Ready for Cuba?

Cuba-5

The paladar Doña Eutemia in Old Havana © Charles & Mary Love

 

Now that President Obama has restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, more Americans than ever are interested in visiting the island, which is just 90 miles from Miami, Florida.

We visited Cuba on a People-to-People cultural exchange trip in 2013 and found the culture—a mix of indigenous, European and African influences—fascinating. The better hotels provided comfortable rooms and plenty of amenities. The island’s atmospheric, privately-owned restaurants (paladares) and exciting nightlife kept us busy every evening. For more on this trip, seach here for our blog post titled On the Prowl: Cuba. Also visit the Features, Portfolios and Films pages on our website (imagyn.com) to find our illustrated Cuba magazine story, photo essay and short documentary film.

Read more.. Monday, August 10th, 2015

Island Joie de Vivre

Gustavia

Harbor of Gustavia, St. Barthélemy’s capital © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

France in the Caribbean. This phrase captures the essence and appeal of St. Barthélemy (commonly called St. Barth). All those things Americans love about France—exclusive accommodations, exceptional hospitality and cuisine, exciting nightlife and  joie de vivre—come together on this one small island.

Located in the French West Indies, St. Barth is just 2 1/2 hours from Miami by plane. During the winter season, it’s a magnet for some of the world’s most affluent, discriminating travelers who come to soak up the sun—either on beaches or aboard private yachts that fan out from the small harbor of Gustavia, the capital. But the good times don’t end in April. Late spring and early summer can be just as nice and less busy.

We had the pleasure of staying at the luxurious Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, an exclusive hotel located along Flamands Beach on the northwest corner of the island. Recently acquired and renovated by the luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), it’s one of three Cheval Blanc properties (the other two are in Courcheval, France, and the Maldive Islands). The hotel appeals to all ages, including honeymooners, couples seeking a place to chill out and families with young children.

The renovated hotel reflects LVMH’s commitment to offer the best in comfort, privacy and hospitality in a way that combines elegance with simplicity. Guests can choose from among 40 spacious rooms, suites and villas with ocean or tropical garden views. They are supplied with every amenity one could imagine. French chef Yann Vinsot offers cuisine that’s both creative and healthy. Best of all, the hotel’s young and energetic French staff are exceptionally gracous.

If you’re lucky enough to stay here, don’t miss a signature treatment at the spa—the only Guerlain spa in the Caribbean—and the weekly Tuesday evening fashion show! Stay tuned for our upcoming magazine feature and film.

For more information:  800-810-4691, info.stbarth@chevalblanc.com, stbarthisledefrance.chevalblanc.com

Cheval-Blanc-St-Barth-Isle-de-France_EntranceBLOG

Entrance to Cheval Blanc. Photo courtesy of Cheval Blanc

The entranceway to the Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, located on Flamands Beach, leads to the beach and a dining area with views of the Atlantic Ocean. 

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Model in Pucci swimwear © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

A poolside fashion show and cocktail reception occur every Tuesday night at Cheval Blanc.

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The spa pavilion © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

The hotel has the only Guerlain Spa in the Caribbean. In addition to indoor treatment rooms, a spa pavilion, located in Cheval Blanc’s tropical garden, provides a restful place for a signature treatment.

shellbeach

Shell Beach © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

Shell Beach, located within walking distance of the boutiques of Gustavia, provides an inviting place for sun worshippers to stretch out on the sand and frolic in the surf.

Read more.. Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

A Force of Nature

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Pianoforte Fireworks © Charles Love

 

Don’t miss exhilarating Japanese jazz pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara (known professionally as Hiromi)! Her stage presence exudes spontaneous joy, and her incendiary playing excites audiences around the world.

We’ve heard many fine pianists over the years—both classical artists and jazz greats—and Hiromi ranks right up there with the best. She studied classical piano from the age of five. Her music transcends genres and is best identified as fusion—a blend of classical, jazz, pop and progressive rock. In fact, she has said, “I don’t believe in music genres, just music.”

In a recent interview at the Gărâna Jazz Festival in Rumania, she said: “I feel so alive on stage … there I feel the beauty of life. The magic of music is that I can connect with people in a second, without words, and make them as happy as they make me!”

The testimonials have been phenomenal:

“Extravagantly dynamic … A forceful presence on any stage!” —The New York Times

“Dazzling…”  —The New Yorker

“One of jazz piano’s most brazenly virtuosic players.”  — Jazz Times

“She’s to the piano what Hendrix and Van Halen are to the guitar … Yeah, she’s that good.”  —All About Jazz

“She’s a genius that has it all … technical perfection, an interpretative sense, original concepts with musical phrasing, and an effortless ability to improvise. I think she’s one of the greatest artists to ever sit in front of a piano.”  —Bassist Anthony Jackson

“Solo after solo, she’s relentless. … She has so much reserve and so many ideas. … She’s amazing.” —Drummer Simon Phillips

You can view Hiromi in performance and in interviews on YouTube. Her discography includes the albums Alive, Move, Voice, and Place to Be—available through iTunes and other venues. We particularly like the first three albums which include music from her trio project with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. Her DVDs include: Solo Live at Blue Note New York and Hiromi: Live in Marciac.

U.S. music enthusiasts on the East Coast can catch her performance this summer at the Newport Jazz Festival on August 1.

Be prepared for a thrill ride!

For more information: www.hiromimusic.com

Read more.. Friday, July 3rd, 2015

RED Digital Cinema in Miami

We attended the grand opening in Miami of RED Digital Cinema’s newest retail store—an exciting party that attracted many filmmakers.

The event occurred in Wynwood — Miami’s high-energy arts district that’s chock full of galleries as well as new restaurants, eclectic bars, antique shops and one of the largest open-air street installations in the world. Many colorful murals decorate public facades, adding visual drama and color to an area that, not long ago, was an industrial wasteland of old factories, warehouses and derelict buildings.

RED president Jarred Land has said: “The Wynwood Art District is the ideal location for our newest RED store. The vibe and art within the area gets the creative juices flowing for everyone, including local, current and future RED shooters.”

RED has been an innovator in technology. The company developed ultra-high resolution cameras that are modular and can be customized to shooters’ needs. Currently stirring much excitement is the new RED WEAPON—a 6K-resolution marvel that incorporates the award-winning RED DRAGON sensor. Besides having ultra-high, unprecedented image resolution, the camera is small and lightweight. Other advantages: It offers improved digital workflow and records in Apple ProRes, among other formats.

For more information, visit red.com.

Read more.. Saturday, June 20th, 2015

On Filmmaking: Book Recommendations

reel-clapperWe can remember when it cost a mere quarter to see movies. They were shown in one or maybe two theaters in each town, and  theaters showed just one movie—except for the occasional “double feature.”

How times have changed! Movies now reach more people than ever, not only in multiplex theatres but also through DVDs and online venues such as Netflix.

Accordingly, more people than ever—whether filmmakers, movie buffs or occasional moviegoers—are curious about how movies are made and the people who make them: producers, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, actors and others. That it’s an entrepreneurial, high-risk business full of intrigue only increases their curiosity.

As filmmakers and movie enthusiast ourselves, we share four of the best books we’ve read on filmmaking—all by renowned producers and directors.

1. Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet (1924 – 2011) was an American director, producer and screenwriter who directed over 50 films (12 Angry Men, Network, Murder on the Orient Express, The Pawnbroker, The Wiz and Network among many others). Making Movies brings you to his pre- and post-production meetings and onto his sets as he details the challenges of making films. Nail-biting anecdotes describe the pressures in getting a scene right, sometimes with time for only one take, while dealing with government officials, studio heads, producers, actors, cinematographers and a host of crew members. (Check out his hair-raising description of filming a train exiting a tunnel in France for Murder on the Orient Express knowing he’d have only one chance to get it right!)

2. The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans

Producer Robert Evans (1930 – ) has lived a glamorous, roller coaster life that most people only dream about. The story of his meteoric rise as one of Hollywood’s most notorious producers involves a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood celebrities and fascinating friendships, including an unusual one with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He’s known as the former successful production head of Paramount and, later, as an independent producer. Over the years, he produced many successful movies (Barefoot in the Park, Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story and The Godfather, to name a few) The book provides a jaw-dropping, mesmerizing perspective on the behind-the-scenes politics and deal-making that gets films to the big screen. This tell-it-all (or nearly all!) bio gets you close to the action like no other book.

3.  An Open Book by John Huston

John Huston (1906 – 1987) was one of the most colorful and prolific directors and screenwriters in Hollywood history. His credits include a long list of movies, including many that became classics (African Queen, Moby Dick, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, The Man Who Would Be King and more) This book is testament to Huston’s writing skills—after all, he started out as a screenwriter! Huston describes events, people and places in his life with a great eye for detail and flair for storytelling. Additionally, he discusses how today’s filmmaking practices contrast with Hollywood’s old studio system.

4. Elia Kazan: A Life and Kazan on Directing by Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan (1909 – 2003) was described in the New York Times as “one of the most honored and influential directors in both Broadway and Hollywood history.” He introduced to movie audiences many actors who would later become stars (Marlon Brando, James Dean. Andy Griffith, Eva Marie Saint and others). His credits as a director (including East of Eden, On the Waterfront, Splendor in the Grass, Baby Doll) are many. And he won 2 Oscars as Best Director for his efforts. Elia Kazan: A Life covers his career and the back stories of many of his best movies. In Kazan On Directing, he discusses his views on what makes a successful director. In sum, he believes they must be Renaissance people with broad knowledge, interests and skills.

5. The Devils’ Candy by Julie Salamon

Perhaps  the best book describing how a big studio can flop with potentially excellent moviemaking assets: a best-selling book, a star-studded cast, an experienced screenwriter and more. This is the devastating account of Bonfire of the Vanities and how a multiplicity of bad decisions led to the cinematic destruction of Tom Wolfe’s remarkable novel. As they say, the devil’s in the details!

All books are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Please add your suggestions to ours!

Read more.. Monday, June 15th, 2015

Africa Revisited

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Botswana sunset © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

Journeys through Africa are among the most dramatic  on the planet—adventures that put travelers in sensory overdrive as they take in the continent’s extraordinary sights, sounds and smells, particularly those experienced on safari. Although not our first trip to the continent, our recent journey to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa brought back all the magic.

Who can forget the vast, primordial landscapes; the cacophony of birds, bell frogs and hippos at twilight; the roar of distant lions; the dazzles (groups) of zebras on the plains; and the pungent aromas in the bush of wild sage and basil? Most travelers make vows to return. Ernest Hemingway captured the attraction of the continent when he wrote in The Green Hills of Africa: “All I wanted to do was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”

We highly recommend Wilderness Safaris (wilderness-safaris.com). This top-notch travel company pioneered safaris and the development of safari lodges in Botswana in the early 1980s, then expanded to other southern African countries. Today, it’s considered the foremost ecotourism operator on the continent. Their motto: Our Journeys Change Lives. To book your trip, you couldn’t do better than get in touch with Perfect Africa (perfectafrica.com), a South African-based company whose professionals expertly customize trips to the specific needs and interests of their clients.

Stay tuned for our upcoming feature story and film.

 

Elephant Parade

Elephants cross the Linyanti River © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

 

This parade of elephants is about to cross the Linyanti River from Namibia to Botswana in early morning. Fortunately Botswana has very tough anti-poaching laws. Apprehended poachers, we are told, receive the death penalty in this country—a model in Africa for progressive government and environmental conservation.

 

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A dazzle of zebras © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

 

Dazzles (groups) of zebras are plentiful in Botswana. Why zebras have stripes is one of the oldest mysteries in evolutionary biology. But scientists now claim they have evidence that the stripes confuse or “dazzle” predators and are important for self-defense.

 

Lions Drinking

Lions at a watering hole © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

 

We came upon this lioness and cub in Botswana after tracking them for nearly half an hour. Another female is off camera warding off a predatory hyena that has shown interest in the cub. They seemed unperturbed by our presence.

 

Namibia Dune

A dune in the Namib Desert © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

 

These dunes are among the world’s largest and a distinctive feature of the Namib Desert, the oldest on the planet. The highest ones are nearly 1,300 feet tall and add sensuous contours to the landscapes.

 

Vumbura Woman

A Botswana woman from Maun © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

 

Botswana’s people are gracious and friendly. Some of the women make beautifully patterned baskets from natural materials.

 

Read more.. Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Media Madness!

Media-Madness

Media Madness © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

When we recently returned from the tranquility of Patagonia, we needed a psychological “heat shield” to protect us from the shock of re-entering the media-crazed “atmosphere” in the U.S..

Of course, we knew what to expect. Take, for example, one of our favorite watering holes in South Florida—a popular bar called Flanigan’s. It’s an intimate, convivial place with wall-to-wall TV screens—over 20 of them—that blare simultaneous news and sports channels. The many screens always seemed excessive for such a small space and always in competition with normal conversation .

But just when you think things can’t get worse, they do. We captured the symbolic image above in a recently opened pub in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. The place has no less than 175 TV screens—that’s right, 175!—in a space only slightly larger than Flanigan’s! You might call it electronic wallpaper, but that’s doesn’t tell the full story. Not only do the TVs cover the walls, they’re suspended in multiple rows from the ceilings, somewhat reminiscent of Buddhist prayer flags.

Such electronic fantasylands reflect a fundamental change in our culture—an addiction to high tech devices: laptop computers, iPads, iPhones, iPods, Apple watches, Androids, Google Glass and more. These products constantly compete for our attention, with rings, buzzes, vibrations, taps on the wrist and an incessant need for software updates.

Research from MIT has concluded that, in less than the span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines. In fact, we spend more time staring at a screen than any other activity, including sleeping. The research also shows that teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day—up to 11 hours if you include time spent multi-tasking on several devices. Texting has become like blinking, with the average teen processing an incredible 3,700 texts per month. As Newsweek warned 3 years ago, “the Internet is not just another system. It’s creating an entirely new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.”

It’s iCrazy and little wonder that many of us are searching for the equivalent of a “mass delete” button! Short of tossing out all our devices, is there a way to deal with the onslaught of mediocre imagery and data? A few suggestions come to mind:

  • Plan periodic getaways to remote places where the Internet is not available.
  • Reduce time spent on social media.
  • Go online less often and only for specific, necessary purposes.
  • Don’t feel compelled to respond immediately to every e-mail or text.
  • Meet face-to-face instead of through a device.
  • Leave devices at home, especially when socializing with friends and loved ones.
  • Read more objective, thought provoking books and other publications.
  • Schedule time to gaze at the stars, embrace nature—and meditate.

Sure, technological innovation is great, but devices aren’t the answer to everything. We need time and space to contemplate, relate to the world with common sense, engage with others face-to-face…and to hold on to our sanity.

Read more.. Friday, April 17th, 2015

Explora Patagonia Lodge—Torres del Paine National Park

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The Paine Range near the Explora Patagonia lodge © 2015 Charles & Mary Love

 

Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in southern Chile, gets our vote as one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

The top place to stay is Explora Patagonia. No question about it. Overlooking Lake Pehoé, it’s the only luxury lodge in the heart of the park with close-up views of the jaw-dropping Paine Range.

“Location, location, location,” they say in real estate. How Explora’s owner acquired this magnificent site is a story that, if known, would surely make developers foam at the mouth with envy. Like a box seat for music lovers at the Met or Lincoln Center, the lodge offers intimate, full-stage views of the setting. The privileged few who make it here don’t have to take a hike, or even leave their beds, to look upon one of Mother Nature’s grandest spectacles. And like a coquettish woman adjusting her wardrobe to please, the Paine Range changes by the minute as light and shadows work their magic. It’s the kind of destination that photographers—and anyone inspired by nature—dream about.

Read more.. Sunday, March 22nd, 2015