Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Broken Mirror

From my daughter's book, Zen ABC:

A monk asked Hua-yen, "How does an enlightened person return to the world of delusion?" The master replied, "A broken mirror never reflects again, and the fallen flowers never go back to the old branches."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ruby, Please Take Home the Oscar

I will be highly disappointed if this woman right here doesn't win the Oscar for her role in the film American Gangster. Ruby Dee is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category along with Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan, Amy Ryan, and Tilda Swinson.
Dee is one of America's finest actors and has paved the way for many of our country's African American artists. The level of excellence that she and her husband Ossie Davis gave to some of Spike Lee's films is phenomenal.

I respect her not only for her great acting abilities, but also for her work as an activist, and her great teaching talents. She taught me and I will never forget the lessons I learned from her.
Check out what I wrote about Ms. Dee in my personal essay titled "Listening to Nina Simone," which first appeared in The Writers Loft magazine called The Trunk:
I took a solo performance class with Ruby Dee at Hunter College in New York City. From her I learned to always have a purpose when performing or creating any type of artistic project. Ms. Dee screamed at me when I was rehearsing a piece for an upcoming show. “Speak the words!” she said. She was telling me to give it all I had. I’ve been trying to do that ever since. And I’ve got nothin’ but love for her husband, the late Ossie Davis, who would lovingly fill in for his wife and teach her class when she had other engagements. His advice about performing and the arts was always as solid as hers.
Also, read a Variety magazine article about Dee here.

Here are two interesting answers that Dee gave to the reporter:

What's your favorite film? A Raisin in the Sun
(This is, of course, one of the film's that Dee herself helped to make golden.)

What do you want in a director? "I'm an actor who appreciates direction. I respect the fact that a director has studied the text and the road map of work before us, the subtleties, interconnections, underpinnings. ... His job is to paint the entire picture and knows all the colors that have to be in it." 

Here's this master actress playing one of the best roles she had in Jungle Fever, as the mother of Gator, a strung out crack addict. As always, when she and her husband Ossie worked together, it was always a joy to behold.

Friday, February 22, 2008

George Clooney and Michael Clayton

A blog post last week by New York Times writer David Carr gives a good description of two Oscar nominees' performances and why they are both great. I've only seen pieces of Daniel Day-Lewis' performance in “There Will Be Blood” and it gave me chills. But as Carr points out in his review, George Clooney's performance in "Michael Clayton" was just as brilliant, because like Carr, I saw the character Michael Clayton when I watched the film, Clooney was gone.

In his Carpetbagger blog post in The New York Times, dated February 13, David Carr said he:

...was never able to forget while he was watching ["There Will Be Blood] that this was a Great Actor playing the Role of a Lifetime. Mr. Day-Lewis’s substantial skills — an ability to push his body and voice into something remarkable to behold — kept pulling the Bagger out of the movie. He found himself focusing on the actor’s choices and less on the story...

And then there is George Clooney. Mr. Clooney is a movie star who, like his rival in the best actor competition, happens to be a working actor, which is something we tend to forget because he has such a large footprint in the culture. He is where we store cool — Danny Ocean is just one click away from his public persona.

Nonetheless, in “Clayton” he inhabits a lowly servant to power who is constantly being pushed around by seen and unseen forces. He is a loser in a nice three-piece, a guy who traded in his ideals on the cheap and is often seen staring into the mess he has made of his life.

The trick of his performance lies in his ability to dial back his own wattage. He looks doughy, burdened and confused through much of the film, swimming through the detritus of a misbegotten life and finally finding his way. The Bagger is less impressed with his too-pat speech-making that baits the trap to bring the whole thing down and more taken with his modulation and nuance in a quietly demanding role. As a fixer, father, poker player and sibling, Mr. Clooney uses his craft to make us forget about the movie star and focus on a guy named Michael Clayton.

Both actors have already received the ultimate prize — Mr. Day-Lewis won a lead actor Oscar for his freakishly amazing turn as Christy Brown in “My Left Foot,” and Mr. Clooney won a supporting Oscar for playing Bob Barnes in “Syriana” — so there is no historical burden in making the award. The Bagger is not a clapper, but he will be cheering inside, along with everyone else, when Mr. Day-Lewis wins because he is certainly deserving. He just thinks that, in a year thick with excellence — Johnny Depp, Viggo Mortensen and Tommy Lee Jones have their own legitimate claims — the performance that will stay with him belongs to Mr. Clooney.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Final Cut Pro (Not Yet)

I shot some footage yesterday for my first short film. It's amazing how ideas can come to you when you're on a tight schedule and don't have much resources. I spotted some shots that fit the theme of my project (well, even if they don't fit perfectly, I'll make them fit some kinda way). I was in two of my favorite get away places in North Carolina that have spoken to me in the past and spoke to me yesterday as I passed by them. I made a makeshift dolly for one sequence (Lord, please make the shot come out OK).

My first lesson on Final Cut Pro (an editing system) was almost overwhelming, but I've decided to take it one step at a time and get extra help (from somebody!) if I need it--who am I kidding, I already know that I'll need it. My first project will be less than 5 minutes long, but I can see myself spending hours just editing it.

Here are some of the terms I learned from our instructor (an ace editor herself).

"in" point and "out" point
undo (this command is priceless and a life saver)
digitize the footage
video clip
audio clip
batch caputre
log footage
transitions (there are many of these, including the cross dissolve, fade in and fade out)
"J" edit
"L" edit
video filters
color correction
image control


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sacrifice and Good Deeds

From the Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings

Anyone who wishes to have good fortune
Will constantly practice sacrifice.
And anyone who cultivates the habit of doing
good deeds, especially for the needy,
This person, in particular, will never lack

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ile Aiye: Lovely Brazilian Music

I’m presently teaching a student from Brazil who has also become a friend. Both of us are mothers and share a similar view of the world, so we just naturally hit it off. She has been sharing some of her political and cultural interests with me so I’ve been learning a great deal about Brazil’s leaders, music, culture, problems, assets, etc.

Many times her lessons will send us exploring the internet to find out more about a topic. During our last class, she told me about her favorite singer, Marisa Monte, who has quite a luscious voice and provocative style. When I get some extra money, I plan to buy one of her CDs. Here is Marisa singing on YouTube —she’s definitely worth listening to.

When I told my Brazilian student that one of my daughter’s favorite songs, Ile Aiye, is also Brazilian, we had to go searching for a version of the song online. What we found is a gorgeous version of the song by a group of women who sing acapella music from around the world. The group, which consists of five ladies, is called AkaBella and their repertoire includes songs from such places as Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Cuba, Brazil, Japan and North America.

Hearing these ladies (Nola Pierce, Verena Reece, Lorenza Simmons, Lauren Smith and Melody Walker) sing Ile Aiye, a song that my little lady has loved since she was an infant, made me smile and clap my hands. I was also quite surprised that my Brazilian student/friend knew all of the words. Evidently it’s a song that many Brazilian children learn and remember with affection.

Check out AkaBella sing this lovely tune on YouTube. You’ll wish you knew Portuguese so that you could sing along.