Saturday, October 20, 2007
My eyes popped when I stumbled across Juicy Couture's full page ad in the weekend paper...
What a fashion statement, for menswear - at least!
Incredulous, I headed down to 450 Rodeo Drive to check out the haberdashery in person!
"Yeah, we're shaking things up in Beverly Hills," the handsome male retailer laughed, with a broad, winning smile.
The 6 foot model-type had the look himself!
His jet-black hair, with a fabulous sheen, screamed money; and, he was fashionably attired in a black "T" with shimmering, luminous images of skulls etched on the quality cloth, atop snug-fitting black jeans.
The label, known as Juicy Couture, is breaking out this fall!
Chic, well-designed jackets, with graffiti sprayed on the inside, and eye-catching details, were definitely luring my style sensibilities.
Juicy is a distinctive, virile look for men.
Some say, it's an edgy off-kilter look that's sleek.
"...you can add a little rock 'n' roll kick to your wardrobe without sacrificing the style. By pairing the right pieces, you'll be able to pull together a cool weekend look with loads of personality."
The eager sales rep noted that pop icons "Duran Duran" - friends of the two female owners - inspired the look.
In fact, the musical charmers will be donning the sizzlin' hot fashion ensembles right off their racks for an upcoming tour.
So, if you're aching to be a musical icon, a fashionista, or just on the leading-edge of "total cool", their threads are for you.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Act which updates and expands the federal hate crimes laws to include bias motivated by violence based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability.
By a vote of 60-39, the Senate ended a debate, conducted a voice vote, and attached it to an amendment to a Department of Defense Authorization Act.
Matthew Shepard's parents, founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, responded by noting they were humbled by the action on the part of the Government,
“Today’s Senate vote sends a bold and unmistakable message that violent crimes committed in the name of hate must end.”
“The Matthew Shepard Act is an essential step to erasing hate in America and we are humbled that it bears our son’s name. It has been almost nine years since Matthew was taken from us. This bill is a fitting tribute to his memory and to all of those who have lost their lives to hate.”
Matthew Shepard was a handsome young college student who was abducted, tortured, and left for dead (his broken body was tied to a fence for 18 hours) in Wyoming.
He died several days later.
Police say the motive for the crime was robbery.
But there was also evidence that the two thugs who committed this act were able to abduct Shepard by first posing as gay men.
The heinous crime caused controversy around the Nation.
In the wake of the brutal murder, liberal activists and interviewers on the morning news shows, teamed up to lay blame for the crime on the "Christian right."
According to one writer, Mona Charen, that this tactic was familiar did not make it any less outrageous or offensive.
She goes on to note that Gay-rights groups and their sympathizers in the broadcast media, seized upon the shocking murder to smear conservative Christians for creating a "climate of hate."
The reasoning behind this argument?
Apparently, a couple of months prior to the event, some conservative Christian groups had circulated print and television ads suggesting that it was possible to leave gay orientation behind, marry, and have children.
According to Family Research Council, one of the groups that sponsored the ads, thousands of men and women have successfully altered their sexual orientation.
The jury is still out on that!
The latest theory on "why gays are gay" suggests that birth order influences male sexual orientation.
According to new research by Anthony Bogaert, a psychologist at Brock University in Canada, gay men tend to have older brothers. Indeed, the more biological older brothers a man has, the greater his likelihood of being gay.
This leads Bogaert to conclude that a man's sexual orientation is influenced by the conditions in his mother's womb when he was a foetus; with successive male children triggering changes in the mother's body that increase the chances that subsequent male children will be gay.
This so-called fraternal gay birth effect creates a prenatal environment that fosters homosexuality in younger sons.
Personally, I find another idea fascinating...whenever there is overpopulation in a species - it turns bisexual, or gay - to curb the problem.
Is man exempt from the laws of nature?
If the answer is no, perhaps the answers to "homosexuality" are waiting to be uncovered with expert research, here....
Henderson and McKinney, the young men who committed the murder, were not brought up on a hate crime, as no Wyoming criminal statute provided for such a charge.
The disturbing and brutal nature of Matthew Shepard's murder prompted calls for new legislation addressing hate crime, urged particularly by those who believed that Shepard was targeted on the basis of his sexual orientation.
As of that date, United States Federal law and Wyoming State law, dictated that crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation were not prosecutable as hate crimes.
Therefore, in the following session of the Wyoming Legislature, a bill was introduced defining certain attacks motivated by victim identity as hate crimes, but the measure failed on a 30-30 tie in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
At the federal level, Bill Clinton renewed attempts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian individuals, women, and people with disabilities.
These efforts were rejected by the United States House of Representatives in 1999.
In 2000, both houses of Congress passed such legislation, but it was stripped out in conference committee.
On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (HR 1592) was introduced as Federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors.
Matthew's parents, Judy and Dennis, were present at the introduction ceremony.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007.
Similar legislation passed in the Senate on September 27th, 2007.
It may be short-lived, however, since the White House has announced there will be a veto of the bill.
In the words of a White House spokesperson Dana Perino,
"We believe that local and State law enforcement agencies are effectively using their laws to the full extent that they can."
Can there ever be enough protection against Hate Crimes?
Maybe, when the senseless violence against individuals - gay, straight, or transgender - stops...
Opening narratives normally turn me off, but in the case of the feature film - "Gone Baby Gone" - the device worked quite effectively.
While the dialogue was a bit preachy as the opening scenes unfolded, undoubtedly, it was Casey Affleck's insightful interpretation of the scripted material that touched a chord.
In sum, his voice evoked a ring of truth which resonated.
One critic noted that Ben Affeck's directing debut on "Baby" was a bit rough around the edges. True.
But, just maybe, he was going for that natural Independent film look without all the slick Hollywood touches.
With a delicate hand and a keen eye, Affleck ushers us into the heart of the story without much fuss or bother.
A young woman's daughter has gone missing.
Without a ransom note - and after a police investigation for three days on a cold trail leads to dead ends - an aunt approaches a young gumshoe (played capably by Casey Affleck) to poke around the neighborhood for clues.
Affleck's character was raised in the area and has inside associations with the locals - so when police leads turn cold - the distraught woman turns to the private dick for help.
With his pretty baby face - and naive demeanor - he appears to be an unlikely candidate for the task. But, when it comes to a crunch, he holds his own admirably.
As he swaggers into the underbelly of the hood, he mixes and mingles with a cast of colorful distasteful characters.
Some individuals would throw up their hands in disgust and retort "white trash".
For sure, casting could have been conducted on the Jerry Springer show.
Actually, Affleck pulled people from the streets to play a handful of small parts in the intense drama.
Hitchcock often cast minor roles with relative unknowns. The legendary directory felt that if an actor's face was less familiar to the audience, it may lend more realism to the film.
It works here!
A lot of the language is pretty foul (raw) with no holds barred.
And - as the story progresses - the bizarre twists and plot turns become a little convoluted!
It's a sordid tale about child abuse, dirty cops, and a slice of life that middle America would prefer to cast a blind eye to.
Some judicious editing would have tightened up the project somewhat.
But, this being Ben's first "baby", he goes all out (what the heck).
When it's determined that the child has not really been "kidnapped" at all, but taken to "save her" from her from a squalid existence, the piece becomes a morality tale.
A question arises.
Should the child be returned to the rightful parent - an immature drug-addicted selfish one - or stay with a family that will provide a loving home and the needs of life?
At this juncture, the floodgates opened for me.
I suppose, I have a confession to make.
When I was seven years old, a strange man came up to me on the street outside my elementary school - addressed me by name - and then asked me one question.
"Are you happy?"
For the life of me - to this day - I can't recall my response.
The next day, he reappeared on a mission.
After my clothes were packed into little bags, he bundled me up into a late model car parked out front.
As we drove off, I stared out the window and caught the distressing image of my mother standing on the stoop, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Although the details are still a little vague, I recall being taken into a small courtroom; then - with little more ado - I was made a ward of the State.
In moments, I was whisked away to a quaint little house in the suburbs, where I was placed in the care of a pleasant elderly couple.
A few days earlier - a couple of my mother's friends had been involved in a drunken brawl - which resulted in a serious injury to one man's head.
In what seemed like seconds, in a nightmarish turn of events, police and medics swirled all around the humble little dwelling, as the authorities tried to resolve the issues.
After an urgent plea from distant relatives and neighbours, child welfare was inclined to release me from my Mother's care, and place me in the custody of the State.
There's a line in the film:
"You are who you are because of where you haven't been."
Over the years, I have reflected on the past, and occasionally it haunts me.
Would I be the same person I am today, if I had not been transplanted from my "roots?"
Although I was nurtured and given the necessities of life - schooled, taken care of physically, mentally, and emotionally - sometimes I long for my youth.
There is no substitute for a Mother's love...
Thursday, October 18, 2007
There is only one reason to purchase a ticket to take in Dreamworks' new feature, "Things we lost in the fire": Benicio Del Toro!
From the moment he saunters on the screen, in this Halle Berre vehicle, every fibre of his being resonates; in essence, his performance is a work of art - a revelation!
In this overly-long drama, he inhabits the persona of an addict with such remarkable precision - and insightful, almost intuitive imaginings - that one sits mesmerized in the theatre spellbound, riveted by each gesture, nuance, and facial expression.
Essentially, the tale is about a woman, Berre - perhaps, more on this later - who loses her husband in a senseless killing and her subsequent struggle to regain her momentum once again in life...
Enter, Del Toro, a lifelong friend of her husband, who arrives at the funeral somewhat disheveled, but coherent.
On the verge of recovery, with monumental problems of his own, he sets aside his own yearnings in a concerted effort to not only heal her wounds, but give much-needed guidance to her two young children, struggling in the wake of the tragedy.
But, conflicts - some needless, others realistic - rear their ugly head, and interfere.
Suddenly, the stress of an unexpected confrontation sends Del Toro's character headlong into a relapse and straight back to the gritty back alleys, where desperate users burn their bridges and seek solace in a forlorn "shooting gallery", off-the-beaten track.
At this juncture, the film shifts gear full throttle, and focuses on Jerry's efforts to come clean.
That is one of the major problems with the film...
When the opening scenes for "Things we lost in the fire" unfold, for a moment or two, the audience is under the impression the tale is about Ms. Berre's character.
But wait, as flashbacks spin out on the screen, it suddenly appears that we're mistaken; perhaps the drama is all about her husband, played by David Duchovny (who phones in his role), and some deep dark secret?
When it appears the film is gaining footing, and forging ahead in some logical direction, suddenly - "Fire" shifts a gear - then puts the spotlight on the children and their erupting, emotional problems.
Essentially, the audience is confused at this point; after all, the scripted tale is spreading out in all directions, without any center or focus...like a ship, without a rudder.
The Director, Susanne Bier, must have been a still photographer in a former incarnation, because on this project...she needlessly lingers on intense, up-close eyeball shots, and frames half-lit faces - yes, evoking moods, but without making any coherent sense.
Frankly, this filmgoer couldn't fathom what she was up to...
When I start to pay tribute to the furniture, I know someone is in trouble.
How would I sort out this mish-mash mess of a film?
Well, for starters, flashbacks of Duchovny would be kept to a minimum.
In addition, I'd bestow a respectful period of mourning...then, move on.
In my version of "Things we lost in the fire", the lens would zero in on Del Toro's addiction, and Barre's altruistic efforts to help him come clean - in loving memory of her husband, perhaps?
In its current skin, the audience can only pray that everything goes up in flames again...and, that Del Toro is the lone survivor - well, maybe with the kids in tow, too.
Halle, what were you thinking when you signed on for this project?
No Oscar buzz here, for you...
For Benecio, yes!
When the Bush Administration announced that the Dalai Lama would be honored with the Congressional Medal - the highest Civilian Honor - political big-wigs expected a fall out, but not of the magnitude which unfolded in recent days.
On the eve of the ceremony, Chinese Officials released a stern statement expressing their disapproval.
Arguing that relations between the United States and China would be threatened, demands were made that the Medal be "revoked".
When it was determined that President Bush would also meet with the Dalai Lama at the White House, Chinese Foreign Minister Yan Jiechi lamented to reporters that the arrangements were "extremely wrong".
He vigorously asserted that,
"It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounds the feelings of the Chinese people and is interfering with China's Internal Affairs."
Not by any stretch of the imagination!
Imagine, the audacity!
In spite of the fact his Holiness has been exiled from Tibet for many decades, his existence at large - and the fact he is so exalted around the globe - stirs up deep-seated anxiety in the Chinese.
Because the issue was expected to be a touchy one, the Oval Office made it quite clear that the U.S. Government action was not based on "political issues"; indeed, Bush's aides fervently noted that the Dalai Lama was being accorded the honor because, in the words of the administration, Mr. Bush felt,
"He should be honored as a great spiritual leader."
The harsh stance of Chinese officials is rooted in their misguided belief that the Dalai Lama is a "splittest", intent on undermining the Chinese rule by working for the independence of Tibet.
In fact, the Dalai Lama has asserted publicly that he is only "seeking to expand autonomy", not establish a separate state.
Bush's administration turned a deaf ear to China's arguments that the scheduled ceremony was essentially a slap in the face.
In an effort to calm the waters, officials at the White house noted that the President often holds private meetings with spiritual leaders - like the Pope, for instance.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, was born Lhamo Thondup on July 6th, 1935, to a poor family in the small village of Taktser in the province of Amdo.
The name, Lhamo Thondup, literally means ‘Wish-Fulfilling Goddess’.
His Holiness is held to be the reincarnation of each of the previous thirteen Dalai Lamas of Tibet (the first having been born in 1351 AD), who are in turn considered to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, Bodhisattva of Compassion, holder of the White Lotus.
Thus, His Holiness is also believed to be a manifestation of Chenrezig; in fact, the seventy-fourth in a lineage that can be traced back to a Brahmin boy who lived in the time of Buddha Shakyamuni.
When Lhamo Thondup was barely three years old, a search party that had been sent out by the Tibetan government to find the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama, arrived at Kumbum monastery after it was discerned there had been a number of auspicious signs.
One of these concerned the embalmed body of his predecessor, Thupten Gyatso, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, who had died aged fifty-seven in 1933. During its period of sitting in state, the head was discovered to have turned from facing south to northeast.
Shortly after that - the Regent, himself a senior lama - had a vision.
Looking into the waters of the sacred lake, Lhamo Lhatso, in southern Tibet, he clearly saw the Tibetan letters Ah, Ka and Ma float into view. These were followed by the image of a three-storied monastery with a turquoise and gold roof and a path running from it to a hill. Finally, he saw a small house with strangely shaped guttering.
He was sure that the letter Ah referred to Amdo, the Northeastern Province, so it was there that the search party was sent.
By the time they reached Kumbum, the members of the search party felt that they were on the right track. It seemed likely that if the letter Ah referred to Amdo, then Ka must indicate the monastery at Kumbum, which was indeed three-storied and turquoise-roofed.
Now, they needed to locate a hill and a house with peculiar guttering. So they began to search the neighbouring villages. When they saw the gnarled branches of juniper wood on the roof of the His Holiness’ parent’s house, they were certain that the new Dalai Lama would not be far away.
Nevertheless, rather than reveal the purpose of their visit, the group asked only to stay the night.
The leader of the party, Kewtsang Rinpoche, then pretended to be a servant and spent much of the evening observing and playing with the youngest child in the house.
The child recognised him and called out ‘Sera lama, Sera lama’.
Sera was Kewtsang Rinpoche's monastery.
The next day they left only to return a few days later as a formal deputation.
This time they brought with them a number of things that had belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, together with several similar items that did not.
In every case, the infant correctly identified those belonging to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama saying, “It’s mine. It’s mine.”
The search party was jubilant; the boy was taken to Kumbum monastery, and later recognized at the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
At 15, the Dalai Lama found himself the undisputed leader of six million people facing the threat of a full-scale war.
For nine troublesome years, His Holiness tried to evade a full-scale military takeover of Tibet by China on the one hand - and the bold-faced effort to placate the growing resentment among Tibetan resistance fighters against the Chinese aggressors, on the other.
His Holiness made a historic visit to China from July 1954 to June 1955 for peace talks, and met with Mao Zadong, and Chinese leaders Chou En-lai, Chu Teh and Deng Xiaoping.
One winter day in 1959, General Chiang Chin-wu of Communist China, extended a seemingly innocent invitation to the Tibetan leader to attend a theatrical show by a Chinese dance troupe. When the invitation was repeated with new conditions that no Tibetan soldiers were to accompany the Dalai Lama, and that his bodyguards be unarmed, an acute anxiety befell the Lhasa populace.
Soon a crowd of tens of thousands of Tibetans gathered around the Norbulingka Palace, determined to thwart any threat to their young leader's life.
On March 17th, 1959 - during a consultation with Nechung Oracle - His Holiness was given an explicit instruction to leave the country.
The Oracle's decision was further confirmed when a divinity performed by His Holiness produced the same answer, even though the odds against making a successful break seemed terrifyingly high.
A few minutes before ten o'clock His Holiness, now disguised as a common soldier, slipped past the massive throng of people along with a small escort and proceeded towards Kyichu river, where he was joined by the rest of the entourage, including his immediate family members.
He's been in exile ever since.
Over the years, the Dalai Lama has published a number of books based on Buddhist teachings.
Generally, the scriptures have been simplified somewhat, to make them more palpable to the West...where eager practitioners have been anxious to seek the truth and wisdom of a philosophy that resonates just as soundly in the modern-day as it did when the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree, attaining enlightenment centuries ago.
A favorite quote of the Dalai Lama,
"There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness."
In the final analysis, China has no authority over the Dalai Lama - or any other, spiritual leader or religious being, for that matter; in general, they are not bound by man's laws...all rise above the din, and life's petty, daily skirmishes - buoyed by God's infinite Grace.
The Chinese Military - and juntas like those in Myanmar - can strip a person of status and rights; starve, humiliate, and imprison the body; but, cannot diminish the spirit.
It springs eternal...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
But, the AIDS walk has been a mainstay.
In fact, in these parts - the Annual AIDS walk, West Hollywood's Halloween Carnival (go figure!) and the Gay Pride Parade have always been the three largest "must-attend" celebrations of the year.
When the epidemic first broke out a couple of decades ago - virtually nothing was known about the disease - except that once a patient displayed symptoms he probably would not survive.
Troubled by inaction on the part of the government - and the frustrations which hindered the medical community - a group of compassionate, dedicated, and capable San Franciscans founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1982. (SFAF).
It was in this climate of paranoia and uncertainty that SFAF held its first AIDS Walk (originated by 26-year-old Craig Miller) and his newly formed organization of activists in 1985. (MZA Events)
Miller's crusade launched the world’s first successful AIDS Walk in Los Angeles which was followed by another on the eastern seaboard in New York in 1986.
The money raised at that event - and the annual AIDS Walks that have followed - enabled SFAF to engage in critical work and provide services to more than 100,000 men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
A portion of the AIDS Walk proceeds have also been distributed to important AIDS organizations within the Bay Area.
There was a breakthrough in 1986 when scientists isolated the virus that causes AIDS and named it the Human Immune-Deficiency Virus (HIV).
Researchers determined that HIV was transmitted sexually or intravenously from one individual to another - man or woman - gay or straight.
In spite of the urgency for action, HIV remained shrouded in ignorance and bigotry.
Shockingly, the Federal government turned a blind eye and was slow to respond to the crisis!
In the early days, the AIDS walk was mainly comprised of gay men afflicted with the disease, their loved ones, family members, researchers, support groups, and concerned health-care workers.
Over the years, I was personally heartened to witness many jump on the bandwagon - young children from schools learning about compassion and understanding and the need to give a selfless helping hand to others - walkers en masse from the "straight community" - and a host of commercial sponsors.
Biggie corporate supporters today include: Bank of America, Target, Toyota, Disney, and 20th Century Fox.
Today, the AIDS walk is hosted by the Hilton Family.
Seems like a scant few years ago the hint of an HIV infection might result in loss of employment, a shunning by society - and worse - a productive useful life to end in despair and misery without hope!
Today, everyone stands in unison, walking tall and proud.
Thanks to people like Elizabeth Taylor, Craig Miller, and SFAF, who have worked tirelessly over the years to raise funds and end discrimination against the infected.
The stigma is on the way out.
Can the cure be far behind?
I have fond memories of the events.
I've "walked the walk" in Los Angeles on numerous occasions - and in San Francisco, Toronto, and on the West Coast of Vancouver - as well.
In spite of the seriousness of the occasion, there's usually a throng of festive walkers in tow, all in good spirits.
Along the route, there are usually a handful of pit-stops, with plenty to snack on to sustain energy levels.
If you attend this year's walk, be sure to snap up the - yogurt, fruit, and thirst-quenching water - to buoy yourself up on the energy-sapping journey to raise consciousness and funds for the sick and needy.
And, take a moment to splash in the "water-misting" scattered along the stretch of the "AIDS HIGHWAY" to stay hydrated and fresh for the joyous celebration at the end of the journey.
See 'ya there!
As the ushers led the way to the Theatre, we were confronted by a battalion of well-heeled security men in black suits who waved wands up and down our bodies to scour for illegal recording devices.
"Rendition" - a New Line Production - was being unveiled at the Grove and the producers were anxious to ensure that no sneak previews or bootleg copies were released over the Internet.
The excited audience settled into their seats in anticipation of the screening starring popular actors Jack Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon.
When promoters noted fans were turned away at the door, filmgoers felt privileged to have made the cut.
Yeah, it may be a hit at the box office.
The lights fell and the opening scenes quickly unfolded in Cape Town, South Africa.
In moments, the audience was quickly thrust forward into the action, due to some deft inter-cutting of film footage and dramatic storytelling devices.
Suddenly, there was an explosion.
In seconds, we were thrust into the shadowy world of terrorism and espionage.
And, just as quickly, a foreign-looking man was detained by U.S. Customs and ushered into a side room for interrogation.
Based on vague evidence, the man - with a U.S. Green card and expectant American wife residing in the U.S. - was now being asked to explain possible ties to terrorists overseas.
When the government was not pleased with the response, a top-ranking official - played cunningly by Meryl Streep - barked an order to her disapproving aide.
"Put him on the plane."
No, this was not an episode of "Fantasy Island".
On the contrary, Rendition is an intense drama about the unlawful detainment of suspected terrorists who are stripped of their rights, by virtue of a shocking illegal practice that is sanctioned by the U.S. Government.
In this fictionalized thriller, the suspected terrorist is shunted off to an overseas ally, where questionable methods of extracting information are prevalent.
However, the CIA and others high-up in Government, disavow any knowledge of the atrocities.
On an aside - it's important to note that last year 60 minutes verified that the CIA did - in fact - own an airplane which was used for this kind of clandestine purpose.
During the course of the investigation it was verified that the CIA registered a bogus company - and the subsequent ownership of the aircraft - to a post office box in the United States.
Then, the CIA used a convoluted paper trail to conceal their alarming illegal conduct from the American public and politicians alike.
It's a touchy issue which is driven home in the film.
For example, when Gyllenhaal's character fails to extract any information from the prisoner, his superior demands to know why he is not making any headway.
He quips, "It's my first torture."
Streep's character responds angrily.
"Americans do not torture people."
Well, sort of.
From the 60 minutes expose - and through other media sources - it's been established that the CIA "farms" the work out and oversees the "operations".
But, the agency has continued to deny wrongdoing.
True to form, when Witherspoon's character tries to determine where her husband is, the tale takes a compelling turn.
A friend from college, who coincidentally works in a Senator's office, tries to help.
When he makes an overture, he's suddenly embroiled in a hotbed of political issues.
When the politician stridently plays the U.S. Constitution "card", Streep's character trumps it with her own, "National Security".
The film has a rich palette; in fact, Rendition is spellbinding to watch due to skillful lighting, excellent cinematography, and capable directing by Gavin Hood.
In addition, there are stand-out performances by Alan Arkin and Streep and a raft of competent supporting players.
Personally, I found Jake Gyllenhaal's characterization flawed.
There are shots of his character heavily-drinking and chain-smoking early on in the film.
But, there's nothing in the plot to support or explain away the behaviour.
The problem may be with the script and a failure on the part of the screenwriters to flesh out his character.
Just maybe, it's partly due to Jake's shallow acting style, too.
Blank stares in key scenes didn't register as "frustration" or even a "loss for words" to me.
In fact, I was troubled by the fact there was no light in his eyes for most of his performance - or even a perceptible reaction to events on occasion - when begging.
So, when his character finally takes a bold step - which causes the audience to clap and cheer - the right action is more-or-less an afterthought. After all, there has been nothing on the silver screen to support his sudden jolt from the deep slumber.
Well - you could argue that because the exercise turned up nothing t he was bound to release the guy anyway - with an eye to saving his back in the future.
Indeed, there was nothing heroic about the deed, which the filmmakers would have the audience believe.
The creative decision to flash forward - then back again - to facilitate the unfolding of the tale was confusing, too.
A straightforward approach to the drama - with a logical sequence of events (without gimmicks or clever manipulation) - would have been a better road to travel.
In some respects, the way the filmmakers introduced the characters, was intriguing.
By inter-cutting scenes back and forth (subtitled segments were basically assigned the territory of the "bad guys") the movie-goer was able to glimpse the thought processes on each side.
For this reason, a sense of humanity resonated in the characters - or didn't - accordingly.
The terrorists appeared to be resolutely urged on by "God" and faith, while the Americans appeared to be propelled forward out of a sense of duty to "country".
In sum, the message was laid thread bare.
For starters, there are a number of misconceptions about race and culture.
Bottom line - terrorism, torture and violence - can never be condoned in a civilized society.
What was the underlying message?
We're all human, with a basic need for love.
And, in the final analysis, war is not the answer.
Until mankind recognizes that, filmmakers will continue to exploit the issues on the big screen, in a deceitful effort to rustle up bucks for their own selfish end.
What did P.T. Barnum once say say?
"There's a sucker born every minute"
Monday, October 15, 2007
Trusting that you find the posts appealing as you scroll down...
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The 11th Hour is a film focusing on the environment and Global warming, narrated by heart throb, Leonardo DiCaprio.
According to Leonardo,
"Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity."
"We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet."
Written and directed by sisters - Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners - it is a thought-provoking informative film.
Through the medium of celluloid, DiCaprio and leading scientists from around the Globe, are calling for restorative action through a reshaping of human activity.
To some, the voices heard here may sound a lot like an echo from those that spoke out in former Vice-President Al Gore's timely film: "An Inconvenient Truth".
In some respects - yes - it is.
But in this project there are some refreshing takes on some well-traveled territory which make the bill of fair more palpable this time around.
For instance, one writer known in the field on environmental issues, presents an intriguing argument about our natural resources.
For example, he contends that because the population was once basically stable, mankind was able to survive wholly on natural light.
Then, he argues that once man discovered how to tap into the resources of "ancient sun" - in the form of oil and fossil reserves - humans began to live on borrowed time.
"We are time thieves," one scientist chimed in.
Consequently, because of it, we have been exhausting our natural resources ever since.
When the producers show us what occurs when one grand old tree is cut down in its prime - the dramatic impact on the soil, the run-off water, and the overall negative impact on the environment - it becomes evident to everyone in the audience the need to hasten the preservation of rain forests, for example.
And yes, we should be planting trees!
Another wonderful idea put forth in the 11th Hour greatly impacted me as well.
One scientist noted that on earth existence amounts to two commodities: people and property.
Yes, only two concepts that matter today are: owners and the things that are bought and sold.
Nature, he points out, does not appear to have any rights at all.
The scientists proceed to make a very sound argument for implementing laws to protect the earth's resources and our natural habitat.
"The mission of the community should be to inspire action at every level: from individual action, up through our communities, to the State, National and International level. Aggressive action must be focused on shifting our civilization to a sustainable future."
But here, the tale turns sinister.
Yes, influential forces in Washington, D.C. - lobbyists for the all-powerful oil industry - have heavily unbalanced the landscape.
For example, one Government Official in charge of assessing the state of key environmental issues, is an attorney and formerly a lobbyist for the Oil Companies.
Scientists complain that when they submit their findings to Washington for action, he edits out the incriminating forecasts and facts to soften the impact.
Many of you will no doubt recall watching investigative reports on Dateline and Sixty Minutes about the shocking attempts at a cover-up which are expounded on more fully in the insightful 11th Hour.
I was particularly taken by a reminder from one scientist - that in nature, more-often-than-not - waste is not an end product as the human species would have it.
In nature, for example, what is waste to one life form is sustenance to another.
The scientific team assembled here argue that it's time mankind focused on these kinds of solutions in order to survive in the future.
The film is a bit talky, and preachy, and there's an awful lot of scientific info to digest; but, maybe that's the medicine the modern man needs spoon-fed to him so that he will sit up and take notice.
But, the 11th Hour is not all doom, and gloom, or just a downer.
The film proceeds to offer up suggestions and exciting alternatives for the future.
The number one priority appears to be to build sustainable buildings, for instance; after all, there is a need for the planning and development of structures with an eye towards solar power, recycling of waste, and harmonious compatibility with the environment.
At this juncture - when the producers show rooftop gardens and windmill energy and leading edge technology to recycle waste - the possibilities appear to be exciting, overwhelming, and downright encouraging!
The future may be an exciting new road to travel down, if we give it a chance.
At the Q & A afterward, reps from two major environmental action-groups fielded questions about ways in which consumers can help.
It all starts at home with each individual doing their part: recycling, installing solar panels on rooftops, using clean energy.
Curious staff at a medical facility tried to get a sneak peak at George Clooney's medical records when he was hospitalized recently for a fender-bender in a motorcycle accident.
The practioners got caught, red-handed!
One wonders, what kind of stats - and insider scoop - they were lookin' for.
Well, he's about this high; ask anyone!
Undoubtedly, it was racing - judging by the stats on the hot model he was involved in the clinch with!
Or, maybe they were looking for juicy tidbits they could sell to the tabloids.
Like, a home address - so the paparazzi could lurk about his bachelor digs late-night to catch the comings and goings on?
A cell phone number would be a real trophy, especially for a heavy-breather pining to call in the wee hours of the morning for a little voyeuristic fun.
Just maybe, the snoops were checking out his birthdate?
Heck, I could have told them that...mine is the same as his, May 6th.
I confess, I'm a smidgen (!) older than Georgie, boy - though.
Of course, they may have been routing through the records to get a surreptitious glance at his blood tests; who knows, maybe there's an ominous demon lurking beneath the skin that the press would be titillated about?
Those caught with their hand in the cookie-jar paid a heavy penalty: suspension for a month without pay!
Now, those curiosity-seekers have some financial ill health to worry about themselves!
When George was asked if he was mad, he responded by issuing this statement,
"This is the first I've heard of it. While I very much believe in a patient's right to privacy, I would hope that this could be settled without suspending medical workers."
Decent guy, eh?
To quote Doris Lessing,
Some people obtain fame, others deserve it.
In this instant case, obviously it applies to George...