Monday, September 30, 2013

LIVE LOVE BEIRUT



This summer I had the chance to go back to Lebanon and my beloved Beirut, after a good many years.  I'm Beiruti like I'm a Beijinger: I lived there for a while, and it has become an inseparable part of my life.  And that trip was more than amazing:  the food was as good or better than I remembered, I saw wonderful old friends and made new ones, I marvelled again at the history and stories and was sad again at the turn of recent events, the language and even my style of driving from those days came back to me!  In short, I lived, and loved, Beirut and Lebanon again.

I took way too many photos and videos.  Way, way more than ever on any trip.  And it's taking me long to sort and label them (I always do that), and I almost never post something until I'm done with that part...  But soon, hopefully, I'll be writing about this incredible trip back to one of the homelands which provided the inspiration for the autumn look of my blog.

Friday, September 20, 2013

MOS MOS - my new coffee fix!

For quite some time I thought I had my ideal coffee fix at Second Cup: a double espresso, long, macchiato with soy milk.   And then, this place, MOS MOS, opened, just outside the King TTC exit to the PATH.  And their coffee is SO good!  Their "fog cutter" does exactly what it's meant to do, they charge me less than Second Cup for using soy milk, and it tastes just great.  Yeah, I know, this sounds like an ad, but coffee has become an integral part of my North American experience, and I don't feel any shame in saying THIS BE DARN GOOD.


Monday, September 16, 2013

TIFF 2013


This was our fourth Toronto International Film Festival, and I can tell you not just that I can't get tired of it, but that I've been enjoying it more and more.  There's something about being able to watch non-commercial non-Hollywoodian cinema that's tremendously refreshing, exciting, and inspiring.  And in all sorts of different genres!  Love stories, vampire stories, horror stories, manga stories, fantastical stories... We had a bit of everything, and 8 out of the 10 films we chose were amazing (one was simply OK, the other one was not good), so this was one good year.  I consider myself very lucky to have been able to enjoy this.  Thanks Toronto!

BTW, I've been posting almost daily about the films we saw, but here are they all together, in the order we watched them.  Ah!  And one other thing!  That photo at the top?  That's Toronto's CN Tower, lit orange! (orange is the colour of the TIFF)
































Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bethlehem @ TIFF 2013

Our last film at this year's TIFF, this was a tense tragedy that unfolds inexorably towards its logical brutal conclusion.  In a sea of violence, treason, corruption and ambivalent loyalty, this story is as unsurprising as is well told.  

Attila Marcel @ TIFF 2013

A colourful and well done feel-good film, like French films of this genre (think Amélie).  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friends from France @ TIFF 2013

I wasn't too sure whether to write about this film.  But hey, everything's an experience, right?  I was really looking forward to it, to a thrilleresque story about Odessa Jews escaping the Soviet Union with the help of the French.  It turned out to be more like a melodrama with Odessa and the USSR as background... And not quite to my liking.  Still, it did make me think a bit more about refuseniks and about Russian-Jewish emigration during the 70's.  So it was not a total loss.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Real @ TIFF 2013

This was our seventh TIFF film.  You might need the following to fully appreciate it: 1) A solid exposure to manga.  2) A robust appreciation of contemporary J-pop-culture standards of beauty.  I had neither, but at least I got  to experience a cultural product rather alien to me.  And that's good, right?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Borgman @ TIFF 2013

Well that was one bizarre film.  Many questions.  Precious few answers (if any at all, actually).  Taking some probably wrong cues from the first few scenes, could it be a sort of insect-like infestation in human form?  The whole film was a big ? for me, and we left the cinema and stayed quiet for a while, unable to voice any coherent opinion about it.  If you want something different that'll leave you perplexed and won't bore you at all, you could try watching this Dutch film by Alex van Warmerdam.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Eastern Boys @ TIFF 2013

The film disturbed me.  Made me uncomfortable.  Kept me tense.  And wondering about the enigmatic motives behind the leads.  Director Robin Campillo (who actually was there even though it was the second screening!) shows us a tense world of undocumented people, sex, muddy relationships, and the sacrifice of the many for the good of the few, from a pretty amoral and non-judgemental point of view.   A great choice at this festival.  


of water, ice, and rock: the whole Adventura Albertensis

As I've done other times, this is just a "housekeeping" post to put all the posts on our fantastic 12th anniversary to Alberta in a single place, as opposed to them just appearing all over the blog.   And who knows, you might have missed one, so this will help you find out if you did!   So here it is, the five-part Adventura Albertensis! 





















Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ignasi M. @ TIFF 2013

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this Spanish documentary in Catalan by Ventura Pons, but it certainly was way better than anything I could have expected.  The story of man, family, relationships, art, health, identity, wealth, crisis, through the life of Ignasi M.   Very humane.  Funny.  Touching.   A great choice.  And with the added bonus of the presence of Ignasi and Ventura themselves!




The Green Inferno @ TIFF 2013

Once you pass the first 20 minutes or so, which are somewhat forgettable and almost make you feel you might be in for a bad movie, Eli Roth thrusts you into a masterful cannibals movie that'll horrify you to no end.   Glad we chose it.  And not only Eli Roth himself, but the whole cast of the movie was there!  Oh, and the whole audience sang Happy Birthday to Eli's father, who was celebrating his 75th birthday, and Eli's mother wished us all a "happy Midnight Madness" just before the show.  Cool, hey?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Only Lovers Left Alive @ TIFF 2013

Now this is one visually beautiful, modern, erudite, at times comic story of vampire love that you really must watch.  It's Jim Jarmusch and Tilda Swinston.  And that's all you need to know.  Really.  Well, except perhaps that, even though this was the second screening of the film at the festival, Jim Jarmusch (along with actors Tom Hiddleston and Anton Yelchin) made an appearance at the end for a Q&A!  Lucky us!




Thursday, September 05, 2013

Blue is the warmest colour @ TIFF 2013

During three hours we gazed at the life of Adèle... her loving, her eating, her fucking (and you've probably seen no Lesbian sex scenes like these), her crying, her living.   Not a single minute too long, no concessions, her eyes, her snot, her big teeth, her hands, her disheveled hair hold you and engage you as a beholder.   A beautiful film.

Original title: La vie d'Adèle: chapitres 1 et 2.  French.  Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, with the flawless acting of Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

the Ice Cream - Poutine walk

What better way to spend Labour Day, which was sunny and warm and pleasant with blue skies, than with a walk on Queen Street West.  Specifically, a walk from Boreal Gelato Café, where we had enormous and delicious scoops of Lemon Olive Oil and Salted Caramel ice cream (all vegan! even the cones!) which lasted EXACTLY until we arrived further east to Poutini's House of Poutine for a large poutine with out-of-this-world vegan gravy and cheese!



Tuesday, September 03, 2013

of water, ice, and rock: the wild west

(part five and last of our anniversary trip posts)

OK, finally, the last post about our trip!   Because, you know, there is more to Alberta than stunning lakes, ancient glaciers and forests teeming with wildlife, right?  

To begin with, while in Calgary (where we spent the first and last days of our trip, staying with friends), we enjoyed sunlight at 10pm (or was it 11?) by the fire, with a glass of wine, some snacks, and s'mores!   And what on earth are s'mores?   Chocolate and just-roasted marshmallow sandwiched between Graham crackers!  Yeah, OK, probably for most Canadians and people from the USA that's nothing new, but for my husband and me it was a total revelation! (though I confess I didn't have any myself, as that was milk chocolate and gelatin marshmallows, so not quite vegan; but still...)   



And besides the easy camaraderie we enjoyed among friends (remember, wine AND s'mores, right?), we also enjoyed  bit of Calgary's culture scene with a very interesting exhibition of M.C. Escher's works at the Glenbow Museum.  I know, most of us have seen his works over and over.  But this exhibition included prints from his earlier works, and that was a fascinating insight into his artistic development.  Or, if you're more into architecture, like my husband is, you can also find a rather futuristic pedestrian and cyclists red bridge by Calatrava, the Peace Bridge, just over the Bow River, leading to downtown Calgary.  And to add a bit of quirkiness and humour, how about a system of passages 15 feet above the ground (called the +15 Walkway) that links the downtown area and which is Calgary's response to its inclement winter and which has an icon of a person with a cowboy hat?  




Since we had a few extra hours before our trip would finish with a drive to the airport, we did one last thing:  we visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, just some 150km northeast of Calgary.  And by the way, that was another very nice drive.  After the mountains and valleys of the Icefields Parkway, the flatlands and wide expanses of this part of Alberta, with huge fields of wheat and tiny yellow flowers, were fascinating...



But back to the museum.  Why would one drive a total of 300km in a single day just to see a museum?  Because this is one of the most amazing paleontology museums in the world!  Me, I love dinosaurs and fossils.  One of my dreams when I was a child was to become a paleontologist.  And this place not only had numerous super fine exhibits, it had fossils from one of the most important and famous fossil beds in the world, and which happens to lie in Alberta, too:  the Burgess Shale!  And in case you didn't know, the Burgess Shale fossils were a momentous discovery, as there were numerous, weird species we had never seen, and even soft parts of these 500 million year old animals were preserved!   And I don't care if nothing of that impresses you, because for me seeing them was simply amazing. ;-)   And that on top of the more "traditional" fossils, like this beautiful Tyrannosaurus Rex, dubbed "Black Beauty" because of the colour of the bones due to its very specific fossilization process:     



Our trip ended, like most, at the airport.   But not without one last silly, cute detail:  at the airport's Starbucks they had a "Bear Claw" croissant!   Yes, pretty silly.  But try finding a Bear Claw croissant at your own Starbucks.  And we had totally fallen in love with Alberta, it had offered us a most memorable anniversary trip, and that seemed like a very nice farewell detail.