Monday, June 27, 2011

A Magical Midnight

What a better gift for my birthday than to be transported to the past to a magical era of art, beauty, design, and passion!  Midnight In Paris is a truly wonderful film that captures every essence of Paris.  Through an introductory montage of Paris streets, monuments, cafes, buildings, and inhabitants, I really felt that I was transported to the Capital of Modernity.  What follows is a Woody Allen tale of lost love, comedy, and culture with a pinch of sarcastic salt and pessimistic pepper. 

Gil (Owen Wilson) embarks on a vacation with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her ritzy parents to Paris.  One night he finds himself walking alone back to his hotel buzzed and at the stroke of midnight, is swept back into the 1920s where he meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway all on the same night!  The line between past and present is paper thin and thankfully Allen addresses this issue delicately and not like an episode of Lost where time travel is a staple to understanding the plot. Of course his family considers him crazy but he continues to push through Paris, searching for the missing piece for his novel  in progress.  On his journey, he meets Gertrude Stein who helps him on his novel, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Juan Belmonte, T.S. Eliot, and finally Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  With each new yet famous character that enters the frame, I glowed with more and more astonishment at how real the meeting seemed and how magnificent the meeting would be- if it were only possible...  It leaves you with hope in that not all creativity is lost in this world.
Gil as he contemplates imagination
and reality in Midnight in Paris.
In only 90 minutes, you learn that the true meaning of life is in the present, not the past. You hear about how the Golden Age (of any place) was the most magical time, but once Gil was transported back to the 1920s, the Parisians found it just as dull and unspectacular as we do our present; however grandly Gil was transfixed by the literary and artistic wonders he prays to so fondly.  In the end of the film we are unknowingly propelled further back into La Belle Époqueanother era of fine European culture that began in the late 19th Century. Here, our dazzling Mademoiselle Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard, finds herself in love with a time that preceeded her as well and it is only at this moment that our protagonist realizes that inspiration and imagination are not always reality.  The past has helped him clear his mind but without a present, he has no headquarters for his thoughts to reconvene.  This is why it is important not to wish for a different life of a different time with different aspirations, talents, or worries.  Live in the now and make the most of it. Travel the world and let it inspire your imagination.  Go make today the best yet by thinking about your dreams and not wasting any more time wishing your life away for any other.
Adriana and Gil walking the streets of Paris in the 1920s.
Woody, and Gil, find the rain sexy, revealing and calming, especially for a city as grand as Paris. So go. Walk through Paris in the rain. Without an umbrella. And experience the beauty that wins the audience over in Midnight In Paris.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

This is a film I saw before summer, but I really wanted to write a blog about it to showcase the attention it so rightfully deserves.  Morgan Spurlock, widely known for Super Size Me, follows his same intensive style on a grander path of recognizing product placement, mass marketing, advertising, and more or less, brainwashing.  In teaching the audience about these unhealthy concerns, he succeeds in creating a documentary based entirely on product placement.  The whole basis of advertising and its ultimate money making desire is challenged.  Facts and viewpoints from major company leaders are spilled, giving the audience a peek into a $475 billion business.  In short, the movie records its attempts at finding companies to represent and promote the movie you are currently watching.

The only thing that kept this movie alive was Spurlock's ambition.  The plot was insightful, yet extremely risky. The hundreds of phone calls he made to potential business sponsors, the travelling, the hours of interviews, and the creation of artistic ideas for TV spots and business plugs makes the process seem extremely overwhelming to me.  However, the fast pace, intelligence and humor is what makes this film so enjoyable. The juxtaposition of music and visual enhances all of these qualities.You end up rooting for Morgan like any underdog as Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" slowly crescendos in the background.

One aspect that was intriguing was how the movie brought to fruition its binding contract with business sponsors.  About halfway through the movie Morgan sits down with his lawyer and discusses what shots and scenes MUST be in the final version of the film.  Once they state the necessary: interview in a JetBlue airplane, the 30 sec POM and Mane 'n Tail TV spot and 600 million media impressions, you start to appreciate the layout of shots and the intricacies the filmmakers planned. It is almost like a pre-production meeting where everyone throws out ideas and then once you're watching the film you say, "Hey! I invented that scene!"

Now that you have read this blog and learned all about The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, you can officially call yourself The Greatest Reader Ever of the The Greatest Blog Ever Written!  Enjoy this family friendly movie about a journey into the business side of the film industry.


Rise 'N Raspberry (from My Little Black Book of Smoothies)
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup non-fat raspberry yogurt (or substitute applesauce)
1/2 (frozen) banana
1.5 cups frozen raspberries
1 cup strawberries
Ice, honey


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mutant and Proud

I've waited for this moment all year.  The wind in my hair, the sun in my eyes, the freedom in my breath.  SUMMER!  Also usually a season of horribly designed blockbusters, but we won't go there because summer started with the right bang this time around.  Unheard of, right?! A prequel to a pretty large franchise that actually had some artistic merit.  Those words spark for some interesting comments!  So, in order to start out the summer season, I saw X-Men: First Class.  With such an all star cast, how couldn't I?  Jennifer Lawrence, hot off the red Oscar carpet with Winter's Bone, Nicholas Hoult from Skins and last year's A Single Man, James McAvoy, January Jones, a fleet of other well-known actors: Kevin Bacon, Oliver Pratt (Please Give), Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids); an up-and-coming actor Lucas Till; and delightful cameos from Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romjin.  Only the worst of writers (see I Am Number Four, Pirates 2,3) could have ruined this film, and thankfully their fingerprints are clean.

It was very intriguing to have all of my X-Men prequel questions answered throughout the film, the main one being "How do Erik and Charles possibly become arch enemies?"  No doubt it was set up that way, to intrigue the audience until the last shot when the characters and story lines had been returned to their rightful owner.  It leads the audience on a whirlwind of conforming situations that seem to perfectly align with the previously shot X-Men films.  The film also brings together so many important values, highlighting the mutants in a society of almost entirely deadbeat and narrow-minded humans.  It is a world not too different than the one we live in today where minorities are in a constant game of tug-of-war with society.  First Class did a superb job with referencing the injustices in the world without getting political or cheesy; the subtle references were there for those who wanted to read into the film.  Subtle, yet frequent in dialogue, a few cuts that show homosocial depictions and a single African American allusion to slavery.  More obvious values and ideals include: Right vs. Wrong, Good vs. Evil, believing in yourself, never giving up hope, and having the strength and pride to be happy in your own skin.

I mentioned before 'artistic merit'.  With the right shots and a precise intuition, art can be created with bountiful grace through any medium.  I love myself a plate full of symbolism.  What also gets me crazy for movies is an impeccable eye for editing.  (Usually editing and symbolism go hand in hand.)  For example, in the final battle scene, and without spoiling any juicy details, a match cut is used with crosscutting in order to link Charles' pain with whom he is currently 'interacting'.  Yes, that was me clapping with a film critic's approval.  Aside from implicit art is the explicit. The beauty of the wilderness and on location shooting.  To keep the action-adventure genre alive, the X-Men traveled from New York to Argentina to D.C., Oxford, Russia and they even caught a breath in the freezing Arctic waters.
LOVE these two fine young actors: Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence.

"Between rage and serenity" is a place where beauty and the meaning of life rests.  In the palm of your hand lies your destiny.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 2 Tbs. peanut butter
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • Ice, optional