Traveling Through Cinema – Antarctica: A Year On Ice documentary

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I was supposed to see this film a couple of years ago during the Twin Cities Film Festival, but for some reason I couldn’t make it to the screening. The film won Best Documentary from TCFF and rightly so. Well, after finally witnessing this spectacular documentary this weekend, I’m even more gutted I missed it on the big screen. To say that it’s a visual feast is putting it mildly, it’s a surprise my jaw didn’t get stuck on the floor as I was watching it. As I’m not sure if I ever get to visit earth’s Southern Hemisphere in my lifetime, I can always live vicariously through New Zealand’s photographer/filmmaker Anthony B. Powell and his team who spent a year in the icy continent.

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The description on IMDb reads: A visually stunning chronicle of what it is like to live in Antarctica for a full year, including winters isolated from the rest of the world, and enduring months of darkness in the coldest place on Earth. I thought it’d be a typical nature documentary with jaw-droppingly beautiful imagery and some insightful facts about the continent, but what sets this film apart is how affecting and personal the journey is, as told from the perspective of the filmmaker Powell, as well as some of the interviewees who gave us insight into what’s it like working in Antarctica. Ranging from helicopter pilot, fireman, firehouse dispatcher, cook, store clerk, operations manager, etc. they share the psychological perspective of how the extreme weather affect them as a person and how life-altering their experience is. The film takes place in the New Zealand’s Scott Base or United States’ McMurdo Base where most of the crews were stationed at.

Most of the people interviewed seem to have a positive experience, in fact most of them have gone back time and time again, even enduring the Antarctica winter year after year. I said the word endure because that’s a perfect description for it, as one must have a certain endurance power to be able to survive such a harsh condition. It’s interesting that I watch this as Winter is coming to a close, I should’ve watched this in January as it’d make even the harshest Minnesota Winter like a walk in the park! As I was watching the film, it made me wonder if I could survive living in Antarctica. I mean, it’d be a treat to see those adorable penguins up close, but there’s also tragic sights of dying seals who froze to death. Of course there’s the extreme climate itself where four months out of the year you’d be engulfed in complete darkness with temps reaching −89 °C (−129 °F) and even colder windchill. Not to mention the monstrous storms that could freeze anything in sight in a matter of milliseconds.

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The film doesn’t just show the glamorous side of living in Antarctica… the obvious homesickness and missing family members, but there are also times when some of the workers couldn’t even go back home to attend the birth of their sister’s first child or their father’s funeral. On the bright side, Powell himself found love during his time in Antarctica, as the film showed his wedding to Christine Powell who helped him make this film. So there are heart-wrenching and contemplative moments in the film that gives the film an emotional substance on top of just something beautiful to look at. There are also humorous moments, such as when interviewees share about the T3 Syndrome which happens during winter when the T3 hormone in the brain is reassigned to the muscles of the body in an effort to protect it against the extreme cold. You’re probably more familiar w/ the term brain freeze, though most of us probably don’t have their excuse 😉

It took Powell 10 years to make this film, it’s pretty much a passion project for him as he also wrote and produced it, and his wife Christine is credited as second unit director. I’m glad I finally saw this film, if I were to rate it I’d give it a 4.5/5 reels. Featuring plenty of amazing time-lapse photography, it’s one of the most stunning film you’ve ever seen that’s also thought-provoking and inspiring. One of the few female interviewees, who happens to be from rural Minnesota, remarked that many nations get along better in Antarctica than any other parts in the world, now that should also gives you something to ponder. Highly recommended.

Check out the trailer:


With this post, I’m relaunching the Traveling Thru Cinema series that
I launched two years ago
with In Bruges

I hope to keep up with this series at least every other month from now on.


Have you seen this documentary? If so, what did you think?

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On location in Bodega Bay – Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963)

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Inspired by the Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Rob and Zoe, I asked my friend Vince who has contributed several classic posts in the past, including Laura, Vertigo, The Red Shoes, The Omen, etc. to do a write up about his trip to Bodega Bay last year to commemorate Hitchcock’s birthday on August 13.


In the fall of 2013, my wife Kristina, my sons Elliott and Ian, and myself went down to Sonoma County in California to attend my sister’s wedding. While not quite a vacation by any means, we decided to take an extra 2-3 days in the area to check out some beaches as a day treat for the boys. We chose Bodega Bay, partly because it was close (less than an hour away from Santa Rosa), but mostly because of my lifelong fascination with the Hitchcock classic The Birds which was filmed on location there back in 1961.

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On the way to the hotel, we drove down Bay Hill Road, which was the road Tippi Hedren’s character (Melanie Daniels) took into Bodega Bay with her Aston Martin. It was a nice windy 2-lane road by hillsides and plateaus. After arriving at the hotel, the friendly clerk nicely answered some questions about the movie and handed us a map of the locations used in the film. It made for easy planning the next couple of days.

On a coffee table in the hotel lobby was a laminated album of production stills from the shoot. Things I learned right away from skimming through it: The schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth’s house was only a facade and torn down after filming; that the Brenner ranch structure no longer existed; and that the Potter Schoolhouse, church, and the Tides Restaurant still stood but have undergone generational makeovers over the decades.

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Bodega Bay is a very foggy area and it’s no surprise that this affected the film’s overall look. According to BodegaBay.com, much of the film had to be tinted gray because of this and probably adding to cost and production time. Along with all the special effects employed in the film, it took post three years to put the final touches on it. The movie was released in 1963.

The next day was foggy indeed and we decided to drive a bit on Highway 1 which proved scary and beautiful at the same time. There were steep drop-offs, windy roads and very strong tides along the beaches. We did find a more kid-friendly beach on our way back to Bodega Bay where we spent most of the afternoon. After the beach, we then decided to drive through town looking for some familiar movie locations. With map in hand, we drove up Taylor Street, which is where the children ran down from the schoolhouse as they were being attacked by birds in a pivotal scene.

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The 3rd and final day, we drove to where the Potter Schoolhouse stood. The structure was intact, although with a slightly newer paint job. Interestingly, because of the fog the day before, we had missed it completely. It was a clear and sunny day which really detached the vibe of the movie – gray and foreboding.

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Finally, we reached our final destination, The General Store, where Melanie asks the storekeeper the first name of the ‘little Brenner girl’ in her attempt to play a prank on Mitch Brenner played by Rod Taylor.

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The store, now called the Bodega Country Store was a visitor center of sorts, with memorabilia from the film, publicity stills, dolls, toys, postcards, film books etc. The store also was a genuine general store, with canned goods, soft drinks and food. Kristina bought me “Blackie”, a replica of one of the magpies from the movie and has since found its home near my station at work.

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The country store also had a replica of the telephone booth in that iconic scene where Melanie is trapped inside it with seagulls crashing into the glass. What a scene that was! Here I am reenacting it – with a stranger’s help in taking the photo.

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As we were checking out of the Bodega Coast Inn, I was dismayed to find out that just a week ago, Tippi Hedren had come back to visit the town for the film’s 50th anniversary. I had just missed her. The hotel clerk said she was a very nice woman and still beautiful. On the clerks counter was an autographed publicity still of Tippi with Mr. Hitchcock along with a Barbie rendition of her as Melanie.

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It didn’t take much to cheer me up though as the town’s charm and the film itself kept my imagination as vivid as ever. If you haven’t seen The Birds I highly recommend it. And while you’re at it, consider visiting this now legendary location.


So have you seen The Birds and/or been to Bodega Bay?

Traveling Through Cinema: London

TravelingThruCinema_London It should not be a surprise that I’m an Anglophile, seeing how many British-related stuff I put on this blog 😀 Well, since my good friend Becky (aka Prairegirl) is visiting London in a few weeks, I thought I’d feature one of my all time favorite cities for my Traveling Through Cinema series. Yes, I kind of drop the ball with this series as my first one set in Bruges was back in January, but I’m going to try to do this once a month. OldTimesPlayOne of the reasons for Becky’s visit is to go see Harold Pinter’s theatrical play Old Times at the Harold Pinter Theater starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams. Yes I know, lucky girl!! I mean she’ll get to see Rufus LIVE in person on stage! I wish I could go along with her to London, but for now I’d have to live vicariously through her.


By the way, I’m excluding the London tube scenes as I’ve already made a post specifically on that in London Tube and the Movies post.


So with that in mind, here are some of my favorite London scenery from contemporary films (90s and beyond):

28 Days Later (2002)

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I found a great blog post describing the scene above so perfectly…

The setting of the film is … 28 days after a devastating plague swept through England. Jim (Cillian Murphy) is a London courier who was previously struck by a car on his route and plunged into a deep coma before the world came crumbling down around him. The world he awakens to is vacant madness, as the hospital he finds himself in is trashed and abandoned. He cries out for anyone still around. He’s weak and disoriented and hasn’t eaten for quite a while. Some sugary sodas give him some strength as he leaves the hospital, only to find more emptiness. London has been abandoned completely, with not a soul in sight. His cries go unanswered as debris gives him a hint as to what has happened. Missing people. Vigils for those departed. Old newspapers telling of a mysterious infestation.

An Education (2009)

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A coming-of-age tale set in 1960s London

Batman Begins (2005)

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Alfred Pennyworth: Took quite a fall, didn’t we, Master Bruce? Thomas Wayne: And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Bridget Jones Diary (2001)

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Bridget: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Well, I meant it, but I was so stupid that I didn’t mean what I meant… After all, it’s only a diary. Everyone knows diaries are just… full of crap. Mark Darcy: Yes, I know that. I was just buying you a new one. BridgetJonesDiaryKissFinale Bridget: Wait a minute… nice boys don’t kiss like that. Mark Darcy: Oh, yes, they f***ing do.

Children of Men (2006)

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The explosion scene as the film’s protagonist Theo (Clive Owen) exits a cafe is one of the most harrowing and memorable opening sequence I’ve ever seen. I could even hear the ringing sound after the explosion happen on screen, which I heard is a deliberate effect the filmmaker did to give the effect of what a loud explosion may do to your ears.

Finding Neverland (2004)

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Beautiful scenes of J.M. Barrie & Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’ family in Kensington Gardens

Harry Potter

There are too many great London scenes in this franchise that I have to break them down to several collages.

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Harry through the years… at the train station

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In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and Harry fled a wedding after learning that the Death Eaters were coming for them, and ended up in Piccadilly Circus.

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Death Eaters attack the Millennium Bridge

The police are continuing with the investigation into the cause of the Millennium Bridge disaster. River traffic has been halted as police search for survivors. The surrounding area remains closed. The Mayor has urged Londoners to remain calm…

— A Muggle radio broadcast

Love, Actually (2003)

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Notting Hill (1999)

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Nowhere Boy (2009)

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Retro London – John Lennon’s early years from the mid 40s and 50s

John: Why couldn’t God make me Elvis? Julia: ‘Cause he was saving you for John Lennon!

Rocknrolla (2008)

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A beautifully-shot, memorable scene in a fabulous London museum

..

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

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I love the art direction of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. The Oscar nomination for this category is absolutely well deserved. I love how the CGI somehow still look and feel organic, and it captured the gritty atmosphere of the time and place. The incomplete Tower Bridge looked spectacular in the finale battle between Holmes and his nemesis Lord Henry Blackwood. This article by setdecorators.org says Ritchie brought a new, energetic perspective to the enduring adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “While our story is rooted in London of the 1890s, we have tried to make it as contemporary as we possibly can,” Ritchie said.

Skyfall (2012)

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A reflective scene of Bond on a rooftop overlooking his beloved city

The King’s Speech (2010)

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Lionel Logue: What was your earliest memory? King George VI: I’m not… -here to discuss… -personal matters. Lionel Logue: Why are you here then? King George VI: Because I bloody well stammer!

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Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Zombies attacked London! Thank goodness for Shaun and co!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

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A frill-free spy thriller in 1960s London

Control: All I want from you is one codename: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier… George Smiley: …Spy.

X-Men First Class (2011)

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Erik Lehnsherr: After tomorrow, they are gonna turn on us. But you are blinded because you believe they are all like Moira. Charles Xavier: And you believe they are all like Shaw. Listen to me very carefully, my friend: killing Shaw will not bring you peace. Erik Lehnsherr: Peace was never an option.

V for Vendetta (2005)

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The Parliament goes ka-boom!

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot… – Evey

The Young Victoria (2009)

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Love rules all. Queen Victoria & Prince Albert.

Now, this movie has not been released yet but based on the trailer, looks like All Things To All Men would have a TON of great London scenes (and gorgeous Brits), especially the ones in the London Eye! I’m a bit obsessed with that Ferris Wheel, if I lived in London I probably would go on there every weekend, ahah.

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Toby Stephens in a scene at the London Eye


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Well, hope you enjoy my favorite London scenery in the movies. Certainly it’s not a comprehensive list by any means, so please feel free to add YOUR own favorite in the comments.

Introducing… Traveling Through Cinema: In Bruges

Hello everybody! I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while so today I’m starting a new feature on FlixChatter! Not sure how often I’ll have this, probably once a month or a couple times a month, we’ll see 🙂

Well, since I love both movies and travel, why not combine those two passions? Inspired by my recent viewing of The Wings of the Dove which has a gorgeous scenery of Venice, I might as well start this feature this week. But for the feature debut, I want to do a movie that I saw on the plane which inspires me to actually visit later this year (God willing).

So… I present to you the beautiful scenery of …

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In Bruges was set in the picturesque city in Belgium and it’s practically one of the stars in the movie! Located in the northwest side of Belgium, the historic city center is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO since 2000 (per Wiki). I marvel at the beautiful Medieval architecture and the gorgeous canals that were used for transportation, no wonder it’s dubbed the Venice of the North.

I love how the characters are also tourists from Belfast so we could live vicariously through them as we watch the movie. It’s a nice bonus to see such a beautifully-shot film that’s also loaded with such witty dialog (albeit too foul-mouthed for my liking, but I guess I have to live with that). Even in the opening sequence when Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) just arrive in town, the dialog is hilarious! By the order of their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), the two Irish hitmen are sent to lay low in the Medieval town in Belgium. Ken was pretty glad about the prospect of spending a fortnight there, but Ray doesn’t share his sentiment.

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Ray: Bruges is a shithole.
Ken: Bruges *is* not a shithole.
Ray: Bruges *is* a shithole.
Ken: Ray, we only just got off the f****** train! Could we reserve judgement on Bruges until we’ve seen the f****** place?

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I’ll be sure to visit this site when it gets closer to my travel date to Bruges, as it has all the filming locations and the scenes where they appear. But for this post, I just want to capture the glorious scenery of the film… both day and night.

Bruges during the day…

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Director Martin McDonaugh goofing off with his cast on set.

Yeah Brendan, I’d be laughing too if I get to spend weeks filming in Bruges!

Bruges at Night …

It’s so picturesque during the day, but at night this city is even more breathtakingly beautiful.

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This one has got to be one of the funniest scenes in the film.

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Ticket Seller: The tower is closed this evening.
Ken: No way, it’s supposed to be open until seven.
Ticket Seller: The tower is usually open until seven, yesterday an American had a heart attack at the tower, today the tower is closed.
Harry: [Harry hands ticket seller 100 Euros] Here cranky, here’s a hundred for you. Were only gonna be twenty minutes.
Ticket Seller: [crumples the money and throws it at Harry’s head]
Ticket Seller: [tapping on Harry’s forehead] The tower… is closed… this evening! Understand? English man!

The Bell Tower ticket guy obviously has no clue about Harry and what he could do, which makes the whole thing even more hilarious!! Brendan Gleeson’s expression in this whole scene is just priceless! I certainly hope when I get to the tower, the attendant wouldn’t be such a jerk, ahah.

Romance In Bruges

Since the film was set during the Christmas Holidays, the lights makes it even more stunning, not to mention romantic. Clemence Posey and Colin Farrell have an effortless chemistry… made even more bewitching by the glorious setting around them.

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In Bruges is destined to be a cult classic thanks to Martin McDonaugh‘s direction, but given the nature of the post, I have to shine a spotlight to the cinematographer: Eigil Bryld. Here’s a short bio on the Danish cinematographer per Focus Features:

Eigil Bryld previously was cinematographer on Julian Jarrold’s Becoming Jane for In Bruges producers Graham Broadbent and Pete Czernin. He also shot the same director’s Kinky Boots. His other feature credits as cinematographer include James Marsh’s The King, starring Gael García Bernal and William Hurt; Hella Joof’s Oh Happy Day; and Scott Burns’ The Half Life of Timofey Berezin.

In 2003, Mr. Bryld won the award for Most Innovating Cinematography at the Madridimagen Festival in Madrid, for his work on Dariusz Steiness’ Charlie Butterfly. In 2001, he received a BAFTA Award for his work on James Marsh’s Wisconsin Death Trip.

Can you believe it he received NO award nor even nominations for his work in In Bruges?? What a travesty!

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McDonaugh at the belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, a medieval bell tower in the historical center of Bruges

If you haven’t seen In Bruges, yet. I highly recommend it. I don’t know why it took me so long to finally see it. I’d definitely re-watch this again on Blu-ray so I can really appreciate some of the details, those small TV screen on the plane just doesn’t do it justice!

Image sources: Fanpop.com, Blu-ray.com
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I hope you’ve enjoyed living vicariously through these pictures. Let me know your thoughts on the movie or if you’ve been to Bruges, feel free to share your experience there.