Muchas Gracias, Puerto Vallarta…por Chuck Duboff

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© Chuck Duboff

Thank you Puerto Vallarta, these past two weeks have been absolutely wonderful.

I have traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean…Veradero, Holguin and Havana, Cuba, at least 11 times.  I have had holidays in Cancun several times and enjoyed the beauty of Playa del Carmen at least five times.  Additionally, I was blessed with the opportunity of teaching Grade 12 English and Drama in Cancun; this truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

When I went to book my winter holiday this year, my travel agent strongly encouraged me to give Puerto Vallarta a try; I had always been hesitant, for some unknown reason, but this time I followed her advice and booked two weeks at the Canto del Sol in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I am having a hard time putting into words how magnificent these past two weeks in PV have been.  The weather has been absolutely perfect; 14 straight days of brilliant sunshine and hot temperatures…the sun lover in me couldn’t have asked for anything better.  Being a prairie boy, the Sierra Madre mountains were awe inspiring.  Running the beaches every morning, the sight of the majestic mountains kept me so incredibly motivated.  The grand Pacific Ocean was mesmerizing; I could sit and watch it for hours on end.  The power of the oncoming waves was incredible…they looked like giant turbines gathering force and then a monster throwing out its tentacles as it hit land.  Walking to the downtown area was wonderful…so much to see: from the bright coloured items in the little shops, to the warm caring Mexican people, to the interesting architecture, the restaurants and great food, this all brought you to the downtown area, which reminded me a lot of 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

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This picture really captures what I am feeling about PV; my smile displays a very authentic joy…the gentleman, George, was very friendly and in no way pushed anything on me.  The hot sand, brilliant sunshine, colourful beaches, breath taking mountains, swaying palm trees, never ending Pacific Ocean…it’s all right there.  It inspired me, got into my soul…

It brought about a level of writing which I haven’t experienced before; if you have a moment, go back and read the great adventure I had walking through hot pebbles and rocks; check out the poem I wrote about the lady I encountered several times on my walks. I think you too will agree that that is some pretty good writing.

Thank you Puerto Vallarta; you got into my soul and brought out the authentic me.  For those reading this, who have never been to PV…put it at the top of your list of places in the Caribbean to visit…I promise, you won’t regret it.

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Lady in the Van…reviewed & recommended by Geoff Brookes

© Geoff Brookes

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The screenplay is written by Alan Bennett, based on his 1999 play, and the true story of his own unusual relationship with a woman who he knows as “Mary”. Mary lives in her decrepit vehicle, which she moves from place to place along the streets in the London “town” of Camden. She maintains this pattern of life until the town makes the street a “no parking” zone. She then asks the narrator, Alan Bennett, if she could “temporarily” park her vehicle in his driveway (or “garden”, as the Englishman says). Her temporary use of his Camden driveway continues for another 15 years.

“Mary”, is played by Maggie Smith, who also played the same role in the stage play. Alex Jennings plays the part of Alan Bennett, the author, narrator, and character in the story.

The movie is directed by Nicholas Hytner. The story is told calmly, with the compassion of the residents of the neighbourhood balanced against the sordidness of Mary’s situation in life. Maggie Smith portrays Mary with simplicity, allowing the viewer to adopt the realism of the scenes as if they had shared the experience of the other residents of the neighbourhood. In her brusque  – even rude – interactions with her newly middle class neighbours, Mary models the street person who has survived well enough to put on a brave front for others. Similarly, Alex Jennings portrays the playwright’s character with understatement, which is both effective and believable for the unwinding of the author’s own story.

“Alan” is portrayed as if he was two physical characters. One is the playwright, who observes life from the confines of his own study. The other is the “Alan” that the rest of the world sees, as he lives his human life. They speak to each other, relate to each other, argue (in that English way) with each other. And, as the play unfolds, they learn from each other, and from Mary. In their longsuffering service to Mary – yes, service – they learn what it means to offer true love to another human being. Not romantic love by any means, but self-sacrificial love. Ironically, Alan argues at one point with Mary’s social worker that he is not Mary’s “caregiver”, and that he detests the word “care”. In truth, Alan has found it very difficult in his life to “care” for another person, let alone “love” another person. But despite his protestations, Alan has “loved” Mary, in the sense that he has protected her, provided for her (as much as she will permit), and watched over her.

In his longservice to her, Alan earns the right to ask Mary the question which troubles her even more than the apparent cause of her demise. He asks her why she dislikes music so much (as evidenced by her reaction to music being played by the children of her “neighbours”). She responds that she doesn’t dislike it, but that she must flee from it. By asking this “earned” question, Alan unblocks the river of Mary’s consciousness, allowing just a trickle of self-discovery to begin for Mary. I will refrain from describing Mary’s journey, so that the reader may enjoy the movie fully.

The movie explores themes of spirituality versus religion; of personal discovery versus repression; of compassion versus complacency. It uses metaphors that are borrowed from Christianity, with irony that is warmly humourous as well as challenging.

The movie also delightfully plays with the relationship between life and art. One of my favourite lines from the movie (very roughly repeated from memory) is Alan (playwright) saying to Alan (everyday person), “You know, I’ve always been told to ‘Write what you know’. But the truth is, I’m writing about things that are important to me, and I find myself appearing in the play, to my own surprise!”

I strongly recommend this movie. It’s a wonderful story, redemptive and uplifting. If you can catch it in the theatre, it’s a marvelous experience (currently at Empire Theatre at Grant Park in Winnipeg), but it won’t last long in the theatre, as it is a small release. If you miss it in the theatre, it is definitely a “must see” if you can find it any other way.

Star Wars VII – the Force Awakens; reviewed by Geoff Brookes

© Geoff Brookes

Star Wars VII  – the Force Awakens

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Forget everything you thought about Star Wars movies so far. This one is different, 

Superficially, it seems similar to the original Star Wars movie, especially for the first half hour or so. Like the original Star Wars movie, the opening story script rolls and fades far off into the distance of space. The opening scene of the new movie features a desert planet, like the one that Luke Skywalker inhabited in Star Wars IV. Like the original movie, the plot features an image supplied by a droid that looks similar to R2D2. 

But as the story plays out, you are swept away by its humanity. Star Wars VII tells the story of a new heroine, Rey (Dailey Ridley). It features a new hero, Finn (John Boyega). Interestingly, Finn is a rogue “First Order” soldier (the “First Order” looks like the old “Empire”). Importantly, Finn is revealed as a living person with everyday human qualities (including faults). Even the evil protagonist (played by Adam Driver) removes his dark helmut on at least two occasions, revealing that he is flesh and blood.

It’s a story of love lost by time and space; of grief over the loss of a child; of family loyalty and betrayal; of the tension between self-interest versus self-sacrifice for the greater good.

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It has action scenes, but the camera’s focus never strays far from the individual struggles. Despite the emphasis on the characters, the action doesn’t drag. The editing and timing is excellent, and quickens your heart throughout each scene.

It features performances by several of the actors from the original Star Wars movie, reprising their famous roles, but almost 40 years older, in the story as well as in real time. The fact that this can be done at all is remarkable, but it’s very memorable for me, having watched the first movie at the age of 16.

The original Star Wars movie was groundbreaking at the time, in 1977. This movie takes the venerable series in a new direction, empowering the viewer to reach their own inferences into the story. Instead of Obi-Wan Kenobi instructing Luke to feel “the force”, we see this journey of discovery in Rey’s face (brilliantly played by Daisy Ridley). The struggle of good versus evil is acted with subtlety in many scenes, including the psychological conflicts late in the movie. The audience doesn’t need to have the struggles explained to them. The actors tell the story in their physical and facial performances.

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Even the music follows this understated approach. The solid refrains of the famous Star Wars music melodies are held back for the climactic sequences. It is played quietly, sometimes only with parts of the melodies, earlier in the movie, often almost imperceptibly in the background.

I would like to tell you more, but I don’t want to ruin the story for you, if you haven’t seen it yet.

This is a must see. I would say that among the Star Wars movies, this is the best. The original Star Wars movie was at least ten years ahead of its time, when it was released in 1977. But in terms of story-telling, I like Star Wars VII more than the rest. Go see it in the theatre with a big crowd – which is still the best way to experience a movie!

Fools & Horses Cafe; a socially conscious gem…by Chuck Duboff

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© Chuck Duboff

Often times when a new cafe or restaurant opens for business, it has grand dreams of the kind of establishment it would like to be.  For many, these dreams turn out to be not only unattainable, but pie in the sky notions which lead to the shutting down of the enterprise.

I’m pleased to inform that Fools & Horses Cafe (see review from June 9: https://chuckduboff.com/2015/06/09/third-wave-cafe-fools-and-horses-adds-to-the-renaissance-occurring-in-downtown-winnipeg-reviewed-by-chuck-duboff/ ) has not only lived up to its stated goals, but has, in my opinion, far exceeded their initial expectations.

“I come here all the time; I love the light in here, how open it is and that it’s not loud; it’s perfect for studying and writing.”  F&H customer.

This past year has seen this very cool cafe evolve into an important member of the community; “that was what we hoped to be, but wow, when that’s how we’re perceived, it feels great”…said Lauren Kroeker, co-owner of the cafe.

F&H continues to serve an eclectic mix of foods and beverages, while at the same time creating a relaxed, personable environment.  Fools and Horses has become a home for artists and photographers to display their work, for local bakers to sell their delicious product, for locally made jams and honeys,  for community gatherings and for those in need of an eclectic place to write or study…heaven.

From Fools & Horses website:

We are proud to serve mostly local and organic food products. ​Suppliers include:

+  Bothwell cheese
+  Flora and Farmer jam
+  Jamore jam
+  Smak Dab mustard
+  Elman’s pickles
+  Dairy Fairy yogurt
+  Adagio Acres oats
+  MillsHof Saskatoon berries
+  Sunshine Farms vegetables

In a troubled world, one filled with greed, excess and abuse of power, it takes shining lights, whether small or large, to bring a much needed calmness to society.  I would suggest that Fools & Horses Cafe has, in its brief time, become  a beacon of hope…that yes, in fact, there is goodness in this world.

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During the month of December, F&H will be hosting many holiday themed events; stop by and check out the festive goings on at this wonderful cafe.

Location: the corner of Broadway and Edmonton.

Holiday Hours:

7-7 Monday-Friday
9-5 Saturday-Sunday

 

 

 

Third Wave Cafe, Fools and Horses, adds to the Renaissance occurring in downtown Winnipeg…reviewed by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

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I recently sat down with one of the owners of Fools and Horses cafe (only fools and horses work hard) and talked about their new Cafe on Broadway. When I asked if I should describe the place as “hipster cool”, Lauren Kroeker responded that that would only alienate people. She indicated that a Third Wave Cafe is what they are; oblivious to this term, I did some reading and got a much better understanding…

“The third wave of coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity.”

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That really does capture the authentic feel of Fools and Horses, which is located at the corner of Broadway and Edmonton. It took over a year of planning for the five owners to see their dream come true. There is an obvious meticulous attention to detail, with each item on the menu and in the decor, carefully thought out. Lots of study and research through out North America, from San Francisco to New York to Toronto and Vancouver, resulted in a well thought out cafe.

Toast, yes toast, says Lauren with a big smile..”this is really big in San Francisco”; F & H offers at least four different toasts for your eating pleasure; cinnamon buns, croissants and muffins add to the morning delight. By noon, the offerings include vegetarian and non-vegetarian sandwiches; additionally, after 11 AM the taps open up and beer and wine are served…not just your run of the mill beers and wine, but rather:

Half Pints Brewing Co.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Co.
Paddock Wood Brewing Co.
Roaring Twenties Wine by FreshTap

That’s right: Wine on Tap…Enjoy!!

Lauren spoke with great pride about the micro-roasted coffee, Pilot Coffee, which they serve; lots of research went into the coffee selection…and as someone who loves his coffee…very well done. The baristas carefully make your coffee, with rushing and run of the mill java, NOT part of the experience.

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One item which really stood out for me was the joy which all the people behind the counter displayed: pride, happiness and a desire to have a successful business and leave a positive footprint on this earth.

The following was taken from the website foolsandhorses.ca

Fools & Horses is a social enterprise with a triple bottom line:

Environmental: Measure waste, eliminate it, and re-invest in local green projects (partners: RISE and Transition Winnipeg).

Social: Provide a vibrant urban space that respects diversity and a modest home for arts and culture.

Economic: Create simple livelihoods. Enable workers to be owners. Support young entrepreneurs in the local food economy.

Currently the hours of operation are:

7-7 Mon-Fri
8-6 Saturday
Closed Sunday (because we have to get some sleep Chuck…lol)

There are plans for holding special evenings like theatrical performances, public talks, and other events.

Fools & Horses is genuine, fun, delicious and a socially conscious cafe…give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

Cabaret, the MTC musical…captivating, disturbing and thought provoking!! Reviewed by Geoff Brookes

Performed by Manitoba Theatre Centre
January 9, 2015
© Geoff Brookes
Script by Sam Mendes

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I must confess that I had not previously seen the 1972 movie “Cabaret”, nor had I seen any previous versions of this play. (Actually, I believe that I have seen the movie, but at a relatively young age). I haven’t read the book by Christopher Isherwood, “Goodbye to Berlin” – although the MTC play certainly inspires me to read the book.
To get to the point quickly, I strongly recommend this MTC play. If you’re wondering whether or not to see it – go see it. It’s disturbing, and very thought-provoking. Its themes are incredibly timely for the 2015 world. It’s performed beautifully, with strong acting and captivating musical performances.
If you’re not familiar with the story, don’t worry. My own ignorance might have enhanced my appreciation of this particular script/production, which I now understand was re-written as a darker version of the 60’s Broadway musical and 70’s movie.
Many people who grew up in the 1970’s will recall the song “Cabaret”, performed by Liza Minnelli in a gregarious, joyful style. In this redesigned version of the story, the song is the climactic moment of self-discovery by the character, Sally.
The script is excellent. It leads the audience slowly and gently through the maze of character journeys.
A brief recap is required (without spoiling it for those who might attend). Cliff Bradshaw is an aspiring author, who has relocated from America to Berlin, in the early 1930’s. Arriving by train, he is befriended by a German businessman, who seems to know everyone who matters in Berlin. He is introduced to a Burlesque/swinger night club, called the “Kit Kat Klub”. At the club, he meets one of the singers, Sally. Like Cliff, she is pursuing her life dream, as a singer.
Cliff is introduced to his new landlady, Fräulein Schneider, and another tenant, Herr Schultz.
Cliff falls in love with Sally Bowles. This love defies the characters’ own expectations, and their understanding of themselves.

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Similarly, Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz fall in love, as an unexpected romance, late in their lives.
The master of ceremonies at the Cabaret, “Nick” (perhaps ironically based on the Greek word, “nike”, or “victory”) says that the Kit Kat Klub is a place where people can forget all of life’s worries. Instead, it becomes a mirror, in which the characters are faced with critical life choices.
Against these personal stories, the rise of racist Nazism appears, as though it were insidiously crawling behind the characters, like a shadow.
My own interpretation of the story is based on the meaning of the word “Cabaret”. Its common meaning is a night club where a series of short musical performances are offered. The word shares the same root as “chambre”, or “room”, in older French (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cabaret , from “cambret”). In my mind, the idea of the songs (or rooms) is that they relate to each of the four main characters stories choices and stories. There may be a further irony, in that the Cabaret offers its patrons many “choices”.
Each character is confronted with stark alternatives that will change the course of their lives. By implication, their choices will affect others, and the society in which they choose to live. In the diversity of their decisions, they model for us the various kinds of approaches that we take, as humans, when faced with the unimaginable. Their paths model the human experience.
When Sally sings the famous line, “Life is a Cabaret, old chum,” it reaches a very different place in our pool of emotions. And, like Sally, we aren’t sure that we really want to know what the next song might be.
“Come to the Cabaret.”

Winnipeg’s own “CHEF”!!…Little Maria’s Joe Pelligrino: “I love cooking for people!!”

© Chuck Duboff

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Drive by Little Maria’s at 4:00 in the morning; the lights will be on and Joe will be in the kitchen preparing food for another busy day at his funky little restaurant on Edmonton Street. The lineups to get into the 30 seat restaurant were so long at lunch time recently that people were standing outside with menus and Joe ran out of food around 1:30 in the afternoon.

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The food, to quote my friend Joe, is “orgasmic”; watching the looks on people’s faces as they ate their meatball sandwiches…he may be accurate!! The atmosphere: think New York and the movie Goodfellas!! The atmosphere: fun, relaxing and people just enjoying themselves. Joe’s delicious meatballs can also be had in both chicken and vegetarian style.

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Joe speaks with a passion that speaks to his love of cooking. “I could be retired now, but I am having so much fun!!” All his foods are made with the highest quality ingredients and Joe proudly talks about his Mom teaching him Italian cooking.

I know that as a writer, and someone who needs atmosphere to be at my most productive, Little Maria’s, named after Joe’s daughter, is perfect. I can sit and relax, not feel rushed, watch the eclectic people who visit the restaurant, listen to the music and be inspired by the art decor!!

Stop by Joe’s place at 77 Edmonton Street and order a: Sinatra or a Gandolfini or a Pauly or a Tony Bennet and savour some truly great cooking!! If you saw the movie Chef…Joe Pelligrino is Winnipeg’s very own CHEF!!

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I give this fabulous little 30 seat restaurant five meatballs!!!
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Winnipeg Folk Fest; soulful, terrific, diverse talent…by Geoff Brookes

Folk Fest Geoff

© Geoff Brookes

Wednesday evening featured some soulful blues, highlighted by great performances by the Brothers Landreth and Bonnie Raitt. Raitt performed her hit “Let’s give them something to talk about”, but she was more powerful on many blues/soul standards, where her vocals and slide guitar scorched the night.

The Brothers Landreth were even better during a daytime workshop on Friday. They are tight, with great vocals and a solid rhythm.

I always enjoy hearing any of the Wailin’ Jennie’s or alumni, and Ruth Moody was terrific. Her angelic vocals are so smooth and beautiful, they take you far, far away. JP Hoe was also very good in that all-Manitoba workshop.

The next workshop featured 3 very talented and diverse artists. “Hurray for the Riff Raff” had recently appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, and sounded very polished. But the most spirited acts in that workshop were Oliver Swain, whose ethereal vocals reminded me of the Neville Brothers, and an amazing Swedish trio called “Baskery”. Their scorching rock was powered by a banjo with what sounded like the meanest lead guitar fuzz box – with a foot-powered rock drum beat, a chameleon-like stand-up bass, and acoustic guitar! The vocals were edgy blues-rock styled. All this, from a Swedish trio that looked, well, a bit young to be so full of hard rock blues powered by an electric banjo! But they ROCKED!

My afternoon was concluded by a superb concert by another former “Jennie”, Cara Luft. Her humourous, entertaining songs were assisted by some nice accompaniment and crowd singalongs. There were also some interesting songs drawn from the old American rural song tradition (cf the movie starring Jodie Foster, Cold Mountain).

As I wrote this, the evening concert is starting.

Geoff Brookes

The Other Woman reviewed…The lawyer, the boobs and the wife!!

 

 

©Chuck Duboff

Say what you will about this rather predictable movie, and the daggers are certainly out…but at $26 million dollars in revenue, The Other Woman was the top drawing movie over this past weekend.

Shakespeare it’s not; Scorsese it’s certainly not.  This is a simple, cliched attempt at a story that’s been told hundreds of times.  An aging Cameron Diaz is cheating with the husband of Leslie Mann; the two women become friends and then find out that Kate Upton is cheating with the same man.  They confront him and, bada bing, bada bang, he’s toast…and that’s it folks.  There’s your simple, cliched plot.

However, this comedy is saved from total boredom by some fine acting by Leslie Mann; she really does shine in her comedic role and helps to bring some laughter to this screwball endeavour.  There is obvious chemistry in her on screen scenes with Diaz, who continues to use her long legs and short skirts to divert the attention in her movies.  Sadly, Kate Upton, along with her expected bouncy run on the beach, detracts from the talents of both Mann and Diaz.  It is difficult to tell if Upton is acting or is truly as ditzy as she comes across.  The same can be said for the sleazy cheater, Mark; actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau emulates Upton in his plastic and one dimensional acting.  Finally, somebody please tell me: Is Nicki Minaj a cartoon character?  Seriously, what possible reason would there be for her to be in this movie? All of the cast, directors and producers should thank Leslie Mann for bringing a few moments of laughter to this film.

Kate Upton, Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann in The Other Woman

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Now, that being said…this was the top grossing movie at the theatres this past weekend.  Give the people what they want, familiar plot, lots of eye candy and nothing to think about, and your studio will make lots of money.

Over 5000 Views of chuckduboff.com Thank you so very much.


  
Thursday, April 24

210 Views of Living with Depression…It Sucks; Updated Blog.

BLOG hits 5128 views since January 30th

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO VISIT AND READ OUR BLOG

 

© Chuck Duboff

Yesterday morning our Blog hit and passed 5000 views.  5000 views of the Blog, chuckduboff.com, since January 30.  I could never have imagined that so many people would take the time to read the ramblings of an old hippie and his friends.  Technology today has made it possible for everyone to write, publish, connect in ways never dreamed of.

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to read, comment, contribute.  One of the things that truly amazes me when I look at the stats that are provided for the blog, are the countries around the world where people are stopping in to visit and read; 

A partial list includes:

Canada, US, United Kingdom, Australia, France Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Philippines, Spain, Brazil, Kuwait, Norway, South Africa, Mexico, Israel, Finland, Columbia, Denmark, New Zealand, Tunisia, Ecuador, Serbia, Tunisia, Malaysia, Thailand, Greece, Pakistan, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Poland, Rwanda, Dominican Republic, China, Slovenia.

The number of views per day has steadily increased; initially, there were 15-20 views per day…during these past few weeks, the number of views has increased to 60-70 a day.  That in itself has been incredible positive reinforcement and a seeming validation and interest in what is being written.

So many people have contributed writing to this blog; Mickey, Al, Cheyene, Bari, Derek, Bojan and Dianne…your contribution has been greatly appreciated.  Kristin, thank you for the interview.  Geoff: your writing, especially your poetry, has been fantastic.  Thanks pal…and when tax season is done, it’ll be exciting to see a lot more of your writing.

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I have gotten personal joy out of writing poetry, prose, doing movie and theatre reviews and, of course, writing about the Winnipeg Jets.  The evolution of Saturday Morning Random Thoughts and Springsteen Sundays has been fun.  It has been so very special to have a forum to discuss the Depression I live with, and to see the tremendous support and interest the blogs on Depression have generated.

There are so many blogs that I both enjoyed and am really proud of; these are but a few:

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/04/06/bruce-springsteen-a-letter-from-your-fans-in-winnipeg/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/02/04/living-with-depression/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/03/02/kristin-walker-as-a-gay-person-i-am-troubled-by-so-many-things-in-the-u-s/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/03/09/21-of-my-favourite-bruce-springsteen-songsby-chuck-duboff/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/04/01/winnipeg-jets-end-of-season-awards-analysis-by-5-jets-fans/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/02/07/elements-a-collection-of-poetry-by-geoff-brookes/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/04/09/new-poetry-by-chuck-duboff-my-muse/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/04/22/the-dance-of-freedom/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/04/17/miss-you-buddy-by-mickey-steen/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/04/16/intense-rain-and-hot-sun/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/03/21/chevys-new-cadillac-by-geoff-brookes/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/03/25/enemy-one-very-bizarre-strange-brilliant-movie/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/03/12/dulabics-script-and-insight-shine-in-film-debut/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/03/10/the-glass-menagerie-dysfunction-brought-to-life/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/02/17/may-31-2011-the-day-the-jets-came-home-a-fans-recollection-of-that-special-day/

https://chuckduboff.com/2014/02/27/tom-and-larry-the-boys-are-back-in-town/

One of the great things that has evolved from this Blog is that Geoff and I are going to be publishing a book.  It will be both a collection of our writings from this blog and some new writing from these two overly analytical minds.  It has been a dream for both Geoff and I to actually publish a book…so, sometime in the next few months, be looking for some exciting news about a book of writing from the brothers from different mothers.

Geoff asked to contribute a few words to this thank you Blog.  I know, had he not been in the midst of an overwhelming deadline of April 30th to complete his tax season, this would have been a much longer dissertation.

5,000 views!     Thanks to everyone who’s taken a look at Chuck’s eclectic blog! It’s very exciting that so many people read it regularly.Chuck – take a bow! You do amazing work – gathering, writing, editing and publishing. Well done my friend!!!”

Geoff: without you, there’s no way this blog would be the success it is.  Not only your writing contributions, but your encouragement, support, critique, conversation…they have all helped to make this Blog something very special.  I can’t wait for us to get started on putting the book together.

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 THANK YOU AGAIN TO ALL WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO READ, COMMENT AND CONTRIBUTE TO THIS BLOG.  YOUR SUPPORT IS SO GREATLY APPRECIATED.  IF ANY ONE WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE EITHER TOPICS FOR WRITING OR WOULD LIKE TO DO SOME WRITING FOR THE BLOG, JUST GET IN TOUCH WITH EITHER GEOFF OR MYSELF.  THANK YOU.

Movie Review: Draft Day

 

 ©Chuck Duboff

Field of Football Dreams

Kevin Costner, as Sonny Weaver Jr., is the strength behind the quite predictable, yet very entertaining movie, Draft Day.  For any serious fan of the NFL, much of what happens on the big screen is quite obvious, but much like his other sports movies, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Tin Cup and For the Love of the Game, it is Costner’s everyman feeling, that actually brings intrigue to this film.

Sonny Weaver Jr. is the general manager of the beleaguered Cleveland Browns franchise; he had to fire his own father, who was coach of the team, in order to publicly put his own stamp on the team.  He has the opportunity to make some major trades, which would allow him to move up to the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft, and select the sure fire QB, who would turn his franchise around.  He is presented with many challenges; draft the player his gut tells him to, select the hometown star running back or make the big trade to draft the All-American, sure fire, QB.  Costner, much like his Ray Kinsella and Crash Davis characters, embraces these challenges and grabs hold of the audience.  While mulling over these decisions, Weaver must deal with the overbearing owner, Anthony Molina, (played perfectly by Frank Langella) and his salary cap expert girlfriend, Ali (played by Jennifer Garner), who informs Sonny that she is pregnant.  The passing away of his much beloved father, the previous coach of the Browns, adds one more layer to Weaver’s challenging situation.

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Much like other so called sports movies, this is more a story about believing in yourself and facing the challenges which are presented to you.  Sonny Weaver must stick to what he believes in; much like Billy Beane in Moneyball, Roy Hobbs in the Natural and Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, each man must hold onto his dreams and fight for what he believes in.

If you enjoy the back room machinations of a pro sports franchise, as was seen in Moneyball, then this movie is for you.  It certainly is fascinating watching the art of the trade unfold; this is given added intrigue by the on screen presence of NFL “people” such as: Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, Mel Keiper, Deion Sanders, Roger Goodell, Ray Lewis, Mike Mayock and Rich Eisen. 

One final thought: given the behemoth that is the NFL, it boggles the mind to see a two hour advertisement for the NFL and its draft day extravaganza.  I’m sure Gary Bettman, Bud Selig and Adam Silver must be shaking their collective heads and saying: “when is enough, enough?”

The Grand Budapest Hotel reviewed; one very quirky movie.

© Chuck Duboff

A quirky, oddball movie entertains.

Take a little Inspector Clouseau, some Monty Python, sprinkle in Murder on the Orient Express, throw in some old time delicious movie making and you have The Grand Budapest Hotel.  This ode to cinematic beauty, laced with exquisite use of the English language, creates an illusion of exquisite days of yore.

An eccentric collection of characters, portrayed by Wes Craven’s stable of regulars, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Ralph Fiennes,  Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, William Dafoe and Ed Norton give incredible life to their on screen personas.

Ralph Fiennes as Gustav H, concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, is magnificent; he is a throwback to the old days of precise service and good manners.  We are left shaking in laughter as he beds one old aged, blond haired  woman after another: 

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                    M. Gustave: I go to sleep with all of my friends

Eventually this unusual habit adds to the complexity of the plot, as one of the elder women he beds, dies and Gustav H. is left in the will.  Hilarity ensues.

The story unfolds in1932, in-between world wars, at the onset of German fascism. Darkness is spreading over Europe and Craven alludes to the Nazi world as he has a rude collection of soldiers, wearing Nazi-like symbols (the Zig-Zags).  Much like the Nazi soldiers, these crude human beings demonstrate no understanding of civility.

Wes Craven delights the audience with colourful clothing and brilliant sets; this is augmented by Craven’s unique use of the camera, creating different shapes on the screen and camera angles in very odd spaces.  There is something almost decadent in the sheer pleasure derived from the eccentric characters, to the breath taking setting, to the interesting use of camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN5sqSEXxm4#t=10

For sheer entertainment, The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite simply a joy to watch.

Enemy…one very bizarre, strange, brilliant movie.

© Chuck Duboff

ENEMY…reviewed.

Muted, muddy, foggy tones throughout the whole movie; dense fog, hovering over a city bereft of life.  Tall, non descript buildings, lacking any individualism.  Haunting, surreal violins, threatening kettle drums, Hitchkockian in nature.  Front row seating as men watch women pleasure themselves.  Robotic individuals walking the streets of a city lacking any life.

Enemy.  This is one bizarre movie, which sees people walking out of the theatre, upset having spent ten dollars on something incomprehensible.  The remaining viewers sit there bewildered, looking for clues, trying to decipher what the heck is going on.

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Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a loner history professor, seemingly going through the motions of life.  He lectures his students on the evils  of totalitarianism; those in power seeking total control of all facets of life.  Bell explains that leaders give their mindless citizens “bread and circuses” so that they are not tempted to pay attention to what is going on in the world; all the while the “spider spreads its tentacles” and grasps control of their lives.  The movie takes a strange twist when Bell meets an identical twin, an arrogant movie star, Anthony Clair, someone enjoying the pleasures of life.  Jealousies develop between the two Gyllenhaals; but, to share anymore would be to give away the movie.

When watching Enemy, you must pay attention to the detail; there are clues throughout the movie as to its meaning and why things are happening as they are. Director Dennis Villeneuve certainly creates a masterpiece of bold film making for lovers of true cinema.  “The most complicated movie I have ever made by far.”

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I haven’t stopped thinking about this movie since I saw it and anxiously look forward to seeing it again.  There will be those who aren’t prepared to think, to challenge their minds, and will choose to watch the mindless drivel which passes for movies these days, but if you are looking for a movie which challenges the viewer to participate in a piece of art, then Enemy is for you.  The last scene, though perplexing at first, makes perfect sense upon reflection.  As Adam Bell had written on his blackboard: “Chaos is order yet undeciphered.”

Dulabic’s Script and Insight Shine in Film Debut.

 

© Chuck Duboff

Living or Waiting to Die…Review

 People Really Read That Shit?

Bojan Dulabic’s first feature film, Living or Waiting to Die, presents a world adrift in technology, isolation and the never ending search for meaning in life.  Bosnian born, and raised in both in Germany and Canada, Dulabic’s main achievement in this film is to use his characters to speak to much of the mindless drivel which passes for entertainment today.  The character of Greg, played by GRAEME MCCOMB,  states: “Art has been sacrificed for bullshit entertainment.”  While watching his friend Jason (ADAM WEIDL)  succeed,  when creating a webcast entitled “DumbAss”, Greg comments: “He gets a thousand followers for a video on shit, no literally shit.  What has happened to our society?”  The strong script, delivered by some fine young actors, holds this film together.

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                 The cast and director chilling… 

Living or Waiting to Die, doesn’t present anything new  in the never ending query into what life is all about; we see idealistic Greg questioning anything that doesn’t serve a purpose in understanding life’s meaning, while his friend Jason embodies the mindless technology driven lives which have overtaken much of society today.  We see more of Dulabic’s frustration with life today, when Greg asks: “Why should we follow the herd?  Why are the ones who seek answers given the harshest treatment by society?” 

 Without question Dulabic is questioning where entertainment is going today: “Alternative media has become Mainstream today.”  Jason stays home on a Saturday night to spend the evening with his computer and not have to “put up with the pretentious shit at the bar.”  Technology has become his evening’s companion, his escape from the bars, his purpose in life.

 

First time Director and Writer, Bojan Dulabic    

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There are no answers presented; a shining light doesn’t appear at the end.  We simply hear Greg state the obvious when in the final scene he lets go of the past which has been dragging him down: “i need to start living.”  Not profound, but through the eyes of twenty somethings, it is a refreshing perspective.

 In addition to the strong script and solid acting, special note must be made of the bold music which served as a background to the angst filled movie.  Dave Chick  was the composer of this urban beat sound; featuring a deep bass, Chick brought to life many scenes which needed to be shaken out of their lethargy.  In tune with all that was unfolding, Chick certainly is an impressive talent.

 Given that this was his first film, Dulabic has an exciting future in front of him.  His message was clear and he demonstrated a good eye on what to focus the camera on.  Hopefully as he grows in his film making career, Dulabic will look to add more substance to his plot, add layers, so as not to lose his audience.  Though understanding his choice to shoot the film in a single room, the film could have been better served with some variance in shooting locale.  At times tedium set in and a change of venue would have helped.

 “I’m very lucky to have been able to get the cast and crew I did.”  Dulabic demonstrates an ability to bring together a fine group of actors and crew and this should only lead to future success.  As Greg Delmage (Sean) stated:  “It was great being part of a labour of love, working with a director passionate about what he was making, and a team treating it with the same amount of love and professionalism.”

 

 Film Webstie:

 http://www.livinglifeorwaitingtodie.com/

 Cast List:

Adam Weidl – Jason

Graeme McComb – Greg

Levi Hildebrand – Zack

Greg Delmage – Sean 

Emily Fonda – Stacy 

John Kevener as Jared Port 

 

To see a video clip:

http://player.vimeo.com/video/88836466?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

Twelve Years a Slave…a necessary history lesson.

©Chuck Duboff

Twelve Years a Slave, reviewed.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a freeman who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation as a slave, in New Orleans, in the 1800s.  This true story, based on Northup’s memoirs, is bold in its depiction of the life black people faced; at times difficult to watch, director Steve McQueen is blunt in his portrayal of slavery in the deep south.

We are pleasantly surprised early in the movie, as Solomon is a freeman living “the good life.”  We wonder why and how long this will last; and much to the viewers horror, Northup is captured and physically and psychologically turned into a slave.  He endures the verbal berating, the brutal whippings and the dehumanizing treatment by his owners.  Michael Fassbender  is haunting, and yet outstanding, in his portrayal of Edwin Epps, slave owner and the symbol of all that was wrong with the United States.  He was every white man who lorded over every black person; he made it uncomfortable for us to watch, yet at the same teaching us important historical lessons which can’t be forgotten.

Epps forces Northup to whip and beat Lupita Nyong’o’s character of Patsey; we cringe every time the whip strikes Patsey’s back.  We feel guilt, want to scream out at Northup telling him to stop.  We rile at Epps as he and his wife, Mistress Epps, played by Sarah Paulson, smugly watch, sneer and relish the beating which Northup starts and which Fassbender completes with much satisfaction.  Edwin Epps: “A man is free to do as he pleases with his property.” Watching this horrific scene,  brings to mind the impossible moment in Sophie’s Choice when Merryl Streep’s character is forced to choose between her two children by a Nazi soldier.  The same excruciating pain and horror which the viewer endured in Sophie’s Choice, is recaptured by McQueen.  Though uncomfortable, it is necessary, and is what makes this such an outstanding film.  

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“Slavery is an evil which should befall none.”  With these words, Solomon Northup clearly states the lesson to be learned from Twelve Years a Slave.