I’m still working my way through doing everything on this list, but I wanted to get it out there so you don’t have to wait on me to blog about each place. Penang really does have so much family fun to offer. Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the Comments.
* indicates birthday party package available
Free is Good
- 5 Fun and Free Things to Do: Visit the Youth Park, Hunt for Street Art, Visit a Temple, Hit the Beach, Trek the National Park
Swimming beats the Heat
- * Hard Rock Hotel: Yearly memberships, foam parties, birthday parties
- * ParkRoyal Resort Hotel: Day passes and birthday parties
- * ESCAPE Eco-Adventure Park: Ropes course, climbing, innertube slides, and birthday parties
- Ride bikes and scooters: Traffic Garden, Youth Park, Straits Quay, car-free George Town, Air Itam dam
- Penang Hill: Ride the funicular up and enjoy the activities or just hike around at the top; if you want to hike up from the bottom, trails are not marked so go with someone familiar with the hike
- National Park: hike, canopy walk, take a boat back from the beach, Turtle sanctuary, and camping
- Countryside Stables in Balik Pulau: Ride ponies and feed the horses and donkeys
- Wet World Wild Adventure Park: A Wipeout-style obstacle course floating in the waters of Moonlight Bah; recommended for teens and adults
- Kayaking at Straits Quay; Fridays after 3 p.m. and Weekends 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; See Marina Office
- Playground at Straits Green with Water Sprayground activated from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Access road is at Quayside condos next door to Straits Quay; Note: No good shade
- * Soccer Experience: tot lessons, youth league, and birthday parties
- Jerejak Daytripper Package: This little island by the bridge has tons of outdoor activities for kids ages 10 years and older; contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Paintball: 6 paintball fields in Penang; recommended for teens and adults
- Penang Butterfly Farm: Not just butterflies — insects, reptiles, and amphibians, too
- Penang Bird Park: On the mainland; daily shows and photo sessions
- Botanical Gardens: Popular with runners and joggers; stroller friendly; fun hill to roll down
- * Tropical Spice Garden: Snakes and Ladders playground, garden tour, kids events, birthday parties
- Toy Museum and Heritage Garden: Before it moved, it was a look-don’t-touch museum; new location has added an outdoor garden
- Forest Recreation Park and Museum: forestry museum, playground, hiking trails, and wading pools
- Tropical Fruit Farm: Take the 45 minute tour, buy a fruit tasting plate and (book ahead) have BBQ
- Happy Goats Farm: Tour this dairy farm, feed the goats, and try your hand at milking them
Stay Cool Indoors
- * Top Picks for Indoor Fun: Adventure Zone (birthday parties), Mega Kiddie World, Cartoon World, KidLand, video game arcades and movies
- Made in Penang Interactive Museum: Bring your camera for some photo fun
- *Kidland Penang: Play at the pretend firehouse, hospital, music studio, greenhouse, cooking school, art gallery, airplane pilot training and more; Prangin Mall, Level 4.
- *Urban Playground inflatable jump houses, slides, obstacle courses and climbing walls in Times Square Mall
- JumpStreet: Huge room covered in trampolines. Dodge ball arena and foam pits, too. Atrium of D’Piazza Mall in Bandar Baru.
- Urban Playz climbing walls on Level 7 of Gurney Paragon Mall
- Archery: 1st floor of Komtar Walk; recommended for teens and adults
- Bowling: Penang Bowl near the E&O; Premium Lanes in Sunshine Square; Classic Bowl in Prangin Mall
- Break the Code: Solve the puzzles in time to escape the room or be trapped inside forever; for tweens and older
Arts and Crafts and Cooking, too
- Hammer Out a Pewter Bowl: Royal Selangor in Straits Quay
- *Batik Painting: Rozana’s Batik or Craft Batik
- *Kids Cooking Class at Makers Shakers Bakers in Tanjung Bungah Hillside
Take a Day Trip
- Carnivall Water Park at Cinta Sayang: 1 hour from Penang; water slides, lazy river, and a spray playground for non-swimmers
- Bukit Merah Laketown Resort: 90-minutes from Penang; orangutan sanctuary, eco park, water park
- Taiping Zoo: 1 hour 45 minutes from Penang; becomes a night zoo in the evenings
- Lost World of Tambun Water Park: near Ipoh
- Gua Temperung Caves: near Ipoh; even preschoolers can walk Tours 1 & 2
- White Water Rafting: near Ipoh; must be at least 10 years old
Hire an Activity Organizer
- * Birthday Castle: I’ve been to a couple parties they’ve organized, and the kids have always had a blast.
- Spiral Synergy: During school holidays, they often hold special events for children. Email them for a schedule.
Calamity Jane, nee Martha Canary, was born in 1852 (most likely) in Missouri. According to Greg Monro’s film, her unstable childhood included the 8 year-old Martha traveling the Oregon Trail with her family, her parents’ subsequent deaths and Martha and her siblings being sent to an orphanage. First adopted at age 12, Martha was soon sent away for bad behavior. Where she went and/or what she did is not fully known. What historians do know is that Martha joined the Newton-Jenney Party into the Black Hills in 1875. Dressed in men’s attire, when reporters found out that Martha was a she, the public’s interest grew, leading to many articles, dime novels and even an autobiographical pamphlet Martha dictated (as she had no formal education) for publication. We also know that in 1876 she travelled to Deadwood, South Dakota, along with Wild Bill Hickock, though the full extent of their relationship is unknown.
Martha was daring and caring (as long as we are not talking about Native Americans). Not only was she a professional scout in the Wild West, she helped nurse smallpox sufferers back to health in Deadwood in the late 1870s. She was also, by all accounts, a raging alcoholic. She had two children, who were placed in foster care, and despite her infamy, died destitute in 1903 at the age of 51.
Told with reenactments — with Kay Campbell playing the titular character, vintage photographs and lots of moving shots of pastoral and pristine rolling hills, wind-swept plains, and mountain ranges, director Monro’s film also employs many “experts,” most of whom rely heavily on hypothetical phrases such as, “I imagine… ,” or “it was possible… .” They make many suppositions about Martha and her family.
Martha was known for her colorful stories, but many of the tales about her life are unsubstantiated. Historical facts have disproved many of the musings about Calamity Jane. Unfortunately, Monro’s Calamity Jane is just as colorful yet unreliable as Martha’s own history. Monro tries to straddle the line between fact and fiction, but just can’t seem to ride it out.
The 31st edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) kicked off last night with Everything Before Us.
The first feature film by Wong Fu Productions, co-directed and co-written by Wesley Chan and Philip Wang, along with co-writer Chris Dinh, Everything Before Us is set in a quasi-future California (USA?) where everyone has an Emotional Intelligence score.
In short, Emotional Intelligence scores are based one’s ability to maintain a monogamous relationship. These scores not only affect who is available for romance, they can also effect one’s ability to get into college, get into a nightclub, receive a loan or land a job.
It is an interesting premise — which would make for a dystopian future where status, power, reproductive rights and liberties could be based on one’s EI score — but inEverything Before Us the EI score is used in the form of comedy and romance.
Ben (Aaron Yoo) is still suffering from the end of his relationship with Sara (Brittany Ishibashi). Thanks to his role in their breakup, Ben’s score is too low to get the job he wants (and deserves). So, after years apart, he reaches out to Sara to help rectify the situation.
Thanks to Sara’s cooperation, Ben lands the new job, which also results in a new girlfriend, Anna (Joanna Sotomura). However, there is tension in the air as Ben and Sara still pine for one another.
Meanwhie, Seth (Brandon Soo Hoo) and Haley (Victoria Park) are young Los Angelinos madly in love with one another. When Haley gets accepted to college in San Francisco, their love is put to the test. Determined to beat the formidable odds of young lovers sticking together “forever,” the two agree to register as a couple with the Department of Emotional Intelligence (deliciously portrayed like the DMV) and maintain a long distance relationship.
Despite the rude behavior of some of the film’s filmmakers whipping out their phones during the screening to text and go online (dimming the phone light does not cut it),Everything Before Us proved to be a highly enjoyable, smart, very funny, well written story about young people in love. While the narratives of the leads takes a more serious tone, albeit not too serious, there is plenty of comic relief provided by the supporting characters like Anna, along with Ben’s friend, Henry (Chris Reidell), Henry’s wife, Sandy (Katie Savoy), Haley’s dweeby colleague, Taylor (Edward Gelbinovich), and Randall (Randall Park), the DEI representative.
Moreover and more importantly, is here you have an entertaining film where Asian Americans take front and center in the mise-en-scène. Although Asian Americans only make up five percent of the U.S. population they are nearly invisible when it comes to film and television. And, with few exceptions — John Cho, Lucy Liu, Fresh Off the Boat and the short-lived All American Girl immediately come to mind, when Asian Americans are seen in American film and television, they are often relegated to supporting roles.
This underscores the importance of LAAPFF and good films like Everything Before Us.
Geng Yanbo, the newly-elected mayor of Datong, China wants to transform the city into a tourist-attracting cultural center. Datong, the most polluted city in China, thanks to its coal mining history, has a massive ancient city wall that Geng envisions containing museums and meeting spaces. The problem is that at least 30 percent of the residents of Datong, many of them poor and their housing illegal, live around that city wall. These residents must be relocated and their dwellings demolished in order for Geng’s reconstruction of the city to take place.
Despite the fact that demolition and construction are very slow and behind schedule, the government wants the residents out. But there is no place for many of them to go. People who cannot afford to move are told that they can apply for low-rent housing, but they know the reality is that there is a long waiting period. Some residents protest by simply not leaving their abodes or by blocking the heavy machinery. A few residents who refuse to move face forcible demolition and threaten suicide.
We follow Geng, in Zhou Hao’s The Chinese Mayor, as he inspects the progress of destruction and construction throughout the city, as he attends meetings in his official capacity, and as he is scolded by his wife who thinks he is working himself to death. He appears tough when he deals with contractors who have put in sub-par paving, taken other shortcuts or are not performing their jobs to his satisfaction. But when the affected residents appeal directly to Geng, he is sympathetic and tries to right the wrongs — helping folks find housing, ensuring the children of rural residents who gave up their farmland for development have access to the city schools, and even trying to move a woman from her 6th floor apartment to one on the ground floor as she can no longer walk up the stairs (what the hell happened to the elevator anyway?).
Geng wants to leave the reinvented and revitalized Datong as his legacy. Will he be able to oversee all of the construction through to completion before his mayoral term is up? Is he simply a megalomaniac bankrupting a city for his own status? Director Zhou does a masterful job of not getting in the way of the story. Clearly the residents are the one’s suffering in this scenario, but Geng is not without sympathetic sensibilities. He believes so strongly in “cultural industry” that even if he cannot bring his vision to fruition in Datong, the viewer gets the sense that that will not stop him. He will give this city, or any other, his masterful cultural makeover. Even if it kills him.
In the latest documentary by Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney; Biggie & Tupac; the Aileen Wuornos docs), grave injustices against poor African-American women of South Los Angeles — from within the community and those sworn to protect them — are revealed in depth.
Between 1985-2007 at least 10 African-American females between the ages of 15-36 were murdered. Arrested in 2010 and yet to see trial, their alleged killer is Lonnie David Franklin Jr., of 81st Street, Los Angeles. Most of them, if not all of them, were likely raped and tortured before their deaths. A repeated felon, Franklin never supplied his DNA so there was no way to link him to the victims.
Beyond waiting for the matching data “and the murder weapon to come walking into a police precinct” the LAPD and Sheriff’s office barely lifted an investigative finger to catch a serial killer. There were opportunites to catch the man. Instead the murders continued.
Perhaps because the victims were “NHI” poor, black women, the local law enforcement did not see serial killing in the community as an urgency. It certainly was not a priority for over two decades. If people of the community suspected anything (even the ones violently victimized) they did not see informing the authorities as a viable option (certainly not a pleasent one).
The disconnect between the LAPD and the poor black community of South Los Angeles is a staggering disgrace to the city.
In fact, law enforcement never really paid attention to the multiple murders until Christine Pelisek broke the story in the LA Weekly. Members of the community had formed theBlack Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders back in the 1980s to address these crimes yet their pleas fell on indifferent ears in law enforcement and in the media.
(Law enforcement even borrowed the moniker “Grim Sleeper” from the LA Weekly article, thus displaying their decades-long indifference.)
Some of the family’s victims did not find out about the fate of their loved ones until years later.
It also does not help matters when too many male members of the community who take the serial killing anything less than dead serious. At least three of Franklin’s aquaintances get a chuckle out of Franklin’s alleged crimes. There was also this photo exchanging business going on where women are used as photo props — a sort of simulcrum of possession.
By going into the community and talking to family, friends, foes, victims and advocates of Franklin, Broomfield’s excellent documentary reveals how violence toward poor black women works in collusion between the personal and the political silence of members in the community who see the degradation of women as acceptable and the law enforcement and city hall officials who act as if it were permissible.
Making the Space Work for You
Not Just for Wide Open Spaces
Tailor Made, Just for You
Invest in Less Stress
I might be biased since I grew up in Sweden, but I think it can be a great place to visit when you’re traveling with kids.
|View of Stockholm on our last visit: a very rainy day.|
Of course, it is not the cheapest place to go, but it does have other things going for it. English-speaking visitors will find that lots of people here speak and understand English. Sweden is also a kid-friendly country overall with lots of playgrounds, kids’ menus at many restaurants, lots of attractions for children, and there are often change tables and other baby-friendly facilities in public bathrooms.
Stockholm is the place most foreign visitors to Sweden end up going to, and there are lots of things to do for kids as well as adults in this city. Just get yourself a good map and explore! Stockholm is small enough to easily get around on foot, by bus or subway, or by boat.
Here, listed in no particular order, are 10 great destinations in and around Stockholm when you’re traveling with kids:
1. Gröna Lund
This is a big fairground with tons of rides, games, and activities. Gröna Lund is located right on the waterfront on Djurgården island, and you can reach it easily by bus, tram or ferry. It is open for business May-September, and offers special deals on passes for smaller kids.
For a fairground treat, try one of the many varieties of Swedish ice cream, sockervadd (cotton candy), or varmkorv (hot dogs) either served on a bun or on a bed of mashed potatoes.
2. The Wasa Museum
This museum is the home of the royal ship Wasa, which sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was raised from the water outside Stockholm in 1961. There are lots of kid-friendly interactive exhibits here, and lots of things to look at including the bronze cannons the ship was equipped with.
The ship sank because the king of Sweden insisted on putting too many cannons on it, a fact that makes my Canadian husband laugh every time the Wasa ship is mentioned. Why all this national pride in an artifact that shows off flawed shipbuilding technique and royal idiocy? he wonders. Fair enough, but the ship itself is a pretty cool sight, preserved here in all its massive glory, if lacking the gold leaf and scarlet paint it was decorated with when it first set sail.
Skansen is a must-see if you’re traveling with kids to Stockholm. It has a small amusement park for kids, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a “big” zoo featuring wild animals, mainly those native to Sweden, and farm animals.
There is also a tropical exhibit, called Skansen Akvariet, with monkeys, lemurs, snakes, spiders, insects, fish, and lots of other creatures. (My children were fascinated by the rat exhibit last time we were there, maybe because they had just watched Pixar’s Ratatouille.) The pygmy marmosets are way cuter though.
Skansen is also an “outdoor museum” with lots of traditional Swedish buildings where various traditional crafts are made and displayed, for example the glass work shop where you can see glassblowers at work.
4. Naturhistoriska Museet/Museum of Natural History
This museum has Sweden’s only IMAX theatre, called Cosmonova, and can definitely be a good place to go with kids if there’s a rainy or snow day you want to spend inside. This is also the place to go with kids who love dinosaurs with lots of dino skeletons and replicas. Other exhibits focus on life in the Polar regions, the human body, and human evolution.
5. Tekniska Museet
This is Stockholm’s “Museum of Technology”, and it is a great museum for kids because they are actually allowed and even encouraged to touch and interact with many of the exhibits. There’s a 4D cinema, and in the Teknorama exhibit kids get to play and try out a large variety of scientific activities and experiments.
A much more relaxing place for parents than many other museums where you spend much of your visit reminding the kids not to talk too loud or touch anything.
6. Gamla Stan/Old Town
The Old Town is a must-see if you’re in Stockholm.
This part of the city essentially looks exactly like it did in medieval times, with many of the same churches, buildings and narrow, winding cobble-stoned alleys. It’s a good place for a walk, though somewhat bumpy for strollers, and there are lots of little shops to keep the whole family busy.
If your kids are not interested in the souvenir shops, or if you start feeling slightly queasy after over-dosing on all the trolls, knit sweaters, dalahästar, silver jewelry, Swedish flags, and cheesy viking knick-knacks, there are plenty of places to stop for ice cream, sandwiches, coffee and pastries, or a nice meal.
There are also many candy shops. Candy shops are very common in Sweden, including in Gamla Stan. In these shops you will find a never-ending supply of different kinds of candy (“godis” in Swedish), including Swedish specialties like salty licorice, polkagrisar (striped red and white pepper-mint candy), kokosbollar (similar to a big, creamy marshmallow dipped in chocolate and shredded coconut), and gigantic striped lollipops.
7. Visit a park
I love parks, just can’t help it. I find them really relaxing, especially when you’re traveling with children. Any big city I visit, I will look for a good park to go for a walk with my kids. There are lots of parks around Stockholm, and they can be a great place for kids to just run around or fall asleep in the stroller while you’re going for a walk or stopping for a snack or coffee. Kungsträdgården is located right in the middle of Stockholm, and there is also lots of park-land in the Djurgården area, close to Skansen and Gröna Lund.
8. Take a boat trip
There is lots of water in Stockholm, and much of the city is built on 14 different islands, connected by bridges, the subway, and ferries. Taking the ferry to or from Djurgården is a nice trip with kids, and there are also lots of sightseeing trips you can do by boat around the city. I highly recommend these boat trips if you want to do a sightseeing tour: in my opinion it’s more fun for kids and adults to see the city by boat than by bus.
Check current schedules and pricing with your hotel or the tourist information office. You can also take a ferry to explore the archipelago outside Stockholm, which is a beautiful trip to do, especially in summer.
Junibacken is sort of a Swedish, small-scale version of Disneyland. It’s the place to go to meet the characters from the famous and extremely popular Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s books. Outside of Sweden, she’s probably mostly known for Pippi Longstocking, but she wrote many, many wonderful books for children and here they’re all put on display in real life. There’s Storybook Square, where many of the characters from Lindgren’s books live, there’s a guided train tour, and you can visit Villa Villekulla, Pippi’s house.
This is one place I have not been to myself, so I’m not sure how good it is, but it looks rather impressive on the website (which is unfortunately all in Swedish…). It’s located on Djurgården, right next to Gröna Lund where the ferry comes in from downtown Stockholm, so it’s very easy to get to. Aquaria’s website says that they have exhibits featuring the tropical rain forest, tropical ocean environments, and Nordic aquatic life.
Even if Cyprus is surrounded by the sea and playgrounds by the sea are Kids Fun in Cyprus favorite places for children when it is to hot and we are looking for more shadowed parks Dasoudi Park in Paphos is one special place. Situated in the heart of Paphos old city, close by Lidl and Carrefour supermarkets, the playground is the perfect getaway for a relaxing afternoon maybe even after or before shopping.
Dasoudi Park is a perfect size place to take with you the bicycles and to be prepared to stay there enough time to spend the kids energy as there are plenty of nice shadowed pathways. The park has its own parking for cars making it easier taking the strollers and children out of the cars.
The playground can make a busy day for children of any ages with three slides, swings for babies and bigger kids, climbing areas, ride ones and see saws. Parents can relax on the many benches found in the park. The park is covered with pebbles witch will help big kids stay clean and give to the funny toddler one more entertaining activity. Under the swings there are rubber tiles to keep the children safe.
The park is also a good place for anybody willing to try their new roller skates or scooters but do not forget to bring with you the safety equipment !
Address: Cross road of Alexandrou Ipsilanti Str. and Hellados Ave., Paphos, Cyprus
Films, TV, YouTube, and other media focusing on beer are usually not about serious stuff. Unless it has to do with drunk driving, dometic violence or alcohol poisoning, one tends to associate beer with the fun — and often the stupid.
That is not the case with Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin’s documentary, Blood, Sweat, and Beer.
A very entertaining documentary, Blood, Sweat, and Beerlooks at the serious rising tide of American craft beer brewing. While other American jobs have been outsourced out of the country, craft beer production, brewing and distribution has doubled in growth over the past ten years. Currently there are approximately 2,700 breweries in the United States. Ninety-eight percent of them are small and craft.
Set with this rise in American entrepreneurship, the filmmakers travel to various parts of the country. They make a stop in Colorado where they talk to former brewmeister and current Governor John Hickenlooper — who has been pivotal and influential in Colorado’s brewing successes.
In Pennsylvania, three young men in their 20s are opening up a brewery in the dilapidated borough of Braddock. Once a mighty steel town, and site of America’s first library, Braddock has fallen on serious times. But, with the support of Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, they might just pull it off.
Over in Ocean View, Maryland, the story of Danny Robinson is quite different. Already somewhat successful in the food and beverage business, Robinson runs into a nasty expensive, litigious battle when he sells t-shirts with the name “Shorebilly” on them.
In addition to these brewing business highs and lows, wholesalers, brewers and others in the beer business weigh in on the brouhaha facing current brewers as the market becomes more inundated with additional brewers. For most brewers, profits are slim. But they love what they do.
It was also interesting to note the sobering fact that over 90 percent of brewers are male and almost all of them are white (frequently with a beard).
Having written this, it is time for some delicious craft beer.
Oat (Ingkarat Damrongsakkul), an 11-year-old living in poverty, idolizes his older brother, Ek (Thira Chutikul), in the coming-of-age morality tale, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), from director Josh Kim.
Having lost both parents, Oat and Ek have an especially close relationship, which is threatened when Ek must participate in the Thai military conscription lottery. Ek’s boyfriend, Jai (Arthur Navarat), must also take his chances with the lottery. But as Oat will eventually discover, having a wealthy family gives Jai the unfair advantage of bribing his way out of having to serve his country. Wanting to secure his brother’s safety and keep him at the modest home they share with their Aunt (Vatanya Thamdee) where Ek is the primary breadwinner, Oat turns to crime.
After Oat finally outsmarts his big bro at a game of checkers, Ek decides it time to take Oat out. Heading to Café Lovely, where Ek works as an escort, Oat is finally exposed to Ek’s seedier side, including prostitution and a nasty drug habit. Oat learns quickly that this is not the path he wants to take and begins taking whatever measures are necessary to ensure that he will not follow in his brother’s footsteps.
Based on short stories by Rattawut Lapcharoeensap and set in the outskirts of Bangkok, the moral of How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) seems to be that one should do whatever it takes to win, even if it means someone else has to lose.
The sweet relationship between Oat and his brother — and that between Ek and Jai — lends the film a familiarity and sweetness in this otherwise grim and gritty feature.
Many artists strive to construct a safe and stimulating space in which they can freely create. Director Don Freeman captures nearly a dozen of such places in his film, Art House.
Based on the book Artist’s Handmade Houses by Michael Gotkin, Freeman travels through the US — and through the past 100 or so years — documenting places like Byrdclife Arts Colony in New York (the oldest arts colony in the States), to Eliphante, Michael Khan and Leda Livant’s home built over the course of nearly 30 years in Cornville, Arizona. Some of these residences have been lovingly preserved and/or are still being used as workshops. Meanwhile others, like the Wharton Esherick Museum in Pensylvania with its seemingly living staircase, have been converted into museums. Whether open to the public or gifted with National Historic Landmark status, Art Housegives viewers a glimpse into these infrequently-viewed locales.
Freeman uses vintage photographs throughout, as well as interviews with surviving relatives or disciples of the artists and commentary by writer Alastair Gordon. So many of these artists were looking to bring other artists back to nature and to integrate nature into everyday life. And so many of their abodes seem to do just that very successfully!
Unfortunately, the music is a distraction to the images more often than not, and the cross fades from one still shot to the next happen too quickly for the viewer to fully realize what object or scene she or he is seeing.
As Gordon states in the beginning of the film, “It’s about making a perfect life.” Exploring these eleven dwellings all in one film, despite its distractions, allows one to imagine for a moment that perfection each of the designers were trying to create.
It’s not often that a movie depicts a female protagonist exploring her sexuality the way she wants to and learning what she wants from life. We do not usually see women in charge of their own sexual agency portrayed in a positive manner. Fortunately, that just what happens in director Shonali Bose’s film, Margarita, With a Straw.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) loves her friends at Delhi University and the band for which she writes lyrics and composes. Sadly, she loves the lead singer, Nima (Tenzing Dalha), more than he loves her. When her feelings are rebuffed, the shame of rejection is too much for her to return to classes. Fortunately, a scholarship and acceptance letter from New York University arrives and she soon has other plans for her higher education.
Leaving her middle class Delhi neighborhood, Laila and her mother (Revathi) head to New York where Laila goes about settling into her new collegiate life, under her mother’s watchful, but trusting eye. Laila’s broken heart is soon mended, or at least distracted, when she meets Jared (William Moseley), a blond Brit assigned to help her with her classwork. She also meets activist Khanum (Sayani Gupta), who happens to be blind, at a local protest and the two become fast friends. The two young woman quickly become more than friends and explore their new home city — and each other’s bodies — with cautious excitement.
Did I mention that Laila is wheelchair-bound due to her Cerebral Palsy? If not, it is because Laila does not allow herself to be restricted. She does not see herself as someone “less” than an able-bodied person, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, not everyone else feels the same way.
The color palate utilized in Margarita, With a Strawheightens both the sensuality and the sweetness of the movie and the acting is fantastic. The family dynamic between Laila and her mother is wonderfully touching. Though the ending feels a bit rushed (especially considering the pacing of the first act), Bose does a lovely job hitting the right notes and not pandering to stereotypes or social “norms.” Laila falters and fumbles through her sexual awakening, just like every other young woman learning to love herself.
By Ed Rampell
From April 30 through May 7, the 10th annual South East European Film Festival is putting features, shorts, animation and documentaries that are primarily shot and/or set in Southeastern Europe in the limelight. As such, SEEFest provides a beachhead for cinema from this part of the world, giving foreign films entrée to moviedom’s world capital, Hollywood. It also presents avid filmgoers undaunted by subtitles with the opportunity to view works they may not otherwise get the opportunity to see, especially on the big screen. In addition to screenings at several L.A. venues , SEEFest co-presented its 7th Annual Business of Film Conference, “Connecting South East Europe and Hollywood,” on May 2 at the Goethe-Institut, which, among other things, dealt with the complex issue of distribution in the lucrative, if insular, U.S. marketplace, followed by a networking luncheon.
The April 30th gala at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills was well-attended by filmmakers, moviegoers and dignitaries, such as a representative of the L.A. City Council and the Swiss Consul-General, Jean-Francois Lichtenstern. The office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Council presented proclamations expressing appreciation to SEEFest and its artistic director, Vera Mijojlic, plus to actor-dancer George Chakiris, who scored a Best Actor Oscar for 1961’sWest Side Story. Mijojlic also presented Chakiris, who is of Greek ancestry, with SEEFest’s inaugural Legacy Award. 82-year-old Romanian actor Victor Rebengiuc was given SEEFest’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in absentia.
However, Tudor Cristian Jurgiu flew to L.A. for SEEFest, accepting the award on behalf of Rebengiuc. Their film, the oddly named The Japanese Dog, then kicked off the Festival’s screenings, followed by a Q&A with Jurgiu conducted on the stage of the Writers Guild Theater by Mijojlic, along with questions from the audience, which then enjoyed a feast of Eastern European cuisine in the lobby festooned with posters of classic movies, many of them with texts in various languages.
No Reservoir Dogs, The Japanese Dog could also be entitled “The Anti-Avengers Film.” Typical Tinseltown escapist mass entertainment equates drama with action — the more violent, the more “dramatic”, rendered through head spinning rapid cutting by no talent, harebrained sociopathic dimwits like Michael Bay appears to be. Of course, this is an expression of a sick society suffused with and suffocating in violence, where youths get their necks broken for the new thought crime of “looking while black”; the national pastime is a sport causing concussions, brain damage, etc.; and far away countries get shocked, awed, droned and attacked at the drop of a hat. Hollywood’s over-reliance on violence to peddle tickets is also a reflection of extremely bad writing by screenwriters incapable of subtlety and expressing conflict without bombardments, AK-47s, vehicular homicide, ad nauseam.
These screenwriters, directors, producers, et al, are unable to express deep human truths, whereas films such as the enigmatically named The Japanese Dog do, represent the drama of everyday life — all without a single, solitary screeching car chase, explosion, shooting and the like. (There is, however, a sort of robot — so maybe there’s hope for transforming Bay after all?)
The protagonist of The Japanese Dog is the antithesis of the Hollywood hero — 80-year-old widower Costache (Rebengiuc) lives alone in a flood ravaged, dirt poor Romanian village. Costache’s estranged son, Ticu (Serban Pavlu), who has emigrated overseas, returns to Romania, along with his foreign wife, Hiroku (Kana Hashimoto), and their young son, Koji (Toma Hashimoto).
Costache and Ticu are faced with the conflict of resolving their estrangement and reestablishing that Turgenev-ian relationship between fathers and sons. And Costache must decide whether familial or national bonds are more important to him.
By La-La-Land escapist standards, Romania’s latest Oscar-entry for Best Film in a Foreign Language (it did not make the cut) is excruciatingly slow moving (a pejorative in Hollywood), thoughtful and always deeply human, with heartfelt acting by an Eastern European master and the supporting cast. But Jurgiu’s 85-minute directorial debut feature has more humanity than all those dreadfulTransformers movies put together. And The Japanese Dogdoes it without firing a single shot. Imagine that!
As for why this Romanian movie is mysteriously named The Japanese Dog — well, you’ll just have to see it yourself, Dear Reader. And thanks to SEEFest, American audiences got that opportunity — as well as a shot at breaking into the American movie market. It may not be as action-packed as Marvel’s The Avengers, but The Japanese Dog is marvelous in its own way.
A Rocking Workout On The Sunset Strip
@ Roxy Theatre
9009 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Are you and your friends often torn between the decision to work out or go out? Thanks to RockSweat, you can now do both at the same time. Malibu residents Evan and Diane Harrison represent the radio industry vet and group fitness pro behind the concept. Says Evan “I’m a fitness junkie, but I always felt like the connection between music and fitness was missing. I realized that great music venues with amazing sound systems, smoke machines and projected images to give a full concert environment usually sit vacant in the morning, after the cleaning crew leaves.” After approaching various LA clubs with their idea, RockSweat found its stage at Sunset Blvd’s iconic music venue The Roxy.
RockSweat combines a 45-minute full body workout set to the backdrop of a rockin’ concert, equipped with a live DJ, emcee, a great sound system, and all the bells and whistles of a live music show. The workouts are a fusion of high intensity interval training, dance cardio, Pilates, and ends with a short session of yoga. Playlists span all genres and decades too, with everything from Rolling Stones, Tiesto, Madonna, Tupac, Ed Sheeran, and beyond. It won’t replace your normal workout routine, but it’s a sure bet to be more fun. Tickets can be purchased online; make sure to visit the website for information on session times.
Combing forces for the first time, The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 will begin a special collaboration in Los Angeles at Catalina Jazz Club on March 23 and 24 before heading on a national tour. Each of these legendary acts has 10 Grammy Awards to their credit amongst a host of other recognitions. Each will perform a set, culminating with a duet featuring the tightest harmonies known in the music business as well as in innovative arrangements and funky grooves.
No ordinary double bill, this is a show that will create a once-in-a-lifetime event and Angelenos will be the first to witness it! The two groups are known for their ability to move effortlessly among a wide range of styles from jazz to swing, pop, gospel and R&B.
This year marks The Manhattan Transfer’s 40th anniversary of their debut recording while Take 6 celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.
|The Manhattan Transfer|
The Manhattan Transfer remains a cornerstone for great jazz and pop hits that earned them induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Their first hit, “Operator,” was followed by the history making “The Boy From New York City” making them the first group to win Grammy Awards in both Pop and Jazz categories in the same year. The 12 Grammy nominations they received for their album Vocalese in 1985 made it the second only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller as most nominated album in one year, and cemented the group’s status as one of the most important and innovative vocal groups in the history of popular music. “Route 66” and their rendition of “Birdland” are yet more memorable classics of their 19 singles and 29 albums over their stellar career. With worldwide record sales in the millions, their melodic and jazz infused vocals continue to bring audiences back year after year spanning generations.
Take 6 has been recognized as the quintessential a capella group in virtually every genre. They were inducted last year into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, from whom they have received 10 Dove Awards in addition to their Soul Train Music Award, BRE (Black Radio Exclusive) Vocal Group of the Year and more. Heralded by Quincy Jones as the “Baddest vocal cats on the planet!” Take 6 (Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea and Khristian Dentley), Take 6 captivates the audience wherever they perform. They earned performances on Saturday Night Live, the Oscars, the Grammys, and have had the honor of performing for four sitting U.S. Presidents, and at the Democratic National Convention. One, their fifteenth album, is Take 6’s most recent recording. It is the group’s return to their spiritual heritage.
Both groups look forward to recording their new projects – including this collaboration.