Monday, December 31, 2007

My Favorite Movies of 2007

I see a lot of movies. Most of them are really good. A few not so. A handful are truly great. While other top ten lists will include the overrated Atonement and Juno, mine will not. Of all the movies I saw this year, these were the best:

1. No Country for Old Men - The Coen Brothers are back with a mesmerizing thriller reminiscent of Fargo. Give these boys some Oscars!

2. Michael Clayton - Not a box office hit which is too bad. Tom Wilkinson's opening voiceover against a black screen is worth the price of admission alone.

3. Sicko - Michael Moore's latest documentary goes for the jugular. Too bad Blue Cross requires pre-authorization. A must-see for every American given this election year. A real eye opener!

4. 51 Birch Street - You've probably never heard of this indie documentary about a man discover just who his parents really were, but if you have the chance--rent it. It's engrossing and touching.

5. Live Free or Die Hard - I would have thought the best that could be said for this aging action franchise's return was it didn't suck. It didn't suck--it kicked ass! Bruce is back and badder than ever. Justin Long wasn't bad, either.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum - I thought the latest Die Hard kicked ass, but Matt Damon's last installment of the Bourne series blows everything else out of the water. There's a chase sequence that will have you on the edge of your seat.

7. Knocked Up - Having not seen SuperBad, I have to say this is the funniest movie I saw in 2007. My favorite parts were Kristin Wiig's character.

8. Blades of Glory - This flick featuring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as a mismatched figure skating pair was almost as funny as Knocked Up. The fight scene where Craig T. Nelson as the coach comes up with the idea for the two to skate together is brilliant.

9. The Lookout - Uber-writer Scott Frank's directorial debut. I hope this isn't overlooked come Oscar time. Jeff Daniel's performance as a blind man who sees more than most sighted people deserves a statue. Of course he'll be up against the terrific Tom Wilkinson. Can you have a tie at the Oscars?

10. I'm leaving this open because I still have yet to see Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood or The Orphanage--all of which are contenders for greatness.

Not so Resolute

I love the New Year. It's a fresh start, new slate, tabula rasa. Anything and everything is possible. What is most possible, however, is that many people will make resolutions and that most of them will break them before February. An article in the Washington Post gives some tips and tricks to making your resolutions stick. In fact, it was one of almost a dozen articles dedicated to New Year's Resolutions.

There was one on getting the most out of your digital camera (Did not get one for Christmas, so this is not useful...), one on banning misused and overused words and phrases from one's vocabulary(I noticed that "outside the box" is not on the list. In my opinion, anyone who uses the phrase "outside the box" is so inside the box, that the lid's been taped shut and it's been shipped to some red state via Priority Mail), one on mortgage and home buying resolutions (Let's hope not buying more house than one can afford is on that list!) and the typical career resolutions and fitness goals.

No matter how many articles are written on making and keeping New Year's resolutions, most are doomed to fail. Which is why don't make them. Or if I do, it's something that I'm bound to succeed at. Like, one year I resolved not to smoke. Unlike most people who resolve to stop smoking aided by patches, gum or just going cold turkey, I had the advantage of not being a smoker. So it was very easy to keep. I could resolve to go to the gym regularly (Already go three times a week for cardio/weights and another three times a week for yoga), eat healthily (done) or give up peanut butter (HEY!!! Let's not go crazy here!), but the fact is I'm nearly a perfect person (I guess I could work on being more humble...).

So instead of "resolutions," I'll set some New Year's "Intentions"--and they are:

1. Earn more money - Whether I sell that screenplay, win the lottery (both long shots...) or just get a new job, I need to being doing better than living hand-to-mouth. Los Angeles is expensive and I'd like to be able to afford living here. Rather than just subsisting here.

2. Find new place to live - Once I have the finances in better shape, my options for new housing will increase. I need more space, more privacy, more quiet. And an ocean breeze...

3. Get out more and meet new people - The fact that I'm doing laundry on New Year's Eve instead of hanging with some friends tells me--I need new friends. 'Nuff said.

4. Read more - I finally finished the nine zillion pages long book by Neal Stephenson (Yay!). I'm ready to rent more stuff from the library this year. I think I could manage a book a month. I'm going to start with something by Michael Chabon who wrote the awesome The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

5. Eat plenty of peanut butter! - Oh wait--I already do that. At least that's one I know I'll be keeping...

RIAA Works to Kill the CD

Once upon a time there was vinyl, and for a short time 8-track and cassette tapes. We flirted briefly with DAT, but the shiny compact disc came along and crushed them all. CDs are now feeling the pain as the MP3 rises in popularity. It's a foregone conclusion that they someday will be as obsolete as the technologies that proceeded them--but who thought that the record industry itself would be responsible for the final death blow?

In an article in the Washington Post, record companies are not only going after people who download and share music for free, thus cutting into their ever shrinking revenues, they are now targeting consumers who legally buy CDs and copy them onto their personal computers!

"In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings."

My collection of CDs sit untouched on a special shelving unit I bought for them. Alphabetized, cases uncracked, gathering dust. As is my old CD player. I play almost all my music on my iPod. The only way to get the music on my iPod is to copy it into iTunes on my laptop and then sync my library with my iPod. Otherwise I cannot listen to said music. So why would I buy a CD if I can't listen to it using my preferred playing device?

I wonder if the brain trust that came up with this brilliant strategy really thought things through. If it's illegal to copy a CD onto your computer so you can listen to it with your MP3 player, then who's going to buy CDs? If an average CD costs about $15, and you can buy it on iTunes for $10, then the record companies lose $5. Hell, why bother with the whole CD when you only listen to 2-3 songs which you can get from iTunes for $2-3?

While the CD was never a great replacement for the vinyl album, we did get cover art, lyrics, etc. I'll be sad to see it go. But thanks to the RIAA, it won't be death by attrition, but instead murder most foul.

Morons.



Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Great Peanut Butter Crisis

I buy my peanut butter in bulk. Jif Creamy. Two 40 oz. jars for $6.59 at Smart and Final. When I'm starting the second 40 oz. jar, I usually make sure to buy more.

Yesterday I was almost to the bottom of the jar when I realized, I was almost out of peanut butter. The horror! I can't believe I had no back ups. It's like the low fuel light flashing while you're driving.

Today I bought three packages of the two 40 oz. jars. Ah! That should last me a couple of weeks...

The Kite Runner

I read Khaled Hosseini's beautiful novel several years ago and was touched by the story of friendship, betrayal and redemption. The movie retains most of the book's beauty--although some of the depth and resonance of the novel is lost as it is compressed into a two hour movie. Still, there is much to recommend in the script adaptation by David Benioff, directed by Marc Forster.

First off, the cast of mostly unknown actors (to U.S. audiences, anyway...), do a terrific job. But I was particularly mesmerized by Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, who plays the young Hassan--good-natured, sweet tempered and doggedly loyal friend of Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi). The big controversy that forced the young actor playing Hassan to flee Afghanistan is a rape scene that is crucial to the story and a pivotal plot point. Forster handles it so delicately in the shooting and editing of the scene, it's difficult to imagine such negative repercussions-- but I guess that's me as an American living in the United States and not living in Afghanistan.

In fact, China stands in for Afghanistan in the movie as it was too dangerous to shoot on location in the war-torn country. The Kite Runner was a good follow up to Charlie Wilson's War as the stories of the plight of the Afghanis overlap. The Kite Runner depicts the aftermath of the defeat of the Soviets--the Taliban. It is heart-wrenching to follow along on Amir's return to his homeland to witness the devastation wrought first by the Communists, followed by the Taliban. But the kite flying scenes are depicted so exquisitely--lifting spirits as they symbolize hope and freedom.

"I dream that my son will grow up to be a good person, a free person. I dream that someday you will return to revisit the land of our childhood. I dream that flowers will bloom in the streets again... and kites will fly in the skies!"

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lucky

My friend Dave and his lovely wife Kat came to visit me today. They brought Christmas gifts--a lucky bamboo plant and a gift card to the Landmark Theatres. Very generous and thoughtful!

We went to see Charlie Wilson's War at the AMC Avco and afterwards went to La Bottega Marino down street from where I live for dinner. I had the Chicken Marsala, Kat had the Spezzatino Genovese and Dave had the Artichoke Ravioli. Yum!

Charlie Wilson's War

This movie garnered four Golden Globe noms in the comedy/musical category. Um, say what? Charlie Wilson's War is about as funny as Schindler's List. Sure, Aaron Sorkin's script is witty--in a dry and sardonic way--intelligent and insightful. Tom Hanks plays an adorably lovable bad boy. Philip Seymour Hoffman fires off acerbic one liners with his usual panache and Julia Roberts looks luminous and does what she can with a fairly two-dimensional role. But a comedy? Not quite.

This is a serious film about foreign policy, the inner workings of the American political process and the serious consequences of our arrogant belief that we know what's best for the world. Sure, Charlie Wilson might have contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire and the end of the cold war, but the aftermath of triumph of Afghanistan led to the rise of the Taliban, 9/11 and the Iraq war. It's eye-opening to witness the back room dealings of Congress and it's heart-wrenching to realize that our government would rather spend billions to fund wars instead of a million for humanitarian aid, reconstruction, education.

The movie is a brisk 97 minutes long. And while it is taut and lean, it is also dry and lacking in emotion. I would have liked to have known the motivations behind Joanne Herring (Roberts) passionate involvement. I would have liked to have seen more development in Hanks' character. I would have liked to have seen more time devoted to the outcomes created by this action. We get a wry, philosophical scene with Charlie and Gust (Hoffman) which certainly connects the dots for some, but doesn't drive the point home enough. America backed Saddam Hussein prior to his invasion of Kuwait. The CIA created Osama bin Laden. When will we learn that our manipulation and attempt to control the world only ends up biting us in the ass?

Friday, December 28, 2007

iTunes Wishlist

In no particular order:

1. Spoon - I Turn My Camera On
2. Feist - My Moon, My Man
3. Robbie Williams - My Culture
4. Robbie Williams - Angels
5. Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah
6. Lifehouse - First Time
7. Fergie - Clumsy
8. Fergie - Big Girls Don't Cry
9. Gwen Stefani - Sweet Escape
10. Baby Bash - Cyclone
11. John Mayer - Dreaming with a Broken Heart
12. Pink - U + Ur Hand
13. Maroon 5 - Makes Me Wonder
14. Good Charlotte - I Don't Wanna Be in Love
15. Matchbox Twenty - How Far We've Come

...to name a few.

Score one for the WGA

As the late night talk show hosts return to the airwaves, only two shows will have the benefit of scripted material. David Letterman on behalf of his company Worldwide Pants, which owns both his late night show and Craig Ferguson's show, has negotiated an agreement with the Writers Guild allowing his writing staff to come back to work.

According to an article in the Washington Post,

The agreement gives huge leverage to Letterman and CBS, which will now have the only late-night shows with material written by professional writers. That will include topical monologues and other bits, such as Letterman's signature top 10 list. Other talk shows are still scrambling to patch together material without writers. Under union strike rules, the shows' staffs can't write anything that the writers would have written.

In addition, Letterman and Ferguson will be the only shows that can regularly attract big-name celebrities without fear of a picket line. Out of solidarity with striking writers, TV and movie actors have been reluctant to appear on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Last Call With Carson Daly," the two talk shows that have gone back on the air. The writers' guild has objected to both. Neither Letterman nor Ferguson have announced guest lineups for their first shows next week.

Way to go, David Letterman! Let's hope this adds incentive for other production companies to break ranks and negotiate with the WGA and end this strike soon!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Am Legend

First off, let me say I like Will Smith. And I am easily scared. So my review of I Am Legend, the sci-fi, post-apocalyptic vampire-zombie that is Castaway meets 28 Days Later is: Really. Fucking. Scary. Of course it doesn't help that I jump at the sound of slamming doors--which was constant throughout the movie. And that I'm pretty squeamish. But on the relative scale of scary movies (of which I don't see many because as I mentioned before I am easily scared), this is way scarier than the psycho-thriller 1408. And much more tension than the zombie sheep movie Black Sheep.

Let's discuss the zombie-vampires. Apparently, the cure for cancer is found in the form a genetic altered version of the measles. But that cure mutates into a form of rabies--which causes depigmentation and aversion to sunlight (vampires), a hive mentality (zombies) albeit with a leader (vampires), thirst for blood (vampires) and taste for human flesh (zombies). The virus also imparts super human strength and speed and makes one somewhat impervious to bullets. At one point Smith's character of Robert Neville, who is working desperately to find a cure for the virus (even while he struggles to retain his sanity), goes vampire-zombie baiting and bashing in a Hummer. The Hummer is nowhere near as indestructible as the vampire-zombies.

This is not an Oscar contender (Sorry, Will. Your best shots have been Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness. Maybe next year...). It's a cheesy, yet slick sci-fi horror flick. There are more questions it raises than it answers--for example: how does an Apple (um, along with the iPod--product placement much?) laptop battery last for three years? Or how are deer able to outrun a sports car? How was Neville able to turn his house into a fortress complete with running water, electricity and food enough to last for a good ten years? And why did he have a key to the local video store? But it's pretty entertaining. And scary. If you're into that stuff. I got to see if for free with the ticket I earned from the AMC MovieWatchers Club. And it was definitely worth it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the road again...

The drive home was fairly uneventful. That's a good thing. No need for excitement or drama while you're traveling 400 miles or so in a 15 year old car. It's a really grueling drive. Not a set the cruise control and chill out kind of deal. First off, the 5 is butt ugly. And it's only two lanes. You have the semis mostly in the right lane doing 55 miles and cars in the left lane doing about 80. The speed limit's 70 for cars, but you've alway got a knucklehead or two cruising along at 65, so you have to weave in and out between the semis to get past the clots of cars.

Then you hit tumbleweed country and all traffic comes to a screeching halt. I'm not kidding. People are more spooked by these rolling bunches of twigs than they would be of a boulder. That's because boulders are more predictable--they don't just suddenly dart into traffic and crash against your windshield. While some of the tumbleweeds were the size of a football, some of them were large shrubs hurling themselves in front of cars until a semi smashes it into several football sized pieces. At one point, there was a row of them growing along side the shoulder, looking like some weirdly mutated Tribbles ready to take flight and do a kamikaze dive into an oncoming car. They were scary.

After you make it past the killer tumbleweeds, you are rewarded by passing through the Lemoore/Coalinga area. This is where the cow pastures are. I didn't see any cows when I passed by on the way back, but good grief did I ever SMELL them! I think that's what the name means, Coalinga--cows linger. (Wikipedia theorizes that the name might be Nahuatl for "place of snakes," but trust me--it's more like "place of cows.") The ugly stretches on and on and on, but just when you can't take it anymore something amazing happens.It's known as "The Grapevine. A stretch of highway at the south end of the San Joaquin Valley snaking through the Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains reaching into Los Angeles county. Just breathtaking. At the highest point on the highway, the altitude is 4,144 feet. That's Pyramid Lake in the picture. Gorgeous blue-green water sparkling like an oasis in the Angeles National Forest. It's a welcome sight after the scrubby, grubby stretch of the 5 that preceded it. And because it means you're almost home.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day was a leisurely affair. I convinced David to open gifts before we went to his friend Joshua's for dinner. Good thing, too--we didn't get home from Josh's until midnight! (Say it, David--"Stella's always right!") Both David and I have themed gift exchanges--I gave him things to keep him warm on his upcoming snowboarding trip (thermal underwear, socks, Spyder gloves, polar fleece hat and some other odds and ends) and David's gifts to me had an Asian foodie theme (sushi dinner set, bamboo place mats, cool tea pot, gourmet tea and coffee and tea cups).

My sister Laurie sent homemade cookies (I did the cookie baking thing, too--only I cheated with the prepackaged Nestle Toll House dough. Honest to God, they taste like you mixed them up from scratch!) and so David and I munched on cookies and slurped down fruit salad for breakfast--just like we did growing up. I eat cookies rarely, but Laurie had made my favorites so I ended up eating more cookies for breakfast than I have in the last two years. Oh well, it's Christmas! She also sent presents--I got the Fekkai Glossing Cream I had been wanting as well as the red booties from Gap and a PJ set from Gap as well. I knew posting my Christmas list on my blog would pay off! Heh, heh, heh!

We hung out and watched TVLand which was running the Christmas episodes from past years of Cheers, Wings, The Brady Bunch. My favorite is a Frasier episode where Frederick is coming to visit and Frasier has to go to the mall to get last minute gifts for him. Martin saves the day by giving Frasier an Outlaw Laser Robogeek Frederick asked Santa for. Sniffle. It always gets to me. (We also watched some episodes of The Hills. David had never seen the show before. His comments: "This is so fake" and "Spencer is a douche.") Later we went to Joshua's for food and drink--which there was plenty of! Unfortunately the entree wasn't served until NINE so it was really late by the time we got back. David had to get up for work in the morning and I was back on the road to L.A. so it was off to bed for the both of us! All in all, a very nice Christmas...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas in San Francisco - part III

On Christmas Eve, David and I were still stiff and sore from our 4.5 hour walkabout the previous day. He suggested checking out Haight Street saying it was only 1.5 miles from his place. Well, I can do 1.5 miles in my sleep--I walk that far to my gym (and then another 1.5 miles back again) almost every day. But while it might be 1.5 miles as the crow flies to Haight Street, walking there on foot was another matter entirely.

First off, we took a semi-detour through gorgeous Golden Gate Park on the way there. Since it was a Monday AND Christmas Eve, none of the museums were open, but the park itself is amazing. And HUGE! David says it's even bigger than Central Park. There are rose gardens, a Conservatory of Flowers and even a Japanese Tea Garden complete with pagoda.

Haight Street was a collection of smoke shops, tattoo parlors, hip clothing stores and hippie jewelry. It reminded me of the Venice boardwalk and Melrose Avenue. Heading back afterwards, we did some more walking (walking and walking...) through the park. Again, I needed a respite on a park bench. After 6 hours of driving, stretching out the legs is a good thing--but I've done enough walking for a while, thank you very much! Add 2.5 hours to yesterday's total of 4.5 hours plus we took the puppies out for a long walk in the morning--and more walking to restaurants to eat later. I think we spent 10 hours or so walking 3 zillion miles. More or less...

To be continued....

Power to the Puppies!

This is David's dog, Arthur. Arthur is a nine year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback (I hope I spelled that right!). He's huge! According to David, he will eat ANYTHING. Including some fruity smelling bath beads and (while I was there...) a whole package of corn flakes. But he's a chill dog.


Unlike David's roommate Laura's dog--Zuby. Zuby is an attention-whore. Good thing he's pretty lovable. Although he sheds like crazy! So when he rubs against you or jumps up on you, you are left with Zuby all over you. And most of the clothes I packed were black. Lovely. Even though I'm back home now, I will have plenty of souvenirs to remember Zuby by. Silly dog!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas in San Francisco - part II

I'm finally back online so it's time to catch up with the events of the last several days! I went up to San Francisco to spend Christmas with my brother David. On Sunday, he showed me around his neighborhood--specifically Clement Street, which is an assortment of Asian Food Markets, restaurants (Thai, Sushi, Dim Sum mostly...), hipster boutiques and so on. One of the boutiques was Park Life which carried ironic t-shirts, arty books and kitschy and unique gift items. I told David it was a toy store for adults. He agreed.

On the way back to his apartment, we stopped into this cool little floral shop/boutique on California Street called Japonica which carried an assortment of beautiful items--hand knit scarves, hand-crafted jewelry, perfumes and other lovely things. The nicest thing about Japonica was its very friendly and gracious owner. I left with a yummy smelling and healing lotion--and sample of soap. As we headed home, David mentioned that he lived close by to the beach and hearing that, I insisted we check it out.

So we went down to Baker Beach which isn't like SoCal beaches. Instead of palm trees and white sand, there are a plethora of evergreens and the sand is like sandy dirt. From the beach, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and it looked so close to where we were, I said why not walk there and check it out? So we walked, and walked and walked some more. Mind you, while the shoes I was wearing were comfortable, they were not walking shoes and I was toting my purse and recent purchase. David was carrying half a dozen grapefruits purchased at an Asian Market and some wrapping paper.

We finally made it to the bridge and even walked onto it. The cars whizzing by were making Speed Racer type noises and the vibrations were pretty intense. We were too tired to walk all the way across it, so we headed back. David decided we should take a shortcut through The Presidio. I was all for a shortcut by that point. I'm big on walking but it felt like we'd walk 20 miles by then. So we're taking a trail through The Presidio, but we get off track and end up walking and walking and walking some more. At one point I say to David, "I thought we were taking a shortcut!"

We finally got close to home, but I needed a rest so we stopped and cooled our heels on a park bench by Mountain Lake--one of three natural lakes in the city. I use the term "lake" loosely. This thing is more like a duck pond. Truthfully I've seen rain puddles bigger...But it was pretty and peaceful and nice to look at while we rested our poor tired legs.

We eventually made it back to the apartment--but had to go out again to meet up with friends for dinner at Pizza Orgasmica. David's friend Janna and my blogging buddy Tami joined us for pizza with names like "Ecstasy" and "Serpent's Kiss." And it you think the pizza names are racy, you should see the names of the cocktails!

To be continued...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in San Francisco

Blogging will be a bit tricky for the next couple of days. I'm at my brother's place in San Francisco. He has a laptop but the screen doesn't work so he has it running through a projector that project the laptop screen image on his wall. It's quite bizarre.

The trip up was somewhat grueling. Got on the road at 10:40 am, hit a bit of traffic just as I got onto the 5 North, but then it was fairly smooth sailing. The first hour went pretty quickly; the next two were painful--but then I settled into the zone. Stopped briefly after 300 miles to fill my gas tank and empty my bladder, but then was back on the road again and got here before 5 pm.

The 5 North is a fairly ugly drive. My friend Elizabeth from work warned me about a stretch of cow pasture and the accompanying stench. There were several stinky patches along the 5--but once I hit Fresno the cow pastures appeared and assaulted my olfactory senses--even when I had driven well past them.

Just got back from eating sushi and drinking a couple of glasses of plum wine and now it's time to relax.

The Bike Man

I saw this on ABC News last night and since I'll be spending much of the day wending my way up to San Francisco for a Christmas visit with my own "bike man" (my brother David), I thought I'd share the article with y'all!

Season's Changing...














Happy Winter Solstice, everybody! 'Tis the season of Capricorn--yay!

Friday, December 21, 2007

NBC Sucks

Have you heard the NBC promos touting the fact that Jay Leno and The Tonight Show as well as Conan O'Brien will be back with ALL NEW EPISODES in January? Does the tone of those promos sound just a wee bit "gloating" to you? It does to me. So it's with just a wee bit of gloating of my own that I read that while Jay and Conan may be returning, their viewers may not. And an additional bit of schadenfreude in knowing that the network is shelling out approximately $10 millions to advertisers due to ratings shortfall. The writers strike can't be helping with that now, can it?

So many movies, so little time...

I'm looking forward to January--new year, my birthday and hopefully a brief respite from must-see movies so I can get caught up.

Movies on my must-see list:

I Am Legend
Sweeney Todd
Charlie Wilson's War
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Kite Runner
The Orphanage
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
I'm not Here

(The last two might end up being Netflixed...)

Whew--that's a lot of popcorn!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Netflix Quick Picks - Round Five

My friend Jodi at work told me the Netflix's stock has risen by over 9% recently. Doesn't surprise me at all. With TV on hiatus for the foreseeable future, what else is there to watch? Hence, my latest installment of Netflix Quick Picks--where I view the clunkers so you don't have to...

1. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - This documentary about the golden company that became shorthand for unbridled greed and failure of magnificent proportions is mind-boggling. Aided and abetted by ponzi-schemed accounting, avaricious bankers and deluded analysts, this company was no more than a house of cards. Rent it.

2. The Devil and Daniel Johnston - Another doc about a guy who is either a creative genius, or just mentally ill. Maybe both. Some people think his music's awesome--some, awful. Either way, it makes for an intriguing story. Rent it.

3. The Believer - Ryan Gosling plays a self-loathing Jew turned Nazi. It has its moments, but is rather jumbled. Still, Gosling's performance and the subtle way his character finds the love for his cultural heritage by the film's end is engrossing. Rent it.

4. Thirteen - Girls gone wild as puberty hits, but this movie made me want to bitch-slap the do-nothing "best friend" parents rather than the out-of-control kids. Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeremy Sisto all star--but the knockout performance is by newcomer Nikki Reed who also co-wrote the script. Rent it.

5. Layer Cake - Daniel Craig in the role that made him Bond-able. I'm still not quite sure what the "layer cake" was in reference to--unless it was Craig's yumminess. I was quite confused much of the time, but overall I was fascinated for every single minute. Rent it.

6. American History X - Although the theme of how hate and racism are taught and passed down within families, this story of a skinhead (Edward Norton) who leaves jail a changed man (due to the wise and wisecracking black dude that befriends him in jail--cue the cliches, please...) and tries to set his idolizing younger brother on the right path is melodramatic and facile. Skip it.

7. Double Happiness - I have no idea how this ended up in my queue--but I did watch it when it showed up in my mailbox. If you take the east meets west conflict of The Joy Luck Club, distill it down to just one Chinese girl and her family, you have The Joy Luck Club-lite that is Double Happiness. Other than the curiosity factor of seeing the young and pre-Grey's Anatomy Sandra Oh, it's a painful waste of time. Skip it and rent The Joy Luck Club instead. Or read an Amy Tan book.

8. Zero Effect - I'd heard that this Bill Pullman/Ben Stiller comedy was pretty good, despite the dismal reviews it got when it was released. The reviews were right. This is awful. Pullman plays an eccentric detective named Darryl Zero who never meets with his clients--that's what he has Ben Stiller for. Despite his aversion to dealing with people, Zero manages to assume other identities and go out and solve the case, so the point is? Skip it--rent season one of Monk instead...

9. The Game - This is another selection that I'm not sure how it ended up in my queue. But it's a pretty decent thriller. Starring Michael Douglas and an under-utilized Sean Penn, The Game kept me engrossed. Rent it.

10. House of Games - This David Mamet film feels more like a play with its lack of action, visual impact and talkiness. I've heard raves about Mamet's dialogue--but seriously, why was every line read with less inflection or emotion than a first time table reading? Flat, dry, boring--although Joe Mantegna did a fairly decent job as the con-man who indoctrinates a bored psychologist into one of his schemes. Semi-interesting concept--but a snooze-fest in execution. Skip it.

11. The Big Kahuna - This was adapted from a stage play and boy can you ever tell. Basically three characters in one location. Snore. Sure Kevin Spacey has his moments and Peter Facinelli does a fine job of holding his own, but the standout performance is Danny DeVito as a tired but wise salesman. Still, it doesn't offer anything new. Skip it.

12. Big Fish - I loved the thematic message of this movie more than the movie itself. Although Albert Finney is excellent as always and there are some lovely moments between him and the ever luminous Jessica Lange as his wife and Billy Crudup as his estranged son. I'm glad I got a chance to see it just to experience John August's work. If you like fantastical fairy tales, then rent it.

13. Fateless - Hungarian film about a young Jewish boy's experience with the Holocaust. It's a hard movie to watch--although the design and cinematography are exquisite. For my money, Schindler's List still ranks as the best Holocaust movie--as weird as it sounds to say "Best Holocaust Movie." It's a good film on an important subject--but it's difficult to view. So rent it or skip it.

14. Perfume - Elegant period piece by a perfumer journeyman so obsessed with capturing scent he becomes a ruthless killer of beautiful young women. It has a fantastic quality that completely lapses into fairy tale by the end, an under-utilized Dustin Hoffman and even more wasted Alan Rickman, the lead character speaks with what sounds like a Cockney accent despite being French, there's an annoying amount of narration--but it's still fascinating to watch. Not for the squeamish though--that's for sure! Rent it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Smiley Face on DVD January 8th

I like Anna Faris. I've never seen any of the Scary Movies (not a fan of that genre), but I liked her in Lost in Translation (Wasn't that amazing how she managed to make the gorgeous Scarlett Johannson look gawky? Awesome acting on Scarlett's part as well...), her appearance on Friends and most recently her part on Entourage where she played--um, herself. But she did a really good job!

So I thought her starring turn in the slacker/stoner comedy Smiley Face might be amusing. I was wrong. Despite a talented cast that includes John Krasinski of The Office (channeling a Dwight-like character here of a geeky guy with a crush on Anna's slacker girl), Danny Masterston (That 70s Show), Adam Brody (The O.C.) playing Steve the Dealer, the ubiquitous Jayma Mays (Heroes, Ugly Betty, Pushing Daisies, Studio 60), John Cho (Harold and Kumar, Ugly Betty) and even Mrs. C. a.k.a. Marion Ross (the one bright moment!), this movie was not funny. Not even fitfully. Or stupidly. Although it was stupid. Just not stupid funny.

Before you get all, "Well, Stella--what do you know about stoner comedies?", I'll offer this by way of full disclosure--not much. Although most famous stoner comedies seem to feature male pairs--Cheech 'n Chong, Bill and Ted, Harold and Kumar. Smiley Face breaks the genre tradition by offering a solo female protagonist. But while I'm not all that familiar with the stoner/slacker genre (excepting Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused for example), I do know funny. And not just high-falutin' funny like Frasier or Oscar Wilde or Steve Landesberg. I can get into stupid funny as well--Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball, Blades of Glory, Borat. Unfortunately Smiley Face wasn't even up to that level. It may not have even been up to Harold and Kumar standards.

The press is calling it After Hours for a new millennium. Whoa! Really? After Hours was dark and edgy and twisted and directed by SCORSESE for fuck's sake. (Oddly enough, Smiley Face was directed by Gregg Araki who did a fine job helming Mysterious Skin. Go figure...)And while, like Smiley Face, it wasn't exactly "funny," it was surreal and bizarre and definitely one helluva ride. Smiley Face is bright, sunny California--and the only ride is found at the end at the top of a ferris wheel. The plot is this: stoner/slacker girl gets the munchies, eats her scary roommate's cupcakes which have pot in them (Pot in cupcakes? Who does that? And in yellow cupcakes to boot...), which mean even MORE pot in her, and then while stoned beyond belief must replace said cupcakes, go on an audition and meet up with her drug dealer at a Hemp Festival in Venice to pay the money she owes or else he'll repossess her furniture.

Maybe it's funny if you watch it while you're stoned. Or buzzed. Or after having a partial lobotomy. I don't know. It was barely 80 minutes long--but that's about 79 minutes more than necessary. Still, if you're an Anna Faris fan--or a slacker/stoner genre fan, it might be worth Netflixing. Just remember to whip a batch of brownies to munch on while you're watching with a double dose of marijuana...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Best of Craigslist - An Angel in the Post Office

There were quite a few great posts in the Best of Craigslist section. But in my efforts to provide y'all with the BEST of the Best of Craigslist, this post from a grateful mom won hands down. It made me tear up, it follows on nicely to the Robbie Williams song and it seems very appropriate for the season. So without further ado, the story of Meredith and Abbey:

"This is one of the kindest things I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is a kind soul working in the dead letter office of the US Postal Service. Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith.
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away. Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I am wherever there is love.

Love, God"

Robbie Williams - Angels

My yoga teacher has this song as part of an iPod mix that she uses for classes. It's cold and dark and rainy out in L.A. today and it seems like a good tune for curling up in front of a warm fire. Except I have no fireplace so I'll substitute a gas heater and hope my angel drops a concrete block on the head of the moron who keeps slamming the laundry room door...



Angels

I sit and wait
does an angel contemplate my fate ?
and do they know
the places where we go
when we're grey and old?
'Cuz I've been told
that salvation lets their wings unfold
so when I’m lying in my bed
thoughts running through my head
and I feel that love is dead,
I’m loving angels instead.

And through it all she offers me protection
a lot of love and affection
whether I’m right or wrong...
And down the waterfall
wherever it may take me,
I know that life won't break me
when I come to call she won't forsake me,
I’m loving angels instead.

When I’m feeling weak
and my pain walks down a one way street,
I look above
and I know I'll always be blessed with love.
And as the feeling grows
she breathes flesh to my bones
and when love is dead
I’m loving angels instead.

And through it all she offers me protection
a lot of love and affection
whether I’m right or wrong...
And down the waterfall
wherever it may take me
I know that life won't break me
when I come to call she won't forsake me,
I’m loving angels instead

Monday, December 17, 2007

Science Fictions meets Science Reality

Two recent articles in the Washington Post have piqued my interest. One was about a jet of radiation from a black hole blasting a nearby galaxy. According to the story:

The smaller galaxy is being transformed by the radiation and the jet is being bent before shooting millions of light-years farther in a new direction.

"What we've identified is an act of violence by a black hole, with an unfortunate nearby galaxy in the line of fire," said Dan Evans, the study leader at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. He said any planets orbiting the stars of the smaller galaxy would be dramatically affected, and any life forms would likely die as the jet's radiation transformed the planets' atmosphere.

Wow. Can you imagine this as a sci-fi action adventure? "An intrepid band of space explorers goes on a mission to stop an evil black hole from irradiating the peaceful galaxy of Xandra (the galaxy in question is named 3C321, but that's not going to elicit much viewer sympathy...).

The other story was about synthetic DNA on the brink of yielding new life forms. The article details the newest accomplishment of genetic engineering--the creation of life forms using artificial DNA:
Scientists in Maryland have already built the world's first entirely handcrafted chromosome -- a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.

In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to "boot itself up," like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding. And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction.

So far, the result is only single-celled organisms--but the article raises the issues of what sorts of organisms will be created, how will they be contained and who will own the rights? The term "genetic machine" is used conjuring up images of replicants ala Blade Runner. Or at the very least, The Blob.

While we might not jet around in flying cars or vacation on Venus or be able to use a transporter to dematerialize and rematerialize ourselves and avoid rush hour traffic on the 405, these are amazing times we are living in.

Jesus of Malibu

Saw Jesus heading east on Nebraska Ave. in West L.A. today. He was driving an early model dark sedan--maybe it was a sports car. I'm usually better at recognizing car makes/models--even memorizing license plates. Just a little game I play in case the driver is later accused of committing a crime and I have to give a detailed description to the police ("He was driving a late model SUV--silver-colored with California plates starting with 5WQ..."). OK--so the long-haired dude with the beard and mustache driving towards Century City probably WASN'T Jesus--but it sure looked like him...



EXT. OCEAN - NIGHT

Moonlight ripples over the ocean's surface. Two surfers, JAY and CHRIS, early 20s, languidly paddle out. Each nimbly mounts their board and waits for the wave to bring them back to shore.

They cruise the wave. Jay glances over his shoulder at Chris. Chris loses his balance. He falls off his board. Jay laughs.

The board pops up and smacks Chris in the head on its way down. Bubbles and blue-blackness as he descends below the surface.

Jay hops down from his board and paddles back to where Chris wiped out. His board bobs on the ocean's surface--but no sign of Chris anywhere.

JAY
Hey man. Cut it out. It's not funny.

Silence.

Jay jumps off his board and dives into the ocean.

The two vacant boards bob aimlessly for what seems an eternity.

Jay emerges to the surface, gasping for breath. He tows a limp, lifeless Chris as he furiously swims towards shore.

EXT. BEACH - MOMENTS LATER

Teresa, early 20s, sits hugging herself again the chill night air. She scans the shoreline--spots Jay and Chris. She rises to her feet as the two men emerge from the ocean. She runs towards Jay who still drags the unconscious Chris.

TERESA
Oh my God! What...? I told you! I told you it wasn't safe to surf at night!

Jay lays Chris on the ground. He drops to his knees and begins giving Chris mouth-to-mouth.

TERESA
He's not...Fuck! I can't believe this--You never listen to me! Why--

Jay takes a break to rage at Teresa.

JAY
Shut up! Shut the fuck up! You're not helping!

He resumes the mouth-to-mouth frantically. Teresa watches with growing horror. She looks around the beach.

It's deserted.

TERESA
HELP!!! HELP!!! Somebody--anybody--please help us! Oh, shit...

She drops to her knees next to Jay and Chris and softly cries.

TERESA
He's turning blue. Oh, God--

A pair of gnarled feet in worn-out flip flops appears next to the trio. Teresa smells him before she sees him. She looks up. The sight is more frightening than the cyanotic Chris laying lifeless on the sand.

The long matted brown hair, the scruffy beard, the piercing black eyes. Torn flannel shirt over stained t-shirt and patched shorts. The homeless man stares as Jay continues to try to revive his friend.

Silently the homeless man kneels next to Jay, who stops to catch his breath. Jay begins to cry.

JAY
C'mon, man. Don't do this to me!

Jay moves back in to continue the mouth-to-mouth. The homeless man gently holds him back. He places his leathery hands with their ragged dirty nails on Chris' chest. He stares up at the moon.

Jay and Teresa watch him--holding their breath.

He raises a fist to the sky and brings it down on Chris' chest. Chris' body lurches as if jolted with electricity. He coughs, chokes, spits out water and coughs some more.

Chris opens his eyes and sees the face of the homeless man, a hazy blur illuminated by moonlight.

Jay and Teresa look at Chris, stunned. The homeless man rises.

Jay grabs Chris' face in his hands.

JAY
You alright?

Chris nods and coughs some more. Teresa cries and laughs at the same time.

JAY
Goddamn it, Chris--you scared the shit out of us. If it hadn't been for--

He looks up at where the homeless man was standing.

No-one is there.

Teresa, Chris and Jay look around them--the man has vanished.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blue February Way

Once upon a time I lived for a while in Columbia, MD. Columbia is a planned community divided into balanced little neighborhoods, meticulously laid out and kept up. It's like Disneyland without the rides. Anyway, one of the "things" about Columbia is that the names of the streets are literary allusions. For example, I lived on Faulkner Circle. I think...it was a long time ago. One of the streets I used to pass by was named "Blue February Way." That name and the aftermath of a bad break-up inspired some song lyrics. Here's a snippet:

You said you'd always love me
but I always knew you'd leave me
and now that I no longer love you
I find I never really did like you anyway
and I'll always remember you
in a blue February way...
Yeah--I'm not bitter...

Atonement

This has received a slew of Golden Globe nominations, so I was curious to see what the fuss was all about. Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright teams up again with the lovely Keira Knightley and the result is visually arresting, but not quite the masterpiece critics are calling it.

The film, which starts in 1935 but centers around the World War II time period, tells the story of a precocious young writer, Briony (played to perfection by Saoirse Ronan) who concocts a tale with devastating consequences to her older sister, Cecilia (a luminous Knightley) and her lower-class lover, Robbie (an outstanding James McAvoy). Although it ends up being Briony's story as she struggles for atonement for the false accusations she made, it is really Robbie's journey that has the most emotional power and carries the film's focus.

The film has been compared to The English Patient and Lawrence of Arabia--both of which I loathed for their unending tedium. Atonement is nowhere near as tedious, but it does suffer from a lack of action. There's not much talking either and so what we are left with is exquisitely shot scenes of beautiful people, gorgeous places or death and destruction. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey turns the very personal and intimate story into a sweeping romantic epic. Every single shot powerfully and perfectly captures every nuanced detail of the scene. The film is breathtaking to look at--from flush of passion on the young lovers skin to the lush English landscape to the bleak battlefields of France.

Adding to the visual sensuality is the pitch perfect musical score by Dario Marianelli, featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Many of the tracks incorporate the sound of a manual typewriter--both to symbolize Briony, the writer and as a staccato percussive element. Like the cinematography, the soundtrack is lush and sweeping as well--adding the elements of bittersweet melancholy to the tragic tale of Cecilia and Robbie.

But for me, while the film was beautiful to watch, it lack emotional resonance--and I can't quite put my finger on the reason why. It seemed a bit disjointed and since there wasn't a focal character, it was hard to generate an empathetic connection. We never get any real insight into Briony's actions in order to allow us to sympathize with her and we're only given the briefest glimpse into the hearts of the star-crossed lovers. I always know that something's wrong when you have a sad movie and I'm not crying. I cry at Hallmark commercials for pity's sake! And--although it took until the end of the movie to accomplish--I was emotionally moved by Wright's Pride and Prejudice.

Oh well. Yet another downer movie. Note to self: must seek out a good comedy...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Wrinkle in the Writers Strike

A little over a week ago, writer Robert J. Elisberg posed the question on The Huffington Post, "Why is the WGA negotiating with the AMPTP?" He puts it thusly:

"The AMPTP is like if General Motors, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan all got together, decided the terms they would offer employees, and then negotiated as a single body against one isolated division of U.S. auto workers at a time. Divide and conquer. Take it or leave it."
Makes a lot of sense to me. What has always rankled me about the negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP is the inference of an employee/employer relationship. What if the WGA drew up its MBA and said to the studios and networks, if you want to work with J. J. Abrams, Akiva Goldsmith, Shonda Rimes or Robin Swicord, etc.--you need to agree to our basic terms. Now it seems the WGA is heading in that direction by offering to negotiate individual deals with each of the 350 signatory companies.

I think this is fucking brilliant. What was looking like an attempt by the media moguls to crush and break the WGA now may turn out to break the AMPTP's united front instead. According to Nikki Finke, it may be next to impossible to get the media moguls to break ranks--but if even one of the big nine took the bait, the others would be forced to follow or lose their competitive edge.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a Wonderful Movie

Ah, I love this movie! It's dark and haunting, yet hopeful. I like to think of George Bailey as a fellow Capricorn based on his father's assessment that he was "born old," his sense of duty and work ethic.

Despite being one of the best movies ever, it won none of the four Academy Awards it was nominated for. Not the Best Actor for Jimmy Stewart's superb performance, no Best Director for Frank Capra, not even Best Picture. Best Picture went to Best Years of Our Lives in 1947. How often do you see that one rerun on TV?

Fun Factoids:

The characters of Ernie Bishop, the cab driver and Bert, the police officer inspired the names of the famous Sesame Street muppet duo.

The spurned young man who opens the dance floor causing George and Mary to fall into the pool was played by Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, best known for playing "Alfalfa" in the Little Rascals/Our Gang series. He was sort of a homely kid back then. He grew into an even homelier young man...

Miss Davis, the Building and Loan customer that George kisses when she asks for only $17.50, was played by Ellen Corby who went on to play Grandma Walton on The Waltons.

Charles Lane played Mr. Potter's rent collector. I remember him as Homer Bedloe on Petticoat Junction. Actually Mr. Lane has quite a long list of acting credits. He died just this past July (on the 9th--my brother James' birthday) in Santa Monica.

It always boggles my mind that a house cost $5k back then. George Bailey was making a whopping $45 a week running the Bailey Building and Loan. That $8k that Uncle Billy accidentally handed over to the evil Mr. Potter was a helluva lotta money in those days. I love George's speeches--especially where he passionately argues for the Building and Loan:

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be.
Or when he tells Potter off later in the movie:
You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.
I'm always captivated by the lovely wedding night scene with George and Mary in the old house where she tells him, "Remember the night we broke the windows in this old house? This is what I wished for. "

But my favorite moment--like everyone who loves this movie--is the line spoken by George's brother Harry at the end of the film, "A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town. "

It's magic. It's Christmas. It's a Wonderful Life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Songs - Update

As a follow-on to my post about Christmas Songs, I found it interesting that apparently the vast majority of people share my aversion to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and dogs barking Jingle Bells. So says this article in the Washington Post.

I'm not a fan of the Baha Men's Who Let the Dogs Out? either. Although I'm a huge fan of puppies. Go figure...

Juno

Juno: You're, like, the coolest person I've ever met, and you don't even have to try, you know...

Paulie: I try really hard, actually.

So could it be said of Diablo Cody's heroine and story Juno that on the surface seems to be Knocked Up meets Superbad (even sharing one of the latter's stars, Michael Cera playing lovable ubergeek Paulie Bleeker--Geez, his name even RHYMES with geek!). The plot synopsis goes like this: "Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual and bizarre decision regarding her unborn child." Um, what? What's so "bizarre and unusual" about giving a baby up for adoption? Or even selecting the adoptive parents?

Juno
tries to be quirky, offbeat, clever, unusual, bizarre, unique--right down to the hamburger telephone and "so nerdy it's cool" music. But it tries too hard in my opinion and often sacrifices evoking authenticity for sardonic wisecracking. After the downers that were The Savages and Grace is Gone, however, Juno does offer moments of humor and an occasional glimmer of inspiration. Notably in the awkwardly endearing performance of Cera and Jennifer Garner's brittle but fragile portrayal of Vanessa. There's an amazing amount of buzz around former stipper cum blogger turned screenwriter Diablo Cody right now. According to an article in the Washington Post,

Cody portrays her stripping as an offshoot of her budding sense of impulsive adventure. A whim. A diversion. Or, suggests Rob Nelson, who knew Cody and edited a few of her articles at City Pages, it was a calculated move to get herself spotted within the crowded screaming mass that is the blogosphere.
I wouldn't doubt it. Juno feels a bit calculated as well. Co-star Jason Bateman was quoted as saying ""The script is very stylized...the script is really the star of the film." And that's it fatal flaw in my opinion. Good writing should be invisible. Bad writing feels calculated and manipulative. Despite the incessantly offbeat quirkiness that feels consciously influenced by alienated teen movies such as Ghost World rather than innately original, the movie wraps up with a fairly predictable "and they all lived happily ever after" ending. Proving that Cody--like her hard-ass heroine--is a shameless traditional romantic at heart. No harm in that. Hopefully her future work (and with her flair for dialogue and character, she definitely has a future!), will incorporate more subtlety and dimensionality.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And yet some more Keywords

In my never-ending quest to provide y'all with a full-service blog here, I have gone over the search terms that some people use to find me to see if people found what they were looking for. In most cases, readers did indeed find the correct information. But some went away empty-handed. For those searching for naked pictures of Louise Cliffe (I never even heard of this chick until I started this blog), I will not be fulfilling that need. Ditto to those looking for "Mark Cuban + shirtless." What is your problem people? That's just twisted. Albeit not so much as the person looking for "Tom Bergeron + shirtless." That's just wrong.

A lot of interest in Desperate Housewives. One person was interested in Bree's unhinged mother-in-law. The character's name is Phyllis Van de Camp and she is played with devilish delight by Shirley Knight. Another person wondered "who is ida who is karen?" Ida Greenberg is one of the older residents of Wisteria Lane. Kind of shrunken and shriveled as played by Pat Crawford Brown. On the mid-season finale, she was the friend of Karen who had the cat in the basement that Lynette's husband Tom was allergic to. Yeah, Karen as in McCluskey (played by Kathryn Joosten--you probably remember her as Mrs. Landingham, the no-nonsense secretary to the President in The West Wing)--the Scavo's neighbor who served as babysitter and reluctantly offered the clan shelter in her basement during the tornado. It was her house that was completely destroyed by the tornado.

Speaking of which--people are trying to figure out who lived through the disaster. We won't know until new episodes beginning airing again and that could be quite some time with the WGA strike. Based on Mary Alice's opening monologue that one would lose a husband and all would lose a friend, I'm betting on Victor (I mean we all saw the guy get impaled with a piece of fence and he WAS Gabby's hubby!) and Ida (last seen sleeping before the tornado hit--she may have died before the house above her was turned to rubble...). The other loose thread is--as one reader put it "what is Katherine hiding about Dylan's father?" That is a question that may be answered when DH returns to the airwaves. My theory is that Dylan's father molested her, she accidentally killed him, Katherine and her aunt hid the body and the traumatized Dylan went into shock and repressed the memory.

Speaking of the Writers Strike, many people are wondering when it will end. No-one knows. If the AMPTP stops their union busting tactics and goes back to the negotiating table, it could end before Christmas. Right now, that doesn't seem likely. I get my strike related news from United Hollywood, a blog started by WGA strike captains, Deadline Hollywood Daily, L.A. Weekly entertainment writer Nikki Finke's blog and A-list screenwriters Craig Mazin and Ted Elliot's blog The Artful Writer. One reader wanted to find out the planetary influences on the Writers Strike--and believe it or not, I have it! Astrologer/writer Eric Francis analyzed the aspects on his Planet Waves website.

Desperate Housewives isn't the only TV show that generates queries--Ugly Betty gets its share as well. One wondered "who is faith summers?" Um, it's FAYE Summers. She was the former editor of Mode magazine who had a long-term affair with Meade Publishing mogul, Bradford Meade. She was killed in a car accident, engineered by Bradford's wife, Claire, who is presently serving time in prison for the crime. After her death, control of Mode went to Alex (now Alexis) and when Alex was presumed dead in a ski accident (only to return as Alexis following a sex change operation), Daniel Meade was appointed editor by his father Bradford--much to Wilhelmina Slater's chagrin. In addition to Faye's affair with Bradford, she also had a one night stand at Studio 54 with an unknown man resulting in the birth of Amanda Tanen--who found out at the end of last season that she is Faye Summers biological daughter. Someone wanted to know about the husband of Faye Summers. I don't believe Faye was married. She just slept around a lot.

For Heroes, someone wondered if Nathan was dead. Well, it sure looked that way. Perhaps they'll give him an infusion of Claire's blood in time to save him. Or wouldn't Peter's work since he has regenerative abilities as well? I hope they find a way to save him--Adrian Pasdar is such a cutie! I've gotten hits from people wondered about the horn headed guy on My Name is Earl. The character's name is Kevin the Unicorn Man and he's played by Brandon Ficara. IMDB is your friend people. That where you can find out that the "Man who hires Wells" in No Country for Old Men was played by Stephen Root (News Radio, Office Space). And speaking of No Country for Old Men, I found the script here. It's a great read.

More random queries include:

Q. Is Joshua Tree remastered analog?
A. Yes, it is meticulously re-mastered from the original analog master tapes.

Q. Who played harmonica on Moondance on the August Rush soundtrack?
A. My research turned up the factoid that Robin Williams played the harmonica for this track. Hmmm, interesting...

Q. "Talk to Me Starring John Chetah"
A. Um, Talk to Me starred Don Cheadle. Ocean's 11, 12 and 13, Hotel Rwanda, Crash. DON CHEADLE. Sheesh.

Q. Average time to read 100 pages?
A. Depends on whether you read quickly or slowly--and what you are reading, but I estimate about a minute per page (that's how they determine time re: screenplay length) so say about 1.5 - 2 hours to read 100 pages.

Q. Average lantus dose?
A. Again this is very individual and will depend on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is insulin resistant and so more insulin is required. Age, activity level and weight all factor in. I am a fairly active, slender female and I inject 13 units of Lantus daily. My preference is to inject in the AM, that way I don't deal with it peaking in the middle of the night when my insulin requirements are lowest. If my blood sugar readings during the day--especially after dinner--are erratic with wildly high levels, it means I need more Lantus.

Q. Blood sugar over 600?
A. I've experienced this. Let's put it this way--with average/normal levels being around 100, a glucose level over 600 is SIX TIMES higher than normal. It's dangerous and a possible precursor to DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis, or even a coma. If you're blood sugar gets that high, you most likely need insulin. You definitely need medical help.

For the person searching on "single female 40s looking for daddy relationship"--good luck with that! I believe most sugar daddies are looking for "single female 20s." And for the dreamer googling "small two bedroom two bathroom under $1,000 in L.A., CA," I have to say -- HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Sorry. You obviously haven't perused the rental listings on Craigslist or else you'd know that's it's almost impossible to find a studio apartment for under $1,000 in L.A. Even in Watts, Compton and Inglewood. You might be able to find an inexpensive two bedroom in Barstow or Bakerfield--but that's a heckuva commute to L.A.

I don't know what to say to the person who searched for "santa claus trashcan." That's sadder than the "Tom Bergeron + shirtless" seeker. I got several hits for the Inside the Actor's Studio questionnaire, so I thought I'd end with the questions--and my answers:

What is your favorite word?

Passion.

What is your least favorite word?

No.

What turns you on?

Great conversations.

What turns you off?

Hypocrisy

What is your favorite curse word?

Fuck and all permutations thereof.

What sound or noise do you love?

Rainfall while sleeping.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Doors slamming

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

If I had the talent, I'd love to be a dancer.

What profession would you not like to do?

Eldercare.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Nice job!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More ideas on helping to end the Writers Strike

This post on United Hollywood gives some more ideas on how fans can make their voices heard.

In a matter of a few minutes, I was able to send letters out on behalf of my favorite shows: Lost, My Name is Earl, Desperate Housewives, Entourage, The Office, Ugly Betty, Heroes and Pushing Daisies.

I wonder how many people are writing on behalf of Cavemen?

(By the way--check out AMPTP.com. It's a snarky parody of the official AMPTP.org website. So funny!)