Friday, December 31, 2010

5 on Friday - 47

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Just in time for New Year's Eve! Here are some selections from a gorgeous set of films watched every single year by millions of Russians, in the same way that North Americans watch It's a Wonderful Life.

I cannot tell you how much I love these films and the music from them.

1 - Original film score for Ironiya sudby (The Irony of Fate) - Composed by Mikael Tariverdiev

This is a medley of the major musical themes that appear in the film. They're repeated in the sequel, made thirty-two years later. This clip contains scenes from both films. The two principal actors from the first film are the older couple in the sequel footage.

I just adore the melancholy magic of this musical score. It gets in my head and in my heart and just nestles in.

2 - Yesli u vas netu tyoti ( If You Have No Auntie) - Konstantin Khabensky

The film is peppered with what is known as ambient music, or music which appears in the scene itself (not as overdubbed soundtrack that only the audience can hear.) The characters are musical and the action stops - as in a musical - for a song. But it's entirely as a cultural reality, and not as the suspension of disbelief that a true musical employs, when the character's inner monologue becomes song and dancing breaks out.

The composer used the poetry of major Russian literary figures for his lyrics, and set music to them, drawing on a form known as the author song movement, or bard songs - these arose in the 1960s as something similar to the western beatnik movement.

Here the actor who plays the son of the major romantic lead from the original film sings the song his character's father once sang.

If you don't have a house
It won't catch fire
And your wife won't leave you

If you haven't
If you haven't
If you haven't got a wife
Got a wife

If you don't have a dog
A neighbour won't poison it
You won't fight with a friend

The orchestra is playing loudly
trumpets blow...
You must think for yourself
To have or have not

If you don't have an auntie
You can't lose her
And if you don't live
You can't die

The orchestra is playing loudly
Trumpets blow...
You must think for yourself
To have or not to have

- Aronov / Tariverdiev

3 - I Bless You - Alla Pugacheva

Both main actors had their singing voices dubbed over by professional singers in the original Irony of Fate. Here Nadya, played by Barbara Brylska, sings with the voice of the woman who became a major singing star in Russia - Alla Pugacheva.

I want to ask the mirror
With the cloudy, misty dreams

I want to make it tell me
Where you are heading
And where will you find shelter

I see
The mast of a tall ship
And you standing on the deck
And in the stern of the train
I see fields

Wrapped in the dusky sadness
The evening fields in dew
Ravens circling over them

I bless you
I bless you
I bless you
To go wherever you want

- Tariverdiev / Tsvetaeva

4 - Ya sprosil u yasenya (I Asked the Ash Tree) - Sergey Nikitin

Although this scene follows Nadya through a difficult decision, the song is performed by Zhenya, played by Andrey Myagkov and sung by Sergey Nikitin. This is one of the only times in the film where the song functions as in a normal musical, revealing character development without being an ambient performance.

I asked the ash-tree:
Where is my loved one?
The ash-tree didn't answer me
It just shook its head

I asked the poplar:
Where is my loved one?
The poplar threw its autumn leaves
All over me

I asked autumn:
Where is my loved one?
Autumn answered
With a pouring rain

I asked the rain:
Where is my loved one?
The rain shed its tears
Outside my window

- Kirshon / Tariverdiev

5 - Opyat Metel (Snowstorm Again) - Alla Pugacheva and Kristina Orbakayte

For the sequel, released for the thirty-year anniversary of the original film, the main singing star from Ironiya sudby is joined by her real-life daughter, to sing about the complicated love lives of the mother and daughter characters in the second film.

Not closing the door behind you
I live for another year

And since then
My unintentional losses
I'm waiting for someone

Again a snowstorm
And the past suffers in darkness

Again a snowstorm
Two eternities united
In one short day

Forgive me
Without understanding me
Don't languish on the threshhold
For long

Because of our
Second chance at love
Our past will become
Ancient history

- Lyrics by unknown artist

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 191 - 13 Ways to Admire Konstantin Khabensky

1 - In the new world of post-glasnost Russia, Konstantin Khabensky is among the first generation of actors able to work in both Russian and Hollywood cinema without having to sever all ties with his homeland as other artists before him had to do.

2 - Konstantin Khabensky - currently shooting Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, directed by Swedish director Tomas Alfredsson, and featuring last week's Eye Candy Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong and Gary Oldman as George Smiley.

5' 8"

Eyes - Brown

Hair - Brown

Type - Fit / Late-30's

He works as an actor

Works in television / Film / Stage

3 - Konstantin grew up in Leningrad, the son of Yuri, a hydrology engineer, and his mother Tatiana, also a hydrologist.

Initially studied at the Leningrad Technical School of Aviation Electronics and Automatics before leaving the program in his third year

Eased into acting by first working as a stage technician at a theatre

Attended the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) State Theater Arts Academy to study under Veniamin Filshtinsky, one of the master actors of Russia

4 - His extensive theatrical training helped him accomplish a remarkable feat during a film shoot for In Motion. Here is what several IMDB user reviews have to say about the scene:

"I must also mention a scene toward the end of this film involving the main character, a train, and a woman on a horse, that is not only a brilliant piece of visual storytelling, but a metaphor for the character's predicament, as well as a signature shot for the entire film. I was totally blown away by the shot, and believe me, jaded as I am after so many years of movie watching, that isn't easy to do. But it's the hope of seeing such scenes that keeps me watching films." - jbrotychoorion from California

"And the final scene on the train with Anya and Guriev is excellent - Guriev sees Anya on the train stop and recognize her. Train moving and he is asking her: Guriev - Stop. Where you are going? (She remain seating on a horse) Anya - It is not me, it's you. Guriev running to the exit, she still remain seating on a horse, camera shoots thru windows showing us beauty of Russian autumn, life and this generation, young generation which is seeking for answers and rest but will never find it because changes in the country changed this generation and did not leave choices. That's why this generation of young Russians live right now across the world, and in Russia itself, after centuries of Russian history this generation actually for the first time free, and this difficult burden of freedom and chances to create a new life and reality makes us and main character Guriev be always 'In movement'." - Denis Bordovskikh from the US

"Particularly the ending of the film is cinematic genius. Not only does it sum up the entire film in a few minutes and truly shows what the character's life consists of, but leaves a sour aftertaste and is a metaphor for modern living. Could be one of the best of the new wave of Russian films that are coming out." - kyrilone from Ireland

5 - Konstantin lost his young wife to a brain tumor, only months after she gave birth to their son. Anastasia was a journalist who was diagnosed with her fatal tumor while expecting their child. She refused treatment in order to ensure the safety of their baby. He has been a widower since 2008.

6 - Konstantin appears often as military leaders, including this role in White Guard, a classic play by Mikhail A. Bulgakov.

7 - In 2008 he played Admiral Kolchak, a naval commander who became head of the White supporters during the Russian Revolution. Once again it strikes me how much the world has changed, when a major Russian film can be made which is sympathetic to the anti-Communist forces. And I love that Konstantin is so often involved in these kinds of projects.

8 - The role where I first discovered him is in the urban fantasy series Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor) and Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor). Playing Light Other Anton Gorodetsky, he patrols the paranormal dimension that regular humans can't see, ensuring that the Dark Others stay true to their treaties and boundaries.

9 - And Konstantin is an awesome crier.

In this scene from The Goddess, Konstantin plays the inconsolable father of a girl who has been missing for over a year. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles.

10 - If not for Night Watch and Day Watch, I would never have stumbled upon footage of Konstantin in what looked like a Christmas movie. It turned out to be the sequel to a revered New Year's movie which Russians watch religiously every year. I settled in to watch both the original and the sequel, and discovered a set of magical films that have now stolen my own heart forevermore.

In the clip below, he appears at the beginning, then again at the 4:20 mark, then again at 12:40. To read the English subtitles, just click on the enlarge button in the bottom righthand corner.

11 - He has collaborated several times with director Timur Bekmambetov, including the Hollywood action flick Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy.

12 - He's collected numerous awards for his craft over the years, including the Golden Eagle for cinematic work and the Honored Artist of Russia.

13 - My 5 on Friday for New Year's Eve will feature music from the two Russian New Year's films, where Konstantin is featured in the sequel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday - 181

Remembering my dad on his birthday, December 29th

Friday, December 24, 2010

5 on Friday - 46

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

On this most special day - my favorite day of the year - I hope that your own Christmas is special and magical.

1 - Christmas medley: It's the Holiday Season/Baby it's Cold Outside(Elf)/Have Yourself a Merry Little/It's Christmas Time Again in NYC - The Rockettes

2 - Children's Irish Step Dancing - Christmas Celtic Sojourn

3 - Casse-Noisette (The Nutcracker) / Snow Adagio - Paris Opera Ballet Orchestra

4 - The Skater's Waltz - Jojo Starbuck and Ken Shelley

5 - Morgenblätter Walzer (Morning Papers Waltz) - Vienna Philharmonic

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 190 - 13 Ways to Admire Tom Hardy

1 - England's Tom Hardy pushes boundaries with gusto in a career packed with versatility, taking on all types and all time periods.

2 - Tom Hardy - most recently appearing as Eames in Christopher Nolan's Inception

5' 9"

Eyes - Blue-green

Hair - Brown

Type - Fit / Early-30's

He works as an actor / Youth out-reach spokesperson

Works in television / Film / Stage

Photo by Sebastian Meyer

3 - Tom grew up in London, the only child of advertising and comedy writer Edward Hardy and his artist mother Anne.

Made his debut in the acclaimed HBO WWII series Band of Brothers (2001)

Held his own against Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Nemesis, as a Romulan villain - only his fourth film credit (2002)

Has played sympathetic good guys, seriously frightening bad guys and my favorite of all, shifting gray characters with equal ease

Has played roles dating from the Middle Ages, Elizabethan England, Georgian era, Victorian era, 20th century war time, contemporary stories and futuristic

Next photo is straying into Not Safe For Work territory...

4 - Tom keeps in shape - but doesn't generally play roles with constant fight sequences as some of the previous hotties from my Eye Candy series have done.

This shot above is from a stage performance. Tom has extensive stage credits as well as a steady string of film credits, which is highly uncommon in a man of his age.

5 - The very delicious Mr. Hardy is now engaged to his Wuthering Heights co-star Charlotte Riley, their wedding planned for 2011. Eye candy only, ladies...

6 - Tom appeared in the BBC series The Virgin Queen as Elizabeth I's long-time lover Robert Dudley, where he ages from a young courtier to a weathered player of political intrigue with the finesse of a far more mature actor than the 28-year-old that Tom was, when he took on the role.

7 - He can play charming contemporary characters in ensemble pieces like 2006's Scenes of a Sexual Nature.

8 - Remember my soft spot for a man in chains?


Tom's roles generally skip all of that, even though he has often played gangsters like notorious British prisoner Charles Bronson, shown above, in 2008's Bronson.

9 - And Tom is an awesome crier.

10 - Tom's range is vast. No typecasting for him.

In Rock 'n Rolla he played gay gangster Handsome Bob, who comes out to best friend Gerard Butler in a memorable scene. He plays his character's gay aspects as merely a layer of his overall character and not as the defining aspect, as many actors might.

CLICK HERE to watch clip

Meanwhile, in 2007's Oliver Twist his Bill Sykes makes you forget there ever was a menacing Oliver Reed in the role before him.

11 - Tom has four projects soon to be released or currently shooting, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Dark Knight Rises.

12 - About his wild child early years, Tom says:

"From a very young age I was flagrantly disobedient. I got involved in anything that was naughty. I wanted to explore all the dark corners of the world, partly to see if I could control it.

From tattoos through to drug abuse, drinking, violent behaviour, robbery, carrying guns — all symptoms of self-hatred."
- The Telegraph

"The problem for me is psychological. So I have to be careful about obsessing about anything. Food could be as dangerous for me as drink or drugs. I could either binge or starve. On a film set, I might have breakfast at 5am and just keep eating all day. Right now, I'm rehearsing a play, and I could easily go without meals for two days.

"And I could just as easily become a gym-junkie, too. Recently I went through a period where I was lifting a lot of weights, and I had to stop that, not just because I had to slim down to play Stuart, but because it was becoming addictive."
- London Evening Standard

13 - Tom has been nominated for numerous awards and has won the British Independent Film Award for Bronson. It's only a guess, but I think this actor has 'Oscar' written all over him.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday - 180

This was our rockin Christmas Day karaoke party, courtesy of my brother-in-law Jeff, pictured at center. He's a karaoke DJ and brought his gear for us to sing to, one Christmas in the 90s.

Groovin to the tunes is my sister-in-law Karen and my husband Brad.

Friday, December 17, 2010

5 on Friday - 45

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Since my mom has a bird named Coco, and before Coco there was Maxie, and because my sister had three lovely birds named Chauncey, Fang and Sunny, we are very affectionate towards our feathered friends at our place.

We've noticed that Coco is fond of dancing when Mom sings.

With a nod to birds and to the holidays, here are five tunes either delivered by or danced to by cockatiels, parakeets and cockatoos.

1 - Jingle Bells - Lori the cockatiel

2 - Sleigh Ride - Petri the Green Cheek Conure

3 - Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer - Lola the Cockatoo

4 - God is Great - Frostie the Cockatoo

5 - Christmas medley: Up on Santa Claus Mountain / Sleigh Ride / Joy to the World / Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Snowball the cockatoo

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 189 - 13 Ways to Admire Alexander Skarsgård

1 - Following in the footsteps of his Viking forebears, Sweden's Alexander Skarsgård strides victorious over any territory he chooses to conquer.

2 - Alexander Skarsgård - currently appearing as Eric Northman on True Blood

6' 4"

Eyes - Blue

Hair - Blonde

Type - Athletic / Mid-30's

He works as an actor / Director

Works in television / Film / Stage

3 - Alexander grew up in Stockholm, the oldest son of Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård and his mother My Skarsgård, a doctor. He has five younger brothers and one younger sister.

Appeared in several films as a child actor, including Åke och hans värld
(Ake and His World)

Became a teen heartthrob after his role in Hunden som log (The Dog That Smiled) (1989)

Had an extensive credit list in Sweden before his first North American role in Zoolander as an airhead model (2001)

Appeared as Sgt. Brad Colbert in the HBO series Generation Kill, which follows an American marine unit in Baghdad (2008)

Next photo is straying into Not Safe For Work territory...

4 - Alexander keeps in tiptop shape - apparently, just because. His credits aren't as heavily weighted with the same amount of fight sequences as the previous hotties from my Thursday Thirteen Eye Candy series have had.

5 - The very delicious Mr. Skarsgård is technically still available, ladies. Though he is currently attached to California-bred actress Kate Bosworth, known for her roles in Superman Returns and 21.

6 - Alexander no doubt drew on his own experiences when he played Sergeant 'Iceman' Colbert in Generation Kill, having served with the Swedish Navy as a Patrol Leader.

7 - He has appeared for three seasons as vampire Eric Northman on HBO's True Blood, based on the bestselling novels by Charlaine Harris.

He's just my type of gray character. Willing to pursue Sookie when she is clearly involved with Bill. Willing to suffer to save his Maker. Not above dealing in vampire blood when that is forbidden. Not too proud to serve the King of Mississippi, if it means he can avenge his human family's demise at the king's hands.

8 - Remember my soft spot for a man in chains?


True Blood occasionally gives us a tied-up Eric, but his role as Sheriff of Louisiana's Area 5 keeps him more often in the dominating position.

As in the photo below, where Eric scornfully chides the Vampire King of Mississippi to die with dignity.

9 - And Alexander is an awesome crier.

10 - Alexander has worked hard to avoid typecasting, which apparently has not been easy. His early teen heartthrob status and his five-time win as Sexiest Man in Sweden make certain roles offered to him unavoidable. But Alexander persists with more fascinating choices, such as this cad character from the Swedish film Om Sara (About Sara).

11 - Recently Alexander competed against True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer in the Battle of the Fang to raise money for charity. The results were very, very close:

Team Bill Compton: $35,043
Team Eric Northman: $34,223

But Alexander dutifully wore the shirt designed for him by Stephen:

'Bill's Bitch'

12 - When asked by Polish FILM magazine about the fascination with vampires, Alexander answered:

"Maybe it’s because they have strength and perfection unreachable for us, the mortals. Gigantic life experience gives them wisdom and knowledge impossible for humans to even imagine during their short lives. There is both mystery and suffering in them. I do not find this fascination strange at all, I succumb to it as well."

- Alexander Skarsgård

13 - When asked about his look, Alexander replied:

"I dress myself, I do shopping myself, no stylist has ever helped me. I still bring most clothes from Sweden: Acne, Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, Whyred. I feel good in such clothes. Perhaps I look a little bit strangely European, Swedish in California."

- Alexander in Polish In Style magazine