Posts Tagged ‘movie’

‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ Book Signing

boy who harnessed the windYesterday, my friend Caroline and I went to a book launch event for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. She was invited to the event through her job, and asked me to come along with her. I had seen the author — and subject of the book — William Kamkwamba — on the Daily Show earlier in the week, and found his story inspiring, so I was very excited to get to meet him.

William is from Malawi, and starting at a young age, he was fascinated with bicycle dynamos and radios. When a famine hit the country and his parents could no longer afford to send him to high school, he decided to try to continue his education by going to a small library with about 900 books. He didn’t read much English, but he was fascinated with the science books and learned mostly by looking at the diagrams. In one book, he saw a windmill and decided to build one to bring electricity to his home and his village.

He shared how he collected scraps of metal and PVC pipe from a trash yard, and how his family and friends thought he was crazy. But his idea worked — he ultimately created a functioning windmill, built a circuit breaker and light switches, and stored the power the windmill generated in an old car battery.

I took AP physics in high school and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done any of that.

William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

He and his co-author, journalist Bryan Mealer, shared a lot of stories about the tough times William’s village was having during the famine, and how he gathered together parts with the help of his cousin and another friend. He also then talked about what happened after journalists had discovered what he’d done. He was profiled in many papers and was invited to speak at the TED conference, where he met Tom Rielly who would turn his story into a documentary and help get him into a pan-African high school in South Africa. He’s now helping William pursue college in the U.S. — he’s been looking at Harvey Mudd while he’s been in LA.

William also told some funny stories about his first time on a plane, in a hotel and using a computer — and how he wished he had access to Google back when he was trying to figure out how to build his first windmill. And we heard about the changes in the quality of life in William’s village — he built another windmill to pump water for his mother’s garden, and started a youth soccer team to keep other kids out of trouble. The village also now has its own fresh water source, and William’s parents’ home has a real roof and some better amenities than it had when he was growing up.

I’m really excited to read the book, which I got signed by both William and Bryan. I’m very honored to have met them — and have had a bit of time to actually talk to them. I also met Ben Nabors, who is producing the documentary about William’s story. Check out the Moving Windmills short below to learn more.

Entertained, Appalled and Enthralled by ‘The Cove’

I just went to a screening of The Cove tonight and was absolutely blown away.

Following a group of activists who go to Japan to record the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, the story is part documentary, part thriller. The team schemes and plans, disguising cameras as rocks, trespassing in a dangerous areas and using military technology they had to sneak into the country all while having to evade the local police and hostile fishermen.

The Cove is at once disturbing and inspiring, exposing the horrific dolphin slaughter while showing how far passionate people will really go for their cause. And though I went into the film thinking it would be difficult to watch, it keeps you engaged with the Ocean’s Eleven-like plot and informed with the back story, and it doesn’t feel exploitative when the more gruesome scenes come up.

The facts revealed are also shocking. In Taiji, after they herd the dolphins to the cove and let various dolphin trainers have their pick — purchasing animals at about $150,000 apiece — they then slaughter the rest. Though these fishermen claim dolphin hunting is a tradition in Japan, most Japanese people don’t know this is going on and don’t want to eat dolphin, so the meat is often labeled as other types of whale. The most mind-boggling part of the whole story is that dolphin meat has toxic levels of mercury, well beyond international safety standards, yet it’s still being sold.

The film hits both animal lovers and pragmatists, balancing the outrage at the 23,000 dolphins killed each year with facts about Mercury poisoning. Dolphin captivity is also on the agenda. Ric O’Barry, the former Flipper trainer turned dolphin activist and one of the ringleaders of this project, forces you to look critically at dolphin shows and attractions — and where those dolphins are coming from.

The Cove is a powerful film that will make you want to take action and I highly recommend it. It comes out on July 31 in New York and LA. Check here to see if it’s coming to a theater near you.

P.S. Stay until the end to see what happens with the blimp

The COVE OPS Team and some of their rather conspicuous looking spy equipment

The Cove OPS Team and some of their rather conspicuous looking spy equipment

A Bakeoff Without Any Cookies

Last night Evan and I went to the Oscars Visual Effects Bakeoff, an open-to-the-public screening of the 7 contenders for the 5 VFX Oscar nominations. The Academy theater was packed — we had to wait in a line that wrapped around the building into the alley, though thankfully it moved pretty quickly.

The films on the lineup: Hellboy II, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Australia.

It was fun to see Hellboy II again, projected on the Academy’s giant screen. Focusing on the visual effects made me appreciate some of them even more, especially all the detail on the giant green Elemental monster.

The Mummy had a really impressive fight scene between terracotta soldiers and skeleton soldiers. Journey to the Center of the Earth I found a bit gimmicky, with its 3-D effects, which I understand are very technical and hard to do, but felt like they made me focus on the 3-D aspect instead of what was really going on. It was also sort of funny to see two Brendan Fraser flicks back to back.

Benjamin Button was really impressive — I had no idea that Brad Pitt played the character from start to finish and has his aged or “youthened” (the VFX team said they called the process “youthening”) face put on various actors’ bodies.

The Dark Knight was great — and it was the third time I’d seen it — and I forgot how awesome Iron Man was. That suit, the robots, the flying and the fighting were all really cool. I especially enjoyed how the suit came together when the robots put it on Tony.

Australia was a bit more puzzling because the effects were much more discreet. The film has a really beautiful look, and apparently a lot of that was done with set extensions — the VFX crew said that only one scene in the film didn’t have effects shots. It was just tough to tell where the reality ended and the effects began, which I guess was the point. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to check out a before and after of the shots.

We don’t get to vote or anything, but it was neat to be at least privy to part of the process. There were also short introductions and Q and A sessions along with each reel.

The Dark Knight in IMAX and Drinks at Comme Ça

Monday night, Evan and I went out to Universal CityWalk to a special IMAX screening of The Dark Knight and an interview with the sound designer, Richard King. It was great to see the movie again — when we saw it during the summer, it was at a theater in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and we were dealing with a major foot odor issue (ours) that was a bit distracting.

The movie was incredible in IMAX, on the gigantic screen, though I felt the ferry scene lacked all the suspense it had on the first viewing and also brought down the feeling of suspense and urgency during the concurrent scenes. I also didn’t find it nearly as scary, probably because I knew what was coming around each corner. I did get to appreciate the performances and the story more.

The interview afterward was interesting. We learned about some of the different sounds used in the movie and about putting together the sounds for some of the long scenes without music, like the truck chase in the underpass. We also learned about how Richard sometimes finds sounds by accident — like by running his shoe over the end of a treadmill — then starts playing around with the sound to build it into the film.

After the movie, we stopped by Comme Ça, a new restaurant and bar on Melrose, for a drink. Evan had been there before, but it was my first time at the beautiful place decorated with lots of dark wood bookcases, small quirky mirrors, and white chairs and benches. We took a seat at the bar, and looked through the drink specials. The place specializes in prohibition-era cocktails, and there’s a nice selection of alcohols from smaller distilleries, and a very inventive drink mix. I tried out a gin-based drink called The Last Word, and Evan was going to have a Sloe Gin Fizz, but since they were out of Sloe Gin, he had a variation on the drink made with Apple Jack Brandy.

Watching the bartender — really, mixologist — mix the drinks is a treat in itself. He pours out measurements from beaker-like flasks, hand-chips ice, and shakes everything up in a martini shaker before pouring it into a frosted glass. Our bartender, Eugene, also spent a lot of time talking to us about the different drinks on hand, and he even let us sample and compare a few different whiskeys, brandies and bourbons. We also learned about his favorite tequilas (4 Copas is high on his list) and gins (for peppery, he likes Miller’s, for fruity, Junipero).

Since we arrived toward the end of the night — and on a Monday — the bar and restaurant were pretty quiet. I’ve read that it can get pretty busy and noisy in Comme Ça, but for us it was quite a quiet and calm experience. And since the bartender wasn’t overwhelmed, we got a lot of individual attention and really got to see how our drinks were being made.

For round two, we let Eugene pick our drinks. Evan got an Old Fashioned, which was a bit too bourbon-heavy for me, but he liked it; I got one of Eugene’s specialties, a drink with lemon, basil, honey and whiskey. It was delicious. He said another bartender calls it the Melrose Smash, but he’s working on a new name.

We’ll definitely be back to Comme Ça soon. Next time we’ll have to try some of the food — it’s supposed to be delicious, though unfortunately it doesn’t look very veggie friendly.

Sorry I don’t have any photos to share — the movie was supposedly high security (it wasn’t) and they asked us to leave our phones/cameras/etc in the car. I left mine at home.

Red Carpet Evening: ‘Flash of Genius’

Monday night, Kacie and I went to the premiere of Flash of Genius in Westwood, courtesy of Spyglass Entertainment. The movie is an underdog fight-for-your-rights piece based of the true story of Robert Kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper — and then had his invention ripped off by Ford. As the tone of the movie quickly goes from excitement and optimism about the new invention to disillusionment and rage at the Ford Motor Co., you follow Kearns’ long, obsessive quest to protect his patent, which tears apart his family and puts him on unemployment.

Greg Kinnear, playing Kearns, gives a sensitive portrayal of a man who gets under the skin of the bullies and will not give up on what he believes despite the prospect of losing everything. His determination to prove his point is almost frustrating at points — many times I felt compelled to agree with his wife and his lawyers that he should just settle and move on instead of forging ahead with his much-postponed lawsuit.

But despite all the lucrative settlement offers Kearns receives, there would be no real payoff for him, or for us as viewers, if he didn’t go to court, representing himself against Ford’s corporate attorneys. For those familiar with the story, you’ll know how it turns out; for me, I was left guessing which way it would go until the very end.

Though the film had some slow points and the story followed a predictable arc, I enjoyed watching it unfold and ultimately learned a little something about what went into making the intermittent windshield wipers we all have on our cars.

Me and Kacie across the street from the theater– you can see “Flash of…” in the back right. This is what happens when you aren’t looking at what you shoot…

Go See Hellboy II: The Golden Army!

In case you haven’t noticed (we hear there’s quite the publicity campaign going on), Hellboy II is now out in theaters. Of course we think it’s great — Evan worked as the first assistant editor — but we’re happy to see that lots of critics have agreed, too. So take a couple hours to go check it out, and let us know what you think!

Weekly Reading: My First Magazine Piece

Well, as you may have been able to tell from my lack of blogging, it’s been a busy week. I’m still busily pumping out the celeb gossip, fashion and music stories over at Sugarscape (finding budding YouTube stars has become a new favorite passtime), I’ve also been busy in the evenings.

Monday I hung out with my friend Jess, who I’ve known since we went to summer camp together when we were 12. We went to a pub, then to Pacifico for a nice Mexican dinner — I really like their fajitas, and my experience was much better this time, going on a quiet Monday night than when we went on a Friday and had to wait for hours in the packed place for a table.

Tuesday, I got to meet up with Charlotte, one of my editors as Entrepreneur, who is actually responsible for this first story in the print magazine, “Talk to Me,” about Joe Badame and Martha de la Torre, who run the LA-area Spanish-language media empire, El Clasificado. Martha was a wonderful woman to talk to, and I only wish the article could have been 1500 words instead of 150. Sorry to digress. Tuesday, Charlotte and I met up at the Red Lion, then went to Imli, an Indian tapas place on Wardour Street, which was great. The only complaint there is that they don’t have one of my favorite Indian staples — naan. But the meal was flavorful, with lots of spicy and sweet notes, and eating tapas-style, it was fun to get to sample a good array of the inexpensive dishes on their menu.

Wednesday and Thursday night, I was at film screenings — Forgetting Sarah Marshall and What Happens in Vegas (which I’m not allowed to write about until the week the movie comes out). I know I didn’t really write about it on here, but last week, I also went to the 21 screening, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but didn’t have a very convincing story.

I also managed to meet up with the Londonist folk at a pub on Wednesday, though because of all my activities this week, which kept me out of the house until the late hours, I didn’t write any posts for them. I did also meet Gordon Butler from Fancyapint?, and he was happy to learn that I’d used his site just the day before.