I really loved the newly released film Listen Up Philip, so I wrote about it! Have a read and go and see the film, its out in cinemas now. Even the art work for the film is super cool!
US indie flick Listen Up Philip from director Alex Ross Perry engrosses us in the world of New York based writer Philip Lewis Friedmann, who as he finds success with his latest book, experiences overwhelming disinclination in regards to pretty much everything, resulting in a tragicomic viewing experience full of laugh out loud witticism and a sense of sadness.
Jason Schwartzmann visibly delights himself and therefore the audience in playing Philip, perfectly. Watching him, you want to punch Philip in the face, he is obnoxious in every way – not even trying in the relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men) and doing anything he can to make things difficult for colleagues at his literary agency to work with him.
Philip becomes frustrated with the New York City environment and decides for the sake of his art and sanity it seems, to go upstate and spend time with his idol, the older, novelist Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce). The film then follows the verging on bromance literary scene style misadventures of the two characters, then shifting to Ashley back in the apartment previously shared with Philip in NYC. There are certainly moments of homage to Woody Allen with a bit of Noah Baumbach thrown in and of course some Wes Anderson inspired stuff, familiar to Schwartzmann as one of the director’s frequent collaborators.
Exasperating relationships feature throughout – Ike cannot get along with his daughter Melanie (Krysten Ritter) and when taking on a cushy academic job that Ike lands him, Philip eventually is unable to keep a relationship going with associate scholar Yvette (Joséphine De La Baume). In their behaviour, Ike and Philip are as bad as and deserve each other. Ike is a preview to Philip’s possible future and the troubles of these males, serve to only highlight the success of rising star Ashley in her career and comparatively flourishing personal life away from Philip.
Stylistic elements keep this feature fresh. Particularly enjoyable is the radio style voiceover narration throughout the film that allows the audience to concentrate on Schwartzmann’s portrayal of Philip that is both magnetising and maddening. Moss’s performance is exceptional, her face giving us an intelligent reading of human emotion, especially during relationship break up, when it’s all convincingly raw. Frequent use of close up camerawork also contributes to the sensation of characters feeling trapped. The set of book covers mocked up especially for the film used when the credits roll, with their retro look give more than a nod to American Jewish writer Philip Roth whose influence is felt through many parts of the film.
What makes Listen Up Philip memorable and such a delight to watch, are certainly the terrific performances and the characters themselves. Philip is so unpleasant but in such an amusing way. Like a Larry David, he does what he likes without concern for others and we revel in it …. Listen up, Philip does not and that makes everything more of a struggle for him and absolutely entertaining for us.
You may know that I’m a keen choral singer. I sing in 3 different choirs currently and have been singing since I was 5 years old. I was lucky enough to be spotted by a great singing teacher at school and stuck with it ever since then. I feel much better in myself when I’m singing compared to times when I don’t if I’m too busy or something. There are so many benefits for me: using my brain in a different way to sight sing and learn new music, the great feeling of having learnt that music and being able to perform it to concert level, as well as working and achieving something together with a group. Singing can be hard work but for me it’s also social and fun. Being able to perform with other musicians and in different venues is also always a treat.
Now, according to contemporary choral composer and musical director Eric Whitacre, (who I wrote about here) the health benefits of singing have been scientifically proven. Whitacre has collaborated with a scientist working in the centre for performance science at the Royal College of Music to monitor stress hormone levels in singers when they are rehearsing and performing. The audience was also monitored. The conclusion was that for singers and audiences, after singing or listening to singing, stress hormone levels went down and all involved felt more relaxed.
“Singing is something that many people inherently feel is good for them and relaxes them. But to actually show biologically (and demonstrate scientifically) that it can reduce stress is very exciting.” – Eric Whitacre
I agree with the study as even at times when I don’t feel like going to rehearsal, I’m always in a better mood after having a good sing! I also know that listening to live or even recorded music relaxes me.
On the subject of choirs, I’m looking forward to Dustin Hoffman’s new film The Choir. Hoffman plays the part of the musical director of a boys choir and the film follows the journey of one troubled boy to becoming the musical academy’s best singer. Dustin Hoffman is in the press at the moment for bemoaning the state of the film industry in terms of money-making being at the top of the list and the lack of time that can be spent on making movies. Hoffman did however say about music,
“I love it more than anything, but I can’t play well enough to make a living out of it. If God tapped me on the shoulder right now and said ‘no more acting, no more directing, but you can be a decent jazz pianist’ … I could never read music gracefully. I don’t have a good ear. I still want to do it. I would love to do it.”
Well I think he could do anything!
It has been quite some time since I last blogged here and I’m now ready to get back into it! So, what have I been doing since August 2014?!
Well, quite a lot has happily happened in my personal and professional life. So lets take a look at it all chronologically.
In the first week of September 2014, I went on a course run by the Independent Cinema Office in Cambridge for a few days, to work on strategic audience development in my role as film programmer at JW3 Cinema. I learnt so much from this experience and am still implementing the successful project that was a result of this course.
In the second week of September, I went to California for 3 weeks. I was working remotely from there for the first part, so that I could join my husband who was there for work and we stayed in Palo Alto during that time. We then took a holiday as we were in the area already and did a brilliant road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the famous Route 1, Pacific drive.
A couple of days after arriving back in London from California, I sang with Minim Singers at a special event to mark preparation for the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur at New North London Synagogue with a panel of speakers sharing their musings on the subject of sin.
In September, I also took on another role at JW3 and have been working as Music Programmer since then, until July 2015, programming and managing music events across a range of genres.
The next few months involved me doing a lot of wedding planning, as we decided to get married in the spring. I also sang a lot during that time including at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea with English Chamber Choir and in November with the Chelsea Arts Club Choir.
December saw all the regular seasonal festivities and a lot of singing in my other two choirs as is usual at that time of year.
My nephew was also born at the end of December which was the best gift ever!
February was taken up with wedding planning full steam ahead as our wedding took place on 8th March.
We went on honeymoon to the stunning Italian region of South Tyrol and on returning to London I sang at Chelsea Arts Club in another weekend of concerts.
In April things were busy at my workplace, as JW3 merged with LJCC – the London Jewish Cultural Centre so there were new programmes to integrate and new staff to get to know and in May I was back in Israel to see family and to go to a wedding.
Back to now in June 2015, I’ve had a bit of a ‘life makeover’ and changed my hairdo, glasses and (sur)name.
Of course a lot more has happened over these months than some of the highlights I picked out above but it gives you a taste.
Here’s to everything that’ll be happening next, including hopefully more blogging!
Last month I was lucky enough to be in Verona, Italy for a few days city break. I used to live in Italy and have visited a lot of the county, self-confessed Italophile as I am! However, nothing could have prepared me for the picture postcard perfect beauty of Verona which I had never been to before.
The river runs through the centre of the city, the banks of which are lined with prettily coloured buildings while green trees provide shade to the hilly landscape above which stunning views can be found. Verona is the perfect sized city to explore in a few days on foot, whether you’re walking up its many hills to take in the panoramic vistas or if you’re walking along the river or in and out of cobbled streets and piazzas stopping off at a gelateria for ice cream.
We all know the city as ‘fair Verona’, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where the play’s star-crossed lovers meet. Verona certainly makes the most out of the story and it was fun to be a tourist and visit ‘Juliet’s house’ – the house which belonged to the “Dal Cappello” or “Cappelletti” – Capulet family. The building, dates back to the 13th and was renovated in the last century. Inside the palazzo there are works of art by various Veronese artists and some costumes from the 1936 film of Romeo and Juliet. Italians have a strange modern custom of attaching padlocks often inscribed with couples’ names on them, to various romantic monuments and this has certainly happened in full force by Juliet’s house!
On one of our days exploring the city, we discovered the beautiful Giardino Giusti described by Lonely Planet as follows:
Across the river from the historic centre, these sculpted gardens, considered a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping, are well worth seeking out. Named after the noble family that has tended them since opening them to the public in 1591, they have lost none of their charm. The vegetation is an Italianate mix of the manicured and natural, graced by soaring cypresses, one of which the German poet Goethe immortalised in his travel writings.
Although close to a busy road, once we got into the garden we were in a tranquil and peaceful setting. Happily there weren’t many visitors around and we enjoyed walking up the windy path instead of the main route to reach the top. On the way we found a lovely spot which was a pagoda with a stunning look out view. My boyfriend of 4 years Itay, chose this moment to get down on one knee and propose! Of course I said yes and it made our visit to the garden and our whole trip to Verona even more memorable and special!
Afterwards, in a heads in the clouds daze, walking on air happy feeling we went and had a celebratory lunch in a great traditional restaurant which was full of Italians so we knew it was a good one …
The main reason we had decided to visit Verona in the first place, was to go and see an opera in the open air arena. So as the grand finale to our stay, we had for months had tickets booked to see the opera Aida at the arena. We go to the opera in London quite often but seeing an opera at the arena in Verona is something else! We chose to reserve seats and to be near to the stage for an up close experience with the glitterati rather than queuing to sit in the Gods. The whole experience was so magical, to be watching opera in an ancient site in Italy – I felt that I couldn’t have more of a super Italian experience if I tried! We saw a modern interpretation production of Aida and the use of shadow puppets, fire displays and innovative props made for an amazing spectacle! It was a really fantastic end to a great to the perfect Italian city – Verona – città dell’amore (city of love).
All photographs in this post are by Itay Greenspon.
People often exclaim to me ‘oh you’re so dressed up!’ … which leads me to think, um am I – you ain’t seen nothing yet! Or rather, well, its all relative! I much prefer the attitude of one of the New Yorker ladies featured in Advanced Style the film (Lynn Dell) who says ‘I’m dressed for the theatre of my life‘! …
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Based on Ari Seth Cohen’s famed blog of the same name, this film paints intimate and colourful portraits of independent, stylish women aged 62 to 95 who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, ageing, and Western’s culture’s increasing obsession with youth.
And here is the trailer, because you need to see these ladies, not just read about them!
I had actually been following Ari Seth Cohen’s blog – Advanced Style for a couple of years and so I was really delighted when I found out that the film was being released. You’ll see that I also love to style myself creatively using clothes and accessories which I have recorded on this blog here so I knew I was going to love this film. I also realised straight away that the film was sure to be a big hit at JW3 Cinema (in fact 4 of the ladies featured in the film – those who were at the Q&A event – are all Jewish) and so I decided to programme a run of screenings which then lead to the Q&A evening.
I was lucky enough to meet four of the ladies featured in the film as well as Ari Seth Cohen and the film’s director Lina Plioplyte who were all at the Q&A. Of course, as soon as I had decided that I would host the Q&A, my main concern was … what will I wear?! I decided to go for a 1970s Jaeger dress and jacket suit that I got from a vintage shop in Aldeburgh, Suffolk in the UK. The outfit felt suitably smart but special and I’m really glad I wore it. I think I fitted in well with the Advanced Style team.
The Invisible Woman (whose work I love reading and have followed for some time) who writes about fashion for older women, wrote a wonderful piece about the film and I absolutely agree with her words that
I’ve seen the film six times now and could happily watch it six more because it truly is that much-abused term life-affirming.
The film really IS absolutely life affirming, uplifting and inspirational and the ladies themselves are all of these things. The film is just as much about a love of style as it is about a love of life. The characters of these strong women is something I admire as much as their unique styles.
What a wonderful and fascinating woman Joyce is, who trained as an opera singer in Milan and told us last night about how she was one of the first women to work in advertising with magazines. A real life Peggy of Mad Men! I so admire Joyce’s elegant style which she makes look so easy and I must say I envy her Chanel bag collection! I love how Joyce practically danced down the steps of the cinema last night when she arrived, singing out ’82, I’m 82!’ – Indeed, go Joyce! She was so friendly to chat to and has a really genuine manner in the way she was telling the audience her beauty and style tips.
Another of my favourite ladies from the film is Ilona Royce Smithkin who is 94 years old. She sings in nightclubs, teaches painting classes, is high spirited and makes her own false eyelashes out of her own fiery orange hair – just, wow!!
In the end, all I can say is that I very much hope that by time I’m their age, I’ll still be singing, dressing up as much as I like and having a wonderful time immersing myself in the cultural life of the best cities in the world just like the Advanced Style ladies do!
I have spent two fun evenings this week singing at London’s magnificent Royal Albert Hall as part of the English Chamber Choir for performances of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. We were part of a set up including full orchestra – (strings, wind, brass, percussion sections), 2 solo singers, electric guitar, bass guitar, drum kit and Rick Wakeman – the glitteringly cloaked wizard in charge of us all playing on a variety of NINE keyboards! It was a brilliant experience to be part of such a big show with really incredible musicians. There was a great atmosphere at the shows from the audience and the performers too. It also made a nice change to sing different styles of music.
The shows celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the landmark concept album Journey to the Centre of the Earth and were part of a tour consisting of other show dates around the country.
For the performances I decided to wear my mum’s dress from 1969 (by KATI at Laura Phillips) which I thought was fitting for a 1970s revival show! The photo was taken in the dressing room at the Royal Albert Hall.
Based on the novel by Jules Verne, which also marks its 150th anniversary in 2014, the album is one of the rock era’s landmark achievements – a record that sold 15 million copies and rewrote the rules.
”This is the start of a new Journey” says Rick Wakeman, “the original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible. but after it turned up without warning , we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop it into this tour, but I can’t wait to take Jules Verne’s magnificent story on tour again.”
Rick Wakeman’s 15 million selling Journey To The Centre Of The Earth sits alongside the most successful concept albums of the rock era including The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. Its release in 1974 was arguably the high watermark of the progressive rock genre.
Rick’s original album featured the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, conducted by David Measham.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was first performed and recorded live at London’s Royal Festival Hall in January 1974. Issued three months later, its success defied everyone’s expectations, including those of Wakeman’s label. The album went on to enjoy gold and platinum sales across the globe. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was also nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.
For many years, the original conductor’s score for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was thought
to have been lost, making any attempt to revive this seminal work impossible. However, in 2008,
Wakeman took delivery of a box that arrived out of the blue from Australia. At the bottom, he
found the original Journey To The Centre Of The Earth conductor’s score that had suffered severe
water damage. With the help of conductor Guy Protheroe, (musical director of English Chamber Choir) he repaired and revisited the
compositions and put them in a form that enabled him to celebrate its anniversary in an appropriate manner.
Engaging the Orion Symphony Orchestra (whose members comprise The New
World Symphony Orchestra for the UK tour) and The English Chamber Choir as well as actor Peter
Egan (best known for both his Shakespearean work as well as his role as Paul in the British sitcom
Ever Decreasing Circles) he recorded a new studio version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth at
London’s famed Abbey Road Studios. In November 2012, the expanded work was published as a
limited edition in a fan-pack, together with a copy of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert
programme, and has since became a collector’s item.
The other weekend I had the pleasure of being in Devon to celebrate the wedding of friends. We stayed in Kingsbridge, a market town in the South Hams district of Devon situated in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Kingsbridge sits on its own estuary and is surrounded by green rolling countryside.
We discovered an absolute gem in Kingsbridge which is the town’s cinema. The Reel Cinema is the only independent cinema in the South Hams area of Devon, situated under the unusual three-sided town clock. The listed building was built in 1875 and was formerly the Town Hall housing the Town Council, Library, Police Station and Magistrates Court. The old prison cells can still be seen off the lower corridor.
There are three screens offering a wide range of films in Dolby stereo sound and each screen has an individual character.
The Premier Screen seats 54, is fitted with multiplex style seating and has luxurious fully curtained decor.
The Classic Screen seats 165 and is the original auditorium with proscenium arch and traditional features.
The Paradiso Screen seats 48 and is a cosy intimate space ideal for screening art-house films.
We had the auditorium practically to ourselves on a Friday evening, where the box office doesn’t open until 15mins before the screening. Tickets were £6.80, popcorn was a couple of quid and a bottle of water was just 80p! Going to such a unique local cinema was a real treat. If a cinema like that was in my local area, I’d be there twice a week I think!