Friday, December 17, 2010

Job Posting Dictionary

I thought I would do the job searching world a favor, and provide this much needed translation of common terms found in Internet job postings. After having been unemployed for nearly two years, I have read many, and know that if you're not paying close attention, the true meaning of some of these words and phrases might elude folks who expect everything to be literal. So, here it is...Jeremy's Job Posting Dictionary:

Intern = foolish and desperate recent college grad willing to work for nothing
Entry-Level = two to four years experience
Two to four years experience = two to four years experience in this exact type of position, otherwise, go screw yourself
Strong communication skills = you can somehow trick us into actually reading your cover letter and resume
Must be proficient in = second only to God in skill level
Preferred (as in, "MBA preferred" or "fashion industry experience preferred") = you'd better have this, motherfucker
Bachelor's degree required = we will only consider you if the university you attended rhymes with Schmarvard, Schmale, or Schmanford
Self-starter = you will automatically know how to perform every task without any direction - this is especially pertinent when your direct supervisor is busy getting blown by one of the foolish and desperate recent college grads willing to work for nothing
Entrepreneurial spirit = you failed at starting your own successful business, that's why you're applying to work here, loser
Willing to travel = there's a fucking Starbucks every 20 feet, now get me my venti caramel machiatto, you lazy shit
Must possess valid driver's license = if you're not willing to get me my venti caramel machiatto, you can drive your good-for-nothing ass home
Local applicants only = members of the hiring manager's family only
Must have the legal right to work in the U.S. = except if you're a white male, particularly an unattractive one - then, let's be realistic, you have no shot
Ability to respond well under pressure - What's that? You just chucked your laptop across the room?

Then, of course, there is the all-time favorite phrase that comes in the standard rejection form letter:

While we were greatly impressed with your qualifications = PFFFT!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top 20 Songs of 2010

I've said it a couple times already...this was not a fantastic year for me in terms of finding music I liked. The number of songs I download has dropped pretty dramatically over the past couple of years, actually. That having been said, there is still the cream of the crop. Here you will find the 20 songs from 2010 that I felt deserved special recognition. OK, I'm not sure if being on my blog counts as "special," but I'm putting them here nonetheless. Only about eight of these tunes could even be considered minor radio hits...but certainly none of them hit the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. Lady Gaga or Black Eyed Peas here. Amazingly though, I do have two songs on my list that are considered to be part of the country genre. In fact, they're both in my Top 5. Did you hear any reports of icicles in hell? There's also a crossover opera singer, a band with a dead lead singer, and an American Idol contestant. An interesting mish-mosh, to be sure. So, without any further we go. Links to Amazon are provided if you care to sample any of the tracks.

20. My Little Secret - Cavo
I totally missed how good the album Bright Nights * Dark Days from this modern rock band when it first came out in 2009. That's probably because the first single, "Champagne" didn't really do it for me. Then, much more recently, I discovered a couple other songs by them, and actually just downloaded the full album tonight. A nice, melodic tune here to kick off the Top 20.
19. Tennessee Line - Daughtry
In actuality, there are three country artists on my countdown, when you consider that Vince Gill contributes backing vocals to this Daughtry ballad. Leave This Town has to be one of the most overlooked albums of the past couple years...and it still went platinum. 
18. If It's Love - Train
Any song that references 80's hair band, Winger, is automatically cool in my book...ha! Pat Monahan's lyrics often don't make much sense, and sound like he's just trying to come up with catchy rhymes. And it works. This was a pretty big hit on adult contemporary radio, but it's only the 2nd best Train song on my countdown.
17. Broken Bones - Rev Theory
The awesome album Light It Up, by this New York modern rock band, came out in 2008, but the final single stretched into the new decade. Good enough for me. Looking forward to their new CD in February. 
16. Man of Colours - Grace Bawden
This classical/opera crossover singer was a finalist on Australia's Got Talent when she was 15 yrs. old, and subsequently turned down a major label deal. I guess that's why no one in the U.S. knows who she is. I discovered her, of all places, on business social networking site, LinkedIn, where she posted a comment on one of the groups. This is a cover of the amazing title track off of the amazing 1987 CD by Aussie pop band, Icehouse. One of my favorite albums of all-time.
15. September - Daughtry
Another great track from the American Idol "loser." My only regret about their album, is that the standout track, "Call Your Name," was never released as a single. It could very well have been my #1. 
14. Familiar Taste of Poison - Halestorm
Ahhhh, Lzzy. That's Halestorm lead singer, Lzzy Hale. I have no idea what happened to her other vowel, but crap, the girl can sing. If she had sung the encyclopedia, I probably would have found a way to include that. Not the best from them, though.
13. All In - Lifehouse
These guys are just catchy rock hook machines. Their latest album was somewhat of a disappointment compared to their recent work, but there are always at least a few songs worth putting on repeat. This is one of them.
12. Jenny - Mike Garrigan
You've seen this North Carolina singer-songwriter on previous lists of mine, and so has he, actually. He was kind enough to subscribe to my blog after having been very gracious in communicating with me via e-mail over a period of several months, taking an interest in my ventures in the music industry and screenwriting. This is what I would have considered to be the "commercial single" off his latest, Voyage of the Malamander, if there had been one released. Nice guy, and talented guy. Doing it all on his own. Show some support if you care to.
11. Save Me, San Francisco - Train

10. Crash - Cavo
Had heard this one on the radio for months before I discovered it was them. Great rock tune.
9. Pull Me Through - Tyrone Wells
Amazing voice. Saw him live at the SXSW festival in 2009. A slight turn back to his more folky roots on his Metal & Wood EP, but this is a poppier sounding track, and a great one. 
8. Lesson Learned - Alice in Chains
Comeback album for the grunge outfit, of course, sans the departed Layne Staley. William DuVall does a formidable job of channeling Staley, and this is a really strong rocker.
7. Impossible - Anberlin
Not crazy about the album, but this is an incredibly catchy rock song. 
6. Grace - Ed Kowalczyk
Former Live lead singer Kowalczyk bursts out on his own with his debut solo CD, Alive. His band was criminally overlooked for years after their radio hit days were done, so it's no surprise that this one hasn't gained any traction in the U.S. I've seen Live in concert, and I saw E.K. touring with Art Alexakis of Everclear and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer. Simply one of the best singers out there.
5. Let Me Hear You Scream - Ozzy Osbourne
In my opinion, one of the best tracks he's written in nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, the rest of the Scream album didn't follow suit. 
4. Pray For You - Jaron and the Long Road to Love
Don't know what that band name is about, but this is one half of the 90's brotherly pop duo, Evan & Jaron, of one-hit wonder "Crazy For That Girl" fame. JatLRtL's debut CD, Getting Dressed in the Dark is supposedly a country album, but it sounds like pop to me. Good pop. Several strong tracks on there, but this one takes the cake. A really cleverly written kiss-off song. The lyric starts out giving the listener the idea that the singer is heeding advice from his pastor not to hold anger for people, but to pray for them. Well, as it turns out, Jaron had a different kind of prayer in mind; the kind that involves wishing that his ex's brakes go out while she's running down a hill, among other things. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Jaron Lowenstein has crafted a jangly pop gem.
3. Bet U Wish U Had Me Back - Halestorm
There she is again. Lzzy and the guys just beat my cutoff for the list by releasing this, one of the best tracks on their self-titled debut, Halestorm, as their latest single. Of course, they're not getting the recognition they deserve. How can people not be noticing the strongest female rock singer since Heart's Ann Wilson? Another great kiss-off tune, featuring the year's best line..."Do you close your eyes with her and pretend I'm doing you again, like only I can?" Only a true rocker ego could belt that one out.
2. Time of Our Lives - Tyrone Wells
Again, an incredible new voice on the music scene...even though he's actually been at it for years. Another artist I wish were getting more attention. Tell me this sentimental ballad isn't crying to be included on some High School graduation video montage.

1. She's With Me - Collin Raye
This was one of the first ten or so songs that I made note of this year, hearing the accomplished country singer perform it live on Fox News' Huckabee show. I knew instantly that this would be my #1 of the year, barring anything unforeseen. At the time, it was just a really touching tribute to Raye's granddaughter, Haley Marie Bell, who had long been suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder that had left her unable to speak or walk, among other things. A few weeks after I saw the performance, Haley passed away at the age of nine. Now the song is a permanent memorial. Dare you to watch the video HERE and not get choked up. I can't name a single other Collin Raye song, but who cares when there's this? I'm sure it's the only list he's ever appeared on with Ozzy Osbourne.



Friday, October 29, 2010

REVIEW: Bad Religion - Irving Plaza 10/27/10

This past week, I re-started my New York City concert-going experience with a band whom I had been meaning to see for several years, but for some reason, always had other plans interfere. I'm not a hard core Bad Religion fan by any stretch. In fact there are only two albums of theirs from which I've downloaded 5 or more songs. But I do think their music has a great energy and their lyrics are thoughtful and original...even if I don't necessarily know what they're singing about. So I figured they would put on a great live show.

This was the 3rd of 3 dates they were playing at Irving Plaza as part of their 30th anniversary tour. Each night was supposed to represent an approximately ten-year segment of time. I chose to attend the last one, since I'm a little more familiar with their more recent work, and this show was highlighting the Bad Religion albums from 2000-present, including the just released The Dissent of Man

The unfortunate thing about many shows today, is that the run times are getting shorter and shorter as the ticket prices go higher and higher. Of course, in punk rock, many of the songs clock in at under 3:00, giving the bands even less incentive to do a longer set. When you can cram 27 songs into a 1:20 set, why not? I just think that the artists should be giving the audiences more bang for their buck. Also unfortunate in this instance, the better of the two opening acts, Off With Their Heads, played first, with me missing most of their set. The Aggrolites, a soul-funk/reggae outfit (not my cup of tea at all), came on next, which led to me going downstairs to watch the World Series on a TV near the food vendor until it was time for the main act.

In any case, my favorite Bad Religion album is their 2002 effort, The Process of Belief. And indeed, they started the show off with three consecutive tracks from TPoB. They weren't my favorites from that CD, though, and there was something about the way the set started off...something with the sound...the drums overshadowing the vocals...I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Whatever it was, my first thought was, I was going to be disappointed by this show. However, over the next 9 songs or so, things really picked up. Included in this segment were three especially strong tracks off of 2004's The Empire Strikes First - "Sinister Rouge,""Let Them Eat War" and "Los Angeles is Burning." The crowd (other than me) were apparently all die-hard BR fans; they knew every word to every song. This was a welcome contrast to many concerts I've been to recently where the entire audience was talking through the duration of the show. The energy level was high. Unfortunately, so was the temperature in the venue. It was ridiculously hot and muggy INSIDE, something only exacerbated by the packed house of fans. I was sweating my proverbial ya-ya's off. Lead singer, Greg Graffin, even noted the jungle-like conditions at one point between songs, remarking, "I'm sweating like a whore in church up here." And then, referring to the celebration of their 2000-era works, he added, "Because, of course, there was no air conditioning back in the early 2000's, and we're trying to make this experience as authentic as possible!" That got a good chuckle from the sweltering crowd.

Back to the set list: As the second half of the show ensued, they played several songs with which I was not familiar, but which were strong selections all the same. In particular,"Social Suicide" from the previously-mentioned The Empire Strikes First, "Dearly Beloved" from 2007's New Maps of Hell, and especially "Don't Sell Me Short," the lone selection from their 2000 album The New America, were all really rousing live performances. They also finally blistered through two much better selections from my mentioned favorite The Process of Belief - "The Defense" and "Epiphany."

After a couple decent new tracks, the band "cheated" a bit by finishing the main set with two non-2000-era songs - 1994's "Infected" and from the previous year, Recipe For Hate's "American Jesus." That set closer was a great surprise for me, as I think "American Jesus," Bad Religion's rant on Americans' attitudes toward the rest of the world, might be one of the best punk rock songs ever written. The opening and central guitar lick is very simple, but is one of those rock riffs that is unmistakable, and gets your blood rushing.

For the encore, I was sure I knew the two songs that were coming: minor rock radio hit "Sorrow" from The Process of Belief, and, one of my favorite songs ever - by anyone - "New America," the single and title track from The New America. I was half right. They played three songs in closing: "Along the Way," a track off one of their 1980's-era EP's, my correct guess "Sorrow" and, as a nod to the longtime fans, "Fuck Armageddon...This is Hell," a really lackluster choice off of their 1982 debut LP, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? In my opinion, a pretty blah set closer. I was stunned that they didn't play "New America." For anyone who read my blog posts detailing my Top 210 Songs of the 2000's, that one came in at #3. Given the current political climate, and the critical mid-term elections occurring next week, it would have been extremely timely, despite having been written more than a decade earlier.

So, in all, I was pretty disappointed with the absence of a few standout tracks from The Process of Belief

Opening Acts: B-
Venue temperature: D
Band performance: B+
Energy level: A
Audience involvement: A+
Set list: B
Set length: C
Cost: C

Sunday, October 10, 2010


As a stand-alone film, I suppose Matt Reeves' remake of the Sweden's Lat Den Ratte Komma In (Let the Right One In), itself an adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, is a worthwhile cinematic venture. In other words, if you haven't read the source novel or seen the Swedish film, you might enjoy Let Me In. Having seen Tomas Alfredson's attempt at adapting Lindqvist's story though, I am captive to the realization that Reeves' and the rest of the American crew missed a golden opportunity. Plainly speaking, the Hollywood redo added absolutely nothing to what was, in my estimation, a good but not great film. All the movie snobs start whining and turning up their noses as soon as they learn that a U.S. filmmaker is going to dare attempt an adaptation of an overseas film product. However, if there is room for improvement, then why not? That should be the rule with all remakes...they should only be considered when the story can be lifted to a higher level...or at least masterfully updated for a new era in time. Reeves' project does neither. Of course, it seems that most people think more highly of Alfredson's preceding film than I did, but I can only build off of my own opinions.

The main themes of the original film (and presumably the novel, which I have not yet read) are loneliness, desperation, feeling like an outcast, the notorious effects of bullying, the formation of unlikely companionship, unattainable love, and the like - all worthwhile segments of life to explore. The story centers around a downtrodden and fearful pre-adolescent boy (Oskar in the Swedish telling, Owen in the retread), who is being tormented at school, and is caught in emotional quicksand at home as he's bounced between two inept parents in the midst of a divorce (in the Swedish film, his father is an alcoholic, in the U.S. film, his mother is, and we don't see the father, though it is hinted that he is at the least, a deadbeat jerk). A cute girl, appearing to be around his age, moves into his housing complex with a man one would assume was her father. After an initial reluctance on the part of the girl (the first film's Eli, now christened Abby), the two lonely kids form an endearing friendship. After dropping cryptic hints to Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), throughout the first quarter of the film about how different she is, Abby inadvertently reveals her secret (not so secret if you've already heard about the story)...she is actually a hauntingly old vampire who has been trapped in the body of a 12-year-old girl for eternity, and consequently, she needs human blood to survive. The man with whom she lives, played here by Richard Jenkins, is not her father, but somewhat of a servant who commits heinous murders on Abby's behalf in order to provide the much-needed sanguinary nutrition.

From my own viewings of the films, combined with reading several reviews of both, I can determine that the audience is to buy into the idea that Owen is so distraught with his own life, that he would rather befriend, and in effect, give himself over to, a murderous, otherworldly creature, rather than continue on with his miserable existence. In parallel, Abby is perhaps deeply regretful of the eternal enslavement she's fallen victim to, and the hideous actions it requires her to take. I think my main problems with both the Swedish and American film versions, stem from the fact that I simply wasn't sold on either of these scenarios. Owen's predilection for all things violent (something that was much more readily apparent in the Swedish film), and vulnerability to succumb to Abby's barbaric charm, are just not justified by what we see of  his life before. I think the American film should have taken the time to create a much more unbearable existence for Owen; one that would have made it more believable for him to end up in the situation in which he does. Likewise, Abby, as played by Chloe Grace Moretz (500 Days of Summer, Kick Ass), doesn't seem remorseful in the least; not of what she has had her father figure do at her behest, nor of her own killings, nor of the empty fate she is intent on bestowing upon her new-found friend. It's therefore, utterly unclear with whom we're supposed to be sympathizing in this whole, unsettling universe. Do we root for the lonely, yet murderous bloodsucker? Do we root for the weakling human outcast who doesn't seem fazed by unprovoked serial homicide? Or, do we root for society to catch up with them and put a stop to the killing spree...sure to otherwise continue for centuries to come. A daunting choice, indeed. The Swedish film does not do an adequate job in setting up the Oskar/Eli relationship, and likewise, Let Me In also fails to build off of its predecessor and make the Owen/Abby saga believable.

I am assuming that the characters are much more well-developed in the novel, and perhaps, that might make the reader's emotional involvement more clear-cut. I will likely do something I've never done before - read a novel after having seen not one, but two film adaptations. I've never even read a book after having seen one film adaptation, so it should be interesting to see how much my knowledge of the story will enhance or detract from the literary experience.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

REVIEW: The Social Network

Just a warning...there are spoilers in this review, so if you are planning on seeing The Social Network, you might want to just read the intro synopsis paragraph and skip the rest.

Critics everywhere seem to be having "filmgasms" over this true-ish account of the creation of, and lawsuits surrounding, the social networking site, Facebook. I definitely found the moviegoing experience entertaining, and it's one of the better films of 2010, however, I think my overall impression falls a little short of the adoration being heaped upon The Social Network. Director, David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The American President, TV's The West Wing) take what, in real life, was most likely a relatively bland and unaffecting series of events, and transform it into a compelling story of a socially awkward intellect, who, quite ironically, created one of the most intrinsically social environments the world has ever seen. The performances, for the most part, were pretty solid, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. The dialogue was very sharp, adding some comic relief, and again, making this a tellable story. There was something about the experience that left me feeling as if the dramatic component fell somewhat flat. Although there were individual  moments of palpable tension amongst the characters, I never got that subtle chill down my back or that "oh shit" feeling that the best dramatic films have a way of stirring up. That, for me, leaves the final grade as a B+...somewhat short of greatness, but still a very worthwhile all-around film. Also, as a fun side note, there is one scene in which Mark Zuckerberg is seen wearing an "Ardsley Athletics" t-shirt. This is of absolutely no consequence to anyone, except for the microscopic sliver of the U.S. population who reside in, or have resided in, the small-town burb of Ardsley, NY. As a graduate of Ardsley High School, it was just cool to see that on screen, as I am sure it is the only time Ardsley has been, or will be, immortalized in film. Unless, of course, another product of the Ardsley school system ever accomplishes something cinema-worthy.

Here's a breakdown of what went right and what went wrong with The Social Network:

DIALOGUE - Aaron Sorkin is probably best known for creating the long-running TV series The West Wing. He was also the scribe behind one of the best films of all-time, A Few Good Men, and another very good film from the 90's, The American President. He also created a great, but short-lived TV dramedy, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which unbelievably only lasted one season. This guy is a more than accomplished writer. His dialogue in The Social Network is really what drives the film. It's through Sorkin's words that the audience gets insight into the ineptitude of the central character, Mark Zuckerberg, to adequately communicate with other human beings. He feels in his most natural state when his fingers are doing the "talking" - on a computer keyboard. This is, of course, if we are to accurate the entire content of the movie as accurate. The on-screen incarnation of Zuckerberg has no clue how to effectively establish a relationship with a girl, for instance, but he needs relatively few words to systematically tear down those who oppose him and his efforts regarding Facebook. The main victims of these terse tongue-lashings are the attorneys for the Winklevoss twins, who claim Zuckerberg derived the idea for Facebook by stealing their concept for a Harvard-based social networking site, and Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's former friend, who was pushed out as CFO and significant stakeholder of Facebook. So, who doesn't like to see attorneys get their comeuppance?

JESSE EISENBERG - Not exactly award-worthy, but a very assured portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg as the character was written. He's very believable as the awkward nerd genius, who becomes, as indicated by the title of the book on which the film was based, an "accidental billionaire."

MAX MINGHELLA - The son of the late, Oscar-winning director, Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain); he portrays Divya Narendra, a business partner of the aforementioned Winklevoss brothers. This was not a prominently featured character, but Minghella steals the scenes he's in, briskly conveying Narendra's incredulity at standing idly by while Zuckerberg usurped the idea for The Harvard Connection social networking site.

ANDREW GARFIELD - In playing one of Mark Zuckerberg's only friends, Eduardo Saverin, Garfield gives what is probably the most accomplished performance in The Social Network. I didn't really feel bad for the Winklevoss brothers; they didn't really do anything that I could ascertain, to warrant credit for the launching and subsequent success of Facebook (at least as events were depicted in the film). However, Saverin, in Garfield's hands, becomes the most sympathetic character in this whole ordeal. He forked over the seed money that allowed Zuckerberg to accumulate the Internet bandwidth necessary to launch the early incarnation of Facebook. He subsequently poured additional capital into a bank account as the Facebook phenomenon spread. And the thanks he got for all his early personal and financial support - he was purportedly tricked into signing documents that relieved him of his significant financial stake in the company, as well as his title of CFO. Saverin's pain, anger, helplessness, and sense of betrayal are all central to the core of the story, and Garfield hits all the right emotional notes.

DIRECTING - David FincherSe7en and Panic Room well enough, but wasn't so sold on Zodiac, which was probably his most critically acclaimed film until now. And Benjamin Button was, quite simply, a bore. I'm eager to see what he does with the Hollywood adaptation of the Swedish supersmash literary "Millennium Trilogy," otherwise known as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books. With The Social Network, I've already divulged my main gripe regarding the level of drama. For me, this was most evident in two scenes. One, was when Eduardo Saverin finds out that he's signed away his financial stake in Facebook and title of CFO. A particular directing convention is employed here, and it's one that I happen to hate. Here, you see Saverin and some other character, most likely a company lawyer of some kind, conversing in a small conference room at the new Facebook offices. The camera pans back so the audience is on the other side of the glass wall, and you see the characters' lips moving, but you can no longer hear what's being said. This is just a pet peeve of mine, but I detest when directors do this in film. To me, it completely interrupts the emotional momentum. Another example of Fincher losing his grip on the tension, comes in the very last scene of the film. Marilyn Delpy, one of the associates on the legal team representing Mark Zuckerberg, is left alone in the room with Zuckerberg. She attempts to convince him of why he's going to have no choice but to agree to settle the two lawsuits out of court. In my estimation, this should be a bone-chilling realization for Zuckerberg, who up until then, had been quite cavalier in his attitude toward the entire proceeding. As the screen overlay in the next few moments tells us, the Winklevoss brothers and partner Narendra received a cool $65 million in their settlement. This must have been a bitter pill for Zuckerberg to swallow. Rashida Jones, as Delpy, takes a more cutesy, flirty stance in explaining the situation to Zuckerberg. Kind of anti-climactic.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE - I'm sure pretty much everyone will disagree with me on this count, since people seem to drool over everything this guy does. The audience was to believe that Mark Zuckerberg was completely and utterly mesmerized by Napster co-founder, Sean Parker; that he was that enigmatic of a personality that Zuckerberg mindlessly pushed his best friend aside in order to follow the advice of his new found business mentor. This was supposed to be an unabashed man crush from the very first meeting. I just didn't buy Timberlake as someone emanating those electric vibes. Maybe it's because I personally just don't get the whole Timberlake phenomenon, and I was projecting that onto his performance here. Maybe it's because when I see him, I think of his SNL sketches. Who knows? I just wasn't sold on this particular bit of casting.

And that's pretty much it :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Concert Weekend

I know I said my previous post would be my last from Las Vegas. Well, I lied. This weekend, I attended what will be my last two concerts as a Las Vegas resident, so I decided to do a little recap.

Kip Winger/Warrant - Sunset Station Hotel & Casino: As a child of the 80's, I still enjoy the hair band music...and I'm one of the few who likes a lot of the NEW music from these bands. I'd seen Kip Winger once, and Warrant an inexplicable three times (inexplicable because they were not any good any of those times - they always seem to be packaged with better bands though). I only went to this show because, well, it was free. The last time I saw Warrant was at this same venue, and it was the most bizarre concert performance I've ever witnessed, as original lead singer Jani Lane was absolutely blitzed to the point that he couldn't carry a tune and barely sang any of the words anyway. Got my money back from that one. This time, with a new singer in tow, things were looking up. Let's start with the opening act though. Despite having been relegated to eternal "wuss" status by repeated ridicule from MTV's Beavis & Butthead, Kip Winger is one of the more vocally talented performers from the 80's hard rock scene, and he proved it with this set. It was just him and his acoustic guitar, so that voice was front and center. The Winger tunes sounded really tight, and although he didn't select the songs I liked from his solo sets, overall, it was a great performance. I don't care what anyone says, In the Heart of the Young was one of the rockingest albums of the 80's start to finish. He invited some random dude who volunteered from the audience to come up and sing with him on the hit ballad "Miles Away" from that CD, and Scott, whoever he was, was actually really good and kept up with almost all the harmonies. (Grade - Performance: A, Set List: B, Running Time: A-, Overall: B+)

As for Warrant, all original members, save for the oft-inebriated Lane, are back in the band these days, and I could tell from last time that they sound really good (it was easy to discern considering Lane wasn't even singing). New singer Robert Mason is nothing special, but he was up to the task and sounded fine on all their hits. Finally hearing the songs the way they were meant to be sung made a big difference, and reminded me why Warrant were one of my favorite bands from that era. The whole set, save for one song, was comprised of tunes from their first two albums, which is probably what the majority of the audience wanted, so I can't fault them for that. "Cherry Pie" of course, was the closer, and surprisingly enough, probably the least enjoyable performance. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" from that same album is probably one of my favorite songs of the 80's, hair band or not, so it was awesome to finally hear it done with capable vocals. I actually think that Kip Winger would have done an awesome job filling in as singer, but oh well. (Grade - Performance: B+, Set List: B+, Running Time: B+, Overall: B+)

Don Henley - Red Rock Hotel & Casino: Despite Rolling Stone's inane top whatever lists, Don Henley is one of the best songwriters of all-time. I wish he had put out more solo albums, but such is music industry bureaucracy. This was the 2nd time I decided to break my personal rule of not spending more than $50 for a concert ticket. The first was Bon Jovi a few years ago, and that remains one of the best concert performances I've ever seen. This one was the awesome concert that almost was. Henley himself sounded amazing. I actually found myself questioning throughout the first song, whether or not he was lip synching, because his vocals were that spot on. Like with Bon Jovi, you pretty much can't go wrong with the set list...every song is a hit, and every one is pretty much an incredible tune. Two things ruined the experience for me. First and foremost was the audience. When I say that every single person in the crowd started talking the second they set foot into the pool area, and didn't stop until...well, they didn't stop at all, I'm not exaggerating. I paid $75 (and those were the "cheap" tix) to hear Don Henley sing. Apparently, everyone else paid money to stand around a pool and have a conversation. Since it's not one of those amp-exploding shows where your ears are ringing for 5 days afterward, the perpetual chatter actually detracted a lot from hearing the actual music. It's just mind-boggling. The second thing that ruined the experience for me was Henley's fault. After about the third song, he specifically said, "We're going to cram as many songs in tonight as possible. They're going to kick us out around 11:15, and we're gonna play as many songs as we can." Well, as I knew they would, they bolted from the stage at promptly 10:45, leaving an extra half an hour of potential performance time on the table. Why bother making a statement like that if it has no bearing in reality? That kills the experience for me. Bon Jovi played for nearly 2 1/2 hours, giving the fans every single cent-worth of their money. Henley, with just as large of an arsenal of songs, possibly larger, apparently had somewhere better to be. That having been said, on the sheer merits of the performance and classic songs, the show was enjoyable, but could have been so much more. Check out this set list though:

One of These Nights
Sunset Grill
The Long Run
Everything is Different Now
New York Minute
Boys of Summer
Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears cover)
I Just Don't Give a Damn (George Jones cover)
Heart of the Matter
Witchy Woman
The End of The Innocence
It Don't Matter to the Sun (Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines cover)
Last Worthless Evening
All She Wants to Do is Dance
Life in the Fast Lane
Hotel California

A couple notes about the set (not the exact order, but pretty close). Many Eagles songs were missing, but mostly because they were not Henley tunes. The Eagles had 4 other guys who contributed lead vocals through the years, so it was understandable that Henley would choose "his" songs over the others. Unfortunately, many of my favorite Eagles songs were sung by Glenn Frey. With the extra half hour Henley could have used, he might have included "Get Over It" from their 1994 "comeback" album, Hell Freezes Over, anything from Henley's most recent solo effort, Inside Job (from which "Everything is Different Now" was oddly selected over the hit single "Taking You Home"), or one of several strong tunes from the 2007 Eagles CD, Long Road Out of Eden. The Tears for Fears cover was a great choice...something that everyone knew and that was perfectly suited for Henley's voice. I had no real opinion on the George Jones song, but the totally out-of-left-field choice of "It Don't Matter to the Sun" was a great addition to the set. I'd never heard the song before. It came from Garth Brooks' oddball turn as Chris Gaines, an alter ego he dreamt up in order to put out a pop/rock album in 1999. Henley made the song sound like a classic ballad and hit it out of the park. I can't find any trace of the original, although the three Gaines songs that are on Youtube are positively awful. "Last Worthless Evening" is one of my favorite songs...ever, so I'm happy he didn't leave that one off. However, I must say, if I never heard "Hotel California" ever again, my life would not be any worse off. The predictable encore of that and "Desperado" (which I was shocked to discover was never a charting single for The Eagles), really didn't get my juices flowing for the big finale. (Grade - Performance: A+, Set List: B+, Running Time: C, Overall: B+)

I've already been checking out the concert scene in NYC for when I arrive back home. So many great choices, I can't even decide which ones I'm going to attend.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Start Spreading the News...

I have decided to close up shop here in the City of Sin and return to the state of my birth, New York. After seven long, interesting, up and down (mostly up) years here in Las Vegas, it’s time for my curtain call. It’s a bittersweet turn of events, for sure. I enjoyed most of my time here (oh, and that amazing weather), and will miss getting to see my amigos from the Bay Area on a semi-regular basis, but of course, it never sucks to be close to family. There is simply nothing left for me here in this crazy and intriguing city. It was a great ride for several years, but unfortunately, the tide has turned, and employment prospects here have been grim for quite some time. Hopefully, New York will bring a much needed fresh start and new adventures, which ironically, is what I was originally seeking when I stepped off the plane at McCarran Airport into the 111-degree haze in July 2003.

My first exposure to Las Vegas came way back in December 1998, when my best friend, Matt, and I, both ventured to the land of booze and debauchery for the first time. OK, so there wasn’t really any booze and debauchery involved in our doings, but it did serve for some laughs when we arrived at the Palace Station Hotel only to be surrounded by a wave of tall, brawny men in ten-gallon hats and chaps. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the National Finals Rodeo event is held here every December. Not exactly what we were expecting. In any case, this was a time when the Bellagio had just opened its doors, and the Venetian across the street had yet to dole out its first poker chip. Little did I know, just a year later, Matt would be moving to Las Vegas, leaving the East Coast behind. This move surely would play no small role in my own journey Westward four years after that.

Then there was my trip to visit Matt in January 2001. Accompanied by my other close friend, John, this 9-day spell included my introduction to the Grand Canyon, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, the Vegas club scene, Vegas topless revues, unsuccessfully trying to pick up Vegas women, and I’m sure some other activities that escape my mind at this time.

Let’s not forget the October 2002 jaunt, the sole purpose of which was to hunt down the house that Matt and I intended to purchase as an investment, which ended up being the instigation for me to relocate here. Southern Highlands at the time was just a mound of rubble (or several mounds of rubble, actually), but it was to become home just nine short months later. Meanwhile, Matt and I enjoyed our luxury accommodations at the highly-recommended Ogden House Hotel (I assume everyone can spot sarcasm when it’s intended). We must have missed the brochures touting it as the methamphetamine capital of the world, but I’m sure it added some color to our trip. Somehow, the barriers of our first-floor room remained unpenetrated by any unsavory characters (save for Matt and me, of course).

And then, finally, fate brought me here to stay (at least for a number of years) in July of 2003. Since then, I’ve lived in 3 different residences, managed 6 tenants on my own, managed 2 sets of tenants with assistance from a property manager, had 1 tenant trash the house and bolt on me, invested in and miraculously gotten my money back from 2 failed mixed-use condo projects, dated 1 girl from Mexico, dated 1 girl from Las Vegas whom I rarely saw in two years of going out, casually dated a few others, devoured approximately 163,726 pounds of buffet food, went to exactly 1 strip club, went to exactly 3 nightclubs, played on 4 softball teams, went to 2 minor league hockey games, went to 1 minor league baseball game, went to the top of the Stratosphere Hotel once, went to the top of the Paris Hotel twice, got exactly 1 traffic violation, narrowly avoided 1 extremely drunk driver, wrote 1 film screenplay, had 1 road trip to San Diego postponed due to snow (yes, snow), had 2 successful and enjoyable road trips to San Diego, witnessed the Yankees lose 1 World Series of baseball and win 1 World Series of baseball, witnessed 1 exciting in-the-money finish by my best friend at the World Series of Poker Main Event, spent approximately $3,724 on those stupid Wheel of Fortune slot machines without ever hitting the jackpot, hit exactly 1 royal flush on video poker, saw Le Reve, saw Phantom of the Opera, saw LOVE, saw Brad Garrett’s stand-up act (drunk – him, not me), saw Norm MacDonald’s stand-up act (even more drunk – him, not me), saw Jay Leno’s stand-up act (should have been drunk – him…OK, and maybe me too), saw the rock band Warrant with original lead singer, Jani Lane (more drunk than you have ever seen a live performer in your life – trust me), started 1 blog, had 2 amazing rock musicians read at least one of my blog posts, founded 1 company, invested in 1 failed start-up, invested in 1 very promising start-up (with a still yet-to-be-determined level of success), bought 1 hybrid car, seen a countless number of concerts – many of which involved bands containing either the words Leppard or Blossoms in their names, joined 1 short-lived bowling team, attended 1 South By Southwest Music Festival, attended 3 weddings elsewhere in the world, attended 1 wedding in Las Vegas, been caught in traffic 2,014 times (roughly), participated in 2 scavenger hunts, took a picture of one Elvis, spotted only 1 celebrity (Vanilla Ice – yeah, I don’t get out much), experienced approximately 486 hundred-degree days, experienced exactly 1 week of multiple snow days, saw no scorpions, saw no black widow spiders (thank God), had 2 floods in my condo, had 1 mushroom grow up through my carpet during flood, had 2 real estate agents, had 2 attorneys, had 3 accountants, had 1 financial advisor, flew OVER July 4th fireworks once, went to the Strip for New Year’s fireworks once, had friends and family surprise me for 2 birthdays, lost one close family member (hi, Grandpa Marcel), gained two God-dogs (who knew there was such a thing), guest DJ'd one hour of commercial radio, voted for 1 U.S. President, went snowboarding once, went to a shooting range once, had 2 computer purchasing experiences at Best Buy, enjoyed ZERO computer purchasing experiences at Best Buy, have spent 22 months unemployed (3 upon first arriving, 19 post-layoff), and held exactly 1 job for 5 years and 3 months.

That, my friends, is an extremely non-chronological summarization of my time here in Las Vegas. It’s certainly been an unanticipated and interesting segment of my life. Now, as they say…onto the next chapter.

Viva Las Vegas – Au Revoir…

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Film That Should Be Set on Fire

The world seems to be abuzz with chatter about the "Millennium Trilogy," as the triple set of blockbuster novels by Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, has been labeled. Not only have all three books been adapted into Swedish films, but now, acclaimed American director, David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, ...Benjamin Button) has signed on to helm the upcoming Hollywood revamps.

I, myself, have read the first two books in the trilogy, and as of today, have also seen the first two Swedish film adaptations. My assessment: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a good, but not great novel, that received a pretty decent transfer to the cinema. There were some glaring details from the book that were dropped in the making of the film, but I don't really fault the filmmakers for that. It was more a shining example of why it is so difficult to adapt books into films. Even at 2 1/2 hours, there simply wasn't enough room to include everything. Moving onto The Girl Who Played With Fire, you have a great novel with a couple of minor flaws, that has been demolished by a complete and utter hackjob of a film adaptation. If the objective of the filmmakers in this instance was to suck all of the drama, suspense, and emotion out of the story, well - Mission: Accomplished.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, an entirely different creative team was behind the scenes of this second film, than there was for the first. Perhaps that explains the nosedive in quality. Things started off promising. They lopped off an entire story thread from the beginning - one which, in my mind, constituted the most obvious flaw in the novel. So, I was happy to see they did not include it in the film. Then, throwing in a hot lesbian sex scene never hurts. But, from there, it was all downhill. Again, one must be cognizant of the inherent problems involved in the book-to-movie transition. However, this adaptation was just sloppy. First off, certain supporting characters appeared toward the beginning of the film with virtually no introduction or explanation of who they were. I think one hallmark of a great adapted screenplay is that someone should be able to see the movie without having read the book, and still enjoy the experience. That is impossible to do here, because if you haven't read the book, you'd have absolutely no idea what was going on.

Secondly, they changed things that didn't necessarily contribute to keeping the running time of the movie down. There was simply no reason to change them. There was a particularly critical juncture where the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, was supposed to have been at the scene of a double murder around the time that the crime occurred. This lent a sliver of doubt in the readers' minds as to whether she may have actually had some involvement in the killings. In the book, there was also a clear connection between those deaths, and a third murder that took place. Again, placing Salander's innocence in question. In the film, Lisbeth's whereabouts are completely rearranged, as far as what the viewers can see for themselves. There is passing mention made by another character that she was supposedly at the location of the first killings, but it's never explained why we're supposed to know that. That one seemingly minor oversight deflates the power of the entire mystery that is central to the plot. Later, there is another scene in which one of the major villains is entangled in a fight scene with two supporting characters. The way those characters escape the grasp of the enemy is just made up out of thin air by the filmmakers. It's totally and unnecessarily different from what happens in the book. Here, instead of being dramatic, it just makes the entire sequence of events seem hokey and unrealistic.

The third thing that prevented me from enjoying this film, was the editing. I know absolutely nothing about film editing, but despite that, I could tell this was done with extreme incompetence. The movement of the characters in several scenes was so jarring, I literally threw my hands up in the air as if to say, "WTF?" In one instance, Lisbeth had broken into the apartment of her nemesis, and then was seen rifling through his things while he slept. But, without knowing what was going on from having read the book, you almost couldn't tell that she was in the same location. One second she was just inside the front door, the next second, she was sitting at some desk.

Lastly, there were a couple of climactic scenes in the story, where the emotion should have been running high. But the way those scenes played out here on screen, I felt like I might as well have been watching a panda chewing bamboo in a zoo exhibit.

The whole thing was utterly disappointing. Especially because I was looking forward to seeing what Noomi Rapace could do as Lisbeth in this second film. One major reason I liked reading The Girl Who Played With Fire more than I did ...Tattoo, was because the Lisbeth Salander character was so much more developed in the continuation of the saga. We finally started to get a glimpse into her backstory, and instead of being a mysterious supporting character, which is essentially the role she played in ...Tattoo, she evolved into the emotional center of the story. Seeing a couple of English-speaking interviews with Rapace, it was immediately evident what an amazing transformation she underwent to "become" Lisbeth. I really thought we might be in for an award-worthy performance in this second film. But she simply had nothing with which to work. Salander barely even spoke throughout the entire film, once again relegating the character to being a small part of an ensemble.

For those who have read the books and seen the first two Swedish film adaptations, the fear seems to be great that Hollywood is going to completely ruin the trilogy, as it is alleged to do with all reworkings of foreign films. I, for one, am actually hoping that a skilled group of American filmmakers can transcend what the Swedes have done, particularly with this second film. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait a while. The U.S. version of the first film is not due out until Christmas '11. Here's hoping the third book will at least tide me over until then.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

INCEPTION: The verdict

So, I've been building this one up for a while, as have many critics and movie buffs. See one of my previous posts for my explanation of why I was so eagerly anticipating this film. Basically, the director (Chris Nolan), and several of the actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Cillian Murphy) have all been involved in prior favorite movies of mine, so I felt like this was a "can't miss." At the same time that this notion led me to have grandiose expectations, it simultaneously forced me to lower those expectations, because how could I not be somewhat disappointed after already anointing Inception the movie of the year? Bottom line: it was not the epic film I was hoping it would be, but it also was not as much of a letdown as I feared it might be.

I'm going to describe very little about the plot, so as to not spoil things. The film centers around Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), who is a thief-for-hire; his specialty is inserting himself in people's dreams in order to pilfer their ideas for his own (or, presumably, his employers') gain. He has a team of skilled assistants: his long-time right-hand man, Arthur (Gordon-Leavitt); Eames (Tom Hardy) - who can shapeshift himself to take on the physical characteristics of another person; Yusuf the chemist (Dileep Rao); and, for the latest job that serves as the focus of Inception, new hire, Ariadne (Page) - who is an expert architect saddled with the challenge of creating the landscapes of the dreamworld in which all the action takes place. In the movie, a Japanese tycoon, Saito (Ken Watanabe), hires Cobb and his team to pull off an "inception." This is an instance where the team must insert themselves into someone's subconscious, not to steal ideas, but to plant them. Saito wants to trick a business rival, Robert Fischer (Murphy), into wanting to break up his dying father's business empire, effectively giving Saito a stranglehold on the worldwide energy industry. Inception is a highly dangerous and unpredictable undertaking, and no one is really sure whether or not it can be achieved without dire consequences. The motivation for Cobb is that he has been prevented from seeing his two kids back in the U.S., and Saito claims to be able to rectify this situation, upon Cobb's successful completion of the mission at hand. To explain any further would be inadvisable.

One thing has to be said above all else: you will not understand this film after one viewing. I, myself, am contemplating whether I want to shell out the cash for a second go. I probably won't see it again until it's on cable, but just keep in mind that anyone writing a review after seeing it for the first time needs to reserve the right to change his or her views on the film.

That having been said, let's start with what was great about Inception. There likely will not be a more creative, imaginative, or original movie out this year. Also, DiCaprio was pretty spot on in the lead role. Sometimes, I have a hard time taking him seriously, because he still looks so young, but he's a formidable enough actor that he seems to often be able to make me forget about that and become engrossed in the character. This is at least true for the last four films in which I've seen him: The Departed, Blood Diamond, Shutter Island, and now, Inception. Third, I usually prefer movies that are thought-provoking. If I'm still talking and/or thinking about a film weeks after seeing it for the first time, then that automatically wins some points in my book. I am positive that Inception will be such a film. Lastly, the ending was pretty much perfect. I've written before that one of my pet peeves with cinema, is when Hollywood simply doesn't know how to wrap everything up. There is a tendency in those situations to either try to tie all the ends up in a nice, neat bow, kill off almost every major character (see the hideous Mel Gibson flop, Edge of Darkness, from earlier this year - or, on second thought, don't see it), or create a final scene so ambiguous that it's just plain annoying and unfulfilling (hello, No Country for Old Men!). All throughout Inception, I was 100% positive that I knew exactly how it was going to end, and I was dreading the cop-out, predictable conclusion. And Nolan did end it that way...sort of. He put enough of a twist of uncertainty on the otherwise foreseen closing shots to win kudos from me. I can't describe it in any more detail without giving critical things away.

Now, for what didn't work. First and foremost, naturally, is the overall ambiguity of everything that occurred in the film. Thought-provoking and creative: good. Brain-melting mindfuck: not so good. The average filmgoer simply can't keep track of all the reality-bending layers of plot that Inception throws at us. It makes for an interesting experience, but at the end of the day, we kind of want to know what in the Hollywood Hills is going on. One aspect of the film that has been repeatedly ripped by critics, is that Ellen Page's character, Ariadne, basically serves as a point of exposition for the audience (exposition is when the writer deliberately utilizes the dialogue to explain the story - typically a major no-no in creating a quality film). The fact is, though, that without some exposition, we'd be even more lost. It was simultaneously necessary, yet detracting from the artistic integrity of the film.

Secondly, Ellen Page, as much as I love her, was grossly miscast here. Ariadne, in addition to untangling things for the audience, also served as a confidante and conscience to DiCaprio's Cobb. The character needed to be much more strong-willed and dominant, in my estimation. Like DiCaprio, Page's cross-to-bear is her youthful looks, but being 12+ actual years younger than Leo, it's much more of an obstacle for her at this early stage of her career. Seeing Juno in this movie was simply unsettling. What's more, DiCaprio and Page had virtually zero on-screen chemistry. I didn't believe for a second that they cared one iota about each other (not in a romantic way - that, thankfully, was not what the filmmakers were trying to depict). In fact, the entire "team" of dream invaders felt like it was just patched together, rather than being a tight-knit group of highly-skilled comrades. I just never believed that they were working together because they wanted to be.

That leads me to my next issue. I felt the supporting characters were rather under-developed. When you have a team of players moving the story forward in what basically amounts to an action-thriller, you need to have really sharp writing in order to keep the audience interested in each character. That simply wasn't the case here. Eames (Hardy) was designed to be the wise-ass, sarcastic guy. Yet, he had virtually no funny lines in the entire film. As for Arthur (Gordon-Leavitt), it was unclear to me exactly what role he played on this team. He's been described in other reviews as the "organizer." But I really had no idea what his place was, and generally didn't care about his character at all. They tried to construct one funny scene between him and Ariadne, but it fell somewhat flat.

Another supporting character, that of Saito, presented one significant problem; I could understand virtually nothing of what Ken Watanabe was saying during the entire film. I don't know if it was his Japanglish creating the problem or if he was simply mumbling his lines, but I was unnerved by this the whole time. There were some pretty crucial lines of dialogue that I missed completely.

Overall, Inception was one part action flick, one part heist film, one part psychological thriller, and one part love story. Those last two elements worked...the first two did not. Some of the action-oriented scenes, particularly those set in the snowy mountains toward the end, were just plain boring and confusing. And I was not invested in the caper involving Cillian Murphy's character. The whole thing surrounding Robert Fischer and his domineering and unaccepting father, Maurice (Pete Posthlewaite), was a retread of all the daddy issues we've seen time and time again in film...and these characters were barely even relevant to the most compelling parts of the movie. For me, the love story between Dom Cobb and his wife, Mal (and by extension, with their two kids), was the aspect of Inception by which I was most captivated. Mal was played with perfect sadness, regret, and desperation, by Oscar-winner, Marion Cotillard. This thread was almost a sub-plot, but it was the most dramatic and compelling layer of the film by a longshot. It provided the emotional center of Inception, and served to set up the few genuine plot twists, as well as the craftily-handled ending. I almost wish that Dom, Mal and their kids had been the main focus, with all the other acid-trippy stuff serving as the decorative wallpaper for the film, but I'm not sure how that would have turned out.

In short, Inception is a good film, falling somewhat short of great. Some are saying it is Chris Nolan's masterpiece. I say that accolade still belongs to Memento, a film that likewise, takes the viewer on a mind-boggling journey of what's real and what's not, but that in my opinion, pulls it off with much more flare, and stands as one of my favorite movies of all time. 

I would recommend Inception, again with the caveat that you will be confused, and potentially be compelled to see it more than once. Overall grade: B+

Monday, May 10, 2010

Furry Toilets

There's something that's been bothering me for my entire life, so I thought I'd take now as an opportunity to get it off my chest. OK, well not my entire life. I wasn't really concerned about it when I was two years old. Actually, I guess I wasn't really concerned about it even last week. But, let's just say, for the sake of argument, that it's been on my mind for "a while."

Furry toilets. More specifically, why do they exist? You know what I'm talking about. Those ridiculous looking toilet seat-back covers that many people insist on using to "enhance" the decor of their bathrooms. These things honestly look like someone was carpeting their home, ended up with some carpet scraps, and said, "Hmmm...what should I do with this? Hey! I know! I'll make a furry hat for my toilet."

There is no conceivable purpose for putting carpet on the back of your toilet seat. Are you anticipating a day when you will be barefoot and walking on top of your toilet, and you're afraid that the bare back of the toilet seat will not play nice with the sensitive underside of your feet? Do you want to ensure comfort just in case there comes a time when you are entrenched in a heated game of Yahtzee in the bathroom, and in need of a comfortable place to sit? (And where exactly will the other players be, in the bathtub? Great, now we need more carpet scraps.) Or perhaps, you want to provide insulation so your neighbors below (in the toilet?) will not be disturbed by your constant pacing around that 180-square-inch area.

And what exactly is the protocol for cleaning and maintaining the colorful, furry appearance of your porcelain soldier's ushanka? When you vacuum the rest of your house, are you supposed to tend to the dust mites on your toilet top as well? If you have your carpets steam cleaned, do you make a special request that Mr. Steam Cleaner Man include the toilet hats?

I just can't understand what the thought process is that results in someone saying, yes...toilet-carpet-makes sense. I don't know much about interior decorating. OK, I know NOTHING about interior decorating. But I know that, much like the facts that dogs should not wear sweaters, toilets should not wear hats. Nobody should ever have a furry toilet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Take a Walk

A revolutionary new concept in public travel has emerged: it's called "walking." Walking, according to the article at Wikipedia (you know a concept is highly complex when it requires a Wiki entry to explain it to the masses), is one of the main "gaits of locomotion among legged animals." It is accomplished by lifting one leg off the ground, swinging it forward from the hip, placing it on the ground in front of you, and then repeating the same motion with the other leg. If you keep doing this over and over again, you will find you are able to relocate yourself from here (your current position) to over there (your intended destination). And I, inevitably stuck behind your once motionless ass, will subsequently also be able to get over there. It's ingenious, really. No longer will you be confined to one place. You are now free to roam and explore foreign areas such as that corner, the end of the hallway, and the until now only mythical "other room." Yes, it is a strange and unfamiliar world we live in with iPads, Blackberries, Wi-Fi, and now walking. From the neurons and synapses that brought you sitting, kneeling, and rolling over, comes a remarkable new activity that is sure to provide you with hours of enjoyment. Just think, now, when the person behind you screams at you in frustration to, "Move the fuck out of the way, you moron!" you will actually know what to to do in order to comply with his or her polite request. Feel free to refer back to the Wikipedia article or any number of other helpful online sources if you have trouble remembering the correct sequence of motions (you can view this article by clicking on the title of this blog entry). Hell, now that we have all these handheld techno-geeky gadgets, the instructions will always be at your fingertips. Once you feel that you have mastered the art of walking, you may be ready to up the ante. Increasing the speed at which you ambulate your legs in the above-described forward motion will eventually result in a highly advanced and much more technical form of walking...RUNNING. I stress, this is not for beginners. Little is known about the benefits and drawbacks of running. However, one thing is clear. This activity will come in quite handy when I am behind you and struck with the overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to smack you upside the head.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In My Dreams?

If you've read my "Movies of the Decade" blog post from last October, you'll know that my Top 4 cinema selections from the 00's were, from #3 (tie) to #1, Memento, The Lookout, The Departed, and Hard Candy. Now, if you go read Entertainment Weekly's "Summer Movie Preview," you might be inclined to believe that somebody, somewhere, infiltrated my dreams and assembled my perfect storm of director and actors to come up with this Summer's sure-to-be blockbuster, Inception. Christopher Nolan, who helmed both Memento as well as the #16 entry on my list, The Dark Knight, wrote and directed this one. As for the cast? Let's start with Leonardo DiCaprio, who was part of the amazing ensemble from The Departed, and who also turned in a gritty performance in my #11 flick from last decade, Blood Diamond. Leo is joined this time around by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt (The Lookout), and Ellen Page (Hard Candy). And just for good measure, let's throw in The Dark Knight's Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine. Seriously, somebody was sifting through my thoughts while I slept. There's no other explanation for how they came up with this masterful array of silver screen professionals, tailored specifically to my off the beaten path tastes. But the real kicker? The film's plot is centered around a group of thieves who insert themselves into strangers' subconscious and steal their dreams for corporate gain! (Cue creepy Twilight Zone theme here) I mean, that's exactly what they did to me in order to create this movie! Now, of course, the only thing that remains to be seen is if Inception can live up to my lofty expectations. It seems like every time I think a dream cast has been assembled, I'm only left disappointed (see Heat, with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, and Chris Nolan's own Insomnia, with Pacino and Robin Williams). Al Pacino's not interfering this time, so hopefully, all will be well. All I know is, I know where I will be on July a movie theater, ready to add the next entry to my list of Top Movies of the '10's. Anyone else who wants to hop into my dream state and turn things into reality, feel free.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oscars Schmoscars

Well, since I'm always chiming in with my opinions on movies, I figured I'd throw my hat in the ring with respect to the Oscar races. I'm utilizing the typical Should Win/Will Win format, as employed by most major respectable magazines and newspapers, because...well...I'm not creative enough to come up with something original. So, here it goes...

Let's start with the least interesting...what Entertainment Weekly classifies as "The Other Races." These include Best Visual Effects, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. Safe to say, I wouldn't know a brilliant sound mixer if he or she hit me over the head with mixing machine. I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that Avatar SHOULD and WILL win all of these. It won't, but I know it should and will win at least half of those, so the odds are on my side here. Primarily, if it doesn't win Best Visual Effects, an international investigation needs to be launched.

Best Adapted Screenplay
SHOULD WIN: Precious - Geoffrey Fletcher
WILL WIN: Up in the Air - Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Best Original Screenplay
SHOULD WIN: I haven't seen either The Messenger or Up, but based on how much I enjoyed the other three films here, I'd say one of those two deserves to win.
WILL WIN: Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino. QT hasn't won anything significant since Pulp Fiction, so I expect this to be the Academy's make-up kiss to him. It's possible that voters might go with The Hurt Locker here in lieu of giving it the nod for the more major awards.

Best Supporting Actress
Mo'Nique (Precious) - I didn't quite flip out over this performance as much as others have, but it still blows away the other two nominees who I actually saw...Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air. Kendrick has no business being nominated for anything...she gave one of the most annoying performances of the year, in my opinion. I didn't see Nine, but it certainly looked ridiculous, and Penelope Cruz got her award last year. I also didn't see Crazy Heart, but according to general consensus, Jeff Bridges overshadows everything else in that film.
WILL WIN: Mo'Nique - this is as much of a lock as Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem were a couple years ago for There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. There is absolutely no way on Earth Mo'Nique loses.

Best Supporting Actor
Haven't seen enough of these films, but I wonder why Alfred Molina wasn't rewarded with a nomination over Matt Damon (Invictus) for his work in An Education. I walked out of the theater halfway into that film, but he was the only even mildly entertaining aspect of it.
WILL WIN: Christoper Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) - Not quite as much of a walk as with Supporting Actress, but close. If The Lovely Bones had been a box office and critical success, this would have been Stanley Tucci's to lose, but the lackluster response to that film led The Messenger's Woody Harrelson and especially Waltz to leapfrog him in the awards season showdowns.

Best Actress
Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia) - On another planet, in another cosmos, in some distant time, Sandra Bullock's name might warrant mentioning in the same sentence as Streep's. But sorry, Sandy...not in this world. The surprising thing for me, was how much I actually enjoyed Julie and Julia. That marks the second year in a row that Streep led the charge in what I thought was one of the best films, or in last year's case of Doubt, THE best film, of the year. I was also surprised that I liked The Blind Side, but it was not even close to J&J.
WILL WIN: Meryl Streep - She's becoming the Susan Lucci of the Oscars. Although she won three awards earlier in her career, she's 0 for her last 12 nominations. I think it's time to put an end to that nonsense. I can only pray that Bullock's name is not called, which it may well be. I also think Gabourey Sidibe deserved more buzz for her performance in Precious. Why did Mo'Nique get all the attention there when she was only in a supporting role?

Best Actor
My SHOULD WIN unfortunately wasn't even within 10,000 miles of being considered for a nomination. Robert DeNiro in Everybody's Fine, to me, was a return to form for our generation's greatest actor. I still don't get how nobody else liked that film. Out of the actual nominees, again by virtue of the fact that I didn't like the three movies I saw (Invictus, Up in the Air, and The Hurt Locker), I'd say either Colin Firth (A Single Man) or Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).

WILL WIN: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) - If you had asked me three months ago, I would have said George Clooney, hands down. Crazy Heart originally wasn't even supposed to be released in time for this year's Oscar race. So Bridges basically came out of nowhere, but it looks like he is a strong favorite.

Best Director
James Cameron (Avatar) - I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but I say this with extreme seriousness; if Cameron loses to The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow, his ex-wife, somebody, somewhere should die a slow and painful death. I mean honestly, there will be no comprehensible excuse. There's already no excuse for her beating him for the Director's Guild Award - a primary reason many people now think she'll actually win the damn Oscar. True, I know nothing about the nuances of film direction, but for the love of Pandora, Cameron freakin' invented the technology he used to helm Avatar. He basically revolutionized film making as we know it, with the entire industry now scrambling to figure out how to make every film 3D and not look like colossal failures up against Cameron's benchmark work. Please tell me how...HOW does Bigelow's accomplishment even approach this level? Thankfully, she's the only threat and no one else has a shot.
WILL WIN: I'm sticking to my guns and saying James Cameron wins.

Best Picture
Avatar - It bears repeating that Cameron is easily a much better director than he is a writer, as the story here was not up to snuff. But for once, that truly was nearly inconsequential. I think it's painfully ironic that this was the year, of all years, that the Academy opted to expand to 10 nominees in this category. I mean, this is the freakin' year where they may as well have had only ONE nominee. For me, it's Avatar, and then everyone else. The blood, sweat, and tears that must have gone into this film couldn't possibly be comparable to what it took to produce An Education or The Blind Side. People completely overlook how difficult the acting tasks must have been...playing against blank screens, having to get accustomed to the technology being used, and even learning an entirely new language! I just don't get how anyone else is even in this conversation.

Avatar - Again, many people believe The Hurt Locker is now the film to beat. I'm thinking that babies and kittens will cry if that happens. And we wouldn't want that. I say saner heads will prevail. As an anonymous industry Producer so eloquently put it in an Entertainment Weekly sampling of how four Academy voters voted, "He (Cameron) is such a bastard. He's really a hard guy to root for, and always has been, but what he created with this movie--just the beauty of it--he blew me away." Even THAT chick didn't vote for The Hurt Locker!

I'm still looking forward to seeing more of the nominated films, so there are some holes in my analysis here, but oh well...there are other things besides movies.