Friday, June 29, 2007

Cheap vino?! Oh, no!



I made a vow last week to no longer drink any beer while I'm here (for fear of gut and poverty). I know, it was blasphemy. This place really does have the world's best beer, but I had my fill of it, finally. I decided that I would only drink beer that was bought for me, and not drink anything else.

Then, as I was at dinner last Thursday, pre-theatre (we went to the National Theatre-Narodni Divaldo), I discovered that a glass of wine is 30k, or, $1.50. Seriously. So, I'm back to drinking, in moderation, I swear!

Anyway, now that life post-Brad has settled down (SOOOOOOOOOOOO hot!!!!!!), I do need to recap on the rest of my weekend. Last Sunday turned out to be absolutely perfect weather (again!), although it was a tad windy:



Leah and I first headed to the Franz Kafka Museum.



I'd probably get slaughtered for saying this, but you know, despite a lot of illnesses (he died from TB), the dude's life wasn't all that bad. He had a pretty comfy background (dad was loaded), was walked to school each morning by the family cook, got his law degree, and had a ton of women vying for his attention. But the dude was wicked whiney. He reminded me of AJ Soprano, actually. I guess I should actually read some of his stuff before I start criticizing the guy and all, but I was reading a passage that he wrote while home with his parents. He was complaing about the god-awful noise pollution in his home (doors opening and closing, people walking up and down stairs), and how he was "on edge" all the time because of the startling noise. Come on, now. Seriously.

Regardless, the museum is a pretty innovative space. Leah and I especially liked the urinating statues. They actually swivel their hips from side to side as they relieve themselves!



Next, we headed over to the Old Jewish Quarter and toured 10th-14th century synagogues. The Pinkas synagogue contains the names of over 80,000 Czech victims of the Holocaust. They are written on every wall in the temple-- it leaves you speechless to walk though the place.

The Old Jewish Cemetery leaves you speechless as well. When the Jews first arrived centuries ago, they were only allowed to be buried in that particular cemetery. The result is hundreds of tomstones stacked on top of one another, their writing weathered off.



We toured some other synagogues, all extremely beautiful. From there we shopped around the area, and of course, we had to get our photos taken with the giant high heel sculpture:



Next, we FINALLY made it to Petrin Hill, which I have wanted to explore since the first day.
http://www.pragueexperience.com/places.asp?PlaceID=604
Petrin Hill is an amazing, gigantic park (yes, yet another one!), and to get to the top from Old Town, you either climb up an infinite number of steps, or take the funicular... I've been pretty good about climbing stairs here, but once I heard there was a funicular, I had to take it. It's basically a giant cable car that goes up the mountain:



Leah and I thought it was awesome, though we would have enjoyed it more, had the dude in front of us not had the worst body odor ever. He almost took the fun out of funicular. (Sorry, I'm tired.)

We headed over to the observatory tower-- a replica of the Eiffel Tower built in 1891, yet 1/4 the size of the original. I am very happy to announce that I marched up all 299 stairs without taking a break :) (My calves were pretty mad at me the next day, though.)







The mirror wall, however, was probably the most entertaining part of the park. It's a small castle filled with funhouse mirrors (and in the middle of it all is a giant painting of a bloody civil battle). We had a little too much fun there:







Heading back home, we took a "shortcut" through the woods, and followed the Hunger Wall (a public works project set up by Charles IV to provide food to people during a famine). Leah and I decided to stop for a bit to spin in the big open field:


We followed the wall all the way down to a magic garden... a beer garden! Again!


Turns out it was private property of the Plaza Hotel, which is on castle property. They didn't seem to mind us passing through, though, and it's now become one of my favorite places to run here. Petrin Hill actually connects to Strahov Stadium, an enormous arena, and that connects Ladronka Park, where there's rollerbladers, runners, cyclists, and dogs. I did the entire loop tonight, and I'm thinking it's between 5.5 and 6 miles, so it's a perfect route for me.

The rest of the week we were busy planning for our final video project, and watching tons of films in our Czech Film History class. Some of the films included were DAISIES, FIREMAN'S BALL, MUDDY CITY, LOVES OF A BLONDE, AIMLESS WALK, WE LIVE IN PRAGUE, SHOP ON MAIN STREET, and lots more Svankmajer. I loved all of it, but by the end of the week, we were all pretty fried between screenings and meeting with our producers for our projects. We finally got a break on Thursday night and headed to the National Theatre (where Brad was hanging out!) to see a modern dance performance.
http://www.nationaltheatre.cz/ It was dance and music inspired by the work of three poets. A lot of it was in French, and Czech, and the English subtitles were either way off, or it was just wack poetry. Really beautiful to look at, great costumes, and of course, it gave us a reason to get all glammed up!






We came home and packed for Karlovy Vary Film Festival... the subject of my next posting. Sorry this one was so delayed!

Monday, June 25, 2007

BRAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



We totally had a Brad Pitt spotting today!!!!!!!!!! They were all shooting a commercial today outside the National Theatre (right next door to FAMU)!! Our professor was kind enough to give us the heads up, and we ran to the window screaming like 16 year-old girls at the Ed Sullivan show! And to think, I almost didn't bring my camera to school today!!



Now normally, I can keep my cool around celebs-- working at the JBFC definitely helped with that. But I swear I was having hot flashes and my voice was at least 3 octaves higher than normal when I was staring at him through binoculars (our professor's, not mine!). I've been in love with this guy since I was at least 10 or 11 years old, seriously. I haven't been this excited since I got to see Bill Clinton speak at Pace. It was definitely the same kind of trance.



Here's a video we captured... my classmate, Maggie, shot it with my crappy digital camera and provides the entertaining narration:


I can't believe he's 44-- he looks SO good for his age. And yes, ladies... he does look even better in person!

And just in case you don't believe me...
http://www.pittwatch.com/

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wide open spaces

Ahoj,

I dedicated this weekend to being outside and exploring as many parks and museums as possible. I first headed to the Royal Gardens at the Castle, and then headed to the actual Castle, where I ended up spending about 5 hours (no idea how).






While there, I toured St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George Bascilia, the Castle's torture chambers (soooooo disturbing),




and Golden Lane, a row of tiny houses on the Castle property where those employed by the royal family (clockmakers, shoemakers, etc.) could live. That was probably my favorite part of the tour-- each of the little houses are all connected, and they are all different little shops. It's a great place to blow any remaining money you might have.



On top of these houses is a gallery of armor-- shields, knives, suits, authentic cloaks and gowns, and at the end, an indoor archery lane.



Yeah. Kinda crazy. Also located at Golden Lane is the home where Franz Kafka lived while he gained uber-hipster status in pre-hipster days. There's a cafe there named after him, where I had some tasty (and meatless!) potato soup.



By the way, I saw the most disturbing image at the Basilica, though we weren't allowed to take photos. They actually had the skull and bones of Saint Ludmila (the first Czech saint, I believe... this is what happens when you are cheap and don't pay the extra k for an audio tour!) on display... very creepy. The Basilica is the oldest church at the Castle-- built in the early 900s.

After lunch, I toured the Castle grounds and took about a hundred photos of the view. Basically, everywhere you go in Prague has unobstructed views of the city, and I'm trying to take advantage of it as much as I can.






As I was leaving the Castle, I found a live birds of prey exhibit, which wasn't too lively. The birds were all basically hanging out together and napping, though I did get a few to flap their wings for me as I took some photos. They had some beautiful owls and hawks.



No ducks, though :( I'm going to devote my last weekend here to checking out the Prague Zoo, which is supposed to be pretty impressive (and hopefully they'll have duckies).

From there, I headed to Letna Park, an incredible public park that offers a lot of little gems.




There's a crazy giant metronome that was put up after Stalin's statue was torn down, and it still works today.



The place was packed with skateboarders. There's also a giant tennis club, a playground (with sandboxes!), a dog park, and a highly recommended beer garden.




There was a wedding going on right next door, at the Belvedere (a mansion now used for social events), so I kept on walking until I found myself at the Museum of Technology. Unfortunately, it was closed, and rather than go through the park, I decided to walk through the streets, though kind of lost. I stumbled upon Einstein's Pizzeria (the pizza is better here than in Boston, I am sorry to say), and managed to rock a good beer buzz in the mid-afternoon. Alone.



Luckily, my keen sense of direction was more sober than I was, and somehow I got on the right Tram to get back to the dorm. On the walk there, I found a salon that offers pedicures for 120k (about $6!!). I'm used to shelling out close to $25 back home, so I'm definitely going to take advantage. We're going to a performance at the National Theatre on Thursday night, and it's Little Black Dress and Heels attire, so classy toes are in demand.

After the beer buzz wore off, I decided to go running and burn off the pizza dinner. I originally planned to check out Petrin Hill, where there's a mirror maze, a wooden church, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower, but I got lost (again!) and ended up in Brevnov (basically the Shippan/Brookline/Briarcliff of Prague) at this GIGANTIC public park, with an endless in-line skate/cycling/running path. It was like a mirage-- it kept going, there were no tourists, and everyone was happy and hanging out with their dogs (who are never on the leash in Prague, but are SO well behaved!). The park is on top of a gaint hill that keeps sprawling out and offers views of faraway mountains. I can see why this is such a great area for filming movies. While up there, I found a bowling alley/badminton/frisbee/bar/restaurant/playground. Kind of hard to describe, you just have to see it. I found out that the public park was only just finished in 2005, and it's called Ladronka, after an Italian count who owned the land. It's definitely my new favorite place to go running-- no cobblestones!

Today Leah and I are planning on seeing the Kafka museum, then heading to the Old Jewish Cemetery and surrounding synagogues. From there I hope to finally check out Petrin Hill, and end the evening with a run at Ladronka. I really should be working on our script... whoops. That's what all nighters are for :)

Finally, my Flickr account is telling me that I reached the maximum photos for this month, so I am either going to upload to another account, or somehow hold off on uploading until when I get back from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (http://www.kviff.com/) next weekend. Because taking less photos is definitely not an option :)

Uvidime se brzi!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Punch me, I'm in love.



Dobry den :)

I forgot to mention that a group of us went to the Museum of Sex Machines earlier this week. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I didn't bring my camera. We saw some of the first ever erotic cinema (shot in Spain in 1925, and pretty nasty), as well as some things not appropriate for this blog, or for my memory. Basically, each ascending floor was more terrifying than the next. I'm going to head to the Museum of Communism in an effort to forget what I saw, but for all of you itching to get a looksee, you can check out the museum here: http://www.sexmachinesmuseum.com/en_page.html.
Don't say I didn't warn you!

This week was very busy, but I was really happy to be in school. We learned SO much, and at the end of our intensive lighting workshop, we were all sad to say goodbye to the studio, as well as to Milos, who was the sweetest, most energetic lighting director who has ever existed. Milos reminded me of an excited little kid who wants to show you all of the toys in his toy box, and keeps running back and forth to bring you different playthings, only the toys were lights. I've never met someone so happy about lights before, and it made the rest of us all really excited as well. I got to talking to him, and we had a pretty detailed discussion about the water in Prague compared to the US, which, by the way, is AMAZING. The tap water here tastes better than any bottled water I have ever had. I'll probably die when I head back to Boston and drink all of that contaminated chemical waste.

Milos took a liking to me and to my classmate, Leah, because we were fascinated by a 50 year-old 220 watt giant lightbulb that we used to light one of our night scenes. He's been collecting them over the years (they are no longer made), and actually offered one to us to take home. As much as the both of us would have loved such an awesome souvenir, neither of us could take it (he had previously referred to them as his "treasures"). We happily took photos with it and with him (see below).



I pretty much wanted to stuff him in my suitcase and take him home, but then I realized that he's too good to be human, and definitely too good to be in the States (although his daughter lives in Attleboro, and he's a fan of Boston and Cambridge, yay!).

Today we went to visit Barrandov and Trnka studios in Prague. I'm pretty sure it was the best field trip I've ever been on. We got to see where the majority of the CZ's film is processed, and Barrandov is the Hollywood of this area. Even more impressive, though, was Trnka studios, the major animation studio here (the Disney of Central Europe). It was named after Jiri Trnka, one of the first animators in CZ, whose work with puppetry and stop motion animation is some of the most incredible I've ever seen. You can check out his last ever film, Ruka (The Hand) here: http://vlog.seksuroba.com/?p=13 It's only 10 minutes, and SO worth it. The symbolism for Communism and oppression couldn't be any more obvious. It's a spectacular metaphor.

We got to watch about 90 minutes of original prints of Trnka films, as well as many other awesome animators, including Jan Svankmajer, a decendent of Trnka, who I've decided is going to immediately make it into my top fav filmmakers (along with Trnka), right up there with Ross McElwee. He's got some hilarious animated films, but they're all wildly innovative, and definitely have a flair for the surreal. One film in particular really blew me away-- The Coffin Factory (known also as Punch & Judy), from 1966. Demonic monkey puppets, coffins, and a live Punch and Judy show with a real guinea pig... you've gotta check it out for yourself:



I promise you'll be hooked!!

I seriously could have stayed at that studio for the rest of my life and watched animated films. After the screening, we took a tour of the rest of the studio and met one of the filmmakers from a film we viewed. Of course, I suck and can't remember his name, but the film translates into The Last Strawberry. It's a horror film about vampires shot in black and white, and then is HAND PAINTED. We were all a little too awe-inspired to ask him anything after. Walking around the studio (we weren't really allowed to take too many pics, unfortunately, but I have included some on Flickr), I felt as though we were back in the 50s or 60s. All the animators were pretty up there in years, and the studio doesn't look like it's ever been renovated. But it adds to the charm, and reminds you of all the hard labor that has gone into these remarkable productions. The cafeteria was great as well. They make a mean plate of lentils (with 2 poached eggs and sweet pickles).

After lunch, our hilarious tour guide (and instructor at FAMU), Rudolph, who calls himself "ancient," took us on a tour of the city. I think he's been teaching at FAMU for about 30 years. He brought us to Vysehrad, which is south east of where we live. It offers some of the best views of the river and of Prague.



While there, we toured the park, and then went underground into the catacombs, where we got to see some of the original statues from the Charles Bridge (the ones on the bridge now are replicas). The statues I believe are at least from the 1300s. We also saw St. Martin's Rotunda-- a tiny, round church (I think from the 11th century), and then went to the National Cemetery, which is "The place where you want to be buried if you're a Czech," according to Rudolph. It was pretty much the most beautiful cemetery I've ever seen. All the tombstones were different and stunningly decorated.



It was the first time I didn't get freaked out walking around headstones. I also found Jan Neruda's grave. He was a famous 19th century Czech writer and poet.

After, Rudolph said, "And now we go do something happy. Let's have some beer!" and we all headed to a pub near FAMU, where we drank amber ale that started with a G (not Gambrinus, it was something else), and a few of us even ate some tiny fried fish that still had their heads. And eyes. I made a classmate bite the head off of mine so I wouldn't feel as bad.



It was raining pretty badly, so Rudolph kindly shared his umbrella with me, and we chatted for a while. He gave me some great tips on where else to go while I'm here, so I'm going to take advantage of it this weekend. When he dropped us off at class (yes, we got drunk and then went to a 4-7pm scriptwriting class on a Friday), he called me his little protege, gave me a big hug and a smooch on the cheek. The undergrads, of course, loved this. What can I say, older men have got a thing for me ;)




Script writing class was tough to sit through. I attempted to stay away by taking pictures out the window:



Unfortunately, our instructor likes to trash all of our work. He actually used such comments as "This is awful," and, "This is diarreah." Luckily, he likes my script that I wrote with Leah (the elderly couple who can't find a place to eat dinner because everywhere is overrun with tourists). We got off pretty easily. He wants us to give one of our characters cancer. "Yes, give them the cancer. That will be gooood." We're so not listening to him.

Hope you all are well! Mitt Romney sucks. So does his advisor. And the president. Dumbasses.

Dobre vecer!