Sunday, January 31, 2010

December Round-Up - 2009

It's hard to believe Christmas was over a month ago. Ever harder to believe is the fact that it's a new year, a new decade, and a new age (for me, a big one. Yikes!).

So let's dwell on the past bit, and look at December's entertainment offerings.

Movies Seen: Fourteen, with three in a theater. One of those was also my favorite of the month: "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Seeing it kind of happened as a fluke, because I was supposed see a sneak preview screening of "Up In the Air," but, as is the case with most of Entertainment Weekly's bullshit screenings, they booked the smallest theater in the place, and gave out way more tickets than there were seats. We got in line an hour early, but it didn't matter because once we got in the theater, the only seats left were in the first row, and that's just not how I roll. So we decided to just sneak into another theater, and luckily "Fantastic Mr. Fox" was starting not soon after we got there. Of course, when we walked into that HUGE theater, we were the only ones there, and basically remained the only ones there once it started. They could have fit all of the "Up In the Air" folks in there, and some. Harumph! But I guess I should talk about the movie itself: It was great! It had everything I love about Wes Anderson movies, along with cute, animated stuffed animals, AND George Clooney. There's not much else I want out of a movie, really.

The worst would have to be "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp. It's not a bad movie, per se. It's just a failure. I found it really distracting watching a period piece shot on digital video. I don't really know what equipment Michael Mann is using, but of all the directors currently shooting in digital video, he seems to be the worst at it, as his movies are consitently too dark, too blurry, and cheap-looking. Also, I found both Depp, as John Dillinger, and Christian Bale, as whoever it is who's after him, to be totally boring. I kind of wish the movie had been about J. Edgar Hoover instead (played by Billy Crudup, with a silly but kind of perfect accent).

Books Read: Four. The first was "Heidi," by Johanna Spyri, a copy of which I picked up at an old books shop in the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. I had always wanted to read it, having been a fan of the Shirley Temple movie when I was a kid, but I was surprised at how much I liked it. I basically read it in two days. There's something about children's books that include lots of details about natural settings and food that I just gobble up. (See: The collected works of Laura Ingalls Wilder.)

I also read Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," and I hate to admit it, but I think it's the first Dahl book I've read. I don't really have memory of reading any of his others as a kid...

Rounding out the list were two memoirs. "Official Book Club Selection" by Kathy Griffin is worth reading if you like celebrity dish, but you have to take everything she says with a huge grain of salt. For instance, she describes one instance of being on Martin Short's short-lived talk show, along with Steve Martin, and the way she describes it, Steve Martin was a total asshole to her, barely acknowledged her existence, and Martin Short was condescending, and kowtowing to Martin the whole time. However, video of that appearance is on YouTube, and it's nothing like she describes it.

So, yeah. Grain of salt.

The other memoir was "Cleaving," by Julie Powell, the author of "Julie and Julia." I think some fans are genuinely shocked that the Julie of that book would come out with a follow-up that goes into graphic detail about an extramarital affair, and butchering. Yes, it's a book about having sex, and cutting up animals. "Julie and Julia" it is not. But I admired her willingness to be honest and come across as a bit of an asshole after a book in which she painted her life as hectic, but blissful.

Fancy Dinners Out: One. Kind of. It was at Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in Macy's, and the only fancy thing about it is the price, really. The burger I had was good, but the service was awful. Hubert Keller was actually there that night, but alas, I was not able to tell him about the lousy service.

Live Shows Seen: One. Lady Gaga, which I've mentioned earlier. The show was at the Civic Auditorium (which I guess is now called the Bill Graham Auditorium) and it was an entirely general admission show, which is the stupidest idea ever, as it basically require that EVERYONE arrive super early, which, of course, is not advantageous if everyone does it! So, by the time we got in, all the good seats were taken. We had to split up, and ended up finding seats with perhaps the worst view in the place. But, after a few songs in, one friend had to leave, so I was able to take her seat, which was dead center. So, for the most part, I had a great view of the spectacle.

As for the show itself, it was great. I think it's probably a work in progress, and we were one of the first stops of the tour, so if she comes back around, I'll probably go again to see what's changed. I think the funniest this is that for about 30 minutes, I didn't even think she had a live band with her, and she was just singing along with recorded tracks. But eventually the video screens behind her rose for a bit, and I saw that the band was actually hidden behind them. Which is kind of hilarious.

Shoes Bought: I can't believe this is right, but as far as I can remember, none!

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