Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My father Frank Ufert - Born December 9 1933

My dad, Frank Ufert, who passed away this summer, would have been 76 years old today. He was truly loved, is terribly missed and his memory will never be forgotten.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

(2007. L-R: My late father, Frank Ufert; a rabbit; my mom, Josephine Ufert)

I'm so grateful to have been given a chance to be a part of the organic collective that is every one of you--in this time, affecting the emotion, intellect, politic, economic that touches all of us and will impact the future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish a very Happy Thanksgiving 2009 to all!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Irving Penn 1917-2009

I just read that we lost Irving Penn, at age 92. Penn was, in my humble opinion, the greatest of all American fashion photographers and one of the top two American photo portraitists (with the late Richard Avedon). My opinion of Penn's genius is shared by hundreds of thousands of others, and it is an informed opinion--I grew up with a fabulously talented photographer father who loved and taught me the value of Penn's work. (Ironically, we also lost my father, Frank Ufert, this year, as Irving Penn once saw my father's work and admired it... quite a compliment!)

I am devastated. He lived a long and incredibly productive life, but he will be so, so missed. NO ONE ELSE, again in my opinion, had a more masterful eye than Irving Penn.

See the announcement from the Associated Press.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gojira on Blu-ray: a disappointment

Ok, I was warned...

Imagine my delight several months ago when I learned that the legendary 1954 Toho Kabushiki-kaisha (東宝株式会社, a.k.a. Toho Studios) film, GOJIRA (ゴジラ, a.k.a. "Godzilla"), the seminal film of my life, would be released in the U.S. in a high-definition transfer on Blu-ray disc on the Classic Media label. I have already seen a number of HD transfers of black and white films and many have been spectacular, including Sir Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949), Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980) and others. With the prior deluxe two-disc DVD release by Classic Media of the subtitled 1954 Japanese original -- the first time it appeared on a commercial U.S. DVD -- along side of the famed 1956 U.S. version (not only dubbed into English but re-cut and featuring new scenes with the late Raymond Burr), one would have assumed that this Blu-ray issue would be quite fine. (This, even considering the fact that they were not using -- according to several reports -- one of the near-mint condition/digitally cleaned and restored, Toho master prints.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Best Recent Opera Singer Finds

Evelyn Herlitzius as Brünnhilde (w/Christian Franz) in Wagner's Siegfried.

Some of my favorite recent opera singer "finds." Many are not "new" singers, but all are singing very actively today, I've only found them recently, I really respect their work and love each of their voices.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friends Amarilli Nizza and Frank Porretta in Puccini's IL TABARRO

 (Amarilli Nizza, photo Copyright © Marinetta Saglio)
An exemplary scene (below) from Giacomo Puccini's Il Tabarro from the Teatro Massimo, Palermo (May 2008). I am honored that it features two of my friends, the marvelous Italian soprano, Amarilli Nizza, a true spinto of the rarest tradition in today's musical landscape, and the equally wonderful Italian-American tenor, Frank Porretta. You don't often get to hear singing of this quality in the current era... wow!!!

9-11 Remembered In Tribute to My Late Father


(My late father, Frank Ufert, in Korea, circa 1953, in his United States Armed Forces/Military Police uniform)
We didn't lose my father, Frank Ufert, on 9-11; he passed away approximately one month ago (July 24, 2009). He was, however, directly affected by the tragedy--he was what is now called a "9-11 Survivor."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Diva Hildegard Behrens Rest in Peace

Photo Copyright © Christian Steiner (photographer). All rights reserved.

I am deeply saddened to have just learned that the great German soprano, Hildegard Behrens, passed away unexpectedly today in Japan at the far-too-young age of 72. Mme. Behrens was, according to the AP report this evening, traveling to Tokyo to prepare for two recital programs, when she "felt unwell" and "died of an apparent aneurysm."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Congratulations Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

What a wonderful post-birthday present to President Barack Obama, pre-birthday present for me, and a truly special gift to the United States. All the luck in the world to you, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Read the news story (from MSNBC).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Remembering Shih Kien 1913-2009

(Photo credit: Copyright by Warner Bros Inc © 1973. All Rights Reserved. Consent is hereby given to newspapers and magazines to reproduce country of origin U.S.A.)

On June 3, 2009, the world learned the news that one of the greatest of all Chinese-language cinema actors had passed away--the 96 year-old Shih Kien (石堅; Cantonese: Shek Kin), star of countless films, television shows and a renowned martial artist.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Twenty Years Since Tiananmen

The now-legendary image above, taken by Associated Press photographer, Jeff Widener, captures the heroic struggle and the tragedy that ended on June 4, 1989, when tanks cleared Beijing Tian'anmen Square (天安門廣場) after two months of protests by students against the government of the People's Republic of China. The collective response by the PRC, and the arrests, torture and murder of these students and other protesters was known as the Tian'anmen Square Massacre. Other protests occurred all across the country, and many other atrocities, even if not as media-spectacular, occurred as well during the period, but it was these incidents in Beijing that made the world notice the treatment of the Chinese people by their government.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Oshima Nagisa Masterpiece In The Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray

 The always remarkable Criterion Collection just released beautifully remastered DVD and Blu-ray disc versions of Oshima Nagisa's (大島 渚 ) controversial masterwork, "In the Realm of the Senses" (愛のコリーダ; Ai no Korida; L'Empire des sens). This brilliant 1976 film, which some consider the highest of artistic expression and others call "pornography, is still banned from being shown uncensored in Japan. In fact, as "In the Realm of the Senses" was being filmed, it took a French financing company, and the shipping of cans of undeveloped celluloid to France for processing, to complete the production.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Congratulations Best Supporting Actor Heath Ledger

Thank you Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the community of voters, for recognizing the late, great Heath Ledger and his extraordinary portrayal of the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. with the 2009 Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor.

This was one of the finest performances I've ever seen on film.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Donnie Yen is the great Ip Man

I have been a passionate follower of Chinese-language martial arts cinema for most of my life. Though I have learned the chronology of martial arts cinema and have seen many films in the genre from the 1930s to the present, in terms of my own chronology, I fell in love with this type of film as a New York kid in the 1970s. This was, of course, the start of the golden era of martial arts motion picture production, with films from the Shaw Brothers (邵氏片場) and Cathay (國泰) dominant and prolific, the emergence of new production powerhouses such as Golden Harvest (嘉禾娛樂有限公司), and with stars like the one-and-only Bruce Lee (李振藩; Li Zhenfan). My dad took me to see poorly-subtitled versions of these films in crusty old 42nd Street movie theaters -- dodging hookers, drug dealers and other such characters en route -- where they would play as double-features with a bad, American exploitation flick. I can't even remember the exploitation movies; all I wanted to see were the Hong Kong action pictures.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Barack Hussein Obama II - Living History

As challenges abound, we are faced with one of the handful of truly extraordinary events of our era. Today is the day of the inauguration of BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA II as the 44th President of the United States. Though I've been cynical of the worldwide political spectrum throughout my life, and have no false patriotism (nor false optimism), the election of this man to the Presidency makes me proud to be an American.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Composer Iwashiro Taro - Red Cliff, Blood & Bones

I just watched part one (2008) of the great Hong Kong and Hollywood filmmaker John Woo's (吳宇森; Wú Yǔsēn) two-part epic, Red Cliff (赤壁; Chìbì), on a HDTV on Blu-ray DVD. The two parts -- part two to be released this month (January 2009) -- are, reportedly, collectively, the most expensive-ever Asian-financed motion pictures. The story encompasses the epic "Battle of Red Cliff and events during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China". Red Cliff is well acted by such Asian cinema luminaries as Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (梁朝偉; Liáng Cháowěi), Kaneshiro Takeshi (金城 武; Jīnchéng Wǔ), Zhang Fengyi (张丰毅; of Farewell My Concubine [霸王別姬; Bàwáng Bié Jī] and The Emperor and the Assassin [荊柯刺秦王; Jīng Kē cì Qín Wáng] fame), Chang Chen (張震; Zhāng Zhèn of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [臥虎藏龍; Wòhǔ Cánglóng]), the, IMHO, always wonderful -- and kind of "MIA" for a while -- Zhao Wei (趙薇; Vicky Zhao Wei) and other important stars.