June 26, 2007

The Lipizanner Stallions

Saturday evening, June 23rd, 2007 my mom and I attended the World Famous Lipizanner Stallion show at the Save On Foods Memorial Arena.

Although not as grand or spectacular as my imginative childhood ideal had in mind, the evening was interesting and entertaining. The lights were not turned low with spotlights on the exciting riders and horses, no show smoke or lovely, high quality music....No, the arena lights were all on, the mini-stage area for the horses only extended 3/4 of the way along the floor and the microphone and music all seemed a little too 'canned'.

Mom and I started off evening before the show even began by enjoying the wonderful arena food...a hotdog each, shared fries (onto which I put waaay too much ketchup which grossed us out) and a pop. Mmmm! Love that event food!
The actual show started off with a single horse and rider carrying the Canadian flag and an announcer introducing the show with the playing of the Canadian Nation Anthem. The sparsely filled area crowd rose, as they should, but it seemed Mom and I were the only ones singing gustily as we norally do when our anthem is played.
Alright, that was 7 minutes and maybe $5 worth of our ticket.....we waited to see what was to come.

The narrator stepped up to welcome us and to give us a not-so-brief history of the Lipinzanner bred while, behind some blue velvet curtains, the next demonstration prepared.

Ahh yes, 'demonstration'...that is a word I would use to describe the entire eveing. As well as seeing this magnificent breed of horses, the show was mostly a demonstration of 'dressage', a formal type of traditional horseback ridings and paces.

I did appreciate one of the first 'acts, a single horse and rider pair who took us through all the different paces and steps while the narrator explained them and their difficulty. Afterwards we were able to identify all the steps and foot chages in all the following acts.

Thereafter, for several acts, we were entertained by two, then three, then four pairs who came out dressed in Napoleaon-like costume to demondtrate all the fancy dressage steps while mirror imaging eachother. It was almost like an, "Anything you can do, I can do better" moment with each horse matching the other in the difficult steps across the floor. All these events were ridden to classical 'canned' music some pieces recognizable, some not so much. Apparently we were supposed to believe the horses were 'dancing' to the music, but I had yet to see or feel that way.

Finally we came to the part of the show that I had been waiting for...the tricks and jumps!!

At first I was a little disappointed as three riders led their horses out on long leads instead of on their backs as I had expected. Yet as they begun, I cheered as much as the couple two seats behind us...and man, did they like to cheer!

First was a quick rearing up on their hind legs....then a longer balancing on the hind legs...and as the narrator continually discussed, this maneauver was used to avoid spears and swords of enemies in battle. (Of course these all had fancy names for the jump or kick but I cannot remember and the narrator's voice bounced off the empty seats so badly we couldn't understand it anyway.)

Then the best trick ever!! They horse for this jump was an antsy and hyper young horse nicknamed "The Baby" since he is the youngest horse and impressively, he has learned this trick in a matter of months instead of years!
He trotted around until finally working up to a jump, all four feet in the air, front legs tucked under and back legs swiftly kicking out and back. Very exciting indeed!!
Usually they only use horses for these events that are older and have trained for several years to perfect the timing and cues, yet this young guy was rescued from a neglectful farm and once rehabilitated in 8 months learned to show off his kick.

After these stunts there was more parading around, more steps, more music...there was one very dancing-like act where the music was big band 40's style with a single horse and his rider all decked out in top hat and tails. Amusing and cute but not spectacular. Ah well....

INTERMISSION time which included me searching out something sweet for us to snack on....Mom got a churro witha coffee and I caved and bought a Twix.

Once again....they announced the bigger acts and jumps!! Yes!! This time WITH the rider!!!! Excellent!! this was worth the ticket price!!
First was the quick rearing up, then the longer balance on the two hind legs...very cool! Then the huge jump and kick...the horse was so frisky that his rider almost fell or jumped off as he kicked a little prematurely. The rider calmly trotted the horse around the ring, with a few more excited kicks and bucks, and finally made the impressive leap into the air mid-ring!! (I captured it in the video posted at the end of this blog.)

A few other highlights include a lesson on the branding and breeding of the Lipizanner bred...there are only 6 sire or father bloodlines branded with an initial ('M' in this photo) and a symbol for the mother or dam's bloodline under the initial (an arrow in this photo) Also there is a brand on the left hind leg and on this horse it symbolizes that he is from royal lineage, back from the horses that rode for kings. (or something like that....)

Here are some of the larger acts with all 8 horses and riders parading around in intricate steps and patterens.

Here is the head horseman and one of the larger stallions. We were told that the Lipizanner breed is born black and as they age their coat lightenes, mostly to a shade of while but some, like this horse, stay a darker grey shade and are very rare in the Lipizanner breed.

He even bowed when finished his 'routine'. (All I could think of was the prase, "Superstar!")

The final act was all 8 pairs performing a kind of 'synchronized swimming' for horses!!! All the spirals, circles, passing through and all that jazz!! This part was quite lovely to watch and we were cheering them on for their job well done!

(Kind of like coming down the red carpet at a movie premiere...)

("Ring around the rosie....")

(The synchronized swimming part!!)

All in all a fun evening with my mom!! And a childhood wish fulfilled even iff I'm a little too grown up to enjoy it with the wide eyes of my young self.

There is a video below but bear with me as I try to make it work....if it doesn't, check back later.

June 13, 2007

New Movie Reviews

Okay so, being the movie buff that I am, I've seen a few flicks over that past few weeks and instead of a huge, indepth review on each, I thought I'd give you all my quick impression of a handfull.

"Lord of War" - starring Nicholas Cage, Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke
(click on the image to look at it in a larger form....very cool poster!)
Overall a really interesting, yet disturbing look at how someone can get into the arms dealing business supplying the world with the means to kill eachother. However, this movie was not a 'grip the edge of your seat' type film, but more of an expose on the lifestyle and downward spiral of the underworld of minor and major gun-running.

Cage plays the part well with moments where I felt we were supposed to hate/love him, instead of typically loving the protagonist. Leto is excellent at the 'lost' little brother who gets stuck in a life that keeps dragging him down. Ultimately, Leto's character gives this movie substance and a conscience and, if only in my own eyes, redemption. Hawke is barely believeable as the Customs Agent on a bent to bagging the big 'guns' but because he won't bend his own laws, never really seems to get and 'get' his quarry.

Don't read this line if you don't want to know............but I would really have liked to know at the beginning of the movie that it was based on actual events....not at the end!

I give Lord of War

7 /10 kirsten-stars.

"Blood Diamond" - starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Housou, and Jennifer Connelly

In stark contrast but not at all foreign to "Lord of War", "Blood Diamond" is a story of rescue and escape within a film about the tragic and cruel battles between and amoung African countries in political turmoil. Through a diamond smuggler, a poor father and a journalist we see how these wars rip a country and its' families apart; brainwashing the young, maiming or killing the innocent, and pillaging the land's resources, such as diamonds, to fund further wars and campaigns.

DiCaprio and Djimon are splendid in their contrasting roles. They both need eachother yet neither can trust the other fully. Djimon as the father poor in means but rich in determination and spirit embodies the voice of the African helpless in a country ruled by one dictator or war lord after another. DiCaprio brings his usual charm to what I call a 'smarmy' role, that of a lying dimond smuggler who doesn't care what the rest of the world does as long as he makes a profit and can one day leave the continent that seems never to let him go. The South African accent is a little weak but DiCaprio plays his role believeably well otherwise.

I must say I learned more in 2 hours about African wars and the worldwide effect they have then I ever would listening to Cnn or reading a paper. Though film is a fictional medium I cannot take away the haunting images that this story brought forward. Images that I am sure are fairly accurate if not watered down from the real life struggles faced every day in war-torn Africa.

Kudos to the filmmakers. You have made me aware.

I give Blood Diamond

9/10 kirsten-stars.

"Pan's Labyrinth"
"El Laberinto del fauno"

What I wouldn't give to have more wonderful films such as this made every year! Perhaps that would make rare finds like "Pan's Labyrinth" seem less brilliant!

As you can already tell, I was blown away by this film. This movie was not only a simple fairy tale to tweak the interest of wishful-thinking, child-at-heart people like me, but it is a drama, family story and war film all rolled into one. Every aspect of this movie, from choice of actors, to set, to the creature effects and looks, weaved together a magical tapestry of modern lore and the endless story-telling posibilities.

Read all the reviews and any synopsis you like, you simply must see this film for yourself to appreciate the rich, bold world that is created in the midst of a real country split by dictatorship and reformation.

At first slightly disturbing and scary, the creatures that a young girl discovers become a opportunity to escape and possibly be reborn to a life more wonderful than the horror that has become her present situation.

For Ofelia, the helpful yet unsettleing faun, the stick bug/faeries, the massive, greedy toad, and esspecially the deathly frightening 'pale man' all seem relatively tame and even normal in comparrison with her new step-father and his malicious bent on cruelty and justice. Though young and unsure, Ofelia carries the film with her quest both to complete the faun's tasks and to leave her world to possibly become royalty in a legendary other.

See this film!!!

I give Pan's Labyrinth

15 out of 10 kirsten-stars!!!!