‘Radioactive”

Yesterday, I watched the movie “Radioactive” (a part of Siskel center membership). It’s a great movie, but watching it at that moment and in my current state of mind was a terrible idea.

It’s such a tragic story, of which I knew almost nothing. On a personal level, it elevates the fears I am trying to dismiss. I cried a lot while watching…

Mr. Jones: the Movie

On Friday, we had a movie night again, this time I invited my very good friend who loves movies, to join Igor and I. And she, in turn, invited her other friend, who is also a passionate movie lover. Our group of four watched Mr. Jones movie.

The movie seemed very interesting from the synopsis, and when I saw it coming in the Film Center from your Sofa series, I decided right away that that’s what we are watching next time. But I have to admit, I didn’t do any reading ahead.

Because of that, in the beginning, it seemed very confusing. The synopsis was saying “right before the WWII,” so I was thinking about 1937-39, but actually, the events in the movie took place in 1932-33. Initially, some small historical inaccuracies were distracting, but later I was really taken by the film. The cinematography is brilliant, and the story is captivating.

While we were watching, Igor googled the film’s origin, and we were surprised to learn that the film is based on real events.

Today, I continued googling and found a website dedicated to Gareth Jones. The site has references to most of his publications, and after I found it, I could not stop reading. Is it unbelievable, how much he was able to witness! I also found that the book of his Soviet dairies is available at the Chicago Public Library. Hopefully when the library will resume operation, Igor will be able to check it out.

It is so unfortunate, that Gareth Jons was not really heard, or rather not listened to!

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Moview

I do not remember how that movie ended up in my watch list. After I started to watch Siskel From Your Sofa movies, all the third parties started to send me their newsletters, so it should have come from one of those. I was intrigued by it’s description and was looking forward to watching it.

Maybe, I had too high expectations, but the movies left me with a question: so what? Everybody should pay taxes? Richer people should pay higher taxes? Yes, I know, I agree, so what now?

Not like I didn’t like the movie, I liked it, but still…

If anybody is interested in watching, here is a list of current and future virtual screenings: Capital Movie

“Plastic Wars”

One of the many things which are not normal these days is the fact that we can’t come to the stores with our reusable bags. “Until further notice,” as most of the stores as saying. 

I washed all my reusable shopping bags and all my reusable mesh grocery bags and folded them on one of the shelves in the laundry room. I hope I will be able to use them again at some point. But each time I am placing a pile of plastic bags into the garbage, my heart wrenches. 

Last week, I finally watched the documentary Plastic Wars, which was on my list for a while. It is horrifying to see all the damage that plastic does for the environment. It’s devastating to learn that even when you think you are recycling, you are often not. That makes you to disgust plastic packaging even more. And yet – that’s what we have to do these days…

I still highly recommend the movie – watch it here

CRESCENDO: A Movie by Dror Zahavi

I watched this movie, although I didn’t have time, and I had other things to do. I dropped everything and could not stop. And now I can’t do anything until I write about it.

As a Chicagoan, and as a music lover, I know about Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, how I could not know? He talks about this orchestra almost every time he talks about anything publicly. I also know that many people, both inside and outside Israel, do not like this project. Barenboim always says that that project won’t bring peace, won’t stop the war, but it helps to build understanding. Now I am wondering, to what extent this movie is “loosely based” on Barenboim’s story. Because it’s way worse. And hopeless.

Twenty years ago, I resolved that I will never speak or write publicly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is one of those conflicts, where everybody is right, and everybody is wrong, and there is no way to change anybody’s opinion. And sadly, this brilliant movie proves it.

I do not think that anybody who believes that there is a right side of that conflict, should watch this movie. There is a reason why on Vimeo, the comments for that movie are disabled. I wanted to cry through most of the movie. And I want to cry now.

Watching Movies Together

Since the Siskel Film Center started their “Film Center from your Sofa” programming, I was thinking of how Igor and I can watch movies together, as if we were actually at the movies. And after I figured out how to share the screen on zoom, I knew that that was the answer. The only thing to figure out was what to watch and what time will work.

We settled for the movie “The Booksellers” .

The allure of the printed volume is at the heart of this engaging, Gotham-centered overview of the rare-book trade. One collector compares the relationship of an individual and a book to a love affair, and bibliophile Fran Lebowitz (whose recurrent comments form a loose spine for the film) avows that she could never bring herself to throw a book away. Executive-produced and narrated by Parker Posey, THE BOOKSELLERS explores the rapidly changing (some would say, dying) world of high-end book dealers, book scouts, collectors, and antiquarians. In the post-Amazon, post-Kindle world, are bookstores—and even the book itself—doomed? The disappearance of many beloved bookstores strikes a melancholy note, but the film also takes note of a recent boom in small, independent stores, and bookseller Heather O’Donnell asserts, “The death of the book is highly overrated.” (MR)

From the Siskel Center website

We loved the movie and the idea of watching together (for the price of one :)), although Igor had some sound quality issues. As for me, I had a virtual night out 🙂

Continue reading “Watching Movies Together”

Santiago, Italy – a Documentary

One more of many Siskel Center offerings, Santiago, Italy is a documentary about the 1973 events in Chile, and about the chilean people who found their new home in Italy.

After many years of Soviet propaganda, and then after many years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is easy to fall into a habit of thinking that everything that we were told back then was propaganda :). It took me as a surprise to hear that Salvador Allende, indeed, was building socialism in Chile and that he indeed had the broad support of the Chilean people. And that the Communist Party of Italy was, indeed, a serious political power in the ’70s. 

Also, I saw a lot of footage of coup d’état, which I do not remember seen back in the ’70s, and I do not know why especially because I’ve seen some other pieces. It was a very strange feeling. I have already forgotten that the events of 1973 were tragic ones, and this documentary reminded me of them. People are telling about their experience, real people, they pause, they repeat themselves and start over. They are trying to find the right words to describe their feelings; they laugh and cry…

Film Center from Your Sofa: Mephisto

To be precise, it didn’t need to be a Siskel Center member to watch this movie online. But one of the reasons I love Siskel center is that they make me aware of the great movies I might never hear about otherwise. 

I believe the Mephisto was the first film directed by Istvan Szabo I ever saw, and I can’t even describe how much it impressed me! Often, when you watch the movies made in the 60s-70s-80s, you can’t but notice some “old” ways. Not the case here. The film feels so up to date! 

Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Szabó’s most celebrated film features a mesmerizing turn by Klaus Maria Brandauer that Roger Ebert called “one of the greatest movie performances I have ever seen.” Brandauer plays Hendrik Hoefgen, a German provincial actor who starts out in the 1920s with high ambitions and fashionably leftist ideals. His signature role is Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust, but he proves to be more temptee than tempter when the Nazis take over and cultivate him as an all-too-willing tool of the regime. MEPHISTO is more than just a showcase for Brandauer, as Szabó crafts a rich and vivid picture of both the Nazi and theatrical worlds, whose shared reliance on sham and spectacle exposes the slippery slope between artistic self-absorption and moral/political corruption. 

Gene Siskel Film Center

When I was watching the film it felt like I heard it just yesterday: I am not interested in politics! I am an artist (scientist, writer)! I am doing things which are more important to mankind than politics. And I need to be here, to preserve theater, science, art for future generations! And by the way, <put the name of a political figure here> is way better than others! He is smart, and he cares about art-science-theater, you name it…. Great movie…

And yes, I am planning to watch the other two!

Online Activities

There have been a lot of online activities recently, so many that sometimes I have to choose which one to attend – almost like in the previous life. 

Yoga. After I started to take yoga classes with my old teacher, I found out that LifeStart – the fitness franchise we have in our office building – is streaming a lot of free classes including yoga with my second-favorite instructor, and they are all free. I signed up for the first one on Wednesday, and it was great. Now I signed for one more on Friday:). I will still keep the semi-private class with my old teacher on Mondays, and this way, my life will be yoga-complete!

ArtsWFMT Classical radio station always had a lot to offer, but now they started something new – Maestro’s Choice. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, WFMT and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have partnered to launch a new six-program broadcast series. Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has curated the programs. It runs every Tuesday from 8 PM to 10 PM. Last Tuesday, the first piece performed was Shostakovich Second Cello Concerto, Ricardo Muti conducting, Yo-Yo-Ma – cello solo. It was amazing, and the sound is so good – you feel like you are at the Orchestra Hall! I was doing some work and listening to music – something I used to do in the past, but haven’t done for a very long time!

Also, the Siskel Center started to stream some of their programs. I bought tickets for two movies so far. They are good for several days, so I might end up watching them, no matter how busy I am at work. 

Volunteering. Our volunteer coordinator in the Open Door Shelter reached out to the volunteers asking whether we will be interested in doing some online activities with the kids. I answered – YES! We are still in the process of planning, but meanwhile, I listened to the press conference with the Night Ministry representatives about the work they are doing right now, how the services were modified, what the challenges are, and how we can help. 

Professional Development. Surprisingly, professional online activities were less interesting than others, but I finally figured out zoom, purchased a professional subscription, and scheduled the April meetup of Chicago PUG online. Good for me 🙂

“An American Summer”, and What This Book Means to Me

An American Summer is one of the more recent books by Alex Kotlowitz, and to be honest, I am not sure whether it makes sense to anybody who did not read any of his books before, or didn’t see any of his documentaries. 

I first learned about Kotlowitz when the Interruptors documentary was released. At that time, I was already quite involved in homeless charities, and I knew quite a bit about Chicago schools and existing issues. It just happened that I got tickets for Igor and myself to “Chicago Live!” where the first episode was the meeting with the “Interrupters” team. After the show, we talked to Alex Kotlowitz, the film director Steve James, and with amazing Ameena Matthews. And then we went to see the screening of the movie in the Siskel center, and there was more conversation there. In shots, for me, there is a history behind that book.

This book is just a collection of episodes. No plot. No conclusions. No judgment. But still, it shows, very painfully, how difficult it is to get out of poverty and violence. And how easy it is to fall back. Story after story, different people, the same scenario.

Continue reading ““An American Summer”, and What This Book Means to Me”