Recently in Enlightenment Category

"I know something of the life that this man lives in this film," says Pierce Brosnan, when asked what attracted him to Love Is All You Need. It's without doubt his most personal role to date. He plays a character very different from the cool, calm and collected men of action that dominate his résumé, which includes the title role in the TV series Remington Steele, and leads in movies such as Dante's Peak, The Thomas Crown Affair and The Tailor of Panama, as well as a four-film stint as James Bond, in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day.

Though still suave and sophisticated, in Love Is All You Need, Brosnan's character Philip is also very vulnerable beneath his expensive suits and default crabby demeanor. Philip is an English businessman isolated by geography in Denmark, and cut off from love due to the untimely and sudden death of his wife. As a coping mechanism, he divorces himself from his emotions and thrusts himself into his work running an international fruit and vegetable import/export empire. However, on the way to his son's wedding at a picturesque but neglected Italian villa, surrounded by orange and lemon groves, that he once shared with his late wife, love literally and metaphorically crashes into Philip's life.

The somewhat chaotic Ida, played with extreme candor and subtlety by Danish actress Tinre Dyrholm, is the last thing Philip wants in his well-ordered and controlled world. But she is everything he needs. They bump into each other when Ida reverses her beat up car into Philip's pristine one in an airport parking lot. As they exchange information, to their mutual horror and embarrassment, they realize they are both en route to the same wedding since Ida is the mother of the bride.

Ida's vulnerabilities are far less well concealed than Philip's. Indeed her wig is knocked off when her car airbag inflates, revealing a scalp left hairless due to the rigors of chemotherapy. But her hair - and a breast - are not the only losses Ida's recently endured. Her husband has also just walked out on her, and into the arms of a younger woman. As a result, Ida is barely able to keep it together as she suffers the weight of Philip's frustration and scorn. But her kindness, dignity, and cheerful spirit in the face of adversity prevail, and ultimately chip away at the stone that surrounds Philip's heart.

Though dealing with the grim realities of breast cancer in an unusually honest way, the film -- which was directed by Academy Award-winning Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier and produced by Vibeke Windeløv, who has worked extensively with Dogme director Lars von Trier -- is very much a celebration of life and love. The two central characters ultimately come to terms with their respective losses, and find a way to move past them, and it's this aspect that resonates deeply with Brosnan's own experience.

The Irish born actor lost his first wife, Cassandra Harris, after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer in 1991. She was just 43. Like Philip, Brosnan eventually allowed himself to love again, and married journalist Keely Shaye Smith after a 7 year courtship in 2001. The couple have now been together for over 19 years and tirelessly campaign to raise awareness and money for environmental causes and women's healthcare issues.

I recently met up with Brosnan at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel to talk about Love Is All You Need, which is in theaters now.

Nicole Powers: You must have been at this all day.

Pierce Brosnan: I have actually. All day, all yesterday, all week, but it's good, because the film is a beautiful film.

NP: I was just going to say how beautiful it was. It's a very unusual love story too, because it's not just about the transformative power of love, it's about the transformative power of a little honesty and a lot of kindness.

PB: It is. You're absolutely right in that regard. It is about kindness, it is about affairs of the heart, it's about the humanity of people's lives who are mangled by love or by their own infidelities. It's also about a woman who's dealing with the rigors and the stress of breast cancer and trying to cleave her way through the healing of that, and a man, like myself, who is dormant within his own widowdom. That's the power and the glory of Susanne Bier, she's a really fantastic writer, a fantastic director.

NP: I love the brave choices she made. I mean, there's the traditional Hollywood portrayal of cancer, but she chose not to take that route. There's a particularly powerful bathing scene where you actually see...

PB: Her breast.

NP: And her wound. And that was important, to see that and have that honesty in the portrayal.

PB: Yes. I think it's one of the most gorgeous scenes in the movie. I think it's probably the epicenter of the movie. You see the vulnerability of this magnificent woman played by Trine Dyrholm. You see the joy away from the pain of cancer [as she's] just bathing in these gorgeous waters - naked and abandoned to life. Then he thinks she's drowning, it's very tender and really beautifully done. It was an amazing setting to play the scene out in, and to see Trine do it with such courage and be naked. It's not easy to be naked and have a camera on your as well.

NP: I also think it was a very courageous film for you to take on, because it must have brought back some painful memories from your past.

PB: It was come the day for the memories to go there, to go back to the loss of a wife that you loved, to go back and touch into that space and time and heart. But one does that in many different ways in your work. That's what the job and the art of acting is, to go back to places that you don't necessarily want to go back to and to bring them alive. That's the challenge. And if you have a piece like this that is so supportive for those memories, and you have a director like Susanne Bier, who's directing you through the piece, then you can surrender to it. And you have actors like Trine before you who make you real.

NP: Yes, she's incredible. When you first saw the script what attracted you to it?

PB: Because I could identify with the emblems that were in this character's life. Losing a wife, being a single parent, being a widower, being, not necessarily a workaholic - because I do like to do work. I love working, I love acting, and it's what I do.

NP: And finding love again?

PB: And finding love again, I knew about that. I've got a great girl, a great woman who's my North Star, nineteen years together going down the road. So, you know, I know something of the life that this man lives in this film. It's about faith, new beginnings, all in the celebration of a wedding. Everyone can identify with a wedding. It's the bringing together of two families, it's a bringing together of a man and a woman, a boy and a girl, their love in the eyes of god, so there's all of that ceremony that is timeless, generation after generation. And then the crazy, madcap world within that when they clash and the alcohol flows and the music flows and the resentments come out and people really begin to show themselves.

NP: The whole thing with family is that you have to love them despite their flaws.

PB: Yeah, you do. Because we're all cracked and fractured, that's love and only love really. It's the essence of being human, being kind with whatever you do - writing, painting, being a dentist or being an accountant or whatever - I think it's to be kind, to be loving.

NP: How long did you get to spend in Italy? The location was stunning.

PB: We spent just over a month there. It was amazing. It was just fabulous. Sorrento is a gorgeous part of the Italian coastline.

NP: I went on vacation there. It was the best trip I've ever had in my entire life. And seeing that villa set amongst the orange and lemon groves made me want smell-o-vision, because it must have smelt good.

PB: Oh, it was mighty, it was really, really unbelievable. I had the time of my life. It's a film that I will carry in my heart forever and a day, because of the nature of it. Then that it's there on film, that Morten [Søborg], the DP, captured it in such glorious color. And to wake up every day and go to work and Vibeke [Windeløv], one of the producers on the film, who's a very charismatic lady. She found a villa for me, so I lived in the Villa Tritone, which was down the back streets. Do you remember when you were there, you could go down the back streets of Sorrento, down to the little village, the little bay? Well, as you go down that avenue, just before you get to the Saracens' Gate, if you remember that, where the Saracens came through all those centuries ago, on the right there were green gates, and there was the Villa Tritone. So I stayed in this villa. Vibeke made a deal with the lovely owners, I stayed there, and then consequently all the cast and crew could come in - because they wanted to have James Bond in their house. [laughs] God love 'em! God bless 'em! [Puts on thick Irish accent] I'm just an actor. There you go, let's party guys!

NP: This movie, and Mamma Mia, which is also set in a Mediterranean surrounding and centered around a wedding, made me realize that Europeans know how to eat, drink, and be merry, in a way that...

PB: Americans do, Americans do as well.

NP: But the lushness of the land, and the connection of it to the wine and the produce on the table...

PB:: Well, there is that old worldliness to it - that's what's so beguiling and captivating. These films are like bookends, Mamma Mia and this one. They sit there like bookends on the shelf. Because both are surrounded by the epicenter of a wedding.

NP: Did the locals enjoy the fact that James Bond was staying in their town? Were there any particularly funny moments with the locals while you were in Sorrento?

PB: Erm...Yes, but I can't really talk about the one that comes to mind. [laughs] It involves...Oh no, I couldn't. You'll have to read the memoirs for that one. [laughs]

NP: [laughs] Damn, that's a tease!

PB: It's a tease, isn't it? No, not really, I wondered around and, you know, the locals...I'd get out and about and I'd go to church Sundays, because the churches are everywhere, on every corner, and they're so magnificent and such a celebration of faith. And the food was fantastic. I met a family who had a boat, so some days I'd just go around the coast and down the coast of the Amalfi.

NP: Ah, the Amalfi Coast.

PB: It was just around the corner, literally.

NP: Yeah, I took a bus trip along the coastal cliff road, and the bus was so long and the corners were so sharp it felt like we were going to plunge over the edge at times.

PB: Yeah, best not to look too closely. That opening scene with us in the car, that was all along the Amalfi Coast. I don't know how the hell we managed to do it but we did...But it was an embarrassment of riches.

NP: Well your career's almost been an embarrassment of riches. I mean you got a big break early on when Tennessee Williams handpicked you to be in the UK premiere of his play [The Red Devil Battery Sign], and then you've work with Roman Polanski on The Ghost Writer - is there anyone you feel that you've yet to work with?

PB: Oh, so many, so many.

NP: Who? Put their names out into the universe and see what comes back.

PB: I'd love to work with Ang Lee and David O. Russell, I'd love to work with Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino - he wanted to do James Bond.

NP: Yeah?

PB: Yeah.

NP: I could see that actually.

PB: We got so, so polluted one night, he and I. Just absolutely in our cups at the Four Seasons.

NP: That's a nice euphemism. What were you getting "polluted" on?

PB: Apple Martinis.

NP: They're lethal.

PB: Ah, lethal.

NP: Because they're so fruity.

PB: Ah, fruity, we were being very fruity that night, the two of us.

Publicist: [walks through the door and interrupts our conversation to bring the interview to a close] On that fruity note...So sorry

PB: On that fruity note...there we go...

NP: Nooo! Just as I'm getting the story of the night Pierce Brosnan gets drunk on Apple Martinis with Quentin Tarantino - Argh!!!!

Anders Østergaard: Burma VJ

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At the time much of the footage for the Oscar-nominated documentary Burma VJ was being shot, its director, Anders Østergaard, wasn't even in the same hemisphere. Wanting to open a window on the closed country of Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar), the Danish-based filmmaker struck up a groundbreaking remote collaboration with a network of underground citizen reporters, who risked torture, imprisonment and death as they shot then smuggled footage beyond the military dictatorship's closely guarded borders.


The documentary was originally intended to be a half hour short, profiling a 27-year old video journalist (or VJ) known as Joshua who worked behind Burma's barbed-wire veil of silence and against the strict media embargo enforced by its military government (which came to power after a coup in 1962). Using a pseudonym to protect his identity, Joshua coordinated illicit on-the-ground coverage for the Democratic Voice of Burma, a non-profit news organization based in Norway. However, when Burma's ruling junta abruptly ceased subsidies on fuel, which caused the price to skyrocket, destabilizing an economy that was already among the world's poorest, Joshua and Østergaard's project took on a far greater significance.


Thousands of the country's Buddhist monks took to the streets in the latter part of 2007, leading what developed into widespread protests against the intransigent regime. Armed with their wits and hand held video cameras, Joshua and his crew of VJs documented the saffron uprising and the Burmese government's brutal retaliation to it from the front lines. It was the first time in a generation that the people had dared challenge their leaders, but this was very different to the last uprising in 1988. Footage captured by Joshua and his team was beamed around the world. Vivid images of soldiers viciously beating monks in the street in broad daylight were broadcast via all the major new networks, putting Burma - albeit briefly - at the top of the United Nation's political agenda. With no room for deniability, Burma's military leaders were shamed into making concessions. And then the world's attention moved on.


Fast-forward to 2010, with promises broken and hard fought concessions reneged on, it might be easy for Joshua and his fellow Burmese citizens to feel despondent. However, with Burma VJ, a documentary that combines original footage with dramatic recreations, Joshua and Østergaard hope to raise awareness for the ongoing plight of the Burmese people. At the start of this month their cause was given a massive boost with an Academy Award nomination for their film in the category for Best Documentary feature.


I caught up with Østergaard, a Danish filmmaker who was previously best known for Tintin and Me (a 2003 documentary about comics writer and artist Hergé). Over coffee we talked about Burma VJ's dramatic journey from the impoverished streets of Burma to Hollywood's glittering Kodak Theater, and what the film's Oscar nomination means for a new generation of citizen journalists and for those fighting oppression around the globe.


Read my exclusive interview with Anders Østergaard at SuicideGirls.com.

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Addiction first took hold of Richard Farrell after a torn knee put an end to hopes of a professional athletics career. That same injury started his relationship with pain medication. One thing led to another, as these things do, and by the time he reached thirty Farrell had succumbed to almost every aspect of the heroin lifestyle.


His journey to redemption is chronicled in his new memoir, What's Left of Us. Farrell was one of the lucky ones; after twenty failed attempts, he slayed his dragon at a run-down, state-funded detox clinic in Massachusetts, and went on to fulfill his potential as an author, journalist, teacher, filmmaker and screenwriter.


Many addicts will not be so fortunate. Clinics such as these are the easy victims of budget cuts. As bankrupt states struggle to pick up the incarceration tab for the collateral damage of the War on Drugs, and our federal government goes deeper into debt to pay for its War on (drug-funded) Terror, Farrell's life experience leads him to pose an important question: Have we forgotten the simple laws of supply and demand? By funding these two never-ending wars are we ineffectually treating the symptoms instead of battling the cause? Wouldn't our money be better spent reducing the demand for drugs?


The state-funded treatment of drug addiction has never been a vote-winning cause (just look at the tap dancing Obama was forced to do recently on the prickly issue of needle exchange programs). Here, in this special guest column, Farrell makes the case for a more enlightened drug (and healthcare) policy and talks of the horrors that will likely transpire if we continue on our current course, which is tantamount to treating cancer with a gold-plated plaster -- ridiculous, ineffectual, expensive and ultimately fatal.


Click HERE to read Farrell's essay, The Two Hour Orgasm, at SuicideGirls.com.

It's Pi Day today! (3.14 - get it?)

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To mark the day I suggest that you do something either irrational or transcendental -- or even better something that is both -- since these are characteristics of the mathematical constant we call Pi (π) that expresses the relationship between a circle's diameter and its circumference. Those that are rather particular about their favorite ratio observe Pi Minute at 1:59 p.m. or even Pi Second at 1:59:26 p.m. ( 3.1415926).

Go run around in circles (dogs do it all the time and have a blast) and have an irrational and transcendental day!

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Whether or not you believe in a divine entity, this time of year serves to remind us all that the mighty dollar should not be our de facto deity, and that department stores, however glorious, should not be our surrogate churches. Reverend Billy, performance artist and leader of The Church of Stop Shopping, is a man on a mission to save the souls of those who spend their lives in the service of credit. On an individual, national or international level, the darkness of debt results in hell on earth, damning those who succumb to its power to a future eternally in the red. We therefore asked the good Rev. to shine a light on the shopocalypse. In this special SuicideGirls sermon he shows us the path to redemption -- through congregation (outside of the now literally as well as metaphorically empty malls) and communion with our own vital human spirit -- and offers some surprising commandments for our personal and global, financial and spiritual, wellbeing in 2009.

Click HERE to read Rev. BIlly's very special Stop Shopping message.

Further reading: What Would Jesus Buy?

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Please take a moment to read the story of just one couple, Julie Rose and Lynda Brocchini, who will be affected by Prop 8. So sad that yesterday's overwhelming vote for progress didn't extent to the rights of our GLBT friends.


Click HERE to read, and please Digg and Stumble to help put a face to the victims of Prop 8.

Greg Palast: Steal Back Your Vote

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Do you think your vote's going to count this year? Think again. Unless you take action now, your vote may already be lost. Award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast, who uncovered exactly how the election was "won" in 2000, teamed up with activist, attorney, broadcaster and writer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to find out if democracy was in a better state eight years on. In their report, which was published this month in Rolling Stone, they concluded that the 2008 Election had already been stolen. They are now challenging you to steal it back.


"If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls -- they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering," Palast and Kennedy summarized. But all is not lost -- yet. To this end, the dynamic duo prepared an adult comic, Steal Back Your Vote, which outlines the six ways these thieves (who would call themselves "patriots") are trying to deprive you of your vote, and empowers you with seven ways you can snatch it back.


We checked in with Palast, a self-styled Sam Spade-like detective turned writer (he started out as a corporate investigator), to get the skinny on this 2008 election crime wave (and, no, the criminals aren't members of ACORN).


Click HERE for my full Suicide Girls interview with the intrepid Mr. Palast, P.I..

My Staggeringly Stubborn Grandma

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As the sun rises on one horizon, it sets on another. As one door wafts open, another unexpectedly slams shut. The day I got my new job as Managing Editor at Suicide Girls my grandma died.

I'm not sharing this with you to bum you out. Nor am I looking for sympathy. I'd merely like to take a moment to pay tribute to the life of a remarkable women.

My grandma was born in 1910. She was a slight but sprightly woman, who was staggeringly stubborn when she needed to be. She was globetrotting well into her eighties, and, almost to the very end, would merrily kick my parents out of the house when they came to visit if they fussed too much or got in the way of her routine. Like the Energizer bunny she kept on going, and going. She lived to the grand old age of 98 years and 6 months.

As a young girl her wish was to do something useful with her life; She desperately wanted to become a nurse. But she grew up in an age where women had their place, and her parents felt such work wasn't ladylike. They expected her to get married and have kids -- nothing more.

My grandma rebelled. She ran away from home when she was just sixteen. The year was 1926. She ran off to an area of North London called Kilburn, which was once a genteel spa town but is now better known for its plethora of curry houses. Her goal was to "go into service."

As luck would have it a general strike began shortly after she fled home. Instead of working in service as a maid she found herself doing a "proper" job. She worked as a bus conductor, a position that was out of the reach of women before the strike.

Later my grandma found love and gladly accepted her predestined role as a wife and mother, but she never forgot her dreams of becoming a nurse. She spoke about them often when I'd visit her on Sundays while I was a student in London. She satisfied her need by tirelessly working for the Red Cross, volunteering at hospitals, and by reading endless nurse and doctor penny romance mysteries that were dropped off by the bag load by the local council mobile library service.

My grandma never gave up on her dreams, but grew up in a time when expectations and opportunities were limited for women. Indeed, in England women only got the vote on equal terms with men in 1928, when my grandma was just 18. Fortunately, times have changed, and women no longer have to compromise or settle for merely reading novels about their dreams.

And so I begin a new life at Suicide Girls. May it be worthy of my rebellious and daring grandma.

Nicole
XOX

"I wish to be cremated but make sure I'm dead."
Mrs Louie Mosley, 1910-2008

The Gratitude Dance

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A great workout for students of the Law of Attraction!

Yoga Kitty

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I'm posting this video in memory of Harvey the cat, who really did love doing yoga with me. He was also partial to massage too! R.I.P.

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