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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leon (1994) Directed by Luc Besson

Nick :
I'm coming down with flu, so Sunday needs to be an undemanding movie experience. Around the time of Leon's release Besson was being touted as some kind of serious director. Subway (1985), Le Grand Bleu (1988) and Nikita (1990) established the Frenchman as a director with style and a good eye for action. Leon was Besson's real international introduction (the Director also scripted).
The story of a contract killer reluctantly taking in a 12 year old who's family have been wiped out by some seriously crooked members of the NYPD caused a stir. Yes, the Professional Killer Leon (good performance from Jean Reno) develops a not so ambiguous relationship with the 12 year old Mathilda (a never been better Natalie Portman). The way this relationship develops is the focus and the main interest for me in this film. It's moving, touching and a little funny. The rest, well...the violence is slick and flashy, the plot is full of holes and somewhat lacking plausibility. The script and characterization is vacuous at best. Special mention has to go to Gary Oldman as Stansfield, the evil, psychotic Detective who pops pills, wipes out Mathilda's family and is generally crazy throughout. This is pure ham from Oldman, one of the great over acting performances that would make mid period Pacino proud. People really rate this film. It's certainly not aged well, but it's still entertaining in a trashy kinda way. Besson however, is a man with little taste. Having Sting play out over the closing credits is unforgivable.

Down By Law (1986) Directed by Jim Jarmusch



Nick
Jarmusch's third Film is a wonderfully shot, dry, moody three part story arc that deals with the arrival of the other. Zack and Jack (Tom Waits and John Lurie) are both the victims of police set ups that lead them to the same New Orleans prison cell. Never quite feeling comfortable in the small cell, there only bond is the fact that they are both innocent tough guys. Roberto, an Italian immigrant with poor English skills, is put in the same cell as Zack & Jack. Roberto (played by Roberto Benigni) , loves Walt Whitman and quotes Robert Frost. He's funny and annoying at the same time, he reveals he killed a man with an 8 ball between the eyes. Roberto fashions an escape and the three cell mates go on the run. This film plays like a Tom Waits song set to celluloid, mean , moody and funny. Benigni is hilarious, Waits and Lurie are cool. Jarmusch shows his love for casting musicians (something he does in all his subsequent movies) and Benigni saves his best work for Jarmusch. The sharp Black and White photography and score from Lurie (interspersed with Waits songs) just heighten the atmosphere. Although I've watched this film many times, I never tire of it, it's deadpan wonder works every time.

Matching the plaid - sleeves

I'm pleased to report that I have tamed the plaid at the sleeve ... phew!  I did it by the most plodding approach possible.  If any one of you reading this has a better and more elegant method I would love to hear about it.  In the hopes of giving those of you who are better at this than I am a good laugh I will now illustrate my half-witted approach.  In its defence, it did work...

Once I had the jacket body assembled I went back to my muslin sleeve (for once, my muslin was actually cut in plain muslin fabric) and took it apart.  I went back to the traced sleeve pattern which, as you may recall from this post has plaid matching lines on it as supplied by Burda.  Using the sleeve cap matching line I placed the muslin sleeve cap piece on the plaid fabric.  With a Sharpie marker and a ruler, I drew the main elements of the plaid fabric right on the muslin.  I then basted the muslin sleeve into the jacket body. 

As you can see, the plaid decidedly does not match.  Thankfully I was right not to quite trust those apparently-handy plaid-matching lines! 

What to do?  At first I thought I'd just measure the difference by which the sleeve needed to be shifted on the plaid.  You can see that the plaid on the sleeve is consistently lower than the plaid on the jacket body - it was about 1.5cm (5/8") off.  Then I thought it might be a bit tricky to transfer my knowledge onto the flat fabric for cutting - does the pattern piece need to be shifted up or down??  It is a bit confusing, that, even with this photo to remind me. 





My solution was dead simple.  Once again out came the Sharpie which I used to mark where the lines should be, right onto the muslin sleeve, like so.

I drew marks at the main horizontal elements, but also the vertical ones on the cap.  I've tagged one of these lines "Red" so I would remember which part of the dark plaid box it was.

Once I had done that it was a simple matter to take the muslin sleeve out and transfer the knowledge I had gained through this exercise to the fabric. 

The resulting sleeve, once set in, is pretty good, although not perfect at the vertical elements.  I've read Kathleen Fasanella's posts on sleeve cap ease (she says it's bogus and uses a perfectly matched cap to illustrate - see part 1 and part 2).  She says horizontal matching is impossible with sleeve cap ease, but I had no problem with the horizontal matching even though my sleeve pattern does have ease built in. 

However, I'm still puzzling over how the tailors make a vertical line travel from the shoulder and directly down the front of the sleeve.  In addition to the amazingly-matched sleeve cap in Kathleen's first sleeve cap ease post, check out the striped jacket in the first picture on this post from Made by Hand - the great Sartorial Debate - his right sleeve cap is flawless; the left one appears less so but I suspect this is only because of the angle of the photograph. 

Maybe some day I will be able to manage this but for now, I have to settle with "good enough".  Pictures will follow once I have the jacket a little further along.

Textile-o-phile

Returning from a meeting this week I ambled into a store and came across some gorgeous wool shawls for 50% their regular price.  I bought two.  But one of them needed serious attention.  Why would anyone think that a lovely 100% wool shawl already woven in riotous colour in paisley and hounds tooth pattern, with every edge a different woven border, would ALSO NEED TO BE EMBELLISHED ALL OVER WITH SEQUINS AND BEADS??!!  Oy! 

For 50% off I figured I could spend some quality time with my seam ripper, finding the ends of all the chain stitching....

This is what it looks like after the beads etc. are removed. It's still pretty decorative!


This one has clunky embroidery on it - some of which has been removed.  The whole thing is double-cloth - the other side is much lighter. 




They will be so cozy in my chilly office with its "heritage" (i.e. single-paned metal mullioned) windows. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Be Kind Rewind (2008) Directed by Michel Gondry

Nick:
This film was such a mess it's hard to know where to start. Mike (Mos Def) agrees to look after Be Kind Rewind, a video cassette rental store, for aging owner Mr Fletcher (Danny Glover), who has to go out of town for a week. Jerry (Jack Black), a mutual friend, has an accident and his brain becomes magnetized (yes, this is a Gondry film!) and on entering the VHS store he accidentally erases all the VHS cassettes. Mike & Jerry then decide to re-make all the erased films themselves.
Gondry's film is not only a nod to the amateur film makers found on You Tube but to the essence of cinema itself. No CGI in this film, just many ingenious camera shots as Mike and Jerry re-stage among other films RoboCop, When We Where Kings, Driving Miss Daisy and 2001. The re-shooting of Ghostbuster's is hilarious and after this it feels the film falls flat. Able acting support is provided by Mia Farrow and Melonie Diaz, but sentimentality takes over at the end. Gondry, so perfect in his earlier films (especially the under rated Science Of Sleep) delivers a film that's mired in social cliche. Yes, It's analogue, but is it any good?

Art and Dance at the Falls

If you are near the southeastern part of New Hampshire on February 4 from 6 to 9 pm, make sure you check out First Thursday at the Falls, a vibrant collection of the arts to make you dance and stir your soul. See them at firstthursdayatthefalls.com or by going to Rollinsford, NH at the Lower Mill at Salmon Falls and on Front Street.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Videodrome (1983) Directed by David Cronenberg



Nick:
Video Cassettes that breathe, TV sets that reach orgasm, stomachs with vagina like slits where guns can be lost, Debbie Harry using her breast as an ash tray. Just some of the things you'll find in Cronenberg's video shocker. Because of the nowadays redundancy of VCR's this gives the film an even more sci-fi edge. It's also the first time Cronenberg does sex, specifically S&M and snuff movies. The plot is fairly ridiculous. It features an excellent James Woods as immoral TV exec. (Max Renn) who finds a violent pornography show (called Videodrome) via satellite TV that he'd like to introduce to his TV station's programing. Of course it's Snuff TV, and without Max knowing it, it induces a violent hallucinogenic state, literally opium for the masses. His girlfriend Nicki Brand (played by a dead pan Harry) is a sado-masochist who thinks the show's made for her. Tracking the show's origin to Pittsburg, she auditions. The fun in this Burroughs like nightmare is trying to work out reality from dream state sequence and after awhile it becomes impossible. Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers & Crash films would later discuss similar themes in a slightly less dramatic , more controlled manner. Don't let this put you off, Videodrome is a classic. An angry, voyeuristic, risk taking blast of social comment from a director who's status as a a master is just being realized. Long Live The New Flesh!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Antiquities traffickers deal with ancient coins

There is much controversy today about the inclusion of ancient coins under the auspices of laws that protect archaeological objects. Some say the laws should not regulate ancient coins at all. Consider two items in the news, nevertheless, that show how ancient coins are part of the traffickers' loot.

Yahoo! News reported today via the Associate Press that Cypriot authorities rounded up antiquities traffickers in the largest case of its kind in terms of the amount. The traffickers apparently had an undisclosed buyer and planned to move the pieces for %15.5 million (US) dollars--which means the items together were likely worth even more. Among the urns, gold, and other cultural objects were ancient coins.
See news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100125/ap_on_re_eu/eu_cyprus_antiquities_theft

In another unrelated story, ancient coins were discovered when a man was arrested in the United Kingdom. UKPA reported that a "large volume of items of 'considerable antiquity' were seized at a house by officers who executed a search warrant in Barnham, near Chichester, West Sussex. Police said some of the artefacts were suspected of being stolen by "nighthawking" from an undisclosed site in the Chichester area and elsewhere recently. The items found so far include medieval and Roman coins, ivory and silver, and one gold Iron Age coin, brooches, buttons and horse equipment of similar ages."
See www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5hNTZxAlDE31CnLZq_488cVR_XO2w

In the same way that drug traffickers deal with quanities of of a variety of illegal drugs, antiquities traffickers deal with a variety of looted archaeological objects--including coins.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Answering a couple of questions

There were a couple of questions in the comments to my last post (plaid pockets & flaps). 

Ann's Fashion Studio asked about my basting thread.  It is a Cansew product but I can't find it on their website.  The label states "silk bonfil" and 40/3.  It is a very smooth and strong thread.  A little research on Google turned up the information that 40/3 is a common weight of glazed cotton thread for handsewing.  It's heavier than regular sewing thread.  Unlike the short staple cotton basting thread, which is designed to break easily for removal, this one doesn't shred.  The cone holds 6,000 yards - I did say it was a lifetime supply!

Lisette M wanted to know if I had ever tried making a flapped pocket which has the flap sewn in overtop a single welt.  I had never seen this type of pocket (but then I don't get out much).  I checked on my favorite tailoring blog, Made by Hand - the Great Sartorial Debate and found out that while the "typical" pocket is the one I made, which is technically known as a "double jetted" pocket with flap, the single welt with flap may be substituted.  There is a picture of one in this post.  If I had done this type of pocket, the pocket flap would have been practically invisible since there would not have been the bias-cut jet to disturb the transition from jacket to matched flap.  Oh well.  In theory, one can tuck the flap to the inside of the double-jetted pocket to change up the look. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Panama map online


The local tourism authority has a digital map online called the ATP GPS map http://sig.atp.gob.pa/ developed by Geoinfo (BVP: GEOI). This company has has been trading its shares since 1994 and has years of experience in gathering the data required for customized Panama maps in different technological formats.

Like all Panama government sites, it has a lot of Flashturbation. Apparently, government big guys are easily impressed by webdesigners but it seems that the issue of bandwidth is never brought up before shelling out taxpayer balboas. The map requires access from a desktop and cannot be used with a PDA Wifi when stopping by a Panama City Hotzone.

Once we deal with that small issue, we went to the menu (the English icon at the right just sends you back to the Spanish menu). The 4 menu items stand for :
Map: Street Map > Satellite Map > Combine Map > Map Index > Stored Views > Description > Print
Navigation: Zoom In > Zoom Out > Main View > Move Map
Tools: Search > Street Search > Route Generator > Neighboring places > Images > Identifier > Bathroom
Help: Help > Home > About

We looked up "Calle 47" (Herramientas > Busqueda de Calles) and got 5 hits. The search is nationwide so we got streets with the same name in Belo Horizonte close to Tocumen Airport, Brisas del Golf (47A Street), Bella Vista (47 East) and Chorrera (47 North and 47 South).

The results came as a surprise because for 40 years everybody who lives in Bella Vista has considered 47 Street East to be a street 3 blocks South of landmark 50 Street, running from HSBC Panama and Ocean Plaza Building to Federico Boyd avenue. So thought the restaurant owners whose businesses are listed in Google when "Calle 47" Panama is searched . According to Geoinfo, 47 Street runs from Via Espana in front of La Cresta to the Miramar Intercontinental Hotel.

Apparently, it gives directions also (Herramientas > Generador de Rutas) but after clicking on the "Crear Rutas" icon, we were asked to "click 'Obtner Direcciones' arriba" on a tab which we never found. The map is called "GPS" but we could not enter directions with GPS coordinates.

The map may not be very good giving directions to the newcomer but we cannot underestimate the task involved in making a very complete inventory of the streets in Panama City suburbs and towns from as large to David and as small as El Real de Santa Maria. This comes handy when going off the beaten path into the Interior - just make sure that all maps that may possibly be needed are printed BEFORE the trip because hi-speed access is hard to come by in the Interior.

Most locations of interest to the tourist (hotels, restaurants, ATMs) appear already on the map as icons. The location shown is more accurate than Google Maps which tends to show items one mile off to the Northeast.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Old Masters Week at Sotheby's NY

Old Masters Week is currently going on at Sotheby's in New York. You can see the events going on at

http://www.sothebys.com/minisite/omp/2010/newyork/winter/event.html

Solo Review Days


For the next couple of weeks this blog will be running differently:
one of us is not sitting next to the other one watching the same
films. We are going to report on our separate cinema experiences instead.
Mostly this honor will be Nick's, but today I (Astrid) have the privilege
to begin.

Pierrot Le Fou (1965) Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Watching Pierrot Le Fou for the second time confirms to me that it
really is one of my favorite movies. Ever. With the actors
Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo, Godard creates an almost
unbearably good-looking and stylish film. The movie proves to me
how surface and content are equally important. Sometimes surface
is the content. And the French seem to know more about this than
anyone else.

The story of the two lover's roadtrip or a getaway drive is dream-like.
It's a fairytale possibly happening only in the imagination of
Fernand as he is taking his family nanny, Marianne, back to
her home at night. Whatever the motivation in the story, I love
how it flows: from Paris to small roads, in stolen cars, by foot,
to the seaside, to domestic settling, boredom, back to traveling
and the end. Marianne (Karina) kills many troubling people on
the way. Outfits change from great dresses and suits to other
beautiful concoctions at least for times – so do cars.

Fernand/Pierrot is always reading and quoting Baudrillard.
Why does Marianne insist on calling him Pierrot?
He is the imagination, she is the action and the impulse.
Godard uses film as if a philosopher writing his theory.
This is not only entertainment, because the director demands
you to become aware of your position as a viewer.
In the middle of the couple's discussion both characters
sometimes look into the camera, Belmondo even speaks
to the audience commenting on Karina's character.
These breaks in the film's internal order turn it into an
intellectual and emotional study of structure and context.
They break borders.

But even without the clever ideas, great lines, internal jokes,
just the visual 1960's feast of color and shape is enough.

Plaid pockets & flaps

Continuing with my saga of the orange plaid jacket, I am pleased to report that progress IS being made.  I have completed the pockets (double welt, with flaps) and thought I'd check in to show you how I made the welt pockets and flaps.  BTW the flaps match.  I'm pleased. 


To sew the seams so the plaid would match, I used (more or less) the hand basting technique Mary Beth recently posted on her blog - "plaid matching by slip basting".  It worked.  I'm using my lifetime supply of basting thread, purchased on one of my recent trips to Montreal to suss out fabric stores for PR Weekend Canada (weekend of June 18-20, 2010).  The lady in the store told me there were two types of basting thread - the kind that breaks and the kind that doesn't.  She told me the Montreal tailors mostly favored the kind that does not break.  You can give it a good pull, and it all comes out.  I thought, if it is good enough for the Montreal tailors it is good enough for me, and bought this gigantic cone.  Even though I say I hate hand sewing, I'm growing to like my basting thread. 


I originally tried to mark the pocket openings using the basting thread - just a running stitch - but I am really not a very good hand sewer and I wasn't satisfied that my markings were precise enough.  Then I had another idea, which I think was inspired by the thread on the Stitcher's Guild about stuff you use in the sewing room that isn't intended for sewing.  We had some painter's masking tape in the house.  I measured the exact size/shape of the pocket opening, cut two (mirror image) in tape, and applied them to the outside of the jacket fronts as shown here. 


This created a highly visible and perfectly straight-edge guide for my machine basting to mark the pocket openings - once machine basted, the markings are visible on both sides. 

At this point, I cut a generously sized bias patch of fabric to serve as the welts, and centred this over the marked box, on the right side of the jacket front. 


Then, working from the wrong side, and using a 2mm stitch length, I stitched a hair inside the basting lines to secure the bias welt piece to the jacket front. I reinforced the ends of the box by going over the stitching with an even shorter (1mm) stitch.  This helps with the next step, which is the most nerve-wracking - cutting through all layers, down the middle of the stitched box and into the corners.  It is very important to clip right to the stitching at the corners, so that when you turn the welt to the inside, the corners will not pucker.


After I clipped, I trimmed the long clipped edges by a thread or two to make them even and as straight as possible, and to create a tiny gap between the cut edges.  This is preparation for the fact that the bias welt piece is wrapped around these cut edges, as shown in the next photo.  The result is that the cut edges reinforce and "fill out" the welt, and there is no bulk around the welt area. 


I had previously trimmed out the seam allowances in the welt "box", from the wrong side, as shown here from the wrong side.  Everything is done to maintain a uniform thickness, as much as possible. 

After turning the welts to the inside and pressing them just so, the little triangles at the ends of the welt box need to be stitched down, and then it's time for the flaps.


I didn't cut the fashion fabric for the flaps until after my seams were sewn and pocket openings marked.  I matched the plaid for the flaps by placing the tissue paper pattern piece over the markings on the jacket front, and literally drawing the lines of the plaid on it.  To match the plaid I had to ignore the suggested grain line, and to avoid having a prominent dark leading edge on the curved corner of the flap, I re-drew the curve as you can see in this picture. 



To sew the flaps, I used the same technique as shown in my tutorial.  I used lining fabric for the facing of the flap to reduce bulk, and before sewing the lining to the interfaced flap, I trimmed all the seam edges of the flap lining by approximately 3mm or 1/8".  This makes the lining layer smaller than the fashion fabric flap.  In this photo, you can see how, when I pinned the edges together, it is obvious that the two layers are not the same size.  I had to stretch the heck out of the lining layer while sewing along the seam lines. 


Then I trimmed the outer flap layer seam allowances to about 3mm.  If you do this there is absolutely no need to "clip" to the seam line.  Once the flap is turned RS out, the tiny seam allowances squooshed nicely without pleating or puckering.  And, best of all, the smaller lining layer means that the joining seam line rolls beautifully to the inside and the lining will never peek out. 

I'm  using an orange/blue silk fabric from stash for lining.  I acquired many metres of this at a yard sale a few years ago.  It pays to stash good quality fabric when you can find it for a great price!


After all components were assembled, here's my almost-completed pocket.  If I had completely pandered to my matchy-matchy inclinations, I would probably have cut the welts on grain and tried to match them too, but I didn't and I think it's fine. 

I won't be able to avoid cutting the sleeves for too much longer ... wish me luck!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fakes on the Market, Looting on the Decline...

MSN posted an insightful piece of interest to collectors, dealers, and archaeologists. It is reported that the production of fakes is easier than looting authentic archaeoligical objects, thereby reducing looting from archaeological sites.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Ebay & Looting


Peruvian archaeology has found an unusual ally in the battle against looting in the internet and websites such as eBay. This is according to Charles Stanish, a UCLA archaeologist, writing in the June 2009 issue of Archaeology. Stanish has excavated for 25 years at fragile archaeological sites in Peru. It was feared that online auction sites would increase looting as the looter could sell directly to the buyer eliminating costly middlemen. In fact, online auction websites have actually helped reduce looting as the average looter or craftsman can now make more money selling cheap fakes online rather than spend weeks digging for the real thing and running the risk of not finding anything. It is less costly to transport a fake and the risk of arrest is removed. Moreover, workshops churning out cheap fakes and replicas can also produce elaborately detailed fakes which can be so authentic even experts are deceived. Locals can use original ancient moulds, often found during excavations but of no real value themselves, to create exact replicas using clay from original sources and local minerals to make paint fordecorating the pottery. The only way to know for sure if a piece is genuine is through thermo-luminescence dating which calculates when the pottery has been fired. But this is expensive for the buyer and many sellers will not offer refunds on pottery that has undergone “destructive” analysis. Ten years ago the ratio of real to fake Peruvian artefacts for sale online was roughly 50:50. It is now thought that only 5% of items are authentic, 30% are fakes and the rest are too difficult to judge from online photographs. This turnaround emphasises how paradoxically online auction sites have helped to combat the trade in illicit antiquities. Also, its not just Peruvian fakes that are flooding the illicit antiquities online market; Chinese, Bulgarian, Egyptian and Mexican workshops are also producing fakes at a frenetic pace.

Blue Shield Statement on Haiti

The Blue Shield has posted a statement concerning the tragedy in Haiti


Haiti. Blue Shield Statement. 14th January 2010

The Blue Shield expresses its sorrow and solidarity with the population of Haiti for the loss of lives and the destructions caused by the earthquake which occurred on 12th January. Culture is a basic need, and cultural heritage a symbolic necessity that gives meaning to human lives connecting past, present and future. Cultural heritage is a reference full of values helping to restore a sense of normality and enabling people to move forward. Cultural Heritage is fundamental in rebuilding the identity, the dignity and the hope of the communities after a catastrophe. The Blue Shield Mission is “to work to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict, natural and man‐made disasters”. While it appreciates that the immediate priority is to find the missing, and to help the injured and homeless, it places the expertise and network of its member organisations at the disposal of their Haitian colleagues to support their work in assessing the damage to th
e cultural heritage of their countries including libraries, archives, museums and monuments and sites, and subsequent recovery, restoration and repair measures.

The Blue Shield calls on the international community, responsible authorities and local population to give the fullest possible support to the efforts, official and voluntary, underway to protect/rescue the rich and unique heritage of Haiti. The member organisations of the Blue Shield are currently liaising with Haitian colleagues, to obtain further information on both the situation in the area and on the possible needs and types of help required so as to mobilise our networks accordingly. A more complete report on damages, needs and actions will be published subsequently, to facilitate coordination.

The Blue Shield
The Blue Shield is the protective emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention which is the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The Blue Shield network consists of organisations dealing with museums, archives, audiovisual supports, libraries, monuments and sites. The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), founded in 1996, comprises representatives of the five Non‐Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in this field:
- The International Council on Archives (www.ica.org),
- The International Council of Museums (www.icom.museum),
- The International Council on Monuments and Sites (www.icomos.org), and
- The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (www.ifla.org)
- The Co‐ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (www.ccaaa.org)

National Blue Shield Committees have been founded in a number of countries (18 established and 18 under construction). The Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS), founded in December 2008, will coordinate and strengthen international efforts to protect cultural property at risk of destruction in armed conflicts or natural disasters. The ANCBS has its headquarters in The Hague. Contact Information: secretariat.ICBS@blueshield.museum

The Verdict (1982) Directed by Sidney Lumet


Nick:
I could tell you about David Mamet's great, but faulty script. I
could mention really good supporting performances from
Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden and James Mason. I'm laying it
down that this movie captures autumnal Boston on screen in a
beautiful way, each shot carefully composed. I might point out
that Lumet's storytelling skills are a little obvious, in a wishy
washy, tearjerker, "makes you feel good at the end" kind of way.
I could point to the smug liberalism on display here that actually
stops this being a great expose of the USA legal system.
This film definitely has many flaws and many things to admire.
But all considerations are off when you watch Paul Newman as
alcoholic lawyer Frank Galvin, who's given one last crack at a big
case that will save him being "lost" if he wins. What's interesting
here is that Newman is so good in this film he gives credence to
all it's faults. He makes us ignore what is in essence a typical court
house drama, a David & Goliath story which will only ever have one
obvious outcome. It's in his blue eyes, etched in the lines of his great
face at the final summing up. His attempt at redemption is
fascinating viewing. Newman makes this a great movie.

Astrid:
These kinds of dry 1970's-style movies are popular in this
household. A lot of drained color, a lot of misery. Although I like
them usually, the court dramas and political thrillers of this period
have made me yawn a couple times. The Verdict (a court drama
indeed) is unsentimental to the point of unattachment, but
somehow this works for it in the end. Probably, because of Paul
Newman, who becomes very likable during the two hours. It is also
always inspiring to see the small people winning against big
corporate crooks. This is Erin Brockovich without Erin. But there
is Charlotte Rampling again. I'm starting to think that Rampling
only took roles where she could play the emotionally disturbed
miserable woman (always in that same beige camel coat).

March 3-5: EXPOCOMER helps start your Panama business network


The Panama trade fair EXPOCOMER has a free online B2B database of visitors and exhibitors attending the exhibit in March to meet on a one-to-one basis. This is an event attended by thousands of buyers from throughout the Americas and exhbibitors from as far away as Malaysia and both Chinas.

Keep in mind that international hotels may have no vacancies during those days so early reservations are a must. However, independent hotels and relocation companies can help you get lodging in Panama City during those days.








EXPOCOMER - organized by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama - is the largest, annual horizontal, international exhibition in Panama.

The event is to be held as below:
Date: 3rd – 5th March, 2010 (1.00 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.) B2B only
6th March (11.00 a.m to 8.30 p.m.) General & trade

Venue:Atlapa Convention centre, City of Panama

Panama has a strategic geographic location, has a modern international banking centre also and the largest duty free zone in the western hemisphere. The last edition of fair had 481 exhibitors from 28 countries attracting 16,213 visitors where 9000 business match making were done.

EXHIBITORS PROFILE

This is a multi-sector trade exhibition. The main categories are:
· Textile: cotton, linen & silk fabrics, home & fashion textiles, table cloths, decorative textiles, decorative embroideries, handbags, leather products, jewellery, perfumes & cosmetics
· Food: Packed food, beverages, liquor, tobacco
· Construction: construction, equipment, material, hardware, manufacturing machinery, raw material
· Technology: computer & communication technology, transportation equipment, automobiles, medical, pharmaceutical, laboratory equipment & products.
· Services: all type of service providers related to textile, food, construction & technology

VISITORS PROFILE

Visitor categories would include:

· Importers, wholesalers & re-exporters
· Supermarket chains & retailers
· Business Houses
· Industry Professional
· Trade Associations
· Service providers

EXPOCOMER is the ideal place for company to exhibit products and services to local and regional markets, introduce new products to the market, evaluate the competition and use the Colon Free Trade Zone as a bridge to re-export products to the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

FREE online registration as Buyer http://www.expocomer.org/index.php?tu=comp&ci=4

Online registration as Exhibitor http://www.expocomer.org/english.html?js=1

Download Free Expocomer Information Package http://www.expocomer.com/alex/FILES/Brochure_Digital-Expocomer_2010.pdf

India Participation in Expocomer http://fieo.org/view_section.php?lang=0&id=0,548,550
In case you are interested, you are requested to send us your interest by sending us the enclosed form along with a Demand Draft of Rs 85,000/- in favour of Federation of Indian Export Organisations payable at New Delhi. The participation charges are non refundable once the participation is approved. For any clarification, you may contact MRD Division at 011-46042114 & 46042136-38, 46042222 or email at mailto:anandseth.fieo@gmail.com; prashantseth@fieo.org

Israel returns to Expocomer http://en.centralamericadata.com/en/article/home/Israel_Interested_in_Panama

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) Directed By Woody Allen


Astrid:
Woody is very close to my heart. Especially the 1970s classic
Woody paired with Diane Keaton. A Midsummer Night's Sex
Comedy is an early 1980s extension to his great period.
Mia Farrow has stepped in and stolen what would have been the
obvious Keaton role in the previous decade. Farrow plays Adrian,
the bride-to-be of an elderly professor, but really she is the center
of all men's desire in this comedy. Woody plays an inventor with the
usual Allen-characteristics; sexual failures, inhibitions, general
uncertainty. But this time the setting is an early 20th-century
country house in the middle of the most gorgeous summer.
The director is clearly realizing one aspect of his Ingmar Bergman
obsession.

In this visually harmonious setting the plot of the movie is nearly
a farce, while the script is as intelligent as any great Allen script.
The characters (who begin to lust after each others' partners
plotting secret rendezvous here and there) ask not only for practical
advice in sex, but they question each other on the relationship
between love and lust. Andrew, Allen's inventor character, says
that the difference between the two is that "sex alleviates tension,
love creates it".

Tony Roberts appeared in practically all the early Woody films.
His function is usually to play the opposite to Woody's neurotic,
short, procrastinating, New York-obsessed characters. So
usually Roberts represents business-oriented thinking, success in
Hollywood, health, doing instead of thinking and so on – everything
that Woody is not (and that he despises at least to some extend).
Roberts is a kind of unlikely sidekick, but he has been there
throughout the 1970's for Woody and thus I want to mention him
here, doing his final film with Allen.
In A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy Roberts plays Doctor
Maxwell Jordan. He always turns up to his friend's house with
a new lover, considers marriage a trap, writes books about nature
and therefore represents bodies and instinct (against intellect and
knowledge without experience). As it turns out, Andrew's (Woody)
marital problems are also lifted when his wife admits to having
had sex with Maxwell the previous summer.

Of course, Woody wouldn't be Woody if he did not reverse these
stereotypes within his story, but I won't spoil the plot more
than this.

Nick:
You can define Allen's movies into distinct periods: The early
funny ones, The Keaton years, The Farrow years, the post
Farrow/scandal years and now the Johansson/European Years.
This is the first movie Allen made with Farrow. An inventor and
his wife invite two other couples to their country home during high
summer. Sexual games ensue, with various illicit rendezvous' amid
naughty digressions. Allen gives a nod to Shakespeare (title) and
Bergman (apparently this is loosely based on an Ingmar Bergman
story). I think the Bergman influence is more in the look which is
exquisite. It's also a rare move out of the city for an Allen movie,
you have to go back to the very early films to find such green
surroundings.

The performances are all excellent, with Mia Farrow and Jose
Ferrer being my picks. This is Woody at his best, a sharp script
(poking fun at intellectual arrogance), a great look and of course
very funny. This film was followed by Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose,
The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Hannah & Her Sisters and was
preceded by Manhattan and Stardust Memories.
Has there been a better run of films in modern American Cinema
by one director? This is beginning to look like Allen's greatest
period. Why is this singular Allen film so underrated ?
Not sure, but if you haven't seen it,
just track it down , it's a gem.

The Lender Collector

NPR has an insightful story on a recent trend: lending an art collection.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122619567

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Nightporter (Il Portiere di Notte) (1974) Directed by Liliana Cavani


Nick:
I Love Dirk Bogarde. He is wonderful in films like The Singer Not the
Song, Victim , Darling, the Joseph Losey directed quartet he
made from the 60's onwards and so much more. Adam Ant named
an album after him (Dirk Wears White Sox). As a young adult I
read his books. Dirk had one of the best on-screen quiffs. And of
course he was gay (though it wasn't the kind of thing you discussed
around Dirk). He was as close as the UK got to Montgomery Clift,
although unlike Clift, Dirk really did hold it together. Dirk was a
massive movie star who, in later life, took risks with his movie
choices. This meant that when Dirk appeared in European
Arthouse movies, you took it seriously. Dirk had a good track record
in this field (Death In Venice, Providence).

Cavani's The Nightporter was a cult film as I was growing up.
You read that it was shocking, it's concentration camp scenes
groundbreaking and realistic, the sex was adult, X-rated and
outrageous. It still holds a cult following and certainly the
image of Charlotte Rampling, topless save for braces that don't
cover her nipples, wearing a Nazi officer's
hat has eased into pop culture folklore. Iconic indeed. It's such a
shame then that this film is terrible. It's a Last Tango In Paris
made on a mini budget without the Tango (and without a Brando
more's the point). Substitute butter for strawberry jam.
This is a snooze fest, the perfect cure for insomnia. The script is
non-existent.

The plot, simplistic and a complete farce, ex-war
criminal fucks ex-concentration camp victim, they had a thing
for each other all along when back in the Camps. Once back
together he protects her from mad Nazi's in 50's Vienna.
The sex portrayed on screen is lame, pitiful and certainly a long
way from erotic. Flashbacks to the concentration camps suggest
that obviously as people were dying and starving they were just
thinking about having sex. I'm not making this up. What possessed
Bogarde & Rampling to do this? I'm sure intentions were well
meaning at the start. Unless Rampling spills the beans we'll never
know. Maybe she wanted to get it on with Dirk and who can
blame her. The aforementioned scantily dressed scene with
Rampling singing to the Nazi officers is the only decent thing
in this. I did watch this when young and thought it was bad at
the time, why did I put myself (and Astrid) through this again?
I'm not waiting for the inevitable Von Trier re-make.

Astrid:
I could not stay put during this movie. I was fidgeting, checking my
emails, crawling on the floor a little and stretching into different
directions. What started with cool titles and good looks ended with
ridiculous gun shots that just did not matter to me.

At the (cold) heart of this movie there is the love between an ex-nazi
officer and his beautiful victim – whom he obviously saved in
order to have kinky sex. When they accidentally meet years later
as a hotel guest and portier, they fall back into their oppressive
games. They are lamely trying to convince me that there is
something iconic and understandable about willingly going back
to your oppressor. I know there is a suggestion here that
the viewer (especially a woman) would immediately relate to this
sickness. I felt repulsed and bored. What is so sexy about wallowing
in your trauma? Accepting your wounds? Refusing to change?
So what if P.J. Harvey was really inspired by a particular outfit-
scene in this movie. Why should women relate to this love of their
oppression?

Luckily, this film is from 1974. Interestingly it was directed by a
woman. Yes, Charlotte Rampling looks amazing and wears
gracefully her repertoire of upper-class beige outfits, as well as
starvation. But is the way she looks really enough to carry a movie?
The director at one point attempts to convey that this is a question
of the woman's choice – therefore not oppression (possibly even
feminism). Do you want my opinion: she's stupid.

Art thief sentenced for stealing works by Chagall and Picasso

Last week a federal district court sentenced Marcus Patmon, 38, to 23 months in prison after he pled guilty to mail fraud, attempted wire fraud, and the interstate transport of stolen goods. See http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20100114/NEWS01/1140346/1006/NEWS for details.

Patmon stole a Chagall lithograph and a Picasso etching from Galerie Lareuse in Washington, DC in 2007. He sold them for approximately $63,000. He also stole two other Picasso etchings from Gallery Biba in Palm Beach, FL in 2008. State authorities prosecuted Patmon for the Florida theft.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mulholland Drive (2001) Directed by David Lynch


Astrid:
Although I consider myself quite a Lynch fan, this was the first time
I sat through the whole of Mulholland Drive. The most precious
content of this one, for me, was the non-linear storytelling.
Lynch is questioning the logic of constructing movie plots, but he is
also drawing the viewer into questioning the necessity of
distinguishing between the real and unreal.

Could this really happen? That is not a concern in Mulholland Drive
and accepting this makes me immediately apply Lynch's broad-
mindedness to life outside of cinema as well. Inspiring.

I have been told that this movie has sparked numerous and
passionate interpretations. People have had the need to 'solve' the
storyline and be right about how it all makes sense. I found this
line of conversation annoying even before I had watched the entire
film. Now my opinion is that it is unnecessary to Understand.
It would be boring to narrow down the meanings we can give to
the blue box, or to Camilla for that matter.
Watching Mulholland Drive was much like dreaming: if you go with
the flow and accept the passenger's seat, then you will be rewarded
with wonder. Exercise in letting go.

Nick:
Much has been made of the twist in Mulholland Drive, David
Lynch's dream-like meditation on an aspiring young star trying
to make it in Hollywood, who finds a car crash victim suffering
from amnesia in her borrowed apartment. You could try to work
out what is going on in a linear fashion, it is all there for you to do
so but somehow I don't think this is the point. The film deals with
dreams, the dream of making it. It's about identity and
finding oneself. I'm not sure if Mulholland Drive works as a
cohesive film, but it has 4 or so stunning scenes and at times is
very funny. It's also incredibly pretentious and slow.
What makes this a good Lynch movie rather than an OK one is
Naomi Watts. This was perhaps her calling card. Watts is one of
the top actors working today and Mulholland Drive is saved by
her performance, it's a brave turn which she gives her all to
(much like in the sensual audition she takes in the film) and the
twist that arrives is only credible due to Watt's believable
transformation. Laura Harring on the other hand is cardboard,
chewing the lines as if in the Bold & The Beautiful. Perhaps her
wooden performance is an intentional joke from Lynch.
Let's remember that this was originally a TV pilot, one that was
turned down. It's quite possible that the twist in the film was
purely the only way that Lynch could finish Mulholland Drive
within a cinema time frame, abandoning the original plot for the
twist we see on screen.

So, finally, this movie just works within Lynch's regular themes.
The sense of dread and fear, eroticism, modern noir and surrealistic
dream-like states that play throughout Mulholland Drive have been
visited by Lynch before, more notably with Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.

Anthony Bourdain's Guide to Panama

Featured in the show Sambu, Fish Market, ChinaTown, Multiplaza, Isla Grande, Noriega's home, Chorrillo, Darien Gap. Highly recommended to see the good, bad and ugly of real Panama beyond the touristy banking area while learning about yummy food....

Tony travels to Panama, which is rumored to have originated from an Amerindian word meaning "an abundance of fish." One of Tony's stops includes the Mercado de Mariscos, a swank new fish market to sample the national go-to dish: ceviche.
More behind-the-scene clips at
http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Anthony_Bourdain/Episode_Panama_ Panama


Google Map meant to point to the eateries featured in the show (each point is off like 1 mile Northeast)






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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) Directed By Billy Wilder


Nick:
The Private Lives of Sherlock Homes is one of those
films with a growing
reputation, a mystery in itself,
one of the Holy Grail films that movie
enthusiasts
re-evaluate, different prints turning up all over the
world at
various screenings, always enhancing the
reputation, increasing the
legend.

Billy Wilder's Holmes film was a disaster on release.
The film cost 10
million to make (huge sums in 1970)
and delivered 1 million at the box
office. A troubled
production, Wilder's three-and-a-half-hour vision
was
taken out of his hands and cut down to 2 hours.
His original principle
players were to be Peter Sellers
as Watson and Peter O'Toole as Holmes.
When O'Toole
dropped out he was replaced by Robert Stephens
(excellent)
who portrays Holmes as though he were
infused with Oscar Wilde's genes.
Stephens was a choice
that for some reason Wilder regretted casting.

The first third of the film pictures Holmes as initially
a closet
homosexual, a suspect misogynist who takes
large amount's of cocaine to
relieve his boredom.
Dr.Watson (a comic turn by Colin Blakely), feels a
case
is needed to pull Holmes out of his druggy stupor.
Once a sexy and
mysterious Gabrielle Valladon
(played by Geneviève Page) turns up at Baker
Street,
apparently the victim of a murder attempt, a
web of intrigue
unfolds and the film turns into a
formulaic search for Valladon's husband.

Initial resistance to the woman is strong from
Holmes but as the adventure
reaches it's conclusion,
Holmes feelings towards Valladon become more than
platonic, the film reaching a moving climax.

This film I've watched many times and there are
new things to admire
with each viewing. The look,
the performances, a strong supporting cast

(Christopher Lee, Irene Handle), a great score
from Miklós Rózsa, the slow
pace and old style
of film making, great studio sets, dreamy

cinematography. Billy Wilder's subversive,
subtle and personal take on the
famous detective
is a gem and probably his last masterpiece.
I'd rate this
as high as Wilder's more celebrated
films like Some Like It Hot, Sunset
Boulevard or The
Apartment. Once aga
in, in its strange way, this film
moved me.



Astrid:
Sherlock Holmes was a great summer read when I was a child. It
represented Englishness to a girl who didn't know anything about it.
The life and culture was something foreign to me and sometimes so
scary that I was afraid to go to the outhouse of our summer cottage
after reading the stories.

This movie version from 1970 did not relate to my previous
experience with Sherlock. To me the message here was: Sherlock
is gay. The film presented him as a dandy who sometimes resorts
to binging on cocaine (to kill boredom). His relationship with
Doctor Watson is easily interpreted as that between two life
companions. Holmes hates women, mistrusts them and
is prone to ridiculing women for stereotypical feminine behavior.
There is a certain persistent vagueness in Holmes' characterization,
which has also been a typical way of portraying gay men
in cinema. Wrapped in ambiguous air, as Morrissey has been,
but later and in music.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is an entertaining and
relatively early endeavor in discussing homosexuality in English
film. I think it shares this sensibility with
The Servant from 1963 (directed by Joseph Losey).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sewing Tutorials

It's fantastic how the www works, really.  Until about 5 years ago I used to sew in solitary splendor although obviously I knew there were others out there.  Then I joined PatternReview and started reading blogs.  Over time, I came to realize that through communication on the internet, I had improved my sewing and been introduced to a whole lot of new sewing information and resources. 

Among which are on-line sewing tutorials.  The best collection of them that I know of can be found on Sigrid's blog. I was thrilled when Sigrid contacted me to ask if she could include a few of my own photo-tutorials on her site.  In future I'll post tutorials on this blog as they occur to me.  For now, here's a list of the ones I've prepared and links to Flickr where you can read through them.  Enjoy!  If you have any questions about these techniques, feel free to ask. 

Faced fly front zipper.  This is one of those construction methods that looks like it is impossible.  But it is not! 









Bound buttonholes.  The method I illustrated is actually overkill - you don't need to sew all those parallel basting lines because once you sew around the box and slash the opening, cutting right to the corners, the patch forms perfect "lips" when it wraps over the cut edges. 

I'm going to be making bound buttonholes in my plaid jacket and will update the tutorial then. 


Beltloops.  This method doesn't rely on remembering to sew one end of the loop into the waistband (I always forget to do this!), and it doesn't require topstitching the loop to the garment - all attaching stitches are concealed and there are no raw edges.  More magic!







Bellows patch pocket.  I made this tutorial to translate Burda's somewhat incoherent instructions into something understandable.  The bellows are decorative on my linen jacket, but this technique would work for real cargo pockets as well. 






Leather mittens.  Mittens are sooo much warmer than gloves, and leather mittens are windproof and look nice too.  These are made from an old leather skirt found in a thrift shop.  The tutorial includes a birds-eye view of my pattern as well as all construction techniques.




Lined pocket flaps.  This is another technique I'll use on my plaid jacket.  To reduce bulk, use lining fabric to face the flap, and to ensure the edges are hidden, make sure the lining layer is slightly smaller than the outer flap.  The seams will roll automatically to the wrong side. 

Fakes and Forgeries

The Associated Press reported in today's NY Times that Italian authorities last year recovered thousands of looted art and antiquities valued at close to $240 million US dollars. The story said: "Police figures show the number of illegal archaeological excavations discovered in 2009 decreased dramatically, from 238 in 2008 to just 58 in 2009. But at the same time, the number of people charged with falsifying artwork rose more than 400 percent."

The fact is that forged art exists in the marketplace, and this newspaper report serves as a caution to stay alert. Authenticating artwork is an essential component to ethical collecting. One should take time to ensure that a piece is not just looted or illegally exported, but that it is genuine.

Legal Tools for Artists

The Carving Studio in Vermont is holding a workshop in July. It is titled Legal Tools for Artists. Go to the link at carvingstudio.org/workshops/courses.asp

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Family Plot (1976) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock


Nick:
Hitchcock's last film is not highly rated. Often dismissed as a gentle
suspense
it's without doubt the least celebrated film of his latter years.
What struck me
watching Family Plot for the first time was how the two
separate
stories about two different couples whose paths eventually cross
with
potentially deathly results looks initially so un-cinematic. The
first hour
or so comes across as an average episode of 1970's detective
series Columbo.

Then something happens, notably a crazy car ride without any brakes on a
winding mountain road (this scene a nod to Cary Grant's drunk drive in
North By Northwest).
This finally demonstrates Hitchcock's classic use of
high wire suspense and
humor. From then on the film is a tense blast, with
Hitchcock once again
referencing himself with a shot of Barbara Harris in
distress that recalls the
shower scene in Psycho.
The performances from the four central actors are
excellent with Bruce
Dern and Harris as out of work actors looking to get
by as a taxi driver
and psychic (!) really shining. Their relationship is
portrayed with a
natural West Coast vibe spiced with lots of witty
British sexy innuendo.
Special mention to Karen Black who dons a blond
wig to portray the almost
quintessential 'femme fatale'.
In other words, eventually, this movie was
fun.

Astrid:
I feel sympathetic towards Hitchcock.He became old and ill and knew
exactly how a movie should be done, but the world kept
changing as if it forgot about the aesthetics of Psycho, Birds,

Vertigo, Rear Window or all the others. In Family Plot I see a

director adjusting to the 1970s. There is the slow pace,
the
not-so-well-educated couple who talk about sex and

want to eat more than one hamburger while conning
a rich
old lady. And their clothes are casual, suits greased and lilac in shade.
This is the fun 'contemporary' side of the film.

Then there are the almost obligatory upper class diamond
thieves.
A couple that stylistically represent
the classic Hitchcock view, I think.
Karen Black's
blond wig disguise makes her at times the usual femme fatale.
Yet, the fact that she is seen switching
to her own brunette hair in the
couple's car (more than
once) feels almost as if the director peeling his
away his own cinematic fixations.


At times I was exhausted and bored by the predictability of this film.
But in the end
its sympathetic qualities have won me over.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Age of Innocence (1993) Directed by Martin Scorsese & Remains of The Day (1993) Directed by James Ivory



Astrid:
When I was a teenager I believed that love conquers all social settings
and rules. Back then watching The Age of Innocence was like
witnessing idiots wasting their lives away –– angering and frustrating.
Now I've become a fan of the endless reserve. Both The Age of
Innocence and Remains of The Day are two-hour defenses for
the sexiness of reserve. Anthony Hopkins (in Remains...)
and Daniel Day-Lewis (in The Age...) play their very different
approaches to inexpressible love with excellence. Incidentally,
both movies portray women as weaker and more prone to protest
against social order.

Still, there is something completely distancing and unattached in
both movies, but especially in The Age of Innocence.
The camera lingers on plates of exquisite upper-class food arrangements
one too many times; often it feels that the director doesn't trust
Edith Warton's dry cynicism to carry the movie and he compensates
with too many awe-inspiring shots of velvety interiors.
And by now it should be official: Winona Ryder is simply boring as
an actor and Michelle Pfeiffer is not much better than that.
What was going on in the 1990s casting in Hollywood?

Nick:
1993 must have been a big year for period drama. Arguably the kings of
the period drama genre in modern times were director
Ivory and his
producer partner Ismail Merchant.
Just a little perusal through their
work gives you a rough idea
of the kind of films they made (i.e.Howards
End, Maurice, A Room With
A View etc). What you normally get in an
Ivory/Merchant film is lots of stiff
upper lip and wonderful costumes.
This story of unfulfilled desire
that the mansion Butler Stevens (played
by an excellent Anthony
Hopkins)feels for the mansion Houskeeper (Emma
Thompson)
is a slight film where etiquette often trumps emotion.

Altman's Gosford Park is a more entertaining film based on a similar
occupation.

Scorsese comes really unstuck on his adaptation of Edith
Wharton's Age
Of Innocence. Not only is Scorsese more interested
in the cutlery,
flowers, artwork, clothing and general period detail
that populate the
lives of these characters, he leaves us not really
caring for them. The
opulence of these upper class 19th Century
New Yorkers is not so
engaging and so little else is on offer.
Daniel-Day Lewis is superb as
lawyer Newland Archer, unfortunately
Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder
are awful and out of their depth
as the women in Archer's life. The film
looks amazing and is technically
as good as it gets but the over all
effect is so what
and so cold, cold cold.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Watchmen 2009 (Directed by Zack Snyder)


Nick:
Film adaptations of classic books are always tricky. Film adaptations of
classic Graphic Novels and this being the Holy Grail of Graphic Novels,
adapting Alan Moore's truly fantastic story to the big screen was always
going to be hard. As a comic book fan, Watchmen is a personal favorite
so my interest in the film is high. It's amazing that with Snyder's past
as a film maker (300, Dawn Of The Dead) he succeeds with Watchmen
on some levels.

This was my second outing with Watchmen. I caught it on the big
screen last year and was slightly blown away by the visuals
and the overall feel of the film. Watching the film at home the
visuals once again impressed and with the time to really take in
some of the scenes it's obvious that Watchmen looks as good as
anything out there. The death of the Comedian, the credits sequence
charting the rise of the Minutemen through to the creation of
Watchmen time lined by historical events against a musical backdrop
of Dylan's The Times They are a Changing and the story of
Dr. Manhattan's creation to super human being are all
mighty impressive.

Moore's story works on many levels and stripping
back some of the major plots from the novel has created a film that
feels disjointed. The politics of the source have been simplified for
mainstream audiences (obviously a commercial consideration for
Snyder and the kind of budget he was dealing with).
The sex presented within the film is clumsy and verging on the soft
porn variety at times. As expected, the violence is hard and at the
same time glamorous. Moore's book deals not only with
gender issues but particularly how women are dealt with within the
super hero fraternity and the pure fetishistic thrill of pulling on a
rubber costume and administering justice. It's also a book about
identity and human nature. What Snyder serves up is a story about
men in tights and women in stockings (and not much else!) trying to
save the world from Nuclear destruction. That he makes it this
simplistic and it still trumps most comic book adaptations is an
achievement even if Snyders' re-writing of the ending is a little too
convenient to convince.

On the downside the casting is a major problem. Malin
Ackerman (Silk Spectre II), Billy Cudrup (Dr. Manhattan) &
Matthew Goode (Adrien Veidt) really don't cut it in their roles.
Yes, Ackerman looks great in and out of her costume, but boy is
she bad at delivering lines. You don't really believe that DR.
Manhattan would consider saving the world for this bimbo!
The women in Moore's book just come across smarter than this.
However Jackie Earle Haley makes the Rorschach character
his own and gives the film it's soul.
In fact, Rorschach is wonderful in Watchmen and worth the
effort alone. A director's cut (apparently a 4 hour plus version
with those missing plot lines) is coming this year.
Still, a valiant attempt at bringing some complex issues and
themes to a mainstream audience.

Astrid:
Ok, I have been pressured to watch this movie. I have heard
plenty of monologues on how great it was in the cinema.
I have heard that there will be a 5-hour-version of
the film coming out this year.
I have been told repeatedly to read the book. The Graphic
Novel, not a comic.

I found myself oddly entertained by this movie. Despite
the awful acting, the awkward jumping from scene to scene,
and the violence that made me turn my head away from the
screen. The look of the film was pleasing in its grimness.
The 1980s style and the freedom of style which seems to come
with adaptations of comics/graphic novels were almost inspiring
to me.

But why the awful void in the content, when obviously
the original material has grappled with some fascinating
questions about the universe, physics, and human nature?
My favorite character Doctor Manhattan has been a human
being, but through a physics lab-accident he has turned into
someone who can dismantle his molecular structure and travel
thus in time and place. He is a fascinating what-if character
who holds many powers associated only with god. He has
been used as a weapon by the US government, he is
supposed to save the world from nuclear war as well.
But as Doctor Manhattan is not a human anymore, he has
become too distant from humanity, from emotions.
He is unattached to life for its own sake. For a while he sees
nuclear disaster and the extinction of humanity as not such
a bad thing. All this is great. I respect anyone pondering
on such questions, and using their creativity and imagination
to ask questions about our future/past/present.

Unfortunately, the movie had to also be an entertaining
piece of action, so it could not focus only
on the difficult questions of existence.
I'm sure that with some better actors involved this would
have been a great film.





Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New York, New York (1977, Directed by Martin Scorsese)


Astrid:

New York, New York has become one of my favorite movies. I can watch it at least once a year for its cinematic qualities, but also for the story itself. I think it is important that the film was made in the 1970s but it depicts the 1940s. The historic setting of the plot is in the 1940s, but Scorsese also refers and borrows from the 1940s Hollywood and their way of making musicals. "Artifice and truth" is what the director is trying to combine (as he says in his intro to the movie). In the film Scorsese combines the magical and unreal (present in movies from the 1940s when they were still a very new art form), with a reality in the characters and their story in a manner that became popular in the 1970s. This combination must be what makes the film so thrilling to watch still in 2010.

From my personal perspective: the exploration of a relationship between two creative people is very fascinating to me. Robert De Niro's Jimmy and Liza Minnelli's Francine fall in love and work together in a band, but for many reasons they cannot live together for very long. They fall apart and become successful on their own. I have to add that even though the director talks of this conflict as a result of their ambition and creativity, it appears from my perspective that the male character, Jimmy, is mad and unstable. He is overly possessive and competitive. His whole manner towards Francine is an attack straight from the beginning. I could claim that Scorsese is depicting a kind of masculinity in this movie that doesn't allow for women to be creative. The old-fashioned male who from the mid-20th century onwards has been struggling for air.
Or at least it seems that Francine's talent and finally amazing success makes it impossible for Jimmy to be coupled with her. The movie does not judge its characters and there is no happy or very sad ending to it, so it is almost impossible for me to decide where the line between creativity and madness is here.

Nick:
Scorsese's tribute to the Hollywood musical of the 40's, New York, New
York so often dismissed, is arguably maturing to be his masterpiece.
Robert De Niro plays Jimmy Doyle, a saxophonist who falls for singer
Francine Evans played by a never better Liza Minnelli. They meet on VJ day
celebrations in New York, Doyle insistent for a date. Francine helps
Doyle with an audition at a club, they both get the gig and a musical and
romantic partnership is formed. The film follows the creative process
of the leads, who take different roads with there musical dreams
while marriage, childbearing, drugs and alcohol get thrown into the
mix. Has De Niro ever been this good? Coming across somewhere
between the cocky Johnny Boy From Mean Streets and the violent
Jake La Motta from Raging Bull he instills Doyle with a humor that
off-sets the characters self-destructive tendencies.

Scorsese rarely has a female lead in his
films (the excellent Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore being the notable
exception prior to NY, NY). Minnelli not only holds her own
against De Niro but she gives the film it's credibility, it's reference
and it's soul. Watch the long version of the film with the Happy
Endings sequence, a tribute itself to the finale of Singing In The Rain.
Minnelli belts out number after number whilst channeling the spirit
of her mother Judy Garland. Meanwhile Scorsese serves up the visuals
which re-create the atmosphere and vision of Minnelli's father Vincent.
Scorsese with New York New York not only created a film where he
showed the New Hollywood that there was something great in the
method of the old studio system, but in the final scenes he achieves a
mood and emotional truth that he has never reached since. We're
talking one of my all time favorite films here. Not only that, but this
film gives the city maybe it's most recognizable theme song. A classic.



Did I not promise plaid?

Well, they do say that if you fall off, you should get right back on ... whatever it was you fell off.  I hope I'm in the process of recovering from the fall as I work on my new latest project, the plaid Burda jacket, #114 from the January, 2009 issue.

Here's Burda's version.

I loved this as soon as I saw it and it has been lurking on my "to sew" list for a year now. Birgitte was very prompt in February with her version, also in plaid and just gorgeous in every way.  For me, new ideas (plaid double-breasted jacket, bias plaid trim, diagonal bound buttonholes, very quirky collar/lapels) need time to percolate.  So a year later, I'm finally getting around to it. 



At some point in the year a piece of fabric buried in the stash called to me.  It called LOUDLY.  It said it was a plaid ... no - it SHOUTED that it was A PLAID!  And it thought it could be this jacket.  

Matching the plaid on a princess seamed jacket with set in sleeves is not a task for the faint of heart.  I have a long history with plaid and I am firmly in the slightly manic matchmaker camp of sewers.  Another of my school home ec projects was a tailored wool coat.  The teacher instructed us to go out and find a pattern for a coat or jacket and wool fabric.  She suggested plaid might not be a good idea, but if we fell in love with a plaid, to make sure it was an even plaid.  From a document on plaid at the University of Kentucky website:



"An even (balanced) plaid has the same lines,
spaces, and colors on the left and right and the
same lines, spaces, and colors above and below
a center or dominant line. Even plaids will
match in both the lengthwise and crosswise
directions.

NOTE: For the beginner, an even plaid is the
easiest to work with and will build one’s
confidence.
"

You already know from this post that as a beginning sewer, I would sometimes pick challenging school projects.  In this case, I ended up with a plaid which was uneven in both directions ("Different from left to right and above and below a dominant line").  Just as my grade 8 teacher must have done, my grade 12 teacher sighed when she saw it, and then, bless her heart, she methodically started to show me how to plan the garment so I could match the plaid at every possible juncture.  Everything was cut single layer and as I recall, even the lips of the bound buttonholes matched the coat fronts.  Success with uneven plaid is truly a confidence-building experience. 

But I digress.  

A couple of days ago I started trying to figure out how the Burda jacket pattern would work with my plaid.  After moving some furniture around, I laid out the fabric on the floor, single layer, and tried various placements.  The crucial places to match plaid are the CF and CB (intersecting horizontal and vertical elements should meet precisely on vertical seams/edges).  The CB of the collar can usually be made to match with the CB of the jacket body.  Obviously wherever there are shaping seams, the plaid design will distort somewhat at the seams, but despite this thought has to be given to how the main elements of the plaid will interact at all vertical seams in the body of the jacket, and at the armscye-sleeve seam - the goal being to keep the general rhythm of the plaid as constant as possible, recognizing that perfection is impossible (for example, the plaid will not match at the shoulders unless you have an extraordinarily symmetrical pattern, which mine isn't).  

It probably should go without saying, but I'll say it anyhow, that the matching point is the seam line and not the cut edge of the pieces.  It's helpful to have that line drawn on your pattern pieces when laying out the pattern on the fabric. 


-- Oh, did I not mention that the plaid was orange, as well as loud? 

When this photo was taken I was toying with the idea that the CF and CB should be on the dominant dark vertical line of my more-or-less even plaid.  If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see I had darkened the grain lines, critical seam lines, and CF line.  The CB neck point is lying so the seam line is exactly in the middle of the dominant vertical line of the plaid.  

Horizontally, I was paying attention to the built-in Burda horizontal plaid-matching lines (you can see them in the body pieces below the waist, and on the front and sleeve at the armscye near the notch).  I also thought about where the bottom of the jacket would hit on the plaid.  Because there's a bottom band which will be on the bias, I concluded this is less important - it so happened that the dominant horizontal element is just above the band which seems OK to me. 


The jacket has welt pockets with flaps and so I will also try to match the flaps to the jacket body.  Because the pocket opening lies on 3 pieces (front, side front and side back), it will be impossible to completely match the flap to the body.  The important part is obviously the front.  I therefore paid attention to matching the vertical as well as horizontal plaid lines as closely as possible at the point where the pocket markings cross from front to side-front. 



Eventually I realized that the WOF jacket was cut with the CF falling on a non-dominant vertical line and I decided that would work better.  So I shifted the pieces over and now the dark vertical in the middle of the orange lines is at the CB and CF.  It seems more subtle, that is if anything made in orange plaid could be subtle.



The real matching challenge in this jacket will be the armscye-sleeve seam which always drives me nuts, but I'm also thinking ahead to the interesting question whether (as Birgitte did, whether by accident or design) I can get at least some elements on the bias edge of the lapel to match the same elements on the jacket fronts.  (Or whether I care...)  For now, I've only cut out the body pieces and under collar.  Once the body of the jacket is constructed I can make more informed decisions about how to cut the sleeves and other pieces.  


I'll leave off with a sneak preview of how the plaid intersects at the front princess seams.  This is just pinned together, but isn't it exciting?