Ottawa Folk Festival: Kris Kristofferson connects with crowd in cold

Ottawa Folk Festival: Kris Kristofferson connects with crowd in cold

Though it wasn’t listed in the program, a November chill showed up last night at the 14th annual Ottawa Folk Festival, along with Oh Susanna, The Foggy Hogtown Boys and highly anticipated headliner Kris Kristofferson.

Oh Susanna

“I’m much too aggressive for the West Coast,” confessed this ex-Vancouverite, who went on to prove it with a country-folk set both frank and feisty. This is a persona at once plain and edgy, with songs both painterly and bittersweet, about the imbalance of broken bonds and the struggle to make things whole. Each, even at their most placid, has country-rock leanings; what you’re left with is Sylvia Tyson fronting for The Eagles. She shone brightly through a couple of boot-stompers, then surprised with a trad-style finale, accompanied by Toronto’s Foggy Hogtown Boys (see below.) It’s twang with tang, like home-cooked chicken with kick.

The Foggy Hogtown Boys

They look like crew-cutted collegians of an old Norman Luboff Choir LP but their souls are pure shaggy-haired hillbilly. These nouveau hicks bring a clean, new luster to some well-worn bluegrass, with tight, playful harmonies, sweeter than Virginia tobacco fiddle work, and animated five string banjo. They’re good for a couple of ol’ fashioned breakneck breakdowns here and there, too. A fine, fun ensemble, bringing the bluegrass dead back to life with crowd-pleasing reverence and cheek.

Kris Kristofferson

The festival’s flagship act, Kris Kristofferson, rode onto the main stage like the last of the desperado-philosophers. There’s a line in his In The News, which he sung in a voice that’s grown even more brittle with age, that chronicles how “a little piece of truth and beauty dies.” That’s how it feels as Kristofferson, one of the last of the anti-establishment elder statesmen, offers up his humane, intelligent insights just a few more precious time before age (already hot on his heels – he reaches for the wrong harmonicas and lapses on lyrics) catches up to him. The well-received Kristofferson had the audience hanging on his every visible breath; at times, like during the tragic tale of Darby’s Castle, it was so quiet you could hear the crowd’s teeth chattering. Watching the man’s hold over his faithful is akin to watching Jesus pull out a guitar and harmonica instead of bread and wine at the Last Supper, and offer up his life-sustaining insights through a parable about Bobby McGee. Most of his greatest hits came out, each of them unprompted sing-a-longs, as did back catalogue gems like the Native lament Johny Lobo and a fun but sophomoric parody of Big John.

Ottawa Folk Festival: Kris Kristofferson connects with crowd in cold

Ottawa Folk Festival: Kris Kristofferson connects with crowd in cold

Charles Boyer Was Among Greatest Screen Lovers: Off-Screen, Star of Gaslight, Algiers, Love Affair Was One-Woman Man

Boyer was best known for a series of romantic roles in the 1930s and 40s — films that proved you didn't have to be classically handsome to be a Hollywood leading man.

Charles Boyer's Appearance Needed a Lot of Hollywood Help

Filmmakers worked hard to shore up Boyer's physical limitations. Just 5-foot-9, the star wore lifts to bring him close to six feet. Studio dressers labored to disguise a distinct paunch. And Boyer, who lost his hair in his 20s, wore a toupee — but only on screen; he refused to wear it in public.

The studio-honed image of the Great Lover was aided by Boyer's magnificently deep, resonant French-accented voice. With impeccable manners written into most of his roles, Boyer was the personification of European sophistication, charm and culture.

Boyer Studied Philosophy in College

Charles Boyer was a shy country boy from the south of France. As a hospital orderly during World War I, he reportedly staged comic sketches to cheer up wounded soldiers.

To appease his mother, the bookish Boyer majored in philosophy at the Sorbonne. He later studied acting at the Paris Conservatory before pursuing a stage career in the early 1920s. The young actor made a number of French films during those years, before MGM signed him to a contract at decade's end.

Boyer's American film career didn't gain traction until 1932. That year, playing a chauffeur in the Jean Harlow vehicle Red-Headed Woman got him noticed, thanks in part to his voice, which played well in the new sound era.

After the success of a couple more European films — director Fritz Lang's Liliom in 1934 and Mayerling two years later — Boyer became the object of Hollywood desires.

Boyer's Classic Romances Co-Starred Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich, Others

His image as a Continental lover was cemented in such glossy American productions as Algiers ( a remake of the French hit, Pepe Le Moko), History is Made at Night, The Garden of Allah and Love Affair, opposite Hedy Lamarr, Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich and Irene Dunne, respectively.

Other leading ladies included Bette Davis, Margaret Sullavan and Olivia De Havilland.

Offscreen, the former philosophy student was a bookworm who enjoyed Los Angeles but shunned the Hollywood night life. A romantic in real life, Boyer was decidedly a one-woman man. He met British actress Pat Paterson at a party in 1934. Within two weeks, they were engaged and they wed three months later. By all accounts, theirs was a devoted, lifelong union.

An international star of both American and European films, Boyer became a naturalized American citizen in 1942.

Honorary Oscar in 1943

The following year, he received an honorary Oscar for "progressive cultural achievement" for helping establish the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles.

But Boyer never won a competitive Oscar, despite four nominations — for Conquest (1937), Algiers (1938), Gaslight (1944) and Fanny (1961).

Instead, Algiers brought him a kind of unwanted immortality. As Pepe Le Moko, the thief who steals Hedy Lamarr's heart, Boyer never actually says, "Come with me to the Casbah." But thanks to generations of impressionists, he was (mis)identified with the line in the same way Cary Grant was unfairly tattoed with "Judy, Judy, Judy," which he never said in a movie, either.

Charles Boyer Inspired Iconic Cartoon Character Pepe Le Pew

Probably Boyer's best-known role was in Gaslight, in which he was cast against type as a scheming husband trying to drive insane his new wife, played by Ingrid Bergman.

In 1945 came a different kind of immortality. Legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones modeled his passionate cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew after the French star. The name was an obvious play on Pepe Le Moko, and completing the homage was voice specialist Mel Blanc, whose imitation of Boyer was spot on.

After the war, Boyer's international career continued with film work in Europe (including The Earrings of Madame De…) and stage roles in London and New York. He won a 1951 Special Tony Award for Don Juan in Hell, directed by and co-starring Charles Laughton.

Boyer Partnered With Other Stars in Television Production Company

Boyer also became a powerful television presence in the United States. He partnered with movie greats David Niven, Dick Powell and Ida Lupino in Four Star Productions, appearing in the company's Four Star Theatre series in the early 50s. A decade later, he appeared regularly on Four Star's short-lived anthology series The Rogues.

On film, the aging actor moved into character parts in the 1950s and 60s, with diverse supporting roles in Around the World in 80 Days, Barefoot in the Park, Is Paris Burning?, Casino Royale, a remake of the Frank Capra classic Lost Horizon and The Madwoman of Chaillot.

Suicide Plagues Boyer Family

Boyer endured the loss of his only child, son Michael Charles Boyer, in 1965. Michael Boyer shot himself to death at 21 playing Russian Roulette, reportedly after his girlfriend broke up with him.

In August, 1978, Boyer was retired and living in Paradise Valley, Arizona when his wife of 44 years, Pat, died of cancer. Two days later, a deeply grieving Charles Boyer decided he could not live without her and took an overdose of the powerful barbiturate Seconal. He was two days shy of his 79th birthday.

Charles Boyer is buried beside his wife and son, and near many entertainment luminaries, at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, not far from the studios where he made many of his films.

So, You Have an Idea for a Movie, Huh?

So, you've got a great idea? Do you dream of it being on the big screen? Well stop dreaming and make it happen. If you've got a great idea run with it. Ideas and scripts are sold everyday to major studios, independent companies and ambitious filmmakers. Sometimes these have six figure pay days attached to them, other times it's just a credit but either way it's you idea up there on the screen. Sounds like fun, huh? So where do you begin?

Let's start with the basics, a film is shot based upon a script, also known as a screenplay. The screenplay is an organized telling of the story written in both storytelling and film terms to express what should be seen and heard on screen. While films and television shows are structured defiantly the underlying format is essentially the same. If you choose to set out on this adventure alone you may want to purchase screenwriting software such as Final Draft or Movie Magic to assist you. It will make the logistics of proper formatting much simpler so you can spend more time on the story itself.

Alright, so you have an idea. One of the first things you'll need to decide is if you want to write this yourself, have someone else write it for you or simply try to go "pitch" and sell the idea. While the last option may sound the best it is also the most difficult if you have no contacts to do so. Pitching, involves gong into an executive's office and giving a quick "sales pitch" of you movie idea. You'll have two or so minutes to really grab their attention and get them to wrap their heads around your concept. This is an art in itself. There are plenty of terrific writers who fall apart in pitch meetings.

The opposite is also common, great sales men who don't know the first things about how to develop a character and escalate conflict. If you have the contact necessary to just make a call and set a meeting with an executive you choose good for you. If you don't you should just stick to the old fashioned way and prove your worth because in the long run you'll probably garner a lot more respect that way anyhow.

So, do you write it yourself or hire someone else? There are positive and negative aspects to both. It depends on your writing skills, time and money. If you are that great of a writer or know nothing about writing it would be best to hire someone else if you can afford to. If you're low on cash you might try finding a student studying screenwriting who would be willing to write for low pay or a share of profits. If you want to try your hand at it and see what happens but know nothing about the format and structure of screenwriting get ready to start reading.

There are numerous books on screenwriting that you can read as well as seminars you can attend if you're not the book type. The best seminar I can recommend is given by a screenwriter named Blake Snyder. He knows what he's talking about. But what's more is the way he breaks things down, he makes it simpler to figure out how to best tell your story. Not mention he's a really nice guy. Go to blakesnyder.com for more information about his weekend workshops and seminars. You can also read his book Save The Cat. The sequel, Save The Cat Goes To The Movies will be out soon.

So that's just a starting ground for your ventures, if you have an idea run with it. You never know what will happen and even if nothing ever does the adventure alone is worth it all.

So, You Have an Idea for a Movie, Huh?

So, You Have an Idea for a Movie, Huh?

FrostNixon, the Movie

Frost/Nixon – I think it is one of the most overlooked Oscar-nominated movies in 2008. It is thrilling, powerful and dramatic. The plot is simple (well, after all, it is based on something that actually happened, how creative could it be?); however, it is still full of suspense, surprises and twists.

Frank transformed himself into Nixon although he does not look like Nixon at all. He used his voice, facial expressions, body language, and eyes to transform himself into a historical figure. I know he is not Nixon but as I was watching the movie, to me, he was Nixon.

Frank's version of Nixon appeared to be arrogant, confident, nonchalant, and had a sense of superiority in the beginning. In fact, he was going to use the interview with Frost as an opportunity to redeem himself, to remind the public of his past achievements as a politician, to help erase his poor image because of the Watergate scandal, to safeguard his formidable status as a former president of the US. However, we all know what happened in the end. But it is interesting to see Nixon's mental transformation throughout the tapings. In the beginning, you can tell that he thought Frost was not his match and that Frost was nobody, and the tone he used when he talked to Frost was somewhat degrading. Nixon had the upper hand in the early tapings; nevertheless, something changed towards the end. Frost managed to ask the golden question and got the answer he was hoping for. Then, we saw Nixon's strong facade started to crumple, his loneliness, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and weakness all started to reveal. It was at that moment that Frost began to feel sorry for Nixon. Frost decided not to push for more. Indeed, he regretted that he pushed for too much as he began to see another side of Nixon…As everyone around Frost was celebrating, Frost was looking at Nixon as he left the house. Maybe Frost was wondering, "Did I do the right thing?" at that time.

What I've described above is based on what I saw in the movie (now I am actually interested in reading the original book written by David Frost, and I would like to see the original play as well). Frank's performance is just so powerful. How did he manage to do it? I also admire the director's ability to turn a rather boring topic (history and debate?) into as thrilling as it is.

Too bad the movie did not get as much spotlight as some other movies in the past few months! However, I am sure this movie will stand. Maybe 10 years down the road, people will actually realize what they have missed out by not seeing this movie.

The Saddest Movie Moments

Since I’m a man, everyone knows that I am psychically unable to produce tears, but if I could there are certain movie moments that would cause a complete collapse of my manhood. It seems as if the best parts of movies are always the saddest. While there is a long list of potential tear-jerkers that could make this list, I have based the picks off of personal experience.

The Saddest Movie Moments Ever

Home Alone (1990): Marley (The old man across the street played by Roberts Blossom) reunites with his family. I dare you to tell me this scene doesn’t choke you up. It’s just so happy it gets me every time. I don’t know if its the music or the actor’s expressions that makes this moment so tear-jerking, but whatever it is John Hughes did an amazing job.

Up (2009): Pretty much the whole movie, but more specifically the first twenty or so minutes – Oh boy, Up. What to say about this film? The first moments in the movie has next to no dialogue, yet through visuals the audience is pretty much devastated for the rest of the film. The workers at Pixar are the masters of taking light hearted animated features and transforming them into stories that can soften up the biggest of curmudgeons.

Mystic River (2003): Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) finds out that his daughter has been murdered – Proof that even though some of us might think Sean Penn is absolutely crazy, he can still deliver one of the most heart breaking performances of all time. It’s not even just this specific movie moment either, Penn has been known to force tears out of his audience with films like I am Sam and Milk. Mystic River seems to just stick with me, mainly due to the way that Penn crafts empathy from a situation most of us can’t relate to in the slightest.

The Land Before Time (1988): The death of Little Foot’s mother – Not much to be said about this scene. It’s heartbreaking and that’s putting it lightly. Watching this as children, I’m surprised most of us don’t need therapy. Sad movie, but boy do I love it.

: The death of Mufasa – One of my favorite Disney films for sure. The Lion King sure did know how to reach our emotions. If a baby lion lying with his dead father doesn’t choke you up, what is wrong with you?

Bambi (1942): The death of Bambi’s mother – Apparently the writers over at Disney are twisted because a lot of their movies are pretty traumatic to say the least. Main characters are killed off, people are constantly sobbing and mothers are shot by lunatics. I wont lie to you, Bambi’s mother dying is the saddest moment in the film but not the most disturbing. That award goes to the bird who hides and then gets nervous and tries to fly away only to be shot and killed in front of her friends. Re-watch the movie. That actually happens.

Cast Away (2000): Wilson the volley ball floats away – Yes, a volleyball. Somehow through all the emotions mixed into this movie, the audience cares more for an inanimate object than Tom Hanks himself. As far as the movie itself goes, it’s pretty much two hours of Tom Hanks talking to himself. But as it pertains to emotion, it hits hard. Especially in the case of this particular scene. That poor volleyball.

My Girl (1991): The death of Thomas (Macaulay Culkin) – There is nothing sadder than a little girl losing her first and only friend to a swarm of bees. It doesn’t help that it’s mostly her fault that he died in the first place either. The bee scene and the funeral scene are the only two moments in this movie I can ever remember but goodness gracious are they sad. A person insanely shouting: he can’t see without his glasses, has never been so sad.

Dead Poets Society (1989)O Captain! My Captain! – If the suicide of a main character (a la The Passion of the Christ I might add) isn’t enough to get to you, how about all his friends standing a top of their desks and reciting poetry? OK, so it doesn’t sound inherently sad but trust me it is. The audience cares so much for all these characters by the climax of the film that when you see them all band together against their better judgment, it’s just moving.

Old Yeller (1957): Mercy killing – Don’t think I need to explain this one too heavily. A boy’s best friend (a dog named Ol’ Yeller) contracts rabies and his owner is forced to shoot him. The pacing of this scene is so well timed and drawn out that it squeezes every bit of sadness out of each second. Heartbreakingly perfect.

RoboCop (1987): RoboCop remembers his family – The title of this film might make it seem like it’s a kid’s movie, but my oh my it is not. While RoboCop is up there as one of the most violent movies I ever saw at a younger age, yet it does have its fair share of moments that pull at your heart strings. To give some context: RoboCop is robotic cop constructed from live tissue of an actual cop who was gunned down during duty. About half way through the movie RoboCop starts having flashbacks to when he was alive and this causes him to return to his now abandoned house. The scene where RoboCop remembers his wife and kids is heartbreaking to say the least. I personally like this movie, but I’m not so sure it is for everyone and maybe not the best movie if you are looking to ball your eyes out either.

First Blood (1982): Rambo’s end speech – Like RoboCop, one wouldn’t exactly expect there to be any truly sad moments in this film. Not only does First Blood have one of the most sorrowful speeches I have ever seen in a movie, it also happens to be Sly Stalone’s best performance ever. By a long shot. Another example of a movie that I like but isn’t exactly a sad movie per se.

Titanic (1997): Family goes down with the ship – Forget about Jack and Rose and that stupid necklace, the family laying on a bed together while the room fills up with water is the most melancholy parts in the entire film (which is saying a lot because this movie never ends and is filled with plenty of sad moments). There is something about parts in films with little to no dialogue or accompanning music that adds to the more powerful moments in film.

Dumbo (1941): Baby of mine – Dumbo’s mom is chained up and can barely hold her own child in her trunk. On top of this she rocks her child back and forth to a song about the love between a mother and her child. I wouldn’t suggest watching this movie you go on a date because you would be an absolute wreck the rest of the day.

The Fox and Hound (1981): Parting ways – After being taken in and cared for by an old lady, Fox is finally released back into the wild more or less against his will. He would much rather stay and live happily with his pseudo mother, but unfortunately can’t. Once again we are welcomed into the happy world of Disney which is full of magic, wonder, beauty and the most emotionally scarring moments in cinema history. You can’t help but love it all just the same though.

Lawrence of Arabia

He was responsible for the death of one of history's most remarkable personages: Lawrence of Arabia. No wonder he looked so unhappy, that red-faced old man avoiding my gaze from inside the pages of the National Geographic, some decades earlier the young boy Lawrence fatally swerved to avoid – a scene recreated for the opening of the film.

I had a similar expression on my face as I flipped through another magazine recently, Entertainment Weekly, which named Peter O'Toole's portrayal of Lawrence the greatest performance ever committed to film.

My facial muscles only fully relaxed after a hasty umpteenth viewing of this 1962 classic, after which I was able to reach a compromise with the magazine's editors: O'Toole's Lawrence is the greatest debutperformance ever committed to film.

What strikes you about O'Toole's Lawrence is the actor's innate sense of how to act for the camera. O'Toole was able to instantly recognize his visual assets and make maximum use of them: the ice blue eyes, the skeletal angularity, the fey fire within. Using these tools, O'Toole is able, for all of the literacy of Robert Bolt's screenplay and the supreme craftsmanship of David Lean's direction, to give the film its only true weight: the eternal struggle of Man and Superman; Lawrence's realization of his mortality in spite of his Godlike grasp.

It's all the more remarkable that O'Toole is so able, throughout the film, to suggest Lawrence's complicated inner life when he is forced to act within the confines of an epic, a form made up largely of wide and medium shots; even the close-ups usually push the central figure to the right or left of frame in order to accommodate as much scenery as possible.

Then, of course, there is his use of language; like all great actors, O'Toole instinctively defies expectation, going with the soft where most would go hard, setting himself roaring when most would whisper.

He is surrounded by actors with far more film experience, yet none of their styles fit the medium as perfectly as his – not Anthony Quayle's plain-faced frustration, Donald Wolfitt's old school blustering, Claude Raines' scene-stealing underplaying, Alec Guinness' pointed dreaminess, Anthony Quinn's coarse clowning, or Arthur Kennedy's broad, American posturing.

Yes, it's a truly great performance. But God's gift to screen acting? No. Calling it that is simply further proof, as Lawrence himself discovered, that Gods aren't what they're cracked up to be.

Katherine Hepburn – 100 Years: Film’s foremost feminist would have been 100 this month

How perfect it would be if the number of centenaries being celebrated this year amounted to exactly one hundred.

Reality, of course, is almost never so numerically in tune. 2007, however, at least flirts with this improbability. In May alone, 100th birthday wishes are to be extended to such posthumous classic film icons as Laurence Olivier, John Wayne, and, the subject of this week’s column, the estimable Katherine Hepburn.

Prickly as a hair brush, playful as a puppy. She was, at all times, both Katherine and Kate.

Unlike other cinematic precursors of feminism – Stanwyck, Crawford, Davis – Hepburn’s characters never gave in at the end, nor suffered a whit if they stood fast. She survived it all: Cary Grant’s witty chicanery, Spencer Tracy’s chauvinistic common sense, Peter O’Toole’s arch bluster – without losing a single integral part of herself.

Small wonder she lasted 96 years.

Her best? The volume is too vast. All I can offer are but a handful of personal favorites:

Stage Door – 1937 – Hepburn always stood out from other actresses of her time, hence, she’s perfectly cast here as the uppity outsider who disturbs the catty camaraderie of a boarding house’s worth of Broadway-babes-to-be. Her highbrow kitteness, her plucky poise, her erudite earthiness all glow like a key light when set against an endlessly talking wall of ’30s female stereotypes: the brassy wisecracker, the sultry sufferer, the Dumb Dora. Accomplished actresses crowd this slightly opened adaptation of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber play – Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball – and while they each have their moments, it’s Hepburn you remember first and foremost.

Bringing Up Baby – 1938 – The mountain top of madcap. Cary Grant is a nervous paleontologist whose life is disrupted by fun-loving heiress Hepburn and her pet leopard Baby. Audiences had had their fill of the genre by the time this entry was released, so it was left to TV watchers and revisionist critics to appreciate its fast-paced mix of Harold Lloydian slapstick, Burns and Allen-worthy exchanges, and breakneck absurdity. Hepburn, in her first full foray into comedy, is sunny and spirited throughout; with this film, Hollywood discovered a whole new application for her – setting up her greatest work, her canon with life partner Tracy.

Woman of the Year – 1942 – The war years marked the big change in the life of the American woman, and on screen Hepburn, more than any other actress, led the charge. Tracy is Sam Craig, a New York sportswriter perpetually frustrated by his inability to convert political columnist Tess Harding (guess who?) to the role of wife and mother; in the end, he is brought to see that this is only possible if that role is redefined by Tess. The Oscar-winning screenplay is a dense dandy – mixing traditional romantic comedy elements with sober thoughts on sexual and world politics – and the film set the formula for the Hepburn-Tracy series. Numerous entries followed, but none surpassed this first shot out of the canon.