Sunday, April 1, 2012

Get Close with Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen has played a shaggy-haired king, a paraplegic gangster, a father living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and a tattooed Russian who stars in one of the most badass nude fight scenes in the history of cinema. His willingness to take risks has earned him critical kudos and, in March, the 2012 Coolidge Award from Brookline's Coolidge Corner Theatre. Past recipients include esteemed actors like Meryl Streep and Jonathan Demme — but Mortensen can say he's the only winner who moonlights as an artist, poet, and musician (one who has frequently collaborated with a guy named Buckethead).

In conjunction with the ninth-annual award ceremony, the Coolidge screened many of Mortensen's films, including Eastern Promises, The Road (an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel), and, of course, the extended version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Before an audience of fans dressed as wizards and elves, a jokey Mortensen introduced the series with some geek-friendly trivia. (He even sang Aragorn's coronation song.)

The actor is currently in pre-production for a new movie called Everyone Has a Plan, about a man who assumes the identity of his deceased twin in Argentina. But we caught up with Mortensen at the Coolidge while he was in town to accept his award.

How does this award reflect your entire body of work, especially the days when you were playing character roles? Getting an honor like this forces you to think about this kind of thing. I like to play characters where it's like, “Whoah, how am I going to do that?” When I look back at those roles, they were full of obstacles. I also know from experience the more I believe that I'm that character, the more chance there is that you're going to believe it. That's the game.

You've worked repeatedly with a couple of directors, like Peter Jackson [ The Lord of the Rings ] and most recently David Cronenberg [ Eastern Promises , A Dangerous Method ]. Do you prefer to work with the same director on multiple projects? Not with all directors, but certainly with Cronenberg because I know he's going to be ready and he loves what he does, and that's contagious. Sometimes on the set, people are yelling because someone is unprepared. With Cronenberg, there is a guaranteed quality, and each movie is going to be worth watching. I can't say that about many directors.

Are you more passionate about your music or your acting? They are branches of the same tree, so to speak. These artistic activities have to do with paying attention and filtering what you do and then trying to express what you think you saw. That's my way of paying attention and communicating with the world I'm in.

How did the blockbuster success of The Lord of the Rings affect you? For me it was great. I wouldn't have worked with Cronenberg, and I wouldn't be in this theater right now. I thought about this last night when I was on the stage. There was more to it than just “I love Legolas!” There is something very thought-provoking about those stories. They could use some editing, but so does the Bible.

Is there anything you enjoy doing while in Boston? I enjoy going to museums and walking around. I like Boston; I know it's a big sports town, and I like sports. I've never been to Fenway, and I'd like to go sometime. I like teams that people in Boston don't like.

I know you're a soccer fan. Would you consider making a sports-related movie? I'd be game. Unless it's some story about a guy coming out of retirement and shocking everyone, I'd probably have to direct it or something. I like good stories — it doesn't matter the setting.

Do you plan on directing? I might want to try it at some point. I like everything that goes into movie making. I like actors, which is a plus. I don't know of many directors who like actors and see them as more than just tools.

How would you like to see your career go from this award forward? I'll see what happens tomorrow. I never really had a set plan. I've never thought if I do this, that, and the other, maybe I'll get a Coolidge Award. Whether it's photography, editing books, writing poems, acting in plays — I just like stories.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Boston Local Food Festival

Here's a blog I wrote for the Boston Local Food Festival. They got my name wrong.

When I heard Oxfam was going to have a booth at the festival, I was a bit surprised. With the majority of our vendors serving up freshly harvested local food or showcasing New England crafted beers, it seemed that our celebration would not be of interest to an international organization that focuses on aiding developing countries.

But it turns out, they’re a perfect fit. After reading about Oxfam’s GROW Campaign, it became clear to me why such a noble organization would want to have a table at our event. Throughout the years, Oxfam (which has their U.S. headquarters right here in Boston) has recognized the fact that millions of people in poor and rich countries face going hungry. They created the GROW Campaign to shrink this number by developing lasting solutions for fairer and more sustainable ways to grow food.

They have also recently partnered up with celebrity chefs like Food Network’s chef, Giada de Laurnetiis to help spread awareness by getting people to start the conversation of knowing where their food comes from and learning ways to make more sustainable decisions.

The current struggling food system is a complicated problem, but making a difference by being part of the Grow Campaign is easy. One way you can get involved is by hosting a dinner for World Food Day on October 16th. Or donate to the Global Food Crisis Fund. And don’t forget to check out Oxfam’s booth at the festivities and support a great organization!

The post was written by featured festival blogger Michelle Pocek. Check out her blog Melissa Writes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Miss A Article Best Wine Bars in Chicago

Best Wine Bars in Chicago

We all know wine making is not conducive in Chicago. Yet, we Chicagoans love drinking it. In recent years, wine bars have popped up throughout our city, often serving top-quality wines that are lovingly produced in the U.S. as well as a far. And fortunately for us, a handful of wine bars have opened offering a chance to sample a wide range of new hipper blends.

Photo by Laura M. on Yelp

For all our local oenophile readers, we found three of the best wine bars in Chicago.

Swirl Wine Bar This cozy bar near North side offers a slick bistro and sells wine by the glass, bottle, or half bottle. This hip bar has an extensive wine list that includes several up-and-coming wines. Visit to relax, listen to great local DJ’s, and drink quality wine.

To read more, click here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dragon Boat Practice

My friends convinced me to join Harvard's dragon boating team. Last night, marked our 12th practice and this weekend we have our first race in Boston. Here's some footage from Monday's practice. I am in the very back on the left.

Harvard Dragon Boat Practice 6/6/2011 - Practice Race 2 from Alex Chan on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Best Macarons in Chicago

Macarons are getting off their Parisian plane and setting up shop all over Chicago. As the trend sets in, it is no longer the cupcake who in its heyday ruled over all desserts. The newbies have been schooled, and now, the macaron trend is here to stay. So why have these sweet petite sandwiches nudged their way to the spotlight? If done right, the macaron can be the perfect dessert. It’s petite size packs in a lot of flavor and has a crisp outer surface and a soft gooey interior. Not to mention, the butter cream frosting is sweet enough to satisfy those of us with even the most killer sugar craving.

What’s more, the flavor possibilities are endless. We’ve scoped out shops that included unique flavors from pistachio to lavender to even red velvet. There’s just about a flavor for everyone’s fancy! We sought out to find the best macarons in town only to be revealed here to our cultivated readers.

So let me fill your head with wonderful places to get these divine little delectables all around town:

Vanille Patisserie 131 N Clinton, Chicago (312) 575-9963: This swanky little spot near the West Side has a love for infusing flavors together in their macarons. Flavors like strawberry lemongrass and Orange Gingerin get major points on originality and creativity. The macarons are made with natural ingredients and come in an array of colors from chai (green), red velvet (red), and espresso (tan). Eat them on the spot or take them home with their cute packaging and share them with friends.

Bittersweet Pastry Shop and Cafe 1114 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL (773) 929-1100: This quaint little neighborhood cafe offers delicious macarons with flavors from almond, chocolate, raspberry, and lemon. Have them with a cup of coffee.

Bennison’s Bakery 1000 Davis St (between Maple Ave & Oak Ave) Evanston, IL (847) 328-3854: This place is worth the short drive out of city for sampling of their sweet treats. They make their macarons with egg whites and not with coconut giving them a lighter feel than most. However, flavor is not compromised in these meringuey almond treats. For a little piece of heaven, try their lemon or red velevet flavored macaron.

Fritz Pastry 1408 W Diversey Pkwy (between Southport Ave & Janssen Ave) Chicago, IL (773) 857-2989: This cozy bakery and tea room in Lake View offers light and fluffy European-style macarons with classic flavors including pistachio, vanilla, and chocolate. An assortment of colors and freshness, and best of all, each macaron is a mere .75 cents. It is easy to go macaron crazy here without breaking the bank!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hosting Media Bistro Boston Party

Here's some photos from the Media Bistro Boston party I hosted.