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The War of Art
The War of Art
Price: $7.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seven-year long writer's block, gone, March 7, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The War of Art (Kindle Edition)
I have been taking writing courses, seminars, and workshops since a teenager, and I even spent two years and $30,000 on an MFA, where I discovered what good writing is but lost my enthusiasm for writing as well. After reading this book (in just a few hours) I was back to writing and making money from it, so I've been recommending it to several of my friends.


Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris
DVD ~ Carla Bruni
Offered by HOLLYWOOD DEALS
Price: $8.19
72 used & new from $3.98

369 of 399 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Glows! Lliterally., November 7, 2011
This review is from: Midnight in Paris (DVD)
"All men fear death. It's a natural fear that consumes us all," says a character in "Midnight in Paris"... "However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears."

Paris is her name. She has seduced writers for centuries, and in "Midnight in Paris" writer/director Woody Allen makes love to her with his camera, in the most poetic of ways.

Or perhaps he's referring to art, to achieving such intimacy with your craft and such artistic climax that you become immortal, like Hemingway, Matisse, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali, or Allen himself.

Gil Pender, the protagonist in Allen's new film, has never experienced that kind of artistic height. Played quite convincingly by Owen Wilson (in a surprising and refreshing role that Allen had to re-write for him), Gil is an aspiring novelist who is visiting Paris with his girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. But while they prefer to shop and visit museums, Gil chooses to wonder about. "No work of art can compare to a city," he says.

Pender is actually mesmerized by the City of Lights and fantasizes about what he believes was Paris' Golden Age, the 1920s with the Lost Generation of American writers walking its streets, writing in sidewalk cafés, and frequenting smoky bars and flamboyant parties. One evening at midnight, trying to find his way back to the hotel, something magical happens to Gil. Really! But no reviewer should give that magic away.

Getting lost in the city seems to be a symbol for how lost he really is, as a person and as a writer, and although he's somewhat insecure and anxious (he even carries a bottle of Valium with him), he's actually a likable guy and soon meets a few bohemian friends (played by Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, among others) who give him much-needed advice about life and the creative process.

From the beginning, "Midnight in Paris" grabs you with its witty and sophisticated dialogue about art, culture and literature, and in the second half the dialogue gets even better. For instance, my favorite line comes from one of the bohemian characters, who believes that: "the job of the artist is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."

Another piece of wisdom comes from one of the antagonists who criticizes Gil for being infatuated with the past: "Nostalgia is denial...a flaw in the romantic imagination of people who find it difficult to cope with the present." Think about that one while watching the film, for I believe, there lies the moral of this fabulous fable about the past and the present.

At age 75--with more than 40 films under his belt--Allen has created a film that literally glows. Its dazzling cinematography, inventive plot, and Parisian score, combined with the top-notch acting and set-design, makes for an almost-perfect film, one that's not only clever and thought-provoking, but also entertaining and accessible--even to mainstream audiences.
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2013 7:08 PM PST


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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go watch it with an open mind and heart because "The Tree of Life" is nothing short of majestic, awe-inspiring, a masterpiece, July 23, 2011
"There are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things," writer/director Terrence Malick.

The choice between nature and grace is a hard one for most people, but it's actually a struggle for the main character of "The Tree of Life," Jack, who was raised by polar-opposite parents: a compassionate, free-spirited mother (the lovely Jessica Chastain), and a stern, disciplinarian father (played by Brad Pitt. Side note: the late Heath Ledger was originally casted for this role).

The adult Jack is an architect and seems trapped and suffocated (the perfect role for Sean Penn), not only by his current environment in a modern city of glass and metal, but by the unresolved issues with his brother's death as a teen and a complicated relationship with his father. And I'll even venture to say that he's also questioning his place in the universe, the meaning of it all.

Through Jack's fragmented memory we travel back in time (way back...like billions of years) to witness--with visual splendor--the birth of the cosmos and earth's formation (dinosaurs and all), before making a stop in the 1950's during his childhood in a small town in Texas. The cinematography during this part of the film is much more subtle but equally splendid, with curtains swaying in the breeze, a shot of Jack during a lazy summer afternoon laying on a picnic blanket next to his mother, cheerful kids chasing after clouds of DDT smoke coming from a passing truck, the pleats of his mother's dress, the swing on the green front yard, the warmth of the light in their house...

You'll have to watch the film to continue that journey through time. But please understand that it's a different type of movie, which has won the praise of critics as well as the confusion of many viewers. Take a look at Yahoo Movies where critics rated it an A- while users gave it a C+. I've actually heard of people asking for their money back; and I can honestly see why.

Yet the stunning imagery, accompanied by an equally-impressive score, transcends your normal movie-going experience; some feel watching the film is more like a spiritual/religious experience of sorts for it reminds us of the miracle of life, nature, family ties, and our own existence.

Go watch it with an open mind and heart because "The Tree of Life" is nothing short of majestic, awe-inspiring, a masterpiece.


The Double Hour [Region 2]
The Double Hour [Region 2]
DVD ~ Filippo Timi
4 used & new from $12.26

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfying, Nail-Biting Psychological Thriller from Italy, June 6, 2011
This review is from: The Double Hour [Region 2] (DVD)
Fans of Alfred Hitchcock and followers of the more recent "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" series, would likely be pleased with this nail-biting psychological thriller from Italy, which delivers many unexpected twists during its 96 minutes of running time.

If suspense isn't your cup of tea but you enjoy art films with non-linear and unpredictable plots, you'll probably end up drinking the whole pot of this satisfying brainteaser from newcomer director Giuseppe Capotondi.

"The Double Hour" is actually a love story between a lonely immigrant, Sonia (a chambermaid at a high-end hotel in Turin) and the also lonesome Guido, an ex-cop working as a security guard at an art dealer's estate. The two meet at a speed-dating event and just as they are beginning to fall in love, a crime happens, and their relationship is cut short.

But before that, during their first date, Guido looks at his watch, which marks 23:23, and he tells Sonia that it's a double hour and that she should make a wish. This detail early on, serves as a metaphor for the double life of the characters and the double storyline of the film you are about to embark on. And it's details such as this one that you need to pay attention to, because every one of them is important to decipher this riveting puzzler that won't let you get too comfortable in your seat.

Acted to perfection by Ksenia Rappoport and Filippo Timi "The Double Hour" is making its way quietly now through art-house theaters in the United States. Don't miss it!


Certified Copy (2010)
Certified Copy (2010)
DVD ~ Juliette Binoche
Offered by DaaVeeDee
Price: $27.68
5 used & new from $21.98

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent and Philosophical Film About How Our Expectations Affect our Perspective, June 2, 2011
This review is from: Certified Copy (2010) (Blu-ray)
Perhaps you remember the 1995 hit "Before Sunrise," with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, where a couple of young strangers spend an evening together in Vienna, mostly talking about life and relationships?

"Certified Copy" is a similar dialogue-driven film that takes place in a small village in Tuscany during the course of one day. It's the story of a middle-aged art dealer (Binoche) who invites a British author on tour (Shimel) for a day in the countryside. As the two visit the various museums, churches, and trattorias, and as their conversation progresses, we find there's more to the relationship than meets the eye, and from there the plot takes some completely unexpected turns.

Despite what the trailer makes you believe, this is not a romantic movie about seduction; it's an intelligent and philosophical film about how our expectations affect our perspective, about originality and point of view. It's also a daring puzzle of a movie, and it engages you in the game without you even knowing it.

Binoche is radiant in this film, showing emotions with every raised eyebrow, telling entire stories without saying a word. She actually puts a spell on you! And shifting effortlessly between English, French, and Italian, her charismatic persona drives this minimalistic film from one scene to the next.

Like a good piece of art, "Certified Copy" gives you plenty of room to make your own interpretations, and like a good brain game, it will make you think, a lot.


Biutiful
Biutiful
DVD ~ Javier Bardem
Offered by Park Slope Outlet
Price: $5.04
58 used & new from $1.04

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Biutiful" is Beautiful in Many Ways, Full of Lyrical Elements, From the First Scene to the Last, April 15, 2011
This review is from: Biutiful (DVD)
Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu is known for his signature multi-protagonist plots introduced in his death trilogy, which included "Amores Perros," "21 Grams," and "Babel." In "Biutiful," however, he zooms in on one character, Uxbal, a single father from Barcelona, facing terminal cancer.

Uxbal is a fascinating character with many good intentions that don't always translate into good deeds. While he truly cares for people (his brother even calls him the Dalai Lama), he actually makes a living from an operation where illegal Senegalese immigrants sell on the streets the counterfeited bags and pirated CDs produced in a sweatshop by a group of frightened Chinese who sleep on the floor of a locked basement.

So yes, Uxbal is a complicated hero, not perfect by any means, but because of Bardem's earnest performance you feel Uxbal's pain, and he also wins you over with the love he so tenderly expresses for his soon-to-be fatherless children, and for the father he never met. And that's what the movie is truly about: parenthood, how people, no matter their nationality, are always concerned with giving their kids a better life. You'll find that most of the characters (from Uxbal, to the police officer, to the sweatshop owner, to the main Senegalese immigrant) are trying to do what's best for their kids. But are their choices moral or even legal? Morality is a big theme here, and the movie will leave you questioning even your own.

To appreciate this film you need to understand Iñárritu's style--bold and bleak and confrontational. He wants to shock you, make you angry, remove you from your comfortable place so you can experience some of the realities millions of people face everyday. Allow him to.

"Biutiful" is worth watching because of the many layers of the story, the stellar performances by Javier Bardem and Maricel Álvarez, and the eye-opening social commentary.

Although it's hard to watch, "Biutiful" is beautiful in many ways, full of lyrical elements, from the first scene to the last.


Heartbreaker
Heartbreaker
DVD ~ Romain Duris
Price: $16.16
31 used & new from $6.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Everything a Romantic Comedy Should Be; Truly Satisfying!, April 15, 2011
This review is from: Heartbreaker (DVD)
Suppose your best friend is about to marry the wrong guy, but she has convinced herself that she's happy with him. What can you do? Call the Heartbreakers, a company in the business of seduction, the best when it comes to breaking up ill-fitting relationships.

The Heartbreaker team is comprised of master seducer Alex, his sister, and her husband; and together, the quirky trio spies on their subject, finds the flaws in the relationship, and develops an elaborate sabotage plan.

This time the assignment is Juliette, the confident daughter of an overprotective French millionaire. Juliette, played by Vanessa Paradis (Mrs. Johnny Deep), is about to marry a rich, kind, and handsome Brit; and the Heartbreakers have only a few days to convince the strong-willed Juliette to break the engagement.

Filmed against the backdrop of the French Riviera, the cinematography is a delicious treat, but the ingenious script and the spirited performances are the two winning elements of the movie.

The script is a smart hybrid between a romantic comedy and a light spy thriller, and it will have you laughing out loud from beginning to end. And while the finale is somewhat predictable, the twists in the plot will have you wondering how it's all going to unravel.

As far as performances, the suave Duris is superb as he charms the ladies, and he and Paradis show a decent amount of chemistry on screen. The supporting cast is also brilliant, especially Julie Ferrier (who plays Alex's sister) and François Damiens (Alex's brother-in-law).

Don't wait for the American remake; watch this original version, because--like its hero--is stylish, clever, and simply hard-to-resist!

It's everything a romantic comedy should be; truly satisfying!


The Cigar Roller: A Novel
The Cigar Roller: A Novel
by Pablo Medina
Edition: Hardcover
52 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Compelling, Poetic, October 31, 2005
Pablo Medina is a writer of elegant prose and a man of great sensibility. Like a master cigar roller who tighly rolls together a bundle of dry tobacco leaves, Medina has crafted a novel that is as powerful and pleasing as a good Cuban puro.

It's amazing how this book can make you cry, both from laughter and nostalgia.

Fenomenal, Pablo, como siempre.


13
13
Offered by DVD-PC-GAMES
Price: $17.51
25 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bounciest, most exhilarating album, May 25, 2005
This review is from: 13 (Audio CD)
In the piles and piles of recently-released CDs on my desk, every year or so I seem to find one that makes me feel really excited about my job and about the future of Latin music. So far this year 13 is that CD. Javier García (along with Gustavo Santaolalla) has put together the bounciest, most exhilarating album I've heard in the past few years (probably since Manú Chao's Proxima Estación: Esperanza.) You can tell García had a blast playing around with almost every Latin rhythm there is, fusing son, rock, bolero, ska, calipso, rap, flamenco, etc. En fin, this is a well-rooted Caribbean-flavored album with a modern twist that also features Cuban trumpet player Arturo Sandoval and Paul McCartney's drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.


Rustico
Rustico
Price: $17.13
44 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars changüisa, April 18, 2005
This review is from: Rustico (Audio CD)
Drawing from traditional Cuban sounds, in Rústico, Pedro Luis Ferrer creates with gusto, bravado, and intelligence a brand new genre: changüisa, a mix of changuí, trova espirituana, and coros de claves. He has also created steamy debates by singing the oppressive feelings Cubans face today, as we can hear in the song "¿Cómo Viviré?" ("How will I live? / If I'm watched everywhere I go/ if my money is worthless/ if I'm alienated and no one listens/...Hunger and waiting are allowed/ Are allowed fear and absence/ Love is proscribed.")


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