Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Baby Marlon Brando’s in the making

Hard to believe but true: in the south-eastern Italian town of Bari (known also for its rather high-density crime rate and the birthplace of Cassano, former Roma and now Real Madrid player), an 11 year-old student was withheld by the police for having beaten a fellow schoolmate in the classroom. Now, there’s nothing perhaps new in this you might say except that the 11 year-old “boss” demanded from the other kid not his lunch or his cell phone, but in true “mafioso” style, a kiss on the hand, just like in the old mafia movies with Marlon Brando!

The event happened while the teacher had momentarily stepped out of the classroom. The victim, who also ended up in hospital for a week due to the tough whacking, was beaten up simply because he didn’t kiss the “boss’s” hand in a sign of respect (or better, disrespect seeing that he didn’t kiss his hand). Has the baby boss been influenced by all the “shoot-em-up-bang-bang” movies on tv? Au contraire! By his very own father, who happens to belong to the local crime organisation in Bari.

My question is the following: What does the tiny boss do at home if his sweet and dear mamma’ doesn’t give him a second serving of spaghetti, shoot her?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

For your eyes only!

Part II of the Umberto I hospital scandal. It now appears from a second “Espresso” magazine investigation that the bodies of the deceased who are transported along the tunnels of Rome’s Umberto I hospital to the morgue have had their corneas (illegally) removed! Yes indeed, there’s also a very flourishing business in the world of eyeballs (and not only in eyeballs in Italy!). In order to prevent corneas from being illegally removed, some cadavers of the dearly departed have also been escorted with private security guards.

The Italian association governing the donation of corneas naturally denies such horrific practices whereas the director of the Umberto I has confirmed the illegal use of removing corneas. The problem also arises from the fact that few out there would necessarily open the eyes of their beloved mother or grandfather prior to burial in order to confirm if their corneas are indeed in place, but the latest scandal coming out of Italy’s largest hospital does make you wonder a wee bit if old gramps has his pupils in place or not!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My name is Craig. Daniel Craig!

My thoughts on the latest James Bond movie, “Casino Royale”? Well, the initial impact was that Daniel Craig looks like a sort of “Russian, Greco-Roman wrestler” (he’s got blue eyes) and somewhat less emotionless than Brosnan (who wasn’t all that bad as 007). He certainly though comes across as quite the tough guy. The theme song isn’t bad either (sung by Chris Cornell) as are the images with the opening credits. Very colourful, indeed.

This is one Bond that takes a LOT of hits, including several to the gonads. No “Q” or Miss Moneypenny (the original one was from Toronto) this time and very little Bond theme music throughout the movie. “M” is again Judy Dench, her 5th appearance in that role (I saw M’s home—the real one—in London a few years ago. The front window is bomb-proof! I also saw the home of the Hungarian architect Bloefeld, just one of the many “meanies” in the Bond series) and is always hard on Bond as she thinks of him as simply a macho pig (but deep down has a soft spot for him anyway and hates to see harm come his way). At one point I was very disappointed as I was anxiously awaiting THE world’s most famous phrase: “My name is Bond. James Bond”! Luckily, right at the end of the movie Craig says it after shooting a poor bloke in the leg on the shores of Lake Como (where George Clooney has his villa), leading many to believe that there will indeed be another Bond movie with him in 2008 or so.

And what does this Bond have to do with Italy? I think this Bond movie also holds a small record of Italian actors in a Bond movie, three of them to be exact: Giancarlo Giannini who plays Mathis (and who usually dubs Al Pacino), the VERY sexy Caterina Murino who plays Solange and who has a rather ill-fated love affair with Bond and Roman-born Claudio Santamaria who is one of the meanies who tries to destroy the new Airbus plane and has the misfortune of also tangling with Bond (and who says absolutely nothing during his short part in the movie). Santamaria says the following during a fight scene with Craig: he gave the 38 year-old English actor a head-butt but came out the loser. Craig looked at him and said, “Welcome to my world”! He also says that taking part in that fight scene was like living in a “video game”.

Nice also to see Venice in the movie (we went there the very day before to see the Picasso exhibit). I personally have been going there for the last 41 years and it remains my all-time favourite city, in the entire world. One small faux pas: you see Bond on a private sail boat on the Grand Canal. Private boats are off-limits there. Nevertheless, we had been walking around St. Mark’s square on Thursday. We saw the movie on Friday. It was nice to see the same square in the movie (history repeats itself: I recall that for “Moonraker” with Roger Moore I was in Winnipeg. It was August. Shortly after while I was on vacation in Italy I also went to Venice. There I stood in front of the glass shop, located right on the side of St. Mark’s Basilica, the very same shop which Moore had entered in the movie!). There’s also an airport scene in Miami of people going through the metal detector. One fellow turns to the cameras and smiles: it’s Sir Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin airlines (and records and a lot of other things).

As with fine wines, it’ll take me a few times to see this one to truly appreciate Craig. The next time will probably be in English and through a DVD. Amazon has on sale a special silver suitcase with the previous 20 Bond movies. I may ask for that one for my 50th birthday (if I’ll make it by then). This one is the longest of them all and clocks in at 2 hrs and 22 minutes (or so). The opening scene shows Bond on a New Holland tractor. Fiat should be happy as I believe they bought New Holland years ago (for the Italian premier of the movie a few weeks ago in Rome, they had a New Holland tractor there with the entire cast).

And how times have changed: when he’s asked if he wants his Martini shaken or stirred he answers that he couldn’t care less (in Italian at least)! But Bond is Bond and still drinks Bollinger champagne (not to mention driving a stupendous Aston Martin)!

The very latest reports say that “Casino Royale” has now become THE most popular Bond film of all time. It seems that Craig has hit the spot with Bond fans worldwide. After now having seen him twice—and with all my utmost respect for the great Sean Connery (in the picture the original Bond in Rome a few years ago for his wife’s art exhibit. Ursula Andress was also there, perhaps the most famous of all Bond girls, at least the one that knocked everyone’s socks off back in 1962 when she came out of the water with that skimpy bikini!)—I’m convinced that had Craig, albeit much too young, taken over from Connery’s role, he would have become perhaps THE most popular Bond of all time.

I’m proud to say that the other day I tried guessing the titles of the 21 Bond films made so far. I “only” managed 19 of them! I’ve seen every other Bond movie at least 62 times to the point of actually memorising the lines while in the process driving others around me crazy as I can always anticipate what the actors are about to say!

Check out “Casino Royale”, it’s well worth the price (all pics by M. Rimati).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dr. House (and George Clooney) where are you?

Italy is one of the 7 most industrialised countries in the world. With very few natural resources (unlike say Canada), it’s the 5th-6th economy in the world. It’s also famous for exquisite wines and Ferraris, not to mention some of the greatest fashion designers in the world (Valentino, Armani, D&G, just to name a few). Yet its (public) hospitals are still—in 2007—in shambles.

The latest comes to us from an “Espresso” (no, not the coffee but a weekly newsmagazine) report: a journalist pretended for 1 month to be part of the cleaning staff at the Umberto I university hospital in Rome, Italy’s largest (and dating back to 1904). What he uncovered is awfully depressing: cigarette butts in the tunnels (smoking in public buildings in Italy has been banned since 2005), dog excrement (or is it human?), doctors who between visiting one patient and another don’t wash their hands (thus also causing up to 7,000 deaths in 1 year’s time!) and patients who are wheeled after surgery (and still under anaesthesia!) through rooms and tunnels which are awash with litter.

This shouldn’t be too surprising as many years ago the same hospital had been blamed for housing in its tunnels (the hospital is HUGE!) illegal hawkers as well as hookers! The situation in Naples and in other Italian hospitals isn’t any better. In Naples one hospital was used as a deposit for the Camorra’s weapons while one hospital in Calabria, which was only built in 1955, has never even been opened! The south is traditionally backwards but the more “civilised” north isn’t any better: in Turin at the Molinette hospital there are signs saying that the water from sinks isn’t potable. That would also explain why patients bring alone tons and tons of bottled water when they end up in hospitals.

I myself have undergone minor surgery in three different cities in Italy: Rome, Milan and Udine. The most professional without a doubt is Udine. But the thing that surprises me the most when I go to an Italian public hospital (the private ones are much better, but you have to pay big bucks in order to get better service), is that many hospital washrooms are missing soap, toilet paper and even towels (even the paper ones are usually missing)! This shouldn’t be too surprising to readers as in Italy one of the national pastimes is stealing, and toilet paper can also be a HOT commodity (!!!).

All this would also explain why just before Christmas, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister, got a pace-maker inserted. But NOT in Italy. Where you may ask? Where else, in the U.S. (hey, he ain’t stupid)!