This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ice-T and The Art Of Rap

 This morning, on an already hot summer day, I  flipped on Netflix and eventually landed on a documentary that sounded like it might be vaguely interesting.

I'll give it five minutes, I thought to myself, appreciating the modern convenience of video streaming.

The documentary was Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap, directed by Ice-T.  It's not exactly the type of thing you'd expect someone like me to watch.  I'm a white chick.  So white that the Wonder Bread doughiness of my legs may, in fact, be considered a marvel in certain circles.

I wouldn't generally describe myself as a "fan" of rap and hip-hop.  To be honest, when I was younger, I would tell people that I liked all kinds of music except rap, heavy metal and country.  Now, I listen to all three.  It just goes to show that tastes change over time.  It also proves the point  that if you're open-minded in life, you may discover new things and even surprise yourself.

Yes, I thought as the opening credits began, I listen to hip-hop and rap from time to time.  Ok, Ice. I'll give your doc a chance.  Maybe I'll learn something.

Over an hour later, I was still watching.  The artists Ice-T interviews shed light about their writing process and talk about the evolution of both hip-hop and rap.  I discovered the virtuosity it takes to become successful at wordplay and verbal acrobatics.  I learned things I wasn't expecting to learn.  Things I hadn't really given much thought to like:  What constitutes whackness?  And why doesn't
hip-hop get the respect of jazz and blues?

As DJ Premier says in the film, "it's like a language, you have to know how to listen to it.  Growing
up as a middle-class white chick in a suburban Midwestern town, I don't understand the streets.  Not in the way these artists do.  They speak of reality in a way that many of us want to turn a blind eye to because we don't get it (and most of us would rather not know.)

The best artists don't just freestyle.  They agonize over every line of their rhymes.  They consider themselves to be lyricists.  They want you to listen, to pay attention, to identify with them.  In my viewing of Something From Nothing, I've gained a newfound respect and appreciation for both hip-hop and rap as the art forms they are.  When I see someone like Doug E. Fresh do what he calls, "doing the beat," I'm blown away by the percussive sounds he can make just using his mouth and body.

So, give it five minutes.  And before you know it, you will have watched the entire doc.  Not only
that, but if you're open-minded you'll discover that in the process, Ice-T has succeeded in elevating
the music form in your mind.

Something From Nothing:The Art Of Rap was an official selection at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  It's currently available for streaming on Netflix as well as other video-on-demand platforms.

ALSO OF NOTE:  The 14th Annual BET Awards, celebrating the achievements of African-Americans in sports and entertainment, will be broadcast LIVE tomorrow night (6/29/14) The award show takes place in downtown Los Angeles at LA Live and will be hosted by Chis Rock.  For more
information, visit  #BETAwards #LALive

Copyright 2014 by Kendra Liedle / cococaffeine

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Classic Coppola

"The producer of me went to the director of me, and he said, 'Talk to the writer.'"

--Francis Ford Coppola on delegating responsibility on The Godfather Part II, as quoted in The Hollywood Reporter

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Human Race: A Low Budget Horror/Sci-Fi Thriller

I enjoy horror films and sci-fi occasionally, but they're not really my forte.  In that realm, I'm more of a psychological thriller/suspense/action girl.  Regardless of genre, if there's a compelling story that holds my attention and characters that I care about, I'm willing to join the ride.

This past weekend, I saw The Human Race during its run in Los Angeles.  Described as a sci-fi/horror film, The Human Race transports us, along with eighty strangers into a deadly game of life-and-death.  There's no talk of where we are, how we got there, or why.  There's no time for that.  Humans are thrust into a marathon race to the death with no further instructions beyond these rules:

“The school, the house, and the prison are safe. Follow the arrows, or you will die. Stay on the path, or you will die. If you are lapped twice, you will die. Do not touch the grass, or you will die. Race… or die.” 

In other words, there's a 99% chance that you will die.  There isn't much time to delve into who any of these characters are or what they may find at the end of the path, but this isn't that type of film.  Writer-Director Paul Hough wisely concentrates on a handful of individuals to distinguish them from the masses.  It's a necessary choice to give the audience more than a mere sketch of some of these people plucked from obscurity.  Equally as important as the narrative progresses, Hough displays a countdown as unseen victims lose their lives.

The Human Race is far from a perfect film.  We're asked to suspend our disbelief in a number of ways that are difficult to swallow.  It's a blood bath of unbelievable proportions, but the film also has a certain air of campiness and dark humor which is necessary, considering its unfathomable ridiculousness.  Why is everyone there apparently plucked from the same city block?  And why do the rules sound like something some demented kid would make up?  Like The Hunger Games and "The Most Dangerous Game,"a short story by Richard Connell, we just go with it.

This said, the film is not nearly as bad as general reviews of it would have you believe.  It's not without redeeming qualities.  In fact, it's unique in many ways.  For one,  major characters who lead the race are not whom you might expect.  For example:  a one-legged man and two other individuals who are deaf.  Hough as the writing god of this world also keeps it as a level playing field: Death doesn't discriminate.  It can strike anyone at any time.  And will strike everyone eventually.  That means that the pregnant woman, the elderly man, children, religious men-- none are spared from this ultimate test at the mercy of some unseen torturer.  The film has no fear of being offensive, that's for sure.  But this torturer also believes in justice so those who try to manipulate the system will also be annihilated.

In his directing, Paul Hough gets good performances from his lead, Eddie McGee as well as a handful of others who have especially memorable turns in the film especially Trista Robinson, T. Arthur Cottam and Richard Gale.  For a low-budget film of such ambition, Hough also mixes it up visually, using interesting camera movements and shots that many big-budget directors wouldn't think to try.  And the two deaf actors?  Turns out, they aren't deaf at all.

Additionally, as I came to find out, Hough threw in a couple of deaf characters purely for utilitarian purposes: They didn't have the money to pay a sound guy for those days:
Deaf characters = No spoken dialogue = Budget saver.

The Human Race is not meant to be perfect.  It's not meant to make sense completely.  It's important to remember that the film is made by (and for) horror fans.  See this movie review by one horror film site. Essentially, it's a niche film.  This is an important distinction because it shouldn't be compared with big-budget films made for mainstream audiences.  It's neither of those things... and was never meant to be.

The Human Race Film Trailer

Copyright © 2014 by KLiedle / Cococaffeine

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Baseball Events and Exhibits: A Legacy Of Magic

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again..."  (From Field Of Dreams)

I recently went to a game at Dodger Stadium and while sitting up in the stands awaiting the next pitch, I was again reminded of one simple fact: There are few things that bring me closer to memories of childhood than a trip to the ballpark.  While my hometown didn't have a major league team, we still had baseball.  

I frequently went to minor league games with my dad when I was a kid.  Every time I go to a game, no matter what stadium it is or who is playing, I'm whisked back to a time when life was simple, when I dreamed big dreams and wondered who I'd become and what I'd be doing years and years from now.  Baseball is part of that magic for me, the joy of an afternoon at the ballpark, the belief that anything is possible.  

Field of Dreams, one of my all-time favorite baseball movies just hit it's 25th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, Kevin Costner along with his family and a few other luminaries from the film went back to Dyersville, Iowa, where the real Field Of Dreams still stands, The Hollywood Reporter announced today.  

After the film's release, the original Iowa Field Of Dreams, about a 5-hour drive from where I grew up in Nebraska, became a tourist attraction for legions of baseball fans everywhere.  Even today, people still come... just as the film predicted.  A weekend full of special events to mark the 25th anniversary milestone was appropriately scheduled for this Father's Day weekend.  By all accounts, it was a success: 

"I'm glad to be here with friends and old acquaintances and making some new ones, and for my children to be a part of this," Costner said. "It's certainly a high mark for me, this little movie, and it remains so."
(As reported by The Hollywood Reporter)

The history of baseball is fascinating, even mythical in its beginnings.  Here in Los Angeles, home of the Dodgers, the Japanese American National Museum is currently hosting a special exhibit detailing the accomplishments of many in baseball's longstanding history.  I recently attended the exhibit and was struck by how much the history of baseball has paralleled (and even shaped) U.S. history, especially as reflected in the civil rights era.  

Although, Dodgers: Brotherhood Of The Game focuses on the Dodgers contributions to the legacy of baseball, the exhibit focuses specifically on the culture of baseball as a whole as seen through the accomplishments of culturally diverse players, Jackie Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela, Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo as well as manager Tommy Lasorda, all of whom were instrumental in making the baseball the multicultural sport it is today.  Apart from the artifacts of the era, I found the historic timeline of baseball milestones to be not only extensive, but an especially impressive overview.

Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game is a collaboration between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Peter O’Malley and Family, and the Japanese American National Museum. The exhibit is showing through September 14, 2014 at The Japanese American National Museum (100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012, (213) 625-0414)

Although time goes by and people grow older and pass away, baseball is a constant that I hope will be there for generations to come.   These days, it may not be the most popular spectator sport, but that certainly doesn't take anything away from the beauty of the game and its longstanding traditions.  Long live baseball!

For previous entries about baseball history and moviesfrom this blog, please see: Baseball Nostalgia and Jackie Robinson's Legacy

Copyright © 2014 by Kendra Liedle

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day : Designs For Dad

Happy Father's Day!

Handmade Father's Day Card
Cardstock / Felt tip marker / Newsprint 
#CardsbyKendra #Cococaffeinedesigns #Handmadecards

Copyright © 2014 by K.Liedle / Cococaffeine Designs 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Fragility Of Human Life: Social Documentaries

In our day-to-day lives, we often forget just how fragile we are as human beings.  We rush through every moment trying to get to the next, rarely paying attention to what we’ve left behind. 

This past week, a family friend quietly passed away from complications she’d endured after a freak accident.  For the privacy of the family, I will only tell you this: One evening, she brushed past a grandfather clock in her entryway, a clock that had been there for as long as I can remember, and the clock toppled on her.  It sounds like the premise of a story by Edgar Allen Poe, but it actually happened.  I’m deeply saddened.  She was a beautiful person and there are not enough words in the world to describe her loss.  It’s an absolute tragedy…

It’s easy to take life for granted.  Tomorrow will be another day for me, you may say.  What you forget is that no matter what your age or circumstances, tomorrow is not guaranteed.  It can be taken from you in an instant.  And in that same instant, you can be taken away from the ones who love you—the people who assumed you would be with them tomorrow, just like always.

Two social documentaries I’ve seen recently serve as reminders of the fragility of human life.  Not everything can be avoided and accidents do indeed happen.  However, the subject matter of both of these films illustrates instances in which a tragedy could’ve been prevented if everyone had just been paying full attention in the moment.

In From One Second To The Next Filmmaker Werner Herzog painfully shows the dangers and the consequences caused by texting while driving.  At times, it’s immensely difficult to watch, but it’s a short film with a very powerful message and I highly recommend it.

The other film is Ghost Bike by Danny Gamboa and Kat Jarvis.  A ghost bike, by definition, is “a roadside memorial placed where a cyclist was killed… as a reminder to passing motorists to share the road.”  Perhaps, like me, you’ve occasionally seen these white “ghost bikes” at the scene of a fatal collision.  I first became aware of the film at last month’s Bike Week L.A. and felt that it was certainly worth a mention.

With our current fast-forward culture, it’s becoming harder and harder to practice mindfulness.  I, too, struggle with this but I try to force myself to slow down, unplug, and practice enjoying the moments of my life while I can.  I won’t be here forever and neither will any of you who may read this…

Life is a gift; make it count.

From One Second To The Next

Ghost Bike

Blog content Copyright © 2014 by Kendra Liedle