Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Dad

How glad I am to be a dad.
Glad to sit and read to little Silvi, her blue eyes searching for the voice reading The Power of One to her in the darkness.

How sad I am to be a dad.
Sad to hear my daughter cry, while I - helpless - can only rock her and whisper that the sun will soon return.

How glad I am to be a dad. How sad I am to be a dad. Mostly, glad.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I'm flying out to Las Vegas for this year's NAB show, then driving to LA for a few days with my brother and his family. Back in a week.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I hated, hated this movie

I hated the Italian film, Padre Padrone. I detested it. If only I could find all the copies of this miserable film and throw them into the depths of the Mariana Trench. I only watched it two nights ago because it was the first role for Moretti in a major film (1977). Maybe it was the extended scene of three boys having sex with chickens. No, I believe it was when one of them had sex with a mule. Or maybe the scene when a boy severely beats a sheep before having sex with it.

But I watched every vile minute of it. It won at Cannes in the 70's, after all. I hope the director gets a paper cut.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Editing blues

It's 10:45pm; do you know where your local corporate video editor is? Not in bed, where he wants to be.

Memo to all future Clients: If you spend two years developing a new product, don't wait until two weeks before it's launch to create a marketing piece.

Il Caimano selected for Cannes

Il Caimano has officially been selected for the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Via! Tutto via!

Holy Land Deli

Best place to watch the World Cup in Minneapolis: Upstairs in the Holy Land Deli. (Of course, you may have to pause for the mid-day prayer call over the very loud PA system.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Take that, paradox!

That pair 'a ducks ain't going to bother me no more!

Grown up films

I came across a review of Nanni Moretti's, Aprile, about an anxiety-plagued director who isn't sure how, or even whether, to finish his films:

"...the self-doubting director in Aprile (played by Moretti himself) is so lazy (emphasis mine) and haphazard that the film is less a serious probing of the creative process than a comical, light-hearted testament to the virtues of procrastination."

In the film, Moretti awaits the birth of his son. He is torn between making a "grown-up" documentary about the political situation in Italy or making the film he really wants to make, a whimsical musical. He begins shooting his musical, then quits to make the documentary, then... back to the musical.

The reviewer seems to have missed the entire point of the movie. Moretti's character's indecision springs from the impending birth of a child who will require Moretti to become an adult, to "grow up." His "procrastination" is a sign of his inner struggle, of having to leave the light-hearted world of musicals to the responsible world of real films, important films. In the end, Moretti refuses to "grow up," and returns to his passion.

I was glad that Moretti's character returned to his passion at the end of the movie. The world has far too many "grown up" filmmakers making "serious" films. Moretti's character could have made political documentaries - and would have been completely miserable doing it. How does the quote go? Something like, "God's glory is a man fully alive." Along those lines.

By following his passion, Moretti's character was indeed a "grown up." He listened to his inner song and let it take form. I, for one, am tired of grown ups. I am surrounded by them.

I hope Moretti never grows up.

Commitment brings freedom

You all know that I like to think of myself as an existentialist. (a modified one, to be sure) In my reading, I stumbled across this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the 19th century German writer.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too, all sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!"

So much of my theology is framed by "waiting on the Lord." "Be still." I much prefer the theology of commitment. Is there room for both?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Monday, April 17, 2006

Money and Power

While eating an excellent turkey bagel sandwich on this gorgeous afternoon, I reread the first chapter of Jacques Ellul's book Money and Power. You can read the whole book online here. (I listed this book in a previous blog as having impacted me many years ago.) Ellul is sometimes called a "Christian anarchist," and his thought is highly influenced by Marx.

Moretti? Ellul? Am I becoming a socialist in my old age?

"When we open the Bible we do not find a philosophy, a political statement, a metaphysic or even a religion. We find instead the promise of dialog, a personal word addressed to me, asking me what I am doing, hoping, fearing‑and especially what I am."

"The texts (Scriptures) are therefore never a "solution." To the contrary, they get us started on a journey, and the only answer we can hope to find is the one we ourselves give by our lives as we proceed on that journey."

The Green Issue

There's a scene in Moretti's film, Aprile, where he and his young son sit in a pile of letters he never mailed to the leaders of his political party. At the end of the film, he rides through the streets of Rome on his Vespa, throwing the letters into the wind.

This month's issue of Vanity Fair, The Green Issue, is causing me to write yet another "letter", one of those "letters" that clutter the mind yet never get put to ink.

My "letters" are always composed to the same group of people. Those who, in my youth and early adulthood, so greatly influenced my perception of God and the way He interacts with the world. As I began reading one of the environmental articles in Vanity Fair, I started to compose a rather angry "letter" to an old co-worker, one who supports these views of the environment.

I think I need to rent a Vespa and take a ride around one of the lakes tonight.

International Film Festival

This week the 24th Annual Minneapolis - St. Paul International Film Festival begins. I'm going to try to catch The Friend, a German film, on Saturday night.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Cristo degli Abissi

(click picture to enlarge)
Christ of the Abyss

[Updated] I was just sitting here, thinking about why this picture appeals to me. I posted it about an hour ago. It's Good Friday, so I felt compelled to post something to do with the occasion. I nearly posted this picture (too... artsy), then I nearly posted this picture. (from a place Annie and I visited in Lisbon... not quite right)

There is a feeling when you're diving, the weightlessness, the otherworldness, the... helplessness. When you're thirty to forty feet under water, you are at a threshold, a crossroads. Any deeper, and you begin to lose the light and your dive-time decreases. At fifty feet and deeper, your risk of the bends increases. Moving into shallow water brings more safety, yet many of the most beautiful sights lie in deeper water.

Cristo degli Abissi lies in 50-feet of water.

I guess I thought this picture was a great metaphor for my relationship with Christ. He keeps calls me into the deeper water. Not really an original thought, but it's mine for the day.

(or maybe I just couldn't think of a way to tie Nanni Moretti to Easter.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Italy's natural selection

A good piece from The New York Times. "Dear Lord, I was born under Mussolini, please do not let me die under Berlusconi."
[Updated] Another good article on the state of politics in Europe.

Christians and Moretti?

Conservative film reviewers at Christian Spotlight endorse Moretti's 2002 The Son's Room. (while giving it a "somewhat offensive" moral rating.) Ultra-leftist Moretti and ultra-conservative film reviewers finding common ground? Has Moretti lost his edge?

"...it's too bad more believing Christian families don't seek out these kind of "art house" films instead of settling for the usual vulgar timewasters at the cineplex."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Faking it

What should be done about "diving" in football?
It's not that I support diving - it's just that there are far more important things in life to get worked up about than a few footballers rolling around in mock agony. We all know that footballers dive. They've been falling over for years. (more)

Elections in Italy

It's been an exciting few weeks in Italian politics. After two days of voting, it appears that centre-leftist Romano Prodi has beat Silvio Berlusconi and the centre-right coalition in a photo-finish election. Although I have a very limited understanding of the complexities of Italian politics, from my seat across the seas I tend to believe that Prodi, a devout Catholic and former President of the European Commission, is better suited to lead Italy toward a new Europe.

Busy summer

Three things to look forward to this summer: the Cannes Film Festival, from May 17 - 28th (this year's program will be announced on the 20th of this month), Wimbledon, June 26th - July 9th, (Agassi one last time?), and of course the 2006 Fifa World Cup. On June 17th, the US team meets Italy. Who am I pulling for, you ask? Do you read my blog much? Does that make me a traitor? (Dream finals match: Italy vs. Brazil)

Monday, April 10, 2006

How my daugther's birthday party helped me enjoy my in-laws...

Let me begin by stating that I absolutely love my in-laws. I could not have asked for better. Yesterday we had my daughter's one-year birthday party over at their home. My in-laws (whom I will refer to as Mom and Pop H.) are notoriously late. Late for meetings, for meals, for...well, everything. Even a funeral once. Yesterday, that no longer mattered to me.

You see, they invest their time in people. And people tend to be a rather messy business. My wife and I and the birthday girl arrived at their home to the usual chaos. Mom H. sweating in the kitchen, cleaning up from the previous occasion. Pop H. moving chairs. Sixty minutes to go until the party begins. Pandemonium.

Usually, I immediately get frustrated, then become quiet. I'm courteous, but that's all.

That's how it started yesterday. I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and grumpily started in the living room. Late, late, late. I looked over at Mom H. to see her reading a story to my daughter in the dining room. Forty-five minutes to go.

I started arranging furniture and looked over to see Pop H. playing with another grandaughter. Thirty minutes to go. Now Mom H. is helping her grandson wake up from a nap. Twenty minutes. Pop H. is playing with my daughter, making her giggle.

Ten minutes to go.

You know what, who cares about the time. Mom H. is carrying my daughter around the house, and my daughter is happy. If you spend your lives with people, you're just going to be late. You don't get to clock-in and clock-out of a conversation.

Keep being late, Mom and Pop H. And keep making my daughter laugh.

Something beautiful

I must film what brings me pleasure, not those ugly things. The designers show their collections in a museum of Florence... And because of that I must go film them?


Commentary on Il Caimano

The best article on Il Caimano I've read so far; a great overview of the politics in Italy and the role of art. From Swans, an on-line publication.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Documentary group II

A little over a hundred people showed up last night to watch Invisible Children. Afterwards, we opened it up to discussion and questions with the filmmaker via a phone interview from Southern California. He (Bobby) was articulate and enthusiastic about this and future projects. This film has had wide distribution and has the support of some in the Hollywood community. (such as Jon Turteltaub, director of National Treasure)

Many in the mostly college-aged audience seemed genuinely moved by the documentary. I was moved by a few moments in the film, but on the whole, thought it missed the mark. It made the common mistake many social issue films make by being too broad, to scattered. It would have had more impact for me to get to know one person, to follow his or her story. (revised)

The most moving moment in the film occurs when we see the filmmaker try to comfort a grieving boy whose brother was killed. For that moment, the film was worth watching.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Documentary group

Tonight I'm hosting our monthly documentary group; we're watching the video Invisible Children, about children forced to become soldiers in Uganda. Last month about 120 people showed up. I'm also in charge of the blog, but never update it.


Who speaks badly, thinks badly and lives badly. We must do words justice: words are important!
Palombella Rossa


Here's an interesting article on Silvio Berlusconi. Italy's elections are on Sunday.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Movies that influenced me

When I was ten, I saw La Momia (the Mummy, a Spanish wrestler) on tv. I wrapped myself from head to toe in gauze bandages, and scared the paper boy.

When I was fourteen, living in Kentucky, I saw My Side of the Mountain. I found an old rotting oak tree which I carved out so that two of my friends and I could sit inside. I remember it was dirty and cold.

When I was nineteen, I watched the movie American Flyers, about a bike race in Colorado. That afternoon, I went to Sears and bought a ten-speed and, with a backpack and bottle of water, began peddling through the Kansas countryside. After about 20 miles, one of the pedals broke off. I stayed the night in a small town, and bought another pedal at Walmart. I got a bad rash between my thighs.

When I was twenty-one, I saw the movie The Big Blue. I spent nearly $5000 on scuba diving. I got to ride on the back of a sea turtle.

When I was thirty, I watched Caro Diario. Six months later, I gave my watch as collateral to a moped rental owner on a Greek Island. With Annie holding on for dear life, I raced around blind corners, nearly wiping out more than once.

I think tonight I'll rent The Right Stuff. What's the cutoff age for becoming an astronaut anyway?

You know what I was thinking?

You know what I was thinking? I was thinking how sad it is that I, even in a society more decent than this one, will always find myself in tune with the minority of people. But not in the sense of those films where there is a man and a woman who hate themselves, stranded on a desert island because the director does not believe in people. I believe in people, just not in the majority of people.
Caro Diario

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

David di Donatello Awards

"The nominations for Italy’s national film prizes, the David di Donatello Awards, were announced yesterday in Rome. Two films eclipsed most others with 13 nominations each: ‘Il Caimano’ (The Cayman) from Nanni Moretti, currently holding the top spot at the local box office, and Michele Placido’s ‘Romanzo Criminale’ (Crime Novel). Both were nominated in most categories, including ‘best film’, ‘best director’, ‘best script’, ‘best actor’ (for Silvio Orlando and Kim Rossi Stuart respectively), ‘best supporting actor’ (Nanni Moretti, Pierfrancesco Favino), ‘best cinematography’, ‘best music’, ‘best production design’, ‘best costume design’ and ‘best producers’."


I got a kick out of this.

Dreams and Diaries II

This excellent review of 1994 Cannes winner, Caro Diario, captures what I had hoped The Cinema of Nanni Moretti: Dreams and Diaries would.

"Moretti's three-part movie-essay is structured as a wry, affectionate and very funny odyssey through the Roman suburbs, the Aeolian Isles, and the Italian health system. Relaxed and leisurely, it's an effortless blend of documentary and fiction, part road movie, part sociological satire, part polemical reminiscence. As Moretti travels around, investigating and commenting, he manages to provoke not only laughter, but the sense that we are seeing Italy anew. Accordingly, just as he includes offbeat gags about, say, movie critics being fed a taste of their own medicine, so when he drives to the site of Pasolini's murder, he forces us simply to look and listen, to take in light, space, shape, movement and music; in other words, to recognise the essence of cinema shorn of story and superfluous stylistic tropes. That's no mean achievement in these days of narrative and technological overkill, though the movie is too modest to insist even on its own quirkiness, let alone its more serious subtextual concerns."

With friends like...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


It's come to this.

Moretti the existentialist

My Amazon Review: (read it here or on Amazon.com)

"I've been reading the study of Moretti films, Dreams and Diaries, with some disappointment. The reason I am so attracted to his films is for the quiet "existential" moments: riding his Vespa around Rome, kicking a soccer ball on a deserted field, pausing to watch an old film on a cafe television.

The authors of this book focus on subjects such as a citizen's relationship to the state, the form of autobiography, postmodern politics, etc. Even their study of the crisis of masculinity, where they elicit the work of Robert Bly, seems to miss the mark. I appreciate academic studies, yet they never quite capture the essence of Moretti's work. The apartness, the playfulness, the longing for a new Italy, a new man.

As far as I know, this is the only study of Moretti's films available in English. I think that's a shame. I hope someone writes another book, and remembers the man - not just the ideas - behind the lens."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Politics and Sharon Stone

I was happy to see that Nanni Moretti's Il Caimano beat Basic Instinct 2 in the Italian Box Office over the weekend. (Il Caimano was #1 and Instinct was #2. In the US, Instinct was #10; a flop)

Both films are about power. Il Caimano is a negative portrayal of Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the wealthiest man in the country and a media proprietor. His investment company controls Italy's three largest private television stations; with elections a week away, the airwaves have been flooded with pro-Berlusconi propoganda. (He is still expected to lose.)

Of course, Basic Instinct 2 is about sexual power, the power to possess another with one's body. Politics and sex. In Italy, politics beat out sex this weekend. I think that the power to control ideas will always conquer the power to control the body. Because once you control ideas, the body will follow.

Twenty years

Next month marks twenty years since graduating high school. There are no plans for a reunion. That's right; that makes me thirty-eight.

When my Dad was thirty-eight, I was sixteen. Sorry, Dad.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Squid and the Whale

My friend Brett recommended The Squid and the Whale. Excellent film. Without giving the end away, the film concludes with one of the central characters confronting a source of his fear, which is also tied to one of his happiest times in life. It is a dramatic moment where this character leaves the old ways behind to run to confront this sacred memory.

After the film, I sat there wondering: What would have happened if this source of fear - and joy - had been moved. What if this character, finding the courage to face the past, had turned the corner to find his memory replaced with a parking lot or a condominium complex.

I suppose he would have continued to run.