Vincent: And you know what they call a… a… a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in
Paris?
Jules: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?
Vincent: No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: Then what do they call it?
Vincent: They call it a Royale with cheese.
Jules: A Royale with cheese. What do they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: Well, a Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it le Big-Mac.
Jules: Le Big-Mac. Ha ha ha ha. What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent: I dunno, I didn’t go into Burger King.
 

No, it is not discussion of international cuisine. And most certainly, it is not about French and American culture. These are the lines of the famous hit movie of 1994, Pulp Fiction, which won not only Academy Awards and Palme d’Or, but also was nominated for seven Oscars. But it is not only the tough, edgy, filled with profanity dialogues (like the one above) that make Tarantino exclusive. Among his hallmarks are violence, Mexican stand-off, massive reference to pop culture, non-chronological storyline and usage of popular music that can be seen throughout his short, but very popular directing career. 

Quentin Tarantino was born as a quintessential director in 1992, with his debut Reservoir Dogs that tells the story before and after robbery carried out by six men, whose identities are protected by given name of color: Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange, Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown. As the story twists, it is apparent that one of the members of the gang has his own interest, who and whose intentions are unknown until the unhappy end of the movie. Starting with this movie we can already see the presence of violence, the image of cool and tough guys and LOTS of profanity (word f**k was used 272 times throughout the movie).  

His sophomore, and I think the most successful film, Pulp Fiction, shares many of Tarantino’s clichés, however differentiates from Reservoir Dogs by being dark comedy and by being divided in several chapters, instead of flashbacks. Pulp Fiction shows in detail two days of the boxer, two mobs, and crime boss that have their separate stories that crossover with each other at one point or another, which is also, is an unpredictable outcome of the story. Pulp Fiction contains mass violence (a lot of blood), shooting, cursing every minute in some scenes. Of course if you will get past that, you can see the beautiful idea of randomness and fusion of fear and humor. Camera work, soundtrack and the vivid imagination of Tarantino’s sometimes sickly mind is also an addition to the fascinating plot of the movie. With that followed less recognizable, but still impressive Jackie Brown (1997), played by Pam Grier, tells the story of talented flight attendant who managed to smuggle half a million dollars right under the noses of agents from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives, arms smuggler and couple of outlaws. It is not the movie itself that might be impressive, it is Tarantino’s idea of presenting the movie to a different audience; according to Tarantino himself Jackie Brown was specifically created for black audience. 

Tarantino’s duology, which comes in the form of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, can be considered the advance of Tarantino’s play with genre’s and ideas. The revolt of an assassin, played by Uma Turman, who was nearly killed by her husband and lover, sets out on the saga of revenge. Her path is filled with more blood, violence and rough attitude than you would probably expect out of thin, blonde woman, but as they say “Don’t mess with mother’s child.” The happy ending of this movie is an unusual outcome, the one that would be least expected of the Tarantino’s movies. 

Tarantino is fascinating. Not only because his movies had won several awards and worldwide recognition, but his style, typical B-type movies have some charisma attached to it. His image of the characters – rough, tough, cool outlaws creates atmosphere of something daring, but never negative. The presence of violence and profanity sometimes overplayed so much, that it gets sickening. However, it is definitely another branch of Tarantino’s plot development – confusion of the audience, waiting for the final scene breathless, that is what director is able to incorporate in his movies. And Tarantino does fantastic job with that. Tarantino’s sometimes narcissistic, desperate behavior can be seen as provocative, but I guess that is what is so attractive about him. As a brilliant director who had achieved success overnight, he not only managed to keep afloat, but produce attention grabbing movies.

Tarantino not only contributed to the movie world, he also left his mark in popular culture. The references to many scenes from his films indicated not recognition of his talent, but also the effect that movies can take on the rest of the media.

Me and my mom have a tradition: watching cheesy movies on New Year’s day. And for about 10 years
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is number one on our list. You can of course get sick out of it, but what can be better than Soviet chick flick, that oh, reminds of good ole times(mostly for my mom)!
 

The movie was made in 1979 and was directed by one of the best Russian directors at that time – Vladimir Menshov. Moscow does not believe in tears is a melodrama about three friends from province – Antonina, Lyudmila and Katerina, who come to Moscow in order to make their dreams come true. Each of the girls strives to accomplish the best in the big city, but life chooses different path for each of them. As movie focuses on Katerina, aimful, hard-working woman, Antonina’s and Lyudmila’s lives are seen in flashes. Katerina is trying to earn her degree, while working at the factory and keeping an eye on shy Antonina and party-lover Lyudmila. At one of the parties initiated by Lyudmila, she meets Rudolf, who eventually seduces Katerina, leaving her pregnant. Rudolf, who is not fascinated by the idea of marriage, disappears from Katerina’s life. At the same time Antonina gets married to a good man and Lyudmila takes life as a lottery, in which life in the city is her lucky ticket.  

Katerina gives a birth to a girl, and with that we make 20 year leap in the women lives. Lydmila is divorced – her husband an ex-hockey star is now alcoholic; Antonina is taking care of her children and husband, living happily. Katerina reached heights at her work, now she is a director of large factory. Disappointed in life, she gives her attention to her daughter Alexandra and her work. But Katerina’s life takes another turn when she meets Gosha -instead of long years of loneliness and disappointment comes the final happiness, for which Katerina has to fight. 

Katerina’s life can be easily compared Cinderella’s, strong woman who is missing love that she eventually finds. However, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears itself portrays something deeper than the typical love story. If the first plot of the movie – the reward of hard-working socialistic woman comes, can get lost through the years, the second plot of – lonely woman eventually finding her prince, seems like an undying topic in the movie world. Director did a fantastic job on portraying simple, but twisting life of a woman, the hot topic of 1970s and 80s.  

Film has a deeper meaning to it on multiple levels; it also portrays the death of morals (killed by younger generations, such as premarital sex), the greed for better position (Rudolf’s mother, who believes Katerina is from rich family, worships her), surreal life that public was thirsty for.  
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears had won recognition around the world, not only because it won Oscar in 1981 for the Best Foreign Language Film, but also because women from different countries can somewhat relate to this fairy tale. Maybe Menshov did accomplish his mission – he gave hope for those who had achieved a lot in their lives, but still have something missing. I definitely recommend this movie, I am sure both men and women, single or in relationship, would enjoy it!

As Grey’s Anatomy season was wrapping up in spring of 2006, one could be clearly seen: I was addicted to the soundtrack “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. In fact it was one of the anthems of summer for me and it was the start of my growing interest in Keane. By that time Keane’s songs were crawling up on the top 40 charts not only in Great Britain, but in U.S. also.

Despite the fact that the band was established in 1995, their popularity didn’t escalate until 2004, when they produced their first album Hopes and Fears. Consisting of Tom Chaplin, Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes, Keane had brought something new in the rock genre – piano. As a substitute for guitars, piano and synthesizer play crucial role in Hopes and Fears. The album consists of 11 songs and includes such hits as

Somewhere Only We Know, Everybody’s Changing, Bedshaped, This Is the Last Time, We Might as Well Be Strangers and Bend and Break. Hopes and Fears won Brit Award for Best Album in 2005.

As Keane artists reflect, Hopes and Fears album expressed their inner state, creating mellow melody with touching lyrics. This album always makes me want to get in the car in the middle of the night and drive somewhere. Despite being somewhat depressing, it adds some color to it with the help of Tom Chaplin’s voice and drum effects by Richard Hughes. The piano although draws the main attention to itself, due to that it is surprising to hear the quiet, but at the same time outstanding notes in the rock music.  

My personal favorite from the album She Has No Time has breathtaking lyrics and dramatic touch to it. It creates atmosphere of melancholy with the saddest tunes from piano, emphasized with synthesizer, serving as a bridge in the song continues to carry out inner side of the artist, letting him to express his emotions not only through lyrics but also through music.

Keane has rapidly growing career and stay on the same line as famous Brit rockers such as Coldplay, Snow Patrol and The Killers. However American band Augustana had the closest resemblance with Keane, with their single Boston that included piano as a major instrument in their song.

It had been two years since I bought my last CD in a small second-hand shop in
Putney, VT. Going through the collection of the old CDs I came across the purple cover with white owl and Asian girl in the front of it. The name of the artist sounded familiar, thus my ambition to spend some cash was satisfied.
 

CD that I bought was White Owl by Keiko Matsui, the artist who has very limited audience outside of
Japan. Keiko is a jazz and new age musician that started her musical career with her first album in 1987. The elegance and character can be portrayed in the music she plays.
 

White Owl consists of the music that can be identified as smooth jazz and is a fusion of piano, violin and saxophone creating relaxing and emotional music that connects variety of temps. It was released in 2003, consisting of 14 songs, the titles of which reflect the connection with nature, portraying Keiko’s love for nature. 

Keiko’s album is the combination of fast, stormy and calm, touching music. Her solo tracks such as Next Plateau and Precious Time makes the time go slower, and brings out something personal and deep. Faster tracks such as Kappa, Across the Sun, and the Wind and the Wolf portray the energy fountain she puts out in her music and reflects the western and eastern music. My favorites Steps of Maya and To the Indian Sea have a touch of innocence, sadness and spiritualism to it, which makes it easier to listen and mediate to. Keiko’s music is a classic of one sort, due to that it can be perceived as passionate, calm, soothing, rhythmic and cultural.  

As United States become more involved in international arena, music becomes more internationalized also, creating new programs in search of stars, mixing variety of genres and tones and becoming more interchangeable with other cultures. As the mix occurs, new music stars are born. Canadian songwriter, singer, instrumentalist and recorder Nelly Furtado is one of these stars.  

She was born on December 2, 1978 in Victoria, British Columbia. Her parents are Portuguese, therefore Nelly grew up in multilingual family, learning Portuguese, English and Spanish. Her family was a working class, but Nelly traveled quite a lot, making her experiences to add cross-cultural sounds to her music in her future career. 

Nelly’s interest in music started at the age of four, when she first sang. She further developed skills such as playing instruments at the age of 9, and writing songs at the age of 12. The first musicians she encountered were underground rappers and DJs, who influenced her music with touch of hip-hop beat. 

 Through years Nelly’s music was influenced by multiple genres: hip-hop, R&B, alternative rock and world music. Despite a long list of underground performances, she found her music career path in one of Toronto’s nightclubs. At the club, The Philosopher Kings singer Gerald Eaton was impressed by her voice and offered her a contract.  Eaton and fellow Kings member Brian West, collectively known as Track and Field, helped Furtado produce her demo. She signed her record deal with DreamWorks Records in 1999, when she returned for two weeks from backpack through Europe.  

 Her career escalated in 2000, with the album “Whoa, Nelly!”, which consisted of the hits such as “I’m like a bird”, “Turn off the light”, “On the radio”, “Hey Man”. Her second album, Folklore, however, didn’t reach the heights of the previous one, due to the troubles at DreamWorks Records. But her song “Forca”, from the album, was an official anthem of 2004 European Football Championship. Other hits include “Try” and “Powerless (Say What You Want).  Her latest album “Loose”, which was released in June 2006, had already received Billboard Award. The album was produced in collaboration with Timbaland, who added hip-hop genre in the core of the music. The hits that are popular today and are included in the album are: “Maneater”, “Say it Right”, and “All good things”. 

 My first encounter with Nelly’s music was in 2000, with her first song “I am like a bird”. Her music captivated me, but I was looking for something else – something more that was full of passion and her character.. When her song “Powerless” came out, I knew that it was IT:  

Paint my face in your magazines
Make it look whiter than it seems
Paint me over with your dreams
Shove away my ethnicity
Burn every notion that I may have a flame inside to fight
And say just what is on my mind
Without offending your might
Cuz this life is too short to live it just for you
But when you feel so powerless what are you gonna do
So say what you want
Say what you want

I saw her face outside today
Weatherworn, looking all the rage
They took her passion and her gaze and made a poster
Now it’s moccasins we sport
We take the culture and contort
Perhaps only to distort what we are hiding
Cuz this life is too short to live it just for you
But when you feel so powerless what are you gonna do
But say what you want
Say what you want
Hey you, the one outside, are you ever gonna get in, get in
Hey you, the one that don¡¦t fit in, how ya, how ya gonna get in
Hey you, the one outside, are you ever gonna get in with your
Broken teeth, broken jaw, broken mojo
Yeah, this life is too short to live it just for you
But when you feel so powerless, what are you gonna do

Cuz this life is too short to live it just for you
But when you feel so powerless, what are you gonna do 
 

She indeed put a lot of passion to this song. It was written after she faced the request from her recording company to hide her ethnic background. (Paint my face in your magazines/Make it look whiter than it seems). I think Nelly made the right decision by creating this song, because it truly did show her character – the morale, the cultural relation and the strength she has.  

The originality of Nelly Furtado’s genre, which is influenced by alternative styles such as hip-hop and rock, the strength of her voice, the beat of her music, that can be easy to listen and easy to move to, her lyrics that reflect her thoughts and her passion for music attract variety of listeners, her cultural background and the experiences throughout her life sum up in the expressionist music she creates and make her one of the best pop-singers in the international arena.

Back home they say that college years are the best. Well imagine college students who are fun, smart and critical– full of ideas, talents and no place to put it out. So in 1961 a journalist Sergey Muratov decided that there is a way to put all of that – create a TV show.  Thus КВН (“Club of the cheerful and sharp-witted”) show was featured where commands consisting of college students with their captains, competed each other in who was funnier.  0012.jpg

The show earned a great deal of success: it was the first TV show that included not only the hosts, but also the audience. It was also obvious that show was popular beyond college student audience; it was watched by high school students, their younger siblings and their parents. However show was cancelled in 1971 when the political criticism was a taboo. The KGB, disturbed by some of the jokes of the students, had to start the case on the program. It was re-opened in 1986 and it had been big boom since then, celebrating 40-year-old anniversary in 2001. 

The show itself is quite unpredictable. Because students are given only topics and few weeks to come up with their version of events, the rules might change as the show flows.  The topics attract the audience due to the variety: movies of the year, another senseless ad, politics and their leaders and etc. Nothing escapes the criticism of the cheerful and sharp witted students, creating the atmosphere of optimism and the feeling that you can laugh away pretty much anything. 

КВН takes place only on the stage: the thinking, the set-up, the performance, the team work. The camera gives the audience perspective from top to the bottom, from left to right, from the front and the back. The quality of the production is quite good in comparison to the other show, which gives the show additional plus.  

“Club of the cheerful and sharp-witted ” is a fun time spending in front of TV: you can catch up with the latest news in fashion, politics, gossip world, culture and etc., with a little bit different perspective in a matter of humor. I miss this show, which is full of the references to the things and humor that I am familiar way. Maybe КВН is not the show that would go international in few decades, but the show would always be the part of the culture that I grew up in.

From the first chords of “Who are you,” I run from my room to jump on the couch. Ah time to relax! Nowadays I rarely watch “idiot-box”, but Crime Scene Investigation (the original) manages to pull me away from the routine of my school life and into the surreal life of science and the process of human thinking that attracts me so much. Well, I should admit, sometimes it also works as an excuse to slack off from my homework. clip_image0021.jpg


At first, it was a challenge for me to admit that I actually like soap-operas, or the series. My mother, quite fond of soap-operas, drove me absolutely insane by limiting my TV time back home. It always irritated me that a plot that could be told in 3 hours had to be stretched for 2.5 years. However CSI went beyond my expectations! A mini movie that runs for an hour (with our favorite commercial interruptions) contains the psychological and scientific method of crime solving by the crew of forensics: Grissom, Catherine, Warrick, Nick, Sara and detective Jim. However, despite the bright and interesting characters, the show focuses specifically on the process of crime solving. Hi-tech technology and a mixture of science and justice spice up the show quite effectively.  

Of course we can all argue that TV is flunked with typical crime-solving, order-protecting, justice-bringing shows. Law and order, The Closer, and NCIS are only a few examples of the genre that is rocking TV listings nowadays. However CSI clearly differs from all of the above. Though I have heard many arguments that movies of this genre might lead us to lose the value of human life; eventually we will all be guinea pigs, cut open and examined. My answer: don’t watch TV in that case. Death is all over the TV programs and people should find the capability of separating the celebrity life from the real.  But there is something more to CSI: the cloud of innocence of this movie. I guess it raises the belief that justice always wins, good defeats evil and everything will be OK. Thus, is it really right to say that CSI emerges me in the unreal life, creating an atmosphere of reality? I guess. Maybe that is the reason I run from my room to jump on the couch.  

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American urban music at first didn’t attract me – the lyrics “dem h***s and b***es” made my face turn away in disgust. Some even didn’t make sense: why would you sing about “Miss New Booty?” I mean who cares about new boots? (It never occurred to me that it is simply slang for something completely different). Thus I stayed simple pop/rock loving girl until I came to
U.S. and it changed me. 
They say society and environment influences us. No doubt, being an exchange student shaped me in a slight different way that it would have been back home. And living in a different society and having different environment, my music taste (and not only) started undergoing some changes also. Despite that the pop/rock music is the most music that featured on TV and radio I fell in love with R&B, one of the streams in the urban music (actually urban music is closely associated with R&B these days). The first time I was introduced to hip-hop was through my friend who was DJ. After my yelling about how offensive for me it was listen to hip-hop and rap, he answered that I should re-discover my music taste. He said that the hip-hop beat is actually something that makes you move and feel good about dancing. Of course at that time I didn’t believe him, thinking that everybody have the taste of their own. My opinion was quick to change. At the multiple parties and radio stations urban music was one of the drives for dancing and enjoying the time. My love for urban music actually started with “21 Questions” by 50 cent. The beat and lyrics seemed to flow together perfectly and the song itself was advised by my friend. I realized that hip-hop is not part of low culture music. It has its own history: the look on the streets in some neighborhoods, the toughness of life and ups and downs of human spirit. Slowly I started listening to hip-hop, R&B and rap in order to see what the artists would say.  It is then when I first heard Mary J. Blige. She made revolution in my addiction to R&B. I loved her voice and her lyrics. She made it possible for me to get interested in the urban music and turning it in the only stream that I listen now.  If you are looking for the music to relax, or move your body to, or just see what it is like to live in one of the neighborhoods, then urban music is the best what I can recommend. Enjoy!

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Dogs and cats never get along, right? Well, almost never. We’ve known that since childhood. However in Mutts, the little world within a comic strip, everything is possible. Thus the story is seen through the eyes and thoughts of the cat Mooch and the dog Earl, which are like cherries bound together.  

Mutts was created in 1994, when the author made up the comics after being influenced by the story of Peanut(another comic strip character). Amazingly enough, Mutts was never intended to portray the animals as the main characters. Their owners, Millie, Frank, and Ozzie, were the ones that McDonell planned to depict, but animals took first place making Mutts popular. The day-to-day adventure of Earl and Mooch focus on the harrasment of/being harassed by other animals, seeking food during “hibernation”, walks, plays with pink sock, and conversations that would leave you with the definite smile. The content of the work addicts reader to itself from the first time and you get “hooked”. 

Mutts had been popular not only in U.S. It had been translated into several languages and is sold not only in the comic strip format. Mutts comes also in the form of books – the author used Mooch and Earl as an example of children’s book (I would imagine the “crabby’s” expletives were left out). In addition, Mutts has its fan club and store.  

Typically you might call this comic strip “tree-hugging”, and the childish cartoony form might push the reader away. However, McDonell’s humor is a green light for every age and has a special twist within itself by portraying stereotypical characteristics of the cat and a dog, turning it in the entertaining story for lazy Sundays. Mutts is on the top of the “to read” comic strip list, and satisfaction is guaranteed.


 

I think there is always a day when the need for Hollywoody “happy ending” novels dies and a room for a little tragedy takes place. So be advised – toss that romantically rich, sweet and “fluffy” or on another hand, blood-filled, action packed book and settle for something more… different!

 

     When I was fifteen I came across 500+ paged “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte, which swallowed me in the world of thoughts, feelings and adventures. The story revolves around Lucy Snowe, reserved and ‘invisible’ young woman who does not posses neither beauty nor wealth (indeed two important components of a lady in England at that time). But rich with thoughts and thirst for new things, she sets on the travel of understanding herself and realizing her feelings. She travels on her own to Villettefictitious city, where her life takes a different twist. Romance covers her up and makes her forget to check her feelings and words. She changes – she realizes what she really wants and tries to get it despite putting her reputation in danger. She gets a hold of the happiness (as she thinks) she deserves, however the moment is short. Despite that Lucy does depict her loss indirectly( “Trouble no quiet, kind heart; leave sunny imaginations hope”), reader clearly understands footprint the event leaves on her heart.

 

 

    The realization of who you are, what you stand for, fighting for your happiness, exploring your emotions and pursuing heights is what Villette depicts. It reflects not only the storyline; it also describes social concerns – the matter of personal decisions relying on others, marriage restrictions, corrupt relations and etc. It also bursts the bubble of the surrealism – the reality hits amazingly hard. Reality actually hits you right in the heart and leaves its presence through the years.

 

    Villette attracts me not only because of a drop of tragic in its plot, it is also reflects Charlotte Bronte’s uneasy life. The sense of that the feelings were felt, the words said and images drawn presents the novel in a whole different light, leaving reader wanting to re-read the novel over and over. It also brings up different emotions – happiness, anger, disappointment, hope and belief. However Villette will always be Lucy Snowe’s story – the story of duck that turned into a beautiful swan.