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Written by nancykoan

March 30, 2019 at 3:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Woman at War, true Viking spirit.

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Iceland has very strong environmental protections, so when the lead character, Halla, in Woman At War, fights to halt the encroaching aluminum industry, we discover a serious activist with a sense of humor and a cause. Known by reputation as the  Woman of the Mountain, Halla leads a double life, directing a choir by day while secretly committing vandalism on the corporation with her Viking inspired bow and arrow. Halla is such a powerful person; we see her use her body for sport, climbing  and performing clever physical deeds…she is active in ways women are too rarely seen in film. Halla is not about being watched; she watches, constantly on the alert to protect nature and the future of nature for our world.

Halla befriends a man who may or may not be a cousin … he, too, is fighting for the land and calls his herding dog Woman. He helps Halla, but mostly she goes it alone and is fine, until her life’s journey comes to a fork. She receives a letter that her application to adopt a little girl has finally come through and a new role is in the offing, to be a  mother to a Ukrainian child

Halldóra Geirhasdóttir is such a fine actress that we witness her internal struggle as she must now contemplate a future for humanity and the environment through dangerous activism or the future of an orphaned child by giving her a homelife. She cannot do both.

Director Benedikt Erlingsson uses a sort of musical Greek chorus of indigenous singers who follow her around, reminiscent of the odd musicians who show up in a Fellini film, commenting subtly on the main players. They are amusing, but the heart of this wonderful film is Halla and her character.  When she argues with her twin sister who prefers to live in India with a guru ‘going inside’ to  Halla’s tackling the outer world, you know that it is not because Halla is unconscious. She has contemplated and made choices from a strong moral, humble fiber, characteristics we see too little of today.

The rugged landscape is beautifully filmed by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson

Run to this film. It is funny, touching and speaks to the idea of the strong and good mother…what nature and the environment cries out for if we are indeed to keep going.

The film is playing at the IFC and Landmark Theatre.

Written by nancykoan

February 21, 2019 at 2:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Never Look Away…beauty in truth

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The film The Lives of Others, deals with the lives of  East Berliners, separated by a wall  and  freedom. The Stasi – driven paranoia never permitted peace of mind, yet people lived with dignity as best they could.  Even the Stasi operative reveals a human side. Director and writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck thrills again and even more so, with his new film, Never Look Away.

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It is no surprise that Donnersmarck studied philosophy at Oxford. Every character thinks in this film… weighing their choices, confronting their destinies and we as audience, have the pleasure of experiencing this along with them.

Starring Tom Schilling and Sebastian Koch, Never Look Away spans three eras of German history from WWII to the Berlin Wall. Young art student Kurt (Schilling)  falls in love with the daughter (Paula Beer) of an ex Nazi doctor (Koch) who disapproves of his child’s choice of partner and works at destroying Kurt’s self-esteem and their relationship. What they don’t know is that their lives are intricately interwoven through a crime that the Professor committed during the height of the Nazi regime.

This is a film that takes its time. When the allied bombs begin to fall, we see a montage… one family, separated through war, soldiers on the field, a young woman in an extermination camp (Saskia Rosendahl)…all of a family, disappearing in the ways wars make lives disappear. The music by Max Richter  delivers the power and the futility of this most horrific of human endeavors.

Kurt, in art school, cannot immediately produce. We see the artist’s process as he struggles between expression and denial. It is not until his subconscious awakens through the help of a committed teacher and his own acceptance of the truth, that he is able to say something from his heart.

The Nazi Professor remains arrogant throughout. He is a perfect example of the blindness of racism — he sees neither his daughter’s happiness nor her pain nor is able to acknowledge his deeds.  He is a man of such hubris that when leaving East Berlin, he doesn’t join his cronies  in South America, but carries on his life in the West. This is frightening indeed. He is more machine than human and is played brilliantly by Koch.

Never Look Away is a powerhouse of a film.  Honor, praise and gratitude bestowed on those who made this part of our human history so compelling.

produced by Jan Mojito Quirin Berg Max Wiedemann

Christiane Henckel von Donnersmarck

Written by nancykoan

January 24, 2019 at 6:32 pm

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Renee Taylor on Dieting and Other Habits

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reneeRenee Taylor has had the life I might have had if my acting career had been laced with the brio her personality; my father had been more of a gambler instead of a Sunday craps shooter and my mother had encouraged instead of competed with me when singing  Clair de Lune at the piano. With the completely opposite set of life circumstances, Renee Taylor pushed through her Bklyn/Bronx Wexler family of origin and in fact used it and its effect on her to become the charming, humorous comedienne and writer that she still is today.

Her new one woman show, My Life On A Diet ( based on her book  My Life on a Diet: Confessions of a Hollywood Diet Junkie) at Theatre at St Clement’s written with husband, and creative partner for 53 years, Joe Bologna, is sheer delight. When she first appears on Harry Feiner’s stage set which resembles a 99- cent store version of Joan Rivers’ rococo living room, you wouldn’t be so far off if you thought it was Dame Edna Everage.  Taylor is a sturdy eighty- something with if not little girl voice, a soft spoken New Yorkease, that compels you to move forward in your chair so as not to miss a moment of her story craft and superb comic timing.

Sitting comfortably at her desk, Ms. Taylor starts to recount the diets of her life, slicing them into her yearnings for stardom, her mostly good and some bad luck and her commitment to being full alive. The visual projections of her diets and of her family and friends help open the story of her life. We hear about her endless auditions, Marilyn Monroe’s insecurities, Lee at the Studio, and a myriad of survival jobs, one becoming the signature piece which helped launch her television career. Taylor is an inventive creature with a deep ability to laugh and respect herself at the same time. When she can’t brag personally, she mentions people who admired her work, like Jack Paar, Perry Como and Barbara Streisand and all of America who watched her as Fran Drescher’s mom on The Nanny. Every story leads back to her life- long fat issues and her attempts at resolving the problem with ideas as bizarre as drinking only Cristal champagne or abstaining from everything except autumn air.

Her husband Joe Bolgona died in 2017. Together they wrote and acted in wonderful comedies like Lovers and Other Strangers. By her re-telling of their sweet courtship, they surely were really Made For Each Other.

Clearly, Ms.Taylor doesn’t have to prove a thing. She’s already there. But she is such a gifted artist with a great willingness to share her infectious spirit. Altogether, this makes the story of a disappearing show biz world and a young woman’s dream to be part of it, a must for anyone who wants to think back on the past and laugh in the present.

 

Written by nancykoan

July 22, 2018 at 3:09 am

It’s More Than Just about Getting High ..The Mountain

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High wire walker over canyon - courtesy of Greenwich EntertainmentYou ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.

This poem Green Mountain by Li Bai  so simply describes the bond we feel when in the presence of a mountain. I grew up in Pennsylvania surrounded by The Seven Mountain range and I suppose took for granted that feeling of protection mixed with awe that was right outside my kitchen window.

Because I miss mountains and their majesty, I was drawn to the Australian film The Mountain. In many ways The Mountain is a beautifully filmed tone poem that moves the spirit with soaring cinematography. Director of the award- winning film The Sherpa Jennifer Peedom, was commissioned to make this film, with the intention of having it scored by The Australian Chamber Orchestra. It’s musically sound and works well, with Willem Dafoe’s narration guiding throughout.

The opening shot of a man scaling an unnamed mountain with what seems like no equipment is so daring… one could ask where do we go from here? But we go to many places, including the history of mountaineering, expedition footage and high- risk sports. I have never seen anything like this before; the walk on rope hung high between mountains suddenly puts the stroll of the great Philippe Petit at the World Trade Center in a very different zone.

All of the aerial shots are amazing, many shot with drones, and cinematographer and climber Renan Ozturk, who worked with Peedam on Sherpa, is a master.

Following the screening, I chatted to a skiier who had seen a lot of the sport footage before. Apparently, they had to cull from some of the world’s finest mountain material in order to cover many locales and for it to work with the music. I doubt many people will mind seeing these exquisite visuals over and over.

The philosophy for this film came from the Robert Macfarlane’s book Mountains of the Mind. He has a reverence for nature and her power. Man’s attempts at conquering the mountain, often seem foolhardy, but even the risk of falling won’t stop men from trying to reach the peak.

I wish Peedam had spent a little more time on the exploitation of the natural world by commercial outfits, but understandably the film was not to be a political endeavor.  She spoke by skype at a Q&A and is down to earth and caring.

The Mountain is a worthwhile experience. You feel this film, not just watch it.

Written by nancykoan

May 15, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Boys Will BE Boys…Pity

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Last night I was in the both illuminating and uncomfortable position of witnessing a grownup professional man trying to outdo, compete and basically belittle a female from the same professional group.  It was misogyny in action.  As I stood watching this architect “John” carry on, it reminded me of an old English film,  where the elitist school master is trying to shame a female student who dares to want to study math.

The episode occurred at an event I happened upon at my local center of good activity,  St. Mark’s Church. It was a reception for The Grassroots Preservation Awards, honoring  people involved with the preservation of New York buildings. After my dog Darling received her usual round of accolades for complete cuteness, I started to chat with an architect, Ronnette Riley. Our conversation covered everything from Malcolm McLaren, about whom I made a film to 9/11 conspiracies. She is feisty, smart as a licorice whip and a lot of fun. She was the first woman from her family of fireman and investigators to go to college. She graduated Berkeley and Harvard Graduate School of Design and worked for Philip Johnson. She has run her 100% woman owned architecture firm for many years doing a wide range of projects; to say that her trajectory is long and full of substance is saying too little.

“John’s” argument with her was his insisting that she didn’t believe in preservation work. According to Ronnette, “I’ve had 15 preservation projects, compared to his five.” One of her  successes is the Restoration Hardware Building on lower Broadway where she maintained the beautiful white facade, among other details.

Apparently, John had had a dust off with her in the past about this subject and took the opportunity at this lovely event to go at it again. Well, Ronnette is no lily and gave as good as she got. But I felt like I had fallen into a time warp what with this smug, tweedy, too old to act like a school boy fart behaving in a way I had believed was a a thing of the past. Perhaps he represents the last vestiges of a dying breed, but probably not.

Still, kudos to the for their honors. Karen Ansis  received the Mickey Murphy Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with Landmarks Conservancy and honors were given to  Bowery Boys, George Janes,  Susan Olsen and Senator Brad Holyman.

Ok, now I remember the film this reminded me. It was the footage of the great The  Germaine Greer- Norman Mailer debate.  Bullies must be resisted.

 

Written by nancykoan

April 26, 2018 at 1:38 am

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ME TOO and Some Other Stuff

 

 

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My memories of Harvey Weinstein from my brief employ at Miramax were first, eating delicious cookies and rugalach brought by his mother from a bakery in Queens. These were on tap in the hip building where the higher level folks worked. I would occasionally sneak over to see a friend, nab dessert and listen to the screams. Not really…but the tension in that office was palpable.

One time I did procure a meeting with a lower chieftain to discuss my desire to move from the print shipping department to something a little more creative in that building. I recall an employee with a more interesting job than mine sitting at the booth next to me talking to a somewhat higher chieftain. Her skirt was hiked up almost like hot pants; he seemed intrigued and I briefly considered dressing more inappropriately for future interviews. I didn’t get them.

 

In the time there, I only had one conversation with Harvey. Both of us grew up in movie theatres, my grandfather and father’s in Pennsylvania; his upstate New York. I had hoped that we’d share memories of this bizarre type of babysitter, but he was too busy building an empire.

When all of the news broke out, I was surprised as I had never heard anything about the sexual issues, only the crudeness and tantrums. It is very sad indeed and brought to mind my innocent days of auditioning as an actress. Once while going to a reading for a horror film, I was asked to pull my pants down so that the producer could see how I ‘shaped’ up. I thought fast, and told him I had my period and would prefer to stay dressed. He accepted that excuse but insisted that I read the scene while stretched out on a couch and directed me to ‘move sensually’ while he fed me the lines, sitting behind a big desk. Of course, afterwards, I felt like a first class shmuck…but I wasn’t union and all of us actors wanted to build credits.

 

Then there was the time I went for a ‘pay for singing classes’ waitress job. The place was a very fancy hotel with promises of big tips. The big boss, who made Harvey Weinstein look like George Clooney, wanted to see how I looked in a tighter blouse. I wasn’t born yesterday and thought it was fishy, but like the good girl I was trained to be, went back to his office wearing a stretchy tight shirt that was almost see-through. It was only then that I was informed that the job included after hour work with the male diners and that a practice session with the boss was required.

 

Sometimes these guys worked in packs. I showed up for a play audition and when told it had already been cast, was sent up to another floor where the man was looking for people for print work. I found myself in a fancy office apartment with a producer who was in a rush for his meeting with Dolly Parton, but had enough time to consider me for a hands commercial. After showing him my paws, he realized that I could be better for something else and insisted I try on a kimono while reading some copy about frozen food. For this, I studied with Shelley Winters?

 

But it’s not only actresses who are tortured in this way. I was fired from a job at NBC after only three days. I had been hired to work as an assistant to a unit manager in the news department. I recall that the man was balding and not funny. He kept calling me short stuff and it just didn’t feel right. I had quit another job for this job and had just applied for my dream apartment using NBC as my proof of employment. In only three days I was fired; suddenly unemployed and looking like a liar to the new landlord. My then boyfriend, heroic and as shocked as myself, marched up to the HR Department to inquire as to what I could have done so wrong in only three days. He was told outright, as the HR lady read my file, “that the boss said I wasn’t bouncy enough.’ Now I know what that means in terms of body language, but I also think he felt I didn’t bounce back and laugh each time he tried to put me down. Many years later, my name was part of the massive lawsuit female employees had against NBC.

Just to cut out  some of the stress of the last week, I started calling my little doggy Hervy Weinstein, cause she humps my leg whether I want it or not. But she knows she’ll get a bath, whether she wants it or not.

Mr. Weinstein is part of a long history of rude men who misuse power. It is hard to understand them without understanding their childhoods and even then, there may be no answers. Perhaps Harvey never got bathed or was warmly touched as a child. Perhaps he grew up like me, seeing life projected so large that normal life seems a bit unreal and he chose the role of the last tycoon. Or maybe he’s simply a sociopath who can’t be redeemed.

 

Luckily, there are courageous women who recognize that the shame is not theirs to own, but that of the predator. Lucky, that there are men who are as appalled by this type of behavior as women. It doesn’t matter whether these incidents happen in a movie studio or a war torn country; they dehumanize all the participants. It is up to all of us to recognize how quickly a power imbalance can erode our higher instincts and stop it in its tracks, shout about it to each other and seek help if the impulse doesn’t stop.

Written by nancykoan

October 17, 2017 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized