Wednesday, May 31, 2023

 JUNE 2023

- "Be Water, My Friend" -
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

Bruce Lee (1940-1973) was a transcendent martial artist and one of the most enduring pop icons from the 20th century.  As an actor, director and teacher, Lee's magnetic, graceful and lethal presence in film & television plus his philosophy helped to popularize martial arts worldwide during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Half a century after his unexpected passing, Lee's influence continues to shine forth spanning across all demographics and cultures.  In honor of his pioneering work and continuing influence, Time magazine named Bruce Lee one of the most important people of the 20th century.

Most baby boomers were first introduced to Bruce Lee when he co-starred as Kato in ABC's The Green Hornet (with Van Williams in the title role) during its 1966-67 single season run.  It was during this time that Lee demonstrated the strength of character that enabled him to become a pioneer in film & television, as well as in martial arts.  Eschewing the show director's instructions to fight in American style with fists and punches, Lee insisted on fighting in the style of his expertise.  Lee was so fast that he had to slow down his movements so they could be captured on film for the viewing audience!

When The Green Hornet was cancelled after one season in 1967, Lee found himself out of work.  So he focused on creating, developing and refining his Jeet Kune Do martial arts style that emphasized flexibility, practicality, efficiency and speed.  Lee remained in Hollywood where he became a private teacher to legendary film, television and sports stars that included but was not limited to James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Sharon Tate.  As a teacher of martial arts to the stars, Lee was able to refine his skills in martial arts, acting and eventually directing, while he concurrently upgraded his professional network.  His entrepreneurial instincts and willingness to take risks in the venue of international cinema enabled Lee to break through a variety of barriers and become an enormous success on the big screen culminating with the 1973 film Enter the Dragon, that forever established him as a martial arts legend.

Bruce Lee's philosophy that enabled him to become a transcendent, lasting influence is expressed in his exhortation "Be Water, My Friend."
"Empty your mind.  Be formless, shapeless like water.  You put water in the cup: it becomes the cup.  You put it into the teapot; it becomes the teapot.  You put water into the bottle; it becomes the bottle.  Now water can flow, or it can crash!  Be water, my friend."  [Source:]

Lee's star power is not only exemplified by having his "star" immortalized on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars, but his gravesite in Seattle's Lakeview Cemetery remains one of the most frequently visited tourist sites in the Emerald City.  As tip of the hat to being a teacher (sensei) to the stars, legendary action-film actors James Coburn and Steve McQueen served as pallbearers for Lee's burial service in Seattle.  At the conclusion of the memorial service, Coburn and McQueen tossed their white gloves into the grave with Lee's casket while paying tribute to their sensei.

This summer as we mark the 50th anniversary of Bruce Lee's passing, please share your favorite memories of this legendary figure by posting to the GNN FACEBOOK page (and "liking" us when doing so) or writing directly to us at:

Monday, May 1, 2023

 MAY 2023

"The Sting" 
- Celebrating its 50th Anniversary -
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Academy Award winning motion picture "The Sting," which forever solidified Paul Newman and Robert Redford as one of cinema's greatest duos.  At the time of its release and later at the Academy Awards (where it won seven Oscars, including Best Picture) it was immediately celebrated as pure fun and escapism at its cinematic best.  For a war weary nation embroiled in political scandal (i.e., The Vietnam War and Watergate) it offered a two-hour escape into the 1930s where two professional con artists (Newman and Redford) orchestrated a complex, elaborate scheme to swindle a mob boss (played by Robert Shaw).  "The Sting" is unusual in that every time one watches the film, there are nuances and details that emerge with each viewing that deepens the appreciation for the obvious loving care that went into crafting this work of pure entertainment.  What makes the film so satisfying with each viewing, is that the triple-twist ending makes one realize that it is the audience, along with the mob boss, who have been conned into a multi-layered, deceptive plot.   The finale leaves filmgoers surprised but satisfied to have witnessed such a delightful story play out into a conclusion that sparked conversation questioning what just happened!

If you are looking for a film that has a magical ending executed with style and daring, then "The Sting" is one you might want to add to your watch list.  With Newman, Redford plus Robert Shaw -- all at their best in playing the roguish lead characters -- is a stellar supporting cast that reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood (e.g., Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Ray Walston, Harold Gould).  The film is presented in discrete or distinct sections with title cards that bear strong resemblance to the lettering and illustrations associated with The Saturday Evening Post.  The memorable soundtrack is Ragtime music featuring Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer."  Here are a few fun, but little known facts about "The Sting" that may engender further whimsical conversation among classic film fans.

> Jack Nicholson was offered the lead role but turned it down!
> The role of the mob boss was almost given to Richard Boone but instead went to Robert Shaw.
> Robert Shaw injured his leg playing handball before filming began.  Instead of withdrawing from the film, Shaw was encouraged to incorporate the limp into the portrayal of his character.  Thus the limp was authentic and added yet another signature detail to the tapestry of the film.

"The Sting" was the second and final on-screen pairing of Newman and Redford.  Their first film was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in 1969.  Given the enormous if not legendary status of both of these films, one more Newman-Redford pairing would have truly required a very special script, that regrettably never materialized.  As we celebrate the Golden Anniversary of "The Sting" perhaps we should be satisfied that the legendary film duo left us wanting more as they remain forever etched in our minds at the top of their craft.