An Afternoon At Opus 40

It’s Fourth of July weekend. Who wants to be inside watching movies? Not me. I’m in upstate NY for the weekend and taking advantage of living near some cool places.

Opus 40 is in Saugerties. It is an environmental sculpture that was built over the course of 37 years by Harvey Fite, a sculptor, quarryman, and professor at Bard College. The sculpture covers about 6.5 acres of a bluestone quarry. Fite found and moved individual stones to create walkways, passages, pools, and ramps. There is also a Quarryman’s Museum on the grounds that exhibits traditional tools used by quarry workers.

Fite named Opus 40 after the number of years he thought it would take to complete his project. But Fite died in 1976 in a fall at the site in year 37 of the project.

Opus 40 is an incredible site. To think that one man moved every stone to where it is now is wild to think about. When you consider the emphasis on individualism and hard work in American culture, there are few artistic pieces more American than Opus 40.

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A Glimpse at German Film History

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum in downtown Berlin.  There are rooms dedicated to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Marlene Dietrich, German cinema during the Third Reich, and current German cinema. The museum has displays of costumes, storyboards, and screenplays from more recent films such as Run Lola Run and Head-On. The current temporary exhibit is dedicated to the career of German actress Romy Schneider, who spent her entire career trying to leave her image of Sissi behind.

I absolutely loved my visit. For any film fanatic it is a great museum to explore and learn about the history of German cinema.

Here are some more pictures.

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Up Close And Personal With Harry Potter’s Magic Wand

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

There are moments when we just have to embrace our inner geek. Considering that this is Mount Holyoke, where many of us have quirks and hang ups about the strangest things, this is something not unusual. I had one of those moments when my inner film nerd came out in full force this weekend. There I was, standing in front of the Mecca of all film set props: Harry Potter’s magic wand…and broom…and everything else from the Harry Potter movies you can imagine.

Harry Potter™: The Exhibition is a new exhibit that opened at Boston’s Museum of Science on Oct. 25. Here more than 200 props, costumes and creatures from the six Harry Potter movies are on display, transporting fans into the wizarding world. The props are displayed in settings inspired by the film sets: Hagrid’s hut, the Dark Forest, the Great Hall and many more.

The exhibit begins with a sorting. Several lucky members from the tour group are chosen from the crowd (I suggest you jump like a maniac in the back row, like my friend Ruth did, if you want to be selected), are placed under the sorting hat and learn their Hogwarts house. From there you enter into a screening room where clips from the films are shown, setting the mood for the experience you are about to have.

Once the doors open, you are led past the Hogwarts Express and down a corridor filled with magical paintings. You walk through the Fat Lady’s portrait and into the Gryffindor common room. Now the real adventure has begun. As you stroll past endless props and costumes, you are transported into Harry Potter’s world. There is Harry’s admission letter to Hogwarts from Sorcerer’s Stone; the Basilisk from Chamber of Secrets; the Time Turner and Marauder’s Map from Prisoner of Azkaban; Hermione’s Yule Bal gown and Triwizard Cup from Goblet of Fire, Dolores Umbridge’s office from Order of Phoenix; and the potions book from Half-Blood Prince.

These props and costumes are a part of elaborate film set recreations. Everything from Ron Weasley’s dorm room to the Divination classroom to the Great Hall have been splendidly recreated. Throughout the exhibit, you can participate in essential wizarding world activities toss a Quaffle, pull a screeching Mandrake and sit in Hagrid’s chair. All that is missing is the chance to ride Buckbeak the Hippogriff or duel a Hungarian Horntail dragon.

While at Harry Potter: The Exhibition, I was reminded of the significance that Harry Potter has had in my life. They certainly are not the first books I remember reading as a child, but are among my childhood favorites. This exhibition is a wonderful reminder of why I love the Harry Potter films. Most of all, it is a reminder of how Harry Potter has affected not only my life but will influence a whole new generation of fans. Throughout the exhibit, I kept stumbling over a little boy who was no more than 10 years old dressed like Harry Potter. While his costume was not as elaborate as the couple dressed as Dumbledore and Trelawney (it was Harry Potter), this little boy perfectly encompasses what the Harry Potter franchise truly represents. J.K. Rowling created a world that offers the perfect escape from reality, and there is no doubt it will continue to influence and delight in the years to come.

The flying car from the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter: The Exhibition will be on display at Boston’s Museum of Science until February 12, 2010.

Published: November 5, 2009
The Mount Holyoke News

Fay Wray, The Original Beauty

Fay Wray in King Kong

With the remake of King Kong, directed by Peter Jackson, opening on December 23, it seems necessary to recognize Fay Wray, who originated the role of “the beauty”. Naomi Watts will attempt to fill her shoes this winter.

The Empire State Building has a permanent exhibit dedicated to Fay Wray. Many tourists attend the exhibit every year because for many of them, King Kong was the movie that made them fall in love with the movies. Here is an excerpt from the NY Times article about Wray and the impact her signature role has had on audiences.

The Giant Ape Climbed Here. And She Was Why
By Shadi Rahimi
Published: September 22, 2005, The New York Times

It is a silent tribute to the beauty who screamed her way to fame in the clutches of a giant gorilla in love, created by a fan who collected stacks of movie memorabilia.

A permanent exhibit featuring “King Kong” movie posters and photographs of the film’s star, Fay Wray, is on display on the ground floor of the Empire State Building – a place that the actress once wrote “belongs to me, or is it vice versa?”

Miss Wray, who stood atop the building for the last time several months before she died at 96 in 2004, appeared in about 100 movies. But she was remembered best for screeching and writhing in the powerful grip of King Kong in 1933.

Two display windows, designed by a property manager and “King Kong” fan, Justin Clayton, 50, commemorate the link between the actress and the building.

For Samuel Renonoly, a 33-year-old tourist from Liège, Belgium, the old movie posters brought back the excitement of seeing “King Kong” as a 9-year-old living in Congo. “There were lots of gorillas everywhere, and I wanted to see a bigger one,” he said.

After hearing last week that she had been hired as an intern at City Guide magazine, on the 24th floor of the building, Dez Burstein, 21, said she bought a shirt bearing a 1930’s “King Kong” poster.

Stopping at the display, tucked in a nook around the corner from the escalators, Ms. Burstein gazed at a portrait of Miss Wray as the damsel-in-distress Ann Darrow, with tousled hair and a tattered robe. “She was just so beautiful,” she said.

Mr. Clayton, who said he befriended Miss Wray in 2003 and spent many weekends with her watching her old movies, said he chose the “most dramatic and attractive” of his hundreds of articles of memorabilia for the display.

“Now she is forever enshrined in this legendary building that she helped make famous, and vice versa,” he said.