Thursday, August 25, 2016

Movie Producers--What do they do?

Movie producers very often have their name appearing before the movie title taking precedence over ticket drawing actors or artistic directors.  As a consumer I was not really aware of the producer but became vaguely conscious that producers were important.  Now I realize all the movies that I enjoyed had to pass through a producer.  With age curiosity has overcome me to understand why a producer is so important.

All movies start with an idea.  Someone may have written a full script, but often the idea starts out as a casual conversation until someone seizes on it and takes it to the next step.   A producer's first function is to identify a viable idea and after deciding to go forward organize the many tasks needed to develop a finished product and have it distributed.  Sometimes the decision is made to hire a producer to make sure the idea gets handled properly.  Film rights, need to be secured, sometimes preceded by options

Creative people including writers and directors need to raise money, but often find that money comes with strings.  People with money want to be sure they get their money back and with a reasonable chance of a profit.   Usually that means they want it to be more "commercial."  At the same time producers can be part of the creative process and many of them started with different functions.  Spometimes they start with an idea and search out writers and directors to flesh out the idea.  They are approached by artistic people needing financial support.

Investors are sought.  There are some people who like the glamour and other investors need to be reassured their money is safe with a good chance to be profitable.  A producer spends and supervises the money.  Once financing is secured a budget can be established and a schedule  Location is another big decision, whether to go on site or build a set. The cast, the director, sometimes the writing, costumes, sets, countless workers who have to be fed and transported.  They are expected to make sure there is an audience to view the end product.  Very often they can be a driving force behind the creative effort.   Time management is difficult when there are so many pieces to juggle.  Needless to say these functions can be very fluid, taking a long time with many ups and downs and overlapping with creative decisions.

Many film projects involve a lot of people performing different function under guidance of producer.  The Academy Awards are very careful in deciding who is the producer as they are the one who actually wins Best Picture.  Other subordinate titles include executive producer, line producer, associate producer, co-producer, etc.  Their exact functions and responsibilities depend on a multitude of factors.

The cast is obviously a key part, but so is a director and writer.  Not only because of their quality, but also concerned for cost, timeliness and compatibility.  Flat fees or percentage of gross/net are the usual options.  A big star helps sell investors and consumers both, but can take up too much of a budget or be too big a distraction.  Other crew members can be almost as critical: cinematographer, editor, composer, costume and set designers and there are more.

Distribution channels have to be worked out.  Most movies appear in a theatre for about two to four weeks (or less).  Some movies go to television, DVD, foreign language, theatre chains, streaming services.  Many producers spend time at film festivals to meet with distributors that may come from all over the world looking for something they can sell to their audiences.

Marketing costs can be enormous, sometimes even more than the cost of finalizing a film.  Online has become very key , but traditional newspapers, tv. radio, billboards are used to target different segments.  Festivals are more important as producers try to create credibility in the form of selections and awards.

A few sketches of notable producers.

Perhaps one of the first producers people of my generation became aware of was Walt Disney.  He started out as an animator and made short cartoons such as "Steamboat Willy" in 1928 with synchronized sound.  He became the voice of Mickey Mouse.  First long animated feature was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937 that defied early critics to become a big success.  In 1950 he started live action films.  Most of his films were based on folk tales.  "Saving Mr Banks" recounted his efforts to get the rights for "Mary Poppins" and perhaps portrays the sort of efforts that some producers undergo.

Steven Spielberg, one of the wealthiest film makers in the world started out in various functions and worked up to director with  perhaps his first hit being "Jaws"  He used a lot of visual effects.  He was an early pioneer with product placement, most famously illustrated with Reece's Pieces in "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial" because M and M rejected his offer.  So many hit films such as "Munich," "Saving Private Ryan,"  Back to the Future," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit,""Back to the Future,""Schindler's List" "Lincoln," "War Horse," The Hundred-foot Journey," "Flags of our Fathers," and the recently seen, "Bridge of Spies" (http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/05/bridge-of-spies.html ).  He has formed some creative alliances that have added to his success--notably composer John Williams and editor Michael Kahn.  He also directed 13 actors who received Oscar nominations for their performance.

Carlo Ponti actually practiced law in Italy during the Mussolini era before he became a film producer.  Perhaps best remembered as husband to Sophia Loren.  He had chosen her stage name which is more easily remembered than her original Sofia Vellone Sciciolone.  Not known to as many is that he married her twice, because his divorce to his first wife wasn't recognized in Italy.  This caused the two to exile themselves to the United States where he produced a number of movies including "Doctor Zhivago," "Operation Crossbow."  They married after he, Sophia and his first wife all took French citizenship where his divorce was recognized.  He produced a number of classic Italian movies, such as "La Strada," "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," "Two Women," "Marriage Italian Style" and "A Special Day."


Aditya Chopra is a name seen attached to many enjoyable Bollywood movies, often as a director or writer.  At age 23 his first directing and writing effort was the longest running movie "Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge."  He has continued to write and direct. but is now more involved in producing where in a sense he is even more creative.  Some of his producing hits include, "Sultan," "Fan" and "Fanaa."  He comes by it honestly as his father was the well established Yash Chopra.  Aditya also got my attention as he married Rani Mukerji,(http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/rani-mukerji-maturing-actress_53.html) a favourite actress.   Has at least two interesting projects on the go "Paani" and "Thug"

Sisse Graum Jorgensen of Denmark produced my favourite all time film "After The Wedding."  She also produced other Danish classics such as  "Brothers," "A Better Life" "The Hunt" and "A Royal Affair."  She has produced a few English speaking films; "Salvation," and "Love is all you Need."  She likes to work closely with directors such as Susanne Bier and Thomas Vinterberg as well as writers such as Anders Thomas Jensen

When you are evaluating a movie take into account the producer as he or she made it possible and left their fingerprints if you look.

Monday, August 15, 2016

BURLINGTON AND HAMILTON LIBRARIES CHOSE ONE BOOK ONE COMMUNITY SELECTIONS

I am fortunate to be a member of two libraries--in Hamilton where I live and in Burlington where I work.  This blog is not intended to compare two books so much as to celebrate one concept.  There are far more worthy books to read than any one has time for.  When a library committee sorts through  multitudes of books with a theme (usually local) it gives a focus that helps select something to read.  You are also sharing an experience with others in your community,

Reading is mostly an individual experience.  We can really get wrapped up in a good book and often will tell friends about our favourites.  The Library can help make this a true communal experience.

Over the years each library has selected one book they encourage all their members to read.   I have read many of their selections--once devoting a blog to a selection from Burlington.   The book I had not heard of before was "The Beauty of Humanity Movement." You can read about it here:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/07/beauty-of-humanity-movement-book-review.html  Another year I had bought the Hamilton selection, "Beach Strip" written by John Lawrence Reynolds who had done some work with the company I work with.  I was able to attend a talk with him.  The book was about things I knew including one place about six blocks from where I live.

This year the Hamilton Library chose "The Illegal"  by Lawrence Hill as their One Book One Community selection which also won the Canada Reads contest.  I had read two other books by the author including previous Canada Reads winner, "The Book of Negroes."  "The Illegal" was set on two mythical islands in the Indian Ocean  symbolizing US and Mexico (or maybe not) and focuses on undocumented refugees.  There were a few references to Canada such as Tim Horton's.  The author is a runner and made his main character a long distance runner. who had diabetes.  There was cast of characters including a wheelchair bound black lesbian reporter, young genius reporter, a few hookers, politicians, crooked and otherwise  One island is poor and authoritarian so there are attempts to escape.  A little mystery, a little romance and lots of satire.

Burlington chose "The Day the Falls Stood Still." published in 2009 as their One Book One Burlington selection.  A friend of my daughter's from King's College  in Halifax came to visit us and of course was driven to Niagara Falls which she said was "disappointing." On the way home from Kings College I had dragged my daughter on a trip to Grand Falls to show her something I had found moderately impressive, only it wasn't impressive at all, just a mere trickle compared to what I had seen on earlier trips.  The explanation for both disappointments boils down to human priorities.  In Grand Falls I learned that water had been diverted for agricultural purposes.  I always thought Niagara Falls was impressive, but have learned that in fact water had been diverted for hydro.  Cathy raised in Niagara Falls researched history including stunts, floaters and electric power development..  There is a focus on environmental concerns comparing coal with hydro power.  Another aspect of the book is with fashion and dressmaking.  I have not only visited Niagara Falls as a tourist, but more often as a salesman and recognized some of the scenery.  The time period is around World War I with references to some Canadian battles as well as the conscription issue (with a francopone tilt).

As part of the process you have a chance to meet the author and ask questions.  Discussions with other readers can help you understand and appreciate the book.   Each library stocks up on the old fashioned books and the catching on e books.  There are usually book kits aimed at book clubs.  With so many copies available you'll be able to discuss it with other patrons--it likely will have some local relevance.  A great concept.  Your library may well have a similar program and if not I suggest you encourage the idea.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

DECISIONS ARE THE PATH TO SUCCESS

You got to where you are by, in most cases, millions of decisions.  Most of them were seemingly trivial.  Some of them turned out ok perhaps by correctness or maybe by luck.  Others were positive, but not quite what you had hoped for.  And then there are others you wish you could take back.  You can move to a more satisfying life or less by making better decisions.  "Decisive" by Chip and Dan Heath offer a different perspective and lots of practical suggestions.  I am sure many readers, including myself will wish they had read this book sooner.  It is never too late to improve your situation.

Some decisions are more important than others.  Personally I have recommended and tried to use the Ben Franklin method when confronted with a serious decision.  Chip and Dan Heath have found serious limitations with this standard method, especially for the more important decisions.  Studies show that process is more critical than analysis (such as the Ben Franklin method) by a factor of 6.

That got my attention.  The following is the short form of what they suggest is a better way.

They identify four problems with decision making with respect to analysis.  Lots of examples.

One problem is the decision is too narrowly defined.  It is not necessarily either one action versus a different action.

Analysis is subject to confirmation bias.  That is, we have a tendency to select facts that bolster our preference.

A common problem is we are trapped in our circumstances If we can take an outside perspective we can detach ourselves from short term emotions.

A fourth problem is that we are often over-confident of how we see the future.

Taking a different angle, the authors propose a different strategy, one that focuses on process.  They label it WRAP.  Widen options.  Reality-test your assumptions, Attain Distance before Deciding.  Prepare to be wrong.

Of course these strategies are easier to state than to actually do.  There are many practical details with interesting examples.

An interesting reference to President Dwight Eisenhower when he explains the cost of a heavy bomber not in dollar terms, but as equivalent to 30 brick school houses.  There are always alternatives.

One example was David Lee Roth, famous rock star with apparently weird requests.  They requested containers of M and M candies with all the brown ones removed.  This request was actually buried amongst others reflecting their need for technical requirements for their performance.  Arriving at a new performance site they would check this seemingly vain preference  feeling relieved if it was adhered to, but if not they immediately set up a check of the critical technical details necessary for an optimal performance.  The authors label this a "tripwire."

Most decisions involve other people who often are not involved.  The success of a decision often revolves around those who are not consulted.  The authors advocate greater inclusion to get greater commitment.  This sense of fairness was reflected in another book I read, "The Art of Engagement."  Read more:   http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/12/the-art-of-engagement.html

There are many other examples and explanations to better think of decisions as a process rather than merely an analysis.

A quote that got my attention;  "Sometimes the hardest part of making a good decision is knowing there is one to be made."  This points out the merit of having a tripwire.

To read more of what Chip and Dan have to say go to:  http://www.heathbrothers.com


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

MISBEHAVING THE MAKING OF BEHAVIOURAL ECONOMICS

Earlier I had read that Economics is supposed to be the most rational of the social sciences, but the practitioners often tend to overlook the human factor.  Richard Thaler many decades ago noticed that many people did not make rational economic decisions often in concert with others (you already knew that.)  Recently I read an earlier book, "Nudge" co-written with Cass Sunstein where the two of them developed the phrase "libertarian paternalism" which seen by some as an oxymoron they interpreted as giving people a logical choice, but also the freedom not to take.

"Misbehaving" is a history from personal view of Richard Thaler of how rationality is now tempered with other social sciences to better understand economics.

Like other students Richard had been told that all economic behaviour is rational, but he started to notice anomalies that didn't make sense.  He felt that often behaviour was not logical and people did strange things.  He noticed playing poker playing friends would bet differently depending on whether they were losing and how close to going home.  The stock market is not always rational.  Studying the issues and allying himself with other economic doubters he eventually helped develop behavioural economics as a serious.

One factor often overlooked by economists is self-control, although Adam Smith was aware of how a lack of self-control could distort spending and saving.

Fairness is a human concept that doesn't always fit in with economic theory.  The most basic economic rule that most people are aware of is the rule of supply and demand.  The price goes down when supply goes up and the opposite when demand goes up.  This can lead to obvious complaints when merchants take advantage of sudden changes such as raising the price of for example snow shovels just after a big snowfall.  Economists would argue you could have bought a cheaper shovel in the summer, but many people prefer to wait unit the need is urgent.  The sense of fairness acts as a psychological constraint.

The National Football League draft can get emotional.  Rationally the author after a great deal of in dept research is convinced that for most of the time the first picks do not deliver as much value as the later picks.  Yet many deciders will trade away later picks to get one nearer the top.

A common occurrence at both business and households is a budget.  Always made with past information often concedes mistakes as information changes.

An ongoing concern of the author as he moves from one institution and one collaborator to another is the reluctance of established economists to accept a behavioural factor.  Scientists of different disciplines often find it difficult to collaborate.  Psychologists and economics have different focuses, but gradually he finds sympathetic colleagues that approach the opportunity from different angles.

Today his findings are more acceptable in academia as well as business.  I think most people intuitively know that many decisions are made emotionally and salesmen are pretty adept at exploiting this fact.

He quotes Mark Twain, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.  It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."  Richard Thaler noticed a few accepted things that weren't true.

An earlier book co-written with Cass Sustein was recommended by British Prime Minister David Cameron To read an earlier review of Richard H Thaler's book, "Nudge" click here:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/01/can-nudge-help-you-make-better-decisions.html

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Movie Actresses I have enjoyed watching.

As a male I admit that the female lead (sometimes a supporting actress)can be a deciding factor of any movie.  These women on screen, made up, coiffed and costumed by experts are not real.  And with no personal contact to assess their real personalities like other males I live in a fantasy world.  Yes there is lots to choose from and many overlooked.  Here are some I remember and I may add a few after posting.  We all would like to discover a fresh face.

I will start with Italian cinema as it is Sophia Loren who actually inspired this post   First saw her in Hollywood cinema, but lately appreciate her Italian roots.   Obviously very good looking, but surprisingly an excellent actress.  In "Sunflower,"she ages very well as well she does in "Marriage Italian style". In "Two Women" where she was first actress in foreign film to win an Oscar. she plays the mother of a teenage girl while only 25 herself.  Other notable movies include  "A Special Day" and  "Yesterday, To-day and Tomorrow."

Anna Magnani was another notable Italian actress, but only saw her in three movies.  In one the director was on record as saying he didn't want her to take over the movie, but she is the main thing I remember from "Mama Roma".  She had a strong presence, even though the director tried to minimize her impact.   She was also in Rosselini's "Rome, Open City."  Another movie was "L'Automobile" near the end of her career and again she was a dominating presence.  Apparently I also saw her in "The Secret of Santa Vittoria" with Anthony Quinn, but confess I was unfortunately not conscious of her.

The French have a long reputation for sexy women and I can appreciate the history.  One of my favourites is Audrey Tautou in many movies but epitomized in "Priceless ",  "Amelie", "Delicacy" and her first English speaking role in "Dirty Pretty Things."  trilogy

Another very attractive actress is Bernice Bejo notably in the silent film "The Artist." "The Past". and "The Grand Role." were outstanding.  Very recently saw her in "Au Bonheur des Ogres."

Marion Cotillard made a claim to fame in America with 'La vie en rose" although in French she won the Oscar for the best actress, only the second to win that award in a foreign film.  She has been on both sides of the Atlantic.  French movies seen included "Rust and Bones'" and "Love me If You Dare"  In English she starred in "Inception" and more recently "The Emigrant".

Juliet Binoche won our attention in "The English Patient," and  "Chocolate." "A 1000 Times Good Night" was seen at a film festival.   She appeared in all 3 Three Color movies."Blue" "Red" and "White."  Recently saw in "Words and Pictures" where some of her painting was displayed.

Marie-Josée Croze, the Quebecker with an incredible smile.  Recently saw in English speaking movie set in Ireland, "Cavalry" but more notably in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."  I had also seen her in a Quebec movie where she played a drug addict.

Sweden also is noted for gorgeous women, but the one that most stands out for me is Ingrid Bergman.  "For Whom the Bell Tolls"  "Casablanca"  and with Cary Grant in two movies.   I recently saw one of her earlier Swedish films,  "June Night" for which she was the highlight.

Noomi Rapace played the "Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" and its two sequels in a very quirky role which led to a big surprise when I heard her fluent English accent on a special feature.  I have since seen her in "Child 44" and "The Drop.".

The Danes, another Scandivian country with a reputation for attractive women have got my attention.  One I respect is Trine Dyrholm who appeared
"Royal Affair,"  "All You Need Is Love" with Pierce Brosnan and the Oscar winner " A Better World."








I watched a number of Spanish movies and the one actress that stands out for me is Penelope Cruz, especially in "Volver" but had seen her earlier in "Open Your Eyes"  which she reprised in English with Tom Cruise.

Ingrid Rubio is established in Spain, but I saw her in an Argentine movie "Todas Las Azfalatzas van Cielo" where she was captivating.

I grew up with English speaking movies and the actresses no doubt played a part in developing my interests in movies.

Olivia de Havilland impressed me in"Strawberry Blonde" "Robin Hood," "Captain Blood" and "Gone with the Wind.  I enjoyed her performances in "The Snake Pit" and "The Heiress."
"
Elizabeth Taylor started as a child star in such movies as "National Velvet" and later moved to "Cleopatra" and "Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolf?"

I can only recall seeing two movies of Vivian Leigh.  "That Hamilton Woman" (one of mine and Winston Churchill's favourites) impressed me the most and Gone with The Wind" made a very strong impression
"
Katherine Hepburn is remembered in "The Philadelphia Story" and a number of movies with Cary Grant and Spencer Tracey.  Later I saw her in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "Golden Pond," and "the Lion in Winter"  A regal bearing and excellent diction.

Emily Blunt  "Sunshine Cleaning"  Young Victoria" Your Sister's Sister," "Salmon Fishing in Yemen"  recently "Sicario" upcoming in "The Girl on The Train."

Elizabeth Banks with Russell Crowe, "The Next Three Days" "People Like Us"" Love and Mercy."

Meryl Streep has been a very dedicated actress who perhaps more than anyone on this list was very versatile.  "The Hours" "Doubt" "Kramer vs Kramer" and" Sophie's Choice

Zoe Saldana was impressive in "Avatar"  I had read her interest in the theatre was from her stay in the Domican Republic.  She starred in  a Spanish film, "The Curse of Father Cardona" which was mediocre but she is mesmerizing   In "The Words" she paired with Bradley Cooper.

Halle Berry  was seen in "What We Lost In The Fire" and "The Call"

Rosario Dawson got my attention in "Trance"  "Seven Pounds" and "Unstoppable."

Gugu Mbatha-Raw was featured in "Belle."    Now I look forward to to watch "Concussion."

Viola Davis was "The Help"   How to get away with murder  After an award she was quoted as saying"The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity."

Hiam Abbass is an Israeli Arab who spends most of her time in France. First saw her in an American art movie, "The Visitor" and was quite impressed.  Saw in a number of other movies where she seemed to project herself better than the rest of the cast, but without being flashy.  Read more about her here:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/04/hiam-abbass-always-leaves-impression.html

My memories of Korean movies are mostly of the movies themselves, however a few actresses did get my attention.    "200 pound beauty" is still one of my all time favourites mainly because of Ah-jung Kim in a dual role and earned our empathy.*

Woo Soo from "The Housemaid" where she played an unfortunate maid targeted by the philandering husband.

Ji-hyu Jun in "Assassination" played an action role with lots of variety.

Hyo-joo Han, charming in "The Beauty Inside" with a dozen leading men also in "Masquerade"

Chinese

Li Gong got international attention for films such as "The Geisha," but her earlier Chinese roles "Raise the Red Lantern", "What Women Want" and  "Ju Dou" are worth a look.  She is now a citizen of Singapore  "

The Japanese don't seem to emphasize a star system, although they have many regular actors.  Ryoko Hirose got my attention in the Oscar winner "Departures" going through quite the transformation of being disgusted with her husband to supporting him.  Later saw her in "Key of Life"  
          
Yasuko Matsuyuki from "Hula Girls" played a hula instructor fleeing from debts in the big city.

Argentina

Norma Aleandro is now viewed as older stately.  One of her big movies was "The Official Story."  "Anita" "Andres doesn't nap in the afternoon" and an English movie, "The City of Your Final Destination."  Recently saw her in a small cameo in "Todas  Las Azfalatzas van Cielo."  

Martina Guzman in "Carncho" with Ricardo Darin and in another "White Elephant"  that unfortunately saw on defective DVD

Soledad Villami played female lead in the Oscar winner "Suspect in their eyes" as Ricardo Darin's lost love. Apparently the two had been paired together in popular movies earlier.
Spanish actress in toads

What I watch most these days seems to be Bollywood and the many attractive women are one of the reasons.--they seem to have the most partly as they churn out more movies than Hollywood and some are making waves in the American market.  Although there are quite a few, I couldn't bring myself to cut any of them

Vidya Balan in her first movie play agirl next door  "Parineeti"   But she refuses to be typecast as proved'The Dirty Picture" "No one Killed Jessica' and "Kahanni"    "Te3n' but also --sexy--pregnant--charmingt *
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/08/vidya-balan-very-versatile-bollywood.html

Juhi Chawla's heyday was in the 1990's but she gone from giggly glamorous type to mature.  I was very disappointed to see her listed with "The 100-Foot Journey" and had her killed off in the early minutes.

Shreya Saran played the girl next door At the End of the Line" where I decided I wanted to see any film with her in it.  The next one was a big surprise, "Kantswamy' which was in Tamil and she played a vengeful conniving.  She had roles in two Canadian films directed by Deepa Metha, "Cooking with Stella" and "Midnight's Children."  She had bit roles in some Bollywood films that I was unable to obtain.  Most recently saw her in "Drishyam" that turned out to be a masterpiece.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/11/driishyam-bollywood-remake-masterpiece.html

Tabu is one classy actress who can do comic role, but also very authoritative.   A strong woman can be off putting to males, but I have come to respect her.  Read more at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/12/tabu.html

Preity Zinta another sparkly actress was in one of my first bollywood films "Kal Ho Naa Ho" and she is one reason I got hooked.  She had been spotted in a tv. commercial    A number of her movies are noteworthy, "Dil Chata Hai" "Veer Zara'  "Kol...Mil Gaya".  One movie  "Heaven on Earth" for Deepa Mehta filmed in Brampton.

Rani Mukerji has been in a wide range of movies and projects a sophisticated, energetic image. Read more:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/rani-mukerji-maturing-actress.html

Parineeti Chopra has a sparkly person.  In "Ladies vs Ricky Bahl" she only had supporting role , but captured a lot of attention.  In "Hasee Toh Phasee" she had a charming, but unusual leading role

Priyanka Chopra is now fairly well known in the States as she appeared as lead in American tv series, "Qunatico."  She was Miss World 2000, but she has a lot more going for her than her looks.  Some of her other movies include  "Don", Don ,2"  "Fashion" "Barfi."  In "Mary Kom she portrayed a champion boxer .

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, wass once declared the most beautiful woman in the world after winning Miss World in 1994.  She seemed like fluff, but is not.  "Devdas," "Sarkar Raj," and "Jodha Akbar" are some of the more memorable ones.  "Provoked" in English was a strong social commentary.

Deepika Padukone debuted with Shah Rukh Khan in "Om Shanti Om."  She did a great job in "Bachna Ae Haseeno" and "Karthik Calling Karthik."  She has expanded her repertoire with such movies as "Finding Fanny"  Recently enjoyed her in "Tamasha" where she paired up with a past boyfriend, Ranbir Kapoor.  Now making her first American movie with Van Diesil,    See a blog on



Kangana Ranaut has been in her share of duds, but she has really shone in "Queen" "Gangster," "Once Upon a Time in Mumbai,"Tanu Weds Manu,"  and Who Lambe." She often plays very glamorous women often with unstable mentality, but in "Queen" she played someone more ordinary, but determined. Read more:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/07/kangana-ranaut.html

Kajol is 1/2 of my favourite jodi.   She paired with Shah Rukh Khan to really good effect in "Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge," "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" "Kabhi Khusi Kabhie Gham," and "My Name is Khan."  She paired with Aamir Khan in "Fanaa" and with Argun Rampal in "We Are Family."

Srvedi had taken a break from making movies, then appeared in "English Vinglish" in a more gracious mature role.  Earlier films such as "Lamhe" established her reputation as a glamour star.

There are so many choices that I know some worthy actresses have been left out.  Any you would care to recommend?

Monday, August 1, 2016

My Favorite Movie Actors

The more movies one watches the more one forms preferences.  Who impresses me the most.  Who do I enjoy the most?   Who would I most like to emulate?

Many actors tried to project masculinity while others their sensitivity. Combining both traits usually result in celebrity status?

My parents got a tv when I was in about in grade 3.  A few years later in the 1950's and 60's I got to enjoy the late show with them.  Television used a lot of movies to fill in time slots.  Below are listed some of the actors I have enjoyed over the years.

English-speaking

Glenn Ford projected masculinity in a quiet way.  Did comedies and thrillers well.   http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/03/glenn-ford-forgotten-movie-star-from.html

James Cagney played the short tough guy who usually ranted during the movie--sometimes in a comic way and sometimes belligerent.  " The Roaring Twenties," and "The Strawberry Blonde" were among my favourites.  See more at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/09/james-cagney.html

Ray Milland got my first notice with "Beau Geste"  Over a few years enjoyed  "The Big Clock," "It Happens Every Spring", and "The Major and the Minor"  You can read more at: http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/ray-milland-another-old-movie-favorite.html

Humphrey Bogart, is famous for "Casablanca," "Roaring Twenties," and "Maltese Falcon," "The Caine Mutiny," "The African Queen," and "Dark Passage."

Cary Grant struck me as sophisticated in comedies, but was a bit more versatile.  I enjoyed "Notorius", "North by Northwest"Arsenic and Old Lace" "Topper" "Suspicion"  "People will Talk" and  "The Philadelphia Story,"

Fred Astaire established his reputation as a dancer and found himself singing.  Loved watching musicals and he was one of the best dancers.  A late comer who was close to 40 when he got rolling with movies such as "Top Hat," " Easter Parade," and Blue Skies."  

Tom Hanks is an actor. who seems very selective in his choice of movies.   First saw in BIG."  Later enjoyed him in such as "The Green Mile," "Saving Private Ryan," "Sleepless in Seattle, "Philadelphia," "Saving Mr Banks, " and recently "Bridge of Spies."  Read more of "Bridge of Spies"  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/05/bridge-of-spies.html



Morgan Freeman was noticed in "The Shawshank Redemption, " which is considered one of the finest movies ever.  Later saw in "Driving Miss Daisy,"  "Se7evn," "Invictus" (playing Nelson Mandela).

Denzel Washington played in a number of outstanding movies such as  "Inside Man," "The Taking of Pelham 1 2  3, " and "The Great Debaters."

Chiwetel Ejiofar was first noticed in "Dirty Pretty Things" and around the same time "Kinky Boots" for an interesting contrast.  Later watched him in "12 Years a Slave" and "End Game."

Hugh Grant a modern Cary Grant type popular on both sides of the Atlantic often using self-deprecating humour

In my memory Trevor Eve in  "Heat of the Sun" struck me as the ideal masculine model.

Russell Crowe first seen in "Gladiator"  The Beautiful Mind"

Robson Greene has appeared mostly in television series.  Comic in "Reckless" and deadly serious in "Touching Evil"

French

Daniel Auteuil left a negative first impression in first movie, but later appreciated his versatility.   http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/07/daniel-auteuil.html

Mathieu Alaric made a strong impression in "The Bell and the Diver."  Played in "Jimmy P," an American film.

Omar Sy was very noticeable "The Intouchables."  He played small roles in a few other movies I saw.   Paired up with Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Samba" in another enjoyable movie.

Francois Cluzet was first seen in "Tell No One".  He shared billing with Omar in "The Intouchables"  Also watched him in "Little White Lies."

Romain Duris got my attention with "Heartbreaker."  He appeared in a series of students who kept in touch over a number of years;   "L'auberge Espagnole," "Russian Dolls," and "Chinese Puzzle" and I hope they continue the series.  For a change of pace he was riveting in "The Big Picture."

Jean-Louis Trignant has a long history with an early film seen "My Night with Maude."    More recently gained international attention in "Amour"

Spain

Javier Bardem has crossed the ocean a few times.  Enjoyed in "Love in the Age of Cholera," and "Eat Pray Love,"  but his best movie was "The Sea Inside ."  For more:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/10/javier-bardem-gift-from-spain.html

Denmark
Mads Mikklesen got my attention with "After The Wedding" one of my very favourite movies.  In common with Javier  Bardem was a James Bond villain. Read more at
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/05/mads-mikkelsen-helping-denmark.html

Another Susanne Bier favoured actor  Ulrich Thomsen was first noticed in "Brothers."  Also impressive in "In a Better World" and "Adam's Apples."  He has been English speaking movies and I saw him in a Hungarian film, "The Notebook."

Argentina

Ricardo Darin is a strong indicator of a quality movie.  Read more:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/04/ricardo-darin-brings-charm-from.html



Sweden

Michael Nyqvist was first noticed in the Dragon Tatoo trilogy, but later saw in "Mother of Mine" and "As it is in Heaven."

Israel

Lior Ashkenazi struck the right balance between comedy and dead seriousness in "Walk on Water"  Will be seen in an upcoming American production with Richard Gere.

Bollywood
#1 Shah Rukh Khan--has left a strong impression in Swades, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, but lately seems pretty commercial*  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/06/shah-rukh-khan-worlds-most-famous-actor.html    Part 2:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/06/shah-rukh-khan-worlds-most-famous-actor_23.html

Aamir Khan is versatile, intellectual.  One of my top two indicators of a quality movie.   "Lagaan" was my first Bollywood movie, and to honest I enjoyed the movie, but was not impressed by Aamir.  I changed my opinion gradually with such movies as  "Dil Chatha Hai, " "The Rising:  the Ballad of Mangel Pandey," "Gajini,"  "3 Idiots, "PK"   "Dhoom 3" and "Earth" with Canadian director Deepa Mehta, 

Ayushman Khurana made a big impression with "Vicky Donor" but followed with a bunch of ordinar films, but then starred in the very memorable "Dum Laga Ke Haisha."  You can read more here:
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/05/a-feel-good-movie-little-off-beaten-path.html

Ranveer Singh is an up and comer "Band Baaja Baaraat," "Ladies vs Ricky Bahl," and " Dil Dhadakane Do."

Amittabh Bachchan has long history most of which I missed.  Early he was an action hero, and the angry man.  He now plays patriarchs and older meddling men.   Recently saw him in"Te3n"  Scripts tailored for him.

I am sure you have your favourites.  I know I have overlooked some, so please feel free to tell me who you think belongs on your list.

Friday, July 15, 2016

HATRED AND FEAR ARE ENDANGERING CIVILIZATION

Terrorism as a symptom should concern us all.  Of course by itself it is frightening, but underlying it is a greater danger to us all.  The actual number of deaths directly attributable to terrorism is really a very small percentage of humanity but it and the response to it indicates something worse.

The focus is on Muslim extremists (who are only one of many terrorist groups), but the response from Westerners is emotional.  Terror is meant to frighten and is used primarily when other methods do not succeed.  In many ways they are winning by provoking us to change our daily habits and react like frightened animals.  Someone failed to set off a shoe bomb and it is now common to take off your shoes before getting on a plane.  More importantly it has caused us to point our fingers in a much wider swing taking in people who wish us no harm.

The problem is really more basic than real and imagined grievances of a very small group of people.  The most basic cause is inequality that is not really linked directly to the hatred that is being expressed.

There is the matter of wealth which is concentrating in fewer and fewer hands.  There is the matter of young people being held back.  There is the matter of minorities who in a world of increasing communication find themselves second class.  Resentment comes out in different ways, but almost always involves blaming someone else for life's frustrations.  Sometimes it is fairly direct, but too often it is misdirected.

ISIS apparently is happy to recruit young people who are not knowledgeable about their own religion, but feel a sense of grievance and a desire for meaning and/or excitement.  It is depressing to think of the many ruined lives.  It is also upsetting how others have let their own frustrations and fears be misdirected.  The terrorists want us help them unite other Muslims who are trying to fit in to a new culture.

The primary beneficiaries of this misdirected hate and fear are the terrorist recruiters and political opportunists.

What can be done?  An individual has limited power, but they often underestimate what they can do.  We set an example and encourage others to change their attitude.

First acknowledge there are underlying grievances.  When Westerners realized cheap oil was concentrated in Muslim controlled countries they bolstered the control of "friends" who enriched themselves while suppressing their own citizens.  Perhaps a greater concern would be they felt it was in their best interests to keep their people ignorant except for the elite.

Western countries were horrified with the Holocaust, but at the same time many restricted emigrating Jews.  We agreed to let them set up their own state in Israel, but somehow never got around to letting the Palestinians who were already there to also gain a state.  There is still discrimination against Jews, that all too often reaches violent levels in some parts of the world and Jews take comfort that there is one sanctuary where they can be safe.  They feel frightened by the surrounding Arabs and a mutual hate/fear cycle has set in.  In one sense they have to settle their concerns amongst themselves, but we should be careful to be neutral yet encouraging.

Unfortunately in the United States especially, people have taken sides, not so much average voters as  those in power.  Much more financial and U.N. veto power is exercised on behalf of Israel than on the plight of displaced Arabs.  Some individuals have organized to boycott Israel, somewhat comparable to similar efforts to confront South African apartheid, but this has been met with political resistence. Many state governments are threatening to cut off support to any group that supports an Israeli boycott.

By itself a Palestinian political resolution will not stop terrorism, but it will undercut a very significant driving force.  Are there are other grievances?  Yes, but now perhaps the greatest is how too many of our fellow Westerners treat our new Muslim neighbours and talk about those still in the Mid East.  We fear the refugees fleeing violence and make it more difficult than it needs to be.  There is no escaping that we will all have to make adjustments.  We need to acknowledge the world is changing and has many other threats that we can only solve through co-operation.

Education is vital.  We cannot afford to be ignorant.  We cannot afford for others to be ignorant either.  The poor in many countries are limited in education options.  We need to learn about others and they need to learn about us.

Inequality is the real cause.  Those in power want to stay in power, while others are angling for ways to upset the status quo.  Appealing to  prejudice works.  Blaming the "other" relieves pressure from those who are benefiting from inequality.  How can someone earn over $20 million dollars and only pay 14% tax.  Someone is helping to pick up the slack.

As an individual one of the most important things to do is ask questions.  Why do you think that?  How did we get to this situation?   Can we resolve our differences?  Or tolerate them?
There are already assumptions as answers, but they seldom suffice in most situations.