustrated although patient motel manager, is played outstandingly by Dafoe. But the real stars of this movie are the motel kids who live in a world all their own.  You feel sorry for them, and you also cannot stand them as they go about their precociously uncaring antics. They are, after all, a product of their upbringing.

It is another world to many of us, but too familiar for many others.  A despairing time and place in America; all too real, right now.

It’s a fascinating look from a safe distance into a chaotic world of what is the opposite of enchantment, mostly seen from the eyes of the kids.

Directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine)

One more week left. Check it out @ https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

VIFF: The Nile Hilton Incident

My reasoning for choosing this feature from the many contemporary world cinema selections were the words “Nile Hilton.”

That’s because I stayed there for almost a month in 1999 (now it’s called the Ramses Hilton) in a beautiful 2-bedroom suite on an executive floor as my husband had business in Cairo.  I would take my coffee on the balcony overlooking the River Nile and enjoy all-day refreshments in the lounge.  It was very decadent at that time and I got to know the staff while Don was working, hung out at the pool and walked a short distance to the Egyptian museum to check out the mummies…more than once.  I got to know a lot of shopkeepers too.  I bought gold jewelry, perfume, leather bags, a silk carpet and a belly-dancing outfit.  I had a lot of time on my hands.  I had my own little incident at the hotel which got resolved quickly with the help of a burly bouncer who came to my rescue, but there were no casualties that I was aware of.

Well that was my first reason. My second was that the movie blurb appeared to be intriguingly film noirish.  It turned out to be better than I had hoped for.  It was a gripping crime mystery filmed on the streets of Cairo; seedy and corrupt. All the elements of a good detective story. It won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the Canadian Premiere and the line was loooong.  I sauntered in thinking I had plenty of time to spare but it was already sold out.  I stood in the standby line even with my media pass (“but you don’t understand…I lived at that hotel”).  Just managed to make it, along with my medium bag of $9 popcorn.

An innocent young maid is witness to the murder of a beautiful singer in one of the hotel rooms.  Noredin, The cop who gets involved, (played by Fares Fares, that’s his name) meets resistance at every step of his investigation and you begin to realize that many people are at play here and politics are involved.  Always, right?

The movie is set in a Cairo on the edge of revolution. On January 25, 2011, all across Egypt, millions of protestors from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyption President Hosni Mubarak.  As the engrossing story enfolds, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

To check out more great cinema at VIFF please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

VIFF: A Fantastic Woman & The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Una Mujer Fantástica – A Fantastic Woman (subtitled)

If I didn’t know any better I would swear this movie was directed by Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, All About my Mother). But it was not. Instead it was Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (who made the smash hit Gloria in 2013).

This is a timely film.  Because it is about time that people are more compassionate and at the very least, more tolerant of those who are different than what those of us less broad minded deem to be “the norm” in society.  But guess what?  This is the new normal.

I found this film to be beautiful, disturbing, touching and frustratingly maddening.  It makes you want to fight for equality.

The main character is played triumphantly by Daniela Vega, an actual trans performer.  As Marina, a nightclub singer living with Orlando, her much older heterosexual lover (played by Francisco Reyes) who suddenly dies, you see her struggle in dealing with non-acceptance and disrespect from all angles. From the police who suspect her to be a factor in Orlando’s death, to the ex-wife who doesn’t want her to come anywhere near the funeral because she will only upset the family….she is humiliated constantly. 

Even so, she faces it all with dignity and a strength most of us would envy.  A powerful movie.  A Fantastic Movie!  I give it a score of 5/5.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a whole other animal.

Here is a perfect example of two top-notch performers: Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell being cast in a perfectly flat out psychological disaster of a movie.  Sorry; but that’s just my opinion.  I’m not saying the performances were not good (the characters were supposed to be flat, joyless and strange I’m guessing) but overall it was so disjointed with no explanation given to……too many situations.  But the music was anything but flat.  It was over the top (again; meaning to be) outlandish.  I never saw the film “The Lobster” but apparently it was a pretty good twisted movie, directed by the same person – Yorgos Lanthimos.

In a NUTshell Farrell plays Andrew, a surgeon who’s patient dies while undergoing an operation.  The patient’s son Martin (played by Barry Keoghan) is a total screwball looking to get back at Andrew.  He keeps showing up in oddball places while I keep wondering (trying to make sense of course) why Andrew keeps allowing him access.  Well it is a movie after all so just don’t question the bad sensibility of the surgeon who invites this boy into his home and brings harm to his once happy family.  And it just goes (and goes, and goes on) from there.  And it gets even weirder.  And there’s spoiler alert: NO happy ending.  My final words are:  I’m just not that into this one!

Special mention: Okja

AND here I thought the special presentation of “Okja” was strange………….  although that one had amazing computer-generated imagery (CGI), and Tilda Swinton who did an excellent job (as always) playing the big boss-lady of a huge company manufacturing genetically modified super pigs.  Also, a surprisingly zany Jake Gyllenhall.  It had everything….humor, violence, glamour, scenery, car chases, crazy people, animal rights activists, capitalists, consumers and mostly, an innocent animal friend. I found it very schizophrenic but with outstanding direction from Bong Joon Ho.  Very Hollywood.  Now streaming on NefFlix.

If I lived up in the mountains of South Korea with only my grandfather for companionship, I’d love to have Okja for a pet.

More reviews to follow

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the films playing until October 13th @  https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

 

ART/FILM/VIFF: Loving Vincent

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

This anticipated animated film about Vincent Van Gogh was a real story telling treat.  What’s so amazing about this film is that it is entirely hand painted with Van Gogh’s paintings serving as the backdrop for each frame.  In fact, it is the very first fully painted feature which took seven years to complete.  It’s visually astonishing!

The story takes place in the French village of Arles (a place I visited with my husband where we sat in the famous Terrasse du café le soir.  Yes; that one!

The son of a local postmaster goes around hunting for clues as to why the painter took his own life. There were conflicting reports as to whether he actually committed suicide. The question is really why Vincent went from a complacent quiet man to someone who would take his own life in a matter of weeks.  A look into a complicated, talented but tortured soul.  Sad that in his lifetime he sold only one of his fine works.  Can you imagine?

He saw beauty in the tiniest of objects and in things that most people would deem insignificant.  A man of true genius.

I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh

Your dream came true, it’s just too bad that you were not around to realize it. 

How people all around the world admire your work and can only dream of owning a piece of you!

Please visit: https://www.viff.org to find out more and how to purchase tickets.  The Film Fest runs until October 13th

 

 

 

 

VIFF: BREATHE & MEDITATION Park

Funny thing about timing that the first two movies I’ve chosen to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival would have the words “Breathe” and “Meditation” – two things that I’m trying to better accomplish.  But enough about me.

Meditation Park

How to make choices?

The first thing I look for when going through the movie listings are the film titles, then to find out who the actors are.  It doesn’t go to prove that actors who are well known will make a better movie, but if I’m familiar with and like the actor’s previous work, I’m more likely to want to see another film they’re in.  But since this is an International Film Festival, you must keep in mind that you will NOT likely be familiar with the talented actors and worthwhile great story telling from a host of other countries.

Then of course the overall synopsis.  But I don’t like to know too too much about the movie because it ruins the element of surprise (which can work out good or bad, depending.) I try to keep it diversified mixing drama, comedy, documentary and thriller. Well done animation is good too  The great overall thing about going to a film fest is that you get to see films firsthand.  And that in itself is exciting enough.  So having said that, here are two simplified reviews to begin:

BREATHE

Oh; and the film clip photos in the booklet attract me.  The romantic, dreamy looking picture has two actors whom I admire: Claire Foy (she played Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series “The Crown” which I became addicted to) and Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spiderman). Suffice to day that was enough of a decision for me to say YES.  Bonus: Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey – watched ALL episodes as it was one of my favourite series).

Breathe is an inspiringly beautiful but tragic story.  In a debut directorial role, Andy Serkis directs the true story of the parents of his best friend and producing partner, Jonathan Cavendish.

It’s about how a couple, Robin and Diana Cavendish refuse to give up their fight when Robin is struck down by polio at only 26 years old, and just before he is about to become a father.  It’s about how people face challenges and overcome hardship in the face of adversity and with a debilitating disease. It is heartwarmingly sad and uplifting at the same time.

MEDITATION PARK

This film was chosen for the Opening Gala.  Directed by Mina Shum, it’s filmed entirely on Vancouver’s East Side & Chinatown.  While I’m familiar with incredible actors Sandra Oh and Don McKellar, the real star of this film is Cheng Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who plays Maria.  A  traditional  first generation immigrant Chinese wife, Maria turns a blind eye to her husband’s (played by Tzi Ma) infidelity at first, but when she decides to break from convention, take charge of her life and become more independent, all hell breaks loose.  It is charmingly funny in part and because I live in Vancouver, partly familiar.

The only common denominator between the two films is that they are family dramas.

VIFF is on until October 13, 2017. For information and to purchase tickets please visit: 

https://www.viff.org

 

Feel-good Friday: Film Fest

It’s that time of year again!

The 36th Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Otherwise known as movie marathon mayhem.  Well not really; because I’m planning to pace myself to no more than three movies per day.  Actually that will only happen one day, because a few of my weekly evenings are tied up with other commitments.  And it could not come at a better time as I’m really looking forward to losing myself in this years most anticipated international films, new discoveries, special presentations, documentaries, contemporary world cinema, and a spotlight on French filmmaking.

And after having carefully leafed through the VIFF guide and marking down my choices, I’ll be happily sharing my thoughts about each film.  Stay tuned…(especially if you’re a film buff).

VIFF takes place from September 28th to October 13th 2017.  For more information and to purchase tickets please visit:

https://www.viff.org/

Beauty/Culture: the Hoop Earring

Every fashionable woman owns at least one pair of hoop earrings.

Photo; Mitchell Sams

At Marc Jacob’s Fall/Winter 2017 show models stomped down the runway with shiny gold hoop earrings.  They ranged from giant three-tiered hoops to a single thin hoop with a diamond encrusted key dangling from it.

From Marc Jacobs show

In the Spring Box  of Style from Zoe Report were these earrings.

The collection, which was also full of oversized fur collared jackets and monochromatic tracksuits, was inspired by the early days of hip-hop.

“It is an acknowledgement and gesture of my respect for the polish and consideration applied to fashion from a generation that will forever be the foundation of youth culture street style,” Jacobs explained in the show notes.

Hoops are one of the most attractive styles of earrings and they come with a story. Anything interesting comes with a story.

Unfortunately, not everyone who borrows from street culture is as eager to acknowledge the contributions of people who created it. The round jewelry has been a favorite accessory for decades from Cher in the 1960s to Madonna in the 1980s, but hoop earrings have a deep-rooted history in communities of color.

This cultural significance of the hoop earring was brought to light recently when three Latina students painted a message to their fellow classmates at Pitzer College in California about their earrings. They scribbled “White girls, take off your hoops” in bright yellow spray paint on a wall outside of a dormitory, after they noticed an influx of their peers wearing oversized hoop earrings.

Photo: Elliot Dordick, The Claremont Independent

Alegria Martinez, one of the students responsible for the graffiti, wrote an email to the student body that stated that they were sick of white women appropriating styles that “belonged to black and brown folks who created the culture.” The controversy came shortly after Elle dubbed the hoop earring a must-have accessory for fall, thanks not only to Marc Jacobs, but others like Fendi and Michael Kors.

Designers, celebrities, and even retailers have been long accused of taking styles from marginalized groups they think are “cool” without any consideration for the context. Last November, people took to social media to call out Urban Outfitters when it attempted to re-brand oversized gold doorknocker earrings. “The same earrings that people find ratchet or ghetto on black women are now $16.00 and sold at hipsters R us. These are literally a dollar at the nearest black hair store. My culture says you’re welcome,” one woman wrote in a Facebook post that has now been shared over 21,000 times.

Hoop earrings have a very long history dating all the way back to the ancient Sumerians from modern-day Iraq in 2600 B.C.  Different variations of the hoop have been adopted by a range of cultures around the world, from the Hmong women of Vietnam to the Gadaba tribe of India, as Vogue points out. But, in America, the style has often been adopted by women of color in an effort to reclaim their culture and celebrate their history.

Hoop earrings became especially popular among African American women during the Black Power movement in the 1960s when many were embracing Afrocentric dress. From activists like Angela Davis to artists like Tina Turner, more women were adopting an African-inspired look that embraced natural hairstyles and hoop earrings.

As Tanisha C. Ford writes in her book, Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, “In African-inspired clothing and large hoop earrings and sporting Afros and cornrow braids, Americans and Britons of African descent envisioned soul style as a symbolic baptism in freedom’s waters through which they could be reborn, liberated from cultural and social bondage of their slave and colonial past.”

The statement jewelry carried on into the 70s when it was embraced by disco divas like Diana Ross and Donna Summer. When the 80s rolled around, their thin gold hoops were traded for thick gold “door knocker” and bamboo hoop earrings by hip-hop artists like Salt N Pepa and MC Lyte.

By the 1990s, oversized hoop earrings were a fixture of Chola style, which was embraced by working-class Mexican American women in Southern California. The radical look was defined by slicked-down baby hairs, dark lip-liner, and door-knocker hoop earrings.

But, it was about more than just fashion. As Barbara Calderón-Douglass writes in her piece “The Folk Feminist Struggle Behind the Chola Fashion Trend,” “The chola aesthetic is the result of impoverished women making a lot out of the little things their families could afford.”

Martinez, who grew up in Southern California, says she sees the style as a form of resistance. “We are women of color from Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Bernadino and that is where this cultural style comes from,” explained Martinez. “Whenever we wear our hoops, or when I wear bold eyeliner and red lipstick, I feel really proud to be from that background.”

Fashion has always taken influences from different cultures. The problem with appropriating styles like hoop earrings is that many women of color still can’t wear these “trends” without facing discrimination for looking too “ghetto.” Not to mention, many of those who are eager to slip on a pair of hoop earrings fail to use their platform for any meaningful discussion about race.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, artist Helena Metaferia

Just last season Marc Jacobs faced a fury of appropriation accusations when he sent a predominantly white cast of models down the runway wearing colorful pastel dreadlocks. The designer had attributed the collection to the style of club kids, but failed to mention that the hairstyle has history in African culture. So, when the designer made a point to attribute his fall 2017 aesthetic to the early days of hip-hop and the people of color who created it, many were eager to praise him for finally appreciating the culture rather than merely appropriating it.

Hopefully, more in the industry will take note.

Source for this Story: http://i-d.vice.com

Life + Culture: Curtains (a book about life)

The peculiar circle of lifeTake a clue from an interesting read called “Curtains.” Why leave your life up to chance?  Choreograph it, script it…like the film you always thought you were starring in anyway.  Lives just don’t happen! They are projects.  This is what gives them meaning. You are responsible for the contents. You must fill up your dash. The dash being the short time in between the day you were born until the very end (1989  ????) And there are books to help you do it.  Books like 1,000 things to do before you die.  Which in reality only makes you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. Although it’s a start for those who don’t know where to begin.  It’s all about living with purpose.  It’s important to live each day as if it’s your last because one day you will be right.

A friend of mine lent me a book to read entitled “Curtains”.  A book that I have to preface by saying I would never have chosen to read if I knew what it was about.  Because it has a lot to do with death and I didn’t want to go there. So this is somewhat of a book review and an overview of the meaning of life taken from what I read and my thoughts.

Why this book?

As it so happens the person who lent it to me used to be a professional curtain maker.  He made beautiful curtains for a living and so the title jumped out at him at the library.  I know; who goes to libraries anymore? Anyway it makes sense; he thought it was about curtains and was curious.

At the time he lent it to me I was just starting a book called Tango, a Love Story that another friend gave me because she knows that I love tango, the dance.  A light feel-good true story that was very timely. Let me tell you; Curtains is the furthest away from tango…maybe closer to Last Tango (in Paris or elsewhere).  But it is about the dance of life.

My friend assured me that he had not intended to read Curtains when he figured out what it was about but once he started he could not put it down and everyone he lent it to… same story.  I was intrigued and said I’d give it a go.  At least one chapter. So I put my beautiful tango book on hold to read a book about life coming around full circle to ultimately…death.  In a nutshell I found it morbidly fascinating, well written, extremely tongue in cheek, lots of wit but not without the gorey details.

Curtains was written by Tom Jokinen, a veteran radio producer (Morningside, Definitely Not the Opera + more) and a video-journalist at the CBC. He set his career aside in 2006 to be an apprentice undertaker at a small third generation family-run funeral home and crematorium in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  This drastic vocational change at the age of 44 resulted with him writing this book.  Why? Mostly he did it because he wanted to find out first-hand what goes in that gap between death and burial at a time when our relationship with the dead is radically changing.  What he found is from the mundane to the macabre, to the completely comic to the totally heartfelt. It delves into religion, different beliefs, customs and beyond.  It is a fascinating read. It’s about humanity and an exploration of our culture’s relationship with the dead, dying and those left behind. It prompts a question: Why do we each spend up to $10,000 – for most, the third-biggest cash outlay in our lives after a house and a car, according to Jessica Mitford, who wrote The American Way of Death – on funerals?

It may have been the prelude to the widely popular Netflix series 6 ft. under (which I hear was really well done but have never watched). What it basically comes down to is we don’t want to know; we do want to know; we’re confused; we’re better off not knowing, but we’re curious, sorry to know; not sorry; a little sorry! I’m not sure but I read the whole book anyway.  Too late! But it’s something we will all ultimately be dealing with whether we like it or not. From the book:

A modern take is that a man is now defined not by his faith but by his hobbies and quirks. Did he golf?  Was she an avid gardener?  Everyone is an avid something: an avid bowler, drinker, sailor or snake charmer.  Avidity is the key to unlocking your story.

Having faith doesn’t mean you have to be religious but religious faith, when it comes to death, is a fairy tale that soothes.  It doesn’t deny there’s a monster in the closet or a wolf in the woods but it tames them.  A study at Yale, published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, found that “bereaved individuals who relied on religion to cope generally used outpatient services less frequently compared to non-believers.

Epicurus said that there’s no need to fear the oblivion after we’re gone if we never cared about the oblivion that came before we were born.

“Curtains is deft, funny, surprising and above all thought-provoking.  Benjamin Franklin said that to know a society you only had to visit its cemeteries.  Jokinen has taken him up on that, and added in our funeral parlours and crematoria.  What emerges is a sharply focused picture of twenty-first-century North America – we’re uncertain about our values, distracted by inessentials but yearning, like every culture, to understand the meaning of death and the dead body, which is just another way of understanding life and humanity.” – Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Mourner’s Dance.

Food for Thought

Would this book pique your interest?