Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies


Bridge of Spies is the 2015 full-length movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, which chronicles the capture of Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (played brilliantly by Rylance) and Abel's trial, conviction and subsequent exchange for Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot shot down and captured by the Soviets. Inspired by--and holding reasonably well to--the true story, Bridge of Spies is the story of Brooklyn attorney James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) who is tasked with the job of defending Abel, incurring as he does the wrath of just about everyone, including his fellow New Yorkers, his wife, and the members of the New York Bar Association who asked him to do it. Suspenseful, painstakingly crafted and wonderfully written, Bridge of Spies is a throwback to a time in cinema when writing, direction and acting ruled the stage. 



And let's not forget cinematography, either. The camera work in Bridge of Spies is excellent from start to finish, a collection of angles, lens and filters that transports the viewer back to the late 50's. Spielberg's direction is top notch as well; each scene works, and there is no inessential material--the bane of modern Hollywood. 



The heart of the movie, though, is the acting. As much as I loved the screenplay (which was nominated for--but did not receive--an Oscar) Bridge of Spies is what it is because of two excellent performances by veteran silver screen performers. Hanks is brilliant as Jim Donovan, a role in which he could have been guilty of over-dramatization many times but never was. It was a steady portrayal, and one that manifested great restraint--which I would like to see more of  in modern day Hollywood. Hanks should be commended, but wasn't--no nomination for the Oscar as a lead actor in this effort. His portrayal of the civic minded lawyer draws many parallels to Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch iTo Kill A Mockingbird (for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor, and which is considered by many to be one of the finest acting jobs in the history of the big screen.) 



Rylance steals the show nevertheless, and was well worthy of his Oscar as the best supporting actor. You want to talk about restraint... Rylance more or less defines it in his role as the captured spy. If it is possible to make a Soviet agent--at the height of the Cold War, no less--sympathetic, likable and at the same time realistic, then Rylance does it with panache. I have not seen that much of Rylance in the past, but rest assured I will be seeing more of him in the future. And good luck to his agent, who will likely be answering the phone night and day for the foreseeable future.

No plans tonight? You do now. Enjoy.Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  






  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Public Speakers, on The Saturday Evening Blog Post

The Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition #21

Let's set the scene: You've been selected to speak at a public function and you would rather have a frontal lobotomy or get a root canal instead. You tried to say no, but maybe came out, and the maybe has morphed into a firm yes. You're stuck--unless you're lucky enough to contact the Spanish flu or get the Shingles. But don't panic--there's hope.

While it is true that some people were just born good speakers, many others have learned how to do it, and so can you. Without further ado, The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Public Speakers:

1) Brevity is the soul of wit--and all other forms of communication. Keep it brief. We can all remember otherwise good speakers who lost us by droning on too long. I once went to a funeral during which one of the eulogists went on for over 50 minutes--true story--and only finally sat down when the organist struck up for the third time. The caveat of this maxim is that you had darn well have something good say in those few minutes. But for heaven's sake keep it short.

2) An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. Some people can speak well with minimal preparation, but most people can't. It is easy to pick out a poorly prepared speaker; look for a person who repeats himself often, jumps from one topic to the next without a thoughtful transition, speaks too quickly and without the proper enunciation, and who generally has the air of someone who wants to get the hell out of there. Good preparation breeds confidence, and confidence is the real secret of effective public speaking.


3) Remember people are listening to what you say, not reading what you wrote. You need to keep this in mind when you are speaking, but especially when you preparing the speech. Some speeches which read well don't orate well. Going back to #2 above, write a few sentences and practice orating them. See if they work on an auditory level. If you are going to write your whole speech out (I don't advise this, but it works for some people) write speeches with shorter sentences and leave natural pauses in place. When I edit speeches, the biggest thing I look to do is add pauses in the right spots, and to simplify sentence structure. As much I love to use the em-dash, parentheses, semi-colons, and colons in written prose, they rarely work for oration.

4) Speak, don't read. You can't engage an audience without looking at them. For this reason, many highly effective public speakers don't write their speeches at all. Unless there is a teleprompter (not the easiest thing to master) I prefer to keep a single sheet of paper in front of me on the lectern, on which I have written in block letters all the points I am trying to make. Underneath each heading I write my sub-points and any any phrases (in quotes) that work well toward making those sub-points. That's it. When I am done, I add any turns of phrase that worked particularly well toward getting my point across.

Keep in  mind that there is a connection between yourself--the speaker--and your audience, and this connection is one of the primary benefits of oration. The really good speakers are those who excel at making this connection. When I am writing, I can only imagine the reaction my audience is going to have; when I speak, I can feel how the audience is responding, and react accordingly. If they are responding well, I often elaborate on something; If they aren't responding, I move on to the next heading on my speech sheet. Remember, speaking is interactive in a way that writing isn't: a good speaker is sensitive to this interaction and evolves as the speech unfolds.

5) Begin well, and End Well. Toward this goal, I go ahead and write the first few sentences of my speech. Everyone gets a little nervous in these venues--some more than others--so it makes sense to commit the first 30 seconds to memory, so you can speak them to the audience and maintain eye contact and begin establishing the connection that is so important. Speaking publicly is a lot like playing a sport: start off well and things roll from there; start poorly and things go to hell in a hand-basket. If you are an inexperienced or not naturally inclined orator, a good start is an absolute must; write a good one, and practice delivering it.


6) Inflection, Inflection, Inflection. When I am trying to stress something (like just how important inflection is) I often lower my voice and speak slowly and softly. At other times I raise my voice. At no time do I speak in a quick monotone. Pausing is really a form of inflection. When I repeat something--and it better be worth repeating--I generally pause, and then repeat what I want to say in a slow whisper. The listener will get the message. This is a far better way of stressing a point than saying "This is really important" or "And I really mean this," which is amateurish, and implies that everything else you have said you didn't mean anything and isn't important.  And good oration is like good writing in that it is better to show than to tell--show them you are saying something is important by changing your inflection, as opposed to telling them it is important.

With those six points, the next time you are asked to give a presentation at work, or speak at a Rotary luncheon or commencement ceremony, you will be ready. Best of luck.


Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)