Friday, February 29, 2008

A Terrible View

Caught the horrid movie "Vantage Point" last night at The Grove. This is one of the worst movies I've seen in a long, long time.

There are so many problems with it it's hard to know where to begin.

First off, the movie starts with re-showing the twenty minutes surrounding a presidential assassination five times from different perspectives. Boring! The audience was noticeably groaning by the start of the third retelling.

Then how about unrealistic! The president's motorcade pulls into a crowded plaza in Spain and the president, in full view of thousands of spectators, gets out of the limo and walks past screaming demonstrators (two feet away from him). That would never happen!

Then there's this ridiculous car chase that turns on unbelievable coincidences.

Flat acting by Sigourney Weaver, Dennis Quaid and Forrest Whittaker makes you wonder when they'll get caught on camera saying, "where's my check?"

How in the world was this movie Number One at the Box Office last weekend?
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sort Of

Went to see the new romantic comedy "Definitely, Maybe" tonight. It's a perfectly fine movie about a divorcing Dad (Ryan Reynolds) who tells his young daughter (Abigail Breslin) how he fell in love with her Mother.

Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") is just an adorable cutie-patootie. It's hard to imagine that 10 years from now we'll be reading about her driving over some paparazzi's foot while fleeing a crack deal gone wrong.

Reynolds plays a young guy who moved to New York City in 1992 to work on the Clinton for President campaign. Sometimes it really bugs me to see how campaigns are depicted in the movies. For instance, in this movie Reynolds is given a chance to prove himself by calling potential donors for an upcoming dinner -- and everyone working in the headquarters (and there's way too many of them) just stops and watches him while he's making his phone calls and then cheer when he sells "a whole table." Hello! Don't the rest of them have any assignments?

Afterwards I had dinner at the new Lawry's Carvery in the Century City Mall. This is a fast order version of the famed Lawry's restaurant on La Cienega. I thought the food was very good but it seemed too expensive for a counter in a Food Court.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

That's So Money

Caught the excellent Oscar winning (as of Sunday night) movie "The Counterfeiters" Monday night.

From Austria, it's about a Nazi plot near the end of WWII to forge enough British pounds and U.S. dollars to cause the collapse of both economies -- using concentration camp prisoners to do the forgery.

The prisoners faced the dilemma of helping the Nazis in exchange for "better" treatment and life itself.

The movie does an amazing job of forcing the audience to consider which impossible choice they would make.
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reaching for the Stars

I've tallied up my Oscar predictions and I got 17 out of 24 right (71%). That's better than last year when I got 15 out of 24 (63%) right. But it only ties my success rate in 2006 when I also correctly predicted 17 out of 24. Oh well, there's always next year.

Above is the dramatic lobby of the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero Hotel in San Francisco where I spent most of today.
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Front Row Freddie

Well, I finally made it to a political event deemed worthy of sending the C-SPAN bus.
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Saturday afternoon I went to see the A.C.T. production of "Blood Knot" by Athol Fugard (one of my all-time favorite playwrights).

Originally performed in South Africa in 1961, this play tells the story of two brothers -- one a dark-skinned black and one light-skinned enough to pass for white. It examines ingrained racism and how skin color affects behavior -- of both whites and blacks.

In 1961 South Africa's laws prohibited multiracial events, yet Fugard -- a white man -- performed this two man play with his friend Zakes Mokae, a black jazz saxophonist-turned-actor.

Fugard has this amazing ability to tackle taboo topics in a meaningful way where the dialogue soars yet is completely believable at the same time.

When I bought my ticket I was seated in Row J, but when I picked up my ticket the Box Office agreed to move me to an empty seat in Row AA. I just love being that close.
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Saturday night I went to the new Cirque du Soleil show "Kooza" currently running in San Jose.

Written and directed by one of America's all-time great clowns, David Shiner, this show is more circus-y than other recent Cirque shows. I really enjoyed the emphasis on clowning and human daring-do.

You got your juggler, you got your unicyclist with a lady standing on his head, you got your Wheel of Death, you got your tightrope walker, you got your teeter boards, you got your guy balancing on 10 stacked up chairs, etc.

Even though I only bought my ticket on Thursday I was lucky enough to snag a seat front row, center.

You haven't seen contortionists until you've seen them contort from Row AA.
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You're not allowed to take photos inside the tent, but I snapped this photo during the cast's bows to prove how close I was sitting.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Year of the Rat

Flew up to San Francisco today to attend the California Republican Party convention this weekend.

But before the convention began I had the chance to catch some interesting Bay Area theater. I went to The Garage Theater to see an interesting show called "Disney & Deutschland." It's about the real-life meeting between Walt Disney and Adolf Hitler in 1935. Of course, there's no record of their actual conversation, so this show imagines it based on Disney's known attitude against Jews and unions.

Let's just say Hitler didn't like mice -- talking or not -- and the layout for Disneyland came from an unexpected source.

I thought the cast did a good job of recreating some of history's most colorful characters. But don't think this show is a comedic romp. It's a pretty brutal look at the anti-semitism that fueled the Third Reich, an attitude that certainly wasn't limited to the borders of Germany.

But on a lighter look at Hollywood -- since I'll be running around all weekend I'm going to post my Oscar predictions tonight.

I got pretty close to my goal of seeing every film nominated for an Oscar. Here's what I DIDN'T see:

"In the Valley of Elah" which earned Tommy Lee Jones a Best Actor nomination.

"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

All five of the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.

All five of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film.

And that's it. I saw everything else.

So here are my predictions. (Note: These may be different than what I think SHOULD win. This is what I think WILL win.)

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men

Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis ("I drink your milkshake. I drink it up.")

Actress: Jule Christie

Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem ("Call it, friend-o.")

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett

Original Screenplay: Juno

Adapted Screenplay: No Country for Old Men

Animated Film: Ratatouille

Art Direction: There Will Be Blood

Cinematography: There Will Be Blood

Costume Design: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Documentary Feature: No End in Sight

Documentary Short Subject: Sari's Mother (a complete guess)

Film Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Foreign Language Film: The Counterfeiters

Makeup: La Vie en Rose

Original Score: Atonement

Original Song: Falling Slowly from Once

Animated Short: Peter & the Wolf

Live-Action Short: At Night

Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Visual Effects: Transformers

So there you have it -- my 24 predictions for Oscar night.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Who You Wearing?

Saturday night I went to see Joan Rivers' show, "A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress" at the Geffen Playhouse.

Though not strictly a one-woman show (there are three other actors in it), it's an opportunity for Rivers to talk about her life, her career, her relationship with her late husband and daughter and to settle a few scores (Johnny Carson doesn't turn out too well).

Every now and then the lights would go down on the other actors and Rivers would basically turn to a stand-up style of delivery. The show would really take of when she'd do that. She can still slay an audience.

However, I could have done without the scene where she paints her toenails on stage.

The last time I saw Joan Rivers perform live was January 19, 1981 at USC. You might wonder how I could possibly remember the exact date. Well, that was the evening of my 18th birthday. I remember it well.

Celebrity Sighting: Went back to Jerry's Famous Deli for dinner before the show. Fortunately, the kitchen had its act together this time and I was actually able to eat there. Mark Feuerstein, who is starring in the small theater at the Geffen in Neil LaBute's "Some Girl(s)" was having a pre-show dinner. When did Jerry's become the un-official canteen for the Geffen Playhouse? Well, it certainly is convenient to the theater.
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Outside the doors to the auditorium there were two actors pretending they were hosting a pre-show, commenting on members of the audience as they filed in. It was very funny and a nice touch.
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Had a great, great lunch with Rochelle on Friday at Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza.

They place was packed and normally folks call up to 30 days in advance for a reservation. But when I called on Thursday they had just had a cancellation and I snagged it.

The pizza was outstanding -- crisp and tasty. Not that we limited ourselves to pizza. We had appetizers, salad, pizza and dessert. My dessert even came with little spice cookies shaped like a pig. After our four-course meal that seemed a little appropriate.

As you can see from the photo above, the place was slammed. Folks even seemed eager to sit at one of the two long counters.
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We had a noon reservation and the restaurant doesn't open until noon. Actually on Friday they were a few minutes late opening and there was a line to get in. But once they opened up everyone got seated pretty quickly.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Buck Stops Where?

Caught the very powerful Academy Award-nominated documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side" tonight.

This film makes a very compelling case that the blame for the U.S. mistreatment of "enemy combatants" from Afghanistan and Iraq lies squarely at the feet of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and not the front-line soldiers who were convicted for it.

Though it lacks the sense of humor of a Michael Moore documentary, it's a very well done movie.

I'm thinking this one may win the Oscar.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Had a great dinner Monday night at Dominick's -- a wonderful Italian restaurant in West Hollywood that manages to be modern and old fashioned at the same time.

Their Monday night dinner special is lasagne. I was there about a year ago, also on a Monday. I had my heart set on the lasagne. But right before I could order the table next to our's placed their order -- and all six of them ordered the lasagne, wiping out the evening's supply! Man, was I upset.

This time I ordered really quickly. And while the restaurant was empty when my friend, Brandon, and I got there, it was hopping when we left.

And the lasagne was worth the wait. And how great is it to live somewhere where it's pleasant to sit outside on a mid-February night?

Funny thing, I've been to Dominick's three times and each time I've been seated at the same table on the patio.

Have you seen this video yet? It's two little brothers (I'm guessing), one named Charlie. It's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen on the Internet.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Hate to Lose....Things

Flew home from San Francisco (photo above) Thursday night. After my flight took off I went to check my watch to figure out what time we'd be landing at LAX and it was gone! I couldn't remember taking it off and I remembered looking at it earlier in the evening.

I thought maybe it had come off while I was taking off my coat so I got down on my hands and knees and looked under my seat. I asked the flight attendant it anyone had turned in a black watch. I explained it wasn't very valuable but I'd had it a long time and I hate losing things. But there was no sign of it.

I spent the rest of the hour stewing about life without my watch. Should I now just live watchless and get the time off my mobile phone? Should I start wearing a watch a friend gave me as a gift at Christmastime? Should I go out and buy another black Swatch watch?

As we landed the flight attendant made an announcement asking if anyone had found a black watch (which I thought was very nice). But I was resigned to the fact my little friend was gone.

We landed and as I opened the overhead compartment (where no items had shifted in flight) there was my watch, sitting patiently waiting for me to find it. Apparently I busted the buckle while putting my bag in the overhead.

Friday night I went to the Swatch store in the Beverly Center where they replaced the buckle free of charge. The clerk seemed impressed that someone was still wearing a Swatch watch purchased in 1991. (I didn't remember which year I bought it but the clerk was able to read some tiny lettering on the watch's face that includes the year it was manufactured.)

Saturday night I went to see the Reprise! production of "Li'l Abner" at the Freud Playhouse at UCLA.

The show opened on Broadway in November, 1956 and ran for 693 performances and captured 3 Tony Awards.

It's a fun show based on the famed cartoon strip with quite a collection of characters from Dogpatch. Cathy Rigby stars as Mammy Yokum -- and boy if she can't still do flip-flops on stage. Fred Willard shows up as General Bullmoose. And Eric Martsolf -- -- certainly impresses as Abner Yokum.

But it's the lyrics by Johnny Mercer that make this a winning show.

Several demerits, however, to T. J. Hoban, who makes a brief appearance on stage as one of the "After-Husbands," for cutting me off in the parkling lot following the show.

Celebrity Sighting: Before the show GeezBob and I had dinner at Jerry's Famous Deli in Westwood. While waiting for dinner to be cooked we spotted Joan Rivers, whose own one-woman show (which I'm seeing next Saturday) is running at the Geffen Playhouse two blocks from Jerry's. (Unfortunately, I'd gone off without bringing my camera.)

The kitchen at Jerry's was really slow last night. 40 minutes after placing our order the food finally arrived. GeezBob's Chicken Schnitzel was burned and my Taco Salad ordered without tomatoes or salsa came with both tomatoes AND salsa. We were in danger of missing the curtain so we told the manager we were leaving. The lady at the booth next to us -- who also was distressed by how slow the kitchen was -- seemed impressed by our action. "Look, Irv, they're leaving," she said to her husband.
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Not Quite Clear on the Concept

I spent awhile Election Night in the newsroom of KGTV in San Diego. They set me up on a computer at the Assignment Desk so I could check out the election returns coming in from the Secretary of State's office.

They had the police scanner on, the fire scanner on and various video feeds. Complete sensory overload. I asked the guy at the assignment desk how he gets any work done in that environment. He said after awhile you learn to filter it all out.

At about 10:15 p.m. they led me onto the set during a commercial break with news broadcast in progress. The results weren't looking too good for us but I was ready to give my analysis. They had a representative from the Yes campaign on the set to and I was interested to hear his analysis of the results as well.

We came out of the commercial break and the two anchors started asking us questions. I quickly realized they weren't asking us about the results, instead they were expecting us -- two hours after the polls closed -- to debate the issue!

I was so not mentally prepared for that. For half a second I thought about telling them how stupid it was to expect us to debate the pros and cons of a ballot measure after the polls were closed.

But like a good trained monkey I hit my mark and went for the key points. Maybe a bitter version of the key points, but the key points nonetheless.
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Now I'm in San Francisco for a meeting tomorrow with a little more time on my hand.

So I'm able to search out some interesting political sights -- for instance, above is one of the bullet holes in the side of St. Francis Hotel from when a would-be assassin tried to shoot President Ford.
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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How It All Ends

I'm spending tonight in San Diego commenting on election results on KGTV (the ABC affiliate) and other media outlets. I think it's going to be a long night.

Above is a picture of downtown San Diego from my hotel room.
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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Radio Daze

Sunday began pretty early when my alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. so I could guest on KLSX-FM in Los Angeles at 6 in the morning.

Nelson and Secoro host the show and I've been on with them a few times over the years. The clock on the wall documents the early hour after our 30 minute segment was over.

The Yes campaign refused to participate in the show. They told Nelson they had a "previous commitment." A previous commitment at 6 in the morning on a Sunday. Right!
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Drove to Bakersfield on Saturday to appear on the KERN-AM show hosted by State Senator Roy Ashburn. The Yes campaign refused to participate in the show, which is odd since Senator Ashburn has endorsed Props. 94 to 97 (though he said on the air yesterday he voted against the compacts in the legislature and he voted No on 94 to 97 when he mailed in his absentee ballot).

Though he's only hosted the show for five weeks, Ashburn is a natural. Or as he said when our hour on the air came to a close, "flawless."
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