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!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Twittering and Queefing

For the last couple of years I have been under the impression that Janeane Garofalo wasn't funny any more. I mean, she could still make me laugh when I saw her on a news program or somesuch, taking on the role of liberal pundit, but I figured her stand-up would just be political and preachy. (Which isn't to say that's bad--I share most of her political beliefs, after all--but it's not the pinnacle of fun, either.)

But I just watched her on "John Oliver's New York Stand-up Show" and am happy to say I was completely wrong.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Major Cute!

Pee-Wee Herman's been in the news of late because he has revamped his stage show, "The Pee-Wee Herman Show," and it's currently running in Los Angeles. I saw the original run when it went on tour in the '80s--and actually kind of met Paul Reubens after the show--so of course it's bringing up some waves of nostalgia for me...

Back in the '80s, John Paragon, the guy who played Jambi, had a comedy special called "The Paragon of Comedy" which aired on Showtime. I thought it was pretty hilarious at the time, and two sketches have stuck with me to this day. I present them to you below. And I hope "The Pee-Wee Herman Show" comes to San Francisco, 'cause I'd love to check it out again and feed my nostalgia even more...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Surrender, Surrender, But Don't Give Yourself Away

Of course I have an opinion about the whole Leno/Conan hullabaloo, and you can read it over at the SF Appeal right now!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nothing Gold Can Stay...Out of Coppola's Meddling Hands

I watched "The Outsiders: The Complete Novel" tonight on DVD. I hadn't seen "The Outsiders" in its entirety since I saw it in a theater when I was 13 in 1983. I remember riding the bus home with friends after the movie, and we couldn't stop making fun of it, especially the "DO IT FOR JOHNNY!!!" moment. We were yelling that at passing cars at the top of our lungs. Of course, we also kind of loved the movie because it was full of cute, shirtless boys, but for the most part we knew it just wasn't that good.

So when I heard that this new version included additional scenes, and had removed the incredibly overwrought score and replaced it with rock songs from the era the movie is set, I was intrigued, and added it to my Netflix queue. Of course, that was a few years ago, and it only now reached the top of my queue.

I usually take issue with directors going back and futzing with their movies. I hated everything George Lucas shoved into or changed in the original "Star Wars" trilogy (except for the removal of the Ewoks song at the end of "Jedi"), and just thought the added stuff in "Apocalypse Now Redux" was boring. Coppola also managed to mangle a beautiful opening in the DVD release of "One From the Heart" by turning a seamless long shot into a series of shorter cuts. Lame!

BUT! I think this version of "The Outsiders" is a whole hell of a lot better than the original. I never understood why the movie had such sappy music, and thought the Stevie Wonder theme song was entirely out of place. Alas, the Stevie Wonder song is still there, but most of the music has been replaced by a more rockabilly score, and a lot of rock and roll songs, the majority by Elvis. I think the original score combined with the sometimes mediocre acting just managed to make some scenes hopelessly maudlin, and others downright comedic.

Now, that doesn't mean this version is perfect. No change in music could cover-up Matt Dillon's scene-chewing, and some of the added scenes, like the moments in the courtroom, would have benefited from no music at all; and the ending is still as silly as ever. But I think this is definitely the version anyone who wants to rewatch the movie, or see it for the first time, should seek out.

As a side note, I couldn't watch the movie, and Johnny's "I ain't gonna walk again" scene and not immediately be reminded of the infamous Stanley Kubrick audition tape by Mr. Brian Atene. Here it is again, in case you've forgotten.

Good Day Mr. Kubrick

I checked to see if Mr. Atene had posted any videos of his own recently (he was online for awhile, and then seemed to disappear again). Indeed, he has. I won't post them, as they're kind of long, but you can see them on his channel here. Sounds like he had a tough 2009, but in one of his videos, he mentions that he did a retake of the Kubrick audition that is supposed to air on a cable show soon, and I'm really hoping it's "Tosh.0." For those unfamiliar with that show, every week the incredibly annoying and sarcastic host gives a Web celebrity a chance at redemption by...well, here's an example.

Web Redemption - Home Shopping Fail
Web Redemption2 Girls, 1 Cup ReactionDemi Moore Picture

If anyone deserves a Web redemption, it's Brian Atene.

AND! In an attempt to bring this whole thing full circle, I think "The Outsiders: The Complete Novel," is an excellent example of a movie redemption.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Time Flies When You're Avoiding the Things You Should Be Doing

I had the week between Christmas and New Year's off, as well as some added days before and after, and it was a break I was looking forward to almost as much as Christmas morning. Of course, I had all kinds of notions about all the stuff I would get done with my time off, like cleaning out closets and bringing stuff to Goodwill and the dump, (is there even a publicly accessible "dump" anymore?), and going on long walks exploring the city. Yeah. None of that happened. Maybe I'll do it all tomorrow, my last day of vacation, but I seriously doubt it, especially if I keep up my vacation sleep routine, which is to fall asleep around 3am and wake up at noon.

But in an attempt to convince myself I did SOMETHING with all my free time, I'm going to go through the days and write down what I did.

This could be embarrassing.

Saturday December 26th
Put away my Christmas presents, and watched the first half of "Dexter" season 4.

Sunday December 27th
Went to see "The Road" and ate Korean barbecue.

Monday December 28th
Tried to teach myself how to use my new sewing machine, and after an hour trying to figure out how to get the bobbin thread to rise up, called my seamstress aunt, who came over and proceeded to show me I had forgotten to thread the needle. It's a sewing machine! I thought such archaic things as "threading needles" would be taken care of by the machine! Alas, not my machine. But after that, I was sewing away. Which is to say, just sewing a bunch of scrap material together to get a feel for the machine.

Also, watched more of "Dexter."

Tuesday December 29th
Went to see "Avatar" with two cousins and an aunt. Aimed to go to a 2:30pm showing, but it was sold out by the time we got there (I guess a lot of people ARE out of work), so we had to wait until 4pm to see it. In between we ate lunch and played video games in the arcade. The movie? Meh. The story was nothing I hadn't seen before, and the visuals were not enough to make up for the predictability of the plot. Also, it cost me 45 bucks to see it, since I was treating my cousins to the show, and we missed the bargain matinee prices. And I can think of very few movies that are worth 45 dollars to see.

Wednesday December 30th
Went to the library and got some books about sewing, and also bought some spools of thread so I don't have to use blue thread to sew everything.

Sewed all the holes in all my coat and jacket pockets with my new machine. Sloppy, but a hell of a lost faster than doing it by hand; also: more fun!

Watched "Extract," which I got from Netflix (it wasn't very good), and finished watching "Dexter" season four. Realized I had been spoiled about the ending, which was annoying, but ultimately, didn't really care.

Thursday December 31st
Watched a Netflix DVD, a horror movie called "Carriers," as well as the first "Thin Man" on TCM, and some of the sequel, "After the Thin Man," before going out to the Summer Place with Dan and Michele to celebrate New Year's. Once there, ate way too many chicken wings, and salami and cheese, and mini quiches, which were given out gratis by the bar. Love that place!

Came home around 1:30am and watched an episode of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" before falling asleep. (Actually, I've been doing that every night, thanks to the glory of TiVo, and the lack of new episodes of anything else on TV over the break.)

Friday January 1st
Got up very late, and spent the day watching the special edition of "Watchmen" that's almost three-and-a-half-hours long. The main difference is it incorporates the animated "Tales of the Black Freighter" into the movie, and includes more scenes centered around the newstand. I think the movie works fine without the "Black Freighter" stuff, but it was nice seeing this version as well. It certainly made the entire movie feel more episodic and like a series of comic books.

I also went to my parents' place for my mom's fabulous blackeyed peas, and then came home and de-decorated my house and my tree, but held off on the actual tree removal...

Saturday January 2nd
Didn't leave the apartment all day. It was great. Watched "The Age of Innocence," which I got for Christmas, and "Angels and Demons," which I got from Netflix. One was really good, and one was really bad. You guess which.

Sunday January 3rd
Finally kicked my tree to the curb, which was a massive pain in the ass. The "tree removal bag" that came with it was a little too small, so it didn't prevent the tree from dropping needles all over my apartment, and my apartment building stairwell. Which meant a lot of sweeping. But after much cleaning and rearranging, I finally have my apartment back. I think that's the only good thing about the holidays ending: getting back some much-needed space.

Helped Dan and Michele take some photos for their next Christmas cards, but won't tell you what the photos are of, lest I spoil the surprise.

I also did some grocery shopping and ate a turkey Reuben at Max's Opera Cafe. And then came home, cleaned some more, and did some stuff for work I put off until the last minute.

So, certainly not the most exciting of vacations, but I can say I really, really appreciated the break from work and worry, and am really, really dreading its return.