“The Grand Budapest Hotel” –Hungary for Humor


The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-PosterThis British-German co-production directed by Wes Anderson is  the adventure of Gustave, (a comedic turn for Ralph Fiennes) a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa (the astonishing 17-year old Tony Revolori) , the “lobby boy” who becomes his confident and essential companion.  Together they are determined to prove Gustave’s innocence after being framed for both theft and murder. The story centers on  the theft of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for a family fortune — all against the back-drop of a  dramatically changing Europe.

The narrative takes place in three time periods (each indicated by a different cinematic technique):  1) the present in which a teenage girl stands before a stature of “The Author” and begins learning about his story of the Grand Budapest Hotel; 2) 1968, a flashback to the elderly owner Zero Moustafa and “The Author” (Jude Law):  Zero’s remembrance of his youth under the tutelage of Gustave, concierge extraordinaire.   3)  pre- Second World War, circa 1932-33 when Zero is a young “lobby boy” and Gustave is the darling of the wealthy doyennes who patronize the hotel.  One especially wealthy eccentric upon whom he dotes, Madame D  (Tilda Swinton), dies mysteriously and bequeaths everything to Gustave.  Then the wild journey and story really take off  with Gustave and Zero partners in crime.

I am a huge fan of Wes Anderson (ever since “Bottle Rocket”). His films have always been quirky, idiosyncratic and goofy originals. All of Anderson’s trademarks combine to produce the ultimate wackiness in his humor. The absurdity that defines his style makes “The Grand Budapest Hotel” crazy and hilarious!


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Top Ten Movies of 2013

f19bff75-9126-48a6-a2f0-2cb623dc91e1Every year I have taken a look back at the movie reviews I have written.  When I counted the reviews I have written this year (=18 plus 3 this year about movies released in 2013), I wanted to see what would be my top ten (actually twelve)  favorites.  It wasn’t easy, as both television and cinema have upped the ante on story-telling.

This list is not ranked in order of quality –only my top ten for 2013, grouped by genre, and one additional because I couldn’t help myself.

Independent Studios (Quirky themes):

1)Dallas Buyers Club (February 24, 2014  review): character-driven as well as plot-driven, focusing on the relationship between Woodroof and Rayon, polar opposites who need and want each other.  The performances are remarkable, perhaps as much  for the costumes and physical transformation as for the acting.

2) August:  Osage County  (Jan 29, 2014 review): a disquieting look at an American family with secrets and lies that keep coming and coming, when the viewer least expects them. Some critics disagree, but for me, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the shattering performance by Meryl Streep as a mother from hell.

3) Her  January 19, 2014  review):  part romantic comedy, part sci-fi, “Her” plays with the future and the interface between humans and their computers as well as the problems and pitfalls of communicating feelings in any relationship.

4) Amour (February 18, 2013 review): An epitaph of mourning, of having to face the certitude of death. It is painful to watch: to gaze at ageing and loss.  It will overwhelm; it will be heartbreaking.   Although “Amour” is the story of love and life’s end, the originality and the directness will surprise all who see this haunting film.

5) Page Turner (July 18, 2013 review): A French cinematic sleeper (2006),  this  thriller is subtle as a sonata, fine-tuned and intricately composed.

Political/Sociological Thrillers:

6) American Hustle (December 31, 2013 review) : How far are people willing to go to grasp the golden ring, to try to capture the American Dream? This cinematic marvel digs deep into how much we lie to ourselves, in order to believe what we want to believe.

7) Prisoners  (October 27, 2013 review):  A powerful tale of human nature gone awry.  What are parents capable of in their darkest moment, when their worst nightmare happens?

8) Side Effects (July 31, 2013) By releasing only one detail at a time, we are kept wading through interviews, court hearings, false turns, and psychiatrist visits until, finally, everything comes together. The entire film is very subdued, impeccably structured, and intricate in plot.

9) Shattered   (July 23, 2013 review): Paced to perfection, a cat-and-mouse game in which the clues and menace are only hinted at, but always cleverly hidden.  There are so many curves along the way, with a plot peppered with red herrings, most viewers will be thrown off track.

10) Argo (January 21, 2013 review):  I still keep thinking of this big-studio movie over a year after seeing it.  “Argo”  captures the mood of our country. Affleck plays the quintessential American hero, confident to a fault, who will do anything to protect those he is responsible for–and  it is our fear for him that drives the emotional content of the film.

Young Adult:

11) Hunger Games II:  Catching Fire (December 20, 2013 review): Sequels are notorious for being a disappointment but this series with the heroine Katniss belongs in the same category as “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”.  It just seems to get better and better!


12) Silver Linings Playbook (Mar 11, 2013 review): Although  billed as a comedy, this is more a romance between two young adults with bipolar disorder whose families and friends have to deal with the turmoil that mental illness creates.


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3 comments on “Top Ten Movies of 2013

  1. Diana: Thanks for this artful summary of this take on your top movies. I find that there are still too many on the list that I intended to see but haven’t yet. I look forward to the pleasure of them.

  2. I haven’t seen most of the movies from 2013 but I loved Nebraska. I really laughed because I am from the Midwest and could really relate. Plus the photography was very wonderful. I also love Bruce Dern immensely and thought he was really great. I also enjoyed the actress who played his wife. Lately I have taken to visiting cemeteries and standing over grave markers and saying personal things to the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys, as well as the Bobs, Jims, and Bills lying below.

  3. Thanks to you, Diana, I’ve seen most of these films, especially the less well known ones. I look forward to your reviews so please keep ‘em coming! P.S. I also loved Nebraska!

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Art on Vacation

When we were in Napa Valley recently, the concierge at Bardessono recommended a local artist for a private in-room art workshop. Karen Lynn Ingalls was an extraordinary instructor with a very engaging teaching style.  Her specialty is mixed media in vibrantly charged colors.


This delightful painter introduced acrylic painting techniques combined with stenciling and collage, and used a simple paper plate to illustrate the effects from a variety of acrylic media.   These different techniques can be quite confusing, but Karen made them fun for experimentation with different papers and stencils.  We painted with all the rich, happy colors:  yellows and oranges, warm blues and greens, vivid purples and red that glow in an exuberant way, nearly flying off the canvas and paper!  Karen calls her preference for the super-saturated colors “a kind of visual Vitamin C.” And this palate of color would revive the health of even the most anemic composition!



If you are in the Napa Valley area, try some art in between all the hiking, dining, wine tasting and galleries.  It may not be the first activity to come to mind but art can be so much fun. And I recommend the Bardessono, an eco-friendly LEEDS certified hotel, which nurtures not only its guests but the local artist community in Yountville and the surrounding Napa Valley. The Bardessono art collection in and of itself is breathtaking and I have shared one of my favorite pieces here.


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3 comments on “Art on Vacation

  1. I loved the vibrant colors, and the paper plate of different media effects. Her website is on my “to see list”.

    You didn’t explain it, but I suspect the under water scene is your work. It is serene and tranquil. I still remember the pink flowered wine bottle piece you did in Jamie’s class. It was my favorite.

    I am taking a real media art class at the vista lobos adult center. the teacher is terrific. She explains things so well.

    Our photoshop for artists class was so much fun because I loved being around artists, and I miss the contact.
    I am tired of photographing flowers.

  2. Diana – sounds like you had a wonderful weekend! With your experience in collage, printing and painting, I’m sure you were very comfortable jumping in and working. Is that your wonderful underwater painting?

    • Hi Tracey,

      Interestingly, one of my pieces that appeared in the Pacific Grove Art Center two years ago, entitled “Under the Sea”, looks very much like this mixed media piece in the Bardessono Hotel’s private art collection!

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