Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year -- End of the List

Made it to the end of the list of Golden Globe nominees today.

I missed seeing "Pineapple Express" in the theater so I'll need to rent it when it comes out next week. James Franco is nominated for Best Actor, Comedy or Musical.

And there are two nominees for Best Foreign Language Picture I haven't been able to find: "Baader Meinhof Complex" and "Everlasting Moments."

But I've now seen all the others.

Today I watched "Defiance" which is only nominated for Best Original Score -- but I thought it was an excellent movie. A classic one to end the year.

It tells the true story about Jews who escaped into the forest to fight the Nazis and save their own lives. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell play three brothers who lead the way.
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Monday night I went to the Encino Town Center movie theater (they were happy to let me in right away) to see "Waltz With Bashir."

This movie, nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Picture is completely fascinating.

It's a documentary about former Israeli soldiers still haunted by Israel's war with Lebanon in the 80s.

But here's the twist -- it's an animated film. In fact it's only Israel's second-ever animated feature-length film.

Many interviews are depicted via animation as are images of war. There's something about not wondering "how they got that shot" makes this experience all the more gripping.
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Bye Bye Santa

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I've been busy seeing lots of movies.

I'm nearly at the end of the list of Golden Globe nominees.
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On Christmas Day I had the chance to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

It's based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man born old who grows younger as his life proceeds.

An interesting concept turned into a beautiful and charming movie. Epic in its sweep and clocking in a 2 hours and 47 minutes, it didn't seem long to me.

Stretching from the end of WWI to the onset of Hurricane Katrina, this movie sure makes New Orleans look like a lovely place to live.

No wonder it garnered 5 Golden Globe nominations.
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Friday night I went to see "Revolutionary Road" nominated for four Golden Globes.

The ArcLight Theater is displaying costumes worn by Leonardo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet.

What can I tell you about this movie? It was completely joyless and I hated it. Two hours about two people caught in a loveless marriage yelling at each other. I've seen it before. It was called "My Childhood."
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Saturday I took in "Cadillac Records" about Chess Records and the recording of "race music," as it was called in the 50s.

I wanted to like this movie but I just didn't find it very interesting. I did, however, like the parade of lovely, gigantic Cadillacs from the era.

Sometimes you just can't win for trying. Originally I set out to see "Waltz With Bashir," an Israeli film nominated for Best Foreign Language Picture at the Laemmele Royale Theater. I got to the theater about 45 minutes before the second showing of the day and figured I'd just sit in one of the comfy chairs in the theater lobby and read my newspaper. After I bought my ticket the theater manager told me I couldn't come in until 15 minutes before the show began. She suggested I "go to a coffee shop or a library" to read the newspaper.

At that point I demanded a refund, wished the manager "good luck with your business" and made my way to see "Cadillac Records" at the Regency Fairfax. As you can see from the photo above, the theater heater wasn't working. And they weren't kidding -- it was freezing inside. But I wore my jacket and kept my hands in my pockets and toughed it out.
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Sunday I went to see "Last Chance Harvey" for which both Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are nominated for Golden Globes.

What a charming picture! Hoffman plays a man at the end of a string of bad luck who bumps into Emma Thompson, similarly unlucky in love. The movie is very predictable, but utterly delightful. And Emma Thompson couldn't be more lovely and perfect for the role.

The scenery in and around London doesn't hurt either. But every time "Harvey" took a cab to Heathrow both I and Fabrice (who I went to see the movie with) cringed because it's so expensive. Harvey -- you gotta take the Heathrow Express.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

Went back to the ArcLight Theater on Sunset Boulevard Tuesday night to see "The Wrestler." I was glad to see before they showed the movie an usher gave the traditional "Welcome to the ArcLight" speech. The screening went off without a hitch.

Nominated for three Golden Globes, "The Wrestler" features on heck of a performance by Mickey Rourke as a washed-up professional wrestler determined to have one last ride on the glory train. It's a very touching look at fleeting fame, aging and building relationships. And it's very, very funny in parts.

My Grandfather Green used to love watching wresting on TV. Looking back on it, I think he really liked the outrageousness of the characters. And it was a waste of time telling him it was all rigged. He wouldn't hear of it. He was adamant. I learned early on just not to go there.

Speaking of older gentlemen with strongly held views, tonight I went to see Clint Eastwood's new movie "Gran Torino," nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Song (actually sung by Clint Eastwood). Eastwood plays a crotchety widower who is very free about expressing his racism and disdain in general. In fact, he regularly growls during the movie.

No one is proud of rooting for a racist, but kind of like Don Rickles with a shotgun, Eastwood's character has more bark than bite. And there's something kind of cool about seeing a 70-year old Dirty Harry. And pity the poor gang bangers in the neighborhood who decide to make his day.
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Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, "Gomorrah" is a look at real-life organized crime in Italy. This is no Hollywood glamorization of the mob. Instead it shows how organized crime takes hold of a community, conscripting its young men and sentencing them to an eventual early death. Kind of a grim 2 hours during the Holidays.
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Across the walkway from the ArcLight movie theater there's a fancy cooking school. Currently they have a collection on gingerbread houses on display in the window. I'm guessing that's the final exam.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

The Dog Walker

With GeezBob out of town visiting his parents for a week, I'm responsible for feeding and walking his dog, Eugene, daily.

Eugene is a sweet dog but he's very lively. He's coming to understand that I'm walking him, not the other way around.

As I explained to Eugene on our first walk, "I'm the Human and you're the Dog." He promptly responded by peeing on the nearest tree.

I grew up with four Great Danes so it's nostalgic to be around a largish dog.
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Sunday night I had Christmas dinner with my mother's side of my family at Sisley Italian Kitchen at the ginormous Victoria Gardens mall in Rancho Cucamonga.

It was nice to see everyone and the restaurant seemed like a perfect pick for us. It was lively but quiet enough we could talk to each other without shouting. And I knew we were in the right place when I saw an article from Restaurant News posted in the bathroom with the headline, "Sisley Italian Kitchen -- Good Food with Enormous Portions."
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After dinner I went to the AMC Theater at Victoria Gardens to see "Bolt," nominated for two Golden Globes -- Best Animated Film and Best Song.

It started slow but a plot twist revealed why the beginning was so lame. It's a fun movie about a dog that thinks it's a superhero. Some of the characters are very funny.

But during the movie I kept thinking about how much Bolt looks like Eugene. Maybe I should paint a lightening bolt on Eugene's side while GeezBob is away. Unfortunately, I don't think Eugene would stand still long enough.
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Friday night GeezBob and I went and had our annual Christmas dinner at Lawry's The Prime Rib restaurant. It was still packed when we got there at 9:30 p.m. After dinner GeezBob caught a red eye flight home for the holidays -- that's why we went so late. Last I heard his 1:00 a.m. flight was leaving at 3:30 a.m. Lovely.
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I don't remember our waitress spinning the bowl of salad on the crushed ice -- a key part of the famous "spinning salad bowl." But she's been there for 20 years so I guess she knows what she's doing. (She got my special requests right -- no beets and no tomatoes.)
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A chilled fork for your salad?
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I love it when they pull up the silver cart and carve the meat.
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Dinner is served!
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The Carolers seemed a little scarce Friday night, but I'm glad we saw them in the lobby before we sat down.
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Each year before New Year's Day Lawry's holds the Beef Bowl where both teams playing in the Rose Bowl come to the restaurant for a Prime Rib dinner. This year the two teams, the Trojans and Penn State, are going to the Beef Bowl on December 26 and 27. The restaurant has a display in the lobby featuring pictures from past years when the Trojans and Penn State participated. I especially like the picture in the middle when Traveler apparently came into Lawry's for the 1963 Beef Bowl.
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This is so Southern California! It's 60 degrees out and at Victoria Gardens they run a hose up a tree and blow "snow" over the Town Square a couple of times each evening leading up to Christmas. Folks hold their hands up and pretend it's real snow.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fix 'em in the Eyes with a Masterful Gaze

Wednesday night I went to see my all-time favorite movie, "Auntie Mame," at it's annual Christmastime screening at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

Every time I see this movie I notice something new. Tonight I focused on how funny the Comden and Green script is and how impeccable Rosalind Russell's comic timing is.

Pippa Scott (left) was on-hand to answer questions. She played Pegeen Ryan in the movie -- the girl who ends up with the boy.

She said during the pre-screening reception someone casually asked her (not knowing she was in the movie) if she realized the movie was made 50 years ago. I'm sure her response of "you're kidding," came with timing that would have made Russell proud.
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Monday night I went to see "Rachel Getting Married" for which Anne Hathaway is nominated for a Golden Globe. She certainly gives an amazing performance as a young woman just out of rehab who returns to her family home just in time for her sister's wedding. And the battle to see who gets the most attention during the wedding is on!

I was blown away by how this film presents the strength of a sibling relationship, strained yet impenetrable at the same time. I'm always fascinated by depictions of sibling relationships. I have three half-sisters, one half-brother, a step-brother and a step-sister (welcome to the 70s) but they're all much younger than me. I can't take my eyes of Hollywood portrayals of brothers and sisters of nearly the same age.

Tuesday night I went to see the much awaited "Doubt" starring Meryl Streep. I'd seen the play twice, once with Cherry Jones and once with Linda Hunt, so I was interested to see how it turned out on the big screen.

They certainly could do more with the story as a movie (the play only has four performers). Streep, of course, is amazing. (Hard to believe this is the same woman who sang her way through "Mamma Mia.") I just wish they hadn't been so heavy-handed with the allegories. (Do we really need heavy rain to cue the audience that things are getting tense?)

I went to see "Doubt" at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood. Movies here always start with a short welcoming speech by one of the ushers. They detail the care that goes into showing the movie and give the audience instruction on what to do if there's a problem. Well, Tuesday night there was no speech. And, sure enough, two minutes into the movie the screen went dark. After a couple of minutes they brought the lights up and an usher explained they were fixing the problem and the film would resume shortly. I hollered out the reason for the problem was because they didn't do the welcoming speech. No "doubt" about it at all.
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The end of an era! I finished cleaning out my office today as part of a transition to a home office. I'm excited about reducing my commute -- and the sort of work I do lends itself to a home office.

But I was dreading cleaning out twelve years of accumulated stuff. And while I've been in this office for 12 years I've actually had the same desk for nearly 19 years. Going through the drawers today I found half a box of business cards from the very first Woodward & McDowell campaign I was part of -- Yes on 111 & 108 in June, 1990. That was so long ago the area code for our office on the Westside was still 213.

I got a little emotional when I saw the cards because when I took that job as the "Central Coast Field Representative" I figured it was for just a four-month gig.
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The last thing I took out of my office was my Taxfighter outfit -- complete with hat, gloves, cape and sword. It's hung on the side of my bookcase for the last several years after I was awarded it on Election Night following the No on 56 campaign (56 would have made it easier for the California Legislature to increase taxes).

I can't tell you how many people have been in the my office and mentioned something or other that caught their eye, but no one has EVER inquired about the Taxfighter outfit hanging there for the world to see. I wonder if that says more about them or me?
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