Sunday, February 21, 2016

Movie Review: Love & Mercy

Now that we're back to regular posts, I can finally write about a few movies I've seen over the past couple months!  On my flight overseas to London, while I was sitting in the middle of the middle row in the plane, I did have the advantage of a personal screen in the back of the seat in front of me.  Surprisingly, the entertainment system had a pretty good offering too.

I settled on Love & Mercy, the Paul Dano/John Cusack movie about the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson.  That movie poster alone would make me want to watch it, but from the cast and the trailers, I had been wanting to see it for a while.  It details his inner and outer struggles as a young man during the band's heyday, and after his dark, drug-and-alcohol-fueled, troubled spot.

It is a beautiful movie: the wardrobe, the sets, and the way they film Wilson's musical genius, as well as his mental breakdowns are all captivating.  The editing between time periods keeps you interested, and establishes a good flow to understanding Wilson.

The acting is what really makes this movie worth watching.  Paul Dano (of Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood fame) plays him as a young man overwhelmed by the music.  He has a very acute vision of his songs, and a youthful curiosity in trying new sounds, but cares very deeply for the opinions of those around him.  John Cusack, who plays the later Brian, keeps you guessing at what he really is like.  His relationships with Paul Giamatti's manipulative psychologist who convinces him he needs heavy medication to be normal, and Elizabeth Banks' beautiful and understanding love interest, who sees the tragic cage Brian is kept in, are wonderfully explored.

And you can't have a movie about the Beach Boys without including some of their music!  The Pet Sounds sessions, along with all of Dano's studio scenes, are fascinating.  Apparently most of them were unscripted, but he threw in some lines from the original tapes from the '60s.  Another bit of trivia I read claimed that Dano and Cusack were encouraged not to communicate with each other while filming.  They were supposed to give their interpretation of Wilson at their specific time and not worry about playing him in similar ways.  What's amazing is that while they were separate performances, the two portrayals fit together perfectly.

This movie tells a story I had no idea even happened, and between the acting, music, and the look, it is definitely a story worth knowing.

(photos collected from resizing.flixster, images.popmatters, static.srcdn,, blogs-images.forbes, christianitytoday, and cdn2-b.examiner)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Here, At the End of All Things

Well, that's it!  The next morning we left the apartment around 5am, encountered some travel difficulties along the way to the airport (we expected at least a few delays at this point in the trip), but arrived with a little time to spare.  I was catching the overseas flight back to the states, and Taylor was going on for a few days in Switzerland.

And that just about wraps it up; we're finally finished with all the blog posts for the Europe trip!  Thanks for sticking it out.  Once the semester and work kicked in again, it took a bit more motivation to write travel posts.  But here we are, all finished!

I am so happy that I will have this detailed travel journal to look back on for years to come.  I picked out my favorite and best photos, tried to research accurate information for the sites we visited, and also tried to put my own opinions into each days' activity.  I've written travel posts before that turned into quick overviews with a few anecdotes (Florida, Santa Fe, and those are just from this past year!), but this amazing trip was worth posting daily rundowns.  Truly once in a lifetime.

And I have to say, there's no one I would have rather spent a month traveling with than Taylor.  We never had issues in picking a place we both wanted to see, we never ran out of things to talk about, and we both found humor in the crazy things that happened to and around us while traveling from place to place.  Thanks for deigning to take a selfie with me every now and then.

And a shout out to all of our supporters back home!  We talked to Mom, Dad, and Andrew almost every day on FaceTime, and they relayed our stories to Grandma and Nana, and anyone else who happened to be interested.  We loved sharing our trip with you all!

Now, it is back to real life.  It has been for a while, but now that all posts are written, it is time to move on to the present.  Who wants to go with me on my next trip to Europe?!

(photos by e.hunt)

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Last, Cold Day

The following morning we woke up to inches of snow covering the ground, and a wind chill of -11.  We decided to stay in the warm comforts of our apartment and try to find something to do that was inside.  That was much easier said than done.  Every museum or monument we wanted to go see was outside, and since neither of us are of Eskimo or Siberian heritage, we opted against those.

Eventually Taylor came upon a train board layout of the city of Berlin that happened to occupy the top floor of a shopping mall.  We piled on the layers and headed out.  

Luckily, the mall was a quick walk from the metro stop.  Did I mention that it was super freezing cold outside?  We made our way up to the top floor and into the train room.  It was huge, with multiple trains and tracks running throughout the landscape.

While the setup was clearly aged, and needed a little dusting, it was pretty impressive.  Every twenty minutes it turned to nighttime, which consisted of a light change.  The buildings looked pretty cool with their little windows lit up and the streetlights on.

We continued to make our way around the table as the sun rose and it became daytime again.  To the left at the edge of the room was the control deck.  No one was manning it while we were there but the screens and switchboards were still running.

Around the corner was a little section where you could look underneath the mountain range and see the trains go through.  There were a lot more levels of tracks than I thought!

Next to the big table was another table in the beginnings of construction.  Pretty cool that they continue to build new sections.

They also had a separate room housing the airport.  Every few minutes an airplane would pull out of its parking spot and roll down to the runway.  It even had sound effects when the planes took off!

Back out in the city area, we found the Brandenburg Gate that we actually visited the night before. While it was kindof a last minute plan, seeing Berlin in train board form was a pretty neat and low-key way to spend our last evening.  We may not have seen all of the city in real life, but we did get to see it in HO scale.

(photos by e.hunt)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

To the Gate!

After the museum we went back out into the cold.  And it was biting cold.  The snow started while we were inside, which made for some pretty Berlin views, but also made it hard to walk around.

We decided that since we were in the area, we would walk to The Brandenburg Gate.  On the way we passed a neat looking history museum that had a host of guards on the roof, and some really cool fence ornamentation.

The snow was pretty intense, and the wind was blowing it right into our faces as we walked.  Luckily, we were somewhat prepared, both wearing multiple layers of shirts under our big coats, with scarves up in front of mouths, bandit style, and hoods covering the rest of our heads.

And then we made it!  It was too bad there were so many people in front of it, but it was pretty impressive.  I did a little research; it was first built in 1791, suffered considerable damage during WWII, and was continually restored until 2002.  During the Cold War, the gate was isolated and inaccessible, right next to the Berlin Wall.  

We got really cold standing there taking pictures so we went into a Starbucks right on the corner to figure out what we were going to do for dinner.  We got hot chocolates while there, because why not? We found a road that might have a few options on it, and since we were warm again, we ventured back out.  We settled on a bright, clean, and warm-looking restaurant.  I got a Berliner beer and Taylor got fancy wine, and we both settled on large plates of pasta.

(photos by e.hunt)

Inside the Alte

The inside of the museum had mostly German artists, with a few others mixed in here and there.  In this piece by Johann Bartholdi Jongkind, the waif of a tree on the left stood out to me.  I like the painting, but the tree makes it a little too horizontally balanced.  Like, he painted it without the tree and decided that it was too right-heavy so he added it as an after thought.  Why is there only one tree that tall?  A very intriguing start to our museum journey.

Further on, there was a little exhibition room showcasing sketches and pieces by Adolph Menzel.  The first two, presented as a pair, are done with pastels.  I was immediately drawn to them, with pastel being my own favorite medium.  The draping of the dresses and fabrics is , while also conveying texture, is amazing.  The next one, of a suit of armor, also includes an amazing amount of detail.  And the curving lines on the back plate reminded me of the elven suits of armor in The Lord of the Rings movies.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, this statue looks like an early prototype of one of the Ents!

Moving on, there was a beautiful duo of sea-bound paintings by Max Klinger.  The top one depicts Triton and the Naiads, while the bottom one is Venus.  I love the sea blues and greens contrasting with the flat sky.

After a few more rooms we had made it to the end of the first floor.  Looking out, you could see the Cathedral, and looking up, you could see a beautifully painted dome.

This next painting, by Carl Spitzweg, was very unique.  First, the long vertical shape with a low-set horizon line is a bold choice.  Next, the slightly flat and yellowed color tones make it look like an old color photograph.  I really liked it, especially the detail of the skyline in the background.

And then we entered into more of an Impressionist realm, starting with the Nollendorfplatz by Night, by Lesser Ury.  Impressionist strokes lend themselves well here to the drippy, rainy atmosphere, but the best part is the light stretching out from the car headlights.

And lastly, there were some very nice landscapes throughout the museum.  The clouds in all three of these are very well done.  Each include a slightly pinkish hue, enhancing the feel of sunset, without actually portraying a cliche setting sun.  Overall, the museum wasn't exactly what we were expecting, but as usual, we found some special surprises and new artists to watch for.

(photos by e.hunt)