Tuesday, October 30, 2007

South Africa won, but the All Blacks had the Haka…

South African rugby team won on Sunday 20 October the Rugby World Cup 2007 in France. Twenty teams took part in the competition, but only one is world-famous, even for people who know nothing about rugby. The New-Zealand team, ‘the All Blacks', are widely known for their Haka, a traditional dance form of the Maori, a tribe in New-Zealand. The Haka was performed not only by men, but also by women and children. Moreover, it was not only (against popular belief) war dances but it was performed for various reasons : entertainment, tribute to great occasions and so on. If you ask the Maori people which Haka is the genuine one, they will say that there are plenty of those dances, according to the region, tribe and purpose. Nevertheless, they will add that there is one way of dancing that is the most popular in the world, this performed by the All Blacks. It consists of showing the whites of your eyes, your tongue and of slapping your hands against various parts of your body while chanting a sort of poem in the Maori language. The various parts of the body, including the hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes and tongue, express certain feelings such as courage and strength. Actually, two forms of Haka are performed by the All Blacks, they are called the ‘Ka Mate' and the ‘Kapa O Pango'. The former is the most performed and famous of both.
On Youtube, you can see the Haka (Ka Mate) dance performed by gingerbreads.

A little more serious and also useful to learn a little bit about the Maori culture and Haka, there is a little excerpt of 5 minutes which is in fact a documentary on the All Black team and their Haka.

The Rugby World Cup 2007 had also its official song, which is a tribute to the New-Zealand dance... The lyrics are in the Maori language, the English translation is available on internet...

Now that you know more about Haka, you can watch rugby games and maybe perform the Haka with your friends...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

British Vision

Last Friday, all second year students went to Ghent in order to visit two exhibitions: British Innovations at the Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel, but also British Vision at the Museum voor schone kunsten (MSK).

British Vision was interesting in the sense that it displayed lots of paintings, sculptures and other masterworks made by a wide range of British artists, such as Francis Bacon, William Blake, John Constable, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and James W.M. Turner (just to quote a few names).

Whenever I visit an exhibition where paintings are displayed, I cannot help being reminded of a piece of artwork called Arrangment in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother, most commonly known as Whistler's Mother, painted by James Whistler. In the brilliant film Bean with Rowan Atkinson, Mr Bean comes across this painting. Wait and see what happens…

My point was just to show what a real catastrophe looks like. The curator of the MSK had probably seen this film: some of the paintings were protected by a glass screen…

[PS. This blog entry was slightly edited on 6 February on the basis on the corrections suggested by Professor Vandelanotte.]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Goya's Ghosts

Goya’s Ghosts is a film by Milos Forman that was released in 2006. The story takes place in Spain at the end of the 18th century. It traces back the life of the famous Spanish painter Fransisco Goya and gives an overview of the political situation of the country at that time. The story begins in 1792, when the Church decides to reinstaure drastic measures to fight heresy. Fransisco Goya is a famous painter and even the Official Court Painter. One day, Father Lorenzo, a member of the Holy Office, asks Goya to paint his portrait. While observing the paintings in Goya’s studio, Lorenzo’s attention is
caught by the portrait of Inèz Bilbatua, the daughter of a rich merchant. The latter is later arrested by the Holy Office and accused of practising Jewish rituals in secret (because she refused to eat pork at a dinner party). She is tortured (what the Church calls “putting to the question”), then confesses and is sent to prison. In order to get his daughter released, Tomas Bilbatua, Inèzs father, donates Lorenzo a considerable amount of money for the Church and asks him to do something in exchange for his daughter. However it is in vain. Lorenzo goes to see Inèz in prison several times and rapes her. The fate of Inès haunts Goya’s mind and changes the way he paints. Fifteen years later, the armies of Napoleon invade Spain and abolish the Inquisition, enabling all the prisoniers of the Church to be released. After discovering that all her family has been killed in the attacks, Inèz finds refuge with Goya and asks him to help find the daughter she gave birth to in prison…I won’t tell you anymore just in case someone is interested in going to see it! (the film is now on at the Cameo cinema in Namur and is broadcast in English and subtitled in French and Dutch)
The film thus deals with a very serious subject and is very hard and cruel. It shows that at the time of the Inquisiton, the Chruch had all the power and did not hesitate to use inhuman practices if the rules of the Church were not respected. Indeed Inèz is tortured so that she confesses (even if it is not true!) and the state in which she comes out of prison bears witness to all the sufferings she endured there. However, the film is very well made and worthwhile. I really recommend it! If you want the see the trailer of the film, just click here!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New chance to go and see Control

In an unlikely turn of events, it now turns out Control will be screened locally in Namur, only once, on Monday 29 October at 8.30 pm in the "Cameo 2" cinema. I have in the mean time managed to see it, so I can recommend it all the more heartily!

Monday, October 22, 2007

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Welcome to the meat market!

A pretty intriguing header I agree, but I think it perfectly qualifies what ou are about to witness: a crowd of shirtless men raiding an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Big Apple! Queer, aint it? Well, not quite I would say. A&F (= Abercrombie & Fitch), a self-confessed "all-American lifestyle clothing [company] for aspirational men and women," promotes a distorted image of the youth, especially young men. Just see for yourself. I grant you there's nothing wrong with using good-looking models to promote your product. Besides, Abercrombie and Fitch can't really be accused of using very young (= euphemism) models like CK (Mind you this guy, just like movie director Larry Clark, really has a weird fascination for skinny young teens "doing it" -- especially boys). Can you believe A&F has a shirtless male model standing at the front door -- I mean a real person!

Anyway, the YouTube video I embedded is really worth watching if a) you hate A&F like I do (probably because I'm nothing like those models), b) you want to see a huge company being ridiculed in a smart way and c) you like shirtless young men (which, to be honest, we all do to some extent ;) ).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Laughing Matters

Starting this month and continuing into March 2008, the small independent theatre ”Cinema Zed" in Leuven pays tribute to the rich history of comic films by programming a fine selection of films, along with documentaries and even two academic lectures. A series of silent films (with comic acting stars such as Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton), including major classics The General and Modern Times, is followed by a wide range of humorous films directed by the likes of Jacques Tati (Jour de fête), Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot), Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Monty Python (Life of Brian), Pedro Almodovar (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), and many more. If ever in the coming few months you're up for a laugh, you may want to look into the comic films programme (PDF file) to plan a night out. After all, as some of you already know, Leuven is only a train ride away (two train rides, strictly speaking).

The title given to the special programme on comic films, Laughing Matters, is of course a pun, playing on the ambiguity between a verbal and a nominal reading of the word 'matters' (in addition, the nominal reading reminds one of the idiomatic expression 'that is no laughing matter!'). Apart from being a pun, however, Laughing Matters is also the title of a documentary made by Rowan Atkinson (best known for his roles as Blackadder and Mr Bean) in 1992, in which he pretends to be a comedy professor lecturing on the kinds and techniques of visual humour, techniques which are illustrated with clips from films and comedy programmes but which are also demonstrated by "Kevin" (Atkinson again). Unsurprisingly perhaps in this YouTube age, the full programme can be viewed online, in five separate parts of about ten minutes each. Embedding was disabled for this video, but you can go directly to the relevant YouTube page to see this highly amusing documentary.

P.S. If ever you want to download videos from YouTube, you can read instructions on how to do so in an older blog contribution by a former student.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This is Halloween...

It's that time of year again! Jack-o'-lantern on every porch, gingerbread in every oven and children repeating that same old mantra in every street: « Trick or treat?! » Well, I thought this was the perfect time for me to share my passion for horror movies with you. If you thought your English assistant was a creep, well, wait until you read all this...

Yes, I am a big horror movie fan. The gorier, the better. But like for all cinematographic genres, I think we need to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to horror movies. In what follows, I will try to make a few suggestions of what I consider good horror flicks.

The goriest movie of all time has to be Peter Jackson's « Braindead », but then again I wouldn't say his movie is frightening. It is actually quite funny to see so much fake blood, or at least I find it funny and I believe at least one person in BAC2 agrees with me (you know who you are).

No, if you're looking for stuff that will scare the hell out of you, well try Stephen King's « IT », Michael Haneke's « Funny Games» or Takashi Miike's « Ôdishon » (sometimes spelt « Audition »). This last one starts of as a regular Japanese movie, a bit like « Ringu », but after about 45 minutes, everything goes south to say the least. If you're into vampire stuff, try "Shadow of the Vampire" with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe. Dracula has never been scarier...

I also love Zombie movies, especially early ones by George A. Romero (we're not related, I guess) such as « Night of the Living Dead ». By the way, Romero (not me, him) will be releasing a Blair Witch-kind of movie called « Diary of the Dead » which looks very promising. There's another such Blair Witch-esque Zombie Flick called « The Zombie Diaries » and it sure looks scary.

If you're into the apocalyptic kind of movies, you should definitely go for Danny Boyle's « 28 Days Later » and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's sequel « 28 Weeks Later ». And let this be absolutely clear: real Taboulé is made with lots of parlsey, and the « 28 XXX Later » series is NOT about zombies; it's about infected human beings losing it. Like most Zombie fans, I am eargerly awaiting the film version of Max Brooks's « World War Z ». Now THAT is a scary book if there ever was one.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You are what you eat (more or less)

Tired of that ol' Jamie Oliver cookbook? I've got something for you! BeardyMan brings you the most entertaining cooking course EVER. If you're interested in this kind of performances aka beatboxing, you might as well check other beatboxers such as Rahzel (aka the Human beatbox from The Roots), Mr Scratch and our very own Roxorloops (yeah, he's from Belgium!!! Check his skills parts one and two).