Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ESL certified; BA cum laude<Temple + ABD/Romance Linguistics<Cornell. Native French/fluent Spanish.
Live outside of Philadelphia, PA on the Main Line (near Valley Forge) USA
mais je suis francaise.....
Don't get too comfortable in your own space!
Literally. Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott was a little gem of a book which could not be pigeon-holed into a specific genre over a hundred and fifty years ago and as a result ended up on Science Fiction shelves. Combining Geometry and Philosophy (and even Religion), it was an allegory on the human condition, describing a very rigidly-structured Society where square pegs aspired to fit through round holes.
The plot focuses on A. Square, who is led to a series of epiphanies on the Nature of Reality itself to the realization that not only is there an existence beyond his two-dimensional plane in the form of a 3-dimensional universe, but that further dimensions are implied. He learns that appearances are not necessarily all they seem.
Difficult to conceptualize in its reading, Llad Ehlinger, Jr. has managed to graphically express this evolution of the mind. Despite these worlds being populated exclusively by geometric shapes, we are drawn into the story and feel A. Square's transformation as though it were our own, which it hopes to be. Flatland itself is appropriately extremely two-dimensional, yet has endearing qualities. From our hero's perspective, he is at first confused, then exhilarated as he is lifted into the three-dimensional world. We are taken along for the dizzying ride. This is only the beginning for A. Square, who then postulates other worlds with both less and more dimensions. Ehlinger has a sequence which can only be an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey as multi-dimensionality is explored.
As if this were not a big enough task to tackle, Ehlinger expands the storyline by applying some of the original concepts of Governments to their logical path to War. Flatland, both the book and the movie, can be appreciated at many levels. By adding an extra layer, Ehlinger has actually simplified the book.
I enjoyed this movie. It is mind-bending and thought-provoking, with a graphic element integral to its message. A potentially too-heavy treatise is lightened by very humorous details, such as the warbled battle cries of female lines in Flatland, who need to both sway and make noise at all times in order to be seen when not approached from their sides, so as not to pierce unobservant polygons! There is more than meets the eye to this unusual independently filmed and marketed movie. One viewing may not be enough.
Beowulf & Grendel (2005)
From Sheepskin to Celluloid
Breath-taking scenery, strong performances and an unexpected message come together in Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel. Forget the dusty, inaccessible saga that may have been forced upon you in High School or as a College Freshman in English Lit! New life is breathed into Beowulf, the oldest text of recorded English, first set to sheepskin in 1000 A.D. after 500 years of survival through oral tradition. The acclaimed Canadian director of Rare Birds stays true to the bones of what undoubtedly started as a campfire story of a battle between Man and Monster without resorting to CGI or other special effects. Instead, he relies on the talents of an impressive international cast and an intelligent screenplay against the backdrop of a stunningly primal Icelandic landscape upon which no human had set foot in 800 years. You won't need Cliffs Notes to understand this examination of who and what defines "Other-ness" and how it is treated. The knee-jerk fear factor response is as prevalent today as it was in the early Viking slice-of-life portrayed.
Beowulf & Grendel owes as much to John Gardner's Grendel as it does to the Beowulf epic. The roles of Hero and Monster do not so much embody intrinsic Good and Evil as reflect qualities attributed to their assigned archetypes. How and why we assign those roles is at the heart of the first-ever serious adaptation of the anonymous poem. The movie systematically leads us through a labyrinth of History, Cultures, the psycho-social reaction to Outsiders and the unfortunate results of those actions to the inescapable conclusion that we are not so different from one another. The ensuing Logic would then dictate that War is merely a lazy solution to a problem better addressed by examining our own psyches.
Beowulf is portrayed with astonishing depth by the Scottish actor, Gerard Butler, who is accumulating an impressive array of credits from Attila (the highest-rated U.S. mini-series) to Phantom of the Opera (the lavish 2005 Musical) to Dear Frankie (the award-winning independent Scottish film), to name a few. As always, he throws himself whole-heartedly, thoughtfully, and more important, believably, into the role of Hero, which in less-capable hands might be one-dimensional. Even the screenwriter, Andrew Berzins, was both surprised and impressed by the levels to which Mr. Butler plumbed the character "all in his facial expressions." Rising above his mastery of brooding good looks through tangled locks of hair, he manages to have us look through his eyes, rather than at his eyes - no mean feat for someone who is undeniably easy on the eyes! Beowulf emerges as the antithesis of the later Danish Prince, Hamlet, who is so introspective that he is paralyzed into inaction. In contrast, Beowulf willingly accepts the yoke of the traditional Hero and initially and immediately acts without thinking. He recognizes his Destiny in this life and beyond, stating, "I'll go where I'm sent!" He does not, however, stop there. Delving into the reasons behind his mission, he becomes a relentless, if uneasy, historical detective, needing to unearth the cause of the troll/monster Grendel's savagery.
The Hero's journey, punctuated by pre-destined acts of violence, is one in which we participate and evolve along with Beowulf, with the assistance of the witch, Selma (appropriately ambiguously played by the popular Canadian actress, Sarah Polley). Although she and Beowulf do pair off at one point, theirs is not really a romantic connection. She serves as a sort of conduit between Beowulf and Grendel, leveling the playing field between them.
Grendel is splendidly brought to heartbreaking life by Iceland's biggest Star, Ingvar Sigurdsson. Interestingly, his 4-year-old son makes a very credible acting debut as the young Grendel, orphaned in no uncertain terms at the start of the movie and laying the foundation for the carnage to come. Harking more to Gardner's Grendel than the unremittingly bloodthirsty troll of the original poem, Mr. Sigurdsson manages to express both the innocence and tragedy of Grendel with gusto, exploring his un-human characteristics without judgment. It is a tribute to his talent that rather than being horrified by a scene in which we see Grendel bowling with victims' severed heads, we identify with the spirit of pure Joy breaking through a monster's lonely existence.
Providing a context for the Hero/Monster mythos is a superb cast of supporting characters. Stellan Skarsgard is the alcoholic Danish king Hrothgar, not only unwilling to accept responsibility for the scourge of Grendel, but not even wanting to consider "why a f***ing troll does what a f***ing troll does." Eddie Marsden plays the foaming-at-the-mouth crazed Irish Catholic priest, Brendan, heralding the advent of Christianity and the desire of a people to unburden themselves of any and all accountability for their actions. And Ronan Vibert embodies the equivalent of modern day mass media as the Bard, Thorkel, through whom the saga is transformed (over Beowulf's objections) into a revisionist history which does not bear close examination. As Martin Delaney notes as the young warrior, Thorfinn, what we are left with are "tales of sh*t." The old Beowulf is not gone. The tone of the original oral tradition is maintained by Berzins' strict adherence to Anglo-Saxon and Norse root words and an ongoing thread of bawdy humor against a relentless musical score rife with tribal drums. The comic relief serves, as in Shakespeare's tragedies, to lighten and make palatable the raw impact of some harsh realities revealed. But a new Beowulf & Grendel rises from the ashes. This blood and guts epic, with its undeniably spiritual undercurrent, balances swordplay with word play, and the audience is left to draw their own conclusions in the bloody aftermath. The tag line, "Heads will roll!" refers not only to the blood-soaked battle scenes, but to the thought processes set in motion that will leave you re-evaluating concepts of and motives behind Love, Loyalty, and War long after you leave the theater.
The Game of Their Lives (2005)
We got Game!
O.K., how many of you know that the U.S. beat a heavily-favored English team in a 1950 World Cup Soccer upset? No? No-one? Researching the annals of Sports headlines would not necessarily provide you with the correct information, as the win was so astonishing that the final score of 0-1 was assumed by British journalists to be a typo, and was reported as an English victory of 10-1! And the American Press was too busy covering the onset of the Korean War to pay much attention to the unexpected triumph by a hastily thrown-together U.S. team in a sport which had not yet caught on in the States.
The Game of Their Lives exists to correct this glaring omission in Sports History. David Anspaugh (Hoosiers, Rudy) has directed the quintessential Soccer movie, compelling in its simplicity. Forced by an extremely limited budget to pare this true story down to its bare bones, what emerges is a straight-forward accounting of the American Spirit. On my way to the St. Louis premiere, an African taxi driver put it succinctly, yet enthusiastically, commenting, "Yes! Yes! That's what you Americans do! You make up your minds, pull things together and get things done!" The minimalist story is told in flashback.
Patrick Stewart (Yes, Star Trek) lends his authoritative voice to narration, in the role of Dent McSkimming, the only American reporter to cover the game in Brazil, traveling at his own expense. The setting is primarily "the Hill," a working class Italian-American neighborhood of St. Louis, MO. Against a visually accurate if somewhat nostalgic depiction of post-WW2 optimism and Family Values, the team players selected just weeks before the first round World Cup matches are introduced. It is immediately clear from their devotion to the game that Soccer is a thinly-veiled metaphor for Life for these amateurs. Against this backdrop of a simpler time, a result-oriented male psyche is exposed.
Gerard Butler gives a stand-out performance as Frank Borghi, the steadfast Goalie who is the heart of the team. Mr. Butler has demonstrated incredible range in recent films, going from action hero (Tomb Raider II) to big budget musical (Phantom of the Opera), to independent foreign film (Dear Frankie), to this near-documentary Sports ensemble piece. Just as Borghi is the glue which cements the U.S. team, Butler holds the cast together with an unrelenting presence. His measured determination is balanced against the frustrated pessimism of the titular Team Captain, the less-than-charismatic yet eminently practical Walter Bahr - who went on to coach at Penn State, played by Wes Bentley (American Beauty). Also turning in notable performances are the Mandylor brothers, Costas and Louis, together in a movie for the first time, portraying unrelated players. The personal stories rivet the audience to the chain of events which culminate in the eponymous game.
The match in question was played and shot on location in Brazil. Despite foreknowledge of the outcome, game play is heart-stoppingly exciting and the camera angles place you in the thick of the competition. There is some real Soccer being played on screen! Although I am not an avid Sports fan, I was surprised to find myself on the edge of my seat and carried away by the immediacy of the action. At the premiere in St. Louis, it was heart-warming to see several of the original players in person, including Frank Borghi, being finally honored after 55 years for their remarkable achievement.
Dear Frankie (2004)
Dear Frankie, on its Way to Your Heart
This quiet little film from Scotland is impossible not to like, as it observes without judging the interplay between a struggling single mom and her deaf son, and the stranger she has drawn in to support a lie she has perpetrated in order to protect him.
Much to the chagrin of her more practical mother, Lizzie has concocted a full-blown fantasy of a romantic sailor and maritime adventures to explain the physical lack of a father in Frankie's life. She took the name ACCRA from a stamp and has the boy track this imaginary ship and write letters to a PO Box, which she then collects herself and answers in the absent father's name. Predictably, a ship by that name comes into port one day, and Lizzie, rather than dash her son's carefully-protected beliefs, chooses a stranger to stand in for the prodigal dad for 24 hours.
Emily Mortimer portrays the selfless mom with a matter-of-factness that precludes any semblance of cloying sentimentality. Her all-too-familiar plight does not pigeon-hole her as a victim, but rather allows her to be the hero of her own story. And Jack MacElhone plays her 9-year-old son with such guileless directness and humor that there is simply no feeling sorry for him.
The heart of the movie, however, is in the developing relationship between Frankie and the Stranger, aptly played by Gerard Butler, last seen emoting spectacularly as the Phantom of the Opera in a tour de force of song and angst. Here, in a very restrained and nuanced performance, Mr. Butler manages to establish such a strong presence that it is literally palpable even when his character is off-screen. Frankie blossoms at the inclusion of a tangible father figure in his life, and he and the Stranger manage to convey a depth of emotion without resorting to dialogue. This is a subtle form of acting by implication.
This is Shona Auerbach's directorial debut, and it is an auspicious one. Her background in still photography is evident in the gorgeous cinematography, but it is the simple story-telling and the characters that drive the film. Dear Frankie avoids the platitudes and pitfalls of a potentially overwrought theme and provides fresh insights in an almost casual manner. We can only hope that Ms. Auerbach will continue to shed her clear and sympathetic light on other social issues in future films.