Wednesday, September 14, 2016

21 Quickie Reviews from the Venice Film Festival

Press Room at the Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) The Venice Film Festival had excellent energy this year. The great line-up and new, bright-red Sala Giardino theater contributed to the positive vibes. I also think the President of the Jury influences the festival, and this year it was Englishman Sam Mendes, famous for American Beauty, and the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, who held the reins.

From an American point of view, a couple of interesting folks also on the jury were the avant-garde Renaissance woman, Laurie Anderson, who among her many claims to fame, was NASA's first artist-in-residence (!), and Josh Oppenheimer, best known for his documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. The jury was cool.

The Woman Who Left
The Golden Lion, the top prize, went to the nearly four-hour Filipino film, The Woman Who Left, directed by Lav Diaz, which I did not see. Here is the review from the Financial Times.

Go to Biennale for a complete list of all the awards.

In addition to stars, my ratings suggest the venue where you should see the film: Multiplex, Arthouse, Drive-in, Stream-it, or Someplace for Free.

Here are the 21 films I managed to see (whew), in the order in which I saw them:

Emma Stone & Damien Chazelle
1. *****La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling - if you've read my previous post, you will know that I fell in love with La La Land (as did Tom  Hanks), and predict it will win some major Academy Awards, including best picture. Read the review from Deadline Hollywood. Emma Stone won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX with someone you love, and then BUY it to watch time and again.

Michael Fassbender & Alicia Vikander
2. ***The Light Between Oceans, directed by Derek Cianfrance, starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. Terrific performances and heartbreaking story about what constitutes motherly love. Read the review at The Independent. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX or STREAM-IT.

Jeremy Renner & Amy Adams
3. ****Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Amy Adams is an expert linguist called in by the military to try to communicate with aliens who have landed on Earth. Read the review at Indie Wire. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX or STREAM-IT.

Les Beaux Jour d'Aranjuez
4. *Les Beaux Jour d'Aranjuez, directed by Wim Wenders, starring Reda Kateb and Sophie Semin. Usually I love Wim Wenders, but I was so bored that I walked out when Nick Cave put yet another song on the jukebox. Based on a theater piece by Peter Handke, it's one long conversation about life and love shot unnecessarily in 3D. At the screening I saw, the movie accidentally started with French dialogue and Italian subtitles, and I thought I would concentrate to see how good my language skills were, which made it kind of interesting. Then Sam Mendes, President of the Jury, got up and briefly left the theater, apparently to tell them to switch the subtitles over to English, which they did. Too bad! It was better when I couldn't understand exactly what they said. Watch it at a friend's house for FREE while smoking marijuana

5.***American Anarchist, directed by Charlie Siskel. A documentary about the late William Powell, who wrote The Anarchist's Cookbook, and who died suddenly two months ago on July 11, 2016 of a heart attack without seeing the film. After Siskel grilled Powell about accepting responsibility for all the terrorism inspired by the book, I wondered if Siskel had examined his own conscience about Powell's sudden death. It took a while, but finally Variety wrote a stern review with which I agree. Watch it at an ARTHOUSE or STREAM-IT

6. ****The Bleeder, directed by Phillipe Falardeau, starring Liev Schreiber, who also produced (it's his project), and Schreiber's, real-life wife, Naomi Watts. The Bleeder is a true story based on the life of boxer Chuck Wepner, who inspired Sly Stallone to write Rocky. Here is the Variety review. Since I grew up in New Jersey about the same 70s time period, I thought the film was a lot of fun, and think you should have a light night out and watch it at a MULTIPLEX, go to the DRIVE-IN or definitely STREAM-IT.

Aaron Taylor Johnson, Tom Ford, Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal 
7. *****Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize, which Ford accepted in Italian. I think fashion designer Tom Ford is one of the coolest people on the planet, and my estimation of him has only gotten higher after screening his second film. Set in the world of fashion that Ford knows so well, Amy Adams reads a violent novel written by her ex-husband, which comes to life on the screen. Michael Shannon is fantastic, as always, as a hardened Texas cop. Here is the Guardian review. I hope this film also gets nominated for lots of Oscars. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX or definitely STREAM-IT 

Kasper Collin
8. ****I Called Him Morgan, directed by Kasper Collin. A documentary about the life of the brilliant jazz trumpet player, Lee Morgan, who died too young after his common-law wife, Helen, shot him during a blizzard in New York in 1972. Here is the review from The Guardian. See it at an ARTHOUSE or definitely STREAM-IT; if you love jazz, then BUY it.

The Young Pope
9. *****The Young Pope, directed by Paolo Sorrentino. We screened the first two episodes of a 10-part TV series about the first American Pope played by Jude Law, who smokes, schemes, and drinks Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast, wears designer-pope outfits, and insists that Sister Mary, who raised him, played by Diane Keaton, be his right-hand nun in the Vatican. Here is the review from Deadline Hollywood. It airs starting October 21, 2016 in Europe on SKY and in early 2017 in the States on HBO. I haven't watched a regular television show in almost 20 years, but I will SUBSCRIBE.

Mel Gibson-  Venice Film Festival
10. ****Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, starring Andrew Garfield. A true story about Desmond Doss, the first conscientious-object to receive the medal of honor. To me, anyone who thinks that war is glamorous should watch this film, which feels only a breath away from actually being there. Here is the review from the Guardian. After each screening, there are usually TV journalists waiting outside the exit to interview the journalists inside who have just watched the film. I was stopped, I think, by RAI, the national broadcasting network in Italy, and asked my opinion. I was so shaken that I said, "I will speak in English. I do not like violent films. They make me physically nauseous. But this was a good film. Mel got his point across." See it at a MULTIPLEX to feel the full impact of war

11. **Safari, directed by Ulrich Seidl. A documentary about ordinary folks going on holiday in Africa to kill some of the world's most beautiful animals. I walked out. Here is the review from The Hollywood Reporter. STREAM-IT, if you must.

Suki Waterhouse and Ana Lily Amirpour at Venice Film Festival
12. ***The Bad Batch, directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, starring Suki Waterhouse. This should have been a campy, dark-funny film about cannibals living in a wasteland outside US territory, dumped there because there's no place for them in society. Instead, it was too long, and took itself too seriously. Amirpour won the Special Jury Prize; to me, it was because the jury recognized Amirpour's genuine talent. She should lighten up; she got defensive during the press conference when a journalist called her on the violence. Here is the review from JoBlo. Perfect for a DRIVE-IN or STREAM-IT

Dark Night
13. *Dark Night, by Tim Sutton.This film got a lot of praise at the Sundance Festival, but I left. Maybe if I had been living in the States during the shootings in Aurora at "The Dark Knight Rises," I could have related more to the film, but without that prefabricated emotional terror installed, I had trouble connecting. Here is a review from Roger Ebert. STREAM-IT

Voyage of Time
14. ****Voyage of Time, by Terrence Malik. I was really looking forward to this film, and that is often a mistake because your hopes get so high. The images are beautiful, but the voice-over by Cate Blanchett was so... syrupy, and the words so on-the-nose, I almost fell asleep. I would like to see the shorter IMAX version with voice-overs by Brad Pitt. Here is the Variety review. See it at IMAX

Natalie Portman on the Red Carpet at Venice Film Festival
15. ****Jackie, directed by Paoblo Larraì, and starring Natalie Portman is a portrait of the First Lady holding herself and the United States of America together in the days after John Kennedy was assassinated, which I wrote about here (when I just googled my own post, I was amazed to discover how many other writers had used the same headline: Natalie Portman Channels Jackie Kennedy; I thought I was being so clever). Here is the review from IndieWire. See it at a MULTIPLEX or STREAM-IT.

Colm Meany & Timothy Spall in The Journey
 16. ***The Journey, directed by Nick Hamm, starring Colm Meany and Timothy Spall. I had no expectations whatsoever about this film, and was pleasantly surprised. Here is what I told the BBC: "I really enjoyed it. I am an American, and had no idea about that part of history, but I was once married to a first-generation Irishman. Sometime back in the late 80s/early 90s, we drove into Belfast by accident. It was pretty scary. The film shows that if those two can have a conversation, anybody can. It was an entertaining history lesson." Here is the review from Variety, subtitled: IRA v Unionist: Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall play clashing Northern Irish leaders in a juicy bit of backseat political theater. STREAM-IT

Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp at Venice Film Festival
17. **Planetarium, directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, starring Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as two psychic American sisters seance-ing their way around Europe, Paris in particular, just before WWII. I was curious to see Johnny Depp's 17-year-old daughter, who was lovely to look at and has some riveting qualities, but the movie itself was dull. Here is the review from The Playlist. STREAM-IT

Our War crew
18. *Our War, directed by Bruno Chiaravalloti, Benedeta Argentieri and Claudio Jampaglia. A documentary about a former US Marine, an unemployed Italian and a Swedish guard who volunteer to fight the Islamic State. I left about a third of the way through, and cannot find it reviewed in English, so I don't think you will have much of a chance of seeing it, but if you do, watch it for FREE

Rem Koolhaas
19. ****Rem, directed by Tomas Koolhaas, is a biopic and act of love by the son of "the world's most talked-about architect," which I wrote about here. I have always found the minds of architects fascinating -- they are artists who create structures for human beings, so they must be practical as well as imaginative. Rem is a glimpse into the mind of one of the most intense, renowned architects on the planet, who likes to swim. Here is the review from The Hollywood Reporter. See it at an ARTHOUSE or STREAM IT

Antoine Fuqua, Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington at Venice Film Festival
20. ***The Magnificent Seven, directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring one gal (Haley Bennett) and a whole bunch of guys, including Denzel Washington. Here is the review from Forbes. A typical Hollywood blockbuster with an ethnic cast, it was slick and entertaining, and worth making a trip to the MULTIPLEX or definitely STREAM-IT. Not worth the extra price of an IMAX
Julia Vysotskaya and Christian Clauß in Paradise

21. *****Paradise, directed by Andrei Konchalavsky, starring Julia Vysotskaya and Christian Clauß. When the winners were announced in the press room, I had to make a quick decision: stay for the press conference, or see one of the Silver Lion winners; everything, astonishingly, was scheduled at the same time. I bolted to see Paradise, and I'm glad I did. Because I am American, I have had a lifetime of propaganda about Russia and the Soviet Union -- two different entities -- shoved into my ears. Not just another-Holocaust-film, it leaves one hoping there really is a Paradise after all the Hell on Earth. Here is the Variety review. This film was so riveting, elegant and poignant... I am very happy that it won, and I hope everyone goes to see it WHEREVER THEY CAN.

Here is a moving summary of how it feels to leave the Venice Film Festival written by E. Nina Rothe for the Huffington Post:

I felt a pang of anxiety as I left Venice this morning, in the midst of the boats’ rush hour traffic. It was a strange feeling, like knowing that this kind of event, this combination of great films, magnificent interviews and wonderful meetings will never happen again.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fab Friday in Venice - Venini, Movie Star Lounge, Koolhaas and more!

Paolo Venini and his Furnace
(Venice, Italy) Friday kicked off with the press conference for the excellent exhibition Paolo Venini and His Furnace curated by Murano-glass-family-titan, Marino Barovier, over at Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Paolo Venini (1895-1959) gave up his career as a lawyer in Milan after becoming fascinated by the Venetian world of glassmaking. Through triumphs and tribulations with different partners, the entrepreneur succeeded in having the Venini name associated with some of the most beautiful glass the island of Murano has produced, collaborating with top artists, and even designing pieces himself. The exhibition focuses on the company's glass production that was shaped by specific choices made by Paolo Venini, and runs from September 11, 2016 to January 8, 2017. Free entrance.

I want one!
Next I was whisked to the Venice Movie Star Lounge out on the Lido, where I met the Immagicgroup, a pack of cool, clever marketers who genuinely enjoy what they do -- they captured my heart immediately when I saw that Jaguar, my favorite car, was one of their sponsors. The atmosphere in the garden of the Movie Star Lounge was gracious and serene, and I just fell in love with the whole package.

Chiara Pizzinato Atelier at the Venice Movie Star Lounge
No country on the planet does design and beauty better than Italy. The bella figura is in their DNA. A couple months ago, the Venice Movie Star Lounge was an abandoned greenhouse. During the Venice Film Festival, it transformed into a hidden nest where the stars could meet, relax, have conferences, do their hair and make-up, hold interviews -- all the things movie stars and the people around them need to do while promoting their films -- located just a few minutes, yet a world away from the madness of red carpet.

The Immagicgroup also have Movie Star Lounges at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. Tastefully sprinkled throughout the lounge were a small handful of select Italian products. I thought, what better way to introduce the best of Italy to the world than by putting the goodies in the hands of film people!

Chiara Pizzinato Atelier, Malverdi Fiori & Eventi and My Wedding Bandoulière
When clever people give me gifts, I am happy to tell everybody how lovely they are, so thank you to Chiara Pizzinato for the elegant handmade purse created with Bevilacqua fabric, to Malverdi Fiori & Eventi for the bewitching fragrance, and to the ladies at My Wedding Bandoulière, a book bubbling with insider tips on how to get married Venetian Style (the copy I was given is in Italian which, shamefully, even 18 years of living here, I cannot read well enough to give my opinion) -- especially Elisabeth Rainer who coaxed me to the Movie Star Lounge in the first place.

Tomas Koolhaas at the Venice Film Festival
I segued over to the film festival (by Jaguar:-) for the official screening of REM, a biopic and act of love about the renowned architect, Rem Koolhaas, created by his son, Tomas Koolhaas. I have been fortunate enough to hear Rem Koolhaas speak on several occasions, and think he is an intense, enlightened being, who started life as a journalist and makes such statements as "I hate being an architect. I actually hate architects."

Fortunately for humanity, Rem Koolhaas continues to build distinctive structures all over the earth, and the film takes us on a journey to many of them. Tomas does a terrific job at giving us a peek into his father's world, capturing his dynamic personality, formidable strength, and also some vulnerabilities -- in fact, I doubt anyone but Tomas could have made the movie at all. He filmed, directed, produced, and edited it, and partially crowdfunded it with a Kickstarter campaign.

Rem Koolhaas

From the Guardian review by Oliver Wainwright entitled, Rem Review - Jet-setting Portrait of World's Most Talked-About Architect:

Pieced together from conversations on the road, Rem’s gravelly voiceover forms a continuous monologue. We are treated to his musings on everything from the nature of time to the joys of swimming, with each section introduced by a momentous title quote, like the sayings of the Buddha. The seductive camerawork shows Koolhaas in action in exotic locations, framed against near constant sunsets with a generous dose of lens flare and the warm glow of an Instagram filter. Most scenes are shot from behind, making the back of Rem’s head the star of the film – a product of necessity that turned into an fitting stylistic choice. “Rem doesn’t wait for you,” says Tomas Koolhaas. “I was literally running after him, then I realised it was an interesting viewpoint, a way of seeing what he’s seeing.”

The Magnificent Seven
Next up was a typical Hollywood blockbuster, the remake of The Magnificent Seven, which Variety termed, "The Adequate Seven." I quite agree.

I preferred Tomas Koolhaas' REM.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Natalie Portman Channels Jackie Kennedy at the Venice Film Festival

Natalie Portman as Jackie
(Venice, Italy) I was eight-years-old when John Kennedy was shot, and I remember November 22, 1963 very well. My third grade class had gone on a trip to Bear Mountain State Park on the Hudson River, so it was already a special day. I got in trouble for leaving the group and wandering off to see a spectacular view of the mountains... the beautiful scene had hypnotized me and pulled me away from the rest of my class. Then, the magic was broken by the harsh scolding of my teacher, Mrs. Osher. I already thought she was mean and didn't like her, but the interruption of the beautiful moment by her jarring voice hurt my innocent feelings, and brought tears to my eyes.

That is why I was surprised when the bus arrived back at our school in New Jersey, and Mrs. Osher burst into tears. I never imagined she would be the type of person to cry in public. I didn't realize at the moment, what, exactly, had caused her outburst. When I got home, the television was on and frantic, frightening images careened into the living room in black and white. The grownups who were in charge of my world had flipped it upside down. Through the eyes of a child, I understood that something was horribly wrong.

Natalie Portman as Jackie
The thing I remember most about John Kennedy is that he wanted American children to be healthy, and we had special fitness programs at school to make us fit. He wanted us to be smart. And we were going to put a man on the Moon.

We also had air raid drills where we would march into the hall, scrunch on our knees into a ball, and cover our heads with our hands, which has been proven to be very effective protection against the Atom bomb:-) To put myself to sleep at night, I imagined who I would invite to be inside my bomb shelter -- I had two: one underneath the ground in my backyard, and another that you could enter by driving your car, sort of like a drive-in movie bomb shelter. Both were stocked with plenty of canned goods.

During all this madness (which would turn out to be the Cuban Missile Crisis) Jackie Kennedy was effortlessly elegant, wearing white gloves, de Givenchy and Chanel, accenting it all with a pillbox hat and pearls. My mother would critique Jackie's hair and fashion as if she knew her personally. It was like the Kennedys were part of the family.

Natalie Portman in Venice
So, I was deeply affected by the movie, Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, and directed by Pablo Larraìn, who is from Chile, and, at age 40, was not born at the time. At the press conference, Larraìn said he was not American, and not attached to the history.

Jackie Kennedy was a Leo, the sign of royalty, born one day after (and a couple decades before) me, and I always liked her style. (Larraìn, too, is a Leo, so maybe he injected a little lion energy into the film.) Jackie, the movie, impressed me with just how much of a lioness Jackie was -- the distinct hand she had in redecorating the White House, creating Camelot and orchestrating the iconic funeral of John F. Kennedy, a funeral that lifted up the souls of the United States of America.

Jackie behaved like royalty, and while the US has no kings and queens, it would be nice if we could try to embrace some noble qualities once again -- or at least, put on a good show.

Natalie Portman & Pablo Larraìn in Venice

From the Variety review:  

"Eschewing standard biopic form at every turn, this brilliantly constructed, diamond-hard character study observes as the exhausted, conflicted Jackie attempts to disentangle her own perspective, her own legacy and, perhaps hardest of all, her own grief from a tragedy shared by millions. Provocative and entirely unsentimental in the speculative voice given to its subject’s most private thoughts on marriage, faith and self-image, and galvanized by Natalie Portman’s complex, meticulously shaded work in the lead, “Jackie” may alienate viewers expecting a more conventionally sympathetic slab of filmed history. But in his first English-language project, Chilean director Larraín’s status as the most daring and prodigious political filmmaker of his generation remains undimmed."

From the Hollywood Reporter review:

"Extraordinary in its piercing intimacy and lacerating in its sorrow, Jackie is a remarkably raw portrait of an iconic American First Lady, reeling in the wake of tragedy while at the same time summoning the defiant fortitude needed to make her husband's death meaningful, and to ensure her own survival as something more than a fashionably dressed footnote. Powered by an astonishing performance from a never-better Natalie Portman in the title role, this unconventional bio-drama also marks a boldly assured English-language debut for Pablo Larrain, the gifted Chilean director behind such films as No, The Club and Neruda."

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Variety Bash at Danieli Terrace for Venice Film Festival - Revolutionary Beauty Celebrates Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes & Antonello Dè Medici, GM Hotel Danieli - Photo: Mirco Toffolo

(Venice, Italy) The exclusive Variety bash at Terrazza Danieli on the eve of the grand opening of the Venice Biennale International Film Festival is now in its seventh edition. This year, the legendary show-biz magazine and Starwood Hotels celebrated the career of Academy Award-winning director, Sam Mendes, who is the President of the Jury of this year's film festival.

Sam Mendes won the Oscar for his debut film, American Beauty, and the Danieli soirée, called "Revolutionary Beauty," was inspired by that film, as well as Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road. This year, all the guests were given red roses made of silk to wear on their lapels -- in fact, the terrace and the interior were teeming with the color red -- there was even a sofa masquerading as a rose-colored American Beauty bathtub.

Cat Bauer goofing around in American Beauty bathtub at Variety party

Like the tagline, the theme of the evening was a closer look at beauty. The menus were inspired by Mendes' films, and curated by the Executive Chefs of three of the Starwood Hotels: Chef Alberto Fol of The Westin Europa & Regina whipped up wicked wonders based on American Beauty, Chef Daniele Turco from The Gritti Palace spiced up the Road to Perdition, and Chef Dario Parascandolo from the Hotel Danieli took us on a trip down Revolutionary Road.

Fish burgers inspired by the "Mr. Smiley" American Beauty scene

Sam Mendes thought it was amusing to see all the food that was inspired by his movies, and jokingly said that in the future he would make movies inspired by other people's menus. "Except martinis."

Alejandro Aravena and Cat Bauer at Variety party in Venice
Alejandro Aravena & Cat Bauer at Variety party - Terrazza Danieli

Last Friday, I was over by Rialto when I saw Alejandro Aravena, winner of this year's Pritzker Architectural Prize and the Director of the Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition, Reporting from the Front, get off the vaporetto. He said he would be in Venice for meetings for the next eight days, and I hoped I would see him around. Sure enough, there he was on the Terrazza Danieli, a force of nature in the Biennale wind machine, shaking up the forest and shedding some light on how we build the environments of our world.

When I lived in Hollywood, I loved to read Daily Variety at lunch (it came in the mail) while sitting in my kitchen nook and gazing at the eucalyptus trees in the backyard. So it's a sweet nostalgia when I see the familiar Variety logo every morning on the Lido. I grab a copy and settle down with a cappuccino and brioche outside the new fire-engine red theater, the Sala Giardino, surrounded by the lush gardens where the ugly hole about the size of a football field used to be. Yes, The Hole is finally gone!

One of the proud creators of the garden for the new Sala Giardino

The great Biennale wind machine has been blowing for more than a century now, stirring up the dust, where curious minds from all over the globe make the pilgrimage to Venice, touch base, and move forward into the future.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that after premiering three Academy Award winning films in the last three years -- Gravity, Birdman and Spotlight -- the world's oldest film festival was once again Hollywood's award-season launchpad.

There are lots of important films to talk about this year, so stay tuned!

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Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Live! From the 73rd Venice International Film Festival! - LA LA LAND Lets the Sunshine In

Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone in La La Land
(Venice, Italy) Wow. I am still emotional as I write this after just seeing La La Land, a testimony to good ol' human nature, the magic of Hollywood, and those who dream (all of us). That 31-year-old Damien Chazelle, wrote it, directed it, and now, here it is, poof! up on the big screen is living proof of the power of imagination.

The opening scene is set in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Los Angeles freeway, a jumble of music pouring out the windows of congested cars. And then... one by one people jump out of their cars and burst into song, dancing on the asphalt and flipping over the gridlock. It was so joyful that the audience of press and industry folks burst into applause. We almost burst into song ourselves.

The movie is divided into L.A. seasons, which all look exactly alike, bright, sunny with plenty of traffic. It's a Hollywood romance about a struggling actress, Emma Stone (Mia), and a jazz pianist, Ryan Gosling (Sebastian); the actors have a dynamic chemistry. I was so happy to see a movie about the lives of fictional creative people, which provided real-life singing, dancing creative people with lots of work. When I saw all those performers jumping around on the L.A. freeway, I thought, finally! An employer who put all those years of voice and dance lessons to good use!

Later in the day at the press conference, Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone spoke about breaking into song -- that in order to make a believable musical and break into song, the emotion must be there. I loved the haunting tunes by Justin Hurwitz and the Broadway lyricist team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul that wove in out of the seasons. John Legend is totally cool as the leader of the band. The film could turn a new generation onto jazz.

Damien Chazelle said that now more than ever we need hope. Emma Stone that the movie was in no way cynical. "This is about hoping and dreaming." Though young people have every reason to be cynical after the mess my generation and the one before have handed to them, it was great to see them cut through all the darkness and let a slice of sunshine in. (Read more about it at the Daily Beast.) Personally, it gives me hope that we didn't mess it up that badly when a 31-year-old can still wade through the muck and find his way back to the joy of Hollywood musicals and jazz.

Here are some reviews:

From Deadline Hollywood:

Whether it is a dazzling song-and-dance opening set in a massive traffic jam on an L.A. freeway, or a spectacular sequence with Gosling and Stone flying high into the skies of the Griffith Observatory, the musical numbers soar with their own vibrancy and urgency. We live in hard times, but this is a movie worth savoring, something that entertains, enlightens and makes us feel good about being alive.

From The Telegraph:

Stone and Gosling are two of the most naturally sweet stars working today, but together they’re like Diet Coke and Mentos – their chemistry actually feels chemical, or perhaps part of a new branch of particle physics that conducts invisible emotional lightning straight from their faces to your heart. 

From The Hollywood Reporter:

If you're going to fall hard for Damien Chazelle's daring and beautiful La La Land, it will probably be at first sight. There's never been anything quite like the opening sequence

From Variety:

Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” which opened the Venice Film Festival on a voluptuous high note of retro glamour and style, is the most audacious big-screen musical in a long time, and — irony of ironies — that’s because it’s the most traditional.

During the press conference, Marc Platt, one of the producers (and the oldest one up on the podium) said that it was a pleasure to work with a young film maker who took such passion and joy in his work. On the very last day, they were shooting with natural light, and Damien Chazelle had the camera on his shoulder. He wanted to keep shooting and shooting. Finally the sun went down. Platt  told Chazelle, "The film is over. There's no more light. It's time to put the camera down."

Hey! The kids are alright!

La La Land will be released in the US on December 2, 2016.

UPDATE: September 4, 2016 - Yesterday, Tom Hanks interrupted his own press conference at Telluride to say this about La La Land: "...if the audience doesn’t go and embrace something as wonderful as this then we are all doomed.”

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cat Bauer for LUXOS - Top 5 Venice Companies - Top 6 Venice Eateries & A Heavenly Island

Aerial View of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, photo by Alessandra Chemollo, courtesy of Fondazione Giorgio Cini, for LUXOS Magazine
Aerial View of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore 
photo by Alessandra Chemollo 
(Venice, Italy) I've recently been writing for LUXOS Magazine, a luxury print magazine that is distributed twice a year in 5-star hotels throughout the world, and is also an online magazine, which you can visit here:

For the LUXOS spring/summer 2016 edition, I wrote an article about the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, and featured six eateries in Venice, as well as five traditional Venetian companies. Since I know many of you Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog readers are interested in those topics, I'm going to make it easier for you to find them online.

Borges Labyrinth  photo by Matteo De Fina  courtesy Fondazione Giorgio Cini for LUXOS Magazine
Borges Labyrinth
photo by Matteo De Fina
for LUXOS Magazine
To me, the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore has always felt other-worldly, with sacred architecture designed to make it easier to communicate with the heavens. Peaceful and serene, the island has been a haven for enlightened thinkers since the ninth century. Throughout wars and upheavals, there has always been a Benedictine monk on the island, guarding its secrets. Here is a snippet from An Island in Venice - Where Humanism Meets Heaven:

San Giorgio Maggiore: A heavenly island in Venice

Where Humanism meets heaven

When Cosimo de’ Medici, often credited for kickstarting the Renaissance, was exiled from Florence in 1433, he stayed in the Benedictine monastery on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, an oasis of knowledge whose origins date back to the ninth century. The powerful banker planned his comeback surrounded by illuminated thinkers, artists and men of God, returning to Florence the next year. Click to continue reading.

Photo courtesy Ristorante Local for LUXOS Magazine
When it came to selecting the eateries, I featured six restaurants that were passionate about Venice and its food, used local ingredients and were owned by hands-on Venetians. If you visit any of these establishments, you will likely find the owner there. Most of these eateries have taken traditional Venetian food and revamped it, bringing ancient traditions into the 21st century.

The new Venetian cuisine

The Ultimate classic Venetian cuisine revamped

Food in Venice has always had a distinct flavour. These restaurants, however, are revamping even the most classic dishes. Stop by any of these eateries for a new twist on tradition. Click to continue reading.

Photo courtesy The Merchant of Venice for LUXOS Magazine
With tourism ravaging the city, it can sometimes be difficult to find authentic Venetian businesses based in the Veneto, working endlessly to keep the local economy afloat. These five companies are devoted to keeping the spirit of Venice alive, using time-honored traditions to create contemporary products.

Top 5 traditional Venetian companies

A look into the timeless wisdom of contemporary venetian companies

With each curve of a canal, the Venice mystique is undeniably present. These companies have taken that traditional mystique and transformed it to become a new trendy, contemporary style. Take a look at how they've molded their history into the most special products. Click to continue reading.

There! I hope that helps guide you through the Venetian labyrinth a bit. If you would like to receive Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog in your email, please subscribe.

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Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Four Weeks Off?! Vacation Time in EU vs. USA and Ferragosto in Venice

Venice Lagoon on a Summer's Day - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Europeans are guaranteed by law a minimum of four weeks vacation. Americans are guaranteed by law zero vacation time.

Italians in particular are guaranteed four weeks vacation, plus 104 hours (about two weeks) of personal time to take kids to the doctors, go to the dentist, etc. In addition, employees receive 12 paid public holidays.

There are no federally mandated paid vacation or paid public holidays in the United States.Zilch. The average number of paid vacation days that private employers give their employees is 10 days after one year, 14 days after five years, and 17 days after 10 years. On average, after working for a private employer for 20 years, Americans finally get what their European counterparts get by law: 20 days paid vacation. If you want to know more about it, have a look at Wikipedia.

Even though the UK just voted to leave the European Union on June 23, the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, who came into office on July 13, is staying European when it comes to holidays. She is already on vacation in the Swiss Alps, and won't be back until August 24. 

Giudecca Canal - Venice, Italy
And if you think that makes Europeans less productive, it actually works the other way. Studies show that many European countries are actually more productive than the United States. Going on vacation recharges the mind and spirit, and reminds us that there are some beautiful things to enjoy on this planet. We come back refreshed after playing and soaking up some nature.

However, there are some Americans who do get substantial time off: the US Congress, who voted themselves a month off back in 1970. By law, Congress must adjourn between July 31 and Labor Day.

Emperor Augustus
Which brings us to Ferragosto, a uniquely Italian holiday, celebrated on August 15. The festival goes back more than 2,000 years when the first Roman Emperor Augustus thought everybody needed some time off after working so hard on the harvest, and declared the Feriae Augusti, or Festivals of Augustus. Even the emperor knew his citizens would be more productive after a break. 

Then, in the 1920s, the Fascists organized trips at discounted prices so Italians could travel to other cities, or the mountains, or the beach, which remains a tradition to this day.

Assumption of the Virgin by Tintoretto (1550)
And then, in 1950, Pope Pius XII made the Assumption of  the Virgin Mary into church dogma, and August 15 became a Holy Day of Obligation -- except in the US, where it isn't one if it falls on a Saturday or a Monday, which it did yesterday, so Catholics in the US did not have to go to mass (did they have to go to work?).

So, the pagan Roman holiday morphed into a sacred Catholic holiday, which some folks claim was actually an even more ancient Roman festival in celebration of the goddess Diana, who, in addition to her hunting skills and ability to talk to the animals, was the virgin goddess of women and childbirth.

I have written about the holiday many, many times before -- in fact, last year, I stuck them all in one post, which you can read here:

Mary Breaks Sound Barrier Zooming to Heaven - Shatters Venice Heatwave

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog