In memoriam for a former college roommate

June 5, 2012

The mail today brought bad news.  It was even worse because the envelope arrived about two weeks ago and I did not open it until early this morning.

One of my freshman (first year) roommates at Dartmouth College, Tom Ludlow, has passed away.  Class of 1974.  Lymphoma.  I read this news with great sadness.

Living in Australia for the past 32 years, I have not kept in much contact with Tom (or many at Dartmouth, for that matter), but we talked on the phone some years back – about Dartmouth College business.  Tom was courtly, well-mannered, sincere and deeply community-minded.  He was not yet 60 when he died.

Richard Ranger, the Class of ’74 President and long-time newsletter editor, introduced the death of Tom and two other classmates with one of Richard’s insightful, poetic and melodic meditations, part of which I reproduce below as it is worth being read by a wider audience:

Making sense of significant deaths is something we all face, and something a great many of us have had to face.  In the public conversation among alumni of prestige colleges it is uncharacteristic to speak of death.  Instead, our conversation tends to dwell in the indefinite and imagined summer between graduation and achievement, where the wedding guests are handsome and well-dressed, the occasional children announced as if greeting the guests in the Trapp Family ballroom shortly before bed, and where the incremental milestones of learning and profession presented to polite but disceerning applause.  Death is acknowledged, to be sure, formerly in a smaller font size at the end of the Alumni Magazine, and now only online.  But a distance is maintained between how we experience death and how we discuss it in the public conversation.  There are many reasons for this, many of them purposeful and constructive.  But most of us find ourselves at some point adrift within that distance, between the distant shore of the public conversation, and the approaching shore of our mortality, appearing at the edge of the formerly limitless horizons of our imagined summers.

To Richard Ranger, to my (third) surviving freshman room-mate (also named Rick) and to the memory of Tom Ludlow, for whom I now mourn:  may your spirits soar like eagles in the unlimited sky, may your lives be filled with happiness and joy, and may you find peace.

Ted the Movie trailer

June 3, 2012

Here’s proof:  a great trailer can drum up business in a movie.  Have you seen the Ted movie trailer (an R-rated comedy releasing on 13 July 2012, both in North America and Australia)?  Apparently, it has gone viral.  A triumph of marketing.

There are a number of different versions out there, but this is my favourite; love the part where the Mark Wahlberg character runs through the list of woman’s names (pay attention particularly from the 2′ mark).

There is also a “restricted” (over 18 version) without that scene, but honestly I don’t see why it is 18+.  Look for yourself.  Her’s another version:

Woody Allen doco headlines Jewish themes in Sydney Film Festival 2012

June 3, 2012

The following article appeared in the Australian Jewish News on Thursday 31 May 2012:

For thousands of dedicated Sydney film-goers, the Queens Birthday long weekend is cold, dark and … the most exciting time of the year.  The reason?  The Sydney Film Festival (SFF), now in its 59th year, starts then. SFF is not Australia’s oldest (Melbourne wins that contest by three years), but is much beloved by successive generations of film aficionados.

Although the SFF does not have a “Jewish quota” (thank goodness), it does have an official “Jewish interest” category and each year introduces a number of unusual, intelligent and unseen new films that illuminate the world Jewish experience. In their own way, these films represent the latest Jewish currents, obsessions and antagonisms.

Undoubtedly the Jewish highlight of this year’s festival is “Woody Allen: A Documentary”, a feature-length examination of the New York Jewish actor, director, comedian and scriptwriter, directed by Robert B Weide.  This film serves as both an introduction to Allen’s personal journey and his extraordinary body of films.  It’s also a truly entertaining experience, lavishly illustrated by his work.  Allen’s films have ranged from the boyishly comic (“Bananas”) to the dreary (“Interiors”, anyone?) to the classic “(“Annie Hall”). And at age 76, he still captures the audience with hits such as the recent “Midnight in Paris”.

Allen singlehandedly has introduced his own Jewish screen stereotype: the nerdy, anxious, physically underdeveloped and intellectually overdeveloped, sex-obsessed Jewish male, to which almost all contemporary Jewish screen comics owe a great debt: think Ben Stiller, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill. “Woody Allen: A Documentary” tells us more about him than we thought possible, including interviews with his mother, sister, biographer, numerous ex-girlfriends, producers and managers. We follow his career from his early hard-working years as a terrified but game comic to his continued insistence on directing a film every year, writing his notes on long yellow paper and typing his scripts on an original typewriter.

This is the Australian premiere of the film, which first screened in the USA on PBS in November 2011.  You can view the trailer for the film below:

Since the documentary “Waltz With Bashir”, we are no longer surprised when Israeli film-makers produce captivating and truly original films. But still, “The Law in These Parts” manages to illuminate a surprisingly unseen aspect of Israeli political life. The film shows how IDF lawyers created a new “rule of law” in the occupied territories that has helped to enable the resumption of Arab lands and effectively assisted the expansion of settlements. “The Law in These Parts” is unashamedly a left-wing critique of Israeli society, however it does so not by polemic but by simply allowing retired Israeli army officers describe what they did and how they did it.  You can watch the trailer for this film by clicking on the link below:

By contrast, a different style of documentary film, “El Gusto”, illustrates some fascinating new currents in French Jewish life. Like the drama “Free Men” (featured in the French Film Festival in March), “El Gusto” portrays a world where Jews and Muslims not only co-exist, but do so with enormous shared culture. In this case, it’s “chaabi”, a unique form of popular music which Jewish and Muslim musicians created in Algeria in the first half of the twentieth century, and which was virtually obliterated by 1954 Algerian independence. This film follows reunion of these Jewish and Muslim musicians, culminating in emotional concerts.  Watch the trailer for this film by clicking below:

Other Jewish highlights of the festival include American-Jewish actor-director Josh Radnor’s romantic comedy “Liberal Arts”, Jason Segel in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” and Daniel Martinico’s uncompromising “Ok, Good”. The Festival also features “Dead Europe”, the new Australian film directed by Tony Krawitz and produced by Emile Sherman, both official guests.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from Wednesday 6th through Sunday 17th June, at the State Theatre and other venues.