Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams, Vincent van Gogh & A Spark of Madness by Benedict Cumberbatch


Courtesy BBC
"I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."
- Vincent van Gogh


Self–Portrait with a Straw Hat 1887 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
 "If I succeed in putting some warmth and love into the work, then it will find friends." -Vincent van Gogh
Recent news reports of untimely celebrity deaths - in light of the suicide of Academy Award winning actor Robin Williams - have also brought Vincent Van Gogh to mind for some: the Picasso painting sent by Disney in an attempt to settle a dispute (in which Picasso painted himself as van Gogh) or, a similarity in personalities (a genius with a touch of madness who found life too difficult) Observations and opinions are flooding website and social media, as well as the sorrow felt by others whenever a brilliant mind, capable of creating vivid images and emotional connections through prose, personality or paint, is - however briefly - unable to cope with living and takes ultimate control by cutting their life short.

Mental health is far too complex an issue to be addressed in a blog such as this. If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with depression or any condition that affects well-being, you know how complicated treatment is, how terrifying it is to be unable to control your thoughts and feelings, how others can misunderstand - and what is unhealthy for you to watch or read.

What we can do here is celebrate the legacy of beautiful minds in strong bodies who kept working, despite the challenges caused by emotional, psychological and/or mental distress. Robin Williams widow  released a statement regarding her husband: " he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly. It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"War Horse" - Finding the Words for World War I

Courtesy Dreamworks

“They fight a war and they don't know what for. Isn't that crazy? How can one man kill another and not really know the reason why he does it, except that the other man wears a different color uniform and speaks a different language?” 
― Michael Morpurgo, War Horse

The 100th anniversary of World War I will make news this week, primarily in Europe, as families recall their personal connection to the war, and journalists recount the war's impact on soldiers, families, and animals.

The loss of life - as well as a way of living - is cause for some to mourn, to honor and, even today, speak out against all that is lost, futile and senseless about going into battle.

The thing is - creative people who served and survived the Great War had been doing that for some time, from poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon to composers Maurice Ravel and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as authors J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch, Ed Sheeran - and Espresso Martinis

To celebrate the weekend, especially one that includes Peter Jackson AND Benedict Cumberbatch appearing at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, it seems appropriate to raise a glass to these fine folks - and the fact you made it through another week.



Earlier this summer, Ed Sheeran released his second album, Multiply, and mentioned to the press that Cumberbatch hoped to appear in the video, but that part of his management team decided it was a poor idea.

Ed Sheeran and Benedict Cumberbatch didn't necessarily work together for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but it is a shared reason for them to celebrate.

We start with the more traditional Q&A, courtesy of TwoTubesTV, where we hear a glimpse into the songwriting process for Ed, and Benedict's tribute of sorts to his dad, actor Timothy Carlton, by playing "Smaugy."



Benedict Cumberbatch at Comic-Con: The Characterization of Smaug


During a Q &A with MTV's Josh Horowitz Thursday after the DreamWorks Animation panel for "Penguins of Madagascar" at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, Benedict Cumberbatch confirmed that he would be back in Hall H on Saturday for "The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies" panel. Of course, attendees and Hobbit fans will be excited to see director Peter Jackson, who missed last year's event due to filming conflicts, along with cast members from the film trilogy - and the chance to get a sneak peek at the director's vision of the final chapters in the beloved book.

However, if Thursday's reaction in Hall H is any indication, the big draw, once again, may be Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Smaug (which doesn't rhyme with 'smog') and the Necromancer.

During Thursday's panel, attendees were cautioned to avoid off-topic questions for Benedict, or, as Craig Ferguson warned, "Comic-Con will be cancelled."

That's unlikely to recur during "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" BUT,  those who were allowed to ask questions of the panelists on Thursday found themselves at a loss as to what to ask.

We're here to help. Think of this as your source material, with links to even MORE information - should you find yourself in a long line waiting to catch a glimpse of "he-who-shall-flirt-with-the media-about-future-projects."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Music According to Benedict: "Tristan and Isolde: Prelude" by Wagner



"Tristan and Isolde with the Potion" J.W. Waterhouse


"Prelude to Tristan and Isolde" - Richard Wagner
"Yes,  it's widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertory, notable for Wagner's advanced use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension... But it just makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Reminds me of the best of Beethoven and Mozart and the best of what's to come in Strauss and Rachmaninoff. So, a milestone as well as a gut wrencher. The recording of this one that I'm currently wearing out is the BBC Orchestra's."
- Benedict Cumberbatch, Top Tunes, Two Paddocks 


There are so many types of music that we just "like" without much consideration. Your mind takes in a changing musical landscape - from your morning alarm with dance tracks, your commute playlist with indie hits, sounds of summer on weekends -  and maybe coffeehouse tunes in the evening before you go to bed. (Throw in a few guilty pleasure tracks that NO ONE is supposed to see in your smartphone - just because you need them.)

You know what you like.

All of those genres I listed are pretty easy go-to tracks, depending on where you are and what you're doing. Maybe you heard the music in Starbucks or you remember a concert from college. You find music that matches your mood and go with it. You change the station if it doesn't work.

Classical music? Opera? For most of us, it doesn't work quite that way. I think we have definite ideas about both:

  • It's elitist. 
  • It's expensive.
  • It's for the elderly.
  • It requires education before enjoyment. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

REVIEW: "Wish I Was Here" - Small Moments on the Big Screen


Theatrical Release Poster



Wish I Was Here

Director: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Joey King, Ashley Greene, Donald Faison
Rating: R (language & brief nudity)
Opens: July 18

Distribution: Focus Features

Zach Braff wanted to tell a story - and he didn't want others to tell him how to tell it. Critical and commercial success as an actor, director, or screenwriter doesn't give a person much more control over outside forces.  If you're lucky, however, it does afford a bit more control over what YOU want to do - and you find people who want to help.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Music According to Benedict: "I Am The Resurrection" & "Fools Gold" by The Stone Roses



The Stone Roses (courtesy coolalbumreview.com)

"I Am the Resurrection" and "Fools Gold" by the Stone Roses
"...they stand side by side on the album and are inseparably brilliant. I went to Manchester University partly on an insane surge of nostalgia from when I discovered these mischievous mancs and their Madchester ways! God bless the Happy Mondays and Joy Division and all the other Tony Wilson 'Factory' recorded bands." 
- Benedict Cumberbatch, Top Tunes - Two Paddocks