15 April 2008

Hollie Smith (12 Acklam Road) 15/04/08

Daniel Craig and Mike Leigh at the BFI

Went to a special preview of Daniel Craig's new movie, Flashbacks of a Fool, at the BFI. He was there with the director and producer to introduce it, before rushing off to the premiere-proper at Leicester Square:

Also saw a preview of Mike Leigh's new movie, Happy-Go-Lucky, followed by a Q&A with the irascible old sod himself. It was half-funny, half-uncomfortable as he first shot down the BFI interviewer, and then members of the audience who asked questions. I managed to corner him afterwards for a couple of seconds and he signed my copy of Vera Drake, but (although I was grateful) he wasn't very gracious about it. Oh well, they do say you shouldn't meet your idols!

Sunday stroll sights Scientology sanctioning

Anna and I had a nice day out on Sunday. We walked to the Royal Institute of British Architects (based in a 1930s Grade II listed building designed by architect George Grey Wornum) so that Anna could visit their bookshop. Owing to the horrendous downpour that appeared while we were in the shop, we also opted to stay for lunch in the wonderfully open-spaced exhibition hall.

Afterwards we went furniture browsing for our new flat, and I stumbled on an anti-Scientology protest that I couldn't help but join for a half hour or so. "Ron is gone but the con goes on!"

Portishead (Hammersmith Apollo) 10/04/08

Reclusive Bristol-band Portishead returned after a 10 year hiatus with an absolutely ripping (but thoroughly uncompromising) new album, which they gave a note perfect airing at this single London gig. It was a great peformance, but pretty unusual. Frontwoman Beth Gibbons barely moved the whole time (her silhouette, pictured below, was more interesting to look at), and there were unfortunate technical hitches that saw the band leave the stage for several minutes. Still, it was a rare opportunity to catch one of the truly great bands of my generation.

The Rip
Glory Box
Magic Doors
Wandering Star
Machine Gun
Sour Times
Nylon Smile

We Carry On

Sci-Fi-London 48 Hour Film Challenge

Entered the Sci-Fi-London 48 Hour Film Challenge with a short film called Exit Strategy (a rather odd little creature, due to the randomly drawn elements that had to be incorporated into the script.

Made with the assistance of a talented cast/crew (often filling both roles) comprising James Uren, Zoe Lee, Ivana Jackson, Laura Paulett, Natasha Higham, Laura Kell and Warren Prasek.

137 teams registered - 87 turned up to enter - 68 entries were handed in. Ours was one of them!

Late spring in London!

Can you believe it? Summer is almost here :)

Dalek in Soho

New York - Day 4

It was our last day, and we were hoping to find a nice spa and relax with a massage after our punishing few days, but none of them were free. So, it was back to the streets, to wander a little aimlessly, having covered all the big ticket items.

We gravitated back toward Central Park to see the horse carriages and to enjoy a little bit of wintery sunlight.

Horse-riding at Central Park!

Lion-riding at New York Public Library!

Times Square:

The M&Ms shop, where you can get any colour you like...

New York - Day 3

We covered a lot of ground today, firstly by taking a bus tour right around the north of Manhattan - through the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, Harlem and East Harlem, and back down through Yorkville and the Upper East Side, stopping in Midtown/Theatre District.

We finally found a decent diner in Hell's Kitchen and got ourselves a big feed of flapjacks. Thus fortified, we began our day of touring the museums and galleries, starting with the Natural History Museum. I had fond childhood memories of their dinosaur collection, and I wasn't disappointed.

It also fits into a world class display relating to bio diversity, and covers similarly exotic periods of evloutionary history as the Cenozoic. Likewise incredible was their stunning gemstone collection, surely worth a pretty penny.

It was a large and exhausting museum, but we put in a few good hours before crossing into the idyllic Central Park for some R&R with a can of coke and some classic American hotdogs. (The Coke tastes better in NYC - for real!)

We wanted to a series of sights down the Upper East Side, so we walked to the north end of Central Park in order to double back and knock them off one by one. This also enabled us to have a walk around Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Of course we went the wrong way, against the constant stream of lunchtime joggers...

First stop, the celebrated Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We didn't bother with the actual exhibition (any place that 'showcases' Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian gets a thumbs down in my book) but did enjoy the interior.

Second stop, the magnificent Frick collection. Housed in the former residence of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, it's a Roman style villa crammed with beautiful works by major artists. The rooms themselves are as delightful as the art. Artists include: Bellini, François Boucher, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, El Greco, Francisco Goya, Holbein, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Whistler, van Dyck and Van Eyck.

Third stop, the mind-blowingly monstrous Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a collection of antiques to rival the British Museum AND an art gallery that contains more noted works than I've seen in one place before. "The Met" has a permanent collection containing more than two million works of art, divided into nineteen curatorial departments, measures almost a quarter mile long and occupies more than two million square feet. Yes, this is an entire Egyptian temple:

Enjoying an art/study session...

We were in the Met so long that we ended up eating dinner there, and then having to catch a cab to our fourth and final stop, the MoMA. (Catching cabs is an interesting observation too - as soon as you stick out your arm, they descend on you like an eagle after a rabbit.)

It was free night at the MoMA, so the place was a freaking madhouse. It terms of significant works, however, it even outdid the Met. In fact, I believe it is considered by many to have the best collection of modern Western masterpieces in the world, including: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso, The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí (maddeningly on loan while we were there!), Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, Water Lilies triptych by Claude Monet and much, much more!

Found my favourite Max Ernst painting, Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale:

And Damien Hirst's famous shark-in-formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living:

New York - Day 2

The world's finest newspaper, free on the side of the road! The headline? Re: Barack Obama - "Black guy asks nation for change."

New York has a lot of important architecture, and we made several trips so that Anna could see various interesting buildings. The first of these was the Flatiron Building, so called because it was built on a triangular island block and has a steel frame. Designed by Daniel Burnham in the Beaux-Arts style, it has a lovely textured facade in limestone and glazed terra-cotta.
I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper — the prow of the Flatiron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the late-afternoon light. – H.G. Wells (1906)
It was also a very well-appointed spot, beside a lovely little park, with a view of the Empire State building.

I couldn't resist taking the time to greet the local squirrels, who seemed slightly more active than their UK relatives. Squirrels, attack!

We then made our way to the Empire State building, and explored the atrium. The queues were far too long to consider a trip to the top, and we had already planned to get the view from the Rockefeller instead. I enjoyed the King Kong exhibit, however...

Macy's flagship department store in Herald Square, with its one million square feet of selling space, is billed as the "world's largest store". We were fortunate enough to visit during an exotic flower show...

Popped by Madison Square Garden for a peek, then off to the Rockefeller Center! An international symbol of modernist architectural style blended with capitalism, this complex of 19 commercial buildings includes the famed Radio City Music Hall and (of course) the 70-floor GE Building, which we ascended to get the views from the "Top of the Rock".

Close up of Central Park:

The famous ice skating rink at the base of the Rockefeller Centre:

Time for a hearty lunch, so we walked up 5th Avenue, admiring all the extremely pricey shops, and stopped for a bite at Trump Tower, home of my favourite TV show, The Apprentice! The Donald wasn't anywhere to be seen, and neither was his hair. (I suspect it has a life of its own, and goes hunting for food in the wee hours.)

Revisited FAO Schwartz, but it wasn't as big as I remembered it (from when I was 7 years old). Still a very impressive toy shop, with lots of super large cuddly toys and nifty Lego sculptures. The walk-on piano from Big wasn't much to look at though, and is always covered in sprogs making random and awful noise...

Another big, big day for us - we also managed to squeeze in a walk to another architectural marvel, Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson's Seagram Building, plus the Ferrari showroom, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler building, the UN headquarters, and past the MoMA.

The finally up the Rockefeller again, this time at night!