Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Evening with Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey at Film Independent - April 20, 2017
I'm not the biggest Oprah Winfrey fan, but you have to give credit where credit is due. She's a remarkable, multi-talented/multi-hyphenated person who does a lot of good for the world. When I realized that she was going to appear at the screening of her new HBO movie, I had to be there! The latest thing Oprah has done was help bring the very important story of Henrietta Lacks to life. Based on a New York Times bestselling book by Rebecca Skloot, Oprah produced and starred in the HBO film (airing this weekend), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, directed by George C. Wolfe. I had the pleasure to attend the Film Independent screening for Immortal on April 20th, where Oprah and the director engaged in a lively conversation afterwards. Oprah admitted that even she wasn't aware of Henrietta Lacks, and it really saddened her. Ms. Lacks was a black woman who lived in Baltimore and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She died in 1951, but Johns Hopkins hospital removed her cancer cells and used them for research and study that would lead to groundbreaking medical and scientific breakthroughs that have revolutionized all of humanity. Back in those days, it was protocol for human tissue to be used without consent for research. For those with a background and interest in science, you may be more familiar with the scientific name for her cells as HELA cells.

According to the wiki definition of HELA, it is described as, "A cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line." HELA is abbreviated for HEnrietta LAcks, the human donor of these important and immortal cells. Read up on Henrietta's legacy from this current article at CNN.

The conversation with Oprah was very engaging and informative. She's really proud to be a part of this film. She plays Deborah Lacks, Henrietta's daughter. Deborah had a life long crusade to bring her mother's story to life. Oprah explained that she was hesitant to take on the role, but when she heard one of the interview tapes of Deborah talking to the writer of the 'Immortal' book, Rebecca Skloot, which the movie in based on, Oprah learned that Deborah wanted Oprah to play her if a movie were ever made. Well, her wish came true.

I was able to get my autograph from Oprah and I thanked her for bringing this very important story to our attention, and she said, 'You're welcome'. I shook the director's hand and told him how much I enjoyed the film. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks airs on HBO this weekend. Please watch it, it's a very important film. We have all benefited from Henrietta in ways we can't comprehend.

Oprah deserves an Emmy nomination for 'Immortal'

Director George C. Wolfe and Oprah

Fans getting their autographs

Heading to the wine and cheese reception afterwards

A variety of wines to enjoy

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Personal Shopper at LACMA

In their second collaboration, Kristen Stewart and director Olivier Assayas go down a creepy American in Paris Gothic film road with Personal Shopper. I was in attendance Monday night at the Film Independent at LACMA screening where after wards, there was a Q&A. Kristen stars as Maureen, a young woman who is still mourning the death of her twin brother three months prior, and is driven to use her medium skills to contact him. She and her brother made a pact long ago that whoever dies first, must let the other one know they are ok on the other side. It’s been a few months since he died, and Maureen hasn’t heard from her brother. She lives in Paris as a personal shopper to a selfish and demanding fashionista/model name Kyra, but Maureen primarily communicates with Kyra through messages left on a dining room table. Feeling isolated in a city she hates and a job that is soul destroying, Maureen is compelled to remain in Paris, the city her brother died, to conjure up a conversation with him, but by doing so, she may have opened up another door.

While Maureen is trying to communicate with her brother in the vacant home where he last lived, she hears sounds and has a frightening experience that may or may not be from her twin. Did Maureen make contact with a different spirit, or did this thing manifest from something, or someone else more sinister? Whatever it is, she awakened something and it begins to stalk her. Soon, this entity, or someone possibly playing mind games with her, sends text messages to her encouraging her to explore the things she is forbidden to do, and one of those things are to simply disobey Kyra’s orders of not trying on her fancy designer clothes. By breaking this rule in secret, Maureen is forced to see how isolated life in Paris has made her feel, and by experience the freedom to do what she wants so she can feel alive and escape her mourning. But she still misses her brother, and is obsessed with contacting him. In a Hitchcockian twist, Maureen visits Krya’s apartment to find a bloody murder scene and she is soon enveloped in fear of the supernatural presence that has been haunting and taunting her.

Personal Shopper reveals an intimate view of how each of us manage our grief, and how normal it is to grieve and yearn for some kind of sign for the dearly departed. And if you’re a medium wanting to use your innate skills to contact your twin, that grief can be compounded when you think you have failed; and Maureen gives up hope at a moment when all she had to do was turn around. In her most mature role, Kristen Stewart was marvelous as the tenacious grief stricken young woman. In their Q&A, Kristen and Olivier Assayas described their working relationship as Kristen making his directing more easy and organic, and Kristen says that working with Olivier is so comforting that she will do anything for him because his direction is so natural and inviting. 

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.