Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hellboy 2 Versus The Opera

On the train from Zagreb to Budapest, we shared a compartment with Kirk. He is an L.A. accountant working on Hellboy 2, which is shooting in Budapest. Guess who got to visit the set and fling themselves at a masked Ron Perlman enthusiastically yelling, "Ron! Buddy! Remember when I visited you on the set of Star Trek: Nemesis?" Later, Isaac sidled up to Selma Blair but not before I got in there and had a lengthy conversation with her about style (she's the undisputed champ, hands down!).

Really, we just meekly stood in a spot least likely to get in the way and we watched Guillermo del Toro direct a scene where the whole happy Hellboy gang are entering this crazy, underground lair that looks a bit like The Dance Cave with dry ice. There was a PA whose job it was to control Hellboy's tail via remote control (his technique consisted of lazy circles that screamed nonchalance yet alertness to the situation). There was another PA who was the crab wrangler - one of the characters (who, instead of having legs, wheels himself on a little wagon although the actor himself does have legs, skinny ones encased in restrictive spandex) had to be covered in bright red and blue crabs. Those little guys will stand still but sometimes fall off when you're going take after take. There was a Hungarian animal specialist on-set.

There was also the DVD extras guy, shooting all the behind-the-scenes action. I covet his job. I have a whole list of random jobs that I'd love to have and this is one of them. There's no pressure! You get to tell the story of a story! Interviews, b-roll, cinema verite! So what if your life revolves around sci-fi weirdness for an entire year?

We perused some sets and initial architectural blueprints and craned our necks at green screens that were waaaaay high.

The next night, we were at the Budapest Opera House, looking down from the third balcony at red velvet curtains that were just as big as the green screens from the night before. We saw a production of Andre Chenier. And yes, it's a little surreal to think about the two artistic realms we'd visited within the 24 hours, but isn't everything a bit surreal when you think about comparisons?

Listening to the chorus, I began making a Hellboy 2 versus the Budapest Opera list in my mind. Hellboy 2? Massive green screens with a massive dry cleaning bill to match (we were being toured around by the accountant, remember?). The opera had red velvet curtains more than four storeys tall. Not sure what the expenses for maintenance would be. The background players in Hellboy 2 wore disgusting monster costumes (very well-rendered, very disgusting) with flesh wounds, giant spiky hairs, feet boots, etc. The production of Andre Chenier was all wigs, stockings, and rouge. And that was just the men.

We were lucky to have had a tour of Hellboy 2 because I'm fascinated by the artistry that goes into set design, make-up and wardrobe and even if sci-fi isn't my steez, this is the genre of the most fantastical, wow-factor stuff. Thanks be to Kirk, L.A. accountant, for driving us out one night into the middle of nowhere, an hour outside of Budapest. We were only creeped out for one, brief "where are we?" moment.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I'm So Hungary

People always make fun of nonsensical English-language t-shirts in Japan but they should go to Croatia. A coast chock full of tourists makes for a sea of tacky souvenir t-shirts and I am really hoping that kids on the Dalmatian coast understand less of the English language than the Japanese. How else to explain "Who needs boobs..." (and then on the back) "When you've got an ass like this?" (14 year old girl). Or "You need to buy me a drink because you're still ugly" (12 year old boy). Then there was the economically-worded "He is gay" with an arrow meant to point at the person standing next to the wearer of the t-shirt. For some strange reason, I felt like apologizing to the Croatians for these hideous shirts.

Maybe English is tough but Hungarian is WAY HARDER. We're in Budapest now and there is absolutely nothing in this language that I can hang a hat on...no familiar words, sounds, nothing. When I read maps or our guidebook, my eyes just glaze right over when they get to a Hungarian word, all of which seem to begin or end with "nagy." It is a famously impenetrable language. The only thing I can remember is that greetings are backwards - you can say the phonetic equivalent of "See ya" for hello and "Hello" will work for goodbye. Both are kind of useless anyway because usually the shopkeeper will bark something to me in a brusque manner and I will scuttle away scared. Smiling in a friendly manner doesn't really work here.

This morning, Isaac and I went for coffee at the Gerbeaud which is yet another example of crazy gorgeous art deco. Then a long walk up the hill to the citadel on the Buda side. It's a great view of Pest. Then we went to the Gellert baths to soak all aft. Hot, cold, hot, cold, inside, outside! The sauna was truly scary, however, and I didn't last longer than 30 seconds. It was the most intense sauna I've ever been in and kind of felt like the time I had the mystic tan mishap (scary, can't see, surrounded by air that seems solid rather than a gas). I've cooked in hot waters before but this sauna was downright painful and I felt my metal necklaces (tiny, dainty chains) immediately heat up enough to scorch my neck. It was awful and I headed straight for the tiny cold bath (8 degrees) after to dunk myself. Pins and needles! This hot cold thing rules.

Best items seen in souvenir shop: Britney Russian doll and Simpsons Russian doll (Bart on outside, cracked-out Lisa on inside drawn by someone who's obviously never seen the Simpsons, plus random teacups painted on the inner three).
Worst items seen in fleamarket: actual SS Nazi rings and paraphernalia.

More notes to come.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bok from Split, Croatia


Karim and Tomi's wedding in Crikvenica was beautiful. It's kind of hard to go wrong on the stunning Croatian coast. Saturday we woke up in our beachside apartment and got dressed in our party finery. We desperately needed coffee. We walked over to Tomi's mom's house as, according to custom, everyone was gathering for a reception there. It was noon. There wasn't any coffee there but there was plenty of wine and vodka. And so it began.

After mingling and meeting both sides of the family, greeting the bride and groom, much eating and drinking, we piled into cars for the church. It was across the water, on the island of Krk, an hour's drive. The landscape was gorgeous but I snoozed most of the way there and back. What I saw was rocky and hilly, shrubbery everywhere. The church itself is by the water, by a mountain, on a hilltop by a tiny town and it's surrounded by crumbling stone. After a beautiful ceremony, we got back into the cars, headed back to Crikvenica for the reception.

Croatians can party. There was a band led by a Viggo Mortensen look-alike who took a liking to Isaac and Philippe, asking them to sing some lines in Croatian. Isaac gave a nice speech, we ate for hours, danced to Croatian music, and drank until 4 in the morning. By the end, I was barely standing, not because of the drinks but just because I was so tired. Isaac called it Wedding Survivor. I wouldn't have won.

Now we're in Split where Isaac, Katie and Philippe and I are enjoying the summery weather, waiting for the couple to arrive so we can crash their honeymoon.