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Pop culture junkie, native of Las Vegas, not really a writer.
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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Beauty of Mad Men #16

Season 4, Episode 4. "The Rejected"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One - Movie Review

I've read a number of reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One like this one from Cinematical.com that reviews the film from the perspective of someone who never read the books and isn't much of a fan. This is not one of those reviews. But it's also not a review from a rabid fan. I've read all the books, but I've only read each one once. I've seen all the films, but I don't rewatch every single one right before the next one is released. Of the past six films my favorite has always been number three, Prisoner of Azkaban, because Alfonso Cuaron is a magical filmmaker and I wish he'd had it in him to direct more of the Harry Potters.

With HP7 though, David Yates has really proven that ultimately the series belongs to him. I loved this film. It's of course darker than any prior entry because the stakes are the highest they've ever been and death is all around our heroic trio. I loved the brilliant Hermione who shows once again that if it wasn't for her, Harry and Ron would be lost (truthfully they would have perished a long, long time ago without her). I loved the three character actors (Sophie Thompson SQUEE!) who played Harry, Ron, and Hermione disguised by the use of Polyjuice Potion into Ministry of Magic employees. Their spot on mimicry of the young actors facial expressions and body movements lent a wonderful and welcome bit of comedy to an otherwise tense action sequence. I loved, loved, loved the animated sequence that illustrated the story of the Deathly Hallows. It was a gorgeous, exciting, and unique way to tell that important story.

I think the best testament to how much I loved this film though is that halfway through I completely forgot that it is only Part One and was shocked and dismayed when it ended! This was the first HP film in awhile that didn't FEEL as long as it was.

I can't wait for the summer and Part Two!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! For this lovely holiday I wanted to post a scene from my favorite Thanksgiving movie, Home for the Holidays directed by Jodie Foster with a fantastic cast including Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Charles Durning, and Anne Bancroft. It is funny and heartwarming and sad and honest and I love it. But instead of just picking one scene I saw that youtube has the film in its entirety, so I'm posting the whole thing here for you! Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Beauty of Mad Men #15

Season 2, Episode 11, "The Jet Set"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Freedom - Book Review

FreedomFreedom by Jonathan Franzen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. This is the first book I've ever read by Franzen and although, for the most part, I enjoyed his prose, I absolutely HATED his characters. They were all miserable people doing miserable things to one another. Occassionally I would find myself becoming sympathetic towards a character only to then have them do something so awful that I would find myself loathing them again. Call me old fashioned, but I have a hard time enjoying a book when I can't care about or root for at least one character. I will admit that Franzen turns it around a bit in the end. The last 80 pages or so I was finally compelled to FEEL for some of the characters and that was my favorite part of the book! If some of those good feelings could have been sprinkled throughout the other 500 pages of this tome I think I would have enjoyed it more. But overall this was a trying read for me. Some friends of mine have read this and absolutely loved it and they loved it for the exact same reason that I didn't. Maybe I'm just too positive and sunny of a person to allow myself to wallow in the miserableness for 500+ pages. Not that I'm trying to call my friends negative...oh geez, all this is just coming out wrong now...

Here's the gist:

- I enjoyed Franzen's evocative and painterly writing.
- I enjoyed the pop culture references which helped me feel like this story was truly of today's world, that these characters could actually be real.
- I didn't quite understand the passages that were supposed to be written as autobiography by the Patty character. Patty's autobiographical voice didn't seem any different from Franzen's voice, so that device didn't work for me.
- I wish the characters had been a bit more sympathetic throughout the story. It was hard for me sometimes to push on through because they were all so miserable that I didn't even care what happened to them.
- I'm not sure I would ever read anything else by Mr. Franzen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Beauty of Mad Men #14

Season 3, Episode 7, "Seven Twenty Three"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Artist Derek Eads

I just discovered the tumblr of artist Derek Eads.  His work is SO COOL and appeals to my movie buff pop culture sensibilities.  Check it out:

Almost Famous

Gary Oldman's various characters


Boogie Nights

Self Portrait

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beauty of Mad Men #13

Season 2, Episode 12, "The Mountain King"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A VERY DRAMATIC Jane Eyre - Trailer



Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Movie Review

Director Andrew Dominik must be a fan of Terrence Malick. His film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford shares a lot of the same qualities of a Malick film: languidly paced, little or no dialogue in certain scenes, vast sweeping wide shots, voice over narration. Luckily, I love Malick and I loved this film. And I don't mean to compare Dominik to Malick in an insulting way or a copycat way, it just struck me that Malick must have been an influence on Dominik.

This film is long. 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Some critics have complained about the length, but I kinda loved it. It really allowed the story to unfold, diving deep into these characters and the idea of celebrity and to allow the viewer to come to terms with the true nature of Jesse James' brutality. It also allowed for an exquisite building of tension until the audience is wired and ready for the ultimate climatic explosion. I mean the title is The ASSASSINATION of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford! You know it's coming! You are waiting and waiting for it! And then it does come and the movie isn't over and that's awesome! Now we get to experience the aftermath and a new kind of celebrity.

This film is stunning in it's beauty. Gifted cinematographer Roger Deakins paints incredible murals of light and landscape. You can feel the changes in the seasons as you watch the film.

Brad Pitt, himself a ginormous celebrity, was the perfect choice to play Jesse James who was the biggest celebrity of his day. He's excellent in this...revealing little by little the downward spiral of Jesse's paranoia, his mean streak, and cold brutality. Casey Affleck shows us something in his Robert Ford that I've never seen from him before as an actor: effortlessness and subtlety. He portrays the giddiness and sadness of a man who never outgrew his childhood hero worship with amazing sincerity. The supporting cast is just as accomplished as the two leads: Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner, Mary-Louis Parker, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Shepard. They all embody their roles, big and small, with an honesty and passion.

I encourage you all to rent this film. Don't be intimidated by the length. Pop yourself some popcorn, open a can of soda, sink yourself into the deepest corner of your sofa and spend an evening letting this story unfold in front of you. It's worth the time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cher on the cover of Vanity Fair

Cher is on the cover of the December Vanity Fair.  You gotta kinda love her, right?

Behind the scenes of the photo shoot:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trashcan Sinatras House Party

A few weeks ago I got the rare privilege of seeing one of my favorite bands of all time play a house party in my hometown of Las Vegas. I fell in love with Trashcan Sinatras back in 1990. I was a proud subscriber to one Sassy Magazine which had a monthly column called "Cute Band Alert." One month Trashcan Sinatras was the "cute band" and I immediately bought their debut album, Cake. I have been a loyal Trashcan fan ever since. Although they never broke big in the U.S. they do have a strong cult following of which these house parties were born. You can read about the first house party they played in Portland, OR here. When I heard through their official band newsletter that TCS would be playing a Vegas house party, I didn't balk at the $100 price tag, but instead looked at it as the opportunity to see for the first time a band I've loved for twenty years in an intimate and unique setting.

Now that I have had the experience I would have paid double that. I arrived an hour before the show start time with a dozen cupcakes from Retro Bakery and a case of Stella Artois. Yes, this party was pot luck and byob. The first thing I noticed as I came through the door was lead singer Frank Reader wandering around the house talking on a cell phone!!! I introduced myself to the few people in the room and then stood quietly, sipping a beer, and trying not to appear as excited as I felt as I noticed other band members mingling about.

The show itself consisted of two stripped down sets. Stephen Douglas played on a limited drums/percussion setup, Paul Livingston played an electric guitar, Frank Reader and John Douglas played acoustic guitars. They used no bass guitar. Lee Grant, our party host, was invited to play his own piano with the band on one song, A Coda. The forty-five or so guests stood or sat in folding chairs in a semi-circle around the band. The band was friendly, surprisingly funny, and seemed genuinely pleased to be playing for us all.

There was a break after the first set and I went onto the back porch where I had a smoke and some conversation with John Douglas and was soon joined by Stephen Douglas and Paul Livingston, who bummed a few drags off my cigarette. I offered him his own, but he only wanted a few drags off mine, if that was all right. It was. We shared a smoke. We all talked about their tour, which was ending soon, about Scotland (where Stephen and John still live) and L.A. (where Paul and Frank now live) about Las Vegas, and about music of course. Paul Livingston said the first concert he ever went to was The Smiths (!) in '85 or '86. There was then much discussion about Johnny Marr as a guitarist and how it seems that he's never been able to shine as much as he did with The Smiths and why don't they just get back together already! I eventually got up the courage to explain my discovery of them through Sassy magazine, which Stephen laughed at and said he actually remembered, although he would have called them scruffy back then rather than cute.

After a longer second set where the ease and comfort between band and audience grew to a level that really brought home to everyone what a special and unique experience this really was, the night ended. The band started tearing down their equipment but were also very happy to sign posters, t-shirts, or anything else you might want them to sign, and take pictures with people. They also sold flash drives with the audio of concert we had just witnessed burned to them. They are trying to make a bit of money after all. I bought a poster, had each band member sign it, bought a flash drive, and a t-shirt that reads, Trashcan Sinatras - Legendary Scottish Band. How awesome is that?

Here's the setlist followed by photos of the show and a video of Lee playing piano on A Coda with the band:

First Set
Easy On The Eye
All The Dark Horses
Wild Mountainside
Only Tongue Can Tell
The Safecracker
Easy Read
I Wish You'd Met Her
I Hung My Harp Upon The Willows
How Can I Apply?
Unfortunate Age

Second Set
Got Carried Away
Send For Henny
In The Music
Drunken Chorus
To Sir With Love
I See The Moon
I've Seen Everything
Oranges and Apples
A Coda
Obscurity Knocks
The Best Man's Fall

Trashcan Sinatras: Legendary Scottish Band

From left to right: Stephen Douglas, Paul Livingston, Frank Reader, John Douglas

Lee Grant at piano, John Douglas

Mr. Frank Reader

Sharing some beers and smokes at intermission. That's me smiling all goofily at Paul Livingston.

Frank signing my posters.  I'm probably saying something very gushy and ridiculous.

Me and Paul Livingston, he was super sweet.  They all were.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Beauty of Mad Men #12

Season 2, Episode 13, "Meditations on an Emergency"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kathie Lee & Hoda can't handle the Amy Sedaris

I love Amy. She's the cutest thing! But apparently Kathie Lee and Hoda think she's too silly, they must giggle at her the entire segment, and then even call her "ridiculous."

Friday, November 5, 2010

The poor, poor little birdies...

[I found this linked on birdchick.com]

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Beauty of Mad Men #11

Season 2, Episode 11, "The Jet Set"

Monday, November 1, 2010

Never Let Me Go - Movie Review

I went eagerly to see Mark Romanek's film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go. I haven't read the novel so I went into the film somewhat blind, having tried to avoid as much as I could any details of the story, because I knew that the story had a secret. I expected the film to look beautiful and to be finely acted but I didn't expect it to be so profoundly sad. This is a story that explores big ideas of identity and the soul and one's worth and cruelty and the lengths humans could go in the name of science.  It explores these big ideas, but it explores them quietly, thoughtfully, and seemingly without providing any answers to all the questions generated.  I was deeply touched by this film.  I bawled my eyes out and that is mainly due to the talented young cast of Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and especially Andrew Garfield who continues to amaze me with his honesty on film.  Even if he hadn't been cast as the new Spiderman, that kid would have a damn fine future ahead of him.