Jul 13, 2007

Stay safe on Saturday the 14th

Just a friendly reminder that Saturday the 14th always follows Friday the 13th. Be cautious, don't turn on your computer, and, above all, take care of your friends.

Jul 12, 2007

Burnapest launches...

Saturday the 14th has officially branched out. Check out Burnapest for daily (sort of) culture and news from Budapest. Check out the history and zeitgeist of Central Europe's greatest city, and find out how life imitates art in this rapidly changing region.

Jul 3, 2007

Night at the Museum

Fortunately, Budapest's version was much more successful than the Ben Stiller film of the same name. In the film, the great Ricky Gervais played the castrato role of Dr. McPhee, but in the Budapest night at the museum, tourists and locals alike only had to pay 1200 forints (around six bucks) for access into over 50 museums, libraries and other venues.

DJs, dance troupes, Latin cuisine, and lots and lots of people. So many people, in fact, that wait times were up to an hour to get into the better exhibits -- namely an Incan artifact exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts and a Ghengis Khan exhibit at the National Museum.
On a night like this, I found it best to see as many of the smaller exhibits as you can. Namely those you would usually put at the end of your list. For example, and no offense, the Postamuzeum (museum of postage and communication) where a rare stamp collection was displayed or perhaps the Zwack Unicum museum where you could learn everything that goes into making the most offensive alcoholic beverage in Europe.

Jun 28, 2007

Chaotic weather weekend

The clouds over Buda turned charcoal Friday night and in a matter of moments both sides of the Danube were soaked and scorched. Licks of lightning split trees left and right and most of Hungary felt the drenching.

Fortunately, nobody died, unlike last August 20 when revelers filled the streets of Budapest to celebrate St. Stephen's day -- the Hungarian national holiday. A similar summer storm broke in the middle of the festivities. The winds were so strong that a stack of glassware atop the Marriott Hotel blew into a panicky crowd below... Ouch!

The latest thunderstorms have led to brisk breezes and cooler weather, though, and it was pretty cool to see those clouds come in. It was kind of like Ghostbusters when the Keymaster found the gatekeeper.

Jun 22, 2007

Cannes on the cheap -- the pros and Cannes

It is possible, with a little elbow grease and some Mary Poppins style packing, to attend the Cannes film festival like a star without maxing out credit cards or taking out a second mortgage. There are a few tricks worth revealing, from camping to rush ticket line waiting, that will keep your total budget below $50 a day without sacrificing the glamor of the celebrity-filled festival.

Parc Bellevue Campsite is wonderful. If you bring a tent, then you've got a secure spot with a swimming pool, showers and bathrooms for under $20 a day -- don't forget your own toilet paper. There are also nice mobile units available for around $60 a night. They have beds and other necessities as well as private patios for a little chill out space.

Be warned! The Web site promises that La Croisette is only a "few minutes" away. Perhaps, if you're testing one of the Monaco Gran Prix cars in the middle of the night you can get there in four minutes. Otherwise, plebes must take the bus, which is only about a half an hour, but totally inconvenient. Taxis run you about 25 euros, depending on the night -- Ouch!

This is pretty cheesy, but it works. Stand outside the entrance into the Palais (the center of the festival) and hold a sign in French or English that you need tickets into, for example, the premier of "Ocean's 13." Somebody with credentials, and something better to do that night, will probably dump their invitation on someone who looks desperate enough. Otherwise, you'll need your own credentials, and unless you're in the film business that's not going to happen.

Cons -- Besides having to look desperate, you also have to look dapper. Men need to be in tuxedos and women just have to look pretty -- high heels instead of flip flops. If not, a polite yet firm Frenchman will tell you in so many words that you have no chance in hell of walking the red carpet. The French are sticklers for dressing up.

Solution -- Bring a tuxedo. Even a second-hand black suit will work. They actually have bow ties there for you to borrow (aren't they considerate). Women have it easy for once. A simple dress works.

There are hundreds of parties every day during the Festival de Cannes, so getting into a couple isn't too difficult. Along the Croisette, there are several beach parties throughout the day and night. If they're not busy, you just talk to the doormen for a while and pretend like you're going to buy tons of drinks, but do not, I repeat, do not buy a ton of drinks. They'll most likely let you in if it's slow.

The secret is to make sure the doorman remembers you. Kiss him on the cheek, shake his hand, do anything you think will cast a favorable impression on him -- pull your pants down if you want. If he remembers you, he might just let you in when the party is actually happening later on. You can also hang out in the hotel lobbies and whenever you see a lesser-known celebrity heading into a party, just follow nonchalantly behind. You might be mistaken as one of the entourage and be let in.

Cons -- Some who wait to get into parties can spend hours outside looking in, so be aggressive and if it doesn't work, move on. Life is too short to wait in long lines. Also, one drink can cost between 15 and 30 euros in the club, so have a bottle of wine somewhere else or go sober. There's enough to do and you never know who will offer you a little Dom Perignon.

Au Revoir Cannes

May 28, 2007

"Sicko" to make Americans sick

The Cannes jury chose a Romanian film, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" from director Cristian Mungiu as the top film of the festival this year. It's sure to be released in the United States thanks to the Palm D'Or, but who knows if anyone will jump to see it.

On the other hand, several American films premiering at the Festival de Cannes are sure to be blockbusters, with "Oceans 13" the obvious choice for American moviegoers -- Al Pacino adding to a cast already favored among girls and women alike. Thankfully, 13- to 35-year-old males have "Transformers" and "The Simpsons" to look out for.

Now to the indie-art house films that are sure to bring tears and a profound worldview to American audiences...


First off, there's "Sicko," the project Michael Moore began just after "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film explores America's failing HMO system, and in typical Moore fashion, it follows lovable, patriotic Midwesterners through the process of denied health insurance claims.

Over the last several years, Moore's team documented tragic stories of death, sickness and financial ruin all thanks to the callous M.D. administrators running the country's multi-trillion dollar health insurance industry. In contrast, the second half of the film explores the universal health care systems of countries such as England, France and Canada. The real kicker comes when he escorts a group of 9/11 volunteers, invalid with respiratory problems and without insurance, past the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and into Cuba where smiling doctors provide care and medication for mere pennies.

Of course, Moore paints far to rosy a picture of these health care systems to cement his argument. The British will be the first to tell you that their experiences and Moore's conjecture don't exactly line up. Also, the Cuban doctors were way too nice -- it was almost as if the minister of health was looking over their shoulders.

Despite the criticism, which Moore has seen a fair share of on previous films, the movie has a good shot at winning over American moviegoers in both red and blue states. I mean, who doesn't have a HMO horror story that they're at least connected to on a secondary level. There's always the single mother who lost her job in retail after the chemotherapy left her wasted and frail. And, don't forget the independent carpenter who lost his fingers and his livelihood as well.

Oh, and Hillary Clinton, you might want to start the P.R. machine now. This film brings back some ugly memories -- and you thought Moore was a democrat.


So, I unfortunately didn't get to see the next few films, the screenings can be pretty exclusive, but you can't help but pay attention to the buzz, so keep an eye out.

"No Country For Old Men," by Joel and Ethan Coen is a deconstructed crime drama that follows a man who happens upon a stash of heroin, $2 million and a bunch of dead thugs. A homicidal maniac follows him through the desert in search of his goods with plenty of violence and some typical Coen brothers dialogue.


For any former skate rat, this beautifully filmed feature by Gus Van Sant is a must see. It's about a skateboarder who kills, of course, a security guard. The movie is supposed to tap into the psyche of a generation without any real identity, but we'll see about that when it comes out. Everybody keeps talking about the cinematography.


In keeping with rebellious cinema, keep an eye out for "Persepolis," a French-Iranian animated film from Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. The feature follows a girl who grows up in Tehran and dreams of becoming a revolutionary. Sent to Austria for safety, the girl soon learns what repression is all about.

May 27, 2007

Get out while the gettin's good!

While the Cannes film festival ends today, we thought it might be a good idea to beat the rush and be on our way to Budapest, and while we weren't able to see all the best movies premiering there, Gus Van Sant's "Paranoid Park" and the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" got the best reviews, we did manage to catch a couple premiers and reviews will come within the next days.

Our last night ended with a bang. Michelle exited the V.I.P. Room with none other than Quentin Tarantino, who was hosting the party for the European debut of "Death Proof." We met Tarantino earlier at the party and had no idea that Michelle would be blinded by the flash of papparazi outside the club. Other celebs include the three Rs -- Rosario Dawson, Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan.
Here's McGowan with the coolest bouncer ever, thanks Allen!

Communication is tough while on the road, so further postings are pending... Till next time.