Sunday, January 29, 2017

Film Review: La La Land (A-)

I'm not one for musicals, I usually cringe to the hokey dancing and singing of some musicals I have tried to watch in the past. So when they are released, I tend to ignore them. But in the case of La La Land, there was something magical about this film that really lured me in to it. Besides having a slight girl crush on the gorgeous and extremely talented Emma Stone, and having a grand appreciation for the sexy and somber Ryan Gosling, the story about two young people in Los Angeles struggling to realize their dreams resonated with me, because, I'm a new transplant to Los Angeles seeking my dreams too. The film was released in early December, and I purchased a ticket to see it on Friday, December 9th. But for the first time in my life, after buying an advanced purchase ticket, I actually forgot to go see the movie right after work that Friday because I was very tired and stressed from a busy week at work. It was my intentions to still see it, and the perfect time to watch La La Land was just a few days after it received 14 Oscar nominations!

La La Land has Mia (Emma) as an aspiring actress from Nevada living and working in Los Angeles at a coffee shop. She works at the Warner Brothers studio, right smack dab in the middle of all the action where she's constantly reminded about her dream to be a big star, but first, she has to get a call back from the gazillion auditions she's been going to. By chance, while caught in LA's infamous traffic, Mia has a road rage situation with mercurial Sebastian (Ryan), a struggling Jazz musician who has aspirations to be a successful old school jazz musician and jazz club owner. These two ambitious people bump into each other once more at the height of personal lows and over time, come to share the miseries of the pursuit of their dreams and support each other in obtaining their separate dreams.

La La Land is absolutely beautiful, charming, and fun. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is undeniable! It's not a perfect film because as an Angeleno, I was left wondering how could Mia and Sebastian afford their lifestyles and partake in some of the activities around Los Angeles under the guise of being struggling young artists. But that's where the suspension of disbelief takes over in many of the fantasy aspects of this vibrant film. The opening and ending singing and dance sequences were a joy to watch and really made me appreciate the artistic directing, editing, film score, choreography, cinematography, costumes, makeup, etc. of La La Land. The dancing and singing done by both Emma and Ryan were incredible, really demonstrating their abilities of being multi-hyphenated creative talents.

Just when you think La La Land would have a typical La La happy ending, the smart mind game twist at the end really is bittersweet and Mia and Sebastian's polite sad smiles really tugged at my heart and left me thinking about the film and these two charming characters for the remainder of the day. The moral of the story is, in the pursuit of one's dreams, don't neglect the rare magical event of true love - with ego aside, someone has to give up something to be with and support their loved one so that they both can enjoy their mutual successes together.

La La Land has been nominated for 14 Oscars, I will not be surprised if it won at least 8 or 9 categories, including Best Actress for Emma Stone, and I'm rooting for Ryan Gosling too. I believe the movie has Best Picture all locked up, no question at all! It's about Los Angeles, Hollywood, and actors/musicians, and the Academy loves films about themselves. However, as brilliant as director Damien Chazelle is, I think the Academy will spread the love and make the best director win an opportunity to make history and give it to someone else.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Changing of the Guard... for the Worse!

Next week, President Obama will not be the president anymore. Instead, a complete feeble minded, narcissistic, vile, greedy, sexist, ignorant old fool, who permitted the Russian mafia, lead by Putin who is afraid of Hillary, to help him "win" the election, will become president to THOSE who voted for him. I did not vote for him, and neither did the majority of voters, all 65 million of them, who voted for Hillary Clinton. I will not taint this blog with his name, a name I won't even capitalize or write in reverence. He's an anomaly that I hope is impeached soon and have the karmic forces give him severe whiplash. I'm proud to say that I have no friends who voted for him, I don't associate with people like that.

If you have a passport, make sure it's not expired or expiring very soon, otherwise, get it renewed asap. I have a nightmarish thought that many of us Americans who did not vote for this idiot, will need their passport and will book a one way flight to another country (or drive to Canada).

Good luck America, we'll be needing it! And to those of you who voted for him, you deserve every single bad policy he implements to affect you!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Acclimating to Life in LA

Jardin De Nails in Beverly Hills
I've almost completed three weeks of working in Los Angeles, and five weeks living here. There is still so much to see, learn, and participate it that it's going to take me the next 50 years of my life to experience all the opportunities available. But for now, I'm dealing with the 1.5 hours of commute to get to work in the morning, and almost 2 hours of getting home. But you know what, as much as it sucks, this is what I signed up for, and I'm dealing with it. I  have my ipod and CDs and I'm going with the flow of traffic. However, all that time spent in the car does add up and take a toll on the body, mind and spirit, and I have the perfect solutions to remedy that: Yoga and spa treatments.

Firstly, two weeks ago, I signed up for free classes during a ten day trial period with Yoga House in Pasadena. It's a lovely, bright zen yoga studio that I immediately embraced. After my trial period was up, I purchased the 5 class pass which I will use on Saturdays. The yoga stretches really help realign my body from the 15+ hours of sitting in a car all week, and my body appreciates it. Secondly, today, I'm treating myself to a pedicure at Jardin De Nails in Beverly Hills. I purchased a Groupon for a Deluxe Spa Gel Pedicure and I'm going there today after work. I prefer pedicures over manicures because I love doing my own nails. But when it comes to pedicures, it's a beautiful mini spa session that I trust the pedicurist to not only do my nails perfectly, but also take care of my feet from all the rough spots.

Larchmont Sanctuary Spa
And that's not all! Starting in December, I will enroll into a membership at the Larchmont Sanctuary Spa, in LA. With this membership - which has three different levels and different treatments - I will enroll in the option that allows me to have either a 60 minute Swedish massage or 60 minute organic facial, and 20 mins of a hydrotherapy bath in a copper tub. Sold! The name of this spa reminds me of my beloved but now defunct Sanctuary Spa in London which closed down in 2013. So I will look forward to this regular monthly day spa visit. My aim is to try to book my first reservation on Christmas Eve because I'm not flying home for Christmas and this will be my gift to myself. A fun way to celebrate my successful relocation to California and close out the year in control of my life!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Film Review: Arrival

Arrival arrived in theaters at the perfect time, just days after the most unbelievable 2016 Presidential election ended so horrendously. My love for the space epic and aliens genre helped me escape from reality if just for a couple of hours. I have often told people that probably the only thing that would bring all of humanity together is an alien invasion from another planet, and I think I may be right on that because director Denis Villeneuve apparently thinks the same way. Arrival touches on that, but on a much more cerebral and mysterious way.

One day, over a dozen locations around the planet, gigantic black oblong space crafts appear in the sky. The world is shocked and scared, and governments around the world instruct people to stay in their homes while they mobilize the military. Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, is a linguist sought out by the US government to translate communications with the aliens. She is joined by Ian Donnelly played by Jeremy Renner, a theoretical scientist. Soon after Louise meets the aliens, and they communicate with her, she begins to experience strange things related to her past in which she still mourns about. The past is also interlaced with events that have yet come to pass, and she soon comes to understand that the stressful act of communicating with the aliens has changed her mental perception of time.

With the military getting itchy fingers to hurt the aliens before they harm humans, Louise is the only person on Earth who can figure out what they want and help both them and mankind. Arrival has elements of 2001 Space Odyssey and Intergalatic, and can be slow paced at times, but this is really a great film that comes at a good time. Arrival serves as a lesson that we have work together to solve complex problems that affects us all.  Just because you don't understand something or someone due to extreme language barriers - patience, compassion, and a very open mind will assuage any concerns and save both interests.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Prince Harry's American Girl, Meghan Markle

As much as I like the British Royals, I don't write about them, I just tweet stuff about them every so often, especially when it comes to Will and Kate. I have always liked both William and Harry, and as an American who loves things British, including admiring from afar, the monarchy (although I'm so glad we don't have a monarchy in the US), they are just an interesting bunch of people. Well, since this past weekend, it has been announced that Prince Harry has a new girlfriend and he's seeing the American actress, Meghan Markle, who stars in the show Suits, which is filmed in Toronto. I'm particularly excited about this relationship because Meghan is completely unlike any of Harry's other girlfriends. Meghan is American, she's a graduate of Northwestern University (very smart), a Women's Advocate for the United Nations, she has a lifestyle and beauty blog that I follow on Instagram called The Tig, she has a clothing line sold at Reitman's, a Canadian store featuring a capsule collection of clothes based on her Suits character, and she's bi-racial, a black mother and a white father. The usual suspects are shocked about the news and doubt it's anything more than a temporary girl until he finds a more 'proper' girlfriend to become his wife/princess. But I believe they are in for quite a surprise. Harry has been single for far too long and at 32, older than when his brother married Kate five years ago... it's time for him to settle down especially while the queen is still alive.

Well, as each day passes, it's becoming clear that Meghan is more than just a friendly acquaintance to Prince Harry (even though no pictures of the two of them have been released). But due to the world wide coverage about her apparently dating him for the past several months, today we see pics of her now surrounded with bodyguards while she's still based in Toronto filming her TV show. I took a look at her collection at Reitman's, and as timing would have it, I'm in dire need of a nice blouse for a Thanksgiving dinner party I will be attending in Beverly Hills, so, I purchased The Shirt from Meghan's Collection. You know that Reitman's is loving the media attention Meghan has received this week and this selection designed by Meghan will sell out in due time. I do love how much of a bargain the US dollar is in Canada.

I look forward to continued coverage about Meghan and Harry and I hope for his sake, she's the one and that they are happy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reeve Carney at Molly Malone's in Los Angeles

For my first concert living here in the Los Angeles area, I went to see actor and musician Reeve Carney at Molly Malone's last night. I have only been aware of Reeve for about 5 months now, and that's due to Netflix streaming the excellent but recently cancelled Showtime show, Penny Dreadful, where Reeve plays the beautiful but deadly Dorian Grey. Reeve also recently starred in the remake of the Rocky Horror Picture Show where he wonderfully played Riff Raff!  I soon started to research Reeve and learned about his primary occupation as a singer and composer. I started to follow him on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and I listened a little bit to his music. What small samplings I heard was enough for me to determine that he was someone I should see in concert if I got the chance.

Well, lo and behold, Reeve's new Fall tour commenced in LA Monday night, October 24 at LA's Molly Malone's, a popular Irish pub that host bands in its 150 occupancy concert room. To describe Reeve's music, I would say that he's an artist that is obviously influenced by blues, soul, rock, a little bit of country, and jazz; he's truly a person influenced by all genres of music. He plays the piano and the guitar with brilliant precision, and he's very animated, engaging and lively during his show. I had the pleasure of being in the front row of the general admission, standing room only audience and it was amazing being so close to such a beautiful soul who knows how to sing and put on an excellent show. Reeve was also supported by his equally talented and photogenic brother and sister, Zane and Paris Carney, musicians in their own right.

As Reeve explained, although he was born and raised in New York City, he went to high school and college in Los Angeles. So in the early 2000s, he was a regular entertainer at Molly Malone's where he honed his musical talents and developed his following. The audience really loved his music, and we all queued up to buy his CD and other merchandise where Reeve manned the merchandise stand to sign the merchandise and pose for pictures. I did not want my picture taken with him, I was content with the hundred photos I took of him with my camera and iPad. But when I got up to him to have him sign my CD, I shook his hand and told him how much I enjoyed the show and that I've only been following him for about five months and that his show was my first concert in my new home of LA. He thanked me for the honor and asked where I was from, I told him I was from Ann Arbor, MI and he knew the city. In fact, he said he did a show at the Ark on Main Street one time, and he was really impressed with AA. He signed my CD, and I asked for a hug, and he gave me one, before apologizing for being sweaty and wet. Lord, if all mankind can be as delicately sweaty and still smell good like him, we'll all be the better for it.

To Simone, Love, Reeve Carney :-)
In all, Reeve Carney put on an excellent show promoting his new CD, Youth Wasted, featuring the sexy Prince-esque song, 'Truth'. One listen to it and you will be hooked on this beautiful and very, very talented, and very sweet man. I look forward to seeing Reeve again in concert one day and I hope more people learn more about his music and see that he is more than a model handsome guy, he is truly talented in the musical sense and offers a stage presence that is greatly lacking in the under 35 musical act scene.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

California Here I Come!

My visit to Los Angeles over two weeks ago was a success. I had two networking meetings, stayed at a cool and comfortable AirBnB (my first time), and checked out some potential places to live. The palm trees cast against the beautiful blue sky was taken by me while I was relaxing and reflecting at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, just off the PCH and Sunset Blvd. I got accepted at both residences that I looked at, and wound up selecting one place immediately over the other for a variety of reasons. Last week I put in my two week's notice, and people have been very supportive but sad to see me go. I know I'm a great worker and Los Angeles is going to provide so many more opportunities that Michigan just cannot provide to me. I have plotted out my 3 1/2 day trip to LA starting Monday, October 17 with overnight pit stops in Iowa, Colorado and Utah. On the last day of the West bound trip, it's only 6 hours drive from my hotel in Utah to my new home in the LA area.

I'm in the process of talking to a great possible future employer, related to work in healthcare services that I greatly enjoyed at a previous job that was eliminated. And after the on-site interview visit when I arrive, I could start work in a matter of days. The timing is just perfect. I have put so much time, effort and universal energies into making this huge life change happen, that it's actually happening and I know I'll be ok and this will prove to be the right decision.

I'll be living in a suburb of LA, just about 30 minutes East outside of DTLA. The peace and quiet and cleanliness of my new home will serve as the perfect starting point as I get acclimated to live in LA County. I won't be close to the beach, but what's a mere hour's drive to the beach, compared to the costs associated to booking a 4 hour flight and getting a hotel to go see the same beach. In the meanwhile, I'll enjoy the views of the San Gabriel mountains from my bedroom. I've known several people from Michigan who lived for a brief time in Los Angeles, but found it to be too much for them, too densely populated, too expensive, and just too big for them. I have been visiting LA for over 10 years and it's the only state that I feel that will truly feel like home for me for the rest of my life.

Keep an eye on my Instagram account as I document my drive from Ann Arbor to Los Angeles starting on October 17. Thanks for the support, positive vibes and well wishes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TIFF 2016 Trips

File photo
The impossible was made possible and accomplished. Driving to and from Toronto on two separate trips within three days last week, hurts. However, I was able to take care of Tiff business on Wednesday for the Michael Fassbender Soiree. I still can't believe I drove there and back inside 24 hours, and made it to work the following morning only 10 minutes late! The Saturday drive was at a different pace. I left home at 4am, arrived in Toronto at 8:30 am. Found downtown parking for $10, and had breakfast at Tim Horton's by 9am. I watched two films, chatted with nice folks while standing in line, ate sushi, and was back in my car at 5:15pm to drive back home. I arrived at 10:46 pm, after I was so hungry and desperate for a quick meal, I went to the McDonald's drive through, the first time in a decade! I took a long hot bath, swallowed three Advil PMs, and slept until 10:30 the following morning. Well rested and caught up on much needed sleep after my TIFF/Toronto adventures.

This is the last time I will make such a trek to Toronto. I'm moving to California soon, and the logistical advantage of driving to Toronto will be lost due to this move. I'm going to skip TIFF next year because I need a break from this particular festival. I love TIFF and Toronto, but in the 13 years I have been attending, each year the festival changes. As per my conversations with people standing in line with me, they too feel betrayed by TIFF's relentless pursuit of chasing corporate and studio sponsor money, and their Visa Infinity connection alienates ticket holders/buyers who cannot obtain or desire to have that credit card. If it weren't for the new alignment with Ticketmaster this year, buying tickets would have been pure chaos.

I'll post more pictures later, but I also wanted to express my dismay at the circus atmosphere of King Street for the first weekend at TIFF. Over half of the people there don't go to the movies, they are there for the free food and trinkets, and selfies with stars and seeking their autographs. I complain about this every year, but it just gets worse and worse as the social media influence persuades the star seekers to only go to TIFF to stalk celebrities. These people aren't interested in said celebrity's films, just their moment in the spotlight of getting that precious selfie with a celebrity who feels obligated because it's all part of the TIFF festival experience.

As I move to California, I look forward to attending other festivals that don't have the star struck craziness of TIFF. Film Festivals are suppose to be about FILMS and the talent that created them, not fan frenzy that distracts from the festival of people who can't be bothered to actually buy a ticket to the films. Also, at TIFF, there is an unbalanced focus on films that have Oscar potential vs. those that do not. Little attention is made to those that are just made for entertaining, education, and enlightenment. One of the two films I saw is not Oscar caliber, and that's ok, it was the type of film that NEED a film festival to help it find its audience and a film distributor to buy it so that people can see it. Often, it takes many months, perhaps a year or two before a 'non-Oscar bait' festival film gets purchased, only to be released on streaming or obscure art houses and forgotten about. TIFF is about the money and the PR that comes with high profile films that will be blockbusters and get Oscar nominations. And I'm tired of it. So I need a break from it, if for just one year.