Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End Mileage Run

At year's end I was three flight segments short of maintaining my 1K status with United Airlines -- earned by either flying 100,000 miles or 100 flight segments in a calendar year. As of December 19 I was at 97 segments.

So today I flew up and back to Reno solely to stay a 1K. 2 segments up (LAX to SFO to RNO) and 1 segment back (RNO to LAX).

I got there around 2:30 p.m. and left on an 8 p.m. flight. That was just enough time to have a meal in the Coffee Shop at the Silver Legacy casino and to play a little blackjack. Fortunately I won more than my airfare at the casino -- and I used points to pay for my rental car and parking at LAX.

So it was a fun way to end the year, even though it was c-o-l-d COLD in Reno.

I'm going to bed soon because tomorrow is a big day. Anyone who regularly reads this blog should be able to predict I'm spending tomorrow in Pasadena at the Grandaddy Of Them All.
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An elaborate fountain marks the passageway between the El Dorado and Silver Legacy casinos.
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Me Either

Went to see the not-entertaining Todd Haynes movie "I'm Not There," for which Cate Blanchett is nominated for a Golden Globe.

Over the course of the the movie several actors, including Blanchett, play a Bob Dylan inspired character, each of whom has a different name but all of whom speak in that Mr. Mumbles style of his.

Talk about a movie director's vanity piece. By substituting different actors playing the same character -- Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett, for instance -- the audience never is allowed inside the story. Instead one is left to focus on how the storyteller -- the director -- is choosing to tell his story.

And while Blanchett makes for an interesting Bob Dylan, her performance was no better than Heath Ledger's (though it was far superior to Christian Bale's turn as Dylan).
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Color Green

Went to see "Oprah Winfrey Presents The Color Purple" at the Ahmanson Theater last night. It's an entertaining musical that takes an express trip through the life of an African-American woman during the first half of the last century.

It was fascinating to watch the actors age on stage. But it seemed to happen so suddenly. "Hello, I'm 40. But now I'm 50."

But there's no denying the talent of the cast, with some amazing singing on display.

Just glad I had the opportunity to contribute to Oprah's expanding fortune.
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Before the show, my friend Michael (celebrating a birthday) and I had dinner at the new 24-hour restaurant, Mode, at Ninth and Olive downtown.

It's been getting a lot of press lately for being a trendy restaurant on the border between "new" and "old" downtown Los Angeles. And when I heard Rochelle Lewis had lunch there on Friday I decided I'd better get it in gear if I want to keep up with the Joneses.

It'll be interesting to see what happens here. The food (French Country) was OK and the service was uneven. When you can shoot a cannon through a place on a Saturday night and not hit anyone -- that's a bad sign. But with more and more hipsters living downtown they need a place to be themselves. What better than a restaurant with a giant catwalk down the middle of it?
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Moviewise, I went to see "Gone Baby Gone," which marks the directorial debut of Ben Affleck, starring his younger brother, Casey Affleck, and for which Amy Ryan is nominated for a Golden Globe.

It's about a missing child and Ryan gives a very convincing performance as a major skank.
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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Friday Night Fight

"The Savages," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney was my Friday night choice of entertainment. Hoffman is nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. Linney's performance is every bit as great as his.

Hoffman and Linney play a brother and sister forced with dealing with their abusive father in declining health. Phillip Bosco shows his acting chops as the Bad Dad.

It's a movie with dark humor, emotional moments and a hopeful future.

Before the show I had dinner at the westside classic, The Apple Pan -- a place for a great burger with an abusive atmosphere all its own. Folks were really jostling for the few open seats around the counter last night. Lots of arguments over "who was here first" and questions about why they don't keep a list of names. I guess the answer "because they never have during the last 60 years," wasn't satisfactory.
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Friday, December 28, 2007

128 Minutes

Last night I caught "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," a Romanian film nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Movie.

Set in Soviet-controlled Romania in 1987, the film depicts life under communism for a college-age woman seeking an abortion.

Pretty grim on all accounts. The film focuses not so much on the politics of abortion but rather on life under government domination -- the black market for desirable commodities, the impact of central planning on careers, the indifference of hotel clerks (unless bribed) and the absurdity of bureaucratic rules.

It's a fascinating view into what life must have been like for people caught behind the Iron Curtain.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

There Will Be Oscars

Went to see the new movie "There Will Be Blood" last night and I still haven't stopped thinking about it.

I was completely blown away. Set in "Isabella County, California" at the turn of the last century, it's about the discovery of oil in California.

Daniel Day Lewis plays a VERY INTENSE oilman determined to build a pipeline to the sea (San Luis Obispo County).

The movie centers on him and Paul Dano, who plays a bible-thumpin' preacher. The two engage in a power-struggle that goes back and forth and back and forth over the decades.

The acting is so intense I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. This one may well win the Best Picture Oscar, though "No Country for Old Men" remains a major contender in my opinion.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Movie Marathon

Finished out the Christmas weekend by watching three movies nominated for Golden Globes -- two in a theater and one on DVD.

I caught "The Great Debators" on its Opening Day and I have to say I thought it was pretty pedestrian. Very predictable and not nearly as emotionally charged as you would expect given the topic -- a debate team from all-black Wiley College takes on the debate team from Harvard in the 1930s.

I also was disappointed by "La Vie En Rose." I'm interested in learning more about Edith Piaf but I didn't find this films storytelling to be very adept. She certainly had an interesting childhood -- first living at her Grandmother's brothel and then traveling with her Father in a circus.

But beyond that the film didn't really have much to say about Piaf as a person.
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I really liked "Lars and the Real Girl," for which Ryan Gosling's performance is nominated for a Golden Globe.

Gosling plays a very lonely and quirky young man who deals with some deep emotional issues by falling in love with a plastic woman. You can imagine his family's reaction when he brings "her" over for dinner. And then to a co-worker's birthday party. And then to church.

But what's so touching about the movie is how the small town he lives in comes to accept his oddity, recognizing we're all a little strange in our own way. And Bianca -- that's the doll's name -- becomes very special to the entire town. She even gets a "job" modeling dresses in a store window.

Patricia Clarkson -- who I adore -- plays the town's wise country doctor.
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Am The Egg Man

Spent Christmas Eve at the Cinerama Dome watching "Sweeney Todd." Not exactly traditional seasonal fare -- it's dark, it's bloody and it's morally ambiguous. I loved it.

Tim Burton has taken the Sondheim musical and created a classic. Johnny Depp is masterful as Todd.

Lots of awards on the horizon here.
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They have some of the original costumes from the movie on display at the ArcLight Cinema -- including the Mr. Pirrelli costume worn by Sascha Baron Cohen (right) and a couple of Helena Bonham Carter's costumes (left).
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Monday afternoon I was back in Norwalk at the Super Saver Cinema to see "Across the Universe." I even made it there on time.

Basically this is a jukebox musical that takes Beatles songs and weaves them into the story to propel it forward. The Beatles were (a little) before my time. I recognized nearly all the songs, but didn't realize they were Beatles tunes.

The story is pretty light -- Jude, from Liverpool, comes to America and falls in love.

I was checking my watch by the end of the movie, but I have to admit the ending was tremendous.

Julie Taymor -- who brought "The Lion King" to the stage -- directs the movie and, as you would expect, some of the visual images are stunning.
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Monday, December 24, 2007

Plan Bee

Went to The Grove last night to see "Charlie Wilson's War." What a disappointment! I guess it proves the old adage "the Congressional appropriations process is a boring topic for a movie."
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I went to the Super Saver Cinema in Norwalk with the intention of seeing "Across the Universe." But traffic was bad and I got there after the movie began, so instead I saw "The Bee Movie."

One of three movies nominated for Best Animated Feature Film, I thought it was OK. I really prefer hand drawn animation to computer animation. As, sorry, but I wasn't that impressed by Jerry Seinfeld's humor in the movie.
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Company's Calling

Saturday night I saw the Celebration Theater's modern reimagination of "A Christmas Carol." They turned Scrooge into the owner of a high-fashion design firm. But he still gets visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future -- and they scare the bejezus out of him.

In the end they have a Merry Christmas -- One and All.
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I'm very excited about having the time this weekend to work on my Golden Globes list.

Too bad the movies I saw Saturday weren't better.

I watched the George Clooney legal thriller "Michael Clayton" at the Culver Plaza Theater in Culver City. Too bad it wasn't very thrilling. Just a bunch of people chasing each other in cars. I paid $3.50 to see it and it was overpriced.

I rented "A Mighty Heart," the Angelina Jolie about the murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. Obviously a gruesome tale, and one I don't think is suited for being told in a movie. Lots of scenes of cellphones ringing in the dark.
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Cheer

Had a great dinner last night in Rancho Cucamonga with my Mother's side of my family. We ate at Lucille's BBQ Restaurant in the ginormous Victoria Gardens shopping mall. The food was good and, as you can see, the portions are ample.
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After dinner I went to the movie theater next door to work on my Golden Globes list. I caught "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." It's a VERY funny fake documentary about a rock star tracing his rise from Springberry, Arkansas (where he accidentally chops his brother clean in half with a machete -- an unfortunate incident which haunts him throughout his life) to rock stardom to isolation on a Tennessee farm (where he decides to face his demons to perform on stage after a 20 year absence to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award).

It's definitely an adult comedy, but it's wicked good fun. And it's two more ticks on my list.
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Friday morning started out with a bang -- a 7:30 a.m. (!) debate before the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce's Government Review Committee.

Afterwards I had a chance to stop off at one of my favorite spots for breakfast -- the 24th Street Cafe. Great biscuits!
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gonna Moose the Holidays

While the rest of the country slows down to enjoy the holidays -- with 40 plus days left until the February 5 election -- we're just cranking along. Spent last night in San Luis Obispo County and tonight in Kern County.

Had a good dinner last night at McClintock's Restaurant and Saloon in Paso Robles, where the walls are lined with trophy critters.
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End of another day in paradise -- sunset on Wednesday at the San Luis Obispo Airport.
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Spotted this house in Templeton today. Where do you think they store all of this stuff when it's not Christmastime? I guess that's one good thing about inflatable decorations.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

See Food, But No Seafood

GeezBob and I had our traditional Christmastime Dinner at Lawry's Prime Rib in Beverly Hills tonight. I like to go as close to Christmas as possible. I'm out of town tomorrow night and GeezBob is leaving for Iowa to see his parents on Thursday, so tonight was the night to go.

(I'm jealous GeezBob gets to be in Iowa right before the January 3rd caucus. I've asked him which candidate he's going to walk precincts for? Apparently none have motivated him to put his snow boots to use yet.)

Since it was raining pretty hard tonight the restaurant wasn't as packed as it normally is during the holidays.
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