Tag Archives: Paris

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The orphan boy in the new Scorsese-directed picture titled “Hugo” was the invention of accidental author Brian Selznick, who fully expected to do theater design work until the popularity of his books, including “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” caused him to shift gears.

Shifting gears, stolen time and secrets unlocked by the heart figure prominently in Selznik’s tale — which also features an orphaned girl. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives in a hidden portion of the Paris train station, while Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretze) lives with a couple she calls Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory) and Pappa Georges (Ben Kingsley).

Hugo adores movies, but Isabelle lives for books — often shared with her by a man named Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbearg). Georges is convinced that he’s been robbed somehow, while his wife does her best to keep what little they have left safe and secure. Music by Howard Shore makes clear the tenuousness of her mission.

Other couples, all seemingly mismatched somehow, populate this movie — which features screenplay by John Logan. A staunch station conductor (Sasha Baron Cohen) obsessed with sending errant children to jail seeks the heart of a demure flower seller named Lisette (Emily Mortimer). An older man named Monsier Frick (Richard Griffiths) who lacks animal magnetism pursues a woman named Emilie (Frances de la Tour) who sits each day with her dog at a train station cafe.

But two other characters, neither of them human, sit at the center of Hugo’s world. An automaton, or self-operating machine (created by Dick George), who sits at a desk with quill in hand. And the fictional man on the moon. As the movie unfolds, like a delicate piece of origami art undone step by step, their role in creating and stirring memories grows more clear.

Most of the movie’s characters have been profoundly touched by tragedy, but the intersection of their lives begins fixing what’s broken. “Hugo” is at once a mystery, an adventure tale and a testament to the healing power of humanity — appreciated most fully by teen and adult audiences.

It’s also a love letter of sorts to masters of film and the art of storytelling. Author Selznick notes that Georges Méliès (Pappa Georges in the movie) was a famous filmmaker who worked from the 1890s through the 1920s. “He made the world’s first science fiction movie,” says Selznick. “It was really magical and strange.” It’s high praise, and no less true of the movie “Hugo.”

— Lynn

Note: Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” earned a Caldecott Medal. Click here to read Selznick’s acceptance speech, which recounts his journey from childhood to children’s author and describes the origins of the boy named Hugo.

Coming up: Showing too much leg, A movie sneak peek from NYC


Happy birthday Paris!

An engaged but mismatched couple (played by Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson) stroll a street in Paris soon after arriving there with her parents

Paris celebrated its 2,000th birthday on July 8, 1951 — making Friday birthday number 2,060 for the city Woody Allen first fell in love with during filming of “What’s New Pusssycat?” Allen was screenwriter and actor for the 1965 film.

He’s written and directed a new film titled “Midnight in Paris,” an opening night selection for this year’s Cannes Film Festival that was released May 20 in L.A. and New York. It’s playing now in movie theaters throughout the Valley.

Owen Wilson is one of many stellar actors in the latest film written and directed by Woody Allen

I saw the film this week at Harkins Camelview 5 Theatre in Scottsdale. I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan, but wanted to see the film described as his “valentine to the City of Light.” Seems Allen considers Paris “equal to New York as the great city of the world.”

On that we agree. I traveled many times to Paris as a college senior studying in Germany, and loved every minute spent at eclectic sidewalk cafes and majestic art museums.

I’m eager to read David McCullough’s latest work, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.” Author Stacy Schiff, who reviewed the work for The New York Times, says it “explores the intellectual legacy that France settled on its 19th-century visitors” — long before the era when “freedom fries” replaced French fries on some American menus.

Reading Madeline books in a fun way to enjoy imaginary trips to Paris with your children

My children were first introduced to Paris via the books of Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of several “Madeline” titles, which follow the adventures of 12 French school girls. Bemelmans was born in 1898 in the Austrian Triol, but came to America in 1914. He lived in New York until his death in 1963. The “Madeline” movie released in 1998 could have been titled “Mischief in Paris.”

“Midnight in Paris” stars Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni (first lady of France), Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen  and Owen Wilson.

It’s a romantic comedy tackling “the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.”

As a Denver native and Arizona transplant who sometimes longs to live in New York or San Francisco, I need reminding more than most that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There’s just more of it.

The film opens as a young couple arrives in Paris. The woman has marriage and moving to Malibu on her mind. The man, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, is working on a novel and dreams of living in Paris — where he loves to walk in the rain.

Midnight in Paris considers whether the grass really is greener on the other side

For several nights, the writer strolls alone to a special spot where he’s transported at the stroke of midnight to 1920s Paris, encountering all sorts of writers and artists, including Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Period music, much of it by Cole Porter, plays throughout most of the film — which also features plenty of famous sites, from the Eiffel Tower to Moulin Rouge. It’s a movie best appreciated by those who love the literary — though artists, history buffs and philosophical souls will also “get it” more than most.

Now I have a real dilemma on my hands. New York or Paris?

— Lynn

Coming up: Tips for introducing children to opera, Valley arts organizations find new homes, Musings on “The Tree of Life,” Ode to hairspray

Update: Click here to learn about the PBS American Masters presentation of “Woody Allen: A Documentary” written and directed by Robert Weide. 11/21/11

Art meets egghead

Now you can enjoy great art in museums, books and online exhibitions

I’ve been meaning for some time to explore a bit of the new Google “Art Project” that allows visitors to tour various museums and enjoy close-ups of more than 1,000 artworks.

This morning I fired up my laptop to discover the Google logo decked out in sculpture by Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), considered by many a father of modern art.

The first thing I noticed was the egg-shaped appearance of some of the works — an observation that surely betrays my lack of sophistication in this realm of the art world. But, hey — we all have to start somewhere.

I’ve toured several of the world’s great museums, including those of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. My favorites include the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris.

For museums not featured in the Google Art Project, there are always books and airplane tickets

Though I can’t tour them anew using Google’s “Art Project,” I can “visit” two other museums high on my list of favorites — including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (one of my favorite European cities) and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

You don’t even want to know my reaction to learning while my husband was back East with Lizabeth recently that they’d made it one day to the NYC M & M factory but not the MoMA. (I calmed a bit, but only a bit, after he explained that only one of the two is open on Mondays.)

If I kept a “bucket list,” it would likely include touring the many art museums of Chicago, plus museums in several regions of California from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

I’m also ever so eager to tour the National Museum of the American Indian and the Newseum in D.C. — home to another personal favorite, the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

The Google Art Project features museums in America and abroad

Google’s “Art Project” features museums in several cities (sometimes more than one museum in a single city) — including Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Madrid, St. Petersburg and others.

Visitors to the Google “Art Project” are met with two immediate choices — viewing artwork or exploring a museum.

The “create an artwork collection” feature allows folks to create personalized online collections complete with comments, and to share their collections with others.

While I’d rather Valley families explore our local museums, youth theaters and other performing arts venues during the long President’s Day weekend — I have to admit that the Google “Art Project” makes for a mighty fine “plan B” for those who prefer to sit out the rainstorms.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA — and here to learn about our very own Phoenix Art Museum

Coming up: Classic tales (and tails) come to Scottsdale theaters

Elton does the Bard

I set out early Sunday morning with my 21-year-old son Christopher in search of plants to refresh the giant flowerpots James’ parents keep on their patio.

Christopher suggested red since it was his grandma’s birthday and the occasion falls so close to Valentine’s Day. We stumbled on some stunning red tulips and a couple of small cacti with bright pink blooms.

It's "love at first fight" as Gnomeo meets Juliet

But before we did our planting, we took in the new “Gnomeo & Juliet” — a Touchstone Pictures film whose executive producer Elton John also provides much of the movie’s music.

As the movie was about to begin, a young boy sitting a few rows in front of us called out to friend who thought it was time to leave the theater. “The movie hasn’t ended yet!,” he exclaimed.

Apparently the previews for kid-friendly films like “African Cats,” “Rango,” “Hop,” and “Rio” were plenty entertaining for at least some in the crowd — and I must admit that they all look rather enchanting.

“Gnomeo & Juliet” (rated G) pits two competitive gardeners, and their gnomes, against one another. One house is red, while another is blue — and never, it seems, the twain shall meet.

The movie opens with one of many homages to William Shakespeare, who penned the gnome-free “Romeo and Juliet” long before the lawn mowers used in alley races by the film’s waring gnomes were invented.

Nanette tells Juliet she has good reason to fret

Many of Shakespeare’s characters are there — Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Paris and such. But now they’ve got those pointy little hats.

The plot can only go so far before deviating from the original. As you’ve likely guessed or heard already — there’s no double tragedy as the film draws to a close.

Characters are voiced by all sorts of well-known performers, including James McAvoy (Romeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michale Caine (Lord Redbrick) and Ozzy Osbourne (Fawn).

The ending of “Gnomeo & Juliet” is neater and cheerier than it needs to be, but we still enjoyed the journey to get there — which includes some witty dialogue and word play, fun arrangements of Elton John and Bernie Taupin fare, and unexpected characters like baby bunny statues and a pink flamingo.

A statue of William Shakespeare comes alive at one point to explain a bit about the way his tale of ill-fated lovers ends, but it may be lost on the littlest viewers — unless their parents are clever enough to turn the movie into a “teachable moment.”

Featherstone delivers an anti-bias message

“Gnomeo & Juliet” is entertaining enough on its own (although it does drag in a few places, and include some adult-geared humor that seems a bit tasteless) — but it’s best enjoyed as part of a broader experience with Shakespeare.

Think time spent reading child-friendly adaptations of Shakespeare stories. Spring or summer theater camps with a Shakespeare theme. A family trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival — which features kid-friendly “Greenshows.” Attending “Southwest Shakespeare Company” productions.

Of course, it can be our little secret if you also run right out and buy your own copy of the “Gnomeo & Juliet” soundtrack.

— Lynn

Note: Spring and summer performing arts camps, including those with a Shakespeare twist, fill quickly — so don’t delay in doing that camp homework and getting your child registered before slots are filled for your favorites.

Coming up: Meet the youngest “Gammage Goer,” Monty Python meets musical theater

Film photos from www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

The many adventures of “Curious George”

“Curious George” with his 2010 Daytime Emmy Award (Photo: PBS)

When publisher and editor Karen Barr learned that PBS KIDS was readying to open the fifth anniversary season of “Curious George,” the 2010 Daytime Emmy winner for outstanding children’s animated program, she asked whether it was something I might like to cover.

I was intrigued, remembering that I’d seen quite a few “Curious George” items last time I strolled through a museum gift shop in Washington, D.C.

Uncertain of where I’d seen them, I jumped online to do a bit of exploring.

Why, I wondered, would stories for children be the stuff of museums?

I discovered that a “Curious George” exhibit at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan recently closed–but still has info online. Turns out there’s a powerful back story to the tale of this adventuresome young monkey.

Lizabeth’s tattered but cherished “Curious George” book

Curious George” left Paris in 1940 as a mere manuscript in the hands of creators Margret and H.A. Rey, both German Jews seeking to avoid Nazi-occupation.

In 1941, the first “Curious George” book was published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin. Lizabeth pulled a later edition off one of her bookshelves when I mentioned I’d be writing about the monkey and his creators.

Knowing the real-life travels of “Curious George,” it’s no surprise that the upcoming season for the televison series will feature “exciting new adventures that encourage preschoolers to explore and engage with the world around them.”

Lizabeth’s prized “Curious George” monkey

“Curious George” will make new friends, including a character named “Marco” who introduces him to “unique elements of Hispanic culture like food, music and celebration.”

The series will “introduce viewers to different cultures and social activities” while continuing its “underlying misson to foster understanding of science, math and engineering.”

To learn more about the recent “Curious George” exhibit, visit The Jewish Museum online–where you’ll also find supporting materials from a 2005 exhibit titled “Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak.”

Another Trimble storytime favorite

The museum notes that Sendak was “born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants” and “grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, during which many members of his family were lost.”

The Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia features a Maurice Sendak Collection of more than 10,000 objects–which is well worth a visit in person or online.

“Curious George” poster encourages reading

As Americans continue to wrestle with issues of immigration and identity, perhaps these authors and illustrators can help us better understand our past–and forge promising paths to a future we’ll all share.


Note: Thanks to my daughter Jennifer for sharing an article on “Curious George” appearing in a public service announcement about literacy

Coming up: The peril and promise of blogging–as RAK’s “Stage Mom” celebrates 300 consecutive daily posts

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

One month & 1,000 art exhibits

“I like to move it, move it.” We’ve had some great times with these lyrics from a song in the DreamWorks Animation film “Madagascar” from 2005.

I was reminded recently of a character from the movie, Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), when I heard that a circus-owned zebra was making his way through rush hour traffic in Atlanta the other day. Marty, as you may remember, takes his fellow zoo mates on a wild adventure after orchestrating their escape.

Seems the real escapee, a 12-year-old alive-rather-than-animated animal named “Lima,” ran past the window of a restaurant full of children during his 45 minutes of freedom.

The restaurant owner recounted the experience during a recent radio interview, recalling how the children gleefully shouted “Madagascar!” as the zebra ran past.

Cute, perhaps—but also a wee bit sad. Why do I suspect that the movie theater is as close as some of these kids have ever come to an animal other than a kitten or a pup? Please tell me they know wild animals come from the great outdoors rather than the big screen.

I worry sometimes that our kids just aren’t getting off the couch and into the sunshine as often as they should these days. Hence I’ve put together a list of upcoming outdoor arts experiences from festivals to concerts.

Why not make time to enjoy them before warmer weather has you planning your own escape…

Fountain Hills Great Fair. 23rd annual juried art fair featuring more than 400 artists from around the United States and other countries, plus live music. Downtown Fountain Hills. Feb. 26-28. Info at www.fountainhillschamber.com.

Target 3 for Free. Variety of outdoor concerts featuring rock, pop, country, old time rock and roll, and folk. Mesa Arts Center. March 7, April 4, May 2. Info at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Scottsdale Arts Festival. 40th annual event featuring 200 jury-selected artists from around North America, free arts activities for children, live music and more. Outdoor park adjacent to Scottsdale Center for the Arts. March 12-14. Info at www.scottsdalecenterforthearts.org.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Desert Sky Series. Variety of outdoor concerts featuring international, country/western, big band and pop music. Scottsdale Civic Plaza Amphitheater. March 21, March 26, April 9, May 1 and May 8. Info at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

Tempe Festival of the Arts. Features more than 400 artist booths, plus live music and other performances. Mill Avenue District. March 26-28. Info at www.tempefestivalofthearts.com.

I’ve been enjoying arts festivals with my kiddos since they were stroller-size. Many of our local festivals are free, and those that charge admission are reasonably priced. They’re a great choice for families with toddlers or families with teens (and practically essential for families with both).

And just think about it—attending all three of the arts festivals noted above (in Fountain Hills, Scottsdale and Tempe) will give you 1,000 encounters with art—all within a one month period of time. Where else can you make that happen?

Yes—you could hit the Louvre in Paris or the British Museum in London, but you’d be hard pressed to make it home by bedtime.


Note: Please check event details and ticketing information before attending. If you know of another outdoor arts-related event, please let our readers know via the comment section below. Thanks!