Tag Archives: videos

Movie Review: Pina directed by Wim Wenders

A dancer on stage, from the film PinaPhoto by Donata Wenders/Sundance Selects

Movie award season came to a close last week with the Oscars. I admit that for the last few years not many of the movies that were nominated or critically acclaimed really piqued my interest. I didn’t get to see too many of the nominees for this year, but I did see a couple that I felt were indeed a wonderful representation of movies as an artistic genre. A couple of weeks before the Oscars I went to see Pina, a dance film shot in 3D, which was a nominee in the best documentary category. One of the designers at work saw it and recommened it to us at the office, saying that it was a stunning use of 3D movie technology. I didn’t really know what to think about seeing a dance movie, but the fact that it was in definitely 3D intrigued me. I was completely and most pleasurably surprised. Unlike traditional documentaries about theater or dance, which are shot from the audience’s point of view, the camera in Pina infiltrates the stage and moves like one of the dancers it is filming. The result is a painterly, three-dimensional diorama of the Tanztheater style of dance that was propagated by Pina Bausch.

Pina Bausch in motionPhoto by Anne-Christine Poujoulat, from www.theasc.com

A portrait of Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch was a revolutionary force in the modern dance world. She was a dancer, choreographer, and also a teacher that valued expressionism in her works. There is a high sense of rawness in all of the dances in the film that only adds to the texture of the film itself. The film itself is a homage to Bausch, who died in 2009. In between scenes of performances on stage and in outside environments, the members of her dance company are filmed sitting quietly with contemplative looks on their faces while their voices then become the narration. Each one of them gives a testimonial on their experience as a dancer with Bausch, in their own native toungue.

DancersImage from www.shift.jp.org

All in all the film was a beautiful montage of dance, experience, and cutting edge movie-making technology. I enjoyed it tremendously for the dimensionality it brought to what could easily be an overlooked documentary on contemporary dance.

Dancing in the streetImage from shift.jp.org

The marriage of the elegant dances themselves against the industrial backdrops of present-day Germany and scenes in nature only add to the film’s painterly quality. The 3D technology definitely added another layer of texture to the already visually rich scenery.

A scene from PinaImage from www.cinemaviewfinder.com

What the film lacked in actual narrative plotline, it made up for in meaning – as Bausch’s untimely death happened as the movie was being produced. The project almost never reached completion, but when it did it became a living testament to the creativity of one woman.

It was very clear that the film was a showcase of artistry, not just of the dances but also of the use of 3D technology. So many time when we here the word 3D couple with ‘movie,’ you almost expect to see flying swords or explosions. In the case of Pina, however, we get a first person experience of the suspended railway in Wuppertal and a 360-degree view of a glass house in the middle of the forest.

A pair of dancers against an urban sceneImage from collider.com

Dancers in a glass house with a view of the woodsImage from http://images.allmoviephoto.com, Photo by Donata Wenders

Pina was a visual feast, and it definitely deserved its nomination for best documentary this year. Hopefully in the future filmmakers will take some cues from it to capture the beauty and essence of an intimate, immersive experience, just as Pina did.

Learn more about the film at: http://www.pina-film.de/en/about-the-movie.html

Here’s the trailer:

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Straighten Up and Fly Light: Tips for Easier Airline Travel

Los Angeles World Airports by Jay Berkowitz(Photo Jay Berkowitz, Los Angeles World Airports )

By the time you read this post I will be on a plane, half-way to Los Angeles. And as much as I love to explore new places and return to old favourites, I truly hate to fly. This feeling has only increased as security measures have gotten stricter and airlines have become stingier with what they include in their fares. While there isn’t much we can do about this, savvy travelers know that what and how they pack can help to reduce the hassle. Here are just a few ways to make your flight go a little smoother:

Bag with text printed "This bag contains a gun, a bomb, a very large knife, and loads of drugs."Not Recommended For Airline Travel! (Photo: Whimsybags via Etsy)

Pick the Right Luggage

As much as you love your hip vintage suitcase, it is time to put it away (or check out Mandy’s suggestions on how to repurpose it) and buy a bag that meets the size and weight limitations imposed by most carriers. If, like me, you tend to bring back more than you left with, chose a soft-sided bag that can be stuffed to its limits. Crumpler’s Spring Peeper duffle is an excellent option. Weighing only 6.5 lbs., it is as easy to carry as it is to pull along on its wheels and the durable canvas construction ensures that it will hold up to rough treatment if you do end up checking it.

Crumbler trolley bag(Photo: Crumpler)

If you are packing more fragile items, a hard-sided case is the better option. Heys makes the lightest carry-ons in the world, weighing slightly more than 5 lbs. Retailing for less than $100, the xcase is an affordable and fashionable option- there are dozens of colours and patterns to chose from, including their latest Exotic Collection.

Luggage in a variety of designs(Photo: Google Images)

Lock your suitcase with TSA-approved locks if you are going to check it. And don’t forget to label your luggage with a sturdy tag on the outside and a card with your destination information tucked into an outside pocket as a backup.

Bag tag with a book cover design(Photo: Swiss Miss)

Pack Light

Unless you are going away for months and require a great mix of formal and casual clothes there is no reason that you can’t pack what you need in a carry-on. Pick a base wardrobe of neutral colours (black, grey, or tan are good choices) and add a few colourful accent pieces; this way you will be able to mix and match several outfits. Shoe addicts be warned, you should limit your selections to three pairs: a casual and a dressy pair to pack and another, the bulkiest, to wear when you travel.

Suggested wardrobe fro travel(Photo: Travelista)

There is a heated debate amongst travelers on the best way to pack clothes so that they arrive as crease-free as possible. Some like to roll their clothes but I think this takes up too much space and prefer to “bundle” pack.  This video explains the technique and includes some extra helpful hints to ensure your clothes arrive in wearable condition.

Pack Valuable Items in a Second, Smaller Bag

Most airlines allow one personal item in addition to your carry-on bag, such as a purse or a laptop bag. I choose one that is large enough to carry my wallet, travel documents, electronic items and their chargers, valuables, medications, reading material, and travel-sized toiletries. If you have to check your main bag, you will still have these important items with you. It is also easier to pull out these items for screening at the x-ray machine if they are together in one bag.

Make the most of the piece you take with you on the plane(Photo: Orla Kiely)

I also include a change of socks and underwear, in case my bag does get lost. To cut down on this list, remember that most hotels provide shampoo and condition and many will have other products such as toothpaste and deodorant on request at no extra charge. And if you travel with a lot of gadgets, consider buying a universal USB power charging cable, which will cut down on the number of cords you need to pack.

Packing a universal USB is a great travel tip(Photo: Deal Extreme)

Know Your Airport

Have a tight connection but need to grab some refreshments? Or have a long layover and looking for a way to spend the time? Do a little research before you go or download an app like Gate Guru that helps you determine which options are closest to your gate. And don’t forget that many airports have replaced the mundane food courts with more upscale options, including wine bars and spas, to help you pass the time.

Airport wine bar(Photo: Vino Volo)

While it is impossible to guarantee a stress-free flight, hopefully these tips will help to make the journey almost as enjoyable as the destination.

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Brush With Serenity

I have always been fascinated by Chinese brush calligraphy. I don’t understand anything of what the characters mean, but I find the brush strokes in ink on paper profoundly beautiful in their starkness and simplicity. And my appreciation grew when I learned how passionate and disciplined calligraphers are about their craft, practicing it incessantly so that it permeates all aspects of their life.

The clip above from the movie “Hero” — one of my favorite films ever –starring Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Zang Ziyi. While it employs a whole lot of creative license, it reflects the dedication and intensity that these word artists have towards their work.

Antique calligraphy brushes from Greentea Design's showroom

I decided to dip my toes into this gorgeous world and try my hand at Chinese brush calligraphy. Since I don’t know anybody who’s into this, I looked around YouTube for some virtual teachers who can help me out with some demos. And I found this one by a young woman which taught me the very basics.

I used to have the impression that making those marks would be amazingly quick, like Bruce Lee’s moves. I have some friends who know Chinese, and they write pretty quickly — with their ball-point pens. I realize that it’s different with a brush. The girl in the video is so serene and so graceful when she does her thing — it’s so beautiful to watch! Every stroke is slow and deliberate; it’s almost like she’s meditating. She takes her time, caressing the paper with her brush as she marks it with her meaningful strokes, all the while maintaining great posture. I got so inspired!

The tools: Chinese brushes, ink stone, ink block

I took out some brushes, and the traditional ink block and ink stone that I received as a gift some 10 or so years ago, which I ironically have used for myriad purposes except Chinese brush calligraphy. But before I could begin, I had to find a character to write, one that would be meaningful to me.

When I was learning my ABC’s the first word I learned to spell and write was my name. Why not find a Chinese name for myself? I found this awesome feature in www.mandarintools.com that helped me with this. And it gave me a Chinese name that had sounds similar to those in my own name — Mai Ning Tian.

Chinese characters

Image by Arch Chinese

Chinese names usually have three words: the family name comes first, and is followed by the two words that make up the given name. In my name, Mai means force, strength, and capability; Ning stands for calm, peaceful, and serene; and Tian is for day, sky, or heaven. I love it!

There are also disciplines to be followed when writing the different strokes that make up a Chinese character. Generally it goes from top before bottom, left before right, for everything in between, there’s a certain order. It all seemed rather complicated, but I really wanted to do it right, I found a site that I could refer to that has animations that show how strokes in my name go. Here’s how to write Ning.

Holding a Chinese brush

So off I went with my ink and brush. I put a little water in the ink stone and rubbed with the ink block until the charcoal black pigments infused the water. Then I carefully loaded my brush and slid its bristles onto paper. It was indeed as relaxing as I thought it would be! It was all about being in the moment, and not sweating the flubs. How apt that I was learning to write a word that meant peace! Want to see my attempts?

Practicing writing Chinese characters

I practiced on scrap paper for some time, and after a while I decided to write on nice paper. I got one of the small sheets that resulted from my foray into papermaking, and put my brush to it. The ink bled and feathered into the fibers in my paper (a learning experience about paper types). The overall effect is light-years away from perfect, but it’s my name, and I made it, so I’m blue tacking it on my wall. Haha!

The Chinese character "Ning" -- peace

All images in this post by Nathalie Mariano, unless otherwise indicated.

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Video Tour of Our Showroom

Last month we were thrilled to be featured on the Steven and Chris Show on CBC.  Check out a clip below that includes a tour of our showroom!

Thanks for the opportunity guys!  It was such a privilege (and a lot of fun) to do this!

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I Heart Movies

A scene from "The Notebook"

Whether you’re playing the field or not, attached or not, in love or not, staying in with a flick is an option that you should consider for Valentine’s. You’d be saving yourself from a whole lot of stress from traffic jams and dark, overcrowded restaurants. Plus it’s intimate and comfortable, and — with the right movie — as fun or romantic as you want it to be.

So if you’re considering staying in for Valentine’s, have I got some movie picks for you!

Will You be My Valentine?
The Date Movies

Couple watching a movie
So you’ve got a date for Valentine’s! Atta girl!

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
    (Easily my favorite)
  • When Harry Met Sally – Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan
  • Pillow Talk – Doris Day, Rock Hudson
  • An Affair to Remember – Carey Grant, Deborah Kerr
  • Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman
  • Definitely, Maybe – Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher
  • Pretty in Pink – Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald
  • Elizabethtown – Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst
  • 50 First Dates – Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore
  • A Lot Like Love – Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet

It goes without saying that happy endings are an absolute requirement. Some tears may be nice. The key is finding one that produces the right amount of tears. Nothing super heavy, please. That means no Nicholas Sparks — sorry. You don’t want your nose runny and your eye makeup ruined. Or worse yet, you don’t want to get so depressed afterwards that you’d need therapy. Even if you’ve been together for 5 years now, and are so comfortable and open with each other, this is Valentine’s day after all. Your S.O. (significant other) doesn’t need to see you dissolve in a puddle of tears, snot, and half-chewed oysters — that’s gross.

Wine and Whine:
The Girlfriend Party

Wine and whine with a movie and the girls

So you don’t have a date. No biggie. Being dateless on Valentine’s day holds immense potential for fun, especially if you’re spending it with people you love — your girlfriends! After all, these are relationships that you’ve probably had for most of your life! You can just wine and skip the the whine.
For your girls’ night in, bond over these fabulous girl power movies and revel in the warmth of friendship.

  • Whip It – Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore
  • Aliens – Sigourney Weaver
  • Mulan – Ming-Na Wen
  • Chicago – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellwegger

Or if you must indulge a bit in a little bittersweet pain, dip your toes in these films with themes of lost, unrequited or unconsummated loves. Again, you don’t want fall apart totally. Remember, this is supposed to be still fun.

  • Spanglish
  • Lost in Translation – Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
  • In the Mood for Love – Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung
  • Yentl – Barbra Streisand, Mandy Patinkin
  • (500) Days of Summer – Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Flirt – Martin Donovan
  • Roman Holiday – Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday"

If you just want to forget it’s Valentine’s — that’s an option too — here’s are some ideas:

  • Any Die Hard movie
  • The Hangover
  • La Femme Nikita
  • The Exorcist

Don’t forget the wine! And throw in some apple pie — and layer on lots of the ala mode.

The Wallow:
The Solo Party

Some Valentine’s days are just meant for marinating in pain and tears and licking your wounds. Letting it all out can be cathartic. If you feel like a good cry is what the doctor ordered, here are some movies that will really scrape the pain raw.

  • The End of the Affair – Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore
  • Shadowlands – Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger
  • The Notebook – Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
  • Far from Heaven – Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert
  • Marley and Me – Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston
  • City of Angels – Nicholas Cage, Meg Ryan

Note: Be prepared. Stock up on ice cream, chocolate eclairs, and whatever comfort food you can get your hands on.

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