Thursday, June 14, 2012

Film Review: How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

Michele Wilson-Morris

Architecture is power, and civilizations have used it over the centuries to express who and what they are. Norman Foster does the same thing in modern times with extravagance, luxury, and new technology and materials mixed with good old fashioned common sense and a certain decorum. He is "the world's architect," and in the dazzling presentation "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?," from filmmakers Lopez Amada and Carlos Carcas, viewers are treated to some of most spectacular and elegant marvels known to man, all built by one man -- Norman Foster.

Foster, who grew up on the working class side of the tracks in Manchester, England, has devoted his entire life to the quest of being the premiere architect of our time, which is a title that he has succeeded in attaining. He is the master creator of things that, prior to his efforts, have only been imagined, including London's Swiss Re Tower, New York's Hearst Building, Berlin's Reichstag, Beijing Airport's International Terminal and the breathtaking Millau Viaduct, over the Gorges du Tarn in France.

Building from a spiritual sense like the ancients, Foster considers the environment, beauty, and functionality, even lending his expertise to the way airports and bridges are constructed. He changes function into art, conserving steel in his constructions while making them stronger with less material. This wonderful story of one man's dedication, perseverance, and achievement is utterly amazing and insightful. Shot after glorious shot, viewers will be amazed at his story and work. Where does his genius come from? How has it developed over time? How did he get to be "the world's architect?" This documentary holds the answers to all of these questions and more as you learn about the man behind both the biggest building in the world and the most expensive building in the world.

Brilliant cinematography and excellent producing were critical to ensuring that a film with such a subject was done successfully, and neither aspect is missing. "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?" is definitely worth viewing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Film Review: A Matter Of Taste

Charles A. Smith

"A Matter Of Taste," from filmmaker Sally Rowe, opens the door to the life of the immensely talented and driven young chef, Paul Liebrandt. The culinary artist, who at age 24, was awarded 3 stars by the New York Times for his uniquely original works. The documentary, which is both fascinating and informative, tells of his journey as an innovator and artist in the hard and competitive field of preparing top haute cuisine in New York restaurants. Witness first hand the creative genius that is Chef Liebrandt, and a lifestyle where you get one and only one opportunity to entice and win over the buyer. That's the restaurant business, where only the best, most passionate, strongest, disciplined, and exceptional individuals ever make it to the top. For Liebrandt, the ride to success has been both grueling and delicious.

Treats of all kinds from the inventive super Chef who, after years of harsh words from critics, is finally being recognized for his genius and ability to please even the most discriminating palates with his masterful creations and the perfection with which he so carefully creates them.

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant kitchen knows that teacher, motivator, big brother, disciplinarian, critic, and dad are all roles that the Chef must play, and with "A Matter Of Taste," viewers have an extraordinary glimpse into the story of the man who did it like Frank Sinatra -- "his way." Most Chefs don't actually work in the kitchen, as once they've obtained notoriety, they simply supervise and become executives of a sort. But Liebrandt is different than most, and is still in the trenches with his troops/cooks, training his staff with military precision to produce what he wants the way he wants it. Dealing with management, menu choices, rejection, staff, and opportunity are just some of the difficulties of the profession, and though the road to success isn't always as easy as most of us would like to be, Chef Liebrandt isn't afraid of allowing his difficult moments and obstacles he faced to be shown to viewers during his ten years of becoming one of the most renowned Chefs in New York City. Reinventing the wheel and trying square tires at times makes him either loved or hated by critics, but one thing he isn't and that's easily forgotten. His customers are completely loyal to him, and critics now rave about the man whose name they once used to smear -- all in the line of duty of course.

"A Matter Of Taste" is a highly recommended watch for those who like to cook, aspiring chefs, food lovers, and anyone who wants to be entertained.

Film Review: The Take

Michele Wilson-Morris

All across the globe, economic policies are being implemented by governments that sometimes have near catastrophic consequences. Economic globalization is failing, disproportionately impacting the middle and lower classes. Nowhere is this sad truth more evident that in Argentina where over half of the population lives below the poverty line. Just fifty years ago, Argentina was seen as the crown jewel of Latin America. Now, after decades of bad policy making, the Argentine government has declared bankruptcy, and by doing so, has become the country with the largest sovereign debt in world history. "The Take," an extraordinary film by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, takes you on an adventure to a place where even the poor and disenfranchised have become fed up and are fighting back in ways the government never expected.

On the eve of what would become a day of disbelief, the rich and powerful withdrew their money from unregulated banks. The following day, these financial institutions closed their doors, leading to a spectacular economic collapse and massive unemployment, with the people of Buenos Aires demanding justice and getting none. With their jobs gone because of factory and shop closings, the less than wealthy were left to fend for themselves, but with very few choices and growing support for the anti globalization movement, they took matters into their own hands in a very bold and ingenious way. It's called expropriation, and it's working so well, in fact, that many other nations might just decide to take their example and run with it.

Thirty brave unemployed auto parts workers decided to occupy, resist, and continue to produce in the same factories that were closed by the government, reopening them and taking over operations. In this eye opening documentary and gripping story of finding hope where there seemingly was none, viewers are shown how the workers resisted police with sling shots and the support of the Argentine people. "The Take" is an inspirational depiction of how good things can happen in the aftermath of tragedy, when people stand together as one and refuse to be silenced. This story should be told to everyone, and is a must see for anyone who needs to know that change for the better can come from just a few. I highly recommend "The Take."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Film Review: Pianomania

Charles A. Smith

"Pianomania," a film by Robert Cibis and Lilian Frank, is the surprisingly compelling story of Stefan Knupfer, Steinway & Sons' chief technician and Master Tuner in Vienna, who tunes pianos for the best players in the world. What he is able to hear is simply amazing! Only he and the very best can hear the pitch perfect sounds and infinitesimally small imperfections. He is the top ranked piano technician in the world, which requires a very precise skill set. More than that, he is the personal assistant to every master virtuoso he works with when it comes to the piano and its sound, taking care of every detail from making sure the pianists have just the right seat they want to finding the right sound in the middle of a tone. There he remains with enough patience and understanding to put most monks to shame. 

Knupfer travels the world making sure that every piano bearing the name Steinway & Sons is perfect for world renowned master pianists who become one with its keys, allowing for the best performances in the world. This magnificently enticing DVD takes you behind the scene to witness firsthand the intricate preparations that are made to tune the Grand Pianos of the world's best players. The music in this video is beyond extraordinary and breathtaking. An extra treat provided by the DVD is watching the artists playing to perfection with the help of the mighty Stefen Knupfer.

"Pianomania" is absolutely phenomenal, both because of the level of mastery that is shown here by the virtuoso pianists, and the job the Knupfer does with a surgeon's precision. It is an enlightening and delightfully entertaining documentary, as viewers get a rare glimpse into the preparations made for a performance by virtuosos who are at the peak of their craft. Those who understand the piano's technical side say, "The modern piano is a fascinating music machine, a machine that is so aggressive that I can't even draw the string that makes it sing without bloodying myself. It is a thing that requires three people to be transported." But Stefan Knupfer has tamed this beast and is the best at what he does. 

"Pianomania" allows the viewer to see Knupfer in action and enjoy some of the most beautiful music known to man and the picturesque scenery of Vienna. It has English subtitles, but that's not a problem as the beauty of the music and the magic of the men behind it will grab your attention and not let go until the very end. Anyone who appreciates the art of perfection will be enthusiastic about this cinematic triumph. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Film Review: Crude

Charles A. Smith

"Crude," from filmmaker Joe Berlington (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica, Some Kind of Monster), is a riveting and absolutely superb documentary that delves into the value of oil versus that of human lives. Yes, we all complain at the gas pump, but there are people for whom the cost is much higher and the stakes are much greater. Their lives, lands, and cultures are being disrupted and demolished by the intrusion of oil companies whose only concern is their bottom line.

Anyone viewing "Crude" will find themselves asking, "What penalty should be imposed for taking a culture and way of life away from people? And what price should be paid for the human death toll and suffering because of displacement caused by pollution?" The amount being requested by the people of Ecuador is $27 billion dollars to clean their homeland and pay restitution to its citizens. The question at hand is, who should pay for this? We are all too familiar with the lack of moral foresight or hindsight by large corporations when damage is done to others, and as the fingers of blame are pointed and excuses made, people continue to suffer.

Follow Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs' lawyer, as he sues oil giant Chevron, seeking justice for those who cannot find it for themselves, as well as the best corporate lawyers that big money can buy in the largest and most controversial legal case ever in an epic David vs Goliath battle of wills. Hear the story firsthand from the people of the Ecuadorean Amazon, also known as "The Lungs Of The World." "Crude" engages viewers in the Ecuadorean people's plight to survive in their own homes (Secoyo Village) while their children and family members perish from cancer and their animals become sick from the tainted water and environment, all of which are a result of drilling for crude oil. They have been stripped of their once simple existence and ritualistic way of life, living free and sheltered from the corporate world in a land of beauty and natural resources.

Trudie Foster and her husband Sting from the group The Police are lending efforts to bringing this and other injustices to nature to the world stage through the Rain Forest Foundation, whose mission is to preserve rain forests and the indigenous people who live in them. "Crude" is a brilliantly directed film that is beyond excellent in every aspect, and one that will touch the hearts and minds of viewers. This is a must see documentary for everyone who is concerned about the world, its people, and the environment which is quickly being ravaged. Find out why Chevron feels they are not the problem, and decide for yourself who is right. This is a gripping and fascinating view of environmental  history in the making, and the outcome will impact us all.

"Crude" is the winner of 19 international awards, and has been met with critical acclaim.