a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘art’

nostalgia for the silver screen…

I am one of those hard-nosed, practical, logical people… yeah, the kind of pompous jerks the more emotional types like to throw foam bricks at…

But, at least I have a sentimental streak… and there is lots of room in my life for nostalgia.  When I do manage to find some elusive free time, that is one of my indulgences.

I should have been working this past weekend… and shirking my duties will likely catch up to me in a matter of days, if not hours, but I live in Vancouver and weekend the Ridge Theatre was closing.

ridge 015The guys who own the Ridge have always been cool… and because of that, they are not going out with a whimper – but with a bang.  A film festival of sorts!  I really wanted to go every night but I do have a serious job and it does pay for my serious travel habit so I had to constrain myself but this was the last weekend and I had to be in that theatre at least once before it was all over…

As is likely obvious, I have a lot of history… with people, with cities, with buildings…  I’m not quite sure where it comes from… this hyper-awareness of my part in the history of the world, small though it might be.

We are all part of it.  We all make history.  And I think it keeps us grounded – and relevant – to recognize it.

For me, the Ridge didn’t really begin there… it began with Mike… and the Bloor Cinema in Toronto… and being a poor student.  I can’t remember the exact price anymore but you could buy a pass to the networks of cinemas of which the Bloor was part and see second run films for less than the price of a draft beer…  I think beer was $1 and a second run film was 99 cents 🙂

That’s how I discovered Woody Allen… how I argued with Mike that Eraserhead was stupid – but started following David Lynch… how I learned that the cinema was full of ideas… and garbage… and you would have to wade through it… but how rich that experience would be… without Mike and the Bloor I would never have seen Koyaanisqatsi… or learned about Philip Glass… go see it, people, and see Al Gore for the gas-guzzling charlatan that he really is…


Media can be so powerful… but sadly is largely controlled by alpha male buffoons… so be careful what they are trying to brainwash you to believe…

Oh yes, the media and truth… My first film at the final Ridge fest was Argo.  I have been wanting to see it since its opening night – so figured I could be nostalgic – AND see a film I really wanted to see for $5 on the big screen!


It’s really worth seeing.  But, as a Canadian who at the time was a big Carter supporter and aware of current events, I was curious how the film story would go down…  Apparently not so realistically… the drama is great for film.  But, in the realpolitik of the 21st century, there is something to be said for Canadians – who are actually great at diplomacy, willing to do their homework and more concerned about the collective good than the glory.  It’s how we (all of us, not just Canadians :)) will save the world.  Sorry, CIA 😉

But, for me, it wasn’t really about Argo... it was about the Ridge.  I can’t remember my very first visit.  But I first moved to Vancouver in 1985 and it has been part of my life since then.  I saw a lot of films there.  I saw cool special events like weekends full of animation – or great advertising from all over the world.

But the way the Ridge became a place where I felt at home was courtesy of the Vancouver Film Festival.  I also started that courtesy of Mike, sitting in gritty suburban cinemas with uncomfortable seats and floors that always seemed sticky with decades of discarded fluids that could never be entirely eliminated.

But you didn’t come for the ambience 🙂 You came to have your young mind twisted and stretched by great art – and poseurs… eventually you learned to tell the difference 😉

One of those cinemas was the Ridge.  It might have mattered just because of that but years after Mike and I broke up, I was still going to the Ridge and began volunteering at the Vancouver Film Festival because I really believed in the power of cinema to change the world.

The first night I volunteered we made The Vancouver Sun because there was a mini-riot due to bad planning and administrative procedure.  But, at the time, there was a serious recession going on in Canada, and I was unemployed, and happy to be trying to stem the floodgate of disgruntled patrons to prove to myself I still had employable skills…

That first year I floated between Vancouver Centre (the riot locale) and the Ridge.  In those days, the Ridge was suburbia, despite being about a five minute drive from the center of the city.  And Louise ran the Ridge.  It’s been a few decades so I am going to say she was Scottish… She was definitely a Celtic woman with attitude – and principles.

I guess these days you would call it a girl crush.  I just wanted to grow up and be like Louise 🙂  Because she was commanding, fair and charismatic.  No matter what happened (and a film festival is a bunch of artsy prima donnas trying to do something that requires business-like precision so lots happened!) she was always cool and resourceful.  And she protected us.  And tried her best to give the patrons the best theatrical experience.

My years at the Ridge were critical to my human development.  Louise was the boss I aspired to be.  She knew how to manage both up and down the chain – and if you were ready for a challenge…

It is one of my most vivid memories…  I think it was because the Festival Director hired his girlfriend… or some such nonsense that is the stuff of real life… in any event, we had a sold-out show for Europa, Europa but had instead been sent Europa.  What’s one missing Europa you ask?



That’s what Louise was afraid of.  I saw them both and would highly recommend you do the same.  But the audience looking for Europa, Europa might not be as keen on Europa.  And Louise knew that… I can’t remember exactly how many people you can fit into the Ridge – but it was the largest cinema on the festival circuit – and there were over 500 seats… so the lineup could be several blocks long and everyone would still get in…

So that night I walked the line and explained to over 500 people that they weren’t going to be seeing the film they had signed up for but the new one was equally compelling… but we would refund anyone who was disappointed, no questions asked.  We had to stay in the lobby to see what happened and process refunds.  I think maybe 5 people asked for refunds.

Louise was a master.  Be upfront with your customers and manage your customer relationships with honesty.  Evaluate your team and set them up for success by assigning them to the roles to which they are suited.  Be the boss but don’t be afraid to be one of the team when it can be strategically deployed to strengthen your organization.

Louise was an artist.  So I doubt she realized she was teaching me business lessons.  But she was a Scot and genetically predisposed to organization?  In any event, she inspired loyalty.  Once I discovered Louise, I always asked to work at the Ridge.  I wasn’t the only one who loved her so every year it was a bit like a family reunion.  And Louise inspired the well-organized rebels… so the theatre ran well… we got to hang out in the Crying Room watching almost the entire film… and it was always over Canadian Thanksgiving so Louise would have pumpkin pie and we would eat it at the concession stand.

My final film at the Ridge (the theatre’s final as well!) was Midnight in Paris.  I already saw it on a plane to Paris as my regular blog readers will recall 🙂 But it was a good film… and I discovered Woody Allen on the repertory film circuit so it was a poetic ending.  And the film is about nostalgia, so hard to find a more perfect ending.


I took pictures like all the other nostalgia freaks 🙂 And peeked in to see if the Crying Room was still there.  It was!  It is quite possible you don’t know what I am talking about as it is the only cinema I have ever been to with such a room.  It’s why there is something to be said about a 63 year old single screen suburban cinema.  The Ridge let you bring your baby to the movies… and, if the baby started crying (or you thought it might), you could watch the film from the Crying Room.  I think most people just figure their baby won’t be welcome at the movies so it was the place where we hung out during the film festival since we had to get the audience in and out of the cinema so could only watch the film while paying guests were happy and in their seats.  Louise knew where we were and could come and grab us if she needed help.ridge 018

The final night was quite emotional.  They pretty much packed a huge cinema to see a film you could rent on DVD or see on an airplane.  There was a short speech, lots of clapping and a standing ovation for the owner.  I think it’s my first standing ovation in a movie theatre 🙂

In honour of the Ridge closing, I would encourage everyone to go and see a film on the silver screen.  I’ve never been able to duplicate the visceral experience at home and will be a fan of the cinema as long as they exist…

Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg! :)

It certainly seems like Michael Bloomberg has done a lot of good things for New York City.  And the world at large.  But I also owe him personally since my friend Sarah’s Bloomberg connections got us free access to some wonderful art exhibitions on this trip.

I am a big fan – and small supporter – of the arts.  But Bloomberg sponsorship of the arts – and the vision of making the arts more accessible to a wider audience – is definitely something to celebrate.  You may not realize but your free audio guides at the Guggenheim are courtesy of his generosity.

You will likely have to pay for the shows but I do think they are worth the price of admission.  To make sure my visit involved more than shoe shopping and gluttony, Sarah and I went to a couple of current shows at some of the temples to art that are a large part of the New York experience.

chrysler building on a sunny day!

chrysler building on a sunny day!

I know I think I slagged Picasso a little bit in an earlier post.  And he apparently produced 50,000 art works.  He didn’t seem to be a particularly great guy to have a relationship with.  And I’m not quite sure he didn’t court fame a little more than a proper Englishman would consider dignified… but, hey, the dude was a great artist.

I’m not convinced everything Picasso signed his name to is a masterpiece but he certainly produced a lot of them.  And this show was fascinating as it is only works in black and white.  Apparently Picasso did not believe colour was fundamental to the art.

My friend Sarah said I had to see it as lots of these works are privately held and this was a once in a lifetime chance to see them.  As a huge fan of Kandinsky – who thought colour evokes moods and used it as symbolism – I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to think about black and white…

But it likely won me over as a much greater fan of Picasso.  Not all the works really “spoke” to me but many did.  And it was incredible to see what he could do with such a limited palette.  It was also interesting to see how he used that limited palette to create many different types of work as he was influenced by the world events of which he was part and the women he decided to sleep with…

If you can, definitely go and check it out.


mom at the guggenheim

mom at the guggenheim

We also went to the Met to see the current Matisse exhibit.  Sarah is a big fan of Matisse.  I wasn’t so sure.  I think I saw too many Matisse posters in dorm rooms in my youth.  But he is an important artist.  And I love art.  And am always open minded 🙂

And it was a great exhibit, even if you aren’t a huge fan.  It is focused on Matisse’s love of drawing – and his penchant for reworking the same motif in different ways.  They have gathered multiple works of art for many of the famous pieces you might have seen in a major gallery somewhere in the world.

What engages you is that you see the same painting essentially from multiple points of view and it helps the non-artist to better understand the choices that the artist makes in composing the final product.


It also helps to see the process of modern abstract art, where the artist might start with a composition that is quite realistic and almost photographic.  But then they will distort details – or apply unnatural colours – or just simplify lines to create an essence of the subject matter rather than a true representation.  We weren’t always sure we would have chosen the final product based on the options, which made us wonder what the artist was thinking and how his process worked.

Art is meant to provoke us.  To make us question things.  To make us see the world in a new way.  To make us question ourselves and maybe evolve in new ways.  As a very analytical person, I am attracted to art for its fluid and non-linear qualities.

Humans seem to need to make art.  It happens in the poorest and most primitive societies.  I am a big advocate of science and the scientific method.  But I think really great societies engage their citizens in all ways and encourage them to work both sides of their brain.

Art has always offered me an emotional connection even my super analytical brain could not properly explain.  Art has provoked me and expanded my questioning and understanding of the society in which I live.  Art has disturbed me.  Art has made me smile.

It’s important.  It is one of the elements that create a civilization – and civil citizens.  So I salute Mayor Bloomberg and the efforts he has made to make art available to all.

I also have to thank him for the wonderful profile I saw on Bloomberg TV while I was in New York.  I am watching The Daily Show as I type this – and it is reminding me of the segment they did on Jon Stewart.  Given my mega-crush, it was fascinating to have more information on his early career and the genesis of The Daily Show.  They just talked to the cast of The Newsroom in their sketch, questioning whether the only investigative journalism on the air anymore is fictional…  It’s like Stephen Colbert singing with Harry Belafonte.  Some moments in life are just pure gold 😉


http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/Shows/TheDailyShow?videoPackage=129456 (for Canadians – Jan 14, 2013 episode)


turning european…

In the 80s, turning Japanese seemed a popular theme.  But somewhere the last decade or two, I turned European.

I don’t always get it right.  The cheek kissing is always fraught with awkwardness and I am constantly confused as to how many cheeks to kiss – and if I should be leaving lipstick marks or just air kissing.

But – as the bartender on my last night in Paris noted – and confirmed by his behaviour – one of the big attributes of Europeans is hospitality.  And I would also add – charm.  A big part of hospitality.  Without European hospitality, I would never have married a European man.  But that is a whole other story…

In a world where I increasingly worry about the loss of manners and civility, the Europeans are there trying to prove charm is still alive and well.  That sometimes you need to take time to perform a task properly, not just efficiently.  I have seen it across three countries in the very recent past.  The French are likely the most charming, performing tasks with both reserve and aplomb, but I have been impressed by all the Europeans I have encountered on my trip.

My final cultural adventures were two-fold.

First, I stood in the bitter cold waiting to buy a ticket to the Helmut Newton exhibition.  But I was at the Grand Palais so that provided some wonderful photographic opportunities and Helmut Newton is worth freezing off your fingers.  What is more gratifying was to see how packed it is!  I wasn’t quite sure what the four year olds were making of the shots of women wearing saddles but this is how they grow up to be European with a sophisticated world view and an ability to discuss art as readily as sport.

The second cultural adventure was more unique.  I wanted to mail a birthday present purchased in Paris before I left France.  How often do you walk past the Louvre to find the post office?  Seulement en Paris!  A beautiful, fascinating city that I would encourage everyone to visit.  No matter where you stay or what you do, Paris is certain to weave its magic.

One of my favourite Paris adventures was done on a budget.  To even out our restaurant spending, we decided to go to Monoprix and buy bread, cheese, some of those transcendent cold cuts, a mini bottle of champagne and some red wine.  It was a beautiful summer evening so we would indulge in all our treats on the breakfast terrace of our small hotel near the Eiffel Tower (we had a picnic on the lawn there one night as well).  We couldn’t find our corkscrew.  Things looked complicated.  But we were in Paris – so not only was a corkscrew produced, they opened our wine for us!  And then we had that “only in Paris” moment.   It was hot so the windows were open in the building opposite us.  And someone was practicing her cello.  So our dinner was accompanied by live classical music.

Leaving Paris is hard.   Having a memorable experience in Paris is a piece of cake.  Just ask my mom.  She told me she didn’t need to go to Paris.  It wasn’t on her bucket list.  Just by accident she turned 65 on the plane.  So this trip I suggested we should return for 75 as an anniversary celebration.  She said she’d make sure she had good walking shoes.  I’m a little worried that once she has the macarons at Pierre Hermé, I may not be able to convince her to leave…

Speaking of great walking shoes, I need to extend a shout out to Browns.  Just before I embarked on this adventure, I bought a pair of black patent driving moccasins.  Possibly one of the world’s most perfect travel shoes!  The Browns version are insanely comfortable.  I have  been wearing them every day as I trundle over the cobblestones.  By the time I get home, I will have already gotten my money’s worth 🙂  I would highly recommend a pair of Brown’s loafers.  Even though my friends all seem to think that I spend all my time in showstopping 4 inch heels, the real truth is that a large majority of my life is spent wearing Browns loafers – because they combine such a great mix of style, comfort and value.  And they are now on-line… check them out 🙂


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