August 21, 2008


Yoko came over the other day with two wonderful videos. I can highly recommend both. The first is The Tiger and the Snow with Roberto Benigni. Similar to Life Is Beautiful, he plays a rather fetching, quirky, intelligent but odd character. Very delightful and poignant. With a perfect ending.

The second movie is Zelary. At once tender and terrifying, very beautiful, sad and satisfying. A story about an unusual couple during World War II in the Czech republic. If you need some fulfilling cinema, these are two to see.

Posted by leya at 08:59 PM

June 13, 2008

Movies, movies, movies

My neighbors are away for a little bit and have asked me to take care of their house. They have an extensive video/DVD collection. So I have been having a movie feast.

First I watched a spirited young Jack Nicholson challenge blind authority in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Then it was the tender Broken Flowers with Bill Murray’s sensitive performance in a movie on non-commitment. One scene stays vividly in my mind: towards the end, Murray tells his probable son “The past is gone so forget it. The future isn’t here yet. So all you have is the present.” And then when Murray, as probable father, makes his first gesture towards intimacy, the young man jumps up and runs off yelling “You’re crazy man.” Even the kid avoids intimacy.

The next movie was about the birth of the CIA, the Good Shepherd with a great cast (Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert de Niro) but far too cold for my taste. I kept waiting for it to warm up. It never did.

Then I watched Memoirs of a Geisha, beautiful images, great costumes, lots of intrigue. The movie was good, the book better, of course.

I also borrowed Water but I don’t think I can watch it. I remember it as being a very painful story and I don’t think I can watch it again. So I will have to go back to their house for a new selection from their wonderful movie library. What a treat!

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February 06, 2008

About Charles

I went to see some short, five-minute films Sunday night. They were done with scholarships from and guidance of the Centre for Art Tapes. Eight films by budding filmmakers. All the films were good, showed talent and intelligence. Yet not much can be done by inexperienced filmmakers in five minutes, it seems. Seven of them definitely needed more work or more time, more than five minutes or more experience. But one was so good, I’d like to see it again. About a young man in his early twenties (with a wife and two children) who lives off the land, completely. He (and the film) are fresh, saucy, lively, entertaining and able to completely penetrate cultural mores.

Charles, the young farmer, talks about his life with humor and gentleness. He makes a good case for living off the land. With very little financial resources, it is, indeed, a full time job for him and his family. Milking cows, gardening, preserving, making his tools by hand, building his house with found materials. I could do it—for a few weeks. But I wouldn’t want to give up the painting part of my life. So I guess that’s not my thing right now.

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January 29, 2008

The big easy chair

My friend Karen was visiting for a couple of days. Lila enjoys her company and so do I. I’ve never been good with roommates but love houseguests. Karen visits often enough that we have established some history, almost like roommates. I cook, she helps with the cutting and chopping, washing food and dishes, walking and playing with Lila, etc. But I have had to learn to ask her to help with the little things around the house. She didn’t always offer to help and I didn’t ask. Because I don’t want to resent her visiting and I do want her to visit, I watch myself, test how I feel, and have learned to ask. It’s a good lesson for me.

It’s also nice to have someone here. Just a sympathetic body to ground me. There is so much to do taking care of a house sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the smallest things. I’ve been wanting to have my water tested (I’m on a well) for two years, ever since Lila came here. But it took Karen’s visit for me to do it, finally. We also cleaned out my fabric closet. By the end of that adventure both of us were overwhelmed. I’m so glad to have done it. And I couldn’t have done it alone.

Karen and I also have a favorite movie we watch every time she stays here: The Big Easy. And every time I watch it I enjoy it even more. (It must be a good movie!) There’s violence in it but at least the bad guys are (mostly) the ones who get killed. The good guys have fun—dance, eat good food, make love, laugh, solve crimes. It doesn’t hurt to watch it and it doesn’t leave bad afterimages. So Karen can come visit often.

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January 28, 2008

No Country for Old Men

I went to see No Country for Old Men. With such an intriguing title, I expected something different. No movie for squeamish people, this one! I closed my eyes through most of the bloody violence (and there was plenty) and even so, I couldn’t get the brutal images from the movie out of my mind. The scenery was beautiful, the acting good, but I would have preferred less consuming violence. But then, that is what it was about.

The movie came together for me at the end, made the rest of it palatable—at the end, there was the only expressions of real feelings from real people, people who just didn’t want that kind of life any more. The sheriff asked his uncle if he still wanted revenge on the man who put him in a wheelchair. No, he said, it can consume you so you just move on.

I walked out of the theatre feeling more alert, more fear, and don’t want to see another movie like that, don’t want to live that way.

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August 17, 2007

On magic

Tamar, Damian and I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix yesterday afternoon. I had read the first book and seen the first movie. I also read the first and last chapters of the last and final book. I also read, this week, a review by Stephen King of the Harry Potter series. I also heard a discussion on the radio recently by two women authors of children’s books. The two women were deploring the poor craftsmanship of J.K.Rowling’s writing. “Too many adjectives on one page,” they said. Sloppy and lazy writing was their general consensus. On the other hand, Stephen King thinks Rowling is an excellent writer, improving with each book. Most readers agree it’s not high art. Most say the stories are good. Maybe because I have missed out on reading (or seeing) the whole series, I don’t appreciate it properly. But overall, the sentiment is strong: everyone (and especially me) loves magic. No matter how it is told. Or seen.

Wishful thinking is dangerous. As dangerous as fear. It projects us from being present, from being real. Magical thinking separates us from reality. But for Harry Potter and his friends, hope and fear are made tangible and useable. I’ve never enjoyed seeing violence on film or in life. But in the life of Harry Potter, violence seems rarely to have fruition other than to create more possibilities of fear and violence and use for magic. And magic IS fun.

The magic itself is the best part of the film. I lost my sense of boredom (which pervaded the first half of the movie for me—possibly because I haven’t seen or read much of the other books and movies so I don’t have a strong relationship with the characters and the story-lines) when Harry and his friends started hurling chants and sparkling lights around, with fire demons doing their thing, swirling magical smoke. Smoke screens. Fireworks in the sky.

In this movie, hope and fear are what Harry, ultimately, learns to harness. To accept himself as a good person, loved and loving. Doesn’t good always win out!?! So maybe I can go back and read the whole book and maybe the other books and movies. But I doubt it. Too many other really good books to read. And reading itself is an act of magic. One I dearly love.

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February 27, 2007

The show must go on . . .

I actually watched the Academy Awards Sunday night! I think I've watched the show as many times in my life as I've stayed up for New Years’ Eve. Not many times! My friend Sharon came out to watch it with me. We put on wide brimmed fancy hats and ate popcorn. It was a lot of fun, although I must say, not a very exciting show. Some beautiful dresses. I was hoping Water would win, and Peter O’Toole, but I hadn’t seen all the movies so I really can’t complain. My vote for someone to host the show would be a clone of Ed Sullivan. Someone droll and understated. Until next time. . .

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December 16, 2006

Happy Feet

After a lovely late morning breakfast of blueberry pancakes, Aaron, Shaya and I went to see Happy Feet. It was good. I’m not much on most animation. This was well done. At one point I wondered how the movie-makers were going to manuvour out of the mess they were in, but it worked okay. They did it. And it was nice to see the environment (over-fishing being the message here) being taken care of (people finally caring and doing something about it) in the movie, even though it isn’t happening in reality. I did see The March of the Penguins earlier this year and enjoyed it much more. Penguins are cute, but in reality, they have such a hard life. That’s mostly what I was thinking when watching them dancing on the ice and snow.

We walked home from the theatre. Ottawa is a large small city. Very nice, clean. Tonight we are going to a party. It’s been very relaxing, being with my family in a warm friendly home away from home.

Posted by leya at 07:23 PM | TrackBack

November 12, 2006


Well, I didn’t get to see Marie Antoinette after all. I must have read the wrong paper, last week’s. If there is one thing about Nova Scotia I could complain of, it’s that movies don’t stay around long here. Unless it’s a Terminator or Santa Claus. I had wanted to see Shortbus but by the time I could arrange to go, it was gone. Here for one week only. So maybe I can see it in NY during the holidays.

What I saw was Borat. It was okay. Had a few very good moments. It was mostly over the top. Politically incorrect. And lots of caca jokes. I’ve read that to be prejudiced is to be a fool so the anti-Semitic jokes by a Jew were supposed to be extremely funny. But being a Jew who grew up in a mildly anti-Semitic community, it didn’t feel funny. And, as I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of slapstick. So I’m not a big fan of Borat.

Posted by leya at 04:35 PM

November 11, 2006

Out & about a bit

Lila and I took a walk at Lewis Lake today. It was unusually warm and sunny. It hardly felt like the middle of November. The road there is closed off to cars from Labor Day until Memorial Day. It’s doggie heaven! Lila is very good on walks. She rarely goes more than twenty meters away from me and always comes when I call her, even if she is in the middle of playing with another dog. I’m very lucky to have her.

Now she is tired and will stay home while I go to a movie. Marie Antoinette. (I don’t think she would enjoy a movie unless I gave her lots of popcorn, and Porties don’t do well with corn!) Thursday I went to see The Queen. I found it a bit unsettling. The interweaving of digital clips of real events into the dramatized story was sometimes confusing and sometimes rude. Couldn’t they wait until the Queen is dead! I like a good documentary but this was something in between fiction and fact. And there are plenty of good fiction stories that need to be told. I hope this one tonight is more enjoyable.

Posted by leya at 04:39 PM

March 16, 2006

Beowulf and Grendel

Speaking of Denmark, I saw the movie Beowulf and Grendel Sunday. It was filmed in Iceland but the story takes place in Denmark. I must say, the scenery was well worth seeing the movie. If that is what Denmark looks like (and I know it is amzaing landscape there from photos), I'm punching air-holes in the next box I ship over and climbing in with the paintings!

The story in the movie went beyond the original Anglo-Saxon epic poem I read in Literature classes. It explored how we fear what we don’t understand and how this fear leads to rejection and aggression. The monster Grendel becomes a real flesh and blood creature, with understandable motivations for his vengeance against the Danes. And as he begins to understand Grendel, the famous soldier Beowulf has his first hesitations and confusions about the right to kill the marauding troll. It was a haunting production. It did leave me with strong images.

Posted by leya at 05:57 PM | Comments (1)

April 03, 2005

Looking (around the corner) for the fountain of youth

Last night I saw the movie Monkey Business. It�s an old one, (I love black and white movies!) with Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and (that great beauty!) Marilyn Monroe. The storyline was about a very serious and brilliant scientist (Cary Grant) experimenting (at first) on monkeys (and then on himself and inadvertently on others) to find a formula to restore youthful energy. The antics that follow are funny, for sure, but also underline the ridiculous thoughts and behaviors that result from trying to be something other than what you are.

When I went into the Art Sales and Rental Gallelry at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to deliver a painting this week past, I was greeted by someone I�ve known for a long time. She had actually been a student of mine many years ago. Her first comment was �Leya, you look so much younger every time I see you!� And when I left, the same comment. I hear this a lot. Reminds me of Max Tivoli, who actually grew younger as he aged (in The Confessions of Max Tivoli). Maybe someday I will write an addendum to that book: What It Feels Like to Look Much Younger Than You Are! Max�s mother gave him one rule to cope with his condition: Always be what they think you are. Not good advice. Very confusing advice for him, especially when he had the emotions and desires of someone his actual chronological age. It is so hard just to be who you are without trying to fool everyone. But maybe that is what so many of us try to do anyway. And that is what made that book so endearing yet sad to read. The pretense and avoiding made it so that everyone was like magnets being rubbed together on the wrong sides: no real connect.

It is nice to look youthful and great to feel it, but most of all, I appreciate the experience age has brought to me. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the shock value of looking so much younger. When I got married at twenty-three, I looked twelve. The Justice of the Peace mistook my then pregnant (and older) sister for the bride. When I was pregnant with Tamar, later that year, I must have looked about sixteen. People stared at me with such pity in their eyes. In my early thirties, I was taken to be eighteen. Shortly after that, with the stress of divorce at thirty-five, I aged to look twenty-four for quite a few years.

Sometimes I get annoyed hearing �you look ten years younger each time I see you.� With the same person saying that it would make me be in the minus age group, not existing at all! When people ask me the secret of my youthful looks I usually say �Stress.� Actually it is a combination of heredity and attitude.

But does that mean there is something wrong with aging and showing it? I once took some (what I thought to be) beautiful photographs of my eighty-five year old step-mother. It was at the beach and the sharp summer sun enhanced not only the wrinkles on her face but the peacefulness of a full life. When I sent the photos to some family members, they found them unattractive, unflattering, too many wrinkles. Just goes to show!

Posted by leya at 06:34 PM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2005

Travellers & Magicians

One of the (many) highlights of this past week was the premier of a film by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Travellers & Magicians. Under the name of Khyentse Norbu, Rinpoche has given us a movie of great beauty. Set in the tiny Buddhist country of Bhutan, it tells the story of one young man who wants to leave his quaint (and boring) village to go to the land of Adventures, to leave a job as an officer in his village to go pick apples in America.

Not much happens, so to speak. Just some people waiting for a bus. But so much happens, so rich an experience of waiting for that bus.

Khyentse Norbu said he made The Cup (his first film which won some critical acclaim) for the audience and this one,Travellers & Magicians, for himself. I found this was a much better piece of artwork, more like some Japanese films, perfectly crafted, mysterious and profoundly moving. An exquisitely tuned connection between the action of the mind and of the scenery.

The movie is scheduled to open across Canada and the United States. If it is anywhere near you, dont miss it! A very beautiful film.

Posted by leya at 08:50 AM

December 09, 2004

If I robbed a bank, would you still love me?

Yoko lent me Oceans Eleven the other day. Shortly into the film, I found I couldnt watch it thinking that anyone would get hurt. Even though they were criminals, thieves, pulling off a major Las Vegas heist, I cared about them, didnt want anyone to get hurt or go back to jail. Geez, they were criminals! Arent we supposed to dislike criminals!?! (And they werent even described as profound people, their characters not fully developed, just attractive men, nice bodies, beautiful faces, seductive energy, yumm.)

So I had to ask Yoko what happens and she told me they are successful and no one dies so I watched (and enjoyed) the rest of the film.

Posted by leya at 07:07 AM

November 04, 2004

A laugh through the Heart

The movie Yoko and I hid at on Halloween was I Heart Huckabees. I did enjoy the film, the flip-flop between eternalism and nihilism, the perfect casting, the quirky jokes and the buffoonery about life altering questions. It is a romp through the theme: How do I not know myself. In the movie, the character Albert (Jason Schwartzman), head of the Open Spaces Coalition, goes to a pair of Existential Detectives (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to help him understand the meaning of a series of coincidences in his life. In the process of examining his life, his relationships and especially his relationship to his apparent adversary in his fight to save the open spaces, Brad Stand (Jude Law), a rising executive in the Huckabees Corporation, Albert makes, breaks and remakes connections that lead him (and the rest of the characters) around a philosophical map.

All of the people in the movie are fully one-dimensional, flat, very much just what they are, with introspection the theme of their dialogue. A fascinating, engaging experience. Ive heard complaints that the movie ending is weak, unresolved, but with questions like these, what is resolution? When do these questions stop, what answers are there? The only answer seems to be to know ourselves better and act with more humanity.

After the movie we went to dinner and when that was over too early we went to the drug store and when it was still too early to go home we went to the video store. When we finally did drive down our road there were two large vans stuffed with children in costume so we returned to our homes without turning on the lights in order to remain incognito! It worked. It was a happy All Hallows Eve. Welcome November..............

Posted by leya at 07:22 AM

May 26, 2004

Women (and men)

In order to improve my conversational French (which is not so great, believe me!), I am taking out videos in French (with English subtitles so I dont miss too much). The last three were two by Francois Truffout, The Bride Wore Black and The Man Who Loved Women, and Claude Chabrols The Story of Women with Isabelle Huppert. Lots of women. In every imaginable role. Wife, mother, prostitute, widow, murderer. And beautiful films. They were all, in their individual ways, about love and loss and maybe that is what women are about. We love we lose we love we lose and we love again. But dont men do the same?

I like being female. I like loving. I love loving. Ive learned, I hope, to live with losing. Its part of life, of loving. Perhaps men feel the same sense of loss in their lives, but I am not a man and cant really say. But I am always fascinated by what men see when they write about or portray in films their view of women. At least in a film, the woman acts the part and imparts feminine qualities to a woman.

Teaching figure drawing, I see lots of naked bodies, male and female. The physical structure is different. Besides the obvious, mens hips are narrower, chests broader, their legs set into their hips differently, womens arms hang from their shoulders to be able to carry babies and laundry.

I used to read a lot of self-help books: Men are from Mars, Men Who Hate Women (a very upsetting book), and such. Ive researched men in life and in books. I work in a profession dominated by men for centuries. Ive never dwelled there, think that the work itself will transcend cultural gender prejudice. Most of my female friends say there are few good men. I personally think that there are as many good men as there are good women. Good people. Maybe we act and react differently to some emotions and events. I do think men are wired differently, have different expectations and needs in certain areas, but we are both (men and women) people and we all want love and (at times) suffer loss.

Posted by leya at 08:48 AM

February 24, 2004

Shrek again

I just saw a Shrek for the second time and enjoyed it just as much. The beautiful princess finds her true love, turns into her true self, with their first kiss, and they live .you know the story. Sort of. The twist is that Shrek is an ogre, a big, ugly (albeit intelligent, witty, strong) ogre (with a beautiful, soft smile when he dares to smile). And she is..if you havent, do see it. Shrek never seems really ugly. He is such an interesting ogre, so much character and depth to his personality. A delight to get to know.

My mother used to say handsome is as handsome does. And Shrek is very handsome. As is Schmidt (in About Schmidt) at the end of the movie, where he exposes his inner heart. Then he becomes beautiful, a beautiful, big person, and it doesnt matter if his flesh is weak, tired, his heart and mind are pure at this moment.

Body image is such an interesting, challenging subject. Shrek thinks he is ugly. So he tries to scare everyone away. Thats his job. My mother was very slender but this brought her much unhappiness because she thought she was skinny. She had that porcelain skin, very light and transparent, which made her look fragile and delicate. I have the exact same body shape, size and height (and, although I did't want them, would have fit into all her clothes when she died) and even my face and facial expressions are very similar. My skin tone is darker. When I was younger, I wanted to be small, short. It was in. But now, everyone being taller with each generation, and the possibility of shrinking with aging, I have felt embarrassed being short. Until recently. A good friend, who is my size, keeps referring to me as little one and the affection overrides the size reference, lets me look at it differently. And one of my Pilates instructors is also my size and she looks good. So maybe short is good. It is what I have, so that is good.

Posted by leya at 06:33 AM | Comments (1)

February 12, 2004

Two movies

I went to see The Invasion of the Barbarians Monday evening. This is a must see movie. It is very thoughtful, energetic, funny, sad, touching, rewarding. About a man who is dying and how he relates to his family, children, wife, lovers, friends and how they relate to him. It is about learning to love, to lust, to live, to die well. There are few movies these days that I would like to see again. This one deserves a repeat viewing.

I finally saw About Schmidt and thought Jack Nicholsons performance enchanting. He was still Jack Nicholson, but not the one I expected. In all his previous movies, Nicholson has had a strong sexual allure. Here he lets it all hang out. Literally. His ugly butt, flabby belly, double chin. All of it. And the sad person behind the fallen flesh. Yes, Tonis son is right. It is gross, but it takes a lot of guts to show that much person.

Posted by leya at 08:43 AM | Comments (2)